Category Archives: living in new york sucks so hard

At Risk for Awesomeness

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I got a letter in the mail from the NYC department of labor recently, telling me that I was to have a mandatory meeting yesterday to discuss my resume. I was a little thrilled by this, because as you know, I’m attempting a transition to copywriting/social media/general web-content-spewer, and I’ve been laboring for the past month about how to best talk about 13 years of being self-appointed Queen o’ the Internet™ on my resume when no one’s technically been paying me for my leadership and benevolent rule.

Figuring that everyone else there would be bums, I put on an adorable summer dress to show that I’m both presentable and spunky, and I didn’t even pair it with flip-flops. I had to spend the workshop’s entire hour and a half reminding myself not to flirt with the young Indian guy who said his most prevalent emotion these days is embarrassment over not being as far along in his career as his friends are, because two unemployed people with the opportunity to eat at Indian lunch buffets every day is bad news.

Overall, the meeting was a huge disappointment, because it was mostly a guy reading a worksheet to the group and telling us that we can’t use the photocopier in the “resource room” to copy entire cookbooks. Even when one of the instructors got to me and asked if I had any questions, her best advice about putting my blogging and social media skillz on my resume was, “Yeah, you could do that.”

But the worst part was knowing that none of my other recently-unemployed friends have been called in for this meeting, which means the City of New York is concerned that I might be at risk for suckling at the sweet, sweet teat of unemployment for the entire 26 weeks I’m allotted if they don’t watch me carefully. And oh, boy, are they right. I’ve been unemployed for just a little over a month, and already it feels so normal to me that it’s not even exciting anymore. The idea that I used to go to bed at midnight to wake up at 7 a.m. instead of watching The Great Gatsby at midnight and then listening to an hour of Kings of Leon while I lazily perform my bedtime routine and then playing Candy Crush for another hour until I pass out and wake up again at 11? THIS IS LIFE. It was always meant to be this way.

Sometimes I find myself in a quiet moment thinking about how I should be really, really scared right now. I don’t have a job, and unemployment here is enough for rent and groceries and absolutely nothing else. I don’t have a boyfriend, and all of my backups are now either married or mad at me for six years of ignoring them. But most of the time, to be honest, I find myself feeling really happy. As I left the meeting today and ducked into a grocery store to grab some guacamole for a party this weekend, I thought about how lucky I am to be out in the city during the day and to have friends who are looking out for me and to ultimately know that things are going to work out for me, because they always do. I know I’m gross.

Eight Years in NYC

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I was reading my old LiveJournal last night at 3 a.m. (narcissism!) and found this post from the end of my first year living here, when the boyfriend I had followed here from Ohio was moving back home and I was changing my mind daily about whether or not I would stay behind:

A year and a half ago, when my Best Friend 4 Eva™, Tracey, realized that her 1st year of teaching junior high was actually sucking pretty hardcore, she started talking to other teachers about how she was feeling. They tried to console her by saying things like, “It’ll take you about five years to get used to it, but after that, you’ll be fine.” And she kept thinking, “Why would I spend five years just trying to get used to something when I could be doing something I like right now?”

And so she quit. I’ve decided that’s how I feel about New York. Don’t get me wrong–I’m happy here. Some days, I’m happier here than I ever was back in Ohio. But for the most part, it seems like most of the people I’ve met here moved to NYC because they wanted to escape their old lives. They didn’t know anyone who thought like they did or all of their friends had grown up and gotten married or they’re introverts who want to be nameless and blend in. And that’s not me.

This year hasn’t been wasted for me at all. I got to experience a million things I wouldn’t have in Ohio, and some days I felt so alive that I thought I might burst. But it drives me crazy the things I’ve missed at home. Now that Tracey’s only working part-time, she has free time like she hasn’t had since we were in high school. And since she’s doing things that she loves, she’s a completely different person. She’s not dating her boyfriend-who-didn’t-like-me, so she’s going out and talking to boys, and I’m missing it. My friend-since-we-were-born Katie just got married to a boy I set her up with, and I missed her bridal shower and bachelorette party because I had to save my money to make it home for the wedding itself. My grandfather found out he has cancer last month and despite getting treatment in Mexico will probably die before I’m able to see him.

