Tag Archives: New York City


What am I doing here at 4:30 AM instead of sleeping? A week or two ago it was gunfire behind my apartment building; tonight it sounds like either a street party or a riot. I can’t directly see the street from my window (I have a lovely view of a brick wall), but I woke up a half hour ago to the sounds of a large crowd of people shouting, horns blaring, police sirens, and some asshole with his car stereo cranked up loud enough to rattle my windows. It’s still going on right now.

New York is the only city I’ve ever lived in where it’s apparently socially acceptable to park your car on the side of the street in a residential neighborhood at 4 AM, roll down the windows and open all the doors, and blast hip-hop music your car stereo while you and a dozen of your closest gangbanger friends hang out on the sidewalk and smash beer bottles on the pavement and yell at people. The police won’t bother to intercede unless there’s weapons involved.

Actually, I know this happens in certain neighborhoods of plenty of other cities, but this the only city I’ve lived in where I can pull in a good salary and yet still not be able to afford to live in a neighborhood where this sort of thing doesn’t happen on a near-nightly basis, at least not without involving a 90-minute commute.

Speaking of commuting, after work this evening I entered the Columbus Circle subway station and when I got down to the platform, I was immediately overpowered by the stench of body odor and human feces strong enough to literally make me gag… Luckily my train pulled in right away, or else I would’ve had to leave the station before throwing up, and take a different subway line home. WTF?

There’s a lot of great things about NYC, but quality of life certainly isn’t one of them, and I’m now remembering why I got so burned out and moved to Oregon the first time I lived here. Living back in the Cincinnati area (or Oregon or almost anywhere else, for that matter) will no doubt have its own set of frustrations, but at least I’d be able to afford to live in a neighborhood where I can get some sleep and not have to put up with this shit every night.

End of rant… I hate to sound so negative, but I’m getting seriously fed up. It’s now 5 AM and the local thug element seems to have moved on, so I’m going to try going to bed again.

The Next Move

So, with my epic move to Bennett Avenue finally wrapped up, it’s time to look ahead to where I might find myself living this time next year. My lease runs through August 2009, and where I go from there is anybody’s guess right now. There’s a few options on the table, ranging from maintaining the status quo here in NYC to heading back home to Cincinnati.

Right now I have a decent job that pays well, I finally have a stable housing situation, I’m taking on additional responsibilities with the Acolyte Guild at the cathedral, and I still have a mountain of debt to pay off. As such, I’m giving some consideration to putting off grad school for another year while I finish my BA degree, pay off my debts, build up some savings, and clean up my credit report. This would put me in a much better position to afford grad school when the time comes, but then, I’ve been wanting to start my M.Arch. degree for a long time now and I’m not getting any younger.

If, however, I decide to go ahead and apply to M.Arch. programs this fall, I’ll most likely be applying to the following six schools, listed here in no particular order: City College, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Cincinnati.

City College is my “safety” pick, it would be by far the most affordable option, and I wouldn’t need to move again. Columbia would also allow me to stay put, although getting accepted there is far from certain, and being able to afford it is even less certain.

Yale and Princeton are both within a 90-minute train ride of NYC, but given the workload I’d be under, commuting wouldn’t be an option and I’d have to move to either Connecticut or New Jersey. Princeton in particular is a long shot, as they have a very small program and admit only a few people each year, but I figure it’s worth applying there anyway.

Harvard would probably be my top choice in terms of the quality of the program, but my last choice in terms of where I’d prefer to live. But if they’re willing to admit me — and especially if they’re willing to throw me some scholarship money — I’m sure I could learn to deal with Boston again for a few years.

That brings us to the University of Cincinnati.

Ever since high school I’ve had some sort of on-again-off-again interest in UC’s architecture program. I grew up in the Cincinnati area, I still have lots of family there, and I’ve watched the UC campus re-invent itself over the years, so the place already feels like my backyard.

UC’s distinguishing characteristic is their co-op program, in which students alternate quarters between full-time study in Cincinnati and full-time employment anywhere in the world. Back in 2005 I was considering UC for my M.Arch., but decided not to apply because I was: A) unsure how much the co-op thing would really do for me, given that I already have several years worth of experience in the architecture business, and B) wondering if I’d be freaked out living in Cincinnati again for the first time since I was ten years old, after so much time living in much larger and more progressive cities.

Fast forward to 2008, and UC is back on my mind again, for the following main reasons:

At some point in my life I’ll need to sink some roots and start a practice. I could do that here in NYC, I could do it in Cincinnati, or I could do it elsewhere. The co-op program would allow me to get a foot in the door pretty much anyplace I choose. I could alternate quarters between studying in Cincinnati and working full-time here in NYC (possibly even at my current firm), or allow me to test the waters in more exotic places such as Los Angeles or London. If I decide to practice in Cincinnati, I wonder if it might be easier to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than just another minnow in the ocean.

Maybe it’s because I just signed a lease for a cramped Manhattan studio for the same rent that would allow me to live like a king in Cincinnati, but quality of life and cost of living issues have been on my mind a lot lately. Living in NYC is great for a few years when you’re in your 20’s and early 30’s, and I still love NYC with a passion, but as I get older I’m wondering how much longer I’ll be willing to put up with all the daily stress of living here. As much as I love the city life, I miss having a car and being able to hear crickets outside my window at night. I think I’m starting to reach the point in my life where peace and quiet is more important to me than being in the middle of the action. Cincinnati is nice in that it offers a wide variety of housing options and neighborhood types within a short distance of downtown and the UC campus, all for peanuts compared to NYC’s cost of living.

