Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Me vs. ConEd, again

I feel like I just can't win with ConEd. Every couple of months it seems like they are out to get me. It wasn't enough for them to screw me out of gas for over a month. It wasn't enough for them to try to trick me into changing my electricity provider to a 3rd party that charges 2-3 times more. And even threatening to shut off our building's common area electricity didn't satiate their need for suffering. No, no, once again they had to come after me.

Each month, my ConEd bill ranges from $50-$65. Sometimes the bills are "estimated usage" and sometimes they are actual meter readings. But always in the same range. This has been the case steadily for over year. So you can imagine my shock when I got a bill this month for $325. This can't be right, I told myself. The explanation was this:

Dear Customer, we know that we have been sending you estimated bills for the past few months. Well we finally read your meter and (chuckle chortle) guess what? It turns out that we underbilled you for the last 4 months. By a lot. Yeah we don't know why you used so much more electricity this year than last year. No, we don't really care why and we don't think it's our mistake. Oh, and we know we already billed you our best guess for those last 4 months but we're gonna go ahead and re-bill you now! Yeah, we can do that. Isn't it great?! It's like your name came up in the screw you lottery this month. It's like winning...for us. And there's really nothing you can do about it. We have no oversight. Go ahead and call your politician whatever person. The Public Service Commission? Drowning in complaints like yours, and for much more money. Call us if you want! We'll just yell at you and tell you you're an idiot.

Should you choose not to pay, we will send the mob after you. Whoops, we mean collections. So just go ahead and pay this bill that makes absolutely no sense. Or else. Whoops, we mean please. And could you please bend over? It makes it that much easier for us to kick you in the ass.

ConEd xoxxoxoxo

Or in more business-y terms, ConEd said that they were able to read my meter for the first time in 4 months and they are re-billing me for May-September. The new cost? About $121 per month. I LIVE IN A 200 SQUARE FOOT APARTMENT ON THE FIRST FLOOR. I have a northern exposure -- hardly any light. I barely ever have to run my air conditioning. I don't leave anything on while I am gone during the day. My refrigerator is not running all the time. You have got to be kidding me.

The total bill was $454, but they applied the amount I'd been paying on my bills each month. So I'm left owing $325. I was so unbelievably mad. I called my parents; I called T; I called BFF M; I wanted to call the cops for robbery. I emailed the Consumerist tips line but never heard back (I guess even they have bigger fish to fry). I did research and found that I am unfortunately not the only one going through this. Then I called ConEd.

I had a lovely 45 minute wait time to practice what I wanted to say. I'll just summarize our conversation: he said there was nothing ConEd could do. That was on Saturday. The next day I called back and opened a bill dispute. Today a rep from their "high bill" department called me back. He tried pulling me into an argument, but I kept calm and stood my ground: I am disputing the bill. We scheduled a meter re-read and he recommended I get my Super to check the meter while I unplug everything to see if the meter is still running (if so, something besides my apartment is running to the meter).

There are three possible outcomes: 1 - ConEd discovers the meter was incorrectly read. 2 - Something besides my apartment is running into my electric meter. 3 - I am wrong, ConEd is right and I pay the bill. Update to come after next week's meter reading. What makes me so upset is that ConEd was allowed to send me "estimated bills" on a monthly basis. Why the hell are they allowed to do that? Shouldn't that be, oh I don't know, illegal? And who do I bother who can actually do something about this?

Metapost: An Interview with Spider-Man

The Summer of Superheroes may have officially ended a couple of days ago but Spider-Man is just now getting in on the action. Maybe he was busy prepping for his big Broadway debut. Sarcastic line about great power and great responsibility goes here.

Time Out New York named Spidey to their New York 40 list and posted a funny interview with the web slinger. I have a special place in my fantastical daydreaming heart for a hero who makes sly quips, is played wonderfully by Tobey Maguire and who doesn't mind breaking the 4th wall across any media platform.

The tip from Popwatch highlights the best question/answer:
What’s the future of New York? What are your hopes, and what needs to happen?
Spider-Man: We definitely need to curb our dependence on incredibly dangerous science experiments taking place right in the middle of the city near raving crackpots who hate me. That’s where I’d start.

He should just be happy that the Large Hadron Collider is 1 - broken and 2 - not in New York City. Because that totally sounds like a supervillian tool to me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good night, Yankee Stadium

The hearts and souls of millions
of sports fans live within these walls.

