ajp moves to nyc… here we go!

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confessions of a hurricane virgin

so it has been *quite* a while since i last updated this thing, but the apocalypse is now all-but-confirmed to be hurtling toward new york city at a rapid clip and i don’t want my last blog post ever to be about kourtney kardashian.  just sayin.

so, yeah.  hurricane irene.  shit is getting real, the city is going crazy (and, based on my commute this morning, emptying out efficiently) and folks are anticipating the worst.  the forecasts now say she’ll be hitting the eastern edge of queens as a category 1 hurricane sometime on saturday, which sounds mild if you’re from florida but somewhat more intimidating if you live in an antiquated metropolis that was not designed to accommodate sustained winds and heavy volumes of water.  parts of coastal NJ are under “voluntary evacuation” (translation: we’re not going to make you leave, but you’d better effing leave); a mandatory evacuation of fire island has transformed it into a boa-strewn, glittery ghost town; and my plans to head out to the very very tip of long island for a few days of relaxation over the weekend have been wisely suspended.

as for the city, itself, they’re saying that the effects could fall decidedly on the “gnarly” end of the scientifically calibrated gnarly-to-awesome spectrum, depending on how angry irene is when she gets to town (i hope she got book of mormon tickets).  i’ve heard predictions that include the following:
– mandatory evacuations for certain, low-lying parts of the five boroughs
– storm surges that could flood lower manhattan in its entirety
– a two-day full subway shut-down to ensure passenger safety (one prediction even says a flooded subway system)

and how about me?

well, this native midwesterner doesn’t really know what to make of all this.  i’m used to being scared of tornadoes, but this is altogether different and well beyond my realm of experience.  i mean, we had one hurricane watch last summer, and it ended up being one of the most crystalline, beautiful days i can remember during my almost-two-years in this city.  i’m not foolish enough to expect the same this time around.

i do know this: my residence in brooklyn is not in a flood zone, according to city maps, so the current plan is for a full weekend of gasping as torrents of water lash my windows, and huddling under blankets while unprecedented winds make ghost noises in the courtyard.  i’ve got a few gallons of water at the ready, some non-perishable snacks, hand-cranked flashlights, three fully charged laptops and a handful of DVDs.  if there’s something else i need to do, i have no idea what it is.

confession: though i may live to regret these words, i’m sort of looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.  i undeniably enjoyed last winter’s post-christmas blizzard, and watched with rapt eyes as very, very tiny white flakes brought a city of 8 million to its (16 million) knees for a full day and a half.  it was a totally different new york during that time, one that was quieter and messier and a bit more chaotic but also sort of beautiful, cooperative and intriguing.

but i don’t think this will be as tranquil.  for now, i’m predicting the following:
– power goes out quickly and stays out until monday afternoon
– more water than i’ve ever seen comes from the sky
– winds that sound scary do lots of damage to old buildings
– my boyfriend’s restaurant closes so that he doesn’t have to go to work on sunday night (that’s a hope as much as a preduction)
– no cell phones for a day or so
– no internet for a day or so
– no subways for a few days
– very messy monday, and no one goes to work (see subway closures)
– my trip to atlanta on tuesday cancelled

sadly, my twitter requests to yo la tengo to perform an intimate acoustic show in my apartment this weekend do not appear to be bearing fruit.  so i guess all i can do is hang on tight and hope for the best, at least until we can all say this.

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an open letter to kourtney kardashian

hi kourtney,

thanks for taking the time to read this.  i know we’ve never met, and – to be honest – i’d be lying if i said that i had any earthly idea who you are.  i’m not actually sure i’d ever heard of you before today, when your security guard threatened my cousin and i for having the nerve to walk by a restaurant where you were eating.  you know the guy… the italian-looking one in the dark suit and earpiece who thrice issued us a stern warning that we’d “better keep moving” and stepped aggressively in our direction, payback for the considerable transgression of looking into the window of a restaurant to see how long the wait was for a table.

wow, kourtney!  now THAT is some high-level security, and i can only imagine the monumental achievements with which you’ve blessed the world around you during your lifetime… the type of accomplishments that warrant 24/7 protection from the mere footfalls of a 31-year-old, 5’9″, 156-lb, gay, wholly non-threatening jew.  perhaps you’re a nobel laureate?  or maybe a chart-topping pop star that has somehow escaped my attention?  oooh, or i bet you’re a literary wunderkind whose debut novel has topped the new york times best-seller list for months straight.

i’m intrigued!  and in fact, i’m going to google you right now and find out for myself just why you are so noteworthy…

(googles)

ok, let’s see… your dad was a famous lawyer.  and your stepdad is a former olympian…

i see a picture of you, and it appears that you have… breasts.  so good job there.

