Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tips for getting a haircut in a new neighborhood



Mary captured this image of Saturday's sunrise behind the Manhattan skyline. Before I forget, read about my cycling adventure in Central Park this morning at his On the Rivet blog. Feel free to add a comment or share your own cycling - or non-cycling - tale.

Getting back to the topic of today's blog, I will start at the beginning:
#1 - When you walk into a barber shop where the barber doesn't understand English - or where you can't understand him, walk out. Quickly.

I think the title should just be the singular "tip" because that's pretty much where it began and ended for me the other day, when I watched myself get the worst haircuts of my life. And there was nothing I could do about it after failing to get up and walk out. I couldn't even tell what the guy's first language was. Tagalog, Portuguese? Who knows? It doesn't matter, it wasn't English.

He couldn't understand me and he thought he understood me, apparently telling him I wanted to get scalped. Fortunately, my hair grows back fast. You will not actually get to see this disaster, because Mary has agreed no photographs. Let's just say I had longer stubble on my face from one day not shaving than I had on the back and sides of my head. The top was fine, but it look like a reverse of male-pattern baldness. It should be close to back to normal by next week, when I may have to show up for a second interview or two. My first mistake was continuing down the block after seeing my regular barber was closed for the day. That was my learning experience for the week. At least there's no permanent scars.

Good morning, New York


That was the view that greeted us this morning (photo was shot from our bedroom window, hence the slight overhang in the upper left corner). Amazing how still everything looked. The city that never sleeps actually looked like it was slumbering.
Jeff is taking off early today and heading over to Central Park for a bike ride. He'll report back later today (probably with some photos).
Meanwhile, Rachel is staying here for about half the weekend to try and get a French project completed. It's a bit quieter here than in her dorm room, so occasionally she comes over to focus on homework. She had a great day yesterday: she attended a free concert by a singer she really likes, at Borders Books: Mika, who Rachel claims "is gonna be big!" We'll post some audio/video when she wakes up, hopefully before noon. :-)
She's hoping to get over to the Today show on Monday morning before class, where Beyonce will be performing. Massive crowds will accompany her, no doubt!
Stay tuned today for some more photos and multimedia of Mika ...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Buses, the Bronx, and boffo shoes

Buses ... Bus drivers don't get no respect (where's Rodney Dangerfield?). While most passengers do thank the driver as they exit the bus, somehow, a "thank you" or "have a nice evening" just doesn't seem like enough. Bus drivers around here go into battle every day, while the passengers read, talk on the phone, or sleep. Meanwhile, the driver is battling crazy drivers, cop cars and ambulances, terrible traffic, and narrow streets that seem way too small to accommodate a bus. Everyone, inhale as we squeeze past these parked cars!

But all we can say is "thank you" as we step down the stairs and out the door. It is heartfelt, truly.

The Bronx ... Today, we went up to the Bronx to look at the Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil (pronounced Spite-n Dive-l) areas. They were pretty nice, and a lot of the high-rise buildings had views of the Hudson River, looking south toward the city. Couldn't seem to find a grocery store anywhere, but we might have been walking in the wrong place--it was mostly residential. It was an easy commute into the city via the Metro North train. So the Bronx on our list of possibilities of other places to live.

Boffo shoes ... We both bought a pair of MBT shoes: http://www.swissmasaius.com/Default.aspx?lang=en-US. There's a shoe store right around the corner from Mary's new office that sells such brands as Mephisto, Ecco and the like--plus some fairly fancy ones, like Beauti-feel and Oh! (women's brands: http://beautifeel.com/ and http://www.ohshoes.com/). MBT shoes are like no others. You really have to try on a pair to see how they work. Basically, your foot "rides" on the shoes, and you sort of feel like you're walking on sand with a nice buffer between you and the pavement. The shoes also have the effect of straightening your posture and working your legs, so you get some exercise even without trying to. Mary wore hers all day today, and while it took awhile to get used to them, so far, so good. Jeff is wearing his around the apartment for awhile first, but he seems to like them, too. Highly recommended!

Tomorrow, we're going to do something tourist-y (not sure what yet). This weekend, we'll try to relax but will watch UCLA play Florida in the semifinals. Go Bruins!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mary's day of training at her new job

Mary had a nice time at her new job today at The Skin Cancer Foundation--a few hours of training with one of the employees who is leaving the Publications Dept. (her name is Beth).

Mary got a great first impression of everyone there. It's a very collegial environment, with people going out to lunch together every day and, while working hard, having fun.