Sometimes I’m amazed at the number of people I’ve gotten to know here and will miss if I leave. On Friday, when I was 1000% percent sure I was moving back home, two of my co-workers came into the kitchen where I was making a warm beverage with the ridiculously awesome tea/coffee/hot chocolate machine and started talking to me about all of the reasons it’d suck to be blind when using the subway. I said, “Hey, guys, let’s agree not to become blind, okay?”, and one of the girls said faux-enthusiastically, “That’s a great idea!” And I loved her. And I thought, “If I leave, I’ll never have the chance to get to know this girl.” But it’s very obvious to me that I’ll never replace Tracey. And as much as I like my new job, its not like my old job at the library, and I don’t want to be a receptionist for the rest of my life. I know that eventually, all of my friends from home are going to be all settled in with real jobs and spouses and babies, and then they’ll be dead to me. That’s when I’ll make my escape to NYC. That’s when I’ll be ready to make new friends and sit in jazz clubs alone and spend two bazillion dollars on a one-room apartment.

People keep trying to console me by saying things like, “It’ll take you about five years to get used to it, but after that, you’ll be fine.” But I’m not sure that I’m willing to spend five years trying to build a life for myself here when I’ve already got a great one back home.

And now I’ve been here for more than eight years. And I have a hard time imagining living anywhere else.

The New York City Apartment

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My friend Kim is in the midst of her yearly post-finding-out-her-rent-is-being-raised-another-$200-per-month, “but-I’m-too-pretty-to-move-to-Brooklyn” freak-out and posted this on Facebook to summarize her strife: The Worst Room.

I may be self-centered, but I think NYC is singular in its ability to rent out the very shittiest apartments for the very most amount of money. I lived in some shady campus housing during my years at THE Ohio State University, but slumlords are supposed to take advantage of unwitting college students with their futons and their Gustav Klimt posters, right? I thought that by the time my friends and I all had jobs and hints of grey hair, we’d live in modest but bright/airy/crown-moldinged one-bedrooms in the East Village. But that doesn’t exist for normal people in NYC.

The normal people I know in NYC will have roommates until they’re ready to be moved into the retirement home, unless they want to live in the ghetto. The normal people I know in NYC share a one-bedroom apartment with their brothers so they can get away with only paying $700 each. The normal people I know in NYC live in apartments where there’s no living room because it’s been converted into a second bedroom, and they still pay $1000 each. Apartments are covered in 100 years of paint layers here. Linoleum floors left over from the 70s run rampant. I once looked at a converted factory loft with bedroom walls made of plywood that didn’t even go all of the way to the ceiling, and it was $2800 a month.

And that brings me to Kamran’s apartment. There were so many times I wanted to show you where I was living, but I didn’t necessarily want to show you all of my underwear, and you know it was all over the place in a 275-square-foot studio being shared by two people. When I first started dating Kamran, I carried a tote bag of clothes with me back and forth from my apartment to his every day when I was staying over. By the end of our six and a half years together, I had a small dresser, two tables in a corner with clothes piled on them, a chair for my folded dresses, a chair for my cardigan collection, more in the two closets, and more stored in bags on the floor.

There was a queen-size murphy bed, which we actually raised approximately twice, and once was to take my infamous cape photos, one of which I will now display simply to relive my five-years-ago youth:

You’re welcome.

