Thursday, April 17, 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It’s been awhile since I wrote one of these and I've missed it.  The last post I wrote was dated February 27th. I was in the midst of trying to find a job and had really long hair. It took me nearly and entire month after that to find one and without the outpouring of support I received from my family and friends I would not have been able to keep going.

I am beyond thrilled to let you all know that I got a hair cut and a job! I was hired back on at Actors Equity as: The Associate of Finance and Administration. Equity is a great company to
See, short hair.
work for and I couldn't be happier. They are taking care of me and I can finally take time and money to take care of myself.

Now you are probably wondering the exact same thing I’m wondering. What’s next?. Short answer: Exciting Things. Long Answer: More time and ability to start doing thing things I want to do without the worry of not being able to do them finically, artistically, or otherwise.

Because I work for Actors Equity I cannot do any kind of work in Theatre, and I am totally ok with this. The reason is because it is a conflict of interest for the union and also kind of illegal on the federal level. See, working for a union has its own set of rules that it has to abide by. Its kind of like working for a non-profit in that we don’t exist to make a profit; but additionally we exist in service of our members. Union employees can’t impact the ability of their members to find work, positively or negatively. For me to work in theatre, even non-union, it would be seen as impacting our member’s ability to find work.  So I am making a personal sacrifice to forgo working in theatre for a while, but without my passion for theatre I wouldn’t of been able to make it this far.

So the question still remains: What’s next? At my core I am a story teller. I love hearing stories, seeing stories, reading stories, and creating stories. This past year has taught me that last one. I like writing. I love it in fact. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terribly frustrating process and there is a reason why writers become alcoholics, but for me it’s totally worth it. Now that I am able to afford to live and work in New York I am able to take time to really focus on my writing, which leads me to my next exciting project…

I am partnering with artist Janet Sung and together we are going to create a 5-page comic proposal to send out to major publishing companies. This was a project I started almost a year ago while I was living in Chinatown. The idea for a story about a young Korean girl from New York City who accidentally overthrows the government in an online video game, with the help of her blind brother, hit me and started streaming through my head. I almost couldn't keep up taking notes on my iPhone with my large fat thumbs as images were flashing in my head. When I finished typing I promptly put my phone away and forgot about the entire thing. I came back to it a few weeks later I was trying to figure out what medium this story would fit into. Theatre was out, the scope was too big, film was out, the costs were too prohibitive, I was (and still am) working on a novel and I didn't want to try to do two novels at the same time. Then the idea to make it into a comic hit me and once I started envisioning it on colorful pages of paper I knew that was were it was meant to be.

I then promptly forgot about the entire thing again and went about having an awesome summer with Michael Stamp, the boy wonder. A few months ago I dug out the story and started working on it. Creating a plot, researching comic publishing, and organizing character arcs. I read lots of example of comic scripts (basically comics without any pictures) from writers like Frank Miller, Alan Moore, and Robert Kirkman, to get an idea of the format. I decided to take Kirkman's approach and create a 5 page comic proposal along with a cover letter to create a sort of “proof of concept” to send out to publishers.

Then I put out my art net to find an artist who I thought would be able to capture what I was envisioning and through the graces of the cosmos and craigslist I found Janet. Once I saw her art I knew she was the one. Seriously, she is amazing. Check out her stuff: She was eager to jump onto the project and loved the story. Right now she is working on preliminary character design and pre-production things. My goal is to have a finished 5 page proposal completed by august to send out to major publishers.

It’s exciting to see a project start to come to life. It makes me excited for what the future may hold. All I know is right now I am happy and without this job I have none of it would be possible. But more importantly without the love and support you and everyone sent my way I wouldn’t be possible. Until Next Time.

