Tag Archives: Queens

Young Man Went East #3: It’s Hunting Season in Queens. Apartment-Hunting, That Is.

The cost of living is too high, they said. It’ll be hard to find a place, they said.

Well, they were wrong. But it has been six weeks since my girlfriend and I flew one-way to JFK, our lives stuffed in luggage, and we’re only now resting comfortably in a place of our own. At least, for this month. We were able to find plenty of studios within our price range; that wasn’t the problem. Our unexpected hurdle was paperwork. Obtaining the necessary documents was almost as excruciating as waiting for them to process it all.

Had I known I would need my last half-dozen paycheck stubs, I would have filed them in my cashbox instead of piling them with old mail. Had I known I would need a credit score, I would have spent money I didn’t have instead of saving up for things I wanted. Had I known I would need two months’ worth of physical bank statements, I would have ignored the online updates instead of throwing the unopened statements in with my paycheck stub pile.

But I didn’t know, and for that, I had to call old banks and old bosses for documents proving that I could afford the place, even though they wouldn’t let me have it without a guarantor anyways. What happened to the good ol’ days when a handful of cash would get you anything you could afford?

I went through that process for two different places. The first time was for the very first studio we checked out in Brooklyn. We were so eager to get into a place that we overlooked the small size, sketchy neighborhood, and inconvenient commute. Communication with the agent was suspect at best, so we used her unprofessionally long response times to check out other places.

The next place we found was cheaper, bigger, cleaner, and in a nicer neighborhood in Forest Hills, Queens. It was in a co-op building, explaining how it could be all of those things at once. We dropped communication with the Brooklyn place and started applying for this one. Pretty soon we had an interview with the landlord in his Midtown West office in Manhattan. The landlord, Armand, owned two units in this co-op building, so we’d have to impress him and then impress the co-op. Armand was a nice man who seemed interested in our education and backstory, as well as our opinions about a moist toilet paper dispenser he was inventing. Everyone had smiles on their faces as we left the office.

The interview seemed to go well, but took more than a few days for us to get a response. To be safe, we looked at — and fell in love with — another place in Forest Hills. However, shortly after we filled out the application for yet a third potential home, we got an e-mail from Iris, Armand’s associate, saying that we got the apartment in the co-op building!

You got it!, she said. It’s yours!, she said. All we need is approval from the co-op board. . .

Confusion kept us from getting too excited. How was the place ours if we still needed to be approved? Hesitantly, I walked into the office the following Monday to clear up some of the confusion and, apparently, sign the lease (Jenn couldn’t be there as she was starting her first —  and last — day at her new job. You can read about THAT adventure on jenNYdreams.com). Iris reassured me that because Armand approved of us, we didn’t have anything to worry about with the co-op board interview. We just had to gather more information and fill out yet another application, this time for the co-op’s management company. So I signed the lease and then filled out an application for the same place. Having the latter act follow the former kind of dampens the excitement usually associated with the former.

The days of July crawled by as we restrained ourselves from calling Iris every hour. By mid-July, she responded. . . with news that our guarantor, my dad, needed to fill out an application, too. More paperwork, more waiting. Towards the third week of July, we were getting anxious. Were we dealing with a shady landlord again? Did I just offer up sensitive information and a deposit check to a crook with a nice office? We called and e-mailed Iris half as often as we wished, but that was seemingly too often for her. Her responses began to lack length and pleasantries.

We did some research and found out that Armand wasn’t a crook, but rather the management company is notoriously unresponsive. It’s odd that I was relieved we were dealing with a bad business, but that’s better than dealing with a fake business. Yet, the end of the month was approaching and the co-op board interview was still unscheduled.

Instead of pulling out of the deal and starting the process all over again, we found a sublease in Sunnyside, Queens, for the month of August. This would give the co-op board yet another month to hem and haw over our application while we could finally feel settled, if only for a month.

You’re just now getting settled? you ask. Where were you this whole time? you ask.

