Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Down in Chinatown

It has been weeks since my last blog post and don't think I haven't been racked with guilt over my lack of postage...(can I use that word in this sense? I don't think so, but I kind of like it and I'm going to anyway...)

All I can say is, moving in New York City is a hell I wouldn't wish on my least favorite of people and I've been a bit busy surviving the most stressful and strenuous (both mentally and physically) weeks of my twenty-two years on this earth. So please have some patience. 

But, things are different now. I feel like my world may have finally stopped spinning and I can foresee a future where weekly blog posts are again a part of my reality. And that future is bright.  

And now, a little story:

One Thursday night about three weeks ago, Tyler, a good friend of mine from SMU mentioned in a previous blog post, flew in from Colorado, suitcase in hand, his pockets, of course, proverbially full-of-dreams. 

He'd tentatively planned on moving here last semester and through some combination of unicorn dust and a show-stopping resume, he actually landed a job here prior to graduation, sealing his fate to be my new (and hopefully long-term) roommate!

So Thursday June 3 he shows up and we officially have the weekend to find our new digs, or else. His first day of work is Monday; my lease is up the fifteenth--time, to say the least, is of the essence, and we didn't waste a minute. 

The next day Tyler scoured the entire borough of Manhattan while I emailed him craigslist postings from work. He saw ten different apartments, God bless him. Most listings were in the upper upper East and West sides, aka, lower Harlem.

Harlem's supposedly very up-and-coming these days though and Tyler was very impressed with some of the places, one in particular. He sent me a text describing a tree-lined street and "HUGE" livingroom windows. The place even had a washer/dryer, which, in any other city in the country would definitely not be a major selling point, but let me tell you, in Manhattan you're lucky if you have a common washer/dryer in your entire building. Wanting one in your own apartment is a dream.

Up until about 3 p.m. I was pretty sure we were getting this Harlem place, and actually very excited about it without even having seen it. I very much trusted Tyler's judgement though and if he loved it, I was sure I would, too.

That's when I got the call.

I was at work, but I answered my cell anyway. It's not everyday you're remote-apartment-hunting and I felt that if Tyler chose to call rather than text, it must be important. I was right.

"I found this great place!" he told me.

"Yeah? East or West?" up to this point those were the only places we'd been looking...



"You're joking."

He wasn't. I promised him I'd take a look at the place even though I was sure I would hate it. (I kept that last part to myself...)

We went out that night in both neighborhoods to get a feel for how safe I'd be walking home late at night. Turns out a coworker of mine lives in Chinatown; we met him for drinks in the area and he told us about how his kid goes to daycare in Chinatown and now speaks English and Mandarin and a little Hebrew (apparently it's a Chinatown daycare owned and managed by Jewish people. Oh, New York....)

Walking around in Chinatown elevenish at night with Tyler, I felt completely fine. Okay, so maybe I had to pee badly and nothing was open so Tyler and I pretended like we were staying at the Best Western until it turned out there were no Joneses registered for that night (really? no Joneses??) and then we had to leave (but not before I got to use their restroom!) but, the area felt very safe and was surprisingly busy considering most stores there close fairly early and the only places open were a smattering of bars. I even had Tyler walk ahead of me ten paces so I could feel what it would be like to be all alone on the street...and it was really ok.

Then we took the 6 train to the upper-upper East....Harlem.

I do not care what the New York Times says about it; Harlem past midnight was no place to be. Tyler offered to walk his ten paces ahead of me to simulate this whole being alone thing. I told him he'd better not.

It felt less safe for a number of reasons: The streets seemed absolutely deserted except for your standard homeless nappers and beggars; there were no cops making standard patrols as in Chinatown, probably because Harlem isn't your biggest tourist hot spot and NYC throws its money where the money is; finally, about a street down from our would-be washer-dryer-equipped apartment, there was what can only be described as a block party going down, only this block party was unlike any you've ever seen. One a.m. on a Friday, it included a number of baby strollers manned (and wommanned) by young-looking parents using their free hands to hold glass beer bottles or lit cigarettes, or both. I wanted to stop and tell these people "Go home. Put your kids to bed. You are a mom/dad--Seriously...give me a break!"

And because after passing these people enough nights I was sure that at one point I would speak my mind and have to deal with the consequences of such actions, it was probably for the best that Tyler and I turned around at that point and decided we couldn't take the Harlem apartment.

I was also pretty convinced that despite my positive experience in Chinatown by night, we were still not getting that place, either. In fact, I was pretty sure we would be scrapping the whole crappy experience and starting from scratch the next day in search of more mythical laundryrooms, but then something surprising happened: I really liked the C-town place.

Ok, granted, it's small--only two bedrooms,  no living room (same as in my old place, the converted one-bedroom to three-bedroom...This place was probably actually a studio at one point and they threw up some pressurized walls and called it a two-bedroom. Again, Oh, New York...)

But, it has hardwood floors and granite tiling and countertops in the kitchen. And there's rooftop access, which is awesome. Tyler and I are on the lookout for folding chairs; we already rescued a folding table propped beside a Chinatown garbage can and got it "foh fwee!" as we've started saying. Now we're looking for chairs and I'm envisioning many a rooftop wine-night in our futures.

And we each have our own window A/C unit in our rooms, which I know doesn't sound great by regular living standards but... you guys have to believe me, it's good. I know a couple who moved into an apartment in Manhattan with no A/C units and they're having to buy and install them themselves. Ridiculous.

Anyway, this post is getting long, but I just wanted to update and soon I'll probably post again to tell the epic tale of my Dad's trip to NYC and how I roped him into helping me move into this fifth-floor-walk-up using only our own brute human strength and the kindness of one brave Taxi driver.

And then another about my first trip to my new grocery store, the Hong Kong Supermarket, and my newfound love for garlic-flavored peanuts.

Post again soon. Please message or leave comments. Miss everyone from home and would love to hear from you!

<3 Leigh


  1. I love the Hong Kong Supermarket in Texas and Georgia...not sure how it is in NYC tho!

  2. Truc--HK Supermarket here is nuts! I can't wait to write all about it--really, so much to say. I've never been to the ones in TX and Georgia but I'm sure it's a similar madness :)

    Danny--It 'twas quite the bitch.

  3. Oh Leigh, this sounds wonderful! I'm so happy y'all got a good place, and I can't wait to hear more about your first experiences there! Love you!