Strange TIMES

So I'm out of work and broke and trying just to get by and wondering how I'll manage to pay bills this month, with my unemployment benefits ending and the availability of temp work meager at best.

I'm on the phone with my father, bitching and moaning about how bad I have it, when someone rings my buzzer. I get off the phone and buzz down to see who it is. I assume the postman has something that won't fit in my mailbox.

"I'm a location scout for 'Law and Order,'" the voice answers. "We're filming on your block, and I'm wondering if you'd be willing to let us shoot in your apartment for a day or two late this week or early next."

Manna from heaven! I don't know how much they pay, but I'll bet it's a nice chunk of change -- surely enough to solve my current crisis -- so I run down to confirm that he is who he says he is, and I bring him upstairs.

He seems to think my place fits the character who's supposed to live here; he likes the high ceilings, the exposed brick. He cringes a little at the minuscule kitchen, but I'm thinking I'm in.

Just then, his cellphone rings. He answers it.

"Hello...yeah...yes...mmm-hmm...uh-huh...okay, got it. Later."

He turns to me. "They've decided to shoot on 24th Street instead. Sorry about that." I give him my card, just in case, but his mind is elsewhere and he's off.

The entire sequence of events lasts maybe 90 seconds. I go from despair to elation and back to despair in well under two minutes. That might be some kind of record.

But think about it -- in how many towns can it happen that the sort of miracle you hope for when times are bad actually occurs? Most places, the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes is your only hope, or maybe the lottery--and just how high are your odds of winning those? In New York, you never know who'll come knocking at your door. It didn't work out for me this time, but who knows--maybe the 24th Street resident who got the gig needs the dough worse than I do.

Even in my disappointment, I have to laugh. New York giveth, and New York taketh away.

E. B. White pegged it when he said, "No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky."

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