Thursday, August 7, 2014

Eggs, Sunnyside Up

Actually, I don't really care for eggs. It's a love/hate relationship I have there. I mean, sometimes I'm like "mmmm, eggs. Protein." And I tried an egg baked with an avocado this summer and it was tasty. But most days, I think "ew, eggs. Rubbery and also runny and simultaneously flavorless." Does anyone else feel this way about eggs??

I digress. Sunnyside is the neighborhood I will be moving to in 9 days, so I find it fitting I mention/honor eggs in some way - maybe we'll paint the walls eggplant...?
Sunnyside is a neighborhood in Queens, minutes from Midtown Manhattan, and I am thrilled that we got approved for the apartment. It's in a pre-war building, with a washer/dryer and dishwasher (Southern friends, that is not common here. I know, you can all weep over the last year spent schlepping laundry around and scrounging quarters for laundry like lunch money).

So what have I been up to all summer?

Livin' large in Harlem. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Manhattan, yet the temporal sense of the move permeated most of my time here. I have explored the neighborhood a little, visited the local park and enjoyed the 3 train. Being at the last stop on the train means always having a seat, and waiting in an air-conditioned car and not in a hot, smelly train station. So that's a win-win.  I have survived most of the summer without A/C. No easy feat, as I love crisp fall days and inches, nay, feet of snow on the ground.

I enjoyed visits from several friends. Andrea in June, Amanda B. in early July and Rachel in late July. I got to catch up, eat good food and play the tourist with these friends, which is fun for me, as often I get caught up in working and going about life that I forget I live in a city teeming with life and activities.

I went to Shakespeare in the Park (a free event) TWICE this summer and saw Much Ado About Nothing. Watching the sun set behind the Beldevere Castle while sipping iced coffee and watching Shakespeare in Central Park is a wonderful experience.

I have a new nanny job - I know, I can't stay away from the babies. The little girl is 4 months old, and has a full head of curls - I am excited to have a baby best friend in the city. Because as we all know, I have been lacking for one ;)

Also, I have been working as an editorial assistant for a personal stylist based in Brooklyn. It has been a joy to learn from her about fashion and help a business owner in the city. Here's my shameless plug - follow hilaryrushford on Instagram. You won't regret it. If you've seen any of my "stylemejuly" photo challenges, they were all inspired by her and Dean Street Society. Hilary is an amazing stylist and really allows women to grow and develop their own sense of style. 

I celebrated my birthday in June at Mosaic Astoria and enjoyed getting together with my friends for drinks and conversation.
I spent a few days in Massachusetts with my family.
Though it took me nine months, I finally acquired my New York Public Library card. So it's official ;) 
My summer soundtrack has been comprised of Sharon Van Etten and War on Drugs.
My one year New York-versary is in 3 weeks. That reflection will be a post requiring more energy than I have now. 

Summer has been very busy. On a daily basis I've felt as though the heat and sunny weather have mostly drained me of all energy and activity. Yet upon this reflection, perhaps I couldn't see the accomplishments for the stress. Yesterday evening as my friend Margaret and I walked through the West Village she unknowingly made fun of me; her comment "I don't like when people say, 'oh, I can't wait for fall and pumpkin spice lattes,'  because to me it only means winter is coming." I laughed, because I had just noted a leaf on the pavement and thought "oooh, fall!" I can't wait for crisp mornings, cool breezes, the ability to wear scarves and boots and not sweat with every step. To crunch the stray leaves on the sidewalk and see the vibrancy of colors in this drab concrete jungle.
I have some friends coming to visit in October. Fall is the very best season to come. So please, feel free to book your plane ticket right now!

And the grand finale of my summer summation: Crazy Customer Compilations.

1. No, m'am, you may not come behind the registers/counter. My personal space...

2.  A gentleman tried to pass off counterfeit bills. When the pen turned them black, he got angry because we had "messed up his money" and now he couldn't use them. Good grief.

3. I had another magnet purchase of over $200. What is going on in the magnet community that they are being purchased with such fervor?

4. A co-worker of mine found a buggy zipped up in one of our garment closets. I literally don't even know (or really want to). That buggy now sits in the Goodwill donation pile.









