21 questions

Jonathan Ames Is a Magnet for Rats

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Name: Jonathan Ames     
Age: 48 
Neighborhood: Boerum Hill 
Occupation: Writer. You can catch him at the first East Coast edition of MaxFunCon alongside Kurt Andersen, John Hodgman, Michael Ian Black, and more, the weekend of October 26 in the Poconos.

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?  
I’m going to name two New Yorkers: Walt Frazier and George Plimpton.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?  
You know, I don’t have a good answer for that question. The best thing I ever ate for some reason was a hot dog in Vienna, Austria, when I was 20, very hung-over, and had embraced in an immature, Paul Ryan–ish way the concept of nihilism. 

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?  
Avoiding what I should be doing, which is writing, I guess, then doing a little of it, and then thinking that the next day I’ll do more, and then the next day I don’t.

What was your first job in New York?  
When I was 18, I used to drive a delivery van for the Manhattan Shirt Company, which was actually based in New Jersey, near my hometown. I would drive the van into the city and drop off samples in the garment district. Sometimes, if I had a break, I would go to a peep show in Times Square and horrify my young self with how polluted human sexuality can be. Naturally, I went often.  

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?  
Mike Tyson’s show.

Do you give money to panhandlers?  

What’s your drink?  
Water from the tap, though is it true that it’s like drinking diluted women’s birth-control pills to drink modern tap water?  Anyway, that’s probably the least of one’s worries with modern tap water, but I seem to be fine for the time being. Well, as fine, as a privileged tormented person can be.

How often do you prepare your own meals?  
Never. Generally, I eat very little. I have breakfast out, starve in the middle of the day, and improvise at night.

What’s your favorite medication?  
I don’t take any medicines. I’m kind of like Mary Baker Eddy in that way.

What’s hanging above your sofa?  
I don’t have a sofa. I live in a somewhat pathetic manner. 

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?  
For about eighteen years, I’ve buzzed my mostly bald head to a granular level of stubble, so I haven’t kept up with the appropriate prices of haircuts. Though for a little while, about nine months ago, I was going to a trendy barbershop in Brooklyn to get my head buzzed and my beard trimmed, and it was rather expensive it seemed to me, maybe 40 dollars. But a nice young lady attended to me and it seemed worth it, though I hated seeing myself in the mirror, so I stopped going and resumed buzzing my own head.

When’s bedtime?  
On average, 1 or 2 a.m.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?  
The old Times Square. See above.

What do you think of Donald Trump?   
He often fascinates me. He doesn’t shake people’s hands and he doesn’t drink. What brings him joy? I would say a steak and a blonde, but I think he’s a vegetarian. 

What do you hate most about living in New York?  
I sound like a Sunday school teacher, but I don’t like the word hate. What I find most upsetting about New York is to really acknowledge the sheer, miraculous number of rats and cockroaches that surround us at all times. In particular, I seem to be a magnet for rats. They’re always running into me as they scurry about on garbage nights.

Who is your mortal enemy?  
See the previous answer. Also, I would say that my own mind is my mortal enemy. I mentally lacerate myself all day long. In fact, I’ve wasted my life hating myself but don’t seem capable of stopping. I guess I like to hold a grudge.

When’s the last time you drove a car?  
A few days ago, I rented a car for a weekend excursion. I got two tickets and was towed. 

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?  
I was poor when it started so it had no impact on me personally. For years, as a writer, the highs and lows of the economy had no effect on me. My income was always at what was considered poverty level, which was kind of fun when things were going bad, because I could be like, “Well, at least I haven’t lost anything!” Now I’m better off and this brings on a whole new worry — how to hold onto it.  Why I have to hold onto it, I’m not sure, but that’s the prevailing wisdom. Ask me this question after the next Wall Street crash. 

TimesPost, or Daily News?  
I read all three. I’m trying to keep print alive. 

Where do you go to be alone?  
The Russian baths in the East Village. I sweat in the presence of others, but I become quite alone in my mind.

What makes someone a New Yorker?  
Living here.

Jonathan Ames’s 21 Questions