Just one thing really quick

February 3, 2010

I’m getting tired of shampoo names putting me down.  “For fine, limp hair.”  “For dry, brittle hair.”  “For unruly hair.”  “For dry, overprocessed hair.”  By the time I end up leaving with whatever shampoo I choose, I convinced myself I will never have hair I can confidently show without being publicly humiliated.  And I’m also willing to spend a few extra dollars on shampoos that make me feel better about myself (i.e. only have the brand name on the outside).

I’m going to make a shampoo whose catchphrase is “For whatever you want your hair to look like.”

First trip to the laundromat

January 11, 2010

Up until this point in my life, I have been fortunate enough to never be forced to used a laundromat regularly.  In fact, I only remember having to use it once, and that was to wash the curtains at home in California one Christmas break.  And I remember it was An Ordeal.  I only had a $20.00 bill, there was that weird coin machine, I had a ton of quarters, I didn’t know what to do with them afterward, and yeah.  It was a big deal.

Since that naive and happy moment in my life, I’ve learned that doing laundry in a dorm or an apartment building can be lethal.  Men and women are waiting in line, getting ready to pounce on the first machine that shows signs of finishing a cycle, the carts used to wheel around wet clothes to the dryer used just as often to wheel away dismembered inhabitants who lost the fight for the washer.  The long and short of it is that I hate doing laundry.  I hate having to collect quarters like they’re manna from heaven, I hate lugging clothes up and down stairs because they’ve been left to collect in the hamper too long, and I hate, hate, HATE making it all the way through the cycles, using up God knows how many quarters in the process, taking everything up the stairs, and THEN discovering that one crucial, really smelly shirt you had been meaning to throw into the hamper for 5 weeks but hadn’t because then it might stink up the room, or because the hamper was just too damn inconvenient that one night you stumbled in to go to sleep at 2.

Since moving into this apartment, I’ve been doing my laundry at friends’ apartments or dorms.  I was going over there anyway, right?  It wouldn’t be such a big deal if I’d just throw a few things into the washer while we watched that movie, yeah?  I did this because even though I ultimately had to carry my laundry farther than if I went to the laundromat down the street, at least I was familiar with the setup and clientèle of the laundry room in the apartment or dorm.  Whereas what goes on in a legitimate laundromat was still unfamiliar to me.

Until today.

After weeks, WEEKS of wearing underwear and clothes I could only look at myself in without my glasses on, I decided today would be the day I would go to the laundromat.  With my friends in dorms and apartments occupied in other ways, I had no choice.  Unless I wanted to wear a trashbag to work tomorrow.  So I gathered absolutely everything together I could think of to wash, and tried to go to the laundromat.  I had a plastic bag, my backpack, and my laundry bag stuffed to the brim with dirty things eager to be cleaned, and by the time I made it down the 5! flights! of stairs! I knew I was in way over my head.  My laundry bag started to rip at the seams, but I knew I couldn’t leave anything behind because if it was bad enough to find out I forgot to wash something when the machines were in my own buildings, it would do me in if I intentionally had to leave things behind when going to a laundromat 2 blocks away.  Why I was hellbent to do everything in one trip is a different story.

By the grace of God I managed to get my clothes to the corner store where I spotted a grocery cart.  The corner store man here, he has a soft spot for me.  The first time I went into the store, he asked if I was from Tel Aviv.  While I had to disappoint him and say no, he still smiles at me whenever I go in there, as if I remind him of the sweetheart he let get away 30 years ago.  Anyhow, with this friendly connection in mind, I entered the store to ask if I could use the grocery cart to wheel my things over.  Before my friend even had the chance to answer, a customer butted into the conversation to inform me that while the grocery cart was not his, he knew the guy whose cart it was and he couldn’t say for sure if I could borrow the cart or not.  So he wouldn’t let me borrow the cart.

