New York City Isn’t Clowning Around!

November 2009

Preparing for New York City was exciting: What an adventure and what will we do there?

Getting to New York was simple: Pack two oversized rolling luggage bags and get on the train.

John had left Charleston in the middle of October 2009 to make his way to New York City. He found a cozy spot in Hoboken, NJ on a friends couch to sleep at night and by day he scoured the city for jobs and Brooklyn for a home. I would be out in the yard on The Farm in Virginia when I’d get a call from him: “I’m in Brooklyn on Bergen Street and it looks pretty nice. Google it!” I would dial up the internet, yes….dial up!…..and spend hours trying to upload Google Earth images and look for apartments on that street. After 5 or so days of his tireless searching and my stressful computer navigating, I was ready to give up. But John had found work as a street promoter and I had heard back from a jeweler in Brooklyn that I may be able to intern with. Things were…..coming along….

I had no idea what to pack. Though I had just spent 3 months on a bike with little to my name, packing two suitcases for Fall in New York was tough. What’s the weather like? I need a suit to go to interviews in. How many shoes do I pack? Well, I sure did pack a lot. And with one or two care packages from Mom and Dad we were able to make it to Christmas on just that!

At the train station in Fredericksburg, VA I met an older lady who was heading to New York. She ended up sitting with me the whole way up and she kept me sane. I think it was harder to say goodbye to my parents that day than any other day. Mostly because I had no job. No idea what to do. And mostly-No where to live.

I met John outside of Penn Station. It was my second time to New York. I didn’t recognize him because he had lost so much weight. All of that house hunting and pinching pennies on food will change a man! But boy was I glad to see him. I took a deep breath and we headed to Hoboken. Hoboken is adorable and we looked at a few places there to rent. But we both thought the commute would be costly and time consuming. After one Craigslist scam and a million phone calls, we finally saw a month-to-month sublet in Queens that we really liked. That was quite a relief! Luckily, when you only bring 2 suitcases to live out of, it isn’t hard to move. Sunnyside, Queens: Beautiful, quaint, boring. I began my internship of beading and cutting wire and quietly sitting at a desk in a small room with 4 other women I didn’t know or identify with. We worked for Aesa. A very popular jewelry company run by Randi Mates. Everyone was so nice and she paid for my bus ticket, an occasional  lunch and lots of coffee. I was also working with John doing promotions. He was working 2 shifts a day at 4 hours a piece making $20 an hour!!!! Great gig, right! Maybe if you you’re not dressed in an Elephant suit! But he didn’t mind. He could listen to his Podcasts and his identity was completely hidden. 

My job however, was not so very fortunate. I got the $20 an hour, the 4 hour shifts, the paid travel as well. The downside……

I was not as lucky. With my head sticking out of a “medicine” box, flyers in one hand, and an oversized spoon in the other; I would have to say “Free Your Nose!” Over. And over. And over. It was cold. It was hilarious. But we did it together. We were sent all over the cities. We were paid the same even if we got lost or slipped into a Starbucks to stay warm during snow storms. It paid the bills and it led to another gig: Handing out Clown Noses for Big Apple Circus. That job was a whole lot of fun. Instead of throwing flyers at tourists….we handed out clown noses. And who doesn’t want a clown nose! (lots of people actually)

By January we had found a new place to live: Williamsburg(Brooklyn). We had two new roomies: Camille John had known for 8 years through Theatre 99 and Austin was a friend of hers from Chicago. The 4 of us had a 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, back yard, parking spot, and a basement storage area all for the price of what we paid for the studio apartment in Sunnyside, Queens. Amazing.

As for jobs….they just kept coming. I was working for pay at Aesa. I began working for Bullfrog Creatives as a production jeweler. I was an assistant teacher at The 92nd Street Y for a teen jewelry class on Saturdays. I was handing out clown noses whenever I could. John was promoting and going through UCB(Upright Citizens Brigade). He began working on a boat as a waiter. And he was picking up some catering shifts. At one point I was working 8 jobs! By April I had gotten part-time work at Eastern Mountain Sports. Back to doing the outdoor gear selling! I never thought I would be doing it again but it was consistent work. They had a schedule which I was salivating for at the time.  Every day seemed to be a combination of texts from the two ladies I worked for vying for my time to work for them but both struggling artists dealing with their own ups and downs. I was plugging the jobs into my day like puzzle pieces. Though they didn’t match up, they created a picture.

It’s exhausting being at someone’s beck and call. And to be in their studio all day wishing they were your tools and wishing it was your jewelry line you were slaving over. My hands would ache. My eyes would be tired. But it was such an inspiration to watch those women push through deadlines and obstacles. They made it work because it was their passion. It was in their every move and thought.

