1. BECOME A NUN If you’re willing to take a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, your prayers may be answered in a convent. Some sisters live full time at a convent like the Corpus Christi Monastery in the Bronx, where the eighteen cloistered nuns spend all day praying in “perpetual adoration of the most blessed sacrament.” Brooklyn’s Sisters of Mercy get out more, if only to work in schools, hospitals, women’s shelters, and soup kitchens. Still more adventurous are the Sisters of Saint Francis in Syracuse, who get to go all the way to Hawaii, East Africa, and Peru. You have to be Catholic (though there are Buddhist and Orthodox Christian nuns) and neither married nor divorced (God frowns upon that, though being widowed is okay by Him). Go to religiousministries.com to find the right order for you.
2. RUN FOR OFFICE If your friends are tired of hearing you say, “I should run for office,” the New York City Council may be the place for you. There are 51 seats in the city, it pays at least $90,000 a year, and owing to term limits the council has to turn over completely every eight years. Plus, a City Council run requires 900 valid, legible petition signatures, compared with the 7,500 needed to run for mayor. “The best way to do it is through the issue that you’re most concerned about,” says City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who started out as a council aide and got elected to office in 1999. For your cause, consider helping children in some way. Surely there are libraries that need renovating, playgrounds that need building, orphans who need feeding. What can your opponent say? “Don’t feed them”?
Consider doing a stint as a district leader—rung one on the city political ladder—and make sure you’re physically fit. Campaigning requires standing for hours at the subway, which can be hell on the back. “If you’re planning a year in advance, start doing sit-ups now to strengthen your stomach and back,” says Quinn. “If there’s ever a step or a curb, put one foot up on it. That’s a good trick.” Another trick is knocking your opponents off the ballot by catching them on petition technicalities (illegible handwriting, invalid addresses) and sending them to court to defend themselves, which, at the very least, sucks their spirit dry and, at best, leaves you with one less challenger.
3. TEACH THE DOWNWARD DOG Although yoga-teaching programs can last six months, Manhattan makeup artist Elisa Flowers became a certified core-strengthening Vinyasa instructor in six weeks, thanks to an intensive twelve-hour-a-week course with Sadie Nardini, an instructor at Essential Therapy on East 25th Street. It helped that Flowers had been practicing for five years; generally, those teachers who are qualified to certify others invite only their top students to pursue it. Flowers’s next step is teaching for free or half-price at a yoga studio as practice and to draw students. “It’s like I’m a band trying to get picked up by a record label,” she says. “I need to develop a following.”
4. GROW ORGANIC TOMATOES UPSTATEAissa O’Neil was a fashion designer in the city (she started a sportswear line called Hybrid) and a Boerum Hill loft-dweller before she sold the business; moved to her weekend house in Delhi, New York; and created Betty Acres Farm, a 90-acre organic farm that sells vegetables, eggs, and organically raised meat to farmer’s markets, stores, and restaurants. To get the place up and running, it cost her $75,000, which bought a new barn roof, a 1965 Massey Ferguson tractor, five sheep, one pig, and a goat. (Neighbors gave her chickens.) O’Neil was able to break even in her first year, but it took her three to draw a salary. “If you’re a farmer making $29,000 to $30,000 a year, you’re doing very well,” she says. On the other hand, it only took her two years to find a husband, who works for the post office when he’s not baling hay. Having a family member in a nonfarm job is a good idea. “It gives us both health-insurance benefits year-round,” O’Neil says.
There are hundreds of certified organic farms in New York State, and the number is growing. To start your own, look for land with expansion possibilities in Orange County; the Catskills are too mountainous. To make money, design your farm around an upscale restaurant menu, with items like Angus beef, baby lettuce, and artisanal cheese. Avoid eggs. “In the summer, we sell about 50 dozen eggs a month, but the more we sell, the more we lose,” says O’Neil. “No farmers make money on eggs.”
5. HIT THE ROAD (1) Locate an RV rental (getrv.com found a 24-foot Winnebago that sleeps five for $3,870 a month out of Peekskill). (2) Rent it. (3) Discover that it’s impossible to park. Gasp at how the hike in gas prices will affect your ten-miles-to-the-gallon supertanker. Confirm that RVing requires personally evacuating the waste-holding tanks into the campsite sewer. Thank the RV-rental folks and ask your travel agent to investigate camping in Costa Rica.
6. TAKE TO THE SKIES“I don’t mean to sound arrogant,” says Chris Richards, owner of the Academy of Aviation at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island, “but once you learn to fly, you’re not like everybody else anymore. You’ve experienced freedom and exhilaration that not many other people have. It changes you as a person.” Angelina Jolie has been flying high since she bought her $400,000 single-engine Cirrus SR22. Other celebrity pilots include Harrison Ford, Patrick Swayze, and John Travolta, who owns a 147-passenger Qantas Boeing 707 jet, which he lands at a runway outside his home in Ocala, Florida. At Richards’s school, it takes 50 to 70 hours and about $17,000 to learn to fly a two-seater Cessna 150, a standard starter plane that goes 300 to 400 miles, at twice the speed of a car, before you need to refuel. Once you’re licensed, renting one runs about $94 an hour, and upgrading to a four-seater Cessna is $150 an hour. Or buy your own Cessna 150 for $20,000 to $30,000. The parking space is extra.
