Welcome to Issue #5 of CAFÉ ANNE!
I first met the Naked Cowboy last year when I wrote a story for the Wall Street Journal looking at how the world’s most famous street busker kept showing up every day in Times Square all through the pandemic. He kept singing when there was no one around to hear him. He kept singing even when he was barely earning enough in tips to cover his lunch.
I was struck by how much he relies on his bonkers morning routine to stay motivated. Last week, I caught up with the Cowboy again to learn more. The story is below. Please enjoy!
In other business, a reader in Flatbush, Brooklyn wrote with a question for Bruce, the Guardian Angels Queens Combat Team leader profiled in Issue #4. Seeing that Bruce is a professional financial advisor, what stocks does he recommend?
I texted this question to Bruce. His reply:
Unfortunately, I don’t delve in the short “get rich quick” anymore. Lost 2 valuable friends due to this. Stocks are highly volatile. U only hear the great news and riches. Rarely will anyone brag about losing thousands and even millions.
If you can afford to lose money, however, Bruce advises the following:
Go for crypto (highly volatile), tech stocks and any online services that are new and just did an IPO. Other than that, forget it. They will only make the brokers & sales agents rich.
Penny stocks can be good for long term. I call it throw away money & hope the tooth fairy is generous. Lol
So there you go.
I love to get your comments and questions. Please email me at email@example.com.
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IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE…
• Pet Songs: Meredith and Charlie
• Guest Post: 24 Small Towns in Pennsylvania
• Feature: The Naked Cowboy’s Morning Routine
I am excited to introduce a new regular CAFÉ ANNE feature, “Pet Songs,” a series of videos featuring folks singing the odd tunes they’ve invented for their pets. (Yes, every serious pet person has a few of these).
The first installment features my very fine sister, Meredith Kadet Sanderson, singing her smash-hit original, “Little Pig Dog” to her Jack Russell Terrier, Charlie. He does not appreciate. Click to view!
Want to be featured on “Pet Songs”? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange a Zoom recording.
Actual Names of 24 Small Towns in Pennsylvania
Big Beaver, New Beaver, Queen, Champion, Transfer
Presto, Gambles, Eighty Four, Coupon, Smock, Metal, Grindstone, Tire Hill
The Naked Cowboy’s Wonderful Morning Routine
The Naked Cowboy is like the mail carrier, except he’s dressed in his underwear and delivering songs. Rain or shine, blizzard or superstorm, through floods and the pandemic, the Ohio native reliably shows up to perform in Times Square. He’s been strumming seven days a week for 23 years straight.
But like many, when the Naked Cowboy wakes up, he does not always feel like going to work. He relies on a strict morning routine to get himself revved up enough to show up in Times Square, strip down and start playing.
“I have to keep up on it or I would not continue to do this,” he says of his routine. “No one could ever stand out there every single f-ing day and do what I do. No one could, no one would. It’s literally this routine that has done it.”
1:00 AM: WAKE-UP
The Naked Cowboy, aka John Burke, shares a one-bedroom apartment in Queens with his wife, Patricia Cruz, a belly dance instructor from Mexico. While he conks out at 9 pm, he often wakes up early and can’t fall back asleep.
“The songs I sing all day are spinning around in my head,” he says.
Or worse, he lies awake for hours worrying about money, or an upcoming trip.
6 AM: MORNING MOTIVATION
As soon he’s up, Mr. Burke, who is 50, pours a coffee—Folgers “Classic Roast,” black—and plops into a reclining chair surrounded by a stack of Naked Cowboy hats and a giant wall hanging of Times Square.
He checks the hand-drawn calendar in his composition book, recording the previous day’s schedule along with his exercise reps and expenses.
His composition books also contain his long-running journal, which is less a diary and more of a self-administered morning pep talk. He read me an excerpt from a previous day’s entry:
“It’s Saturday. I’ll get famous this day alone. Everything works out perfectly for me…My capacity is astounding and ever present. I am the only one with such determination. I am the only one who is number one in Times Square, New York City, America—let’s face it—the world…All day I stand proud and push ahead to endless victories.”
Next, he reads from his Naked Cowboy Dialogue, a tattered 100-page manifesto he’s been revising for more than two decades. It sounds a lot like his journal:
“I want unlimited wealth, financial independence and anything I want whenever I want as often as I want with whomever I want…I want my fortune to be unequalled in the history of mankind… I am committed to leaving an indelible mark on this world.”
“It’s literally the hard drive for my brain,” says Mr. Burke. “I read this every single day. I’ll do this and get completely jacked out of my mind.”
He also re-reads favorite authors including Emerson, Tony Robbins, Nietzsche and Christian writer Joel Olsteen—anyone writing about self-reliance, individualism, power and spiritual laws.
7:00 AM: THE GYM
Most mornings, Mr. Burke makes the mile-long run to Retro Fitness, a $20-a-month gym in Woodside, Queens. He runs home afterward.
“If you don’t run in the morning, on an empty stomach, you’re a p---,” he says. “End of story.”
Mr. Burke, who is 6-2, weighs 185 in the summer but gains 30 pounds every winter to keep himself warm performing half-naked in the snow. He lifts as heavy as he can: 60-pound arm curls, 800-pound leg presses, 225-pound bench presses. The routine takes just thirty minutes. “I could stay in the gym all damn day and I don’t think I’d look any different,” he says.
8:30 AM: THE COMMUTE
Back home for a quick shower. Then he packs his bag: Band-Aids, Claritin, socks, sunscreen and mints for fresh breath when he kisses the ladies.
He drives to Midtown in his Chevy Tahoe SUV. The six-mile drive over the Queensboro Bridge takes more than an hour. Most days, he stops at the 7-Eleven on the way in for breakfast—a pound of sliced turkey and a bottle of Muscle Milk. He eats as he drives.
Unfortunately, by the time he hits the road, he’s often feeling discouraged again. Despite the prospect of earning roughly $200 in tips on weekdays and $500 a day on weekends—not to mention the constant hugs and blessings from tourists around the world—he needs another pep talk. “I feel my stomach is in knots. I don’t want to go. It’s the worst.”
He plays recordings he’s made of himself reading the Naked Cowboy Dialogue aloud and gets pumped again.
10 AM: SHOWTIME!
Mr. Burke enters the Edison ParkFast garage in Midtown where he gets a free space in exchange for sweeping the lower levels.
He parks in a dark corner where he slips into his legendary outfit.
The change is transformative. Upon donning his hat and boots, he suddenly shines like an angel. Even his underwear starts glowing.
He enters his stage—the great theater of Times Square—and steps into a throng of tourists.
“Every day is an epic battle,” he says. “How am I going to do this? But then I get out there and it’s the greatest day in the world.”