Blog posted here.
Blog posted here.
Very stressful day getting everything loaded into the truck. We still have WAAAYYY too much stuff to fit into a 650 square foot apartment. But no matter how bad out day was, our beagle Marshall's was worse. His little operation to remove a fatty cyst turned into some major-league surgery, complete with anesthesia and ... The Cone of Shame! Hopefully he'll feel better tomorrow. As will we all.
Blog posted here.
Day one of The Week of Chaos.TM Packers showed up today and put a good dent in thinning out our trailer's contents. We had to send off all but 33.3% of our beagles, and both went willingly into their crates, almost as if they were looking forward to the adventure ahead. Apparently we've been boring our hounds at the old homestead, so they needed more excitement in their lives.
Had a pair of old friends drop in during the day -- both came to wish us well, and since we're still paring down, we sent one off with a huge desk I had in my cloffice (a tiny closet I'd turned into an office), and the other's going to take our gas grill. Tomorrow another set of friends are dropping by, and we're sending them off with a superfluous set of dog crates to be donated to the local rescue program here.
Tomorrow the bulk of our belongings end up on the truck, and we'll be spackling and painting our empty home. The weirdness scale is already tweaking around a 7, and that should bump it up to at least 9.2.
One annoyance: It's been a real pain getting people in New York on the phone. Have been trying for two days to coordinate our move-in with our landlords, and can't get them to call us back. Another person that owes us some money has been equally difficult to track down. New York is supposed to be the city of speed and efficiency, but I'm not finding it so. Stay tuned.
This will officially be the most insane week in the world. Consider:
Today: Have to finish organizing everything for the packers and movers. Anything that isn't going to New York has to be out of the house by the end of the day. We've had two garage sales and given away so much stuff that our kids and friends are sick of us offering free furniture, food and clothing. My son and daughter are rummaging through the freezer since we can't take any food. They seem disappointed that there's way too much healthy food and not enough beer.
Tomorrow: Packers come to box up everything. Pet shippers arrive to crate up and take 66.6% of our beagle population to the airport for shipping to a kennel in New York. Have to unplug the refrigerator, since it has to chill for 24 hours before they can load it on the truck. I will have a moment of silence in front of my grill, since I will not be able to take it to New York. Are my days of cooking outdoors over?
Thursday: Loading the moving truck. Taking our remaining beagle to the vet to have some minor surgery. Spending the rest of the night cleaning up the house and spackling and painting so it will look good for the buyers who we foolishly think are out there and who -- in reality -- will never show up to see our handiwork. Spend the night sleeping (sic) on an inflatable bed.
Friday: Drive to Knoxville for my class reunion. Lunch with my mom, who probably will be wearing black as she continues to mourn my moving so far away from her. Then heavy drinking with people I haven't seen in three decades.
Saturday: More drinking, hoping to distract myself from the enormity of what I've done.
Sunday: Nursing hangover, a final brunch, and then a long drive to a motel in Hagerstown, Maryland.
Monday: Drive into New York. Take out a loan to pay for the parking down the street from our new apartment. Pick up keys, and finally see what it looks like. I'm going to love it, even if I have to lie when I say that I love it. Spend rest of day cleaning and painting.
Tuesday: Moving van shows up. Try and hold off getting hernia until after lunchtime.
Wednesday: Do whatever the misses says. Or else.
Thursday: Help the misses navigate the subway to her new job. Then continue searching for one for myself. Pine for barbecue, grits, waffles and fried chicken.
I've never watched the show, but apparently I'll need to start Tivo-ing the program as part of my education for living in Yankee-land.
I'm sure they're all fine young folk, likely to just hang out down by the general store and have a grape Nehi occasionally. Right?
Bonus question: Is "guido" the same as "hillbilly," but with better hair?
No sooner had New Yorkers learned that JFK airport was about to install those newfangled full-body scanners that would peer thru their overalls and past their bloomers to show your privates, than one enterprising company came up with a solution -- unscannable pasties!
Check out their promotional video. Gotta love the "screw you" mentality of this city.