Finally, I still have lots of family in the area. My parents currently live in North Carolina, but plan to move back to Cincinnati when they retire in a couple years. None of them are getting any younger and a couple of family members are starting to deal with serious health issues, so part of me wouldn’t mind being closer to home and reconnecting with my roots there.

Maybe it’s just a passing phase I’m going through in response to having my home life upended for so long, but I’ve been feeling pretty homesick for Cincinnati lately. I’ve lived in so many places that no matter where I live, I’m bound to suffer periodic bouts of homesickness for some other place. At various times in my life I’ve been homesick for Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oregon, and New York. Sometimes that’s prompted me to pack up my bags and move to that given place; other times I just grit my teeth and see if it passes. This is something I suspect I’ll be cursed with for the rest of my life.

That said, out of all the places I’ve longed to move to, Cincinnati has the distinction of being the city I was born in, the city I spent my early childhood in, and the city where most of my extended family still lives. Despite all its many faults, Cincinnati is where my roots are, and every trip back there always brings back lots of old memories. Moving away to North Carolina in 1984 was an incredibly traumatic experience for me; at that point in my life I was being forced to leave behind the only world I had ever known, and sometimes I wonder if I’ve ever really gotten over that experience. Maybe I’m reaching a point in my life where I’ve had my fill of moving around all the time, and I find myself ready to come back home for a while. Maybe I’ve been moving to places like Philadelphia and NYC in search of something that can only be found back home…. Or maybe not. Who knows.

I’m committed to staying in New York City through August of next year, and I’m fine with that. Despite the occasional frustrations of living here, the city has been pretty good to me so far, and I’m not willing to move away just yet. In the meantime, I’ve decided to take another trip back home next month so that I can attend UC’s open house on October 17th. At the very least, it will give me an opportunity to get my Skyline Chili fix.

Stay tuned…


Well, I finally did it. After spending the last two weeks of August flat broke and in a constant state of near-panic, I’ve finally gotten myself more-or-less settled into my own modest studio apartment in a quiet corner of Manhattan’s Hudson Heights neighborhood. With that, all my earthly belongings are now finally back under the same roof for the first time since June of last year. Let’s take a moment to recap this whole year-long moving process:

June 2007: Pack up my apartment in Chicago, and move most things into a nearby storage facility. The bare essentials will travel in the Jeep with me to New York, and I’ll have to come back for the rest of my stuff later. Travel to NYC, and get settled into a dorm room at Columbia while enrolled in the summer architecture studio.

July 2007: End up selling the Jeep for less than a third of what I was hoping to get for it. I guess that’s what happens when you try to sell a V8 Grand Cherokee while gas prices are skyrocketing. Meanwhile, begin searching frantically for a more permanent place to live in NYC.

August 2007: Move out of dorm room without having another housing situation lined up yet. Spend a few nights in a friend’s spare bedroom in Chinatown before subletting a co-worker’s studio apartment in Harlem for the remainder of the month. Continue looking for housing.

September 2007: Move into a share situation in the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn. The neighborhood leaves a lot to be desired and the roommate has some OCD issues, but vow to grit teeth and tolerate it until I can get my own place.

Later in the month, fly back to Chicago and rent a moving truck to pick up the rest of my stuff. About half of it will go into the apartment in Bushwick, while the other half will go right back into storage elsewhere in Brooklyn.

March 2008: Quietly begin building up anger and resentment toward roommate as his OCD and lack of consideration threaten to send me into a rage on multiple occasions. Somehow manage to bite my tongue and keep the peace for the next several months.

May 2008: Begin saving money for my own apartment when roommate informs me that he’d like me to move out by the end of August.

June 2008: Break a molar during lunch break one day, and watch as the summer’s apartment savings end up going towards emergency dental bills.

July 2008: Start seriously looking for no-fee apartments, determined not to end up back in another roommate situation. Eventually come across a smallish studio in Hudson Heights that, while far from perfect, is at least in a decent building in a much better neighborhood, with a much shorter commute. Spend the next few days scraping together every last penny to put down a deposit for it.

August 2008: After a few tense days waiting to hear back about whether I’ve been approved or not, make arrangements to hand over yet more money, sign the lease, and pick up the keys.

With no money left in the bank and the roommate demanding an unusually hefty sum for the final utility bill, paying for the actual move becomes a major challenge. Begin the slow process of moving by carrying a few things each day to the new apartment on the subway. Over the course of a week, this turns into a pretty good amount of stuff. This becomes my first move in which a healthy percentage of my household is transported via subway train.

Without enough money to do the proper thing and rent a Penske truck, end up renting a Ford Escape through Zipcar for a few hours and spend a Saturday evening getting as much stuff as possible out of the apartment in Bushwick and into the new place. Not everything fits, but it’s enough that I can now start sleeping at the new apartment. Meanwhile, beg a friend from the cathedral for the use of his own Jeep Grand Cherokee for moving the rest of my stuff.

Thursday, August 28th: Load up the rest of the stuff from the apartment in Bushwick. Turn in keys to roommate, along with post-dated check for the utilities.

Friday, August 29th: Make first trip from storage facility in Ridgewood.

Saturday, August 30th: Make second and final trip from storage facility. At this point the move is officially complete, although there’s still lots of unpacking and assembly left to do. Remainder of day Saturday is spent returning the favor to my friend by driving with him up to White Plains to pick up two pieces of furniture from Crate & Barrel, and helping him move the pieces into his 5th floor walk-up apartment.

