Nearly a month ago, I moved into an apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan. For a number of years, I have had a sort of image in my mind, an ideal of what New York would be like to live in. Far from popping a bubble of fantasy, the reality of New York life has thus far been better than what I had hoped it would be.
It was supposed to be a warm day, partially cloudy, with a light breeze and a possible chance of some rain, at least according to the phone service I use which tells you weather according to zip code amongst other things. I’m not sure if it really rains more often when we don’t want it to rain or if we only notice it more often when it’s important not to rain… moving in, for example. When one has to bring a computer monitor into one’s new apartment, it doesn’t help when it is raining outside.
It was my uncle who helped my mother and me move my things into the apartment – he being the only one in the immediate family and friends circle with access to a van of some sort. Apparently we would be needing one because that’s just about how much stuff I had to take over on this, my inaugural trip to this apartment that I would be sharing. How I found the apartment is itself an interesting story – I had gone to a few apartments prior to the one I ended up in and nobody contacted me back. Finding apartment mates that match one in terms of observance and personality is almost like finding the person one will eventually marry except that one of course is just a bit more long term as it were.
The things were eventually all carried into the apartment and my mother and uncle left leaving just my roommate, Stanley. There was a street fair going on outside on Broadway (my room overlooks Broadway, the middle strip having many trees and other such greenery… and they say there’s no plant life in Manhattan!) and so my roommate and I went down to investigate. There was no kosher food to be found but it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. If anything it was more of an opportunity to get to know each other better. I spent some time checking my e-mail as I hadn’t gotten my computer quite set up yet.
Within twenty-four hours I managed to have my new cable modem set up and installed, an appointment to have a new phone line installed, and other such fine things. Growing up, whenever I went into New York, I always felt like I was at home but I thought that perhaps it was only a feeling that I had since I was visiting. Perhaps, I thought, if I actually lived there, I wouldn’t feel nearly as comfortable. Maybe some of the noise would begin to get to me, or the people yelling about socialism and needing spare change. This has not been the case at all in the close to a month since I’ve been here.
The Religious Life
Before I came back from Israel, I was worried that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to pray as often as I was doing when I was in Israel. I didn’t have car insurance, and the nearest place to pray was about three miles away or so which wouldn’t do any good anyhow during Shabbos when one is not allowed to drive. When back in the States I spent a lot of time walking to and from Rabbi Dubov’s house in Princeton. I got irritated seeing that people had driven there on days when people are prohibited to even touch a vehicle. It was a friend of my mother’s who suggested that I consider the Ohab Zedek congregation on 95th street, with Rabbi Allen Schwartz being the head of the congregation. I went there one day and prayed, and had a wonderful time doing so. I really felt some sort of connection going on, so to speak. In that regard things have been going swimmingly well since I have moved here. I prepared a meal for six other people with the help of my roommate, of course, and we went to a few places to eat, too. The holiday of Shavuos starts this Thursday night (the evening of the 16th) and we will celebrate by staying up all night learning. I mean, I did it while I was in college so now why not do it for the almighty, the creator of the universe, right?
I think one can immediately spot someone who just plain doesn’t belong in the city by the way they act in the pedestrian traffic situations: That is to say, the subway and with the traffic lights. There is a certain art, for one, to walking along with the traffic lights. A few years ago or so I might have been able to say I felt occasionally lucky in finding a steady stream of green lights but since then I have learned all kinds of new things about traffic patterns. For example, there are a few stages to a “Don’t Walk” sign. The first stage is when it initially lights up – this means “Go ahead, the light won’t change for awhile.” Second, when the light on the same side turns yellow this translates to approximately “You should be running right now if you’re not on the side of the road you wish to be on.” Finally there’s the red light, which means Every Man For Himself as it’s just a mad rush to finish traversing the road and cars will stop at not much to get to the other side of the road to paraphrase an old joke involving chickens.
Then there are the subways – the subway is one of the greatest inventions of human history. The second greatest on that chain, of course, is the Metro Transit Authority swipe card. It’s hard to imagine one without the other these days. At first I took it easily and bought a set value card – you swipe it through the machine and it deducts value from the card. Then I got bold and went for a seven day card, which would allow me unlimited use for seven days. At present I am using a one month card, the activity of which I am tracking to get an idea of how much money I am saving by doing it this way. For the ultimate in avoiding scorn in the subway area, don’t just stand still in front of the stairs, swipe your metro card quickly but not too quickly – quickly with care, so to speak. People have a terrible tendency to think that New Yorkers are all rude and in a hurry. Well, I don’t know from rude or where they might get such an idea (actually I do but it shall be discussed further in an upcoming article) but there is nothing wrong with being a little bit hurried now and then, if you are careful about it. The tourist type does not appreciate this, however, and thinks highly of the concept of the immortality of the human soul as they always seem to be walking slowly right in front of me. Or so it seems.
The Job Search
Up until recently the job search was pretty horrible. Things finally started looking up for me when I took the advice of a friend of mine and went to a staffing agency that he had recommended. The attitude of the agency changed when I mentioned my referral from “We get 300 resumes a day” to suddenly asking me to come in and take standard tests. From there within two days I was already working. This has all taken place in the last week or so, mind you – I have spent many hours sitting around the apartment on job agent web sites trying to find something, anything, with some sort of substance to it. My mother was willing to pay the rent for up to two months but it felt like it was getting late even on that. Now that I am doing temp work I am free to have some creative project work on the side. This is certainly a grand part of my dream.
I knew Manhattan would be wonderful, but I didn’t really know that it truly did pulsate to the beat of Gershwin tunes until I could hear them for myself. I suppose it’s the same with anyone finding their physical place of living, a dwelling as it were. Some places will spit you out without a thought even though you think the place is beautiful and you really want to live there. Similarly, one might live in a place where there are millions of people and crowds are the norm and yet find peace and tranquility. I am grateful to have found the latter. To t
hink, I finally got to see my favorite film on the big screen, Manhattan, only at the Tribeca Film Festival. How incredibly appropriate.