29 August 2007

I got webbed.

That mean's I got the apartment!

[And also, farewell to the blog for a short while.]

After living for three months in utter uncertainty, my life seems to finally be coming together. I've landed both a job (a couple weeks ago) and an apartment (last night) in Manhattan and I move out of my current place in...2 days. Next time I am going to see how much closer I can cut it. FUN game!

Ok, so about my new place. It's a 3 bedroom with two other girls about my age on West 57th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue. Two blocks from Central Park, two blocks from Columbus Circle and the Time Warner Center (where there's a Whole Foods, many shops, and basically every subway I need to get where I'm going).

This place was the last apartment I looked at after a long day of scurrying all over town on Monday looking at hell holes. Monday I had woken up at 5am to catch the 6am Chinatown bus because I had a noon meeting at my new office. I met with my new boss and the managing partner of my new firm to discuss upcoming projects and what I should expect. Things went great. I think I will fit in well and will have a lot of opportunities in my new position.

The rest of the day I had decided to dedicate to apartment hunting once again. However, based on my last go-round, I decided to focus more on roommate situations. Most places were being shown in the early evening hours, so I had some time to kill between my meeting and 5pm. I ended up having lunch at Il Cantinori in the Village and then going uptown to meet Sarah for afternoon coffee.

Every place I looked that evening at had some sort of terrible living situation, be it a bad roommate or a horrible living area. My favorite was this place I went to in the East Village. It was really the only apartment downtown I looked at, and my appointment was in between showings uptown, so I took a cab in order to make it on time. The place was the top floor of a 7-floor walkup, and there were about 15 other people in the apartment looking at it at the same time. The room was decent but had no closet (which is KIND OF a deal breaker for me if you've ever seen the amount of clothes I own), but I was nearing the end of my rope, so I actually considered it. Until I saw who I'd be rooming with. Apparently it was with a raver from 1998. Or maybe the head of wardrobe for Da Ali G Show. I overheard him interviewing one of the other potential roommate applicants: "Do you have any diseases? If so, what kind? How many times per week do you have sex? How many times per week do you anticipate bringing someone back to the apartment to have sex?"

[Exit apartment].

The apartment that ended up webbing me was the last one I looked at. I was tired, stressed, and frustrated as I rolled up to the door. But as soon as I met the girl showing the place, we immediately hit it off and the apartment, while small, was very cozy, charming, clean and livable. Then I took a look at my would-be room, which has a loft area for either storage or a bed (I am planning on putting my bed up there so that I can use the main space for my favorite red comfy chair and a little entertainment area). Then I turned around and closed the main door to see [angels singing from the heavens and a halo glow emerging] a huge (by NY standards) closet. I let out an audible gasp and said "I just looked at a studio the size of this closet and they wanted $20 more rent per month."

Then we chatted in the living room a bit. I was told that on top of rent, that cable including HBO was a non-negotiable. We then proceeded to discuss every HBO original series that aired the night before- Big Love, Entourage and Flight of the Conchords. Then she talked about how it's rare that the three roommates are all home at once and how everyone basically keeps separate lives and values their privacy, but if everyone's at home they'll sit around and have a bottle of wine and watch Sex and the City, to which I replied, "I like red wine. Sign me up."

After I told Charlotte about this discussion she typed (in what I will assume was 'sarcasm font'): "Wow. I hope you fit in."

By the way, if you enjoyed reading about my previous adventures in apartment hunting, you'll like the expanded essay I wrote for Farmhouse Magazine, which should be hitting the internet September 1 at www.farmhousemagazine.com.

The blog is going on the back burner for the time being, since, in two days, I am out of DC, later next week I am off to Hawaii and immediately thereafter moving to my new place in NY. But I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories to tell once I'm settled. Stay tuned...

23 August 2007

Moving day.

I dread moving. Not moving away. The actual moving process. Last Friday I got the process going by inviting my brother, Evan, over so that he could drive me to the Fort Totten dumpster. It was a really generous offer that he simply couldn't refuse.

I took a half day at work because the dumpster is only open during work hours. And why not? What are they going to do? Fire me? Fire me for taking half a vacation day? A vacation to the dumpster in Northeast?

Anyway, I had a hodgepodge of items in my apartment to dispose of. A tall Ikea bookshelf that cost about $19.99 and was in no way worth moving; some ugly glass nesting tables I got as a hand-me-down; a weird hamper/shelving unit that my former roommate left behind; and who knows what else? It's out of sight/out of mind now.

