Thursday, December 21, 2006

Seen in Chelsea

While The Boy and I were walking to a party near Union Square a few weeks ago, we happened upon a gang of Santas - men and women all dressed like Santa Clause's or Clausettes. They were parading through the streets with their red, white and velvet, beards blowing in the wind.

We paused for a moment to take it all in when a coven of female santas in frilly santa skirts walked toward us wielding kindergartner-sized candy canes. They arched the candy canes over our heads and ordered, "Kiss, kiss, kiss." We were more than happy to oblige. We didn't want any trouble.

The Best of New York

10. You don't have to drive to get where you need to go.
9. You can go out and have a few drinks and don't have to worry about driving home.
8. You get to see lots of weird and varied people on the subway.
7. You can get a lot of reading done on your commute.
6. There are tons of cool restaurants to try.
5. There are tons of cool shops to shop at!
4. There are great cycling trails just a half hour from the city.
3. You have an excuse to buy lots of coats and footware.
2. You don't have to worry about buying more furniture!
1. You can spend quality time with your hubby while you commute home - no tv or other distractions.

Monday, December 04, 2006

First Snow

The first snow is supposed to appear this week. Yippee! Do you think I'll be as excited about it when the second snow arrives?


Does living in New York now provide me with an excuse to be rude? All my life, I’ve heard the stereotypes about rude new Yorkers. Their colorful candor is almost expected. So recently I’ve noticed that when someone is walking too slowly up the stairs from the subway or they stop short on the sidewalk, I have the sudden and disturbing urge to play the rude New Yorker card. So far, I’ve suppressed the urge. And rationally I believe that this kind of behavior just isn’t right! But where does this come from? What is this need to hide bad actions behind a perceived expectation? To stand in the shadow of a stereotype and exploit it – just to be mean. And why do I want to do it? Especially when my own experiences with the city so far have been nothing akin to the stereotypes. Where’s my head?

Perfect Days

Vietnamese brunch in downtown Jersey City . . . shopping all day in manhattan . . . sample sales . . . designer clothes at Scoop and Jeffrey . . . late afternoon coffee and a much needed rest . . . drinks on the roof of a bar in the meatpacking district.

Brunch at the Boathouse in Central Park . . . shopping at Ralph Lauren . . . meeting new friends on the Upper East Side.

Wardrobe Malfunction

I've learned that location doesn’t just have an impact on your neighborhood and amenities. It also has a bearing on the types of clothing choices you make. I’ve talked about the need for practical shoes and handbags. In Houston, for example, I could easily wear high heels to work and carry a small purse. In New York City – not so much. The city is also less forgiving of ill fitting clothing choices as well. In Houston, I could have easily have gotten away with wearing ill-fitting clothes. But in New York, such a choice can have an embarrassing effect.

Take this experience a few weeks ago. The cooler weather in NYC provided the opportunity to pull some of my old tights from the back of my sock drawer. I hadn’t worn them in over 10 years (!) but they were still good, so I thought, what the heck.

Well, their good condition was misleading. The years in the drawer had reduced the elasticity of their fibers. That meant that my tights just weren’t tight enough - they didn’t have quite the staying power necessary for walking about town.

As soon as I left the house looking fashionable in a grey sweater, black skirt and black tights, I knew the rest of the day would be a challenge. Almost imperceptibly at first, and then more urgently, the tights began inching their way down. I would discreetly pull at them, paw at them, pretend I was scratching my leg or adjusting my coat. But my efforts didn’t have much effect. At one point I was afraid the crotch would appear below the hem of my skirt or worse, that the tights would come slithering down with uncontrollable speed as I ran to catch the train.

I spent much of the day trying to keep my tights above see-level. Just another hard-won lesson in the city.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

An Arm and a Leg

We got the word yesterday that our board package has been submitted to the co-op board. Now we wait 4-6 weeks for it to be processed and reviewed before we are called for an interview. Then we wait to see if we are 'accepted.' Here is what we had to provide in our board package:
  • A copy of the executed contract of sale of our house in Houston
  • A certified financial statement with supporting schedule, including bank account statements, 401K statements, stock portfolio overviews, etc.
  • Employer's reference letter stating lenght of employment and annual salary
  • Bank commitment
  • Disclosure Statement
  • AZTECH Form Recognition Agreement
  • Bank reference letters for savings and checking accounts, stating type of account and amount on deposit
  • Three personal reference letters
  • Three business reference letters
  • Present landlord or managing agent reference letter
  • Most recent 1040 tax form
  • Lead based paing disclosure form
  • An application fee of $500
  • A vial of blood (just kidding!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

National Lampoon's Moving Adventure

Scene 1.