There was a nook with a dresser piled high with books and a TV stand with a 36″ TV. It was one of the old tube TVs that weighs 200 pounds, made by a company called Classic. (That’s my favourite part.) Kamran would’ve replaced it, only the apartment was furnished by his landlady, so he couldn’t throw anything out. The only table in the place was taken up by his computer and printer, so we ate all of our meals on the love seat on top of two leather ottomans with removable tops that converted to tables when flipped over. I bought those ottomans for Kamran for our anniversary one year (romantic!), and he was so against them at first but then decided that I could use them for storage. So every time I would want to buy something (a slow-cooker, a clothes steamer, a puppy), my BFF, Tracey, would tell me to store it in my ottoman so Kamran couldn’t complain.

The kitchen was a galley style with three cupboards (one of which I couldn’t reach), a convection oven that was later replaced with a microwave when it finally stopped working, a half-size refrigerator, a sink, and approximately six inches of counter space between that and the two-burner stovetop. There was no oven. There was no freezer. The first night I stayed over at his apartment, we tried to save a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns and ended up eating ice cream soup in our pajamas the next day. Everything I bought at the grocery store had to be used within four days. Not a single blondie nor brownie was ever baked in that apartment. Any time I pan-fried anything, every wall in the kitchen would be splattered with grease because they were all so close together and to the stove. The refrigerator would fill with ice every few months, and Kamran would need to take a hammer to it while I stood with a broom and dustpan to catch the shards.

There was a phone on the wall that connected directly to a switchboard in the lobby behind the doorman’s desk, so the next-door neighbor who spoke to us approximately three times despite my repeated hellos could simply pick it up whenever he wanted to complain about our not-at-all-loud music. Every night for the first few years, the elderly doorman would call up to tell us to come pick up our delivery from the lobby with “your food is here” in his some-sort-of-European accent. Even when he was replaced with young, unaccented men, we would get off the phone and say to each other in the old way, “Your food is here.”

The room had two windows, one of which was cut in half by the air conditioner and the other of which opened approximately two inches. It always seemed pretty sunny in the room, though, until we realized a few years in that part of the building stuck out from the rest and that the neighbors living in that part could very, very clearly see into the apartment. Where I wore very little in the way of pants. We kept the blinds closed after that. We basically had to run the air conditioner year-round, because there wasn’t enough air coming in through the two-inch crack in the summer, and the building was so old and its walls so thick that it retained and multiplied heat in the winter.

The bathroom was a heavy porcelain pedestal sink where the bowl wasn’t exactly attached to the base and could fall off and, you know, crash through the floor into the apartment below if you pushed on it too hard. The shower had great water pressure but also a healthy mold habit that required many, many replacings of the bath mat thanks to the lack of air flow from that two-inch window opening. There were three mirrored cabinets and two racks for towels but not a linen closet to be seen. The best part was that because there were so many layers of paint on the door, it didn’t actually shut. You could slam it and lock it, but then you were likely wasting the next fifteen minutes trying to pull it open again. I think Kamran and I became very comfortable with each other very quickly because of this.

Kamran paid $1750 a month for the place, which was such a drop in the bucket for him it sometimes made me crazy to think about where we could be living. I wanted us to cook dinner together in our kitchen and then eat it on our balcony and then go to sleep in our bedroom that wasn’t also the living room and kitchen. He tried to buy this apartment in the building two doors down in 2009–forever known as “Joseph’s apartment” because of the realtor who rode a Vespa that matched his blue eyes and the blue tie he always wore–and I dreamed about our life together in this place with a separate bedroom and a view of both the East River and everything down 42nd Street to Times Square. But his offer wasn’t accepted by the building’s co-op board, and they don’t have to tell you why, and so we continued our life of him staying up all night studying for law school exams while I attempted to sleep with the lights on.

But to be honest, I sort of loved living there with him. I felt more at home there than I have in any of my NYC apartments, both because I spent the most time there and because it was so cozy. We used to say things like, “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me!” and then take two steps to the right. The lighting was just right, and everything was always within reach because the whole place was sixteen feet across. The building itself was beautiful, we could see the Chrysler Building through our window, and there was a garden outside the front door. The United Nations was right across the street, I’ll never be able to replace my favourite food delivery options from the neighborhood, and we went on the most epic walks along the river esplanade that started at 38th Street. My current apartment in Brooklyn may be bigger and nicer and much more conducive to actually living a half-normal life, but living in that apartment was living in the center of New York Fuckin’ City.

