Category Archives: living in the city

I didn’t exactly move to the East Coast for this…

Yup, that looks pretty mean and it’s headed right for us. Expected landfall is sometime tomorrow night or early Sunday morning. All week we’ve been watching various computer models adjust the predicted track for this storm and as it moved further and further west with New York in its sights, it became apparent to all of us that right off the heels of one of our first earthquakes, we are about to experience our very first hurricane. Lifelong residents here have been talking about how they’ve never been in one, so this is going to be an interesting experience for all of us.

New York State has declared a state of emergency. Mass transit is already scheduled to be shut down entirely tomorrow starting at noon. I know it’s difficult for non-New Yorkers to imagine why that’s such a big deal, but let me put it this way: it’s more uncommon for someone in the Metro area to own a car than not. Those of us without cars in the actual city outnumber those of us with them. In other words, without mass transit, we’re stuck in our respective neighborhoods/boroughs. The Mayor has ordered mandatory evacuation of all zone A parts of the city and the Rockaways, which are actually a zone B. I live in zone C, which triggers a mandatory evacuation in cat-3 or 4 storms (I learned all of this in a crash course I gave myself during the past 48 hours when it became clear we were going to get nailed by Irene), so those of us in C should be okay.

Amusingly enough, when I left the store where I had purchased batteries for a flashlight, a can opener (how I didn’t have one of these is beyond me), candles, a lighter, etc., I noticed that everyone on the street had bags of something; bottled water, paper towels (not sure what use those will be, but hey), flashlights, the whole nine yards. Say what you want about New Yorkers but when something serious goes down, we listen to what to do and we listen well. 😉

Ultimately, there’s no reason to believe that this is going to be catastrophic. Even if it remains a cat-2 storm, I don’t suspect there will be a serious loss of life despite how many people live here and how concentrated we are. Bloomberg and Cuomo are not messing around with precautions, and that’s really the best way to go about it. It’s possible that the bridges may get closed as well, so really the best thing we can all do is bunker down and stay there. My office has already declared that we will most likely be closed on Monday (if the hurricane pounds us all day Sunday and the trains don’t resume service until Monday or later, there’s no way we’re all getting back to work). Honestly I’m more worried about what will happen if the power and gas lines get knocked out by Irene. If that does happen, then my phone will be kept off in order to conserve battery life, so it is entirely plausible that all New Yorkers will be off the grid for a few days. In other words, don’t panic if I disappear from the internets…the kitteh and I will be bunkered down riding out our first hurricane experience ever. Behold Toni’s “are you kidding me with this hurricane business?” face:

In non-hurricane, yet somewhat hurricane related news, this weekend entails a half marathon distance long training run and the only opportunity we will have for that is tomorrow morning before the storm hits. The route we’ve chosen has been aptly named for this occasion (the “Hurricane Irene Half Marathon”):

On that note, cheers! I will update after the storm to let you know a) I’m still alive and b) what it was like!

Apparently I live in CA, KS, & the Caribbean combined

Yesterday, there was an earthquake (California).

This weekend, Hurricane Irene is likely to slam us (the Caribbean).

Last year, there were tornadoes in Brooklyn and Queens (Kansas).

Since when did I live in an extreme weather city? The only thing extreme about our weather is how unbearably hot/humid it gets in the subway stations during the summer! Yes, dear reader, I was part of the “Eastern Quake” yesterday and experienced one of the better effects of it: working on one of the top floors of a midtown Manhattan office building and feeling the building itself shake and sway for about 30 seconds. It was incredibly freaky to say the least and not an experienced I’d like to repeat. My thought process went something like this: terrorist attack? Bomb? Did the idiot construction workers downstairs knock out the building support? Only after cycling through these scenarios (the first two were eliminated due to the absence of loud noises) it finally occurred to me that this was an earthquake! Wait…what? An earthquake? Well, hmmm…what do I do?!? Board up the windows? No…that’s for hurricanes. Get to the basement? Well, that’s for tornadoes but is it the same for an earthquake? Oh hell I dunno…lemme just grab my cell phone and my ID in case a cop stops me and get out of here (New Yorker’s “survival” gear)!

