Weird people are bothering me again and I’m relieved

See, I'm a magnet for the eccentric!

See, I’m a magnet for the eccentric!

My biggest fear about leaving Manhattan was losing the awesome stories that come with residing there. I couldn’t even grab coffee at one of the four Dunkin’ Donuts on my block without being harassed, cursed out, intimidated, or cat called by Second Avenue construction dickheads, and though it exhausted me to have every aspect of life feel like work, I could never say I was bored. No matter how miserable NYC and its residents made me, I was always getting into unusual situations that were well received at brunch, parties, reunions, and beyond. This kind of life doesn’t make a person happy, and I know this because I spent almost every single night sleep walking, sleep talking, or sleep yelling, but those little episodes made for compelling stories as well (to everyone except my poor roommate, who regularly woke up to my outbursts). It wasn’t until the end of my NYC experience that we laughed about it together, and I hoped LA would bring fewer bed time troubles my way. I’m thrilled to report I sleep really well now and rarely shout, even though I continue to mumble and spew nonsense on occasion.

I arrived in LA three months ago, and one of the first things I did was go on a date with my current boyfriend Ian. We hung out downtown and I spent most of the evening making NYC comparisons. The bartender kept refilling my water glass on his own, so I told Ian how much nicer and more hospitable LA servers seemed to be than those of NYC. Then the bartender started chatting us up and I pointed out that that wouldn’t have happened in New York, as everyone is too busy there for small talk with randoms. When I waited outside Ian’s building, I thought the guy standing a few feet away from me was the doorman. He of course wasn’t — he was just a well-dressed fellow — and I chalked my confusion up to spending two years in NYC, where doormen work in overpriced apartment complexes.

I talk about it less and less nowadays, but one of the concerns I expressed to Ian was becoming restless and unfulfilled in LA. As Emma Thompson points out in Saving Mr. Banks, nobody walks here, so there are fewer opportunities for peculiar interactions to ensue. Everyone is either driving or working, so it’s a little harder to be accosted by crazies on the street. You might think that’s a good thing, and to an extent, I do too. But I also crave excitement and feel most comfortable around the unconventional.

Weird things have been happening lately, and though the old me would be angry about it, I’m relieved. I’m only 25, and my funny NYC stories shouldn’t be the only material I have for future TV shows and beyond. California is also known for being an oddball hotspot, and I’m glad to be living that again.

On the flight back to LA this weekend, a guy sat next to me and asked whether I was wearing perfume. I’d sprayed some on my neck earlier that day but hadn’t expected it to last, so I was surprised he’d picked up on it.

“You smell like my ex-girlfriend.”

“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” I said, worried I’d brought this pour soul back to a time he’d rather not think about.

“No, good memories. VERY good memories,” he said.

Then the plane took off and I struggled not to laugh. The rest of the  flight was fairly normal, but I had another dose of weirdness the following day when a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up on my doorstep. They actually knocked for ten minutes (I didn’t think it was knocking at first), and when I finally cracked open the door, one of the women hid behind the other. Something about it felt off, and I couldn’t understand why the other person felt the need to shield her face, but at least I know not to answer the door anymore. I was protected from all that in my various NYC apartment buildings, and now I’m back to the days of dealing with bible salesmen and religious recruiters.

I’m feeling more at home in LA as the colorful characters continue to approach me, so don’t be surprised if I start documenting these experiences more frequently. No place will ever be as weird as New York, but I’m starting to realize that’s not such a bad thing.

Driving in LA isn’t the nightmare I thought it’d be (yet!)

English: Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel m...

English: Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel mountains. Français : Le centre ville de Los Angeles et les Monts San Gabriel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are downsides to everything, and in my opinion, there are major flaws with NYC’s wonderful public transit system. On one hand, the 24-hour subway is convenient and relatively inexpensive. There’s also the fact that it’s always crowded, dirty, dangerous, claustrophobic, full of crazies and creepers, and unpleasant. I don’t miss those aspects of the train, but I do miss being able to chill and read while getting from A to B. You can’t do that in LA, a driving city.

