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Living in NYC

Stories for Friends. Advice for Strangers.

Monthly Archives: August 2010

Let me first say this – Lady Gaga is awesome.

Now. The time has come to decide the contents of my next (and hundredth) post. My favorite submissions:

1. My essential three day New York City visit. (I would be willing to shorten this to an essential 24 hours)

2. Adjusting to life in the city – finding friends and fitting in as a 20 something.

So what’ll it be? By the way, if you haven’t listened to the Fame Monster all the way through, you should not be juding me right now.

Thanks for reading, as always!

There are some heavy things to weigh in on these days – and I’m honestly tired of thinking about them today. One thing I am not tired of thinking about is the age old question of yawn contagion. What is the deal with that? More importantly, what is the maximum distance at which you can catch a yawn from someone. I’ve actually filtered this through my wife and let it sit for more than 12 hours before posting here, which is a step forward for me. But let’s break it down.

First, what makes a yawn so contagious? If you refuse to admit that you can catch someone elses yawn, I think you’ll prove yourself wrong at least once this week. There is something primal and unfiltered about yawns. According to some boring Finnish research I can’t even bear to link to, the mind’s perception of a yawn seems to temporarily disable the part of your brain that would cognitively conclude “Hey, that dude is tired.” Instead of acting consciously, we see that we act subconsciously. Unfortunately there is no substantial research to prove any of it is actually happening for a reason. I don’t really need proof, because it happens to me all the time. But what I’m interested in knowing is this: How far away do I have to get to be in the safe zone. The other day I saw a guy yawn from a block away, and I felt nothing. Not even sympathy for how tired he looked. Any theories out there?

By the way, this has nothing to do with living in New York, except for the fact that I mentioned a city block as a unit of measurement. Sorry.

When weathering New York City’s seasonably hot and humid summer becomes overwhelming, remember that there is respite within a couple of hours. I cannot understate the importance of getting out of this city every once in a while.

On Saturday, Amber and I got away. We traveled by train to Long Island. It was our first trip beyond Queens, and it did not disappoint.

Beyond the buildings’ gazes. Outside the city limits. Away from all the noise. Where trees are the tallest thing you see. Amber and I found our escape at a water park.

If you love water parks (and we do), you probably have a few criteria. I am willing to guarantee that, no matter what they are, Splish Splash wins. After searching online for ideas, we found this place on the Long Island Railroad website. For $60, you can ride the train to Ronkonkoma, endure a burnt-out school bus trip to the park and go inside. When you’re done, they will take you home in like fashion. Not a bad deal.

The park is beautiful. Nothing remarkable necessarily – which might explain why no one I know here has ever heard of it (or told me about it). But it is permeated by trees, so almost everything is partially covered in natural shade. The grounds are well kept and well attended. The rides are incredible. Where do I start? If anyone asks you what the best water slide in the world is, say “Alien Invasion.” Do not hesitate. There is a ride called the Shotgun – we witnessed at least four life guard rescues at this slide. Neither of us tried it.

The food was bearable. The bathrooms were clean somehow. If you ever need relief from this city in the summer, go to this water park with some friends. In this case, I can say going there with my best friend was all I could ask out of a late August Saturday.

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Yesterday, I made a mistake. Learn my lesson if you wish.

Amber and I cook regularly using our gas range and oven. I love it, because there’s no better way to cook than with natural gas and durable stainless steel cookware. We cooked dinner two nights ago, watched a movie and went to bed. That night, I had a headache before we went to sleep. Amber tried to convince me to take some medicine, and for some reason I refused to do it, quite adamantly in fact.

That night around 3AM I woke up extremely thirsty, which is my habbit, but I did not have water next to my bed like I normally do (or as I would have if I had gotten up earlier to take medicine for my head). So I got up reluctantly and headed to the kitchen to get some water. As I walked through the door from our bedroom into the kitchen, a wall of natural gas clinging to the air hit me. Yikes. I walked over to the stove to check the knobs, and one was slightly open. So I closed it, opened the windows, turned on a couple of fans (which in hindsight was probably unwise) and waited to survey the damage before I woke Amber up to shuttle her outside. The gas dissipated quickly – thankfully the burner had just barely been open – and I went back to bed without waking her.

The next day was a frenzy at work, but I spent much of it panicking about our appliances and that they probably don’t seal as well as they could. So I called ConEd (our power delivery company) at lunch, as I would GRU in Gainesville, to talk to them about having an efficiency survey done on our apartment. Big mistake.