I thought "Manhattan Hillbilly" was a pretty unique name. It succinctly sums up the purpose of this blog, which is to document one Southern fish-out-of-water's transition from child of the hills to urbanized New Yorker.
The Southern boy comes to the big city theme certainly isn't new. But at least I thought the name was.
Then I ran into a little Abbott & Costello movie from 1951 titled "Comin Round the Mountain." One of the main characters is played by the lovely Dorothy Shay, who plays a nightclub singer originally from the hills named Dorothy "The Manhattan Hillbilly" McCoy. (Later in life she played Thelma on "The Waltons.")
The film itself is pretty awful, and trots out about every hillbilly stereotype there is. Still, if you catch it on TCM, you have to see Margaret Hamilton -- who played the Wicked Witch of the West -- as Aunt Huddy).
So I guess I'm not the original "Manhattan Hillbilly." But I've got a pretty hot looking ancestor.
One thing is universal, whether you live in the South or the North: Waiting on hold to speak to a human being when you call the power company. As of this moment, I've gotten to enjoy 23 minutes of wait music and announcements from ConEd.
I had the option of speaking to them in English, Spanish or a couple of other languages. Hope they have someone who can understand someone speaking in the Southern accent.
Walking around the city, if I'm not wearing basic blue jeans or bib overalls, I'm trying to fit in by sporting khaki shorts and a colored shirt.
Trust me. I'm not fitting in.
There's only one color in most New Yorker's closet. It's black. Technically, black is an amalgamation of every color.
Black clothing is everywhere. Black t-shirts. Black jeans. Black leather jackets. Black pork-pie hats and beanies. Women wear black pullovers. Their handbags are black. Their sunglasses are black. For many of them, their fingernails and eye shadow are black.
If you're a goth, this is your town.
I've talked to several people on the street trying to understand why basic black is their uniform de jour. The answers I've received:
I don't know which, if any, of these are the real reason. But the fact that you stand out in this city if you -- well, choose not to wear black and not stand out -- has created a cultural dilemma for me.
I don't like black. I'll occasionally wear a black t-shirt and light blue jeans, but that's as close as I get. I don't own a black turtleneck. I've never owned a leather jacket in my life. I don't have a black sweatshirt, hat or coat. I sure don't have any black blue jeans. Isn't "black blue jeans" an oxymoron anyway, like "jumbo shrimp" and "military intelligence?"
In the corporate world, when you walk among the tall towers of lower Manhattan, the men do offer a variation on the stereotypical black three-button suit:
Sometimes they wear a black suit with dark, dark blue pinstripes.
So once I've spent a few weeks on the streets of New York standing out in my khakis and bright orange (Tennessee Volunteer) or red (University of Georgia) golf shirt, I'm going to have to decide whether I'll succumb to, well ... the dark side.
For now, I think I'll just compromise and wear dark socks with my khaki shorts. That should look good.
Gonna be working hard this week and then doing a good bit of traveling next week. August 1 is the day for transplanting myself from good old Dixie to the Big Apple. Much sooner than I thought, but the suspense has been killing me, so perhaps just as well.
More details to come later in the week, but in the meantime, here's a little music to get me and Manhattan Hillbilly followers in a traveling frame of mind. This is Ryan Adams' "New York, New York," and is one of the songs suggested as a 21st Century substitute for old, outdated state songs.
July 2010 will be my last month as a Southerner.
On August 1, I will be driving myself, the misses and our beagles northward toward New York City. Don't know who should be more scared -- me or the New Yorkers.
Even though we've known about this move for several months, the final move date came suddenly, and 11 days really isn't enough time to go through my hillbilly bucket list. Still, I'm going to try and squeeze as many Waffle House meals and banjo lessons in as I can.
Finding an apartment was nothing short of a nightmare. Half the landlords didn't want to rent to beagles. The other half were probably afraid I'd be setting up a still in the corner bathroom. (Silly Yankees, no heat source to cook the mash!) We were supposed to take five days to find a place and sign a lease. When our planned lease signing fell through just four hours before we were supposed to fly back to Atlanta, we had to extend our stay, find a place to crash, and spend the next three days in full-panic mode. We left on Monday thinking we had no place to live.