Interestingly enough I found some of my coworkers already by the elevators waiting (isn’t it funny how little we know of what to do in an earthquake?) and suggested that it might be a good idea to take the stairs. Call it intuition on my part. After the unexpected midday stair workout, we get to the street and determine that standing next to a tall building might not be the best idea (we had no idea if it was over, just starting, or what…again, we don’t really know much about earthquakes) to which I pointed out one tiny complication: how exactly are we supposed to find a spot that’s not next to a tall building in midtown? We ended up at Madison Square Park where there are only trees because falling trees, after all, are probably easier to dodge than falling buildings. In all seriousness, we had some people with us who were here during 9/11 and vividly remember what it was like to have the towers coming down and what happened to the people on the street when they did. While yesterday’s event was ultimately harmless, in a city like New York you simply can’t avoid thinking about that.

As the quake was happening and right afterward I was able to shoot of a quick text that our building was being evacuated due to what I thought was an earthquake, but after that cell service was pretty much nonexistent. I wasn’t able to send a text responding to Margot’s “WHAT?” text after I’d sent one telling her my building was being evacuated. Everyone’s cell phones were saying “oh yeah? You want to call people on the outside and tell them you’re okay? Well too bad!! hahahaha! No email, no text, no social networking for you right now as news reports start blaring about a 5.8 earthquake on the East Coast!” This lasted for a good half hour or so, and some people I knew reported that they still couldn’t use their phones more than an hour later. So, good to know that we can rely on cell service if, god forbid, another attack were to happen here. It took all of two minutes for service to go down and at least 30 minutes to come back intermittently.

It became apparent pretty quickly that we’d experienced the worst of it and nothing else was really going to happen. At this point what makes New York the greatest place to live in the world started coming out via Twitter, news article commentary, and Facebook: tongue-in-cheek snarky reactions from those who experienced the “Eastern Quake” 2011. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

My neighbor called out, “Whose shaking the building?” Our super called out, “God!”

Felt a litle wobble here is Astoria, but none of my Scotch fell off the shelf.

When it happened I just figured my upstairs neighbor was just vacuuming using about 12 vacuums at once.

This is what happens when they try to open a monument to a black man in D.C. [Tweet from @ElieNYC]

Behold, I have punished NY for their gay-marrying ways!! … Oh shit, I missed. Sorry, Virginia! [Tweet from @almightygod…I have no idea if this person lives in NYC or not but I still found it funny.]

Oh, and to the Californians / West Coasters scoffing and poking fun over the “reaction” from this side, three things: a) yes, some peoples’ reactions were a little much, but thanks to our distinct lack of these events, much of our older infrastructure and many of our buildings are not designed to withstand a direct hit from something like an earthquake, so bugger off; b) you live in the land of constant earthquakes (apparently anyway according to your reactions yesterday); and c) you completely freak out about a 3-day long construction closure of one of your highways, which was planned in advance (which did not produce any significant traffic delays by the way)…who wins the “which coast is better” debate here?

Also? Your pizza and bagels suck. So there.

Anniversaries, vacations, and marathon training!

Oh wow! Definitely been a while since I updated this here website, so be prepared for a lot of stuff packed into a small amount of space. First up? Margot and I passed the 3 yr mark earlier this month and to celebrate we ended up doing an NYC food truck tour, which was simply the best idea ever. We hit up the Coolhaus truck Friday night after dinner with a friend, and on Sunday we hit the Wafels & Dinges truck, the Taco Truck, the Korilla BBQ truck, and Eddie’s Pizza truck! To be fair, they were all amazing with the exception of the the pizza truck, which I found to be a bit weak after tasting the tacos and the Korean BBQ. Don’t get me started on the Belgian waffles…

We also hit up an Italian place over in Hell’s Kitchen on Saturday night that I bought a Yelp deal for ages ago ($25 purchased $50 worth of food and drink) and then the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria afterward. In other words, there was a lot of eating that weekend, but I wasn’t complaining. 🙂 And somehow I managed to fit a 10 miler into that weekend as part of my marathon training!

With a great weekend behind me, I began the work week like any other; sans vacation plans. One random Expedia search later on Wednesday morning and I had booked a roundtrip flight from LGA (LaGuardia in NYC) to SEA (Seattle, WA) for an 8-day vacation in October. Price tag? $283 with taxes and fees included. The rental car I’m getting for the week costs almost as much as that! So, even though I was vaguely considering the possibility, I am now flying back west for the first time in nearly 3 years and driving to Helena, MT, to see everybody again. And to see mountains, trees, lakes, and those things we really don’t see here in New York.

