Apartment Hunting: The Despair, The Agony… The Jubilant Elation

layout studio apartment brand new unit

view from rental building where new apartment is

On Day 41, I culminated a 3-day apartment search.

I met a couple brokers to begin (and hopefully) end the search for my new apt.

As to be expected… the process was frustrating and nail-biting fun.

In order to make it harder for myself (I like a good challenge), I gave myself 72 hours to find myself a new apartment (in a brand new city), turn in an application and sign a lease (not to mention explore different neighborhoods, visit with friends and get some work done….)

Piece of cake!

Day 1.

3 hours into this day I was ready to call the search off.  Apartment 1 had walls that didn’t meet the top of the ceiling.  Apartment 2 reeked of cigarettes.  Apartment 3 was built in 1961 and had a kitchen fit for a pre-world war I exhibit.


By the end of the day, I was rethinking any sort of move and wondering which part of “new apartment with nice kitchen” was misunderstood.

Morning of day 2 I tried to give myself a pep talk (key word “tried”) and did my best not to put broker number 2 in a choke-hold and list out my demands.

7 buildings and 20 apartments later, I was seeing spots resembling kitchen and bedroom layouts and trying to remember which unit I liked more than the others.  My state (and the broker’s mood) could be explained by the following behavioral issues:

  • Trying to take naps in “model” apartments
  • Eating a larger fraction of snacks than normal at every building (Lollipops! Goldfish! Cookies!)
  • Staring blankly when asked where I live now
  • Haggling with building managers
  • Asking “inappropriate” questions about building demographics (what is the male to female ratio and how many males between the ages of 25-32?)

I may have had froot loops in my head by the end of the day, but I knew that I had seen some awesome units that might make my new apartment dreams come true.

By 5pm on day 3, I had an apartment.

Yes, I had spoken to everyone I knew on the phone.  Yes, I had a friend look over every single layout and make a pro/con list for me (typical friend duty).

The end result was complete success and excitement for a new apartment and a move to a new city.

(Now just have to make some decorating decisions)


Miniature Cameras, Bugging Devices and False Bottoms

On Day 40, one of my friends suggested we head to the theater district and skip Broadway in favor of a Spy Exhibit.

SPY: THE EXHIBIT, was an interesting way to start the evening.

I’m not sure what I expected but everything you might imagine such an exhibit to have, was included in this extravaganza:

  • Dead mice used to stash secret documents during the cold war?  Check.
  • Aircraft designed to fly 3 times the speed of sound and pick up foreign secrets?  Check.
  • Fake bricks known as “dead drops” with secret containers for money/messages?  Check.
  • Laser room where one embarrasses oneself by fiercely dodging strobes of light while random passerby’s watch outside on screen?  Check. (Uncharacteristically, I skipped this activity… but LOVED watching).
  • Remote controlled catfish AND dragonfly developed to “explore the use of underwater and aerial vehicles?”… CHECK.
  • Voice recording station where one records oneself and changes voice intonations (and broadcasts comments about said friend)?  Check.

One of the coolest parts of the exhibit was the history lesson we received.

I’m no history buff! But even I shut up and paid attention once we entered “The Vault” with relics from WWII, the Cold War and the Russian Revolution.  All of these hit close to home and I was mesmerized by two displays in particular:

  • A limited edition copy of Dr. Zhivago captured by the CIA and originally banned by Soviet Union Officials (author was given the Nobel Prize but was forced to decline it by the Soviet Government)
  •  A letter written in May of 1945 by Richard Helms – a commanding officer in USA’s Office of Strategic Services – on Adolf Hitler’s stationary to his young son (age 3), explaining the significance of the victory.



Holidays: A “Family” Affair

rosh hashanah shana tovah new year jewish

On day 39, lil bro and I found ourselves in Brooklyn for rounds of toasts with our New York family in honor of Rosh Hashanah.

Today my brother and I toasted to the New Year with our family friends from back home (Michigan) who now also live in the boroughs of NYC.

Our history stems back to our pre-teen days.

Our moms introduced us when we were about 7 and 12.  They would have girl time while my brother and I were “baby-sat.”

These stories are legendary (including one hairbrush incident that involved the loss of some of my hair…).

Fast forward 20 years.  Marriage and kids for her and running wild in NYC for us and you have yourself the second generation of our family unit.  We celebrate birthdays, important anniversaries, milestones and promotions.  Our version might be different than the original but we still get together in much the same way our parents did 20 years ago.