I know I'm spoiled because I am a Yankees fan.

I went to games as a young kid, but didn't really come around to baseball until 1994. My family was on our annual Cape Cod vacation and my Dad was cursing at the evening news. All I really knew was that the Yankees were in first place, the baseball season was maybe going to be canceled by a strike, and that Don Mattingly (my favorite Yankee, of course) was probably going to retire. The strike did in fact wipe out the season and I remember caring. When Mattingly decided to play more one year for Buck Showalter I decided it was time to start paying attention to the games. I became a baseball fan for sure on October 8, 1995 when Edgar Martinez crushed the Yankees with a walkoff 2-run double in the 11th inning of Game 5. I was so devastated by that game. "Wait til next season," I told myself.

And so it's grown from there. I've been to what feels like 100 games, including 7 playoff games, 2 World Series games, 1 Home Run Derby, and the list goes on. My blood runs pinstripe blue and I've tried to uphold the true Yankee fandom as much as possible. I hated Tino Martinez for the first 6 and a half months of the 1996 season for replacing Don Mattingly. (I warmed up to him during the playoffs.) I still dislike Jason Giambi for replacing my Tino. It's weird to me to look on the field and not see Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams...I even miss Chuck Knoblauch. I screamed when the Yankees won their first World Series during my lifetime, and their second; I was there for the third; and I chanted the lineup with the bleacher creatures in 2000.

But I am most thankful to have had the Yankees in 2001. Grasping like so many others for anything that was normal, baseball was such a welcome relief. I'd thought the idea of the ghosts in Yankee Stadium was kind of silly until that year. My hair stood on end during every game even from 2000 miles away in Colorado. And in Game 5, when the entire stadium chanted Paul O'Neill's name I chanted along.

It is those memories that make me sad to see Yankee Stadium go. But times they have changed. The Yankees of late haven't really impressed me much and there are many players on the team now that I am simply tolerant of. The teams since 2001 don't make my spine tingle the way the teams in the 1990s did. It's not the the lack of a World Series title that bothers me; I'm a bit more relaxed than that. It's the players we've brought in lately who just don't quite feel right to me. If a new Yankee Stadium means a fresh start then I say bring it on. I am of the humble opinion that the ghosts of Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio and the others long ago vacated this stadium for other planes. Watching the pre-game ceremony on Sunday night was fitting closure I thought. And Derek Jeter summed it up well -- time to move over to the new stadium and make some new memories.

The new Yankee Stadium,
soon to be the only one.

Maybe I'd feel more nostalgic if they weren't meticulously breaking down each piece and putting it up for auction or selling it. The sports memoribilia dealers have it wrong -- it's not the pieces of the building that I care about. It's the whole thing, the aura, the feeling you get walking towards your seat or when the crowd roars. Try packaging and selling that. You can't. I've made peace with the stadium coming down (the field, at least as of now, will remain). And if the ghosts ever want to make a return visit to the stadium, they won't have to look very far. On to the new Yankee Stadium, where new legends will be made.

Metapost: Renovating.

I'm playing around with my blog design a bit...I might even make a custom template eventually...someday...right...anyway. In the meantime elements may not display correctly. Apologies for the messiness; it will be cleaned up soon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hair modeling is a great excuse for a new style

New York City is famous for its many salons and hair shops. It's infamous for how expensive some of them are. It would be nice to have the kind of disposable income where I could put $400 towards a haircut. In the meantime I search out ways to get amazing cuts at a steep discounts. My latest hair adventure involved being a haircut model.

Lately I've been unhappy with my hair. I was growing it out and it was taking forever. It was growing in with a weird wave and I was developing an annoying cowlick in my bangs and on the side. I would leave the apartment with perfectly straight hair (my latest style of choice) and 10 minutes later it would be wavy and messy again. I love having longer hair but this was getting out of control. A couple of months ago I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal on the cover of Marie Claire with a fantastic short cut. She and I have the same pale complexion and dark hair, and while our face shapes are different I was confident I could pull the style off as well. A couple of weeks later I saw her on the cover of Interview with the same cut and it convinced me that should be my new hairstyle.

Side swept bangs, short messy cut?
I'm in.

