Saturday, December 22, 2012

All Must Go: Added Pictures

* Scroll down to see pictures of all of the furniture we sold. I uploaded them with their appropriate post.

All Must Go: Chapter 4

We sold our Ikea dining room table, four matching chairs, and two Ikea Poang chairs to two men who arrived in a rented minivan. The men were in their late 30s and had just become roommates through Craigslist, which is also how they found us.

Craigslist really has a magical way of bringing all sorts of people together.

The men inspected the furniture they planned to buy and then took inventory of anything else in our apartment that they might possibly want, like our wine racks or George Forman grill.

One of the men smoked a lot of cigarettes and wasn't in the best of health. So, Ben, myself, and our two new friends relaxed a bit in the AC in our living room on the Ikea Poang chairs they had just purchased. We took a breather and engaged in some small talk before tackling the elevator and stairs again in the July heat.

We loaded the furniture in their van and shook hands.

Ben and I sadly waved goodbye and watched a little more of the past five years fade and disappear into the distance.

Our New York life was leaving us, piece by piece.

One of our Ikea Poang chairs.

Our Ikea dining room table that...

easily expanded to fit more people! 
Thumbs up, Ikea, for a great design.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

All Must Go: Chapter 3

We next sold our couch. We handed that over to three college students with big grins on our faces. Huge grins, actually.

We smiled because we got the couch for free and then sold it for $75. Cha-ching! Their student loans turned into cold hard cash in our pockets.

We found the couch four and half years ago on the sidewalk. Yes, the sidewalk (against my better judgment). A guy moved out of his apartment and set his furniture on the street. People flocked from all directions to snatch the furniture. Bookshelves, lamps, and chairs bobbed amongst pedestrians on Broadway and West End Avenue.

Ben asked the doorman about the cleanliness of the furniture. More pointedly, did the guy have bedbugs? The doorman alleviated all fears by saying the owner had never had bedbugs and was simply moving to a bigger place that needed new furniture.

We then carried the free and clean couch home.

Now, young collegiate minds determined the best way to maneuver our couch into a tiny elevator. Ben and I admired their tenacity and happily waved goodbye as they descended the front steps of building. Adios, couch! Adios, old friend.

Our couch.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

All Must Go: Chapter 2

The next piece of furniture sold on Craigslist was an Expedit IKEA bookshelf with baskets. Everyone wanted the Expedit! It was our biggest hit.

We sold it to a college student, a girl fresh off the plane from Washington. Literally, fresh off the plane. She and her mother arrived in New York the day before they showed up at my apartment.

Luckily, I donned appropriate moving/athletic attire when they arrived, just in case they needed extra help moving the bookshelf. That thought ended up being the understatement of the century.

They walked into our apartment and inspected the bookshelf. They handed me cash and then nonchalantly asked, "What's the best way to get this home?" They dropped that bombshell with a straight face.

I hid my shock. Rookies! I had two New York City Craigslist amateurs on my hands.

"Well... we could try a cab." I said with a shrug, doubting that the bookshelf would ever fit in one, though I hoped the new cabs might, might, have enough space.

The girl and I carried the bookshelf down our hallway, onto the elevator, and a block up the street to the corner. Her mother carried the 6 large baskets in trash bags.

We hailed one cab, who pulled over and then sped away once he saw the bookshelf. Other cabs just blew by us without ever hitting the brakes. Where was their adventurous spirit?

I hailed an SUV, thinking the bookshelf might slide over the backseat. The cabdriver, very unhappy about the situation, let us try to load the bookshelf. It didn't work.

He floored it before we even slammed the trunk door.

We hailed one of the new cabs. The cab parked slightly in the middle of the crosswalk, blocking one lane. Not the best place to park and load furniture, but whatever. I didn't want the cabbie second guessing any decision he was making at the moment.

We started to load the bookshelf and the cabdriver immediately began cussing. He cussed at us. He cussed at the bookshelf. And, then, he cussed about the Yankees losing their last game. His stress level only elevated mine.

After a few minutes of pushing and pulling the bookshelf inside the cab, the cabbie yelled for us to get the bookshelf out of his taxi before it ripped the upholstery.  I cannot write his exact words because this blog would instantly go from a PG to an R rating.

I calmly explained that the picture on the backseat showed how it folded down so that wheelchairs (and bookshelves) could fit. But, unfortunately, by this point, the cabbie was ballistic and I could not reason with him. We pulled the bookshelf out of the cab and sat it down on the sidewalk.

Did I mention it was about 98 degrees in July?

The girl, her mother, and I contemplated our next move (because that bookshelf was not going back in my apartment) until an elderly woman walked over to us to share this advice...

"You three are really stupid. Really, really stupid! What idiots load furniture in the middle of a crosswalk? Where am I supposed to walk? You. Are. Really. Stupid."

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I prayed, probably harder than I had ever prayed in my life, to remain calm. Jail would definitely ruin any future employment opportunities and I'd probably not survive.

I opened my eyes. The old woman still stood in front of me. Staring. My southern roots took hold and I sweetly replied, "Why, thank you so much for your help. We really appreciate it." I then turned away, and glanced back only once to see her walk away until...

I felt a hard poke on my back. I turned around and stared at the same old woman.

Round two.

"I just wanted you to know what idiots you people are! Complete idiots! I could have died crossing the street," she proclaimed.

