245 Tompkins Avenue

I wouldn’t have called it my dream apartment. From the outside, it looked like it had survived 3 hurricanes and a zombie apocalypse. Each of the three apartments had two matching balconies located on the far side of the building which faced Tompkins park. At one time, it was probably a lovely place to sit and watch the kids walk to school or see the distant sun setting over the cityscape. But as the years flew by, the iron gates of these tiny terraces had become so rusted through it was a wonder they hadn’t fall right off the of building.

There was a stray cat living in our hallway named Tiger. I could tell by her cries for attention and food that she had probably belonged to someone. But people are cruel and they will do what they have to survive, leaving poor little Tigs on the street to fend for herself. My roommate has a bigger heart than she does a brain and would often let her into our apartment, to play with her cat, never considering the diseases that she could be carrying within her sticky, matted fur. The neighbors let Tiger in through a hole in the roof and most days she slept on the stairs. Occasionally there would be a perfect round turn waiting for us in the hallway. Although, we were never sure if it was Tiger’s as they usually looked big enough to be human.

The apartment on Tompkins was the only one Kelly and I could agree on. Our third roommate, was off on some cruise having the time of our life, and expected us to choose her a room and work out all the details amongst the two of us. She is violently irresponsible. Kelly and I hated each other from the get go. She, a right-wing Texan who loved processed food and Jesus, and I, a liberal feminist were bound to have problems. We agreed on the apartment solely because there were fewer stairs she had to climb than the previous options and I was tired of looking. After our first apartment had fallen through and I had been forced to live on my friend’s couch for a week, I would have slept in a box.

The closet doors hung lifeless from their hinges and there was a giant old mop sitting in still water in the middle of the living room. “It’s a real fixer upper, but the good thing about that is you can really make it your own.” Our realtor was young and vapid with sunken eyes and translucent skin. He paced rapidly and jumped from one foot to another as he showed us the apartment and I couldn’t tell if he was a heroin addict looking for a fix or if he was just unhealthy and needed to pee. Either way Kelly was smitten with him. She giggled as he accidentally pulled the handle off the “brand new” oven. I rolled my eyes and wanted to die. But we signed the lease anyway because I am inpatient and am great at making horrible decisions.

Kelly was gone when the blizzard hit. She had broken the living room window the night before in a high daze. She was one bong rip away from falling out of it completely as she attempted to smoke her last cigarette. She left for Texas in the morning without telling us anything had happened. So there we were, with in the middle of the worst snow storm New York City had seen in decades, with a broken window and a super named Tony who didn’t speak English or know how to use a power drill. We were fucked.

The window in my room was broken as well and there was a large hole in the wall where an air conditioning unit once sat. The only thing between my room and the outside world were two pieces of purple styrofoam and some reusable shopping bags I stuffed in between for insulation. When the city finally came to inspect our building they took the temperature of my bedroom and found that it was 45 degrees. It was St. Patrick’s Day and the warmest day we had, had in months.

Of course along with the broken window there was the lack of cold water. I know it may seem like you shouldn’t really need cold water in the winter but let me tell you, you absolutely fucking do. Without cold water to help regulate the temperature you are forced to bath in scalding hot hell fire. The landlord didn’t understand why this was a problem. “Who doesn’t want hot showers in the winter?! You crazy shikk…” He always stopped himself before he called me a Shiksa. As if being called a white whore was somehow worse than not being able to shower without burning my skin. For the record, words can’t hurt you like 300 degree water can.

The baby roaches, the black mold under the sink, and the rat poison in our drawers which made us all sick also contributed to our misery. Although nothing was worse than our landlord. He was a young, possibly inbred, shiesty Hasidic man who relentlessly harassed us for not paying rent on time (which we always did) and never shared with us so much as his first name. Each month the checks were made out to “Mr. Miller”. He did not have an email address or an office. We were to meet him out front of a small yiddish drug store and present our rent checks. If we had complaints, he always met us outside of our apartment building and brought his kids along. “You see, you see these children! I need to make a living, I have mouths to feed!” His children were some of the strangest looking kids I had ever seen. Looking into their classy eyes and porcelain skin deeply upset me. They never made a sound, they just stared at me with frozen faces as if holding their breath. I’m sure they actually were holding their breath. There is probably some strange rule that Hasidic children are banned from breathing the same air as gentile whores.

