ajp moves to nyc… here we go!


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boy meets GIRL

Once in great long while, life is kind enough to align us with that very special, very rare kind of crazy that seems to exist only in literature and film; you know, Cathy Trask from East of Eden, or Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character from Single White Female… the kind of people that seem to transcend all human decency and normalcy to exist in their own special universe of moral deficiency and deception.

My friends, I’ve been lucky enough to come across just such a character (perhaps slightly less murderous) during my brief stay in the Big Apple, and invite you to take a few minutes to read about my past few weeks. This post is LONG, it’s true, but it should prove fairly entertaining.

Let’s start by rewinding a bit (yes, I’ve been a horribly neglectful blogger and for that I offer my apologies): On the first of November, following a frantic week of apartment-hunting that generally led nowhere good (and once down a garbage-littered back alley behind a veterinarian’s office to the most repulsive dwelling I’ve ever seen in my life), I moved into a 3-bedroom apartment in the Flatiron District: a full-floor residence with all the modern touches I never thought I’d have in the city… a granite-and-stainless-steel kitchen, hardwood floors, a walk-in closet and – that amenity of all amenities – an in-unit washer-dryer. The place – and the location, nestled between Greenwich Village, Union Square and Chelsea, and a mere 5-minute walk from my office – couldn’t have seemed a better fit.

Along with the unit came two roommates: We’ll call them GUY, a 33-year-old gay consultant who travels 4 days/week and who is the primary lease-holder of the unit, and GIRL, a 20-something straight female from Toronto who is employed somewhere in the fashion industry. They both seemed social, friendly and outgoing, and I eagerly anticipated making two new friends in the city… not necessarily best friends, but good roommates and reasonably pleasant companions for my day-to-day life.

And GUY turned out to be just that. His travels kept us from forming anything more than a low-key friendship, but he seemed like a good guy and our interactions were pleasant and courteous when he was in town during the weekends.

GIRL, on the other hand… well, she was outwardly pleasant – very bubbly, in fact – but seemed pretty far from the kind of person I’d want to befriend on my own volition. She took some of my food from the pantry on a few occasions, which I didn’t appreciate, and had an unfortunate habit of consuming a tremendous amount of wine – either by herself or in the company of her friends, who came over every evening – on a nightly basis. She was fairly slovenly and always seemed to be in the apartment, her “fashion showroom” job apparently giving her the option of working from home quite frequently. In all, she mostly appeared maybe a bit immature and a bit irresponsible… but, well, that was none of my business. She was nice enough, and that was what mattered. We got along fine, settling after a week or two into a nice pattern of small-talk and pleasantries that continued up through this weekend.

So let’s fast forward a bit. Last Tuesday, while preparing to buy a pair of headphones at Radio Shack (don’t laugh… if I was the only one that bought anything there, it probably wouldn’t be in business anymore), I noticed that a gift card to the store had vanished from an envelope in which I had about $800 worth of gift cards I’d received over the years… everything from Bloomingdale’s to Subway to Target, and including a $100 Whole Foods card that was a parting gift from my nearest and dearest in Chicago. The stack was notably thinner than it had been the last time I checked, the Radio Shack, Whole Foods and Bloomingdale’s cards having vanished. Convinced that I’d simply misplaced them amid a frantic cross-country move, I ventured home and proceeded to search diligently through every suitcase, bag and pocket in my possession. Vanished. Gone. I was terribly upset… the kindness of my friends had been eradicated by my own absent-mindedness. How could I have misplaced $400 worth of gift cards? Had I accidentally tossed them out with the detritus of the move? Were they nestled somewhere I simply hadn’t looked? Eventually, through the frustration of my fruitless searching, I just accepted it as a lost cause… a lesson learned and a reminder to be more careful next time.

Fast forward again: On Sunday of this past weekend, I receivd a phone call from GUY while I was doing some work at a coffee shop (yes, folks… some things never change. I still do work at coffee shops). When I answered the call, his voice was notably shaky and he was clearly upset. He inquired as to my whereabouts, and within a half hour or so had joined me at Starbucks.

GUY’s Sunday morning had been pretty upsetting. While reconciling his monthly expenses, he discovered that:
a) a debit card for a bank account he never used had been lifted from his bedroom and used to incur about $1400 worth of charges: everything from salon visits and massages to taxis and meals out.
b) GIRL was almost certainly responsible.

GUY was understandably miffed: He’d been used, betrayed and violated, and he felt even worse about the situation knowing that GIRL’s mother had passed away just a few days before.

