I met Scott Laudati at a luckless hotel in the meatpacking district where I had just started working. One night a fedora’d fuck approached the front desk and thrust a bag claim ticket in my face.
He said “Be quick about it! I have a flight!”
“Yeah yeah” I grumbled, grabbed the ticket, and strolled slowly through the employees-only door.
Inside the bell closet was a tall good-looking guy with long blonde hair. His tie was loose, his shirt half-tucked, and he wore converse instead of the required leather shoes.
Upon my entrance, he was violently shaking a duffel in his arms and kicking a Louis Vuitton bag on the floor.
I said “What are you doing?”
“Pills. I’m checking the bags. If you shake ‘em, the drugs rattle. Easy as that.”
“Oh” I said, pocketing the claim ticket.
“Anyway. Want a beer?”
I nodded sadly and we leaned on the bag rack and drank.
After a while he said “I almost forgot. Damien stole a bottle of champagne from Shakira’s room.”
This was the kind of hotel where celebrities stayed: Shakira; Pussy Riot; Coldplay; here you learned dirty secrets about people like Kevin Spacey and Jay-Z.
“Might as well have some of that” I said as he poured the champagne into two stained room service mugs.
We cheered the champagne to Damien, who was now in rehab, and chugged more beer.
When the bottle of champagne was empty we sipped on some cloudy whisky that was laying around. Every once in a while he picked up a bag, shook it near his ear, said “Fuck!” and chucked the thing across the room.
“It’s like nobody does drugs anymore! Damien and I, we used to find everything in these bags! Once, we found a huge envelope of heroin. Not anymore!”
He scratched his head. Somebody’s voice called his name on the walkie-talkie clipped to his slacks, so he turned it off.
“By the way, I’m Scott. You’re the new guy?”
I told him I was and we chatted and drank and chatted while drinking more.
The conversation was easy. In the service industry, everybody hates the same things.
Eventually Scott said “Might as well take a look at that claim.”
“Might as well” I agreed and handed him the ticket.
He wandered around the bell closet, shoving people’s shit until he found a bag that matched. Just as he was about to lug it my way I said “Wait, check” and he said “Oh, good call” and shook it, but it didn’t rattle.
In the lobby, the bag’s owner was causing a scene. He screamed “I gave the ticket to Brady!” and my manager said “I’m sorry, it’s just, nobody named Brady works at the front desk, or on the bell staff.” That’s exactly why you never give guests your real name.
My manager settled the dispute by brushing by me through the employees-only door. I handed Ol’ Fedora-Face his bag.
He said “You reek of alcohol!”
I said “Plane’s a waitin’, fuck-o. Chop chop.”
Thus began my friendship with Scott.
Soon Scott stopped working at the hotel. One day he just stormed out.
“Fuck this place! Fuck you and you and you, but especially you” he said, referring to Saul, our sleazy manager who took advantage of all employees, but especially the girls.
After Scott quit, I started meeting him at a bar nearby before my shifts. We drank and discussed fiction, which we both wrote.
Scott’s a good writer and I looked up to him, because he had a book of poems published. They were the kinds of poems I liked, which is to say reading them was like hearing Scott tell a story, which he did very well.
He spoke and wrote with both wonder and frankness about life.
At the bar, I’d just lift my arm and toss an imaginary lasso around the bartender, eager to keep Scott’s yarns spinning for another hundred rounds.
Scott would say “And that’s when she jumped out of the cab. Speeding down the FDR. Worst part is, I wanted to take the subway…and now I had to pay!” or “Nobody knew whether he was dead or alive. In any case, that’s why I can’t go back to Canada.”
Pretty soon I too quit working at the hotel—I too left in a blaze of fuck you’s to everyone there—and Scott moved to Los Angeles after publishing his first novel, Play the Devil. In California, he wrote and published several good poems about being poor and alone in LA.
Now he’s back in New York, with a new book of poems out called Bone House.
One night he came by my place. We threw back a few glasses of water, passed around my guitar, and chatted about some new ways we’ve learned to slog through life.
“I tried SoulCycle. Yoga’s not s’bad.”
Scott said “I started jogging last month. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly I’m best friends with everybody on my route. Every morning, I’m just waving and smiling at these assholes like we’ve known each other our entire lives.
“‘Hey there, Sally! How’s the kids?’
“‘Sure good ta see ya, Scottie! Thanks for askin’, business is fine!’”
Other times we still drink. Funny thing is, you might call up Scott on a Monday after a saucy night with him on Sunday and he’ll say “I’m in Cuba, Outlaw” or “On the way to Kerouac’s grave, paying my respects” and “Goose hunting trip in Sasketchewan. I’ll call you next week.”
Scott’s always going somewhere and coming back. In New York, we sit on barstools. He scratches his head, laughs, and frowns, and laughs, and says “There’s winners and there’s losers, man. Let me tell you about what I’ve lost.”
The following interview was conducted at a grimy punk house in Poughkeepsie, where Scott and I slugged our guitars via Amtrak (we’d both recently decided to play music again). The plan was to perform for a dozen kids half our age. The problem was they all seemed to be on some new and strange drugs and couldn’t keep their eyes open, so I asked Scott these questions instead.
(Kyle’s words are in normal text. Scott’s are italicized.)
You’re referred to as a “writer”, what do you consider yourself?
On a good day, a writer. On a bad day, a poseur. I’m also an atheist and a vegetarian. An agent would probably call me the most published writer whose never made any money. But that’s not my fault, I found punk rock too early and it became ingrained that art was not a commodity. Now I’m still a very angry guy getting older and hating everything more all the time. But I don’t think happiness is a right or even important, really, and Americans are so addicted to proving their “happiness” they put inspiring quotes on coffee mugs. And coffee isn’t supposed to be for positive people. It’s made for angry, self-reflective humans who wake up at noon colorblind and angry. I’m a testimony to that. To people whose lives don’t pair well on Instagram with flowers and bunny ears.
What is human?
Voting for a candidate who has never worried about paying their rent and thinking they might care about you.
Sometimes I think maybe I’ll see my dog again in the next life.
Being in an elevator alone with a dead cell phone.
Was there ever a point, like when you were young, that you found another artist and said, “That’s what I want to do”?
When I was 15 the Dropkick Murphys played a club in New Jersey and the door guy upped the price $2 ($8 to $10). The Murphys came out and apologized about the doorman and took their entire pay for the night and threw it into the crowd. They were still living in a van then and had one record out, that money mattered way more to them than it did to us. But the bills fell and the bagpipe hit at the same time and the whole place went insane. I remember looking at the crowd screaming every word and thinking, “I want to be that cool.”
What parts of yourself don’t you share?
I would get way more depressing if my mother didn’t read my stuff.
What is your ideal situation to create in?
A college campus. There’s something about all of them that’s so alive with passion and ideas and people in control of their lives for the first time.
Where do you see your art taking us?
Back to the floor. The way kids from the 90’s laid down and listened to albums on their bedroom floors. And when your friends text you and say “what up” you’ll answer “listening to music.” And that will make sense.
Who would you like to wake up with a new album from?
What will your epitaph say?
Scott Laudati lives in upper Manhattan with his boxer, Satine. He has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, once in fiction and once in poetry. He is the author of Hawaiian Shirts in the Electric Chair (poems) and Play The Devil (novel). His newest collection of poems, Bone House, was published in March 2018. Visit Scott Laudati on instagram @scottlaudati. Titles available here.
Kyle Kouri is an MFA candidate in fiction at Columbia University. His stories have been published in Cleaver Magazine and Horror Sleaze Trash. He is also the Online Arts Editor for the Columbia Journal. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @kylekouri.