First week of September 2008: Put a stop payment order on the check for the utilities when I do some research and discover my ex-roommate has been charging me for his own landline phone service for the past year. Send a new check in a much smaller amount to former roommate, along with a sternly-worded letter explaining my actions. Wait for shit to hit the fan, but try to remain calm in the knowledge that there’s not much he can really do about it at this point, short of pulling me into a dark alley and beating the crap out of me (which still wouldn’t get him the money). Luckily, he doesn’t know my new address, and there aren’t many dark alleys in Manhattan.

I’ve now been living in the new place for about a month, and things are going reasonably well. For the most part, my stuff is unpacked and the apartment pretty much feels like a real home instead of a self-storage locker filled with boxes and disassembled furniture. There are still a few odds and ends to get set up, but nothing critical. My commute is much shorter and more direct than before, and while I can still occasionally hear some obnoxious street noise from Broadway, it’s a tiny fraction of what I had to put up with every night in Brooklyn. So far I haven’t had any issues with noisy neighbors; as opposed to the ghetto trash and douchebag hipsters out in Bushwick, this neighborhood is mainly middle-class professionals and some Orthodox Jewish families. I’d much rather be in a one-bedroom apartment and able to sleep on a real bed instead of a futon, but I keep reminding myself that I’m not in a position to be very picky about my housing options right now. The one-bedroom apartment will have to wait a while longer.

Hurry Up and Wait

Well, my direct deposit didn’t go through last night like I was expecting, which means I can’t move this weekend. My firm’s payroll department is never consistent about when direct deposits get posted, especially if the payday falls on or near a weekend, but the last time the 15th fell on a Friday (back in February), the money was available the next day. So I’ve had to call the landlord and re-schedule the lease signing until Monday (I need to have a certified check for the security deposit), and I’ve re-scheduled my truck rental for next weekend.

I could move on Monday, but that would mean having to take a day off from work and probably having nobody to help me. In the meantime, I’m flat-broke and have no groceries, so it looks like I’ll be eating ramen noodles today and tomorrow… And this means I’ll have to put up with my roommate for another week.

I don’t know if I should be blaming my firm’s finance people, their payroll service, their bank, or my own bank, but whoever’s fault this is, I’m pretty pissed.

Just once, I’d like to have a move go smoothly with no major fuck-ups….

Rent Control

Sorry I haven’t been around much… Lately I’ve been putting myself through the living hell known as apartment-hunting in New York City. By now I feel like I’ve been inside almost every apartment building in the city. It’s funny how your logic works during this process. When I first began this search, I knew exactly what sort of criteria I had in mind: Located near subway with easy commute to my office and to the cathedral, must have a real view (as opposed to looking at a brick wall), must be a one-bedroom, must be in a decent neighborhood, must have a dishwasher, must be rent-stabilized, preferably an art deco apartment with a sunken living room, etc., etc.

Yeah, right. After about a week of looking, you get to the point where you’re saying to yourself, “Well, that one apartment had a decapitated body in the bath tub, but at least it’s near an express subway.”

Unfortunately, I’m in the odd position of being able to afford one of two possible scenarios:

A) A nice apartment in a shitty neighborhood, or

B) A shitty apartment in a nice neighborhood.

Fortunately, I found an rare-but-adequate middle ground, and just got approved for a studio apartment that’s only moderately shitty in a neighborhood that’s only moderately shitty. And it’s on the express subway. I means I’ll have to go back to studio living after several years of having a real bedroom, but at this point it’s at least a big step up from having to live with a roommate, and my commute time to work will be cut in half.

Even more importantly, I’ll finally be able to pull all my stuff out of storage and be in a living situation that feels at least somewhat stable since I left Chicago over a year ago. I’ll be in this apartment for at least a year; by the end of March I’ll know what my grad school plans are and be able to make housing plans accordingly. If I end up at Columbia or City College I’ll most likely stay in the apartment; if I end up elsewhere I’ll obviously have to move elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Assuming all goes well, I’ll be moving in on the 16th. Anybody want to help me move? Now if I can just stick it out in Bushwick for another week and a half…

Another Night in Bushwick

Okay, for the past two weeks I’ve been working late almost every single night in order to issue some feasibility studies for our Very Important Client™. Yesterday morning, about 24 hours before we need to send out his stuff, he calls us up and asks us to drop everything and convert all our drawings to PDFs, burn them to a disk, and hand-deliver them to him at his office in New Jersey. So we do as instructed, pull an intern off somebody else’s project, and send him over to New Jersey with the goods. About an hour later, our Very Important Client™ calls back and tells us to forget about it; we can send the disk tomorrow via FedEx because he’s leaving the office for the day and won’t be there to receive it. We call the intern on his cell phone, and he’s only ten minutes away by that point, so we tell him to complete the delivery and forget we ever called him. He manages to do so.

Our Very Important Client™, meanwhile, raises bloody hell when we ask for a one-day extension on our deadline because we had the whole project team working on his stupid PDFs that he decided he didn’t even need to see. He reluctantly relents, but we still pull a heroic effort to get his shit sent out by the original deadline, despite a broken color printer and his other consultants dragging their feet in getting their materials to us.

While this is going on, the weather has consistently been in the upper 80’s and humid as hell. You can’t walk half a block without needing to take a shower afterwards… Gotta love New York in the summer. Being outside is like being in a steam bath, and thanks to my roommate being too much of a fucking cheapskate to run the air conditioner, being inside is like being in a steam bath as well.

