Get me to the city. Stat!

I’m writing this from the Western edge of North Dakota. It makes me uncomfortable to be here.

Now, I completely, 100 percent respect anyone who chooses to work off the land. I know some people love the rural life.

I’m not one of them.

Rural areas scare me. I feel safer around people. I feel most secure with the conveniences of a big city around me.

I grew up in the suburbs. The nearest grocery store from our house was a 15-minute drive. If we forgot something, it was kind of a pain in the ass. Similarly, when we rented movies from Blockbuster, it was taking on an additional errand. (God bless Netflix). So what do you do when the nearest town is 60+ miles away?

I have no idea.

I often wondered that when I worked as a reporter in a small town. What if I get a run in my tights? There’s no store here for me to pick up another pair. At that time, I lived in Olympia, the nearest big-ish city and commuted to the small town.

I liked my neighborhood in Seattle. Safeway, Fred Meyer, a number of bars, coffee shops, a yoga studio,even the library were an easy walk from my apartment.

In New York, of course, everything except Target was convenient.

Ohana means family and family means everyone’s life gets blogged

The New York Ohana has been a big part of my story. I’ve been asked for more info about them, so here you go!

Quyn and baby Jake (they're just friends)
Quyn and baby Jake (they’re just friends)

The Quyn character has been played by Quyn, a New York Times VJ. She recently went on a spontaneous solo trip to Paris to paint, eat croissants and take photos. She’s a talented artist with a practical side. A mutual friend once described Quyn as “someone who will never fail.” I couldn’t say it better myself. Quyn bravely moved to New York without a job, she came armed with a degree, hard work ethic and a determination to make it. Has she ever!

James is played by James, a kinda big deal NFL editor/manager/coordinator. He loooooooooves the 49ers. He claims if you prick him, he bleeds red and gold. I’ve never confirmed this, but I have seen the gold jacket he keeps in his apartment. Don’t believe him if he tells you I tried it on. I DID NOT! He calls his lightweight bicycle the ghost. His pastimes include coming up with clever hashtags, picking up girls at naked yoga class and trash-talking Seahawks fans. We’re all waiting for him to move to Cali.

Jenga tournaments are serious business.
Jenga tournaments are serious business.

Navani stars as Navani. She’s a writer and radio show host among other things. She is a regular contributor to Latina magazine. Navani recently jetted off to London for a week just because someone asked if she wanted to. (Spoiler: Correct answer to that question is always yes.) Navani’s talents include bio writing, knowing when popular artists and authors are speaking at events and running for the G train in sneakers, heels and flip-flops alike.

It’s not the next chapter, it’s the first chapter

It’s my last night in New York City. I was trying to think of something epic to do, but all I wanted to do was come home and write an article for my class and maybe have a glass of wine (definitely have a glass of wine).
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And that reminded me why I’m moving out of New York. While I love it here, it’s so expensive to rent a room in which to eat, sleep, write and raise a cat. Perhaps you’ve heard me say that 8 million times. When I got here, I was so excited to go to every show and visit every museum. Now, I long to write my books, make home décor with Tara and Betsy, go kayaking with Pam and/or Kristin on a pretty day and go to the pumpkin patch with Janice, Nolan, Colin, Kim, Max, Betsy, Thomas, Tara and Lora.

Leaving New York is so bittersweet. I keep telling my friends here that I’ll visit annually, probably move back some day and will definitely force my future children to be NYU Violets.

Living here had its triumphs and failures, and changed me more ways that I can list, but when has that ever stopped me from trying?

I leave with more scars than I arrived with. Two physical and a few emotional, but you can barely see those anymore.

I leave more assertive than I arrived. Don’t you dare try to take my dryer at the Laundromat or fly through the intersection I’m walking through. Can’t you see I’m walkin’ hea’?

I leave more self-assured than when I arrived. I won’t tell you want you want to hear. I’m going to tell you how I see it. If you don’t like my answer, don’t ask me again.

I leave here talking a little different. “Me” sounds more like “may” than it used to. And the four-letter words flow out more naturally. There might be more subtleties I haven’t picked up on my own.

I leave here dressing a lot better. I’m not sure how the Seattle weather is going to factor into my new wardrobe.

I leave with friends who changed my life for the better. I can’t thank Quyn, James, Navani, Jen, Kristin and all for being a part of my life. You’re all an inspiration to me, and I adore you.

I leave here with a tighter, more toned body that I have a great, big fear of losing when I don’t have to walk up 5 flights of stairs to get home and 10 blocks to the grocery store. Plus, I had to give my beloved gym the deuces. But, I did email Crunch and ask for a Seattle location. The regional manager assured me they’re “working on it! 🙂 That’s his smiley face, not mine.

