Life Has Crushed Augusten Burroughs Into a Pancake of a Man

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Photo: Augusten Burroughs

Name: Augusten Burroughs
Age: 44
Neighborhood: Battery Park City
Occupation: Writer. He’ll be reading from his latest holiday collection, You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas, next Monday at the Union Square Barnes & Noble.

Who's your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
I like the one who brings me my Philly-cheesesteak sandwiches. He's real.

What's the best meal you've eaten in New York?
I'm not the kind of person who keeps track of such things.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I sit alone on top of my bed with my laptop, dwell on the past, try to imagine the future, and thus completely avoid the present, all while typing.

Would you still live here on a $35,000 salary?
No. I can't stand inconvenience or roommates, both of which are exactly what $35,000 a year buys you in Manhattan.

What's the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Opening night of Next to Normal with Alice Ripley.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
I do if they are genuine destitute rejects from society and not the spoiled, experiential child of a West Coast entertainment executive.

What's your drink?
Ayala's "cloves cardamom cinnamon" herbal water. If you told me I would someday be addicted to water, I would have called you a fool.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Once, in 1989. It was a pot roast. And I actually had to say that to the people who came over for dinner. It's okay, you guys. It's just pot roast. What do you mean, pot roasted what? Pot roasted pot roast. Yes, cow. Yes, from a normal grocery store.

What's your favorite medication?
Well, it's not technically a medication, I suppose. But those premoistened alcohol squares that you can buy to clean hypodermic needles. I use them for facial breakouts.

What's hanging above your sofa?
A nine-inch meat hook.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
Well, in my case, 50 cents would be too much. But for the anatomically correct, I would say more than $400 would be pretty difficult to justify. Not that I wouldn't spend twice that amount if I had even a comb-over's worth of hair.

When's bedtime?
Four or five in the morning. Then I wake up a couple hours later.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
I never liked either of them. The new one is tacky and corporate; the old one was just herpes with lights. So flip a fucking coin.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
I think he probably has a spectrum disorder and would be happier if he used Linux.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
Most? Like I have a list? If I had a list of things I hated about living here, I would move the hell away.

Who is your mortal enemy?
It takes energy and motivation to have an enemy. But life has crushed me into a pancake of a man, so I can't work up the enthusiasm to have a proper enemy.

When's the last time you drove a car?
Funny you should ask. I rented a car the day before yesterday to drive a route I have traveled as a passenger for the last ten years. And I got lost on my way back — even though not a single turn is required. And then today, I forgot that I had a rental car, so I never returned it. But they never called, either. So does that mean it slipped through the cracks and I get to keep it? So much in life is unclear.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
The apartment I bought just before the bottom of the world fell off is now completely worthless because the building was abandoned by its owner and is now an unwanted foster child of the state. Naturally, it's the first apartment I've ever owned in Manhattan.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
I read the Times online, but I would never handle an actual paper newspaper because of the black ink that stains your fingers. I have the hands of a person who has been dead for a month; cracked, cut, awful things that should be either gloved or surgically removed.

Where do you go to be alone?
I am alone all day every day. The only difference between me and an inmate in solitary confinement on death row is that I have Internet access and an uncertainty about my future.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
If you visit the country and find you cannot sleep because the silence you have heard so much about is actually just a shifting of all auditory awareness to the circulatory system in your head area, and in the morning when you are fatigued and raw, you realize that yes, you would trade the life of your sibling for a ten-minute fix of midtown traffic, you are a New Yorker.