Well, the bad news first – I didn’t get the apartment. I didn’t even get to view, she just simply never got back to me. There had been a few people viewing ahead of me and I guess they snapped it up – you really have to be quick off the mark around here. I still have not managed to find a place, and my daily trawl is confirming that Craig’s List is proof of the many bewildering, alarming and hilarious housing and room mate options in this city. I am most certainly not a vegan. I don’t own any furniture here, but describing my style as ‘minimalist’ is, I fear, a bridge too far. I’d as soon not rent out your living room to sleep in, thanks. All things considered, I don’t think I’ll wire you money by Western Union to Nigeria and await you to send me back the keys by post (really, this is one of the more common scams – it takes a few posts before you start to recognize them straight-off). And no, I don’t want to take on a bedroom that doesn’t have any window (absolute deal breaker).
So the hunt continues. Thus far I’ve been fussy about the where and how much bracket, but if there’s nothing promising arising soon I’m going to have to look further afield. Meanwhile I have spent some utterly lovely days wandering (in the interests of researching ‘farther afield’). Wednesday took me to the Upper West Side, complete with lunch in Zabar’s of soup and half sandwich which could give the Pav a run for its money, though I suspect Zabar’s cheese blintzes with rhubarb conserve are better! Not, however, the Barry’s tea…which sure enough was tucked in among the other wonders on display in this marvelous Jewish deli, but at $10 for a small box I decided my need had not yet reached such a crisis point!
Thursday night I overnighted in Brooklyn thanks to the hospitality of Katie and Chris in their wonderful turret apartment, after a lovely evening over drinks in Chelsea, and Dylan Thomas’ old watering hole, the White Horse. This felt well deserved, after a seemingly endless afternoon spent in the social security office where I had to sign in with my visa. There is a very particular kind of ‘hurry up to wait’ bureaucracy which in fairness is an apparently international condition, and did at least let me practice my aural Spanish a lot. When I did make it to the desk, there was one slightly amusing moment at which she asked if I had previously held a social security number in the US. Upon which cue I produced the paper receipt from the social security office when I was here on my J1. Momentary silence, half smile, and raised eyebrow from the clerk. “Honey, are you telling me that you still have this dog-eared ole bit of paper since 1997?” I admitted rather sheepishly that I wasn’t quite sure whether I was either proud or embarrassed at this indeed being the case. But it did help get my paperwork sorted! Eventually….
Friday afternoon was a ramble around Williamsburg, ably guided and entertained by Katie. Vintage shops forever; with row upon row of eighties varsity t-shirts, soft flannel shirts, delightfully garish dresses and every shade of denim blue. Brunch: I now know I like my eggs done over-medium, with rye toast. (Tea ordering is still problematic, you have to be very explicit that you mean hot breakfast tea or else it comes with ice.) Great big tables of second-hand books in their lovely matte US editions along Bedford Avenue which are very, very hard to resist. All the trendy young hipsters (do they actually allow non-myopic boys into Brooklyn?) And a pleasant slump in the park, admiring the Chrysler Building and Manhattan’s skyline from across the East river. This was followed by a mad subway dash under the self-same river and up to the Lincoln Center to catch a film in the New York Film Festival with Jeff. The film in question, for those of you who are interested, was Meek’s Cutoff– equal parts enthralling and deadly dull, and definitely less enjoyable than it was to just soak up the buzz of a full house in a great auditorium.
This afternoon I joined the great multitudes of joggers and strollers and loungers and readers and pampered pooches and cyclists and skaters who were out in force to enjoy the glorious sunshine along the Hudson River Park. It really is delightful, with boats out on the water and that weirdly community vibe which you get in good public spaces in large cities. The jumble of shiny skyscrapers and whoosh of traffic are really not that far from you, but they seem at a remove somehow. At around 11th Street I left the water’s edge and headed in a few blocks to the High Line Park. This ingenious park has been developed on an old raised railway line which cuts along the West Side above Chelsea and the Meatpacking district (now a very trendy area; the labour which gave it its name was what led to the creation of the railway line in the first place). Now there is a stretch of 14 blocks (they’re currently working on the next section) of walkway and greenery, with brilliantly designed benches and viewing spots, where you can stroll along and look down on the streets and stores and cars and goings on below. It’s a really enjoyable perspective, as you’re level with about the third floor of most of the surrounding buildings and really can see the city from a new angle.
This was the view from the Hudson Park to my left:
And this was the view from the Hudson Park to my right:
And this was heading back to Hoboken on the ferry, looking back at where I'd just come from:
There has of course been boringness too, but I will spare you the dirge of CV reformatting, job searching, endless emails, transatlantic ordering of optician prescriptions, etc etc. I suppose right now is sort of a transition period, the feeling of ‘oh, maybe I’m just on holidays!’ is wearing off (together with my bank balance!) and yet real life has not taken hold. I am now really looking forward to having my own place, and to starting to get my teeth into work as it’s obviously the key to the sense of ‘I live here’...The Martinez continue to be the most wonderful hosts imaginable, and I feel both completely welcome and included and utterly independent at the same time. But I do hope the next couple of weeks will see me getting set up on my own.
Thanks so much everyone who sent such positive and encouraging responses to the first blog. You’ve willed it to continue!
First foray into adding photos successful...now I just need to remember to start taking more!
This post is, of course, still too long.