The Fashion Magpie New York City

Le Move to New York: Partie Deux.

“That apartment has good vibes,” declared John, nodding his head emphatically.  “We lived there — twice, separated by a decade, before we bought this one.”

I was peering into the exquisitely remodeled kitchen of my 60-something neighbor’s apartment, marveling at the clever way they’d disguised their (silent, Bosch) dishwasher with a sliding wainscoted panel, and ogling at their (enormous, Viking) range nestled in the midst of it all.  On the countertop sat an enormous jug of Dewar’s whiskey.  I liked these people.

“Really good vibes,” echoed his wife, smiling at me encouragingly.

I’d dropped by unannounced to introduce myself and bring by some cookies I’d made with my contact information jotted on the back of a calling card.  Mini was on my hip.  They’d graciously invited me inside to their gorgeously appointed apartment, cooed over mini, chit-chatted with me about the renovation and the other neighbors on our floor and the quirks and charms of our building, and then — the good vibes comment.

When I left them to their twin glasses of Dewars (served neat, like badasses!), I tucked that comment away.

A week later, I was telling Mr. Magpie how much I loved our bedroom, which has two windows — one of which looks out onto a courtyard on the inside of the building.  The room has a beautiful soft light all day long — no direct sunlight, but it feels airy and happy and oddly quiet compared to the rest of this city.  I love the feel of our bedroom in the morning especially, when we draw mini and Tilly into bed with us and sit in the calm morning light being a family together.  We rarely did this in Chicago, and I don’t know why — perhaps because Tilly slept downstairs and, for at least a year and a half of her life, did not know she could climb the stairs?  Perhaps because in Chicago we were entrenched in a routine where Mr. Magpie would descend to make coffee and get the day rolling and we’d rarely regroup upstairs?  Regardless, one of the many charms of apartment living is this: that our bedroom is now used as a morning pitstop for the entire gang.

As I sang the praises of the bedroom, Mr. Magpie said: “Yeah.  It has good vibes in here.”

I sat up.

John’s words, now echoed by my husband.   A curious symmetry, too, since “good vibes” isn’t a phrase typically found in Mr. Magpie’s lexicon.  (Let’s just say no one has ever mistaken him for a surfer dude — he’s got that East Coast attentiveness.)

“That’s just what our neighbors said the other night!”

“Jen, our luck is changing.  The Shoops are back.”

It felt good and true.  After a nightmarish month, we were reunited, in a great apartment, and one that had good vibes to boot.

I can’t — I won’t — get into too many of the details of the botched move, but I’ll present a few facts:

+We signed a lease with a move-in date of October 15th and supplied about 23098203982908 checks to 20398203982098 entities to do so.  There were security deposits, move-in fees, application fees, security deposits FOR THE MOVE IN (in addition to move-in fees), fees for the elevator, fees for the broker, fees for the woman living in Central Park with nothing whatsoever to do with this move.  At some point, we just felt like we should start photocopying our bank account number to post liberally around our new building.  Just in case.

+We were reassured that everything was golden for this move.

+We arranged a company to pack our house in Chicago (well worth the money for our kitchen alone) and move our belongings to New York.

+We booked a hotel for October 14th in New York City — the thinking being that we’d drive into NYC on the 14th and move into our new unit on the 15th.  We were prepared with a travel crib for mini and an air mattress for ourselves and various and sundry necessities for the handful of days we’d be waiting for our belongings, which were scheduled to arrive on the 17th.

+We drove across the country.  When we exited Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan, my heart fluttered.  I couldn’t process the fact that this, now, was Home.  And also, I may have been having a small heart attack after surviving 13 hours with a dog and a baby in about 2 square feet of space.

+We ordered delivery and opened a bottle of wine in our hotel room and suddenly it felt like life was going to be alright.

Only.

Owing to our broker [exercising a lot of restraint in how I explain this bit], we weren’t able to move in on the 15th.  Or the 16th.  Or the 17th.  We had to call our moving company and have them move all of our belongings into short-term storage, where they would be unavailable until the 30th of October.  We had to continuously extend our hotel reservation, until one night, the receptionist informed us that they were fully booked for the following evening, but would I like to leave for one night and come back the night following?

Finding a hotel room that accommodates a 50 lb dog at the midnight hour is…borderline impossible.  I even looked into boarding her for a few days, but all of the boarding spots I phoned required an advanced interview as well as medical records and an up-to-date set of vaccinations, and we were missing one.  And we didn’t have a vet in NYC.

So.

