Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In April 2002 I moved into a great apartment in Chinatown, on Bayard and Bowery. It was huge, and right after I moved in I threw a huge party.
In May 2002 I finished the Columbia School of Journalism, which was quite a feat considering I was working full time at the time.
In June 2002 I took off for a two-week singing tour of Bulgaria.
In July 2002, I spent the summer working as the food writer for the AP. It was a very random assignment, but led to one of my most productive writing periods ever. Also: I didn't have to work weekends, and no one ever questioned what I was up to.
Photos from Chinatown and Columbia below. These were all in taken in film, and with a disposable camera.
With Dave and Brian. Am I the only one who didn't notice at the time that I weighed all of three pounds?
In the ernormous kitchen at 50 Bayard Street with Cara
With Godfrey. I have no idea what's on his head.
A happy grad at Columbia. It was the nicest day ever. Perfect weather.
A sea of excellence!
La madre et moi
End of the afternoon, buzzed on the champagne at the reception.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Back in 2002 I did a little singing tour of Bulgaria. This is La Pauline 101. Photos will be up tomorrow from The Archives. This afternoon the above video popped up in my Recommended section in YouTube. The internets, you know me well.
Bulgaria is an amazing country that not a lot of Americans visit. True, there is the resort town of Varna, on the Black Sea, but when I was there were toured inland: Sofia, Plovdiv, (we were huge in Plovdiv!) as well as Veliko Turnovo.
It was the trip of a lifetime but I also noticed that not everything about Bulgaria was quite right, even by European standards. I could start with the Turkish toilets, which were everywhere. Often you had to pay 20 stotinki for three sheets of toilet paper. (Soviet, much?)
The video above is in Bulgarian, but you don't need to know the language to appreciate the humor.
Later this week: A flashback to the summer of 2002!
The Friday after Christmas I looked up my warranty online and realized that when I bought my amazing Inspiron in 2007, I dropped some extra cash for the extended warranty. Best. Decision. Ever. My little laptop is covered through January 2010 -- for everything. I once didn't buy the extended warranty for an iPod, and when it broke I was out of luck -- and several hundred dollars.
Today the nicest guy named Jorge came over, and we chatted while he fixed my screen. Turns out it was some cable that got loose, and he patched it up quite nice. It took all of a half hour.
My point? 1. Always get the extended warranty, regardless of how much it cost. I don't even know what parts and labor would have cost me otherwise. Computers are expensive as they are, and even more so if something goes wrong.
2. I don't care what people say about Macs being All Powerful, dealing with Dell has been an absolute joy. Also? After two years my Inspiron still purrs like a kitten, despite the way that I schlep it around town. True, PCs are different than Macs, but it takes a certain kind of brain to deal with PCs, and it's a brain that understands computers at their core. Macs make computing idiot-proof, but I don't need my hand held when I use a laptop. Yes, I have an iPhone, but you'd be very hard pressed to pull me away from a PC.
Long live Dell!
Monday, December 29, 2008
Extra credit for DJ Porkshop's 1998-era web design. He'll get ya party started!
Christine, maybe he'd be great for your special day?
Friday, December 26, 2008
Christmas Eve was spent over in Old Greenwich for food, prezzies and a cute little church service over at Saint Savior's. Christmas Day took us to Nutley, New Jersey for an amazing dinner and more cookies than we knew what to do with. I just had ham and stuffing for breakfast. Life is good.
Best gift? TR got me a Persian cat calender. I can now look forward to 12 months of flat-faced furballs, many of them orange.
Also: TR's sister-in-law got me a copy of The Girlfriend's Guide To Pregnancy, which is probably one of the best pregnancy books I've come across. I'm not big into any of the books, because having a kid isn't all that complicated (people have been doing it for millions of years...) and anything you need to know these days is free and on the interweb. But, this book is awesome and tells you things you really want to know, like how bad labor is going to hurt and what to really bring with you to the hospital. Great. Pick.