One of the better apartment brokers called us. The lady whose apartment building we'd wanted had balked at the three hounds, but he'd found another apartment he said was nicer and closer to Central Park. He couldn't send us pictures since there was still a tenant in it, but he described it and told us the dimensions of the small living room, tiny bedroom and even tinier single bathroom. At this point, our plans were to live in a spacious little cardboard box just under the George Washington Bridge overpass, so anything sounded good.
So on August 2, we'll walk into our new apartment ... that we've never seen. I'm as jumpy as spit on a hot skillet.
Check out the map above. It shows web traffic to our humble little double-wide on the internet for the last 10 days. It's very humbling to see how quickly the ramblings of a barefoot Tennessean about to be loosened upon a major American city can spread.
Not surprisingly, most of Manhattan Hillbilly's current readers are from Georgia (where even today I'm busy packing boxes) followed closely by New York (where thousands of Westsiders are screaming at their computers "There goes the neighborhood!")
But Kansas? Wisconsin? Oregon? I always like to think there's a little hillbilly in everyone, so that's pretty heartening. We even have a couple of readers from Mexico, Canada, one in Australia and one in Japan. So who knows, maybe they're clogging in Osaka and Sydney.
If you're enjoying reading our little slice of cultural crazy here on the internet, do me a favor: Tell your friends about the site. Because I'm getting ready for the most frightening move of my life, and I can use all the support I can get!
When I started hunting for apartments, I was struck by how small the refrigerators are in New York City. It was explained to me that city residents don't stock up, but rather pick up whatever groceries they need for dinner that night on the way home. Or they eat out. Failing that, they do delivery.
Everybody delivers in New York. Restaurants. Stores. It's a staple of many Seinfeld episodes. Especially now with a weak economy, if you can think of it, you can call and get it delivered to your door. I wasn't sure what the appropriate tip was, but I was told $5, and maybe a few bucks more if you live on a fifth floor walk-up.
So here it is: Our first official delivered dinner:
I didn't realize how important purses are. And I certainly didn't know the special rights and privileges they hold in the big city.
Was sitting with the Misses earlier in the week at a restaurant, and a third person helping us find an apartment came in to join us. We needed to add a chair to the table, and there were three vacant chairs at tables next to us.
All occupied by women's purses.
You can see where this is going. Yours truly had to ask each of the ladies at these three tables if we could borrow their what-I-thought-was-empty chair. And in each case, they gave me a look like I'd asked them to sacrifice their first child for an entree. Me forcing her to put her Coach handbag on the floor under her? To allow her bag to actually touch dust? What I rube I clearly was.
What was more sobering was when I learned that 90% of the Coach, Aignor and other designer handbags I was seeing weren't even real. Apparently, counterfeit handbags are more common than the real ones in New York City. And obtaining them is kind of a cat-and-mouse sting operation. A female friend of mine decided to go down to Chinatown last week with the expressed intent of scoring a faux ladies handbag.
First, we walked up and down the street, looking at the no-name handbags for sale in the various shops. "The people who sell the knock-offs will come up to you if they see you're in the market for purses," she explained. We walked 12 blocks. Nothing. We walked down the narrowest and seamiest of streets, the only non-Chinese within miles. No one said a word.
"You're the problem, she finally snarked.
"You look like a fed."
"They're obviously not talking to me because you look like a police officer." I took this as a compliment, but couldn't understand how someone like me with a stocky build, short cropped haircut and aviator sunglasses could be confused for a law enforcement officer. "Go up to the corner and wait for me there."
I waited. And waited. After 25 minutes, I began to think I needed to call real law enforcement officers. Finally, my special lady friend showed up. She had been accosted not two minutes after I'd left, supporting her argument that I was cramping her illicit shopping style. She had been ushered down dark alleys into back rooms, and different people kept coming and going with handbags. At no time did the same person discuss price, touch the merchandise or exchange anything. It was as if she was purchasing drugs or illegal arms, but everyone was much more paranoid.