NYC Studio Apartment

A Day in the Life

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The Kamran’s Last Week in NYC edition:

• Tuesday, we went to dinner at Louro, which is owned by a chef friend of ours and can be summed up in three words: asparagus ice cream:

• Wednesday, we went to Soba Totto for their lunch special that includes a rice dish, a bowl of hot or cold soba, pickles, and salad. The food is deliiiiicious, but the best part is seeing how the different people around you eat their soba. There are the people who use their spoon to gather some broth and then use their chopsticks to add some noodles to the spoon. There are the people who eat some noodles and then slurp some broth. And then there are these young Asian dudes in crisp black suits who don’t talk for an entire hour while they bury their heads in their bowls.

• Thursday, we went to Mission Chinese Food. It’s originally from San Francisco but opened here a few months ago to long lines and hugely hyped reviews. IT IS AMAZING. Wait for my review.

• I have no idea what we did Friday night–probably watched “Shark Tank”, knowing us–but I can tell you that we ate Cambodian sandwiches from Num Pang. They were out of the corn-on-the-cob we like with the spicy mayo and the coconut and, you know, lightly apologized for it. They probably didn’t realize that was MY LAST TIME EATING THAT CORN EVER. Unless I take a half-an-hour subway ride. For corn.

• Saturday afternoon, we met our friends Anthony, Jeff, Nik, and Marko at a sushi buffet called IchiUmi for Kamran’s farewell lunch. (My roommate, Jack, was out of town. I know you’re all in love with him and would have noticed his conspicuous absence.) We ate something like 240 plates of food. Everything tasted better than ever, as everything had all month long. Kamran tried on Anthony’s sunglasses to prepare him for his new life in sunnier climates:

I had asked Jeff to help me move my things from Kamran’s apartment to mine, partly because he’s strong and partly because he’s nice and mostly because he has a car. But over the course of the lunch, everyone else was somehow convinced to help me out (well, except for Marko, who was getting ready to defend his dissertation and thought getting a PhD was more important than schlepping my underwear across town), so I suddenly had a gaggle of movers and Anthony’s car, too. And thank god, because what I thought were a few boxes turned out to be several boxes, a dresser, a nightstand, two ottomans, and a zillion bags stuffed with shoes and toiletries at the last minute. We hadn’t told the building about my move in the hope of avoiding having to get permission from anyone and to avoid the $50/hour fee they charge to use the freight elevator and just walk out the front doors with all of my stuff. But of course the doorman saw through us the moment we asked to borrow one of the rolling carts and told us we needed to use the freight. So we loaded everything onto the carts and rang the bell for the freight elevator, and the porter stepped off and said we had to write him a check for $50 before we could go any further. So Kamran paid $50 for a trip on an elevator for me. And what a ride it was.

Kamran rode with Anthony and Nik to give directions, and I rode with Jeff and was of course the one who got us lost. Never trust a person who drives a car twice a year. One of my biggest annoyances living here is cab drivers who ask me how to get to my apartment. Um, take the 4 train to Brooklyn? I wouldn’t be in a cab if I had a car, buddy! Now do your job. Anthony and Nik went to get coffee while they were waiting for Jeff and me to arrive, and then Kamran had to watch their illegally-parked car, and Jeff had to watch his illegally-parked car, so I was left to bring everything up to my apartment on my own. But of course the doorman at my building was kind and helpful, because it’s Brooklyn.

