M. Dyland Raskin doesn’t know if he’ll publish again, and he’s fine with that. He’d rather be happy than have a writing career.
PLATTSBURGH — M. Dylan Raskin wrote his second book while homeless, shacked up in a walk-in closet.
The advance bought him his first house and led to a sort of peacefulness he’s grown accustomed to.
His editor warned against happiness, and Raskin doesn’t know if he’ll ever publish again. But the author, whose first memoir garnered comparisons to “Catcher in the Rye” and was picked up by a few universities, is fine with that.
“There is a wonderful pleasure with not publishing,” said the author of “Little New York Bastard” and “Bandanas & October Supplies.”
“I can write for myself.”
Today, he mixes mochas and other coffee beverages at a local coffee shop and on the road. He’s content, no longer gripped by anger, and enjoys the life he’s carved out for himself in Plattsburgh.
“I think if you spend a lot of time in a place, you are that place,” he said. “I was that cynical city for 28 years, and now I am here and mellow.”
Raskin grew up in Queens, which, along with his father’s death when Raskin was 15, molded his personality.
“I wanted to get out my entire life.”
As early as elementary school, he felt the urge to tell stories but didn’t take it seriously until 20 to 21.
Cynical and frustrated, he hated nearly everything and everyone and ran away to Chicago for a week at 22. That journey birthed “Little New York Bastard,” a coming of age memoir and road story.
“I was a punk kid with a bad attitude, and I thought if I moved away everything would get better,” Raskin said. “But I took myself with me.”
When his mother became ill with Ovarian cancer, they started spending practically every other weekend in Lake George until her death in 2004.
“We were inseparable,” Raskin said. “We wouldn’t even do anything, just hang around.”
With no money left to stay in the apartment, and nothing left for him in Queens, Raskin packed up within a week for a year-long homeless adventure, part of which landed him in the walk-in closet of New Jersey relatives where he wrote “Bandanas & October Supplies.”
The words poured out of him, a story about life, death and the relationship between a mother and son.
“When that feeling hits, I can’t function unless I am writing,” he said. “The feeling comes and goes, and I haven’t had it for years.”
He received an advance and wanted to purchase a home in Lake George, but it was too expensive. Raskin “accidentally” found a house online in Jay - “A beautiful place in the woods” - toward the end of 2005.
It reminded Raskin of his mother, though he found it difficult to see from the outside.
“I would try to look at my house and the sun would be in my eyes, or there were black flies everywhere, or it was cold.”
He remained there, off and on, until he moved permanently to Plattsburgh a little more than a year ago.
He fell in with the right people and began focusing on the positive, which he said ruined his career.
“I have no desire to write an ‘I am happy book,’” Raskin said. “But the truth is, I would rather be happy than have a writing career.”
The thought of elitist “wine-and-cheese parties” makes him nauseous.
He enjoys answering to no one, and the absence of pressure from book deadlines.
Raskin doesn’t know if he’ll publish again, but he’s still writing in that voice that pulses through him and onto the page.
“Right now I am working on something that has to do with getting prepared for what may be very difficult times in the country.”
It’s fueled by a desire to tell, even if it’s not meant to be published.
No matter, because he feels lucky these days.
He befriended Koffee Kat owner Patty Waldron a little more than a year ago and began working there. He can be found behind the counter, as well as in Koffee Kat on wheels, a bus he and Waldron purchased for $400 to take on the road and deliver coffee drinks around Plattsburgh and at events.
“It keeps me hungry.”
He’s also got his dog, Esme, a near constant companion he found in 2006 under his vehicle in Brooklyn.
“Considering how I spent my first 28 years, this is a strange transition,” Raskin said. “Compared to that inner-city hell hole, this is paradise.”
Yet, if not for the school of hard knocks, Raskin doesn’t think he’d be as content as he is today.
“That anger gave me a career, so I can’t knock it too much.”
And he’s not a recluse, as some media outlets have suggested.
In fact, Raskin and Esme run nearly every day, time that allows him to think and work out frustrations.
That occasional itch to pack and move remains with Raskin, but now he considers his commitments and obligations.
He wants Koffee Kat on wheels to succeed, hopes for Esme’s continued health and happiness and is content with small-town anonymity.
“People here are impressed by how hard you work, not with glitz and fame,” Raskin said. “You see the same people every day and don’t get special treatment.
“I’m just another schmuck on the street.”