So I’ve been getting home at around 11:00 PM or midnight almost every night for the past two weeks, lying in bed and sweating for a couple hours until I finally fall asleep, and then waking up at 6:30 AM in a pool of sweat and getting ready to go to work again.

Well, today was our original deadline, and I managed to get everything printed, bound, and sent out 30 minutes before the last FedEx pickup. Mission accomplished. As an added bonus, the temperature is a bit cooler today, with much less humidity. Maybe I’ll actually get a decent night’s sleep tonight.

Yeah, right.

The apartment I share with my roommate is pretty much an open loft configuration, located on the corner of the building, with lots of huge windows. Great for views and breezes, but terrible for peace and quiet. And because the bedroom walls don’t extend all the way to the ceiling, even the slightest noise is audible throughout the entire apartment. One side of the apartment faces the street, and the other side faces a service alley that belongs to the neighborhood grocery store, containing all their dumpsters and such.

First come the garbage trucks. This happens about twice a week, so it’s not entirely unexpected. Around 11:00 PM (but sometimes as late as 2:30 AM), a garage truck pulls into the grocery store’s alley, and spends the next 30 minutes with its engine in high gear while the workers bang the dumpsters around and load all the garbage into the compactor at the rear of the truck. They leave, and then another garbage truck pulls in about an hour later to pick up all the bales of compressed cardboard boxes. Again, lots of noise, and sometimes the diesel exhaust drifts into the apartment and stinks up the place. (Keep in mind that all the windows are open, thanks to my roommate being too much of a fucking cheapskate to run the air conditioner.)

Meanwhile, there’s the car alarm on the other side of the apartment. This particular car has been a nuisance in the neighborhood ever since I moved here last summer. Late model Chevy Impala sedan, silver with tinted windows, New York plates DYC 4579. It has one of those car alarms so sensitive that it start sounding if a pigeon shits on the sidewalk in Queens. You can hear it from blocks away. Tonight, the Impala is parked directly in front of my living room windows, and the alarm has been sounding non-stop for the past two hours. I’ve called the city about it twice so far, and so far nothing.

So much for my relaxing evening and decent night’s sleep. Christ, I can’t wait to move out of this fucking neighborhood.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, though. Today at work, completely out of the blue and while I was in the middle of trying to put our stuff together for our Very Important Client™, I got a phone call from somebody I had been in touch with a couple months ago about a bedroom for rent up in Hudson Heights. Large bedroom, nice view, three closets of my own, my own bathroom directly off the bedroom, and located in a nice co-op building in an upscale and quiet neighborhood by the George Washington Bridge… All for slightly less rent than I’m paying now in Bushwick. Best of all, the bedroom overlooked the bridge and the Hudson River. No garbage trucks, no car alarms. I could even put in my own window A/C unit if I wanted.

It all sounded too good to be true, and at the time, that turned out to be the case. The deal fell through because the current occupant of the bedroom decided that she wasn’t going to move out after all. Back to square one. Lately I’ve been getting a little panicked, because I need to be out of my current place no later than the end of August, and I hadn’t had a chance to start looking for a new place because I’ve been so busy at work lately.

To make matters worse, I’ve had to empty my savings account to pay for some emergency dental work thanks to a broken molar last month. I was hoping to go through a broker and get a half-decent apartment of my own in Hudson Heights, but that’s no longer a possibility at the moment. I had pretty much resigned myself to moving into another roommate situation for now, and was preparing myself to begin looking for a place and meeting people… With a sense of dread. Looking for housing in New York is about as much fun as a painful rectal itch, especially when you have no money and bad credit.

Well, the phone call this afternoon was from the person I had originally been in touch with about the bedroom overlooking the George Washington Bridge. Turns out the current occupant has decided to move out, and she really means it this time. I must have made a positive impression on the owner of the apartment, because she decided to give me a call and ask if I was still looking for a place.

Yes, it’s still a roommate situation, but it’s probably about the best roommate situation I could hope for given my current circumstances. At the very least, it should do until I know where I’ll be going for grad school and I have some more money in savings. The only catch is that the room may not be availably until mid-September, meaning I may need to find someplace temporary for a couple weeks.

Right now everything is verbal and nothing is official, but I’m cautiously optimistic this will work out. I’ll hopefully know more by this time next week…. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, anybody know how to silence a car alarm? I’m thinking smash the driver’s side window with a brick, pop the hood, and cut the cable to the positive battery terminal… And then torch the car. Got any better ideas?

Checking In

Checking in for a bit… Sorry I’ve been away for a while.

The shoulder is doing okay, although the doc is a little concerned about my range of motion. He may want to do another procedure on me, in which they put me under, and then wrench my arm around to break up all the scar tissue, and then give me lots of painkillers. It actually doesn’t sound too bad (I’m told it’s a quick recovery), but doc wants to give the physical therapy more time to work. I see him again toward the end of the month.

In other medical news, a couple weeks ago I broke a tooth, so I’ve been in and out of the dentist’s office getting a gingivectomy, crown lengthening, and a crown build-up around one of my molars, way in the back. Eventually I’ll get a crown back there, but in the meantime I have a mouth full of stitches and I’m in a lot of pain.

My roommate has informed me that he’d like me to move out by the end of August, which is fine by me since I’ve been plotting my escape out of this hellhole anyway. I had been trying to save up money to go through a broker and get my own apartment in a non-shitty neighborhood, but I’ve pretty much had to empty my savings account to pay for all this dental work. Unfortunately, it looks like I may have to move into another share situation for a few months until I can build my savings back up.

