Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sayonara, Nueva York


SOMEONE ONCE TOLD ME YOU SHOULD LIVE IN NEW YORK once in your life but not until it makes you bitter. I'd be lying if I told you I had no idea where on that barometer 22 years puts me. 

June '94. Lazy real estate agent at his office doesn't even get up out of his shitty, fake Aeron chair, tosses the keys to my 3-molecule apartment across the room at me. An hour later, I'm back, I'll take it. I write the guy a finder's fee check for $750. My first time being bent over by a fellow New Yorker. Four years as a superintendent. Mop a few floors, haul some garbage at 4am, get yelled at by crabby tenants, make a few life-long friends, save money to buy an apartment.

January '99. Broker finds me a gymnasium of a loft. Marky in love. Fast foward 17.5 years, 6 jobs, 10 New Year's parties, 95 trips to New York's finest Pakistani food joint, 30493049304985 dates, marriage, kids, sell apt at 4x what I paid. Woo.fucking.hoo. There's my $750 back.

I don't miss New York...yet. I'm sure I will. Right now, I feel pretty much nothing on the matter. From my perspective, it's the only way to get through such a life-changing move 3,000 miles away. On the face of it, New York will not miss me a single drop. The new owner of our apartment has probably gutted it and started over. But that's what happens in New York. It's a constant wave of change. 

Hopefully Seattle will welcome me. I look forward to being a Seattleite. I've heard nothing but great things about Seattle. The wife and I have been there three times together, most recently with our little dumpling. Ironically, the three people in my industry who moved to Seattle have all moved back east. That didn't help the decision, but I see those as a la carte situations that I can justify (one moved back to be with her family, one was gay and missed the socialness of New York. Wait, he probably still is gay. And I forgot why the third one moved back.)

But I predict I'll miss a few things at some point. The guy outside the gym near our apartment who would always stop his card-snapping sidewalk sales pitch just long enough to bless our little one as we strolled by. Being the first to discover new little restaurants in our area, before New York Mag or Time Out New York got wind of it. What I won't miss? Every asshole Port Authority bus driver who blocks the intersections, making it difficult and dangerous for us pedestrians to cross the street. May they get the punch in the teeth by some crazy person walking by that they so desperately deserve.

Will we find work here? Fuck if I know. But you know what they say; if you can make it here...

I will add to this and make it the essay it wants to be. I'd be upset if I left out so many New York stories I've experienced. Stay tuned for more after we land.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Time for another post. Coming soon.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

May 9th. Billy Joel. The Garden. Awesome. Happy 65th.

Opener: Gavin DeGraw. Appearances: Howard Stern, Jimmy Fallon. Play list: My Life, Movin' Out, Piano Man, Goodnight Saigon, Don't Ask Me Why, Zanzibar, Scandinavian Skies, Uptown Girl, She's Always A Woman, Hard Day's Night, The Entertainer, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Ballad Of Billy The Kid, Still Rock And Roll To Me, Big Shot, You May Be Right, Sometimes A Fantasy. Everybody Loves You Now, Allentown, New York State Of Mind. Did I miss any? He played for two hours straight. Felt like 10 minutes. A true American treasure. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Phyll & Dad's Excellent Adventure

MARY SCHMICH HAD IT RIGHT in her 1997 Chicago Tribune column often attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. You know the one – the graduation speech where you're advised to wear sunscreen and all. Sound advice for sure – but what always stuck with me was the part about getting to know your parents, because they won't be around forever.

A beautiful Utah rock formation, baked to a nice golden brown.

It's one of the reasons I drove across country with them for their move to Nevada last month. Just the three of us. Believe it or not, it's also cheaper to drive a car across country than to ship it - even if you include hotels, food and gas. I guess the guy who's driving the truck that the car is on has to eat, sleep, fill up...plus you know, make a living. My folks always wanted to drive cross country anyway, and so did I. Besides, they say you learn a lot about people when you travel with them. 

Le Cirque? No. More like Le Grand Slam.

We left on a Sunday morning at 8am, and by Thursday around 3pm, we were in Vegas. My dad and I shared the driving. Well, that's putting it nicely. Actually, we fought like cats and dogs over who would drive. My dad loves driving. Me? I could care less. My wanting to drive was simply an effort to ensure that we didn't drive into a ravine and die, that's all. On the second half of the trip, we had our groove on and split the driving pretty evenly and amicably. Amazingly, my mom was fine hanging out in the back with a bunch of pillows, a cooler, and a variety of snacks that she would ration out to us as needed. The car became a smorgasbord of snacking, talking, laughing, farting, screaming and sleeping. Believe there was some burping, too. In a lot of ways, it was just like being in their house again. For some reason, we didn't turn the radio on even once. I think we were just too busy.

We took route 70W most of the way, then took a left turn down 15S to Vegas. A total of 2,500 miles. If you fly from Newark/JFK to Vegas, it's 2,200 miles 'as the crow flies', even though the plane makes somewhat of an 'arc'. But if you look closely at a map of route 70, particularly through the Rockies, it isn't much of a straight line at all. The crow would get dizzy.

Cutting corners;
the northwest tip of Arizona.