Right then, I wished she had.

I couldn't hold back any longer. I blame the heat. I blame the cab's bad design. I blame New York.

I pointed back and snapped, "Lady! We got it. WE GOT IT!"

I then wheeled around to face my partners in crime. The mother looked shocked. But, the girl smiled and said, "Wow! People are pretty intense here."

Ya think?

I no longer cared about the bookshelf. I didn't care if we left it on the street or bashed it to pieces. I would have voted for the latter if given a choice.

I wiped the sweat from the brow, ready to admit defeat, when a man driving a U-Haul van pulled over beside us. I turned to the girl and said, "Ask him if he'll take the bookshelf for $20. Now."

She did.

He said, "yes."

The guy singlehandedly restored my faith in people.

In less than five minutes, we loaded the bookshelf and I waved goodbye to one of the most difficult moving fiascos I had ever encountered.

Or, almost ever encountered.

The Expedit in all of its glory.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

All Must Go: Chapter 1

Like R. Kelly, I'm going to break down the big story of selling our furniture into smaller stories because each one is unique and, as expected, very New York. When I say "very New York" that sometimes means "not easy and probably stressful." You'll get the gist soon enough and, if not, then refer to past stories.

Ben and I decided to sell all of our furniture on Craigslist. We did not have nice or expensive furniture. Rather, we collected our furniture like many New Yorkers - Craigslist, neighbors moving, and sidewalks (before the bed bug scare of 2010). It was time to return our things to Craigslist and complete our furniture's cycle of life.

We took pictures of everything and uploaded them to Craigslist. Ben immediately got tons of emails. Some emailers seemed legit, so he responded. Some emailers seemed sketchy and possibly murderous, so he trashed those. I really appreciated that since I, alone, would be passing on our furniture.

The first piece of furniture to go was our pressed wood nightstand. It went to a young guy attending Columbia University, who recently moved from California. I called him to sort through the details because, let's face it, West Coast people are very laid back and have no idea of how the East Coast operates.

The guy said he planned to carry the nightstand 10 blocks and one avenue to his apartment, almost one mile.

I rolled my eyes and nodded. He confirmed my previously held notion about West Coasters.

I said, "You will need something to transport the nightstand because it's an awkward size and it will get too heavy."

I actually worried that he would only make it halfway down the block before giving up and bringing it back for a full refund.

The line went silent for a few seconds and then he replied, "I've got a skateboard."

I said, "Perfect. See you in 20."

I got off the phone and dusted the nightstand. I patted the top and gave it a pep talk. I prepared it for its new home and the destruction it would probably face in an apartment full of college boys.

The guy arrived in 40 minutes (West Coasters) and we loaded it onto his skateboard. He wheeled it down the hallway and into our elevator. I closed the door and then ran to the living room window to watch him wheel it down the street until out of view.

That is how you do it in New York.

* I really do love West Coasters.

The nightstand.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How It Began

Ben said that the moment we learned that we would be moving from New York, everything would happen quickly. He was right. Like (almost) always.

On the last Friday in June, Ben learned that his company would allow him to work from Kentucky. On Saturday, the news sort-of sank in and we sat around the apartment in shock. On Sunday, we sort-of recovered from shock and told our families. On Monday, the second to last day of school, I told the administration of my departure. On Tuesday, we told friends.

In only 96 hours, we announced the biggest decision of our married lives to the world. 

We planned to and did move on July 31st. We had one month. One month to pack our apartment, sell our furniture, say goodbye to friends, visit last minute places, and drive 645.5 miles to Kentucky in a rented U-Haul. 

We did not dilly dally. 

We, as they like to say in Kentucky, "got-r-done."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Big Decision

Ben and I made a decision.  A big decision.  A very, very big decision at the end of July.

We moved.

We. Moved.


Not down the street. Not to another part of the city.  Not to another borough. Not to Long Island or New Jersey or even Connecticut.


We moved... home!  Kentucky, we came.

I said it was a big decision.

Obviously, we love New York. We love the city. We love our friends. We loved our life.

But, there's always a but, it was time to go home.

We missed our families. It was hard to be far away all of the time. The 11 hour drive was too much for weekend trips, and the two hour direct flight kept getting more and more expensive. The Chinatown bus worked, but only when we had several days to recuperate and several years of life to lose. We no longer wanted to miss our nephew's ballet recitals or dinners with our parents or weekends with Aunt Dorothy.

We wanted to be present for all of those little moments in our loved ones' lives. Participate and not just watch from afar. Facebook updates, random text messages, and twice a year visits weren't enough anymore.

We started to think that owning a house might be fun one day, especially after writing enormous rent checks month after month. A place of our own to host friends sounded exciting. A place with a locked mortgage that wouldn't raise every year nearly drove us to delirium.

We mulled over the decision to move for about six months. We tossed around the idea, but then the idea became more. It grew and turned into a dream, which morphed into a tangible reality. By the end of June, the opportunity to move arose and we took it.  We said "yes" with 99.9% assurance and .1% trepidation (because every big change is scary).

Now, we live in Kentucky.

We are home, finally home... and I mean that literally. We moved in with my parents until further notice. That situation alone will lend itself to many future posts.