I came to southern California earlier this week and haven’t run into too much trouble with traffic or getting places … yet. I also have a ton of excellent iPhone apps (Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps) to guide me through the chaotic freeways and roads of LA. Before returning to California, I anticipated lots of panic episodes on my part, but I’ve been able to avoid freaking out behind the wheel, mainly because you don’t really have the option of fretting when you’re going 65 MPH on the 101, 405, 5, etc. You can be nervous and discontent, but you cannot lose your cool, or, as the hefty gym teacher says in Mean Girls, you will die.

Last night, I drove from Long Beach to downtown LA, where I met up with a friend who lives in the area. I suggested he pick the places since he knows the city, I just had to find a way over there. It took me 35 minutes or so to arrive, and it was only when I got on his street that I began making mistakes. I don’t know whether it’s a good or bad thing that I save my hesitation and self-doubt for the end of my journeys, but that’s how it works pretty much anytime I’m trying to get somewhere. All is well until it comes time to find the exact address. In this case, I drove past the building and had to turn around, and I ended up going in circles on his block two or three times before locating a parking area.

LA is notorious for distributing tickets and what not, so after I parked, I pulled aside the lot worker and asked several times whether I’d done everything I needed to do. I’d given him my five dollars, but would I need to pay more? In NYC, saying something like this is an opening for negative interactions, but I didn’t think this guy would take advantage of my apparent ignorance and vulnerability. I was also desperate to avoid getting towed.

“You can stay here until 2 am,” he said. “Just make sure your car is gone by then, or else.”

Got it.

Pool in my building

Pool in my building

With that, my friend and I walked over to Bar 107, a fun dive bar several blocks away. I was pretty impressed with downtown LA as a whole, and the buildings actually reminded me a lot of New Girl. Maybe that’s where the show is filmed! After drinks, we headed to Bar Ama, a superb tex-mex restaurant run by an amazing chef, according to my friend. Per usual, I stuck with beer and ordered a pork, rice, and beans dish. I loved the food, but more than anything, I loved how attentive and friendly the servers and bartenders were. I made a point to drink tons of water, and they refilled my cup ten times. That would never happen in NYC — everyone is simply too busy to look out for one customer, but I really appreciated it. I was also amused when the bartender started talking to us and jumping into our conversations. It wasn’t rude — just nice and conversational. I’m still readjusting to the friendliness of California, and I think it’s helping me with the transition.

If you read my Saturday blog post, you know I’m still struggling to adapt to my home state again. I keep waiting for the weather to turn on me and freeze up. More than anything, I just miss my friends in NYC. While I was moving into my large LA condo the other day, I sobbed uncontrollably, and it wasn’t because I now have not one but two walk-in closets and more space than I could ever need. It was because I wanted to see my Manhattan crew — Tom, Alex, Jordan, Liz, Caira, and the rest of the PM staff, my unstoppable roommate Jen, my awesome story purveyor buddy Catherine, Sophia, Emma, and the rest of my improv pals, Maggie, Marjorie, Glenn, Frances, Jordan, Sara, Meagan, everyone.

I love each and every one of my East Coast friends, even those I may have cut off at some point. No matter what happened between us, I appreciated having gotten to know you, and I’m sorry if it went sour before I had a chance to say goodbye. It breaks my heart that I departed the city with bad blood with people, but that’s life, right? Just know that I’ve decided to remember the good stuff about everybody I met back East. I know I wasn’t always my best self, and it’s my hope that I can avoid giving in to frustrations and my own shortcomings in LA. It won’t be easy with the driving conditions, but I’ll do it.

I miss you, Tom!

I miss you, Tom!

Anyway, I had a rough time when I moved in a few days ago. I cried as I folded my clothes in my walk-in closet, which should make me happy since I had a shoebox of a room and closet in Manhattan. I didn’t know what to do with all the extra space, so I just wept in it. I cried as I put together my Ikea bed, hung up my photos, and organized my epic bathroom. I cried in the shower, in the kitchen, and in my large living room, which remains empty because I haven’t gotten around to building my Ikea dinner table.

It wasn’t until I turned on my mini DVD player and put Meet the Parents on as background noise that I started feeling better. Maybe all I needed were the voices of others, to have some company as I unpacked my room and got situated in my new place. I listened to the movie as I built my nightstand, coffee table, and chairs, all of which I bought at Ikea. I’m not crazy about building things, but when I’m emotional, I need projects to take my mind off whatever’s bothering me, and when putting together furniture, I need to be focused enough to follow directions and pound away.

