Sometimes (read: Always) Moving Is The Worst

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I recently moved.

Spoiler Alert: I’m so glad I did.  My girlfriend and I are so much happier in our new place.  But good God, was it awful.

Let me take you back two months ago.

We get our usual end-of-the-month rent bill for our 1-bedroom in Hudson Heights, Manhattan.  It has suddenly jumped $150.  Whoa, we say.  That’s crazy.  What’s going on here?  After a few days of sulking, I picked up the phone and called the management company.  I say we have a lease until the end of September.  What’s up here?

Nice woman tells me that the landlord is raising all the rents because he is unhappy with the job the management company has been doing the past few years.  Oh, and by the way, there are NO MORE LEASES.  Everybody’s month-to-month all the time.  No renewals.  So this is the deal.  She’s very nice and says that I can pay the old rent for September, but then I’ll need to talk to the landlord to discuss options.

Oof.

We wait it out, and finally get up the nerve to write this eloquent email wherein we describe the awesome tenants we are, how we’ve saved them money over the years, how our apartment isn’t worth that much because it’s so old, and we even give new suggestions on how to structure a new lease for us.  We hit send.

I’ll never forget where I was when I got the landlord’s reply.  I was in the American Museum of Natural History, in the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians.  I was sitting on a bench beside the reticulated python case.  That’s where I was when I read that the landlord “withdrew” the offer of the increased rent and asked when we would be vacating.

Double oof.

Now we began that ever-exciting apartment hunt.  Only one caveat, though: my girlfriend was out of town doing a show across the country and wouldn’t be back until the end of the month.  So it was all on me.

Apartment hunting is an introvert’s nightmare.  You have to search online for listings that interest you, then reach out and contact people who will show you these listings.  Usually, no matter the method of initial contact, these people want to CALL you back.  UGH.  Then, once an appointment is made, you have to go to a strange new place and meet a strange new person who’s going to evaluate you and watch you as you shop for a place to spend most of your waking hours, a place to call your own.  It’s not that fun.

Eventually, though, I found a place that I liked.  I went home, called Becca, and said let’s put in an application on it.  She said Great, I trust you, and we did.  That was Sept 30.

We were so happy!  We had found a place, had an application in, and we still had an entire month before we needed to be out of the old place by the end of October.  We had no worries that the application would go through.  Although both of us are artists and our own income is piddly, we have wonderful guarantors (read: parents) who have excellent incomes, and all of us have great credit.  Huzzah.

We began sketching out floorplans for the apartment, figuring out where everything would go.  Becca came home and we did more of the same.  A few days passed.  Why hadn’t we gotten an answer on that application?  More time passed.  And more time passed.  Our broker, sweet woman that she was, kept querying the landlord, asking when an answer would be given, but always the same response was given: “it’s on the owner’s desk, he’ll get to it.”  But didn’t they want people in that unit?  Didn’t they want rent?  Also, we only had a month left!  We needed to get in someplace!  Ack!

We decided to look at more places.  Not really to any end other than perhaps giving ourselves a back up should this one not go through.  We put in a second application with that same broker.

The next day, we heard that second place had just been rented.  Boo.

Also, still no answer from first place.

We branched out, talked to more realtors.

Then, magic happened.  We found it – the perfect place.  Terrifically underpriced, beautiful views, all amenities present, it was a dream.  We immediately put in an application.

Sorry first broker, we said, we don’t even care what that landlord’s answer is.  We found a new place.  Your place is now our backup.

The next day, first broker said the landlord denied our application.  Too little income, out-of-state guarantor, and WE WEREN’T MARRIED.  Ugh, we said.  Good riddance.  At least we have our dream place.

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard back about dream place.  I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the European Sculpture Gallery.  I was standing in front of a rather pained-looking bust of a man’s head when I got the text from Becca.  We didn’t get it.  There was an application put in JUST before ours.  (Which is saying something, since we put it in the night we saw it, the day it came on the market.)

OOF.

Now we had nothing.  NOTHING.  No first choice.  No back-up.  And we only had half a month left.

We met with more brokers.  Most showed us the same things we had been seeing for the past month.  Because, of course, while we were waiting those first two weeks of the month, all the other stuff was being shown and snatched up while we sat there nice and safe.

Broker from dream place showed us another one.  HUGE!  We’ll take it!

Hours later – Sorry, there’s an application in on that one.

WHAT????

So we make more appointments, see MORE places.

Eventually, we found one that seemed like a fairly innocuous listing.  Didn’t seem like anything special.  Broker was busy, couldn’t meet with us, but sent us to the building and super would let us in.