HOLD THE PHONE! WHAT?? GIRL and I had spent the entire weekend in the apartment together, and she’d never once mentioned that her mother had died (though she did tell me a lengthy story about crashing a party in SOHO on Friday night and making out with the host). How in the name of Jeebus was that possible?

Putting that strangeness momentarily aside, I had to confess that GUY’s story seemed convincing. One of the charges was registered from a salon called Pimps & Pinups, and GUY had called and gotten a description of the person who made the charge: it was GIRL, to a T: white girl in her mid- to late-20’s, black jacket, grown-out highlights and a chubby face, and who worked in a fashion showroom. As if that wasn’t incriminating enough… GUY had found a receipt from the salon, with a number that matched the stolen card, in her jacket pocket.

Ok, seriously GIRL. What kind of career criminal are you? Not only did you use the card to expense a long, drawn-out experience with someone who would be talking to you and looking at your face for the better part of an hour, but you didn’t even get rid of the evidence… any of it! A cursory search through her bedroom late that morning returned the following:
– a fistful of receipts bearing the imprint of the stolen card
– GUY’s mail (a check from his fantasy baseball league) that had been lifted by her en route
-A receipt from Whole Foods Market, in the amount $202.00… half of which had been paid for with a $100 gift card!

That’s it. Bitch fucked with the wrong guys. We proceeded immediately to the 13th precinct police station to file a report, but ultimately decided – with the counsel of a condescending officer who shall remain nameless – that it would be in our best interest to confront her directly.  Because, in addition to the fraud, there was one major outstanding issue: she owed GUY several thousands of dollars in security deposits and back rent, and having her hauled off to jail wasn’t going to help him get that back. Ultimately, we both agreed that – regardless of how she responded or how much she cried or begged – she had to move out immediately and that the locks would be changed first thing on Monday morning.

So confront her we did: We waited patiently until she returned home from a memorial dinner in her mother’s honor on the Upper West Side (ugh, were we really going to confront someone whose mother just died?), and told her straight-up that we knew it was her… and I have to honestly say that, after 30 years of living on this planet, the conversation that ensued was one of the more surreal experiences of my life.  The tearful confession never came, nor did the flailing arms and screaming.  Instead, GIRL was completely emotionless as she firmly denied each and every accusation. I can’t begin to recount the entire experience, but I’ll sum it up with this example of how the conversation went:

AJP AND GUY: We talked to the people at the salon and they gave us a description of the person who committed this fraud, and it matched your description exactly. We even forwarded them a photo of you and they confirmed that you were there.
GIRL: I don’t know what to say because it wasn’t me. I’ve never even been to that salon.
GUY: Then how did the receipt end up in your pocket?
GIRL: I can’t explain it. I have no idea.
GUY: What about all the other receipts – Bloomingdales, restaurants, etc. – that we found in your room that have the number of the stolen card on it?
GIRL: I have no idea how they got there. Maybe my friend GIRLINA stole the card and used it and then planted the receipts in my room to frame me.

Or try this one on for size:

AJP: So GIRL, when you and your friend GIRLETTE went to Whole Foods last week and came home boasting that you’d dropped $200 there, how did you pay for it?
GIRL: I put it on my credit card.
AJP: All of it?
GIRL: Absolutely.
AJP: You didn’t use a gift card? For any of it?
GIRL: No, I put it on my credit card.
AJP: Well, ok… I found this receipt in your bedroom, with a matching date and amount, and it says that you paid for half of it with a gift card.
GIRL: I don’t know how it could say that because we didn’t use a gift card. Oh wait, maybe the friend I was with did… actually, yeah, we split it and I think she used a gift card.  She must have stolen it from you.
AJP: I thought you paid for all of it.
GIRL: No, we split it. I forgot.

There are clearly so many opportunities to call “Bullshit!” here that it’s not even funny, and it became increasingly apparent that we were dealing with someone whose moral compass stopped a bit shy of true north… not only was she lying to us, but she was either a) friends exclusively with thieves, or b) was content to throw her entire social circle under the bus in her own defense. We informed her that she needed to vacate the premises immediately, schedule a time to come back the next morning and gather her stuff and that she was no longer a resident in our unit. She agreed… conceding that, even though she was “innocent,” the crimes had probably been committed by someone she brought into the house and the bonds of trust had been broken for good. She would move out.

And, on the issue of the money she owed GUY, it was currently en route to New York City from a sister who had flown to the east coast for her mother’s funeral. She was driving into town with cash in hand after cleaning out her deceased mother’s cottage in the Adirondacks, and would have it at the apartment by 8 a.m. on Monday. In fact, GUY had been emailing with the sister all day and was arranging a time for her to arrive.

