Archive for the 'NYC' Category

ahoy again

It’s been a very, very strange year. I wish I could get a do-over, but at the same time I’d MUCH RATHER NOT have to go through all that crazy shit a second time. I graduated and transitioned into the real world of unemployment and despair. I went to Burning Man (again). I got dumped (again). I went to war with and cut myself off from some crazy, pushy, confounding, conniving people, stressed to the point that I had to question my priorities, my morals, and the very nature of my character, and sometimes I still have to remind myself why I did what I did. I moved back in with my parents and got a sweet little dog who cries when she’s alone. I’ve got lots of free time now, and I spend it working on two novels I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, tinkering with GarageBand and my resume, learning how to drive, and trying not to get cabin fever.

I realized that the three-year cycle that keeps me ever “transitory” is coming around again, and after a two-week jaunt to NYC in October, the “Empire State of Mind” song is stuck in my head. I really might go back to where I came from, that ghetto-ass Chilltown that my sister and I spent years trying to forget. I think I want to finally live in the city proper. I think I’m finally prepared.

Then again, I’ve got a bunch of loans to repay, and maybe staying under my parents’ roof would be a better idea. I don’t know. I’ve talked to so many people this past month. Some of them are my age, or younger, or decades older, with kids a decade younger than I am. Some of them are still at Stanford, some graduated with me and are still unemployed, some have been working the same insanely cushy job for the past five years, some are my parents’ friends who have been working for the past five decades.

I’ve told each person something different about myself and what I want in a job. Everything I’ve said has been true. Everything I’ve said has been me talking out of my ass. I’ve gotten more advice than I know what to do with.

My sister scared me best: You have a degree that will make you more money than mine will, but because of that you also have more debt than I ever had. Pay your dues.

A thirtysomething friend and father of two put it this way: It’s never too late to do what you want to do.

I feel like my clock is ticking, but this is a recession. Despite all of those newspaper articles on people finally chasing their dreams because they lost their jobs and are retooling their priorities, I need to be making bank.

I’m clinging to hope. A friend currently at Columbia told me about a fellow neuroscience Ph.D. candidate who is in a fairly popular Brooklyn indie band. The guy spends all day at his job and all night rehearsing and doing gigs. Sure, you can always make time. Am I really that dedicated, though?


Two Weeks of Suck, Part 3: Jersey City and JFK (and London, sort of)

Part of the Two Weeks of Suck series, in which b recounts her spring break.

Still Sunday. My boyfriend and I have a few hours to kill– or so we think. We take the PATH train to Jersey City to visit my old house, which my parents sold a few years ago before moving to California. We’re accompanied by my childhood best friend, who helps jog my memory and keeps me up-to-date about friends I’d lost contact with long ago.

We also introduce boyfriend to his first burger (or five) at the White Castle a block away from my house, which, as I point out to everyone who’s watched Harold and Kumar, is the closest White Castle to Hoboken. If Harold and Kumar had gone through Jersey City in their search for a White Castle, the movie never would’ve happened. Bastards.

We also pay a visit to my old haunt, Newport, a mall on the waterfront that amazes boyfriend with its sheer size (Me: “This is nothing compared to Garden State Plaza.”), and even more by its 3.5% sales tax– with no tax on clothing. It’s late afternoon by the time we’re done picking out jeans for him, but we figure we can still catch the train to Howard Beach and get on the plane in time.

6. Nope. As we learned later, check-in for international flights ends an hour before the plane actually leaves, at least for Virgin Atlantic. So by the time we arrived back at the apartment to clean up and pack, we’d already been late. The hour-long train ride to Howard Beach didn’t help, either, and we ran through the airport in vain to catch our flight. We’re rescheduled for the following morning, so boyfriend and I spend ten hours being homeless in the shopping area of JFK, him watching The West Wing on my computer and me checking out perfume at the large duty-free store, practically the only thing open past 11pm.

Monday. The flight itself was pleasant. Virgin Atlantic has ridiculously good customer service for the post-9/11 era, including a large selection of t.v. on demand and a small amenities kit with toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs and eye mask. Boyfriend slept through just about everything.

7. Tuesday-Thursday. We arrive at our bed and breakfast London wanting to do everything. This is kind of offset by our huge case of sleep deprivation and jet lag, so we slept through most of the day and stayed up through maybe half of the night. This becomes our routine, and we end up having midnight breakfasts instead of the typical breakfast the family of a bed and breakfast provides.

In hindsight, sleeping in probably prevented us from shopping and spending more. That was probably a good thing, given the abominable exchange rate.

Relaxing? Why, yes! But the next few days weren’t.

Next up: Freaking out about my mom freaking out about finances. Oh, and the freaking PLANE!

Two Weeks of Suck, Part 2: the keys and the cat

Part of the Two Weeks of Suck series, in which b recounts her spring break.