I think what I did is something like mentioning a bomb in an airport (hello, Department of Homeland Security, thank you for reading my blog). The representative speaking with me put me on hold, and I eventually hung up and went back to work. About 30 minutes later, a stereotypical New Yorker called me on my cell phone and asked me where I was. Not knowing the number or his voice, I asked him who he was. He said,

“I’m from ConEd, and if someone doesn’t get over here right now, I’m going to call the fire department and forcibly enter your building.”

By calling the power company, I had somehow reported a gas leak in our apartment, which they take quite seriously around here. A couple of calls to our super and a frantic cab ride to the upper east side later, I was standing in my apartment with a very disappointed superintendent and a relatively benign ConEd employee. He was much nicer in person. Nothing was wrong with our apartment, and they both left. I felt like an idiot, and I think both of them reciprocated.

If you call ConEd, be very careful what you say, and make sure you’re at home. Just in case.

I have recently spent some time across the East River, more so than normal, and it has me thinking about Brooklyn. What a fantastic place, composed of many diverse neighborhoods and microcosms of society. There are few places in the world that compare to that borough.

For the first 5 months of my adventure in New York City, I lived in Prospect Heights. It’s really one of those little neighborhoods the real estate industry made up. Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant (part of New York’s most dangerous precinct) meet Park Slope, one of Brooklyn’s most charming (and expensive) neighborhoods. That intersection has transformed over time, and as Park Slope became a yuppie-turned-parent safe haven, Prospect Heights became an inexpensive, hip neighborhood with its own name. Named in part after the gorgeous park on its southern border, the neighborhood has unfortunately become expensive like Park Slope.

My friends Alan and Dan lived on Dean Street just east of Bedford Avenue. When I came to New York on January 1, 2010, I took up residency on their floor. Eventually Dan moved out, and it was just me and Alan (No, not Alan and I).

Helping Alan move out of that tiny apartment is what makes me think of those cherished months living there. It was not safe. It still isn’t safe. But I think back to times when I felt more alive than I ever had before just walking home late at night. As we carried boxes down the stairs, Alan and I recounted moments of terror when we fell asleep on the train (independently) and woke up at Far Rockaway (near JFK airport) at 4 a.m. Move to New York – it will happen to you. There were days when I would go up to see my friends Scott and Lena in the Upper West Side at Columbia University – traveling home by subway on the late night or weekend schedule meant 2 hours underground. There were timid trips from our stop on the A-C (Nostrand) to our place that felt like an eternity. I’ll never forget one night I passed a couple of guys around 2am. They just watched me and talked to each other in hushed tones. Later that week, I read a crime report in our district that detailed a rash of serial muggings. Those men matched the description perfectly, and the perpetrators acted in the range of 1 to 4 a.m.

Even if I didn’t always feel safe out there, I always felt alive. I firmly believe that we afford ourselves way too much comfort – Brooklyn helped me step out of my comfort zone in many respects. And for that I will always be grateful.

If you aren’t interested in stretching yourself in that way, there are still plenty of places to consider. Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope are great if you can afford them. You will spend just as much there as you will in many neighborhoods in Manhattan. On a budget, you can check out Bay Ridge. It’s a jaunt, for sure, but apparently a vibrant, safe area. Finding a place in New York is all about compromise. What do you want? What can you afford? Make a list, and figure out where you can get those things on your list in your budget. You won’t win them all, but there is something for everyone in a borough this big.

For the true budgeteer, you should probably start out in Queens (I recommend Astoria or Long Island City). But I’ll save that for another post. Or I’ll just ignore it entirely.

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Well, I can barely believe it, but I am coming up on my 100th post on this blog. It’s difficult to imagine it – and this marks a rather substantial (although inconsequential) personal milestone. Typically when I start something, I get bored with it and eventually drop it. Much like a child. I’m sure you can work up your own analogy for that one. This blog has become something of a routine for me, while simultaneously helping me to branch out and think about things differently. I suppose I have you, in part, to thank for that.

So. When that benchmark rolls around, I would be delighted to tailor its contents especially for you. I encourage anyone who reads this blog, even if this is your first time, to suggest a story idea or topic via email. I will review them, post them here (anonymously) and allow you to vote. You get the idea.

If I don’t receive any submissions, I will probably write about something extremely political, like immigration law in the United States. So start brainstorming.

With affection,
Christopher Hiatt

I recently posted on how thrilled I was to be finding my place in this crazy city. Remember my bagel guy? He got deported.