Saturday, May 31, 2014

Three boroughs in 9 months

I somewhat feel as though I'm on The Amazing Race. I didn't make it my goal to live in as many boroughs as possible, but hey, when life throws you curve balls, dodge them so you don't get hit in the face.
New York has thrown me oh so many curve balls in less than a year. From not being able to find a nanny job, several job rejections, getting fired, having bed bugs and now a crazy, frantic summer move, I have become flexible in ways I never imagined.

Two weeks ago my friend Neesha mentioned that her roommate would be gone for the summer. And her room could be mine for 3 months. And I would save $200 a month in rent. And I'd be living in Manhattan. Easier commute, close to an express train, Starbucks a 5-minute walk... I'd be crazy to say no!
I like my job, but the problem with retail is the hours are never guaranteed, so my income fluctuates. The ability to save $600 on housing over the summer is crucial right now.
I also have a friend moving to the city, so we've discussed looking to live together with some other girls in the fall - in Queens. If that happens, then I will officially have lived in every borough in less than a year. What's that you say? Staten Island? pssssh. That's not a part of this equation ; -)

My friend Elisabeth from Raleigh was up here last weekend for her birthday with her friend, and we got to have dinner and walk around midtown for a couple of hours. It's always so good to have friends come into NYC.

I have a friend from college (we realized we've been friends for TEN years!) coming to the city to visit on Thursday and I am excited to visit with her.

And now for the part  you've all been waiting for: CRAZY CUSTOMERS ROUND 3

1. A lady was shopping for shoe boxes for her "251 pairs of shoes" that each cost $800 because she has "strangely sized feet." I showed her the options we had, showing her a shoe drawer that is $8.99. You know, if the woman has spent over $200,000 on her shoes, I assumed buying 251 boxes at $8.99 would be nothing. "Too expensive" she says. So I show her our boxes that are $1.89. She wants 20, but when I hand her our box of 20, it's "too heavy to carry." I introduce our delivery service, for $25. "Honey," she says, "I didn't make $60 million by wasting it on stupid crap." Hmmm. Okay. So she proceeded to buy 5 of our boxes at $1.89.
Then she gave me the best lecture I've ever received from a customer. After telling me I was way too pretty and smart to be working where I am (RUDE!) and I should be more ambitious (RUDE!) and I should sell cars because that's where the money is (DEBATABLE, and I don't want to sell cars) she THEN goes on a tirade about the government and how they're keeping us poor, her divorce, her housekeeper and interior decorator and the fleet of cabs she owns. This all happened in a 5 minute conversation, then $60 million woman spent her $10 and left. Pathological liar? Or true multi-millionaire in disguise? Honestly, in Manhattan there is no telling...


2. I unknowingly returned merchandise from a customer that had bedbugs in them. It wasn't discovered until they were taken to the stock room to be discarded. Ewww. Seriously, what was she thinking? Having lived through the trauma that I have, I get chills just writing this.

3. Two nights in a row customers stayed in the store until 9:40 p.m. We close at 9. Please, please as a consumer, respect those who work in retail. Imagine you get off at 5 pm, you have plans, you've had a long day, but all of a sudden, at 4:30 your boss comes up to your desk and starts talking to you. He has nowhere else to be and no concern for the fact that he's holding you up. When he finally walks away at 5:45 you now have to finish up your last 30 minutes of emails and shut off your computer and gather your items. You are now leaving at 6:15. It's rude. If you do this, I forgive you. But stop :)

4. I was looking for an order for a customer and I couldn't pronounce her last name. I asked her if she would say it for me and she said "no" with a small smirk. I said, "oh, I know, people often can't pronounce my name, but I'm sure I'll be able to say it once you tell me" and she said "you're not going to get it right. No!" and glared at me. Okay... sensitive subject...?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Like a favorite summer dress...

...that's what coming back to my blog after two months away is like. It's not that I forgot about my favorite summer dress, but it's just been too cold to wear it. So I put it away, knowing I'd get back to it when the earth warmed up and the sun started to shine again. My blog has been sitting on the shelf for a while, because not only did I go on vacation for almost three weeks, but I've been settling into life here. So let me fill you in on the last few weeks of winter, and re-introduce you to my favorite dress... I mean, blog.


