The Adventures of an Underemployed Urban Elf

At Two Bits arcade, Rev. Jen demonstrates the only way to drive drunk.
At Two Bits arcade, Rev. Jen demonstrates the only way to drive drunk.

BY REV. JEN (rev-jen.com)  |  This month’s column is all about leaving one’s comfort zone, trying new things — and, of course, utilizing funemployment until the inevitable, tragic day when one becomes reemployed. Herein, as usual, I will share tips on how to have fun in the “city that never sleeps” even when said city is so heavily medicated that most residents do nothing but sleep and/or bore you to death. There’s still cool stuff to do every night (or day) of the week in Fun City, even if you are broke and suffering from existential despair.

Let’s start with Sunday. It’s generally considered a “day of rest.” Though I have never been to church and find the Bible totally confusing, I think this is because God was so exhausted after creating the world that he or she had to sit on his or her ass for at least one day. Adding to the confusion, someone years later created football — wherein everyone who isn’t actually playing gets to sit on their collective asses imbibing frothy beverages while continually checking their “Fantasy Football” stats. For those of you not in the know, Fantasy Football is like Dungeons and Dragons for 40-year-olds, minus the wizards and elves.

Because I enjoy watching men in tight pants play with balls, I have been following football for over 30 years and generally spend every Sunday watching the games at my fave watering hole, Lucky Jack’s (129 Orchard St., btw. Delancey & Rivington Sts.). I highly advise going there to play pool, drink perfectly poured Guinness and support the most awesome neighborhood bar on earth. It is one of the few “douche-free” zones left on the Lower East side and every afternoon there is like an episode of “Cheers” — but way weirder.

Since this month’s installment of “Underemployed Elf” is about expanding one’s horizons with no budget, ambition or self-esteem, I momentarily forced myself off of the barstool on a Sunday in the name of experiential journalism. For this column, I even left the borough of Manhattan. I realize I am not a war correspondent, but it wasn’t easy. Yet from my hard labor ye shall now reap the benefits and learn about cheap, unusual stuff to do here. Maybe you even have a date you’re trying to impress but can only stretch the $200 dollars a week you “make” on unemployment so far. No worries. There are at least four ways that you can still rock, people.

What to do that’s even less intellectually stimulating than watching football? Getting inebriated and playing arcade games! Luckily, there is now a retro arcade on the Lower East Side that caters to this activity.

Two Bits Arcade (153 Essex St., at Stanton St.) features a plethora of totally bitchin’ games that help you kill time before you die! When you are 41, unemployed, unemployable and feeling lost, this is the answer to your prayers. Despite the fact that my only video game experience consists of mastering “Pong” as a child, upon entering Two Bits, I immediately fell into a downward spiral of extreme video game addiction.

In “real life” I would never compromise anyone’s safety by drinking and driving — but the good news is that, at Two Bits, you can drink a lot of beer and then get in a make-believe car featured in a game called “Cruisin’ World.” I am terrible at it, but that is not a deterrent from inserting my life savings (which can be counted in quarters) into Cruisin’ World’s slot in hopes that I might someday rise above 10th Place.

Luckily, when I lift up my couch cushions, there is enough spare change hiding under the pink velour to feed a nation (don’t tell my seven roommates!). Sadly, I am still in 10th Place (also known as last place) even after “turning my friends on” to this paradise and visiting about 30 times. After my boyfriend witnessed me playing Cruisn’ World, he simply said, “I’m never getting in a car where you are behind the wheel.”

While it is obvious that I am a terrible driver, I am apparently adept at hunting. Like drunk driving, hunting is not something I would do in real life — but “hunting games” are a whole other story. On a recent visit to Two Bits, my comedian friend, Mike Raphone, introduced me to “Big Buck HD,” a game where you can pretend to hunt and kill animals even if you love animals very much and have been a vegetarian for 15 years. It involves pointing fake guns at fake animals and temporarily inhabiting the spirit of an asshole hunter. Not to toot my own horn too profusely, but I am a natural at this. The only thing holding me back is that I have trouble killing a moose — even a virtual one.

Two Bits also has pinball machines. So it’s the perfect destination if you wanna feel like an extra in “Tommy.” Since I do want to feel like an extra in “Tommy,” I only wear retro outfits to the retro arcade, which enhances the experience (hence the denim jumpsuit). Also enhancing the experience is the fact that Two Bits serves cheap beer and pizza!