The six weeks of anxious e-mails, worried calls, and wringing hands were contradicted by — nay, overshadowed by the generosity of my New York friends. Rigo and Sarah welcomed us into their cool, clean, carpeted Forest Hills apartment the day we landed, and housed us for a week. So as not to become a burden (though they never gave us reason to believe we were ever becoming one), we migrated to Astoria, Queens, where my childhood friend Mary-Grace and her boyfriend Rob offered us a pull-out couch and an unlimited stay. We shifted to Astoria around the time Iris said the place was ours, so we didn’t think we’d be crashing in there for more than a week. That week turned into a month at the behest of Mary-Grace and Rob, who insisted we stay until we secured our own place. I doubt that either couple would have ever kicked us out, but I never wanted to get comfortable enough to test that.

It has been said many times, but never better than by James Stewart’s guardian angel, Clarence, in It’s a Wonderful Life: “No man is a failure who has friends.” This tired phrase may be oft-repeated, but only because it is often true. The hospitality of my New York friends humbled me, overwhelmed me, and — most importantly — kept me and Jenn off the streets. The weight of the apartment-hunting process would have dragged even an optimist like me into despair, but the selflessness of those who housed us lifted us out from that end.

So to Rigo, Sarah, Mary-Grace, and Rob, thanks for the wings.

With my Bunny by my side, I’m feeling set in Sunnyside

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Young Man On The Road #15: I<3NY

July 16 – 24

Queens and Manhattan, NEW YORK

I love New York.  Simply put.  No gushing profusion of admiration needed, nor lengthy laundry lists of attributes.  It has all been said before and there is no way I can spin my love for this city in an original or adequate way.  Nothing will suffice save for this blunt, stark-naked, trademarked statement that needs neither flourish nor emphasis: I love New York.

Out of many, one factor in the beauty of the City lies within its subway system.  Yes, that subway system.  The crowded, stuffy, noisy, grimy, urine-scented subway system.  It’s magnanimous.  It connects the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side, the townhouses of Harlem to the bright lights of Midtown, all of those neighborhoods in Manhattan to all of the boroughs outside of it.  It is all connected.  It is all one.  It was all mine for the low, low cost of a $29 seven-day, unlimited metro card.

New York thrives on connections, though not just from place to place, but also from people to people.  Ian and I had many friends in New York, some I hadn’t seen in months, others I hadn’t seen in years, some from the Bay, others from “da island,” but all of them, fortunately, in New York when we were.

Like stations along the subway lines that connect different parts of the City, these friends are points along time that connect different parts of my life.

It’s about time I write about other people for a change.

The Hawaii Line
Station: Rigo

Transfers to: Eugene (his friend that lives in Brooklyn), Sara (his girlfriend)

I met Rigo only a few times before the trip, though he has that type of warm personality that makes you feel like old friends.  I met him during the free Saturday Morning Beach Bootcamp classes in Hawaii (at least, the ones I could wake up for).  It was during one of those classes that I found out he was born and raised in New York. . . and that he’d be moving back this summer.  When I told him about this trip, he immediately offered me a place to crash.  He hadn’t even moved back yet and he was letting me stay with him!

Obviously, I took him up on his offer and when Ian and I arrived in New York in mid-July, we were staying in a house blocks away from Queens Boulevard!  Being huge Entourage fans, we were super psyched about the highly touted location.

Ian and I hit the ground running in New York.  Within the first 24 hours, we:

  • attended a rooftop barbecue in Queens
  • bar-hopped in the Lower East Side
  • crashed at Rigo’s friend Eugene’s apartment in Brooklyn
  • walked across the Brooklyn Bridge
  • explored Chinatown, Little Italy, Washington Square Park, Union Square, the Rockefeller Center, and Grand Central Station
  • had our first food experience with Lombardi’s Pizza, cannolis from Little Italy, and Halal Guys.

(For a more detailed, more interesting, and longer account of that first adventure, see the following post.)

Rigo on the Brooklyn Bridge. Manhattan in the back.

