Vacating Apartment 1B

MIA again.  Dammit.  I was really on a roll there for a while.

There’s been a lot going on in my non-virtual life, the most notable of which is that we have finally, officially, there’s-no-going-back-now, moved to New Jersey.  Months ago we marked the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend as our move date, so we had plenty of time to sketch out our plan of attack.  The big ticket items were easy – we borrowed a friend’s Suburban and slowly but surely used our weekends to ferry our couch, media console, dressers, and other large knick knacks to New Jersey.  With our apartment pretty much empty in the week leading up to our move date (save for the essentials: our bed, folding chairs, folding tables, and TV), I was feeling pretty accomplished.  Just the small stuff remained and how long could it take to pack all that up?  The answer: THREE FRIGGIN’ DAYS.  I’d like to say I handled packing with grace and patience, but that would be a lie.  It got done of course, but not without a fair amount of whining on my part and occasional dramatic displays of throwing of myself onto our bed and yelling “THIS SUUUUUUUCCKS!”

IMG_3474

Three days worth of packing is way more impressive than this photo lets your believe. Also, if you were ever hoping for an apartment tour, this is it. Standing at our entry, the kitchen leads to the living room which leads to the bedroom. Craigslist calls it a “junior 1 bedroom.”

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The NYC Bucket List

Now that we know our time in NYC is coming to an end, it’s time to get serious about our NYC bucket list.  I started the bucket list years ago – before marriage and homeownership were even blips on my radar.  It was meant to identify all the touristy, NYC-centric activities that we’d like to experience before leaving this great city.  At the time I had no idea when or if we would ever leave, so we tackled the list at a leisurely pace.  But with our house in the suburbs almost complete and an expiring apartment lease that is not to be renewed, it’s time to get crackin’ on this list.  It’s not as if NYC will be so far away that we can’t partake in these activities after we’ve moved to New Jersey, but we’ll likely be less willing to come into the city on a whim just to cross off one of these items.

So, this is the list as it stands today.  (I should probably give this its own page on the blog to hold me accountable.  We’ll see if I figure out to do that…)

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Icebergs Ahead!!

When I was in high school, my art teacher taught us with acrylic paint.  “We don’t use oil paints in the classroom because of the chemicals and fumes.”  The what?!

Since the age of 16, I was led to believe that oil painting was 1 part art and 3 parts science.  And I hated science (still do — Mr. S really knows how to put me to sleep with that anatomy stuff).  And so I was happy to use acrylics and stayed far, far away from those oil paints and their caustic chemical reactions in fear that if I didn’t use them right I would cause my painting to spontaneously combust.

It wasn’t until I was years into my “career” and I decided to get back into painting that I considered oils.  And really, I only considered oil painting because there was no other option.  Well, there was watercolor, but watercolor is pretty unwieldy stuff and I’d rather risk burning my eyebrows off than wrestle with watercolor.  So, I signed up for a Beginner Oil Painting class and here is where all my misconceptions were cleared up.  Oil based pigment needs to be mixed with a medium to create a paint-like consistency.  Apparently back in the day only turpentine was available as a medium.  Turpentine is very stinky, and from what I’m told still a chemical to be feared.  Thankfully, I’ve still never actually come in contact with real turpentine because somewhere between the time of Michelangelo and the time of the iPhone, someone has created a synthetic medium called “Turpenoid”  — works like turpentine, but is odorless and student-friendly.  It even comes in an eco-friendly version.

In most art classes, painting or otherwise, students are taught by performing “Master Studies,” which is essentially taking a famous artist’s work and copying it, thereby learning techniques and skills by doing what the artist did.  I selected Frederic Church’s “The Icebergs” mostly because I liked the colors.

The Icebergs, Frederic Church, 1861

This was certainly a learning experience…I learned that I could spend 5 hours painting in one day and I still not get that craggy look to the ice rocks.  I guess this was a memorable experience for my teacher too, because almost two years later, he let me know that The Icebergs were on loan at the Met as part of a temporary exhibit.  He urged me to see it for myself in person.  So on Sunday, I dragged Mr. S to the Met with me to find The Icebergs.