"I think that we need mythology. We need a bedrock of story and legend in order to live our lives coherently."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Twitch Plays Pokemon

Right now there are 70,000 people controlling a single character from a hand held video game made in 1998. It’s a phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm for the past 15 days and it’s called Twitch PlaysPokémon.  For those not yet swept up in the madness, Twitch Plays Pokemon is a replaying of the 1998 GameBoy game Pokemon Red being emulated on a computer, streamed to the masses. Those who tune in can enter the game's commands – up, down, left, right, A, B, start – in the Twitch channel chat, and said commands will be translated into in-game results.

You type "up," the main character moves up. Simple, right? Not quite when you have 70,000 people typing out often-contradictory commands. The infinite monkey theorem – a mathematical principle that has existed in some form or interpretation since Aristotle – has often been taken to mean, "If an infinite number of monkeys were to use an infinite number of typewriters, sooner or later you get Shakespeare."

The goal of the game is quite simple: Catch Pokémon and raise them to be strong to defeat other characters in the game and, eventually after much time and effort, defeat the strongest 4 characters in the game, the Elite Four, with the Pokémon you raised. When I played the game in 1998 with my brothers we were obsessed with it and played to constantly, each arguing over who had the better or stronger Pokémon and spending hours playing, trading, and training these little pets. So I don’t think I am the only one who is flooded with nostalgia when watching this. Infact I think nostalgia is one of the main reasons TPP is becoming so popular

Imagine a football stadium filled with people all controlling a single person on the field and trying to get them to walk from one end to the other. It would be chaos right? You would think that
This is how many people are playing
70,000 people would be wanting 70,000 different things and this player would never move.  Not only has the character in TPP moved, but it has been making remarkable progress in a seemingly chaotic environment.

There have been setbacks along the way. Favorite pokemon have accidentally been destroyed. We have tossed valuable items, and lost many battles from poorly issued commands. There are also countless hours spent moving back and forth and seemingly not moving anywhere and falling off ledges.  But miraculously the game and its players continually march forwards towards the end goal. 

Even more surprisingly: forms of democracy and anarchy have been created and have inspired hundreds of discussions on the political theories of wither or not democracy will help us take a step forward or whether anarchy will help us win this battle. Religions based on "Helix" Worshipers and "Dome" worshipers have sprung up and become major factors.  And countless amounts of original art and writings have been created based around this internet phenomenon.

Pigeot "Bird-Jesus"
TPP has truly and enlightened the way I look at the world. Even in a game controlled by 70,000 strangers with hundreds of thousands of different back stories, locations in the world, religious beliefs, whatever, it is still marching on and being very successful in its goals. This gives me hope for life. Even though there 7 billion random people on our planet now, with seemingly 7 billion different wants and desires I think we all of us can strive forward on our weird, and seemingly random collaborative journey, and achieve greatness. I mean look at us now. We live in a country that is free for the expression of any man, woman, and child. The people are constantly marching towards good, equality, freedom, peace, and justice. There are setbacks along the ways. Random people who try and ruin it for the rest of us, and yet humans persevere.

This gives me personal hope because I feel lost in my life right now: like I'm wandering. I am beginning to believe that even then, even in my darkest and most confused moments, as long as my feet are moving and I haven’t given up, I'm moving towards the right direction. I don’t yet know what I want from life. I know I have a handful of skills that I am good at, and I know I have a lot of things I am bad at. So where I go from there I am not sure. Sometimes it feels like there are 70,000 different things I should be doing or need to be doing. But at least I haven't fallen off the ledge yet. Until Next Time!

" I see now the circumstances of ones birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Get On

Hey. Its been awhile. Last I wrote I was about to embark on Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. Well I did. It happened. It was incredible. It was frustrating. It was beautiful. It was exhausting. Now the dream is over. I’m so full of stories and thoughts and experiences I want to share with you all that there is no way a blog post would do it justice. So, if you ever want to hear about the whole thing and how it affected me, let me know. Lets head to a bar, grab a drink, and swap some stories.

In the mean time, let us get on with life.

