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 As you might have heard through the proverbial grapevine, I am unemployed. I’m still working on Ironminds, still writing this silly column, wasting your time, but when it comes to the little things that your job provides - Internet access, a sense of self-worth, a way to whittle away 10 hours a day, lo, a paycheck - I don’t have any of them.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been unemployed before, but let me tell you, it sucks. Eventually, I will get my shit together and start looking for work, but I liked my old job and am not yet ready to let it go. So now, until I realize that I would like to eat something more expensive than cat food, I am staying at home, working on a rambling mess that I call a book, writing freelance articles and editing Ironminds.

My apartment is small. There’s a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room and two bedrooms, all stacked right next to each other, railroad-style. When I was working, I spent very little time at home. I would typically leave work, meet fellow writer dorks for drinks, then meet some other writer dorks for more drinks, then stumble home and collapse on the couch before repeating the process the next day. My apartment was simply a place I kept all my stuff, a $1300-a-month storage facility.

But now, well, now I have nowhere to go all day. There is no office, no escape. I wake up, typically around 11:30, shake off the hangover, take a shower. I then check out the noon SportsCenter and, next thing I know, the day’s half over. I then sit down at my computer, do a little bit of writing, and then, bam, it’s 5. A very convincing argument could be made that, all in all, I travel a total of about 50 feet before 6 p.m. And that includes pacing in the shower.

My poor cat, used to being neglected and left alone, has no idea what to do with me. He hops up next to my modem-less computer, rubs up against the screen and stares at me accusingly, as if to say, “Goddamn, you’re still here? I’m used to sleeping all day, pausing to take a dump every once in a while, doing my thing. But you just won’t leave. You’re cramping my style, dude.” I even think I caught him printing out my resumé the other day; he keeps leaving them hidden in various spots around the apartment, dropping not-so-subtle little hints.

It’s amazing how unemployment changes everything. Weekends no longer mean anything. Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, they’re all the same. The only difference is the amount of sports on television, a.k.a., distractions from writing or job-searching. All motivation vanishes. One would think, since I’m in the damn apartment all day, I would go on occasional cleaning binges, just to keep myself busy. Nope. There is a pile of clothes in the corner of my room that has not been touched in weeks. Why bother? Like I’m going to impress anyone in this state. Do you know how difficult it is to talk to people at parties when you don’t have a job? Well, Will, what do you do? Um, well, I, uh, sit around all day, watch a little Oprah, maybe masturbate a little.

The biggest decision I make all day is which CDs to listen to, which is made easier considering I sold half my CDs when I discovered Napster, foolishingly assuming I’d always have Web access. I’m running out of options. Currently, I’m listening to Use Your Illusion I and II.Use Your Illusion albums? I’m not even sure why I have those; shouldn’t I have sold them around 1995? We’re just a few days away from Meat Loaf’s Dead Ringer. We are truly in dire straits.

Let me just say, folks, that this is not how matters were supposed to end up. In three weeks, I will turn 25. When I was young, 25 might as well have been 90. It will be the year 2000 when you turn 25, Will. By then, we’ll all have jet packs, and we’ll be able to watch TV on our wristwatches ... on Mars! When I was in high school, with Roger Ebert as my major hero, I told myself if I wasn’t the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times by the age of 24 (the age Ebert started), I would have to commit suicide. Heck ... I never imagined being jobless at 24. I’d be happy to be a paperboy for the Sun-Times now. Do you realize that I’m collecting unemployment? So depressing. I sucked it up and told my father I would be collecting unemployment. He sighed deeply. “You’re not going to move home, are you?” I sighed deeper.

I guess I should just be glad my high-school class reunion isn’t for three more years. Imagine that. “So, Will, you left Mattoon to go to New York. What do you do out there?” Well, girl whose rejection of me in high school has had more than a small contribution to my burning desire to become rich and famous, I smoke a lot of cigarettes, write silly columns that no one reads and watch ESPN. Oh, and I pay about 10 times as much as you do for an apartment. Yes, I think I was once in the gifted classes. No, I don’t remember ever being kicked in the head by a horse since then. Thanks for asking, though.

It makes you question everything. When I lived in St. Louis, working for The Sporting News, life was blissful and full of comfort. I had a nice, cheap apartment, a loving, beautiful girlfriend, many close friends and enough money and freedom to take cheap shots at my employers in columns and not be fired for it. But it wasn’t enough. I had to make it in New York City. I had to try to be a big shot. It was too comfortable in St. Louis. I had to test myself, see if I could make it with the big boys.

It might have been a test I failed. I now sit here, in the dark, listening to “November Rain”: “Sometimes I need some time/on my own/sometimes I need some time/all alone.” Good Lord, I’m quoting Axl Rose to describe my own mental state. Christ. Anybody got a gun?

I’m just not a kid anymore. It was easy being the wunderkind, the youngest guy in the office, the peculiar one with bad hair who wrote self-referential columns and never quite fit into the corporate scheme. I always figured I’d find my place eventually. I had plenty of time.

But I’m almost 25 now. Joke’s over, kids. Time’s running out. It’s not so cute to be 25 and unemployed, hanging out with your cat all day. When you get that disappointed silence from your mom, that “I told you not to leave the Times” grimace, there’s little recourse. You just have to sit and take it. Sigh. She’s right; I should have gone into law.

So, beloved readers, if you can spare the time to oblige a downcast columnist, call me. Today, if you’re bored. 212-367-9399. I’m a little lonely and kinda depressed. Go ahead. Call. Heck, you know I’m home.



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