Monday, August 31, 2009

It's that time again

You know...labor day weekend...all the little students are heading back to school. Every fall around this time I'd return to campus, breathe in that fresh 75 degree fall air, and feel my chest swell with dreams, possibility, and yes, even a bit of optimism.

Then the first week of class would end, and my chest would soon begin suffocating under the weight of textbooks, boring lectures, and uninspired professors (in both high school and college). Welcome back to the real world, kid.

a non-nyc thing to miss about nyc

A couple weekends ago, N and I drove 5 hours upstate to attend his cousin's wedding at Lake George. I certainly never heard of Lake George before even meeting N, and probably never would have if I never came to NYC in the first place. The entire idea of "upstate new york" was foreign to me when I arrived. It still confuses me somewhat--what does upstate refer to, exactly? North of the Bronx? Hudson Valley and beyond? Albany and further? It probably means anywhere above Midtown to some native New Yorkers.

Anyway, N's family hails from the Lake George area--a true vacation spot with 100% sparkling clear water and many miles of protected forest. People travel there in the winter for skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, etc., and in the summer the place is crowded with people boating, parasailing, water skiing, camping, hiking, biking, and above all, eating ice cream. The place has a mom and pop ice cream shop (mostly soft serve) every 5 feet. Well, that's what it seems like to me, at least.

I truly love taking these trips upstate with N to visit his family. Not only is it a chance to get away from the city from a bit, but it's nature. Nature! It's not like going home to Chicago suburbia. It's actually nature. His parents have a forreal natural spring-filled pond in front of their house (none of that manicured, white rocks lining the bottom, powered by a installed fountain artificial junk), and we love catching frogs in it and seeing how big the fish inside have grown while the dogs romp around us. I
ncluding Stewie--even though he's a designer lap dog, he certainly loooooves being outdoors in grass. I love letting Stewie off leash to run around, fence and border free. He won't be able to have that experience anywhere else, probably.

Besides the nature, the place swells with old-timey goodness. During our summer visits there, we always make it a point to go to the drive-in. A real drive-in! With the speaker that hooks over the window of the car and everything (that's the pic above). And there's always the truck with an open bed full of raucous children there, too.

I'm going to miss that whole area once we move to LA. I totally see how people live long-term in the city, now--since it seems that most of them have summer/weekend houses upstate, in the Hamptons, or somewhere in Connecticut or Vermont. If I could have that, well, I'd have a much better perspective on the city, too, I bet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MQ#4: Moving cross-country with a pet?

I've made quite an exciting discovery. There are a LOT of cheap pet friendly hotels/motels around, including major chains! I was blown away by this. Check out this list:

1. Best Western
2. Motel 6
3. Holiday Inn
4. Comfort/Quality Inns
5. Days Inn
6. and more

I guess I'm mostly blown away since I never, ever, ever see people with pets at hotels. Ever. Apparently the general rule is that hotels don't allow you to leave the pet unattended in your room, so it's got to be with you at all times. Maybe it's because people don't know, just like I did?

Now, I know I said in MQ#2 that we decided to fly to LA for the move, but we are now revisiting that question. Besides, that was back in October 2008, before the economy died (I mean, died even more), before we adopted Stewie, and before many other things.

N is convinced we would actually save more money in the long run if we spent more money/time on driving all of our stuff cross country instead of selling what we can and then re-buying once we got there. I personally really like all of our current stuff and would rather keep it than getting new stuff, but I'm just not sure I could handle driving a 16' truck, and I definitely don't want N to drive the entire way! We are looking into renting a cargo van (I could drive that), but apparently there is no company out there that rents cargo vans for one-way moves. U-Haul, Penske, Ryder, Enterprise, etc...they don't do it for some reason. It's weird.

It would certainly be fun driving cross country, especially with Stewie. We even thought about camping it along the way, except then we'd need space for a ton of gear which would make it kind of pointless. Which brings me back around to the beginning of this post. If we were to drive, and take Stewie with us, we'd need to find pet friendly hotels along the way, and it seems we'd have a good amount of options! Lots more thinking ahead...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Unexpected change #2

Well, it's not quite fair I call this "unexpected," since we knew it could happen any time and for any reason. We just really hoped it wouldn't happen, so I still call it Unexpected. N and I both had second telecommuting temp jobs (on top of our regular full time jobs) that were both at-will employments; that is, we could be fired/laid off at any time for any reason. His job ended several months ago, which was very disappointing, but we thought we'd fare okay with mine. Then my term ended very recently, which was BAD NEWS. We really needed the savings we were expecting to acquire to make our move to LA as smooth as possible. On top of that, we had a large unexpected expense (you can't stop life), so we're down even more than before. But with our decision for our new January 2010 moving date, we said that nothing would stop us, jobs or no jobs, cushion or no cushion.

