paramus, new jersey

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a couple of furniture mishaps that needed fixing. So this past Tuesday, I made a reservation with the Harlem branch of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, got myself a set of wheels for the day, and ventured into Paramus, New Jersey, where the nearest Ikea is located. I was assigned to a Ford Taurus, but the car wasn't ready when I got there, so I got a PT Cruiser instead. It ended up being to my benefit because the back seat was able to fit more of my furniture and purchases from both Ikea and Target, which I stumbled upon while driving around in the morning, waiting for Ikea to open. I had a really fun time being able to drive again - though I was extremely cautious because I was, admittedly, terrified of driving in New York, and I'm sure my fellow motorists didn't appreciate me driving 10 miles under the speed limit the whole time, but whatever - and it was nice to get out of New York for a day. The only downside was trying to get my furniture pieces down and up from my fourth-floor walk up apartment. Turned out to be a pretty good workout though, and a little soreness never hurt anyone.

Here are a few pictures from my adventures in the Garden State:

The PT Cruiser I rented, in the Target parking lot

I crossed the George Washington Bridge into NJ - $8 toll back into NY! Insane!

My new dresser, all pieces included

My one piece of decor includes pictures of my four favorite places in the world - Berkeley, New York, San Francisco, Venice

My workstation

There are only a few more things I need: purple walls and a MacBook. Oh yeah, and a roommate and her dog, and they're moving in this afternoon!

In other news, I got a new job! I'll be working as a server at a restaurant on the Upper West Side starting this coming week. So much closer to home and work, and I'll be making a lot more money. Many thanks are owed to my friend Pete for all the support and guidance.

And that concludes my first month in New York. Woo!


pros and cons

I’ve been in my new apartment about a week now. It’s nice and spacious, though without a roommate, it’s been quite lonely. Now that I’m not spending four hours a day commuting to and from Long Island, I’ve begun to realize how little I actually have to do in this big city. Aside from work, my days are spent cleaning the apartment, unpacking as slowly as I can so I have something to do the following day, roaming around the Upper West Side to familiarize myself with the neighborhood near my school, trying my best to stay occupied by stealing wireless Internet until I have the money to pay for it myself. I just found out Central Park is wired for access, so I’ll have to try that sometime soon. Nikki and Bosco are moving in next weekend, so soon enough, it’ll be threes company.

Here are some pictures of the progress of my room:

Bed, before

Bed, after

Room, before

Room, after

"A Tree Grows in Harlem" - Knit tree from the Brooklyn Flea Market

Harlem Meer at Central Park North, located right behind my apartment

The other night, I had my first battle with New York’s most enduring resident – the cockroach. I found a few in my kitchen and bathroom, and to be completely honest, they simultaneously scared and grossed the crap out of me. They’re disgusting. After freaking out for about half an hour, I calmed myself down by telling myself that I am not the only one who deals with cockroaches in this city, and thank God they’re not rodents. I wasn’t prepared and hadn’t bought any bug spray, so I terminated the first couple ones with bathroom cleaner. The following day I bought some roach trap/repellent thingies, and I’m happy to report that I have been cockroach free for about a day now. I don’t suspect that they have completely gone away, but as long as I don’t see them roaming around my apartment, I’m happy. I guess you could say that was my initiation into living in a New York apartment.