I leave here so excited for my future. I’ve got big things planned and really, truly believe I can accomplish them. I can’t wait to show you!

And here’s a gratuitous picture of my nephew. I acquired him and his sister while I was in New York, too.

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Up and down the East Coast

There’s something big in those words, “Next stop: New York City!” I love hearing it boom through the Amtrak train. It’s like when I first moved here. I feel like life is full of hope and anything can happen in this place.

Some of the magic and allure is wearing off. I realize New York isn’t the only city. I’ve loved hopping on a train or MegaBus for weekend trips in the Eastern US. I think I could live happily in any one of them. I fancy myself a laid-back West Coast girl, but I have plenty of reasons to love living on the East Coast.

  1. Jump on a train or bus, be in another city with an entirely different personality in 4 hours.
  2. No car required.
  3. Accents. Everywhere!
  4. Is it just me, or does everyone here speak two languages?
  5. Show endings are never spoiled on social media.
  6. Media jobs are here.
  7. Lobster, clams and crabs.
  8. History.
  9. After that long, cold winter, spring feels so good.
  10. Fashion starts here.
  11. I like that people don’t dress like slobs here. (Sorry, Seattle!)
  12. Cousinly love in DC
    Cousinly love in DC
    Mad love for Philly.
    Mad love for Philly.
    Montreal, mon dieu!
    Montreal, mon amour!
    Hey, Burlington, Vermont, looking cute!
    Hey, Burlington, Vermont, looking cute!
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    Boston is wicked nice.

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    Why Baltimore is called Charm City.

I admit: New York is a classic for a reason.

  1. New York, New York: So nice they named it twice.
    New York, New York: So nice they named it twice.

This was my dream?

If you’ve been suffering a case of FOMO lately, you’ve come to the right place. You will feel no jealousy here.

Living in New York was a dream for me. Let me paint you a picture of that “dream” this week.

There are no Dumpsters and alleys in Manhattan. Trash is a big business. It gets sorted into thick plastic “rat-proof” bags and piled up on the sidewalks. The garbage trucks drive down the streets and a couple of guys walk alongside, tossing those bags in the truck’s compactor.

Now imagine those bags out on the sidewalks as 10+ inches of snow falls. The trash doesn’t get collected. Then, the temperature rises, so the snow turns into rain, which then freezes, encasing the garbage/snow banks in ice. It’s now rock hard and the trash is stuck in the mounds. Then dogs come along and pee on the whole thing.

That’s not all.

Cars parked on the roads got blocked in by a wall of snow from the plows. That wall of snow got the same ice treatment, so now it’s like a rock wall blocking them in. Some car owners chipped away at those walls until they could get out.

The mess has created extra narrow strips of sidewalk, so if you need to pass someone coming toward you, one of you is forced dangerously near the garbage-dirty snow-pee mountain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to search for jobs in Hawaii. That’s the real dream.

Personality quirks by region

Today is the day I anger everyone! Good read:

America’s Mood Map: An Interactive Guide to the United States of Attitude

Seattle

Hurricane Ridge
Just climbing a mountain. NBD.

My office in New York works closely with the office in the Seattle area. At our recent Christmas party, one of the New York editors was asking me and another guy who used to live in Seattle what it’s like over there. I explained that Seattleites, to generalize, are incredibly passive-aggressive. “You waste so much time trying to figure out what the person you’re talking to is trying to say.” My boss nodded in agreement. He has an aggressive New Jersey side. He gets things done, but he also has a personal touch. He doesn’t have time for games. I’m guessing he was very frustrated during his Seattle years.

I used to say that someone in Seattle could be having a heart attack on the sidewalk and everyone would just go around without making eye contact. “Well, I didn’t know if he wanted help, so I didn’t want to bother him,” they’d explain I haven’t actually seen this happen. It’s just an extreme example I made up.

On the positive side, Seattleites know how to have fun and kick back. No one I know works 80 hours regularly. They play 80 hours a week. Everyone has climbed a mountain. Probably in the rain. That’s another thing. Nothing stops a Seattleite. Why wouldn’t we go hiking in the rain? And we stop at the Ballard (outdoor) Market on the way home. Even when it snows and the city and its residents are mocked by East Coasties for shutting down, Seattleites put on their warmest REI jacket over their North Face fleece and go out and play in the streets. Seattleites are a loyal bunch. They turn out for the Mariners, even though the team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001. They love their city.

Minneapolis

Minnesota State Fair
A place where women’s heads get carved in a dairy product.