The office is on Madison Avenue (see photo), a couple of blocks from Macy's (dangerous shopping zone!) and about a block from the Empire State Building. She won't go hungry, either. There seem to be hundreds of places to eat within a short walk--although with a child at NYU, Mary will be brown-bagging it most days!

They're giving her the next two days "off" so she can start officially on Monday, which was nice. All in all, it feels like a good start.

No word yet from Columbia or the Daily News for Jeff, although the woman at Columbia is out of the office until Monday, and the Daily News just emailed Jeff about a brief "test" he has to take (writing headlines and such). So he's still in the game for both of those jobs.

Fun, exciting times in the Big Apple!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Two good interviews!

While Mary is preparing to start her new job on Wednesday, Jeff is feeling pretty good about his two interviews today: one at Columbia University, and the other at the New York Daily News.

According to Jeff, the folks at Columbia seemed like they wanted to hire him before he even showed up for the interview. They said he had all the qualifications they were looking for, and they would "definitely be in touch."

Jeff also hit it off with the editor he met with at the Daily News, who, on a couple of occasions during the interview, called him a "strong candidate." He also indicated that they were going to make a decision asap.

So now it's wait-and-see time. We'll keep you posted on all the developments, of course!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Jeff got another job interview!

In addition to his interview at Columbia University tomorrow, he just scored an interview with the New York Daily News (online staff editor position). They emailed him just now to request a couple of convenient times this week, so we're on a roll.

Don't get us wrong: All of this is exciting, but it's also daunting. This environment is so completely different from what we're accustomed to, it's all a bit overwhelming.

For instance, New York City's population is just over 8 million people. Jeff read somewhere that the city's population doubles (maybe triples!) during the work day.

We're used to living in a city of about 45,000 people, in a county of 250,000.

Need we say more?

But the goal was to shake things up and get closer to Europe, for travel and, in the not-too-distant future, a move. So we're accomplishing those goals. Now we just have to figure out how to take the bus to the DMV ...

Mary got a job!

Even though she still has a lot of resumes and applications out there, Mary decided to accept an offer of a staff writer position with The Skin Cancer Foundation (www.skincancer.org). You know what they say about "a bird in the hand."

She has training Wed. and starts working on Thursday. It's a four-person communications team, with one more slot in the team open as of Monday (the managing editor's last day is Friday). One really good thing is, people who have worked there tend to stay. Mary's supervisor has been with the Foundation for 15 years, and other people in the office have that type of longevity, too. Seems to bode well for the working environment.

Decent salary, really good benefits (health and dental for employees is completely free of charge!).

Tomorrow is Jeff's interview at Columbia University, for a position working on the university's Web site. Fingers crossed for another good result!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Shoe crisis

OK, maybe "crisis" is too strong a word. OK, definitely, "crisis" is too strong a word.

But when your feet hurt, it sure can feel like a crisis.

Mary learned that lesson on Friday when she wore a nice pair of shoes to her interview. Good looking, brown suede pumps--not too high a heel, either.

By the time she got to the interview, she had a bleeding blister on her right heel. By the time the interview was over, both feet had swelled and blisters were forming everywhere. She hobbled to Rachel's dorm and borrowed a pair of Rachel's shoes (actually, a pair that used to be hers but Rachel inherited) so they could go out to dinner.

Now, she doesn't laugh at those women she sees wearing their workout shoes with their business suits while walking the streets of NYC. Because guess what? That's exactly what she plans to do once she gets a job. She'll just carry her nice shoes in a tote bag, then change right before she gets to the office. Once the 5 o'clock bell sounds, it's off with the work shoes, on with the workout shoes and into the streets.

How ridiculous she'll look! ... you may say to yourself. Well, when your feet are your main form of transportation that get you to the other forms of transportation--bus, subway, ferry--a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

We'll post pictures when Mary actually has a job to go to ... forgot that little detail.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Still finding our way, but getting closer

It's been about 3-1/2 weeks since we moved here, and a lot has happened in that period of time. We basically started a home from scratch, save for some clothing and personal items we brought with us. We have had to get the "lay of the land" in terms of transportation and shopping, and learn to live without a car.

We also had to recall what it's like to rent, not own, a home. That's been a major adjustment, especially since our new place is only about 625 square feet, as opposed to the 1,450 square feet we had in SLO. Living in a high-rise building as opposed to our little house has been a big change.

Then we had to venture forth into the NYC job market this past week, beginning the process of sending out letters and resumes and hoping for a nibble or two. Luckily, we each got one: Mary had an interview Friday at The Skin Cancer Foundation, for a staff writer job. Seemed to go well, but who knows? We'll see if they make an offer. Jeff has an interview this coming Tuesday in the Public Relations Dept. of Columbia University (doing Web stuff).