Other things that have transpired in the last week: I bought faulty furniture from Ikea and am now having to pay the consequences. First, I was a complete dumbass and bought the wrong sized sideboards for my bed frame. I correctly purchased a full sized headboard and footboard, but I neglected to check the sideboards, which ended up being for a queen/king sized bed. I didn’t realize this until my bed was completely constructed and my mattress seemed to be floating in between the headboard and footboard. Yeah, good one, Gina. I was going to just suck it up and have a misshapen bed so I wouldn’t have to make the trip out to Ikea to fix it. Then I opened up the box for my dresser and found that it was missing several key pieces. What the hell? One of the sides of the dresser was no where to be found, and it is short one drawer. So now I definitely have to make the trip back to Ikea. Unfortunately, because I am by myself and because these furniture pieces are too large to take to New Jersey by bus or train, I have to rent a car to exchange my purchases. Laaame. I should probably be more upset about it, but at this point, all I can do is laugh. Anyway, something had to go wrong with my move sometime or another, and if this is the bad stuff, I’ll grin and bear it. It’ll be my first time driving in the tri-state area; hopefully I don’t get too lost and end up in Maryland or D.C. or something. The cost is going to take a sizable chunk out of my already depleted bank account, but because I would have had to pay for delivery from Ikea to Manhattan if I didn’t have a car, this actually ends up costing about the same. And I’ll get that feeling of freedom that comes with driving a car, something I’ve been missing for the last three weeks.

Speaking of cash, I am quickly becoming strapped for it. My job is not what I expected, for reasons that probably should not be divulged in a place accessible for public viewing. But at the very least, I can say that with the salary I’m earning and the hours I’m getting, I’m not making enough to comfortably survive here on my own. I’m on the job hunt again, though if nothing comes up in the near future, I’ll probably apply for one of many jobs on campus once school starts. The nice thing about that is the school will work around my class and exam schedules. I might not be making as much money as I could be elsewhere, but like I have been saying about this whole experience, I’m trying to keep my options open.

This past weekend, I had my first visitors from home. Tristan, former ETP co-worker, was visiting New York with a friend, and he took some time out to have lunch with me at Peanut Butter & Co. in Greenwich Village, which specializes in gourmet peanut butter sandwiches. Yum! Tristan had the Elvis Special – peanut butter, bananas, and honey on toasted bread – and I had the Cookie Dough Surprise – peanut butter, vanilla cream cheese, and chocolate chips. All sandwiches are served with carrot sticks and potato chips because the owner states that that is how his mother would serve peanut butter sandwiches to him as a kid. Clever concept. I will most definitely be back, especially since I got a frequent visitor card and can earn a free jar of peanut butter after 10 visits.

Me and Tristan at Peanut Butter & Co.

Stephan Diaz, fellow Deer Valley High School alumni and close family friend, surprised me by calling two days before his trip to New York. He had auditioned for the Broadway revival of West Side Story, and he was called back for the auditions in New York. He booked the trip at the last minute and needed a place to stay because all the hotels he was finding were completely booked. As luck would have it, he was arriving the day I moved into my apartment, so he spent his evenings with me, lounging in my empty living room. His audition went well, and he should be hearing back within the next month or so. It was really nice to have someone to break in my apartment with, even if he was only staying for a few days. Hopefully he gets into the show, so I can see him more often.

Gina: "Aww, what a cute pict... Hey, you can't see my eyes!"

Stephen: "Try raising your eyebrows."

Stephen: "Oh God. Okay, don't raise your eyebrows."

I finally saw my first Broadway musical since moving here. This past Wednesday, Miguel and I watched Spring Awakening, which was fantastic. I can see why it won the 2007 Tony Award for Best Musical; it’s expertly crafted, and a lot of it was very innovative in regards to design (lighting, staging, sound). The soundtrack is fresh and exciting, and strangely appropriate for a book that’s over 100 years old. It was a good time, and our seats were great. Thanks TKTS!

Aside from Miguel and my two visitors from this past weekend, I haven’t been hanging out with many other people here in New York. Schedules with my friends from California are difficult to coordinate, and other than them, my list of new friends from New York remains quite short. I’m considering joining the Cal Alumni Club sometime soon just to broaden my horizons. They’re hosting a happy hour event later this week, and next month, they’re teaming up with the alumni clubs of other Pac-10 schools to host a nighttime cruise around Manhattan. It would be nice to meet more people, in general. The stress of moving and settling in has left me short of energy, and I find it taxing to try and extend myself even more by attending these huge social events. I’ll just have to psych myself up for it, I guess.