It’s tough to stand on a street corner and hand out clown noses to angry hurried New Yorkers. But it’s so much fun to learn how to navigate a city. It’s nice to have a kid with their hands outstretched reaching for that clown nose. The one that they can’t keep on because their nose is too small.

The summer of 2010 coming along solidified the fact that we had made it over the hump. We did it. We were employed, paying rent, and still dating! John was still pursuing his Banana Monologues Show. He was getting up early with me to write for hours before working his various jobs.

Fast forwarding a bit……MS Bike ride in September, Christmas on The Farm, Disney World in January, Launching my jewelry in February, March brought John to Annapolis,MD to begin work on a Comedy Festival for July, April was a trip home to Virginia for some much needed time with the family, and May has brought Full Time Employment and insurance…John made it into a New York Comedy Festival and I have my very own jewelry studio.

We’ve got weddings to attend, bills to pay, and a lawn to mow. We’ve got opportunities coming and choices to make. I know this blog began as a means of documenting my cross country bicycle trip in 2009 but I suppose it is morphing into something new now….The writer in me has been rumbling for months and I’ve suppressed the feeling to share my words with the world because it seems so selfish and indulgent. Well, screw it.

Working at Eastern Mountain Sports gives me a chance to talk about my trip and the commuting I do by bike these days. I hope to also share that information here. Let it be an inspiration for you to ride off in an direction you choose. I was brought to New York. Where are you going?

5 Boro Bike Tour 2010

George Washington Bridge

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Rickshaw Rider

I wake up to the most beautiful views in the world: My Own Land. Well, technically, it’s my parents land but it’s ours. It’s Fall and all of the Hickory trees are turning gold. The splashes of color are something I have missed seeing while living in Charleston. Fall in Virginia is better than any other season. Too bad I haven’t been enjoying it enough. Instead I have been glued to the tv or computer most of the day only to retire to bed early because I’m tired….but I didn’t do anything…how can this be? This is how the past few days have been. However, today I woke up rested. From the very minute of waking up I saw this day as being a good one.
My folks were on their way to a wedding and as they passed through Tappahannock, the closest town-also where I went to high school, they spotted a man in the cemetary picnic area with a tent and a Rickshaw. For anyone who is unfamiliar with these: A rickshaw is a bike with a seat behind the rider to carry passengers. It’s usually just one gear and 3 wheels. It’s a trike. You see them a lot in Charleston and some in NYC. They are a great alternative to taking a taxi. Nothing beats man power. My folks chatted with the guy, Sean, and called me to tell me to get my butt into town to meet him. I called him first to see if he wanted a truck ride back here to stay the night but like all good touring cyclists he refused and said he would rather rely on what he has and his tent. Nevertheless, I couldn’t come empty handed. Not after all of the kind things people did for me this summer. I scooped up the last of the rasberries of the season, the last tomato, 2 hard boiled eggs, and a handful of mums(flowers). Hopefully the goodies would be of use and brighten what had turned into a windy and gray day.
Sean and I talked for about 2 hours. He showed me his sweet ride, his pantry and supplies, and introduced me to Cooper, probably the coolest dog I’ve ever met. I won’t go in to too much detail because there is much to read about his adventures on his blog :
rickshawusa.blogspot.com
Check out his story and why he’s riding. He’s one of those genuine souls. He’s trying something that most people would think is impossible. To him, it’s his life for the next year and it’s very possible.

When we set out to do things that seem out of the ordinary we sometimes forget how easy they really are to do because we get so caught up in worry. There is less worry in getting up every morning to ride your bike than there is in going to work every day. There’s a freedom that comes with adventures that make those out of the ordinary things so very possible. His adventure not only reminds me of my ride this past summer but it stirs up all of the ideas that I’ve been hiding away in the back of my mind. There are so many things that I don’t do because I get caught up in the worry. What if what I do doesn’t pan out? What if I go broke? Who cares? At least I would have done something. And that is more important than taking the safe road. Those two hours have given me back some of the energy that I have been missing this past week. Though I will probably still take a nap tomorrow, the day will be packed with enjoying where I am RIGHT NOW and laying the foundation for what is to come(finding a place to live and a job). Tomorrow I will make jewelry. I will paint the trim for the kitchen. I will not watch tv. I will breathe in the Fall air.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Sean. I enjoyed hearing about your travels. To sum up the Emerson quote that you read: Our goal in life is not to be happy but it is to be of help to others and to make our mark on the world. Today you helped me get out of a rut. Thanks for that, job well done 🙂

More Ralph Waldo Emerson:
All our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.

