A Pauper in Queens

Pack. Drive. Starbucks. Drive. Reststop. Drive. Arrive. Park. Unpack. Assemble. Arrange. Rearrange. Hug. Kiss. Goodbye. IMG_2156

My parents (bless their maternal/parental hearts) woke up early this morning and loaded up a borrowed truck with all of my belongings despite the upstate New York cold. My stuff, hidden away in storage for months, was dusted off and organized into crates, bags, larger bags and boxes. I pictured our boot tracks, imprinted in snow on the living room carpet and kitchen floor, melting into clear puddles as we drove away. Destination: Queens. 

IMG_2159I always forget the “first night in a new apartment” feeling until after the sun has set and dinner is nothing but empty plates and an unopened bottle of wine. Directly after opening the front door, I have a preprogrammed need to unpack quickly, to move my belongings from their cramped, dusty boxes and into my new nest. Kitchen supplies find new cabinets. Clothes find their rightful drawers. The bed is arranged and rearranged to find the “best” feng shui position. Move the bed away from the wall to encourage love. Never sleep facing the door. Avoid mirrors and electronics. Eventually, the packing slows and I inevitably find myself standing in a strange apartment with the pieces of my life scattered across the new hardwood floors. IMG_2160

This night, I did what any self-respecting individual would do. I opened a bottle of Champagne, cut a slice of pumpkin pie and watched Sleepless in Seattle. From my position on the couch, I could see into my bedroom but wasn’t ready to tackle the remaining bit of organizing that needed to be accomplished.  After the hotel/hostel lifestyle, the idea of sleeping in the same room for longer than five days feels confusing and excessive. Then again, the idea of having a job also seemed like a long forgotten concept and in just four days I will be rolling up to my new office in downtown Manhattan. Life changes pretty quickly. Oh look, my glass is empty… IMG_2157

Do you remember the end of Sleepless in Seattle? Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) meets Annie (Meg Ryan) at the top of the Empire State Building in a parallel of the 1957’s movie An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. It’s evening in New York City and foreshadowing You’ve Got Mail, Tom and Meg look at one another and fall in love. It’s magical.

I have a romantic vision of myself as a well-spoken, weller-dressed New York wonder woman. This fantasy individual has a packed social calendar but still has time to reverse climate change and get eight hours of sleep. She has an excellent shoe collection and remembers to dust under her bed more than once a year. Maybe one day, I will take the elevator to the observation deck of the Empire State building and like Tom Hanks, find my crazy New York adventure was exactly what I needed it to be. In the meantime, I’m just an uprooted sapling hoping there is enough soil in Queens to find nutrients and put down new roots. 

New keys. New door. Same me. 

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[Like the pictures? Thanks new iPhone 6. I have rejoined the current generation.]

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Trials and Tribulations of Apartment Hunting

In many romantic relationships, moving in together is considered the next BIG step. Maybe the guy asks the girl spontaneously after dinner on a Wednesday night or the couple decides paying rent for two apartments just doesn’t make sense anymore. Either way, the commitment is the relationship is magnified: requiring prolonged decision-making, nice dinners and a trustworthy hardware store individual who can make an extra copy of the apartment key. Now compare this to the last month of my life–the blind housing search, without a significant other or help from bland college roommate surveys, in a city I have never lived with future friends I have never met. How are they similar? They aren’t.  House hunting is a mad dash of bedroom musical chairs. When the music stops and your job begins, one can only hope there is a house, an apartment, or a soft futon to call your own.

In lieu of renting an apartment with my non-existent boyfriend, I developed an unhealthy addiction to craigslist in the hopes that the perfect person would need a housemate and a new best friend. My requirements were few and far between. Affordable monthly rent. Acceptable driving distance to my job. Living breathing person with heartbeat. Turns out those requirements were a little too vague.

I dragged my best friend along for my first six apartment dates to see the places and meet my potential new roommates. The majority of these apartment owners were male, significantly older, and had strange obsessions with board games, knitting, and obscure music. One bathroom had a rich history- it had once been a distillery during Prohibition- and the tub and linoleum floor hadn’t been cleaned since alcohol became legal. We also met the drummer from the Number 1 Jimmy Buffett cover band (so many bongos), received an offer to stay for homemade penne a la vodka, and consoled a woman with recently bad housemate history. On one hand, seeing potential homes was exciting, a snapshot into the lives of complete strangers. But the stark reality that I would have to choose one of these places and people to live with for the next year was humbling. I remained hopeful despite the number of older single men with a spare bedroom and my depressingly limited stipend from my upcoming fellowship.

And now I am thrilled to say that I finally found a place. It took over 50 emails, voicemails, and house walkthroughs but I have a bedroom and a duplex to call my own. Both women, age 26 and 28, are kind, reasonable, and totally responsible. One of them is even a vegetarian and I look forward to sharing meals with her every now and then. I must thank craigslist for providing me with a source of house-hopping entertainment while I shopped for the right place and the right people. Now all I need is a bed, dresser, desk, and a car to transport me there.

This growing up thing is a lot of work.