Saturday, August 1, 2009

Living on a Prayer

For those of you who don't already know, I just signed a lease on my first apartment in the Big Apple (yay!).  After a hectic year of campus housing (which consisted of a caved-in ceiling, intoxicated undergraduates, and shared bathrooms), I felt it was time to move on to bigger and better things.  Thus the apartment hunt commenced.  As I am quite experienced now in the realm of New York City real estate (ha! not.) I decided to compile a list of do's and don'ts of the New York apartment hunt.  If you are about to begin the search yourself, take these tips to heart.  If not, merely rejoice in the fact that you will never have to endure such a challenging, stressful, sleepless experience.

 ARE MINISCULE.  A square foot in New York equals a hundred square fee
t in most other cities.  Seriously, 
I can't stress this enough.  Remember that Geico commercial for a fake reality TV show called "Tiny House"?  The spoof on reality TV where Real-World-esque contestants were forced to live in a too-small place of abode for an extended period of time and whoever could endure it for the longest time won?  Welcome to Manhattan.

2.  DO sacrifice any dreams of a Park Avenue penthouse unless you are a billionaire.

3.  DO use Craigslist with caution.  No need to explain.  

4.  DO take a friend with martial arts skills to all apartment viewing appointments.  Male or female, you must have a bodyguard at all times.  Exercise caution in all stairwells, elevator shafts, and dark hallways.  Bring mace.

5.  DO come to all appointments prepared to sign the lease.  In New York City, living space operates in low supply, high demand.  If you decide you want the apartment, there are probably others who are after it as well, brandishing wads of twenties.  There is no time to dither.  SIGN THE LEASE.

6.  DO NOT purchase furniture until you know the square footage
 of the apartment.  Not just the interior square footage, but also the measurements of the doorways, hallways, elevators, windows, etc.  It is not uncommon for city denizens to saw their furniture in half in order to get it inside.  Save yourself the trouble.

7.  DO NOT assume amenities.  Not all NYC apartments are in doorman buildings with on-site dry cleaning and a private pool.  If you're like me, you'll be lucky to find one with air conditioning.

8.  DO maintain flexibility.  Decide what is the most important factor in your search (price, location, size, etc.).  Be willing to yield on everything else.

9.  DO prepare yourself for vermin confrontations.  There are more rats than people in New York City, and they need somewhere to live, too, right? 

10.  DO sustain an open mind.  This is the most important thing to remember, especially if you haven't lived in the city for long and you're on a specific budget.  I guarantee you will be quite shocked by some of your options.

Having survived my first New York apartment hunt in no way makes me an expert.  If anything, I've realized that finding a place to live in New York City is like living on a prayer (pardon the Bon Jovi reference, but it seemed apt).  I had to chuckle knowingly at a brief exchange I witnessed the other day in the subway:

Shabby hobo on bench, to well-dressed young man exiting the train:  Spare a dollar for the homeless?
Well-dressed young man:  I'm with you, man.  Just moved up here two weeks ago.  Can't find a place to live, so I'm couch-surfing for the time being.  Best of luck to you and God bless!
Shabby hobo on bench:  If I had a dollar, I'd give it to him.  

I'm very happy that my apartment search is over for the time being.  I've pretty much thrown myself into decorating since we moved in, and I'm happy to say that the whole place is starting to come together.  However, by the time we're completely settled in, our lease will probably be up and we'll be on the hunt once again.  At least I'll be a bit more experienced next time around.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

15 Things I Learned In New York City

Well, I survived my first year in New York City (technically speaking).  There were ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and an all-around sense of accomplishment.  It wasn't until I returned to Virginia Beach for summer recess that I had time to think about everything that happened over the past year.  Not only was my introduction to the city a great learning experience, it taught me that no matter what obstacle you encounter, someone, somewhere has been there, too.  I became a little fish in a big pond.  Or plankton in the ocean.  Also, more than ever, I am aware of how many fish there are in the sea, if you will.  (Clearly, I've been at the beach too long; I'm experiencing an outpouring of ocean-themed expressions.)  Back to the point.  I intended to write a post on the subject HOW TO SURVIVE IN NEW YORK CITY.  I hastily realized that I do not know how to survive in New York City.  Hence, I've decided to compile a list of some important things I've learned which may or may not promote survival.  If you're reading this and you are a bonafide New Yorker, please don't judge.  These are only my premier insights, and I am sure to learn and understand much more as I continue to acculturate.  