But between leaving New York in July and living in Kentucky now, I still have many New York stories to tell. So, the blog will stay "Itty Bitty in New York City," and I will still write about New York life. Except, now, a little more Kentucky-ness will seep into the stories. Eventually, the blog will probably be more about Kentucky than New York, but that'll be awhile.

Ben repeatedly asked why I hadn't mentioned our move yet. I didn't really have a solid answer, but this morning I realized why. I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to completely let go of the idea of us no longer living in a crazy city surrounded by eight million people, some of whom we call friends. I hadn't fully grasped such a dramatic change. But, now, for reasons even unbeknownst to me, I am ready to announce it.

Moving was the right and best decision for us. But, it does not mean that it was easy. Like I said before, every change is hard, even when it's a good one.

I wipe tears from my cheeks as I write this, and my heart pounds for the five years of extraordinary experiences and people I encountered. My connection to New York remains strong. My love for New York never waivers. I am forever changed and forever thankful to the greatest city in the world, New York.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sneak Peek

I visited my girlfriend who recently moved to New Jersey. I took the express bus to her new place and caught a pretty nice view of the city. Enjoy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our Stop

Everyday, Ben and I take the subway to go... everywhere. To get to work, Ben takes the 2/3 line south to Penn Station where he gets on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). I take the 2/3 north to 116th Street where I hop on a crosstown bus.

New Yorkers know how lucky we are to live one block from public transportation. One block! It takes minutes to walk to the subway.

Some people live a 10, 15, or even 20 minute walk from public transportation. A 20 minute walk twice a day in 100 degree heat, rain, or snow can exhaust even the toughest commuter. Trust me.

I definitely couldn't hike 20 minutes in heels on a Friday night, and that's a fact. I tried several times. Those attempts usually ended with me hobbling or sitting on the sidewalk, in pain, complaining about my feet while Ben begrudgingly hailed a cab.

Not a perfect ending to a fun night on the town.

Below is a picture of me at "our stop." Our ole, faithful 96th Street and Broadway stop on the 2/3 line. How I love thee.

* FYI tourists... never stop to take a picture immediately after walking through a subway turnstile. New Yorkers will scowl, curse, or bulldoze right over you. Ben took this picture only after we surveyed the area and waited for a break in the flow of commuter traffic. I sprinted as soon as the camera clicked.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fast Food

We're starving. We don't (I mean "Ben doesn't") know what to cook for dinner. We want some grub immediately.

What do we do?

Eat from a food truck.

Our favorite is the Super Tacos food truck at 96th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue.

Definitely try the burritos.

They're the best.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Getting Around

In the last post, I wrote about how much everyday items cost in New York. Today, I write about how much it costs to get around the city. I'm talking about common forms of transportation like subways and buses and taxis, not rickshaws or trams or ferries. Look here if you're interested in that.

To ride the buses and subways...
A single ride costs $2.50.
A 7 day Metrocard with unlimited rides costs $29.
And, a 30 day Metrocard with unlimited rides costs $104.

I buy the 30 day Metrocard because I use it four to five times a day. Visitors often like the 7 day Metrocard if they plan to use public transportation a lot. If you don't know what to do then just put some money on a Metrocard and use it until it runs out and needs to be refilled.

Subways and buses are fixed fares no matter how far you go, so that's the cheapest way to get around the city. Unless, you're a tourist and want to see all of the sights.  Then, do one of the 48 hour "hop on, hop off" buses. Trust me. I know.

Ben and I usually take taxis when splitting the cost with other riders, it's late, we're exhausted, or I wore high heels that left me immobile by the end of the night. Sometimes, I slip in a few extra cab rides when my Carrie Bradshaw side surfaces and I have some extra cash. Consider it a guilty pleasure.

The interesting thing about taxis is how the costs really add up if taking them a lot.

If we hop into a taxi and go from our apartment in the Upper West Side to our friends' apartment in Queens exactly 11.6 miles away, then we will pay between a $24 and $30 (depending on traffic) cab fare.

If we jump into a taxi and go from our apartment in the Upper West Side to meet friends for brunch at The Stanton Social (which I highly recommend) in the Lower Side Side exactly 6.77 miles away, then we will pay a $25 cab fare.

If I slide into a taxi after happy hour with my colleagues on Fridays at the East End on the Upper East Side exactly 2.35 miles away, then I will pay a $10 cab fare.

I told you... it gets pricey. Still not sure? Then, check out the mother-of-all comparisons.

If Ben and I ride a bus from Chinatown in NYC to Cincinnati, Ohio exactly 637 or 724 miles away (depending on the route), then we only pay $30 for a one way ticket.

For the same price, we can go 7 miles to the Lower East Side or 637 miles to the Buckeye State.  Interesting. And, little mind boggling.

Now, you know what to do. When in the city and perhaps in doubt, depending on how fat your wallet is... you can flag down a taxi or navigate through the subways or... just foot it home (which is ultimately the cheapest form of transportation).

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Money Tree

Non-New Yorkers often ask how much stuff costs in the city. And, I have to admit, it's one of my favorite questions to answer. Partly, because it's interesting, but mainly because I need their sympathetic stares to remind me that the rest of America isn't as pricey.

Is the city really that much more expensive than your average American town? For most things, yes, it is.

Unless, of course, you want fresh flowers. Those are only a few bucks at the corner bodega. Carnations? Three dollars. Half a dozen roses? Five bucks. Lilies or some other exotic flower? No more than ten bones.