I got angry at this.  This is a COMMUNITY I live in.  Somewhere neighbors should help out neighbors, like that one time those guys moved the table up the stairs for Mary Kate and me without us even asking them, and when those people generously offered me a place to stay when I got locked out.  Those moments of living here made me hopeful that I was not alone in this after all, that people on my street wouldn’t walk past me if they saw me on the street in a frozen heap under 50 tons of dirty laundry, my frostbitten hands hanging onto quarters like they were solid gold, my detergent lathered all over my body in my final attempt to keep warm outside while dragging my 50 tons of laundry to the laundromat.  However, this man had other things in mind.  And I had none of it.  I marched out of that corner store, put my things in the grocery cart, and then told the man I was taking his buddy’s cart to the laundromat, he could find the cart there if he wanted it in the next 15 minutes, and if he had any issues, we could talk about it then.

When I made it to the laundromat (the Soap Opera Laundromat, in case you are wondering), I knew immediately upon entering that this place would not be like the romanticized ones in movies.  I would not sit in a plastic orange chair waiting for my wash to finish while reading Tender is the Night, making eyes at the handsome stranger over at the other end of the row of chairs, each of us keenly aware we are the only two in the place, and eventually striking up a conversation while both of us are folding clothes, discovering we both like boxer dogs, Louis XIV style furniture, and ceramic beads.  No, there weren’t even chairs in this place.  People instead stood awkwardly in front of the machines, scowling at other people and their machines, resenting those who kept on adding quarters into the dryers to make longer cycles.

I managed to nab two open washing machines immediately, and commenced my cycles, with people asking me every three minutes or so if I was going to take my clothes out soon, would I be washing more clothes, or how much longer I expected my clothes to be in there.  The part of town I live has a large population of Senegalese, and today was the day all the women decided to commune in the Soap Opera Laundromat to wash and gossip in their native tribal tongue.  These are large, imposing women, and I am a short, stocky Eastern European white girl.  I had to stand on a ledge to see where I was pouring my detergent into the washing machine.  While I’m confident I could probably beat up most of the nerd girls at my old school for a machine if push came to shove, I knew I stood no chance against these Amazons.  I tried to be as invisible as possible, which is hard when you’re the only one who’s not involved in a conversation.

By the time I finished drying my clothes, I witnessed one washing machine spill its sudsy contents on the floor, some article of clothing? pillow? explode orange foam EVERYWHERE, and lots and lots of people wedge themselves past me to use the bathroom while I was holding the fort down with MY DRYER.  THIS IS MY DRYER.  I AM USING THIS DRYER.  DO NOT COME NEAR IT.

I can’t wait to go again.

The next Barbra Streisand. Kind of.

January 5, 2010

Whenever I go into stores nowadays, I find myself bellowing out whatever songs they are playing over the speakers, regardless of whether or not I know the song.  This draws concerned looks from not only other customers, but from store employees, who probably can’t figure out why I would be so happy to be buying two apples for around $8.00.

This recent development in my behavior also worries me.  I simultaneously feel like I should not be acting this way in public, that I am encouraging young, impressionable children who are tone deaf to become Broadway hopefuls, while also feeling that since I have started this trend, I am obligated by society to continue doing what I have started.  I am THAT customer in Rite-Aid who sings to the Beach Boys while buying 4 boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats.  I am THAT customer in Bloomingdales who sings “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  And I am THAT customer at Whole Foods who sings…Lord, I can’t remember.  That song about organic foods?  It doesn’t really matter WHAT the song is about, because if I don’t know the song very well, I make up for what I lack with my dancing.  And when I dance in a store, it is a frantic wriggle and writhe through the produce, racks of clothes, socks, whathaveyou,  fooling anyone who thinks I am not familiar with the song playing into believing I all I do in my spare time is try to reenact Beyonce music videos with my roommates.  Which may or may not be true.

I blame what’s going on with me on my current surroundings.  The holiday season just passed, which is particularly rough for me, and with the advent of shows like Glee and America’s Got Talent (I think that’s what it’s called?), I feel like I am laboring under the impression that ANYONE can sing or dance, if they just feel like it.  And I’m not the only one:  The street performer on Saturday evening in Times Square seemed to think his rendition of Marc Anthony classics called to be sung flat or sharp, but never in tune.   This, along with the fact that last year I had failed Broadway artists coming at me from every whichway while I was living at 47th street, really set the stage for my failed singing debut.