Went to building.  Nice street.  Quiet.  Same neighborhood we love.  Oh, is that a park across the street?  Nice super.  Takes us to the apartment.  Still being worked on.  But it’s big.  And what’s that?  Everything will be brand new?  All appliances and fixtures?  What’s that?  A ton of sun?

We’ll take it.

Application put in.

Two days later, accepted.

THANK GOD.

So now we’re here.  AND WE LOVE IT.  So glad we ended up here.

Dear readers, this has merely been a quick blog-post version of the craziness that was this ordeal.  If ever anyone wants to buy me a stiff drink, I’ll go into the full story.  That version includes asshole landlords belittling me over email, trying to get me to pay money that the lease specifically states I don’t have to pay, other landlords asking for everything but our firstborn child in order to complete an application packet, monies flying from account to account in a desperate attempt to get certified checks for deposits and application fees, virtually stalking brokers by eating lunch outside their office hoping that they’ll call and we can just walk up to sign a lease, internet service providers totally screwing up transferring our service and deleting our entire account, brokers and movers calling at all hours of the day and night trying to get our business, outright lying to us then apologizing when we caught them in said lies, strange Australian women showing us crappy apartments that she said she’d love to live in all the while taking a phone call from an unnamed “celebrity” with whom she’s working, getting a letter notarized that says that my girlfriend does in fact live with me even though her name is not on any utility bill, and DRINKING A LOT OF WINE.

But we’re here now, so none of that matters anymore.  🙂

Sometimes you finish what you start

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In September 2013, I received a membership to the American Museum of Natural History for my birthday.  It was from my girlfriend, who earned such HUGE girlfriend points for the brilliant idea.

For the past year, as much as I can, I’ve been going to the museum.  Sometimes it’s five times a week.  Sometimes it’s only once.  Sometimes it’s none at all, depending on my schedule.

When I do go, I end up getting some writing done (see my previous entry about my writing bench).  It’s a relaxing place (most of the time, usually in the winter), and I get quite a bit accomplished.

What I’ve also been doing at the museum is going through the entire thing.

Yes.  Hall by hall.

From The Hall of Biodiversity, to the Hall of African Mammals, to the Hall of Planet Earth, and beyond, I’ve been slowly making my way through each one, reading EVERY word on EVERY plaque on EVERY exhibit.

Today was a big day, y’all – I finished.

You heard me.  

I have now read every word on every plaque in every exhibit in every single public hall in the American Museum of Natural History.

This includes all special exhibits, IMAX features, and planetarium shows that have occurred within this year.

It was a quiet moment, really, not that much fanfare.

I had finished up in the Hall of the Universe, and for a moment I thought I had finished completely.  It was then that I remember Vital Variety, the small alcove of an exhibit between the Hall of North American Mammals and the Hall of the Northwest Coast Indians, right by the Museum Shop and the IMAX Theater.

It was there that I went, and spent my last five minutes reading about the astonishing variety of invertebrates in the world.

And then it was over. 

I had reached my last plaque.

I sighed, then began to stroll.

As I made my way through the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, the oldest hall in the place, the magnitude of my accomplishment struck me.  I had done it.  The whole thing.

I must admit, I got a little choked up.  Tears started to form behind my eyes.  Something crept up my throat.  I was moved, and a little bit sad.  (I fully admit this may have had something to do with Yo-Yo Ma’s brilliant cello playing in my headphones, but who knows)

I shall continue to explore the museum.  After all, the Hall of Oceanic Birds is still as-of-yet unexplored, due to the dastardly Butterfly Conservatory living there full-time.  Perhaps one day they’ll finally take it out and I’ll be able to see another hall of birds, something the museum does quite well.

I shall continue to post about the museum.  If any of you have seen my sister blog, Artie At The Museum (artieatthemuseum.wordpress.com), you know that I am currently compiling an actual human’s guide to the museum, one that does not take the marketing department’s approach to the place.  I let you know about every single hall, and what they’re all really like, and what the museum is really like, in general.

I shall continue to write at the museum.  It is, after all, approaching the end of summer, and the tourist crowds will dissipate, leaving me my empty halls and empty benches.

However, I have decided to take up another museum membership this next year – that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I SHALL NOT be able to venture through that entire space in one year.  But I’m young yet.  There’s time.  🙂

Sometimes it’s just you and the cat.

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My girlfriend is away.

The talented thing she is, she’s off rehearsing a play, doing what she wants to do, living the dream, etc, etc.  The only unfortunate thing is, it is away.  Some 2,500 miles and two time zones away.  So it’s just me and the cat for about two months.

