Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Life and Times of a Cautious Pedestrian

I don't like to cross the street unless there is a crosswalk. I don't like to cross the crosswalk when a stern, pixelated hand is strongly suggesting that I had better not. How stupid would I feel if I got hit by car, or even almost hit by a car? I'd prefer my demise to come in the form of something more dignified than being squashed under tires, mangled in a metal grille, or splattered against a windshield. And what's the rush anyhow? I can wait two minutes for the light to change and it probably won't alter the trajectory of my day too drastically. It's an exercise in patience to not cross the street when there is obviously, logically, absolutely no car coming but I would rather improve my patience than form habits that might someday render me paralyzed, dead, or worse yet slightly cross-eyed. 

I live in New York City now which means that I have to ignore my street crossing preferences most the the time. Any New Yorkers with whom I might be roaming the streets typically have  no patience for waiting for lights or for walking a half a block out of the way to a cross walk when there is a perfectly reasonable break in traffic to dash across. So I have to shelve my discomfort and buck up when I'm in a group but when left to my own devices I still prefer to play it safe. I walk fairly quickly and I'm small so I can weave in and out of foot traffic without causing too much trouble. You'll often find me standing at the head of a swarm of Asian tourists, with one foot in the street and one on the sidewalk, poised and determined like a general about to bring a very confused army into a very small battle.

I work in the Financial District and I was living in Brooklyn in the summer of 2012 so I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge on several occasions. I figured since I was by myself I wouldn't have too much trouble getting around the tourists and traveling at my preferred speed. Unfortunately there is a logic vacuum that exists within 100 yards of any internationally renowned landmark and the Brooklyn Bridge is no exception despite its status as an functioning bridge in one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the western world. One German girl was sitting on the white line that separates the walking lane from the bike lane so her friend could take pictures-and not just one or two-this was a full blown photo shoot. I don't mind telling you that she was rather corpulent and my sympathy had she suddenly broken through the wooden planks and plummeted into the cars below would have 

It is important to note for those of you not acquainted with the Brooklyn Bridge that the bikers in the bike lane mean business. There are a few spare tourists teetering along but for the most part these are people who bike to and from work. I should also mention that I've only actually been on the bridge twice and I've done exactly no research so my assumptions shouldn't be as statements of truth. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at 6:00 PM on a balmy summer's eve is by no means a leisurely affair. Unless, that is, you only have your own interests at heart and are either too stupid or too arrogant to acknowledge the present danger and general mayhem you insight when walking five abreast, wandering into the bike lane (or forcing other people to do so in order to pass you), stopping suddenly, insisting on having your professional wedding photos taken when the bridge is at its most crowded, or letting your brood of small children scatter like sentient marbles. 

I think I might walk more than a lot of people since I A) don't drive (planning to start soon maybe if I can find a decent affordable a class!) B) hate NYC busses (I would try to work through this but I'm actually prone to motion sickness and I think it's best for everyone if I don't) and c) would rather walk a few extra blocks than transfer from one subway line to another. Several of the heels on my more comfortable fancy shoes have been worn away to the metal or plastic core. You can tell that I walk with my ankles rolled a bit to the inside because the wear on the heels is set at a noticeable angle. With all the walking that I do, though, I haven't actually adjusted to the New York cross-when-you-can method of bipedal locomotion. That's not to say I don't do it- I just don't ever feel quite at ease with it and I don't think I ever will. We'll see.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It Sucks To Be Me: A Narrative Advisory Against Sub-Leasing

On Friday, Dec 7th 2012 at 6:15 PM I arrived home to my apartment in Brooklyn to find a troubling state of affairs. There was an eviction notice for the lease holder (I had a sub-lease so she's not actually the landlord so I'll just refer to her as L.H from now on) on the door and the locks had been changed. Hmmm. That's new. The eviction notice was dated 12/06 and said that she had 6 days to vacate. I knocked on the door. I tried calling L.H. No response. I also texted and emailed and with each message my undertones expressed an increasing level of frantic rage that she probably missed entirely because  A)English is not her first language, B) she is generally oblivious, and c) she might be on cocaine (more on that later). I tried calling the City Marshall whose number was on the notice. It was Friday night though so my chances of speaking to anyone in any kind of official position were limited at best. I read the notice a few times. Despite the extreme information deficit I was operating under I was pretty sure that whoever changed the locks was definitely not supposed to do that yet. So I called the cops.  I spoke to an officer who told me this was not the Police's jurisdiction. To be specific I yelled at an officer who explained to me that this was no the Police's jurisdiction. I was, perhaps, slightly unhinged at this point. I tried knocking again and cursed myself for not having my roommates' numbers in my phone.

