Two Californians making a leap of faith and moving to the Big Apple.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You can't go home

Part of the whole "city that never sleeps" thing is, I'm discovering, that it's really easy to be out all day. All told for today I'll probably be home and away for 75 minutes, tops. And it doesn't seem particularly unusual or wild or extravagant: walked to work, had a workday, V met me at the office, we walked to the village for dinner, came home real quick to feed the kitty and have a drink before going to the Upright Citizen's Brigade theater for a $5 improv show performed by the writers from The Colbert Report. Fun show, walk home, and suddenly it is basically time to be heading to bed.

How does anyone find time to be at home here? Much less time to do things like laundry? I guess that's why there are wash and fold services.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


At this point we've been in the city for about two and a half weeks. We've apartment hunted, we've seen a show, we've shopped, we've had grocery delivery. We've even hosted out-of-town guests. Which isn't to imply that we've done it all or seen it all, not by a long shot. There is still stuff within 5 or 6 blocks of us that we are discovering and being wowed by. The city is full of nooks and crannies, and the best of them are delicious.

A friend of ours said before we came here that "All food in New York is better than any food anywhere else," which is (I think I've mentioned) a touch of overstatement. But the thing that is genuinely impressive is how you can walk into random places on the street and find stuff that would be truly 5-star top-notch food anywhere else.

This morning I poked around for a solid 2 minutes on Urbanspoon looking for a nearby breakfast/brunch place, and came up with Madeline's Patisserie about a 5-10 minute walk from the apartment. I went down there, picked up some croissants and a macaroon (lemon espresso) and was back before Victoria got out of bed. And the fruit of that labor? Possibly the best croissants I've had in years, maybe ever, possibly including croissants in Paris (admittedly without the help of online ratings or reviews, not quite a fair comparison.) And definitely the best macaroon ever.

And this is just the sort of thing that happens basically all the time. The pizza place across the street from us is divine. Bagels a couple blocks away is irresistible (seriously, even though the company provides breakfast, V and I have been to bagels twice on weekdays already, so good).

So, the list of OMG, 5-star food that we've had already:
Bagels: Brooklyn Bagels
Cupcakes: sugar Sweet sunshine
Mediterranean: Gazala Place
Croissants, macaroons: the aforementioned Madeline's
Thai: Room Service (at least for the lunch special, wow)
And we've had magnificent bread from several little places I can't even dig up links for

Not to say that everything is stunning. There's definitely been some ho-hum food, and (more commonly) drinks. We haven't made it yet to the fine cocktail places that have been recommended to us, or some of the beer places that have been recommended, but we have yet to find anything that is the match of Noble Experiment, Hamilton's, or O'Brien's. Local IPAs here taste OK as beer, but rate poorly for IPA.

And we haven't even bothered to try eating Mexican here yet.

Still, all in all, the trade has definitely been in an "mmm" sort of direction.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Been a little while since I've had a moment to sit down and write. I guess that's to be expected. I'm backdatng this so it is less confusing later on.

Started thinking that seeing a show would be good, and getting into the habit of doing theater early on is something that I'd like to encourage in us. So I hunted around online to see how rush tickets work. The best information I found currently is these pages:
NYTix - Rush schedule
Playbill - Rush policies

Some shows are just rush: get there early enough before the box office opens, line up, and you can buy a couple tickets (usually two per person) at a deep discount. Other shows are student rush: same rules, but you must have a valid student ID. A newer form is the "rush" lottery: show up a couple hours before showtime, put your name in the hat, wait for half an hour or so, and if your name is called then you pay (cash) for deep discount tickets. Less deterministic, but also favors people in the area who can be free at that time of day vs. students / tourists with time on their hands.

So tonight we headed up to the theater district to put our names into the lottery for Wicked tickets. We showed up at 5:30, put our names in, killed 20 minutes, came back, and waited with the crowd to see if we were called. They did something like 25 names (pairs of tickets). Right toward the end, my name was called! Totally exciting. Based on the size of the crowd I'm guessing that we had something like a 1 in 10 chance. (Would be better not in the summer, and also probably better on a Tuesday or Wednesday). So that's how I wound up buying two front-row tickets to see one of the biggest Broadway musicals, at $26/each.

