People Everywhere: My Not-So-Touristy Trip to New York

Less than 30 days now.

My time in DC is coming to a quick end, and my weekend visit to NY only confirmed the reality that yes, I am actually moving to the Big Apple to embark on the exciting adventures that are New York livin’ and grad school.

I wasn’t in New York for the pleasures of sight-seeing, though we (Matt came with me) did end up having a little bit of time for that before heading back to DC. In fact, much of our time was spent in Brooklyn doing not-very-touristy things and instead, doing the “oh shit I’m moving here and I need a place to live” things.

That’s right. Apartment hunting in NY when you don’t live there is a real soul-sucker. Ok. That might be a slight exaggeration, but it really was draining.

Enter Williamsburg
The trip up to NY from DC wasn’t too bad. Boring? Hell yes, but the traffic was moving along at a good pace. Then we had to enter Manhattan from Jersey, and that was an anxiety-inducing stretch of time. You’re sooooooo close but not quite there yet.

From Penn. Station, we made our way onto the MTA—my first time using New York’s subway system! I won’t go all out and say it’s perfect, but as someone who has suffered the sadness that is DC’s metro system, wow. WMATA could learn a few things. Flat fares? Swiping your metro card only once? Multiple trains sharing the same lines, servicing certain stops? It was basically 99 percent what MWATA wasn’t. The 1 percent is for the fact that people use it to get from A to B. That doesn’t really change.

The hotel was a few blocks from the subway entrance, and I learned that each station can have a multitude of access points. Haven’t figured out the trick for going to the access points you want, though I’m sure I’ll get it down the more I use the system.

The hostel we stayed at wasn’t too shabby. From the outside it looked like it could’ve been anything but a hostel or hotel though.

With its frosted glasses and purple flags, the place, from the outside, looked more like a salon or secret club. There were lots of international folks there too. The place had the basics: bed, shower, bathroom. It also had a lounge area with a kitchen where you can cook your food and whatnot, but it wasn’t fancy at all.

You just had to hope your neighbors weren’t fog-horn-loud snorers, but that’s why the place offers you free ear plugs. (The walls don’t go all the way up to the ceiling, making it for interesting nights during sleep hours.)

It’s not New York, but the area had a distinct NY feel… a NY away from NY?

I’ve never seen so many corner shops in my life. Nor laundromats. There were lots of businesses on each street corridor, but they were the big brand-named establishments you’re likely to see in Silver Spring or most parts of DC.

I met my future roommates at a place called Atlas Cafe. The name is fitting as far as the shop’s aesthetics go. Very woody, yellow, maybe even rustic. It does have a sort of “travelesque” feel to it, with its huge wall-sized map of the world. The green and black teas are sooooooo delicious. And I’m sure all the pastry, bakery, and pasta places are baller too. We even had dinner at this French place, and I had duck breast salad. wow.

On the Hunt
I didn’t go to New York blind and without a plan. My two roommates, with whom I’ve been in contact with via email for almost two months prior, and I had solid leads and appointments set up prior to our arrival. The plan seemed really perfect. Flawless even.

Then things got weird and the despair, at least for me, started to set in.

There was the sticker shock after learning just how expensive fee-based apartments were. Meetings that were friendly enough to begin with turned sour later in the day. People we haven’t even met for our appointments became rude. The mental hustle is great.

After some miscommunication here and there, we finally met Mr. Steve who showed us three places. They were all nice places. And after some talking and number crunching we picked a place, and at roughly 7 p.m., we signed our names on the dotted line.

(And I just learned that our application was approved. Aug. 1 move-in date, here we come.)

I’ll definitely have to keep some mental notes on the ferocity of the New York housing and rental market, and be smart about it the next time I try to find a place to move to. But here’s to hoping I can just renew the lease.

Exploring

With business completed, we had a free day before hopping back on the bus to DC.

Roommate Natasha and I were staying at the same hostel so we hopped on the M train into Manhattan, and had some lunch at a buffet – cafeteria-type place. Wasn’t too shabby, but I need to stop ordering things that don’t appeal to me. There was a lot of that going on during the weekend.

After eating, Natasha split off from us to do a bit of shopping in Times Square. Matt and I went to meet up with Other Roommate, Marie, near the New School. She gave me a quick tour of the main building, with the library and student center and cafeteria. It is a nice, nice building. Then we went for coffee, hung out a bit, then went our separate ways.

The roommates are great. I don’t think we’ll kill each other during the 12 months we’ll be living together.

From there, Matt and I went on an adventure.

We walked around Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and West Village. It was a really beautiful day, and despite it being hot, it wasn’t awfully humid like it is in DC. The heat, for the most part, is actually bearable.

We got some delicious gelato—Matt pistachio, myself tiramisu (why?? Because the Universe plots against me and my gluten sensitivities). Afterwards, we made our way down a street, toward the river. Walked along the boardwalk, toward One World Trade Center, and without knowing how, we got sucked into the tourist flow. And we couldn’t get out.

Walking along the tower was actually quite amazing. The building itself is an intriguing shape, and as you walk near the base of the tower and look up, the two sides shoot upwards into a point, so it looks like it’s never-ending. It’s really cool.

After looking around the area, we eventually got out of the tourist mob, and caught the E train back toward Penn Station.

We still had a couple of hours to kill before the bus so we found a little place called Local, got a few cocktails and chicken wings, and watched Germany play Algeria. Intense. There was a German couple sitting at the table next to us, and yeah. The anxiety over your team winning, and the cursing when they fib is pretty universal when it comes to soccer.

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