Saturday, December 29, 2007

One Man's Junk Is Another Man's Treasure

As newlyweds, we not only save money, but try to make money. Recently, we discovered the monetary benefits of eBay. Two weeks ago Ben sold an old, broken computer and an Apple iSight. Last week Aunt Dorothy sent us the limited edition "Rug Market", a Fontanini collector's item, to sell on eBay. Interested? Too late. It sold for $50, not including an additional $17 for shipping and handling. I never knew a miniature Arabian rug shack would generate so much moolah.

eBay won our allegience the second our first item sold. How could it not? We made money selling junk to strangers in Gastonia, Winter Park, and Escondido. It has been difficult to resist the urge to sell everything and anything in our apartment. Ben's winter jacket? Worth a few bucks. Ben's golf clubs? I saw dollar signs. Unfortunately, he said that he would not be happy in the Spring to learn that someone else was playing nine holes with them halfway across the country. The AC unit above our apartment door? Jackpot. Many New Yorkers would pay good money for a cool breeze during the hot summer months. I doubt our landlord would notice a two by one foot hole in the wall...

Our apartment building has a recycle room (closet, really) where tenants leave/dump items they no longer want. I routinely comb through the closet in search of 1) anything that fits me, 2) discarded magazines like Elle, Glamor, InStyle, 3) gifts for people that still look new, and now 4) eBay items. Last week, footsteps approached as I crouched and rifled through the boxes. I quickly pretended to toss recycables in their proper receptibles. I played it off well. Heaven forbid people refer to me as that weird girl on the first floor who goes through people's trash.

Last week, I flew home for the holidays and stayed at my parents' house. I scouted potential eBay items from the moment I first walked in the door. They didn't mind. My dad probably won't even notice that anything is missing. Actually, I heard that somebody posted some really nice cocktail and prom dresses on eBay yesterday. I wonder if anybody has placed a bid... if not, it's not too late.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Going Home for the Holidays

Flying can be a nightmare during Christmas in New York City. I anticipated delays, cancelled flights, and the possibility of not getting home at all. I arrived at Laguardia two hours before my scheduled departure time to join an ever increasing two mile line through security.

Most passengers patiently waited as the line crept forward. Couples. College students. Families. Nice children. Naughty children not threatened by Santa's list. And tourists. Tired tourists overstimulated from the holiday hoopla found in the city. The New Yorkers immediately distinguished themselves from the tourists with words of comfort and holiday cheer. "Let me work that #!$% x-ray machine so I can get %!&$ home in time for Christmas!" and "I should be running this airport. Somebody get me a %$# manager before it's 2008!"

I arrived at my gate forty minutes later to find the terminal in disarray. Bodies draped anything that alloted six inches of useable space. Holiday music blared in the background. Discarded Coke bottles, earmarked magazines, and yesterday's newspaper littered the seats and floor. Employees darted between gates. I had entered another world.

My flight was delayed two hours. Not bad for one of the busiest travel days of the year. I comfortably made a niche for myself on the floor and pulled out my book, "On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction." Gotta start somewhere, folks.

As I approached chapter four, commotion erupted at gate 5A. The airline employees announced that an extra seat was available on a booked flight. Unbelieveable! A miracle! They gave the coveted spot to one lucky lady on stand-by. The gate turned into The Price Is Right, the aisle into a runway. She shrieked and pumped her fists into the air as the crowd cheered and clapped. Her triumphant yells faded as she disappeared down the jetway while "Chariots of Fire" softly played. We all looked at one another with a renewed spirit. Hope was restored.

Five minutes later, gate 5A called security. They mumbled something unintelligible over the loudspeaker. A mistake. There was no empty seat and the lady refused to leave the jetway. The wheels of her suitcase flattened our hopes and Christmas spirit as securty escorted her out of the jetway. I crossed my fingers and prayed that I would make it home because, at that moment, home was the only place I wanted to be.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

I hate needles. I cry, break out in cold sweats, experience blurred vision, and ultimately faint when nurses brandish a sleek, pointy needle. On Tuesday, I got blood work done at the doctor’s office.

I hardly slept Monday night. By Tuesday morning, I was a wreck. I got dressed and put on my big girl pants. Yet, courage still eluded me. Would the needle be big? Would it hurt? Probably. Would I live? Hopefully.

I signed in at the front office, wiggled into a seat wearing my winter parka (in case I needed to bolt at last minute), and waited. I flipped through a dog-eared, four month old Redbook magazine and scanned the articles while “Lady in Red” played in the background. No eighties song, fashion advice, or photos of celebrities without makeup lifted my spirits.

A nurse called my name. I bit my lip and held back tears. I followed her to the lab and took a seat on one side of a curtain. Another girl was first. I watched her nervously tap her feet under the curtain.

“Wow, that’s a big needle. Ouch! It really hurts.”

What? Was she serious? Too late. The floodgates opened, tears raced down my face. The curtain slid back. There I sat… a little blonde in need of new highlights wearing a buttoned purple parka with hair askew, runny nose, and red eyes.

My turn.