When I left home for the first and last time in 2008 I made a promise to myself that I would never move back in. Not because I didn't love my supportive parents or my stupid brothers, I love them all very much, but I made this promise more so for myself so that I could  force myself to take risks and find my independence. So I moved to Dubuque and lived there for 4 years, working at various jobs every summer and living and various home and rooms. I managed to support myself through school by taking on work-study jobs. By the time I hit my final semester of senior year I was working at 4 different on campus jobs just to save up to move to New York.

Now that I am here I have managed to pay rent every month. My goal remains the same, don’t move home. I could very easily give up, fly home, and live in the basement playing video games and watching movies all day long, dreaming of the day when…. But I’d rather be here, broke, unemployed, and struggling than at home, comfortable, and hating myself.

A wise person once said: “If you don’t have a job, your job is to spend eight hours a day finding one.” I am in that situation now: completely and utterly unemployed. I also find myself at a crossroads with four paths ahead of me, and one, twisted and winding, behind me. I like doing four things: Photography, Theatre, Film, and Writing. I am struggling on trying to figure out how to fit all of them into my life, and pay the bills.

ISPA 2014 Awards Dinner
Photography has been my most plentiful when it comes to making money AND being artistic. I am usually doing one or two headshot sessions a week to bring in income. Last week I had the extreme honor of being the event photographer for the 2014 ISPA conference, which was a blast. I was able to photograph the Keynote Speaker Tan Dun on Tuesday, a red-carpet-esq “Step and Repeat” on Wednesday, and then the awards banquet later that night. I got to meet some interesting people and, most importantly, flex my photography skill. It felt really good to have the weight of the camera around my neck and my eyes moving, looking for the next best shot, capturing it, and then running around looking for the next. I realized that I love that feeling, the intense feeling of trying to capture an entire story in one frame, in about 3 seconds. I walked away from it all with some awesome photos which will be on Facebook very soon.

Directing Theatre and Film are my favorite mediums to tell stories in. They are also my least plentiful in terms of opportunity and paying the bills. I apply to any and everything that comes across my screen, but as of yet I have not been hired for anything. The “Catch 22” is that people hiring directors want people with years of experience, great schooling, tons of references, and to pay them next to nothing for it. That last bit is part of a greater problem when it comes to paying artists and undervaluing their work, but I don’t want to get into that with this post. The point is that either I have to work hard at playing this application game, or just start making my own films and theatre with my brothers. I am more partial to the ladder.

Writing is something completely new to me. I started working on Marley a year ago, and have since completed writing the first draft of that musical that was produced last summer. I’ve also had 2 short plays produced in New York and had 2 short stories published in a digital literature magazine. I have found that I really enjoy writing and telling these stories that I feel I have to tell. Now when I say I enjoy writing, I don’t mean the process. The actual process of putting words on a blank page sucks so hard a black hole would say, “Nah bro, that’s not within my event horizon.” Writing, like everything else, is hard work. Anyone who thinks it fun and easy has never tried writing. That said, I enjoy everything else about it enough to make the hard work with doing. Having actors sit down for the first time and be excited to do a read through of your work is better than any high I have experienced so far. Seeing on stage is even better. So while I continue to write almost daily working on plays, poetry, short stories, and even a novel, it has yet to pay any bills.

While logging countless hours on Midsummer, I had lots of time to think. One of the biggest things that weighed on me was my innate ability to put others before myself and put my wants and needs down, as if they are unimportant and stupid. I care a lot about what other people think about me and I’ve found that it not only hinders my life but more importantly it hinders my art. If there is one thing I am walking away from Midsummer with, it is now the drive to find work, creative work, where I can pay rent AND be myself… Mostly because I don’t want to cut my hair.

So, thought it’s a bit late, here’s to 2014! A Year of No Excuses. A Year of No Self-Putdowns. A Year of Paying The Bills.A Year of Long Hair.  A Year of Creativity.