The Met is gi-nor-mous.  I knew the quickest way to find The Icebergs was to ask someone in a black blazer.  The first Black Blazer directed us to the American Paintings exhibit.  I should have realized then that this was wrong because American Paintings is a permanent exhibit and The Icebergs are just on loan to the Met.  We walked around the multiple rooms in the American Paintings wing and asked a second Black Blazer where The Icebergs are.

Me: Hi, we’re looking for Church’s Icebergs
BB: Hmm…well, who is it by?
Me: Frederic Church
BB: Oh we’ve got lots of Church right over there
Me: Yeah…no…that’s not it.  It’s a big painting of Icebergs.

At this point, I pulled up the painting on my iPhone.

Me: This is what it looks like.
BB: Well where does it say it is?
Me: It says it’s part of the Dallas permanent collection.
BB: Well then it’s not here!!

At this point I want to shake the man and yell. “Obviously I know what city I am in Black Blazer!!”  Instead I said:

Me: Um, well no, I’m pretty sure it’s here.  A friend told me he saw it here a few weeks ago.  I think it’s part of a temporary exhibit?
BB: < thinking…thinking…thinking > Icebergs…icebergs…icebergs…
Me: < waiting…waiting…waiting >
BB: Oh yes!  Maybe the Civil War exhibit!!  That’s our temporary exhibit.  There are some paintings of the Aurora Borealis there.  If Icebergs are anywhere, they could be there…

He at least knew the quickest way to get to the Civil War exhibit.  I had my blinders on as I zoomed past the tourists and other artworks.  I just had to get to The Icebergs.  Part of me was starting to doubt my information…maybe it wasn’t really here?  Did I just pay $25 to not see The Icebergs??  Finally, we came up the stairs into a large room, and there it was, in all its craggy glory.

The real painting is very large, 64 x 112 inches, and it took Church one whole year to paint it. I started to take out my iPhone to snap a picture when a third Black Blazer barked, “NO PICTURES.”  Party pooper, how about you go yell at all those tourists with their flash cameras.  So I settled at staring at it for 20 minutes, all up close and personal.  My art teacher says you can always spot a fellow artist in museums because they are the ones standing two inches away from the painting, trying to figure out how the artist did what he did.  After seeing it in person, I think 2 things — 1) SO COOL 2) His is definitely better than mine.

I Heart NYC.

Feelin’ hot hot hot!

You’ll find that weekends in the summer are pretty empty in the city because most people escape to their little beach towns for the weekend.  I don’t blame them.  Summer weekends in the city are pretty brutal.  The oppressive heat in the subways makes it hard to breathe, steam rises from the asphalt, and the clunker of an A/C we have in our little apartment doesn’t do squat for cooling us down.  But for me, I enjoy the emptiness in the city.  I can sit anywhere on the subway, walk zig zag patterns on the sidewalk, and just enjoy all the space.  But it is friggin’ hot
Last weekend my friend A.Ho and I decided that we were too pale for mid-July and we needed to spend our Saturday rectifying this situation.  But because it was going to be so hot, we needed to tan somewhere with a pool.  And so we started researching our options:
  • Find a friend who lives in a building with a rooftop pool – we have no such friends.  Darn.
  • Swanky hotel pool – at some places we would have to pay a hefty fee to use the pool for the day, at others we could only use the pool if we were guests of the hotel (i.e., $400+ for a night at a hotel we didn’t need
  •  Swanky gym pool – pay a lesser, but still hefty fee to use the pool for the day
  • Public pool – free, but extremely crowded and must contend with cannon bombing children everywhere
A few weekends ago, I walked by a pool in an undisclosed location that looked pretty decent.  I looked it up when I got home and found out that it belonged to a rec center.  Membership to the rec center was $75 for 6 months.  Not a bad deal, especially since we could use the pool from now until the fall as many times as we wanted.  We decided we didn’t need anything swanky– just us, tanning oil, and a pool to plunge in.  I told A.Ho about it and she was sold. 
On Saturday morning we took a cab to the rec center.  At the doors, two “security guards” checked our bags for weapons and food.  We also needed to show we had a lock for the locker.  We passed the screening and headed inside the building.  Hmm…no front desk to sign us up for membership.  We kept walking in search of someone to pay and found the locker rooms, pool, and other amenities. 
“Wait, wait…we didn’t pay, we have to pay somewhere…let’s go back and ask that information desk guy.”
To info desk guy, who didn’t even ask for our membership card:  

