Joe Light: Once upon a time, there was a homeless Cornflake, who desperately wanted a Chinatown watch, ‘cause the first time he came to New York City he spent all his money before he got there and did not have the opportunity to buy one. So one day, he made his way into the city and walked into Chinatown, and within the first block he was propositioned like a man who wanted to know if he wanted a Rolex. He responded positively and was walked a short distance to a very shady-looking streetcorner, where another man showed me a list of watches. And, ah—
Andy Tisdel: We’re changing tenses now.
JL: Showed him a list of watches and asked him which one he would want (much laughter), and he responded “I like gold. I want something gold.” And they produced the world’s most gaudy-looking, ginormous, fake gold Rolex. They wanted fifty bucks, and I talked them down from it. They wanted about two hundred fifty dollars, but I’m pretty good at haggling. At the time, I was really just buying it as a souvenir. I’m never going to wear it anyway. Plus it’s fake, and I mean, if I wore it it might break, and I just wanted a Chinatown Rolex for a memory. And then I got back to the ship that we were living on at the time, and I was showing it to my roommates and they were all noticing how thuggish it looked, and I started to think the same thing. And I thought, there were other watches on that list he showed me, that pictogram or whatever you would call it, that looked very nice. And, ah, that I could actually wear it if I could buy one, but I didn’t want to spend another fifty dollars. So I was headed to Chinatown a couple of weeks later, and I decided to bring the watch with me and see if I could trade it. And, uh… is [the camera] off?
AT: Nah. I just wanted to check it.
JL: So I decided to trade it, and I made a lot of Chinese people very unhappy with me in the process. I had to talk to four different people, all of which I think—I couldn’t tell if they were working together, or if they were just competing for my business. And when three of them realized that I didn’t want to buy a watch, I wanted to trade one I’d already bought from them for another one, they just got mad. So then I was like—he was like, I can give you an extra ten bucks or something like that for this watch, plus the new one, and the first three people didn’t go for that, so I kinda just gave up and started walking back—HE gave up and started walking back towards the 6 train, and a completely different one chased him down, thrust the watch he wanted into his hands, took ten dollars and the other watch and ran away. (more laughs) And he was pretty happy about that… *pauses to think* …Let’s see. Other fun experiences I’ve had in New York.
AT: Or anywhere.
JL: Well, last week I went to a Broadway play with some friends from my team, my team leader and another Corps Member. And I was pretty excited. I’d been to one Broadway play before, but it wasn’t what I wanted and with really crappy seats and I really wanted to see Wicked! So I treated myself to some front-row seats and my colleagues also got tickets, and… We decided to leave about five hours prior to the showing and got lost in Brooklyn for the first of those five hours we were supposed to leave, so that took away our lead time by a good chunk. And then we looked at the bus times, and we waited for the bus, and when it got there it skipped our stop. And we were like, well, maybe he didn’t see us. It was an express bus, which means it doesn’t make very many stops, and therefore instead of stopping every ten minutes like the regular bus system, it comes around every hour. So we waited outside in the cold for an hour for it to come ‘round again, and it skipped us again! (laughter) Right as it skipped us I chased it, I chased it down the street, and right as I chased it this old guy on a bike—he was reading a newspaper or something like that—was like “Did you want to get on that bus?” And I was like “Yes! Why am I chasing it?!” “Well, that bus doesn’t stop here on weekends. It stops at the one down by the mall, in front of the movie theater." A mile away. And one of the girls that went with us had some pretty vicious asthma, and so obviously sprinting a mile to the mall to get on that bus was not really realistic, but I did it and they walked it. And I was about a block away when the bus stopped, and I was just freakin’ out, screaming, flailing my arms, and I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got there because everyone else was way behind me, so I called one of my roommates. At this point we were two hours—no, three hours—into the five hours we were supposed to be there. Two hours until showtime. So we were freaking out, and we had a lot of money invested in the show, and we couldn’t even get into Manhattan. We didn’t know what we were going to do. I knew there was a—from my recent travels, I knew there was a subway station right next to Citi Field, and if I could just get a ride there, we could hop on in and be in Manhattan in half an hour. So I grabbed one of our roommates, he grabbed a van, showed up, picked us up, dropped us off at the subway, we took off towards Manhattan and, ah, there was construction on that subway, so without warning it took off and headed in the opposite direction! So we had to get off, find another one headed back into the city, get on that and finally got to our showing an hour or so early.
AT: And was it worth all the hassle?
JL: It was. I got spit on by a Broadway actor. It was fantastic. It tasted like glory. Zest. Talent. What else…
AT: Well, it’s now like twenty-three minutes in.
JL: So seven minutes to go… hmm..
AT: No! The last interview was fifteen minutes. I don’t need that.
JL: I’ll sing Free Bird, how about that. HMMMMM
AT: Any final thoughts on life, on FEMA Corps, on team life, on the penny under your butt?
JL: Aaaaahhhh! My penny! Oh, yeah. Pick up change wherever you find it. It’s all over the place in disaster zones. And we don’t get a lot of money, so I suggest that. Also, read Andy’s blog, it’s fantastic. (laughter)
AT: Well if they read this the whole way through, they probably don’t need the enticement.
JL: Continue reading his blog. It’s fantastic. [Editor’s note: he actually said these things; this is not a thinly disguised advertisement, I swear.]
AT: Thank you. Thank you. You flatter me, sir.
JL: Also, I bro-hugged Obama. (laughter) Actually, no. He just sorta side-hugged me.
AT: Did he, though? ‘Cause you were the first one in the queue.
JL: Well, he shook my hand [demonstrates] and the whole time he was talking to me, he had ahold of my hand. And I was like, “This is a really long handshake! But there’s nobody else in the world I’d rather have a long handshake with,” and he was touching my shoulder and then he kind of pulled me around like this [demonstrates more], so I’m counting it as a side-hug.
JL: And it was like, whoa. Presidential boobery.
AT: You know, this is going to be a straight transcript.
AT: Well thank you for sitting down with me!