Ran home, had some dinner, changed clothes, headed back to the theater. The show itself was great, easily a 9 out of 10. Didn't quite have the pull-at-your-emotions tug of something like Les Miserables, which is my only very very minor nit. All in all, a huge fun time, and definitely a top-notch way to start out NY theater experience.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Apps for that

A note on living the tech life in NYC: I've definitely come to depend on Time Out New York for finding things to do, CityTransit for subway maps that work with no reception (although I hear that KickMap is at least as good if not better, and I definitely believe that the KickMap subway map design is vastly superior), and Happy Hours to find currently-running happy hour specials in your area.


Go With The Flow

Last night our hope was to go to The Moth down in East Village / Lower East Side. Unfortunately we got there and into the line about 10 or 15 minutes too late to get into the venue, which is kind of a drag since we've been wanting to go to a Moth event since right around the point that we knew we were moving to the city. But if you can't get in, you can't get in.

So instead we traced our steps back to Zaitzeff, where I had seen a sign proclaiming "All Bottles of Wine, $15." According to the very cute and friendly waitress, their liquor license isn't being renewed, so they are trying to burn through the wine stock before it becomes an issue, and most of their bottles were normally $30 or $40 (so at $15, counting for restaurant markup, it was probably just about at their cost.) In any case, we sat at a beautiful table in the evening, split a bottle of wine, and at some point (maybe before the wine, now that I think about it) it was decided that we should just try to stay up all night/day in order to finally kick us into EDT from PDT. So while we enjoyed our wine we poked around for stuff to do to fill the time.

First stop: cupcakes. Victoria found (via yelp) sugar Sweet sunshine just a couple blocks away. We were convinced to get the strawberry w/ peanut butter buttercream frosting, and the Bob (yellow cake with chocolate-almond buttercream). OMG so delicious, and it was really nice that they were actually cupcake sized (and priced). These were definitely the best cupcakes I've ever had, and even Victoria agreed that they were in the running against her One True Cupcakery, Red Velvet in D.C.

Next stop: entertainment. We walked another few blocks to sneak into Punch up Your Life, a stand-up comedy showcase hosted in a bookstore/cafe, only $3. Definitely funny stuff, and at least one of the comics was out-and-out hilarious. A great way to spend the evening.

Finding something to do for cheap when the show let out at 10:30 or so was apparently beyond us. We eventually settled on a late movie showing at a movie theater up in midtown near Times Square. But we apparently didn't have the presence of mind to check on subway status, and the station that we headed to in order to maybe make it to the theater in time turned out to be closed. So we wandered through Little Italy as things closed up, and found ourselves on Broadway a few blocks below Houston (thus, SoHo). And not having anything better to do, we decided to just walk up Broadway until we tired of it. And so we walked all the way up through SoHo (stopping at Gonzalez y Gonzalez, apparently a NYC version of the mexican place in the NYNY hotel in Vegas that we've been to a few times), Union Square, Madison Square, Herald Square, and into Times Square, something like 50 blocks. Got to Times Square, did some shopping at the open-til-2am Forever 21 (which, weirdly enough, has a men's section), and then walked back to our apartment.

Lots and lots of walking, lots of empty streets. Walking from Times Square down Broadway and 6th ave at 230 in the morning is a different experience. But one of the things that I find very striking about the city so far is that, by and large, things just don't feel unsafe. It's never completely empty, there are (even late) almost always other people around. And the people that are walking around don't generally seem threatening. In all of the miles that we put on last night, there were only two situations that really triggered my awareness: one of a guy walking too purposefully in our direction on Broadway in the mid-30s, and one of two guys that were stumblingly drunk walking our way, swerving all over the sidewalk and looking both a little rowdy and a little too likely to puke. (Oddly, it was difficult to tell whether they were drunk or zombies, with the staggering and all.) Other than that, things felt very safe. Lots of cops around, no obvious drunk drivers, nothing too rowdy. Just people, doing their things.