Sure, we talk on the phone, and we’re texting every day, but alas, her smiling visage no longer graces the capacious rooms of our castle home.

Therefore, I am getting A LOT of work done.

It’s not that I don’t get work done when she’s here, but when she’s not here, boy howdy!  From the time I wake up until my eyes close on my pillow at night, I’m doing something or other:  I’m writing, I’m transferring my writing from my notebook to my computer, I’m corresponding via email about my writing, I’m recording audiobooks, I’m editing audiobooks previously recorded, I’m working on the musical I’m writing, I’m corresponding with my writing partner about said musical, I’m traveling to my day job, or I’m working at my day job.

There are only MINUTES of my waking hours when I’m not doing one of these things, and I usually watch Doctor Who during that time.  I’m a very busy boy.

If Becca was here, there would be less of this, and more of canoodling and general nesting activities with my loved one.  More time spent on eating, sitting together, engaging in conversation, etc.

What’s been nice in this time of separation, however, is the Travel Notebook.

OH YES.  CAPITAL LETTERS.

The Travel Notebook was a BRILLIANT idea I had (thank you very much) the last time she was away.  I bought a small, pretty, hard-backed notebook for her to take with her on her travels.  For every day she was away, I wrote a prompt for her to complete.  “Describe where you are at this exact second.”  “What was the most interesting thing you saw today?”  “If our cat was there, what would she be doing?” and so on.  

Since she had it the last time she was away, I was deemed the notebook-holder this time.  When I visit her in the middle of her time away, we’ll trade, and I’ll give her the notebook.

It’s nice, and it keeps us thinking about each other.  It also provides a fun diary on which we can look back once together and see what the heck we were up to.

Until then, though, it’s just me and the cat.

Sometimes your cat is a huntress

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It was a normal day.

Oof – what a way to start a story.  So rife with possibilities.  Anyway –

It really was a normal day.

Becca is off being a time traveler for the next couple weeks with her family five hours ahead in the UK, so it’s just me and Franny here at home.

Nothing too major was happening in the afternoon, so I went into the closet to get some audiobook recording knocked out.  A few times during my half-hour or so in there, I heard Franny meow out in the apartment proper.  I thought nothing of it and kept recording.

Then, I was startled by scratching at the closet door.  Oh no, I thought.  What the heck?  The cat was meowing nonstop and scratching at the door, so she obviously wanted my attention.

I opened the door to see the puss sitting on the floor with pride, a dead mouse in front of her.  Using her paw, she pushed it toward me gently.  Giving another purr, she looked into my eyes and waited for a response.

A few things went through my mind:

1. What the hell.

2. That’s a dead mouse.  Where did that come from?

3. Did she really kill this thing?  I mean, she’s killed flies and roaches before, but this is a MOUSE.

4. Oh my god.  She’s so cute.  She’s presenting it to me.  She wants me to have it.

This final thought taking precedence in my head, I praised her.  I mean, heck, she just killed a pest!  Huzzah, little Amazon!  Huzzah!

Out of meat, and with a cat that hates cat treats, I gave her some catnip to occupy her while I went to get paper towels with which to dispose of the catch.

When I came back from the kitchen, Franny was sauntering toward me with the mouse in her mouth.  It may sound weird, but she was ridiculously cute with the thing hanging from her pard.

Then she started to play with it.  She lay down and began throwing the animal up into the air and batting it with her paws.  I politely asked her to stop (also I made her).  Annoyed, but compliant, she set it down on her scratchpad, then turned away.  I picked up the dead animal and wrapped it in paper.  I disposed of the thing, and that’s when the fun started.

Franny had no idea where it went.

She was bereft, to say the least.  She began to meow and circle the scratchpad.  She pawed at the spot where it once was.  She tried to flip the scratchpad over.  This went on for about ten minutes, so I decided I would help the girl out.  I titled the scratchpad on its side so she could see there was nothing under it.  The mouse was gone.  The search continued.  For another hour, she stalked the living room, looking behind items, looking under furniture, pawing at the scratchpad, and meowing up a storm.

Poor thing.

Eventually she gave up the hunt, and resigned to be ready for the next one.

(WHICH I HOPE NEVER HAPPENS.  LET’S NOT FORGET THERE WAS A MOUSE IN MY APARTMENT SOMEWHERE.)

The moral of the story, however, is that I have the best cat in the world, and she is a mighty huntress, and I feel safer knowing she’s guarding us from ferocious rodents.

Sometimes you name strangers’ cats.

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None of these cats are featured in this post. But boy, are they cute.

My girlfriend and I have three cats.

There’s the one who lives with us, the one that Becca adopted a few years ago.  She’s charming, moody, and snuggly.  The perfect cat.  She’s all we could ever want.