I sat on the stairs and wept quietly for a minute or two before switching gears very rapidly into full-on pissed as HELL mode. I couldn't think of anything else to do for a few minutes so I just paced in circles and tried not to throw up. Had my roommates already been hauled out? Would all of my belongings be ransacked. Was it maybe all a hoax and had my roommates just stolen everything I own, changed the locks and left town? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? I called my boyfriend and left a shaky voiced, cryptic, and undoubtably disturbing voicemail.

An undetermined amount of time later L.H came thundering down the stairs. Apparently she had been upstairs in another apartment and just now got my messages. She was angry and seemed genuinely surprised. She thought it had something to do with one of the recent sub-leasers who was Swiss and had, according to her, been sending her weird emails so she had asked him to find a new place and get out. Again, this was all coming from her and most of what she says makes no sense so it was all very difficult to follow. It seemed unlikely on the surface though. All I really cared about was getting into the apartment so I could see if my stuff was still there.

We called a locksmith and, despite the eviction notice, somehow convinced him to open the door. While he was drilling to door the Swiss sub-letter came to the door and a melee of high-volume accusations began. I remained very quiet and, making no sudden movements, slithered past the argument and went to my room, leaving the bewildered locksmith behind. Everything was still there. Things looked normal. Nothing was condemned or boarded up.

Meanwhile, L.H was still convinced that the Swisserd(as he will now be known) was behind the eviction. At some point the cops were summoned. While they were explaining that this entire situation was really fucked up but not technically a legal matter, one of my other roommates came home. based on her account, and  of the Swisserd's (who I'm still not sure can be trusted), here is what happened while I was at work that day that induced the current state of affairs:

The real landlord came and said L.H had not been paying rent. She claims this is not true and that her only outstanding debt is for a different apartment that is the basis of a current lawsuit regarding bedbugs. The building manager tells the roommates who were home that L.H is an alcoholic and a coke head. This part was not mentioned while L.H was present but relayed to me later. The landlord says the eviction doesn't actually take effect for 6 days but that "we" (the sub-leasers) could change the locks ourselves to protect our belongings from L.H. For the record I had been in the apartment almost 4 months and never had any of my belongings gone missing so I'm fairly sure the building manager was either slightly racist or was trying to manipulate the situation to his favor by playing us against her. He also said that although this sub-lease was approved by him, it wasn't actually licensed by the City Marshall's office and therefor our sub-lease contracts did not protect us from evictions directed at L.H. He was planning on resolving the matter in court and getting the apartment back under his full stewardship and then we could potentially take over the lease. So they changed the locks, but couldn't tell me because no one had my number. I am aware that this part of the complications is my fault, or, all of our faults but I'm the only one who got fucked by our lack of communication.

The building owner had been there sometime in the mid morning on Friday, but he was observantly Jewish and lived in Williamsburg so there was no hope of getting in touch with him on Friday at 7:00 PM. The best thing we could do is have the locksmith, who luckily did not get arrested and who had been very patiently waiting out this entire ordeal to be paid, put on yet another lock, and hand out the two keys that come with it to L.H and one of the roommates.

At this point the situation is somewhat resolved in that I was fairly certain that I don't have to leave either right now or in 6 days and I was no longer worried that all of my belongings were gone a. Still, I was feeling unreconciably rattled so I loaded up some valuables and some clothes and headed uptown to my boyfriend's place. He had to work very early the next day but very graciously stayed up to let me in and endured my half-crazed, extremely snippish mood. I did my best to go to sleep because I knew there was nothing I could really do until the next day but my insides were knotted and all I could do is sweat and grind my teeth.

Saturday morning I woke up knowing only one thing: No matter what happens I need to get out of there even if I am allowed to stay until the end of the month and beyond. I set up some appointments to go look at short term leases, which luckily are readily available due to the upcoming winter break at schools like Columbia and NYU. I felt better with each productive step I took towards living elsewhere but I still had to go back to Brooklyn to see if I could get a key for the new lock and remove any remaining valuables from my room.
Here is what my day looked like on Saturday, December 8th 2012:
8:00 AM: Wake up. Send a bunch of emails to people looking for short term sub-leasers.
9:00 AM: Take the 2 train from 96th street to Franklin street in Brooklyn where I get the shuttle to Prospect Park...this is not the fastest way to get to where I live but it is the easiest.
10:00: Call L.H, whose phone is apparently off. Knock on the door of the apartment she told me to meet her at to no answer.
10:30: Knock at my apartment. Maybe someone's home. Success!
Swisserd opens the door and we chat for a moment about the current state of affairs. He is weird and racist. "Well, the landlord, he's a Jew, so he only cares about "this" (rubs fingers together to indicate money)- In reference to why we might be allowed to stay as long as he gets the rent. It is hard for me to find an apartment because people just see a foreigner. They can't tell the difference between someone from Africa and someone from a wealthy country like mine. Fuck this guy. Seriously. At this point I am more than resolved to only live in a place where I choose my roommates from now on.
10:30-11:00 Pack up another bag and my TV, which is only 22" and in a flatscreen but isn't exactly a joy to carry on the subway for an hour.
11-12:00: Head back uptown. This time I take the Q to 42nd and transfer to the C because it's raining by this point and I need to get the subway that brings my closest to where my boyfriend lives. Anyone who has ever done this transfer with a heavy load will know why I included this bit of information. It is indoors but it is very long, and very uphill.
 12:00-2:15  I think I kind of blacked out from stress during these hours but I at least made a couple of appointments to see some apartments. and my boyfriend ordered us lunch which is good because I hadn't actually eaten a meal since lunch on Friday and I was too stressed to know whether or not I was hungry.
2:15: Earlier in the week I ordered special Hanukkah donuts from a Bakery on 77th and Lexington so I had to go pick them up. It is still raining and both the crosstown bus and the 6 train are very crowded, but I make it home safely at around 3:15.
3:15-5:00 Partial decompression
5:00 Went to see a place.
The day didn't end here but the part of my day that was uniquely stressful sort of tapered off. Dinner was made. Hanukkah was celebrated. Everyone is very kind to me because they are kind people and because I probably looked deranged and potentially hazardous.