And as for the being up all night: we caught an hour or two "nap" right around dawn, got up and made breakfast (OMG, french toast with good challah is magnificent), and will probably have an easier-than-normal day today, and hopefully make it to bed early. And if all goes well, this should help the screwy sleep schedules. And if not, then at least we had a pretty interesting and fun night.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More Lessons

Some more random things I've learned in the last week or so:

* Jaywalking: It really is a way of life, and it really is pretty safe in most cases. The crosswalk light is the guarantee, but the flow of foot traffic will go whenever it is "safe," by which we mean there aren't any cabs currently at full speed heading this way. With one-way streets everywhere (it's really a surprise to stumble onto a two-way), it's pretty easy to predict who is coming into the intersection and when.
* Storefronts: You really cannot judge anything by the storefront. The little deli across the way from us looks like a dumpy place from the outside, but inside it is clean, well stocked, and full of things I wouldn't expect to see (quality meats, cheeses, juices, vegetables, etc). The place we went for dinner last night was similar: the difference (to my West Coast eye) between the facade and the food was stunning.
* Walking: I've found on the web various info suggesting that New Yorkers walk 1 to 4 miles a day, average. Distances here are really tweaked. It's really easy to walk to breakfast/lunch/dinner/bar/the store/the park/some attraction which is "just a mile away." I haven't kept really close tabs on it, but I'm quite sure that every day since we got here I've walked at least 2.5 miles, I wouldn't be surprised if the minimum was more like 3 or 3.5, and I know some days have hit 5 or 6 easy. And it just feels completely natural: it's the fastest way to get around, there's tons to see, and there are loads of people walking with you. It's definitely a city that is meant to be handled on foot.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 5 - Exotic Foods

Made it to the Union Square farmer's market this morning, stocked up on some fresh veggies, saw some interesting things (violet bell peppers? Exotic melons?) but not what we wanted (Vermont maple syrup, which was there at the Saturday market a month ago, drat.) Walked from there to Kalustyan's, which is the kind of place that kind of has to be seen to be believed. Every kind of spice you can imagine, every kind of oil, extract, seasoning, every kind of nut, all for sale. Probably the most memorable thing we didn't get was the gold (leaf) covered almonds ($29.99/lb, imported from France). Probably the most memorable thing we did get was the 32oz jar of capers. Between Chicken Picatta and Pasta Puttanesca, we go through capers pretty well. I'd never seen anything more than a 4oz jar. So that's like, totally exciting.

Did a little shopping in the afternoon. We're only 7 blocks from The Macy's, which is amazingly big (7 or 8 stories, and a whole NY city block). We figured it would be sensible to poke in and see what that was all about. There are definitely some neat things there, but mostly it just seems touristy, not a lot of great deals and ruder than average store people. Maybe its just us. We'll see, I'm sure we'll have occasion to go back, we're not writing it off completely.

By 6 we were getting hungry, and so we walked west out of Herald Square to 9th Ave, a neighborhood often known as Hell's Kitchen (although brokers prefer the less colorful "Clinton"). We had about 10-12 blocks of 9th Ave to get to our intended dinner destination, and I have to say that those blocks were easily the most delicious looking blocks I have ever seen. So many types of food were represented, from classy French to BBQ, Pizza, pub, Italian (red checkered tablecloth and fine bistro). The specials advertised on all of the sidewalk chalkboards were mouthwatering. Everything looked and smelled amazing.

And then we got to our planned destination: Galaza Palace. The menu here is filled with Med. favorites like baba ganoush, hummus, etc, as well as a collection of more unusual specials not on the menu that I couldn't try to remember the names of. We had a hummus variant with whole fava beans, the baba ganoush, a beautiful salad, and a buttery, savory pastry filled with goat cheese and spinach. All of which was magnificent. But the crowning memory of the dinner will definitely be the family-secret recipe: a potato cake, soaked in honey, with a light-flavored vanilla custard, sprinkled in pistachios. Unbelievable.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 4 - Central Park Evening

Spent much of the morning doing stuff around the apartment/building (cleaning, working out, etc). Not hugely interesting.

For the day's main course, caught the subway uptown to Columbus Circle (the southwest corner of Central Park) and walked uptown looking for some sort of deli to finish off our half-assembled picnic. After a few blocks (more than I would have expected, probably almost half a mile, *gasp*) we found a little corner deli that had a wide selection of hot and cold dishes prepped and sold by the pound. We got some roast chicken, marinated mushrooms, plantains (that might have been bananas), green beans, and a collection of salads. Along with a big bottle of water, the total was something like $13. Not the cheapest picnic of all time, but a diverse and delicious one.