Manicures and pedicures also seem to be a little cheaper in the city. Nail salons sit on every block, and they usually charge around twenty dollars for a mani/pedi combo. We, northerners, apparently make good nail beds and painted toes a top priority.

But, you don't need fresh flowers and nice nails to live. Those aren't necessities. No, the stuff you really need is where they get you.

A small box of Honey Nut Cheerios? $5.99. Oil of Olay face wash? $6.99. Movie tickets? $13 each. Domestic beers? $6.00 a bottle. Scratchy toilet paper? $5.99 for 4 rolls.

I can't help but want some pity. I feel validated when non-New Yorkers agree that we pay too much. It's a good reality check. And, we, Manhattanites, need that every once in a while.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Out With The Old and In With The New

This year, we got new windows. New windows. NEW windows!

They upgraded our apartment and we didn't pay for it (yet). That never happens in New York. Never.

Our old windows were fine. Intact, not broken or cracked. They were probably 100 years old and repeatedly painted over with lead-based paint, but they technically worked. So, you can imagine my surprise when our building superintendent told me that we were getting new windows.

I didn't question it. I didn't ask for more information. I just said "awesome" and then fist pumped the air Jersey style.

After they installed the new windows, magical things began to happen. Incessant car honking stopped. Pedestrian voices deafened. I slept better. The windows actually opened and allowed fresh (as fresh as fresh gets in the city) air to enter. We could actually access the fire escape in case of an emergency.

The new windows took on a much greater meaning. They represented a well rested, quiet life with a potential escape route if necessary. They represented good housing karma. They, obviously, meant a lot to me.

Thank you, Housing Gods! Thank you very, very much.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Ads

I recently noticed how the ads on Itty Bitty have changed over the past five years. In the beginning, ads for Foot Fetishes Anonymous and unregulated Chinatown bus companies and under-the-table Craigslist jobs flooded the site. Not always the most high brow organizations or opportunities.

Now, I see ads for Ann Taylor Loft, Upper East Side Manhattan apartments, and chiropractors.

When did Itty Bitty become mainstream? When did Itty Bitty get so classy?

I don't know, and I guess that I don't care. I'm really just happy that the ads are slightly more legit and a little less unscrupulous.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cooking Woes

I have issues with my cooking. Ben clearly has issues with my cooking. And, now, even my friends have issues with my cooking. I am no Giada De Laurentiis.

I am part of a book club in NYC. Its members include about a dozen different young, intellectual ladies - obviously myself, coworkers, friends, and friends-of-friends. We meet once a month at someone's apartment to discuss a chosen book and any other topics of interest.

Whoever chooses the book of the month also chooses the theme of the meeting, like what food to make. For example, when we read "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern, everybody brought a dish they might find at a circus. People brought chicken fingers, carmel apples, finger foods, mini corn dogs, etc. It's fun when you befriend yourself with top-rate, first-class cooks.

Several months ago, Anna hosted a book club and the food theme centered around peanut butter. Everybody cooked a dish that somehow incorporated peanut butter. Yum, right?

Unfortunately, Ben was in Washington DC for business, so he couldn't act as my personal chef and make my dish like he usually did. I had to make it.  No bueno.

I scoured the internet for a good peanut butter dish. I landed on the Jif peanut butter website. Of course, Jif would recommend a peanut butter good recipe! It was like I went straight to the source, straight to the guru of all peanut butter infused entree creations.

I settled on making "Zesty Peanut Butter Salsa." A dish rated four out of five stars by Jif users and, most importantly, used only four ingredients with a prep time of 10 minutes.

I bought all of the ingredients at Whole Foods grocery store. Only the best ingredients for my fellow book clubbers! I read the list of ingredients over the phone to my mom as I walked home - peanut butter, salsa, cilantro, and apricot preserves. My mom said nothing for a minute and then cautiously asked, "You couldn't find any other recipes?" F-o-r-e-s-h-a-d-o-w-i-n-g.

I got home. Washed my hands like a good chef. Read and reread the directions several times to ensure 100% deliciousness.

I painstakingly measured the ingredients. Poured them into a bowl. Mixed them together.

While cooking, I ignored the weird shade of salmon my creation turned. I overlooked the chunks of cilantro and apricot that stuck together. I pretended not to smell the vomit stench that wafted from the bowl.

I assumed that my PB salsa just needed to marinate. It simply needed time. So, I snapped on the Tupperware lid and put it in the fridge, as instructed. I knew it would turn out okay in the morning.

Or not.

The next morning, I woke up late. Grabbed my PB salsa. Rushed to the subway. Finally, when seated on the subway, I peeled back the corner of the Tupperware lid to see my masterpiece.

Uh oh. The PB salsa still looked and smelled like vomit. Apparently, other commuters thought so too because I got some sour looks from the people beside me.

When I got to work, I frantically showed the girls, who agreed. My PB salsa masterpiece appeared to be a complete failure. But, (this is the part that tells you what good teachers they are) they still said "I tried my best" and "we'll eat it anyways because we know how hard you worked on it." One girl said to let it continue to marinate for the next 10 hours in the mini-fridge at school. Sadly, that still did not do the trick.