The fourteenth hotel — FOURTEENTH HOTEL — that I called had one room left, and — obviously — at a ridiculous price.  I almost sobbed with relief.  It was all the way downtown, though, and Mr. Magpie had already started his job, and moving our small family unit with 13 bags is a…nontrivial task.  We decided that we would get up at 6 am and I would pack up the room and Mr. Magpie would get the car (which was in some exorbitantly expensive parking lot a few blocks away that had very specific instructions about calling an hour in advance to get your car since they’re wedged in their like sardines), and we would drive down to Soho to our new hotel, and then I’d hang out in the lobby with our dog and baby until the room was ready, and he’d drive the car back uptown and then take the Subway to work.

At some point during this phonathon, I also had to call the brokerage to explain the situation that was taking place and begin the long road to request our brokerage fees back.  It was a high stress moment for me since, even though I knew we were in the right and were owed not only an apology but financial recompense, I was not in the right head space for such a confrontation.  I also knew I had to be concise and mature and communicate the situation without emotion.  I wanted to be alone in a quiet library with a carefully crafted list of talking points for the call.  Instead, I was bouncing minimagpie on my hip while Tilly barked at every Tom, Dick, and Harry that passed in the hotel hallway, and I only had a crumpled receipt to jot down a few notes on.

My Dad called in the midst of this scene.  “Hi, honey!  Just calling to check in,” he said, his voice chipper.

I lost it.

In typical Dad form, he started at the top: “OK.  This is what we’re going to do.  You and Emory are going to drive down to DC and spend the next week or two with us.  I’ll help with the brokerage situation — I know exactly what to do.  What else?  Can I call a hotel?  Book your train?”

I never thought I’d need my parents so much in my mid-30s.  With his help, we crafted a plan: we would stay in New York for the next few nights and then Mr. Magpie and I would drive down to DC on Saturday morning, leave Tilly with his parents, and stay with my parents — and Mr. Magpie would train back up to New York Sunday evening.  He’d then plan to stay in a hotel or, God willing, stay in our vacant apartment, if we ever got the keys to it.

But in the meantime, we had to move hotels.

The next morning, Mr. Magpie rose with his alarm at 5:30 a.m. so he could call the garage.  No answer.  Called at 5:45.  No answer.  Called at 5:50, 5:55, 6:00.  No answer, no answer, no answer.  I could actually see his blood pressure rising.  It felt like the air in the room was being slowly withdrawn by a funnel.  This call-and-no-response pattern continued until 6:30, when he finally got a hold of the garage attendant and was told, very curtly, that “he should have called earlier if he needed his car now.”

Now, Mr. Magpie is a polite and even-keeled gentleman.  I trust you know this if you’ve read my love letter to him.

But in this moment, he turned into The Incredible Hulk.  All of the rage of the move and our limbo-like situation and the fact that we would soon be separated for an undetermined amount of time funneled into an dark and brooding rage against this parking attendant who was throwing an enormous wrench into our delicately orchestrated plan for the morning.  I could see that the parking attendant had become the spectre of our broker, of the frustrations of moving, of every little thing that had gone wrong thus far in the chain of colossally stressful events that had transpired over the previous few weeks.

Suffice to say, the parking attendant agreed to have Mr. Magpie’s car ready PRONTO.

So, we made it down to the hotel and I managed to find (brilliant idea, I must say), a groomer to de-shag Tilly (and care for her for a full morning! — incidentally, it was a great groomer: pupculture down in Soho) that was a short walk from our hotel as well as a cleaner’s who offered same day wash-and-fold to clean our clothes, which we had started to run short on thanks to the fact that we’d thought we’d have been in our unit with a washer dryer at our disposal several days prior.  I even found my way to Dominique Ansel’s bakery, which was close by — didn’t try a cronut, but enjoyed a ham and cheese croissant that nearly made me weep with joy.  Things felt manageable.  But, then there was the moment where I had to change mini’s diaper and the bathroom in our chic hotel lobby had no changing station, so I had to crouch on the bathroom floor while trying to clean a massive blowout with mini rolling around on a dirty floor, smearing poop everywhere.  And, also, it’s very hard to bathe a baby in these designed-for-childless-couples hotels that have cool-looking glass showers with no tubs and sinks that are essentially flat, shallow dishes.  I had to sit on the floor of the shower with her in my lap and use small drinking glasses to pour a little water over her body.

But, anyway — I digress.  We made it down to DC that weekend and — just before we left — found out that we could finally pick up the keys to our apartment.  We breathe a brief, shallow sigh of relief and then inhaled deeply for the drive down to D.C.