Fade in.

A house in the suburbs of Houston. A handsome man in his 30s is drinking coffee and talking to his mother - a beautiful, blond woman - and his Aunt - an equally attractive redhead. It is his last day in town before he moves to New York.

What time is your flight?
In two hours. I just need to put the cat into her carrier, and we can be on our way.
A ruckus from upstairs disturbs the tranquil morning peace.
What was that?
Oh no! It's the cat!
The son rushes upstairs as fast as he can go. In the bedroom, he hears the hissing and spitting of his beautiful but misunderstood cat Meow, but doesn't see her. A less attractive younger cat darts out the door just as the son walks in.
What happened? Has she gone mad?
I think the other cat upset Meow and now she's hiding under the bed in a rage!
Gingerly, he reaches under the bed to try to coax her out, but she spits at him like a mountain lion.
This won't be easy. Get me a towel from the bathroom. There's only one thing to do.
Are you going to wring her neck?
No, i'm going to cover her head with the towel and hope that will disorient her long enough to get her into the crate. But you're gonna have to pull the bed from the wall. It's the only way I can reach her!
His aunt and his mother pull the bed from the wall, and the son throws a towel over her head.
Gotcha! Now, to the airport! My flight leaves in an hour! Hurry!
Scene 2
The family lets the son off at the airport. He carries the cat to the animal check in section. He grins with pride at the new cat carrier he just bought.
Airport Personnel
I'm sorry, sir. You can't use that cat carrier.
But I just bought it and I'm so proud of it!
Airport Personnel
Like I care. Give me your credit card and I will charge you for this 'deluxe' version that is the same size, but I get a kick back.
Ok. Fine.
Scene 3
The son arrives at the airport lugging two large suitcases and the gigantic, overpriced cat carrier. His telephone rings. It is his wife.
Hi honey!
I have a surprise!
We are picking you up at the airport! You don't have to take a cab.
Great! I wasn't looking forward to lugging all of this stuff. Where are you!
We are outside!
I'm outside. Do you see me?
No. Do you see me?
What airport are you at?
LaGuardia. What airport are you at?
The End

Chestnuts Exploding On An Open Pyre . . .

Just a note on giving thanks. I'm thankful that my friend The Chef wasn't maimed when a terrorist chestnut he was frying exploded, raining his kitchen, face, ear and hands with hot grease. His wounds have basically healed. Only his pride was singed. : )

His sacrifice was not in vain. I truly enjoyed the stuffing that the arrogant chestnut wrought.

Elevator Cat Walk

Working in New York is not that different from working anywhere else. BUT working for a really large company has distinct idiosyncrasies. Take, for example, the level of security. Both a badge and a fingerprint check are required. Pretty space age.

But the really interesting part of the Big Company scene is just the sheer number of people showing up for work every day. Throngs and throngs of people pouring out of the subways, marching like little pengins to the various office buildings in the financial center.

So many are heading toward my company alone, that there are two distinct traffic jams:
  • one at the 8 or so security kiosks
  • one at the elevator bays

For my floors (38-52), there are about 10 elevators. Starting at about 8:45 and lasting through about 9:20, people line up to wait for elevators. This creates an interesting "elevator cat walk phenomenon."

People group themselves near a certain elevator, waiting for it to open so they can ride up. Because of the huge numbers of people, there's no way you can be stationed across the bay and expect to make it on an elevator at the other end. This creates a kind of "cat walk" or "receiving line" by which everyone can see and be seen in the morning - checking out who's wearing what, who is arriving when and who is talking to whom. It's a veritable society breakfast/new york fashion (or un-fashion) show, as the case may be.

It certainly makes one pause while getting dressed each morning and asking the question, 'How will this outfit fare on the "elevator cat walk."'

Friday, November 10, 2006

You Old Bag

Those of you who have known me for a long time know of my fascination with purses. After my grandmother died a few years ago, I became enamored of purses (a great pleasure of hers), and changing them daily to match my outfits. Now while I sometimes dreamed of Louis Vuitton, my purse collection didn't necessarily have to be comprised of (nor did it in reality include) tres expensive designer bags. Instead, my focus was on unique and hip handbags, of the smallest size possible. In fact, a small purse was a source of pride. No stereotypical bottomless purses containing everything, including the kitchen sink, for me.