That night, at book club, no one ate my PB salsa. Instead, we threw it 10 floors down Anna's trash chute. It landed at the bottom with a loud thud. Anna prayed that the bag didn't bust and splatter on the chute walls. Her lease probably didn't cover pouring putrid substances down the trash chute.

So, for future reference, if it sounds iffy, it will probably taste iffy - not Jiffy.

* Actual photo of Zesty Peanut Butter Salsa from the Jif website. 
Do not be fooled by the attractive photo.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Forgotten Celebrity Sighting

Geez... so many celebrities, so little time. I forgot that we saw... wait for it, wait for it... Usher!

Ben and I, much like celebrities ourselves, moseyed out of the club for elite flyers at JFK (thanks to Ben's work trips). No overcrowded and loud terminals for us during the Thanksgiving rush! We did it right.

Instead, we enjoyed the perks of the club. We surfed the (free) internet in (free) overstuffed chairs while drinking and snacking on (free) food. We relaxed in solitude and used private restrooms. We breathed freshly circulated air as our phones charged in one of the many available outlets. Yes, the club and its amenities definitely helped us cope with the stress of traveling. Wink, wink.

We worked hard to hide our relaxed demeanors and protruding bellies as we sauntered out of club and to the terminal. We stood off to the side, not ready to join the masses quite yet. The upper crust must always have felt this way too, I thought. I browsed through a celebrity gossip magazine when Ben poked my arm.

"It's Usher!" he whispered.

I quickly hid the magazine under my arm. Couldn't let Usher catch me reading such sordid and trashy writing. Embarrassing.

I distinguished him among his entourage within seconds thanks to his faux hawk and dark sunglasses. He and his entourage strolled by and disappeared through a neighboring gate and onto a plane headed to Atlanta. I ran to the gate door and relished the last few seconds of second hand stardom.

Usher surprised me. Not only did he forgo hidden hallways and security to get through JFK, but he took his sweet time doing it. Usher knew best... "Ain't gotta rush... I just wanna take it nice and slow."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Another Celebrity Sighting

Well, time to add another celebrity sighting to the list... Russell Simmons!

My girlfriend invited me to her bachelorette party in East Hampton, which I eagerly accepted. We stayed at her future mother-in-law's four bedroom house nestled among big trees with a private pool in the backyard.  Where do I find these friends?!

One night, we ate dinner at the Georgica restaurant, which turned into a lounge/dance club later in the evening. As we ate, the waiters prepared the table across from us for a large and, obviously, wealthy party. They fluffed the flowers. Refolded some napkins. Brought out bottles of Cristal.

You know, the usual.

The party trickled in... mostly models, all young. Then, in waltzed the big dawg... Russell Simmons! I almost choked on my steak.

Later, in the VIP section of the lounge, Russell and his bevy of 20-year old models danced right beside us. Normally, the bouncers would bar me from VIP, but apparently the bachelorette party proved to be my ticket into the upper echelon of society that night. Our group danced right beside Russell. So close, in fact, his sweat flung onto me and my ponytail whipped one of the glamazons in his entourage. I used every awesome dance move in my arsenal in case he needed a short, blonde to employ in one of his multi-million dollar businesses.

Still have yet to hear from him.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cost Effective Traveling

Ben and I found a cheaper way to travel from NYC to home... the Sky Horse Chinatown bus company. We pay $30 during the week or $50 on the weekends to ride a charter bus from Chinatown in NYC to Cincinnati, Ohio. The trip takes 12 hours. We leave a "bus station" in Chinatown at 10pm and arrive at a Chinese restaurant/Perkins parking lot in Cincinnati at 10am.

Quite a deal.

The first time we took the bus, we prepared poorly for the long journey. But, the second time, we came ready. We learned from our mistakes.

We took shots of NyQuil. We wore comfy clothing. We brought neck pillows. We donned eye masks. We wore earbuds and listened to a "nap time" playlist. We munched on pre-packed apple slices.

I left no stone unturned, nothing to chance. We took the 12-hour journey very seriously.

The NyQuil made the journey smoother. It calmed my nerves. The bus drivers weren't necessarily bad drivers, just speedy. The swerving and the feeling of veering off cliffs often startled me awake. At times, I mistook us for extras in the movie Speed or The Fast and the Furious. Except, Keanu and Vin Diesel did not appear to slow down our bus.

Our bus made four stops during the 12-hour journey. The first stop happened at about 2am at a truck stop somewhere in Pennsylvania. We switched drivers there and took our only bathroom break.

The second stop happened at an abandoned hotel in West Virginia. The driver opened the bus door, yelled "West Virginia," booted riders, slammed the door shut, and then peeled out of the parking lot with (I imagine) a wicked grin on his face.

The third stop was on a side street in downtown Columbus, Ohio. We ran into a little problem on the way into Columbus because a marathon blocked most streets. The marathon made our driver very unhappy. He yelled a few choice words and drove down several streets to park elsewhere. People with suitcases ran from every direction and chased the bus, afraid of missing their one way to Cincinnati.

The fourth stop happened in Dayton, Ohio. We pulled into a strip mall parking lot where the driver yelled "Dayton." He again booted riders, slammed the door, and peeled out of the parking lot at a rather high speed.

We left skid marks all the way from New York to Cincinnati.

At each stop, the passengers looked uneasily at each other. The driver spoke with a thick accent, so the city names sounded a little different from how a native New Yorker or Buckeye might pronounce them. People constantly checked their cell phones and googled our locations to confirm our whereabouts.