“I've got a mountain of dreams to climb
'Fore I get to that house on the hill.”

Ozark Mountain Daredevils - It Probably Always Will

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hello, Goodbye

If you have ever heard anyone tell you that New York is a small town, they are absolutely, unequivocally, correct. This is something that I have been told before by my experienced New York friends, but I never really saw it until it happen to me until this past weekend.

To begin with, I went to see a play that my friend Sarah Lahue was stage managing called  Lickspittles, Buttonholers and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens by Johnna Adams. Sarah told me I had to see because it was funny, had amazing actors, and was written entirely in verse. I was intrigued and decided to go see it, but it wasn't until I was sitting in the audience that I realized I knew one of the actors in the show. And then I recognized another, and another… But the one who really caught my attention was Chris Weikel, with whom I worked with a year ago at the Lark Play Development Center.

A snapshot of Chris and I from a year ago.
I staged managed two play readings during the Lark’s playwright’s week. One was Denny and Lila by August Schulenburg and the other was Secret Identity by Chris Weikel. I hadn't seen or heard from Chris in over a year because New York, and then I got to see him perform wonderfully in a hilarious show. Not only that, but afterwards when I was talking to him I was introduced to the playwright of Lickspittles and we discovered that we both knew each other. She starred as the narrator in August Schulenburg’s play, Denny and Lila. So not only did I meet two people with him I had previously worked with during the same week a year ago, but I met them both on the same night. Crazy!

Believe me when I tell you: New York is a small world. Last year I worked as an ASM on Restoration Comedy at The Flea theatre. While on this run, I worked one night with the resident director at the time Liz Carlson. She ran the front of house, and I was the go between helping her and getting the show ready. We had a splendid time and kept in touch.

This past weekend I was emailed about a job opportunity that Liz had referred me for.  This job opportunity was one that was so good, so amazing, that I quit my job at Actors Equity today to be able to do. I am excited to tell you all that I will be working as a stage hand on Julie Taymor’s upcoming show A Midsummer Nights Dream. Now I am sure many of you are asking yourself the same question I have been asking myself:

“Joey, are you stupid? Why did you quit your full time job to work as a stage hand on a show?”

Left to right: Oberon, Julie Taymor, Puck
Well, first off, don’t call me stupid, and I did it because Julie Taymor is an award winning director and one of the greatest directors of her time. Getting to observe her work, even from the sidelines, is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity that I, as a learning director, can’t pass up.  

What this means is that for the next four weeks I will be working on the show in some intense morning to evening hours. Then once we open I will be working the shows until January. These next four weeks are going to be busy and I will be working ever day, 10 am to 11 pm, except Monday's. So until we open, I am going to be nearly silent on the digital front. No blogging. 

Once the show officially opens and my days will return to normal I plan to write a big blog post about my experiences, so be sure to check back in November. Truly, I am very excited for this amazing opportunity. I can't wait to see what the future holds and what awesome people I will meet. Until next time!

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
Puck (Robin Goodfellow)A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 3 scene 2

Monday, September 30, 2013

Between Projects

It's the last day of September and unless the House and the Senate can come to a budget agreement by midnight tonight, our government will shut down. When I first heard this I was legitimately freaking out because I thought it meant like zombie-apocalypse-America-goes-crazy-looting-no-law shutdown. What actually happens is that offices and facilities that are deemed “non-essential”  shut down and millions of Federal workers will find themselves out of a job. The police will still exist, the military will still exist, whic means I dont need to start preparing for the Thunderdome (thank baby jesus). What surprised me further was that this had actually already happened in 1995. From November 14 through November 19, 1995 and from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996, for a total of 28 days. While this shutdown seems more and more likely, I wonder how long it will last, and what the millions of Federal workers who will be out of jobs will do for money…

My old friend... Raddy the radial arm saw.
Right now I am between projects, and it’s very weird. Since I landed hear a year and 2 months ago, I had always been working on a show or getting ready to work on a show. Now, having nothing to work on, I’m kinda tweaking out. Theatre is my drug and I inadvertently quit cold turkey.  So I’ve been finding other ways to occupy my creative-theatre needs. Yesterday I spent all day striking props, sets, and furniture for Rattlestick Theatre. A week or so ago I worked as a carpenter for a private school in the Upper West Side. I’ve also been doing lots of writing because it’s easy, stress relieving, and most importantly free.