Well, folks, those days are gone!

Today my purse in more akin to a diaper bag. My new commute necessitates that I carry something that:
  • is large enough for a spare umbrella
  • can accommodate a pair of shoes
  • can fit a couple of reading material options
  • is waterproof

Alas, while I still try to match my massive bags with each outfit, 'fashion', I'm sad to say, has been replaced by boring practicality.

Where has my feminity gone? Bad shoes, lame bags, headgear. Is New York City, the fashion capital of the universe, going to kill my fashion sense? Will i become the bag lady whose bag is --literally -- a large, black trash bag, simply because it meets the above requirements? Where will it end?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A love letter to NYC - on foot

I supported a friend of mine this past weekend on a 26.2 mile love journey around all five borroughs of New York. It was the third time I have completed the New York City Marathon, but the most memorable. We took our time, and I enjoyed seeing all parts of the city at a steady trot.

After an unbearingly cold morning, race temperatures were fine. I ran the marathon not as a visitor, but as a New Yorker. What an awesome status.

I don't know if I'll every participate in the full race ever again, but every step of this one affirmed my decision to move here and my love for this city.

The Power of Routine

A couple of posts ago, I talked about how surprisingly mundane life in New York is. I may have sounded a bit disappointed. I guess I wanted every walk in the city to include two beautiful gay men - one tall and blond, the other tall and black - holding hands while the black guy sings at the top of his lungs, " I have a Dutch man. He is my Dutch man. I hold him every night. I hold him every morning. Because if I don't. He will find someone else."

No, every walk does not have a soundtrack like that. So while I lament the lack of some of that freshness each day, I have to give the power of routine it's due. Without a strict routine to keep me grounded, I am a walking disaster.

You remember the wallet incident. Since then, I have consistently left my phone at home or at work (it's really not a good idea for someone like me to be wandering around the city without my phone), left my lunch at home and left my iPod i don't even know where. I'm not generally this forgetful, and I've decided that it's the lack of routine that's causing all this turmoil.

Unfortunately, i've got several months to go before my long-term routine will kick in. First I was squatting at my college roommate's house. Now I'm renting his neighborhing rent house. There has been ongoing renovation at both locations, necessitating extended living out of suitcases, on couches, blow up beds, as well as teeth brushing in the shower. Odds are we won't close on our new apartment until January, and then when we finally move in, we are going to quickly rip up the kitchen just to keep things interesting.

So, if I seem to be a bit scattered, it's with good reason. I've got a lot going on. I can't wait to indulge myself with bit more obsessive routine - Although i hope it comes with a liberal amount of "I've got a Dutch man . . ."

Life and Death

You've probably heard that they found more remains of Sept. 11 victims at Ground Zero. Family members and others held a rally last week to protest what was in their mind a quick and shoddy search process, and to demand that building on the freedom tower be suspended until a more exhaustive search is completed.

I happened to be out and about that day, off to the attorney's office to sign my life away for a tiny, expensive New York apartment in Carnegie Hill, when i came upon the rally. It was set up near the Ground Zero viewing areas, at the mouth of the P.A.T.H. station that I frequent each day to get to and from New Jersey. It also happened to be set up in front of a farmer's market that sprouts up twice weekly to sell natural and organic wares amidst the concrete and dust.

What I found interesting was the juxtaposition of life and death. Here you have a mass grave upon which both the sorrows and aspirations of a new generation are being built. Amidst all of that sadness, greed and turmoil, there was also this very affirming symbol of life and goodness.

I thought this is one of those great examples of the fabric of human life - the good and the bad - stitched over one another like a beautiful sunset made possible by polluted air. It was a nice moment, and one I was happy to get to see.

Monday, October 30, 2006

House Hunters

OK. I've calmed down a bit from the last post. I was just sitting there the other morning and it hit me: i've really changed my life!

Not only did we sell our house, which we loved, but we are in the process of purchasing an apartment in Manhattan. After a few weeks of house hunting, we have finally come to terms with moving from 2400 square feet down to 800.