Our biggest challenge was that my brother drives a Mazda 3 and the point of going to the dumpster was that I needed to get rid of items too large to dispose of in the regular trash. Large items, small car. This required destruction of said items before transporting them.

Destruction that Evan deduced could only be inflicted via karate chopping.

E: This isn't working. I wish I could just karate chop it.

L: If you have to karate chop it, karate chop it.

E: But I've never karate chopped anything before.

[Leslie exits living room. Immediately hears loud crash. Returns to see a broken top shelf.]

L: HEY! Quiet down! People live downstairs!

E: I can't be quiet when I'm karate chopping.

L: You're going to splinter yourself.

E: Not if I go through it. Karate choppers do it all the time. [long contemplative pause.] I'm not a blackbelt though.

L: If I get evicted before August 31st, I blame you.

[Evan attempts to karate chop through the wood again. Unsuccessful].

E: Ow! That hurt. [long pause]. I'm really not that good at karate.

After 3 unsuccessful attempts at breaking the shelf via karate chop, and one painful forearm later, I finally realize the need to capture this on video.

About 20 minutes later, we were headed to the Fort Totten dumpster. And little did I know, going to the dumpster is possibly the most cathartic Friday afternoon activity of all times. Now, I'm told by Evan that our experience at this particular dumping area is much different from others, but I'll walk you through what happened.

Upon arriving in the vicinity of the dumping grounds, we approached a security booth. The guy at the booth just waved us in. A bit later down the road we approached another gentleman at the gate who asked us to roll down our windows, but then said nothing. So I started talking.

L: Um, do you need my DC License?

Guy: [mumbling in what I could only half identify as Creole].

L: I.D. Do you need to see it?

Guy: [still sort of mumbling, but I manage to understand] Did the other guy look at it?

L: No, he didn't ask for anything.

Guy: But you have one, right?

L: Yeah. Wanna see it?

Guy: No. Go ahead.

Who knew the Fort Totten dumping grounds operated under the honor system?

We then pulled into what appeared to be the set of a Mad Max movie, loosely disguised as a construction site, driving ABOUT 4 miles per hour on the dirt surface while a dumpster employee yelled 3 or 4 times "Slow down!" So Evan brought it down to about 2.

There was absolutely no order to anything going on around us, but apparently the process is to back your car up as close as you can get to a random pile of trash and just start chucking your unwanted crap into the heap. We were launching 2x4s into the air, tables were getting hurled into garbage oblivion, and in a strange twist of fate, I ended up getting a splinter. I'd say for the dumpster experience, though, it was well worth it.

21 August 2007

True Life: I want to live in a Manhattan studio for $1200/month.

Yesterday was my first experience apartment-hunting in Manhattan. The reason I chose this day to apartment-hunt was because I found a ridiculously cheap (by Manhattan standards) midtown studio listed online with pictures...and it appeared to be fantastic. Small bed area, but decent-sized kitchen, private bathroom with a tub and well-kept. I kept thinking there had to be some sort of catch, but I wanted to see for myself, so I made the first available appointment to see it yesterday, which was the day it went on the market.

FIRST of all, the agent I made the appointment with called out sick. SUPER start already. So I met with another lady, who didn't have time to take me to see the apartment but gave me the key and directions. That's fine with me. I know my way around, I could take my time looking at it, and without any pressure. I just felt it was a bit odd, if you're going to charge me a $2,000 broker fee for an apartment, maybe you should do something besides process my application. I'm pretty sure experian.com can pull my credit report for like $20. So you have about $1,980 to account for, ma'am.

Alright, so I take the subway back down to where I started, to Penn Station/34th street, and walk two avenue blocks west and one street block up to 35th and 10th. The apartment building is on 10th Avenue, sandwiched between an empty tire-repair lot and a Madison Square Garden parking garage. The front door to the building looked like it had been hinged on with masking tape. Also, I'm pretty sure they shot the Taxi Driver apartment shootout scene in the front hallway of this very building. DeNiro was here! And they kept it in its original authentic painting and flooring! What a landmark! Sweet Jesus.

But I was still in good spirits as I started making my way up the stairs to the 5th floor, as I thought I could now save about $90/month by not having to join a gym. By about the 4th floor though, I was wondering if the ceiling would hold well enough for me to install some sort of pulley rope system so that I could repel up and down each day. Saving time and energy, obvi.

The apartment was a DEBACLE. The listing online provided pictures, which I will assume were either taken by a pulitzer-prize-winning trick photographer or were not of this apartment.

