Broke-Ass Stuart interview on cango.com
Published below is an interview with Broke-Ass Stuart, author of the highly acclaimed Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in San Francisco, who now has New York in his broke-ass cross-hairs with a 350+ page Guide to Living Cheaply in New York City.
I contacted him to ask him about the book and about his life, and as you will see, he’s not just a writer, but someone who is actually living the life. He moved to New York from California and is simply writing about what he’s doing everyday, and how he survives in the Big '˜bad’ Apple. This, along with some original and colorful language, makes his guidebook a must read for anyone on a tight budget in NYC.
Question. So are you really broke, or is it an act?
Ans: Ha ha! Yes I really am broke, woefully so. Trust me I wish I wasn’t, but people say it what keeps me honest'those dirty bastards.
Question. You first wrote a guide to living cheaply in San Francisco. How did that come about? I mean, was it just a collection of your experiences, or did you have to dig around and find information? Also, assuming that you really were broke, how did you get the idea of putting it together in the form of a book? And was it difficult?
Ans: Wow, that’s a lot of questions at one time. I guess I’ll start at the beginning; this might be a long one. I was working in candy store in North Beach, when a guy who grew up in my neighborhood in San Diego, came in with his fiancÃ©. I hadn’t seen him for a few years, so we chatted for awhile, and then as they were leaving his fiancÃ© gave me her card, and it said she was a travel writer. I thought to myself, 'œHey I wanna be a travel writer,' so I decided to be one. The first Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in San Francisco was a 33 page zine that I made at a local copy store. If you’re wondering, a zine is a DIY chapbook type thingy that you make and distribute yourself. Anyway, the zine got really popular, so a year later I did a second volume (this time 100 pages) which wound up being even more popular. My zine ended up getting 'œBest of the Bay' in theSF Bay Guardian two years in a row, and it led me to write for Lonely Planet. After that I got a book deal to turn Broke-Ass Stuart SF into a real book, as well as doing a NY book too. Whew, I think that brings us up to date.
Question. You’re all set to launch a guide to living cheaply in New York in Nov 2008. Is that right? Can you tell us a bit about what’s in it?
Ans: Yes, that’s the plan. I’m working my ass off right now to get it done. This is hands down the biggest project I’ve ever worked on because, I’m basically building a 350+ page guidebook from scratch, whereas, when I did my SF book I had my zines to build on, and when I worked for Lonely Planet, I had the previous author’s work to build on. So you wanna know what’s gonna be in the NY book huh? Pure unadulterated awesomeness, that’s what. It’s gonna have a list of places where you can score free food with your drinks (like how the Crocodile Lounge on E 14th St gives you a free pizza every time you buy a drink). It’s gonna let people know where the best cheap drinks, food carts, and greasy spoon diners are, as well as hipping them to where all the cool free and cheap sights and entertainment are. And best of all, I talk a lot of shit in the process.
Question. From what I can see, there’s considerable authenticity in your books, which makes it seem like you really walked the walk, and it’s not just something which you wanted to write about, so you went around looking in the city. Is that what makes your guide books different from other budget travel or city guides? Or is there something more?
Ans: Yeah, I think that’s a huge part of it. I write mostly in a first person narrative telling about my experiences wrangling these weird cities, while also delivering useful information. It’s almost like a collection of very short stories mashed up with a regular guide book. So that’s a big part of it. But once again, I think it’s the shit talking that really takes it the extra mile. People seem to like it when I curse and make fun of the lactose intolerant.
Question. Now you’ve written about living cheaply in San Francisco and NYC. Which of these two cities do you like better, and why? What’s different about them?
Ans: I could write a whole dissertation about this subject. Hmm..I think the best way to describe the difference between the two cities is that in San Francisco, whatever energy you put out there, the city gives it right back to you. Whereas with New York, no m
atter how much you love it, it fucking hates you. I’ve been living out of a bag pretty much for the past 2 years, so for me 'œmaking it' would be to have enough money to permanently take my shit out of storage in SF and have an apartment there, but spend a month at a time, a few times a year, living out of the Chelsea Hotel. Is that too much to ask for? I’m a relatively simple man.
Question. If you plan on writing any more guides after this, which city would the next Broke-Ass Stuart guide feature?
Ans: My publishers really want me to do Los Angeles, but honestly, the thought of trying to do this thing that I do in LA, gives me tremors. That place is just too fucking big! Honestly, I think London would be a great city to do next, but I’d also like to do Montreal, Austin and Chicago. Who knows really? Realistically it would probably another American city. Maybe San Diego since I grew up there and know it well. I’m sure my parents would love it if I just showed up at their door with three bags and said, 'œHi guys, mind if I stay for 6 months?'
Question. Is there anything else you do, apart from writing and poking around the city?
Ans: I begrudgingly wait tables (shaking my fist in the air). It’s what pays my bills while I’m waiting for my millions to start rolling in. Is that what you mean, or do you mean like hobbies? I read about a book a week, I go on dates with my lovely girlfriend, I look at internet porn, and I rob old ladies for their bus money. But other than that, not too much. I’m pretty into watching The Wire right now.
Question. Anything else you want to add, about your book, or your life? Future plans?
Ans: Um, yes, if you’re reading this, buy my shit! Don’t worry if you don’t live in SF or NY, I have t-shirts that say 'œYoung, Broke and Beautiful'. You’ll love them! They are for sale at www.brokeassstuart.com. As for future plans, my ultimate goal is to have a Broke-Ass Stuart travel show on TV. I figure it’s gotta be a lot easier than moving to a new city every year and writing a god damn book.
Question. Any specific advice for someone who’s broke, or on a tight budget, in New York? (Other than buying a copy of your book')
Ans: Yeah make sure to go to www.myopenbar.com and sign up for their weekly newsletter which tells about which bars are giving away free booze. Also make sure to hit up the aforementioned Crocodile Lounge as well as the Alligator Lounge and The Charleston (both in Williamsburg). These places give out a free personal pizza with every drink.
So there you have it, straight from Broke-Ass Stuart himself. I’m sure you realize after reading this Q&A how invaluable his Guide to living cheaply in New York City will be if you happen to find yourself short of money in the Big Apple. In fact, even if you have no such limitations, following his guide book will show you the '˜real’ New York, the kind which doesn’t exist in the travel brochures. You’ll meet all kinds of interesting people, have a lot of fun and feel like you know what makes New York tick. So visit his website, buy his books, and like he says, he’s got some hot T-shirts for sale on his site.Just a quick note to add that from now on, we’ll be publishing interviews regularly with some more NYC travel writers, state tourism officials, hotel chefs, managers and restaurant owners in the New York area.