“Hi, we want to use the pool –“
“Yeah, yeah just have the security guards check you out.”
“Um, yeah, we did, but uh, we need to pay membership?  We’re not members.”
“You don’t need to be a member to use the pool.”
“It’s free?!?”
“Yeah.”  (He might as well have said “Duh.”)

At that point, A.Ho and I looked at each other like we just won the lottery and scampered away giggling like little idiots, before the info desk man could wisen up and demand $75 from each of us.  Once in the locker room, we let our emotions go:

“FREE!!!!  FREE?!?!?  FREEEEEEE!!!!!!!”  

And then, like any good NYC-er, “We can’t tell anyone about this!”
Very few things in NYC are free — and of those very few free things, almost none of them are something you actually want.  The free things that people do want either get so popular they become no longer free or impossible to get.  For this reason, New Yorkers keep things like this a secret.  Sorry folks, but I’m not gonna ruin it for the rest of us.

The pool turned out to be ok (but since it was free, it was amazing).  There were lots of rules to comply with and there weren’t any chairs so we had to lay our towels down on the concrete.  It filled up by noon time with children and teenagers who cannon bombed to their heart’s content.  We actually didn’t mind the splashing since it was so hot.  All in all, it was totally worth the $0 we spent.  

Pound Puppies

I’ve mentioned before that I want a dog.  Mr. S wants a dog too, even more so than me.  On most Saturdays, Mr. S and I will get breakfast then walk over to Carl Schurz Park and watch the dogs in the Big Dog park (we don’t waste our time with that crappy Little Dog park).  We aren’t allowed inside the dog park because we don’t actually have a dog, so we hang on the fence and watch from outside, discussing which one we would like to steal and take home for ourselves.  Mr. S also does great color commentary on the dogs, which is my favorite part of this whole ritual. 
One Sunday, I was looking through PetFinder.com, just for fun, and found a cute little pitbull.  His description noted that he had escaped Death Row once and was desperately looking for his Forever Home.  Ugh, he was so cute.  I showed him to Mr. S and he found out that he was only 20 blocks away from us. 

“Let’s go see him!”
“OK!!!”

On the way, we discussed what we would do if we fell in love with this dog and had to take him home.

Mr. S: We can hide him in the apartment.  Other people have asshole dogs.  Why can’t we have a kickass dog?
Me: Our neighbor will tell on us.  We can tell the landlord that we need to break the lease because I lost my job.
Mr. S: Yeah, yeah let’s do that!!

Nevermind that we might become homeless for an unknown amount of time, or that our rent would certainly increase, or that I am allergic to dogs.  We were determined to save him. 
Midway through our walk, my subconscious must have come to her senses.

Me (stopped walking and hiding behind a bus shed): I don’t think I’m ready.
Mr. S (like I knocked the wind out of his sails): It’s ok.  We don’t have to get him.  We can just go look and decide later.

10 minutes later we arrived at the Manhattan Animal Care & Control.  When we walked in there was a man dropping off his 9 month old Schnauzer mix.  His reason: she was too hyper and he couldn’t train her. Jerk.  
The Manhattan AC&C is basically the city pound.  They cannot refuse any animal that is brought in or found as a stray.  Due to this, and their limited government funding, they are a kill shelter – which means, if an animal doesn’t get adopted, he or she will be put to sleep.  Wah!
We headed upstairs to see the dogs.  It was the saddest sight ever.  As we walked by each cage, the dogs perked up their heads, and put on their most heartbreaking “please take me with you” face.  Some of them were sad, and just stayed lying down in their cage.  Others were so happy to see people walking by that they jumped up and licked to greet us.
 
