I always knew that I would live in New York City one day. There was no doubt that Manhattan was going to become my home. Little did I know that Queens and Brooklyn would be stopping points for me as well.
When I was a kid, my aunt lived outside the city, in Tarrytown, New York, and whenever we drove up to visit her, I would ask my parents if they knew where to find Rosie O'Donnell. All I wanted was to get a koosh ball from Rosie and maybe have a coffee with her under a tree while discussing the latest Tony Award nominations and who we thought was a frontrunner to win. Obviously this is a normal childhood fantasy, right?
(Years later I would get to interview Rosie several times for my online show, so suck it, Justin, Roy, and Chris, for shitting all over that dream in sixth grade.)
After applying to several colleges and getting into all of them, including Fordham, Pace, and Marymount -- all very good schools -- I decided that all this education was going to get in the way of becoming famous. I settled on the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), because I could knock it out in two years and be a star before I was even 20.
(I ended up graduating at 19 and doing a children's-theater tour of Aladdin for elementary schools; I think that is probably close to achieving that dream. Whatever. Who cares? I got to see exciting destinations like Alabama and Wisconsin.)
Everything was set and ready to go by the time the last month of my senior year in high school came around. I had become the class vice president, was the lead in the school musical, and was pretty good at hiding from my parents how much I was drinking and drugging, which was awesome. I looked like the perfect, all-American boy, with a touch of eye liner and skin-tight jeans, but hey, it was 2005, and times were changing. (Thanks, Will and Grace, for the little boost to my ego!)
My best friend Gerry and I decided to head to the beach before our graduation, to sit around and smoke pot and drink out of the bottle and be the classy 17-year-olds we were, perfectly modeled after the stars of our favorite show, The Simple Life. But while we were at the beach, we were both struck straight into a state of sobriety when we got the call that our friend Mark had been murdered, by his father. It turns out that Mr. Weaver was suffering from some mental issues and decided to end the lives of his entire family.
This hit me extremely hard. Mark and I weren't bosom buddies, but we had became close while working together on student-council projects. I was the class vice president, and he was the school vice president. He was a sweet guy who always took an interest in what I was up to and was a good person to get advice from.
Because of our positions on student council, we were set to walk down the aisle together during graduation and sit next to each other in the front row. The school decided to leave the space open, which left me to walk alone. I will never forget looking at the seat next to me during graduation and seeing the empty chair, a chair that represented my friend who'd been taken away by a bullet to the head while he slept. The chair meant that even at 17, we could die. Never had it occurred to me that I wasn't invincible.
I hit the beach for a week after this and ingested as much alcohol as my 128-pound frame could handle and then some. I went nuts for a week, pushing the feelings from graduation week deep down inside me.
The following week -- June 23, 2005 -- I moved to New York. My parents drove me up and helped me move into my dorm and then walked me to orientation. As I watched them walk away, I knew that I was home, no longer a flamboyant country boy but a future star in the city that I would conquer and take over.
On my third day in New York City, I woke up in Inwood in a stranger's messy bed, surrounded by dildos, a bottle of lube, and a man who looked like he was a direct descendant of the Lucky Charms leprechaun. The last thing I remembered from the night before was puking on the bathroom floor of the Joshua Tree on 46th Street.
The only thought I had on the long train ride back to my dorm was, "If I'm going to be raped, can it at least be in a neighborhood that is convenient? God, I wish he'd at least given me money for a cab."
Welcome to New York.