When I first moved to New York I was 19. My two best hippie friends drove me. But New York was too much for them. They preferred Toronto. New York- Lite. I decided I would stay in a hostel because that's what I had read about in books about Beatniks and young people who moved to New York. So I went to the Y on 22nd street. They were charging $70.00 a night. It seemed high. Across the street was The Chelsea Hotel. It was worth a shot. They were charging $78.00 a night. So I upgraded. I had read that in the sixties people paid their rent with paintings. I set up a meeting with Stanley the infamous gate keeper/landlord of the Chelsea Hotel. I told him I had a promising career as a playwright ahead of me. In fact I added I had a Theatre For Young Audiences play going up in Toronto in a few weeks. "What's it called?" he asked. "Karma" I replied and nodded knowingly at him. As so often is the case when I nod knowingly at people they do not nod knowingly back.
"Look I said, I'm pretty sure you accepted Leonard Cohen's rent in songs, and I've got this play going up and I've got to write pages every day. Plus I'm already learning about holding onto imaginary coffee cups in my acting class at Strasberg. I took a ballet class yesterday, and we did the whole barre to Ella Fitzgerald. So I feel like I belong here. And I think I could really pay my rent in play pages."
He looked at me. My Grandfather had been a great business man, and told me that the key to any business transaction is to really look the person in the eye. So I held Stan's gaze. And Stan held my gaze. And I held his gaze. And at the end of our long gaze he said for seven pages a week he'd throw in an HBO subscription. It was really the first time I'd been paid as a writer.