(scratches head)

is that it?

i asked some friends who you were: my friend amanda says that you own a boutique in soho, where my friend jill says you peddle not-cute things.  my friend stephen told me that and that your sister was the star of a sex tape.  is this why you’re famous?

oh, here it is!  wikipedia told me that you were the “star” of a reality program, in which viewers were faced with the formidable task of “keeping up” with you as you, you know… exist amid considerable wealth and, if photos are to be believed, a generous slathering of self-tanner and teeth-whitening toothpaste.

hmm.  not impressed.

and, kourtney, since i now know so much about you, let me tell you a little bit about me… and i’ll give you the short version: i moved to new york city one year ago, at age 30, and spent six months holding down two menial jobs (working 14 hour days 3 days/week with no days off) so that i could afford to a) eat and b) take the subway.  it wasn’t fun, and i ate more canned food than i care to admit.  in the subsequent six months, i’ve landed a new job, and worked my way up into a position of relative financial comfort, pending home ownership and considerable corporate responsibility.  i still work 10-12-hour days, on average, and sleep poorly.

oh, and i’m really don’t think i’m all that special – some people have it harder than i do, some have it easier – but i think i’ve done a lot in the past year and even take an incredibly small, incredibly rare measure of personal pride when i consider my accomplishments.  i’ve pulled myself up by my bootstraps (not louboutin… for shame!) when things were tough, and emerged as a stronger and more dignified person on the other end.

and i’m pretty damn sure i can walk down whatever street i like.

in a nutshell, i think the equation is all wrong and that, just maybe, you should be keeping up with me.  wake up with me at 5:30 a.m.  make ends meet with me using money you’ve worked hard to acquire.  come with me as we compare prices at duane reade to ensure that we’re getting a good value on laundry detergent, and then do your own laundry during the wee hours of the morning (when the laundry room isn’t crowded).  eat mac’n’cheese every once in a while to save money before we go out.

this’ll be fun!  ready to go?  give me your phone number and we’ll get you on the ajp program immediately… and if you’re lucky, i’ll let you pick up the tab when we eat a rushed lunch in our offices before heading off to our next meeting (though can we please order from someplace other than kitchenette?).

awesome.  great.  see you soon!

ajp

p.s.  for the record, my cousin is slightly taller than i am and possibly a bit more physically imposing, but he’s a solid gentleman with two careers – and i’m pretty sure the most nefarious thing he’s ever done was order pepperoni pizza to our temple during yom kippur services in high school.  it was brilliant and hilarious.

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come and play with us, andrew… for ever, and ever, and ever

so it’s been a few crazy, crazy, crazy weeks since i’ve posted… a month or so of impossible work schedules paired with the incomparable misery of moving.  there’s just something about the complete displacement of home, of routine and of… well, everything… that makes the process of inhabiting a new space one of the worst on earth.  my thesis was bullshit.  feh.

but alas, i have moved.  the new place is coming along nicely and i’ll have pictures just as soon as it’s presentable. but in the meantime… well, i’m kinda lonely.  and it’s not because i’m single (wah-waaah) or far from my family, or because i live in the loneliest city on earth.  it has more to do with the fact that i’m the only person that lives in my building.

yes, you read that correctly: i am the only person that lives in my 246-unit condominium building.

the distinctive arrangement that’s allowing me to buy a place here in the first place also granted me the right to move in prior to actually closing on my new home, and well… the rest of the closings haven’t really started yet.  they’ll be kicking up by the end of the month, but – in the meantime – it’s just me, the trees outside my window and the evening security guards (who speak english on a sliding scale that goes from “little” to a “a little more”).

in truth, it’s not so bad… i’ve been so thoroughly exhausted by the end of the every day that i usually collapse without considering the lack of neighborly love flowing my way.  i’ve not gallivanted naked around the vacant hallways or engaged in illicit activities in empty apartments (missed opportunities?), but i’d be lying if i said i didn’t occasionally worry about turning a corner and seeing these gals:

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down is the new up…

in the general vocabulary of high-rise living, it seems almost universal that “up” is better than “down.”  there is a pervasive mystique about living high off the ground, about resting your head as far from the earth as possible, and in striving for nothing as fervently as the opportunity to gaze out your windows onto a beautiful view.  and perhaps there is something (else) wrong with me or something (else) that makes me different from the rest of mankind, but i simply do not share the rest of the world’s enthusiasm for stretching as far skyward as i can.