I returned to the broker's office and politely declined.

THIS was about the time her attitude surfaced. She was acting like I was a waste of her time. I wanted to be like, "Um, you are wasting MY time by posting pictures of an apartment with a kitchen and then showing me a place that not only DOESN'T HAVE a kitchen, but also looks like Satan's earth vacation home." I know the place is cheap, but it doesn't save me much money if I have to eat take out every night because I can't even boil water for ramen noodles and I have to choose between getting the apartment refloored or wear steel-toed workboots 24/7. Also, if there's no air-conditioning unit, you could at least install a shower so that I can take cold ones in the summer. (you read that right. No shower.) Rather than going to see more apartments after she ended up being a total bitch when I, after looking at my first NY apartment EVER, didn't beg her to fill out an application, I just thanked her for her time and left. If you've ever seen me angry, what happens is I stew to myself for about 5 minutes, and then I get real determined. I get more work done in the 10 minutes following an idiot-induced anger spell than I do during any normal work week. So around 11:45 am I am standing in Columbus Circle calling every other agency I could Blackberry a number for.

I did end up finding an agent I liked who agreed to meet me right away. By 12:15 I was on the Upper West Side, walking up another 5 flights, but this one in a much more pleasant building. I fell in love with the neighborhood and the 2 top-floor studios he was showing had access to a private terrace. Everything in the apartment was new and clean. I even considered it for a moment. The problem was, the unit was literally the size of a walk in closet. I would be able to fit my mattress in it and that's it. As a point of reference for my PSU friends, roughly the size of a Heister Hall single without the closet space. As a reference for my "Flight of the Conchords"-watching friends, roughly the size of Jermaine's "studio"/maid closet. Maybe down the road I will get that desperate. But I have some time and, fortunately some generous friends I can crash with when I first move up, so I am not settling now.

This broker was really nice about discussing options with me, not pressuring me into the apartment, suggesting neighborhoods I might want to check out to see if I like them, etc. So I will probably try calling him when I get back up there. I also think it will be a much easier process once I am actually there and can make appointments as places open up. I'm definitely glad I made the trip, even though it proved unsuccessful , as I at least got to experience a few places/brokers and now have some point of reference for future apt-hunting. Moral of the story...I'm much more open to rooming with people now.

Which brings me to a few Craigslist "roommates/shares" listings I came across last night. (Key- Headline: "Most important part")

$250 livin companion: Okay, this one you should just click on it. He's looking for a live-in girlfriend on Craigslist.

$1285 Dope place in East Village looking for Roomates (East Village): "im 24 and make music. Im in the studio all day and i go out at night never around this place is 420 friendly and im open to all people my last roomates for two years were a gay black man and a white female stripper so im into meeting new and all types of people."

By far my favorite:

$480 small rm./pri. full bath apt. share for small female under 5'3" (Midtown West): "The reason for the height limitation is that the stairway of this duplex doesn't have much headroom and you should be petite because of small passageway... I use the kit. 1 day a week and most of the time I am not here. Should help a bit w/lt. housework. seeking a friendly, social, respectful person(can you ride a bicycle?)maybe snacks. I'm looking for a long term situation." (http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/roo/401929151.html)

Good lord. I don't know what will end up being more stressful. Finding a job (done) or finding an apartment (sketchyyyyy).

15 August 2007

It's the MOST wonderful time of the year

I'll be the first to admit that NCAA football preseason rankings mean absolutely nothing. In the past we've gone from being unranked to being #3 and from being #3 to unranked by the next season's end...and just about everywhere in between throughout the years. It does warm the cockles of my heart, though, to see that Penn State (who else did you think I meant by "WE"?) is included in the preseason rankings today released by USA Today. AP rankings are yet to post.

It also somewhat warms the cockles of my heart, while at the same time baffles the cockles of my heart, to see that Wisconsin is ranked #7 and Ohio State is ranked #10.

First of all, let's review some facts about my heart cockles:

1. The happiest day of my life will be when Ohio State is ranked infinity last -OR- loses the national championship to Penn State in a gut-wrenching gloooorious play in the 4th quarter. The latter might be a stretch as it's pretty unlikely that two Big 10 teams will ever play each other in the National Championship. I'm certain that "infinity last" is an actual possibility, though.

2. I only care about the Big 10. Exceptions: Notre Dame (which I would like to see ranked infinity last + 1, and Duke, which basically already is ranked infinity last +2 when it comes to football).