There used to be two places in this city where I felt safe.  One of those places was at C-Town, the grocery store closest to my apartment.  This place specializes in two things: beef and hip hop music.  This is a place I dread going to, because everything makes me feel so out of place.  The shelves are so tall they touch the ceiling, there are lots of canned things, and I feel too scared to really bust out my moves because the aisles are about one foot wide, with the canned items that don’t fit on the 20 foot high shelves tottering precariously on top of each other throughout.  The stage is definitely not large enough to hold me there.

The other place I used to feel safe was in the work place, ever since they got rid of that plastic ice skating rink, and along with it Sheryl Crow’s “Biggest Mistake” blaring over loudspeakers ever 10 minutes.  But the week of Christmas someone in the visitor service or IT department decided it would be A Good Idea to play some Christmas classics over the museum-wide speakers, and I was left with shimmying through the Hall of Northwest-Coast Indians to “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” to an audience of 5th graders.

Happy New Year, everyone.  Just let loose and enjoy life a little big.

18 weeks in coming

November 27, 2009

I’m going to start this post off simply to introduce a complicated topic I usually never talk about.

<drumroll>

This past Sunday, 18 weeks of training culminated in my running the Philadelphia marathon.

Ta-da!

Personal history and character would dictate that this normally isn’t something I would share with the general public.  I usually talk about things that happen to me, and not things that I do.  In fact, my own mother didn’t find out I was training for the marathon until some five or six weeks into the process.  Which was a decidedly calculated move on my part, not because I didn’t want to tell her, but because I knew she wouldn’t understand and I didn’t feel like dealing with the host of questions and discouragement that would rain about my unprotected head.

Some of you (Americans) might find it odd that this feat would be dissuaded.  However, it totally makes sense to me: what’s been encouraged in the past has been dedication to studying, studying, studying, playing/listening to classical music, studying, studying, studying, and then studying some more.  Which, when looked at from the point of view of what really is going to get me further in life, makes sense.  I would constantly be reminded that whatever it is I learn can’t be taken away from me.  Which is also is true!  This is all very sage and wise advice from a very intelligent person who studied a lot, worked a lot, and as a result, has successfully been able to raise not one, but TWO crazy girls.  So when the news surfaced that one of the Gyorfi girls was going to be running 26.2 miles at some point in the designated future, the information was met with curiosity and some resistance.  Did Einstein ever run a marathon?  Did Marie Curie every run a marathon?  Did that 18 year old resident at the hospital who got straight As all throughout med school ever run a marathon?  NO!  And guess what?  They were/are all successful!

SO, as I started to get chafe marks every place my clothes had seams, as I watched with fascination as my chests shrank down a full cup size, as I noted the very odd splotchy tan I am beginning to suspect I permanently got on the backs of my legs, I knew that a reckoning would have to come, and that I would have to explain to my mother, to the world, and to myself why I ever ran a marathon.  And it is a COMPLICATED answer.

I didn’t do this because someone came up to me and said “Adrianne, I don’t think you can run a marathon.”  Nor did I do this to get in shape, or because I really wanted to tell someone that I’ve run a marathon.  Running a marathon was never a thing to do on my list of things to do before I die.  In fact, I think I remember saying a few years ago that I would never be able to run a marathon if my life depended on it.