Tonight was no different.

We told inappropriate stories.  Discussed bedroom incidents.  Teased each other mercilessly.  Attempted to remember the endings to old Russian children’s stories (wine was involved).  Feasted for 8.

Add a plethora of apples with honey for a sweet New Year (to increase our odds) and you have one great night.

Mom would have been proud.


Fish, Forceps and the ER

hospital ER waiting for doctor

Day 38 started out as a typical day and left me thankful.

I went to work. I had a conference call.  I had a work lunch.

You’d think I’d eat my meal, enjoy the view (of the Hudson) and get back to work.

The lunch Gods had other plans.

In an effort to go with a more “healthy” choice, I chose the trout with green beans instead of the salmon with mashed potatoes (my fave).  A few bites into my yummy meal, I realized (a bit too late) that the fish was in fact not de-boned and there was a bit of an uncomfortable scratch in my throat.

You guessed it: one of the fish bones was stuck.

I ate a loaf of bread (as grandma would have recommended), I ate more bread, I ate a plum and I inhaled fluids.  Nothing helped.

45 minutes later I was in the ER.

While waiting the obligatory 7 hours to be seen by a doctor (it’s only fair), the nurses calmly did what they could to keep me calm and assure me of the upcoming positive outcome:

  • they shared (horror) stories about others with bone lodging situations, tossed out (horror-inducing) scenarios of extraction and prepped possible IV situations (thanks guys!).

My friend the bone was finally removed with a giant plier-looking apparatus.  It was swift and painless and I couldn’t have been happier to have it out.

The day shaped up to be really interesting, but…while I waited for the king of doctors to make a decision on the manner of retrieval, I was overwhelmed by text messages, phone calls and emails wishing me well.  Friends and colleagues offered to leave work and wait with me, my brother and his friends made me laugh by sending me pictures of Gerber food, coworkers sent best wishes, family called to listen to me whimper and offer anecdotes and opinions on the healthcare system (thanks for the solidarity, dad!).

There were moments of fear but there were also moments of relief and perspective: being in the hospital and realizing you can walk out unscathed is a blessing.  Having people to lean on is a gift.  and having the means for “swift” medical care is lucky and pretty Awesome.

Turning It Around

reflection on a plane

On Day 37, everything that could have gone wrong… went wrong.

In preparing for this week’s work trip, I planned to wake up circa 4am (a miracle for anyone who knows me) and drive to the airport to take an early flight, putting me at a client meeting bright and early.


Not quite.  The 2 hour drive turned into 4.  I missed the only non-stop flight of the day.  I couldn’t understand my friend, the GPS (which turn lady?!?!).  I almost missed the 2nd flight.  I just about peed my pants flying through a storm (apparently this is of NO concern to the pilots).

By the time we landed in random pit stop (ie layover point), I was ready to call it a day and head back to NYC.

I decided to regroup.  I sat myself down, ate a couple bags of JetBlue (Blue) potato chips (I’m a fan) and had a double vodka (naturally).

Things turned up from there:

  • Through methods of friendly waves and overstepping boundaries, I befriended the pilots of my next flight.  They assured me that we would not intentionally fly directly into hurricane Isaac’s path (phew).
  • I met the crew of the plane and prepped them for my on-board bloody-mary intake.  (I even scored a free one!)
  • I read my book of the moment: “White Girl Problems” – Babe Walker.  (Don’t judge, just read)
  • I enjoyed team bonding by the water (the upside of traveling for work)
  • I ended the evening with a bath (my hotel go-to)

About turning it around:

Not easy.  But when achieved: Awesome.

Freshman Orientation…Again.

college, university

On Day 36 I found myself with microphone in hand, aiming to “impart wisdom” on the next class of freshmen students at my alma mater (when did I get this old??).

The journey to this particular podium started a few weeks ago.  I received an invitation to speak at this year’s orientation and immediately felt elated, honored and nervous (think Lindsey Lohan’s first day in Mean Girls meets jumping on the bed).

First things first: I had to make the drive up. No trip to school is complete without at least a short drive through the hills of New Hampshire.  I reveled at the natural beauty.  I talked to myself for hours.  I belted out favorite high school/college classics (Go on leave me breathless…).  I had a goofy smile plastered on my face the entire time.

Driving onto campus, the significance of orientation sunk in.  These students were about to embark on the same journey I took some years ago.