The cities we stayed in or passed through on the way to Vegas were Columbus OH, St. Louis MO, Independence MO, Denver CO, Richfield UT, and a tiny hour-long corner of Arizona. To stay on schedule, most of our food stops were right off the highway, so food along the way wasn't great. But we didn't exactly have a month to do this either; we did it in four and a half days. It didn't leave much time for culinary exploration. Guy Fieri would be mad.

I will deny this, but I'm told we found ourselves at a Cracker Barrel in Columbus. Let's just call it Restaurant X. The food was actually quite good, which was not what we expected from a highway chain restaurant that looks like a barn. The manager cheerfully gave us a map of the US, which had almost no useful landmarks on it, except for the other 499 Cracker Barrel locations. Nevertheless, the map quickly became the back-up to the GPS in the car. I'd like to stab the GPS lady in the eye socket for getting us lost so many times. For example, she told us to spend a few hours driving circles around a scary neighborhood of Akron the day before. I have heard the word 'recalculating' more than anyone should hear it in a lifetime. The only reason we made it to Vegas was because the car also has a piece of technology from the 11th century thankfully: a compass. And because my dad figured out how to get along with the GPS lady by the time we got to Denver. We joked about how after a while, she wasn't even talking to us. As it turns out, route 70 is called different things in different places, so following it was a little tricky.

It wasn't pretty. But it was pretty awesome. Best. Barbeque. Ever.

The next night, we stopped at a barbecue joint in Kansas City called Oklahoma Joe's, that was recommended to me by a coworker. After covering nearly 700 miles that day, we then went two hours out of our way (read: GPS lady took us on another wild goose chase) and stood on line for an additional 45 minutes behind 125 people to eat at bbq from what is literally the back of a huge gas station convenience store. We were all frazzled at that point and ready to throw in the towel. But as he does everywhere he goes, my dad became best friends with some of the folks standing on line, and we stayed. Turns out it was the best barbecue I ever had. And as anyone who knows me knows, I'm no stranger to meat. Meat and me go way back. I used to burn through a box of Slim Jims like a chain smoker burns through a pack of Marlboros. Oklahoma Joe's was described as "the best barbecue in Kansas, which means it's the best barbecue in the world." They had many well-deserved trophies on the wall.

A 400 mile straightaway in Kansas. Where rulers and levels go to train.

We took about 100 pictures on the trip, mostly of the countryside. Kansas was basically 400 miles in a straight line. Strangely, it was the hardest part of the drive, since it was hours and hours of flat land, white stripes and bo-rrrrrriiiiing. Almost like a sensory deprivation tank. I had to slap myself more than once, or make sure we were talking, to keep from driving off the road. In our pass through Tornado Alley (between Kansas and Colorado) we hit half an hour of intense rain and lightning, to the point where we couldn't see more than five feet in front of the car and had to slow down to 40.

When you absolutely positively have to pay attention.

The Rockies were unreal. Easily the most exciting part of the drive, except for those ribs in Kansas City. Signs like "Runaway Truck Ramp" and "7% grade" were pretty common. A 7% grade down hill doesn't sound like a big deal, but when the road is also curvy and you're being tailgated while driving 90mph down a hill, it requires both hands on the wheel and your full attention. There were lots of European-style 'ski villages' in our drive through the Rockies, which reminded us of when we lived in Switzerland years ago. We passed Vail. We stopped at a Denny's somewhere in Utah. 

Another big thrill was when we approached Las Vegas. Off in the hazy distance, the first thing we saw was the tallest building there is; the Stratosphere. It's in the shittier part of town, but it's still exciting when you see it out of an airplane window. When you've been driving for five days and you finally see it, you've earned the view.

I didn't mind being a canvas for my niece.
The cat did mind.

We spent the next week playing with and zerbeting my almost five-year-old niece while she put stickers on me and the cat. We schvitzed in the 100+ degree heat. We had meals and lots of fun with the family and some of their friends. We swam, went to the gym, watched movies, played with Lego, read stories, maybe checked ebay once or twice. My niece drew me an Oscar the Grouch. Frankly, I don't think it's her best work, but I didn't tell her. It was a little sad to be on a plane home so fast, watching our 5-day trip reversed in just four hours.

If you're thinking of driving across the country, don't take route 70. I suppose there are lots of trucks no matter which route you take, but 70 was under major construction most of the way; a lot of 70 is a two-lane highway to begin with, and with the construction, it was down to single-file for long stretches. Not fun when you're stuck behind a triple FedEx trailer; even less fun when there's one riding your tail.

But do make the trip. The politics and lifestyles are different out there, but there's no denying how incredible the views are, how nice the people are, and how worthwhile the trip is. Everyone was friendly. Waitresses looked like they enjoyed their jobs. One family said 'hi' to us one evening on the way into a hotel in Missouri. Being native New Yorkers, we were so... confused about that. Another couple saw our Jersey plates and struck up a 10 minute conversation with my parents in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Ohio. They actually blessed us in our travels as they left. I wish people were more like that around here.
--September 5th, 2013

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

'Take Five'-- one of those great tunes that works its way into your mind and never leaves. See? You're humming it now. Do-do do-do, ba ba da ba do-do do-do, ba ba da ba do-do do-do...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Every now and then I'll see something that makes me laugh, and I won't know why. This is one of those times.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011