Each dog is given a series of behavioral tests to see how they interact with people, children, and other animals.  All this information is critical to ensuring the dog gets placed with the right family.  The dog we found online would not have been a good match for us since he has issues being around other dogs.  Although we have both owned dogs previously, Mr. S and I have zero experience with anti-social dogs.  Plus we really, really, really want to be part of the Big Dog park club. 
We kept looking and landed on Arkam.  He was a tan pitbull that seemed very gentle and loving in his cage.  He stood right up when we approached his cage and had a big happy smile.  When it was our turn to talk to the adoption consultant, we said that we were interested in him.  She told us that he aced all his behavioral tests and would do great in any home.  YES!  We got to take him out and play catch with him a little bit.  He walked perfectly on the leash and brought the ball back every time we threw it at him.  In short, he was the best behaved dog we’ve ever come across (even considering the ones we have previously owned).  The consultant told us that they don’t have a lot of history on any of the dogs that come into the center, but she could tell that he was owned by a family since he knew how to “sit” and “lie down” and they don’t teach that kind of stuff at the center.  
Then she asked us if our apartment allows dogs.  I lied, “Yes, but there is a 50lb weight limit.”  And then I lied again, “But we are looking to move next month anyway.”    
After playing with Arkam, we told the consultant that we needed more time to think about it.  It is, after all, a big decision that would have a big impact on our lifestyle.  Mr. S and I headed home disappointed.  We knew we could take care of him, but we didn’t want to have to hide him or live in fear of being kicked out.  Plus, 3 of us in a studio might be too crowded?  Oh and I’m allergic.  However, I should note that I showed no allergic reactions during our visit, and it definitelysmelled like dogs.   All in all, it just isn’t the right time for us to adopt.
Even with that rational realization, we vowed that if he ever got put on Death Row, we would go back to get him.  So far, he hasn’t appeared on the list.  (There is an “At Risk” list put out every night showing which 
dogs are to be put to sleep the next day.  Mr. S checks it religiously.)  If you or anyone you know might be interested in adopting a loveable, perfectly behaved pitbull, check out Arkam or any of his friends at www.nycacc.org.

How ‘bout them apples

If you haven’t realized it by now, I am a planner.  Also, if you haven’t realized it by now, Mr. S is not a planner (go ahead and feel bad for him, but also feel bad for me).
It’s not that I don’t love a good surprise or I’m a control freak.  It’s just that there are so many things to do and see in life, that if I don’t designate a special date and time for them, we may never get around to it.  And then I will be on my deathbed saying, “I wish I had made it out to the Brooklyn Flea market just once…”  And that would be so sad.
So it was a rare thing this past Saturday when we had nothing to do.  I don’t know how it happened, I think I was so focused on Sunday’s plans that I neglected Saturday.

Me (frantic): What are we going to do today?!?
Mr. S: We can go look for the apples.

 Background story of the apples:  In honor of the MLB All-Star game, there are giant apples located around the city, each painted to represent a baseball team.
That sounded fun to me!   And that is how our innocent little game of finding the apples began.  Looking at the map of where the apples are, we decided to focus on midtown.  There are 36 apples in total and we knew we wouldn’t get to all of them in one day.  The first apple was at the Westin on 46th and 3rd Ave.  I don’t know what I was expecting, perhaps an apple that lights up or spins around, but I was a little disappointed in the apple we found.  It was just a big apple sitting outside a hotel.  But wait, what was that next to it?  A bar!  And a fancy looking one at that.  Mr. S saw it too and asked me if I’d like to get a drink.  Ooh like a date!  And so the game evolved…find an apple, get a drink.  Here’s how we did (the last column was my downfall):
Team
Apple location
Bar location
His drink
Her drink
Food (if applicable)
Houston Astros
Westin (46th and 3rd)
The LCL
The Green Dream
Serenity Now
N/A
San Francisco Giants
Tommy Bahama (45th and 5th)
The Marlin Bar
Sangria
Pineapple Martini
Edamame hummus and 3 chips
Seattle Mariners
Nintendo store (Rockefeller Plaza)
Johnny Utah’s
Bud Light
Vodka tonic
N/A
Brewers
Office of the Commissioner – 45th and Park
Lobby bar at The Hilton
Pineapple something something
Watermelon something something
The smallest Buffalo chicken wings I’ve ever seen
San Diego Padres
SONY store (Madison Ave)
N/A – we didn’t pass a bar between this apple and the next, so we went big at the next bar…
Pirates
Niketown (5th Ave)
The Champagne Bar at The Plaza Hotel
5th Avenue Star
The Gatsby
Gourmet chips and dip
Baltimore Orioles
Chelsea Market
 Mr. S doesn’t remember
White sangria
N/A – I did not make it to this apple…
Mr. S had a burger
According to Mr. S, the story goes that from the Plaza we planned to take the subway downtown to Chelsea Market for the next apple.  Friend A was meeting us down there also, and from there we would grab our reward drink at a bar on the Highline.  At some point on the train, I decided that I was sleepy and needed to go home.