However, there are two more cats in our life:

1. Tito.  One day, as we were walking up our street, we saw a cute little black and white kitten sitting in an open window.  He was observant and curious, watching the world go by from the safety of an old Puerto Rican lady’s kitchen.  Tito, we named him.  Over the past year or so, we’ve watched this little kitten grow into a big kitten.  He’s one of our great joys of living here.  Every single day, every single time either of us passes that window, we look up.  About sixty percent of the time, we see Tito.  We get so excited that we even text each other when we see him.  No joke:  “Tito!!!” the text usually reads.  We’ve even started to imagine that he and Franny have begun a secret love affair, which brings me to:

2. Pouncival.  Early on in our residency at our Manhattan castle, we looked across the courtyard to see a stunning white cat seated on a window next to the fire escape.  This is Pouncival.  He is Franny’s actual boyfriend.  In the Moulin Rouge version of our lives, if Franny equals Satine, Pouncival is The Duke.  Tito is Christian.  Franny is nominally betrothed to the stunning coat and manicured nails of the gentleman across the way, but her heart belongs to the Puerto Rican street tough that may or may not show up from day to day.

This is how we pass the time, waiting until there are new cats for us to call our own.

Sometimes you get really into a subject and start another blog.

For my latest birthday, my girlfriend gave me a subscription to the American Museum of Natural History.  I was thrilled.

I decided I was going to do it all – I was going to read every word on every plaque in every case in every hall in every wing on every floor of the place.  I wanted to know exactly where everything was, how it all works, and who all is there.  I was going “museum” whole hog.

In preparation for my adventure, I wanted to purchase a guidebook, something that would give me a head start on my journey.  It was here I fell gravely disappointed.

Every guide book I found for one of the most famous museums in the world was sorely underwhelming.  Most were just glossy overviews of these halls that pointed out what the institution itself wanted you to know.  Some were just a map and a smattering of words.  Was this all there was?  What about guides for actual humans who want to know the real deal about this place?  We have organizations and unofficial guides for cities, for theme parks, for the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Why not bring the naturalists into the know, too?

That is why this site exists.  In here you’ll find unadulterated information about one of New York City’s most prized possessions.  I’m making my way through every hall, reading every word.  I’m at the museum most every single day.  I’m bringing you the actual human’s guide to the American Museum of Natural History.

Each week, a new post will be published about a specific hall.  Follow the blog to get the scoop!

http://www.artieatthemuseum.wordpress.com

CHECK IT OUT!!

 

 

Sometimes artists work weird jobs. A LOT OF THEM.

It is the distinct travesty of contemporary western culture that one requires, to live within the circle of accepted society and to function without fear of starvation, homelessness, or general indigence, MONEY.

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Ahh, the mere word conjures up a myriad of images and emotions within all of us.  We imagine it in abundance, we imagine it in scant.  We image ourselves with it, our neighbors with it, our loved ones with it, and we imagine all of them without.  We can visualize permutation after permutation of the spread of wealth across this great green globe, and we all have such strong opinions in its regard.

If you are one of the lucky few on this orb to have felt the call of beauty and creativity within, good on you.  We of the artistic ilk can only hope that one day our contributions will earn us enough MONEY that we feel a part of the team – Team Normalcy, Team Mainstream, Team Dollars, Team Pounds, Team Euros.  More often than not, however, this is not the case.  We have to supplement.

I know, in terms of my overall timeline, I’m not too far along.  Only twenty-eight years and some change have passed since I’ve been here.  Still, I’ve been working in the world of jobs for money’s sake for almost half that time.

It all started in high school.  Hardee’s Restaurant.  I woke up every morning at four a.m. to bake the biscuits on which the breakfast sandwiches would be served.  Before I left at noon, I would put in the first batch of fried chicken.  Those glorious salad days…

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I had other smaller jobs in high school, such as a week’s worth of work at a run-down music instrument store, a stint as a bridal shop living mannequin (oh yeah), and trumpeter and chorister for several local churches.  All for the sake of money.

I got to college in Philadelphia and found I had less time to work.  I was in a conservatory acting program, after all, which took up a sizable amount of my waking hours.  Somewhere in there, though, I found the time to work as concessionaire for a local theater, chorister for a professor’s church, and the occasional shift at Hardee’s when I came home after my freshman year.