In happier news, next week I start a six-week medieval stonecarving workshop hosted by my church, the great unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine near Columbia. It should be an interesting course, and I’m hoping I’ll have portfolio fodder to show for it. Last summer I was learning all about cutting-edge theory and generative design at GSAPP; this summer I’ll be kicking it old school with a mallet and chisel.

I’m happy to report that our multi-year restoration project at the Cathedral is almost complete, and has hit a major milestone. Back in 2001 we had a severe fire that destroyed the north transept, and let to a huge cleaning and restoration project that has had various parts of the cathedral buried behind plywood and scaffolding for years at a time.

One evening late last week I had to make a trip up to the cathedral to retrieve something from the acolyte room, and while there, I decided to poke my head into the crossing for a minute. (This was after the church had been closed to visitors for the evening, and there’s nothing quite like having such a space all to yourself for a few moments.) While there, I was thrilled to discover that the huge wall separating the nave from the crossing has begun to be removed, and that the south aisle of the newly-restored nave is now open while much of the temporary barriers are being removed.

Here’s a photo I snapped with my iPhone:

This is the first time in over two years this space has been open to the public, and it was a huge thrill to see the space again for the first time since I moved away from NYC in 2004. There’s still a lot of work to do (later this month the crossing and Great Choir will be closed off so that all 8000+ pipes of the organ can be re-installed), and we’ll have a huge re-dedication service on Sunday, November 30th. There will also be a public “open house” that week for those who don’t feel inclined to attend a religious service.

Yesterday I met up with my former critic from last year’s Columbia summer program for a couple drinks… Just so happens that he’s now the director of the M.Arch. program up the street at City College. We chatted about my grad school plans, and of course he tried to sell me on City College. Not that he had to try very hard, mind you; City College is already very high on my list. But he also strongly recommended that I apply to Columbia and Harvard as well (both places he has taught at), in addition to a couple other programs. He offered to write me letters of recommendation, and he wants to meet up with me again soon to look at my portfolio.

Not a bad drinking buddy to have, huh? He might even be doing the stonecarving thing with me at the cathedral; he seemed very interested and I gave him the contact info.

I haven’t really kept in touch with my fellow students from the Columbia summer program, but apparently two or three of them will be starting at Harvard this fall, and another will be starting at Princeton. I’m thinking that summer program was probably the smartest move I’ve made in a long time… Hard to believe it’s been almost a year already.

In other school-related news, I still plan to finish up my BA degree next year. There really isn’t much left for me to do, so I’m hoping to spread it out over the next 12 months (but knowing me, I’ll most likely goof off for the first 11 months, and then work nonstop to finish everything during the last month).

A few days ago I got a letter from my college at DePaul University, informing me that I had received a Student Excellence Award for a project I had done last year. I was invited to an award luncheon that takes place tomorrow, but unfortunately, the luncheon is in downtown Chicago and I’m in NYC and unable to make the trip right now. I wonder if they’ll FedEx the plaque to me?

That’s all for now…

Nine Months

Sorry I haven’t checked in for a while…. It’s been a busy time at work.

Unlike most of my previous projects, this one is with a quasi-governmental agency that insists on doing everything By The Book™. With the corporate projects I’m used to, some guy usually says “build it”, and that’s what we do. With this governmental stuff, there’s about a million hoops to jump through before we can even talk about building stuff, and loads of paperwork for each hoop.

With my right arm mostly out of commission, AutoCAD work is very slow and cumbersome for me, but I can manage non-mouse-intensive stuff like MS-Word and Excel. As such, I find myself doing a lot of clerical/administrative stuff like meeting minutes, emails, spreadsheets, transmittals, and such. Good news is, I’m directing a couple people doing the CAD stuff, so I’m sort of like a Project Manager Lite, which is good experience and I’m learning a lot. That said, I’d much rather be designing stuff and getting it built, so all this administrative crap has me a little down.

Speaking of my right arm, I officially have one more week in the sling, and then I begin a few months of physical therapy. (I say “officially” because I’ve been going without my sling on weekends… I’m so damn sick of wearing that thing. I do okay as long as I don’t try anything weird with my right arm.) My arm’s range of motion has improved substantially since the surgery, but still has a long ways to go… I saw the doc last week, and he said I’m right about where I should be at this point. It will be a long time before I have all my strength and mobility back, though.

The pain has gone down a lot, but I still get occasional flare-ups. Nights are the worst, as there’s not really any position I can sleep in that doesn’t eventually cause my shoulder to start hurting. I haven’t been sleeping very well at all lately, and I think that’s been impacting my performance at work. Sometimes I wish I still had a steady supply of Vicodin, but the over-the-counter Ibuprofin usually does the trick, and without any weird side effects.

My next big task is to get myself into a better housing situation. I figure it will take me about 7 months to save up enough money to get my own apartment (first month’s rent + security deposit + broker fee), so I’ve opened a savings account and have begun putting away money. In the meantime, I’ve begun keeping an eye out for other roommate/share situations that would get me into a better neighborhood and possibly even save me some money. Although my current housing situation usually isn’t too bad, I’m dealing with a crappy commute from a shitty neighborhood, lots of noise issues, and I feel like I’m paying way too much for what I’m actually getting. Wish me luck.