My computer is still on the fritz, but I have a loaner for a while until I fix the screen on my other one. This one doesn't have a flash plug-in, which is driving me crazy because I can't watch videos. Yes, I have tried to install the plug-in, but to no avail. This laptop was, at one point, a corporate machine and I don't have admin rights to install anything, not even an instant messenger. Grrr. Moving on...
Christmas pics! I didn't take too many.
Everyone around the dinner table. We had the Best. Lamb. Ever. I would have gone for seconds, but there were petit fours to be devoured as well.
TR, this is your future
TR and Seamus
Andrew and the mug that I made him. Homemade gifts are the best!
Frankie's 8-year-old life was made complete with her new iPod Nano.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
My guess is that the six-inch fall messed up the video card. Given that it's Christmas, I haven't tried to call Dell, because I'm not really sure what they could do for me.
Anyone know a good tech person/place in NYC that I could bring my lap top? I got it in early 2007, and it runs great. I just need to fix the monitor.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
AM New York had a cover story on Thursday about how New York homes sales were sinking 20%, and possibly even more. These kinds of stories irritate me and inevitably make my life more difficult, since I work in real estate. These journalists have little idea what they’re talking about, and they churn out these pieces to sell papers and cause people to make unrealistic expectations when they look for an apartment, either to buy or to rent.
As someone who works in the industry, I can a few things with certainty:
1. First of all, few sellers ever gets their asking price. There are always negotiations, for a lot of reasons, especially in New York. People will haggle for days over the price, and even incidentals like who’s paying the flip tax on a co-op. If you’re selling a studio for $500,000, maybe you’ll get $450,000 - $480,000, depending on a lot of factors.
2. The quotes he uses aren’t really from reputable real estate professionals. Instead, they’re random people off the street yammering on about the economy or how they want to buy a place because the market seems good. Great, I hear that at cocktail parties all the time yet few people actually speak to a mortgage broker and then actually look. It’s filler and it adds nothing of value to the story and speaks volumes about this writer’s skills. It’s telling that no one from Halstead or Corcoran would comment, mostly because the basis of the whole story is bonk.
3. Yes, there are more listings these days, and many people are renting their units instead of selling them because it is harder to get financing than it was last year. Banks have stopped handing out money to anyone with a pen and an application. They did that before and look where it got us. People who are qualified will get financing, the way it should be. The people who can’t get easy credit will be calling me about renting a one bedroom.
4. And no, behind the scenes brokers aren’t saying scarier numbers, like 30 or 40 per cent lower. I’m a broker, and I sit in an office full of brokers, many of which have properties in contract right now. Some were on the market for less than a month. Some are over $1 million. And the rental market? Robust. I’m not saying the whole industry is rosy, because it’s taken a hit just like anyplace else, but it still chugs along. People have to live somewhere.
You have to understand how journalism works, especially these days. Writers are handed a press release or whatever it is, and they have to churn out a piece under a very tight deadline. There’s an old newsroom saying, “Go With What Ya Got,” which is very much true in this Internet age. Also, and this is often true with business reporters, many have no formal training in business or finance. Many reporters take the job because it pays. AM New York, incidentally, does not pay well. None of the free rags do. Consider that before you take their hackneyed real estate advice.
That said, do yourself an enormous favor and don’t take business advice, especially real estate advice, from anything you read in the media, especially AM New York. Pick up the phone and call someone who actually works in the industry. Go to the source, not the middle man.
My Monday nights this past fall have been spent with my Junior League committee up on 105th Street in Harlem working on a project called Spotlight On Performance. We take school-aged kids, about 10 or 11 years old, and we organize performance and arts-related activities for a few hours. I'm the vice-chair and treasurer, and it's a whole lot of fun.
Below are a few pics that I took this fall. Above, last Sunday's trip to see the Radio City show. It was quite a hit.
Generally speaking, the kids get along well.
Making Christmas ornaments
A work of art
You can never have enough glitter
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Four Things Not To Say To A Newly Pregnant Woman
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I found out this past Tuesday that I’m pregnant. Three months to be exact and due at the end of June, the day after my birthday. This is as much of a shock to me as it is to you. You’ll notice I’m not married, but I do have an amazing boyfriend, TR, and we plan to get engaged by Christmas. The pregnancy has a lot, but not all to do with that. We most likely would have gotten engaged in 2009 anyway. After all, he has my cats in his apartment. I can’t lose anymore orange and white Persians. They’re rare.