We broke the lease after a grueling 4 months. Between the unlivable conditions and my disgusting roommate leaving odd cups of milk to spoil in the fridge and leaving giant shit stains all up the back of our toilet seat, I had, had enough. After I had packed my things and moved them into my new apartment, I stood in the room and looked out onto the crumbling balcony. In that moment the room was actually beautiful. Bright light poured in through the windows and left it feeling sunny and warm. What a shame it was that it had been neglected for so many years. I said goodbye to first chapter of my New York City experience and I won’t go back, not even to check my mail.

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Broke & Basic

I squatted awkwardly under the bathtub faucet, waiting for the icy water to trickle out into my cupped palms. I collected water, I splashed it about my body. It went on like this for several minutes until I felt clean. The cold and hot water didn’t mix in my apartment and all that could be endured was a frigid little stream. Shivering and crying I did my best to keep it together. There I was, on the edge of absolute failure. It was one of the most real moments of my young life – and all I could think was, I’m a rich girl from the suburbs, how did I get here?

There is nothing glamorous about New York. I am not Taylor Swift, and it had not been waiting for me. I fought my way here above all odds and everyone’s better judgement (including my own). But damn it, I was here. Even if I was hating every minute of it. Since my arrival in January,  I have changed apartments twice. Once because our landlord simply never returned from Israel to let us move in, apparently that’s more common then you’d think. The second because our “Beautiful Bedstuy Apartment” was deemed unlivable by the New York City Housing Authority. We needed to vacate, fast. It was decided to be un livable due to roaches, broken windows that were never going to be fixed, a diseased stray cat named Tiger living in our hallway, and of course the scalding water that rained down upon us from the shower head like hellfire. Of course, my roommate Kelly, who I and my friends lovingly renamed Smelly Kelly, contributed to the apartment’s foul conditions. She was the type of girl who saved everything – even old milk. She would leave glasses of it inside the fridge or under her bed for days. She smelled of sour cream as if she was actually bathing in it. She was every Texas stereotype I could dream up rolled into one larger than life human being. She was a gun toting, Jesus loving, racist who didn’t recycle. She was truly the embodiment of my every nightmare.

Then there are the boys. Oh, New York boys! They come in every size, shape, color, and background but they all lie the same way. There was one I liked. He was Dominican with dark, smooth skin, and had a smile that could make me weak in the knees. Amy Schumer once made the comment that every time Latinos speak it sounds like they’re cumming. Now, I understand what she means. He could make the Pledge of Alliance sound like the dirtiest thing you’d ever heard. He was filled with passion and oozed sexuality. I thought I was in heaven until I realized that I wasn’t the only object of his affection. He loved his best friend. And not in a BFF, get a tattoo, and give a speech at each other’s wedding kind of way. My internal alarm went off until when he invited his friend on our date. He friend sat back in his chair and he asked me what it was like for us to kiss and whether I work out, and what my favorite position was. They were close – very close. The two of them might as well have been holding hands under the table. Needless to say, I left before the proposition could even be made.

Worse even so than my two spanish papis, my foul roommate and the broken down roach motel we shared, was the job. Sweet Jesus did I fuck up the day I accepted that job. Now, hear me out. I had just moved to NYC and I had been burning my way through all of my savings (my credit card). My other prospects had fallen through and I was desperate for anything when I decided to suck up my pride and enter the cruel world of customer service. I just really didn’t realize how cruel it would actually be. My boss, a plain looking English woman from the dodgy end of London looked innocent enough. She was kind and warm in our interview. She regaled me with tales of her company’s success and the devotion of her loving staff, and honestly, I should have seen through the bullshit. At this point, after being in New York for a few long months I should have known that nothing is what it seems and everything is shit. But, I am 25 and naive with no sense and stars in my eyes so I took the bate. Her favorite term of endearment for us is “pathetic” and I and the other brainwashed twenty-somethings spend our days being screamed at by wealthy designers for being physically unable to overnight their fabric from Thailand. All the money in the world and they still can’t figure out geography. But, I am sure the globes in their studies are for looking, not for learning. So I spend 9 hours a day sitting at my desk awaiting my 30 minute lunch so I can step into the Chelsea streets and be free to chain smoke and eat my sad banana lunch.