And we have had to adjust to a completely--and we do mean completely--different environment. Different types of people. Different weather. Different air. Different vistas. Different sounds, smells, colors.

To be honest, it's been challenging. Perhaps surprisingly, we seem to be doing OK, all things considered. Our tempers were a bit shorter than usual the first couple of weeks, but we're both feeling more settled, so we're acting more like our normal selves now.

Would we advise this type of huge change for everyone? It depends. If you really want to shake up your life, then do it--with some planning. While we didn't have jobs before we got here--not for lack of trying--we did plan everything else as well as we could.

Our next big hurdle really is finding work and then getting accustomed to commuting with millions of other people into NYC every day. After that, we're not exactly sure what the next hurdle will be ... probably something related to housing, like deciding if we want to keep renting after our lease expires, or if we want to try and buy something. All in good time, though.

As for now, the job hunt is still on, with gusto. We're still finding our way, but it feels like we're getting closer ... not sure to what, exactly, but to something, anyway!

Friday, March 23, 2007

And ... Jeff scores an interview!

Mary's got a job interview this afternoon, and Jeff has one Tuesday morning. Even if neither job works out, at least we're seeing some progress--and fairly quickly, too. Guess two folks from l'il SLO can present some good credentials in the Big City.

Wish us luck!

Real estate here is ... weird!

OK, so we move from one bizarre-o real estate market to probably the only one in the U.S. that's even more bizarre: NYC.

Yesterday, we checked out a couple of neighborhoods in Queens (a fairly short subway commute from midtown Manhattan) and also went back to some properties we visited last summer, in New Rochelle (about a 30-min. train ride north of Grand Central Station).

First, Queens: We started by stopping at LaGuardia Community College, where Mary has applied for a job. The area around the school is really, really busy and fairly industrial, but the school itself is actually pretty cool: lots and lots of students bustling around, chatting, using the Internet, eating, sleeping--the usuall college environment. The building was in very good repair, and the student population seemed diverse and interesting. It was a good start to the afternoon.

Then we traveled a bit further into Queens to look at an area where a new condo complex is going to be built. Long Island City is an interesting place, with quite a few businesses taking root and some rather quaint streets and views of the Empire State Building. The location of the new condo complex (it's still just a hole in the ground with a few structural elements going in) was good in terms of transportation: it's literally a few steps from a subway stop that takes you right into Manhattan. The surrounding neighborhood, while very urban, is clean and offers some nice areas for exploring. So far, so good. Prices are mid-300s for a 1 BR.

So ... we ventured into another part of Queens, a bit further north--Astoria. Now, we're not going to judge all of Astoria by what we saw yesterday. That would be unfair. But "gritty" might be a nice word for it. The condo complex--brand new--was literally the only nice-looking building in the 15 or so blocks we walked from the closest subway stop (the ad said it was 9 blocks away, but it lied!). The rest of the area was ... well, let's just say Mary wouldn't feel comfortable walking there alone even during the daytime. And the condos were relatively expensive--like mid-300s. Nope.

Finally, we went back to a co-op building we saw last summer, in New Rochelle: The Lofts at New Roc (www.theloftsatnewroc.com). Last summer, the list prices were very reasonable, but the monthly maintenance fees--which cover maintenance of the building and your portion of the property taxes--were simply outrageous. For example, if a unit cost $250K, the monthly maintenance costs were, like $1,500! Even though about 45 percent is tax-deductible, it's still a lot of cash to put out that's not going toward your mortgage.

In the mail the other day, we received an invitation to an open house there, to see the new-and-improved offerings. Now, the price of the units has gone up, but the monthly maintenance is in the realm of normal. A 1 BR with a den, about 800 square feet, was around $360K, with monthly maintenance around $900. The building does offer some nice views (not as nice as what we have now), but it's still a lot of money for what you get. It's right across the street from a new building (condo? co-op? can't recall) built by Trump, where prices start around $550K for smaller units than these. We ruled out both.

We still have many more places to explore: some other areas of Queens, Riverdale (in the Bronx), and some neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Also want to look around NJ some more. Haven't completely decided that we want to buy yet, either--and of course, we still need jobs!

Speaking of which, Mary scored an interview for this afternoon. We'll keep you posted, of course ...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Union City ... what can we say?