We used the requisite brain washing techniques on each other:
  • We only use a small portion of the house anyway
  • We needed to simplify and streamline
  • I like the 'minimalist' point of view

Indeed we've begun to exclaim with joy when we encounter a closet that will hold more than two weeks of clothes for both of us! We chatter excitedly when the bathroom is large enough for a linen closet. If more than two people can fit in the kitchen, it is truly a reason to celebrate!

Once this new way of looking at the world was complete, we put an offer on a place we think will be the perfect home to transition to. It has:

  • lots of windows so it seems larger
  • a foyer so it seems larger
  • an eat in kitchen so it seems larger

Interesting side notes: In Houston, the other agent doesn't have to be present to view a place for sale. In Manhattan, the other agent must be present, so it makes scheduling a bit tricky. And, the realtors don't seem to work on Saturdays. Most showings are done Monday - Friday. And, a lot of realtors take Friday off too. Inspections aren't a required part of the buying process. In most cases, it's what you see is what you get.

Panic Attack

Holy cow! I sold my house, skipped town and now I live in NYC! What have I done?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Oh! The Mundanity!

After living in New York City for a solid two weeks, I have made one very startling observation that I know my dad will not believe - the people here are normal.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Everything you see on TV flies in the face of this statement. New Yorkers are loud and rowdy, have comical accents and are bad drivers, the conventional Texan thinking goes.

Well, yes, but. . . What I have been struck by the most has been the sheer normality, and yes 'mundanity' of the people and environment of living in New York. People get up, they take care of their kids, they go to work, they have lunch, they leave work, have dinner and cuddle up in their tiny apartments to watch Seinfeld. Sound familiar?

In terms of the personality of the folks I have met so far, there hasn't been a loud or rowdy one in the bunch. The folks I work with are a lot like, well, a lot like the folks I've worked with before - there are just more of them - 7,000 in this building alone!

They've been kind (see Expensive Lessons post), and frankly, kind of boring. Imagine being able to simultaneously 'drive' home' with hundreds of people every day. That's what the subway is like. People sleep, read, put on makeup, talk on the phone, get amorous - essentially the same activities commuters take part in everywhere. You just get to see it all on the subway - and there's less likelihood of car crashes.

Now, I can say that one colorful day I did happen on an older woman trying to take a discreet pee on the steps leading out of the subway. She looked well-scrubbed and embarrassed. (I can attest to the fact that it's hard to find a bathroom when you're out an about in the city.) I think she just had to go. As I bounded up the steps, a guy behind me said, "No problem. You gotta do what you gotta do."

And that, my friends, really sums up New York.

Perpetuating Myths

I have a bone to pick with Carrie Bradshaw and the rest of the fashionistas on Sex and the City. My gripe with them has to do with shoes.

The ladies on the show are constantly seen in beautiful, strappy footware, traipsing the city as if on air. I've tried this, people, and it DOES NOT feel like walking on air. It feels more like sticking your feet into a meat slicer over and over.

Not to mention that it is COLD! At least for this sunbelt chick.

So, based on the realities of walking several miles each day, I've had to do the unthinkable. Yes. I've bought several pairs of "Commuter Shoes."

Now, before you judge me, please note that I have purchased enough pairs so that I can at least match my work outfit. And also note that my warmer weather choice is something more akin to Converse than convent.

But then, of course, the cold weather is rolling in. And lest my feet freeze up and break off like the tips of candy canes, I have purchased some waterproof, polartech boots with faux fur on the inside for added comfort.

Now, these boots may smell a little like the petroleum and chemicals used to make them, but my feet don't have nostrils. And after the first snow, the smell will likely morph anyway into something more urban.

Meanwhile, if anyone asks, tell them i wear Manolo Blahniks every day. And any photos of me should be from the knees up.

Expensive Lessons

So, I'm at the Port Authority. I have no wallet. No one I know in the city will answer their phone. I have a job interview in 2 hours. I could:
  • sit down in the middle of the Port Authority and cry
  • blow off the job interview, go to a bar and find some guy to buy me drinks until my friends get off work
  • make it work

I considered the first option, learned firsthand the day before why the second option wasn't a good idea, so I decided to take a cue from Tim on Project Runway and just make it work.

It was a long shot, but I thought I might be able to persuade a taxi driver to take me back to Jersey with the flash of a smile (maybe, ultimately, some tears), promise of payment and my purse, phone and directions to my job interview as collateral.

The guy with the thick Russian accent managing the taxi stand wouldn't even listen to me once I told him of my predicament.

