16 Aug Publication Day, Or the Bar on Ave C
I started writing The Last Days of Night on Avenue C. My former roommate Avi had started an internet company on the third floor of this old building, which happened to house the world’s most generic sports bar on its first two floors. The sports bar failed a health inspection — or something like that, I was actually never totally clear on the details of this — and shuttered its doors, which (somehow) meant that Avi ended up with the remainder of the bar’s lease. So for about a year, he had access to an abandoned sports bar beneath his office. It couldn’t legally re-open as a business — so Avi went to Ikea, got 20 or 30 of the cheapest tables they sold, and covered the sports bar in… work desks.
Then he told all of his friends that if they needed a workspace, they were welcome to come take a desk for the year. It says a lot about my friend that at the time this seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing for him to do. In hindsight, creating the “bar-ffice” (as we instantly nick-named it, because we didn’t really understand how puns work) was wonderful, kind, and generous to a magical degree.
It felt like one of Thomas Edison’s labs. (With beer taps.) The women across from me were building an iPhone app, and would ask everyone to help test the interface from time to time. On one side of me was my friend Amanda, who was then a lawyer and is now a journalist for the NY Times. On the other side was my friend Melinda, who wrote this. We had weekly poker games every Thursday night. Even though Avi lost — every single game — he kept letting us play in his bar-ffice.
This was 2010. I was 29 years old, and my first novel, The Sherlockian, was just being published. I started The Sherlockian when I was 23, in an apartment on 13th Street. This is one of the funny qualities of the projects I work on — they take so long to complete that they end up marking out these distinct phases in my life.
Today, one of those is ending. The Last Days of Night is out. For sale. In stores. Available to the public.
I continued TLDON in LA, in a house on Tracy St. I remember laying brightly colored notecards all across the faded green second-hand-store dining room table as I plotted out the narrative. Then another couple of houses in LA — I moved every single year for 7 years, which was annoying —before my current one.
I finished the first draft of TLDON in a trailer, on a film set outside London. We were shooting The Imitation Game, and most days, if I had nothing to do — which was most days — I’d hide from the cold in the ½ of a trailer I shared with our three producers, typing away at the book. The trailer, honestly, was barely warmer than outside. I never even bothered to take my coat off.
I’m in New York right now, in a hotel on 54th Street. I haven’t lived in this city for awhile. Tonight I’m going to do a talk at a bookstore on 82nd St. Avi will be there. Hopefully he’ll bring his 6-month-old son. Amanda lives in Washington, DC now, where I stopped briefly yesterday for press. I got to play with her 9-month-old daughter. Melinda will probably stop by later, if she doesn’t stay late at the new job she adores. I have no idea what happened to the women making the iPhone app.
Like I said, I was 23 when I started The Sherlockian, and it came out when I was 29. That same year, I started writing The Imitation Game and The Last Days of Night. The Imitation Game came out when I was 33. I am 34 right now. I can’t help but think about where I was 6 years ago, when this book started. The contours of my life then versus now. To even conjure an image of myself when I started The Sherlockian at 23 feels impossible. (Though I’ve seen photos, and the less spoken of this, the better.) Houses, apartments, offices, movies, awards shows — so much has changed, come and gone, happened and then faded.
What’s the take-away from this? I don’t quite know. But here’s the other thing I can’t help but think about: All the things that haven’t changed. I’m still staring at a blank page on my laptop screen. There’s still a notebook next to me in which I’ve scrawled dozens of pages of illegible chicken-scratches. And the friends and family who I’ll see tonight, who have called or texted to wish me well today… Well, they are almost all people who would have done the same 6 years ago. Or 11. What’s the take-away from that?
I’m pretty sure it’s gratitude.