Tuesday, July 29, 2008

There's no crying over this move

I made my last visit to my old apartment on Monday night. I've gone to the old place a few times in the past week getting my last few possessions out of there. It's only been three weeks since I moved out and somehow I already forgot how unpleasant the 4/5 trains are at rush hour. I had an empty gym bag with me to carry some small things back, and I got dirty looks from a few people that I accidentally bumped with the bag. When I rode those trains every day, I always wanted to sneer at someone who gave me a look like that and say "can't you see we're on a crowded train? I can't help bumping into you." Instead I said nothing and turned up the volume on my iPod.

Over the weekend I'd moved my old loveseat to the curb and the rest of my furniture was already removed so all that was left last night was my bike rack and some trash. I swept the floors and gave each room a quick look to make sure everything was gone. Then without any sentimentality I locked the door and got in my friend's car for the trip back to Brooklyn. I didn't have the time to linger, nor did I have the desire. One way that I can tell I've made the right choice in moving to my new apartment is that I haven't missed anything about the old one. The old apartment doesn't have any emotional pull for me, even though I spent five years living there and going through some significant life changes. After Liz moved out, I made it into more of a space that was my own, but the apartment never felt like it was entirely mine. My new apartment has been mine from the beginning of the process, and every decorating or furnishing choice has been mine (with some helpful hints from friends). My one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn may be smaller but it feels larger and infinitely more comfortable than the old apartment ever did. Maybe these feelings are just new-apartment newness, but I already feel like I belong in my new building. That kind of comfort hasn't ever happened this quickly after a move. I've always had a bit of longing for the old place and the old commute. But not this time.

I'm going to miss some things about my old neighborhood, like the proximity to the parks, the restaurants, and the convenience of having drugstores and big chains nearby. But I'm not going to miss that old apartment. After I moved out, I saw how run down the old building really is. It's falling apart. The floors in my old apartment already sloped down from the walls to the center of each room, but without any furniture the slope feels more pronounced. When I looked out of the bedroom window I could see cracks that weren't there five years ago when I moved in. My building is settling and pulling away from the building next door. And one of the windows across from my bedroom has been shored up with pieces of wood. I'm glad to get out of there now, before anything bad happens.

Back at the new apartment, I've moved some of my non-essential belongings into my basement storage room. I'm trying to be less of a pack rat, so I'm not keeping anything that I don't absolutely need. The things in the storage room aren't essential, but they're not junk either. I've put my bike in there on the bike rack I've had since I moved to New York, so that gives me more floor space as well as room for another bike if I have a guest who rides over (or if I buy another bike someday). And I have started the process of hanging up my pictures. Within a week the place will look like I've lived there for years.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Living in a fishbowl

I'm still getting adjusted to living on the first floor with windows that look right onto the street. My windows are on the north side of the building so I get light all day long but never direct sunlight, so the apartment stays relatively cool without the air conditioners running. (I run my A/C all the time when I'm home anyway.) But with no gap between my windows and the sidewalk, I get a front-row seat for everyone who walks by. I can see them, and if it's after dark and I have the shades up, they can see me too. Two weeks ago I had the day off to get my cable modem replaced, and I had the shades up all afternoon. If I hadn't had a clock, I could have told the time by the amount of foot traffic outside. I'm half a block from the Union Street stop on the M/R lines and starting in the late afternoon there's a constant flow of people walking up President Street from the subway. I don't mind the people walking by, even when they stop outside my window and talk. If it's late at night and I'm trying to sleep, I just turn up the fan on the air conditioner and drown them out. And that's only happened once. There's nothing that interesting on the sidewalk outside for people to stop and chat for long.

What I'm not so happy about are the people who don't realize someone lives here. On that afternoon I was home, one of my neighbors stepped outside for a cigarette and stood right in front of my window. At least she had the decency to look toward the street instead of right in my window. Then on Sunday night I had the shades open while I was making dinner. A food delivery guy rode up and chained his bike to the metal bars guarding my air conditioner. That wasn't cool. There have been a few other times when people unloading their cars or waiting outside the building door have stood in front of my window.

