Living My Life: Two Years in New York!

Today is the day! The Big Anniversary!

On March 15, 2010 I became what I had hardly dreamt of: A German moving to New York. The City of 8 million. The Big Apple. The town that offers hundreds of possibilities, there to pursue. My student life had changed 180 degrees as I stepped out of my first cab right in downtown Manhattan. I remember the first street I stood at. Columbia Street. I remember my first (foreing) cab driver, who took it from there and delivered me to the Best Western Hotel in Queens. He was Indian, a professor, and only he knows why he had given up his higher education benefits in his home country to pursue life in the City. However, he gave me the most valuable of advice. Said: “New York has the best of people and New York has the worst of people.” To date, this little wisdom I share with you has proven to be very true. So true, that indeed every time I remember this day and his words, I shake my head in astonishment at how they cannot be twisted and turned but simply apply to life in New York.

Two years in the City. Three different jobs, but none of which are career-worthy. Three different apartments, some of which have proven to catapult me to something I can call home. My discovery of the Flatbush ghetto and then the nice side of Brooklyn called Park Slope. A few interesting roommates later. A few boring roommates later. None of them which I had wanted to miss out on. Friends, heart breaks, coworkers, relationships – they have all guided me through the past 24 months and have formed my time here; created my memories in their own unique ways. Two years later, and I am reflecting.

Have I have become a different person? I have turned into someone else. Unsure yet if if I like the person I’ve become or if I hate what New York has made of me. The safest way is to go with a mix. Some traits have made me survive in all of these extreme circumstances I am walking through day by day, living every moment as if it could be my last. Others I wish I could deal with better. The coldness that comes with you when you have to choose between politeness or rudeness when brushing off the overflow of advertisement, vendors, promoters. I know some New Yorkers can justify being impolite towards strangers. I am still having a hard time with it. At least I don’t care anymore when someone pushes me out of their way on my way to work. Is this a sign that I have truly adapted, though? Or that I have forgotten what manners are for?

Every year has changed me to a degree I would have not foreseen. Only one thing seems granted in this city: Happiness does not come easy. And it most certainly does not come when you expect it to. I’ve found myself torn down after earning more money or going to a show I thought would be amazing – my expectations being too high on this one little thing, underestimating the true factors of life. And then I found this warm, joyful feeling when walking beneath skyscrapers in the Financial District of Manhattan or discovering the West Village on a sunny April afternoon. The feeling I had whenever I looked at the skyline from my second old apartment – indescribable. This City was right there, in its miniature form, and everything had seemed so clear to me. Now I work in the Empire State Building and the New York dream seems farther away than ever.

The one thing New York has truly given me: I have created my life new. I have created myself new. Every day, every hour, every moment spent in this precious city I have indulged in, I have caressed, I have made sure to become worthy to remember. Starting with discovering various neighborhoods: Harlem, Bedstuy, Bushwick – we were quite fearless in the beginning. Meeting random people at bars and on the streets, ending up being involved in night-long talks which came to a close on the red steps of Times Square. Working for three cheap Irish guys who did not even pay hourly wage for their bar employees. My first tears when erring around in a bad area, fearing Russian gangstas or other hoodies might pick me up and shred me to pieces.

Our unbelievable luck in this City. New York has this very specific way of applying Karma to everyone who enters and stays for longer than a few days. You laugh at a person on the streets? Be sure you will trip over the next misplaced stone within the next few seconds. It’s the small things that this city will gladly show you and those are the ones you have to appreciate. It is not about the beauty of this city, because this city is seldom beautiful in the traditional sense. It is about the quirks and downsides that make Nueva York a fascinating place to live in. The rainy mornings that turn into sunny afternoons and warm your heart. The rainbow colors in Central Park. A day at the beach, that is so trashed, you would have never stepped foot on it if you were on vacation in a different country. The annoying paper bags from Trader Joes which always seem to break at the wrong moment. And then of course the random people in the train station that come to your rescue and provide you with so many plastic bags, you don’t know how to thank them.

New York is a City of Extremes. And she has her very special way of showing you when it’s time to move on. Believe me, I have seen it in many people. Some of which have come here for a few months. Some of which have stayed for three years. It all ended in the same way: They got the insight that it is time to leave. To pursue something better. It is just too darn bad that every other city outside of here seems too gray to live in once you’ve tasted the forbidden apple. So be sure you enjoy every single moment here because you never know when will be your last!

This is why I want to cherish today. The date. Hold it tight and never let it go! Happy Anniversary to me and to my dream come true!