Time

It’s almost October. The beginning of the month is taunting me like a ball on the end of a string being dangled in front of a kitten. Sure, I’d love to reach out and grab it. On the other hand, I’d like to sit and watch it wave in front of me…I will not play your time games…
Time doesn’t exist on the bike. You get up at a reasonable hour and you hit the road before the heat is hitting you. You wander down the small back roads trying to absorb all that you pass. You push those pedals harder when there’s a Walmart in site or an endless stretch of barren land. You don’t know what day it is. You don’t know what time it is. These things that seem to dominate and keep your real life in a choke hold are hardly thought of while you ride. This is one reason why I will never take a vacation that revolves around scheduled activities. Throw in one or two spur of the moment time-based events but man do NOT tell me that I must be here for one adventure or another. Vacations have been marketed so heavily on this adventure or that. How about viewing the whole thing as the adventure and those mini-adventures are the highlights. They won’t be that though if you are late, or forgot your flippers, or your wallet. I guess I’m thinking more or those all inclusive vacations like cruises…

My mom and I went on an 11 day cruise about 4 years ago and it was a lot of fun. But it wasn’t just fun because of the islands we saw or the massive ship we explored daily. It was fun because we had a credit card and could pay for those $8 lattes and $12 mixed drinks with the a swipe. It was fun because we didn’t miss getting back to the boat before it left dock. (I did almost miss it once but jumped aboard as they were pulling in the ramp) It was fun because we only missed one meal-they are scheduled and if you are late, you don’t eat. You’ve now paid for a meal you cannot enjoy. Sounds like a blast! I desperately wanted to stay on every island for at least a day. I think the longest we were on one was from about 7am to 4pm. How sad. It takes 1 hour just to get a taxi somewhere. They were all magnificent places and we did really fun things like scuba dive, take and island tour(we got very drunk), sit on sandy white beaches, kayak along the green banks in crisp blue waters. It was amazing. I never want to do it again! I don’t remember the names of the islands and we went to about 8. I was exhausted from the go-go-go. You’re on a boat! All it can do is GO! There was one day, it was Christmas day, where the boat didn’t even port. It just went in circles.

So enough ranting. The point is that vacations should be an escape from the normal restrictions in life. They should be an opportunity for a person to let loose, take a deep breathe, and be free. Take off your watch, turn off the phone, forget about Facebook and email. Peal yourself away from all of the things that us humans have created to “make your life easy.” Challenge yourself to just relax. For most people these days it is a challenge.

I want you out there, whoever is still reading this, to challenge yourself to sit still for one hour. It’s nearly impossible. Our minds just want to tell our bodies to go! But our minds created time and our bodies don’t always agree with the concept. It’s not good to push the body or the mind to never step back and relax. I try doing yoga to force myself to “get centered” and “be one with myself.” Are you kidding? I’m thinking about not farting in front of the 30 other people in a hot hot hot room filled with highly flexible folks that make me ashamed that I can’t pretzel as they do. I’m trying not to fall over while I’m “calmly” standing on one foot, legs wrapped around each other, arms twisted, head up, breathing in unison. How is this relaxing? I suppose if I were better at it my mind would be free to wander in other directions. What is it that calms you? Do that for one hour just to see if you can. I bet for some of you it’s knitting or gardening. Cooking? Cleaning? Running? It’s funny that all of the calming or de-stressing actions I can think of are just that, actions. We’re supposed to be sitting still. I guess it is a little unreasonable to think that anyone would want to do that…Right? But not because it’s weird but because we would look back on that one peaceful hour with distain. I can hear you now telling yourself how you could have gotten 5 other things done in that one hour. Now your entire day is thrown off because you took such a foolish break. But was it time wasted?

I’m battling time every day. I have no job. I have jewelry supplies begging to be played with. I have dishes to be done and laundry and a resume to fix up and an apartment to find and grants to look for. I have so much to do and so MUCH time to do it that it isn’t getting done. Instead I am awake at 3 am going over this list of things to tackle the next day. I’m so awake that I go ahead and get up for 2 hours to fiddle around and read a cookbook instead of getting much needed rest. It’s been hard to adjust back to a world of deadlines, expectations from others, money issues, places to be…But I bet that had I jumped right back into a job, I wouldn’t feel the same about life. I would be back into a routine of some kind where every free moment is cherished. Where I have time to miss the boyfriend and ache to be home on the couch. Instead I try to think of all the possible things I could do and then don’t do any!

It’s not that I haven’t done anything. I do accomplish things, just very slowly. Today was productive and so was the weekend actually. I may be on the up swing. The date of departure from Charleston is approaching. The weight of change is beginning to sit heavy on my shoulders.

Oscar sits lonely outside. He’s not happy with how often he is used. When he does go for a spin it’s usually to a coffee shop and then home again. I miss relying on him to carry me down the road. Guess I’ll have to start relying on myself.
Pacific Sand