Thursday, September 28, 2006

Urban Martha Stewart

How do you define an adventure? Does it involve travel, work or perhaps romance? Adventures in Europe took many twists and turns in all those areas. Unfortunately, New York adventures are off to a more mundane start. The apartment search currently ranks in the top three of my life frustrations. Commuting is also not so thrilling, though I have been fascinated by the people I have encountered. (Can I be a professional people-watcher?) From the Pakistani textile salesman I met on the train on Tuesday, to the thousands of young professionals I see wearing flip flops to work each morning, the commute reveals an interesting cross-section of people.

The funniest interaction I’ve observed took place last week. The doors of the E train opened at 42nd street and on walks a guy wearing baggy pants, a doo-rag and baseball cap and head phones. Yours truly thinks, “Hoodlum.” (I know, I know, it’s bad!) But when a young businessman just barely squeezed through the subway door at 50th street, my opinion quickly changed. “You’ve got dirt on the back of your shirt,” Mr. Hoodlum says to Businessman. Businessman seems confused about what to do with this information. In response, Mr. Hoodlum helpfully adds: “just wash the shirt in a bit of cold water and the stain will come right out.” WHAT! Who offers laundry advice on the subway? My “don’t judge a book by the cover” lesson was well learned for the day!

I’m apartment news… I’m heading backwards. Today I got beat out for an apartment that I hadn’t even seen yet. Ugh!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Small but important achievement

I may not have found an apartment, but I did find my local pizza store: Primavera Pizza and Pasta. Just like your doner kebab or falafel guy in Germany or your Coney Island hot dog guy in Detroit, finding your local pizza guy is critical. He plays an important role in the happiness of your stomach, without breaking the bank. The “slice” I had for lunch was classic NY pizza—thin, cheesy, sprinkled with pepper flakes and Italian seasoning and cost just $2.25… delicious! For those who don’t know, NY pizza is eaten by folding it in half longways.

In other news, I found Ritter Sport chocolate at a store around the corner. Is Ritter Sport chocolate non grata at work? Should I switch to Cadbury? No way! I'll just eat the whole bar by

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Closer to the promised land?

I headed back to Brooklyn Heights this morning to continue the Great Apartment Search. The best part of today, however, was that I had an entourage: my mom, dad and dear friend and former roomate, Erica. I saw 5 apartments and am now trying to weigh the pluses and minuses of each one (a.k.a. I made a list!)

Should I select:

a. an oval shaped apartment with a loft
advantages: it's oval! I could sing Evita songs or pretend to give presidential speeches from the balcony! Fireplace
disadvantages: $50 over my price limit, might not be able to hang my Berlin painting

b. 5th floor walk-up
advantages: great light! nice tree out the window, brand new bathroom
disadvantages: "bedroom" (and I use that term lightly) might not have fit a double bed, kitchen was 3 feet wide

c. parlor level 1Br Brownstone
advantages: largest of the 5 I saw, eat-in kitchen, AC, 15-foot ceilings, relatively inexpensive
disadvantages: ugly ceiling lights, not yet renovated from the last tenant, a bit further from the subway

d. 2nd floor walkup on one of the fruit streets
advantages: gemuetlich (cozy), wide plank wood floors, bright and sunny
disadvantages: landlord doesn't live in NY, 1 tiny closet

e. ground floor studio
advantages: gut renovated, granite kitchen countertops
disadvantages: not really in Brooklyn Heights, upper end of my price range, bars on the windows, useless nook

Which one should I take? Vote early, vote often:-)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

German Spotting

I'm homesick for Germans at the moment (does that make sense?) so I have enjoyed playing a little game, on the subway, called "German spotting."

The rules are simple:
Casually scan (don't stare at) your fellow passengers, taking special note of their hair style, glasses and shoes.
Then decide who might be German and think about what you could say to them in German.

Based on this highly scientific screening method, I have decided that the city is filled with Germans! Okay, perhaps "filled with" is a bit of an exaggeration, but I did hear/overhear/eavesdrop on 2 conversations in German on the subway last week. Music to my ears!