I called the Aveda School to schedule a cut but the earliest weekend appointment was October 25th. But this impulsive need for a cut would not be satiated. My office shares a floor with an upscale hair salon called Butterfly Studio. I've gone their for blowouts before (they nicely offer a building discount) but never cuts because they start at $100 which is, oh, about $80 more than a cut at Aveda. Professionals vs. students though, so it depends on what you want. Occasionally a stylist from Butterfly would come over to our office looking for hair models for cut or color classes. So I went over and asked if they had any cut classes coming up. The receptionist wasn't very nice. She told me to write down my name and phone number. I would not be surprised if she tossed it as I walked out.

Well, lo and behold, not even 2 hours later a stylist comes over looking for a haircut model. Count me in! I ran over to grab the spot. In contrast to the receptionist, the stylist was very nice. She examined my hair as we discussed what I wanted to do. She was excited that I was ready for a big change and said she was looking for a client with fine-textured hair like mine. I was told to come back at 5:45 for the 6 PM class.

I excitedly went back to work and printed out some pictures of the cut. I don't watch "Mad Men" but I've enjoyed the cultural results -- clothing made for curves, bolder makeup and defiant haircuts. The show takes place in the 1960s but the fashion world has reached back even further into styles from the 1940s. It was a conservative time and yet the modern twists are sexy and fun. The styles haven't fully made it off the runway yet but I'm looking forward to wearing my fall and winter clothes for once.

Another variation of the cut.

My office mate also decided to take part in the class as a color student. We checked in and were told there was a $25 fee for the cut and a $35 fee for color. Oops, I definitely did not have cash on me. Luckily since I worked in the building they agreed to let me pay the next day. We put on robes and flipped through magazines while we waited.

The class started late (they always do) but I didn't mind. Though it was a class, none of the stylists were in training per se. The salon owner requires her stylists to take 2 classes a month so they keep up to date on the latest styles and techniques. I think this is such a great idea. It's a win-win: I get a fantastic, professional cut for 1/4 of the normal price and a hairstylist gets to experiment with new techniques in a safe environment. Once again the stylist K and I went over what I wanted. I had printed out two photos of the cut and we talked about the thickness of my hair vs. Ms. Gyllenhaal's and what that would mean for my cut. Since I have fine hair it would have less volume, though with good styling I could repeat the effect. The teacher came over to sign off on my desired style and then we headed to shampoo.

I knew from Aveda that you have to be patient in classes because they take a long time. A cut and style take at least 2 hours. I thought I would be nervous -- I was cutting off over 5 inches of hair after all -- but K really inspired confidence in me. I felt my hair falling and could not wait to see the end effect. The teacher came around often to check in. It was cool to hear the stylist talking about angles and boxes and shape. Her concern about the process and end result were refreshing.

A version of the cut on fine hair.

As my hair was being styled K taught me how to get the cowlick out of my bangs. I also wanted to re-train my part a bit further to one side and she gave me tips on how to do it. She dried my hair straight so I could see the slick version of the cut. Perfect for a nite out on the town. I was so happy with the end result. My co-worker was still getting her color put in so I said my goodbyes and left very satisfied with my new cut.

The next day when I washed and dried my hair I was even happier with the curly version. The sides tightened into my natural spirals like the redhead in the photo above. Then over the next couple of days I didn't wash my hair and it loosened into a style more like Gyllenhaal's. I love it. All it took was an impulsive decision, a bit of luck, and some patience during the class.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Death by squirt gun

My friend F was carrying around a squirt gun for a couple of weeks. Not like one of those Super Soakers that I feared as a kid. The plastic, see-through, non-threatening kind that you played Wild West with. It's been in his jeans pocket the last two or three times we've hung out. Ok, whatever, people in NYC wear really weird accessories. Instead of packing heat he was packing H20...or something. But was weird was how possessive he was about it. Another friend asked to see it and F got really protective: "Oh no man. I need to have this thing on me at all times."

Then things got a bit weirder -- F wouldn't leave his apartment except to go to work. No hanging out. We wondered if he had a bad haircut, or if he was waiting for Time Warner to show up and install cable (buh-dum-chik!) or what. Friend P joked that maybe he'd lost his squirt gun and was mourning it. Whatever the issue was F seemed to emerge from it this week. We met up with him for drinks after work and he was back to his normal self. And sans squirt gun. He and I shared a taxi home and I had to know what the deal was. What was with the squirt gun, I asked. Oh yeah, he replied sheepishly, I was playing Street Wars.