Without Rigo as our knowledgeable guide and benevolent host, I don’t know if Ian and I would have covered that much ground in a week, much less in one day.  Rigo was busy the next day, but his girlfriend, Sara, was able to escort us to the 7 line that morning to start another full day of Big Apple adventures.

Station: Meghan

Transfers to: Lindsay (her cousin), Candace (her friend)

Meghan is one of those people who exits your life just as quickly as they entered it, but manages to make an impression on the way through.  That tends to happen when you work in a high-turnover establishment like a chain restaurant: awesome people in small doses.

She was born and raised in upstate New York, but decided to do a year of college at UH Manoa.  It was then that she became my Bubba Gump’s coworker and new after-work buddy.  Though I had left Honolulu before her last day in Hawaii, I was able to rendezvous with her shortly afterwards in Grand Central Station.  From there, and for the next two days, she played tourist with us.

Meghan and Me on a ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

That’s right, tourist.  Apparently, there are parts of the state that exist outside of the City!  Even crazier, some people choose to live in those parts!  Having grown up hours from the City, Meghan was less familiar with NYC than I am with SF, so she—along with me and Ian—did the touristy things native city-dwellers avoid: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Museum of Natural History, and more.  It was refreshing to explore with another friend, not that I’m sick of Ian—nowhere near it—but different perspectives are enriching.  Also, with Meghan I could reminisce about Hawaii and Bubba’s.  With Ian, I can’t.

We met up with Meghan’s cousin, Lindsay, and her friend, Candace at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.  After devouring one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten (it’s all about the bun!), we wracked our brains trying to find some late-night hangout spot.  It doesn’t seem like a difficult task in Manhattan, but Meghan was the only one under the drinking age, so that threw a wrench into our brainstorming.  We eventually came across a hookah lounge that turned out to be the laid-back night we all wanted.  Nothing is impossible to find in New York.

The Grade School Line

Station: Mary-Grace

Transfers to: Robert (her boyfriend)

Mary-Grace and I go way back, before I even knew Ian.  We went to the same elementary and middle schools and our parents knew each other.  The two of us very well might have been the only Filipinos in the school.  (Ian expanded our number to three in sixth grade.)  We took all the same classes and even played in the school orchestra together.  And even though Mary-Grace went to a private high school instead of continuing on to Livermore High like everybody we grew up with did, it didn’t feel like she “left.”  But when she did leave, she really left.  To New York.  To study at the Culinary Institute of America.  So baller.

The three Filipinos of Livermore, reunited in New York.

We reunited with Mary-Grace at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.  Meghan was still with us then, and it was weirdly awesome to see people from completely different times and places of my life meet.  It had been maybe eight years since I’d seen Mary-Grace last (damn, I sound old!), and she’d been a true New Yorker for six of those years.  When asked if the City has changed her at all, she said her friends and family noticed she was more aggressive and less patient.  Not in a bad way, but in a New York way.  (See my following post for my explanation of this.)  She loves New York, and it’s where she wants to be right now, but she admits that she’d like to move back to California eventually.  Don’t we all.

Mary-Grace led us around Central Park for a bit—including to the Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon tribute—through the Rockefeller Center, and eventually ending up at Katz’s Dinner.  Two things happened at Katz’s: I said goodbye to Meghan, and I discovered what  pastrami should taste like.  The sadness of parting with Meghan was pretty much overshadowed but the gustatory party in my mouth.

We ended the night in the Lower East Side where Mary-Grace took us to upscale bar where her boyfriend, Robert, worked.  The couple offered to let us crash at their place in Queens.  Since we had our first three nights covered by Rigo and our next three covered by Ian’s friends, we denied their offer.  However, when we decided to stay just one day longer in New York, we called up Mary-Grace and took them up on that offer.  It’s good to have multiple friends in a city you don’t want to leave.

Station: Devin

While reminiscing about our elementary school days, Mary-Grace revealed to me and Ian that she ran into our old friend Devin!  She had no idea that we was moving to New York; they just happened to be on the same train at the same time, several weeks after he’d moved to New York.