And finally, marathon training. I had to jump right into marathon training a couple of days after the Queens Half-Marathon (hence why we didn’t really “race” that race), and after my second full week of training it’s so far so good. The first weekend after the half I completed a 10 mile long run without a hitch, and it was my first run from Manhattan into Astoria, which was fun. It’s a great route from Battery City Park in lower Manhattan, up the west side (and past the Freedom Tower construction so I can see how far they’ve gotten for the week), across midtown, and over the bridge into Queens. Also? The bikers on the Queensboro Bridge suck at yielding to runners and/or staying in their own damn bike lane. One guy I was yelling “bike lane” at while he barreled down the *walker/runner’s path* right at me. Oy. I may carry a stick next time I do the Bridge…

This week’s “roll back week” of 7 miles also went perfectly fine, and of course the weekly runs (which are at a 3, 5, and 3) for the past two weeks have been no sweat…well, with the heat they have been sweaty, but, well, you know what I mean. This is the week where the Wednesday run goes up, so it’ll be 3, 6, and 3 from now on. At the height of the training it’ll be a 5, 10, 5 line-up and I can’t really imagine that right now. 🙂 For this week I’m looking at 3, 6, 3, and a 12 at the end of it, so 24 miles total for this week.

Time to Taper + HOT Weekend in NYC Recap

In case you hadn’t noticed, it was ridiculously hot this weekend regardless of where you lived in the continental U.S. On Friday afternoon I walked out of my office into what could only be described as a sauna and instantly regretted the official NYRR Long Training Run #1 for the NYC Marathon that I’d signed up for on Saturday morning. Given the Queens Half-Marathon that’s taking place this Saturday, I had to get in the 10 miler that I’d been planning on before starting my taper week this week. So, I was up bright and early at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, and walked out of my A/C’d house to this:

Only 83 degrees? That’s not so bad, right? Two things: a) look at the time stamp and then imagine where that temp went as the morning progressed; b) check out the humidity and “feels like” temp. Yeah, it was hot. Luckily, I had my badge of honor (“race” bib):

And I wasn’t the only crazy out there running anywhere from 6 to 20 miles in the ridiculous heat and humidity:

Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I had been expecting. I mean, the conditions weren’t anywhere close to ideal and I was pretty much disgusting after the 10 miles were over, but it actually felt pretty good. There were fluid stations every mile, misting stations in 3 different spots of the park, the pace setters took us 30 seconds slower to account for the heat, and there was a recovery area after every loop of the park that featured water-soaked sponges, water, Gatorade, gel shots, etc. I actually had a good time all things considered. Now that the 10 miler is done, it’s time to rest and taper up for the Queens Half-Marathon this weekend! At least we know we’re capable of running in extreme heat if it happens again this weekend, right? There will be no PR-setting for this race, that’s for sure!

Afterward we headed over to the Highline to hunt down the Coolhaus ice cream truck, which is apparently one of the best ice cream trucks in the city. On a day where the temps had climbed to this:

I could certainly get behind something like this:

That’s exactly what you think it is. It was a Guiness chip type of ice cream with two white chocolate chip cookies, which were combined to create the greatest thing ever. Totally worth walking over the Highline in the blistering heat and waiting for about 15 minutes for it to show up.

All in all, it was a busy weekend. On Sunday we spent the better part of the day moving our things into my new apartment in Astoria and the name of the game this week after work will be unpacking and putting the place together for my final move-in this Thursday or Friday. It’s definitely been a summer of moving with Boston, Brooklyn, Queens, and Boston again all thrown in, but hey, at least it’s almost over!