the fact of the matter is that i like the ground.  i like earth.  i like people and nature and streets and even a bit of noise.  and sure… i like a nice view as much as the next person, but i’d also prefer to walk up a stairway than to take an elevator.  so with that in mind, i hereby announce that i have abandoned by plans to buy unit 4B at be@schermerhorn

…in favor of unit 3B.

yup, i’m moving down… and i’m doing it on purpose.  3B was actually my preferred unit from the get-go, but another buyer snatched it from my paws just a few hours before I submitted my offer.  luckily, after a few months of hemming and hawing, those buyers backed out on their deal late last weekend, thereby placing my preferred unit gently within my reach.  and i pounced.

why do i prefer unit 3B?  let’s see if you can look at the below photos and see for yourself.  here is the view from the living room of unit 4B:

view from 4B

and here is the view from the living room of unit 3B:

view from 3B

you see that?  TREES!  the drop down just one floor puts my windows directly in line with the tops of the young birch trees that line the building’s courtyard, and i’m thrilled at the opportunity to enjoy tree-top views when i wake up every morning and every evening when i come home.

throw in the fact that this unit is a few grand cheaper than the other one i was going to buy, and it’s a decision that seems to make itself.  for me, at least…

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the man in me…

so, i promised myself that i would make no unusual or unnecessary purchases now that i’m officially entering the paying-off-credit-card-bills-and-saving-and-saving-and-saving-for-a-down-payment phase of my existence… but, well, then i met someone.

and he’s just my type:  short.  cute.  strong and silent.  and seemingly into nature…  or actually, made of nature.

meet barkman, a creation of my new friends mike and debbie schramer, amazing artists from utah who recently showed their unfathomably large, diverse and impressive collection of handmade storybook creations in a gallery show at my new condo building.  when i first laid eyes on barkman, i thought he looked like he could be a member of my family (albeit one that is 7″ tall… which is not actually that different than some people in my family).  and then, as i looked more closely, i realized that he was in fact my shorter, quieter, bark-clad twin in miniature.  and how could i not bring him home?  all i need is a long-sought bark cloak and we’d be nyc’s hottest ventriloquistic duo.

what do you think?  twins?

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elfa myselfa

so, those of you that do not live in nyc may not realize that closet space is to new yorkers as “generous lottery winnings” are to the rest of the known universe: it is the holy grail, that the thing after which we all lust and the thing of which we can never seem to get enough.  i’ve seen apartments in this town with no closets at all, and even one where the width of the closet door was roughly the width of the doorknob (i’ve never seen a door so slender… it was absurd.  there was maybe room for three shirts).

and among the many great things about my new condo are a very limited number of not-as-wonderful things, one of which is fairly limited closet space.  to put it simply, i have two of them: one in the bedroom, one in the living room/entry hall, and – because i gravitate toward a generally minimal aesthetic that doesn’t tend to include armoires and unnecessary dressers – it is here that i plan to ultimately store the vast majority of my belongings.

the closets, when delivered to me, will look like this:

once i am through with them, however, i am hoping they look more like this (minus the women’s clothing and high heels):

and they will, for one reason and one reason only: because i am planning to elfa the shit out of them.

elfa is the container store‘s proprietary closet organizing system, and the brackets and rails that make up the basis for the system come pre-installed into my apartment’s closets.  with that i mind, i journeyed to the container store twice in the last week to begin designing the closets of my dreams.

and honestly, i have to first hand it to the container store, who have reigned in an impressive ability to feel that your life would be immeasurably better if you simply shopped there more frequently, and had a more stylish laundry hamper and more organized craft drawer (hell, i don’t even have a craft drawer, but i want to have one now just so that it can be organized as nicely as possible).  these people are geniuses…

with that in mind, i met with my faithful closet consultant, lulu (her actual name), to pimp my closets to the highest degree possible.  i managed to avoid any fancy finishes (i don’t care if my closet looks like it’s made out of wood when you open the doors… it’s a closet) and aimed for maximum utility, selecting drawers, shelves and hanging rods in a relatively innovative layout that should be able to contain the vast majority of my stuff.  i whipped out my credit card…

and then i saw the prices.

(jaw drops)

ho. ly. crap. this. shit. is. ex. pen. sive.

but how can i NOT do it?  after all, did you see how amazing my life will be if i simply have perfectly organized closets?  of course i’m going to buy the components… i drank the kool-aid.  happiness awaits.

i should have my elfa components in-hand by the time i return from vacation next week, so i’ll keep you updated as i install them, begin to store my belongings and reach an inner peace heretofore unknown to modern man.

but in the meantime… i hate you, container store.  and i love you.

