I always wanted to be a writer, or a cowboy, an actress or Olympic high jumper but let’s get real here writing seemed like the most attainable. That is of course until I moved to New York City. I was a naïve college grad heading to the big city with dreams of making it into the glossy pages and hallways of a Conde Nast publication. I was basically a walking rom com staring Anne Hathaway or Drew Barrymore. Except I didn’t get the job, I got rejected from Columbia School of Journalism, I didn’t have parents who would pay my rent so I could work for peanuts bringing coffee to copy editors and Jane magazine repeatedly denied my blind submissions, they folded though so I assume they had bad taste all along.
It was depressing, this was the land of, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. Well I made it there, but I made it as an Information and Metadata Manager at an audio video restoration company... I’m still not sure what that means. But in between 9-5 work shift in the bubble wrap filled shipping department I found my writing muse after all. It was around that time when one is looking for answers on life and I happened to find them late one night in a bar bathroom on Hudson street. Right there on the wall someone had made everything so clear, like a bar yogi had set my path. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember what the revolutionary wall wisdom said the next morning, but one thing was clear I needed to know what other enlightenment was out there, or what idiocy for that matter. There was an abundance of varied content awaiting me.
Screw those glossy pages with repetitive stories about brunch, succulents and rose’. I found an even better subject, it would be a bit more smelly and dank but at least it came with cocktails! And that was the beginning of my own investigative journalism that would span over 7 years and across the US. This story was far more interesting than one person’s perspective on the best new restaurant or why bourbon was the new vodka or fuchsia the new black, this was everyone’s perspective on everything. Love, heartbreak, bacon, politics, poop, cats, movie reviews, advice, this was Advice From John. It was a marriage of my two favorite things, social history and writing. Many a torn leather bar stool was perched on in pursuit of this wisdom. Vodka sodas were consumed. People probably wondered why I was in the bathroom for so long or why I was walking out of the men’s room… I risked it all in the name of honest and real reporting!
I started recording it all with a notebook, but I quickly realized the most telling part of these messages were the penmanship, the distinct font and banter between sharpies. And you know what they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. So, I started photographing them and now these are my pictures of a thousand words.