Weekly Roundup

Currently in NYC it’s 94 degrees outside. With the 38% humidity, it “feels like” 96 degrees. Having this at the forefront of my decision-making process, I have opted to not leave this building until at least 5:30 tonight when these ridiculous temperatures have already started subsiding and have entered the “free fall” stage (somewhat misleading at this rate, but when it’s mid-to-high 90s, you’d be happy for mid-80s too!). That said, here’s what you’ve missed this week:

  • I am now an Astorian. After a ridiculous time of it battling brokers and relying on nonsensical advice (scroll down for review), I finally found a good deal (again, scroll down for review) that landed me right where I wanted to be in the neighborhood for an amazing price. The best part? My kitchen is awesomely huge (for you non-New Yorkers, shut it, this is *big* by our standards):
  • We are house and cat-sitting at the moment, and will be until I move into this new apartment. I’ve pretty much fallen in love with the feline and have decided that Toni really does want a new friend. I mean who wouldn’t when it’s something this cute:
  • I beat Bioshock 2 on Sunday (see previous mid-game review). Everything I said there still holds true, but I will say this about the ending: it’s probably about an hour or so longer than it really needed to be. Still thought it was a great game and really can’t wait for Bioshock: Infinite to be released!
  • I’m purchasing new running shoes tonight from The Running Company. While I’m not entirely positive that Super Runner’s Shop put me in the wrong shoes this time around, I’d like to have a second opinion and see what the former comes up with. Occasionally I have some soreness in my left arch (I have low arches so I may over-pronate), but that might just be a product of the fact that I need new shoes. I’m getting them now in order to have them broken in by the Queens Half-Marathon on July 30th! This way I’ll get tonight’s (blisteringly hot to be sure) training run in, I’ll also manage two long runs plus 2 1/2 weeks of training runs before the Half, so I’m pretty confident that the new shoes will be ready for Queens and the rat maze that it will be!
  • I had no idea that the North Atlantic was actually capable of creating real waves on its beaches until this past weekend. At Long Beach we not only got to experience swimming in an ocean that’s crashing all around you and the closure of the water due to a strong riptide, we got to see the ocean advance on the beach and send sunbathers scattering for cover. See?

Ridiculously Busy Week

This past week and weekend have been sheer insanity of awesome and busy; consequently, you get a bullet-point recap (complete with photos and links!):

  • New York, the state I call home, passed that one bit of legislation that you probably haven’t heard anything about…as a result, this year’s Pride celebration was crazy, awesome, and exhausting all at the same time. I need a weekend to recover from my weekend! We found out while we were out to dinner at a Cuban place a few blocks from where we’re staying in Fort Greene, and had it not been for the Pride race I was in the next morning, we would’ve probably been out all night. A 3 1/2 hour march down 5th Avenue, people spilling out of bars and restaurants in the village, frozen margaritas, Governor Cuomo, etc.
  • President Obama demonstrates that he still doesn’t get it even after Cuomo’s accomplishment in a Republican-controlled Senate, which is notorious for its dysfunction. His team uses the word “evolving” to describe his position and I use the word “bullsh*t” to describe it.
  • My LSAT score came back, and while I consider it to be a pretty douche move to post things like LSAT scores or even law school grades online (remember this? Cause I do…), I’ll let you all know it was in the 160s, which was not as high as I was hoping for, but still good enough to get me into the law schools I planned on applying to before I took it. There was a harder than average curve (meaning I had to miss less in order to make into the higher scores), but I’m glad it’s over!
  • I ran the 30th annual Pride race in Central Park a mere 12-14 hours after same sex marriage was legalized, and despite the 2 miles we did before the race because we needed to get in 7 that day and the 93% humidity which felt more like 100%, it felt awesome. And most importantly? Rainbow popsicles after the finish line. This should happen at every race.
  • I’m in the process of moving out of my old apartment this week. One funny story so far is Tuesday night I decided that we just had to have my TV and Xbox, and I’d estimate that the place we’re cat/house-sitting at is about half a mile from my old apartment. Paranoid about rolling a 32 inch flat-screen TV along the not-so-even sidewalks of Brooklyn, I enlisted M to come with me after work to help me take the TV and Xbox over. With no car, and the option of an easier method for transportation out of the question, I carried that TV down 3 flights of stairs, the half a mile from Boerum Hill to Fort Greene, and up 4 flights of stairs…my arms are still sore today.
  • I discovered a laundromat around the corner from me that has CNN on the TV’s while you wait, e.g. perfect laundromat for me. There’s some serious stuff going down in Greece and Kabul right now. Yeesh!
  • Rise Against released their video for the song “Make It Stop” last week (or two weeks ago?), and you should watch it if you haven’t already. Fantastic video that had me holding my breath for about 4 minutes:

Battling the Brokers

I have been living in New York for going on 4 years now, and for each apartment that I have lived in here, I either found the place on Craigslist or through a word of mouth recommendation. Last year I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan, found that I didn’t really like it all that much, and decided to move to Astoria this summer after I finished taking the LSAT in June. Speaking of that pesky LSAT, scores should be coming out in the next few days or so, but as you’ll see in this post, I haven’t had all that much time to worry about it.

