Talese, in his timeless, beautifully tailored, custom suit,
stares and smiles from the cover of his book, A
He published an essay in the August 2007 issue of Vanity
about the endangered custom tailor. In this piece he writes that
he spends upwards of $3,000 on one suit and he buys dozens at a
have another take on a writer’s life: this
twenty-seven-year-old writer in particular. As I compose from my
one-bedroom apartment, it’s December in upstate New York
and I can see my breath at my work desk — a card table that
wobbles with every key strike. Electric heat is far too
expensive, so the thermostat is locked at 55 degrees to ensure
that my pipes do not freeze.
sleep on a futon in my living room under a sleeping bag designed
to keep a body warm in 40-degree weather. My dog, Smarty, sleeps
at the foot of the futon as a loyal friend and space heater. I
often sleep with a stocking cap and hooded sweatshirt. During the
scented candles for aroma but also to warm up my hands from the
metallic chill of the keyboard.
clip coupons. But the key with clipping coupons is to clip only
the ones on items that you regularly buy otherwise you are not
saving any money.
The foods I
will be sick of in a matter of months or years will be
quesadillas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and tuna melts.
As someone who loves to cook, it pains me to make boxed macaroni
and cheese. But I do, and to make it healthier and to save milk
and butter rations, I only use the pasta water to mix just half
or three-quarters of the cheese powder. I also divide portions
with measuring cups to keep me from overeating, but it also
stretches my food so I may spend, on a given week, no more than
I head out to a shopping center where there’s a Home Depot,
Staples and Target they are situated in a sort of right triangle
with the Home Depot 300 yards from the Staples as the hypotenuse.
Staples is 100 yards from the Target. I park in the middle of
and walk to them all so I do not have to start my car except to
leave. Before I reach the register, any register, I ask early and
often do I need this? Most of the time, I want it, but do I
really need it? The answer is often no.
the two days a week that I treat myself to a cup of Dunkin’
Donuts coffee, I make one medium cup of French vanilla with cream
and sugar stretch for two, sometimes three days by taking baby
sips and savoring every single drop.
work as a sports reporter for The Saratogian as my day job
(though the hours are 4 P.M. to 12 A.M.). Once in the break room,
the recycling bin for cans and bottles had been overflowing.
After several passes, I looked at it one last time, took the
garbage bag to
Chopper, and redeemed them for a whopping $5.
work, I’m one of the few people who like to wear suits,
shirts, and ties. The publisher is the only other person who
dresses in such a way on a regular basis. I like to look sharp,
especially in a sports department where sweatshirts and jeans are
the norm. I cloak my pauper lifestyle with a wool Versini suit,
white shirt, and patterned tie.
when I get home there’s no television to turn on, just a
radio I use during the day to play Metallica albums or, if I’m
getting ready for work, Frank Sinatra hits. There’s nothing
like fixing a Windsor knot to the tune of “I’m Gonna
Live Till I Die.” As I wind down I throw on a hooded
sweatshirt, sweatpants, and thick wool socks and pick up my copy
of Talese’s A
and internalize that wonderful, three-piece suit.
think that maybe some day I’ll be like Gay Talese with his
custom suit and beautiful house in New York and I’ll
reflect on my times as a poor writer and say these were the good
old days. Until then I’ll sit closer to my dog for heat and
blow smoke rings with my
keeping hope alive.