The game works like this: people sign up to play and are sent the rules. Then they have to send certain information (the address of two places where they spend at least 2 hours a day, a photo, etc.) to the coordinators. Each player is then sent their "hit," a person they have to squirt to "kill." Certain places are off-limits for kills, like the subway. If you are killed, you're out and your assassin inherits your hit and vice versa. The last person left standing is declared the winner.

F has played the last two Street Wars in NYC. It sounds fun but really intense. He altered his route to the subway every day to evade his assassin and ordered in lunch every day. He worked late a lot and came to work early. And the weekends? Spent indoors as much as possible. To stalk his hit he woke up really early and staked out her apartment building. Personally, this would freak me out. But F said almost everyone he's played with has been really good-natured about the whole thing, laughing when they get killed and so on. F didn't make it too far -- he carried out one hit but was killed soon after.

"Did you run away when your assassin came after you?" I asked.
"Not really," F said. "I knew I was screwed -- he came running up as I was walking to work. I was cornered."
"It was a drive-by squirting!"
"Yeah, and he had this ridiculous pimped out super soaker-type thing."
"Pimped out?"
"It was gold."
"He had a gold super soaker??"
"Double-barreled too."
"He had a double-barreled gold pimped out super soaker? Sooo...one was a shotgun and one was a sniper soaker?" (Man, I have been playing way too many first-person shooter videogames lately.)
"Right. Long and short range. I was totally overmatched."

I didn't even know how to respond to that. F after all had a purple squirt gun that probably cost $4 at a drug store. He must have known I was thinking this, because he said, "You know, my gun may not look like much, but it was like the glock of squirt guns. Next year I'm going to pimp out my gun with a water balloon launcher."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The moving itch is coming back

Each year, BFF M and I christen it "The Year of x." 2007 was the year of boat. 2006 was the year of love. 2008 is the year of key. For me, this optimistically meant the year that I moved to a place on Gramercy Park and got a key to the ridiculously exclusive park. That probably won't happen but I may get a new key yet. The moving itch is coming back.

Since 2000, I have lived in 10 places. Granted college was responsible for 5 of those moves but that is still a lot! Each time I move I tell myself "Roxy, you need to stay here for at least a couple of years. Fuck this moving every year shit." And every year I seem to end up moving. Sometimes the move is driven by money. I had to give up my first apartment in Norwalk because I couldn't afford it anymore when I condensed from two jobs to one. It was so hard because I loved the place -- a 1 BR railroad-style within walking distance of both Veterans Park and Metro North, with a dishwasher and laundry. I still think about that place and how well it was decorated it at least once a week.

But usually the move is driven by proximity to work. I moved in Norwalk the second time to be closer to the train station. I moved into the city to cut my commute by an hour. And now I've got a new work destination that is kind of far.

This will more or less be my new commute.

That's right, I got a new job. It all happened so fast that I feel like it's been one long daydream. While I love the people at my current company it was time for me to move on (and more importantly, up). I'm really sad to be leaving behind the Flatiron area and 5th Ave shopping in the 20s and teens. But then I'm not so sad because my new work is in SoHo. Near even more shopping...and even more expensive shopping. The only truly lame part is that my new office is closest to the A/C/E line and I don't live anywhere near that line. My options are to take the 6 to Spring Street and walk a bunch of blocks; take the N/R/W to Prince St and walk a bunch of blocks; transfer to the L at Union Square and then take the E at 8th Ave; or transfer to the E at 51st St and be squished by all the Penn Station commuters. It's a no-win situation.

That leaves one other option: moving. My new job has a better salary than I currently make so I could potentially trade up a little bit from my mostly-lovable teeny studio to something a bit less teeny. And as I type this post I am swarmed by both my loud neighbor talking on her phone and my upstairs neighbor's menagerie chewing on a rawhide on the floor while something else chases the loudest rolly toy ever. And, oh, to get away from the mice in my apartment!!!