Things I Learned In NYC:

1.  I'll begin with something I didn't learn.  How to walk in high heels.  It's one thing to throw them on and hop into a taxi a la Carrie Bradshaw, but I somehow always ended up somewhere that required the maximum amount of walking while sporting the highest, most precarious of heels.  I've already covered the dangers of wearing said heels into the subway (for recap, see previous entry).  And mid-trek, at the very moment I would resort to pulling out my emergency ballerina flats, a 6'5" anorexic supermodel would flash by me, towering in the Empire State Buildings of heels.  I could only cower in shame.  P.S. For the record, I've mastered the recovery of high heel damage (ice, band-aids, flip flops, etc.) but not the art of wearing the catastrophe of footwear in the first place.

2.  Back to things I've actually learned.  Just when you think you're on top of the New York public transit world, and you're absolutely sure you'll never again need a map (Ugh!  Tourists!), the A train skips your stop, the L to Brooklyn is shut down for repairs, you hop on an Uptown Express instead of a Downtown Local, or you zone out on the train and end up in Queens.   

3.  The best way to learn the lay of the land is to shop.  No, really.  When 90%  off Diane von Furstenberg frocks are on the line, I can miraculously navigate my way to absolutely anywhere.  Even to an obscure corner of the Lower East Side that is only accessible via foot.  It's also a good way to make friends with other shopaholics.  Or enemies if you wear the same size.

4.  Andy Warhol said it, and I'll say it again.  The only bearable time to go to Central Park is when it's rainy and cold.  If you go at any other time, expecting an oxygenating oasis from pollution, you will be met with pollution in the form of people--hordes of them.  Most are clad in some variation of sportswear, in some blend including lycra, participating in some semblance of cardio activity, blatantly depleting the O2.  

5.  Everything is a tourist attraction in New York.  It's impossible to escape the blinding flashes of disposable cameras anywhere you go, including the library.  Frazzled graduate students drugged out on caffeine, furiously typing final papers must be a rare breed that is only found in Manhattan.  Or so one would think by the number of Idahoans snapping candids of said breed in their natural habitat.

6.  Everyone in New York City is an artist.  Whether visual artists, musicians, designers, actors, dancers, writers, every single person falls into one of these categories.  This is both good and bad.  It is good because ambition is an epidemic.  It is bad because I need a freaking job.

7.  Everyone in New York City is from somewhere else.  Very rarely have I met anyone who was born and raised in the City.  That is probably because if they were, they wouldn't talk to me in the first place.

8.  New Yorkers love to wear black.  Being that my personal favorite piece of fashion is a hot pink wool swing coat trimmed in fur, I may never fully adopt the City lifestyle.  It also helps to identify tourists (as if the binoculars, flashing camera, fanny pack, and I Heart NY t-shirts weren't enough).
9. In my experience, celebrities are not particularly striking in person.  With some exceptions, they have just as much cellulite and wrinkles as the rest of us.  And they always wear sunglasses.

10.  Caffeine is the New Yorkers' drug of choice.  I have never counted, but there must be hundreds of thousands of coffee retailers in the five boroughs.  Starbucks alone boasts 224 locations within a 5 mile radius of campus (according to their store locator).  And no matter what time of day, at any given location, there is STILL a line of at least six people.  Now that is impressive.

11.  Roach coach cuisine is not entirely offensive.  Now, before you stop reading this post, let me explain.  Upon moving to the City, I was completely opposed to consuming anything from a wheeled cart.  However, I must admit that the occasional $5 hot dog can be somewhat exhilarating, especially if you haven't eaten carbs in days and your periodical intravenous dose of caffeine is wearing off.  But I wouldn't make a habit out of it for fear that my body would implode.