There will not, however, be any sort of shotgun wedding, in case you were wondering. They're tacky. Instead, we're just going to be French about the whole thing, have the baby in June and get married later on, maybe in 2010. I've always been the sort who wants a real wedding in a pretty dress at a nice venue. No compromises.
The first thing people ask when I tell them that I’m pregnant is, “Didn’t I noticed the missed periods?” The short answer is no, because I didn’t actually miss one until November. I got it right on time in September, and the October one was light, perhaps a little too much so. October was a busy and stressful month for me: I moved, deals were coming in like gangbusters and I was teaching two writing classes. I was busy. I lived on coffee and carbs. An irregular period was nothing to be alarmed at, even though in all honesty, I’ve always been as regular as Greenwich Mean Time.
Fair enough, but what about the morning sickness? See, that’s the thing: I didn’t have any. Not a drop. True, at times I had tiny waves of nausea that passed quickly, but they were the kind of tummy aches you get when you’re hungry or stressed out or really need a nap. Apparently my mother was the same way: no sickness whatsoever. She also had three kids via natural childbirth. Coming attractions, perhaps?
My OB/GYN, Dr. Yuri, who is Russian and awesome, told me that it’s not uncommon for women not to have any sickness, especially if they’re like me and work out regularly. The endorphins essentially cancel out any icky feelings, to put it simply. In fact, the Sunday before I found out I was pregnant I ran four miles at the gym, as had been my norm. Dr. Yuri suggested that I cut that out, since apparently it’s the fast track to a miscarriage. It sounded like he gave that talk often, as I know I’ve seen visably pregnant women at road races. I can still exercise (whew!) I just should steer clear of long-distance running. And Pilates, not that I do that anyway.
Given that I had no morning sickness and only missed one period I figured I was maybe one month along. The two home pregnancy tests I took the Saturday after Thanksgiving turned positive almost instantly, but what does a piece of plastic know? New York City being what it is, I couldn’t get in to see Dr. Yuri until a week and a half later. In his office he confirmed that I was pregnant and then turned on the ultrasound to see exactly what we were dealing with. On the screen the image you see above popped up. There it was, my little 8-bit baby, hopping around on the screen like a Super Mario Brothers character. It turned around and waved it little arms and legs. We could see it’s heart beat.
Dr. Yuri measured it. “Three months,” he said.
“Three months?!?” I said loudly. I think they could hear me in the waiting room. I slapped my hand over my face. “I feel like the most irresponsible person in the world. Who goes three months without knowing they're pregnant?”
“I’ve had women in here at six months,” he said flatly. “Sometimes the period doesn’t turn itself off.”
He printed out a few more screen shots and handed them to TR and I. TR was taking the news surprisingly well. Dr. Yuri also handed us some literature, including, accidentally, a copy of the magazine, Conceive: The Art Of Getting Pregnant. It seemed we had that part down.
So there it is, the whole story about how TR and I went from being a young New York City couple to expecting parents. Fertility is very much a use it or lose it situation, so we’re taking advantage and playing the hand we’ve been dealt. It should be a good one. My family is over the moon with excitement. Baby showers in Old Greenwich are already being planned. I would love a pram, comme ca.
And for the record, I am not, under any circumstances, moving to Brooklyn just because I have a kid. People keep suggesting it, like it’s some sort of young family leper colony. TR and I are Manhattanites, and the last time I checked prams were allowed on Manahatta.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Still have a job on Wall Street? Maybe near Goldman Sachs, Strook or AIG? I just got a listing for a great $2200 studio in on luxury building on Maiden Lane and Pearl Street. Totally modern with a new kitchen, new tile bath and central air. Building has doorman, laundry, concierge, gym, lounge and sun deck. Hop on it!