Ideally I'd want to move to SoHo right on the Tribeca border. That area is pretty damn expensive though, and also loud at night. It would be quite the culture shock after my quiet Upper East Side neighborhood. I'm also just getting to know my neighborhood -- where to get my laundry done, what deli to eat at, the good dinner places, etc. Then again, the reason why it's taken this long is because none of my friends live up in "family zone" and it's a long ride for them to come up here. I remember having this same complaint in Norwalk too. Maybe my friends just don't travel very far.

I've spent the last few days browsing the apts by owner listings on Craigslist. With a slightly higher price range than last time I did my search I've yielded some tempting results. I'm considering a few of them. Why not, right? No broker's fee, closer to new work, new exciting neighborhood. I'm young and not married. This is when I'm supposed to be adventuring.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reflexive Response: Jewelry Storage

So organized...love it.

What is the picture above? Some new residential tower plan for Tokyo, perhaps? An art installation of some kind? Nope. It's my new jewelry storage.

I struggle with closet space and book storage in every apartment but lately I've been in an accessory dilemma. I own a decent amount of jewelry but seem to wear the same 8 or 10 pieces all the time. It's because I am too impatient to sort through my jewelry boxes and containers. Once I moved to the city I combined everything except my nicest pieces into a bead sorting container to conserve space. But it hasn't been an effective storage solution because each bin has four or five items so necklaces get tangled, studs get buried and my necklaces strung on string are just a mess.

Kudos to Apartment Therapy for their brilliant suggestion: use pill containers. Their stackability means you can store them in a small space and they're see-through so I can see what's inside. As the post suggested I bought mine at Container Store. The store had three sizes of round stackable containers; I bought the medium and large sizes.

The solution has been great on several levels. No more loose jewelry sitting around my apartment -- I feel motivated to put it away each night knowing each piece has a home. I was able to store like colors and tones together for easy locating and in some cases I even stacked them by size (anal, I know). Being able to see what I have easily has also kept me from buying the same piece twice, something I was totally guilty of in the past. And the stacks look kind of cool in my cabinet with the frosted doors closed -- like the model of a futuristic skyscraper development (or a lot of checkers pieces as friend S suggested).

Note: Reflexive Response is a series highlighting a cool post I saw on another blog/website.

Friday, September 12, 2008

You are not helping your cause, Apple

I finally broke down and bought an iPod. I'm not one of those ardent anti-Apple folks; in fact I rather like the Macbook Pros. But I have had a non-Apple mp3 player forever that has done the job just fine for a few years kthnxbai. Do people even call them mp3 players anymore? Or is everything just an iPod now? I have no idea. I am so not hip when it comes to music anymore.

Lately my mp3 player has started to show its age and it's a bit too big to stick in my pocket and generally gets in my way. Plus I lost the battery cover on the subway. Not a formula for success. So I've been eyeing a Shuffle for awhile. I'm not really a fan of the iTunes store but there isn't really anything comparable out there so I buy music from there occasionally or not at all. I actually use Windows Media Player more than I use iTunes for playing music anyway. This is normally the part where'd I'd go into a tirade about the music industry but the truth is they lost me a few years ago. I listen to the same music as I did in 2004 and add about 15-20 new songs a year. Sad really.

But I digress. What convinced me to buy an iPod was not the cool features or the big storage...it was the colors! I've been wanting a Shuffle for a little while to run with and when I saw the new more jewel-based tones I decided to take the plunge. Plus $79 is about $100 less than I paid for my iRiver in 2005 and I got one more gig of music storage.

So pretty.

I went to the cube in midtown and was helped by this awesome rock star guy. I wish I had caught his name. It took me like 10 minutes to buy it. I got it back home, USB'ed it up and added music from my library. This morning was my first commute using it and I liked it well enough. The earphones are too big for my ears though which sucks. Makes for extra bass but missing mids. But overall it's awesome -- I just clipped it to my shirt and was done with it. And it's a pretty green color! (Thank you Apple, for not just making it in Silver and Pink. Really.)

Half of my music collection is on my home laptop and half is on my work laptop. But when I plugged my dock into my work laptop, I got a nasty error message: "Your iPod can only be synched with one music library." My choices were to erase all my music and sync with work laptop, transfer my purchases to work laptop library, or cancel. So I chose transfer purchases...and it didn't work. Great. Awesome. Terrific. Isn't Apple supposed to be the leader in usability and synchronicity? What kind of bullshit is this? Who uses only one iTunes library???