The Minnesota Nice theory isn’t a lie. People in Minneapolis are nice. They don’t want to be a bother to anyone. A Minnesotan could be at the hospital, having a heart attack, and he or she would try to tell the nurse to see the guy with the paper cut first. “Oh, you go right ahead.” Again, I haven’t actually seen this. But I would say, in general, Minnesotans don’t stand up for themselves. They passively take what’s given.

On the positive side, Minnesotans are self-reliant. They chop down their own trees and heat their homes with fires they built in the fireplace. They are also good at building their network. Sometimes it amazes me that my brother has a guy for every situation. He borrowed an excavator from a buddy to build a sandbox for his son. I mean, who knows someone who owns an excavator? My brother apparently. Since I’m using Domonic as my example, he has also driven all over the Northland, helping friends and acquaintances tow vehicles or do repairs. I admire the no-problem mentality of the Midwest.

New York

High Line Park
Looks like a cold, aggressive bunch, right?

Ahh, New York. Everyone seems to think they have New Yorkers figured out, even if they visited Midtown one. “It’s a rat race.” People are corporate robots.” “People are aggressive and cold.” All myths.

New York attracts a certain kind of resident. They’re driven. They have something to prove. They don’t settle for second best. They’re arrogant. The unofficial city motto is, “I’m a New Yorker. I’m better than every body else.” (And I’m breaking all New Yorker rules by putting that on the record.) What I love about New Yorkers is that everyone here has a dream. They didn’t come here by accident. They’ll work 80 hours a week to accomplish. And then they’ll go home and work on the book they’re writing and go running in the park because they’re training for the New York Marathon. Oh, and they’ve all seen the latest movies and are caught up on the talker TV show of the season.

In order to do it all, they have cleaning, laundry, Seamless, bagel and coffee people. Unlike in Minnesota where you do favors for your network, in New York, you hire your network. You also buy pennants by throwing money at your baseball team. Truth. (Yankees suck.) New Yorkers are the biggest princesses I’ve ever met. They refuse outside when it’s cold or snowing or raining. I wonder if I’ll see anyone besides the guys who shovel the sidewalk in front of the 99 cent store across the street before March.

It’s true that you can live with 8 million people and still be lonely. In general, New Yorkers lack confidence in my opinion. They mask it by being arrogant and/or focusing on career success. New Yorkers are real people with real dreams, feelings and insecurities

I like to think I take a little bit from each of my hometowns. New York wrote over the passive-aggressive and just plain passive sides of my past. I have the self-resiliency from my Minnesota upbringing. And from Seattle, I took loyalty. If I’m having a heart attack, get the f*** out of my way! I’m seeing the doctor before you and your weak paper cut!

What’s that like?

The most common question I’m asked when I go “home” (Minneapolis or Seattle) is, “How is living in New York different?” The question is usually followed by a bashful, “I know it’s totally different – but how?”

It’s a fair question. One I asked many times before I moved here, too. It is different. Totally different, though? No. At some point I got used to the New York normal. It stopped being novel, but when out-of-towners visit, I’m reminded of what’s totally different.

1.     The noise. I fall asleep at night to the sounds of rolling metal doors closing on the street below, car alarms, people talking loudly, someone practicing the drums, basketballs dribbling on the sidewalk and the occasional pack of dirt bikers screeching down the empty street. It drove me crazy when I first moved here. Now I don’t even notice it.

2.     People doing weird things. Yeah, some people dress funny. I once saw a man in a tiger costume, minus the head on the subway. No one paid attention to him. I wish I had more examples, but honestly, nothing is sticking out.

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At “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell”

3.     There’s a whole lotta stuff to do here. Going to show tapings is a regular thing for my friends and me. There’s always a new neighborhood in which to grab dinner and walk around. Universities and gyms offer awesome classes. I totally take it for granted that whatever I want to do, I can. I think boredom will be one of my challenges when I leave New York.

4.     People dress well. A little effort is always put in when leaving the house, even if you leave in a tiger costume. It doesn’t have to be fussy, but people are generally more stylish here than anywhere else I’ve been. In yoga class, people dress nice. It doesn’t have to be Lululemon, and no one will comment on your cotton shorts and T-shirt, but you will be the only one in cotton shorts and a T-shirt. Trust me, I’ve been that person.

5.     It’s crowded. You probably have to stand on the train. The line at the grocery store can be 40-people long. Hundreds show up for the Book of Mormon lottery. You need to pad travel time by 20% if your route takes you through a high-traffic area. You can’t sit at the coffee shop all day. Sometimes you have to share a table with unknowns at a restaurant.