I felt accomplished by the end of the day, and I was pretty satisfied with my room. I love that I have enough room in my living space to own a nightstand, and I’m serious when I say it’s the greatest luxury of all to use the bathroom with the door open. Living alone isn’t as terrifying as I anticipated. The apartment is warm and open, and I always fall asleep to something on my mini DVD player. These days, it’s The Newsroom, which usually stays on until 3:00 am, when I wake up and decide to just sleep the rest of the night without it. It’s not healthy to fall asleep to movies, but it’s what makes me most comfortable right now.

Life is coming together over here. I miss my NYC friends like crazy, but I’m finally reaching a point where I can talk about them without my eyes watering and throat tightening. I love you guys, and I promise to visit soon. Think about coming to see me as well. This is the place that’s restoring my sanity, faith in humanity, and sense of calm, and maybe it’ll have a similar effect on you. There are tough days, but they don’t compare to the hardest, most uninspiring days I had in NYC. I’m where I belong, I just wish I could have taken you all with me.

laurw

PM loves

PM loves

I’ve been getting lots of blog warm fuzzies lately and I love it

I love you all!

I love you all!

Growing up, summer was my favorite time of year, mainly because it gave me a respite from academia and peers I didn’t get along with. The season isn’t quite as fun for adults — you don’t get a three-month break and the sweltering heat can be tough to work through. NYC residents are at a bigger disadvantage with the humidity, so if you don’t have the means to run off to Martha’s Vineyard or some other exotic location during the dog days of summer, you’re stuck with the smell of hot garbage in the city.

I shouldn’t be so cynical about NYC in the summer. Nothing beats the Manhattan bar scene, I just had a birthday, and I love traipsing around in sundresses and skirts Jessica Day style (and with all this downtime, I’ve been singing, “Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!” to myself nonstop). I also get to visit Hawaii in a week (!!!), so I won’t be housebound for long. At any rate, I’ve written about this many times before, and I want to thank all of you who’ve kept up with my blog and shown your support for me. Summer 2013 was harder on me than any winter I’ve ever experienced on the east coast, but you all helped me through it, and I know I’m going to wrap up the season on a high note by traveling to Honolulu to see my greatest friend in the world. Hopefully that will make up for what I’d like to call The Lost Summer.

I went out with a couple of different friends earlier this week and was so happy to hear that they’d all been reading this blog religiously and used it to stay updated on what’s been going on with me. They knew about everything before even seeing me. It really means the world to me, and it does push me to churn out posts even when I’m feeling lazy. More often than not, I just don’t want to blog about the trivial or throw up an entry just to do it, but I’m here to serve you guys.

And what do you know? One of my recent posts actually helped a friend decided on a Christmas gift for his girlfriend. I don’t fancy myself as a fashion or style blogger, but I’m always happy to help. That’s why now is an appropriate time to share another favorite beauty product of mine: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Oil:

Palmers-Cocoa-Butter-Formula-with-Vitamin-E-Skin-Therapy-Oil-010181041532

 

One of the things I love about summer is my freedom to wear flip flops and open-toed shoes. Of course, it’s easy to bang up your feet in these conditions, and if you’re not careful, you could end up with gross cracks on your heels. Apply these to your feet 1-2 times a day and you’ll have healthy looking skin. Always put on socks immediately afterward to allow your feet to soak up the oil, so try to take care of this before bed or when you know you won’t be leaving the house for a while.

I also like to use Burt’s Bees Foot Cream, but it’s very greasy, so keep that in mind:

burts-bees-coconut-foot-creme-review-2

As for wintertime maintenance, I can’t be of much help — just remember not to neglect your skin or appearance, even when you’re constantly bundled up.

I don’t have much else to add right now, but I promise to continue posting to this blog — that is, if you keep reading :)

Should I move back to Brooklyn next year?