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sneak peek

i took a break from enjoying this weekend’s killer weather to stop by the new digs and take some measurements – and some photos.  so here is a sneak peek of my new home-to-be, in all it’s white-boxed new-construction-condo glory.  you’ll notice that it’s nothing super-fancy, and that’s actually one of the things i like about it… i’ve seen plenty of manhattan and brooklyn developments where developers tried very hard to make a statement with cutting-edge kitchen and bathroom designs, and they usually end up looking immediately-dated or just not-that-good.

this one, in contrast, is more of a blank slate… a white kitchen with white stone countertops and stainless appliances, a bathroom with good ol’ fashioned subway tile… i’m excited to make it my own when the timing/money situation is right.  but for now, here’s what it looks like at the moment.

view from the entry

kitchen, where food will live and be cooked and eaten

living room, down the hall into the bedroom

bathroom... vanity! storage!

view of the courtyard outside... looking forward to tree-top views once those birches grow up a bit

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the chorus

so it seems that a lot of my life is revolving around thinking about/gearing up for/saving money for the upcoming move and condo purchase, and – it’s been an incredibly frustrating and brain-stretching process, thus far (especially for someone whose brain is not necessarily slanted in the direction of finance… as mine is not).  as part of this journey, i’ve gotten to meet a lot of thrilling folks who are alternately helping this process along or hindering it – so let’s meet a few of them!

The Realtor: This gent on the left is Aaron, and he’s my real estate broker.  I’ve worked with brokers in the past (I once owned a condo in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood), but this is a bit of an atypical situation because he’s one of the main representatives on the project.  All that said, I do genuinely feel that he wants this to work out for me and has my best interests in mind.  He’s been genuinely nice to work with and I have ongoing faith in his intentions for me and be@schermerhorn.

Side note: Aaron used to be the tour manager for The Band, which is one of my all-time favorite bands and gives him 10,000 bonus points on my coolness scale.  I promise, however, that this did not factor into my decision to buy a condo from him.

The Real Estate Attorney: This person is your advocate, and negotiates sticky and annoying things (contracts, fine print) from a legal perspective.  In my particular case, she is also a friend from college and that makes the entire thing go down a bit more easily.

Note: This is not actually an image of my attorney… which is sort of unfortunate.

The Mortgage Broker: This is the middle man between the banks (who have the money) and you (who need it).  And in my experience, he’s also the guy who listens to you explain how much money you have and how much you want to spend on your prospective purchase, and then ignores all those figures and promises you that you can actually afford the taj mahal (and doesn’t explain that you’ll also be paying $363,000/month as a mortgage).  He will subsequently confuse you with a bunch of terms you don’t understand while he’s explaining what a great deal you’re getting, and then cancel your meetings and ignore your phone calls.

That’s it for now.  The only other character worth mentioning is me, and I have to get to work.

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home sweet homeowner…

so let’s chat a bit about housing… my current abode in nyc is a predictably small bedroom (think big enough for a full-sized bed and a tiny dresser) in a nicely-appointed 3-bedroom apartment in the flatiron district.  its central location and in-unit washer/dryer made it a perfect landing pad for a first-time new yorker, but the miniscule size of the bedroom and the lack of storage options that came along with it have become somewhat grating as time has passed.  for those reasons, i resolved some time ago to strike out on my own upon the end of my lease on august 31.

as i’d started browsing apartment listings in my budget range near my preferred locations (below 14th, above canal, east of 1st ave), it became clear that i was going to be looking for a studio.  my list of hopes included general cleanliness, adequate storage and working plumbing (it’s amazing how nyc can toy with your expectations), generally just a place i’d be content to call home for the next few years.  i looked at one available place last month, which was a tiny ground-floor one-bedroom in a superb west village location, whose two windows faced a brick wall three feet away and which came with a generous pile of vomit on the steps outside the front door.  pass.

and then life intervened.

my new company (remember, i’m working in real estate now) has literally made me an offer i cannot refuse, and it seems that i’m about to dip my toes into the murky, shark-infested waters of home ownership.  as of friday, i’m officially under contract on a 1-bedroom, 1-bath condominium in a downtown brooklyn development called be@schermerhorn, which is one of my company’s developments and one of two projects for which i’m developing marketing activities.  that’s it up at the top of this post… it’s a bit of a transitional neighborhood, but sits a maximum of three blocks to just about every subway line to manhattan, three blocks from a trader joe’s (hey!) and on the border of the luxe/hip/shopper-friendly cobble hill neighborhood.  it has a fitness center and a killer courtyard and i got a pretty nice unit that has a hallway (a big deal, actually… makes the bedroom seem separate from the living room).  here is the floorplan, for your viewing pleasure: B 3-15

wondering how a kinda-broke former intern-and-gym-front-desk-guy-who-was-too-poor-to-take-the-subway can afford to buy a condo in america’s most expensive real estate market?  me too! but don’t ask questions… just rest assured that this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is respectful of my financial situation.