I did fine until the nurse mentioned that women have to frequently get their blood drawn during pregnancy. She repeatedly said ‘needle’ and ‘blood’. A lot. Oh, the power of her words and my imagination. Sweat started to trickle down my back, the room swayed, and color drained from my face. Here we go. Or, more specifically, there I went. Somehow, though, I managed to not completely pass out. Perhaps, it was the Kit Kat I brought as a reward that kept me conscious or the knowledge that the pregnant nurse couldn’t help me if I hit the floor. Or, maybe, just maybe, New York City has toughened me up a little bit after all.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Oui" that's a big bug!

On Saturday, I dusted, swept, ironed, bleached, and washed. At the end of the day, I neatly tied the trash bag and grabbed the basket of recyclables to dispose in the trash room of our old brownstone building. I trotted down the hallway, made a sharp right, walked up half of flight of stairs, and crossed the threshold into the adjoining brownstone when I saw it. A cockroach. A true New York City cockroach. A huge, disgusting, stomach wrenching, skin crawling, shiny, black cockroach that measured approximately two inches long. I measured it. We traveled from Kentucky to live in the Upper West Side, but that thing journeyed from the depths of the Amazon.

The cockroach lay on its back. Its eight legs feebly pumped with little life. I froze. My eyes darted from side to side. Would another resident jump out and save me? Yeah, right. This is New York City. I had to fend for myself. The trash bag dangled from my left pinky and the recycling basket balanced on my right forearm. I did a few leg kicks to warm up my muscles then hiked my right leg over the cockroach. I wrapped my arm around the banister of a nearby stairwell and nervously teetered in a deep split. My old gymnastics teacher would have been proud.

I rocked my hips back and forth until I gained enough momentum to thrust myself forward and over the cockroach. I pumped my fist in the air in triumph, looked around. Thank goodness no one witnessed that awkward maneuver. I dumped the trash, took a running leap back over the cockroach, and forced my husband to pause a movie on TV so he could see the unwelcome dweller. Of course, Ben gave every excuse not to see the bug since he gets more scared than me. He usually screams louder too, at a higher pitch.

Ben and I rounded the stairwell and bumped into a girl who lives on the fourth floor. She stood, transfixed by the cockroach. She looked up, pointed to Ben, and said what any girl would in the same situation. “You’re the guy. You kill it.”

If you know Ben, you’re already laughing. Hard. He tore his gaze away from the bug with a startled expression on his face. “Me?” he asked. “Um, well, I, um, can’t… I’ve got new shoes on!” The girl looked confused. I laughed. Oh, Ben. Even in the presence of two females, he couldn’t muster the strength or nerve to squish a bug.

At that moment, a man walked down the stairs and almost stepped on the cockroach, still lying in wait to see his fate. I jumped, “Watch out. There’s a huge cockroach.” He turned around, cocked his head, looked down, raised his leg, and smashed the lying bug with gumption. “Oui,” he said, then continued walking. “Oui,” we all said in unison, in awe.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Saving Money

Plink. Plink. Plink.

That’s the sound of our change as it hits the bottom of the jar. From the moment we stepped into our apartment as a newly married couple we’ve hoarded, scrimped, and saved money. As most young people starting out know… it ain’t easy. It’s even harder since we live in a city that’s home to Broadway, Fashion Avenue, fine restaurants, museums, outrageous rent, and “cheap” six dollar beers.

A few months ago, we found a neatly folded $5 bill on the sidewalk that somebody dropped. Imagine our excitement! It was a sign. A sign that we should splurge and forget about our stresses, worries, and cares. Basically, screw the budget. We high-fived each other, marched straight to McDonalds, and slapped Ole Abe on the counter. We each ordered one cheeseburger from the dollar menu, a dollar French fry to share, and two tap waters. Ben persuaded me to retract my order of a Diet Coke. Apparently, five bucks only goes so far and the Diet Coke was pushing it. It's not like he forced me to change my mind, but rather gave me a choice– a sweet, syrupy Diet Coke all for myself or a chocolate drenched sundae at the end of the meal which we would share together. Of course, I chose the latter. Ah, married life.

Last week, after months of penny pinching, we each purchased one pair of new shoes to reward ourselves. Ben needed new dress shoes since the rubber soles on his old pair split leaving his feet exposed to gravel, dirty water, broken glass, trash, and anything else found on New York City sidewalks. I, um, needed new knee high brown boots to… to keep the lower portion of my legs, my calves, warm in the subzero temperatures that accompany the winter in New York. And, maybe, to satisfy the fashionista craving that yearned to escape from within.

We scrimp. We save. We grab loose change. We pick generic drug store brands. We shop sales. We cut coupons. We buy really, really cheap toilet paper. In some ways, it’s fun. It’s fun to be completely dependent on one another and act like responsible adults. It’s fun to dream and imagine the big house, fancy cars, and white picket fence we’ll one day have. We laugh because we know we’ll really appreciate the good fortunes that come our way in the future. But, for now, I close my eyes when I pass the “Gap”. Ben lowers his hat when we near “Circuit City”. I turn my head when the bright lights of the theater beckon because we know… we know that one day it will all be ours.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Holidays!

"Merry Christmas" from our home to yours!
And they say size doesn't matter. Well, it does if you live in New York City! That's why we decorated our mini apartment for the holidays with a mini Christmas tree.
Nestled underneath the branches and enveloped by the glow of four lights is "Candy Canes", a Beanie Baby. Our first Christmas present.
Enjoy decorating for the holidays!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day at the Museum

My husband and I scored free tickets to the Museum of Natural History courtesy of our friend’s company which provides free tickets to its employees. It captivated my interest just like when I was a little girl. The museum showcases two exhibits dedicated solely to the rainforest and the ocean, two of my favorite topics to learn about through the Discovery channel, Animal Planet, or Sharkman Manny Puig.