But, a very lucky thing that recently happened is that my sister just replaced her extremely old 250k mile Honda Civic with a new car, and she generously offered to give the Civic to me for no cost. I should be jumping for joy at this prospect, except that I've had about two near-death accidents in that same exact vehicle over the past several years (due to its age and condition, not the driving), so can you blame me for being hesitant?

One can't pass up this kind of opportunity, though, especially considering the financial circumstances we are now in. There's one catch, though--the car is currently in San Francisco sitting in a relative's garage. How do we get it to LA? We'd need it there the second we got there if we weren't going to waste money on a rental car (which would truly be a waste, if this car was available for us to drive). I also didn't want to juggle moving us to LA with Stewie and all of our stuff while also trying to figure out a detour to SF. Wouldn't it be so nice if the car could somehow magically be waiting for us in LA in January when we arrived? Wouldn't that be grand?

That's what spurred along a search for long term car storage options in LA. N mentioned that prospect to me, and I thought he was making it up--I've never heard of such a thing. But after some Googling, I came across two basic options:

1) Renting an indoor, air conditioned covered garage, where attendants start the ignition on your car on a daily basis and make sure all is in good and working order for when you return to your baby;

2) Renting an outdoor, at-the-mercy-of-the-elements painted yellow line parking spot, where your car will be as if it's sitting in a mall parking lot...just for a really, really long time.

Obviously, the second option is about half the price of the first. And I don't believe being at the mercy of the elements in Los Angeles is really that dire a situation, so we are considering option 2. My sister will be having a wedding in San Francisco in early November, so we are thinking of driving the car down to LA after the wedding, visiting a bit there, and then flying back to NYC from LAX. That way we'd just be paying for car storage for 2 months before our move.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New York Livin'

Before leaving Midwest suburbia to go to New York for college, I was sure that moving to NYC by myself would once-and-for-all prove my adulthood and independence. I'd be all by my lonesome in a big mean city with no relatives or friends nearby, and if I survived, then nothing else in in the world could stop me. I'd have triumphed over everything!

Now, several years later, I've come to the opposite conclusion. All I've succeeded in doing here is hang out in adolescent-limbo and go nowhere. Now, don't get me wrong, living in NYC (caveat: without a big salary) is tough. The most mundane tasks become a huge chore. Want to get a bottle of soda during your trip to the grocery store? Oh no, you can''ve already bought veggies, fruit, and a couple cans of soup, and not to mention that glass bottle of marinara sauce, and your arms can't carry a 2 liter on top of your 4 grocery bags for the six blocks back to the apartment. Need to do laundry? You'll have to postpone that trip to the laundromat since it's raining...piling all of your clothes into a granny cart and maneuvering it down the sidewalk between throngs of people will have to wait for another day.

[Of course, with $$, there's always alternatives to this. Pay to have your groceries delivered to your apartment (which I now do--I love you freshdirect), or pay for pick up and drop off laundry service. Buy 20 extra pairs of undies. Or better yet, pay to live in a nicer apartment with laundry machines in it, because cheap places don't (which I also now do). But now I'm getting myself too riled up about it...]

I used to think these daily challenges were helping me "grow up." Now I consider them stalling distractions that actually prevent me from growing up. I'm thinking so much about how I'm going to do something--just complete a seemingly simple everyday task--that I just can't think about doing anything else.

NYC usually symbolizes freedom in most people's minds (even with Ellis island aside)--a place where anything can happen and dreams can come true. Yet, I find it horribly constricting. Yes, there is something free about not owning a car and being burdened with payments/insurance/maintenance/etc., but there is also something extremely constricting about only being able to go where the MTA goes. Our friend out in Long Island is having a birthday this weekend, and N and I can't see him because we just can't get there, and we can't afford to rent a car right now.*

There's also that part of NYC. It's one big MTA-controlled bubble, and whatever neighborhood you end up living in is an even smaller bubble. That's why there's a bodega on every street corner and a Duane Reade never more than 10 blocks away. "Everything's within walking distance!" is what supporters say. I say that having those types of things within arm's reach and no options to choose between makes your world that much smaller.

*PS--N and I have both lost our second jobs, so saving for The Move has careened off course. More on that in a later post.