4. So after taking my final, I had to move out of my dorm in 24 hours. Easier said than done! Fortunately, since November of freshman year I’ve lived within driving distance of Stanford. Unfortunately, my parents at this point are fed up with me screwing up, so they want to make as few back-and-forth trips as possible.

Thursday. The next morning at 11am, I’m still tossing clothes into two suitcases. My mom just got the keys to the sublet in the mail the night before, so they were tossed into a suitcase. However, after my parents bought me a bigger suitcase that morning, I left one suitcase back in my room. Yes, it was the one with the FREAKING KEYS in it.

I actually think about this in the car on our way to the airport, an hour and a half before our flight.

Me: “Hey [boyfriend], I think I might’ve forgotten the keys.”

Boyfriend: “Well, if you DID forget them… just don’t think about it right now. If we go back for them now, we’ll be late for our flight anyway.”

The thing is, he assumed the keys were at my HOUSE and not my DORM. We would’ve made it in time if we’d gone back for them, but I didn’t do the math because at that point I was used to being screwed. (Also, I can’t do math.)

So six hours later, when we touched down in New York, I look for the keys in my two suitcases. Not there. Shit. Shit. Shit.

“I’m not gonna call home yet,” I tell myself. We crash at a nearby motel for the night and order Domino’s for a late dinner. The motel wasn’t as skeevy as I thought it’d be, but they did have two porn channels, and there were “strange” noises coming from the room next to us. (We were way too jet-lagged and sleep-deprived to laugh about it.)

Luckily, the (now disgruntled) sublet owner is still in the tri-state area, so she’ll meet us at her place in the morning. I call my mom and ask her to FedEx the keys. My dad’s been kept out of the loop, but it would’ve been bad for his blood pressure anyway (Mom: “Don’t tell your dad you stayed in a motel with your boyfriend!”).

5. Friday. We get to the apartment in the morning (with boyfriend playing Superman and dragging our heavy suitcases through the subway) and finally meet our sublet owner, the really cool travel writer I told you about. The apartment is awesome (albeit on the fourth floor of a walk-up), and she has this adorable cat who has a thing for people petting him while he eats. He’s the sweetest cat ever, but she warns us to keep the front door closed and the windows only open to a certain level so he can’t jump out.

Saturday. We follow her instructions, but after watching Spamalot on Saturday evening we return to find a catless apartment. The small screen on the window we kept slightly ajar had been tellingly punched open. I nearly pass out, then scribble an e-mail to the sublet owner, who at this point is not in the country. (Boyfriend comfortingly points out that she has a “Lost Cat” few fliers lying around the apartment, with a “Last Seen” date of a couple of weeks ago, so the cat probably made a bid for freedom like this every so often. I was still distressed.)

Sunday. I call her the next morning, thinking she didn’t get my e-mail. (In reality, her e-mails weren’t dated correctly so they didn’t appear at the very top of my inbox.) Because phone calls to Europe are like $5 a minute, she manages to tell me in thirty seconds that the cat is fine and she has to go.

Whew! But then we go to Jersey City first instead of packing up.

Next up: Being late for an international flight!

back to our regularly scheduled program

For Spring Break, I will be hanging out in New York and London before heading off to Paris.

I know I previously mentioned my aversion to being a tourist, but this is kind of legit.

For one, I will be going with my boyfriend. I probably won’t be seeing him very often over the next year, so we decided to go somewhere special in the little time that we have. “Going somewhere special” is harder than it sounds if you’re a pair of busy college students who live on-campus (even if he does have a car).

Secondly, I will meeting a friend in London (he’s doing Stanford in Paris, too) to see a play called Equus. (It’s the one that features Harry Potter in the buff.) We’ve been planning this for a while. Tourism isn’t so bad if it isn’t your main reason for traveling.

Thirdly, I haven’t been to NYC in a while (since the beginning of last summer) and I miss it tons. My parents moved from New Jersey to California soon after I started attending Stanford, so I haven’t had many chances to visit my East Coast friends since then. And my guy got tickets to Avenue Q and Spamalot so I’m excited.

We’ve got the flights and most of the theater arrangements. The thing is,

we don’t have any hotel reservations yet.

Yikes? Yeah. I’m working on it. We have a no-hostel and no-sketchy place agreement, so it’s gonna be pricey. Here are my booking resources:

New York:
LiveJournal – nyc_for_free
NY craigslist – Manhattan: sublets/temporary
Time Out:New Yorkhotels – NYC last-minute deals
and just plain word of mouth.

Expedia hotels
Time Out:Londonhotels
Frommer’s Europe on $70 a Day (from the library)
Frommer’s online guides – London (hotels)
The London Bed & Breakfast Agency Limited
and some more word of mouth.

If you have any more ideas, please do tell me.


This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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