I’m currently in the works on developing an adaptation of The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare that a producer is interested in work-shopping. I love The Winter’s Tale because it is just that: a tale. In Shakespeare's time  the phrase “winter’s tale” was not meant to be taken seriously and was known to be a fantastic story that didn’t focuses on details like continuity or credibility. If you wanted to draw a parallel with a modern day phrase, and I sincerely hope you do, it would be equitable to what an “old wives tale” means to us. Shakespeare takes random outrageous events like a man being chased off stage by a bear, or a dead woman coming to life after 16 years, or a young baby being abandoned in the woods and surviving with no explanation as to how, and weaves together a funny sort-of hyper pastoral play.
So rather than discount these oddities as bad writing I am, key word here, attempting to adapt a play that embrace these quirks as heightened and fantastical story elements to create a very theatrical play. I want to tell you all more about it, but I’m only halfway done. Plus, it would ruin all the surprises! Suffice it to say, I am having alot of fun writing it and I can't wait to start workshopping it. 
My entire being is trying to convince me that, because I’m not directing something, I am failing at life. My friends tell me that I am stupid for thinking that and I say to them “Hey, don’t call me stupid.” They are right though. We all go through lulls in our life where there just isn’t anything to work on creatively or otherwise.

It's all about perspective...
 I may be out of directoral oppertunites right now, but what puts in it perspective for me is this:  I live in New York City, I have a full time job in the theatre industry, I have a good apartment in a great neighborhood, a loving family, supportive friends, and food in my fridge. I could be worse off. If the House and the Senate can’t agree on a budget, millions of Americans will be out of work and struggling to make ends meet. Let’s all just hope that an agreement can be reached by midnight tonight because, at the end of the day, all anyone really wants it to be able to comfortably live their lives in peace and persue happinesses… Until next time!

"Well, that's easy for you to take that kind of physical risk – you've got government health care." –Jon Stewart on Ted Cruz speaking for 21 hours in opposition of Obamacare