7. GET CAST ON A REALITY SHOW To land a spot on a reality show—and you can find out who’s hiring at realitytvcastingcall.com—you need a video as gripping as the Jacko baby dangle. “You must make the first twenty seconds really count because some casting directors only watch that much,” says Ken Duphiney, a freelance casting director who has worked for shows for CBS and ABC and competed on The Amazing Race 3. (He and younger brother Gerard came in third.) “Never say, ‘I plan to fly under the radar.’ That’s so uninteresting,” he advises. Instead, pick a personality trait and magnify it. If you’re stubborn, sell yourself as Mr. My-Way-or-the-Highway. If you have a hot body, show it off. And if you have a brain, show that off, too, says Duphiney: “Viewers love to watch smart people fail.”
8. GET HIRED AT A HEDGE FUNDIf you’re not already doing money management at Fidelity or Putnam, try mowing the lawn—the right lawn. “This business is all relatives and friends of friends and networking,” says an analyst at a $1.5 billion hedge fund. “In fact, we just got rid of a kid who used to do odd jobs for our boss. Literally, he would do landscaping. The kid was smart, he went to college, so the boss threw him a bone”—a six-figure bone, mind you—“because he thought he could do it. It took a year for them to decide it wasn’t working out.” Given that amount of time to prove yourself, though, you might do better.
9. BECOME A BOLDFACE NAME “Most celebs got famous by sleeping with other famous folk,” says New York Post “Page Six” contributor Jared Paul Stern. “And if you can’t fuck ’em, sue ’em.” Lawsuits, like the one about Paris Hilton’s sex tape, have the added bonus of a built-in profit margin—some stars will pay you just to go away. Or hire a publicist who will donate dish on true boldfacers in exchange for sneaking you into the column. “When you read in a column that Nicole Kidman and Jude Law were seen partying alongside celebrity dentist Bob Smith,” explains Daily News “Gatecrasher” columnist Ben Widdicombe, “that means Bob Smith’s publicist gave the columnist some other great dirt in exchange for the mention.” If you can’t afford a publicist, try writing your own press releases and sending them to gossip columnists. Cory Bernstein did that, professing to be a Versace model and alerting “Gatecrasher” and others that he had been seen in Chicago hot spots with celebrities like Justin Timberlake. You can now Google “Cory the Model” and find numerous citations, including this one.
10. GO TO AN INDIAN SPIRITUAL RETREAT TO HAVE SEX ALL THE TIMEMost such places are austere affairs with buckets for showers, but the Osho International Meditation Resort in Pune, India, has a pool, tennis lessons, a nightclub, a sauna, a cybercafé, discos, and, during high season, 3,000 to 5,000 horny Westerners trying to sleep their way to enlightenment. “It’s like Sex and the City, but barefoot,” explains Zeynep Askoy, a former Manhattan ad exec who enjoyed a brief stay there. The man behind Osho is the late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the famed “sex guru” who founded a 65,000-acre free-love commune in Antelope, Oregon, in 1981. The Bhagwan, who changed his name to Osho, was deported for violating immigration laws in 1987 and died in 1990, but his libido lives on at this wanton hideaway, which requires visitors to have an HIV test upon entry. “Osho’s overall concept is Zorba the Buddha, which combines Zorba the Greek, that guy who loves alcohol, dens, and women, with the silence and meditativeness of Buddha,” explains president Klaus Steeg. Every guest wears a maroon robe in public areas (acquire one at Osho, or buy your own and have it tailored). “Everyone happens to look gorgeous in them,” says Askoy, “especially men. Men look gorgeous wearing a dress.”
11. SAVE A KIDBecome a schoolteacher. The fastest way is through private schools (which pay on average about 15 percent less than public schools’ starting salaries of around $47,000) or charter schools, as neither require the same labor-intensive coursework and testing of the state certification process (though you’ll still need appropriate training and experience). The New York City Charter School job fair on March 18 and 19 (check nyccharterjobs.com) is the American Idol of the teacher talent search. Those with exceptional career experience in everything from business to dance to the visual arts should bring evidence of their skills and express a willingness to work longer than the usual school day (sometimes until 4 or 5 p.m.). For private schools, there are recruiting firms like Manhattan Placements, which found Anna Oropeza-Parra a job teaching kindergarten at the private Scuola d’Italia on the Upper East Side. Oropeza-Parra advises some mental preparation: “The biggest misconception is that teaching is a breeze because you work eight to three,” she says. “As you enter those school doors, you’re on. It’s rewarding, but people get burned out really quickly.”
12. DISAPPEAR COMPLETELYAs long as the police aren’t on your tail, vanishing from society isn’t all that difficult. “The key, in a nutshell, is cash,” says Steven Tavlin, licensed P.I. and president of the Holmes Detective Bureau in Manhattan. Don’t put your name on anything. Use calling cards for landlines, buy prepaid cell phones and change them every few months, travel by bus and train, and find a single-room-occupancy hotel that accepts cash—or a roommate who will put his or her name on the lease and the utilities. Or apply for an Ecaid credit card (ecaid.com), a nameless card stamped solely with an account number. It stashes your funds in an untraceable account in Panama and, when swiped, deducts from your account like a debit card.
Don’t make up a new Social Security number—you never know whose number you’re stealing, says Manhattan P.I. Skipp Porteous, president of Sherlock Investigations. “We were looking for one of the FBI’s most wanted, ran the Social, and found a guy out in the Midwest who was trying to start a new identity.” A better idea: Find someone around your age who died and write to his hometown vital-records office for a birth certificate, then use that to get a Social Security card, driver’s license, etc. “When someone dies, people don’t contact the hospital they were born in to report it, Social Security doesn’t know about it unless a death benefit is filed, and funeral directors aren’t required to notify the government that someone has died,” explains Porteous. “It’s a flaw in the system.” Living under the radar is tough, but there are plenty of deadbeat dads and fugitives proving it can be done. “The city,” says Tavlin, “just swallows them up.”