With a melodramatic sigh I did a quick Google search and was directed to one of Apple's Customer Service articles. It looked like it was exactly what I needed! A manual setting so that you could add music from more than one library.

I followed the steps:
1 - Open iTunes.
2 - Select my iPod from the Devices menu.
3 - Click the Summary tab...um. There isn't one.
4 - OK, look at the pretty picture. It has a summary tab.
5 - Look at my iTunes. Hmm, I have no summary tab.
6 - Look back at the pretty picture. It has a summary tab (still).
7 - Look back at my iTunes. I only have Settings and Contents. Still no summary tab.
8 - Unplug iPod.
9 - Plug iPod back in. No dice.
10 - Restart computer. (Cures all, right?) Still the same.
11 - Check to make sure I'm running most recent version of iTunes. Yep, just updated to version 8 with Genius. Funny, I'm not feeling like one.

I wondered if this magical supposed manual setting doesn't apply to Shuffles, but Shuffle is listed as one of the iPods this article is valid for. Better yet, the article was just updated yesterday, so surely if the Shuffle wasn't included they would update that...right?

12 - Look one last time at the pretty picture.
13 - Look one last time at my iTunes.
14 - Grrrrrrrr.

Seven years later, there is still a hole in my heart

The Tribute in Lights
over NYC last nite.

Seven years after the fact, there is still a big pit in the financial district. The Freedom Tower was supposed to be completed last year. The memorial and the new PATH station this year and 2009, respectively. I feel pain from the construction delays and bureaucracy -- I can't even imagine how the families of the victims feel. Yet on September 11th, 2008 New York City was reassuringly calm and quiet. People went about their business more somber than usual. This was the first year where I didn't cry on the day and I even cracked a smile once or twice.

I know they are building a memorial down at Ground Zero but I hope they also keep the Twin Towers of Light. These huge, multidimensional dual pillars of light are such a fitting tribute. As I left work last night they appeared huge to me at 21st St. It was so amazing -- for a moment you just have to stare at the awesomeness of it. In that way they are close to the buildings they represent while the light...I can't really even explain it...but it seems to continue all the way up to heaven. Also very fitting.

I grabbed some drinks with friends and then made my way to the Empire State Building for better views. It was predictably crowded and I didn't make it to the Observatory until much later than I'd planned. My photos didn't come out as well as I'd have liked, but the view was just as spectacular from on high.

As I waited for the elevator, I texted a few friends -- "At Empire State Building, WOW lights are amazing." Texts came back: "At Brooklyn Bridge, I agree," "At the lights in Battery Park, so intense up close," "Great view from my apartment, made me cry" and so on. Within my circle we didn't talk much about 2001, but it was clearly on everyone's minds.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Forced to do my laundry in the city

Ugh. I knew this day would come. After a year of going up to my old house in Connecticut once a month to do my laundry I have been forced to find a place in NYC.

I know it's weird that I was doing my laundry in a different state. It's a product of being a germaphobe. While I am able to just condone germs in most places -- the guy who sneezes or coughs towards me on the subway, the disgustingness of door handles city wide, etc. -- for some reason the thought of sharing laundry machines in particular gives me the eebie jeebies. I'm pretty sure I developed the phobia during college, where I watched in horror at the things guys would do with the laundry machines in our dorms. So sharing laundry machines with a couple of roommates? OK. Sharing laundry machines with a few hundred (or thousand) people at laundromat? Not so much.

My old roommates in CT have been quite gracious in letting me trek up there and do my laundry for free. But our third roommate moved out last month and the remaining two replaced him with two girls sharing a room. That makes four people living in a 3-bedroom house and the thought of me hogging the machines for even a day was too much. I really do understand but I was bummed when P told me, mostly because I had a month's worth of laundry to do!

Defeated, I evaluated my options. Most of my friends recommended going the laundry service route but I was nervous about having some stranger washing my intimates. Some friends said laundromat was the way to go. A few tried to tempt me with the thought of meeting a hot guy there. But laundromats in NYC aren't how they appear in the movies, or at least not on the Upper East Side. It isn't all windows and sharing frozen yogurt with your true love/arch enemy's girlfriend or finding out that your Spidey Suit got mixed in with your whites. They're dank and sometimes smelly and small and crowded all the time.

