A New York State of Mind: Part One

A New York State of Mind: Part One

          Moving to New York City was an interesting experience, especially at a relatively young age. Preparing for the move I booked a bed at a hostel near 42nd street just southwest of Times Square, and I figured that this would be a sort of hub while I got my affairs in order.

I had prearranged my living situation. I found a small apartment directly across the street from the Bronx Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

 I flew into Newark, New Jersey and took the train into Penn Station and from there I walked to my hostel. The first thing I did was call my new landlords; they didn’t answer—I left a message. And, then I emailed them. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the immediate area: Times Square and north a few blocks to southwest central park and Lincoln Center and I wandered through the Park a bit.

 The next morning, having not heard back from my landlords by phone or email I walked across the city and took the 5 train towards Nereid Avenue and got off at Bronx Park East.


 A little side note, it took me a couple of weeks to orient myself in the city, especially using the subways as often as I did. You go into the station and coming out you might have no idea what direction your headed or even what side of the street your on, initially. Learning to orient myself in New York and being able to feel where I was and where I needed to go in relation was a memorable experience of its own.

 I went to the building that my apartment was in and knocked and called and left emails, this was during a time when texting wasn’t exactly new, but it wasn’t nearly so common, and T9 was a very different animal as well. I had a flip phone, the first-generation iPhone had just come out, I think, or was about to—which would, of course, revolutionize everything.

 Still unable to get in touch with my landlords I hopped on the subway and made my way to the Barnes&Noble that management was working out of while my new store at 86th and Lexington was receiving those finishing touches before we would be allowed to enter the building and start sorting books. I introduced myself to my new bosses: the store manager, the two assistant store managers, the department managers and I had a good conversation with them before heading out, trying again to call my landlords in vain, and then wandering around the city on foot.

The time I booked at the hostel came and went without hearing back from the landlords and I started booking my nights daily when that started to add up, I found a new, much cheaper hostel in Brooklyn.

 If you have ever seen the movie Enchanted with Amy Adams there is a scene where the prince, having jumped into the well and came out in Times Square was staying in room watching the news, that building is where my new hostel would be, although no I did not have a private room, at least in the typical sense of the word. I stayed on the different floor.

It was a large open floor plan. In the center of the room was a giant square made of plywood that was simply holding itself together and the rooms where smaller squares within the larger, imagine looking at a rat maze from above except the rooms were not connected by corridors. There was no ceiling to this or any of the rooms, only a giant net that kept people from climbing into your “space.”

 The rooms themselves were no bigger than a cubicle with a cot, a small table, and a chair the door was screwed on with cheap hinges and a padlock would secure me from them. If I was inside the room, I had to lock the padlock on the inside if I left and wanted my room secure, I had to lock the same padlock from the outside.
The most unusual thing about this for me, aside from the net ceiling, was that people were living here, and had been for years. There was one woman who had built shelves into her box and had flower beds and pots laying in and around her area, she would prop the door open with one such flowerpot and sit outside in the aisle in her chair and just, kind of, remain.


I lived there for a couple of weeks. The store had opened, and I had started work taking the subway from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side and back again, I was making friends but saving money or trying to. It’s not easy to put money aside when you’re unable to store food and are uncertain about your living situation on a day-to-day basis.


To Be Continued…

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