When I was 28 and fresh off another involuntary commitment to the mental institution in Louisville, KY, I took a duffel bag and my last $125 and bought a Greyhound ticket to New York.  It’s a long trip. It takes days.  This story starts on the third day of that trip, somewhere in the countryside of the Northeastern US in late November of 2003.

The terrain became hillier as we moved east. The pink of the sunrise hung like a fog over a shallow valley with a tiny farm in it.  Life seemed magical and promising.  My future was something I regarded warmly in the steamy interior of the bus where I sat near the back in the midst of young people who were rowdy and on their way somewhere.

The guy who sat next to me introduced himself as Robby Bobeé.  I told him that I didn’t believe that was his name, and he showed me his ID which was a laminated white card.  It did indeed say Robert Bobeé, but as proof of identification, it wasn’t worth a shit. I nodded when he showed it to me and didn’t comment further.

He was very intense.  His face was gaunt and white with huge brown eyes.  He wore plain clothes — jeans and a flannel jacket. He had a world view that he explained to me with a series of small drawings on a folded piece of paper.  It was heavily dependent on numbers and geometry and leaps in logic, like a series of small magic tricks that made sense until you started to really concentrate on them.  He spelled it out for me with the patience and enthusiasm of a young mother teaching a precocious child to read, making frequent eye contact to be sure I was following.

During the last several hours of the trip, we bonded over being maligned and misunderstood by the people we were leaving behind, and when the bus spit us out at The Port Authority, we teamed up.  First, we hit a pay-phone outside a D’Agostino to try to wheedle some money out of his mother.  I could hear her voice through the receiver and she was very clearly not pleased.  He’d spun it like it was a sure thing, but it became rapidly obvious that there would be no money coming our way.  Then he tried talking me into calling my parents.  I wasn’t going to call them for any reason, I told him.  Thinking of them made my anger bubble right up, made me feel righteous and wronged.

We took shifts sleeping in an alcove of terra-cotta colored tile on the ground floor of the bus station where benches in a pentagon shape surrounded a recessed floor. This allowed each of us to leave the station, as our bags were too cumbersome to wander with.

I was looking for Howard Stern. I’d sent in a video to become Miss Howard Stern that had gone ignored.  This was unacceptable to me, especially since I’d heard references in the show to what I’d done — I knew my video had made an impact.  I had broken eggs with my vagina into a frying pan, hollering to my off-camera boyfriend, “How do you like your eggs?  Did you say pussy fried?”

I’d heard references to female masturbation on the show couched in the term “making eggs” and I knew my video had been noteworthy, but I never received any kind of response.  It bothered me that the video was interesting enough to be discussed, but only obliquely, and that though it seemed it was amusing enough for the show’s team, it was deemed inappropriate for public consumption.

I had had to poke holes in the eggs with a pin.  If you ever tried to squeeze an egg in your fist and pop it, you know that it’s impossible. To break an egg like that, you first have to break its surface.  I pierced several eggs’ shells, encased them in condoms to avoid getting an infection, cut the condoms so they wouldn’t be visible on camera, and then I had a friend film me as I shoved them up my vagina.  I did this under a skirt in order not to expose myself.

There was a little digital manipulation, but the grunts were real. My record player played ACDC’s “Problem Child” in the background. The frying pan was already hot, and rested on top of a pickle bucket as I straddled it and squeezed my muscles against cold egg shell in the middle of my kitchen. As the eggs dribbled out one by one, they sizzled in the pan.  I then scrambled the eggs, plated the meal with buttered toast and salsa, clanged the frying pan with a wooden spoon and yelled, “Come and get it.”  We then filmed my roommate’s dog eating the eggs.

The Howard Stern Show had made a big deal about saying Miss Howard Stern was not a title based on looks.  I knew that Stern would see me as a fat pig.  Any woman above 115 pounds was deemed a pig in his eyes, and at 140, I was sure my weight was the only reason I was never contacted.

I didn’t use the internet at the time.   But I knew, when they called the winner of the title into the studio and I listened at home, that she was a blond bombshell with breast implants and a baby voice, and I was offended because she wasn’t funny or at all interesting.

My major motivation for going to New York was that I was sure my personality was too big for Louisville, KY, but that it could find a place on The Howard Stern Show, or if not on the show, then in New York.

The humiliation of being myself — the girl who had deliberately vomited on a perfectly nice college student for “no reason,” who would only talk like a robot in her college classes and at the coffee shop, and who had had to go to the institution in handcuffs more than once in flailing, screaming fits of rage — this humiliation was one I felt I could escape in New York.

So in those moments while Robby was guarding our bags, I set off in search of the Empire State Building so that I could find The Howard Stern Show and try to get on the air.

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KATE SEDGWICK lives in Buenos Aires with a 20 pound cat. She runs a live monthly storytelling event in English called Second Story Buenos Aires and does standup comedy. An editor at large for Matador Network, she is a writing educator and student advisor at MatadorU. She is working on a memoir about her brief time living on the street in New York. Her infrequent tweets can be seen at @KateSedgwick.

24 responses to “Escape to New York”

  1. Carlo Alcos says:

    Raw. Thank you for sharing. Can’t wait to read more (tell me there will be more…)

  2. Kate Sedgwick says:

    Raw then scrambled. Thanks, Carlo. There’s a lot more, but where it goes, nobody knows.

  3. Leigh says:

    Fantastic, Kate. I’ve always enjoyed your snark, but I love seeing this different side of you and your writing. Definitely makes me want to read more!

  4. hal says:

    howard stern obviously knows nothing about eggs.

  5. Jason says:

    For some reason, what stands out to me most here are the two words “pickle bucket”

    Thanks so much for sharing Kate.

  6. Balloon Boy says:

    BABABOOEY!

  7. Laura says:

    Love it!!! When does the book come out?

    • Kate Sedgwick says:

      I have given zero thought to logistics or even how to do a thing like that, but thanks for asking. I guess I’d rather self-pub than blog the whole thing.

  8. Rachel Pollon says:

    Love your writing. Want to read more. Fiction or non. Hope you are in good place. And F that guy if he couldn’t see what you have to offer. 😉

    • Kate Sedgwick says:

      Thanks, Rachel. In all fairness, I was probably clearly a loose cannon who couldn’t be trusted not to say too many bad words on the air.

  9. Thrilled to see your byline here, Kate.

  10. Nick says:

    Loved these nuggets of snark. Agree with the other commenters: want more! And, is it wrong that I want to see Robby’s world view sketches?

  11. dm says:

    damn.

    breakfast always seemed so innocuous until this story.

  12. Richard says:

    Cereal it will be this morning. That is such a fantastically told story Kate, I really can’t wait for more!

  13. I love the technical aspect of what went into you ‘illusion’. Great read!

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