Thus equipped, we headed into the park to find SummerStage to scout out a place for us to see (or at least hear) The XX. Walking through the park to the venue, I was struck by the thought that Central Park is to NY what the beach is to SD. People just go there and hang out. There are lawns (Sheep Meadow, IIRC) were at 6pm on a Sunday the entire thing was filled up with blankets and picnics and people just hanging out enjoying the weather and the view and the scene. Can't blame 'em.

Having brought our picnic fixin's, and my camera, we weren't eligible to get into the main venue, so we walked around a bit and took up position on a big rock about 100 yards in front of the stage. Trees and such obscured the view, but the sound was fine. Sat, ate our picnic, people-watched, brought out books we had brought when the conversation lulled, and just generally hung out in Central Park on a beautiful summer evening. It rained a little bit, not enough to count, but enough to drive off a couple people that were less interested in the concert. Not a bad thing.

The concert itself was real good. But really, it was about the evening.

And when it was over, we still had time to walk over to the Apple Store on the UWS, pick up my now-fixed laptop (busted harddrive, did I mention?), and decide on something to get as a late-night snack. A couple blocks took us to a well-rated pizza joint (Rigoletto's) (and past at least 2 others) where we shared a plain slice (tasty), and caught the subway back home.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 3 - Brooklyn

First let me say that it is, as of now, difficult to want anything for breakfast other than bagels from Brooklyn Bagels. That is a stunningly amazing bagel. I crave it at least two or three times a day at this point. The only real strong competition so far is farmer's market granola from Not Just Reugelach, which is the best granola I've had in any form ever.

Yeah, I'm in love with the food here.

Spent some time in the morning doing some errands and grocery-related things, took a nap to try to catch up on our broken sleep schedules, and then headed out to Brooklyn for a free concert in the park with "Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings." Didn't make it soon enough to get into the official venue, spent some time standing outside with a so-so view of the stage listening to an opening band, then decided to walk around Park Slope to find a good iced coffee. Beautiful neighborhood. The tree-lined residential streets in Brooklyn are really gorgeous, like something out of a dream almost, especially on a warm summer evening. But quiet, and the scale of the place doesn't quite compare to Manhattan. So while I'm pretty sure it'd be pleasant, and there's a good amount to be said in favor of Brooklyn, I'm still definitely leaning toward the Upper West Side. But we've got probably 10 days before we need to really start narrowing down. So we'll see how it goes.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 2 - Upper West Side

Originally we planned to head out to Brooklyn this morning to check out some residential neighborhoods that had been recommended to us: Cobble Hill, Park Slope, things in that area (and maybe downtown Brooklyn). Picnic in Prospect Park, the little sister of Central Park. Unfortunately, my laptop went kaput this morning. I'll be the first to admit, I'm overly reliant on technology. And the death of my laptop isn't really quite a catastrophe, I have backups and there are other computers. But it is a crappy way to start the day. So we got a late start and changed plans to instead poke around the Upper West Side, one of the neighborhoods our apt broker is recommending for us. (And also an area that had an Apple store so I could get someone to diagnose my laptop's demise.)

The UWS was really a place that we both felt comfortable. Lots of beautiful residential sheets lined with trees, diners, restaurants, and shopping on the two main North/South streets (Broadway & Amsterdam). And one of the things that really impressed me: grocery stores. Several of em. And not just that, some that clearly have some amazing specialization and stunning quality and selection. Zabars on Broadway was awesome. I don't usually like cheeses all that much, although they are growing on me, but the cheese counter alone was a thing of wonder. Every few feet of the store brought on new waves of amazing aromas. And upstairs was the best selection of housewares and kitchen gadgets I've seen. Way cool.

So after some wandering, exploring, eating, and shopping, I made it to the Apple Store where I was eventually informed that ny harddrive has gone kaput, but they will replace it. So l will be slightly hobbled for a couple days, but nothing too bad. And the need to visit the Apple store did get us up to the UWS sooner. Definitely the neighborhood to beat so far.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lessons Learned: Day #1

We made it to our new (temporary) housing last night around 9pm. After some settling in and such we headed out for food, counting on the whole "city that never sleeps" bit to work for us. In conjunction with Yelp we found a Thai restaurant a few blocks from us, and were easily seated after 10pm. To be fair, we were the last ones in the door and they locked the door before we finished up. But still, a happy experience, and definitely not the sort of thing I expect from my normal West Coast haunts. (I remember rather vividly going to one of our regular bar/restaurants around 10:30 one night a couple months back and not being able to get any service, much less any food.) And for the record, the place we went was Song Kran, and I'd generally agree with the average reviews: good, well assembled, nicely prepared, but not really wowing.

