01 September 2014

NYC Day 3 - How Many Trains Did We Ride Today?

It's summer.  Don't let September fool you with her fancy fall-sounding name.  It's hot, and New York knows it.

We decided this morning to take a little family trip up to Washington Heights & Inwood, on the very tippy top of Manhattan Island.  We'd heard cool stuff about the parks and museums there, and Nathan had seen a few apartments in the area on Saturday.

All three girls came with us, and this was good, because it gave J &A some alone time with little P.

We've learned some cool NYC survival tricks from our friends.  First of all, wear sunscreen.  This is part of their preparing to go out ritual, which involves many steps, including the slathering on of sunscreen on every exposed surface of skin.  The girls love it, and requested it this morning.  We didn't have any of our own, so J &A graciously shared theirs.

Another cool trick is wear a backpack.  I thought I'd look like a tourist, and maybe I do, with my not-so-ratty, semi-fancy Jansport, but most New Yorkers wear them, or at least something akin to them, to carry the miscellaneous goods (groceries, water, sunscreen).  We packed our bottles of water (which I am so thankful I remembered to bring from Illinois), some snacks, and baby paraphernalia.

Once we were ready to go, we ventured out.  J & A were going to play with P at a park for the morning, before his 1 PM naptime, so they left a little before we did.  We took the L train into Manhattan, and transferred to the 1 line, which runs uptown to Inwood.  We disembarked at 191st Street, where Nathan had seen the apartment before, but we couldn't figure out where it was in relation to the train stop.

We bought some figs at the fruit stand outside of the train station, and Olivia and I gulped them down.  Without washing them.  We got little red dots on our tongues as a result.  Probably because we ate too many.

On the way up on the train, we contacted a few people regarding showings in the Inwood area.  We heard from one, who had listed a 3-bedroom for $1799, and they told us that it had been rented.  However, they had another 3-bedroom on 179th Street, and could show it to us in 10 minutes.  We walked a block a minute, and met the broker (?) Melissa at the door.  She was dressed ready to go out for the holiday, but took us up to see the third-floor unit.  We walked in and realized this was a 4-bedroom, and it was renting for $2500.  She wondered why "they" (presumably the office) had sent us there, but called and told us to go down to the office to meet someone, who could show us another apartment for less.  It was on 184th Street.

We walked back up to 184th, past all the street vendors selling Michael Kors handbag knock-offs, and "cinco pesos" cologne.  Everyone was out for the holiday, and we squeezed through the crowds testing fruit, and walked past the men intently playing dominoes outside of the laundromat.  We found the "office" and Nathan went in to see what he could find out.  Isaac, the presumable manager, said he had a three-bedroom that had just opened up (someone had backed out of it) and could show it to us in 15 minutes.  He said he would call Nathan when he was ready.

We decided to walk around and find a park.  Google maps told us that there was one nearby, so we walked around Yeshiva University to Highbridge Park.  The park itself was down a cliff and ran straight to the Harlem river, so we walked along the wall at the top, stopping to take advantage of some benches in the shade.  A lazy black cat followed us a bit from its home in the shrubs, but soon lost interest when a little Yorkshire terrier came by.

Here is a picture of Highbridge Park, from the river.  We were up on the top ridge.  You can see the high bridge that gives the park its name.  Also, there are many more trees now than in 1900.

Nathan had also been in contact with another person, Michael, who was subletting his 3-bedroom apartment for $1875.  The lease was to run from October through March, and he was looking for a family (rather than three college students), to take care of the place while he was away.  While we were drinking our water and watching the baby toddle around in the shade, Nathan received a text message from Michael.  His place was on 184th street as well, although a little to the east of where we were, and he could show it to us if we got there in time.  We hustled over to Broadway and 184th, and met him on his third-floor walk-up.  It was indeed a three bedroom, with a living room and small kitchen and bath.  The third bedroom had once been a sitting room at the front of the building, but at some point a renovation had been performed that boxed it off from its original shape.  I'm always a little sad when the floor inlay doesn't match the wall.

Nathan and Michael spoke for a while, while the girls walked through the house, and pretended which room would be theirs.  Michael is originally from Honduras, but was adopted into a Amish and/or Mennonite family (I wasn't clear on which), and his father had recently passed, leaving him and his brothers the family business in DC.  He had been renting the house out through AirBNB, which is an online and semi-legitimate way to rent out a room, but as he was going to DC and wouldn't be nearby, he wanted to leave the AirBNB off for the winter, and start it up again in April.

The major drawbacks were that the lease wouldn't start for another month, meaning the girls and I would have to most likely go back to stay with family in the Midwest in the interim.  We said we would think about it, but would like to keep it as an option.  Michael said he would get in contact with us if anyone else showed interest.