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What We Were Promised

The Huffington Post recently published a an article promoting baseless assumptions about Gen Y and why some random person thinks we are unhappy. This is a Gen Y'er's response:
Key Points for those of you who skim:
·         World War II created a false economy.
·         Baby Boomers then created an America about the science of spending money and creating debt.
·         We, Gen Y, have inherited a terrible economy, with little to no expanding job market, and massive amounts of student loans, and are now being blamed.  Thanks.
Recently an article made the rounds on social media outlets entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy”.  It goes to great, condescending length to describe how my generation - everyone currently between the ages of 20 and 35 – is basically a bunch of entitled, spoiled, children who need to grow up and stop thinking they are special.  Supposedly, the reason we are all unhappy is because we think we deserve fulfilling jobs.  It’s not clear how the anonymous author Wait But Why - the blogger behind articles like “7 Asinine Things About Society” and “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook” - reaches this conclusion because there’s nothing in the article about depression rates or job satisfaction or any other indicator of general welfare.  The article truly fails to explain the conclusions reached about why my generation feels the way it does, which I will attempt to do.
The Great Generation (World War II)
“War-time industry pulled us out of the great depression and helped re-establish America’s dominance as the world’s economic and military power.  Once the Greatest Generation came back from the war they fucked like rabbits and had tons of kids.  Thus the Baby Boomers were born.  They were told stories of how their parents had single-handedly won a better America and that it was their children’s responsibility to do the same:  To take what their parents had given them and make it better.
Who cares if America didn’t actually single-handedly win the war but rather was one participant in a joint effort of many other countries and that many other non-American battles helped turn the tide.  For example:  The Storming of Madagascar, The battle of Westerplatte, the Battle of Moscow, the Battle of Kursk, The badass Kokoda Track, The Piolis of the Underground State, the Details of El Alamein, the HMS Bulldog and - the true turning point of the war - The battle of Stalingrad fought and won by Russia.  To quote George S. Patton “Americans love a winner.”  And in our eyes, America won.
The Baby Boomers then trotted off to school and learned things.  They graduated high school and most went straight from there to the work force, where quality jobs with benefits and pensions awaited them.  Some went on to college, but a college degree was certainly not required to get a decent job.  Thus, the Boomers began building the foundation for the next generation.
America 2: Judgment Day
Then in the 1960’s, a thing called the credit card made debt widely available to all Americans.  This created a way for banks to put massive amounts of people into small, manageable, debt.  With telephone technology, even the most rural of gas stations could accept all major credit cards.  So now every American could partake in money they didn’t have to spend on things they didn’t earn.  The newest  TV, the newest Beatles album (or Monkees, if you were into that scene), a brand new GM automobile, anything they wanted they could get.
It was at this moment - the birth of the modern credit card - that industrial America died and neo-capitalist America was born.  As we approached the 1970’s America was no longer about creating and building things, it was about finding the cheapest labor, using the cheapest parts, convincing people to buy things, and maximizing profits.
Outsourcing work to China started to become a mainstay amongst savvy businessmen.  Why pay Americans a minimum wage when you could pay even less to some child in China to do the same job?  It made sense.  The Baby Boomers figured it out!  America became richer and prospered.  Minimize expenses, maximize profits.  Minimize expenses, maximize profits.   Sure it cost American’s jobs, but the Boomers made more money!  Go America!  Make the Greatest Generation proud.
What We Were Promised
Enter my generation.  I was born right at the turn of the decade, January 1990.  By the time I was 3 President Clinton started building one of the best economies America had Seen since the 1920’s.  We were told that we were great, that our generation was going to do well, that we could do anything because, well, why not?  The middle class was booming, we weren’t fighting any major wars, the job market looked great, everyone was paying their credit cards on time, mortgages for houses were plentiful, there wasn’t a thing to be worried about in the world.  So we trotted off to school to begin to build the foundation for our future generation. 
 “Oh but wait,” the job industry said to us.  “Sorry, but you need a college degree to get a job now.  Yes, we know, your parents could get away with just a high school degree, or at most a B.A.  But the job market has become too competitive and so you need a college degree.  You should probably get a Master’s, too.  Yeah it’s going to cost a lot, but hey we have these great things called student loans.  Guess what:   You qualify!  You can now go to college and do whatever you want to make your dreams come true.  You can be happy and fulfilled and get the job of your dreams.”
We took out a loan on our dreams.
Our generation is nearly entirely in debt, and in debt before we’ve even had the chance to find a job. Now, the Average American owes $24,301 in student loans and has $7,084 in debt on their credit card. For the most part, previous generations started with a clean slate and only incurred debt after they were employed, for a house or a second car.  Our generation was told that we had to go to college to get a job, even though the Boomers and the generation before didn’t have to.  We now have more debt than any generation before us strapped to our backs - over a trillion dollars’ worth of debt – and we’ve barely entered the job market. American industry had long been dead and the only thing we produce now is pop culture and debt. The Baby Boomers and their parents had it good because America was still booming in their time.  You could walk out of high school and get a good-paying job with benefits at a factory building cars or boats or tools or toys.  Few of these jobs exist today. 