"You must pay for taxi! You must pay for taxi!" was all I could get out of him.

So, i took my predicament to the street. I went up to a cabbie, smiled, showed him my collateral, and begrudgingly, he agreed.

Whew! Now I had just one more problem - I had the address for my destination, but NO IDEA how to get there, and my cabbie was in the same boat. We would have to wing it.

Fortunately, my friends live on a major street. So, a few wrong turns and 40 minutes later, we made it.

Hurray! I leave my "collateral" in the car, rush inside for my wallet. But wait. It's not there.

I walk outside, sick to my stomach. I open my bag. I stick my hand in and pull out my wallet on the first try. I checked my bag six times! Never did my wallet appear. A $50 cab ride later, and here it is. DRAT!

Now, one hour before my interview, I'm stuck as to what to do. Do I wait for the bus ($3 and a little stress) or pay another $50 for a cab ride back into the city?

I don't want to be late on top of all that has already happened, so I suck it up and get back in the cab. An expensive lesson. Since then, I always know where my wallet is.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Never Leave Home Without It

Inteview Day

The Chef provided me with explicit instructions to get from his house in Jersey City to Manhattan. It's simple really:

  1. You hail the bus that stops in front of his house. It comes by approximately twice an hour.
  2. You pay $3 in exact change
  3. You get off at the Port Authority and take the A, C or E train downtown.


I was dressed in my cool new york clothes, and my cool New York shoes. But I wasn't cool at all. I was nervous. It was raining. I didn't have a proper bag to put my papers in. I was a mess.

I decided I should try to borrow a bag to put the papers in. So I clomp upstairs to find a bag. I find one, but then i'm indecisive. Do I really need this? I go downstairs. I vacillate. I decided no bag. I open the door to watch for the bus when i remember: $3 in exact change. All I have is a $5! And they really don't like it when you don't have exact change. I begin to freak. I'm hoping that The Chef has a change jar.

At the top of the stairs in his closet, success! I quickly fumble through the change until I have enough. Then I dash downstairs. I look out again at the rain and make a split second decision. I'm going to take the bag.

I am halfway through transferring all of my junk from my purse to the bag when I hear the bus approaching. I cram everything in, leap out the door, lock it and run to hail the bus.

Finally. I sit down to relax during the 15 minute ride.

But I can't really relax, so i start going through the bag, making sure I have everything. Phone, check. Directions, check. Wallet. Wallet. Ohmigod. There's no wallet! I scavenge through the bag again. No wallet. I slump in my seat. What. Am. I. Going. To. Do. I am on my way to the Port Authority with no wallet, no ID, no subway pass and no money. Holy cow. The hick in the city has really done it this time.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Don't Talk to Strangers

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my friend The Chef in NYC. Before I left, my Mom had just one bit of advice: "Don't talk to strangers." No problem, I thought. Strangers are scary, serial killer types. I will definitely stay away from them.

Since The Chef had to work during the day, (wah) I was on my own. But I navigated the transportation system without incident. I was at the Port Authority trying to buy a subway pass to take me downtown when a stranger approached.

Speaking in a British accent, he asked, "Can you tell me how to purchase a subway pass?"

Clearly, my efforts to "blend in" had paid off. People were asking me for directions! However, since I wasn't intimate with the ways of the subway pass machine, I fessed up right away that I too was just visiting.

"We'll figure it out together," I tell him.

Now, clearly this is my first mistake. I should have given him the stink eye and shooed him away. He was a stranger, for goodness sakes!

But no, we manipulate the machine until it produced a pass for him. Then, the unexpected happened.

"Say, since we are both new to the city, would you like to get some coffee sometime?" he asks.

I say, "Well, I'm married."

He says, "That's ok. I just don't know anyone here."

Obviously I should have cut and run right there. If I had the minutest inkling of street smarts I would have told him that would be inappropriate. Or even a very polite, "No thanks," would do. As a last resort, the tried and true fake number would have been the way to go.

But no, of course. I rejected all of these options because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. (Not thinking, of course, that maybe serial killers don't have feelings.)

So, even though my mom had just told me not to talk to strangers, I not only talked to him, but I gave him my name and real number, just to be nice, berating myself the whole time for being such an idiot.

Who in their right mind does this? Well, me apparently.

But my street smarts are improving. When he called, I didn't answer. And I only felt a little guilty about it, and it passed quickly. That's progress.