Another thing that we've noticed already is that restaurant reviews (at least in the city) are skewed much lower than we are used to. It seems pretty normal to read reviews that say, "OMG, this is the best restaurant I've been to in months!" and then see it rated only a 4. 5s really do seem reserved for those excellent, life-changing sorts of restaurant experiences. And I'm definitely not complaining, but it does take a bit of adjustment to recalibrate.

This morning we had a late start (no big surprise, sleeping in a strange environment and jeg lagged), but eventually made it to Brooklyn Bagels. Definitely, unquestionably, far and away better than any bagels I've had on the west coast. Fueled up thusly, we hopped on the subway up to Rockefeller center to hit up a farmer's market. There are lots of farmer's markets in the city, more than I expected by far. Some are seasonal, like the Rock Center market. Some run all the time, like the Union Square market. All told, definitely a little more expensive than similar markets in San Diego, but still a pleasant way to browse what is fresh and locally(ish) grown.

From that point on our day basically broke up into two categories: gathering stuff for dinner / upcoming meals / figuring out how to shop in NYC, and figuring out what to do for fun in the evening.

On the first point: we are lucky to be located a few blocks from a Trader Joe's, which does a good job of providing most or all of the things we would expect in a "real" (ie West Coast) supermarket. It's a little weird that there isn't a big parking lot and people paid to gather up the shopping carts (instead, the carts really are only meant for use inside the store, which does make for nicer carts.) There is also a smaller market a couple blocks away, and a collection of "delis" within a block or so. So depending on what you are looking for, most things are easily within walking distance. (The only exception that we found today was pine nuts, which somehow we were unable to find anywhere. Does nobody make pesto here?)

Alcohol is an oddity: grocery stores are allowed to sell beer, but not wine or liquor. For that, you must go to a liquor store. So far I haven't found anything to compare to BevMo, but there is a plethora of neighborhood wine and liquor stores. Unlike the California equivalents, a liquor stores here can be less gross than a gas station bathroom. But definitely be prepared for sticker shock. A lot of online retailers won't deliver to NY, a lot of national chains (like Costco) that ordinarily have an alcohol section are (reportedly) missing that here. There are some larger stores in Manhattan which, according to their websites, have about a 20% markup over the BevMo prices I'm used to. The liquor store across the street from me might be even a bit higher than that. Eventually we found Pop's, which has free delivery in the NYC area on orders of $100 or more and pretty reasonable prices. But it doesn't seem (yet) like there is anyone in New York that is providing the same collection of price/usability/information/transparency/selection as something like BevMo. Sad. Hopefully Pop's will work out well.

On the subject of fun, we went to see a show at Magnet Theater, where $5 will often get you in to the show for the whole night (they run ~75 minute shows with 15 minute breaks.) Very enjoyable, some of it was GREAT, other bits were only so-so. But still, for the cost and the fun, a great value.

Other than that, and a lot of walking, nothing really fit for print. We're loving the "no driving, walk everywhere" lifestyle. I don't know how long that'll be true, but I'd like to think that we'll be happy with it forever.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Place to Hang My (Our) Hat(s)

Part of our relocation assistance to NYC includes time in temporary furnished housing. We just found out where we'll be living for the first month: 6th ave in the mid-20s, midtown. This is the east edge of Chelsea, in/near the Flatiron District, NoMad, etc.

I really like having the Wikipedia list of Manhattan neighborhoods at my disposal.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First Days

We just got back from our first few days in NYC. I'm happy to report, the odds of this whole crazy plan being a Very Bad Idea are lower and lower all the time. Or rather, I'm loving this idea more and more as we go.

