One HUGE New Thing!
Okay, okay … I know you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to. Well, maybe not … but some of you might be thinking: “What? Has this chick entirely given up on new things?”
Well, no, I haven’t. In the past six months, I’ve appeared on television (MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show), joined the Five Boro Bike Club and gone on a weekend bike trip in Cape Cod, spoken about Meetup to a group of HR professionals, jumped into Facebook (after years of resisting), and shed 30 pounds (ya-a-a-ay!) … all of which I should have written about. But part of it is that I’ve been busy with the biggest, most unexpected and all-consuming New Thing of all: MOVING!
Some seven years ago, when I knew I’d be leaving my walk-up apartment on 50th Street, I managed to get myself on the waiting list for an apartment at Penn South, an affordable housing complex in Chelsea for people of modest means. This was a coup in itself; the waiting list isn’t opened very often, and when it is (publicized through an ad in the New York Times Real Estate section and an announcement on Penn South’s website), it’s by lottery. You send in a postcard and, if your card gets drawn, they send you an application. I got one, filled it out and returned it … and was notified that I was now number one-thousand-something on the waiting list for a one-bedroom apartment. “Great!,” I thought; “my number will come up just in time for retirement, when I’m wondering how I’ll afford to stay in the city. Meanwhile, I better get cracking on looking for a place to live in right now.” So that’s how I wound up in Washington Heights.
Over the past seven years, I’ve logged into the Penn South waiting list and watched my number inch along up to five-hundred-and-something, so I figured it would be another seven years or so before I heard from them. But in September, I received a letter informing me that I should call for an appointment to look at several apartments … and I just about freaked!
Though it seems like the Back of Beyond to some of my friends, I’ve loved living near the Cloisters. My apartment is enormous, quiet, and has leafy river views. Fort Tryon Park is practically my backyard. And over the years, I’ve built up a varied and satisfying community — making friends in the building, through the fitness walks in the park, through volunteering, and through the temple. I love the fact that I can’t walk by a restaurant without waving at someone inside, can’t go grocery shopping without a sidewalk chat along the way. Sure, the A train has been a pain in the butt … but it’s the price we pay for space, fresh air, and life in a neighborhood that has all the virtues of a small town that’s (technically, anyway) 20 minutes by subway from Columbus Circle. Wouldn’t I be nuts to give all this up? I didn’t want to move … especially when the continuity of that community plays a big role in sustaining me during unemployment.
But life takes unexpected turns … and I wouldn’t even have landed in lovely Hudson Heights if I hadn’t been willing to step outside my comfort zone when presented with an opportunity to make change work for me.
Having lost my job and watched my monthly maintenance climb, part of me knew I had to give serious thought to this … even if it didn’t seem likely that I’d actually GET one of the apartments available now. (Some people on the list were waiting for apartments with terraces or on high or low floors, or had temporarily “frozen” their positions; others had probably moved and forgotten to update their contact information … which is how I even got called in the first place. Even so, four people ahead of me would have to turn down apartments now for me to snag one — fat chance!) But a few weeks after viewing, I got … THE CALL.
How quickly can life turn upside-down? I had just made my breakfast and sat down at the dining table. Now, telephone in hand, I looked around at all my books, records, furniture, plants, artwork, china, pottery, clothes, papers, electronics … and the cat! … and tried not to panic as I realized that somehow, by hook or by crook, it would all have to get relocated eight miles downtown — in about two months. I was one-quarter excited and three-quarters terrified, and took a deep breath. Then another ….