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

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.