Today I not only tried to inspire but also to motivate.  I spoke about post-college opportunities, the breadth of available experiences in and out of the classroom and the importance of following your own path and studying the things you find interesting.  Most importantly, I tried to assuage fears for the students of the class of 2016 during this exciting yet anxious time.

After I was done speaking, many hands went up in the air, each person with a different question.  I felt like the program was a success.

One young man asked how it felt to be “on the other side.”

Loaded question.

I thought:  proud of myself.  Grateful for the opportunity to pass my experiences on.  Jealous of the class of 2016 (maybe I can re-enroll??).  Pondering whether I could head to the frats afterwards (celebratory keystone?).  And wanting to give back even more.

The mix of emotions I felt was overwhelming.  Today I wasn’t on campus for a reunion, a class event or a big alumni weekend.  It was business as usual on Day 2 of freshman orientation.

Finding myself in the midst of the orientation schedule was a great honor and the opportunity to give back and help inspire a whole new class left me humbled, reminiscent and giddy.

Absolutely Awesome.

A Moment for Times Square

Times Square at Night

On Day 35 I took in Times Square for the 457th time (give or take a few).

For you New Yorkers: I know what you’re thinking.  5 minutes on the sidewalk in front of the Hard Rock or the giant Forever 21 between 45th and 46th streets is enough to raise your blood pressure and have you running to the nearest clinic for an EKG.

It’s loud.  It’s crowded.  It’s obnoxious.

But it’s happy.  This bright epicenter of New York City is covered with tourists from all over the world who come to see the giant TV screens, the lights of Broadway and the center of the entertainment industry.

Lucky for me, I had a 12-year-old tourist in tow who was thrilled to be seeing those lights for the very first time.  We explored as much of Times Square as we could before needing to duck and cover…

We took a ride on the indoor Ferris wheel at Toys R’ Us (Mr. Potato Head!).  We played in Wonka Land.  We tried on Cinderella accessories at the Disney store.  We ate as many M&M’s from M&M World as we bought. We went into too many NY souvenir shops (serious commitment).   We checked out the Hard Rock.

Finally, we took a moment atop the “stairs” to look out onto the sea of people that had traveled to see this most famous intersection.  Ironically, getting lost in the crowd can offer its own moment of zen.

We stood, we smiled and we ended the night with a slice of New York pizza.


Tourist Adventures… Through the Eyes of a 12-Year-Old

statue of liberty, inspiration, travel

Day 34th‘s Awesome took months of careful planning and serious persuasion (manipulation?).  Finally, my brother and I convinced my dad to put our (12-year-old) sister on a plane headed to NYC by herself.

Before any Awesome could begin, we had to deliver her to the airport and collect her at the other end.  All sounds easy – but in today’s world, picking up a minor at the airport is akin to picking up the Spice Girls for a reunion tour.

Once the maze of security badges, screening, hours of waiting and celebrity-style escort services (yes, obviously it takes 4 people to escort a child off a plane) were complete and we were safely in NYC, we marveled at the city (buildings!  Telephone booth!!  Tall ladders!!  Taxi cabs!!) and proceeded to map out the conquest of the next few days.

First major stop:  Lady Liberty and Ellis Island

The excitement I feel regarding the statue never waivers.  I was about 11 when I first saw the sheer magnitude of her size and was struck with awe from the water.  Now it was sissy’s turn to experience it for herself.

Despite trying to convince me that the Statue of Liberty looked like a man, I think sis loved it and the trip was a success:  we partook in the audio tour; we ate turkey sandwiches by the water; we had a photo-shoot; we bought souvenir bracelets.

After spending a couple hours with the Statue, we embarked on a short ferry ride to Ellis Island.

For those who have passed on the opportunity to see this iconic island, I would get back aboard ship.  This historical site is mesmerizing.

Our favorite part:

The photo exhibit depicting the deterioration of the immigration center before its restoration.

The photographer was the great grandson of a woman who came from Russia and told a tale of bringing empty suitcases on the voyage so Ellis Island security wouldn’t know her family had no possessions to speak of.  He became immersed in the decrepit buildings and spent a month on the small island photographing the site.

His passion seeped through and we became equally immersed in dusty medical equipment, over-grown courtyards and fading plaster on walls that told the story of 12 million immigrants who sailed past Lady Liberty for a chance at freedom.