The point is that I don't care if you're walking by, but if you can help it at all, please don't stop, stand, peer in, or otherwise pause in front of my windows. I'm thinking about putting a sign in the window that says "Please move along. I live here." However, I know I live in New York, and it wouldn't make any difference. In fact, it would probably make things worse and invite people to do stupid things. I'll just keep the shades down at night.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gadget lust (and it's not for what you think)

I'm not getting an iPhone. Not yet, anyway.

I want a GPS receiver. Last weekend we went to a wedding on the north shore of Long Island, and since we had access to a car we drove there and back. We had directions from Google as well as the wedding location's own directions, so I thought we would be OK. For the most part, we were. But we made a wrong turn on the way there and had to call the place to get back onto the correct route. And the trip home was nearly a disaster. The combination of the lateness of the hour (after midnight) and the dark back roads had us all screwed up and wondering if we'd ever get back to civilization. One thing I noticed early on was that streets and even major highways out on Long Island are marked with the smallest possible street signs, and always on the opposite corner from where we were. We missed several turns because I couldn't read the street signs until we were nearly on top of them. I had my Blackberry and my cell phone with me, and both of them have Google Maps installed, but I couldn't get a signal on either one until we'd figured out our wrong turns and found the correct route. I kept thinking that if I'd had a GPS receiver I would have been able to program the directions and we wouldn't have been driving around in the dark for the better part of two hours. I've used GPS receivers before and while I've had fair to good results with them, I had no doubts at the time that one would have at least shown us that we were on the wrong road. Also, I've wanted one for cycling for a few years. I do most of my riding on city streets and seldom get lost, but it would be great to have a GPS receiver to confirm the mileage on my bike computer, as well as find my way around when I'm in unfamiliar neighborhoods. And I can always use another gadget.

I'm looking at a Garmin nuvi receiver on Amazon.com that would fit my needs. It's small enough to fit in a pocket or in my Camelbak but comes with the same turn-based directions and maps that I'm familiar with. I don't need MP3 or photo storage, but those are throw-ins that I don't think I can avoid. I've got another wedding on Long Island in a few weeks, so if I'm going to buy it I should order it soon. As with most gadget purchases, I'll think about it for another few days and see how desperate I get. But I think I'm going to do this. I think that there's always a technical solution to a problem, and I like to be prepared for any eventuality. I don't see how I won't end up buying one.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Not quite home yet

For the past few days, I've noticed a weird feeling I get whenever I'm at home in my new apartment. It was a familiar sensation of being in an unfamiliar place, but a place that was entirely my own. At first I thought I was just lonely after having a procession of movers, cable TV installers, and Kate here for company over the weekend. But when the feeling persisted into the week, and when it was strongest when I first came in the door, I remembered where and when I'd had this feeling before.

In August 1996 I moved into the one-bedroom apartment near Dupont Circle that Liz and I shared for three years. For the first two weeks, I lived there by myself, surrounded by boxes and only the furniture that came with the apartment. I didn't even have a TV yet. I certainly didn't have the Internet (though I did have a phone line, and a computer with a modem). For those first few weeks, the only light in the living room came from the fluorescent light in the kitchen, which gave the rest of the living room an odd glow. I didn't spend much time there by myself. Liz was in Los Angeles for business when I moved our things into the apartment, and she came back to DC after those two weeks and we furnished and decorated it together.

My new apartment has a fluorescent light in the kitchen that gives the rest of the living room that same odd glow when it's the primary light source. But I also have a floor lamp that compensates and adds a more natural light to the room. I'm surrounded by boxes, but the furniture in here is all mine. It's all the same furniture I had in the Manhattan apartment so it's familiar and comforting. I don't have any Internet service right now except for my cell phone as a modem, so I feel cut off while I'm at home. (I SHOULD have cable Internet right now, but that's a different rant.)