Union City, NJ, is a strange place. On the one hand, it has a whole series of homes--our apartment included--that offer the most unbelievable view of the Manhattan skyline you have ever seen. It also has some quaint residential streets where, clearly, development/redevelopment is happening. And of course, the commute is a breeze: 20 minutes to midtown Manhattan, including the walk to the bus stop if there's no traffic--with traffic, maybe 25 minutes.

But that's about it. The city has no real downtown and offers very few services--make that none, actually. There is one grocery store, but it's kind of like a Food 4 Less; in other words, you don't necessarily always want to do your shopping there. There is a post office and a hardware store, and a couple of corner convenience stores that provide very little that's actually usable. Restaurants? We have eaten at one place that has decent Italian food, but it's really a take-out joint. Haven't seen much else in our walks around nearby neighborhoods.

Surrounding cities, such as Weehawken, West New York and Hoboken, are being or have been developed, so we are wondering when some of that will come into Union City--especially in the way of retail and other services. It seems like it's only a matter of time, because people are moving here and buying/refurbishing homes.

Our only concern about buying a place here--once we're employed, of course--is whether or not it will maintain or increase in value. We would have to study recent sales figures to see what the trends are. And the places for sale in our building have been on the market for several months already. Not sure why, because the prices do seem reasonable.

For now, at least, the apartment is working out fine for us. And we really do love the view. It makes everything else worth the extra trouble!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Resumes, application letters, emails, oh my!

If we were still using actual paper to apply for jobs, we'd be buried in it by now in a pulpy snowstorm (much like the one we had last week that is, fortunately, melting into miniature streams all over Jersey and NYC).

We have been very busy the past few days revamping resumes, performing job searches, and sending out email responses to job ads.

Mary also ordered a book from Amazon that will, with any luck, assist in this high-tech job search process (especially Mary, who hasn't actually looked for a real job in about 13 years!).

In the meantime, Mary is also searching for freelance work and is still teaching a couple of classes online for DeVry University. But a full-time job is the goal so she can meet people and feel a bit more settled here on the East Coast.

Speaking of feeling settled, we are getting there, although both of us have had some twinges of missing SLO and our friends and family. We made some plans for this Thursday evening because, after all, there's no farmer's market for us to visit :-(.

The plan for tomorrow: more of the same, except we may take a timeout and head to the city for a visit with Rachel and a trip to a museum, Central Park, or ... gosh, the list could go on forever with a city like New York!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rachel's going to Africa!

For quite some time now, Rachel has wanted to take a trip to Africa to volunteer. Her idea began to crystallize about a month ago: she had originally wanted to do an NYU Study Abroad in Ghana, but the classes offered don't fit her new major (philosophy) or probable minor (public policy or French).

Once she realized that doing a semester of classes in Ghana wouldn't work for her, she began researching volunteer programs in Ghana. She found one here: www.crossculturalsolutions.org. She signed up for the 3-week program beginning June 23, 2007.

But there's more to this story: Nicholas Kristof, noted columnist for the New York Times, is holding a "Win a Trip to Africa" contest (http://nytimes.com/marketing/winatrip/). The winners--one college student and one K-12 teacher--will travel to Africa with Nicholas Kristof and contribute to the New York Times via a blog and/or a video blog.

Rachel is entering the contest and will find out just in the "Nick" of time whether she wins or not, on April 21. She has to pay the balance of the Cross Cultural Solutions program fee by April 23, and she didn't want to do so without knowing if she won the contest.

Family and friends, expect some fund-raising letters appearing soon in your email boxes. If she wins the contest, any money you have donated for her trip will be returned to you, of course.

So think good thoughts about the Kristof contest, but also consider what you may want to contribute to her volunteer trip to Ghana, Africa. We both feel it will probably be a life-changing experience that may impact what she chooses to do with the rest of her college career and beyond.

Thanks, everyone, for being so supportive of our little family. We're all on an incredible journey right now, whether it's to Africa or just from New Jersey to NYC by bus!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jeff's cycling adventures, part III

For my third trip up River Road toward Nyack - someday, I will make it all the way - there were some new obstacles: ice and snow. Beside the road, and sometimes in the right lane, were snow drifts of one to two feet high. There were also some patches of ice to avoid.

The good news is I got in a couple hours on the road, on a day in which I didn't anticipate even being able to ride. It snowed about 5 inches' worth on Friday, so I wasn't sure if the roads would be clear enough to get out. They mostly were. Below is the best stretch of road I found.

Still, it was cold. 29 degrees on Weather.com, "feels like 19." It did, too. I was fine except for my unexposed face - next time I'll wear the whole balaclava - and my feet. I just need something warmer over my shoes.
After dodging ice, snow and potholes for an hour, I decided to turn around.