Mr. S (after noticing I fell asleep on his shoulder): Are you ok?  You need to go home?
Me: Home…home…home…home…

 So when we exited the subway, Mr. S put me in a taxi home and went off to meet our friend and see the apple*.  I saw pictures of the O’s apple the next day and was so sad I missed it.  Although it ended somewhat tragically, our spontaneous scavenger hunt was so fun!!  Maybe there is something to this no-planning thing…  Yeah right, I’m already planning to see more apples next weekend.
* This is not as insensitive as it sounds.  Mr. S claims (and I believe him because I am sneaky), that as soon as we got out of the subway, I immediately hailed for a cab.  “Taxi…taxi…taxi…taxi…”  This caught Mr. S off-guard because we were supposed to find Friend A first, apologize and let him know we had to go home, and then take a cab home together.  Obviously I had other plans.  Mr. S panicked and shoved me in the taxi with instructions to text Friend A when I got home (Mr. S’s phone was dead – typical).  20 minutes later, Friend A got this text:

Art is…

This past weekend I spent a lazy Saturday at the MoMA with my cousin.  We hadn’t seen each other in a long time (I guess med school is an acceptable reason to live in the tundra that is upstate NY) and thus had much catching up to do.  Unlike movie theaters (where talking is unacceptable) or restaurants (where you inevitably get politely kicked out), museums are fantastic places for spending time with loved ones, just wandering around and filling each other in on all the recent happenings of life.  Not to mention catching a glimpse of some Van Gogh or Monet.

Of the larger museums in NYC, so far MoMA is my fave.  Mostly because it is a lot more fun to say than the others.  Try it.  MO…MA…MO…MA…MO…MA… MO.MO.MO.MA.MA.MA .  Fun, right?  Another reason I’m a fan of the MoMA is that there is always a piece of modern art in there that validates why I would have failed in pursuing a career in art.  I’m just not that weird deep.  Examples:
  • Giant paper mache hamburgers, cake slices, or sneakers
  • Chairs hanging from steel I-beams suspended from the ceiling
  • A collection of miniature knick-knacks housed in a dark room
  • A room full of industrial waste
Upon seeing bizarre installations like these, first I think, “Oh, nifty.”  Then I think, “How is this art??”  
Maybe I need to take an art appreciation class or something, but I just don’t get it.  As someone who enjoys making art, the ultimate goal of all my paintings is to make something pretty.  It’s never a commentary on the use of torture in the military or my perspective of environmental decline.  It’s more about sunsets and flowers.  Is that why these artists are in the MoMA and I paint in a senior citizen center?  I guess so.

Rumble in the Concrete Jungle

I have a NYC bucket list.  It’s a list of fairly touristy activities in the city that most residents take for granted and sadly, never get around to experiencing.  I actually got the idea from an ex-coworker who tried to get her entire bucket list done in one weekend before she moved home to Florida.  I can’t imagine it was a success.  So I created a spreadsheet of all the things I want to see and do before I bid farewell to this great city.  I don’t know when that will be, or where we are going, or if we are even ever going to leave…but it’s good to be proactive, right?  This weekend we got to cross off one of the big ticket items: the Bronx Zoo.

