Tales from New York City

P.R. Ganapathy lived in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1999-2009, when he was assigned to a posting in New York City for a year. This series is about his experiences moving from suburban California to urban Manhattan.

It pays to think ahead

I spent the week tying up other loose ends. We finally decided to rent most of the furniture for the apartment, from CORT furniture rental. We picked out a “1-bedroom package” which contains everything one needs, and will furnish (my son) Dhruv’s room with IKEA furniture later. The rest of our worldly possessions were scheduled to reach New York via Fedex.

Aisle-seat fracas

Thursday night rolled around, and we boarded our JetBlue red-eye flight. It was a “full-flight” (what are the airlines complaining about? Every flight seems to be “full”) and we didn’t all get seats together – my son Dhruv and I were in 5D and E, my wife Sandhya was in 4C . There was a single woman in 5C, so I asked her whether she’d be willing to swap seats with Sandhya. She stood up and was on the verge of agreeing, when she saw that the folks sitting next to Sandhya had a baby with them. I guess she had made up her mind not to move, and this gave her an excuse — so she said “Oh, I don’t want to sit next to a baby. I’m sorry.” At this point, I gave up. New York attitude? I hope not…!

First impressions

We arrived a bit early, to crystal clear weather in New York City. It was cold, but bright and sunny. Despite being a bit bleary-eyed after the red-eye, approaching the Midtown tunnel on the Long Island Expressway, we had a spectacular view of Manhattan in the rising morning sun. The Empire State Building towering over all the others, and the Citigroup Tower, reflecting the sun brightly off its steel and glass facade… Waterside Plaza (the place where we’re going to stay, on the East River) itself was also clearly visible, making the sight memorable in a personal way. Our home for the next one year! All the doubts and lethargy seemed to blow away with that one breathtaking view.

Supervising delivery

CORT furniture showed up a bit late, but still within their promised delivery window. They quickly installed everything, cleared out their stuff, and left.

The Cable guy showed up first the next morning, and he too quickly installed his equipment, had me test the Internet connection using my laptop (no TV) and then he left.

TV-purchase outing

I left the family in the apartment and headed out to get a TV. I had emailed several people using Craigslist, and there seemed to be a promising prospect in the East Village, a short distance away.

The address I was looking for turned out to be in the heart of the East Village. While driving by I noticed all sorts of interesting dining options in that area and marked them for the future. The building itself was a small and narrow “pre-war walk-up”, and the person I was buying the TV from lived in Apartment 17, which turned out to be on the top (fourth)  floor – so after trekking up four stories on a narrow stairway, I finally reached the small studio apartment. The TV was huge (27″) and it was a regular old tube TV, so you can imagine it was really heavy. They had apparently received a new flat-screen TV for Christmas, which is why they were selling this one. But their cable was plugged into the flat-screen, and so I couldn’t test to make sure the monster she was selling me actually worked. I guess I’m the trusting type, and so I believed her when she said “It works perfectly. If you have any problem at all, you can have your money back.”

The lady staying there was really kind to offer to help me carry it (I had been speaking to her boyfriend until then, but he decided to “step out” at that moment, so wasn’t there to help) and we both lugged it carefully down the narrow and well-worn stairs. After carrying it down, I figured that if it didn’t work, there was no way I was going to bring that TV back, lug it up 4 floors, to get my money back!

Thankfully, there were no mishaps, and 20 minutes later, I had it back at our apartment, where to Dhruv’s delight, the TV worked perfectly.

Craigslist to the rescue again! I received several calls that day, from other folks whom I had emailed, and I continue to be amazed at what a vibrant “market-place” that simple site has created.

Unpacking with our hearts in our mouths

I returned to find that the Fedex guys had taken about half the boxes upstairs and were continuing to work their way up. Sandhya saw stains on some boxes – it was obvious that something had broken inside and leaked out. We nervously watched as more boxes came and were stacked randomly all over our living room. And then the moment we’d both been dreading arrived — one of the Fedex guys casually started unloading one largish box, and it slipped from his hands, to fall to the floor with a sickening “crunch”. We quickly read the sign on the side of the box: “Glassware, Dishes” – we both knew what was in it – our wine glasses, China dinner plates, and other breakable stuff.

We began unpacking soon after they left, and for some reason, we both kept avoiding unpacking that one box – till late in the evening, when we had no other boxes to unpack. The wine glasses were closer to the top, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that all of them had made it unscathed. The dinner plates were at the bottom (the part that hit the floor) and as Sandhya unpacked, we kept counting – 3 safe, 6 safe, 9 safe, but unfortunately the last batch of 3 had broken.

41 boxes, two moving companies (Nor-Cal and Fedex) and the final tally – a few Corning bake-and-serve dishes, a couple of Sugar / Coffee canisters, three China plates, and few plastic containers. Not bad at all. Whew.

Home delivery heaven

On Friday night, Sandhya had ordered a whole lot of groceries using Fresh Direct and that arrived on Saturday afternoon. From apples to eggs, Oil and Toilet Paper, it all came in neat little boxes. That’s one big difference we’re going to have to get used to – of having things delivered. We’ve always picked up and lugged stuff home in California but without a car, with all the parking hassles, and given the easy availability and relatively low cost of home delivery, we are sure to use it a lot. Almost a bit like India, where your friendly neighborhood grocer would be only too happy to have a “boy” bring you your stuff at home.

Dinner in Little India

We walked into Little India for a nice dinner of Kathi Rolls at a small hole-in-the-wall called Rumali. It turned out really nice – the Kathi Rolls were close to the best we’ve had in Calcutta. Little India itself was really impressive – tons of Indian Restaurants – some quite posh, some a little more “value-for-money” and even one that advertised itself as “Kosher”!! And it’s just four blocks away!

Looking forward to next week

We have a tour of Dhruv’s school scheduled for Monday, and he’ll start on Tuesday. I also begin my new work-related assignment next week, with a few meetings already set up. The weather has been great – Bright, Sunny, albeit rather cold. As I sit here, looking out over FDR and at the brightly lit Chrysler Building, we’re both filled with excitement and anticipation at the coming weeks and months. The move has been quite smooth, and roadbumps, if any, have been very minor. Touch wood, and fingers crossed!!

More on the New York move can be found on P.R. Ganapathy’s blog  talesofnyc.blogspot.com

Picture of Manhattan by randubnick under Creative Commons license.

Picture of Little India by randubnick jodi*mckee under Creative Commons license.

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