This coming week will be filled with completing the furnishing of my bedroom and possibly painting the apartment, if I can find the time and the money to do so. I’m hoping to catch another Broadway show soon. I’ve got Saved!, Cry-Baby, and In the Heights on my list of shows to see ASAP. Sex and the City premieres next week, which I’m planning on seeing with Nikki and some of her friends. And the week after that, I have three of my very good friends from home coming to visit. Exciting things await!



Week two has come and gone, and things are falling into place. I'm moving into my apartment this weekend, along with my first pieces of furniture, and I've spent a few thousand dollars to cover the cost of rent, broker's fees, and all the basic necessities. My first measly paycheck came in, but (hopefully) my funds will be seeing a steady increase over the next few weeks. I went to Accepted Students Day at AMDA, and though I didn't meet anyone like I had intended - about 95% of the students there were 17- and 18-year-old high school graduates flocked by their parents and gabbing with one another, sharing the excitement and fear of being on their own for the first time - I did gain a lot of insight about the program I'm about to dive into. It requires discipline, focus, and determination, which I believe I have accumulated large stores of over the last few years. I'm uncertain and a little bit afraid of what lies ahead, but regardless, I'm going to attempt this new challenge with everything I have.

Being at AMDA, as well as being by myself here in New York, has given me the opportunity to really reflect on the kind of growth that has happened over the the last two weeks, let alone the last few months. Admittedly, it has been really difficult to adjust while being so far away from Manhattan, where everything I want is waiting for me to get there. Because my commute is about two hours into the city, I haven't had a good opportunity to really learn the city and meet any people. So, as expected, I have felt lonely. But it's a different kind of lonely. Back home, I felt completely alone because I couldn't find what I wanted and I felt like no one understood the kind of passion I have in me. Here, I am by myself, and there's definitely homesickness because I'm surrounded by so many unfamiliar things. However, the pace and the character of this place makes me feel like anything is possible and that all the questions I have about myself and what's in store for me will soon be answered. That understanding and realization has helped me let go of a lot of the sadness and resentment that have been weighing me down the last few months. It feels so refreshing.

I had a conversation with my dear friend Chris last night, and while I will leave the details out of this blog for the sake of myself and the sake of an unknowing person who I still consider a friend at the end of our story, I will say that it put much of the last few months into perspective. Throughout this whole process, my family and friends have kept telling me how courageous I've been in pursuing my dreams and how proud they are of me. But until now, the reflection I saw in the mirror was not of a strong person. Until now, I saw a timid person who only took a chance because she was afraid of what might become of her if she didn't listen to her heart. The independence I've gained in the last two weeks, and the insight provided by a few choice words, has given me the confidence to know that what I am doing is admirable and that I can make it through anything. Few people are willing to put their heart out on the line, knowing it will get broken, beaten, and bruised on the way to happiness. But I did it, and I turned out okay after yet another disappointment. There is no resentment, only closure. And clarity.

There is so much to learn here: about myself, about all the places life can take me. It's incredible. I almost can't believe I have the good fortune of being able to experience all this at such a perfect time in my life.

I guess that's destiny for you.



I've been in New York for just about a week now, and it's crazy to think how much has been accomplished. My first full day here, I ventured into Manhattan to meet my roommate, Nikki, for the first time in person, get a work schedule for my new job, catch up with Miguel, and ultimately, start acquainting myself with the city. From that point on, it's been a whirlwind. I'm starting to fully understand the pace of this place, and from what I can tell, I think I'm gonna like it here.

I began training at my new job on Thursday, May 1. I'm currently working as a hostess in a restaurant called Riingo, located in midtown Manhattan.

Riingo by Marcus Samuelsson, in association with The Alex Hotel

Restaurant interior

I've never worked in a restaurant before, but I chose to do so when I got here because (a) I needed to find a job that would be flexible and sustainable while going to school, (b) I wanted a complete change of pace from everything I was doing previously in California, and (c) I can get free food when I'm strapped for cash. The job has been pretty easy to learn; it's the adjusting that will definitely be the hardest for me, going from a job with a lot of responsibility and autonomy to one without much of that at all. But I'm sure that I will get used to it all in due time. I must say, though, getting one day off every two work days is pretty nice.