A feature exhibit of origami ornaments that adorn a Christmas tree decorates one of the larger halls for the holidays. To continue with the Christmas theme, an older museum volunteer led origami lessons at a brown folding table in the corner. My husband and I walked over, our interest growing with the ever increasing number of participants from age six to fifty. She offered an invitation to join and slid two pieces of paper across the table.

The volunteer gave explicit instructions and demonstrated the proper techniques to create an origami masterpiece. Everyone attentively followed her directions and asked questions about the history, lifespan, and required paper size necessary to create origami art. She spoke with professionalism and a high level of monotony, only to be expected considering it was probably the hundredth time she had to repeat the same directions to an ever-changing audience. It wasn’t until an adult asked about the preferred techniques used to clean origami art that the volunteer’s face lit up and a wide smile crossed her face. “Grab yourself a paintbrush to dust with and a full glass of Cognac. That’s how you get it done.”

I wonder if Martha Stewart would agree.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fung Wah, Fung What?

Most New Yorkers don’t own cars. If they do, then they have 1) an exorbitant amount of cash, 2) discovered a secret parking spot that millions of other people overlooked, or 3) overcame fears of being sideswiped by crazy cab drivers. Most New Yorkers find other ways to get around, in, or out of the city. Walk, swipe a subway card, catch a cab, ride the Long Island Railroad or New Jersey Transit, recline on a Greyhound, or buy an inexpensive ticket for a most interesting mode of transportation… the Fung Wah.

The Fung Wah bus service provides transportation from NYC to other major cities at a cheap rate. A rate that newlyweds, students, and money strapped folks can afford. Naturally, we fit in the first and third categories.

The Fung Wah is not for the faint at heart, strict law abiding citizens, or those who have a sensitive gag reflex. Luckily, I do not posses any of the aforementioned traits. My first experience on a Fung Wah bus left me with everlasting memories and a surreal sense of reality.

My husband and I met his family for Thanksgiving in Baltimore since it’s central to everyone’s cities of residence. I met him after work at Penn Station where we caught the Fung Wah to Baltimore. The buses queue down the street. No station, building, or designated waiting area… just an open expanse of concrete sidewalk. Expectant riders form their own lines. I use the term “lines” loosely. They exist as jumbled, haphazard formations. No one knows in which line to wait and the Fung Wah workers aren’t much help since their first language is not General American English. Our ticket agent only knew two words, “Baltimore” and “D.C.”

We picked a spot and I waited with our two suitcases. My husband went in search of dinner – hot dogs from a nearby vendor. The bus does not stop for food, drink, restroom needs, or emergencies such as a fellow Fung Wah bus parked on the side of the interstate because it’s on fire. True story. It happened to a friend of mine.

My husband instructed me to stand firm in line and push my way to the front as soon as we could board the bus. “They”, the Fung Wah employees, always oversell tickets and people are inadvertently left behind until another bus arrives. We had to get on that bus. Our holiday vacation depended on our ability to squeeze onto that overstuffed bus. We fought tooth and nail. I used my suitcase as a bulldozer to ram the weak out of the way. My husband flattened two families and a homeless person who accidentally got tangled in the shuffle.

We found two seats together and settled in just as my husband noticed an odd, repulsive smell. Apparently, a passenger from the previous trip lost his cookies in the aisle two rows ahead. S/he indiscreetly hid the evidence by tossing a few napkins over the mess. A young man seated directly beside the “present” called a Fung Wah employee over to access the situation. The worker relied, “I fix it. One moment.” He returned seconds later and sprayed the spot down with… not disinfectant, not institutional vomit absorbent… Tag body spray! Deodorant body spray! My husband said it best. It did smell pretty good.

When the bus roared to life so did the television screens that dotted the bus ceiling. What movie did we enjoy on our drive? “American Gangster”, of course, which stars Denzel Washington. Yes, it is currently in theaters. That’s another benefit of using a bus company that originated from the section of town which profits from selling pirated and bootlegged products. The government also recently forced Fung Wah to purchase the same insurance standard of other average American bus services. Scary? Just a little.

Roughly four hours later the bus veered onto an exit ramp and dropped us off at a deserted truck stop in Baltimore. My husband and I stepped off the bus, retrieved our suitcases, and surveyed the area. Across a dimly lit four lane highway was a McDonald’s and several vacant looking hotels. As we lugged our suitcases over a once grassy hill, a young woman frantically asked me if I had seen a green suitcase. Hers was missing. She asked the Fung Wah bus driver. Although the complexity of the English language escaped him, the simplicity of his answer did not. “No.” He hopped on the bus, slammed the door, and the bus left its former occupants in a cloud of dust and smoke. Literally, dust and smoke. Bloomberg needs to mandate clean air vehicles in New York immediately.

Somehow, in the end, we felt as though we made money traveling to Baltimore on the Chinatown bus. For $17.50 we made it to Baltimore and watched a newly released movie. Will you see us on the Chinatown bus again? Most likely, unless they’ve run out of Tag body spray or Greyhound has lowered their prices.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No Sleeping Beauty

Everybody sleeps differently. Some people lovingly cuddle, others are violently territorial.  Some never make a sound, others converse in unintelligible languages. Some greet the morning looking refreshed, others look as though they have been through battle. I posses all of the less than desirable sleeping characteristics. I often leave my bedmates to wonder… is this the same person?