As we left Dayton and drove onto the entrance ramp to the interstate, a guy seated in the middle of the bus yelled "STOP! I need off!" Ben and I looked at each other. Poor guy. Obviously, there was no going back.

Or was there?

The driver swerved to the right ON THE ENTRANCE RAMP and slammed on the brakes. He opened the door without a word. The guy jumped out of the bus, ran across a ditch, climbed over a fence, and then walked toward town.

I. Did. Not. Make. That. Up.

We arrived in Cincinnati an hour ahead of schedule... efficient or, perhaps, very scary. We relaxed at a Perkins restaurant and gave thanks for surviving the trip until our parents arrived to drive us home.

It's safe to say that if we survived the Chinatown bus trip twice, then we will survive anything.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Where To Go?

One of my greatest fears living in New York City has nothing to do with robberies, muggings, or even murders. It has more to do with john. Or, should I say, The John... as in the toilet.

We live in an old, old brownstone with some equally old plumbing. I fear that one day the plumbing will break and leave us without a useable toilet. Ben says I'm crazy.

Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not.

We only have one bathroom in our apartment. We don't know any of our neighbors. The nearest and only "free" public restroom (in Starbucks, of course) is one avenue and two blocks away. In an emergency, one avenue and two blocks is pretty far.

So, the person who said "The only thing to fear is fear itself" obviously never lived in New York and always had the pleasure of having multiple johns in his home.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Swanky Pool Time

On Wednesday, my girlfriend invited me to the pool at the Thompson Hotel, a swanky hotel in the Lower East Side. Only hotel guests or celebrities were allowed at the pool, but my girlfriend knew an employee at the hotel that let us in to enjoy the amenities. Lucky us.

I typed Thompson Hotel into my iPhone and it took me to a different hotel in another part of town. At first, I didn't realize the mistake. I just knew to walk up to the doorman and ask for Christian, the guy who would lead me to the pool.

"Are you Christian?" I asked the doorman.

He tilted his head and cocked his eyebrow.

"Um... excuse me," he said.

"Are. You. Christian?" I asked again.

"I, well..." he stammered.

By this point, I stood very confused.

He continued, "I'm Catholic. That counts as Christian, right?"

"Oh!" I exclaimed. "I mean, is your name Christian? Not your religious affiliation!"

I finally made it to the right place 
and enjoyed this view for the next couple of hours. 
Pretty, pretty nice.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Locked In

My girlfriend, Jennifer, vacationed in NYC and stayed with me for a couple of days during the week while Ben was in Washington DC for work. I planned to leave early for work on her last morning in city. The night before Jennifer left, I showed her how the automatic door lock worked so that she would not need a key.

I opened the door, flipped the switch, and let the door slam shut.

"Easy!" I exclaimed.

"Easy," repeated Jennifer.

I reminded her that once she shut the door from the outside she would not be able to get back inside the apartment. So, if she forgot anything, I would mail it.

Everything seemed fine and dandy.

I woke up early the next morning. Got ready for work. Tiptoed to the door so I wouldn't wake Jennifer sleeping on the air mattress in the living room. Grabbed the door handle and tugged. Tugged again. Tugged a little harder. Tugged with all of my might. Tugged with both hands on the knob and one leg on the wall.

The door did not budge.

Jennifer, awake by now, laughed. I panicked. I called Ben who vaguely recalled that the automatic lock was broken. Not only does it lock people out, but also locks people in!

Jennifer laughed again, but this time a little panic crept into her voice.

I called our building superintendent to help, but he had a doctor's appointment in Brooklyn and would not be in our building until after 10am. What?!?! Work would be half over AND Jennifer would miss her flight. Uh oh.

I then emailed my principal and told her that I would be late for work because I was locked in my apartment. At first I worried that she would think I made up the story, but the whole situation was so absurd that I knew she would believe me. And, she did. She mainly worried about our safety, which I said was no big deal. If needed, we could climb onto the fifth story fire escape and shimmy down to the ground. In fact, I assumed that was how Jennifer would have to leave to get to the airport on time.

A few minutes later, our super called back and called his brother who came an hour and a half later to unlock the door from the outside. I could not thank him enough. He just shook his head.

We survived. Crisis averted. Mostly.

Monday, July 23, 2012

16 Again

The other day, my girlfriend drove four of us in a car to our monthly book club meeting. A car! Ah, the luxury. A beautiful, quiet, clean, climate controlled, uncrowded car!

Nobody pushed me when I opened the door. Nobody crowded me. I had a good 12 inches of buffer space all around me. Honks, street noise, and people yelling were inaudible. The temperature stayed below 100 degrees. The commute turned easy, almost effortless.

Excuse me while I sit back I relish the memory.


I feel 16 years old again whenever I ride around the city in a car. It's like one of us just got her license and her parents let us borrow their wheels for a night of freedom. A friend with a car is a rare find in the city. A true gem.

Thank you to my friends who have let me sink into their backseats and join them for the ride.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Watch Out Below!

Earlier in the summer, I waited at the crosstown bus stop in the early morning with a dozen other New Yorkers on their way to work. Everyone stood quietly and read their papers or sipped coffee or closed their eyes for those last few minutes of solitude. The only sounds belonged to cars driving by and honking.

