Alone in New York City

I mostly live in Asheville, North Carolina with my wife and two daughters, but for about thirty-two weeks a year, I spend quite a bit of time in New York City where I teach First Year Writing Courses at St. John’s University. In NYC, I rent a 400 square foot studio apartment in Kew Gardens in the borough of Queens. The place is just a bit bigger than most of the hotel rooms in which I’ve stayed.

 

People–and these are often people who have a lot of daily family obligations–want to know what I do with all the time I have to myself. Well, for example, here’s what I did last Saturday:

 

Work / Write

For almost a decade, I was nearly an everyday writer. I’d do an hour or two first thing each morning and that work allowed me to complete a book-length manuscript each year. After all, even with some missed mornings at the writing desk, a page a day allowed me to write over three hundred pages a year. There’s much more to finishing a book than enough pages, but that schedule gave me a manuscript to work with.

Lately, I have not been an everyday writer, but instead I have wrote in binges. Because I’m gone so much during academic semesters, I feel guilty about holing up in my home office to write. I’m also often flying twice a week. This involves catching morning trains or driving about ninety miles from Asheville to Charlotte, and so writing first thing in the morning is often not an option. For the last year, I’ve been writing essays. This lets me take some days off and then spend many hours for a few days in a row to pump out drafts of essays. If I’m writing novel, I need to write everyday to keep my head in it. When I’m doing essays, it’s not so hard to start from the beginning the next time I have a few days in a row to binge work.

On this particular Saturday I’m telling you about, I spent the morning sending out essays (and one story) for consideration of publication.

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in the small studio apartment, naps are always a threat to writing goals

Exercise

At home in Asheville, I get up to see everyone off to school. Indy the dog needs walked. She needs to be told to be quiet when she barks at everyone who ever walks by our house. There are dishes in the washer to put away. Dry cleaning needs to be picked up. One of the cars needs an oil change. The grass needs cut. I think I’ll paint lines on the basketball court. I’ve got plans for a green-screen wall in the garage. You get the idea. You probably know what its like. There’s a lot that asks to be done everyday.

In New York, I often wake up with no obligations other than to answer email and read student work. The small studio is clean. I already washed the one dish and glass I used the night before. All that awaits are long hours at the writing desk, something every writer says they crave. I’ve learned that I can’t do much more than three hours straight at the desk. I can do more than one three hour stretch a day, but I need a break and usually my breaks are working out.

I run and lift weights. There’s a little gym in the basement of my building. I often go down there twice a day, once to lift and a second time to walk on the treadmill or ride the exercise bike and watch sports. I figure riding the bike and watching sports beats (at least long-term) drinking a beer and eating nachos in my studio while watching sports. You might be surprised what a great place Queens can be to run.

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this road in Forest Hills Park is closed to cars

 

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the pull up bar marks the halfway point of my regular run

Stand Up Comedy

I like comedy, and I think that’s because of the writing. I’m interested in what makes a story funny and the creative process that takes an idea and evolves it into something that a comedian performs. My favorite places for comedy are the Comedy Cellar and both locations of the Upright Citizens Brigade.

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the train rumbles right outside my studio apartment window, that’s the station just down the tracks

On this night, I took in a comedic double header. First, I saw Mike Birbiglia perform his “Thank God For Jokes” at the Lynn Redgrave Theater in the East Village. Mike’s act is heavily informed by his Catholic education. He says something like, “I did the program,” by which he means Catholic high school and college. Here’s a memorable line from Mike’s show:

Jesus was the original Bernie Sanders.

-Mike Birbiglia in “Thank God For Jokes”

Mike notes that Jesus, like Bernie, was a Jewish Socialist. Before this performance, my favorite stuff from Birbiglia was his film (available on Netflix at the time of this writing) Sleepwalk With Me. I thought the performance I saw was Mike’s best work yet, and I highly recommend the show.

To get to Manhattan, I took the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station. From there, I walked the two miles from the station to the East Village and the theater.

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there was plenty to see on the walk from Penn Station to the East Village

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Cooper Union (college of architecture, art, engineering)

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the banner out front of the Lynn Redgrave Theater 

Comedy Part II

The back half of my night of comedy was at the improv at the Upright Citizen Brigade’s East Village location. I saw a show called “What I Did For Love.” The troupe brings up an audience member for an interview on stage about their love life. Then the performance is based on information derived in the interview. The whole thing felt like a relative to my novel Love on the Big Screen and my enthusiasm for the decade of the eighties.

I feel at home with the people who attend shows at UCB. They feel like people who like to talk about making stuff, and they enjoy attending a performance where people make stuff on the fly. I’m especially interested in the structure that informs improv. I recently obtained The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual. I think this summer will probably bring some improv exercises for the whole family in the living room.