Wrapping it up
In two weeks, the US government will shut down, and about a month from now, the US will run out of cash, unless a bipartisan deal can be struck on the debt ceiling. As of June, only 44% of us “Gen Y’ers”  had a full-time job, with 12% unemployed and 4% straight-up giving up. Over a third of 18-to-31-year-olds still live with their parents. We’re living through an insane employment market where we take unpaid internship after unpaid internship, only to have just 37% of them ending in actual employment. Even rock-solid yuppie fields like law are looking shakier by the day. No wonder less than a third of young people “actually feel that their job is part of their long-term career plan.” We’re just trying to survive.  We may be unhappy with our jobs, but it’s not because we expect to be CEOs by 30. It’s because at this rate, it’s nearly impossible to see ourselves becoming CEOs at all.
This is what our generation was given:  Massive debt, no industry, awful job market.  The generations before us created America, one nation, in debt, and we the United Generation Y now have to sort this mess out.  And we must do so while working in jobs that have no future and hardly pay enough to cover our student loans repayment schedule, assuming we can find a paying job at all.
Yes, we were told we could do anything.  We were told that we could get our dream job.  We were lied to about the possibilities of our future because no one accounted for the fact that maybe, just maybe, saddling the American people with tons of debt, while simultaneously getting rid of all the decent-paying jobs, was a bad idea.  This is what we were born into and it’s not our fault. But we will fix this problem because we are better educated than those before us.  We are the smartest.  We are well connected.  We have the ability to communicate on a global level and to us, race, creed, and religion aren’t dividing points anymore.  We will fix the problem our parents and grandparents handed us, even though it might cost us the future we dreamt of. 

Joey Stamp, originally from Iowa, is a 23 year old writer/director struggling in New York City. He has $60,000 dollars’ worth of student debt, and is very happy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Life and some Change: Part 2. Hacking New York

Everyone knows that living in New York City is expensive. It can empty your bank account faster than you can say “Check, please.” BUT, if you know where to look, you can find affordable prices sprinkled all around New York. You just have to work to find them. For your reading pleasure I have compiled a list of some of the best ways I have found to live on a budget. With these "hacks and tips", you can now at least attempt to move to New York and probably not blow your life savings within the first week.

Cheap food comes in two categories: That which you make on your own, and that which you pay someone to make.

That which you make on your own- When it comes to saving money on food, the best way to do it is to make your own food. When you eat out you are paying a premium for labor and location. Buying a loaf of bread and making PB&J for the week can save you loads on your lunch bill. The more ways you can find to prepare your food yourself, the more you will save in the long run because eating out anywhere in New York will quickly add up. Here’s a quick breakdown of possible expenses:

Lunch eating out: 10 dollars a day x 5 days a week = 50 a week
Making PB&J: $2 (loaf of bread) $8 (PB & J)= 10 a week
The math says it all folks.  The More  you make your own food, the more money you save.

That which you pay someone to make THAT SAID. Finding affordable places to eat out is always a treat. Here is a list of restaurants I have found to be the best bang for your dwindling buck.

Punjabi Grocery & Deli - 114 E 1st St #3 - Don’t go in expecting to anyone to speak English. Instead be ready to point to a selection of freshly cooked Indian veggie dishes that they will take
Best bowl of who knows what on rice.
and throw on top of a bowl of rice for you, all for $3. It’s totally Vegan Friendly and totally affordable.

Vanessa's Dumpling House - 118A Eldridge St --Chinatown’s best kept secret. I frequented this place often when I lived down in Chi-Town. You can get 5 dumplings for a dollar, a big-as-your-face sesame pancake for another dollar, 3 pork buns for yet another dollar,  and half enough food leftover for lunch the next day.

Dollar Pizza – Various Locations – If you live in NYC and you've ever been out late drinking, or running between jobs, you know the glory that is dollar pizza. There are a dozens of dollar pizza deals all across the city from chain restaurants like Papa Johns and Domino's to local chains all serving a slice for a buck. Don’t expect any frills or protein though. You get exactly what you pay for: a single slice as thick as the paper plate it comes on.