Today is Sunday and I have been back at the scene of the crime packing all of my clothes into the two suitcases I still have stashed on top of the wardrobe I paid $200 for and spent a whole day building that I will probably have to leave behind. I still don't actually know when I HAVE to be out of here but I know I want it to be asap. The short-term sublet I'm looking at is from a Columbia student on the UWS in a very soothing part of town. It starts in 10 days and as long as nothing else unexpected happens I think I should be able to get out of here fairly painlessly...if you don't count the half-month of recent I'll be eating as well as my security deposit. If you're feeling a little bummed out by this story please watch the following video. I'm trying to have a sense of humor while I sort this all out.

I don't work until noon tomorrow but I am thoroughly exhausted and although I feel much better than I did two nights ago I have the vague sense that nothing is going to be normal or easy for a while and I might just have to deal with that.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Knowing the Un-constructed Self

If you notice me sitting alone and pursing my lips with the air of far away thought, chances are I am either doing it on purpose because I want you to think I'm a thoughtful person, or I'm imagining myself doing a song and dance routine to "When I'm 64" at a famous actor's 32nd Birthday. I don't know which actor it is and at the end of this scenario his handlers give me a check and I go home without ever meeting him. Everyone agrees that I am adorable and many people try to hire me for future events and possibly a Disney pilot but I refuse because, like all truly humble talents, I am not interested in the Show Business lifestyle. I just did it this once as a favor.

This is not a fantasy. It is not an unfulfilled dream. I do not enjoy dancing by myself in front of others and although I do enjoy singing this is actually entirely unrelated. This is not something I want for myself. The imagining of this event just pleases me, and like all things that please me it dominates my inner world entirely and with very little warning. This is not the kind of thing that I would ever mention to anyone in conversation and I do not feel that it defines or even reflects my personality in any meaningful way. I bring it up because I feel it is my bloggerly duty to expose my low-stakes secrets for the sake of discussion.

 When no one is paying attention to me I usually am thinking about the people I care about or I am thinking responsible thoughts like what do I need to accomplish today? or what do I want for myself in the long run? or even occasionally what do people think of me? These are self-aware thoughts that I think when I am actively engaging in my own life and in the world around me. These are the thoughts thought by the version of myself that I choose to send out into the world. However, when I stop paying attention to myself and let my brain do what it wants, I am usually thinking things that would look and sound like complete nonsense to anyone other than me.  These kinds of thoughts are hard to keep track of because like dreams, I can usually only process them retroactively.

This is all just a fancy way to discuss what happens when we "space out", but I think it would be really fascinating if we could accurately expose these sides of ourselves to each other. It's impossible, though, because in even beginning to discuss these kinds of thoughts we are actively sanitizing them and re-working them to make sense to someone else. The description of my kitchy little vignette isn't really accurate. It can't be. It's never really exactly the same and it's not like I'm closing my eyes and thoughtfully imagining the details of the event. It just pops into my head and there it is. The bit about about it being a 32 year old actor's birthday party came in later versions and as stupid as it sounds I can't edit that out. It's in there and it will stay that way until something changes. It's also not the only thing that ever pops in. I happen to remember it because its recurring and it can sometimes be triggered by  the song coming on my ipod in shuffle mode. I'm pretty sure I also spend a lot of time thinking that I must remember words in Spanish that I learned while watching Pan's Labyrinth. If I actually end up remember any they do not stick.

Thinking about this kind of thing for too long makes me a little squeamish and like my brain might suck itself into a vortex of some kind so I'm going to stop now.