On a somewhat related note, this is about my 9-month anniversary of moving back to New York last July. Normally a 9-month anniversary doesn’t mean much unless you’re pregnant, but in this case it’s significant because my last tenure in NYC lasted about nine months before I had a nervous breakdown and moved to Oregon. I’m happy to report that, despite my housing woes and occasional complaints about my job, I seem to be in a much better position now than I was nine months into my NYC residency in 2004. Let’s hope it keeps up.

Finally… Maybe because of the admin/clerical stuff I’ve been doing so much of at the office lately, I’ve been thinking more about grad school and how to get there. I don’t have much left to do on my undergrad degree and I have plenty of time to do it, but it still needs to get done. Hopefully I’ll be able to kick that effort into high gear this summer and fall, and not have much left to do by the time I turn in my grad school applications next winter.

This afternoon I took a walk up around City College, which at this point I would probably consider my “safety” choice. It’s local, it’s cheap as hell for in-state residents, it has good faculty and a good reputation in town, and I’m on a first-name basis with the interim director of the M.Arch. program, who was my studio critic at Columbia last summer. As a bonus, CCNY’s architecture program is moving into a brand-new Raphael Vinoly-designed facility next year. Not bad at all.

That said, I’ll probably still apply to a few of the “A-list” schools, especially Yale and Cornell. I’ve come to admire Yale’s eclectic approach to architectural education, and briefly visiting New Haven a few months ago helped me visualize the place a lot better. But Cornell in particular really got under my skin, as the whole vibe at Cornell felt great when I visited last year… I just wish Ithaca was about 3 hours closer to NYC, and that going there wouldn’t put me up to my eyeballs in student loan debt for the rest of my life. Ah well, I still have some time to sort all that shit out….

That’s all for now…

Anno Domini MMVIII

I hope everybody had a good Christmas. Mine involved taking a 9-hour train ride each way to Raleigh, North Carolina and back to visit my parents. I’ve made this trip before, and it always brings up a lot of weird feelings. On one hand, it’s certainly nice to see my family again, enjoy my mother’s cooking for a few days, and generally take a break from the stresses of my daily routine.

On the other hand, it seems like those trips serve to remind me why I left home in the first place, and nothing makes me appreciate New York City more than spending a few days in a place like Raleigh. While I love my parents dearly, being around them somehow has the effect of turning me into a surly 14-year-old again, and I feel my stress and anxiety levels going through the roof at a time when I’m supposed to be relaxing. I don’t know why, but it seems like all my internal defense mechanisms go into overdrive-mode while I’m down there. Add to that the stress of holiday travel and living out of a suitcase for a few days, and it was with a huge sigh of relief that I stepped off the train at Penn Station Wednesday evening and found myself back on my home turf.

With everything so hectic and frenzied lately, I haven’t had the time or the energy to update this blog as often as I’d like. But now that the final hours of 2007 are rapidly slipping into the past-tense, I thought I’d take a moment to ponder how things are going in my life to date, and take a look at what direction I’m hoping for things to go in 2008.

The Home Front

As mentioned earlier in this blog, I’ve been living in a loft share in Bushwick, Brooklyn since the beginning of September. Although it’s probably the best housing situation I’ve had in New York City to date (which doesn’t say much, considering some of my prior situations), I’m still itching to eventually get my own one-bedroom apartment in a half-decent neighborhood, and be done with the whole fucking roommate thing once and for all… At least until my roommate is somebody I’m having sex with on a regular basis.

Bushwick is predominantly a working-class Puerto Rican neighborhood that is beginning to see an influx of hipster pioneers who have found themselves priced out of Williamsburg. Given that I’m neither Puerto Rican nor anything remotely resembling a Williamsburg hipster, there really isn’t much in this neighborhood for me except lots of loud stereos and car alarms. While I’ve never really felt unsafe here, the quality of life leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s not the type of neighborhood where I’d be comfortable going out for an evening constitutional. Luckily, the subway is only a block from my apartment building, so my daily exposure to the ‘hood is usually fairly limited.

Ever since the first time I lived in NYC, I’ve wanted to get an apartment up in the so-called Hudson Heights area of Washington Heights, a quiet residential enclave along Ft. Washington Avenue between 181st Street and Fort Tryon Park. Perched along a high ridge overlooking the Hudson River, this neighborhood has lots of trees and parkland, diverse demographics, and a quiet domestic feel that is hard to find in most other parts of the city. The predominant housing stock consists of large art deco apartment buildings, and many of the apartments are stunning. The A train has two stops in the neighborhood, offering a quick ride on the 8th Avenue express line into Midtown and beyond.

Up until recently this neighborhood was still relatively affordable (by New York standards, mind you), but lately it has been “discovered” and many of the apartment buildings have gone co-op. I’m still holding out some hope that I can eventually find a rental in my price range up there, but I’m not sure when that will happen. The monthly rent is actually less of an issue for me than the upfront costs of the security deposit, first month’s rent, and especially the broker’s fee that will likely be required. Barring any unforeseen events and if I’m able to stick to a budget (fat chance), I might be able to start seriously looking for an apartment sometime in the late spring or early summer. Until then, I’ll have to continue to grit my teeth while living as a guest in somebody else’s home.

My resolution for 2008: Get my own apartment, or at the very least, find a better roommate in a better neighborhood.


