Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

This wouldn’t fit in Twitter.

So, I’m back in Maryland. Work wanted me down here tomorrow and Friday, which turned into wanting me down here Tuesday through Friday. I changed my train tickets, woke up at 5 AM yesterday to get to Penn station (too early by about half an hour, I might add, but that’s how I roll), and got to work.

It’s actually nice to be back working back at the mothership again. The team I work with is all down here, and while we keep in touch over IM, phone, and email, it just can’t compare to being there in person. I don’t have my Aeron, though, which sucks, because I’ve been spoiled rotten by that thing.

On the plus side, they’re putting me up in the corporate apartment, which is swank, and I’ve got the keys to the company car, which, because this place is awesome, is a Dodge Charger. I could get used to that car - after driving a tiny, refined, very practical Volkswagen hatchback for the last 8 years, I like driving a big old V6 sedan that makes no excuses about being obnoxious. I’m sure the charm will wear off before I leave, when I have to put gas in it.

Also, courtesy of the irrepressible Jon Tan, who is apparently some form of harbinger for Twitter , the half of the office that didn’t already use it is using it now, myself included. I’m still not sure I “get” Twitter, but it’s fun to screw around with. It’s an insanely simple but dead effective community of sorts - they’ve pared discussion down to the absolute minimum, and it works very well. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but damnit, I think it’s cool.

Twitter pretty much proved it’s worth to me earlier tonight, when I posted this, and fifteen minutes later I had a private message from Wez with the WEP key in it.

Though, to be honest, it didn’t go down exactly the way I described it in the tweet - I actually did print out a page with the key, but I left it at work (along with my laptop charger - I’m running low on battery, and Twitter can’t really help with that problem) and since it was in a Word doc, I couldn’t just open it on my phone. I took some self-deprecating liberties with that one, because it made the story funnier.

This one, though, was 100% true. It took me half an hour to find the damn thing.

Live from Brooklyn.

If you haven’t already heard, Becki and I are moving to New York. I guess the internet is about the lamest way possible to tell people, but that’s what happens when you’re as bad at keeping in touch as I am. I freshened up the header image to match, because I apparently have a lot of free time.

So why are we moving? Well, we’ve been planning to move out of Maryland anyway, since I’m getting to the point where I have to tell people I’m “from” here, and I really don’t like doing that. Now that Becki’s out of college and our lease is almost up here in Columbia, it’s the perfect time. She’s looking to get into publishing/writing, and the place I work has an office in Brooklyn, so NYC just made sense.

We started out looking in Washington Heights and upper Manhattan in general, but I’ve been pulling for Brooklyn lately. The reasoning is that we can’t afford Manhattan or Staten Island, Queens is pretty far out, and I just plain don’t want to live in the Bronx or outside the five boroughs. There’s also the fact that even though I’ve only spent a total of maybe three days of my life in Brooklyn, I just like it. See also, Mos Def:

Its real yo, but still yo, its love here,
And it’s felt by anybody that come here.
Out of towners take the train, plane and bus here,
Must be something that they really want here.

Travel all around the world in great distances,
And ain’t a place that I know that bear resemblance.

So there’s that, I guess.

Our planning process has hinged on two questions:

1. Can we afford it? The answer to this is very often a resounding no, punctuated by a sharp tightening of the chest when I think holy crap I’m so screwed so hard that I reconsider how much I really want to move.

2. Are we likely to be stabbed? Thanks to New York Magazine, we have a pretty good resource (Warning: PDF link) for that. The answer to this question is actually no most of the time, but mostly in cases where question one was also a negative. Honestly, as long as we aren’t living in or near Bed-Stuy, I feel safe. Becki’s standards are a bit higher, and not without reason.

There’s a very small slice of locations that I can both afford, and survive living in, and while there are plenty of rentals in those areas, they don’t stay on the market very long. I suspect that most people reading this haven’t ever tried to live in New York, which is probably good for them, because unless you’re rich or a badass, you’re going to find it an unpleasant process.

It’s not that Columbia is cheap, I actually pay around a thousand a month here. An apartment in Brooklyn, at least the things I’ve found so far, can be half again more than that. And landlords frequently require the first month’s rent, the last month’s rent, and a security deposit of a month’s rent. If you go through a broker, often the requirements aren’t as steep, but brokers charge a fee of, generally, either a month’s rent or 15% of a year’s rent.

Needless to say, I’m trying very hard to avoid going through a broker. I’m not sure how 8 million people can live in New York when, at the minimum, it can run you four or five thousand dollars every time you have to move.

Aside from the staggering initial cash outlay in exchange for the keys, the fun thing about NYC real estate is that things fly off the market like you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t get, at first, how vacancies could be at .5% (forgot where I read that, and it may not be accurate), when I saw so many apartments in the classifieds. The answer, apparently, is that things frequently list and sell on the same day. That’s insane. We’re going up there to apartment-hunt in a week, and everyone I’ve talked to has told me that, rather than this being a poorly-conceived last-minute failure of a plan, like most of the things I do, it’s actually too far out to expect anything I see to still be around.

So the search goes on. We’ll find something, I don’t worry about that, but it’s definitely the hardest market I’ve ever had to deal with. It’ll all be worth it when I start working up there, and I can buy lunch everyday from a street vendor hot dog cart, and eat in the shadow of the Brooklyn bridge.

If I stop posting, just assume I’ve been stabbed.

New Yorkers: NOT THAT RUDE.

I got back this morning from a ridiculously overblown trip to see 300. The closest Imax theater playing it is actually in New York City, so Phil, Alex, Terry (some guy I didn’t know) went up to see it and screw around. In brief, we got lunch after the movie, then wandered through Manhattan acting like morons. A light smattering of photos have been posted, but considering that I lugged my camera around all day, I didn’t get all that much use out of it.

Now, I’ve been to New York before, always as part of an insulating group - with my parents as a kid, or with 60 SA Goons two years ago - and always felt more like I was going out with that group, rather than visiting the city. So this was my first time being in New York that I had some control over (and responsiblity for) what I did, and I could engage it on my own terms.

The New Yorkers that I actually interacted with, mostly bartenders or people we asked for directions, were one and all far nicer than I’d anticipated - the city having the reputation it does for being gruff, particularly to out-of-towners.

My favorite was probably this guy in Brooklyn. On our way out, we got off the train at Rockaway Ave, instead of Rockaway Blvd, and this black guy sees us looking at a map and immediately notices that we’re lost. He explains that we’re about 7 stops short of where we want to be - apparently we aren’t the first people to get the wrong Rockaway stop. I think “in the middle of the hood” was how he described where we were - certainly too far to walk. And since we hadn’t anticipated getting off and back on the train, we hadn’t put money on our metro cards to cover the extra trip, so were going to have to pony up $2 apiece for new ones.
So the guy goes into the station with us, and calmly pops the exit door open from the outside - probably not “legal”, no, but it got us out of spending $2. I’m pretty lit up by this time of night, so I mention to the guy that he was really nice, even though I’d thought that all New Yorkers were sullen jerks. He looks at me and says “Yeah, especially the black ones, right?”, and we both just completely crack up.

Yeah, definitely still a fan of New York, having managed to avoid the pimps and the CHUDs one more time.