So, back to GIRL. We needed her out. It was 1:30 a.m., at this point, and her frantic phone calls to friends and family in the area were yielding no response. Though we insisted that she leave immediately, she had nowhere to go and responded to our suggestion of a hotel by reminding us that she was still technically a resident of the apartment and had the right to stay (this, unfortunately, held legal water). We caved, and sent her into her room to either go to sleep or start packing. Rather than give her one more night to ransack our belongings, however, GUY and I spent the evening exchanging two-hour sleeping shifts and keeping watch outside her closed bedroom door.

How the hell did my life lead to this?

Ok, let’s stop for a breather. The deception, the fraud, the blame on her friends… it all would’ve been enough for a really great story. Believe it or not, however, the plot actually thickens.

Yesterday, GUY worked from home in order to accomplish three goals:
1) oversee GIRL’s departure
2) arrange for the locksmith to come and switch out our tumblers
3) collect the vast sum of cash from GIRL’s sister, who was still – according to her emails – en route

By early afternoon, he’d crossed numbers 1 and 2 off the list but was still waiting for GIRL’s sister to swing by the apartment with the cash. There was always some excuse why she couldn’t make it: traffic into the city, getting tangled up in funeral proceedings, and – finally – a lengthy memorial service for her mother somewhere in the city… a service both she and GIRL were attending. Throughout the early evening, the delays continued… both GUY and I started to wonder if sister even existed all. We managed to confirm via Facebook that GIRL did have a sister, but who knew if she was actually the recipient/originator of the emails?

On a whim, GUY googled the sister’s name and – through the miraculous, cleansing power of the internet – managed to track her down. Things checked out at first with what GIRL had told us about her sister: she was from California, and was a Ph.D. What specifically didn’t check out, however, was her e-mail address: It was different than the one GUY had been using, and so he forwarded the entire chain to the address he found online.

And this is where things get really fucked up.

GIRL’s actual sister, a friendly bystander in all of this, placed a very confused and concerned telephone call about 40 minutes later.  While talking to GUY, she confirmed the following:
-GIRL’s sister was speaking to us from San Francisco, where she lives (she was nowhere near New York)
-GIRL’s mother is alive and well
-GIRL’s sister had sent none of the emails to GUY
-GIRL had never mentioned any owed money to her sister


Can you imagine? Telling people that your own mother died to balance out some strange, incompetent criminal scam? Dragging your entire family and all your friends along for the ride and symbolically executing your mother in the process?

And ugh… this person slept under the same roof as me for a month. How to process this is beyond me… for now, I’m just taking solace in the fact that she no longer has access to our apartment… and carrying around a pocket knife, just in case. Neither of us have heard from her since her cover was blown… but, regardless, GUY filed criminal charges with the NYPD (Grand Larceny!), and will soon be filing fraud charges with the United States Postal Service (because she stole his mail, which is a felony). Our hope is that this particular Canuck gets tracked down, handcuffed and deported, and finds her way firmly out of our lives forever.

So that, my friends, is that… I’m pleased to report that this has, in no way, soured my excitement to be living in New York. People suck in New York no more than they do in Idaho or Alabama (or, clearly, Toronto).

Now excuse me while I deadbolt the door.


p.s.  I’m pretty sure she also stole my toiletry bag before she left yesterday… my TOILETRIES.  seriously, folks, what does she possibly want with a stick of deodorant, a 1/4-full tub of american crew grooming putty and a used mach 3?


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moving day…

what. a. day.

today has been one of those days where i think about things i did this morning and feel like they were a month ago… one of those days where i feel like i woke up as a resident of one state and will go to sleep a resident of another (though… actually… for only the third time in my life, that last part is actually true).  so, greetings from new york city!

all things considered, the trip was a relatively smooth one:IMG_2054
-got a ride to the airport for myself and the entirety of my belongings (that’s four suitcases and two carry-ons)… thanks, kari!
-bumped into my friend matthew on my flight, who saved me a seat, shared his magazines and helped me lug items from the baggage carousel to the pick-up zone… thanks, matthew!
-rode into the city with my friend adam and his SUV… thanks, adam!

