I never sat on a balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
But I’ve dreamed about it.
I’ve dreamt of palm trees blowing in the wind, the sound of California’s streets moving below me, and the West Coast sun falling into a sea I have only seen in my thoughts.
The world is filled with critics and criticism.
There will always be someone looking to take apart something they could not build themselves.
There will always be someone with an opinion and there will always be someone eager to tell you what they think, as if it were their job.
(But it’s not)
A friend once tried to connect me with a big literary agent. I called and mentioned my friends name, however, the agent was not interested.
The agent asked, “Who gave you this number?”
He said, “I don’t have time for this,” and then he demanded that I speak up and quickly.
When I explained, “My friend told me to give you a call because he said you might be able to help me,” the agent screamed, “Well, I can’t help you!”
Then he asked, “Do you even know who I am?”
“No,” I responded. “My friend told me to call, so I called.”
The agent and I were linked by a mutual friend.
However, since anonymity prevents me from using accurate names, I will refer to my friend as Adam.
Adam was middle-aged. He was balding, but the sides of his head were slicked back with long black and gray hair. Adam had a gold hoop earring, pierced in his left earlobe. He was well tanned, wealthy, and well fit.
Adam was a big man. His arms were large and his chest was wide. He had enormous hands, which I suppose served him well when he did his ten year sentence in prison.
Adam liked me.
He said, “You have talent, kid.”
He told me, “I’m rooting for you,” and then he insisted that I call his friend the literary agent.
After shouting at me on the telephone, the agent paused for a brief second.
I heard him move something on his desk. Then I heard the sound of a desk drawer, open and then it closed again.
He asked, “How do you know Adam?”
I answered, “He’s a friend of mine.”
“I understand he’s a friend of yours . . . but how do you know him.”
“We have a lot of mutual friends,” I explained.
“Did you know Adam from prison?”
“Because that would be a good story if you did.”
Like a light switch, the agent turned from curious to cold.
“I really don’t have time for this.” He said,
“You really should know about the people you’re speaking to before you call them.” Then he softened again, “But don’t feel too bad. I turn down writers all the time.”
“I don’t feel bad.”
“Good,” said the agent. “You shouldn’t.”
We spoke briefly. Before ending our conversation, the agent said, “When you write something and I’m thinking about which actor will play the starring role—then we can talk.”
Later that day, I walked over to Columbus Circle.
I watched the horse and carriages drive tourists throughout Central Park. A somewhat normal looking homeless man sat next to me on a bench at 59th Street.
He told me, “The reason why it’s so cold outside is because the governor won’t turn on the generators.”
I was 10 minutes away from a meeting with a bookstore to hold a poetry reading.
But the meeting didn’t go well.
The manager was tall and exceptionally thin. He wore very tight clothes. He wore a tight black shirt and tight black pants. His black shoes were pointed and his black rimmed glasses, which covered his feminine blue eyes, hung loosely over the bridge of his large nose on his pale face.
He wore his short blond hair forward and slightly pushed up, like in a pompadour.
He was cold towards me at best and his friendliest words to me were, “Goodbye.”
After the meeting, I headed back to 59th street to grab myself a hotdog with mustard, ketchup, and Sauerkraut.
My shoelaces were loose, and the tongues to my blue and white converse sneakers poked out from the bottom hem of my pants. My jacket was not zipped. My jeans were beaten and faded, but my dream was still very much alive.
That bookstore is no longer in business. Last I heard, my friend Adam decided to move out west. I was told he married a much younger woman. Supposedly, he met her while visiting his daughter when she was in college. But they divorced after a short time, and Adam I lost touch.
As for the agent, I suppose he still does what he does. I suppose he still shouts on telephones. I suppose he still rejects writers on a daily basis. I suppose he still crushes dreams. He tells people they’re no good and I’m sure he still speaks highly of himself.
But none of that matters. What does matter is that I still what I do.
I have not stopped. I have worked at my craft, and most importantly, I have improved along the way.
It’s true. The world is filled with critics and criticism.
But that doesn’t mean I have to listen to it.
And if I do listen—that doesn’t mean it has to stop me.
One of my favorite quotes is from fellow New Yorker and writer, Bobby Moresco. He said, “You can always do what you love to do. It doesn’t mean anyone is going to pay you to do it. But no one can ever stop you.”
I really like that.