My feet were going numb and the ice patches were melting - normally a good thing, but my tires were kicking up salt-laced water into my bike (John Lehman would understand). I did not see a single cyclist until after I turned around, and then I only saw 3 on the trip back. The last two weekends I must have seen a hundred-plus cyclists each time. That either attests to my lack of sanity for riding on such a day or ... that's pretty much the only option, isn't it?

So, I survived a slippery day and got in a real ride. I can't really complain, eh? Back to the trainer for the rest of the week, during which I'll continue my search for ride routes ... and, oh, a job.

Seeing friends and going "green"

We had a terrific visit yesterday afternoon/evening with our friends from SLO, Jen and Doug Sawyer. They were here for a long weekend of fun and frolic in (snowy and cold) NYC. They didn't stay with us: they stayed at the Marriott in Times Square, with a view of all the flashing billboards.

They arrived Friday morning via the red-eye and by the time we met them, had already seen several sights, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and a Broadway show ("Spamalot").

Anyway, we met them at Macy's and then headed to Central Park, where we watched people having loads of fun sledding (and nearly crashing into some carefully placed hay bales!). One guy even had the nerve to skateboard down the snow- and ice-covered walkway. Not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

Afterwards, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took in some paintings by Picasso, Dali, and the Impressionists (the full Impressionist exhibit is being renovated right now, but a few paintings were still on display). Then we braved the cold again and headed to Greenwich Village for dinner. Rachel and Jeff knew of a funky little Italian place called Ciao Bella, which serves up great food at reasonable prices, accompanied by the most eclectic music mix we have ever heard. Something for everyone: disco, reggae, hip-hop, jazz, '70s, you name it. It was entertaining, if a little annoying at times!

Then we bid farewell to the Sawyers, who were determined to visit the green-lit Empire State Building before closing: green in honor of St. Patrick's Day, which had basically taken over the city. with people dressed in all kinds of emerald regalia. We decided that this holiday is mostly for drinking, but fortunately, not many of the revelers appeared to be driving afterwards (thank goodness for public transportation!).

This morning, Jeff is heading out for a bike ride--the temperature has warmed up somewhat--and later today, Rachel will be heading back to the dorm. She's been enjoying her spring break, but school starts again tomorrow.

That's life in the Big City for now ... stay tuned for more updates as Jeff and Mary begin the job search in earnest.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ever had your hair cut by a student?

Mary decided to be brave and go to the Aveda Institute to have her hair cut yesterday: brave because the weather was a bit wild and woolly (the sleet felt like little pinpricks), and also because the Aveda Institute (http://aveda.aveda.com/grow/inst_schools/ny.asp) is where students get hands-on training. Hands on the customers, that is.

It was fascinating! Mary explained what she wanted, and the student (Amanda) brought her teacher over for a consultation. If anyone saw "The Devil Wears Prada," imagine the way Emily Blunt's character talked, and you can hear the teacher's voice: British accent, a bit impatient sounding, knows everything about everything. The only difference between Emily B. and this woman was that the teacher had a bit more "hip" hairstyle and wielded scissors like a magician.

Snip, flip, snip, cut-cut-cut. Never seen anyone cut hair as fast as that teacher, with the precision of a surgeon. She'd intervene occasionally when the student asked for help. And the two of them spoke a completely different language: perimeter, concave, baseline ... who know haircutting was so complicated?

The cost for the 'do: $20 plus a tip. Mary then spent some of the "leftover" money on Aveda products, because (in her opinion) they really are the best.

On another note, Rachel is considering taking a trip to Africa this summer to volunteer. She's hoping to make a decision today on which program she'd like to participate in--a 3-week one, or a 6-week one. Stay tuned ...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wild weather and sassy sirens

Before we get into the title of this blog, just want to acknowledge the terrible shooting that took place Wed. night in Greenwich Village. Rachel did not know the NYU student who was working as an auxiliary police officer. We are sure that he and the other auxiliary police officer were just trying to do their jobs, and now their families, along with the first shooting victim, are grieving the loss of their loved ones.

Here's a link to a follow-up story in today's New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/16/nyregion/16cops.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin.

This location is a few blocks south of where Rachel lives in the dorm this year.

It's one of those terrible incidents that, unfortunately, could happen anywhere. Revenge is a cruel and twisted mindset.
*******
We do not understand the weather here, and perhaps no one does. On Wed., it was so balmy we didn't need sweater (it was in the high 60s well past nightfall). Yesterday it cooled down, but it was still pleasant.

Overnight, the temperature dropped and this morning, it's snowing! The high should be around 32 degrees, and it will stay that way through the weekend. Bizarre ...

