Tag Archives: Greenpoint

Story of the Day: 2-14-11


Stranded in Brooklyn

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is also my parents’ anniversary. So it is as good a time as any to pay tribute to three of my favorite people in the world: my parents and my wife Sarah. My other favorite people, in case you were wondering, are my daughter Hazel, my sister Mandy and her family, and Bristol Palin.

My parents were great about visiting me in New York, even though it was almost always a miserable experience. My dad came to visit by himself once during the greatest heat wave in New York history. He ended up having to rent a hotel room because he couldn’t handle staying in my un-air conditioned Brooklyn apartment and I didn’t know how to tell my girlfriend at the time that she wasn’t welcome so she stayed over on the fold-out couch, making all of us somewhat uncomfortable. The hotel he rented was my suggestion; it was incredibly cheap for Manhattan but it was essentially a youth hostel. His room was about four feet by four feet and he had to go down the hall to use the bathroom. It was an incredibly sad state of affairs for all involved.

On another trip, my dad and I went out to a bar in Manhattan with some of my friends and he left earlier than I did. The train he needed was out of commission, but he only found this out after waiting an hour for it to arrive. He figured out how to take another route, but by that time it was after midnight, and I lived in a sketchy part of Brooklyn where even bums were afraid to walk around after dark. He managed to get home without getting mugged, but I’m sure the trip did not exactly take place within what he would call his comfort zone.

Another time, back when I was still living at 21-20, the whole family came to visit. The morning my sister was leaving she woke up to find Scary Gary’s horrible snarling monster of a dog trapped in our foyer. We called the police, but right before they arrived, Mr. Talgot returned from his morning frut run and took the dog into his apartment. My sister missed her plane and the dog missed his one chance to escape from under Gary’s iron fist, so again, lose-lose.

I don’t think it was mere coincidence that things always went off the rails when my parents visited. When my parents are around I magically transform into the image they’ve had of me since I was a small child. For instance, I used to lose things when I was a kid. I don’t really do that anymore. I am mature now, and responsible. But every time they come to visit, I lose things. So they will always see me as the kid who loses things, because when they’re around, that’s who I am. And there’s something about my parents being around that negates all my responsibility and self-discipline. When they come to LA, we always get lost. I try so hard to not get lost that I end up second-guessing myself and getting lost. I have no explanation for this phenomenon, but I am sure it is real and it is full of science.

Maybe the worst example of things spiraling out of control in New York occurred the day they met my wife Sarah for the first time. She wasn’t my wife at the time, of course. I wouldn’t get married without inviting my parents. They raised me better than that.

The night before the out-of-control day, I had spent the night at Sarah’s apartment in Park Slope. I’m not sure where my parents were staying, but it was far enough away from Brooklyn that once they got there, they weren’t about to leave. I lived in Greenpoint, which is a good 1/2 hour train ride from Park Slope on a good day. The day in question was not a good day. We had told my parents to meet us at a restaurant in Greenpoint for brunch at 11:00. We hopped on the F train with plenty of time to spare. The F train went blazing past our stop. We got out at the next stop and took an F in the opposite direction. Then we waited 1/2 an hour for the G to arrive, and had to transfer to another train, which took us to a bus, which took us to Greenpoint. All told, we were about 45 minutes late.

When we arrived, we apologized up and down. My parents were very nice about it, still eager to meet this girl I’d been raving about for the past few months. The three of them got along famously, because, of course they would. I would never marry a girl my parents did not approve of. They raised me better than that.

After brunch, we parted ways with Sarah at the subway entrance and my parents and I headed back to my apartment. She was on her way down to her friend Rosten’s apartment to practice with her band. Oh, which, now that I’m remembering, was why we couldn’t leave Brooklyn … because we were going to see Sarah’s band play in Park Slope at 7:00 that night. That’s how New York works; when you’re in Brooklyn at 12:30 and you have a show to go to at 7:00, you have to find a way to kill 6 1/2 hours. If you try to go back into Manhattan, something’s bound to go pear-shaped.