Each extremity dominates a corner of the full size bed. My head rests comfortably between both pillows. My body heeds no boundaries. All covers either wrap around me like a burrito or surrender as a wrinkled pile on the floor. Little pools of drool collect on the sheets. I wake up with a side ponytail, twisted pajamas, and a limp. My voice sounds like I smoke about ten packs of cigarettes a day. I twirl my feet because it calms me down. My sleeping habits do not represent my personality. I promise…

My husband’s sleep style perfectly epitomizes him. His sleep manner is sweet, loveable, caring, and snuggly. Ugh. He loves to cuddle and nuzzle. I know. That’s every girl’s fantasy. He likes to whisper good morning in my ear. His hair either does a cute, little cowlick in the back or looks like he spiked it into a flattop. He seldom wanders to my side of the bed. A serial Sleep Warrior happened to marry a Siesta Sweetie.

The problem is that I take advantage of my husband in bed… unconsciously, of course. Last night, I awoke as he gently prodded my shoulder.

“Um, sweetie, can you share a little bit?”

I had stolen all of the covers which left him frozen and feeble. I passed over a few inches of blanket.


I felt another poke a few hours later, but this time on my head.

“Um, are you okay? You’re drifting pretty far down. Don’t you like me?”

I had wiggled to the end of the bed so that only my torso touched the mattress. My feet dangled millimeters from the wooden floor. I grunted. I’ve been wiggling down the bed a lot. Not sure exactly what it means, but it’s something new.

“I just want you to be comfortable, Kitten.”

My alarm buzzed at 6:30am this morning. I squinted through partially closed eyes and stretched my toes. The side of my head ached where my ponytail had moseyed during the night. I rubbed my lower back where a dull ache lingered from the odd position in which I had slept. I fumbled for my glasses and looked at the angel sleeping next to me. How this Nap Nazi got so lucky, I’ll never know. I just count my lucky sheep, um, stars, every night.

Monday, November 19, 2007

If You Can't Stand the Heat Then Get Out of the Kitchen

There are some things that my husband and I can do (and enjoy) together. We hold hands as we walk. We cuddle when we watch a movie. I sweep the floor with the broom as he squeegees behind me with the Swiffer Wetjet. I stuff the clothes in the washer as he pours the detergent. We divide the grocery list to cut our shopping time in half. Ah, yes, those are activities in which we work together so well. We work as a team. We treat each other as equals. But, as most couples discover, there exists a time which harmony and the “meet me in the middle” mentality dissolve...

For us, that time is in the kitchen. It’s when we approach the idea of creating a meal as a fun activity, but it ultimately ends with us both sticky and frustrated. It’s when we both squeeze into a 10x4 foot space that offers a mini fridge, a stove with saucer sized burners, and enough counter space for a toaster and spice rack. It’s when the recipe calls for one cup of sugar and we both accidentally throw in an extra cup when the other isn’t looking. It’s when we can “apple butter” for three hours over a hot stove on an unforgiving summer afternoon. Cooking. Together. In a small space. Not an activity to strengthen the bonds of marriage. Not an activity to bring two people closer together.

My advice to newlyweds – too many cooks in the kitchen can lead to a recipe for disaster. Let one person cook and one person clean.

Friday, November 16, 2007

You Can't Stay If You Don't Pay

Apparently, my husband and I weren’t the only inhabitants enjoying the warmth of our teeny apartment. But, I’m pretty sure that we’re the only ones who pay rent. I popped out of the shower, squeaky clean and energized, at 6:39am. I dried off with a towel, thinking of the day’s activities while still immersed in the lingering aroma of White Rain’s “Energizing Citrus”. It was going to be a good day. I had a glimpse of the day’s potential. Or, I did, until a thousand legged millipede interrupted my happy thoughts crawling across the wood floor in the kitchen. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge just thinking about it.

I hate, hAtE, HATE millipedes, centipedes, and anything else that ends with “pede”. Millipedes make my gag reflex kick into overdrive, my skin prickle, my fingernails peel, and my imagination run amuck with horrifying “Fear Factor” thoughts. My heart rate rises just typing about the wretched creatures. I’m going to have to eat a chocolate cupcake to calm my nerves after this blog.

I stared at the millipede. A towel dangled from one arm. My hair dripped a pool of cooling water on the tile. I stood frozen, afraid to move. He (the millipede) sensed my presence and stopped trotting across my floor. The fluorescent light illuminated our figures against the otherwise dark apartment.

In a perfect world I would have yelled for my husband to wake up, jump out of bed, roll up a magazine, flex his muscles, and use his manliness to kill the enemy. Save his wife! Oh, no. Not in my world. My husband wouldn’t do that because he is just as scared of millipedes as I am. He wouldn’t be of any use. I had to squash the enemy. The burden was on my shoulders.

