“New York remains what it has always been: a city of ebb and flow, a city of constant shifts of population and economics, a city of virtually no rest. It is harsh, dirty, and dangerous, it is whimsical and fanciful, it is beautiful and soaring - it is not one or another of these things but all of them, all at once, and to fail to accept this paradox is to deny the reality of city existence." –Paul Goldberger
Like many a blog owner, I am a neglectful, absentee blogger, a rolling stone, wherever I lay my words are my blog’s home. However, I do manage to chirp in from time to time with a strange worldview, or a crazy story, or something I feel could possibly be significant. It all sort of depends on what’s going on in my life I suppose, & right now the goings on in my life say that I should write a blog post about my experience in moving to New York.
It came about from a desire I’ve had for a long time to live in New York & be a part of the fast-paced, kinetic energy that seems to encompass everything here. It’s a magical city full of order out of chaos and mayhem out of sheer volume. It’s also a city full of excellent opportunities for a person like me, so I set my mind to moving, leaving Hampton Roads, VA, and coming to this giant sprawl. I landed a job doing web design for an excellent company on the 55th floor of the Empire State Building. The view is amazing, and the pay is great, even despite the cost of living adjustment. I’m not saying this to brag–certainly if you have a job skill & you’ve become good at it, you can probably make a lot more money here as well–but rather I’m saying it to underscore the fact that the move is something not only mentally satisfying, but financially rewarding as well.
Bah! But never mind all that. The important facts about the job are that I did multiple interviews over the phone with the company, culminating in them flying me out for a face-to-face. That went exceedingly well & they made me the offer. It was stellar. Things started picking up quickly & I had to make a move, figure things out, & relocate my happy ass. This became the challenge.
Finding an apartment in New York requires you to be there. Things move fast
in the city; apartments come & go, deals evaporate as quickly as they condense. Sometimes a sign in a window is all it takes, & then it’s gone before it even has time to make it to Craigslist. So I knew I had to get up there to figure out where I was going to live. This being the case I only packed a suitcase, grabbed my laptop, & headed to Princeton, NJ, to stay with my brother & his girlfriend in their one-bedroom apartment. That’s where I’ve spent this week.
In the meantime, I’ve managed to locate a room for rent in an apartment in Astoria (a part of Queens). The location is great for me, for now. It sits on top of a really cool diner (confession: I’ve always wanted to live over top of a diner or storefront; I don’t know why). Across the street there is a gym, a pharmacy, & a fresh market grocery store. It’s also within walking distance of lots of cool bars, stores, & other odds & ends. Walking around, I felt at ease. Also, my roommates seem like they’re gonna be really cool–one of them, a girl around my age, is an actress & singer & she frequently performs in local musicals. The other, a guy, is a bartender & male model. Upon finding this out, I immediately thought of Zoolander & had to resist the urge to blurt out: "Orange Mocha Frappuccino!!!” However, I did not do this as I’m eager to get out of my brother’s apartment as quickly as possible. Not that I’m uncomfortable there–they’ve done a lot to welcome me into their home–it’s just that… okay, I’m a little uncomfortable there, though through no fault of their own.
My brother is definitely a bit unusual–extremely intelligent & computer-savvy, he’s a bit of a self-educated computer genius. I like to brag about him. He’s also six years older than I am, so we’ve actually gotten to know each other a lot better as adults than we ever really did as kids, though clearly we share a lot of common memories. My brother’s girlfriend however adds a different dimension to my temporary living arrangements. This is a good thing, though also a bit surreal. She’s easily one of the most interesting, educated, and intelligent people I’ve ever met. She’s also an internationally renowned artist.
Erika has been an artist her whole life, but she really gained fame when she started creating a body of work that she’s become well-known for in many art circles. She does these pieces where she takes a particular medium–initially cassette tapes with the ribbons pulled out–and arranges them into different compositions, mostly of celebrities and pop stars. It’s hard to explain without seeing it, so I’m dropping in a pic to see (& you can check out more here). Google her if you want to learn more. Trust me, it’s fascinating. It’s also fascinating talking to her, and seeing these pieces in person for the first time. They take on a different quality when you can actually see the tape, reflecting light & casting slight shadows on the canvas.
Sleeping my on the floor of my brother’s apartment is a strange affair. He & his girlfriend are both minimalists. They don’t have much furniture, just the bare necessities. They have no TV, only a couple laptops & an iMac. They have a couch from Ikea that is white faux-leather, and my brother’s computer chair is also stark white. The carpet is white, the walls are white, the “meditation mat” I sleep on is white (& thin, though oddly comfortable), the sheets are white, and her art is all on white canvas & on the walls, staring down at me in its clever beauty. I feel like I’m sleeping in a museum. It isn’t uncomfortable necessarily, I just feel like I’m going to stain something at any moment somehow. I certainly would not attempt eating spaghetti sauce in this apartment.