A few blocks away from my apartment, I realized that my only set of keys was in Sarah’s purse. I called her. No answer, of course, because she was on the subway, underground. I did not know where Rosten’s apartment was located. Thinking quickly, I decided that our best option was to get on the subway and head in a general southerly direction in the hopes that she would realize what had happened and get off the train at exactly the right station and miraculously find the car we were in and hand off the keys to us.

This didn’t happen. Attempts to contact one another by cell phone were met with dead signals. What we did was go to her apartment, where she wasn’t, and wait in the park until she called us. We waited for about 1/2 an hour. It started to sprinkle. Things were not looking positive. Finally, she called and gave us a somewhat central location where we could meet. We didn’t want to get all the way back on the train and head up to our place, only to head back down to see her band later that night, so we decided she would give us the keys to her apartment and we would hang out there until it was time to go to her show.

We all hopped back on the train. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the station near the coffee shop where I was to meet Sarah. The rain was coming down in buckets, so I told my parents to wait at the subway and I’d brave the storm myself. I found the coffee shop, met up with Sarah, got her keys, and returned to the subway with three $4.99 umbrellas in hand. It’s always raining in New York, but the rain often catches you unawares while you’re out on the street, far from your home. The solution is to always carry an umbrella with you, no matter what the sky looks like in the morning, or buy a street umbrella. Street umbrellas are a flimsy, one-time use item that you buy only under the direst of circumstances. You use your street umbrella to get to wherever you’re going and then you throw it in the trash or the back of your closet. You don’t carry a street umbrella with you as your umbrella of choice. The next time it rains, you just buy another street umbrella.

We then got back on the subway and took the train back to where we’d just come from, walked to Sarah’s apartment in the pouring rain, geting soaked even though we had umbrellas because the umbrellas we had were truly abysmal. There was a moment of panic when I couldn’t get the front door to Sarah’s building open, but I banged furiously until one of the neighbors let us in. Neighbors always let you in in New York, even if they’ve never seen you before.

The adventure was pretty much over at that point. It was now 4:00. We hung out at Sarah’s apartment for 2 more hours then got back on the train and headed to her gig. Where she was brilliant, of course, and my parents were suitably impressed. To their credit, they rolled with the punches, even though I’m sure the minute they finally got some time alone they banged their heads against the wall for raising such an irresponsible child. Ah well. In the end, in all worked out for the best. I got the girl, and they … I’m not really sure what they got out of it. A wonderful daughter-in-law, a brand new granddaughter, and a couple of useless umbrellas.

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Story of the Day: 1-6-11


A few weeks into the beginning of my relationship with my (now) wife Sarah, my friend Matt started pestering us about going on this 50 mile bike ride through all 5 of the boroughs with him and his wife, also Sarah. I had not been on a bike in probably 10 years at the time, nor had I thought about exercising since moving to New York 7 years earlier. But this was a new relationship and a new me and if all it took to convince my future wife of my manliness was a day biking around New York, than that’s what I was prepared to do.

I didn’t actually even have a bike at the time, so I went with Matt to a used bike shop and bought a beat-up 3 speed for $75. It was rusty and heavy as a corpse and the brakes weren’t quite as responsive as I would have liked, but it seemed like it would do for one day. As long as I didn’t have to brake, I should be fine.

The morning of the ride, we started out in my neighborhood, Greenpoint. We had to wake up at 5 in the morning to get to the start of the route by 6:30. It was drizzling, which should have been our first clue that the day was not going to be the pleasure-cruise we were hoping for. 

It took us much longer than it should have taken for us to get downtown. The first two subway stations we stopped at were not equipped to allow bikes in at 5 in the morning. Finally, after biking five drizzling miles away from my apartment, we found the one platform in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area that had a bike-friendly entrance.

Which, as a side note, is precisely why I finally left New York for good: every day, it was something like that. You buy groceries and the bag rips on the way home. You get in a taxi and $30 into the ride you realize the guy thought you said “Bronx” instead of “Brooklyn.” New York is a never-ending parade of people and things getting in your way and preventing you should easily be able to do anywhere else in the world. Which is what many people love about it: it’s certainly unpredictable. Unpredictable like a brain aneurysm, if you ask me. 

