Sunday, April 12, 2009

Driving is hell in NYC (in case you didn't already know)

Hey, look! It's Tudor City. I totally almost lived there until I looked at a few apartments and cried. They were so ridiculously tiny. Like 200 sq. feet tiny. And when they built Tudor City people didn't have kitchens in their apartments (they ate in mess-hall style cafeterias) so you would see one of the closets sacrificed to the gods of hot plates and dorm fridges. But that is not what this post is about.

And oh hey there's the Chrysler Building with Tudor City! Great shots right? You don't usually see shots from this angle. You see I got these great pictures while sitting on the FDR. Yep. I was in a car. Driving. Don't worry, I wasn't taking pictures while zooming along at (ahem) 40 mph because that's the speed limit. Nope. I was at a standstill thanks to gawd awful city traffic.

On Wednesday it took me 2.5 hours to get to New Rochelle for a Seder. It should have taken me an hour tops. I should have predicted traffic would be hell but I had no idea how bad. I didn't want to take the train because my cousin doesn't really live near a train station. So instead I decided to get a Mini Cooper from Zipcar and zoom and sing at the top of my lungs. I left work early and started the commute at 4:30 from Battery Park City.

(Quick tangent: There is no Mini Cooper on the east side of Financial District. What gives Zipcar? That's your friggin flagship vehicle. Oh and PS the cars at the Cedar St garage are always messy inside and have less than 1/4 tank. I have animosity against my neighborhood Zipsters. Thanks especially to the person who left a Starbucks soy latte in the BMW 328 overnight! My car ride was so pleasant in 30 degree temperatures with the windows down to alleviate the smell.)

My cousin had given me directions going up the West Side but my friend who'd left 30 minutes before me called to warn me off that path. So I thought I would just zip up the FDR drive to the Triboro aka RFK bridge to 95. Oh man. What a mess the FDR was! At 5 PM I hadn't made it to Houston St. At 5:30 PM I was just passing Tudor City. At 6 PM I was near tears at 96th St. Side streets were no better. It was the massive Passover commute!

I have never hit such bad traffic on the FDR. When I lived on the Upper East Side I'd just get on at 96th St and sometimes it would be stop and go. This was just stop. The only good news was that I got to take in the pretty scenery. I went through two CDs before I cleared Manhattan. I almost turned around twice -- the only thing that stopped me was that the traffic was equally bad going southbound. And the WORST was all the idiot drivers weaving in and out of traffic trying to gain any position. I picked the left lane and stayed there almost the whole way up.

Wait though. It gets better. Around the Queensboro Bridge I heard sirens behind me. Thinking it was an emergency I moved over. Except it wasn't an ambulance. It was the Mayor's caravan. Yep, that's right. The Mayor who takes the subway to work was apparently in such a rush to get home that they had to make a traffic jam even worse. I hope he made it in time for dinner!

I almost didn't. I was ridiculously late. So was everyone else though. And for contrast, the trip home took me 40 minutes. And it would have been shorter but I got caught by the toll shift change entering Manhattan. I wasn't even speeding! I didn't have to brake around corners though...god bless Mini Coopers.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The give and take

Despite all the great things about living down in Financial District there is also lameness. And things that are just weird. I guess because everyone lives in converted business buildings infrastructure is still catching up. Let's start with the biggest FAIL: it seems like nothing is open here on the weekends (especially not food places). Hale & Hearty Soups is all my all-time winter favorite and I have not one but 2 within 5 blocks! Too bad both of them close at like 4:30 PM during the week and don't even bother opening on the weekends. There is no decent pizza place close by that's open on the weekends. At least there's a Chipotle. Duane Reade? Yeah it's the only drugstore down here and it's frickin closed on Sundays. Au Bon Pain? Closed on Sundays. Kudos are due to the Gristede's on Maiden Lane (which, uh, Google Maps says is an unverified listing) which is open decent hours. Unfortunately it's a small grocery store even by NYC standards so while it's great for the basics it's more like a big Bodega than a grocery store. Yeah, that's right, I said Gristede's. This is the nicest, newest one I've ever seen. It's obviously a privately owned affiliate and the owners do a great job with the small space. They do not deliver though. That's a bummer on a rainy day.

Oh and if you have a bank don't plan on visiting it down here in THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT. Because it ain't down here. There's no Wachovia branch. There is this dinky little ATM on Broad Street which is great for taking money out but not so much for putting money in. I'm old fashioned -- I like giving money to peeps, not machines. But don't worry, there is a Tiffany's, a True Religion and a Borders. So at least we've got those necessities covered.