I sobbed when Mr. Magpie left on Sunday for New York without us.  I was happy to be nestled in the embrace of my parents, who make everything right, but also frustrated and angry that this move was now separating the family again.  Our belongings wouldn’t get into town until a week and a half later, so Mr. Magpie felt it was best for mini and I to stay in DC with all of our creature comforts.  (It would have been very rough to be cooped up in a lampless, chairless apartment for a week with a baby and a dog around.)  At this point, though, I think I was just running on fumes and the slightest annoyance would have tipped me over the edge.  I was exhausted, beyond stressed, angry, and overwhelmed by the feeling of dislocation and uncertainty that had shrouded the previous few weeks.  It’s stressful enough to move from point A to point B, but to do that with a baby and a dog, and then to have the entire move go haywire?  It was too much.  I’m too much of a planner, too Type A.  I’m not good at going with the flow and I’m even worse when a plan goes berserk.

The week in D.C. was wonderful, though.  My mother doted on us — she took me shopping and to lunch and for a manicure, and took care of mini, and bolstered my spirits.  She made delicious dinner every night and poured me generous glasses of wine.  My father continued to counsel me on the situation we were in, offering helpful thoughts and serving as a support any time I needed to vent.  Together, we watched mindless TV in the evenings or talked for hours.

While I was there, my sister gave birth to her second son, and I was able to meet him within 24 hours of his arrival.  As my mom would say, “It was God’s hand.”  An epic silver lining.

The following Sunday, I loaded up the car with the help of not only my father but my father-in-law (if I were assigned the task of loading the car, it would have been a hot mess express — thank God for dads) and hit the road to New York.  I’d been dreading the drive since Mr. Magpie had left — four hours of turnpike driving with mini and Tilly in the back.  Only, it was worse: there was a horrible rainstorm that followed me the entire way to New York.  The visibility was terrible and at one point, my car slid on a slick of water and thoroughly terrified me.  I went 40 MPH for about 2/3 of the trip.  Mini screamed for about half of it.  I stopped six times to comfort her or change her or feed her, and every pitstop was a test of patience, as I’d jump out the door with an umbrella in the crook of my shoulder to get mini out and we’d scramble into the service station and still wind up sopping wet.  Tilly was miserable.  Letting her out into a muddy area to relieve herself left our car disgusting.  At some point about two hours from New York, I gritted my teeth and pledged not to stop again.

So, basically, this was me for about six consecutive hours that Sunday: white-knuckled, screaming HAILMARYFULLOFGRACETHELORDISWITHTHEE over a baby’s screams, squinting through the driving rain ahead of me, wondering why it felt like we were “two hours outside of New York” for about four hours straight.

When we emerged from Lincoln Tunnel, I felt a sort of bleary hope.  When Mr. Magpie came down to help unload the car, we locked eyes in a tender expression of shared exhaustion and relief.

My beloved brother-in-law happened to be in town for work that evening, and he trekked through the rain to meet us for an early dinner that turned into an evening of drinking wine on the floor of our furniture-less apartment, commiserating and celebrating at the same time.

It was only then, sharing a bottle of wine in our dimly lit apartment, that I felt like I could finally breathe.  It suddenly dawned on me that, despite the upheavals and challenges of the previous few weeks, New York was already proving itself to be one of the best decisions we’d ever made.  Here I was, a short (well, short-ish…) drive from my parents, in a city more regularly frequented by my nearest and dearest (my Londoner brother-in-law included), able to have seen my sister and my precious nephew just a day after he was born: almost everyone I love was closer to me. I couldn’t have escaped to my parents’ so easily if I was in, say, Seattle.  I wouldn’t be seeing my brother-in-law if I’d moved to, say, Tampa.  One of you readers wrote: “Just remember that home is wherever your loved ones are.”  New York was bringing all of those loved ones much closer into my orbit.

But mainly, we’d made it.  There were still snafus ahead, including an epically stressful situation with the new movers we’d scheduled and the ongoing exchange with the brokerage, but having a home base changed the game: we were home.  And in a home with Good Vibes.

Post-Script: Home Gear

I don’t have much more gear to recommend for this part of the move — most of my go-tos were featured in part one of this series — but I will again recommend wielding a corkscrew and a lot of wine when fending with these situations.  A light-bodied, easy-drinking nero d’avola got us through many-a-tearful evening.

