Saturday, January 28, 2006

Vinny 2005 (with Susie's Stuffed Storage Space 2005)... Posted by Picasa

...and the New Improved Vinny 2006 - "Buff" Model! Posted by Picasa

Good-Bye, New York City

1:45AM January 28, 2006

Zap! With a snap of the fingers, my 15-month stint in New York is over. I can hardly believe that my life in Manhattan is a memory. When my favorite movers showed up at my apartment today, Tommy and I both said we couldn’t believe that a year had gone by since they’d moved me in. I hired the same core crew that moved me last year – Arty, Tommy, and Vinny. Best movers I've ever had. This job was déjà vu for all of us.
Poor Martin. He hates moving. I can't stand having to lock him up in a room while the movers work, and I hate putting him in his carry bag (a.k.a. “kitty prison”) for a long car drive. He cried all day long. He cried at me even more when the apartment was empty. He kept looking up at me, meowing his little head off, with that look that clearly indicated, “What – again?!”

Alas, his terror was brief. Since we arrived at our temporary apartment in Maryland earlier this evening, he’s been in kitty heaven. First he sniffed out every corner of the place. Then he checked out all the furniture. Next he was peering through the blinds out onto the balcony, opening up all the cabinet doors, sneaking into the closets, and the one that makes me laugh the most – burrowing into each of the two big sofas. He’s always gotta see what’s under those cushions. He even jumped into one of the bathtubs just to check that out. You know what they say about curiosity....

It’s 2:00AM now, but no Martin on my pillow. Normally Martin is in bed with me within a couple minutes of my turning out the light (if not sooner). Tonight – nothing doing. He’s too busy exploring!

So we made it. I’m too dead tired to sleep. Insomnia has kicked in. Moving is a lot of long, hard work. Tommy and Vinny couldn’t believe how much packing I’d done in the week since they'd stopped by with boxes galore. Even so, I still wasn’t done by the time they arrived at 9:00AM today. I’d run out of boxes – and time. By 1:00PM we were done. I finished my end at the same time the guys finished loading the truck. I had a hunger headache.

Then it was on to the storage unit in Queens. A re-run of our trip there one year and seven days ago, I sat in the truck between Tommy and Art. Same truck. Same everything - except the crack in the windshield had grown. That, and we didn’t have a map. I figured those guys would remember how to get to the storage place. Nope. And I thought the address was on 19th Street because that was the way I'd mis-typed it into my Outlook contacts. Turns out it was 29th Street! We drove around lost for a bit before finally finding it. Last year it took what seemed like hours to fill that 5x8 storage unit. That's because everything barely fit and it took tremendous skill (on Arty's part) to pack everything in and shut the door. This year, we undid all that work in under an hour. I could not believe how much Art had managed to pack in there – every square inch of that room was used. When I opened the door, a green and red Christmas bin almost fell out.

After the truck was loaded there, the guys dropped me off on 49th, and I went home and finished up the remaining details. I’d parked my car at the Gershwin Theater parking right across the street. I’d already taken one load of stuff to it the day before. It cost me $31 to get the car out of parking. $31 for 24 hours! After that, Rudy the Doorman and I managed to pack everything else in the car that I needed for temp housing. Two kisses and a big hug from Rudy, and I was gone.
It was 5:00PM, and I was leaving NYC at rush hour. Another first for me. I went straight to the Lincoln Tunnel, but from there it was slow going. Took me 45 minutes to get out of the congestion and get moving south on the Jersey Turnpike.

200 miles and 3.75 hours later, I pulled right into the apartment complex where we’ll be living the next 4-6 weeks. It was easy to find, and it’s only 1.4 miles from my new job. Thank goodness I am facing a week off after this move. I need a vacation after spending the past eight weeks house-hunting, working, dealing with mortgage lenders, packing, filling out paperwork, and a billion other move-related tasks. I’m weary of it all.

But, one more chore to do. Tommy and Art are going to show up at my new 10x20 storage unit off the beltway outside of Baltimore about 6-7 hours from now. We’ll unload, and then I can get some groceries and finally just rest. I'm taking 8 days off after that. I don't even want to answer my phone unless it's friends or family.
I have one set of home-related paperwork to sign tomorrow afternoon at Winchester homes, but after that I’m not talking to any more home builders, real estate agents, landlords, new employers, movers, insurance agents, car dealers, DMVs, or mortgage lenders for at least a week. I swear, if I have to fill out one more form or application my hand is going to fall off. Enough!
Leaving the City was tough. Usually when I move I don't look back. But New York is an unforgettable city that, once you've lived in it, becomes a part of you - like a second heart beating away.
As I drove away the sun was setting; the skyline was breath-taking as always. I kept looking back at the Empire State Building - the symbol that made me feel I was "home" whenever I saw it. On every train ride, every cab or bus ride from the airport, every car ride into the City - I'd smile and feel very much at home as soon as I laid eyes on the 1,250-foot icon. I’m really going to miss New York. If I was rich, I’d have me a penthouse with a balcony overlooking Central Park.
Good-bye to the greatest city in the world! I’m going to miss it. I’ll be back to visit, you can count on it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Musical Subways (Subtitle: The Three Blind Mice)