All of these things combined to give me that same sense of being out of place in a place that should feel like home. Once I realized what I was feeling, I took control of it and reminded myself that eventually this apartment will feel like home. It just takes time. Gradually the boxes will disappear and I'll come home, sit on my couch, and watch TV without even thinking that I'm in a new place. Because it won't be new anymore.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I'm moved in, and I'm worn out

Moving day started early on Saturday morning. I woke up just before my alarm at 7 AM and got a few last-minute things unplugged and ready for the movers. I was out getting donuts and coffee when the movers showed up right on the dot at 8 AM. I gave them a few directions (pack this, don't pack that) and tried to stay out of the way while the four of them each took a room and packed it. Kate was there for cat-wrangling and moral support, but she didn't like sitting around and not doing anything while the movers were working, so she retreated to Starbucks for an hour. I think the foreman woke up my neighbors at 8:30 when he found my shofar and tried a few tekiahs and teruahs. By 10:30 AM the truck was loaded and ready to go, and we got the cats into their carriers for the cab ride to Brooklyn and the new apartment. The movers showed up about 10 minutes after we got the cats settled in, and by noon the moving part was over. I got the kitchen set up while Time Warner hooked up my cable TV and Internet, then unpacked the bedroom in the evening. Then we watched "Deadliest Catch" and I promised to think about those guys when I'm complaining about my cushy desk job.

On Sunday I went back to Manhattan to clean up the old apartment and retrieve a few things the movers had missed (like my silverware and the food in my old refrigerator). I nearly wore out my shoulders hauling two bags of food and other odds and ends on the subway. I could have taken a cab, but that would have cost $30, and I don't think I had $30 of food in my bags. So I carried it. At this point the entertainment center is all set up, as is the computer in my bedroom/office. The one casualty so far is my old set of computer speakers. One of the cables got bent out of shape when it got packed, and now the lights flicker and I don't get any audio. The speakers are 10 years old and have been giving me trouble for years, so it's time to replace them anyway. Everything else seems to have made the trip without trouble. Now I can take my time unpacking my books and CDs and getting settled. I love my new apartment and my new neighborhood, and I can't wait to see what else is around here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Countdown to moving day: 3 days to go

I picked up the keys to the new apartment this morning.  It's about a 20 minute walk from Kate's apartment, and about 15 minutes from the YMCA on 9th Street.  With the astoundingly fantastic neighborhood, the location just keeps getting better and better.  I met my new super, who seems like a good guy.  He grew up in the neighborhood and takes pride in the security of his buildings, which put me at ease.  Everything in the apartment itself was working, including both air conditioners, the refrigerator, and the oven.  I checked out the cabinets and the closets, and I still think I'll be able to get all of my things into the space without too much difficulty.  It will be crowded for a few weeks while I unpack but I'll manage. 

There is one not-so-small problem, and that is the lack of a storage room.  Both the broker and the landlord assured me that the apartment came with a 5'x5' storage room in the basement.  The extra storage became a big factor in my decision to take that apartment rather than continue looking for something else.  But this morning when I asked the super where the storage rooms were, he said my apartment was one of two that didn't come with a storage room.  He showed me a few places in the basement where I could keep my bike, and assured me that both of them were secure and that I didn't need to worry about my bike being stolen.  However, neither location is a substitute for a storage room where I could put things like my folding dining chairs, my cat carriers, or anything else I don't need every day.  I called my new landlord but he's on vacation until Monday.  Now the missing storage room isn't a show-stopper.  I have too much stuff as it is. But I'd been counting on having some extra space, so I'm disappointed.  I hope I can fit everything I'm keeping into the space I have.  I managed to fit too much stuff into my old apartment in Greenwich Village, so I'm sure I can manage.  I just don't want to feel cramped.