My life is changing, so naturally my blog has to do the same. I have decided that I can no longer use the bulk of my posts to discuss my unsuccessful dating life. Because well, I may never have a date again. So instead I’ll focus on my current love-hate relationship with the city that never sleeps.

Welcome to New York

I sit down at my desk to write, as I’ve done millions of times before. But today is different; I am different. No longer am I stuck in the grey stillness of my hometown, a town that is unsettling silent and slow. I left that place six weeks ago and already it’s hard for me to remember it. Since arriving in New York I’ve conquered the bustling subway commutes to and from work, I’ve learned how to be patient with people even when I find them intolerable, and I’ve lost love—although it was probably never mine to have. I didn’t step into the city and automatically feel at home or even that I had made the right decision by moving here. Rather, I felt afraid and overwhelmed and about a million other emotions connected to fear and regret.

I was welcomed to New York in a number of ways by many different people. I was greeted by my best friend and her bright smile, by my cousin with a loud laugh and long drag from a shared cigarette, by a broken window and a hole in my wall, a blizzard and frozen pipes, and finally with a whisper between the sheets in broken English. I never made any big declarative statement congratulating myself on stampeding towards my dreams—because that’s not what it feels like. It feels more like moving from a passionate affair right into a marriage. You’re in love, but you also had no idea what you were getting yourself into.

Sometimes in Brooklyn you can see the stars, they begin to show themselves just after 7:30PM and hang low over the park that sits caddy corner to my building. Sometimes at night I would stand on my back porch in Columbus and count them. Too often the trees or the orange glow of the city would block my view, but on a clear winter night I could still see them. It’s these little pieces that help keep me connected to my old life and give me comfort when I’m feeling lost or alone. It’s easy to feel that way here, regardless of the fact that I am usually actually lost.

The people are different too. They shuffle into the subways in herds with their headphones in and heads down. They all stand in close union with one another but are still alone in a world all their own. I watch them, and they watch me. We study each other silently as if there were glass in between us. The people move fast here. They push, run, and shove to get where they’re going, but they’ll also stop everything to answer a question or to point a stranger in the right direction. This is a characteristic of New Yorkers that I find particularly endearing.

The boys here are different too, I won’t call them men because most of them haven’t gotten that far. You have your wealthy ones, the son or grandson of someone who once mattered, but now all that is left is a handsome trust fund and a few entitled brats nursing from it. You have your poor ones; the ones who know how to work but grew up in a place so different from yours it might as well have been another world entirely. There are some that are fast and aggressive, born and raised in Queens or Staten Island or Harlem. They’ll kiss you hard, in the middle of a sentence without questioning it. Or, there are transplants who make jokes across the table in English so broken you can’t help but kiss them back, because you’re different too and you know what it feels like to be homesick.

I feel like I’ve brought little with me that was mine. One thing I made sure to bring was a portrait of my grandmother. I made my dad claim it for me in those few strange months between the death of my grandfather and selling his house. In the portrait, my grandmother is wearing a pale pink sweater with a white collared shirt underneath. In small letters in the lower left corner it reads, Captuto, Italia 1965. I assume she must have been in Italy when it was painted, but I don’t know and I never felt the need to ask. I like keeping her a mystery. Once when the howling winds slammed so hard into my building that my window broke I cried to her and asked for help. I knew she couldn’t here me but I figured it was worth a try, at least until my landlord could come and fix it.