12.  Cabbies should be labeled as a separate race.  From loudly singing Katy Perry off-tune ("I kissed a girl, and I liked it..."), to sharing photos and shoe sizes of all 114 of their relatives, to perpetually screaming another language, to inquiring about my strip club preference, to driving 65 mph in a 25, they never cease to amaze, entertain, endear, or terrify.

13.  Avoid Times Square at all hours of the day and night.  If you must venture through it, wear protective footgear (i.e. steel-toe boots), to avoid your tootsies being trampled.  

14.  Prepare to be inundated with flyers, pamphlets, advertisements, circulars, and coupons of all sizes, shapes, and colors.  Hastily discard all of them, even if they claim a free massage with purchase of won ton.

15.  People watching is at its prime in New York City.  There is no way you could ever prepare yourself for who or what you may see at any given time, at any given place in the City.  Even a swift jaunt to the nearest Whole Foods may become a lesson in the unique practices and/or appearances of city denizens.  One of my favorites was when I nearly collided with four dachsunds in a stroller, all wearing hoodies that matched that of their owner.  Or the woman in a metal dress strolling (noisily) down Sixth Avenue.  Or another woman diving head-first into a wedding cake on the corner.  Or a couple twentysomethings walking a large parrot on a leash in the park.

In conclusion, New York City is not for the faint of mind, body, or soul.  It is a daily experience which can be seriously overwhelming, but it can also teach you things that you could never learn anywhere else.  Living in New York City is a challenge, but it is well worth its daily dose of thrill.  I am so looking forward to embarking on my second year and the adventures that await!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down

Literally.  As in, the other day, on my hurried way to catch the B train, I lost my footing on the slippery subway steps, and face-planted at the bottom.  Various objects from person scattered across the moldy tiles as I lay unconscious with my face in a puddle of rat water.  Well, I wasn't unconscious, but it took me a moment or two to regain my state of mind and realize that a small crowd had gathered around the scene of my accident.  Luckily, a friendly passerby helped me up and assisted me in collecting the random assortment of small electronics, including my cell phone and iPod, which had ricocheted in all directions.  Needless to say, I've found new meaning to LCD Soundsystem's song "New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down".  I take the lyrics very literally nowadays, and I'm still nursing my heinous bruises.
Aside from contemplating full-body casts, life is progressing quite well.  I am quite obsessed with my Contemporary Art professor Agnes Berecz.  Her lectures are divine, and I hang on her every word as though each one should be immortalized in some type of everlasting scroll (which is difficult at times because she has a particularly pronounced eastern European accent that makes it hard to understand what she is saying).  I'm going to be so smart after this semester.
In other news, New York Fashion Week just ended and one thing is for certain:  shoulder pads.  Pointy, puffy, oddly shaped, you name it, they're happening.  I find this quite frightening and refuse to partake in this unflattering, mannish style unless it becomes completely necessary (like if I had an interview at Marc Jacobs or something).  Have we not learned anything from the '80s?  Like never to revisit any styles from the entire decade?  Apparently not.  In light of the recession, Fashion Week was much more toned-down.  Fret not; we savvy girls still know how to dress like a million bucks even if we're surviving on Ramen noodles, student discounts, and week-old coffee from the grad lounge.  Here, read about fierce recession style a la New York Fashion Week:
Also on my agenda is the fast-approaching Armory Show, pretty much one of the most important art events of the year.  From March 5-8, I'll be leading VIP tours through the most amazing (and expensive) private art collections in the city, persuading hedgefunders and B-list celebrities that now is actually a great time to buy art!  $250,000?  What a steal!  Word on the street is that Angelina Jolie has a penchant for Banksy so stay tuned.  Go to to read more about the event.
Other than that, I'm beginning a weekend babysitting job for one of my professor's 2-year-old twins, Maya and Ari.  It should be a nice way to relax and unwind after a long week.  NOT AT ALL.  Although I do imagine the terrible two-year-olds will make for interesting conversation pieces.  Their reputations proceed them.
I suppose that is all for now.  Midterms are looming ahead (already?!) but so is my birthday :)  Fret not; spring is on the horizon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Sophomore Year" Commences

