Writers, like Hollywood people, are supposed to have an elevator pitch—a line you say when you’re stuck in an elevator with your dream agent, or, better, Sean Penn, that rough angel, or Wes Anderson, or Jane Campion.

Not Harvey Weinstein, that skin tag, dear god.

I lived in New York for years. Elevators are scary. Muggers. Guys who pull their dicks out. Kids who hit the buttons for all the floors. People who fart freely.

Elevators fail more often than you know.

An elevator failing could mean it’s stuck. It could mean falling some number of floors or worse.

My beautiful friend Senora fell four floors in a New York elevator. It took her many years with a chiropractor to get her spine steady again.


When an airplane I was in dropped 10,000 feet, when I was thrown a few rows, Senora gave me the name of her chiropractor. He was a tiny man who climbed my back like a spider monkey. He worked my spine until the bones clicked in place like Scrabble tiles.

I love Scrabble.

I love Words with Friends and Wordle.

I love words, though their power is limited, I know.

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make,” Truman Capote said.


Elevator pitch:

Truman Capote hung out with Andy Warhol, who shows up in this book.

Andy Warhola, with the “a,” was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He dropped the “a” when he moved to New York.

Fuck you, Andy Warhola. I love you.

Andy Warhol was a great artist but a questionable human.

Truman Capote was a brilliant writer but a questionable human.

Truman said he didn’t care what anyone said about him, as long as it wasn’t true.

Andy Warhol said he wanted to be a robot.

Andy Warhol’s grave in Pittsburgh, my home country, says, “Figment.”


Bless you, Truman. Bless you, Andy.

Bless all of us figments.

Temporary, temporary.

All of us and everything we love in this life.

Elevator pitch:

This is a book about that, too.


Note to self:

When drafting an elevator pitch, remember:

No one wants to be reminded they will die.

Death is not a marketing angle.


This is a book that will make you and everyone you love immortal.


Dear agent, editor, reader:

I hope you’ll find some music here.


In the building I lived in during my years in New York, my super told me all the elevator inspections were faked, just like the pesticides he sprayed to kill cockroaches.

Pesticides were expensive.

Water wasn’t.

“We give them a nice shower,” my super said about the roaches, who didn’t mind the spritz.

Fun fact: Cockroaches love toothpaste.

If you live in New York, remember:

Keep your toothbrush in the refrigerator—one of the few places roaches won’t look for snacks.


About elevators.

Senora took the stairs a lot.

I took the stairs a lot.


In the building I lived in, my friend Moose, who I loved even though he did time in and out of jail, an experience he called “three hots and a cot”—the security of that—was legendary for once dangling a guy over an elevator shaft.

The guy owed some people money. Moose worked for those people the guy owed money to—so it goes.

“I wouldn’t drop nobody on purpose,” Moose, my gentle friend, said.

The guy Moose dangled was fine, I think.


Elevator pitch:

I knew this guy named Moose who worked for the Gotti family.



That sells. Right? Right?

Of course right.


No matter how many years I lived in New York, Moose called me “Pittsburgh.”

“I’ll say a prayer for you, Pittsburgh,” Moose would say and throw up a gang sign.

“Yo, Pittsburgh,” Moose would say and give me the finger, but sweet-like.

I love this world.

Don’t you?

“This is a book about loving this world.”

“Whatever,” my imaginary agent says. “Who cares?”


“We’re born, we live a while, we die,” E.B. White’s Charlotte the Spider said.


Everything and everyone we love.

“Who’d want to read a book like that?” my imaginary agent, with the serious glasses, says.

No one.

Everyone, maybe.


Elevator pitch:

Even our darkness is lit with glitter and shine.

Lori Jakiela is the author of seven books, most recently the poetry collection, How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?, which received the Wicked Woman Prize from Brickhouse Books, and the memoir, Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe, which received the Saroyan Prize for International Writing from Stanford University. Her next book, a hybrid memoir called They Write Your Name on a Grain of Rice, about cancer and living even so, is forthcoming in 2023 from Atticus Books. Her author website is http://lorijakiela.net.

Photo by Amy Selwyn