I’ve come a long way since my “do or die Bed Stuy” days from fall 2011-early spring 2012. Jen and I have been upper east siders for a year and four months now, and though I’m starting to get sick of the neverending Second Avenue construction, mountains of trash that line our sidewalks 24/7, and unreasonable rent. As nice as it is to no longer live with ghosts who tap dance the night away and throw stuff around my room while I try to sleep, I’m worried I’ll have no choice but to leave Manhattan when my lease ends next year and become a Brooklyn resident once again. If so, let’s hope I don’t have to go back to this:

Beautiful view of the abandoned building outside my old room

Beautiful view of the abandoned building outside my old room

View from my bedroom window with the junkyard cropped out

View from my bedroom window with the junkyard cropped out

Many people love Brooklyn, and I definitely enjoy certain neighborhoods (Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Clinton Hill), but Manhattan has always been a better fit for me. If that makes me a spoiled, privileged Californian, so be it. I’ve been called much worse. I mean, I write for the internet!

XOXO, Gossip Girl

XOXO, Gossip Girl

The upper east side has definitely been great to me. I enjoy being close to 86th street, the 6 train, a slew of different gyms and parks, and of course Central Park. I can also flag down a taxi any time of day, and convenience means more to me than anything else at this point in my life. Things are going to change next year though, and I’m concerned the only affordable move would be to return to one of the boroughs. It would cost me less money, but the subways down there are fairly unreliable. Of course, I’m biased because I lived on the G for a few months, and everyone knows how awful that is.

So, guys, should I start mining Craigslist for hidden gems in Manhattan or concede to the fact that I’ll probably have to be more cost-effective next spring? Planning ahead is my thing, but a lot could happen in a year, so I’m going to hope for the best for once and just focus on getting through this week … and pray to stay in the city. I’m not ready for a quieter life in BK.

100 things I’ve learned since moving to NYC a year ago

100. The G train is the worst line in the entire MTA system.
99. Everyone is a disaster, and if you’re not one yet, you will be.
98. Crumbs cupcakes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. They’re just too big and impossible to finish.
97. Magnolia Bakery, on the other hand, lives up to its solid reputation.
96. You have so little privacy in all facets of life that you don’t really care if someone sees you naked through your bedroom window (think Chloe in “Don’t Trust The B— in Apartment 23″):

Don't Trust the B
95. The guy who shouts biblical passages on the six train during rush hour makes you hate everything. It’s too early for religious psychos yet even New Yorkers are too tired to kick him off the subway.
94. There’s a parade and celebration for everything here.
93. Everyone cries in the street at some point.
92. Wind tunnels hit you like a hurricane.
91. You’ve pretended to be a foreigner to fend off creepy strangers.
90. Everyone under 30 complains about money (unless of course they’re in finance or law).
89. Old apartment locks can be impossible to open. I put it best when I said accessing your own apartment is a privilege, not a right: “New York is made up of old buildings, many of which have locks that won’t budge without giving you arthritis. Such was the case with the lock outside my first apartment building entrance door, which on average took ten minutes to open every time I wanted to get inside. There was no trick aside from patience, and I can’t tell you how many mini panic attacks I had at 2:30 a.m. on weekends, when the streets were deserted, my phone battery was low, and the rusty lock indicated that it would snap my key in half before letting me inside.”
88. Every minor mishap (i.e., a broken shower, a moldy windowsill, a faulty heater) feels worse in NYC than it would anywhere else in the country.
87. If you’re not stylish before you move to NYC, you will be once you arrive.
86. Sinks lack garbage disposals.
85. You regularly see vomit on the sidewalk and/or subway.
84. Apartment building recycling requirements are nice in theory but a pain when you just want to throw everything away before heading to work rather than sort through your bin and separate the contents.
83. At some point, your ATM account will be at the lowest it has ever been.
82. Half of your monthly earnings is strictly reserved for rent.
81. The other paycheck of the month will make you feel like a wealthy rockstar even though you’re absolutely not.

NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

80. It’s normal for apartments not to include microwaves…or air conditioning units.
79. We have the best pizza and bagels in the country.
78. You can watch opera in five languages.
77. Drinking at any hour of the day is appropriate.
76. If you’re on a tight budget, you avoid taking taxis at all costs.
75. Unless you’re with friends who don’t want to walk three blocks.
74. Big apartments are hard to find.
73. Nobody gets married before age 31.
72. You love to make fun of native New Yorkers for not knowing how to drive or do laundry, yet you also indulge in sending your clothes out to be cleaned and public transportation.
71. You’re fully capable of walking absurdly long distances.
70. The subway platforms during the summer are hotter than hell.
69. Everything starts to annoy you after a while.
68. You begin to believe everyone has a hidden agenda.
67. You have a favorite section of the city.
66. You cringe at the thought of traveling outside Manhattan for a party (unless you’re a proud borough resident — which I used to be!).
65. It’s normal to leave the subway station through the emergency exit door.
64. People think you’re high-strung if you don’t jaywalk all the time.
63. Life without Dairy Queen blows.
62. You’ve had to enter your apartment through the fire escape. fire escape
61. Apartments without closets are the norm.
60. Second Avenue construction is never going to end.
59. Sharing a bedroom isn’t just for college students.
58. Ovens serve as storage space.
57. You have to watch where you walk, as it’s impossible for people to fully clean up after their dogs.
56. French Bulldogs run this town.
55. The subway map initially frightens and confuses you but eventually becomes second nature.
54. You want to curse restaurants/food venues that don’t have public restrooms but understand it’s a necessary policy to keep the homeless population from showering in bathroom sinks.
53. There’s a Starbucks on every block and yet the lines are always ridiculously long.
52. The subway is almost always crowded.
51. Empty train cars indicate a homeless person is on board.
50. You’ll get knocked into a sidewalk trash pile at some point.
49. You meet a lot of people with weird names.
48. Guys will try to steal taxis from girls and even put up a fight for them. My roommate once had to cuss out a guy who threw me in front of a cab.
47. Deranged people are a part of your everyday life — and commute.
46. Any bar that offers free food with a beer (i.e., Crocodile Lounge, Merrion Square) is a winner.
45. Your stories are crazier than those of your friends in any other part of the country.
44. You’re always on the lookout for “30 Rock” or “Gossip Girl” shoots/actors.
43. Taxi rides along the water are peaceful.
42. Taxi drivers will deny you rides home, even if you’re stranded somewhere at 4 a.m. and terrified.
41. New Yorkers don’t know how to handle hurricanes.

40. When the subway shuts down during rush hour, you may never get to work.
39. Dunkin’ Donuts is faster, more efficient, and more reliable than Starbucks.
38. At some point in time, your neighbors and/or roommate will hear you messing around with someone in your room. If they don’t hear you moaning, they’ll hear the bed squeaking  The walls are just too damn thin.
37. You hate not living downtown…until hurricanes hit and destroy everything below 41st Street:
East Village Hurricane Sandy

36. You see a lot of yellow puddles on sidewalks and never know whether it’s human or animal urine.
35. Even if there’s a hurricane and your apartment is unlivable for days or even weeks, your landlord will still charge you full rent.
34. You’re indifferent to celebrity sightings. This isn’t LA!
33. Grocery stores are circuses.
32. Everyone runs off misery, adrenaline, and ambition. The last two keep you going, but sometimes you worry the first is enough to derail your life goals.
31. The LIRR and Metro-North delay service if there’s a leaf on the track.
30. You’re constantly meeting new people, which keeps things interesting. Girls show
29. Sometimes the subway is faster than a cab. Too.much.traffic.
28. People with children are universally loathed. I don’t dislike them, but the reality is there simply isn’t enough space on a full subway for a stroller. Moms and dads in NYC, you have my sympathy! <3
27. If you give up your seat on the subway for a pregnant or disabled person, someone will usually be so inspired and moved by your random act of kindness that he/she will offer you his/her seat. Courtesy is contagious, even here.
26. Dean & Deluca is a dangerous (read: expensive) addiction.
25. New Yorkers really know how to come together in the aftermath of a major tragedy. Lookin’ at you, Hurricane Sandy Relief organizations!
24. Rainy days are terrifying because sooner or later, you’re going to get whacked in the face with an umbrella.
23. You’re afraid to step on subway vents because they blow up your skirt in the summer and could cause you to slip and face during rainy days.
22. A person’s apartment in proximity to your own could be a relationship deal breaker — at least if you’re a lazy asshole like me who doesn’t want to travel to West Harlem from the UES for dates. I suck, I know. Sorry.
21. Most restaurants won’t seat you until your entire party has arrived.
20. You’re afraid to fall asleep on the subway.
19. Cable is a luxury.
18. You love the constant exposure to different types of people.
17. One minute you have a glamorous job, the next you’re walking dogs and taking as many odd jobs as possible (THIS GUY!)
16. You can’t remember a time in which you weren’t totally exhausted.
15. You really wish the subway would just set up phone and/or Internet service already. DC did this ages ago. What happens if we’re stuck underground for hours on end? We’re going to end up like those freaks on “Hey Arnold!”