If you thought you knew what a siren sounded like, you haven't heard the sirens in Union City, NJ. There must be 10 different kinds! Granted, it's not great that we hear sirens often--although this morning, it's been rather calm and quiet--but there are so many different ones, it's almost like a siren symphony sometimes: for instance, short, jagged bursts followed by long wails, and then a high-pitched scream (the siren, that is) that continues for what seems like an eternity before dropping down into the more traditional siren sound.

Maybe we've been spending too much time indoors.

But the good news about that is, the apartment is very close to actually looking like a home now. The moving boxes are gone (there are a few in Rachel's close that we need to go through, but that's it), the TV is set up and mounted on the wall, the sofa is in place, the bookshelves are lined with our belongings, and the bed is (generally) made.

Jeff and Mary's job search begins in earnest next week. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The city life

Yesterday, Mary and Rachel headed into NYC for the afternoon while Jeff slaved away at home, trying to connect the TV, DVD player, cable box AND get the whole shebang mounted on the wall. No small feat, considering we have concrete walls and, of course, not all the correct cables were provided. Plus, he had to buy some drill bits that work on concrete. Yikes!

So Jeff must find the closest Radio Shack today--by bus or foot, of course. Fortunately, the weather is better (about 62 degrees this morning), so a walk might be nice.

The city is really amazing. Even though we have spent a lot of time here in the past, it never ceases to be a gloriously interesting place. Rachel said yesterday that it now feels like home to her, and she's quite comfortable taking the subways and walking everywhere she needs to go.

Mary, the people watcher, loves the diversity she finds in the population here. The way people dress (from uptown to hip-hop to homeless), the way people talk (languages and accents galore!), and the way people move (women walking in dangerously high heels or young men struggling to keep their low-low-rise pants up are particularly amusing): it's all a fascinating show, every single day.

Will start doing some photography soon, so stay tuned for visuals!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The wheels on the bus go round and round

OK, so here we are, two Californians used to driving or riding a bike (Jeff) everywhere, trying to get along without a car. Getting to NYC and around NYC is simple. If there's little or no traffic, we can be in the city in less than 20 minutes, including the time it takes us to walk to the bus stop.

Getting around New Jersey, however, is a completely different story. The NJ Transit system is, shall we say, less than reliable. We haven't taken it very often yet (except to go into the city), but in the last few days, THREE TIMES the bus simply hasn't show up at all on a route within Union City or nearby cities. It's not that it was late--it just never came! Some of the lines run infrequently, like every 30 minutes or even just once an hour. So this is a bit of a problem.

We're sure we'll figure this out eventually, but it's been frustrating. The buses themselves are nice, and most of the drivers are helpful. Now they just need to run on time ...

We are determined to find work in NYC because the commute is so much simpler! (And who really wants to work in Jersey, anyway? No offense to businesses in New Jersey, but it's not quite the same as Manhattan.)

Looks like Mary's "Viewpoint" was published in The Tribune: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/news/editorial/letters/16885541.htm. Comments welcome!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Big-butted bicyclist

I didn't see a one on my ride yesterday morning up River Road, save for the one in my saddle. They were all skinny guys, pretty much all of them going faster than me. I did ride a while with Paolo Bettini's father - that's my version of who he was - a little Italian man probably 10 or more years my senior and a good 50 lbs. lighter. I felt like Jerome Bettis among a bunch of jockeys.

It's amazing how one's perspectives change with geography. Saturday was a warm day - all of 33 when I rode out of Troy Towers - compared to the teens and 20s we'd had the previous few days. I never did warm up, as I was anticipating the air temperature to climb dramatically as it does in SLO County. It got maybe 5 degrees warmer and I didn't even think of taking off any articles of clothing along the way. I was cold for nearly an hour after I got off the bike. At least the traffic was lighter this time, since I got on the road before 8 a.m. I'm betting that next week's ride on Sunday morning will have even less cars to contend with.

Rachel's old iMac that I've been using since she went off to college broke down today, so we got a new MacBook Pro, which we had hoped to put off for a while yet. Oh well, life goes on. At least we got to go to Apple's cool 5th Avenue store, after visiting a cool piano store. A nice German salesman showed us a large stock of used and new Steinways, Yamahas and some German models I can't remember the names of. He gave us some good ideas of digital versus real pianos, advice we can use when we are ready to buy a piano.

This afternoon, Mary and I went on a tour of four 1-br apartments for sale in this building. There were some good ideas but none of them are as good a location as this. It reaffirms our idea that if we buy here we'd like to buy this unit and upgrade it, all of which is valuable to know.