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Out Front of UCB in the East Village 

The Saturday night I’ve described above is a bit uncommon for all of its late-night activity.  On most days in New York, (sorry to disappoint) I meet my teaching obligations, write, workout, write some more, workout again, and then I read or watch movies in the evening.

The not-so-great part about going into the city is either waiting for the train to take me back out to Queens or the long ride back on the subway that can take up to an hour. So I figured that while I was making the trip into Manhattan, I take in two of my favorite things about being in New York.

Thanks so much for checking in on the site and reading my post. It’s fun to make stuff, but it’s also fun to have a few readers. I appreciate you!

Welcome to Torg Stories!

The Latest from Torg Stories:

We at Torg Stories are excited to announce that our film On the French Broad River has been accepted to the Queens World Film Festival in New York City.

The film will screen on Sunday morning March 19th, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. in the Zukor Theater at Astoria Kaufman Studios. Click here for more information about the festival.

trailer features music from Jeremy Vogt and Erika and Shawn Wellman

The seventy-five minute documentary On the French Broad River follows the journey of we four Torgs as we raft 147 miles from Rosman, North Carolina, through class III and IV whitewater rapids, all the way to Douglass Lake in Tennessee. With environmental themes related to water quality and best management practices within watersheds, this film is about the river, the people who use it, and the social and political issues that surround it. Utilizing interviews with those connected to the environmental organizations RiverLink and MountainTrue as well as with experts in the fields of biology, wildlife conservation, and geology, this is an educational and heartwarming film for the whole family.

On the French Broad River Torgerson French Broad River Paddle Trail Asheville Rosman MountainTrue RiverLink

Charlotte, Bill, Izzy and Megan Torgerson on their Star Inflatables raft

Dear Reader,

Thank you for stopping by the Torg Stories site. I’m an ex-basketball coach and English teacher turned writer, filmmaker, podcaster, and professor. Originally from a small town called Winamac, Indiana, now I split my time between Asheville, North Carolina where I live with my family and New York City where I teach First Year Writing at St. John’s University in Queens. Torg Stories have found their way into the world taking many forms including…

Books

Click here for Torg books for sale on Amazon

Indiana, basketball, love, divorce, winamac, Indiana, Pat Conroy, book club

Pat Conroy called The Coach’s Wife“One of the best books about basketball and coaching I have ever read with a love story so complicated and wonderful it will have book groups talking about it for years.”

Thanks to Pat. I learned a lot about writing from reading his work, and I’m thankful to be able to keep hearing from him via his books.

***

MIdwestern Gothic, novel in stories, Winamac, Indiana, basketball, Flannery O'Connor, William Torgerson

Horseshoe is Midwestern Gothic collection of stories with themes about love, sin, guilt, and redemption.

romantic comedy, eighties, John Hughes, Say Anything, Olivet Nazarene University, basketball, college writing, winamac, Indiana, book club

In Love on the Big Screen, Zuke is a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-80’s romantic comedies.

Films

morel mushrooms, hunting, Indiana, France Park, Bill William Torgerson, Martin Torgerson

The Mushroom Hunter is about my father and his buddies’ passion for hunting morel mushrooms.

Click here to watch “The Mushroom Hunter” free online.

More Torg Stories films: Christopher’s Garden and For the Love of Books

Short Film Ready for Festivals: The Brothers in Pursuit

The Brothers in Pursuit is a short film of 11 minutes based on my novel and feature screenplay, Love on the Big Screen.

the movie trailer

In the film, four college students have formed a group to support one another in their pursuit of God, knowledge, compassion, and the company of a good woman. The friends meet on Sunday nights dressed in matching boxer shorts, wear plastic helmets from a toy store, and report back to each other about their progress regarding the pursuits.

film, short film, Love on the Big Screen, Bill Torgerson, romantic comedy, film festival, LGBT, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Cherokee McGhee, Winamac, Indiana

the movie poster

The novel Love on the Big Screen was published by Cherokee McGhee Press. In it, the protagonist Zuke and his buddies form The Brothers in Pursuit. The sequel to Love on the Big Screen is entitled The Coach’s Wife and is forthcoming in 2015.

80s music and movies, Cusack, Ringwald, Hornby

The script won the Grand Prize of the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Part of the award was taking part in the annual festival in Providence, and it was there that my own interest in making films was sparked. Since then, I’ve directed two documentary films:  For the Love of Books and The Mushroom Hunter.

As with many projects such as this one, there were some great surprises. One of the best came from a former student of mine, the talented artist Nicole Marino, who did a painting for the boys to hang in the barn.

art, painting, Brothers in Pursuit, Nicole Marino, Bill Torgerson, film festival, short film

Do you see God, knowledge, compassion, and the company of a good woman?

 

music by Jeremy Vogt

script supervisor Amanda Torppey