Sometimes I yearn for the quiet stillness of home, or the small luxury of a personal washing machine, a car, or a bedroom wall without a gapping hole in it, plugged up carelessly with pink insulation and Styrofoam. But I also know that by spring I will have forgotten what easy living was like. The biggest change has been within myself. Looking in the mirror, my mirror, in a room that I recently inhabited, with things that are mine or aren’t mine, wearing clothes that are new, and thinking with a mind that is constantly changing makes it difficult to recognize myself. I like the girl looking back, I just don’t really know her yet—but I will in time.

To New York, With Love

My love affair with Manhattan began as a crush. I became completely infatuated with the city after watching the Broadway musical turned major motion picture Rent when I was sixteen. Yes, that’s right. Something about extreme poverty and debilitating diseases seemed utterly romantic to me. After that I became obsessed with the humble beauty of fire escapes and neglected apartment buildings. I was absolutely certain that I would make it to New York one day, so I did.

I finally met New York when I was eighteen. Young and starry eyed I arrived at the door of my dormitory wearing a new outfit my mother had purchased for me days before. I settled into my tiny bedroom filled nothing but a single bed, one dresser, and a sink and knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be. For two memorable months New York was my man. In the mornings I would take the train to 23rd street and walk two blocks to the yoga studio where I worked. I would stare unapologetically at the people  I passed on the streets or waited with in the subways, pretending to be one of them. I would laugh with New York when the derelicts and ne’er-do-wells called me pretty and begged me to marry them. I would get drunk with New York, standing on the roof of my building singing to the city. I even fought with New York when I took the wrong subway and wound up in the wrong parts of town. And in the evening I fell asleep listening to the sounds of the streets below.

I didn’t want to leave him. But of course mothers will be mothers and mine was determined to make me finish high school and attend college the following fall. So I said my goodbyes, vowing that I would be back one day. And I was, for weekends, sometimes weeks. I came back to smell the city, visit old friends, and fall in love again. Every day I spent with him assured me that he was my dream, and that New York was my somewhere over the rainbow.

The last time I was in New York was almost two weeks ago. Now, I’m aware that visiting right before a hurricane was supposed to hit probably wasn’t a good idea but luckily I got out before the winds kicked up and the water came in. Regardless, New York and I found ourselves on different pages. The cab drivers overcharged me and the bank froze my account. Faces were cold and unfamiliar and found myself missing Columbus’ quiet streets and affordable food. I tried to party with New York but instead I took too much, threw up on my shoes and ran away from my French guide. It was like bad sex or emotional cheating. I woke up cold in the bed the next day hating New York and realizing finally that maybe we just weren’t meant to be together.

There was this guy, a real guy not a city, and it was kind of the same way with him. We made love happen in two weeks. Then he left (the way men sometimes do) and moved to Spain, then Germany, then California and last thing I heard he was living in a tent on top of some mountain in Oregon. Needless to say it didn’t work. But loving him felt like loving New York. I would wait to see his face appear on my computer screen the same I would wait to see that silvery skyline peak over my airplane window.

Then this other guy showed up completely unannounced. He’s actually quite perfect. You know, with looks so good they make you weak and a voice so powerful that the mere memory of it in your ear moves things inside of you. Things that you never thought would move again. This time it was two days. Two days of kisses and conversation that was so sweet it left butterflies lingering in the pit of my stomach. But he left to, because his life was waiting on the other end of some airport terminal and his goals were riding the conveyer belt at baggage claim, waiting to be picked up.

So here I am with this great sense that I’m not where I need to be. That this universe is trying to tell me that I’d better pick up and leave if I’m tired of being left. But then there’s this other thing idling above my shoulder. An eerie sense that perhaps I love the things I cannot have because I’m unable to see what’s right in front of me. Well, I”m not going to waste my youth dreaming of tomorrow because I’m unsatisfied with today. Or settle for a life that wasn’t chosen for me just because it’s easier to do so. Working on a dream is like working on a relationship and true love doesn’t end with an argument anymore than it can with one bad weekend.