I dropped the towel, long jumped over the adversary, and streaked across the apartment with wet hair flying. I had to make a choice – my stiletto or my husband’s shoe? Honestly, the decision was easy. I grabbed his shoe and slid back to where the bug waited… motionless. Was he dead? Did he have a heart attack? Succumb to old age? Could I be that lucky? No! He moved. Yikes! I screamed and slammed the shoe down with uninterrupted brutality. I breathed and lifted up the shoe. Dead. Smooshed beyond recognition. Just the way I like them.

A muffled noise came from the other side of the apartment. My husband asked what was going on. Was I okay? Just fine, I replied, just fine. I dropped his shoe, dusted off my hands, and continued with my morning routine. You can’t stay if you don’t pay.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Snip, Snip

As a newly married couple living off one income in New York City, we have to cut corners. For lunch, we sometimes (depending how low the food fund is) swing by Westside Market for free cheese samples. Westside provides a bountiful assortment of cheeses from all over the world – from a Wisconsin dairy cow to a Tibetan yak. You name it – cheddar, Swiss, feta, Gouda – they have it, in bulk. Another idea for us to save money now comes at the cost of my husband’s vanity… his hair. We decided that I would cut his hair instead of paying someone else to do it. Honestly, how hard could it be?

I picked up our only pair of scissors and realized that this haircut had to look halfway decent because he had an important interview at work the next day. No pressure. Every time I caught sight of my husband’s face in the mirror a nervous, yet slightly merciless, laugh ensued. He looked frightened, unsure of my abilities. His skin turned a shade whiter and his brow dampened with sweat whenever the dull shears snipped off a lock of hair. I took art in high school and once did ceramics. I have steady hands and pay attention to detail.

I realized the true power I hold when I traded my scissors for the electric trimmer. My stomach flipped when I turned it on and lowered the guard to seven. My husband tried to give me directions, tips, techniques. I couldn’t hear him. Giddiness reverberated throughout my body like the electric current traveling through the trimmer. I felt this maniac side of me start to emerge. I really just wanted to grab his head and shave off every hair. It sounded like so much fun.

I trimmed the back. I rounded the side. Now it was time to “blend” from guard seven to six. I haven’t mastered the art of “blending” and attempted several different techniques. My husband glimpsed at the current technique I was using through the mirror. I swooped in and up. It seemed to work. But, somewhere between the “in” and “up” I took out a patch, or chunk, of hair directly behind his right eye. Not unfixable and definitely not intentional. I was secretly amused, but my husband was not. He grabbed the trimmers, lowered the guard, and worked some magic. Eventually, the patch (almost) disappeared.

One hour later, my first haircutting experience was over. The haircut turned out good, better than expected. It looks like I have taken on another role – substitute teacher, wife, cupcake maker, and now stylist.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mr. Clean

Men can be the complete opposite of women. The way they think, their ability to emotionally detach themselves in order to think clearly, their responses to situations, their ability to get ready for a big event in seven minutes flat. Okay, the last one is not true for all men, but most.

On Friday, girls from my new (temporary) job invited me to “happy hour” at a place a few blocks away from both our work and my apartment. A girlfriend and I walked to my place to continue with the night’s festivities after happy hour ended. I called to forewarn my husband of our impending arrival. He mentioned that he would straighten up the apartment. Ahhh, I remembered. Half of my closet was strewn around our one room. I couldn’t find the “right” outfit for work – “Friday casual” yet professional with a hint of trendy. Not easy for a girl on a tight budget. How thoughtful of my husband to “clean” the apartment.

We arrived fifteen minutes later after seven blocks, two avenues, and one picture with fully dressed NYC firemen at the 76th Street firehouse. The apartment looked, um, great? Let me preface that statement with “the apartment looked great by guy standards.” My work clothes? Stacked in a wrinkled pile and covered by a dry-clean only sweater on the coffee table. He thought the sweater would convince our guest that it was magically suspended above a clean coffee table. My shoes? Stuffed under the dusty couch. My makeup? Shoved into a bathroom counter corner. His half-filled suitcase from Wednesday? Pushed in front of the sink. The apartment wasn’t as much cleaned as it was simply rearranged.

I, of course, would have hung the clothes in the closet, hidden the makeup, 409ed the countertop, straightened the stack of magazines, took out the trash, adjusted the mirror on the wall, thrown cookies in the oven, and sprayed a room deodorizer that left a faint, yet pleasant, scent of “Suddenly Cinnamon” or “Hawaiian Tropic Breeze”. We entered. My husband stood in the middle of the apartment with his arms open and gestured for me to recognize his work as if to say, “Look at my masterpiece.” Men, they honestly have no clue sometimes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Little Surprises

I love the little things I discover in the city. I suppose that’s expected in a city where eight million people span thirteen miles of island. Everyone stacked upon one other in miniature apartments separated by narrow allies. New York always existed as some other place, as somebody else’s place. Now, it’s my place too.

I often get lost when I travel around the city. Usually, it’s when I have to be somewhere on time or meet somebody. But, isn’t that how life goes? Nothing is ever clear cut and the best way isn’t always the quickest, safest, or easiest.

I love to turn onto a side street and discover a cozy coffee shop, a temporary bookstore that lines the sidewalk, or a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant that serves the best General Tso’s chicken. Just when I decide that New Yorkers aren’t friendly, an older lady smiles at me as we cross the street. Just when I think no one considers anyone else’s situation, a gentleman lets me cut in line at Fairways during the 5pm rush. Just as I bite my bottom lip in uncertainty about my move here, a new friend invites me for a drink after work.