For me, I just don't understand the whole handbag thing. I figure a good burlap bag can do the job as well as anything and is much more durable. You don't even need to save a seat on the subway for it.
This is why New York is such an interesting place.
A local improv group staged an impromptu scene from Star Wars on the Number 6 train, to the confusion and then amusement of commuters.
Most businesses -- especially smaller delis and restaurants -- tend to reserve use of their facilities to paying customers. I think that's fair and have no problem with that. But I do resent it a bit when some places have no bathrooms whatsoever.
I've noticed a lot of the 171 Starbucks in Manhattan fall into this category. I always buy a hot mocha at stores when I have to drop in and go to the bathroom. And while I've had no problem taking care of their business in return for taking care of my business, I think the rising number of non-bathroom stores is breaking this social contract.
Fortunately yesterday, I was able to combine my dislike of Fox News with relieving an urgent need:
Here's one of those little disconnects that make New York City as disconcerting as a chicken rendering plant:
Check out this lovely sign outside a local cleaners. Look familiar? If you live in New York, it does, because almost EVERY dry cleaner has the same type of art stuck to their windows. It's either a dowdy horned-rim glasses-toting elderly woman or a nebbish-looking man in a striped shirt. They are breathtakinging old-school and obsessively caucasian.
The disconnect? These people don't exist. In every dry cleaner, the proprietor is either Chinese or Korean. Nothing wrong with that. But how about a little truth in advertising in the windows, guys?
Sitting in a local Starbucks.
I've officially spent a full week looking for an acceptable apartment in this city. I have less than 11 hours to find one before my flight back to Atlanta takes off.
Man two tables over talking to himself and dancing in his seat to the music.
What the heck am I doing here?
How bright is it shining in your world?
Who doesn't remember their first snipe hunt?
Mine came my first year as a boy scout, and I'm pleased to say I figured it out a heckuva lot quicker than most of my fellow tenderfeet. Had the pleasure this week to revisit those memories and those feelings of excitement, then embarrassment, then frustration and anger through a process much similar to snipe hunts: searching for a Manhattan apartment.
Just finished a full week of searching for an apartment. After visiting more than two dozen apartments that weren't right, we were inches away from signing a lease when the whole thing blew up. The details aren't that important, but suffice to say, the misses was pretty upset that she wasn't going to be living in the fourth-floor walkup she had started to love, and after wasting a whole week we had to extend our trip through Monday to try and find a place to live.
Finding a snipe would have been easier.
Part of the issue is scarcity. There's not a huge number of apartments out there. Then there's the economy. A lot of renters scored some great deals when they moved in last year. Now they don't want to move out, and landlords can charge higher rents for the scarcer resources.
Then part of the issue, I feel, is anti-Hillbilly bias. Being a relocating renter into the city has some advantages, especially if your company will pay the amazing 12-15% fee that brokers charge for finding you an apartment. You heard that right. They find you an apartment that will cost you $3,000 a month, and they get 12% on your total rent bill for the year at signing! It's a peculiar New York thing, and through inertia it's continued even when times got tough during the past few years.
That said, being a relocating redneck means that brokers and landlords tend to look down on you a little. They say they don't, but you can tell they're thinking "this rube doesn't know how to play the game." Which is frustrating, since I even condescended to not wearing my overalls and putting on shoes for the apartment visits.
Tomorrow we go back to looking. We have lots of visits planed with lots of apartments we found on Craigslist. And I plan to clap my hands together three times as we hunt for the elusive and wiley snipe.
I'm just trying to get an apple to snack on. These dirty-water hot dogs and gyros (still not sure how to say that) are nice, but I wanted to eat healthy.
Went to a couple of very fancy apple stores today, but couldn't find a darn piece of fruit in them. My friends in Ellijay need to take some of this year's crop and rush them up to New York City perty fast. There's a big market for them, and these big glass apple stores are plumb out.
Enjoyed watching The Fantasticks the other night. Got discounted tickets through TKTS. Actor playing El Gallo was our favorite, because he had a semi-country accent, wore blue jeans (well, OK, black jeans). The misses liked him because he looked just like McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy. Was she right? You be the judge:
Wow, they really have a high opinion of their real estate here in New York City. No matter what happens, I'm going to be paying two to three times my current mortgage payment to live in a one-bedroom apartment with around 600 square feet.