14. The 24-hour subway system is unbeatable, though, and puts mass transit systems elsewhere to shame.
13. You get a lot of visitors because everyone wants to come to New York. People you didn’t even know you were friends with will ask to sleep on your couch for days on end.
12. You really hate when people ask how much you pay in rent per month. I shouldn’t have to tell you that this is really rude. Mind your business.
11. You worry about finding a roommate on Craigslist because a lot of people purposely overcharge for rooms.
10. The word “bedroom” takes on a whole new meaning when you actually move to a room that only fits your bed. I should know because I have a “Harry Potter room”!
9. You find yourself buying thin hangers to make the best of your small closet space situation.
8. Umbrellas have very, very short lives here.
7. Waving down a taxi can either take two seconds or an hour.
6. Taxi TV sets never fail to amaze you.
5. You love that all taxis here take credit cards.
4. You appreciate the plethora of ATM machines all over the city, even though they’re probably bugged by scam artists.
3. You go through at least three apartment and/or roommate horror stories before finally having a semi-stable living situation. I’m much happier at my current place than I ever was at my first NYC-area apartment and absolutely don’t take that for granted.
2. You see tons of big dogs in the city and wonder how they manage with such little space.
1. When things go wrong, you seriously consider moving elsewhere: somewhere cheaper, calmer, more peaceful, less rainy and dreary, less disgusting and dirty, less heartbreaking, but then you remember that there’s no other place like New York City.

-Jen Rinaldi contributed to this roundup.

When your grandma is way cooler than you’ll ever be

A couple of days ago, my grandmother drove up from Newport Beach for my sister-in-law’s baby shower. Unfortunately, the normally active 81-year-old wasn’t herself, as she’d thrown out her back on the ride to the Bay Area. Though uncomfortable, she refused to take off her high heels and even jumped on the trampoline with my nephews (her great-grandchildren), both of whom helped her stand up and hop around. It was unbelievable.

There’s not much else to say on the matter, aside from the fact that she still has three inches on me and a better attitude than I do about wearing heels, but hopefully her trooper mentality will rub off on me someday. I got a little bit of her impressive height, but let’s be real here: I’m done growing.

That reminds me: I used to hate being “just north of average” in the height department. Now I wish I were even taller. Both of my brothers are six foot five, my mom is five eight (formerly five ten), my dad was six two, and my sister is five nine. Last I checked, I’m five five and three quarters. Translation? I’m not even 5’6! How lame is that? If I’m going to tower over all the little shrimps on the east coast, I should at least do it well. That’s another thing I’ve been thinking about lately: why are people out east so tiny compared to those along the west coast? It’s mind-boggling.

I will say, however, that I’m kind of burned out on California cheeriness. It only took a couple of days home for me to realize how over the excessive happiness I am, probably because I’ve been known to bring the same kind of attitude to the east coast. I guess I kind of miss the rugged, cynical, jaded mentality of New Yorkers, who are always striving for something more and thinking about their next project. It’s not necessarily that way in California, at least where I grew up. Everyone is all about health, well-being, work-life balance, all that new age nonsense. I appreciate my background, I really do, but somewhere along the line, I adapted to NYC…and began to love it. A lot. It’ll break your heart nine times out of ten, but when it lifts you up once in a blue moon, you walk on air. Hurricanes, snowstorms, and centipedes can come my way, but I’m never leaving the concrete jungle.