IMG_2062speaking of adam, he is a good friend from college and will be my roommate for the next week.  he has generously offered the sofa of the apartment he shares with his girlfriend (christine) and new pup (rigby), and that sofa will be my bed until i locate and move into a place of my own.  i’m shooting for a november 1st move-in date, and i’m sure that – despite their generosity – adam and christine would be just as happy for me to move out sooner than later.  rigby, however, will miss me terribly as we’ve grown quite close during our time together.

the four of us spent the rainy early afternoon wandering the streets of tribeca, soho and the east village, stopping for a bite at ‘la esquina’ (dirt cheap, delicious mexican) and eventually making our way to an apartment i needed to see: it was an amazing location in the east village (2nd avenue and 9th street), though it was tiny and cramped in the way only new york apartments can be.  it was also populated by a way-too-large, hideous beige leather sectional that partially blocked the door to the bathroom.  is this how ajp wants to live in the city?  we’ll see…

we spent the rest of the afternoon in hoboken, meeting my friends’ dan and lauren’s week-old daughter, lillian, and watching the university of michigan get destroyed by penn state.  lillian was adorable; the game, not so much.

so that’s the bulk of day one.  not sure i’m a new yorker yet, but there are plenty more adventures to come.


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jigsaw falling into place…

Photo 8so, it’s been a few days… and what a hectic jumble of days they have been (i’ve spent a lot of time looking like this picture): the past week has been a veritable blur of editing, purging and donating belongings, all of which has left me with a much diminished cluster of possessions that will go into storage today.  it’s mostly housewares: a few gadgets, pots and pans, a nice shower curtain and a sofa that i just can’t part with.  the big truck comes at 2 p.m. and i’ll likely be bidding these items goodbye for a good long while…

so what’s left?  one bag of sweaters, t-shirts, underwear and socks, another of pants, another of linens and one that – as of now – is just for shoes.  that leaves my hanging clothing, the square peg that is still looking for a round hole to fit into on the journey to nyc.  i’ll figure it out.

otherwise, though, things are falling gently into place: my craigslist posting for my apartment yielded a renter – a friend, in fact – that was approved yesterday.  this is a gigantic weight off my shoulders and a very exciting development.  on the flip side, i have a promising lead on a place in new york – a nice place, a decent area and a very good price – so i’m keeping fingers crossed that it works out.  please do the same.

two full days left in chicago.  and here we go!

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the storage hypocrite

for years, i’ve been unabashedly mocking public storage facilities.  what is this american compulsion to store stuff we don’t need?  why don’t people just chuck their excess possessions and move on to bigger and better things, rather than hoarding everything they’ve ever owned in case they might need it down the line?

IMG_2051see that photo on the left?  that’s me becoming a hypocrite as i sign the lease on a 4.5’x8′ storage space at storage1, a facility located about a mile from my current apartment.  in truth, i’d like nothing more than to have all my material trappings with me in the biIMG_2053g apple, but given the quick pace of this relocation, it just doesn’t make sense.  finding a place to live in new york could pose something of a challenge, and taking a bare minimum of essentials with me (really bare… i’m aiming for clothes, shoes and toiletries) will allow me to crash in a rental bedroom rather than needing to find my own apartment from the get-go.  i’ll marinate in a spare room in someone else’s abode until things stabilize, and then come back and fetch my furniture from the jaws of the storage monster and establish a residence of my own.

but in the meantime… what a facility she is!  she’s a beauty, eh?

special thanks to my pal tim dunphy for the lift up to storage1, and for watching me pack.

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and… here we go!


wow, what a whirlwind… the past two days have been among the most exciting and mind-fucking of my 30 years.  i know blogs are *so* 2002, but i thought this was the easiest way to get out the news, explain what’s going on and keep all my peeps up to date.

the very abbreviated story goes like this:

following the sad ending of my summer internship at chicago design firm gravitytank last friday, i decided to get the eff out of chicago for a few days.  i headed to nyc, my favorite of favorite cities, to do a bit of networking, introduce myself around town a bit and see if i could get my foot in the door at some of the industrial design firms there.  long story short: i did.  i was offered an internship at a great design firm called ecco (http://www.eccoid.com) and was asked to start on 10/26.  and… here we go!

i came back to chicago wednesday evening, and realized that i had just over a week to pack up everything i own, put it in storage, sublet my apartment, find a place to live in new york and get out of town in time to start working.  it’s very *not me* to do something so cavalier, but i confess that it feels kind of great… who knows where this could go?  i’ve wanted to move to new york for about a decade and am excited that i’ll finally have the chance.

unfortunately, due to the tight timing i’m not going to get to see 90% of the people i’d love to see before i leave town… and for that i am truly sorry.  chicago has been great to me over the past eight years and this has not been, in any way, an easy decision.  i know my good friendships will endure a few hundred miles of separation, though… and besides, it’s a great excuse to visit me in the city.  so come one, come all!

and now i’m going to pack.  but i think i’ll use this as a sort of journal for my experience as i move to the big apple.  so stay tuned.



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