On top of that laundromats barely seem to exist in my neighborhood. I vaguely remember seeing one when I first moved in but that was over a year ago now. Using Google Maps I wrote down the address of several supposed laundromats around me. Half of them turned out to be laundry services. One-third didn't exist (commercial real estate turnover is pretty high right now). And the last third were yucky.

Nonetheless, I needed clothing. So I split my heaves of clothes into a self-serve pile to take to the laundromat and a full service pile to take to the laundry service. And then sadly I wasted a Summer Friday morning doing my laundry. The laundromat was only a block and a half away but it was very hot and I was exhausted when I arrived. It cost $3.50 to a load of wash (quarters only of course) but luckily the place was staffed and had plenty of change. The machines were good ol' Wascomats that I remember from previous laundromat excursions. At least they were kinda new. I can't tell you how many of those things have eaten my money.

I got there early enough that I was able to find 3 empty machines out of the 12 or so the place had. It was kind of weird because the laundromat was also a laundry service so I was doing my laundry as the staff did other people's. There were a few other self-serves so I didn't feel too weird. I had to wait around to put in the detergent and I decided to just wait out the full cycles. Once the wash was done it was over to the dryers. It took about 20 minutes to dry my clothes to damp-dry. Then I brought everything home and hung it on the drying rack that I am now so glad I didn't throw out. It was a pain the ass because the rack is big and took up about half the free floor space in my tiny studio. All in all, it was fairly miserable.

The following Monday I nervously put my self-service pile in my laundry bag and walked up my block to a laundry service. I was mostly scared of not getting everything back...not really sure why. The store was operated by two women. I told them there were two loads in the bag and asked them to bleach my whites. I also had a few dry cleaning items. They gave me a ticket and told me I could pick up my laundry later that day, dry cleaning the next day. Same day for laundry? Really? OK.

After work I picked up my laundry. When I got to my apartment I opened the bag and my clean clothes were wrapped inside a bag. And amazingly, they had made everything the same rectangular shape. Even my socks. It was like they had put my clothes through a haybaler to get the shape. It was kind of awesome! I would pick up an item and it would open back out to it's natural shape. My first fear of things missing was qualmed after a quick survey of the items. My next fear was shrinkage. Luckily my clothes seemed to have been spared. I missed my normal laundry smell of mountain spring detergent and Bounty drying sheets but the clothes smelled clean and I guess that's all that matters.

The final tally: laundromat cost $17.50 and was a pain in the ass. Laundry service caused $14.50 for laundry and $3.50 for dry cleaning and was easy. The decision was made: I'm using the laundry service from now on. This is probably why there is only one laundromat in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Oh, sure, NOW you wanna go to the Financial District

Stone Street -- appropriately named.

BFF M invited me down to the Financial District last week to drink. The prospect of hot Wall Streeters in suits sealed the deal for me. We took the W train all the way to the end and headed to Ulysses first. Pearl St and Stone St are in the oldest part of the city and they're lined with bar after bar. The entire street was filled with picnic tables and umbrellas. But it was raining when we arrived so we started inside. There were certainly plenty of Wall St suits there drinking and yelling and talking about the upcoming NFL season. But there were also a few loners drowning their sorrows in beers (maybe the latest round of Lehman layoffs? or the depressing DOW drops?). We gals took a seat at the bar and made our own party for awhile.

The bar at Ulysses.

Because of Labor Day weekend the place was a bit more empty than usual. We didn't mind. We played a little game trying to guess people's names by looking at them. In our minds there were lots of Scotts, Todds and Dougs at the bar that night. Also maybe one Javier. Somehow we never got around to actually talking to anyone outside of our group. We were having too much Ladies Night-style fun.

Once the rain stopped we moved outside. It was a pretty scene -- lines of tables on the cobblestone street. Tall buildings all around. Groups of people having a nice time. Etc etc. Being outside also meant dealing with a lot of smokers and the more I drank the more I wanted a cigarette. I don't even smoke!

The table next to us was being kind of obnoxious. We couldn't help but listen in because THEY WERE SHOUTING LOUD ENOUGH FOR THE WHOLE BLOCK TO HEAR. Sorry. It was two clueless but charming guys hitting on three girls from Russia. The ladies totally had the guys whipped; I think the guys bought every round. Go ladies! To impress them one of the guys got up on the table and started dancing around the umbrella pole, only to knock the umbrella over directly onto our table. Nothing broke besides the guy's ego.