Kitchen, with dishwasher.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This afternoon I went to the bank to inquire about some bizarre overdraft fees. Like 90% of the population, I monitor my account online. You can imagine my surprise this morning, when there were three overdraft fees. Yesterday, I was very much in the black.
I walked over to my local branch who would only offer me $35 back of the $105. I wanted it all back. They suggested that I call corporate and see what they would do. While I was there I noticed on the teller’s computer transactions in my account that were not on the web site. The teller’s screen was my account in real-time and the online banking services were about two to three days old. Why the disconnect?
The creepy part was that when I called the corporate offices, I got shuffled around to four different people, two of which were so rude and mocking that I actually had to write to BOA corporate and complain. After half an hour of frustration, (I had to shout at one customer service rep to stop talking, because he wasn’t listening to me and just kept yammering on about ledgers) I walked away with a $35 refund and a very bad taste of Bank of America in my mouth.
Bank Of America offers online banking, where you can, in theory, watch your account in real time. Here’s the catch: it’s pretty much just a novelty site that makes customers think they’re in control. The truth is that what you see online is nowhere near what’s really going on with your account. This is important because if you’re like me, and use your debit card for pretty much everything, you need to know what’s coming and going. Only the bank associates in the branches have access to your account in real time.
That’s a key point because when something like an overdraft happens, it’s easy for BOA to charge you, since they claim that they’ve given you the tools to manage your finances. Their tools are shoddy, and their accounting practices seem to fall into the category of "new math." When I pointed out, and rightly so, that the online banking and the in-branch ledgers offered totally different balances, the BOA reps, again, blamed me for not keeping a paper record.
I looked online and found a lot of other people who have problems with this same issue, including an entire website dedicated to BOA's poor all around service. BOA knows that their online banking services are pretty much bonk, including those ridiculous e-mail alerts that they offer, and instead of keeping customers happy and refunding fees they pretty much stole, they toe the party line and offer the same stale lines to client after client. Talking to BOA customer service was like something out of 1984. And I’m not sure that I want to go back.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
It's tree-trimming and party time. This afternoon I went to a sweet little party out in Cobble Hill to trim a tree. Yes, it was freezing outside. It was a strange trip there and back, as the trains were full of very smelly homeless people, trying to stay warm on the subways. Also, and perhaps this is a sign of the recession, a cellist played on the F train to Cobble Hill. Does a bad economy mean that we'll have more live classical music on the trains? If so, let the market crash!
Oh, and my contribution to the tree? A light up Santa, Frosty and penguin. Klassy!
TR et moi. TR was the tall guy at the party who put everything on top of the tree.
Trying different settings on the camera, between gorging on hot chocolate and cheeseball.
My little light up Santa.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Everyone loves Peppe! Here are a few recent shots of him, in all his fluffy, Persian glory.
I'm starting to think that Peppe is Italian for "What A Perfect Cat Should Be."
He's orange, Persian and moustached? How do you improve on that? You just don't.
And here's Tom, looking scholarly with one of his many roll-down maps in the background. This week it's the Holy Roman Empire, but there are others such as Industrial England in the 1800s and Caribbean and West Indes shipping routes, circa 1960. A strange collection, especially for someone who's not a teacher. He still needs a Soviet Union map as well as early to mid-century colonial Africa.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Here are average rents in New York City. Enjoy! And call me when you need to move. There are deals a-plenty out there right now. And by deals, I really mean fire sales.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
I just got a new listing for this adorable one bedroom on 88th and Third. It's very Carrie Bradshaw, perfect for someone living the single life in Manhattan. Bright, hardwood floors, exposed brick, high ceilings. $1,900.
Yesterday I had a student who wrote a piece about the assorted hoops one has to jump through in order to adopt a stray animal in New York. There are applications and reference checks and agencies want to know the fate of any animal you have ever had.
My student was frustrated with the process for a lot of reasons, but eventually got herself a little tabby kitten.
While I understand why agencies have to be so picky about who they give animals to (hoarders, animal torturers, etc.), I think one question they fail to ask is whether potential owners ever plan to dress up their animals in costumes If so, their applications should be denied.