all those vague facebook updates last week?  they were about this… my head is sorta spinning as this journey begins, but it’d probably be unwise to let this opportunity pass.  so here we go – life is for living, right?  a new adventure awaits…

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time to move on…

(cough, cough)…

is this thing on?

hello there, friends.  yeah, it’s been a while… i last updated this beast shortly after all hell broke loose with my batshit nutty former roommate (we knew her as GIRL)… you know, the one who stole half my belongings and lied about her mother dying and sent e-mails posing as her imaginary-but-real sister.  i know many of you are probably wondering what happened with that particular situation, and i’ll sum it up with the following three sentences:

the nypd took their sweet-ass time doing, well, anything regarding this situation, and – during their three months of inactivity – lil’ miss GIRL tucked her pointed tail between her ample red thighs and hightailed it back to canada, where she is currently hiding out and reportedly unable to re-enter the US of A.  there are currently two warrants out for her arrest (ours and one other whose origins we do not know), so we feel confident that she’ll end up behind bars at some point down the line.  and when that day comes, you can guarantee that her mug-shot will wind its way onto my forehead as a giant, glorious and widely celebrated tattoo.

phtooey (i spit on her).

on the flip side, the good news is that it’s been vastly improved nyc for ol’ ajp since then… lots of good stuff to report, and i figured it was time to kickstart this rusty ol’ blog into activity once again.  let’s take it step by step:

job: since i last posted, i started a new side-job (at equinox fitness, where i was a front desk greeter-person at the broadway and 19th street location… free membership + spending money = bliss for a broke, body-conscious design intern), succeeded heartily at my interminable and ungratifying design internship, and then tossed both jobs by the wayside for a new gig in real estate marketing that started in early may.  it’s a position that actually takes advantage of my entire background (marketing… check;  PR… check;  design… check;  event planning… check), and – just as importantly – allows me to live in nyc as a normal human being that does not work 80 hours a week at two jobs just to live hand-to-mouth.  so to say that the situation is improved is an understatement of herculean proportions.

good this.

friends: i have some!  some of them are new, and many used to live in chicago and have arrived, one by one, over the past few months.

good this, too.

other: so much to do here, and i feel that i’ve done a fair amount of interesting things over the past nine months… some good, some bad, all interesting and all contributing to a persistent inability to get sick of living here.  just a sampling: walked across the brooklyn and williamsburg bridges; rode the cyclone at coney island; walked the high line about 10,000 times; ate dinner next to bradley cooper (gay) and renee zellweger (scary); attended a yankees game in the rain; sunned myself on a rock in central park; taken chelsea clinton’s dog for a walk (it is roughly 1/8 the size of a very small dog); attended parties in million-dollar lofts; looked at trash-heaped apartments down terrifying back alleys; seen concerts at tiny dives, remodeled dance clubs, the brooklyn academy of music and at madison square garden; saw someone vomiting on the subway; saw someone pooping on the subway platform; saw a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat and a dove out of his sleeve on the L train, and applauded wildly; took the train and ferry to fire island; visited MoMA (tim burton exhibit!), the bronx museum of art (exhibit on the photography of the civil rights movement), the brooklyn museum (“who shot rock’n’roll”) and the brooklyn botanic garden (cherry blossom festival, oddly devoid of cherry blossoms); bartended at fancy parties to make extra money; met great people and terrible people; bumped into a friend i hadn’t seen in 9 years – and then bumped into her again in a different part of town the next day; savored the best manhattan of my life at death & co.; found a new favorite dessert (hello, chocolate chip cornflake marshmallow cookie from momofuku milk bar); dated a few people that are worth mentioning, and a few that are not; welcomed some very good friends to visit; been startled by the juxtaposition of rich and poor in this town; succumbed to attacks by mother nature (bird poop on the upper west side, and a flying tree branch on a windy day in washington square park); walked literally hundreds of miles; experienced poverty so limiting that i was unable to afford to take the subway (that, my friends, is desperation); missed things about chicago, and not others (i’m looking at you, winter); saw no less than 1,000 rats, one of whom ran across my foot; ate more than my fair share of late-night pizza slices.

this list could go on.  instead i will just add “gone to bed” and sign off.  it’s good to be back.

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