There are some areas of New York where brokers have a monopoly on all of the good apartment listings. For example, when M and I moved in together in “Manhattan Valley” (yuppie speak for the neighborhood between the upper west side and Morningside Heights), we had a broker but the economy and housing market was in such dire straights that the management company for the building paid his fee. For those who are uninitiated to apartment searching in NYC, a broker’s fee is generally equal to one month’s rent. Add on the fact that you always pay one month’s security and the first month’s rent at signing, and you’re expected to shell out at least several thousand dollars on the spot. A lot of people try to find an apartment on their own so that they don’t have to shell out that extra thousand or so, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

Unfortunately for me, it seems to be my turn in the vicious broker cycle. The housing market in NYC is much better than it was in 2009 when M and I moved in together, and it’s prime-time real estate season, so I’ve had to try my luck with brokers because Astoria’s market is simply dominated by them. First I tried this guy, who after telling me he could work with me even though I couldn’t pay his full fee up-front (I was honest about it because it was true) but was willing to sign a contract stipulating I would at the end of the first month after I moved in and scheduling an appointment for the next day, he wouldn’t return my calls nor my emails asking where and what time to meet. Finally on the day of our appointment, I emailed him after I was done at the office stating I was going home because I hadn’t heard from him and I’d be available the next day; to which he responded almost immediately saying “okay great, tomorrow’s good!” So the next day rolls around, I contact him again after waiting several hours for him to contact me to ask him what time and, you guessed it, nothing. Lovely. Good business model.

Enter the next broker who I contacted after seeing a $900 studio on Craigslist. It should have tipped me off that her fee was less than one month’s rent ($750), but my attitude at this point was “what could it hurt?” going to see the place. So, I went out to Astoria at the appointment time of 8:00 p.m. and found that not only was she trying to show it to 4 different people at once (myself and 3 others), she also couldn’t show it to us at all because the owner was in Brooklyn at the time. She asked if we could reschedule for the next day at noon, and of course, I was working at that time. I think this was also the point where she told us “oh sorry, the owner also gave the tenant another month, so this is actually not available until August 1st now.” Well thank you for the heads up on, oh, all of these developments. The next day rolls around and she texts me saying she has some “options” for studios to show me if I was interested, and I said okay. We made an appointment for the next day, and I was to meet her at a Starbucks by the train. Fast forward to that meeting time at the Starbucks, and…she’s not there. Instead, she’s at the old $900 studio and tells me she can show it to me now. Okay fine, I replied, but you’re going to have to wait there because I’m at the Starbucks you told me to meet you at, which is a 10 minute walk away from that apartment. No problem she says, so I walk over. Guess what is waiting for me there? A very small, basement studio apartment, with zero counter space in the “kitchen” area. Yes, it’s a steal at $900 with Astoria Park, the trains, and plenty of restaurants/bars around the area, but a tiny, humid, underground space? Eh, no thanks. I actually struggled with this decision a bit because it was $900 with all utilities plus laundry included, which is unheard of in NYC, but I ultimately turned it down.

Oh, and I haven’t heard from this broker since. Luckily for me, we are currently in a house/cat-sitting arrangement that could possibly be extended through the end of the summer, so I am no longer on a July 1st deadline. I still have to get myself out of the old place next week, but with some storage options available as well as place to stay for now (rent free, which helps with that whole broker’s fee thing, so bonus!), I can put plan B into action, which is a July 15th or (more probable) August 1st move-in date. I’m currently registered with this agency who echoed what this guy also told me about finding a good studio, which is to get on it near the end of this month and beginning of next month for an August move-in because that’s when they come up and they go very quickly. They both seem to have a good reputation in the area, so I’m going to try my luck with them now. I liked the woman I spoke to from Avanguard who was very nice and the fact that two reputable agencies said the exact same thing about the best way to attack this gives me some confidence that they know what they’re doing.

However, I will say that all of this nonsense with a few of the brokers who comprise the 95% portion of asshat brokers in NYC did a wonderful job of distracting me from the fact that I don’t have my LSAT score back yet. So there’s that.