Every day this week, my routine consists of this: First, I wake up at 6:00am -6:15am. I brush my teeth, drink a tall glass of water & get dressed. I’m out the door by 6:45am. It takes almost-exactly 30 minutes to walk from the apartment to the train station at Princeton Junction. I arrive & buy a $15 ticket for Penn Station. It usually boards & takes off at 7:30am. The ride takes an hour, roughly. That sounds annoying & stupid, but it’s actually not that bad at all. I can use the time to read, mess w/ my iPhone, or even pull out my laptop & write something (as I’m doing now on the return trip). However, at some point, early morning sleepiness gets the best of me & I snooze a bit.
When I get off the train, it’s a herd of people, and I’m just one node in this giant cluster, making my way up a couple stairways & out into the city, right by Madison Square Garden. There are guys outside handing out all sorts of periodicals, papers, flyers, etc. They shout to people & bank on the law of averages. Immediately there are tours, sight-seeing busses, & all manner of tourist traps. I’m greeted by the humungous rush of midtown Manhattan. The streets are filled w/ yellow taxis, limos, & cars with mildly annoyed drivers honking incessantly. There is a metric shit ton of tourists–kids all wearing the same team shirts, groups of Asian people snapping photos, old couples looking overwhelmed, young 20-somethings on vacay trying to act nonchalant as if they live there (but you can tell they don’t), business professionals in suits & ties, & more street vendors than you could imagine. You know, New York. Except, I’m not on vacation this time. This is actually my day-to-day life.
What compounds this peculiar set of circumstances is the fact that I work in a national monument: The Empire State Building. There are people all around the base of the building trying to sell tickets for a tour that takes you to the 86th floor observatory. They have takers. I have to make my way through this to get to my desk on the 55th floor. It’s surreal, but according to my coworkers, I’ll get used to it. I guess. But every day as I make my way inside, there’s a cool-ass doorman whose accent is the essence of New York. He says to me, with zero sense of detectable irony, “Welcome to tha Empiyah State Buildin’”. If I’m the only one he’s saying it to, I usually reply, “Thanks, man.” To which he says, “My pleasah, chief.” It seems dumb & quaint, but it’s actually pretty cool, & I have to admit I like it.
The building itself has an interesting history. It’s definitely worth checking out the Wikipedia entry on. Of particular interest to my morbid curiosity side are the stories of some of the suicides that have occurred in the building from people flinging themselves from the upper floors. Most jump from the observation deck on the 86th floor, but one guy actually made it to the 102nd floor, snuck past a guard & leapt to his death. He didn’t make it to the ground though, as the building tapers out quite a bit towards its base. No, this poor bastard actually jumped from 102 & hit the 86th floor observation deck. Ouchie. Still, it did the trick he was after.
A much more interesting suicide was committed by a woman named Evelyn McHale. She left some sad note about probably not making a good wife for “him”, or anybody, & then swan-dived into the Manhattan ether. When she hit, she landed on a limo, completely crumpling it in. Fortunately the driver had stepped out to get a bite to eat & was unscathed. What’s interesting about this suicide though is the fact that she did not suffer much external damage from the impact, leaving her looking completely intact. She landed in such an amazing, poetic pose, that a photography student across the street, upon hearing a great crash, ran over to check it out, & snapped a picture of her. It has since been titled “The Most Beautiful Suicide” & is well known, having at one point been incorporated into a design by Andy Warhol.
Those are the salient, interesting features of my job. Well not really, but at least for this blog post… This weekend I have to drive back now to finish getting my belongings up to New York. It’s gonna be a pain in the ass, but worth it in the long run, & always an adventure.
UPDATE: Okay so I’ve been working on this blog post this entire week, writing it here & there on the train, at my brother’s, & more recently on the Chinatown bus coming back to Virginia. The Chinatown bus I took, btw, was awesome. The company is called Coach 88 & it leaves from 87 Cynthia & drives straight to Norfolk, VA for $35 a ticket. Top that. Oh, & they show a couple of movies on four TV screens while they take you. We got to watch a bootleg of a Tyler Perry movie & some awful crap called Mercenary with Danny Trejo. Top that! No, don’t, actually.
So yeah today I’m packing up the rest of my stuff & heading back out tomorrow, back to the city. It’s been a great experience & I will continue to post in the coming months… I’m really looking forward to getting into the local comedy scene in NYC. There will be adventure, weirdness, and of course, stories to tell. I could continue writing, adding, subtracting to this post, going over details, etc., but I need to post this, and I’ve got Shit To Do…