My job has its good days and bad days, but overall it’s been working out pretty well. A while ago I posted a blog entry regarding some of the issues I have with my job, and while some of those issues are still concerns of mine, others have been more-or-less rectified. They finally moved me to a new location (out of the stuffy corridor mentioned in that blog entry), and I’ve been working on a few interesting projects. One of those projects includes our own office relocation, as we’re bursting at the seams in our current space and looking for new digs. I’m not sure what the time line is for moving to a new office, but it feels like there’s at least a light at the end of the tunnel.

While the office remains busy with a wide variety of projects, the national economy isn’t looking so rosy, and we may be facing lean times in the near future. Hopefully my job situation will remain stable until I’m ready to head to grad school.

My resolution for 2008: Not get fired or laid off, do the best work I can do on some cool projects, and become more involved in the life of the firm.


I continue to remain active as a volunteer acolyte at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights, despite my longstanding issues with organized religion in general and Christianity in particular. I’ve always struggled with matters of faith: while it seems to come naturally to some people, to me God has always seemed to be either incredibly distant, ignoring me, or just plain nonexistent. It’s been getting harder and harder for me to recite the Nicene Creed without wondering how much of it is just some human-invented myth that’s been handed down through the ages. I’ve tried my best to have a “personal relationship with Jesus”, but as with so many of my other personal relationships, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that the other party just isn’t interested.

Maybe the Calvinists are right, and each of us has already been predestined to eternal paradise or damnation since the beginning of time. Somehow I didn’t make the cut, and I just haven’t yet been formally notified. That’s a depressing thought, but if God actually exists, he certainly hasn’t been returning my calls lately.

Fortunately, I belong to a church where I can say all that without fear of being excommunicated or shunned. I tend to think of the cathedral as the spiritual counterpart to Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca: Sort of a safe haven in the midst of all the unholy wars raging outside, and a gathering place for a lot of refugees and misfits who wouldn’t otherwise have a spiritual home. If it weren’t for the Episcopal Church in general and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in particular, there’s a good chance I would have given up on organized religion altogether. While the cathedral isn’t without its flaws, for the most part the people there have been great, and it’s one of precious few places where I know I can show up at any time and be welcomed with open arms without being bludgeoned to death with a King James Bible. Regardless of wherever I stand on theological matters, that’s what keeps me coming back more than anything else.

2008 should be an exciting year for the cathedral, as we should finally be finishing up the huge multi-year cleaning and restoration project that’s the result of a severe fire the cathedral suffered in 2001. For the past several years the great pipe organ has been silent and various parts of the church have been buried behind huge walls of plywood and scaffolding, but everything is supposed to be fully open and operational by the end of November. I’ll be anxiously waiting, and then maybe we can get on with the business of finishing the building.

My resolution for 2008: To continue to support the cathedral in its ministry however I can.


If all goes according to plan, 2008 will be the year I finally finish up my long-sought undergraduate degree. I made some good progress at DePaul University in Chicago, and I accomplished everything I set out to accomplish this summer at Columbia (which DePaul will accept as transfer credit). The end is finally in sight. The few remaining outstanding items:

  • Math and Physics. In addition to counting towards my BA degree, these are also admission prerequisites for most graduate M.Arch. programs. I’ll be taking these classes at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) downtown, which is part of the CUNY system. DePaul will accept these as transfer credits, and I plan on starting them within the next couple weeks.
  • Externship, Advanced Project, and Summit Seminar. These courses are specific to DePaul’s adult education program at the School for New Learning, and will need to be taken before I graduate. The Externship is sort of a community service requirement, the Advanced Project is like a mini-thesis, and the Summit Seminar is simply a one-day meeting with my advisors to tie up any loose ends. Ideally I’ll do this stuff in the spring quarter so that I can attend commencement in Chicago this June, but it can wait until the summer or fall if needed. (These can be done on a distance-ed basis, which is how I can still be a DePaul student while living 800 miles away from campus.)
  • Independent Learning Pursuits (ILPs). Another thing specific to DePaul’s School for New Learning, this is the mechanism by which I can earn college credit for “real life” experience that’s relevant to my focus area. Given that I now have 11 years experience working in various architecture firms, it won’t be a challenge to earn some ILP credits; it’s just a matter of getting everything properly documented and submitted for review on time.

I’ve taken a hiatus from school during the fall while I got settled into my new life here in NYC, but now I need to get back at it. By this time next year I’ll hopefully be a college graduate, and I’ll be wrapping up the application process for my M.Arch. degree.

That will involve a lot of work in putting together a portfolio, lining up letters of recommendation, and wrapping up any remaining prerequisites. I went through the whole M.Arch. admissions process in 2006 (thinking that I could finish my BA degree much sooner), and it was almost a full-time job in itself. I didn’t get accepted to any of the schools I applied to — no surprise, in retrospect — but it gave me a good idea of what to expect the next time around.

I’m still not sure which schools I’ll be applying to, but the top contenders include City College, Yale, Cornell, Pratt, maybe Columbia, and maybe Harvard. No doubt there will be some changes to this list when the time comes, so stay tuned.

My resolution for 2008: Finish my damn BA degree already, and apply to M.Arch. programs for fall 2009 admission.


I had made some good progress in climbing out of debt while living in Chicago, but moving to NYC and enrolling in the Columbia summer program left me even further in the hole than I was two years ago. The good news is, I’m now making better money at my job and I no longer have the expense of owning a car, so I’ve already begun chipping away at this new mountain of debt and I’m hopeful that I’ll have the bulk of it paid off within the next few months.

My resolution for 2008: Right now I’m about $6000 in debt (not counting student loans) with about $500 in savings. I’m hoping to have at least reversed that ratio by this time next year.