A few random observations about the city:

* Rent - Yep, rent is gonna be higher. As with most things in life, doing your homework helps. Most people I talked to initially said, "Oh, check Craigslist for apartments!" This I immediately translated to "Check Housingmaps for apartments!" (housingmaps being a mashup of craigslist and google maps). But one very noticeable fact, even noticeable from the opposite coast, is that CL is really full of bogus offers and sketchy advertisements. I hesitate to use the term "fraud," but a lot of the ads seem like that is what they must be. And in a couple cases, things that I saw online listed on CL were off by 20% from the price if you showed up in person. The brokers and listing agents really seem to be more interested in getting you to call them or set foot in their buildings, karma be damned.

As far as housing sites that are more usable (and maybe haven't gotten the swarms of sketchy listings yet), I've been enjoying StreetEasy, which has great search tools and RentHop which has stricter requirements to get things listed and provides an estimate of the quality of the listing.

All told though, rent is not so insane. I'm pretty sure that wherever we wind up in the next couple months will be less than our current rent + savings on not keeping two cars to get two people around SoCal. It's estimated that the average car in the US is costing its owners ~$600 per year. I don't think we're at quite that level, but that's only because one of them is paid off.

* Food - Yep, food is good. Everywhere that we checked about ahead of time online (reading reviews on Yelp and Urbanspoon and the like) was quite good. I'd say on average that the food that we've had over the past few days was at least as good as most of our favorite haunts, the sorts of places that we've dug up in San Diego over the past four years. I don't quite believe the people who have told us that "All food in New York is better than any food anywhere else," but it is not the biggest exaggeration ever. So far I'm particularly impressed with pasta dishes. I'm quite sure that 2 of the 5 best pasta dinners I've ever had have been in the last couple days. I was particularly fond of dinner at Mercato in Hell's Kitchen, but Aroma was magnificent as well.

* Transportation- Yep, the subways are great, and cabbies are a little disturbing. I really wouldn't want to drive in the city regularly. Much as we'll miss our cars, it just isn't nearly worth it. We walked quite a bit (in a good way), and used the subway for everything except our trips to / from the airport. Totally doable within Manhattan, and our brief excursion out to Brooklyn worked great via subway too. The heat did point out one thing: under ground temperatures vary dramatically. The subway stations are not climate controlled, although the train cars themselves have AC. Wait times for the trains are pretty small in general. I remember seeing that a train was going to be 6 minutes and thinking that it was a horrible failure of the system, and then laughing to myself: the train in SD that I would most love to take, from near my apartment to downtown, runs every 90 minutes or so, until 9pm. The difference in usability is stunning, to say the least.

* The sights - Yep, Times Square, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty are pretty amazing, in their own different ways. There's a LOT that I want to do, and I'm sure far more that I haven't realized I want to do yet.

* Parks- Public spaces are so much more interesting when they are populated. I'm deeply impressed.

* Music - When last I was in Europe, the music that I noticed most often when I was out in public was old 70s/80s/disco/dance, some ABBA remixes, that sort of thing. On the West Coast I notice a lot of poppy stuff, hip-hop, and cheesy early 90s alternative. In NYC, I noticed a LOT of stuff that I regard as modern, interesting, and good: in just the time that I was in the city and sitting still long enough to notice, I heard music from The National, Passion Pit, Girls, Dodos, Surfer Blood, The Flaming Lips, and a handful of others I can't remember at the moment. I don't know who's doing the playlist programming for the city, but I like their style.

And then the one that was most surprising for me:

* NYPD - I've always been mindful of authority, but I've never really "liked" cops. I think this is because most of my interactions with them are the occasional speeding ticket, I rarely really see them out and about in ways that I don't feel are predatory. But that really wasn't the case with New York's Finest. There were NYPD officers stationed around a lot of heavily populated areas. It's probably because of their role in popular culture, but for some reason it felt deeply reassuring, and triggered a reaction in me very similar to my reaction seeing the US armed forces troops in uniform: pride, gratitude, respect. So far when I stumble across an officer of the NYPD, my gut reaction is to smile, grin, and barely hold back from going in for a handshake and a "Thanks!" Not something I predicted.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Impressions of NYC

Yesterday our broker, a life-long NYC native, mentioned that she's always wondered what the city is like for first-timers. I mean, everyone "knows" what New York City is like. You just cannot escape references and portrayals of it in movies and media, let alone Las Vegas or LegoLand facsimiles--or should I say caricatures. That vicarious familiarity makes for a unique experience.