Of course, I may have hesitated to write that had I been in Manhattan two days ago, when my roommate found a mouse in our bathroom. Turns out we’ve got a hole in our sink. It’s an NYC rite of passage, really, but one we could have gone without experiencing. I had it bad enough when my room was infested with psychotic, highly inconsiderate centipedes and acquired mold from my upstairs neighbor’s leaking air conditioner. And Hurricane Sandy? Well, you know how I dealt with that. Jen and I have been through the wringer in NYC, but we’re still full of fight. That’s what living here seems to be all about: toughening up for the next big crisis, which is always worse than the previous one. In the words of Chris Christie, “I am waiting for the locusts and pestilence next.”

All you need is a money jar

Just like that, my California visit is over. Though I already miss the sunshine and know that I can always count on bipolar New York weather to put me in a rotten mood, I was pretty excited to return to my Upper East Side digs and roommate this evening. For one, I missed my “Gossip Girl” marathons, which would seem so much less cool or important in glamour-free Santa Cruz. Why would I watch “GG” there when I can run around outside in shorts and a tank top all day? Such carefree activity is fun for a while, but of course leaves me with multiple sunburns and puts me one step closer to melanoma.

I didn’t realize I’d miss upper Manhattan so much, even though everything shuts down early in my neck of the woods. There’s a chill bar on my block that provides a free cheeseburger with every beer, however, so I really need to pay that place a visit soon. It’s rather difficult to snag such amazing deals in NYC, and that’s a bargain if there ever was one. Besides, I can’t go two weeks without a cheeseburger, so this could be the perfect way to get my iron fix.

I want to be Blake Lively!

Though I’m glad to be back in Manhattan, I know I’m going to have a rough time with the storms this week. During my trip home, I realized that I’d be happiest if I could split my time between NYC and the bay area. Nothing beats the pace and energy of the east coast, but California sunshine keeps me sane and gave me the perpetual chipper demeanor that has served me so well all over the world. I feel like a sad and lost creature in anything other than dry heat, but as much as I worship the sun, the feeling is not mutual. Redheads do not fare well out west. As the product of two Jersey kids, one of whom was 100 percent Irish, I’m an easterner by design, but not at heart. Even though I should belong here in New York, I just don’t. But I’ll fake it until I make it all right, and I have something to work towards. I don’t know how Blake Lively, a smiley Californian as well, made such a smooth transition to New York. Karl Lagerfeld once said that she has perfected the east coast/west coast balance, as she had to move to Manhattan for “GG,” but I wonder how long it took her to adapt to this chillier area. She’s definitely less of a complainer than I am, so I suspect she took to her new home immediately. You gotta wonder how much she misses Los Angeles, though. While I prefer New York City to the clogged roads of Botox Land LA, I think sunshine is an exceptional perk.

On Saturday, my nephews asked why I live so far away and rarely see them. They suggested I purchase the house for sale on their block (the asking price is a million dollars, mind you), and when we drove past the property, they pointed to it and said nothing could be better than being within walking (okay okay, “biking”) distance from me. I explained to little Lukey that I need to be super wealthy before going bi-coastal, to which he inquired, “Why don’t you get a money jar then?”

Maybe that’s the trick to owning places on both ends of the country. Well, that’s part of it. I would need to see a lot more success, so here’s to hoping that’s feasible at some point in the distant future. I cannot take New York fall, winter, or spring, though. I need hot weather all the time or I’m a rudderless ship with pasty vampire skin. Tucson and Santa Cruz spoiled me for life. I don’t want to reside where the sun disappears for six months out of the year, especially since I have known all my life that the sun is beyond generous in other sections of the United States. That just means I need to become so amazing at my trade that I can afford to work out west during the cold months (October through April). Possible? Maybe four years from now, but perhaps I’ll have acclimated to the cold temperatures at that time. Until then, I’ll continue dreaming of heat waves and poolside adventures with the one and only Nikki Grey.

Carrie Bradshaw vs. me

Lena Dunham’s “Girls” premieres tomorrow, and while I’m intrigued by the concept, the whole “‘Sex and the City’ is unrealistic” statement is kind of tired at this point. The idea, however, is fairly accurate. I’m no Carrie Bradshaw, as I lack the fashion sense and glamour to to lead that kind of life, but my own existence isn’t so bad compared to that of the fictional character. We’re both columnists in Manhattan who enjoy writing about ourselves. She’s made of money though, so the photos below show how we’re similar and different:

Carrie Bradshaw’s Mac and desk:

My laptop and lapdesk:

Yes, that's Chuck Bass you see on my iPad.