- I survived the curse of the city. As the long winter months stretched endlessly on into what felt like Narnia "always winter and never Christmas" I discovered something even more terrifying than the barren, frozen concrete. Bed bugs. These creatures are the bane of the earth, and I cannot believe that I had them. Sure, I'd heard tales, but they were obscure, hazy, stories that belonged more in a sci-fi novel, not actual reality. I had no real understanding of what they were or how they were to be avoided. To say they are like the Black Death is a gross overstatement, but in the moment it definitely felt like I had some sort of shameful disease, with itchy bites, in which I was worthy of quarantine and sympathy looks from those who knew (and very few knew, as they are the curse of the city, and just saying it too loudly causes people to run in terror and not touch you or enter your home. So maybe comparing them to the Black Death isn't a massive overstatement).
The process of getting rid of these heinous bugs is extensive and expensive. While our landlord paid for the extermination, we had to bear the burden of paying for everything else. Everything had to be laundered - everything. Towels, sheets, clothing, rugs, the shower curtain. And we have to pay for our laundry here. That alone cost me almost $200, to send out my laundry and pay for it to be washed and dried. Then everything had to be put into plastic bags and sealed shut - pictures came off the walls, books came off the shelves - our apartment was a wasteland. We had to live like this for 2 weeks. But I am happy to announce that we have been bed-bug free now for 2 1/2 months. And I have turned into a paranoid, crazy person. There is no way to avoid them and there is no way to determine from whence they came. Ergo, stepping into the street and onto the train, and into stores each day is a scare. I am just hoping bed bugs are like lightning - and never strike the same place twice...

-I went to NC for 18 days. It was a wonderful visit to my sweet home and I was able to celebrate Jillian's beautiful wedding with close friends. I held babies, kissed them, caught up with friends over coffee and dinner and laughed with cherished friends. I miss them all so much, but going back was surprisingly good closure for me. Many of my friends are moving out of the area, getting married, and are starting families. Our last "hoorah!" was held in the house I lived in for over 2 years with incredible women - they are all moving to different places and now I don't know who will take over that lease. I left Raleigh with closure, love and treasured memories, and with renewed determination to make NYC home. Life never goes backwards, and I am thankful to be here.

-I have not been diligent with my compilation of crazy customer stories lately. I only have one from the last week - I asked a customer (50's-ish) for her email address. She looked at me and asked "what's email?" Now, I realize she wasn't born yesterday (perhaps she thinks I was with that ridiculous tale). But c'mon. Come up with a more convincing lie. Or at least say - "no thanks!"

-I've been obsessed with St. Vincent and David Byrne's Love This Giant as of late.

-My friend Kelcie's mom and her friend came into the city for a visit, so I got to spend some time with them doing "touristy" things that I haven't had a chance to do before. We rented boats in Central Park and yes, I rowed and yes, I was horrible at it. It was really fun, and only $10 for an hour, so not a bad deal. We also went to the Met (I loooove museums, but hadn't had a chance to go to the Met yet. We perused just a small section of the museum and I am determined to make it a day trip in the near future).

-Summer is coming. I went out for a drink with my friend Margaret the other night and as we walked through Brooklyn, I commented on the excitement summer brings to the city. The restaurants open up their full-length windows and doors, tables and chairs spill onto the sidewalk, heat rises from the concrete and the buzz of conversation flows through the city into the warm, humid summer's night air. Summer is my least favorite season, but living in a place where it's May and only 60 does make me crave the warm, humid nights. Let's see how I feel come July!

-I miss being able to see the stars here. I hadn't realized until I went back home just how much I had missed my favorite activity - stargazing.

Well, I hope like the dress I've missed, you have enjoyed coming back to my blog. I promise I'll have some crazy customer stories for you soon!