3. Out of all of our opponent Big 10 teams, Wisconsin is probably the team I have the least amount of hate towards. In fact, I'd venture to say I'm pretty neutral on them football-wise. And, as it turns out, people from Wisconsin aren't nearly as big an assholes as people from Ohio. Or any other state for that matter. Wisconsin has good beer (Miller Lite), good people (I actually went out with a Penn State guy who transferred from UW-Madison a few times, we were friends for years), and cheese (which is inherently good).

The only thing that's irking me about this whole preseason ranking situation is that I have a handful of Wisconsin-loyal friends that I primarily hang out with in DC (Tristan, Mike, Will, Ted...I think they may have even converted Rachel by buying her a Wisconsin shirt. I'm basically surrounded.). And I just know I am going to have to listen to them talk a big game and rub it in my face until October 13th. When we settle it on the field.


Pretend an MP3 of "It's the most wonderful time of the year" is playing in the background (if you aren't already singing it in your head). Also acceptable to pretend is playing: "Fight On State." Bonus points if you pretend like you are the Blue Band conductor with the stick-thing in your hand while humming it (coughSHAMRAcough-cough). Carry on.

08 August 2007

I have a new love.

My new favorite time-passer-by/waster at work is Last.fm. In an effort to continue expanding my musical horizons (I finally tired of listening to my Shins, Arcade Fire, and Justin Timberlake CDs on loop), I set up a "dashboard" at Last.fm this week and downloaded their music-player-application-apparatus thing.

Upon signing up, the site instructs you to listen to music for about a week and then it will start streaming a station based on your preferences (I know that this thing called "Pandora" exists, but I have banned it due to my mental affiliation with Pandora and the band "Deep Forest." Thank you, Mike.) And although I have never tried Pandora, I am going to ignorantly assert, anyway, that this site is better. Case in point? I use it. That makes it better.

So, anyway. When you get to your page the first time, it asks you to type in an artist you like. I typed "Spoon" (since I was already in that mood having listened to "Ga ga ga ga ga" for the 200th time since it came out 2 months ago). Now the page says that I am listening to "Station: Spoon's Similar Artists." Cool.

The only issue I have encountered? About every 7th song or so is a Spoon song. Not that I mind. But Spoon isn't similar to Spoon. Spoon is Spoon. This is absolutely a recurring issue, as the "Station: Rilo Kiley Similar Artists" and "Station: Ryan Adams Similar Artists" each played several songs by Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis and Ryan Adams, respectively.

However, I WILL say that almost every suggested artist has been dead on, about 25% of which I already have in my CD library somewhere because Last.fm is predicting that I will like music that I already know I like. So basically, I have found a radio station that plays a song/artist I already know I like about 25% of the time and plays new shit I end up liking the rest of the time.

In addition, every time a new song comes on, a bio with band trivia appears. This is particularly helpful to me because when hispters eventually take over the world in about 10-15 years (inevitable from my perspective), I'll probably have a shot at winning "The World Series of Pop Culture: Indie Rock Edition." I put the grand prize somewhere around $1 million + a lifetime subscription to Paper Magazine.

Here are some of my new favorite songs I've discovered on Last.fm:

Cat Power: "The Greatest" (I heard this song for the first time on Monday. iTunes says I have played it 11 times since then. You know, if anyone ever gets a hold of my iTunes play count list, I will be so embarrassed. DO NOT JUDGE ME BY HOW MANY TIMES I HAVE LISTENED TO SALT N' PEPPA'S "PUSH IT"! Is there any way to clear that history?)

Cold War Kids- "We Used to Vacation"

TV on the Radio- "Staring at the Sun" (incidentally, a friend of mine also predicted I would like this band and burned me their album "Return to Cookie Mountain" a couple of weeks ago. "Staring at the Sun" is from a different album though. And they're both right! Love them! This is one of my new favorite bands!)

Sparklehorse- "Shade & Honey"

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists- "I'm a Ghost"

Other songs I suggest you listen to, and that Last.fm would probably suggest to me, if I didn't already pre-empt it's awesomeness:

Spoon- "You got Yr. Cherry Bomb" (Obviously, I am a little obsessed with them at the moment. Spoon is to the latter part of 2007 what the Shins were to the former. Mainly due to their June/January 2007 new album release dates, respectively)

Ben Harper- "In the Colors" (New single. Probably has played 11 times in the past two days as well because it's on my playlist right after that Cat Power song I've taken such a liking to).