Later on we were getting thoroughly trashed when our previously inattentive waitress rushed over. She grabbed a cigarette of BFF M's bench -- someone had flicked it directly at her. Luckily her clothes weren't burned but yeesh. Ridiculously careless. We decided that was our cue to book.

Being an idiot on the subway.

With a bit of sidetracking we made it back to the Whitehall St station. And that is where the ludicrous stuff started. A W train was waiting for us and most of the cars were empty. It was a cheap thrill. We had a dance party waiting for the doors to close and then proceeded to be idiots while the train was moving. Hanging from the bars, etc. Not one of my proudest moments, but one of the silly fun ones. It of course led to a challenge: could you hang on to the bar for a whole stop? This is easier said then done when drunk. I got pretty lucky because I only had to hold on until Rector St, which is a short ride. Pity friend E who had to hold on until City Hall.

Eventually other people joined us in the car so we toned it down. We made jokes about the long ride back up into the grid, etc. By the time I got home I was a tired but happy drunk. Maybe the Financial District is cooler than I thought.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

DUMBO makes me feel numb-o

Oh, how my world has shrunk. It's interesting because I used to make fun of many of my friends in high school that had never left New England. Or those friends in college who had never crossed from Colorado into another state. How could you not even have a desire to see the world I wondered, or at least another state? City? Nothing?

Now going above 96th St or below 14th is a big deal for me. I try to take the 4/5/6 line whenever possible; even taking the N/R/W makes me grumble. My life takes place mostly within 50 or so blocks. I hear the voices of the world in NYC tourists but I myself have become the definition of a townie. A citie? Give me Manhattan, or give me...yeah I sound horrible.

Uh, anyway. There was a time; let's call it 2002. I was in college plotting my move to NYC from the comfort of the Ellis dorms at Colorado State University. And my friends back home in the tri-state NYC area were telling about this great place called DUMBO. (That's Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass for the record.) On the tip of Brooklyn all of these factories were being converted into rentals and condos. You could get a place for $900/mo or $250,000. Significantly cheaper than Manhattan. The area was filled with artists and musicians according to the magazines and newspapers. It was like the new Village!

The deals didn't last. I looked at a couple of places in Brooklyn during my 2007 moving plans but the places were the same price as Manhattan. So I moved to NYC proper, without a real reason to go to Brooklyn. The longer I've lived here the further away Brooklyn has gotten so to speak. Cabs hate going there. It's like a 40-minute subway ride and forget walking there from the Upper East Side. Yet I feel a connection to Brooklyn. I spent a lot of time in the Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay areas as a kid visiting my Dad's family.

All any of that really proves is that I need to get out more. I made the trip to DUMBO twice last week: once for a women in business networking event at the HUGE offices (they're really big!) and once for a job interview. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Brooklyn has awesome views of Manhattan. I had some time to kill so friend A and I went to Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park. It brought back some fond memories of racing down to the area for U2's 'secret' concert after they shot their "All Because of You" video. I'm pleased by the simple surprises of the area. Closed-down factory! Weird arty sculpture things! Cobblestone streets! Two or three brides taking their wedding photos! And of course the Brooklyn Bridge which I love so dearly.

The problem with the area is that it feels kind of empty compared to Manhattan. There are plenty of buildings but they all seem to be residential or offices. Where are the corner convenience stores? And the little lunch places? I saw a few clothing shops and a chocolate shop and a bar. That was about it. Granted I'm no expert about the area but it just seemed lacking to me. Friend A expressed the same. Do people live the NYC life in that they just sleep in DUMBO and do everything else somewhere else? Or was it like Chelsea where every warehouse is actually a secret bar? Maybe I just don't know the code.

After my interview I met up with a couple of friends for Happy Hour drinks at 68 Jay Street Bar. The crowd definitely skewed more 30s than 20s but I enjoyed the chillness. Still, something was missing. Is it that I've just gotten so used to pretentious bar scene in NYC? Hard to say. We walked around a bit after we'd had our fill and I marveled at the lack of storefront after storefront. On my way back to the C train, I passed by a West Elm. It was an oddly welcome sight to see city decorating digs. Confirmed: I am now urbanized. Even Brooklyn feels like a suburb to me.