Switching gears and also realizing some readers of this column might actually be sober adults who don’t drink beer, watch football or play video games, I attempted, as mentioned previously, to leave the borough of Manhattan and do something intellectually more stimulating. Unsurprisingly, this led to disaster — and the second portion of this column: “Field Trip to Brooklyn.”

The impetus for my field trip was a kindly friend who gave me a gift certificate to Film Biz Recycling — a non-profit prop shop located at 540 President Street in Brooklyn. Founded with my partner, Courtney Fathom Sell, A.S.S. Studios (a.k.a. Art Star Scene Studios) is the most underfunded motion picture studio in history. It’s so incredibly broke, we look for any opportunity to obtain props. Our new feature, “Werewolf Bitches From Outer Space,” has an approximate budget of $28, which means we can afford beer for the cast and not much else. However, we made our first feature, “Satan, Hold My Hand” for $27, so we’re moving on up.

Unfortunately, the first stop on my field trip was the subway where I learned that the one place the MTA isn’t going is “my way.” Generally, I only take the subway when the phrases “open bar” and “free food” are involved — but in this instance, my commitment to the film outweighed my hesitation.

Leaving one’s neighborhood puts one at risk for many things, death chief among them. The New York City subway is known to induce panic attacks, nausea and high blood pressure. When I’m on the subway, it will often stop in a dark tunnel for over five minutes and I think either, “terrorists” or “apocalypse.” However once I’m off the subway I’m always thankful that I’m still alive. The subway reminds us that life is precious.

With this in mind, I boarded a local R Train, hoping for the best. Almost immediately, the train was rerouted due to a mysterious fire on the tracks and I remembered my mantra: Never leave your neighborhood — and if you do, bring beer. After about an hour, the train then inexplicably dropped me off in the Wall Street region.

I have no desire to occupy Wall Street. In fact, I want to stay as far away from it as humanly possible, given it’s full of a-holes. But, since the MTA dropped me off there, I had little choice. Luckily, I was wearing sneakers so I ran back to the Lower East Side.

I needed at least 24 hours to recuperate from my MTA experience and find someone willing to endure a subway ride with me. Luckily, my friend Kat, who hails from Boston, arrived in town the next day, as she was escaping the Red Sox parade. The subway might be terrible, but a Red Sox parade is worse. Together, we fearlessly boarded the R. We hoped, after visiting the prop shop, to swing by Beacon’s Closet (88 N. 11th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn). It’s my fave vintage store and Kat hoped to sell a pair of boots there that she was carrying. But when we made it to Union Street and Kat tried to disembark, her boots somehow got caught in the closing subway doors and the ensuing chaos resembled a scene from “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.” Finally, the doors reopened and we made it to our destination.

The first thing that greeted us upon entering Film Biz was a skeleton in an electric chair. Awesome! Putting an impoverished screenwriter in a prop shop is like putting a kid in a candy shop. I simply could not believe my eyes. There were vats of fake body parts, bouffant wigs, buckets of blood, vintage electronics, a creepy O.J. Simpson mask, tons of scary baby dolls, a “Traction Kit,” crazy costumes, a disco ball and more. Sadly, the body parts, which I need for the film, are available on a rental basis only and there were no werewolf masks. However, we managed to pick up two cop uniforms, a bucket of blood and a ridiculous bonnet for a scene wherein a werewolf eats a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. We never made it to Beacon’s Closet, because we stayed at Film Biz till closing time. The only other places I stay at until closing time are bars. This speaks volumes about the awesomeness of Film Biz. If you are a low-budget filmmaker, it is heaven.

So there you have it. Unfortunately, my days of video game-addicted, booze-soaked madness might soon come to an end, as I’ve actually been on a few job interviews recently. *Fingers crossed* no one hires me, because I’m having way too much fun.

Originally from Middle Earth, Maryland, Saint Reverend Jen Miller is an “Art Star, Troll Museum curator, writer, painter, Voice of the Downtrodden & Tired and Patron Saint of the Uncool.” Her latest book is “BDSM 101.” Rev. Jen’s Anti-Slam, a free event, happens every Wed., 8pm, at Old Man Hustle (39 Essex St., btw. Grand & Hester Sts.). Visit rev-jen.com.