In this end, it turns out that there are several reasons I did this, the most compelling reason probably being because nobody expected me to run one, most of all myself.  I have never considered myself athletic, or been considered fit by anyone.  And I’m not saying this for any response telling me I’m speaking nonsense.  One year ago, nay, 5 months ago, running 8 miles would have been asking me to fly.  I would go for my brief jaunts through the park, entering it eager to embrace a healthy lifestyle and to be reinvigorated with my blood coursing through my veins , leaving the park a half hour later looking like I had been tied to the back of a big rig going 80 mph down the I-5.  I abhorred exercising from an early age, I detested swim team, but what I hated most of all was when I would be greeted by family and friends who I hadn’t seen for a while exclaiming how much weight I had lost or put on.  As if that were the only thing different about me since they had last seen me, or the only thing I had accomplished.  I realize this was not the intention of people, but LORD is it rough seeing the good intentions of people when you’re already insecure about every blessed thing about yourself.  And these occurrences aren’t a thing of the past, and don’t stop irritating me even if they aren’t directed at me.  A friend of mine had a bad infection, dropped some 20 odd pounds in a matter of weeks, and I was horrified to learn the mother was kind of broken up about her gaining 15 of the pounds back several months later.  Because the girl didn’t look NEARLY as great as when she was thinner.  And these are the people telling us to not be shallow and worry about the way we look.  If we aren’t supposed to worry about the way we look, then perhaps the first things they should ask us when they see us is if we’ve read any good books recently instead of running their eyes up and down our body and letting us know that we look thinner since the last time we met and that it’s great.  Because then guess what young, impressionable, insecure girls will worry about the next they meet again?

And then there was also the fact that it felt so GOOD to have a defined goal again at this point in my life.  In school, I studied and got a grade.  If I studied more, it would be likely I would get a better grade.  And now, not that I’m not working toward anything, but I needed something for myself that I could achieve all by myself and that someone wasn’t pushing me to do.  This was something I did that those closest to me might not understand and would have absolutely no tangible results, no title I could add before or after my name, and would not guarantee that I could land a better job in the future because I got a higher degree.  The benefits I think are strictly limited to character and experience, because do you know what it’s like to run 16 miles in the rain, alone?  It sucks.  And do you know what’s even worse?  Running 20 miles in the rain, alone.  But these are things that can be done.  And this is something that I learned (that, and that if there is a seam, there will be chafing), that I never expected to know, and now that I know it, no one can ever take it away from me.  In the end, I don’t think it really mattered that the marathon was 26.2 miles.  It could have been 10 miles, or it could have been 200.  The number I think is there just to impress other people.  What was far more important to me was that I stuck with something that was hard to achieve that I decided to do for reasons initially unclear to me, that I figured out along the way, and that I ultimately ended up grateful for doing alone.

As it stands now, maybe I’ll run another marathon in the future.  Maybe I won’t.  If I do or don’t, I’m sure I’ll have my reasons for it.  I’m also not laboring under the delusion that now that I have run a marathon, I am completely confident, goal-oriented, and able to finish anything I put my mind to.  I’ll still be keenly aware of any sort of remark made about my image, I’ll still probably be terribly nervous about the future, and I’ll still feel self-deprecating and unaccomplished.  However, I feel like perhaps I’ve taken one small step in the right direction to know that I can do things I didn’t expect I could do, and that sometimes the big picture only comes together once you stop constantly asking yourself why a goal is so hard to reach.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anticipation

October 2, 2009

Shortly after starting work at the AMNH, I got a staff-wide email about the museum shop clearance sale that was going to happen in the basement of the museum exclusively for employees.  EXCLUSIVELY for US.

After reading the email, I immediately noticed a palpable difference on the floor.  People seemed to have a bounce in their step, a new-found joy for life, and smiled for no reason at all to themselves.   I would also occasionally catch them glaring suspiciously at their coworkers, as if plotting revenge or remembering the occasion for a long-held grudge.  At the time, I did not think twice about this, but then I went to the sale.

The whole bottom entrance of the museum was transformed into a veritable flea market.  There were dozens upon dozens of tables just loaded with crap. The stuff that did not sell for one reason or another in the stores, whether it was because the item was related to an exhibition 3 years old, or because half of it was broken.  There were cups, light-up pens, stuffed dragons, horse ornaments, huge stuffed polar bears, dinosaur themed Christmas carol CDs, science kits, shower curtains, kids’ books on space, books on how to grow plants, different types of dogs, mugs, magnets, lizard key chains, balls with monkeys in them, gigantic globes,  just really anything and everything you could think of.

And then there were the employees frantically pawing their way through the stuff.