We decided that, even though we hadn't heard from Isaac, we would head back toward his office, and give him a call.  When Nathan spoke with him, he said that he could show us a place if we were still in the neighborhood.

We walked back several blocks and saw another third-floor walk-up.  This one had three bedrooms, but no living area, save for a kitchen in the middle of the apartment.  My favorite part was the bathtub, which was no more than four feet long.  It was original to the unit, so the girls woul dbe taking baths, but Nathan and I would be showering only.

The unit was in the midst of a turnover, so men were in there painting furiously so that any new tenants could move in the next day.  The floors were in terrible shape, but the kitchen was decent.  Isaac, who had come over with sunglasses on, proceeded to stand in one of the bedrooms while we looked around.  He never took his glasses off the entire time, and answered any questions with as few syllables as possible.

We told him that we'd let him know.

After leaving, we decided to walk by the building Nathan had seen - by this time his broker-friend had sent him the address.  We stopped into a Dunkin Donuts, and the girls each had a little treat to tide them over.  While we were sitting and eating, a man came in asking for change.  He wore grey sweatpants and a dark button-down shirt, and the white tassels and yarmulke of a Hasidic Jew.  I had seen him several blocks away, as we were leaving the park, approaching a Jewish student from Yeshiva university, but didn't hear what he said.  The buy was uncomfortable but felt compelled to share something with the man.  This time, he approached another young man with blue eyes who sat at the counter facing the sidewalk.  I heard the older man say "You have eyes like me," and that Chaim had blessed them.  The young man gave him a dollar, and then the older man asked for another, for the train, and the young man agreed.  The older man looked around the room, found no other people with eyes like himself, and then left.

We finished our walk to 190th street, and turned to see the apartment building.  The street was full of older men, talking and bustling about, resting on their holiday.  Some were wearing their shirts above their bellies, and when I made eye contact and smiled at one of them, he sheepishly folded his shirt back down.

The street wasn't impressive one way or another, except that I saw a beautiful old sofa that I wished I could have taken from underneath the trash bags on the curb, stripped, and reupholstered.  It had a lovely frame.

We got back on the train at 191st and rode all the way down to Columbus Circle, making a detour at Times Square because I missed the stop again.

We went into the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle because we knew they had a bathroom and the girls needed one.  We ate a late late lunch and then dawdled a bit, picking up some groceries and shampoo, and then heading out to Central Park.  Olivia & Elsie had finished all of their food, and were promised a treat in return, so decided to get fresh juice smoothies from a vendor outside the park.  He had no prices listed, but we ordered anyway.  Nathan, Olivia, & Elsie each got a smoothie, and we paid the man $21.  Sheesh.

We found a playground inside the park, and the girls ran around, while Nathan followed them.  I sat down for a while in the wood chips and watched Eleanor finish off Elsie's smoothie.

I then remembered that Ihadn't taken many photos because we had been so busy.  So I took a picture of the view:

The girls then ran up and down the rocks for a while.

We had another bathroom requirement, so we went back to the shopping center that housed Whole Foods and used their facilities.  We were re-routed from the bathrooms on the lower level, and had a roundabout way to find another open one (Nathan and the girls going up an escalator and me taking Eleanor across to the other side of the mall to ride up on the elevator and then walking back to the first side to meet them), but that's sort of the way things have been here.

We caught the 1 train downtown from Columbus Circle and transferred to the L line on 14th street.  We came into the house and were greeted by the smell of fresh-baked cookies, courtesy of sweet A, and the coolness of the giant air conditioner.  In a little while, bathed, brushed, and with a cookie and milk in their tummies, Olivia & Elsie were in bed.

Nathan and I stayed up a bit and talked, and figured out a plan for the next week.

Here is what we've decided:

Plan for NYC
In order from Best to Worst Scenario

1.  We find an apartment by Friday that is near friends and in a comfortably safe neighborhood and is inexpensive and has laundry and a dishwasher and an elevator and is near a train that doesn't require a bazillion transfers to get to Juilliard
2.  We find an apartment within the next few weeks with the above criteria.
3.  We find an apartment in the next few weeks with some of the above criteria, the most important being the neighborhood and proximity to the train.  Also laundry in the building would be nice.  We can walk up stairs and wash dishes by hand.
4.  We find an apartment in the next few weeks with none of the above criteria and we decide to take the sublet from Michael and the girls and I go back to the midwest until October and then come back.
5.  We don't find an apartment at all and Nathan gets a sublet room and the girls and I go back to the Midwest indefinitely.  Maybe Nathan can find us an apartment in a few months time.
6.  We don't find an apartment at all and Nathan gets a sublet room and the girls and I live somewhere else until school is over altogether.

Here is what else we've decided:

Hot weather isn't so bad if you aren't eating meat.

Tomorrow is another day.  Nathan has his first day of Orientation.  He gets breakfast AND lunch.  Fancy.

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