Carrie Bradshaw’s walk-in closet:

My closet:

Love that my jackets fill it up!

The view outside Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment:

The view from my room (a playground! Better than the junkyard at my last place)

Carrie Bradshaw’s room:

My room:

The day I moved in, tiny!

So there you have it. Another girl debunks the lavish “Sex and the City” theory. It’s all good, though, as I have something to work towards.

New place, new beginnings

I’m coming up on my six month mark in New York, so it was only fitting that I moved into the city yesterday. I took to my new place immediately, even though all the changes I’ve experienced since October — two jobs and three apartments — have left me breathless and wanting something reliable to cling to. I think the new apartment, which is much more cheerful and inspiring, will do the trick. My bedroom view is also much better than that of my last place, which even the male movers commented on.

One of the movers noticed the junkyard and abandoned building outside my old bedroom and said it was a good thing I would be leaving behind these unsightly things. He said the apartment and neighborhood as a whole had an eerie feeling to it, so I’m happy to be away from it.

I plan on penning a longer entry on the matter later, but just know that life is good on the Upper East Side. As my friend Leslie, who recently traded in her Cobble Hill pad for a lower Manhattan apartment, told me last week: Living in the city makes such a big difference after you’ve resided in Brooklyn. I love that I only have to take one train to work (not the G train, might I add) and can see my friends within twenty minutes of contacting them about hanging out as opposed to an hour and a half. Getting places doesn’t have to be a big thing anymore. Good riddance.

I think I spend too much time in diners

If you can believe it, I have a soft spot in my heart for grungy hang-outs as well as a high tolerance for grotesqueness. It’s probably the result of successfully overcoming germophobia. As a child, I refused to eat at any restaurant that had gum underneath the tabletop. All it took was a glance under the table for me to go on a hunger strike until we got home, where there was no gum in sight. I was once so disgusted by the sight of bubble gum stuck to the table that I accidentally shoved my mother out of the booth. Everyone in the restaurant believed she was drunk, so I had to go on an hour-long time-out for making her look like a fool. It was then that my parents and siblings told me to man up and adapt to gross aspects of life, as I’d encounter more and more of them throughout my life.

With that, I’ve developed an appreciation for the otherwise repulsive. I’d take the subway, which is covered in gum, urine, water puddles, human excrement (really), and food at any given time, over a taxi in a heartbeat. The L train’s nauseating moldy smell has even grown on me, probably because a lot worse could go wrong at the train station. I prefer dive bars over snooty clubs with cover charges. Most of all, I am a diner groupie.

Lately I’ve been going to The Diner in Chelsea. Now that I’ve publicly disclosed one of my favorite Manhattan hotspots, it’s likely that I’m going to have to find another diner to frequent. That’s going to be tough, though, as I love everything about the west village Diner. The servers are nice, the food is great and not too expensive, and best of all, there are free magazines to read towards the back of the room. Since moving to New York, I have resurrected my love for print media, and though I want to cry every time I cough up more money than necessary on a physical copy of TIME rather than simply read it for free on the Internets, I absorb much more of the information on paper than on screen. There’s no going around that. Plus, it’s relaxing to flip through magazines again. I spent much of my youth doing this, and it doesn’t happen enough anymore.

Nom nom nom

As much as I love my favorite diner meal — grilled cheese and tomato soup (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If I were male, I’d be considered a “man child”) — I don’t like that I’ve been hanging around diners alone lately. Is that not the epitome of depressing? I swear I’m all right, but this scene always brings to mind Mavis in “Young Adult,” a “man child” woman who doesn’t totally get grown-up life.

Quite honestly, though, I’m pretty happy with my life at the moment. Sure I’ve become a diner groupie, but that will change before long.

Besides, who could be troubled in a city that has a Sofia Vergara billboard? Agree or disagree, but I think her ad is the best part of Manhattan. I’d kill to interview her someday: