Look what I found in the trash!

Kitty Condo

My family has a history of dumpster diving. Well, not dumpsters exactly, but we have found some marvelous things in the trash. That’s where my dad found my childhood tinker toys, and later an imitation Stradivarius violin that we sold to buy a piccolo in high school. So when I saw a three-story kitty condo discarded next to the dumpster in my new apartment complex, something in my DNA screamed “Me want!”

My enthusiasm was somewhat dampened when I started dragging this thing across the parking lot and realized it weighed more pounds than I’d like to lose. The dumpster is about 50 yards from my front door, but I had to take several breaks before I got it to the stairwell, where I had to flip it end over ear to the second floor. I felt no need to head to the exercise room after I got this thing inside my place.

Now, before anyone turns me in for kitty endangerment, I was sure to do a treatment of Revolution before the move, so no one is going to catch fleas or heartworms or other nasties from this thing. I also thoroughly vacuumed every nook and cranny of that condo with my neato vacuum attachments. The condo hadn’t actually been thrown in the dumpster either, just left next to it, so it wasn’t smelly or gross.

It was also free, which makes it ten times better than something you have to pay for! It must cost at least one hundred dollars, probably closer to two hundred. And as much as I love Java Bean and Office Krupke, I would never spend two hundred dollars on them unless they were in mortal danger. Plus, every time I see this condo I will be reminded of what a steal it was (almost literally) and how awesome I am for snatching it up. It is already a popular piece of furniture, and has several holes that serve for a good game of whack-a-mole.

The only sad part comes when I wonder why someone would throw out a kitty condo like this. Either 1) they were moving and didn’t want to move something so big and unwieldy or 2) their kitty died, which is such a horrible, sad thought that I’m really pulling to reason #1. Either way, it’s getting good use now. Best thing I’ve found in the trash this year!

Done moved

Not the actual moving truck

I have moved to an apartment with 100% less pot smoke. Yay! I feel like such a grown up. Not only that, but I now have a washer, dryer, dishwasher, AND an ice maker. The ice maker was a surprise, but a frosty, fun one! The other surprise is how ecstatic owning renting all these appliances makes me. This too make me feel like a grown up, but in a less sexy way. I never thought I’d be thrilled to have a lint trap to clean.

Fortunately I scheduled my move the day before the heat wave of death struck the east coast, so I thank the weather gods for smiling down upon me. I suppose they’ll expect me to sacrifice a meteorologist to them in return. *sigh* I hired big burly men to move all my stuff and they were able to complete the move in 3 hours and 9 minutes. I felt like a lazy ass lounging around while they carried heavy objects from one second story apartment to another. But if I’d tried to help I would have been as helpful as a two-year-old helping in the kitchen who just spills cake batter all over the floor. So I read tweets on my phone instead, because I’m evidently becoming one of those people.

I moved from a 780 sq/ft two-bedroom apartment to a 630 sq/ft one-bedroom, and I’m rather surprised all my stuff fits. I have a nook for my office, but it’s smaller than my old office, and the rent is more expensive here because washer/dryer living don’t come cheap! All of which means the home office deduction on my taxes is really going to take a hit this year.

I’m about 75% unpacked, so the place is looking more like an apartment and less like a box factory. I’ve noticed that the rate of unpacking could be graphed like a descending curve, moving from the unpacking-tons-of-essential-crap-even-though-I-can’t-feel-my-arms period to the all-these-unpacked-cardboard-boxes-might-make-fine-coffee-tables period. Part of me wonders if I really need the stuff that’s still sealed up. When I moved I found at least one or two boxes that were still sealed up from my last move.

Anyway, I’m starting to feel settled in, and there are no longer any cats quivering in fear, hiding between the dress bags in the closet. The most comical part of my move was when my sweaty self stepped into the shower and I realized I was eye-level with the showerhead. I’m 5’9″, so it’s not like I’m a giant. This apartment complex is evidently Hobbit-friendly. I didn’t want to have to do squats to rinse my hair, so I bought a detachable showerhead which I mounted without a problem. I’m always happy when problems like that are easy to fix, unlike having loud, pot-smoking neighbors which you have to spend hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours of sweat to escape.

Answering this correctly would prove I *was* a robot

Captcha craziness

The only way I know to re-enter this correctly is to get a cat to walk across my keyboard.

The New York Diaries – Part 5: Broadway, Becco, Times Square at night, and why I travel

Oh, right, I did stuff last weekend too

Good Enough to Eat

Before I regale you with tales of what I did during my second weekend in New York, let me flash back to the previous weekend which I forgot to blog about. Whoops! I did brunch at Good Enough to Eat, a cute little place which features a white picket fence on the sidewalk. My table was shoved right next to one with another couple, which was weird because I could hear their entire conversation but had to act like I wasn’t there. Another hazard of eating alone. I got the yummy Peter Paul Pancakes which were served “with Belgian chocolate and coconut, topped with toasted coconut,” though what that has to do with anyone named Peter or Paul is anyone’s guess. And what happened to Mary? Doesn’t she get pancakes too? (Some instant Googling reveals that “Peter Paul” probably refers to a brand of coconut flour, though I had to go to the second page of results to figure that out. The second page! You’re really slipping, Google.)

After that, I went on an accidental tour of locations from You’ve Got Mail, a movie in which people use AOL, clearly making it a horror film. On the way back to the apartment I happened to pass Cafe Lalo, which is in the movie, specifically the part where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are supposed to meet in person for the first time. I realized it was the cafe from the film because they have pictures posted outside of that scene, which proves that the place isn’t all that famous. It’s not like they have to post scenes of Sleepless in Seattle outside the Empire State Building.

You've Got Mail cafe

Then I headed to Zabar’s, a large, gourmet shop with a rich local history and all that, which is also in the film, though I didn’t know that until I was reading a brochure later. It’s the place where Meg Ryan doesn’t have the money to pay for her groceries and Tom Hanks swoops in to pay for her.

Becco

But that was last weekend! Time jump over. On my second and final weekend in New York I headed to Broadway to see a performance of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert which was recommended by Kelly. Good thing too, because it looks like it just closed on Sunday. I got my tickets at a reduced price at Broadway Box, which offers lots of deals on Broadway shows. I also made reservations for dinner at Becco, an Italian restaurant in the theatre district recommended by Anna and Carol. On my way there I happened to pass this:

Newsies!

Wow, my night time photography really sucks, doesn’t it? You can’t tell by the glowing blob in the photo, but this was the theater where Newsies was scheduled to start playing. Newsies! I love me some dancing newspaper boys. My only regret about the timing of my trip was that I arrived before this production opened. <sigh> I liked walking through the theatre district which is packed with lots of restaurants, and you can’t seem to go a block without passing a theatre advertising some show. Which is why it’s the theatre district, duh, Jennette.

I was glad I made reservations at Becco because that place was packed. Seriously. I don’t know what the fire marshal would have to say about it. Maybe they bribe him with free pasta. There wasn’t a square millimeter to spare. My server took off at a fast pace, leading me to the very back of the restaurant, between narrow gaps between tables, past the kitchen, past the restrooms, around the corner and to the very, very, back corner. I could barely keep up with him, but he had bright red hair so he was easy to follow. (This is what the cryptic “follow the ginger” note I mentioned in a previous entry meant. Mystery solved! I use racist slurs against red-haired people.)

I was literally in the very back corner. We could have not walked further through the restaurant, though the servers preferred to fast-walk everywhere. I was amazed they didn’t stumble and dump a bowl of pasta on anyone’s head. And they did carry big bowls of pasta everywhere, serving people directly at the table instead of bringing out a prepared plate from the kitchen, which was kind of cool. I wish someone would do this at my house. The busboys were like pit crew members at the Indy 500. As soon as a table emptied, they’d swoop in, snatch the tablecloth and reset the table within a minute. The next time you looked up from your menu there’d be a new couple there. This place was the model of efficiency.

Becco bread basket

They also served the bread in a cute little bread box, which I loved!

Broadway

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

After my meal, I made it to the theatre and reveled in my third row seats. Thanks, Broadway Box! I went to turn off my phone and was alarmed that the inside of my purse was glowing. I eventually figured out this was because there were black lights on in the theater. (Thus explaining my other cryptic note about “black light purse” in that previous entry.)

As was expected, the musical was big, gay fun. There were lots of flashy costumes, a magical rotating bus, and very, very, very hot guys wearing little clothing. At the end of the show they dumped ticker tape on us, twice, which must make the janitorial crew love this production. When I got up to applaud, I stepped on something and realized it was one of the pink ping pong balls they tossed into the audience during one scene. They only threw out a dozen or so of these, so I felt very lucky! Not only that, but they’re customized just for this show.

Official Priscilla ping pong ball

“For external use only.” Um, okay. Thank you for noting that.

Times Square at night

The theater was right off of Times Square, which was bustling and busy even at eleven-something-o’clock. Being in Times Square at night is like living inside a Lite-Brite. There ‘s lots of energy there, and I’m not referring to the electricity it takes to light up the place. I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself. I was also a part of this live video screen that literally made me bigger than myself.

That's me!

As I waited to take the subway back to the apartment, a guy standing near me on the platform started lighting a cigarette. When he didn’t turn off his lighter, I realized he was actually lighting a pen on fire. I also noticed the other subway riders had slowly backed away from him, creating an invisible sphere of crazy space. I did the same and prayed that the train would come quickly. I also checked “encounter a mentally ill person” off my list of things to do in New York. Seriously, though, I did feel bad for the guy. If someone acted like that in a small town, the community would do something about it. But in a big city people with problems like that just get ignored and disregarded. Not that I did anything about it. I’m part of the problem, obviously, not the solution.

That’s all folks

Sunday morning I took a shared shuttle bus on a tour of local hotels and then eventually to the airport. I was happy to get home, and I believe the feline Fulda members were equal parts happy to see me and angry that I’d abandoned them for so long. I was surprised by how much time of my flight to and from the city was spent just getting on and off the plane or taxiing around the runway. It probably took up half the travel time, literally. This was also the first time I’d checked a bag for a trip since long enough ago that I can’t remember. But I was in the city for 10 days, so I figured it was worth the extra $25 each way, though I still resented having to pay an extra $25 each way.

Post trip thoughts

I managed to do a lot in the city, but not everything I’d planned. I wanted to see the Union Square Market that was recommended by AmandaLP and Ilene, but it was only open on certain days of the week. Both days I had available to visit it were gray and rainy, so I didn’t bother. I also wish I’d gotten a chance to stop at the Mac store and get some advice on what foundation to use.

I did enjoy eating my way through the city, and yes, I definitely ate my way through the city. Guilty. I also walked enough that my feet hurt most days. I’ve never lived in a city with a subway system, but I love the convenience it provides, even if you run into people chewing on flaming pens every now and then. I also enjoyed watching TV in a place that runs ads for new Broadway shows, and not just the touring productions that happen to be in town. Another New York think I noticed was that most of the restaurants had tents outside their doors. I’m not why, though I’d guess it helps keep cool air inside during the summer and warm air in during the winter. Either way, it’s not something I see around Chapel Hill. I also decided on this trip that the margarita is my cocktail of choice. It tastes good enough that I don’t want to spit it out, but it’s also got enough liquor in it that I feel like I’m actually drinking. Oh, and it did make me drunk off my ass in San Francisco, which I’ll never forget (because it got me just drunk enough not to black out).

Why I travel

One of the best things about visiting a new city is that it gives me a post-vacation understanding of the geography of the city. Now when I see aerial shots of New York on TV I can map the view to the places I visited. This never goes away. There are few phrases I like better than, “I’ve been there!” Whenever I see shots of London or Paris I still try to map the locations to my memories of the area. That also means that I can’t see images of a city I’ve visited without remembering all the good experiences I had there. That’s what I like about traveling, that I get to lay memory tripwires in the places I visit that will be triggered at some unknown time in the future. The landscapes of my life are littered with these. When I visit my old home town I might see the bus stop I used to wait at after marching band practice or the shopping center that used to have the video rental place my mom would take us to every week. Those places aren’t just places anymore. They’re connected with invisible thread to the memories in my mind, tugging when I pass them by, pulling out experiences I’d forgotten I wanted to remember.

That’s why I travel.

The New York Diaries – Part 4: Lower East Side, Tenement Museum, Greenwich Village, and the Museum of Natural History

Arch, arch, baby

I was a big fan of the musical RENT in high school, so the best part of visiting the Lower East Side on Thursday morning was accidentally stumbling upon Avenue B and realizing, “Oh my God! This is where RENT happens! Is the Cat Scratch Club around here too?”

I did not find the Cat Scratch Club, nor did I seriously look for it. I did look for the Clinton St. Bakery because both Carol and Ilene said they’d cut a bitch for their pancakes. Ok, they might not have said it in those exact terms, but I think it was implied. I ate there on March 1st, which means I just barely missed visiting the restaurant during national pancake month. They hadn’t taken down their national pancake month signage yet, so I felt particularly disappointed, like they were rubbing powdered sugar in my wound and drizzling it with chocolate syrup.

Pancakes

The pancakes were delicious, but I did experience a brief moment of terror when I tried to pay with a credit card and they told me they only accepted cash. Thankfully I’d made sure to bring a lot of cash to New York since I know cabbies prefer it. I don’t know what they’d have done if I’d been short on cash. I might have actually had to cut a bitch.

All the servers were wearing t-shirts that said LES, which perplexed me all through my pancakes. I almost asked them who LES was until my brain finally kicked in and I realized it stood for Lower East Side. Thanks there, brain. It was early in the morning so I guess I’ll forgive you.

The one thing that surprised me about the restaurant was how small it was. As far as I understand, it’s a reasonably famous New York restaurant, and I always expect famous places to be big, since they’re figuratively big, right? When I visited San Francisco, I was surprised by how teeny, tiny the Chinese Fortune Cookie Factory was. It was basically a hole in the wall, yet it managed to be listed on lots of tourist guides. I guess you don’t have to be big to be big.

Tenement Museum

Tenement Museum

After brunch I headed to the Tenement Museum which was recommended by Wendy and Penny. The museum consists of two buildings. The gift shop is in the first one, which is where you buy tickets for a tour and meet your tour group. You then follow your guide next door to an old tenement building where they’ve restored each floor to what it would have looked like during different periods of history. There are several different tours and each one takes place only on one floor. I took the Hard Times tour that took us through the history of two actual families that lived in that building, one in the 1870’s and the other in the 1930’s.

For some reason I turned into the tour guide’s pet during this tour. Whenever she asked a question I’d wait about two seconds for someone else to venture an answer before I’d jump in. This is completely unlike me. In college you’d have to call on me by name before I’d answer the teacher. Since that time I’ve done several presentations at conferences and I know how horrible it is to ask the audience a question and be faced with total silence. So, in this situation I was like, “I’ve got your back, tour guide!” I had turned into one of those middle-aged students I remembered from college who were very involved and inquisitive, like they’d come to get an actual education or something silly like that. Those people always annoyed me, quite frankly, but now I can see they actually knew a lot more than I did even though they were the ones asking all the questions.

The first family we learned about on the tour was a German Catholic family who’s patriarch left them one day without telling them where he was going. This uncomfortably resembled my own family history, but at least my dad did tell us where he was after he got there, and we never had to declare him legally dead like Gumpertz family did. Score 1, Dad.

Greenwich Village

After the tour I took the subway to the area near New York University and Washington Square Park. It was another overcast, cold day, so my walk in the park wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. I also approached the park on the side where there was some construction and an ugly dog park, so I was seriously underwhelmed at first. I eventually found the much nicer part of the park which includes the archway that Harry drops Sally off at in When Harry Met Sally.

Then I strolled through the Greenwich Village area and had a cupcake at Sweet Revenge. This was different than other cupcake places I’ve visited because you actually sat down and were handed a menu. I’m used to just going to the counter and buying what’s in the case. They also serve liquor and food that isn’t cupcakes. I ordered the signature Sweet Revenge cupcake which is peanut butter and chocolate, and it was all right. I wish I’d come on a day when one of the more exotic flavors was available.

Next I headed to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for drinks with my agent. I never cease to be amazed that I can type sentences like that without lying. I went for drinks! With my agent! Look at me, so fancy! It was close to Kids RX, a pharmacy for kids, which seemed exotic to me. I’ve never lived in a city that required that level of specialization in their pharmacies.

Museum of Natural History

Bite me. Wait, actually, don't bit me, please.

On Friday I decided to visit the dinosaurs. I hear they like to hang at the Museum of Natural History. I happened to arrive several million years too late though because they were all dead. Oh, well! I just looked up dinosaur on Wikipedia to see how late I was and it just hit me how freakin’ long ago this was. Not only that, but how amazing was it that this race of creatures survived for millions and millions of years? All of recorded human history only spans thousands of years. We are nothing! We are a blip! BLIP! That’s us.

Uh, so, anyway. The dinosaurs were cool, though I thought they’d be bigger. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to encounter a living one of these things in a dark alley, or a sunny meadow for that matter. But I supposed I imagined them being five stories tall. I was probably more fascinated by the non-dinosaur creatures I’d never learned about, like this huge turtle thing:

Big, old, turtle

I’m lamenting the fact that I didn’t take more photos of stuff at the museum. At the time I felt it was a waste because basically anything you can photograph in New York you can find a better picture of by searching Google. The real appeal of personal photography for me is to get photos that I appear in, since I can’t find pictures like that on Google. But it’s harder to do that when you travel alone and get sick of harassing other tourists to take pictures of you. So I didn’t take that many photos on my trip. In retrospect, taking my own photos would have allowed me to post pictures of what I saw without violating copyrights. Lesson learned.

I also went to a planetarium show about the sun which was sort of disappointing because my mind kept wandering. I don’t know if that’s because it was boring or if I couldn’t focus because I was tired and dragging throughout the day. This was another day where I was tempted to crash at the apartment, but forced myself to go out because Oh My God I was in New York and I needed to see amazing things. The museum was only a few blocks from the apartment anyway, so it would have been silly not to visit.

I also checked out the meteorite and gems section because I like shiny things. And I couldn’t leave without seeing the big blue whale replica hanging from the ceiling in a room too dark for it to photograph well. I want to give big props to whoever designed the directory for the museum which looked like this:

Good interface design

Instead of just writing the names of each area of the museum they posted pictures of what was there. It was much easier to use and kind of brilliant. I love me some good interface design!

In search of Pinkberry

After trekking around the museum I was feeling as dead as the dinosaurs. I decided to search for a Pinkberry on the way back to the apartment, which is a frozen yogurt shop of great repute. I thought it was pretty close to the museum, but I proved that theory wrong after several blocks. After I’d invested that much walking into my search, I was loathe to stop, so I kept on keeping on until I finally located it near the very busy and large 72nd Street subway station. (Google Maps says I walked almost a mile.)

When I finally got to Pinkberry I ended up accidentally ordering a parfait. I don’t know how this happened. It’s not like I was in France, and even when I was I managed to order a Kit Kat McFlurry at McDonalds despite my atrocious accent. By the time I realized I was getting a parfait I was like, ok, I guess I’m eating a parfait. Whatevs. It was good, but I don’t know if it was one-mile-out-of-my-way good. We have something similar in Chapel Hill called YoPop which is self-serve, so there are no parfait mix-ups.

On the way to the subway I dodged into a pizza place on impulse because I was starving, and soon found myself surrounded by teenyboppers. I’d infiltrated a popular tween hangout and wanted to un-infiltrate it as soon as possible. Having grown up in the suburbs, it seems odd to me that pre-teens just run around New York City on their own. When I was a pre-teen I was intimidated by big cities. I spent most of my time in my room because anywhere worth going required a car and a driver’s license, neither of which I had. But I guess this was just their neighborhood, and they are free to eat pizza where they will. It was not my neighborhood though, which I was starting to miss at this point, but I still had two days left in the city.

The saga continues soon…

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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