Okkervil River- "Unless it Kicks" (This album is getting great reviews. It came out yesterday, but I haven't gotten my hands on it yet. Can't wait to hear the whole thing. There's a link to "Unless it Kicks" here and a discussion of and link to another song on the album here.)

PS- This is by far the best blog series I have EVER read. Ever: "Who's worse?"

06 August 2007

Weekend snapshot.


Leslie: 3 shots of Goldschlager, please.

Bartender: We're out of Goldschlager. Can I get you something else?

Leslie (famous last words): Just make me something that will kick me on my ass.

-30 minutes later-

Leslie (to Rachel): I have to leave. I have to go home and puke. BYE.


Turns out Jen (recipient of 1 of the 3 shots) puked and Rachel (other recipient of 1 of the 3 shots) passed out on her bathroom floor in a puking attempt.

Now convinced shot was actually ipecac.

I laid in bed hungover until 4pm. Went to see Labyrinth at E Street Cinema for the 20th anniversary celebration with Ted later that evening. So much fun to watch with a big group of people that truly appreciate its campiness/David Bowie in spandex.

After a couple glasses of wine later that night, I found out I was not quite ready to start drinking again. But it was helpful in easing the experience of watching Will's home video (for the third time) of him playing Wisconsin-backyard-football circa 1991. After that special screening, I went home and watched the Shia LaBeouf SNL re-run through Weekend Update and went to bed.


Productivity, finally. Woke up early. Did a little trash and treasure separation in my apartment (I move out at the end of the month). Hit 7-11 for coffee then had a brunch of fruit and veggie samples from the Dupont farmer's market. Also loaded up on locally-grown tomatoes, peaches and fresh basil. Took the metro to Friendship Heights and got a new piece of luggage. Came home and grocery shopped. Cooked some scallops for dinner. Called my Grandma. Went over to Will and Ted's for our weekly Entourage and Flight of the Conchords viewing. This ended in probably, what was the highlight of my weekend: a kitchen duel between Will and Ted. What happened was, after Flight of the Conchords, I was sitting in Ted's room talking and we were watching a movie trailer and Will walked in. This prompted Ted to exclaim: "WILL! GET OUT OF MY FUCKING ROOM! JUST GO! LEAVE US! GET THE HELL OUT!" Of course, this just egged on Will and the situation escalated until they eventually ran out into to the kitchen, Ted grabbing a pepper grinder as a weapon and Will grabbing a wine bottle as a weapon and after a minute-or-so-long stand off, Ted yelling, "LESLIE! OPEN THE DOOR!" And so I did as instructed and Ted threw down the pepper grinder and ran out of the apartment. I mean, I guess that's pretty much a typical Sunday night at Will and Ted's. At least I'd assume so from most of my experiences there.

OH, PS- If you haven't picked up on it yet, I'm moving to NY. This has come as a surprise to some people when I just throw it into casual conversation, so I guess I haven't been real effective at relaying the news. Anyway, I leave DC at the end of August. Traveling to Maui for Robbie and Jessica's wedding Sept. 5. I get back to the mainland on the 16th (barring any volcano incidents) and start my new job in NY on September 18. So there, you go. My life in a nutshell for the next month and a half.

01 August 2007

Ben Versus the Volcano

Rachel is convinced that visiting Volcano National Park=certain death.

You know what I say? BRING IT.

What better way to go out than "Death by Volcano?" If that's not a fucking blaze of glory, I don't know what is.

I thought I had my glorious demise all figured out until Tristan and I started brainstorming our "Tristan is giving up her social life to go to law school/Leslie is moving to New York City/Jessica is turning 24 & getting married in two weeks" blowout party (location TBD, although date-wise we are *thinking* Aug. 25th).

Mike threw in the marvelous (?) idea of incorporating an eating contest into the day, featuring the trifecta of DC drunk staples: Falafel, Jumbo Slice and what I lovingly call the Ben's Chili Bowl "Cardiac Arrest" combo.

Although Ben's is probably my favorite DC eatery, I've never *actually* attempted the "Cardiac Arrest" combo. It consists of my three favorite items on the menu, each of which I've had pairings of, but have never attempted all three in one sitting:

1. Chili Cheese Fries
2. Chili Dog
3. Cherry Milkshake

On its own, I think that's enough to get myself checked into the Howard University Hospital ICU (it's only 3 blocks away). Add that that to Jumbo Slice and falafel, and we basically have a situation where I have pre-empted the Volcano plan.

So which is a better tombstone?

Death by Volcano
Death by Ben's Chili Bowl?