I went to school with Devin from elementary school to high school.  We were even in the same Cub Scout group.  He was always an eccentric kid, very expressive and a joy to be around.  Although we did not hang out much in high school, our social circles often overlapped.  I hadn’t seen him since graduation and was not keen on what he’d be doing in California all these years.

Turns out he was living in Sacramento, working random jobs to support his improv acting career.  It’s no surprise that Sacramento did not offer enough to rein in this free spirit.  One day, he had enough of California’s tame capital and bought a one-way ticket to New York City: a place he’d never been to but always belonged.  He crashed with a friend until he found his own place in Brooklyn and a job as a bartender in the Lower East Side.

Imagine that!  What kind of crazy person would buy a one-way ticket to another state with nowhere to live and no job prospects. . .

When Ian and I learned of our old friend’s new life, we made plans to meet up with him.  We found him at his work, a small and dark yet upscale bar tucked away in the Lower East Side.  Devin entertained us with his odyssey tale and we returned the favor with our travel stories.  He also kindly had us try various specialty beers.  Ever have a watermelon lager?  They’re delicious.

I’m glad Devin is doing well.  He is definitely in his element in New York.  I can’t wait to revisit the City and see his name in lights.

 

The Cal Spirit Line.  Station: Jordan & David and Nikki

Station: Jordan & David

Not everyone we met up with in New York was my friend.  Ian had a few of his own.  Despite my four years in the University of California Rally Committee (a spirit group), Ian’s position as a Cal Mic Man (a yell leader) meant he had closer contact with members of the other Cal Spirit organizations.  His friend and former Drum Major, David, had moved to the City with his girlfriend, Jordan, a former Cal Dance Team member.  David had originally offered us a place to crash, but by the time we arrived, he happened to be in between places and was staying with Jordan in Chelsea.  Luckily, Jordan was friends with Ian, too, and let us crash in her living room.  Even luckily-er, her place was a building away from a subway station, and a block away from the best pizza I had in New York.

While Jordan was attending grad school in Columbia, David was busy applying to med school when he wasn’t at work.  In short, we didn’t get to go out with them.  They were busy being responsible and whatnot.  It was a bummer because they were super-friendly people and I enjoyed hanging out with them and talking about Cal for those few short hours in Jordan’s apartment.  And I actually recognized both of them from my college days; we did go to all the same rallies and sporting events, afterall.

We stayed with Jordan and David for three nights and even though we wanted to stay another day, they had other guests coming in.  That’s when we called up Mary-Grace.

Station: Nikki

Transfers to: Elissa (her friend)

Ian and I weren’t the only Cal alumni traveling around the States this summer.  Our friend Nikki was on an adventure of her own.  Nikki graduated a year before us, but during our three overlapping years, she was a co-member of Rally Comm.  We had all taken a sip from the proverbial punchbowl that was Cal Spirit and formed a solidarity that only a borderline cult could provide.  Of course, we’ve all since mellowed out on our hoo-rah attitude (but never on our love for Cal!) and Nikki has been spending her post-graduate years working and living in San Francisco whenever she’s not trotting the globe.  For shorter, less narcissistic traveling stories, you can read about Nikki’s adventures on her own blog: MyOneNewThingAWeek.com.

As with Devin, we were only able to hang out with Nikki and her friend, Elissa, for one night, but that included essential New York taxi cab rides.  Nikki is a very spirited, positive person with a fever for exploration and catching up on each other’s lives was pretty entertaining.  Also, her friend Elissa double-majored in Film and something else, so it was refreshing to have conversations about Italian neorealsim and Hitchcock again.

Not a very attractive of me or Ian.

Nikki’s first day in New York coincided with our last one, so even though she was heading down to Washington, D.C., afterwards like us, she missed our stay by a day.  I guess we’ll just have to rendezvous in San Francisco!

Although a lot of Ian’s and my positive experiences in New York City were due to our interactions with old friends, the majority of our time spent in the City was just the two of us newbies, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells and energy of the epicenter of Western society.  Is it a coincidence that so many people from my past have ended up in this one city?  Or is it a sign?

I can’t stay in Hawaii forever.

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