I know Laurie's comment was directed more at Titus than at me, since it literally was his first time stepping foot in the Big Apple. And I'm sure Titus will have plenty to say and write about his budding relationship with this long-time crush. But I'll take the liberty of sharing my thoughts on it too.

I've realized that I can only describe New York City as distilled city-ness. I was expecting more, well, New York stereotype. I'm not completely new to New York, and I've been to a handful of big iconic cities and smaller urban areas, so I expected that I've subconsciously averaged all those out to get a sense of what "city-ness" is, and that New York would be that locationless city-ness plus some sort of New York flavor. But I can't quite find that yet. And I am by no means saying that anything here has been bland--except maybe for the chocolate mint Tasty D Lite. It's just so city.

At the same time, this taste of city is making me a little nostalgic for California. New York is not San Francisco. It felt weird to walk around an urban area for three days without going up and down any hills. But rather than the flatness being unique to NYC, the hills are more noticeably San Francisco, and it reminds me that I'm a long way from home. New York misses the casual, sprawling pastel of San Francisco or LA that always makes me think of Wayne Thiebaud. Heh. Maybe I'll have to follow his lead and find my pastels in ice cream parlors and pastry shops from now on.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Things We'll Miss

Day 328 - Stuff We'll Miss

Before we get too far into the adventure and exploration of the city, I feel it is important to take stock of our current life and point out that we love a lot of things about where we are and what we are doing. There are definitely risks in this move. Tonight we basically highlighted them, going out with a friend to cheap (but AMAZING) Mexican food at Super Cocina, followed by expensive (but AMAZING) cocktails at Noble Experiment, and then a quick trip to the airport for Victoria and I to take a red-eye flight to the city.

While I'm sure that in many cases any particular bar or restaurant in San Diego can be replaced suitably with something in NYC, there is something to be said for having familiar haunts. After years of poking around, playing the exploration vs exploitation game with respect to current favorite restaurants, we're pretty happy with our current haunts. For instance, breakfast at The Mission on the weekends is something that is going to take us a long time to replace in our hearts.

Still, we do a pretty good job of throwing in a healthy amount of exploration, instead of always hitting the same spots. Which is, I suppose, why we're willing to give up our beautiful apartment, wonderful beach life, my shiny red convertible, and our wonderful friends. There's still a lot to see and explore, and New York seems like a great place to get a large amount of exploration done in a short time / small space.

Even still, from everything we've heard, we're gonna miss good Mexican food. So before this blog becomes too fixated on the wonders of the new city, a moment of silence for the things we'll miss: familiar haunts, good friends, and proper mole.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


California has been our home state for as long as there has been an "us," and longer. I've lived in California, off and on, for half my life, interspersed with some years in Oregon's Willamette Valley and three high-school years in Las Vegas. V has never lived anywhere else, growing up in Sacramento and pursuing her collection of degrees in SoCal over the last ten years. We're pretty clearly Californian.

Californian or not, I've always wanted to live in a city where public transit works, and with the possible exception of San Francisco, Californian cities are only usable if you drive your own car everywhere. By contrast, I've visited Europe a few times, and I always love riding the subways and buses. Cities with sufficient density to make public transit work also, as a side-effect, have rich enough history that exploring them on foot (and via public transit) has always been a richly rewarding experience for me. My desire to immerse myself in a new place has really only increased in recent years as my love of photography has grown.

All of which is background for our next adventure: in about a month (August 4th, if all goes according to plan), V and I will get on a plane and relocate to New York City. I can't think of a bigger (plausible) adventure, especially considering that I've never even been to NYC aside from one brief layover at JFK (which, incidentally, resulted in my laptop being stolen, so hopefully I've got the "crime victim" experience taken care of already.)

We hope to use this space to share our experiences in the city, focusing on the things that have appealed to us as Californians and highlighting new styles, tastes, and sights. As foodies, photographers, and urban explorers, those are sure to be things we feature.

And the adventure begins soon. Tomorrow night we take a red-eye out to NYC to explore for a few days, trying to clear the first big hurdle: finding an apartment. While there is a lot of advice available in finding a place to live in New York, basically the only thing that we've found to be consistent is this: neighborhoods can change completely from block to block, and even with all of the amazing information available online these days, there is no substitute for putting feet on the ground and experiencing it. So we've got to head out early to try to narrow down our options for where to live. More on that (and the things that we'll be leaving behind) soon.