I got the chance to do some initial apartment hunting with Nikki my first few days in New York. After seeing the size and price of some of these places, my living standards were shot. Maybe I was spoiled by living in the cozy duplex on Echo Avenue in Oakland, I don't really know. But I had to erase and alter all my ideas about New York living almost immediately. I realize now that living in New York is not about being comfortable. It's about convenience, social life, and location, location, location. That's what I'm paying for. And that's what I came out here for.

I spent the weekend at Nikki's place is midtown because I had planned to meet and go out with her friends. Meeting people is important, especially because I came out here all by myself. I went to this 80's themed party Friday night, and though I'm not particularly enthusiastic about clubs, I had a pretty good time. It was a little difficult to try and get to know people over the sound of music blaring from the speakers over our head, but I got a general sense of the crowd I'd be hanging out with on a regular basis, thanks to my roommate. The highlight for the night was a rapper who came to the club and performed a 20-minute set for the party goers. I think he was supposed to be some kind of underground rap artist, but with my Bay Area standards, I must say, I thought he was kind of tame. Definitely good, but not what I would have expected. Saturday evening, Nikki hosted a girls night in, with food, drinks, and Cranium. I had a great time and got to know her friends a lot better. As expected, each one of them is a transplant, having been drawn to New York for a variety of reasons from their homes all over the country. They referred to my home as "San Fran" and "Cali," which, though touristy and a little detached, was certainly endearing. I came to find we had a lot in common, from our liberal views on politics to our taste in television (every one of them loves How I Met Your Mother, which is absolutely thrilling). By the end of the night, I felt relieved in knowing I had found a group of people I could so easily relate to and identify with. It's going to make my adjustment so much easier.

Aside from meeting Nikki's friends, I also got to meet her dog, and our third roommate, Bosco.

Bosco, the bulldog

He's an adorable combination of rough and tumble with a playful temperament. I can't wait to be living with them both, officially.

This week has been spent working and continually adjusting to New York City life. I had the day off work, so Miguel and I visited the NY Transit Museum in Brooklyn, which is a subway station converted into a hall preserving the history of the subway lines, bus routes, and bridge construction. It is fascinating, particularly because I am so in love with public transportation. The best part was having the chance to walk in and out of 14 old subway trains and getting to see how design and function have changed over the years.

Miguel on a bus

Miguel on a train

Miguel and I are thinking it would be amazing to get a group of people together to visit the museum and do a lip-dub of some crazy fun song, while running in and out of the cars. Any takers?

The best news of the week, by far, was finding out that I got an apartment - got the official approval today! I will be living on W 111th Street, between 5th and Lenox (6th) Avenues. For those who are Manhattan savvy, you will notice that this apartment, a newly-renovated 2BR/1BA with brand new appliances (for $1500/mo - unheard of in Manhattan), is located right at Central Park North. That's right friends, Central Park is literally in my backyard. Incredible! Especially for Bosco. Furthermore, both west and east side subway lines are accessible from the apartment: 2 and 3 are one block west; B and C are just a bit further; and the 6 is three blocks east. The laundromat is one block away and the nearest grocery store is about a 5-minute walk for the apartment. Seriously, I couldn't have asked for more. I'm already putting together a list of things to buy to furnish the apartment, and I'm considering painting my room purple. I can't wait to finally have a place to call home here in this gigantic city.

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2

Kitchen, with brand new appliances and fire escape access through the window

So things are starting to fall into place. I'm adjusting at a nice pace. It's funny, all the people I have met and encountered this last week remind me so much of all the people I love back home. Maybe it's because I'm missing everyone so much. Or maybe it's because I never left anyone behind, I just took them all with me. That's what I like to think anyway. As the days pass, it becomes easier and easier to feel like this is my new home and this is where the next chapter of my life begins. And that's such an exciting feeling. Some point soon, I know, I'll begin to feel settled.