An innocent passerby may have thought we had rabies.  The way we were pawing through the mounds of crap haphazardly piled onto the tables, it was hard to think that we had ever been introduced to civilization and the alphabet, or that we had moved beyond the Stone Age.  And I am saying “we” here, because the minute I set foot into that market, I was transformed into a wild, crazed being who HAD TO HAVE EVERYTHING THERE WAS.  THERE.  THAT CUP WITH THE DOLPHINS.  THOSE MARTINI GLASSES.  THOSE MAGNETS.  Belong to MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

People were shoving both friend and foe out of their way to snatch at the goods that were everywhere, greedily stuffing everything they could lay their hands onto into pockets, bags, upturned shirts, or even into their mouths.  There were security guards cowering in the corner as a sea of people stormed over them, other people bent over in half protecting their finds as others would try to grab them away.  Full grown men sat weeping under tables.  Women were batting each other away from steals with machetes.

At the time, I didn’t know why this was happening.  I was just an uninformed participant.  But now I fully understand.  For the past year, the employees at this museum have been the ones sitting outside looking in.  Daily, we would see millions of happy tourists with museum store gift bags overflowing leaving the building with gigantic grins plastered onto their faces, pleased with their T-Rex ice cube tray or their triceratops socks.  These people could allow themselves the luxury of museum store prices because they were tourists and on vacation and some boy in Bulgaria was going to be the coolest kid in town with his new hat.  While we, the employees, were left outside to wait until prices were brought down.  For the whole year, we would go into the store, longingly eyeing the t-shirts and pencils, keeping a mental note of what was worth returning for and what wasn’t, memorizing  the shape, color, and weight of the coveted object so that when the day of the clearance sale came, we would be able to sprint through the aisles grabbing objects off the table, not stopping to think twice about whether or not it was the item we really wanted.  Because in this competition if you stopped for even a second to think about whether or not you had the right thing, it would be too late.  Someone will have already wrestled it away from you at light speed.

This sale is tomorrow again.  I am going fully prepared that friendly ties I have developed this past year may be severed over the glow in the dark snake I want.  No regrets!

My scattered mind, I will tell you about it!

September 28, 2009

A few years ago I was in Hungary with my sister when she walked up behind me and said “WHOA you look like mom from behind.”  This was only slightly disconcerting, since I have been well aware my whole life that my mom and I have the same exact body type.  We’re short and average in every way, my sister is the one who got the long legs and the smaller nose.  Obviously, I have been able to accept my fate gracefully.

It was only a couple of years after that I realized that the similarities extended to beyond the physical.  My mom and I were driving to Canada for a wedding and for the 6 hours or so it took to drive over there my mom cracked the lamest jokes and running commentary ever told at everything she saw on the side of the road and I only stopped shaking my head when I quickly realized that I would have said the same things had she not beat me to it.  This was a sobering experience.  But at least I don’t have to lay the blame entirely on myself.

Anyhow, after the occurrences of this weekend, I have determined that painful jokes and cultural slurs are not the only hallmarks I’ve inherited.  When I was growing up, my mother would incessantly lock her keys out of the car.  I was generally the last person to be picked up from preschool, and upon occasion even when my mom DID manage to come to pick me up on time, she will have locked her keys in the car in the preschool parking lot.  I never saw her get frustrated about this.  I’m sure she was, but she was not going to break down in front of a preschooler and let her know the entire world was out to get her.  This is one difference:  I most likely would have thrown myself onto the ground in the middle of the parking lot and let my baby girl know that the world is a cruel, cruel awful place where cars lock themselves on purpose out of spite and that she should lie down in the parking lot with me and hope a car runs over us because there was going to be no way we could ever open the car doors.

Saturday I went out for my customary jog with my keys tied around my shoelaces.  And I even thought about this!  I thought “I will only lock the top lock, so this means I will only have to take the deadbolt key and the key to outside!”  No alarm bells went off when I shut the door, during my run, or even when I opened the door to the building.  It was only when I got to outside my door and opened the deadbolt that I let out a long wail comprised solely of curse words because I forgot that to open the knob you need the key, even if you did not lock it!  It LOCKS BEHIND ITSELF, and why?  Why do you think this is?  Not because the management is trying to be helpful and not let you leave the door completely open for anyway to stroll in, it is because the world is out to get me, that’s why!