I’m such a slacker. I think this is the longest time I've gone without blogging. I’m sitting here watching Pittsburgh stomp the Broncos in the third quarter. I’m looking forward to watching the Seattle game later today. When I lived in Seattle, the Seahawks were nothing to gawk at. Mike Holmgren took over as head coach in 1999, and they slowly (very slowly) started to improve their game a few years later. Last year they came close to going all the way, but didn’t quite cut it in the play-offs. Well, it looks like they have finally arrived. Today’s game will tell for sure. Go Hawks!

This past Thursday, my two best friends in New York organized a going-away dinner for me. When Karthik and Jacqui asked me where I wanted to eat, I suggested Chris Noth’s restaurant on W. 24th. I’d read an article online about it. You know Chris Noth (pronounced “Note”) – he played the part of Mr. Big on Sex & the City. He’s also famous for his role as hunky-hunk Detective Mike Logan on Law & Order. I was hoping we’d bump into Big at the restaurant, but the most we got to see of him was a big picture (in sideburns, no less!) hanging on the wall in the bar. As it happens, the whole evening turned into a comedy of errors. . . .

It all started on Wednesday. Jacqui was leaving me a phone message when she let it slip that she was picking up our friend Peggy at the airport. (What I didn’t know was that Peggy was flying up from Florida just for my going-away!) Jacqui’s message was funny because after she let the cat out of the bag, she didn’t know what to say, so I nothing but dead air as she contemplated her goof, then a hang-up. I listened to a second voice mail where she'd called back laughing her head off. Finally I figured out it was supposed to be a surprise that Peggy was in town.

But she’s not the only one who let it slip. I was talking to Peggy that same day when she accidentally mentioned something about going into the NY office with Jacqui. So all I knew was that Peggy was in town, not that she’d made the trip for me.

Anyway, that night the girls met me at my apartment. A little while later we walked the two blocks to the R train. I have a Metro card, but Jacqui and Peggy didn’t, and mine needed refilling. As Jacqui and I started punching in our request on the touch-screen at the refill machines, a train pulled up. "The train's here!" I turned around and handed my Metro card to Peggy, saying, “Use this one! It still has $2.00 on it.” And I quickly bought a new card from the machine and ran to the turnstile. I swiped my card and jumped on the train, thinking Jacqui and Peggy were right behind me.

But they weren’t! Before I knew it, the doors were closing, and I did the unspeakable – I held the doors. If you've ever been on the subway in NY, you are familiar with the command, "Stand clear the closing doors!" I hate it when people hold the doors, but here I was doing it myself.

Or, more appropriately, the doors squashed my wrist (and it hurt, I might add!). Holding the doors causes them to reopen throughout the train, thus pissing off passengers who were in a hurry to leave. Jacqui was able to jump on the train. But Peggy didn’t make it! Her card wouldn’t swipe, and the doors were closing again! As the train pulled away, there was Peggy, stuck behind the turnstile! That face she had on - it was like that of a puppy dog you leave at the kennel. I looked at her through the window, pointing and mouthing “Take the next train” as we pulled away.

"Oh my god!" Jacqui said. "What are we going to do?!" We didn’t know what to do! Peggy is from Florida and doesn’t know the subway system. Not only that, but she didn’t know where the restaurant was. In fact, neither did Jacqui. And Jacqui never takes the subway, so I was the only one in our group who knew where we were going and how to get there.

We wanted to call Peggy, but of course neither of our cell phones worked on the train. So we hastily hopped off at the next stop – Times Square. We walked up the stairs in hopes of getting a signal. I was able to dial, but the number I had programmed in for Peggy turned out to be her Florida home, not her cell, so Jacqui tried calling on her phone. While she was doing that, I saw another train pull up downstairs and said, “Wait! Let’s see if she’s on that train!” I ran down the stairs, thinking Jacqui was behind me. I got on, and walked to the end of the car looking for Peggy. She was not on that car. And when I turned around Jacqui wasn’t there. “Jacqui? Jacqui?”

So I got off that car and looked for Jacqui on the platform. “Jacqui? Jacqui?” I couldn't believe this - no way I lost her too! I ran up the stairs but she was gone! Vanished into thin air. I sure what to do at this point. I figured she’d gotten on a different car on the same train I got off. Another train came, so I ran back down stairs and got on it, assuming it was the R train. All I had to do was go three more stops and get off, thinking it was best to just go to the restaurant. So I waited for the 23rd St. stop. Unfortunately, that stop came and went. I do this every time. All the maps show the R and N trains stopping at 23rd. But the N doesn’t. It passes right by and goes to 14th. And I was on the N. This was at least the third time I’d done that.