Me at Magnolia Bakery in 2010
Me at Magnolia Bakery in 2012

Moving in New York

People do it all the time. I myself have done it three times so far. The first time was in a taxi. The second time was via taxi and subway. The third time was by U-Haul and foot. There are many ways to move in this city.

When I had first gotten here, I had stayed in a hotel in Queens. After finding a suitable apartment in Brooklyn, the only plausible way for me was to take a cab and make my way over there. I did have at least one convincing advantage at that time: Only two suitcases to go to stuff into that gypsy cab I ended up taking. Not much baggage for someone who wants to move. No furniture or other petty things I had to worry about.
Fast-forward 8 and a half months and I was once again on the move. This time I had accumulated somewhat more of a baggage: A chair here, a futon there, and a few more clothes. Way too many extras to squeeze into a simple cab ride. So I took two suitcases with me on the train. The trip turned out to be a pain in the arse, as schlepping two bags up and down the subway stairs was a bit too much, even for ambitious me. I then got a cab for the rest of the clothes, the chair, the trash can and you-know-not. Should have taken that directly, seven bucks and 7 minutes was a real bargain deal compared to those tedious 40 minutes underground. On my last day, in an adventurous action during which one of my friends was locked up in the apartment by my former, drugged-up roommate, we snatched another cab just to transport a twin-size futon. This time, of course, the driver overcharged us with a hefty 15-dollar-bill, but I guess it was worth the trouble of not having to buy it myself and having a place to sleep on right away.

Then followed the obligatory visit to Ikea. Pretty much my first time I bought actual furniture there (my first room had already been furnished, whereas my second place gave me some room for ideas and also left a blank hole in my wallet). So whatever movables I had purchased about a year ago, they were still standing around in my room. This time I was so not in the mood of going back and rebuying all the junk, even though price-wise it wouldn’t have been so bad. The thing about Ikea is, you can’t just look at it from a price-perspective. You have to calculate the hours time it takes you to get all of those steps right and see the end result standing in front of you – not toppling over. Which in my case had taken me two painfully long days for simple, basic things such as a chest, a shelf, a desk and even a desk chair. The table, on the other hand, was easy, just screwing four legs onto the fundament, and tadaaa… one fine result in minutes!

But I almost had to pass on the idea of renting a car and shoveling all the bits and pieces over to an apartment that was after all only 7 minutes away – by foot. Heck, I even thought about carrying some furniture over and leaving the rest behind. Then I talked to my friend.Luckily. My friend knows many things which make life easier in New York. So he simply suggested to take U-Haul.

“U-Haul?,” I wondered, because I had never heard of it before. The concept is easy: Rent a van two times the size of a normal van and pay about 20 bucks for a 24-hour-period. U-Haul’s strength, if you can call it that, lies in charging its customer for the mileage. Now this might be a “slight” problem for the rest of the States. But for New York, where people need a U-Haul truck for about anything, from moving furniture to packing up the music instruments of a band, it is a splendid concept! You can actually manage to not burn as much mileage and still have your precious things transported. U-Hauls’s prices start at $20 and counting. With tax, insurance (the company gives you a damage waiver fee option of $11, which I took), and a mileage of 5 miles I paid about 42 dollars. Almost a bargain, I think. My entire room fit into the truck’s, sorry, VAN’S interior and I could have put more in it. I am one of the few (illegal) folks who have lived in the City for an extended period of time and still do not possess an American driver’s license. But U-Haul accepts international and foreign driver’s licenses (wheeeew!) and the company let me insure my friend at no added cost. I let him drive and maneuver this huge monster of a car through Brooklyn’s streets. He claims that I could have easily driven it but I wasn’t’ in the mood of trying it out and maybe bumping into something. I can still see the picture of him trying to squeeze the van into a parking lot in front of my apartment until an Arabic guy offered his help. He had much more experience with these types of automobiles and perfectly placed the large car into the small spot. Bravo! Other than that nothing happened, luckily. I am not sure how U Haul’s insurance really works in case of, say, an accident but then I wasn’t keen on trying it out either.

So, for the record: I highly recommend a cab if you don’t have too much stuff to take with you. Otherwise shoot for U-Haul or, if you own a zipcar account and don’t have to pay the registration fee, then zipcar. U-Haul has great trucks of immense size, though; they really do fit a lot in them. And since you can borrow it for 24 hours straight, the move and the obligatory trip to Ikea, if in need, can be accomplished all in one day.

Good luck on moving in New York, it is all part of the game!