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Some people have expressed disappointment that I am not discussing work. After all, there would be no “New York adventures” without my job. The plain and simple fact, however, is that I rather like my job and would prefer not to be fired because I’ve blogged about work. Where is the line? It’s a tricky issue.

In general, my first week is officially over and went very very well! I will definitely be back for week #2.

I can understand wanting to read royals gossip, or knowing if I’ve met someone Hugh Grant-tastic or Colin Furth-abulous. Maybe I would like talk about who’s a “nutter” or what’s “brillant.” But these things are no-go subjects. Perhaps I’ll occassionally write about cultural observations; we’ll just have to see. But have no fear, there are 16 other hours of the day. I am sure I will find lots to blog about.

(Entries with pictures will be coming soon too… For the time being, me commuting on New Jersey Transit or me cutting the grass wouldn’t make for the world’s most interesting photos. Too bad I didn’t take pictures of the grody/gross and tiny apartments I saw this week… those would have at least been shocking!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


As my transition back to life in the States continues, here are some things about America that I am currently seeing through German lenses:

1. The Sacagawea dollar: In 2000, the US Mint began making a one-dollar coin with the face of Sacagawea on it. At the time, most people I knew thought it was just a novelty. Now, coming back from the land of the one- and two-euro coins, I love it! It seems more “normal” to me to find a dollar in my coin purse than in the bill part of my wallet.

2. Friendliness: it is commonly thought, in my family, that we are “Midwest friendly” and east coasters are aloof and reserved. Whether it is a post-9/11 change or it’s just in comparison to Germany, I have found New Jerseyans/New Jerseyites and New Yorkers to be extremely friendly. The train conductors are chatty, multiple doormen said hi to me as I apartment hunted and a random lady asked if I needed directions as I stood on the corner with my NYC guidebook.

3. Magazines: they are all over my house! I don't remember as many magazines in Germany. Do Germans not have as many mail order companies and big clothing stores or did I just miss the whole magazine thing?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Happy and Sad

The dichotomy of my 9/11 anniversary experience was pretty extreme. On the one hand, yesterday was my 1st day of work and I couldn't help but smile at how fun and action-packed it was. But spending the day in NYC...near Ground Zero no less, was incredibly emotional. It's one thing to watch TV reports of victims' families. But it was nearly impossible to hold back tears when I saw a mother wearing a pin with a picture of her son who died on 9/11 and heard people on the subway talk about their loved ones who died on that day. I wanted to say something to the mother, but all I could manage was a friendly smile before I got choked up.

So that was day number one in New York City. Not every day will be as high and low, but I can definitely see how the city creates an intense vibe that people thrive off of. We'll see...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Seize the Day

My mom said something during breakfast this morning that I found very poignant. She commented that it must be hard for 9/11 widows to think about how normal September 10, 2001 was for their families. I can only imagine.

There are many lessons that can be taken from 9/11 and the years after, on many different levels. We cannot live in fear. But to me, the most important personal lesson that can be taken from 9/11 is that every day is precious. Life is not the big moments, the job you have, or the money you make, but the little everyday moments and how you behave as a human being.

On that note and on the day before the 5th anniversary of 9/11:

“I love you”—say it early and say it often.
Pick your battles—is the issue you are fighting about today really so important in the big picture?
Savor the little things—chat with a friend, smile at the sight of your angelically sleeping pet, enjoy the smell of a crisp and sunny Sunday, laugh with a loved one.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Uptown Girl?

Scoping out work, the Upper East Side and Astoria (Queens) was my project for Friday. Work is just a quick subway ride from Penn Station. I got slightly turned around when I left the station, but I felt at home when I saw this picture. I figured my new office must not be too far away:-) Indeed it is just around the corner (along with my bank, Ann Taylor and Starbucks… what more could you ask for in life.)

From Midtown, I headed to 96th Street (Uptown) to see if that area felt right. I must admit being a bit disappointed. Apartments along and between 5th Ave, Madison and Park seemed great (what good taste I have!) Unfortunately, places on 1st, 2nd and 3rd Avenues (slightly more affordable) didn’t feel as right. I guess it was a combination of factors—smells, dirt, crowds.