I intend to start officially looking for work tomorrow. After less than 2 weeks, I figure we've done a good job getting this far and it's time to start getting serious about making, instead of spending, money.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Almost feeling like home ...

We've been in the apartment for about 10 days now, and it's starting to take shape--feeling a bit more like "home" every day. Now, the only boxes we need to deal with are stacked in the bedroom instead of everywhere! We may take a second trip to The Container Store to buy some nicer-looking storage boxes for things like family photos and keepsakes, since they have to be in public view.

It has been somewhat difficult making the transition to a smaller living space, especially one that has so little storage (the kitchen ... ay-yay-yay!). Over time, we will probably dispose of more of our "stuff," and that's OK. Isn't living simpler supposed to be better? At least that's what we're telling ourselves.

Jeff is planning to start looking for work soon, maybe this coming week. Mary is still holding off for a while longer (although she's teaching online right now for a few measly bucks).

Update on Rachel: She has had her good friend since kindergarten, Kelly, here all week. Kelly now lives in L.A. and is pursuing a career in dance, and she decided to come out to NYC to see Rachel and to take some dance classes. They went to see "STOMP" last night and had a great time. And Rachel continues to do well in school. She got an "A" on a French midterm, so combined with her good grades in her Ethics class, she's becoming convinced that she should major in Philosophy and minor in French.

One more thing: The Realtor who has the exclusive listings in our building is having an open house tomorrow afternoon from 2 to 5 pm. We decided to go take a look--not because we're ready to buy (no jobs! just got here!), but because we want to compare them to this one, which the owner wants to sell. Will post a comment about that tomorrow.

It's warming up here: it is 36 degrees this morning, which is a VAST improvement over 15!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Eat yer spinach

After assembling seven or so pieces of Ikea furniture the past few days, I know how Popeye got those huge forearms. I feel like I could crush walnuts with my bare hands ... if only I could get my hands out of the shape of a screwdriver handle. Which is why tonight's post will be so short. Makes it hard to type.

Another cold day that stayed below freezing. It was clear and sunny, however, but we stayed in anyway since we had so much work to do. Mary finished painting the living room and bathroom today - major job. We got busy before 9 this morning and just finished a little after 11 p.m. I put together a double wardrobe and a table for the bedroom, and had to make an emergency run to Staples for a surge protector that would fit behind the wardrobe. Haven't yet got the hang of the local bus system. Waited for two buses that never did come - even 10 minutes late - wound up walking home a mile from the store. Got my aerobic exercise in, so it worked out.

The thought of looking for work crossed my mind today. Didn't get much further, though, as something else came up. We'll have more to report tomorrow. Rachel - who earned an A- on her philosophy mid-term!!! - and her friend Kelly are coming by for the weekend tomorrow night after seeing a Broadway show.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Snow ... but probably not for long

Woke up to a white scene outside our windows this morning. Looks like we're living in the clouds, but we're actually in the middle of a snowstorm.

According to weather.com, it's 14 degrees but feels like a whopping 5 degrees. So we'll be staying inside again today ... except that we need to get to the grocery store soon. Maybe we'll just order a pizza for dinner!

By the weekend, it's supposed to reach the high 40s, low 50s--good biking weather for Jeff, good shopping weather for Mary :-) . We still need a few minor items, but thankfully the major shopping is done. We're going to hold off buying a piano until we're both working. Mary's thinking of buying a digital piano from Yamaha.

Take a look at it here: http://yamaha.com/yamahavgn/CDA/ContentDetail/ModelSeriesDetail/0,,CNTID%25253D58865%252526CTID%25253D600150,00.html.

It even comes in different colors, like blue and red! Here's the red one: http://yamaha.com/yamahavgn/CDA/ContentDetail/ModelSeriesDetail/0,,CNTID%25253D63165%252526CTID%25253D600150,00.html

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Room with a view


Jeff braved 16 degrees (yes, you read that correctly) to take this shot tonight from our terrace. We don't anticipate ever getting tired of this view. How could we?
We opted to stay inside today (even the locals were bitter about the cold) and did more painting and putting together of Ikea furniture. We have quite a bit left to do, but the apartment is starting to come alive, slowly but surely.
After we're done with all of that, it will be time to hit the streets--with any luck they'll be warmer than 16 degrees!--and find work. Mary is continuing to teach online in the meantime and isn't quite sure what she's going to look for: probably something related to writing, either full time or free-lancing. Jeff is targeting the AP but is keeping other options open, as well.
For now, enjoy the view!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Being John ... Lithgow

For us, it's not John Malkovich whose celebrity permeates our lives. It's John Lithgow.