Anthony and Jeff left in their illegally-parked cars while Kamran and Nik came up to my apartment so we could order banh mi and watch the new Louis C.K. stand-up special and hang out on our roof deck

watching the sun set:

When we got back to Kamran’s apartment that night, it was so weird to look around and not see any of my stuff. When we first started dating, I would haul a bag of clothes from my apartment to his every time I stayed over. Eventually I was staying over so often that he bought me a dresser. And then I filled the dresser so full that I started stacking my clothes on a table beside it. And then another table next to that. And then a chair. I had my laptop there. The scrapbook I was working on. All of my camera gear. My birth certificate. That’s how moved-in I was. So it was strange to be at his apartment and have clothes for the next three days and nothing else. We watched movies and ate one of my favourite meals, the quesadilla enorme from Baby Bo’s Cantina:

• Sunday, we took a walk to Beekman, the secret park we discovered a couple of years ago and have been walking to all of the weekends. There are waterfront parks near me in Brooklyn–much bigger, nicer ones, actually–but this one was ours. I got pooped on by a bird as I was passing under a tree, which is the only thing that could’ve logically happened my last time there with Kamran:

• Monday morning, I took the bus from Kamran’s house to work for the last time. I got the most perfect seat in the front by the window and thought about how it was my last ride on the bus and was nostalgic for a moment until I remembered that I would be going home on the bus, too. So I stopped looking out the window and enjoying the sights of 2nd Avenue and read my book instead. But then Kamran asked me to meet him in the Flatiron after work so we could return his cable box together right off the 6 train, so I didn’t get to ride the bus home for the last time. I’m sure I’ll get over it. Someday.

His movers had come that afternoon and taken what seemed like almost everything away, but “almost everything” still left, like four hours of packing and cleaning for us. I took his plant, and he posed with the gigantic Scooby-Doo that took up half of his 275-square-foot apartment for seven years but that he wouldn’t throw out (nor give to Jeff, who really wanted it) because he swore he was going to someday mail it to the ex-girlfriend he had won it with in Atlantic City. YET ANOTHER UNKEPT PROMISE COURTESY OF KAMRAN. j/k, j/k.

The first pictures of Kamran I saw before our first date included Scoob creepily looking over his shoulder in his old Princeton apartment. But we still left him by the freight elevator to be tossed out with the day’s leftovers. JUST LIKE OUR LOVE.

We ordered our favourite Greek dinner from The Famous Chicken Place,

and had to, like, actually sit and talk to each other with the cable box already being gone. For the six and a half years we were together, his kitchen table was the same as his computer desk (studio living!), but with his computer gone, we talked about eating at the table for the first time ever. And then we ate on the couch like always. He texted the guy from his floor he’d made friends with to see if he wanted to say goodbye to us, and I was hoping to run into the girl I had casually talked to in the hallway for two years and had been meaning to become friends with but hadn’t, but the guy didn’t text back, and I didn’t run into the girl and didn’t even really know which apartment was hers, so that was that.

We made a trip to the lobby with as much as we could carry, and then I waited downstairs while he went up for another load, and then he waited downstairs while I went up for the last load. I took a picture of the apartment completely empty (I have to do a separate blog post on that because it’s so hilarious/sad) and a picture of the closed door for the last time, and you can faintly see the yellow stain on it that may or may not have been pee but that we didn’t clean off in all of those six and a half years,

and then we went to the doorman to leave our keys. He asked who they were being left for, and Kamran said, “Oh, um, the landlady, I guess. I’m moving out.” And the doorman was like, “Oh, really? Well, sad to see you go. Good luck with your new place!” And we were like, “Yeah, thanks for calling up to us every night when the delivery guy arrived with our dinner.” And that was to be the extent of our goodbye to the building.