I like the little surprises that the big city offers at unexpected times. They’re not life changing, but they mean a lot. They’re not fancy or expensive, but do I really need everything to be tied in pretty, big bows? The simpler, smaller pleasures suffice if I let them.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Quest Continues

Once again, I rant about the job search that is going… nowhere. I comfortably sit on two fat degrees that yearn to be used. I mull over the classifieds and online job posts as Bon Jovi croons on the TV in the background. He probably pays an assistant big bucks to guarantee that his hair remains perfectly coiffed at least 99% of the time. Hmmm, what qualifications do you need to acquire that job? I never went to beauty school, but I did once compete in a pageant which means I know a lot about the importance and maintenance of an overdone, bouffant hairstyle. I switch from VH1 to Good Morning America. Maybe Diane Sawyer will cover a story on an immediate demand for speech therapists in New York City. Sadly, I doubt it.

This week I substitute taught at different schools to get my foot in door, make contacts, and network. The extra money is a definite bonus. I met some people that gave me a few leads for potential jobs in the educational realm of my field. Hopefully, fingers crossed, a job opportunity will materialize from the contacts I made. I enjoyed teaching and another benefit of subbing was that I met really fun New Yorkers who promise to show me a good time in the Big Apple. Possible contacts, friends, and a paycheck? Awesome.

As for now, I continue to trek forward in my hunt for a job. I’ve opened my search field to include schools, hospitals, private practice, and nursing homes. I am going to keep a positive outlook and look at this period of unemployment as a time to reflect, grow, and empathize with other jobless folks. Yeah, right. I put Bon Jovi on mute as I once again send my resume to more faceless potential employers and pray for the best.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Subway Wildlife

My old roommate should not read this post. Otherwise, she’ll never venture past the Mason Dixon Line again. She hates small animals like select species of birds, squirrels, bats, possums, and Chihuahuas. Ultimately, she mostly despises mice and rats. She virtually self-destructs if anything even remotely resembles a rodent.

I, on the other hand, sometimes like to torture myself with things I hate –scary movies, new hair stylists, exercise, and incredibly high heels. I accept that about myself. With that said, I’ve had one grotesque and disturbing fascination since moving to New York City. I wanted to see a rat; a disgustingly huge subway rat only found in the depths of New York’s subway system. Blame it on movies, blame it on TV, or blame it on my childhood pet hamster “Rocky”. My feelings won’t be hurt. Think of me what you will.

I just thank God she wasn’t in the subway at the Jamaica train station on Sunday night. I stood at the platform edge and peered down the tracks as they disappeared into the dark. Aha… a rat the size of a small cat drinking water from a puddle. I left my husband and maneuvered around waiting passengers (he doesn’t share my fascination). I stood three feet from the rat. I looked to my left. Another gaze met mine. A fellow rat watcher smiled at me. I smiled back acknowledging our shared curiosity.

Wait, ewwww, wait. There wasn’t just one rat, but three more behind it on the other side of the track. Suddenly, my interest waned. One rat was okay, but four? Gross. I walked back to my husband who was obviously questioning the vows we made in August. In sickness and in health? Check. Until death do us part? Check. Indulging in weird fascinations? Not so much. Oh, well. At least now I can cross that off my New York “To Do” list.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Waiting For My Hubby

I frantically run around our 300 square foot apartment every day about this time. I restore order to our home as my husband catches the 5:14pm train from work to Penn Station. I have less than 45 minutes to tidy up the joint, throw a delicious dinner together, and look like a hot babe who never broke a sweat in the process.

It only takes a few things out of place to make the apartment look like K-Mart during a blue light special. Leftover dishes from the night before, week old laundry piles, job applications scattered across the floor, makeup samples strewn on the countertop, DMV forms half completed, a half stirred pitcher of Crystal Light, and random items from the move that never found their niche. Whew. Amazing how everything gets strewn everywhere in eight short hours.

As for dinner, well, I consider myself a cleaner more than a cooker. I always attempt to concoct some sort of edible meal, or at least pretend to, when the lock turns and my husband’s smiling face materializes. I bang a few pans, turn the oven on to 350 degrees, and toss refrigerated items on the counter when I hear the front door of our brownstone slam and his footsteps approach.

Clean, cook, and look ridiculously fabulous – it’s the least I can do as a new and unemployed wife. The ‘new’ part of the sentence is great, but not so much the ‘unemployed’ part. Not how I planned to spend the first two months in NYC or my marriage, but... oh, well. It’s 6:00pm and I hear him as he fishes for his keys outside our door. I have only ten seconds to dwell on that thought because the hamburger patties are still frozen, my hair is still in curlers, and the bed never got made.

Monday, October 22, 2007

When New York Gives You Lemons, Drink Lemonade

Most people equate $$$ with New York City. I do. But, I found an exception. Cheap drinks, specifically in reference to lemonade bought from a lemonade stand. Not what you would except to run across in a metropolis of eight million urbanites. Yet, my husband and I have enjoyed lemonade from two different stands since moving here. Who knew lemonade was such a hot commodity in NYC?

We walked upon two endearing and business savvy girls with a lemonade stand a couple of blocks from our apartment yesterday evening. The youngsters knew how to run a business and bring in the big bucks. In my day, we dragged a miniature plastic table to the end of the driveway and voted one neighborhood kid to dance in the street with a poster board sign. Not these girls.