Tonight, he sat down on the subway right next to us. We were somewhere in the vicinity of Union Square, and he just stepped right on, sat down and read his book (couldn't catch the title).

Everyone--including us--just let him be. He looked very content. He was nicely dressed, wearing a black beret, wool coat and a red scarf, and he actually looked younger than 61 (we looked him up on http://www.imdb.com).

The irony is, Jeff and Mary have seen him before--on the other coast. Here are Mary's sightings: first, he came to her Shakespeare class at UCLA (probably in 1980) and performed some scenes from The Merchant of Venice. Then, when Mary was working at the Brentwood location of Haagen Dazs during the summer between her freshmen and sophomore years--also 1980--he was a regular patron. He was always very personable and nice, and at that time, he was just becoming more well known because he had made an impression in the film The World According to Garp. Just looked it up, and he received an Oscar nomination for that role, as well as for Terms of Endearment.

Jeff saw him in 1985 at the Avco theater in Westwood. And now, we both saw him yet again!

After we got off the subway (he stayed on), we remarked that it would have been funny if Mary had said, "I know you don't know me, but we have actually seen each other several times!"

A note on the weather: It was really strange today. It's been cold, but one minute it was sunny, and then suddenly it snowed. Then it was sunny again, and then it snowed again--but only for a few minutes (not enough to stick). Supposedly it's going to be bitterly cold tomorrow with snow coming on Wed. Should be fun! ;-)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Apartment living ... NOW we remember

It's been awhile since we lived in an apartment--it's been 9 years, to be exact, since we moved out of Mary's condo.

We thought, since this is a 90-percent owner-occupied co-op building with strict rules about noise, that we could avoid the partying problems we encountered back in SLO.

We were wrong.

Our downstairs neighbors decided to have a party this morning at 3 a.m. At least, that's when they woke us up. We called the concierge and asked him to please tell them to keep it down. We could hear that he did (one of the partygoers was arguing with him), but to no avail. So we tried again, and he tried again. To no avail.

So on Monday, we'll test the formal complaint process and file one with the manager's office. Because guess what? The owners of the apartment are board members! Not sure if they were there last night or what, but either way, they'll hear about it. Just like we did. :-(

Jeff is going to buy the TV today, and Mary is going to continue prepping to paint. Decided on a lovely warm white for the living room and most of the bedroom (probably going to do one wall or one part of a wall in the bedroom in a lovely blue). Bathroom will be a rosy violet. After painting, we have a couple more tasks to complete to make this apartment shine--like finish putting our Ikea furniture together, buy a sofa (maybe today, from a store called Room & Board), and pick up a few lamps so we can actually see what we're accomplishing around here!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Back in the saddle

After dropping off the rental truck in Jersey City, I took a ride up River Road north of our new home. I learned a quick lesson - get out on the road earlier in the morning to avoid the steady stream of traffic. I'll try again closer to 7 a.m., rather than 10 a.m. The locals are late risers, however. Wimps, I believe the K-Man crew would call them. The bike shop guy in Soho told me the group ride for Gotham Bikes starts at 10 a.m. on Saturdays in Central Park. We'd be half way through our rides with K-Man by then.
Mary spent much of the day scraping valiantly at the oil-based paint applied years ago - foolhardily, as well - to the doors in this apartment with a view. We may have decided on some colors, too, but I'll let Mary explain that later when we've firmed them up. What we have decided upon is a smaller TV, LCD rather than plasma. Cheaper, darn fine picture anyway, so why spend the money and be overwhelmed in our small apartment?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Yes, we are bananas

We are indeed alive, but we haven't posted anything in a couple days since we just got hooked up to the internets - one of them, anyway - late last night. Although some might believe death and lack of an internet connection are one and the same, they are indeed different states of being (or non-being, in the case of the former).

We enjoyed a great view the first night. At right is what we awoke to our first morning.

We are busy in our last hours of having the truck running over to Ikea and other stores to pick up stuff we need sooner than they can ship - bed frame, bookshelves, TV, you know, the essentials. Our few trips in the truck are confirming our suspicions that we don't want anything to do with driving in this area. No car, no mess. We'll walk, take the bus, subway and cabs, and still spend less than we did on car payments, insurance, gasoline, etc.

Today we could barely make out the Manhattan skyline when we got up, which was shrouded in rain clouds. I just looked out the window and it's completely obliterated now in fog or something, thick moisture at any rate.
Gotta go. It's back to Ikea.