fan fiction n. fiction, usually fantasy or science fiction, written by a fan rather than a professional author, esp. that based on already-existing characters from a television series, book, film, etc.; (also) a piece of such writing.
When I was twenty-two years old, I left home for the first time and departed for New York City along with a meager cache of savings and the dream of being an actor. Traveling by train from Houston to Chicago to Buffalo and then down into Manhattan, I arrived on New Year's Eve 1972 and took a room for the night at the New York Hilton on Sixth Avenue. At around eleven, I walked to Times Square, where there seemed to be at least a million people huddled together on Broadway and Seventh Avenue. It was freezing that night, about 1 degree Fahrenheit, but I didn't even feel it. I had arrived! I was going to take the New York theater world by storm! When the legendary New Year's Ball dropped at the stroke of midnight, I hugged and kissed absolute strangers. It was a very heady experience. I went back to the hotel, went to sleep, and woke up in the morning with a 102-degree fever, compliments of a catastrophic case of the flu. I was sick for a solid month. A friend of my brother's, Dennis Hanovich, a saint, allowed me to stay in his guest room while I recovered.
After a few weeks, I couldn't take it anymore. I'd been in the Big Apple for almost a month and had seen nothing of it other than the inside of Dennis's guest room. "What are you doing?" I said to myself. "Get up! Go out! Take a look at New York City!" I dragged myself out of bed, pulled on my clothes, took the elevator to the ground floor, and walked out onto West End Avenue. I gasped. It was like a fairy tale, a WINTER WONDERLAND! The snow had been falling all day, and the city was wrapped in a blanket of white. Exhilarated, I decided to stroll a few blocks and enjoy this new adventure. But soon I thought better of it. "You're still sick. Be smart. Go back to bed."
As I turned to go back to the apartment, every light on West End Avenue went out. There was a complete blackout. It was so cold that at almost the same instant, one of my lenses popped out of my glasses. I looked for it, but with only one good eye, I couldn't spot it in the snow and the total darkness. Removing one of my gloves, I began feeling for it, but I still couldn't find it. So I took off the other glove and swept the snow with both hands, hoping one of my fingers would make contact with it. Nothing! Then I got down on my knees in the damp powder and frantically made angel wings in the snow with my hands. Nothing. At that very moment, a taxicab swept by, its tires sending a tidal wave of wet slush over my entire body. Now I was wet and sick and I wanted to go home. Feeling completely defeated, I thought, What am I doing here? I can't make it in New York. I can't even stay alive here! I looked up to the heavens, snowflakes dotting my face, and cried out, "God! Should I go back to Houston? Give me a sign!" And then my other lens popped out. "Thanks, God. Thanks a lot," I said. But then a strange thing happened. A warm and wonderful feeling passed through me, and I knew what it was. Hypothermia! I was freezing to death. No! No, that wasn't it at all. It was defiance! I whipped off my empty frames, threw them in the snow, and shouted to the indifferent world around me, "You can't beat me, New York! I'll conquer you yet!" I was certain of my path, and I would never give up.
My first apartment, a one-room studio on the ground floor, was on West 80th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway. It was right around the corner from Zabar's, which was the only good thing about it. The bathroom was so small that the door, when open, hit the toilet, making it only possible to enter like a crab, sliding in sideways. I was able, with my savings, to equip my new digs with a secondhand bed, a tiny couch, and most important, a portable TV. The night after I bought it, I came home from a walk, opened the apartment door, and found the place completely bare. No bed, no couch, and most distressingly, no TV. Fortunately, the thieves found my clothes unacceptable. Those were the days of New York's "mean streets," and they were decidedly unfriendly to me. I was mugged a couple of times and I couldn't get arrested in the theater.
The only acting job I had in that first year was as an impostor on the game show To Tell the Truth. I pretended to be a cabdriver from Denver who played trumpet requests for his customers. No one on the panel of celebrities voted for me; hence I made no money. But I did meet Nipsey Russell, so it wasn't a total loss. And inspired by my cabdriving charade, I got my hack license. The requirements to drive a cab in New York in those days were pretty simple. There was a quiz in which you had to know eight very common locations such as Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, etc. Any tourist could ace this test. Before being rewarded with your license, however, one had to be checked out by a "doctor" in Queens. I was instructed to drop my trousers and underwear, turn my head, and cough while he cradled my cojones for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time. That was the extent of the examination.