The budding entrepreneurs set up shop on Broadway, prime real estate property in New York City. They sang songs in cute, tiny voices to lure customers. They admitted their mom had made the lemonade, already learning to capitalize on free labor. We fell hook, line, and sinker. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to swell their piggy bank. For fifty cents, the girls said, we could get a “tasting, medium, big, or extra big cup of lemonade.” Only in New York do kids under ten offer a “tasting” of lemonade. Somewhere between 76th and 77th the sidewalk doubled as a vineyard.

My husband rummaged for a dollar. We each enjoyed a medium sized cup of lemonade on our walk home. Delighted that the whimsical idea of lemonade stands still exists as a way to make a profit even if locations, times, and prices may change.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Visit to the Slammer

New York Police Department… four words that instill fear and anxiety in some people under certain circumstances. Not me. A trip to an NYC police department spelled F-U-N. I needed to be fingerprinted for a job and the 20th precinct seemed like an opportune place to go. Why venture all the way to the Board of Education in Brooklyn when I could get fingerprinted with the best of them – in the slammer. Alright, not technically the slammer, but it sounds better.

As I moseyed my way to 120 West 82nd Street I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city, relished the warm afternoon weather, and inhaled the aromas from a nearby vendor. I reached my destination, opened the door to the station, and immediately realized that this little tart was in Kansas no more. The interior building was straight from a movie set. Where’s HGTV or Ty Pennington? Our public protectors deserve the best we can afford. They risk their life to serve the city. At least we could provide them with a cheery décor.

I timidly approached the front desk. The receptionist raised her eyes and flatly said, “what.” More like a statement than an inquiry. My blonde ponytail stopped bobbing. I responded that I needed to be fingerprinted. A policeman came over, looked me up and down, and gruffly told me to enter behind the desk. My purple Pumas led me into unfamiliar territory.

I sat at a table amid several other officers, two in street clothes and one in uniform. At first, the men seemed gruff. But, they softened and livened up when my license revealed a southern belle in their midst. What an eclectic group of men underneath those tough, tattooed exteriors. They joked. They dropped the “F” bomb every three seconds. They offered me water from a Dixie cup. They taught the ins and outs of being a New Yorker. They were fun, really fun. I would have forgotten I was in a police station if the large screen TV quit flashing New York’s “Most Wanted” or the twenty mug shots of men waiting for incarceration stopped staring at me.

I was a little sad when we completed the paperwork and began the fingerprinting process. It would all be over too soon. Though, not everyone in the joint had fun. One man, arms crossed in his holding cell, stared intently at me and shook his head. He wasn’t entertained. Two officers brought in a small man in large clothing. As they frisked him he proclaimed, “Man, I haven’t been brought in on drug charges since the 80s.” As the officer rolled my index finger across the black ink, I considered this experience my initiation to New York City.

Sadly, my initiation ended 45 minutes later. But, I can guarantee that I left as the happiest civilian ever fingerprinted. Oh, I forgot to mention. The kind officer that helped me gave me a gift as I exited – an application for the New York Police Department.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Potential Job... But, Not Exactly What I Had In Mind

I walked past a small dive bar one block from our apartment. I've complained about not finding a job. Well, I finally received a "sign" from above.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Two Degrees and Still No Job

I’m unemployed, but not by choice. I’m searching for a job on craigslist,, search engines, and websites. You name it, I’ve searched it. I've at least “googled” it. The NYC job market isn’t what I had expected. I imagined countless job opportunities awaiting my imminent arrival. The city would sigh with relief as I stepped off the plane with my new, crisp degree in hand. The city, my oyster, would hold the perfect job for me to find, seize, and succeed. How naïve could I have been? Somebody snap me out of that day dream and back into reality. I assumed the difficulty would be which job to choose from the plethora of positions offered. Hurry! Quick! Somebody order this gal a stiff drink of reality and a big dose of W.T.F! Thank you Hollywood for my warped sense of realism and overly inflated idealistic notions.

I never expected the job market to be so tough in the areas of my field in which I want to work. Plus, any job I apply for requires licenses, certificates, money, workshops, fingerprints, completed paperwork, and anything else that sounds official. Shish, could I bellyache any more?

I am very thankful despite the job search woes. My patient, understanding husband supports me in many ways, though I mostly speak now in monetary terms. I have the luxury of an employed spouse. Others don't. Still, the Delta ticket agent should have checked my photo ID and head before she handed me my boarding pass. In reality, marriage is more fun than I had ever dreamed, relocating to a northern city was how I had imagined, and the job search has been an unexpected challenge. With that said, I will now stick a cork in my bottle of “whine”, count my lucky stars for a supplemental income and newly minted degree, and pour myself another glass of idealism because life is so much more fun that way.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Size Does Matter

The old saying rings true - size really does matter (no, I'm not referring to my husband or chocolate). I've dealt with a dramatic decrease in living space and an astronomical increase in the cost per square foot of renting an apartment since relocating to the Big Apple from a mid-sized southern town. The cost of living in the city is unbelievable (that sentence truly deserves an exclamation point)! I have fully come to appreciate the two story townhouse I left behind that boasted two bedrooms, two and a half baths, walk-in closets, and over 1,200 square feet of living space for a mere $375/month.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear the New Yorkers now... but New York has so much offer! There is so much to do and see - museums, shopping, the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, etc. Yet, I wonder, how does anybody have money left after handing over most of their monthly paycheck to a landlord? Our landlord makes serious cash. I imagine he basks in the Caribbean sun, fingers huge piles of cashed checks as he sips pina coladas from a gold plated cup wondering... who would ever pay such a ridiculous amount of money for so little space?

