2007_06_janice_erlbaum.jpg"I find people who read to be sexy. And I find people who have bought my book to be even sexier." Drinking, drugging, casual sex, and living at a group home. For fifteen-year-old Janice Erlbaum , this was everyday life. But if you want to make conversation with her now, you better be a fan of reality TV or an avid reader. "If a person does't feel a great need for reading, then it's just not important to them. but to me, story telling and listening to other people's stories is incredibly important."

Once you started college, did you continue the drug habits you developed in high school or did they taper off?
No. I quit cocaine in high school, but I still did ecstasy, got drunk, sucked my thumb, and smoked a lot of pot through out college. That other stuff started to taper off after college except for pot smoking, which I held very near and dear into my early to mid thirties and only recently gave up. Now you might find me half a glass into some red wine and I'll be completely drunk and ridiculous and thinking I'm bring outrageous.

What was the reason for you curtailing your pot use? Did you do use a twelve-step program?
After twenty years of waking and baking and cartons and cartons of Visine, breathe mints, and all that stuff. It just wasn't cute anymore. I was exhausted all the time, flakey. A lot of people said, "You were the most productive pothead I ever met." And, it's true, I was extremely productive. Part of the problem was that I never really hit a bottom, so I didn't see the need to stop smoking three joints a day. It's so much and so hard on one's ageing body and mind. What finally happened is that I got sick and literally couldn't get the smoke into my body. I was baking brownies because God forbid I should go without THC for a few days. It started to make my heart race, give me panic attacks, and it was like my body had decided it had enough, even though my mind was like, "No! I need it. I deserve it. I want it." My body won. I still have cravings and have occasionally given into them and smoked a little bit. Then I have a whopping panic attack and it's so not fun and I said, "I'm never doing it again." That's my non-twelve-step saga.

I tried quitting smoking by going to marijuana anonymous and I was pleasantly surprised by how awesome the program is, especially if you're a storyteller or somebody who believes that talk therapy, this thing that really saved my life, is valuable. That's what the twelve-step program really is. It's talk therapy. I was not committed enough to quitting smoking to see it through. I thought I was superior to twelve-stepping and that it'd be a bunch of dorks, losers, etc, but what I found was great fellowship.

What are some problems that you see with the shelter system?
That we have a need for it at all. It's problems in individual families that lead to homelessness. The girls at the shelter where I lived and was volunteering, they're there because of their families. Whether they're dead, crazy, poor, on drugs, or homophobes, which is so much of the time. I'd say that a good half of the girls and boys at the shelter where I was volunteering were there because they were gay or transgender. You just can't be gay or transgender in certain communities, which is a really disheartening situation for homelessness. I think the shelters are doing the best possible jobs they can. What they're up against is a tremendous amount of mental illness, a tremendous amount of emotional illness, and a lot of drug abuse. I don't know if there are any problems in the shelter system outside of there not being enough of them.

Having finished your second memoir, Have You Found Her, what are you working on now?
I'm working on not going crazy because I have horrible, horrible, post-partem depression. I worked on this book feverishly for the past year and now it's, "What do I do?" I really don't know. I'm just trying not to go nuts.

I'm hoping that nothing interesting enough that it's worth writing about ever happens to me again. I wasn't planning a second memoir. I was busy working on a novel about five women in their early thirties and one of them wanting to adopt a baby from Vietnam except one of them is a crazy lush and her rich uncle would buy her a baby and all of her girlfriends are horrified because they know she's going to make a horrible mom, but they don't really know how to stop her. I was busy working on that, but my first editor was warm to the idea but only lightly. Then these wacky circumstances happened in my life and, very quickly, the second book became another memoir.

I was blogging for a while until I realized, "Hey, my ass is hanging out on the Internet!" I kind of stopped when I had to go over the copy edits for the book. And I was like, "My ass is hanging out in this book! Everyone can see what sort of co-dependant maniac I am." I'd prefer to stop invading my own privacy in the future if at all possible.

What are some of the strangest referrals you’ve gotten for your Blog?
People usually get to my Blog by Googling horrible, perverse things. My referral stats make me lose faith in humanity, specifically in men. Generally people find me by Googling "rape fuck", "peed my pants" because I wrote about peeing on the number four train once. Occasionally I come across a "Girlbomb", but most of the time it's stuff like "Pussyhole" or "Porter rican Asses", because I've written a few times about Cole Porter, Puerto Rico, and asses. One that I've gotten more than once, and it may be the same confused soul, is "My daughter fucking a niger." After I got that, I posted about it and got a few more hits after that. I don't know if it's one poorly educated perverse racist or many.

What's one of your craziest "only in New York" moments?
Craziest only in New York experience was when I was in the shelter and a girl named Angee, not her real name, ran away from Georgia to find the marine who had impregnated her and all she knew was that his name was Johnny and he was stationed somewhere in New Jersey. She snuck out and took the bus New York hoping to find Johnny and she ended up at the shelter. She had five pieces of luggage with her that were going to get stolen right off her back. She was a big, loud, blowsy, racist that latched on to me because I was the only other white girl, so I became here ambassador to New York. I took her around Time Square, which was a very different place in 1984. She really wanted to go see the morgue and she wanted us to pretend our uncle was missing. I was trying to think of an alternate plan when a young gentleman approached us and asked if she wanted to party with him. She thought that might be more fun than the morgue, while I would have much rather have gone to the morgue, feigned a stomach ache, and went back to the shelter. She came back to the shelter that night full of stories about her new friend, Freddy the Pimp, and all the great things he was going to do with her. He left the next day for Florida with Freddy the Pimp. I guess that's an only in New York story. It might not be my favorite, but it's the one that springs to mind.

How would you change NY?
I'd make it more affordable for people to live here. I feel like a lots been lost. Manhattan and lots of Brooklyn have turned into playgrounds for the upper middle class and there's no real economic diversity and, as a result, there's a lot less vibrancy.

Under what circumstances have you thought of leaving New York?
The other night I was coming home from the movies with my domestic partner and a group of teenage persons was coming toward us and one young girl stepped to me in a really dramatic manner and went , "Arrr!" right in my face. I was completely taken aback and she ran off laughing at me and all of her friends were laughing at me. I was consumed with adrenalin, rage, humiliation, and the whole thing was, "I'm still young looking. I'm wearing Pumas! I'm not an old person you fuck with on the streets. I'm a young person who fucks with other people on the street." All of a sudden, I realized that I wasn't a teenager anymore and that made me think that maybe I'm too old for this place. I don't think of leaving New York. I lived here my entire life, never left, I don't know how to drive, so I'm pretty screwed. Here's where I was born and here's where I'm going to end up staying. After September 11th when everyone else was getting out of town, that's when I bought my apartment. Like a true New Yorker, I thought, "What a terrible tragedy. I bet real estate prices are in the toilette!"

Which New Yorker do you most admire?
Walt Whitman, who wrote one of the greatest poems ever, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." The way in which he was able to transcend time and space, and to reach across eras to make himself real to the future reader and make the future reader real to him, is pure existential magic. I hope that makes me sound smart.

What's your idea of a perfect day of recreation?
It would start on the West Side around Chelsea Peers and I'd walk from around the tip of Manhattan around 23rd street to the sea port and then I'd head into the Lower East Side, stop at Economy Candy, Toys in Babeland, and Bluestocking Books and soak up all of that good stuff. Then I'd head up to Union Square and people watch for a good long while. Then I'd go and get a delicious Indian Meal on 6th street.