So I was on the wrong train, and I’d managed to lose both my friends in the subway tunnels of New York City. The three blind mice (or, in this case, blind rats).

I got off at Union Square, crossed the platform, and waited for the next R train. While I was making my way back up to 23rd, I typed in a text message to Jacqui on my phone: “Take R to 23rd, walk to Broadway & 23rd, wait there.” I kept hitting the Send key hoping I could get a signal. Finally, I got off the train, and my message was sent to Jacqui’s phone. Of course, with her being in the tunnels, I didn’t know if she’d get the message!

I was standing in one of my favorite areas of the city on a beautiful night, looking up at the Met-Life clock tower, illuminated in blue, rising above Madison Square Park. The Empire State building was lit up too. Once again, it hit me just how much I’m going to miss Manhattan when I move. I love the City at night. I would have loved to live in the Flatiron district.

So we were all split up with no way to communicate. I sent Jacqui a second text message, warning her to avoid the N. I walked over to the restaurant on 24th to see if Karthik was there, but he wasn’t, so I left him a voice mail saying we were running late, and I walked back to Broadway and 23rd. Turns out Jacqui did get my message. I waited for her at the top of the stairs, and as I saw her coming up to street level, I felt my phone vibrating from her call. Whew! Reunited.

But where was Peggy?

Just then Jacqui’s phone rang; it was Peggy. She had done the smart thing and gotten in a cab. I gave her the address to the Cutting Room, and Jacqui and I walked to the restaurant on 24th. It was very dark and very loud in this place. We had reservations at 7:00 but there was no hostess in sight. So we had to wait for a manager to come out. It was more of a club than a restaurant. The manager came out, removed the coats from the chairs of a table in the middle of the bar area and sat us down there.

The menu turned out to be nothing but bar food – appetizers, hot dogs, fish ‘n chips, etc. This was no restaurant! It was so dark that we had to steal candles from other tables just to read the menu. We ordered diet sodas and Calamari.

When Peggy showed up, she told us that she did get on another train where we’d left her, but that train turned out to be the N as well! It didn’t stop at 23rd, and when she heard the conductor announce “Next stop Canal, then on to Brooklyn” she knew enough to get off there (at Union Square) and take a cab. She was totally unruffled. I was impressed! Had I been new to NY and from out of town and lost in the subway and separated from my friends and didn't know the address of where I was going, I am pretty sure I would have panicked!

The Calamari was delivered to our table with three sauces – none of which we could determine a flavor for. The food wasn’t something to write home about. So we ordered the Tempura appetizer. Karthik finally showed up and at last we were all together, about an hour after our reservation. But I couldn’t hear a word he was saying over the noise, so we all agreed to leave the noisy bar and walk up Broadway to find another place to sit down. The Tempura (and its mystery sauces) wasn’t any better than the Calamari, so we left.

We walked up Broadway and went in a pizza place to sit down. We were putting down our coats when we noticed that most of the bins behind the sneeze guard were empty, and the pizza slice selections were minimal. It was only about 8:45pm, so finally we just asked the guy behind the counter if they were closed, and he said they closed at 9:00. Geez! We wanted a place we could sit and talk and eat, so we left.

Hmm….we’re in the middle of Manhattan before 9:00 and there are no restaurants open? Broadway was nothing but wholesale shops, so we crossed over to 5th Avenue and voila! There was a café on the corner of 28th. It took long enough, but we found a place to eat!

We each got our food and went upstairs to sit down. I went to the restroom, only to discover it was disgusting. There was something all over the floor that looked a lot like chewing tobacco. Meanwhile, Peggy promptly spilled her 16-ounce cup of coffee all over the table. I’m telling you – it was like there was a full moon or something that night! We couldn’t stop laughing at the multiple mishaps of the evening.

But we had a great time together. Since Peggy lives in Florida, Karthik in Pennsylvania, Jacqui in New Jersey, and I live in New York, this night was the first time the four of us all got together – and we vowed it wouldn’t be the last. I am lucky to have the great friends that I’ve made in my travels around this country. And these three - well, this is one special bunch.

Go Seattle! It’s 27-7 in the third. See you in the Bowl!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Stress-o-Meter 2006

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Date: January 1, 2006
Number of cars purchased: 1
Number of offers submitted for home purchase: 1
Number of job offers received (for new role with new company in new state): 1
Miles traveled by train: 200
Miles traveled by car: lost count
Hours of sleep lost: 4
Number of New Years Eve celebrations: 0
Number of 2005 Christmas presents opened: still 0

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