I’ve also shared a few of my favorite small apartment products already, but Amazon Prime has been my savior in helping me organize and make the most of our apartment.  We moved from a three bedroom, three-and-a-half bath multi-story house into a two bedroom, two bath apartment ONE THIRD the square footage of our former home.  We sold a lot using LetGo, Craigslist, AND eBay, gifted a bunch of items to our nanny, and donated bagfuls of clothing and books and baby gear to various services, but I’ve still been pushed to be very crafty with making the most of our space.  One recent find was these space-saving Ziploc bags.  I’ll caveat by saying I don’t think they hold their suction very well.  You pack stuff in, Ziploc, and then suck the excess air out using a vacuum hose, but I think they lose their suction within a few days.  STILL.  These were essentially our only option for storing out of season clothing since our closets have very high ceilings but a narrow “pass” to actually get stuff up to the top — you couldn’t fit a box up there.  The only way to make the most of the space was by stuffing our items into these Ziplocs and then wedging them up through the pass and standing them upright on the top shelf of our closet.  It’s really helped us on the space saving side.

And, finally, a few other discoveries:

+One of you readers recommended (brilliantly!) an over-the-door storage solution for our new ironing board.  Such a fantastic idea, especially since I’m already using the narrow space between our washer/dryer and the wall with this, which is also a great, tidy way to keep my cleaning supplies organized, within an arm’s reach, and out of sight.  I love it.  I just slide it out when I need to access the dryer sheets or Windex, but mainly it’s hidden and not cluttering a section of our closet.  (P.S. — we have sort of an annoying array of laundry supplies.  I use this for our clothing, this for minimagpie, this for wool/cashmere, and this for delicates.  Also, I can’t remember, but did I mention the genius of one of these fabric defuzzers?  I swear they work even though they seem like a stupid made-for-TV gimmick!  They make old, pilled sweaters look like new!)

+These to keep our sock drawers tidy.  People love this brand, but I am taking a gamble on the wood ones, which coincidentally match the color of our dresser much better.

+I’ve ordered so many of these for our oversized kitchen cabinets.  They really help with making things accessible — you just slide the appropriate bin out.  I have one for baking goods like vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, etc; one for condiments; one for oils; etc.  They also keep the cabinets looking tidy.  Flour, sugars, etc. are stored in these.

+I’ve just set up a subscribe + save on these.  I cannot live without them.  They are the best kitchen gloves — they’re lined with a soft lining and they are thicker than your traditional yellow glove.  The only and best way to extend a manicure.

+Would love to refresh our pillow situation with these, possibly embroidered with something fun instead of our initials — maybe our names in lowercase script, or “mr” and “mrs” or “hers” and “his” or even our private nicknames for one another?

+Though hotel life got real old, real fast, I did love the water carafes on my bedside table.  I don’t know why I’ve never put two and two together on this one, but at least once a night, I get up to refill my water glass with more water.  I just ordered one of these to solve the problem!

16 Comments

  1. Ooof!! What an ordeal – so glad for you that it’s over and you’re in your new place and happy with it!!

    And amazing how resilient the babies are!

    1. So true! Thank God for that resilience, not only in stressful times like this, but because I’m sure I’ve made tons of mistakes 🙂

  2. Am I the only dude who reads this? I am sorry that you had such a terrible experience moving to NYC! I had no idea. It’s great that you were able to find some silver linings like your trip home though.

    1. Haha! Quite possible, Eric 🙂 Thank you for reading, though!!! Yes, lots of silver linings to be thankful for.

  3. That is a truly epic moving to NYC story, I can feel myself breaking into hives just reading it. So glad it all worked out… it sounds like everyone is falling in love with New York 🙂 Yay!
    The discussion about terminology is an interesting one! Generally I think when people are renting, they just say apartment (regardless of what type it is). If someone mentioned their condo or co-op, I would assume that they are the owner of the unit. But even as a renter, things can get very tricky and complicated with condos and co-ops (108 page application, good lord!), so if you’re trying to navigate various listings it is important to know what you’re dealing with.
    My mom’s side of the family has lived in NYC since the 1920s (maybe even earlier…?) and at various times apparently owned apartment buildings and brownstones throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn and I’m just mad no one thought to save one of them for me! 😉

    1. That makes complete sense re: apartment/condo language. Totally. Saying “my condo” implies ownership now that I think about it. WISE! Everyone, pls direct question about NYC real estate to Ms. Burke!!!

      AHHHH, doesn’t that kill you about the brownstones and buildings once in the family that would now be worth a literal fortune?!