Suddenly, a woman screamed and everyone jerked their gazes in her direction. I couldn't see what made her scream, but everyone started to hop around... something... moved... weaved around feet and bags...

Then a huge and extremely disoriented (or brave) rat escaped the crowd and commotion and ran by me. Pretty sure he winked and flashed a thumbs up as he sped down the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, the lady a few feet away wearing earbuds and listening to music missed the excitement and the rat ran right over her feet. It literally ran across the top of her sneakers. She shrieked and we looked on, horrified.

My only thought... groooooooss.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Picnic in the Park

On Monday night, Ben and I joined friends on the Great Lawn in Central Park for a free concert by the New York Philharmonic. As expected, people crowded into every available space and corner with picnic baskets full of food and drinks. The ground quickly became a patchwork quilt of tarps, blankets, and beach towels.

For awhile, the five of us crowded into a pretty tight space. Our blanket was definitely not spread to its full capacity. Only two could stretch their legs at a time and poor Reed sat with his legs at an odd angle for the first half of the show, but he never complained. Good sport.

During the second half of the show, a huge group in front of us moved and left a large open spot. We pounced on their spot and stretched our blanket to its full queen size. We felt like royalty.

Real estate in New York is hard to come by whether you're looking for an apartment, seat on the subway, or a spot of grass in Central Park.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jimmy McMillan Knows

Sadly, the Gap store on 86th and Broadway closed. Before they closed the doors forever, I bought one last item and cried a single tear for the store that had served me for so long. Where would I get my wardrobe staples now? The Gap on 86th and Broadway was within walking distance.

As the cashier put my new purchase in a bag, I casually asked why the store was closing. He shrugged his shoulders and replied, "They raised the rent so Gap didn't resign the lease." I gasped.

They raised the rent. Expected. They raised the rent so much that even the Gap can't afford to stay?!?! Shocking.

Jimmy McMillan, a beloved NY politician from The Rent Is Too Damn High party (Republican according to Wikipedia), is right... it's time to get out of the city because "the rent is too damn high!"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hot Times

The other day, a handful of fire trucks parked outside our building with their lights flashing as a dozen firemen searched our building for a "gas leak." Apparently, one of the residents in our building smelled gas and called 911. Fortunately, the firemen figured out that our building superintendent had used a lot of WD-40 on all of the third floor door hinges earlier in the day and that caused the smell.

Once I knew we were out of danger, I returned to lounging on the couch and reading a magazine until Ben got home from work. About five minutes later, I heard heavy footsteps running down the hall. Our apartment door swung open and Ben burst into the apartment, frantically scanning the room until his eyes settled on me.

"Whoa," I said. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Ben replied, out of breath. "I saw all of the fire trucks and got really worried... I thought you tried to cook dinner again."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Latest Celebrity Sightings

People love to ask if I've seen any famous people. Below is a rundown of the celebs I've seen randomly in the past couple of months around the city.

1) Zoe Saldana

Ahhh... so much to say about her. She is a film actress and has been in movies like Avatar and Center Stage. We saw her at The Spotted Pig restaurant in the West Village. She sat at the bar with a friend while we waited (unsuccessfully) for a table. She was so beautiful that Ben, my girlfriend, and I couldn't stop gawking. No one else in our party seemed to care, but it's all we could talk about for the next 20 minutes, hours, and maybe days. I made mental notes to choose a healthy entree for dinner, start working out that night, and get Botox.

2) Countess LuAnn de Lesseps

She is from the Real Housewives of New York City television show. We saw her at a fundraiser in the Lower East Side. I recognized the countess immediately and almost dropped my mojito. I tried not to stare, but couldn't help it. The countess sashayed around the room (sans cameras) obviously looking for someone... sadly, it wasn't me. She exited the room and my girlfriend and I looked at each other, bummed that she didn't perform her hit song "Money Can't Buy You Class."

3) Richard Belzer

He is from the Law & Order: SVU television series. We saw him at one of the best places to relax and hang with friends, the Boat Basin restaurant in Riverside park along the Hudson River. He happened to walk by our table and my girlfriend recognized him.

4) Mario Cantone

He is an actor and played one of Charlotte York's best friends on the Sex and the City television series. We saw him in the Chelsea Market (a great place to visit when needing respite indoors). 

 5) Richard Sommer

He is an actor on the television series called Mad Men.  We happened to walk past him in Chelsea after having brunch with friends. I think he had just had brunch with friends too. See, everyone, US Weekly is right... celebrities are "just like us."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ireland: Last Night

Here is the very last post about our European vacation... one year and many, many posts later. My grandpa once asked, "When will it be over? It feels... interminable." Now, grandpa, it's over now. I promise.

We left Spain and spent the last night of our month long European adventure in Dublin, Ireland. Dublin did not disappoint. It sure packed a punch for such a small city.

We enjoyed the evening walking through the downtown and moseying into restaurants and pubs, most of them in buildings older than our country. We met locals and tourists, including a couple of footballers and an Elvis impersonator who worked at the local casino. Elvis invited Ben and I to gamble for free at his casino, but I declined for the both of us despite the dollar signs that flashed in Ben's eyes. No need to end a perfect vacation losing money in a windowless building with the King of Rock 'n Roll. That wasn't how I envisioned the end of our journey.