After transferring seventeen times (an exaggeration) we eventually got to the right subway stop and found Matt and Sarah in the massive crowd of people. This was not some kind of fly-by-night affair; it was a massive city-sponsored event that attracted tens of thousands of people, all of whom were currently surrounding us and preventing us from moving.

We spent the next hour sitting on our bikes in the rain, waiting for the people in front of us to move. Another classic New York experience: the blind wait. We were at the starting lineup right on time. But New York doesn’t care how miserable you are. New York starts the ride when it’s goddamn good and ready.

When we finally got moving, things improved slightly. At least we were that much closer to the day being over. I had no gloves and had to bike with my coat sleeves pulled down over my hands because it was freezing. I tried to put on a happy face for the sake of appearances, but in my head I kept shouting, “BE … OVER. BE … OVER.”

We rode from downtown to uptown to the Bronx with the rain drizzling down all the while. Lest I make the experience out to be a total bust, let me say this: it is pretty amazing having control of the streets of New York. I am in full support of fixing our cities so that people can bike in peace and harmony on a regular basis. They even shut down one side of the highway for us, which was amazing. Biking on the highway is something I recommend everyone do at least once. Try to divert the rest of the traffic somehow first, though.

The rain finally abated when we got to Astoria, my old stomping grounds. We stopped and had a picnic lunch in a park near my old apartment, and things seemed to be looking up. From there, we merely had to bike through Brooklyn and down to Staten Island. Supposedly, we’d be done and home in a couple of hours.

After lunch, we biked through Long Island City and into Greenpoint. We were exactly 1 block from my apartment and could have easily called it quits right there. I asked Sarah how she was feeling. “I don’t know,” she said. “How are you feeling?”

“Well, it looks like the rain stopped, anyway,” I said. “And they do say it’s only going to be a few more hours.”

“I say we do it,” she said.

And so we did. We breezed past my apartment and kept on riding.

About ten miles later, we were on the Gowanus Expressway, headed toward the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which would take us to Staten Island. Matt and I were talking and I guess we’d gotten ahead of the Sarahs. So we decided to pull off on to the shoulder and wait for them to arrive.

We waited. And waited. Bikers drifted past us by the hundreds, none of whom were our Sarahs.

Finally, after a panicky 15 minutes, during which for some reason neither of us bothered to check our cell phones (the story falls apart a little bit right here), the Sarahs rode up on two very wobbly-looking bikes. Right after we broke away from them, Sarah and Sarah were having a leisurely bike experience next to each other, when some cockface decked out in head-to-toe racing gear decided it would be a smart idea to try to zoom between them. His spokes caught on their spokes, and they were both tossed from their bikes onto the ground. My Sarah’s tire was bent, not enough to make it unrideable, but enough to make the experience very, very annoying. She was bruised and scraped up and we still had about five miles to go before reaching the promise land.

We redoubled our efforts. We were this close to the end of the ride; failure was not an option. We had to take it slow — kids on tricycles were lapping us –- but after awhile, we made it to the bridge.

And that’s when we gave up. The bridge was a windy wind-beast forged in the winds of Windlandia. We were pedaling so hard against the wind we were in tears. (Please note: when I say “we,” I am referring to Sarah and I. Matt and Sarah were breezing along effortlessly, because they know how to do things.)

We didn’t give up, as in turn around. But we couldn’t bike any more. We were done. Our asses were on fire, Sarah’s bike was a mess, my brakes didn’t work, and we’d had it. We walked the rest of the way up the bridge and wobbled to the ending area, where the ride organizations had conveniently set up several booths of overpriced food and water stands for us to enjoy.

Little did we know, we STILL were nowhere near the finish line. Due to some fight between the Bloomberg administration and ferry operators (or so the rumor went), the city was woefully unprepared for the number of ferries they would need to take everyone back into Manhattan. We waited in a giant mass of people for two and a half hours as nothing happened. The crowd grew restless. At one point, I thought a riot was going to break out. More specifically, I thought Matt was going to start a riot. He has a low tolerance for poor city planning.

We finally made it back to Manhattan around 8:30. By the time we were settled back in Brooklyn, it was almost 10:00. The day wasn’t a waste of time, of course; for a first big date, it makes a pretty good story. And if we made it through that, we can make it through pretty much everything. Cue “My Heart Will Go On.”

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