First Week in NY Part 3: Scalpers and Batteries

Our first full day in NY, having arrived really late the night before (actually, really really early that morning) at our new apartment, we woke up early A) because we were hungry and B) because I had convinced Liz that we should get up early and go to Central Park and stand in line for Al Pacino’s final (free) performance in The Merchant of Venice (weeks later the show would move to Broadway and charge hecka hundred dollars a ticket), reminding Liz, who seemed more enthused about A) and less enthused about B), that if we were going to move across the country and be all adventurous and fancy, then this (B)) was precisely the type of fancy, adventurous thing we should be doing (as soon, of course, as we had fulfilled A)).

So after walking from our apartment for several miles in we-had-no-idea what direction towards we-had-no-idea what and finally finding a McDonald’s, we sat satisfied (at least, in regards to A)) over Sausage McMuffins with Egg and I figured out how to use Liz’s phone to GoogleMaps walking and subway directions from our location to Central Park, and after circling the same block numerous times in search of the indicated subway entrance, and walking up and down the steps of several such entrances and crossing streets and questioning annoyed MTA attendants in attempts to get on the correct side that would go in the correct direction, and then passing our stop twice, once one way, then the other (cuz we were on the A, not the C)—all behaviors that would become frequent motifs in the days to follow—we arrived at the Park, made our way to the Delacorte Theater, where we found the line that began at the box office and ended…ended…ended…0.7 miles and 13 minutes later at the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Liz and I both thinking, at the same time, we would later learn, how nice it was to live in a city where this many people—and look, from all walks of life—would camp out in the Park—for days, it appears, in some cases—for the love of theater.  The love of Shakespeare.  It was so nice that we weren’t the least bit annoyed an hour later when we made it kind-of-almost up to the box office but the tickets ran out, just before we were approached by the first scalper, a stringy blonde girl who appeared to have given up on eating and now needed money to buy things that were probably not food (she reported that after waiting in line for twenty-six hours she had decided that she didn’t really feel like going to the show and would we like to buy her tickets from her), the first of about forty scalpers that would approach us before we escaped the Park, most of whom employed the muttering-under-the-breath method and all of whom we had passed on our wistful 13 minute walk to the end of the line.  The excitement continued as we crossed Central Park West to the Natural History Museum, outside of which we witnessed a “scalper fight” that Liz remembers better than I do but that consisted of a meth-ed out scalper boss lady shouting at her cranked-out scalper minion—who had waited all night but got tired and bailed shortly before the line started moving—that now she wouldn’t have enough effing tickets for her effing buyers and so forth.

The next two hours we spent in search of a Kmart, the hour after that, having found Kmart, searching for the Kmart’s entrance, and the hour after that lugging several bags of Kmart merchandise (those big bags they have, the ones you could put a toddler in, if you know what I mean) and a box of cat litter up and down a busy NY street in search of a subway entrance, finally giving up and paying way too much for a cab ride from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn, unaware we had been in Lower Manhattan and unaware we had been super close to a number of subway entrances.

As the sun set on that first day and we realized we had no batteries for the pump on the air mattress we had just purchased at Kmart, I stood on our stoop and gazed toward that Big Apple, resigning myself to the fear-laden knowledge that the following day we would have to face her again, in search of batteries, not knowing—having seen only our small stretch of Crown Heights—that Brooklyn offered real stores that sold real things, and either she would consume us, body and soul, or we would emerge from her clutches victorious, batteries in hand.

First Week in NY Part Two: The Apartment

In a previous post, I mentioned things that Liz and I learned on our first day in NY, specifically what it feels like to carry a 20lb. cat long distances and that NY crowds are different from CA crowds.  Here’s another thing we learned: everything in NYC is smaller.  Or, perhaps more accurately, more compact.  For example, there are no houses.  There are homes, but not houses.  The homes are in buildings, and all the buildings butt right up to the next building.

Another example:  there are no parking lots.  Or at least no big expansive parking lots like we have in CA, where no matter how busy Safeway is that day you can find a spot—though a longer walk—with an empty spot on each side.  There are parking lots, but no big parking lots, is what I’m sayin’.  Not even those big parking structures or garages that are all over San Francisco.  What there is is little lots—little little—in little enclaves between buildings, and in these little enclave lots are these elevators that take your car (not that we had a car) way up into the air.  That’s what they do in New York:  put it up higher.  Everything is stacked.  McDonalds and Target are all 2 stories.  Or 3.  School playgrounds are on school roofs.

The reason for this, of course, is that New York City is compacted with people, all of whom have stuff, into an area significantly small relative to other areas containing the same amount of people and stuff.  As we learned as we arrived at our apartment our first night in New York, dropped off at our stoop by a cynical cabbie at around one or two in the morning after a full day of travel.  We had subletted the apartment sight unseen—other than a couple of photos, but you know how that goes—from a pleasant Frenchman named Jean Louis who writes enthusiastic emails and who was studying Arabic in Spain.  I didn’t actually get a good look at the place for the first fifteen minutes, during which I battled through four trips up (and down) the three flights of narrow, steep, rickety stairs, transporting in each trip one of four sixty-plus pound and awkwardly-shaped (when climbing stairs, that is—hell on the shins) suitcases.  Once I caught my breath , I joined Liz, who had had fifteen minutes to begin perusing the joint, in perusing the joint.

We still had our poker faces from the cab ride over in full deployment, and neither of us said much.  Here are the highlights:  First, it kinda smelled.  But then, New York kinda smelled, especially in the summer, and in both cases, we got used to it.  Second, the lesbian couple that Jean Louis had rented to before us seemed to have been rather slobbish.  As a result, everything in the apartment, from the TV remote to the hardwood floors, seemed to be coated in an unidentified grimy film.  The couple had also had a dog, and though unidentified, there seemed to be an element of dog hair subtly incorporated into the grimy film.  Also, there were food remnants caked to the inner walls of both the microwave oven and the oven oven.  This, eventually though, would be remedied by a methodical, obsessive, and desperate process of cleaning on Liz’s part (other than the oven oven, which we never opened again).

Beyond all that, the principal characteristic of this apartment was just how tiny it was.  Tiny tiny.  The entire apartment—a one bed, one bath—was at least slightly smaller (if not just smaller) than the living room of the house I live in now.  I lived in an apartment in college, and our Brooklyn apartment was about the size of the front room of that apartment, which doesn’t include that apartment’s kitchen, two bathrooms, and two bedrooms.

The kitchen of our apartment in New York was big enough for two people to stand in, but only single-file.  If I was in the kitchen, and then Liz came into the kitchen, and then I wanted to leave the kitchen, Liz would have to first leave the kitchen, let me out, and then re-enter the kitchen.  The refrigerator door could open about 43 degrees before hitting the counter on the other side.

Our bedroom was exactly the size of one Full mattress, a dresser, and a small walkway for humans who wished to access the bed (again, single-file only).  Of course, that first night there was no mattress, but rather the space later to be filled by our mattress was occupied by a stained futon that the next day we temporarily replaced with an air mattress that required re-inflation at intervals of every 2.5 hours, participants rising and standing sleepy-eyed in the single-file walkway area as the mattress regained its form.

Yes, Liz and I looked over our quaint, tiny, filmy new home and didn’t say a word.  We were tired and—unbeknownst to us (or perhaps known but lacking specifics)—we had other problems to begin enduring the next morning.