Well, I'm finally back in the city after a loooooong winter's nap during which I was able to regain my sanity in preparation for beginning my sophomore year of grad school.  (Since my program is only two years long, each semester is like a whole year of undergrad.  1 year down, eee!)  Today was the long-anticipated first day of classes, and I could think of nothing better to start out the semester than The Killers concert last night at Madison Square Garden.  I actually scored a ticket mere minutes before the show and sang my lungs out along with 40,000 other Brandon Flowers obsessors.  Are we human?  Or are we dancers? 

My monday morning started bright and early with "Fundamentals of Textiles" at 9AM.  The professor (who insists that we refer to him not as Mr. Barker or Professor Barker, but just BARKER) was extremely energized, given the hour, and his advanced age.  I blame his excitement about rayon and acetate to the giant thermos of black coffee he intermittently chugged throughout the lecture, but I'm looking forward to the class nonetheless.  Although it is technically about Fabric Science, I can't think of anything I'd rather learn on Monday mornings than the difference between velvet and velveteen.  For next week, we were ordered to identify a stack of 100 different fabric swatches, and I've already been digging through my wardrobe, reading every label in search of the fabric content.  Who knew I actually liked science all along?

After Textiles, I reported to my next class, Consumer Motivation in Fashion with Professor Firchner.  I was delighted to find the professor (in his mid-seventies) with a glorious tuft of white hair, green horn-rimmed glasses, and  a matching green blazer over all black with a black silk pocket peeker.  "Great oufit," I thought to myself.  I happen to understand the dire importance of first day outfits (I spent quite some time perfecting my own, as a matter of fact).  I nearly purrrrred when the white-haired wonder himself complimented my own outfit, and even used it as an example to the class!  I suppose the fact that we were both wearing green and black solidified us as kindred spirits, and luckily I have enough green clothing to last until senior year.  Not only did he compliment my outfit, but Professor Firchner also completed my existence when he said, "If you want to make it in this business, you have to go shopping constantly.  Never stop."  THANK YOU, PROFESSOR FIRCHNER, FOR GIVING ME A LICENSE TO SHOP.  Not that I ever needed one before, but from now on, shopping is research for class and for my career, hence it is productive beyond measure.  Finally, someone understands.

This evening, I had Technology class with Enrique Paz.  That class is going to be essential in the formation and implementation of my business plan for a little venture I've been working on and am planning to launch within the next few months.  More about that in blogs to come, but rest assured: it will be cutthroat

Anyway, it's been a long day, but I'm overjoyed to be getting back into the swing of things.  I'll post more this week about the rest of my classes, and hopefully I'll have lots of news.  Ciao for now!

P.S.  In the photos, the red New Yorker sign is actually from the New Yorker magazine offices, and the building with the bright red point at the top is the Empire State Building, taken outside of my new dwelling place.  And that's me in all the pictures, in my Firchner-approved First Day of Class outfit.  

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm Back!

I know, I know.  It has been entirely too long since I've updated.  And if I wanted to cover everything that's happened since October 28, my post would be about a mile long, so I'll just hit the most recent high points in a top-five of sorts.  

5.  Christmas in New York is extravagant.  There is nothing like walking down Fifth Avenue with a salted caramel hot chocolate and experiencing the hustle and bustle firsthand.  The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is absolutely glorious.  The storefront windows (especially at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Tiffany & Co.) are breathtaking, and it's nearly impossible to walk into a department store without being trampled or spun to death in the revolving doors.  Completely exhilarating.  

4.  One freezing, rainy day in December, I stumbled into the Julie Haus showroom, where I feasted my eyes upon the most glorious coat I had ever seen.  After catching my breath, I gingerly placed it around my shoulders and turned toward the mirror.  I heard a gasp from the side of the room, and a petite, blonde-haired woman ran toward me, arms outstretched.  "This coat was made for you!" she screeched.  Taken aback, I stammered, "Excuse me?"  "Oh, I'm sorry, my dear," she replied.  "I'm Julie, Julie Haus, the designer.  I made this coat, and I think it looks absolutely perfect on you."  I managed a shocked smile, and 15 minutes later, I was in the elevator with a giant garment bag, clutching my treasure.  It's amazing how affordable designer clothing becomes when it's discounted by 95%!