Very humbling. Very crazy. What's most amazing is watching the parade of people racing through these apartments that have just opened up, trying to snatch up the good ones that have just become available before the next person comes in to view it. The market has been depressed for the past year, and it's been a renter's market. That's now changed this summer, and the old craziness is back.
The frontrunner for the next hillbilly homestead is the building you see above. Here's the fun part: It's on the fourth floor, and there's no elevator! It's going to be like living atop a water tower, except you're not allowed to spray-paint bad things about your ex-girlfriend on it.
The apartment is about 550 square feet, and is technically a tri-level, with a small level at the entry with the world's tiniest kitchen and a bathroom. Then you step up to a small living room with a back terrace. Then you spiral up a staircase to a bedroom with access to another terrace.
The rooftop terraces are the big sellers, and this hillbilly's wife likes the idea of growing plants on the terraces and letting the hounds have some fresh air. You can guess who's going to be hiking up and down the stairs to take them out at 6 in the morning and 11 at night.
On the plus side, I should be in great shape for my next hiking expedition on the Appalachian Trail.
As for moving, there's two things I know: I got way too much crap to fit in this place, and boy am I going to owe the moving crew a lot of beer at the end of the day. And I suspect these Yankee movers aren't going to appreciate my PBR.
When you're looking for pizza in New York, the options are as plentiful as gnats in Tifton. This city in the 19th and 20th century was constructed by Italian immigrants, so pizza and Italian food offerings can be found on every corner.
The whole issue is clouded in mystery, claims and counter claims, but apparently there was a guy named Ray who started a pizzeria named Ray's back in 1957. Then other guys started opening pizzerias and started calling them "Ray's." Some were actually named Ray. Others were named Ralph. Eventually, as these things often do, it either leads to pitched battles with muskets, or lawsuits. Since New York has more lawyers per capita than any other city, you can guess which way they went. The battle boiled down to just a few Rays, and eventually they came to some muted truce.
So when you visit the city, there's "Famous Original Ray's Pizza." And there's "Ray's Pizza." There's also a "Ray Bari's Pizza." All claim to be the first and the best. They're all pretty good, but my New York pizza impresarios tell me none of the three are the best slice of pizza in the city.
Maybe they should take a hint from the pitched battles we Southerners fight over barbecue and start having pizza competitions. It works for us, plus you get to see lots of neat trophies with pigs on top while you dine.
The countdown to my departure from the South has begun. And with it comes the reality that I will be leaving the only life I've ever known. A life of walking barefoot, of ya'lls a ma'ms and blackberry jams. So amidst the chaos of packing, selling the trailer, loading up the car, finding a job and figuring out whether to drive up I-95 or I-81, I need to find time to do that "one thing, one last time" before I depart the region of my birth. So here's a short list I devised, a sort of "Hillbilly Bucket List." Feel free to add suggestions in the comments section below.
Did I leave anything out?
I sure felt like a fly in the potato salad yesterday. Spent the afternoon at New Yankee Stadium. Got a tan on my knees (my legs were in the sun and my head and torso were in the shade). Like a trucker's tan, but in reverse.
Decided not to wear my Braves cap, since I was in an AL park, but I did sport my bright orange University of Tennessee t-shirt. No reaction whatsoever. Which was fine. Some guy with a death wish showed up in a Red Sox jersey. I figured he was some frat pledge on an initiation dare, but he swore he wasn't.
But as a sociology experiment, my first visit to the epicenter of northernness was worthy of a research paper. Some of my key findings for my Southern brethren:
In the end, it was a grand day. The Yankees racked up an 11-run third inning and coasted, former Atlanta Brave Mark Teixeira upheld the South's honor with some solid hitting and fielding. I didn't buy any pinstripe hats or jerseys, but my loathing of the Yanks has been diminished somewhat, thanks in large part to my host Jessica and her loyalty to her team.
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