30 August 2014

NYC Day 1 - Settling In

This morning, we woke up not on a train, nor in a hotel.  We were in Brooklyn!!

We decided to free our little Hidey/Heidi Hamster, who had traveled all the way from Bloomington, via Rockford and Washington, D.C., from her makeshift hotel and put her cage together.  This was very exciting, especially for our friend P, who appreciated the little furry wiggler.  This also took most of the morning, but we were successful!

Nathan had an appointment in the afternoon with his broker friend, Michael.  Our hosts, J & A offered to watch the bigger girls if Nathan and I wanted to go out and look at places.  We took advantage of this opportunity and, after a leisurely breakfast and getting ready time, we started out, with Eleanor in tow.

We took the L train into Manhattan, and transferred to the 1 line uptown.  While we waited, an express train ran by.

We thought it might be nice to stop and see the Lincoln Center train stop, where Juilliard is located.  We got off the train and went up into the city.  We were pleasantly surprised to see a farmer's market in the little triangle of a square between the roads.  We learned that it ran year-round on Thursdays and Saturdays, and that they accepted Food Stamps!  We bought some tasty things, including fresh ginger root - it was still pink at the tips!

Then we decided to walk down to Columbus Circle, which is the "gateway" to Central Park South, at least on the east side.  There was a big shopping center here that had a Whole Foods inside, so we went in and looked around.  It was nuts.

But they did have some interesting things.  Such as rambutan, which seem like more effort than is worth it:

And starfruit.  Which weren't ripe.

And lychees, which Nathan says tastes like roses smell.  He used to eat them in South Africa.

It was getting on towards Nathan's appointment and so we decided that he would go up to see the broker, and I would grab some groceries.  But my shoes had broken (the heel had worn through), and walking was pretty uncomfortable.  I decided instead that Eleanor and I would do a quick trip through Whole Foods and then go home.  While I was looking, I saw that they sold shoes!  So I bought a pair.  They are made of burlap, at least on the outside, and are deliciously hideous.  I like them very much, and they were much more comfortable than my broken ones.

It was getting later and later and so I decided rather than spend a bazillion dollars at Whole Foods, I would go back to Bushwick in Brooklyn, take a rest, and then go out again to Trader Joe's with the girls.

Here is a note about shopping in New York.  Don't do it on the weekend.  Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, being the popular bastions of organic tastiness that they are, have line systems here.  At WF, you are first divided by number of items:  10 or fewer in one line and then 11 and above in another.  Once you have been divided in this way, you are funneled into one of many shorter lines, each one with a different colored arrow hanging above it.  You then look at the television monitor suspended at the head of the lines, and watch to see which numbers flash across your color on the screen.  They run sequentially, so if the lines are blue, yellow, and green, the numbers (which correspond to the number of the register to which you are to proceed) will first flash on blue, then the next number on yellow, and then on green.  And the system recycles itself.  Cashiers press a button to indicate that they are available, and then that number is shown on the screen, while a recorded loudspeaker announcement reads it as well.

The line in Trader Joe's was a bit different.  Two guys stood with tall poles on either side of the end of the line.  Atop each pole was a big banner with a finger pointing at the ground, and the banner read "line starts here."  You were to walk between the two guys into the line, and they would correspondingly move backwards.  The only difficulty when we went was that the line was so long that it wound throughout the store, so I had to weave in and out with the girls to get the milk and eggs.  I think I snapped at the littles more than I should have, but it was a little chaotic.  We finally got the idea that one was to stand on line and then shop those aisles as the line passed through.

Also, in New York, it's called standing "on line," rather than "in line."  I've been saying that as loudly as I can, to blend in, you know.

Then we went home.

And heard about the apartment search, which wasn't very search-y.  Nathan's friend had shown him two places.  The first one he liked so little that he didn't even want to tell me about it.  But the second one had some promise.  It was a two-bedroom in Washington Heights/Inwood, at the northernmost end of Manhattan Island, for $1725.  We had been originally thinking between $1500 and $1650 (the latter being our maximum cost, as we wouldn't have any more from Nathan's student loans).  But this is what was available, so Nathan checked it out.  It had been nicely finished, with smooth walls, etc.  However, the layout didn't include a living room.  I think it technically was a one bedroom, but they had converted it into a two by adding a closet to the sitting/living room.  So there wasn't any common area, except a little in the kitchen.

This was more than a little disheartening.

Also, the broker's fee from the company was not one month's rent, as we had supposed, but rather 15% of the yearly rental income.  In addition, guarantors were required, unless we made 40x the monthly rent in salary (upwards of $69,000), and each person was obligated to have a $100 credit check fee, including the guarantors.  Ay-yi-yi!

I wondered how regular people - working-class people - could find a place to live, and Nathan said that there seemed to be a planned gentrification of Manhattan, because this was pretty standard.  The poorer people were being forced out and landlords were only accepting either wealthier tenants or tenants with wealthier parents/guarantors.

I got my feathers a little ruffled, simply because I didn't want to participate in any sort of gentrification or displacement of people from their homes.  Yuck.

It was a little overwhelming overall, as we had been relying on this broker to help us find a place.  The place he found that was even in the neighborhood of our budget Nathan didn't want to tell me about at all, and the place that was semi-reasonable was out of our range.  Phooey.
 So then we got ready for bed.  And we all read books.  Even Eleanor.

Tomorrow is another day.

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