Once I hit the end of my sophomore year, however, I stayed in the big city.  It was here that I acquired two separate jobs at almost the same time:  The first was as children’s train driver at the Philadelphia Zoo.  Wearing an engineer’s cap, I collected payment from parents, settled children onto the very small train, and squired them around the circular track, all the while scolding them for reaching out the car window or trying to escape altogether.  This job was also required to help out with the swan paddle boats, holding them steady as families stepped in and out at the dock.  It was not one of my favorites.  I quit after a month.

The second job in college was a winner, however – working retail at Adventure Aquarium.  It wasn’t that great to start, I’ll admit.  I hated being trapped behind a cash register all day while hordes of children brought up sticky stuffed dolphins to be paid for with smelly, wet bills.  The day arrived, however, when the manager asked if I wouldn’t mind working in the stock room.  OF COURSE, I answered.  Thus began two glorious years where I received and tagged shipments of toys, t-shirts, books, key chains, and all other manner of gift shop goods.

And here was the best part: the stock room of the gift shop was butt-up against the backstage area of the shark tank.  So while I listened to showtunes and broke down cardboard boxes, I got to watch sharks swimming around for eight hours a day.  Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

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Out of college, I started to get work as an actor, so thankfully my need for day jobs dwindled.  Still, I spent some time working in a theater box office and teaching audition classes to children.

Once I moved up to New York, however, I was back in the game.  My first job in the city was my all-time worst job.  Planet Hollywood, Times Square.  I applied for a position in the gift shop, now having substantial experience.  I was told they were all staffed up there, but could use someone on their Visa team.  What’s that, I asked.  After they explained it, I suppose I was desperate enough for cash that I said yes.  It was, after all, completely spelled out:

I was to stand at the entrance to Planet Hollywood, right before guests get on the elevators to go up to the restaurant.  I held a clipboard in my hand.  I was to ask the guests, “How many?”  This was a sly attempt to get them to think I was the host.  “Three,” perhaps they’d say.  “Great,” I’d reply.  “I can actually save you $15 each for a total of $45 off your meal today by signing up for our Planet Hollywood Rewards card.”  Then I’d whip out the clipboard, complete with the coupons I would give them once they filled out the credit card application.

Here’s where it got good:  “Oh no thanks, I don’t need a credit card.”  “It’s actually a rewards card,” I’d answer, “earning you points the more you use it.”  “So it’s like a points card.  But then why does it look like a credit card?”  “It’s sponsored by Visa.”  Oh, those sly devils…  Once I got them to fill out the CREDIT CARD APPLICATION (oy), I’d send them on their way up to the restaurant, earning a cool tenner for each one.

It never went like that.  I think in the four months I worked there, I only got two.  The rest of the time the incoming guests would yell at me for trying to trick them, or else ignore me entirely.

After I got out of that mess, I worked at a museum for a bit, an ice skating rink (oh yeah!), then held a string of administrative positions at various small businesses.  When one company offered me a full-time job as their receptionist, I ran away as fast as I could.  I couldn’t bear the thought of being tied down to that desk day-in and day-out, riding the subway at only the busy, crowded times, and having only a few hours in the evening to myself in which to ply my artistic trade.  I resolved to being poor.

In the midst of all this, I did what any normal poor, liberal-minded artist would do – I joined the Army and became a medic.  National Guard, actually.  Weekend warrior.  Good part-time gig with student loans wiped out and some extra cash in the bank.  And now I’m a nationally-certified EMT.  Which is weird.

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That basically brings me to the present, where I work primarily in house management for an Off-Broadway theater, charming the pants off old ladies every night, all the while telling them to sit down and shut up and to stop eating during the performance.

The newest undertaking in my I-need-to-earn-money-so-I-don’t-die job hunt is quite possibly the strangest – Audiobook narrator.  I hopped on the train when my girlfriend started doing it.  There’s a great website out there – acx.com – where indie publishers and self-published authors can get their books read by independent producers (moi).  You audition for the gig, and hopefully they pick you.  If they do, you sit in your little closet with your clothes piled around you, reading aloud into a fancy microphone a chapter at a time.  Then you upload the thing and, in theory, they approve it and you get the cash.

Here’s the unfortunate part – IT’S SO HARD!

I spend my days editing these chapters, getting rid of throat clears, lip smacks, background noise, and all other sound detritus to get to just my voice saying words.  There’s fancy software, there’s fancy plug-ins, and, at the end of the day, you just can’t get it all!  Eek!

How I feel in the voice-over closet.

How I feel in the voice-over closet.

Still, it’s a very weird wonderful line of work that combines two things I really like – acting and reading.

Who knows what the future will bring to me in re: day jobs.  What crazy line of work will I end up in next?  And will there ever come a day when I’m not doing odd jobs (literally)?

The world may never know.

What odd jobs does everyone else have???  What was the worst?