Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Taking off the rose-colored glasses

I love our apartment and I love living in New York, but it's not all sunshine and lollipops. Here's a few things bothering me so far:

1: The noise. Our apartment is on a busy road above a bar, so that means traffic at all hours and people talking (and screaming) until the wee hours many nights. Drunk patrons in yelling matches are not at all uncommon.
On the plus side: Living on a busy street means there's a lot of stores and restaurants nearby, the sidewalks are well-lit and I never feel unsafe walking back from the subway.

2: Walking outside in bad weather. I got my first taste of that last weekend, and how I longed for a car and garage! As I found out Saturday, my boots aren't exactly rainproof. Luckily, boots with cute designs on them seem to be quite popular, so I think I'll be getting myself a pair.
On the plus side: We spent a lot of money on gas in Ohio. We're spending a lot less here on transportation, even with monthly subway passes for both of us.

3: Not having a thermostat. I didn't anticipate this one. The landlord controls the heat throughout the building. He turned it on yesterday and it was about 90 degrees throughout the building. Everyone here had all their windows open. Luckily it's off today. I always thought nyc apartments were supposed to be cold.
On the plus side: It should be nice and cozy this winter, and I don't have to pay for the heat.

4: Grocery selection. Who would have thought 6-inch flour tortillas would be so hard to find? These were a staple of my diet in Columbus. Now I'm rationing all I have left from the move. A few other faves are expensive, hard to find or both. For example, a small jar of peanut butter is about $2.50, and I can only find graham crackers in one shop (a drug store), and they're $4 a box. I guess we'll be putting all the money we saved on groceries into food.
On the plus side: A Greek grocer less than a block away has pitas in all different flavors at reasonable prices, and the larger grocery store in our neighborhood has several varieties of couscous. Also, the fruit and veggie grocer across the street is quite convenient.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

In search of the perfect cannoli and other adventures

The rain continued through Saturday morning and into the afternoon, but Paul, his friend Ryan and I braved the downpour and visited Chinatown and Little Italy. Carrying around an umbrella wasn't nearly as annoying as trying to bypass the small ponds that collected where the sidewalk met the street.

In any case, we ate at a small Chinese restaurant and walked down the streets. I liked peeking into the markets. Like the markets in our neighborhood, these had no front wall. However, they sold things that didn't look the least bit familiar, and the Chinese signs didn't help much.

Little Italy abuts Chinatown and is more my style. Lots of streetside cafes and restaurants, and the smells are hard to resist. Paul and Ryan got some gelato at Ferrara (which dubs itself "America's oldest pasticceria") while I continued on my quest for the perfect cannoli.

The pastry part of the one I got there was covered in chocolate, which I was surprised to find I didn't enjoy as much as the plain ones I've eated before. The search continues.

By the time we took the train to the Staten Island Ferry, the sun was shining and the weather was warm. We hopped on the 5:30 boat, which meant we had perfect views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island at dusk on the way there and lit up at night on the way back. We could also see our neighborhood near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Arts and Sports

On Thursday I unexpectedly saw my first play since moving here.

I had exchanged a couple of e-mails with a friend of a former co-worker (that's you, Sam!), and we were arranging a day and time to meet. Then she e-mails me Thursday afternoon and writes that her husband got two free tickets to a show and he can't make it. Would I like to come? Of course!

"The Overwhelming" is an off-Broadway play about an American family who moves to Rwanda in 1994. I really enjoyed it (now I have to see "Hotel Rwanda"), and the seats couldn't have been better-- third row, dead center. Even better, though, is knowing someone in New York besides my husband!

Friday and tonight we have Paul's former co-worker/friend staying with us. He suggested getting some cheap pre-season NBA tickets for last night, so we spent much of the evening watching the Knicks play the Nets. I was eager to go-- not to watch the game, but just to see Madison Square Garden.

As the photo illustrates, our seats were pretty high (we were about a half-dozen rows from the top), but the view wasn't bad. It was actually easier to see what was going on by watching the court rather than the giant TV screens.

We left during the fourth quarter and ate dinner at ESPN Zone in Times Square. Not normally my type of thing, but it was a good experience. My burger was tasty, but it reminded me of all the yummy burgers Paul won't be able to grill now. :-(

It rained most of the night, and this was the first time I'd had to lug an umbrella for more than a few blocks. It made me long for the warmth and shelter of a car and garage.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Home sweet home?

We've been here two weeks and two days now, and I think we have only one box left to unpack.

The books are on their shelves, the electronics are plugged in and the coffee table/trunk is in place.
At long last all of our appliances are working, and we even have the internet at home. Pop open a bottle of wine!

