Live Like You Just Escaped

I hated living with my parents. Disgusting. 90 minute commute to New York City. In my suit. My tie. My shoes. My laces.

“Tie your laces!” I don’t know how.

I was afraid all the time. Would I get fired? Would I have no friends? Would life suck forever?

Yes, it would.

So I moved.

14th and 7th

Elias said, “I hear you need a place to stay?”

We were at Washington Square Park. He was the best chess playing hustler in the park at the time. 1994. The Year of the Pig.

I said yes. I moved in that night. One room. He slept on couch I slept on futon. The shower was broken constantly running. No kitchen.

I paid $300 a month.

You like women, right? He said to me the first night.

Later, we would play chess every almost every night all night.

Every morning I pulled my only suit out of my garbage bag. I walked to work at HBO. Then I went back home and we’d play chess again.

One night he brought a girl home and took her in the bathroom while I pretended to sleep.

Another night he told me the girl next door, who was engaged to a banker, came over and asked for salt and he let her in and she left a few hours later….

For some reason this made me very upset and angry. Like one day this would happen to me (except I’d be the guy engaged to “that” girl).

One time he woke me up in the middle of the night and said I had to leave.

I was running a 102 fever. Can it wait until morning?

No, he said. I haven’t been paying rent so they are coming to kick us out in the morning.


It was two empty rooms and I had a single futon on the floor and no other furniture.

The first night I woke up. Something was on me. A lot of things were on me.

I jumped up and turned on the light. Wall to wall were roaches.

I left and and spend the night in all-night strip club. In the morning my new landlord cleaned everything. I had bites all over me.

One time I wandered into a pool hall and bar on Steinway Street. It was all Greek people.

They were playing chess. I sat down and offered to play one of them. Then I said to them: line up all the boards and I’ll play you all simultaneously.

After that, we were friends for life and every night I spent the entire night playing with them while staring at all of the waitresses.

I’d write my phone number on two dollar bills I’d leave as tips for the waitresses. Nobody ever called me.

We played chess, backgammon, and drank strong coffee all night. In Greece there are three different rules for backgammon and we’d rotate through all three games.

At night I’d walk the streets with Nick, who had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C.

“I don’t know when I’m going to die,” he said. “But there is no cure. I don’t want to get into a relationship. Too much of a burden for her.”

We’d walk and talk for hours. I considered him my best friend. When I moved we never spoke again.

The Chelsea Hotel

I made $17,500 cash making website for a diamond wholesaler.

“Don’t tell anyone,” he told me, “or everyone on the street will be upset because I’m selling direct.”

I took the cash to the Chelsea. Stanley Bard was the manager. The cash was in a paper bag and I just gave it to him.

“Are you a drug dealer?” he asked.

“I work at HBO,” I said.

“Can you get us cable here?”


He gave me a room. I lived in ten different rooms at the Chelsea over the next many years.

One time I took the elevator up with Chubb Rock, the rapper. “His label is paying for him to stay here,” said Timor at the front desk. He filled up the entire elevator.

Another time I asked a guy on my floor “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen?”

He told me. “One time Stanley called a girl on this floor who owed rent. She said, ‘I’ll bring it right down’. She took a running jump and jumped out the window and landed in the middle of 23rd Street.”

“She was the last person in your room before you moved in there,” he said.

I didn’t move out of that room until four months after I get married. I loved the room.

I fell in love with three different women who lived in the Chelsea. Two of them are my Facebook friends now. Neither of them ever knew. Two Heathers and a Marta.

One time I didn’t stay there for five years. I showed up and Robert looked at me and said, “You again. You must be up to no good.”

The Chelsea was the only place I ever lived where I vacationed with the other people who lived and worked there.

We clung to each other like we were stuck on an island in the middle of a storm. I loved living there and history has eroded it.

Live in a hole. Live in a gutter. Live with roaches.

Live with a sense of, “I escaped!”

Live with alcoholics and scumbags and prostitutes and drug dealers. Live with unrequited love.

Explore where you live. You’ll never live there again.

Elias from 14th street gave up chess and NYC. He’s a fisherman in Rhode Island now.

And Heather from the Chelsea…one time we took a walk. She told me she had epilepsy. I thought that was beautiful.

Like her body had a secret. And she would desperately hold onto that secret. But sometimes it was too much for her, and her body would release that secret to the whole world.

I wanted to have a secret like that.

What a time!

I write this as if I have regret now. As if now I’m missing things.

I’m not.

I’m fucking killing it right now. Except…I don’t know… maybe not.

Related post: It’s Financial Suicide To Own A House

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  • NikFromNYC

    Classic NYC story, akin to William Burroughs or E. B. White, thanks.

  • Stimpy

    Eeeeewwww. Very nice roach story. I’m living in a city in the desert. We have strange roaches out here, which I didn’t realize right away. There was one just outside my front door. I don’t like roaches so I went to step on it … and it flew up in my face. Double eeeewww. I have a few NYC stories. Grew up on the Island. I couldn’t make it there or in NYC so I am out west.

  • You can be happy doing anything. Keep your mind right, all the pieces fall in place.

  • Solo500

    Thank you Altucher.

  • Lex

    A perfect lesson, thanks. Gotta make your own glamor out there because the best lives aren’t glamorous.

  • José Baquero

    no entiendo inglés pero percibo la esencia del relato. Es genial. Hay cosas que ni las diferencias dialecticas pueden eliminar…

  • Mike Dowdy

    I love the way this post made me feel. It forced me to focus on a very special time in my life. Please write more post like this.

  • Digitqueen

    I worked as a nanny at the Chelsea for about a year. The parents were in the music industry and lived there year round. I can relate to your story about the girl jumping out the window because one day I heard a loud smashing sound in the courtyard in the back of the hotel. Before I ran to the window I knew it was the sound of a body landing on concrete. I was the first one to call down to the front desk to report it. This happened around 1977. I can still see him lying there with blood all over the ground.

  • William Masten

    Great personal story. I’ve had some similar experiences. Some roaches. Some rats. Ect. Thank You for sharing. I thank my creator every day for what I have. I have formal education which helps me to keep learning. I read a lot and watch motivational YouTube videos daily. I feel fortunate to have your podcasts, news letters ect. I’m still living the dream of happiness, health and abundance. Cheers. William M

  • liz

    Love your brain.

  • Margaret Wagner

    You’re a strange one, Charlie Brown, continually making something out of nothing, then rolling down that lonesome highway looking for the next big thing, like learning to tie your shoes. Fortunately, you’re likeable, if brilliant, as if brilliant is not a rhapsody but an estate you now have to manage; and strange but likeable. I wish you knew Jesus like I do. Then we’d really have something to talk about besides money. Merry Christmas.

  • Toya McKinney

    “Wow!” Thank you!

  • NewHampshire

    SO what is it about you that women don’t like?