It felt pretty strange to be leaving so unceremoniously after so much time there. I mean, it’s not like we were heavily involved in the goings-on of Tudor City–there were art shows and concerts in the park and building committees that we weren’t remotely a part of–but it’s also not like we didn’t know people there. People talked to us. People recognized us by our sweater vests (him) and our winter capes (me). People ran into us in the street and laughed about how funny it was to see each other in regular clothes outside of the building’s gym. We had wildly creative nicknames for people–The Tudor Lady (whose greyhound was named Tudor, after the neighborhood), The Crazy Lady (who stood outside with her mangy old bulldog and danced to music only she could hear)–and people would ask Kamran how his wife was and me how my husband was (awwwww (or barf, depending)). I kind of wanted some sort of send-off from Stacey with the red hair or the woman at the end of the hallway who always passed me in the morning in her yoga gear or even the asshole neighbor who would literally run into his apartment to avoid having to be polite to us if we nearly passed in the hall after he had taken his single empty can of Pepsi to the trash room. But no one was waiting for us with banners and balloons, so we silently carried our things to the curb and waited for a cab to take us to my apartment.

But then a moment later, the girl from the hallway came out to smoke, and we exchanged e-mail addresses. And then another moment after that, the guy Kamran had made friends with walked up, munching on a sandwich. We all stood around chatting and talking about future plans, and then the guy helped us load our stuff into the cab that pulled up. Well, first the cab driver said he wouldn’t take us and drove off. But then he stopped down the block, reversed, and popped his trunk open. CAB DRIVERS. We finally got to my apartment close to midnight. I think it was Kamran’s, like, fifth time there.

• Tuesday, Kamran came to work to say goodbye to all of my co-workers who actually like him better than me, and then we went back to my apartment to do laundry and eat one last banh mi. When we sat down to eat, I accidentally knocked his bubble tea to the ground, and it went eeeeeverywhere. Kamran, who used to act like I was the least-responsible person in the world whenever I spilled anything at his apartment, calmed me down and did all of the work of cleaning it up. And then we shared my bubble tea while watching “Deadliest Catch”, which we started watching together a few years ago and seemed appropriately epic for our end times. We cried and cried and then went to bed and cried and then held hands and cried and I told him not to say anything nice to me the next morning so I wouldn’t cry before work.

• Wednesday, I left for work knowing that I’d come home to an empty apartment. I hugged Kamran and closed my eyes for a second to enjoy it but then was like, “Shit! Shit! Don’t cry!” So I stopped thinking about it, kissed him, and left. It sucked.

The Nicest Thing You Can Be Called on the Bus

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I’m always filled with a sense of dread when I round the corner on 41st Street in the morning and see people squeezed four-deep along the sidewalk, waiting for the bus. For the most part, the buses come more often than I expect and get me to work right on time even when I feel like I’m running late, but when something goes wrong along the 2nd Avenue M15-SBS route, it seems to go really, really wrong. This morning, the bus pulled up just as I collected my receipt at the pre-pay machines and was shockingly empty, so I figured something went really, really wrong uptown and the MTA sent a new bus down to try to fix things. I got a seat right up front by the window and began my long-practiced process of zoning out so the elbow jabs of the person next to me wouldn’t seem so jarring.

The bus was filling up more and more as we made our way downtown, and it was downright packed by the time we got to a stop with a lady waiting in a wheelchair. Now, no one blames anyone for being in a wheelchair, but it’s the simple truth that a wheelchair on the bus is an inconvenience. Everyone in the front has to move back to make room for the wheelchair, and three people have to give up their seats so the wheelchair can be strapped in beside the window, and the wheelchair usually sticks out into the aisle far enough that no one can hold onto the handrail above it. The bus driver always tells people to exit the bus for a moment to make room and then re-board once the wheelchair’s in place, but everyone’s been left at the side of the road once or twice when the bus was too full, and no one wants to risk giving up his spot inside. So it was understandable (but maybe not excusable) when the woman in the wheelchair tried to board and people were reticent to move for her, but she wasn’t in the mood for understanding and muttered complaints to the bus driver as he strapped her wheelchair down. He agreed with her that “people should use common sense” and that he would let the bus sit there all day if they needed to be taught a lesson. “I’m already at MY job,” he said. I was amused, and I thought that was the end of it.

Read the rest here!