For a while all I did was sit on the staircase and groan loudly.  I moaned and groaned so loudly that the whole building reverberated, but I soon realized this would not open the door.  So I went downstairs to make a friend and call the super on my new friend’s phone.  The lucky man was name Mirgo, in this case, and he looked a little taken aback when a scantily clad girl, covered from head to foot in sweat (I am not kidding about this) rang the doorbell and asked if she could use his phone to call Anton, the surely very personable Eastern European super of the building who looks like he used to wring Communists’ necks in another life.  He must be nice, right?  WRONG.  Anton told me he couldn’t do anything to help me, and that I would have to go to the hardware store.  Long story short, I went to the hardware store where I think I drove all the customers out with my stench, and the arthritic owner managed to make it up to my 5th floor walk up 1.5 hours later with a crowbar and hammer.

One would think that after yesterday’s event I would have been slightly more vigilant.  Yet this morning, clad in nothing but an inside out transparent shirt and pajama pants, I giddily moved my old mattress into the hall while listening to the latest songs from Glee on full volume and let the door slam shut behind me once again.  The giddiness quickly evaporated and I just sank onto the ground and beseeched the heavens, hell, my neighbors, anyone who could possibly hear me, asking them why, WHY THIS HAPPENED TO ME AGAIN.  The small voice inside me answered the question:  It’s because you are your mother’s daughter.

Oddly enough, my new friend Mirgo would not answer the door and I had to wake up another new friend in the building, Taylor, to use his phone, clutching my chest and scampering around on tip toe, since all I could think off walking up and down the stairwells barefoot was “Fungus!  Fungus!  Fungus!”  Anton was much more sympathetic this time around and only had me walk a short distance in the rain for some extra keys.

I have since changed the knob settings so it does not lock automatically.  However, I will continue to live in fear every day., because I already know where this is heading.

The Comment Wall

September 24, 2009

One of the more amusing pasttimes of mine while riding the subway is looking at all the comments people leave on advertisements in the subway.  I one day plan on going around taking pictures solely of one type of advertisements to let  the world know how cleverly an ad can be defaced, because we are only one episode away from finishing Battlestar Galactica and then people, I will have so much time on my hands it will be frightening!  SO MUCH, I tell you!  Mary Kate is already dreading the day we finish because the minute we finish watching the last episode, I will begin following her around braiding her hair and putting her socks on and asking her what she wants for dinner and what board games we should play afterwards.

Anyhow, going back to comments in general, the august insitution of my employment recently had Climate Change up for their temporary exhibition.  In addition to being able to explore the fascinating consequences of our burgeoning oil consumption and inspecting bleached coral, visitors could express their concern over the changing climate and recommend solutions to future visitors on how to cut down on electricity consumption and saving gas money by writing on (recycled) pieces of paper that would be collected and put up onto a wall the following day.

Some of the suggestions were typical, run of the mill: walk more, plant trees, take the subway.  However, since this is New York, and since thousands of people came through this show, there were also some creative suggestions made.  Unfortunately, I have access only to a black and white scanner, and keep in mind, this is only a tiny smattering of THOUSANDS of never before seen comments that never made it up onto the comment board in the exhibition.

Here, among others, we can some Nico’s carefully outlined hand telling us hello, someone who might like to hop on one fut, someone telling us to pee in the toilet (presumably to… save water?  not pollute the city?  On second thought, considering my previous experiences in Times Square, this actually is good advice) and someone who fancied herself Michelangelo and looks like she probably spent a good 20 minutes filling every inch of a small paper with meticulous shading and 3-d rendering (I am most sorry about not having a color scanner in this instance).

I plan on periodically sorting through more comments to share with you all, but let’s start with these gems for now.

A Moving Story: Part 2

September 11, 2009

Mary Kate and I ended up loading the cargo van.  Since we couldn’t find a parking spot on the street (re: even if there was one, it’s not like I could have parallel parked into it), our friend Joe Jerome had to stand watch, moving the van whenever something too large happened to come around.  This daring way is, apparently, the only way to move in and out of Midtown.