The other weird thing is the lack of local businesses. Restaurants aside everything is a chain or mini-chain. I recently learned that my Uncle used to own a grocery store on Pearl St and my Dad worked bagging groceries there as a kid (this was in the 1950s or 1960s). A little piece of family history! That store is long gone, replaced by I don't know what because I don't know the exact address. There doesn't seem to be much of that stuff down here. It's kind of weird.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Apartment Therapy's Small Cool Contest is Back

Yeah that's right. No posts for two months and now two in one day! I just wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to Apartment Therapy's Small Cool contest. I entered last year and though I didn't even make it out of the first round it was such a fun time. It made me feel SO great to even make the site. And my goodness my apartment looked SO CLEAN. It was like that for exactly 2 hours I think. I also think my apartment was completely different than the modern minimal mantra AT pushes. They never re-used any of my photos in posts. I appreciate that they posted a different aesthetic from their own in mine though. I heart them.

So far this is my favorite entry but please do head on over and check them all out. And comment if you like 'em. Trust me, the entrants really appreciate it.


Well, hi. I know I know. That I've fallen down makes me a bit sad but I'm gonna use that tired old "life got super busy and then the economy went to hell excuse." So let's see, where are we? Oh right.

I've lived in the Financial District for almost 4 months now and I LOVE IT. I'm enjoying it so much more than the Upper East Side. No offense at all to the UES -- it's not you, it's me. It turns out that NOT living that close to shopping is much better for my wallet. And while I really miss Central Park I've replaced it with the conglomerate of South Street Seaport-Battery Park-the West Side bike path. My commute to work is much more roomy. Trying to find a lame-ass club has been replaced by visiting one of the local pubs or restaurants. It's probably also the safest neighborhood -- incredibly limited to cars with tons of police around both the World Trade Center and the Stock Exchange. I could go on (and I probably will).

I'll admit it: I get a kick out of telling people that I live on Wall St. Waaaahhhllll street. When I place orders over the phone reps ooh and ahh. Despite the negativity directed towards the stock exchange (two blocks away!) or AIG/AIU/whatever (one block the other way!) Wall Street means something to people. And the superficial side of me gets all buttered up when people coo.

As an added bonus, the Financial District is old New York City. I can give George Washington a very high-five for me/low-five for him if I want on my way past Federal Hall (that is, when they're not shooting lame-ass Domino's pizza commercials there). Many of the streets around me are cobblestone and a proliferation of mounted police officers means I can hear the sounds of the way it used to be. My street is typically pretty dead once Deutsche Bank clears out all the Towncars between 8:30 and 9 PM and I am totally OK with that. I walk out of my building, turn left and have an awesome view of Trinity Church. Just don't try finding a taxi to get home here. You will have to direct them.

And just to rub it in to my former self a bit apartment is 50 times better than my old place. In fact part of the reason why I stopped blogging for a bit was because I honestly thought it was a mirage. I couldn't really be living here. If I said something they would find out (whoever they are) and come drag me out, kicking and screaming the entire way back to dorm-style living in one room. I went to Colorado on vacation and was afraid I'd come back, try to get into my apartment and come to grips with the fact that it was all a dream. But now I have come to realize that yes, I really live in a doorman/elevator building; yes, I really have more than one room; and most importantly yes, I really have a dishwasher.

Not that life is all peaches and cream. I am incredibly rent-poor right now. I knew this and budgeted for it...sort of. I have promised myself not to touch my savings. I had spent the final couple of months at my last job spending myself back into debt. Damn that stress. And really things would have worked out fine at the new place if not for the economy...I would gotten a raise at my 6-month review and maybe even a bonus. Instead I'm just happy to have a job (and one I enjoy to boot! again!) and quietly suffering over bills each month. After rent and expenses I've committed myself to using my disposable income to pay down the cards, but there's not much there. Some nights I can't sleep because I'm so worried about my finances. I don't want to end up like my parents.

I had even considered breaking my lease and moving. But lord I can't do it! The mental health I have gained living in a calm situation is worth saving $1000/mo by moving out to Queens. Really I'm counting my blessings to have this kind of pain to deal with. I know my apartment is below market rate. So I hope to use this time of no disposable money as fodder the next time I want to go spendthirft. For now I'm creatively looking for free events and staying home a lot. But who am I kidding? I'm kind of a homebody anyway. I blog. I code CSS for fun. I play video games. I'm like a 13-year-old boy.

And then the last busy factor came courtesy of a guy or two. No need to get into the messy details, but they're gone now. T is still around and we're currently chatting back and forth about Lost a lot and applying it to our faux relationship. We pretend like NYC is the Island and say really outlandish things. Things like "if I had traveled back in time to 1997 when you were mid-20s and working in the city but had been my current self we would be together!" (me) or "if I had been moved forward in time by the island from 1995 to 2006 in Connecticut we would be co-habitating right now and you'd be pouting about me not inviting you to poker night" (him). Instead we're like Sawyer and Kate -- back in the same place but years apart; him giving me 10 stupid yet endearing nicknames and me giving him exceedingly long glancess without dialogue while corny dramatic music plays. Yep, I'm a geek.