Monday, March 3, 2014

345 and Other Tales

3:45
I don't like getting out of bed before 8 a.m. It seems inhumane. Yet lately I have been forced into some early morning shifts with my retail job. That included being at work at 5 a.m. for a store campaign set up. I have mentioned previously how horrible the train is that I live near, so I opt for taking a bus to another train when I have to be at work before 7 a.m. The bus stops right outside of my apartment building, so it's convenient and means I don't have to walk the dark pre-dawn streets to the train. The only catch? At that time of day, the bus only runs every hour (ish). Meaning that on the morning I was due to be at work at 5 a.m. I could catch the 2:45 a.m. bus or the 4:34 a.m. bus (which would make me late). After much deliberation, I decided to have a cab pick me up and drive me to the 4 express train. I called at 3:30 and scheduled a car to get me at 3:45. The website said they took credit cards, so I was pleased with this solution, and thought myself to be very clever. Some relevant information prior to this sleepy stupor of 3:30:

1. A co-worker advised placing important things (ID, Metrocard, debit card) in a separate wallet, and along with my cell phone burying them in my coat pocket. If a mugging occurs and my purse is stolen, nothing of great value is lost. So the night prior I transferred these items into my coat pocket.

2. My debit card was cancelled back in December due to the Target hacks, and the issuance of the new one took a while. Eventually the card arrived, but the PIN was a few days behind. It had been okay, because I was using the card as a credit card, so I didn't concern myself with not having the PIN.

3. I really, really don't like carrying cash, in general and especially here (fear of mugging?) and so the extent of my cash is quarters for laundry.

I hopped into the warm car at 3:45, and we had gone about a half a mile when I saw that the car didn't have a card reader like a typical cab. When I asked the driver, he slammed on the brakes in the middle of the road and yelled "no cash, no good!" Then he proceeded to drive me to different bodegas in order to withdraw cash. Not only was everything closed at that time of the night, but I tried to explain to him that I didn't have a PIN and wouldn't be able to pull out cash. He insisted that I would. At the third store he stopped by, I was on the verge of tears. It was cold, snow lined the streets, it was dark and I honestly didn't even know where I was or how far away from the train. I walked into the store, attempted to withdraw money from the ATM and when I couldn't I begged the shop clerk to let me buy something and get cash back- which wouldn't work without a PIN. I was running through all the options in my head on how to get to the train and then work on time, when the guy behind the counter very kindly pulled the cab fare out of his pocket and gave it to me. I was blown away by his kindness. I couldn't believe that someone who didn't know me would help me out at such a time of need. I thanked him profusely and got back in the cab, to resume the lecture from the driver regarding their "cash only" policy (which I had tuned out after the first 5 times he said it). He finally dropped me off at the train, and I was running to make it on time. I ran into the terminal, reached into my pocket... and discovered that I had left my Metrocard at home. In my wallet. On my table. I decided I would just buy another one, but there were no machines or attendants at this specific terminal (which makes no sense), but I heard the announcement that the train would arrive in one minute. I panicked. Now I'm not proud of what happened next, but dear friends, it happened. I jumped the turnstile*. I jumped it and I ran up the stairs and skidded onto the train. I made it by 4:40, but was significantly traumatized by my morning. Bonus - all the adrenaline that kicked in before work allowed me to work a full 8 hours without feeling sleepy!

*I was later informed by a friend that the fine for jumping a turnstile is $250! Yikes.

Other Tales
Trotting down the street for a 6 a.m. shift, I headed to the G train at 5 a.m. I was a block from the station when a black, unmarked car slowed to a halt on the road. I was nervous, quickened my pace on the deserted streets and tried to ignore the slow roll down of the window. A man hollered "hey, need a ride?" To which I yelled  "NOOOO!" and ran away. This kick-started my decision to start taking the bus that early in the morning. I can wait for it in the locked doorway of my apartment building, even though it means leaving 30 minutes earlier.

If my co-worker Steve and I get off at the same time, we both commute together on the E to the G. We did get off at the same time, but he told me not to wait for him as he was finishing up some things at work. So I decided to ride with another co-worker who was also leaving the store. An alternate route for me is the 6-L-G, so I decided I'd just ride the 6 down with Daniel. I got off at Union Square to make my L connection - and found the L train entrance taped off. This was unfortunate, but if I rode the 6 back up to Grand Central, I could find the 7 and then get the G. I backtracked on the 6 and hopped off. As I walked to the 7 train I saw the poster - NO 7 TRAINS RUNNING MARCH 1 & 2. Seriously?? The last option left? To ride the 6 train back up to 51st street (where I get off for work) and take my usual E-G route. This was approximately an hour and a half after I had left the store. I navigated the tunnels and as I entered the terminal for the E train, who should I see standing there? Steve. Of course, why wouldn't I? He just shook his head at my ridiculous story. This is my life. Hence this blog and my future plans to write a book...