The last place we ventured into for the evening had a great classic rock band that played a mixture of American and Irish music. We made some new friends while singing American hits at the top of our lungs, readying ourselves for the trip home.

The band at its best.

Representing the stars and stripes among the locals.

Walking through downtown.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spain: Beach Bunnies

The beaches in Barcelona rocked for many reasons, but mostly because "food vendors" (I use that term loosely) walked by sunbathers and sold big pieces of real coconuts, which I excitedly bought. Surprisingly, real coconuts taste completely different from the coconut shavings I usually eat... those found in the gooey richness of Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars. The coconuts in Barcelona tasted nutty, kind of like almonds.

I couldn't get enough.

I don't think it's too late to start this trend at Long Beach on Long Island...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spain: Jennifer vs. Itty Bitty

Our hotel sat pretty close to the famous La Seu cathedral in Barcelona. This cathedral experience was like most of my European cathedral experiences... shaming. Except, this time, I refused to spend more money on scarves to cover my "scandalous" attire.

Instead, I munched on two Nutella croissants and surveyed the exterior while Ben marveled at the interior. Ben took plenty of pictures and that worked fine for me. Next time, I'll pack something a little more appropriate.

What was I thinking showing my knees and shoulders? Cover yourself!

Inside the La Seu.

Interestingly enough, I saw a picture online of Jennifer Aniston and her boyfriend on a tour of the Vatican several weeks ago. I immediately wagged my finger at Jennifer's outfit. Her short dress definitely raised a few holy brows, right? Amazingly, or by divine intervention, no. She passed inspection and got inside the most holy city on Earth wearing the dress below.  

Somebody got off a little easy...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Spain: Similarities

We loved Barcelona so much because it reminded us of New York, but much cleaner with more Nutella and better beaches. People and energy burst from the city. Curvy side streets wound around old buildings and unique, little shops. We walked or took public transportation everywhere. Rows of restaurants served delicious food into the wee hours of the night. Late nights out happened every night, not just on weekends. And, the diversity of people and languages almost matched the Big Apple's.

Barcelona really fit our style.

Tourists and locals loved La Rambla Street.

I loved the less populated side streets with tiny shops.

Dinner at 10pm seemed the norm.

We joined revelers every night in the streets until the late night/early morning hours
(depending on your point of view).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spain: Sleepy Senorita

I once mentioned that vacation makes me super relaxed and sleepy. Even an energetic city like Barcelona was no exception. My extremely chilled state did not always make for the best vacation partner. Poor Ben. He did his best with me.

I slept anywhere - on buses, on trains, in cars, in chairs... and, in this case, on a bench in a park outside the Sagrada Familia church. I promised Ben that we would tour the church and take pictures and do one hundred more touristy things before the afternoon ended if I got just 15 (which, of course, turned into 30) minutes of nap time.

Thankfully, he said yes.

The Sagrada Familia Cathedral

 Conked out from livin' la vida loca.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spain: Picture Dilemma

The hardest part about traveling as a couple was taking pictures. Ben and I took very few pictures together on our trip. It annoyed me to constantly stop random people in the street and ask them to take our picture. Annoyed me, annoyed them.

If I asked someone to take our photo, then I also had to explain how the camera worked.

"You push here. No, HERE.  Right, then focus with this little button. Yup, goes back and forth.  Uh-uh.  Then, again, just push this... and, there you go, got it."

Ben and I often positioned ourselves in our best Miss America poses and held them for an awkwardly long time before our photographer shrugged his or her shoulders and pointed to the camera like "What's up with thing? It's not working. What do I do again?"

We'd get our camera back to see the "amazing" photo and discover that our heads had been chopped off or covered by a dark shadow or cut out of the frame. Oh vey. The photoshopping required to fix those problems.

Probably, my biggest fear, though, was not a bad photo. Rather, I feared someone would steal our camera. I always held my breath as I posed, just waiting for our "photographer" to turn and run with our camera. Then, like Clark and Ellen Griswold on National Lampoon's European Vacation, our photos would be splashed across billboards all over Europe, or even worse... the Internet.

So, without further ado... one of our few couples shots with Barcelona in the background.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spain: Barcelona Beginnings

Ben and I stepped off the boat and onto Spanish soil. We had made it! The last major leg of our European journey.

We surveyed the area and smiled... paradise. Palm trees, cathedrals, beaches, young people - it exuded lots of fun with minimal learning. My kind of place.

We hopped in a cab and headed to our hotel. The cab driver didn't speak English. We didn't speak (much) Spanish. But, with just the right nonverbal cues, we figured out everything.

We arrived at our hotel, which sat in the Gothic Quarter, a super cool and trendy area full of restaurants and shops. Luckily, our hotel was also across the street from a small restaurant that specialized in desserts covered, coated, filled, and stuffed with Nutella. Yummy. I took one look at that restaurant and then dug through my bag for all skirts with elastic waistbands.

We dropped our bags off and did what we always do on our first day in a new city... jumped on an open top tour bus. Got to familiarize ourselves with the area. Find places to go. (Or, in my case, get a little shuteye).

Very happy in a nice and clean hotel room...

View of Barcelona from the top of the bus.

View of Barcelona from the top of the bus.

Ride on cowboy!

Palm trees! Paradise! Great sight from the top of the bus.

 Ben at the Olympic stadium.