We left Columbus at 10 a.m. Oct. 8 and arrived in Brooklyn 12 hours and 4 cat scratches later. Will and Grace didn't meow quite the entire trip. Grace was actually quite curious, looking out the windows and and (unsuccessfully) trying to sit with the driver. Will spent most of his time in the (unused) litter box. When we got to the apartment, they spent at least a portion of the first hour laying on top of each other in a small cranny in the bathroom.

Our 100 boxes and various pieces of furniture arrived the next day. I felt bad for the movers, carrying box after box of books, a sofa and dressers up about 30 stairs (no elevator here, fellas!).

Most of the rest of that first week was dedicated to unpacking. It almost felt like Christmas, except you knew that everything you unwrapped was something you really wanted. In Columbus, Paul had placed in a large rubber tub about 50 beer bottles he uses for homebrewing, thinking the movers would shrink-wrap the tub as-is. Instead, they wrapped the bottles up two or three at a time in a few pieces of thick white paper. Some forest somewhere is down a tree or two thanks to us.

We didn't leave Brooklyn-- and it didn't actually feel like we were in New York City-- until the first Sunday. We rode the train to Central Park and leisurely strolled the grounds for a couple of hours. (That's Paul in the photo with, I believe, the Upper East Side in the background.) I tried to determine who were the locals and who were the tourists, not really sure which group I now fit into.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Williamsburg

With only a few more weeks (days?) of sunny, warm weather, Paul and I devoted Saturday to exploration.

First up: the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Entrance is free from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays (yep, I'm still a cheapskate, even here). According to a brochure we picked up there, it's 52 acres with more than 10,000 plants. I liked the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden (Gail and Joe-- that photo's for you!), and Paul enjoyed walking around the Herb Garden. It almost felt like we were back at his mom's house.

The trees and plants were green and lush, and I look forward to going back in the spring to visit the rose garden. But even among what must be one of the most peaceful places in Brooklyn, you could still hear the traffic not terribly far away.

Next up was the Brooklyn Brewery. Obviously my home-brewing husband was looking forward to the Saturday morning tours (also free) and samples (alas, $3). He hadn't been to the brewery before, but he had visited the neighborhood for work not long ago and assured me I would like it.

But first, the brewery. The tour is in one large room of a warehouse and the "bar" is an adjoining room with picnic tables and taps. I believe the bar is only open on Saturday afternoons for the tours and on Friday nights. Oh, and there's a skinny and extremely tame cat that has the run of the place and seemed to like to nuzzle against the guests and sit on the table where you buy your beer tokens.

It's in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, near Queens and just east of Manhattan. I fell in love with the neighborhood on the spot. But besides the rents being out of our price range, we agreed that we're probably not cool enough to live there. As Paul said, we would probably always have to eat at vegan restaurants where they used humanely-slaughtered beans. The place did have a lot of vegetarian, vegan and environmentally-friendly options (we ate lunch at a cafe where we ordered organic pancakes and organic french fries). I like that. And I really enjoyed all the one-of-a-kind specialty stores and the young crowds (I find that "hipster" is often repeated when referring to this neighborhood).

Another possible problem to living there-- I probably don't have the required number of ironic t-shirts. They were so prevalent that I think we started ignoring them and then had trouble remembering the good ones when I tried to make a list (examples: "Jesus was homeless" and "Relationships are hard work" with pictures of tools). But I'm sure I could up my collection. I would probably start with the shirt in the photo. (It's not true-- I love NY!)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Visiting via the "R"

No doubt about it that visiting a city is vastly different than living there.

When Paul and I came to New York City on our honeymoon four years ago, we stayed at a nice hotel near Madison Square Garden, a stone's throw from the theater district.

But when Paul accepted a job in Brooklyn, living in midtown Manhattan wasn't on the table. We probably could have afforded a large shoe box or maybe even a small refrigerator carton. Instead we're in Bay Ridge, a Brooklyn neighborhood about 40 minutes from those same theaters.

Bay Ridge offers plenty: restaurants, bars, shopping and a great view of the water and a major nyc bridge. But learning to navigate the subway was priority No. 1 if we were ever to explore beyond about 20 blocks or so.

We've only been here 12 days, but I already know the R train pretty well. The stop nearest our place is small and clean. (Although a sign I saw along the route today doesn't exactly reassure me-- "CAUTION: This area has been baited with Rodenticide," complete with a nice picture of a rat.)

But our very first visitor didn't use the subway at all. My brother-in-law is in the city on business and on Thursday was the first person to enter our apartment who wasn't either our landlord or a repairman of some sort. Hopefully he gave the in-laws a good report.


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