3.  In case I haven't described her enough before, my Marketing professor, Rose Polidoro, is
fabulous.  Case in point: Jimmy Choo 5-inch-heel zebra hair boots.  Possibly the most magnificent shoes in the world, and she wears them on a daily basis.  Anyway, on the last night of class, after our final, she treated all of us girls to dinner at Seven, a classy little establishment near school.  In addition to our succulent entrees, Rose ordered every appetizer and every dessert on the menu for us to share.  As we all gobbled down the first full meal any of us had eaten in months, Rose told us hilarious anecdotes from her years at Radio City Music Hall and we giggled about her boyfriend, who we affectionately call "the Colonel".  Definitely a highlight of the semester.

2.  Final exams were the black hole of the semester.  The last two weeks of class consisted of gallons of coffee, typing calluses, all-nighters, and unwashed hair.  Alas, I persevered, and made it home for Christmas.  Barely.  Which leads into...

1.  The Chinatown Bus Catastrophe.  After trekking to Chinatown in a blizzard which had shut down the entire city (including taxis), carrying 65 pounds of luggage, I was kicked off of the bus in a hail storm, and spent an hour under the Manhattan Bridge with some unsuspecting hobos.  I eventually collapsed in the East Village, where Christina graciously took in my frozen, feeble frame and fed me enchiladas.  I hastily recovered. 

Well, I'm home for a month.  Give or take.  I don't really know what I'm going to do with myself.  It's been a week and I'm already going crazy!  I'll probably have a lot of time to update my blog this month, but I doubt anything super exciting will be occurring!  Go figure.  Anyway,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Black Umbrella Parade

Rainy days in the city.  Are.  Terrifying.  
It's nearly impossible to maneuver through the crowded streets on an average day, but in a torrential downpour streetwalkers must fend for their lives.  It is imperative to wear waterproof over-the-knee goulashes to keep from wading in a cold, wet soup of gasoline, sewage, and aluminum foil hot dog wrappers.  The taxi drivers have made quite a sport of full-speed swerving through curbside puddles merely with the intention of drenching innocent pedestrians.  And I've nearly had my eye poked out on more than a few occasions by some shuffler's pointy umbrella rod.  Standing at the large window of my fifteenth-floor office this morning, after no less than three near-death experiences during my commute, I looked out over the Hudson which was nearly opaque with fog.  Down below on the street, I could see thousands of black umbrellas crowding the sidewalks and shuffling here and there.  It struck me how much all of the pedestrians reminded me of little marching ants following each other up and down 25th street.  They all seemed so vulnerable and not nearly as menacing from my perspective.  I had a latte and changed my shoes, and actually felt quite triumphant at my
domination of the deluge.  Today's forecast: snow.  Now that's a different story altogether.
Now for the filling-in-on-my-life part.  Well, there was a huge flood in my dorm room so I had to move last week.  It's been interesting (to say the least), but I'm not in the room much anyway.  School and work have been moving along nicely, though I'm still bombarded with critical texts, essays, and presentations.  Midterms are over, but that just means I'm closer to finals, so no relief there.   However, there have been many very worthy distractions, such as fall festival (see cowboy photo), pirate party (see pirate photo), and my first ride in a taxi; which, as it happened, was to the emergency room.  A few Saturdays ago, out of the blue, I swelled up like Violet Beauregarde and I couldn't breathe.  Teneka threw me into a cab and we sped to the emergency room at St. Vincent's Hospital.  Saturday night + Manhattan emergency room proved to be more frightful than the haunted house next door to my gallery.  Every bed was full (mostly homeless or drug addicts) and the staff was positively negligent!  One man was moaning audibly and the nurse (the same one who was in charge of me) was mocking him, saying, "la la la la, I can't hear you!" as she rolled her eyes and rolled him through on a stretcher.  Another nurse was speaking to a male patient who had just vomited all over the floor: "Too many drugs will do that to you."  There was also the moustached man who kept removing his IV and waving at me across the room, nodding.  I felt like I was an extra in the Halloween episode of Scrubs.  Luckily, I survived.  I guess I'm either allergic to Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes or Central Park chrysanthemums, both impossible to avoid.