We arrived at 116th street with Mary Kate gripping onto the edge of her chair, my knuckles white from clutching the steering wheel so tightly, and with our boat threatening to pop at the gills.  And we immediately started hurling our stuff out onto the sidewalk to be moved up by a few guys, including one I had met at an airport that one time.  Clearly, we were in dire straights if I was calling on complete strangers to move an unholy amount of goods.

5th floor walk up!

When we finished unloading the van, we went back to our van to park it properly.  Mary Kate and I tumbled down the five flights of stairs, dragged ourselves to the van, and what did we see?  What do you think we saw?  Someone had graffittied our magnificent maroon cargo van.  Someone had come up to the van, taken a can of gold spray paint of their back pocket, and sprayed some fantastic golden swirls onto the side of our van.

So this is not really a bad neighborhood by any stretch of the imagination.  I’d say it’s “up and coming,” and leave it at that because if I say more I’d land myself in the middle of a gentrification discussion I frankly don’t ever feel like having.  I lived on the UChicago campus for 4 years, so I’m entirely aware of the tension and the situation that does currently exist where I am.  So was I surprised when I saw this happen?  Not really.  Was I amused to no end?  Yes!  So amused, in fact, that I made the mistake of telling my mother.  My mother, who gets nervous in the middle of a suburban grocery store parking lot on a Sunday afternoon at 2 PM.  With her wailing into my phone every half hour afterward, MK and I were forced to go back to the old apartment to make yet another cargo van run.  By the time we at last finished unloading our van, I was fully expecting to come down to a car painted all different colors of the rainbow.

At 6 PM, we thought we were done.  We collapsed into our sturdy toothpick IKEA kitchen chairs, and were ready to spend the night in our boxes.

That’s about when I got a phone call from someone at work who needed a man with a van.  Or as the situation would have it, me.  He needed someone to move some stuff from Bedstuy to Astoria.  Which involved driving on the expressway.

Growing up in California where some people learn how to drive on the freeway before they can walk, I usually envision freeways to be like a bumper car rink, with me caught in the middle of it.  I expect every car to want to crash into me, and that really my vehicle is just a gigantic magnet waiting to be pulled into other cars.  Driving this cargo van on the expressway in New York seemed to be just asking for a 40 car pileup to happen.  I could not see a blessed thing from the sideview mirrors that had been haphazardly taped on after someone had broken them off, and on top of that, it was dark.

I don’t really remember Mary Kate and my drive to Bed-Stuy.  Just that we both silently sustained screams for the whole ride, we got lost, I managed to execute the PERFECT parallel parking job before we realized it was in front of a house 10 blocks away from our destination, I stopped traffic twice when I executed a 60-point turn, and that I have never been more grateful to step foot on solid ground than after that fateful ride.  The Manhattan street grid with thousands of tourists and cab drivers seemed positively civilized once we crossed the Manhattan bridge to get back.

To return the cargo van, Mary Kate and I decided for one last hurrah we’d drive it through Times Square just to see if we could run over any tourists.  Because that is something I occasionally daydreamed about.  But from the protection of our cargo van, which I would like to think could have parted seas if faced with the opportunity, I hate to say it, Times Square seemed ALMOST magical.  Granted, I was pretty delirious.  And after we returned the cargo van to the wasteland it came from and we were walking over to the subway, it felt that in some way, maybe for only that one day, the city didn’t win.  Mary Kate and I beat it.

5th floor walk up!

A Moving Story: Part 1

September 6, 2009

What better way to open up this new blog than with the tale of how I moved into a new apartment?  New apartment = new blog.  Which also, incidentally, equals new couch, but that is neither here nor now.

As you might recall, for the past year I occupied a relatively okay apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, right off of Times Square.  Three of us lived in a two bedroom place like sardines.  This was endurable for one year, mostly because every morning we would wake up and chant: “We are splitting rent 3 ways, we are splitting rent 3 ways, we are splitting rent 3 ways” but when one of us up and went back to Chicago, Mary Kate and I knew the honeymoon was over.  It was time to bust out of there before we opened up our back accounts and there was nothing there.