Papaya Dog -- 333 Avenue of the Americas, 578 9th Ave – This magically unhealthy food establishment makes its business by frying up some of the cheapest comfort foods you can find in town. 5 bucks will get you a burger and fries. 3 bucks will get you 2 hot dogs. Their fried food tastes delicious and destroys your arteries, but the price is unbeatable. Oh and their corn dogs are to die for. Literally.

So you've filled up on the cheapest eats in Manhattan, now what? How about filling up your soul with culture? While Broadway tickets are insanely expensive (Book of Mormon tickets are around $200 dollars), you can still see shows and get culture without breaking the bank. Check out this website and sign-up for their will-call club. The way it works is that they get tickets from shows and offer them on their site, first come first serve, that you can reserve for five dollars. Sometimes they are big budget shows, sometimes they are tiny shows in a downtown theater. Either way you get an evening of entertainment for a fraction of the price.

Theatre on Film and Tape Archive- This is one of the biggest unknown gems in all of New York. Since the 70’s every Broadway, and some off Broadway shows, have been recorded on video. This organization, thanks to Lucille Lortel, has them all in one place free for you to view. There are a lot of restrictions, of course: You must make an appointment, you can only watch them there in the center, and on older films you cannot pause or rewind. But what you have access to is a high quality video recording of every Broadway show, entirely for free. All you have to do is ask.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Arabs Crossing the Desert
MET Museum of ART and American Museum of Natural History-  Whether you have a passion for history, or a passion for art, you can get enlightenment and knowledge from either for next to nothing. Both museums tout massive collections of priceless artifacts from all across time. Like the full scale Egyptian tomb in the MET Museum of Art or a 94 feet long, the fiberglass replica of a blue whale at the Natural Museum of History. The best part? Both Museums offer Pay-What-You-Can tickets with a minimum payment of 1 cent. Go out and be enriched!   

I imagine you will want to spend your hard earned pennies on other frivolities  right? Well fear not, there is always a cheap place waiting for you with steep discounts. Here is a short list of everything else I have discovered that is secretly affordable in a not so affordable town:

Goodwill Store -- 512 W 181st St  -- Wearing old vintage clothes used to be a thing people did to save money, but now it has become a style of fashion all its own thus causing thrift stores to drive up their low prices! That said, you can still find cheap clothes if you know where to look. The Good Will store in Washington Heights is your answer. It has the prices you would expect from a regular good will store, but the clothes you’d expect old rich manhattans to discard. High End designer clothes are a common sight at this store. So if you are in the  market for clothes, make this place your first stop.

Heating and Cooling - Turn off the A/C and put a fan in the window blowing air out. It creates circulation, cooling your apartment.

Internet- Don’t pay for expensive internet if you don’t need it in your apartment. Starbucks, McDonald  and even certain parks give it out for free.

This glass of whisky cost $15. I only had one.
Umbrellas, chargers, and sunglasses- Lost and Found is your friend. Go into random hotels and ask them for a lost iPhone charger or umbrella or sunglasses. Odds are they will have one and give it to you without much question.

Transport- The subway will cost you 120 a month if you use it. I choose to bike to work, it saves money and burns calories all at the same time.

AlcoholDon’t Drink! Take it from a drinker. It’s expensive as hell. But if you do intend to partake, drink during happy hour or find the bar's specials. Bourbon Street on 46th has a magical drink called "Hurricane" that is filled with rum and happiness, and only costs you 5 bucks. Its a cheap way to get intoxicated on any evening of the week. 

Well there you have it folks. Some tips and tricks from yours truly, to you. Hopefully your next visit wont cost you an arm and a leg but, if it does, I guarantee you there is a store here that will sell you a new one. Until Next Time!

"When you draw, form is the important thing. But in painting the first thing is to look for the general impression of color….. Always paint a direct sketch from nature every day”.