Last night, my friend Maura and I decided to go to an off-broadway show called Rock of Ages, recommended by one of our professors.  We were so proud of our savvy selves when we scored 75% off tickets at the booth right before the show.  We were even more delighted when we discovered that our seats were in the sixth row!  
The show was great, I don't think I've laughed so hard since Napoleon Dynamite or something.  It was basically a love story set in the '80s and all of the songs were rock gems, performed by brilliant actors clad in jorts, lycra bodysuits, and pleather miniskirts.  Sounds awesome, right?  The lead male role was played by Constantine from American Idol, and he was actually kind of great.  All in all, totally worth it.  
Well, I could keep going but there are quite a few volumes of required reading perched menacingly on my desk.  I'll update soon; stay tuned for Halloween pictures!
Bringing sanity to the city since 2008,

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chill Out

Brrrrr.  4serious.  The weather has been in the 40s and 50s for the past few days and, consequently, I've been wearing more clothes in one day than I normally do in a week.  At work on Thursday, as I was peeling away layers and layers of raiment, one of my co-workers snickered and chided, "Oh, honey.  You just wait.  It's not even winter yet."  Thanks, I thought as I tried to emancipate my arm from a cardigan sleeve.  I can't wait. 

 In other news, the semester is proceeding quite fleetingly, and I'm counting down the days until my thesis topic is due.  The prospect of researching and writing one infinitely-long paper over the next two years is more than a little daunting.  I was reading Overheard in New York the other day and someone posted that they were at a party where a straggled-looking, bloodshot, twentysomething girl was stealthily swiping cupcakes from the table, wrapping them in napkins, and stuffing them into her purse.  The onlooker caught her eye and queried, "Grad student?"  The girl slowly nodded as she continued stashing cupcakes.  "Been there," responded the onlooker.  So this is what I have to look forward to: Two years of cupcake-swiping, thesis-writing, and general bloodshottedness.  Eh, so far, my caffeine intake has increased exponentially, but other than that, I'm not too worried.  Yet.
Internships are going well.  The Joan Mitchell Foundation is pretty awesome; it's on the 
fifteenth floor of the Chelsea Arts Tower (in the picture) and has a sweet office space that's all windows overlooking the Hudson, and plushy velvet cushions and artwork puzzles and huge iMacs.  They also have an espresso machine, which, I must admit, secured my affinity toward the foundation.  My tasks include but are not limited to:  anything and everything that no one else wants to do.  Occasionally, I'll get to go shopping for art supplies and last week I got to make some architectural models out of foam core which was actually kind of really fun.  The rest of the week, I'm at Sundaram Tagore which is INSANE.  I have this little desk in the corner, surrounded by boxes and stacks of paper up to the ceiling.  There's no way to tell what time of day it is outside of my paper cell, and I can't tell you how often I have to yell to get someone's attention.  It's only temporary, though.  Thank goodness.
That said, I enjoy my downtime.  I woke up early and walked around downtown in the financial district the other morning which definitely added to my stress level.  I got to take some great pictures on the water, though, in between being bludgeoned by briefcases.

Other than that, I'm trying to keep up with all of the shows at the (more than 350) galleries in Chelsea.  My favorite right now is an exhibition of Derek Buckner's Marshmallow paintings at George Billis Gallery. 
October is a busy month, and I'll keep updating.  Enjoy any glorious autumn weather you encounter, for we New Yorkers are already wearing itchy wool socks and long underwear.  (Or, we new New Yorkers, anyway.)  
Putting the 'arg' in 'argyle',
REL graffiti!