6.     You walk a lot. Up and down the stairs to the subway platforms. Across town when you don’t want to wait for the L or the B trains. Many subway stations aren’t accessible, so you have to carry babies, strollers, suitcases, purchases, etc. up yourself. Same thing at many apartment buildings. It’s 51 stairs from the train platform to the street at 47-50 Rockerfeller Center. It’s 80 stairs from the street to my apartment. My ass looks so good.

7.     It smells. So. Bad. Worse when it’s hot outside.

8.     Is it raining, snowing, sunny? Don’t know. All I see when I look out the window is a gray building.

9.     People refer to the sandwich chain as Subway Sandwiches.

10.     Public transit is fantastic, but it brings out the worst manners in people who play loud games sans headphones, take up two seats, and push their way on before letting people off.

Livin’ la vida green

You know what drives me so bonkers about New York? The wastefulness. It’s killing me! (Perhaps literally.) When I first got to New York, I was carrying empty containers around in my bag until someone told me it’s OK to put it in the trash because it gets separated later. I hope that’s true.

But mostly I try to minimize the need for plastic containers. I bought a few water bottles that I carry to the gym or soccer field. I even carry them empty to the airport, so I can fill them at the water fountain instead of buying those three-sip-sizes in the gift shop.

In a city where people “order Seamless,” excess is the norm. Dinner comes double bagged in a box with napkins, condiments, plastic silverware and a copy of the menu. Your trash is filled before you even get to the food part of the bag!

Once again, I’ve run out of lunch foods, so today I grabbed a sandwich at the eatery on street-level at my office. Before I could get the words “no bag” out, she put my wrapped sandwich in a paper bag with a handful of napkins. When I bought a tube of toothpaste at Duane Reade last week, the cashier double bagged it. Two bags? For toothpaste?! I would’ve just tossed it in my bag. It’s big enough to carry small purchases like that home.

This is so different from Seattle, where most cashiers automatically ask if you need a bag. Plastic silverware would likely be on a counter by the door, where you can take it if you really need it, but if you don’t, no need to toss it in a landfill. Seattleites take it a step beyond recycling and compost as well. Our East Coast brethren thinks it’s gross, but it really isn’t so bad.

Think how green New Yorkers could be with a few little changes. We already skip the big one – commuting solo in giant SUVs.

I just took the My Footprint quiz. If everyone lived like me, it would take 4.22 Earths to support it. Yikes! I saved points for my commute and housing, but my diet was on the high-use side of things. Changes to be made!

I have nothing more to teach you

I’m often asked how New York is different from other U.S. cities. There are the obvious things like living without a car and in the center of everything. But the striking difference is that people are here because they want to be, and they worked their ass off to get here and to stay here.

No one is stagnant. You can’t be. You’d run out of money and have to go home. No one is here because their parents lived here, and so they do, too. Everyone came here with a dream and something to prove. To stay here, we sacrifice time, money and privacy. We work day jobs to fund our passions. No one just works a 9-to-5 and calls it a day. Everyone has a side project. Waitresses wake up early to record tracks in the studio. Office workers spend their weekends on their books. Actors work temp jobs on Madison Avenue. The energy just radiates throughout the city, and fuels everyone here. How could I possibly go home and watch “Friends” reruns all evening when Navani is out making a documentary and writing a book?

It’s a beautiful thing to fill a city with so many like-minded people. I was talking to a friend about this today. He’s lived in London and says the atmosphere there is quite similar.

So there you have it. I can just end this blog today now that the secret is out.

Who knew?

I came to New York with a whole list of things I wanted to see, do and accomplish. But I’ve seen and done things I did not intend to see and do.

One of those things happened tonight. I had just gotten home and looked out of my bedroom into the living room and saw a mouse run out of the kitchen and under the couch. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed the phone to call the doormen. No answer. While I was standing there, that darn mouse ran out from under the couch and right into my bedroom.

About an hour and a few phone calls later, maintenance came up with four mouse traps and told me what to do. I was freaked out. “Are you OK,” Eddie asked me. I shook my head. He told me I’d be fine. I didn’t believe him.

I also had no intention of getting evicted. As you read in my previous post. Still don’t know where we’re at on that. Apparently we have no lease as of Dec. 1.

Experience a hurricane was not on my to-do list, but I did that, too. I flew in to JFK over the Rockaways yesterday. It’s as bad as they say on TV. Parts of the boardwalk tossed about, boats looked like a kid threw them in a pile.

I didn’t know that live with an unstable roommate was a right of passage in New York, but check! Done with that one.

Apparently “run into guys I dated” is also a must-do when in New York. In a city of 8.2 million people, I’m now at five run-ins.