I also took the subway to Astoria. At first I was unimpressed and didn’t want to get out of the train. But I wanted some Greek food for lunch; Astoria is a big Greek neighborhood, so I decided I had nothing to lose by walking around a bit. The neighborhood kind of grew on me. The restaurants along Ditmars Ave. were great and I did find a good Greek restaurant. Still, the housing probably isn’t what I need—row houses like in South Philly, versus apartment buildings or multi-family brownstones.

Today my mom and I drove back into Brooklyn Heights. It just seems very me—brownstones, low-rise apartments, cute cafes and views of the Statue of Liberty and the financial district in Manhattan. Now it is just a waiting game to find an apartment in the area…in my price range.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Yesterday was my first trip into New York City, specifically Brooklyn. According to my friends, “Brooklyn is cool,” “Brooklyn is cheaper than the Upper East Side,” “Brooklyn isn’t too far from work,” “Brooklyn has a neat food co-op.”

So I met Drew, who I’ve known since before I knew that I knew people, at Penn Station and we headed to Brooklyn. Drew just moved to Brooklyn, knows 9 days more about the borough than I do, and is therefore my Brookyln expert! Our first stop was Brooklyn Heights.
In two words: LOVE IT! It is:
A. picturesque
B. relatively quiet
C. has a view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty
D. is full of great little shops and cafes

My favorite streets were the fruit streets: Cranberry, Pineapple and Orange. I’m serious, those really are 3 streets in Brooklyn Heights! If I can afford it, I would love to live in this area.

Cobble Hill was our second stop. This part of town is in BoCoCa. Learning the New York lingo is part of my NYC education. I could also live in SOHO, DUMBO or Hell’s Kitchen…WHAT!? Transportation-wise, I don’t think it will be quiet as convenient to work, but it was still very cute. It was in Cobble Hill that Drew and I stopped for some delicious she-she sushi at Cube 63 (never did figure out what that name means. Is 63 an important # in Japan??)

Park Slope is also great, though something was slightly off with the vibe. I don’t know how to describe it without being mean. Don’t get me wrong, I may well end up living here. But the people I walked past on the street oozed a certain, “we are cool granola-head New Yorkers, turned rich yuppie Brooklyners.” I can say, however, that the brownstone townhouses and tree-lined streets were spectacular and I will definitely be back to numerous restaurants in the neighborhood!

The last stop of the day was Williamsburg. I must admit that I was least impressed by this part of Brooklyn.
A. the hipster factor is WAY too high (and, well, you know me!) I saw one guy whose cool hipster sunglasses were bigger than his painted-on hipster jeans (and he was really wearing them on his hips!)
B. there were too many people wearing New York Yankees hats, tilted to the side, without bent/shaped brims, while playing football and working on rusty Trans Am cars in the street.

So those are my reflections on Brooklyn. Of course I have just scratched the surface. And tomorrow I head back to check out the Upper East Side and Astoria. I forgot my camera yesterday, but will bring it tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My World

My world is currently revolving around 2 main thoughts: apartments and the environment.

The thought of finding an apartment in the city is overwhelming...and I’ve yet to actually see a single apartment! I am heading to the train station right now to scope out some different neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Astoria. The Upper East Side will probably wait until Friday. I've become an avid Craig’s List user, but am also searching other reality and broker pages. If only I had $6,200/month to spend, apartment searching would be a delightful experience:-) Since I don’t, the big question is whether I want to spend an additional 15% of one year’s rent to pay a broker to help me find a place. 15% just gone, down the drain, poof! That’s a tough pill to swallow! Full report later today…

In today’s installment of “Erin is readjusting to life in the US,” I seem to have a heightened awareness of leaving lights on in the house and a lack of diligent recycling. I almost freaked when I saw an empty milk jug in the trash. (My mom says she is censoring the blog and I cannot comment on the family’s “American behavior.” But this is America, so free speech rules and recycling is a free game topic to write about:-)) I’ve already been online to research the type of recycling that goes on in NYC. Looks okay, phew!