One day last week I took a nice walk through Central Park during my lunch break. I came back into my office building feeling refreshed and invigorated. An attractive young woman came into the building behind me, and we both waited for the elevator in the lobby. The doors opened, she went in first, and I managed to smile at her as I boarded. She politely smiled back. I got off on the third floor, while she continued further upstairs.

Not a bad little encounter, I thought. Maybe sometime soon I’ll see her again and strike up a conversation.

I returned to my desk in pretty high spirits, and then went to hang up my coat in the closet. It was then that I discovered, to my horror, a giant glob of white bird shit on the black leather sleeve of my coat, the same sleeve that had been inches away from the face of this woman in the elevator.

I went to the bathroom to clean off my coat, while entertaining serious thoughts about moving to a different country.

That little vignette pretty much sums up the vast majority of my experiences with romantic relationships: Meet somebody new and get excited that things are going well, only to later discover that I’ve inadvertently committed some unforgivable breach of human decency. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve had that giant glob of bird shit on my sleeve for the past twenty years, and I’ve only discovered it just now. That would certainly explain a lot.

This is the area of my life that has by far been the most problematic, and the aspect of my life that causes me more depression and anxiety than all the other issues above combined. I’m pretty much convinced that I was born without the dating gene, or that I was absent from class the day they taught mating skills to young boys. I hate to sound so desperate, but fuck it. If the shoe fits…

There’s much more to this issue than what I feel comfortable sharing here, but suffice it to say that it’s almost impossible for me to meet women who I think might be compatible with what I’m looking for. Of the women I do meet who seem like a good match, the vast majority seem to have the common trait of being completely unattainable. It’s very possible that my hopes and aspirations are totally unrealistic, but I still fear the notion of settling for a relationship that isn’t really what I ever wanted.

I think one of my problems — at least one that has the possibility of being rectified anytime soon — is that I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of casual dating, and that I’ve had sort of an all-or-nothing mentality about relationships. What’s the point of dating somebody if there isn’t the potential for a long-term relationship or marriage? Well, lately I’ve been working to overcome that particular hang-up by starting to attend more singles events and expanding my scope of potential dating partners, and I think it might be starting to pay off.

This past weekend I attended a huge year-end party at Webster Hall organized by a few groups on Meetup.com, and despite the obnoxious music and the usual assortment of hopeless cases who reek of desperation (some readers would no doubt include me in that category), I actually had a pretty good time and met some interesting people without doing or saying anything terribly awkward. Maybe the vodka tonics had something to do with it, but I didn’t feel like the uptight bundle of nerves I usually am at such events. I’ve been in contact with a couple of women I met that evening, and I may be meeting one of them for dinner later this week. Stay tuned.

My resolution for 2008: Attend more social events whenever I can, continue meeting new people, and not be so damn shy about talking to strangers. Also, some counseling probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Overall, 2007 has been a pretty good year for me with a lot of new beginnings, but with a lot of things still left to be done. Hopefully 2008 will bring continued progress on the new life I’ve begun here in New York, and maybe even bring a few new beginnings of its own.

I hope 2008 brings you all peace and joy… Best wishes for a happy new year.

Housing Update

Well, the apartment in Sunset Park didn’t work out (landlord decided to rent it to somebody else) but it’s looking like I’ll have a place to live next month. No money has changed hands yet and nothing has been signed yet, but I have a verbal agreement with a prospective roommate I met a few days ago in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The neighborhood is pretty shitty, but the apartment is actually one of the nicest I’ve seen in the past couple weeks: A condo-quality loft conversion with two bedrooms and a huge living area with an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline. The apartment is only a block away from the nearest subway station (minimizing my exposure to aforementioned shitty neighborhood), and there’s a decent-sized grocery store on the same block as the apartment building. Prospective roomie is a construction manager for a local chain of health clubs, and seems like a decent guy. As a bonus, the bathroom has a huge shower stall with very good water pressure… It’s important to have your priorities straight.

It’s not my first-choice scenario (I was hoping to get my own apartment), but this will be a half-decent place for me to crash for the next six months or so while I save up some money, pay off some debts and repair my credit report, and eventually (hopefully) get myself a much nicer apartment than I’d be able to get right now.

I’ve actually looked at a few pretty nice apartments over the past few days that are within my price range, but most have been located in Bed-Stuy… Supposedly an “up and coming” Brooklyn neighborhood with tons of beautiful brownstone apartments, but the neighborhood still has a long way to go before it even begins to resemble a decent place to live: Most of the apartments I looked at were at least a 20-minute walk to the subway, and I didn’t see a single full-service grocery store or drug store in all my walking around the area. I have a pretty high tolerance for rough neighborhoods, but some parts of Bed-Stuy felt downright unsafe…. East Harlem feels like a country club resort by comparison.

I have to admit, it’s been a fascinating experience exploring just about every nook and corner of New York City over the past couple weeks; most of the places I’ve been to are places I’d never set foot in if I weren’t looking for affordable housing. I’m always amazed at how much variety there is in New York’s neighborhoods… Chicago seems so damn homogeneous and segregated by comparison. Here in NYC, you’ll find a colony of homeless people living on the same block as condos selling for over $3M…. Back in Chicago, the city is rigidly divided along racial and socioeconomic boundaries, and you can easily spend months in the city without crossing those boundaries. Here in NYC, unless you never leave Midtown, you can’t avoid crossing some of those boundaries, sometimes multiple times within a few blocks.