Sidenote, since I have a bucket list, Mr. S also has a bucket list by default.

I wanted to go to the Bronx Zoo last year, but last year’s August was brutally hot and Mr. S refused to take me.  Mr. S is ter-ri-ble in the heat, so I settled for the Central Park Zoo instead.  It was ok…small as far as zoos go and it didn’t have the more exciting animals the Bronx has, but it sufficed.  Best part about the CP Zoo is that it is like stepping into the Madagascar movie (you know, before the animals get lost in Africa).

This year I had a strategy: early May.  Not too hot for Mr. S, and since I knew that he knew that I was super disappointed last year, he could not say no.

Me: Can we go to the Bronx zoo this weekend pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!!!
Mr. S: Ok, fine.

I wish there was more enthusiasm there but ill take it.  On to step 2 of the planing process: visit the website.  By getting our tickets online, I saved 20% (told ya I never pay full price) and the zoo has a fun interactive trip planner.  Basically I was able to select all the animals/exhibits we wanted to see and the planner would tell me the best route and how long it would all take.  Genius!  Great news for me, bad news for Mr. S.

Me: So I did something today but I don’t want to tell you because you might not take me to the zoo anymore.
Mr. S (sternly): What did you do?
Me: I used this planner thingy on the zoo website and it said we would be there for 5 hours.
Mr. S: WHAT?!?!?
Me: But we’re gona get to see everything! Lions, rhinos, polar bears–
Mr. S: We saw polar bears last year!

Either he knew he wasn’t going to win this one, or he was already plotting how to speedwalk through the zoo, but he said “Ok, fine.”

On Saturday I woke up excited at 9:06 am.  This is impressive because we went to bed at 3:00 am.  I know Mr. S was excited too because it didn’t take too much whining to wake him up, he just keeps it cool better than I do.  Getting to the zoo was easy enough, just one stop on the express bus.  The trick was to actually make the bus.  I decided to sacrifice a stop at Duane Reade to buy tissues just to be sure we wouldn’t miss the bus.  Very bad idea. I have mentioned before I am allergic to dogs…I should have known I would be allergic to the zoo.  Not to mention spring had sprung this past weekend. Hello pollen!

Nonetheless, the Bronx zoo is beautifully done.  You completely forget you are in the middle of a bustling city, until you stumble upon the rare spots at the edge of the zoo where you can see the top of a high rise building or hear the block party going on just on the other side of the fence.  Besides the animals, one of my favorite features of the zoo was the “eco-friendly bathroom.”  Instead of flushing with water, the toilets “foam away” your waste.  I personally only had to go #1 while we were there, but I wondered how the foam would fare against a #2…

According to our planned route we started with the bison, saw the sea lions, then headed towards the aviary birds.  Up next were Madagascar, Tiger Mountain, big bears, and the African Plains. We did make it to every exhibit and saw every animal on our list, but the day was looooooooong.  We got lost somewhere between the Himalayas and Asia when I started to lose steam.

Me: I’m sleepy I’m sleepy I’m sleepy
Mr. S (very calmly): Come on, we’re almost to Asia, and then the Congo, and then we can go home and you can take a nap.

This is why Mr. S will make an excellent nurse.  I would’ve said, “Shut up kid, this was all your idea.  You’re gonna see Asia if it kills you.”  But then again, I’ve given Mr. S plenty of practice in dealing with difficult patients.  (I have already resigned myself to the fact that if we have children, I will have to be the bad cop and Mr. S gets to be the good cop).

Good thing he kept us going because the gorillas at the Congo were the highlight of our trip.  And it turned out 1.5 chicken fingers and a coke were all I needed to get my second wind.  And just like the website planner promised, we were ready to head back home 5 hours after our adventure had begun.  I checked my FitBit pedometer when we got home. 22,764 steps and 8.77 miles walked. I decided I had earned my nap.

Epilogue: Mr. S woke me from my epic nap at 10:30 pm with the promise of udon noodles.  While we ate we debated if it was better to be a rhino or a gorilla, I forget which one I voted for.  I was asleep again by 11:30 pm.