This morning I was waiting for my 4:34 bus in the freezing snow and wind that blew my umbrella inside out. I was huddled in my apartment doorway, and saw a man also waiting. After 30 minutes, with the 5 a.m. mark approaching, no bus came. I walked over the man and we started to complain about the wait. Finally he said - "I am going to get a cab. You are welcome to share it with me." His name is Jose, and he lives across the street, so I decided this was a good idea. Also, he lent me his glove, because I lost one of mine, AND he insisted on paying the fare and saw me safely off to the 4 train. Yet another act of kindness.

I had dream the other night regarding having my little Corolla in the city. I dreamed that it arrived when I needed it to, I could drive to my destination and then it would just disappear. Because realistically, driving in this city, trying to find parking and paying for insurance would probably end up being more stressful than public transportation. So as it stands, I will keep compiling my crazy commuting stories for your enjoyment.

Also my blog just hit the 3,000 reader mark. Thanks everyone for reading and sharing! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

An ode to public transit

An open letter to the MTA,

I have a story to convey.
Due to the train that I live near, I am in constant fear.
The closest to train to me is the G.
How do I hate thee? Let me list the ways:

1. The G train follows no schedule. It shows up when it wants to. Which means I am often late, despite how well I have planned my travel and allowed time for in my schedule.
2. The G train has been nicknamed the "ghost" train, for it often does not appear. At all*.
3. G train, when you are late (by 5 minutes) or early (by 7 minutes) it does, in fact effect my connecting train. Which was on time. Now I have to wait for the next one. Punctuality matters.
4. And by the way, G train, you're awkward looking. Why are you so much shorter than all the other trains?
6. Oh hateful G train, when you only run every 8-10 minutes during morning rush hour, people get antsy. And angry. We pack into cars and squish other humans because we cannot afford to wait for the next train. Just run more frequently. Like every 4-5 minutes.
5. MTA. You cannot simply stop running a line for "construction" and give no notice prior to my train arriving for its connection. This is panic-inducing and often requires backtracking in order to get the correct line. Which again, makes me late.
6. MTA, perhaps providing better service on the G train would make people hate you less.
7. MTA, I also propose extending train service from a better line to my neighborhood. Like the 4. Or the A/C. I have never been angry at these train lines.

Thank you for your consideration,

A spoiled girl from the suburbs who used to hate driving more than anchovies and now misses the freedom and flexibility of it more than she ever would have imagined.

*Now I have true story that I would like to share.
On Thursday, after dinner with a friend, I left Soho and had to take the F train to connect to the G to get home in Brooklyn. All seemed to be going well. Until one station before the one where I had to connect, the train just stopped in the station. Extensive delays were announced. But I did not know where I was nor how to get to the G. So I waited. And waited. Until again, extensive delays were announced. Around 10:47 I finally got off the train, connected to the A, went back a station and waited for the G. Which was scheduled to come at 10:55. 11:02 came and went. The G train did not. 11:15 was the second scheduled train going to Court Square. No train. No announcement. I approached a couple nearby and asked if they knew what was happening. We all griped and complained about the G (whew, I'm not alone in thinking the G train is horrid) and how late we constantly are because of the inconsistency of it. 11:29 was the next scheduled time of arrival. No train. By now I was just so tired. So this couple and I decided to cab share home, as they live near me.
I have never cab shared with strangers before, and it was delightful. If they had not been there, I wouldn't have done it- I'm far too stubborn and cheap to spend money. We exited the frigid tunnel onto the dirty, snow-lined streets and found a green cab (or borough taxi, as they're calling them) and gave the cabbie directions. He drove like a maniac, and turned up 80's pop music to a deafening level. The couple I shared with just laughed along with me. It was like a scene from a sitcom. My portion of that cab cost me over $12 and I didn't get home until midnight; but I suppose it was worth it to not have to walk home on the icy streets. I may still be waiting for the G train. Who knows?