  4. Hi there! That sounds like SUCH a stressful situation, but I promise you….NEW YORK IS WORTH IT. I have lived in New York for ten years now, and pretty much everyone has a moving horror story. I got kicked out of my very first apartment in the city when the management company decided that they wanted to give their apartment to their son. We had been calling them repeatedly for months trying to resign our lease, and they finally called us back to tell us we needed to move out at the end of our lease. However, our lease was up in TWO DAYS. Couple that with the fact we were newly graduated from college, and not factoring in saving for moving costs…and it was a stressful few days to say the least!

    New York is a wonderful city that really challenges you, and tests your patience at times, but there is truly no where else like it in the entire world. One of my best tips is to find “your spots” that make it feel like home. Of course it is exciting to try a new restaurant every time you go out to dinner, but sometimes you just want the comforts of a neighborhood place, where you know the food will be delicious, you recognize the servers, and don’t even need to look at the menu anymore. My spot is Lil Frankie’s in the East Village (get the lemon pasta!) but any place that you find, love, and isn’t a far trek on the subway is worthy of a spot on your list. New York can be harsh at times, but having familiar faces and places to fall back on helps out tremendously.

    Welcome to the city!

    1. Thanks, Lauren — and thanks for the great advice. This makes complete sense. I’m already loving the neighborhood conveniences I’ve found — a great bakery for baguettes around the corner, the Duane Reade a block down, “my grocery” (the chaotic Whole Foods under Columbus Circle — but I’ve figured out when to go and where everything is, so life has become simpler!), etc. I’ll need to add neighborhoods restaurants to the list, too…I CANNOT BELIEVE YOUR STORY ABOUT BEING KICKED OUT. You are so right that these moving/renting horror stories are more the rule than the exception. I actually can’t think of a New Yorker who hasn’t rolled his/her eyes, leaned in, and told me their own variation on the theme. UGH! But, New York is already making it up to us in spades. I love it here. Thank you for the warm welcome!!!

  5. As someone who has done the NYC Brokerage Dance/Sacrificial Money Burning/Sell A Kidney To Move Into A ShoeBox…”thing..”, with only a small dog and no child, I EMPATHIZE. AND PASS THE WINE. So glad y’all are in and semi-settled. And with a story you’ll pass on to Mini in years to come. 🙂

    xoxo

    1. Thank you! My good friend was over last night and she said “Now that you’ve made it here, you’ll find you have this insider bond with all the other New Yorkers dealing with the same challenges.” 🙂

  6. I had to sit on the floor of the shower with her in my lap and use small drinking glasses to pour a little water over her body.

    For some reason this brought tears to my eyes! So sorry you had such a rough month. Glad you’re doing better now! As T Swift would say, welcome to New York! Its a wild but amazing city.

    xoxo
    Sarah

    1. Aw :/ I hadn’t realized how pathetic that part sounded. I should have mentioned that Emory was the bravest of us all, our little Madeleine, totally unphased by the craziness of the past month. She’s been in great spirits and a happy, chipper mood every day. Baths-with-drinking-glasses-of-water and all 🙂 Thanks for the well wishes. WE MADE IT!!! xoxoxo

  7. Ok Ms New York… Please help me understand something I’ve never understood. When New Yorkers say they live in an apartment is that the monthly rental kind like everywhere else in the US? Or do they call a condominium an apartment in New York? I’ve never understood this. Please help me understand this quirky language of New Yorkers to those of us who live in the other part of America! Thanks

    1. Hi Claire! Good question and I had to think on this. I hope I haven’t inadvertently used the wrong word throughout — I think I use “condo” and “apartment” synonymously, but that’s not right. As far as I understand, the difference between a condo and an apartment has to do with ownership. A condo is owned by an individual landlord, whereas an apartment is owned by a building/run by a management company. *I think.* So technically, we are renting a condo because our unit is owned by an individual and we pay rent to him. But, regardless, we do pay monthly rent. HOWEVER. New York is uber quirky — I have a good friend who had to pay A YEAR’S RENT UP FRONT (!!!) to rent her condo because it was in such high demand and so many people wanted it. Can you imagine?! And then there’s the added complication of “co-ops” in New York, where all the unit owners pool together and collectively own the building, and therefore can be much more picky about who they let in (seriously, it’s a nightmare to get one of them! you have to go through multiple rounds of interviews, etc. Our application was 108 pages and it’s NOT a co-op!) and what goes on in the complex.

      Not sure if I’ve clarified or not…maybe another, more tenured, New Yorker can weigh in!

      xoxoxo

  8. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. I love your blog and look forward to it every day. I’m glad your luck is improving.

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