We started looking on Craigslist.  I know the few people who read this have experienced looking for a place on Craigslist, so I won’t wax lyric about what sorts of placed we looked at.  A couple do stick out, however:

1.  The one where every inch of the apartment building seemed to have been sprayed with a layer of urine, and where I am pretty sure I was bitten by fleas.

2.  The ones on the Upper East Side where 8 of us 20-something girls followed a hipster broker around apartments the size of a 1996 Mercury Villager minivan.

By the end of the whole ordeal, when I was closing my eyes I started to see the following descriptions scrolling on the backs of my eyelids:

THIS RENOVATED, LARGE, CORNER PRE-WAR ELEVATOR BUILDING FEATURES A BEAUITFUL MARBLE LOBBY, NICELY RENOVATED, OVERSIZED APARTMENTS, MODERN KITCHENS W/ DISHWASHER, MODERN TILE BATHS, LOVELY PARQUET WOOD FLOORS & AIR CONDITIONING!

$1846 / 3br – A View to Die For!!! Gorgeous 3 Bdrm SPECIAL!!! NO FEE!! (Wash. Heights, Inwood )

GLEAMING HARDWOOD FLOORS
LOTS OF CLOSET SPACE!
WINDOWS IN EVERY ROOM
LOFT STYLE APARTMENT THAT WORKS GREAT AS CONV. 2 BEDROOM

Mary Kate and I would wake up in the morning and greet each with “GOOD MRNING 2 BD RENOVATED HARDWOOD W/D IN BUILDING FANTASTIC VIEWS YOUR NEXT HOME SWEET HOME!”

Mary Kate and I ended up getting the very first apartment we looked at, a nice, clean, spacious 5th floor walk up on 116th Street.  With new hard wood floors and a sunroom!  Close to the subway!

On a 5th floor walk up!

I have been known to refuse to take the elevator back up to get something if I have forgotten something in the apartment.  At work, I take the elevator down when I can.  Living in a 5th floor walk up makes me never want to leave it.  The other day I got to the bottom of the building when I realized I forgot something crucial upstairs and I nearly wept.  That is 90 stairs I had to mount again.  90.  What people also don’t really tell you about 5 floor walk ups is that it NEVER gets easier.  Whenever I told people I was moving into a 5th floor walk up, they said “You are going to have such great legs” or “That is going to be such a great work out.”  Neither of those statements are true.  My legs are always going to be stumpy and thick, and it’s NOT a great work out because you have to stop for 5 minutes when you reach each new landing to catch your breath.  Also, psssst, IT DOES NOT GET EASIER.

The big moving day came at the end of August.  Since Mary Kate and I are novices at this, we did not really book any sort of moving van ahead.  The thought fleeted through our innocent minds at one point in time, but the day before we decided we’d move all our stuff we signed onto uhaul and lo, what did we see but that ALL the uhauls in New York City were rented!  All of NYC was moving the same weekend we were!

5th floor walk up!

Mary Kate and I decided we would be damned if we took out a day from work to complete this move, so the hunt for a cargo van started in earnest.  We typed in “Cargo Van Rental” into google and got the cargo van on the first website we clicked on.  Which was actually entirely reasonable.  We made a reservation, packed up our stuff, and went the following morning to pick up the cargo van.

This place is on 37th street between 9th and 10th Avenues.  There is hardly anything there.  This is one place in New York City I walk in and say to myself “There appears to be nothing here.”  Apparently, though, the best cargo van rental service in New York is doing well in this wasteland, and were thrown into one before we even had time to realize what was going on.

This car was a monster.  It was the cargo van that begat all cargo vans.  It was the size of a rocket ship.  People who have driven with me in a car know that I occasionally have a hard time navigating small spaces.  I regularly have nightmares where I have to drive in a parking lot.  So when I climbed up into this submarine I thought this was going to be the last day I ever spent alive on this earth, and it was going to be spent transporting all the stuff I didn’t want to move to a 5th floor walk up.

Since this is getting long and it is getting late, I will continue this tale later.

5th floor walk up!