We've kept the apartment furniture to a minimal. Ikea couch (read earlier story to learn how we acquired that pretty piece of furniture), bar top table with a 14 inch depth, one dresser (held up by a stack of lousy paperbacks), and a full size bed (thank goodness we're both skinny). Most of my family and friends wondered how I would ever fit my expansive shoe and purse collection, 15 pairs of jeans, and ever increasing array of beauty products in a 300 square foot apartment. Actually, that thought also made me nervous.

Luckily, though, I thought of a brillant plan within the first 24 hours of unloading boxes. Throw out my husband's stuff and replace it with mine. Genius. My beloved belongings would remain mine. Otherwise, who knows?! My stuff would have spilled onto the street, been carted off, and resold on eBay for who knows how much! I knew what I had to do. I combed through his closet and the medicine cabinet. I threw away sandblasted jeans, college shirts, some kid's football jersey, old electrical cords, and half used bottles of male products. I had plenty of space once I rid the apartment of "unnecessary" items. I simply have to continually purge and resist the urge to hoard, save, and hold on to everything. Now, all of my things have a nice, neat spot designated for them. As for his stuff, it all now convienently fits in one prefab, pressed wood cabinet.

All in all, the space issue wasn't as difficult to accept as I had anticipated. A smaller place isn't necessarily so bad. But, stuffing half of my paycheck into somebody's pocket that I've never met, now that's a sizeable issue that I'll never accept.

Monday, October 1, 2007

We "Craigslisted" and Carted Home A Couch - NYC Style

I've learned a few things since moving here if you're a person who's on a budget (like us):

  1. everything is more expensive in the Big Apple

  2. you only buy, steal, or borrow what you can carry home

  3. Craigslist is like the super Wal-Mart of the cyberworld (but with the added bonus of getting to anonomously negotiate prices through email)

We needed a little couch for our little apartment. My husband claimed that if we couldn't find a dejected couch stranded on the sidewalk, then we would find a good couch for little money on Craigslist. I had never "craigslisted" before, but I only had to browse through a couple of posts before I was completely obsessed. We scanned Craigslist daily, scoured for bargains. Our hard work paid off when we found a slightly used beige colored Ikea couch for a good price. Only a short (yeah, right) ten blocks away awaited our first newlywed couch (note the enthusiasm in this sentence because it doesn't last for long).

After my husband and the couch seller struggled to carry it down six flights of perilous stairs that had an incline of at least 70 degrees and miniature landings made for those under four feet, they dropped it on the sidewalk outside the man's apartment. With our confidence and muscle strength waivering, we lifted the couch and began a slow, painful walk home.

We managed to walk ten steps between pit stops when we realized that we would never make it home before the first snow at our current pace with the now extremely heavy and awkard couch. Rounding the third block, we dropped the couch and brainstormed - we needed a cart and quick. As I regained my strength and basked in the sun while lounging on the newly acquired couch a far seven blocks from our apartment, my husband tracked down a teenage Fresh Direct delivery boy who, for an un-named amount of cash, offered his services. We loaded the coach horizontally on the cart and pushed it down Broadway at breakneck speed. I failed to mention earlier that the beige couch doned an ever tacky neon pink/orange/red Hawaiian flowered slipcover to keep it clean on its trip home. Apparently, Hawaiian slipcovers aren't really in style in the city, judging from the looks we got.

I melted the rubber soles on my New Balance tennis shoes as I dodged Sunday afternoon shoppers. We were jay-running at major intersections on Broadway. Is this typical? Who knows - I'm new here. We made it to our little apartment with our extremely heavy couch after we re-ran over a smooshed rat and raced taxis on West End's four lanes. Thank you Craigslist for the great couch (when I don't have to carry it), thank you Fresh Direct for hiring great people, and thank you NYC for a great newlywed memory.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Itty Bitty Gets A Blog!

As stated somewhere on this blog, I just moved to New York City to join my newly acquired husband who has been residing in or around the city for the past two years. The move has been interesting and difficult at the same time, testing my strength when faced with new challenges, my ability to adapt to change, and my willpower at dealing with a completely different breed of people.

Not only has the move to NYC from a tiny American town been quite a change for this southern belle, but so has the new adventure called "marriage." We have been married now for approximately 56 days and counting. Marriage has been extremely fun, exciting, and definitely a change to my normal routine. Now I make toast for two, do laundry for two, make plans for two, and think "we" instead of "me." It's been a change. A very, very nice change.

I'm not sure exactly what this blog will be about except for the small stories that define my beginning in Manhattan, how long it will last, or if it will ever say anything even remotely interesting, but I do like the name of my blog (after a handful of tries at other names that were 1) already taken because apparently I'm not that creative and 2) the other name ideas didn't make sense). Hopefully, this blog will act as a diary to channel my happiness, frustrations, and excitement as a newlywed to both marriage and the big city. I suppose you could say that I am documenting my start in a new place with new partner and savoring the end of my old life with sweet memories.