I am compiling a list of ways to make commuting a less stress-inducing ordeal in my life.  Here is what I have thus far:

1.

That's it. I have heard this is normal NYC anxiety. It never ends.... nooooo!

Ways to survive the necessary evil of public transit:

1. Use the restroom before you get on the train. Always. You never know which trip to the bathroom could be your last. If the train gets stuck, you're done for.
2. Get lost in a good book. Seriously, you'll be commuting for the next 3 hours-10 years.
3. Always have snacks. For yourself and the child next to you that is crying.
4. Headphones, a rich playlist and a fully charged phone battery.
5. If all else fails, you can sleep on the train. Everyone else does. They've probably been trapped longer than you have.







Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pivot

It was a cold, dark and rainy day. The kind of rain that should have been snow, but instead just fell in cold torrents through the bare winter trees and onto the concrete below. It was on this rainy day, that good news came to some furniture-less roommates in Brooklyn. A couch became available - for free. The couple that was trying to sell it had been unable to, and had to move out by that day. When one of the roommates contacted them, they said if it could be taken away today, it was free.
Free! A couch that was over $500. We're poor and personally, I'm a big fan of "free" and finding furniture that was trashed (case in point -the time we went dumpster diving at a Pier One in Raleigh and I recovered some gems. Watch Portlandia, "Dumpster Diving" for an exaggerated look at my talents*).
Only one thing stood in our way. How does one transport a couch in a city where one does not have a vehicle? My roommate Meg had a plan. She rented a cargo van - $19.99 for 4 hours plus the cost of gas.
We met after dark (the sun sets at 4:30, guys, this was no midnight rendez-vous) at the apartment complex where we were to pick up the couch. And as the man who owned it helped Meg carry it outside, I realized how heavy this couch was. And how many flights of stairs our own walk-up contained (50, remember?). The rain had eased slightly as Meg maneuvered the cargo van through the streets of Brooklyn, double parked, and we hurriedly ushered the couch into the lobby of our building and then parked the van correctly. Then came the hard part. I was thinking we could leave the couch in the lobby, maybe, I don't know, forever. And just come downstairs whenever we wanted to use it. That, or pull it up a flight of stairs at a time, rest for a month or two, then come back to the task. Meg had other ideas.
Has anyone ever watched FRIENDS?  If you say no, you're out of my life (just kidding, that's a joke for Tiffany M ;-) But for real, you need to watch it). I have attached a clip here - it's about 3 minutes, but I really don't know that you can understand the plight of moving furniture into a walk up until you've viewed it. Watch, then resume reading :-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2u0sN9stbA

The changes are as follows:
- two girls vs two men and a woman
- we did not look as glamorous as Jennifer Aniston (of course)
- the couch did not break in half (whew)
- we did, in fact, yell PIVOT! every time we turned a corner. It kept the mood light and spirits high

We finally got the couch into the apartment and it only took 35 minutes.

Then we had to return the van. We thought about taking it, and living in the van down by the river (Chris Farley throwback) but it gets cold here in the winters. Since we had to put gas in it, we found a gas station and as Meg filled the van, my eye was drawn to something on the side of the road. Something I wanted, but was not willing to buy. A headboard. Who would throw something like that away? (Ok, I'll be real with you, it's kind of ugly, I'm not THAT attached, but it serves the purpose and helps my room look more put together). I wandered over to it cautiously, and saw that the metal and wood were actually in great condition. And it wasn't that heavy. I knew our time with the van wouldn't last forever- that we would have to take public transit and walk part of the way home. But this was a FREE headboard. Yes, my friends. I took it. I dragged it down the street, onto 2 different buses and walked back to my apartment with it, where I cleaned it up, used lots of Lysol and attached it to my bed frame.

The apartment is coming together, slowly, but surely. And now we don't have to eat our dinner sitting on the floor.

*Please note, I don't actually jump into dumpsters and sift through trash. That's gross. I merely look for gently used, good furniture that has been left next to a dumpster or on the side of the road, clean it up and use it!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014