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Blinders On

I moved to New York City in August 2003, shortly after an insane blackout that hit the Northeast, leaving people in the dark for two days. Some in the dark for weeks.

I was fresh off of a fifteen-month contract, performing at a theme park in south Georgia. Moving to NYC was literally a dream come true, and I was thrilled to move into my apartment on 45th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. Hell's Kitchen. Central Manhattan. The center of it all.

My roommate, Lindsay (bequeather of the title Too Far Taylor), had secured the apartment for us. She was a musical theatre performer and dancer and had met an ex-Rockette (they often retire in their 30s!) who was married to an opera singer (so New York!) and had recently had their first child. They had relocated to Texas to be with family for the time being and needed someone to sublet their place. Six months for sure. Possibly longer.

This is often how sublets are acquired in NYC. Two random people have a conversation. And boom! Two random people’s needs align.

The apartment was super cute. It was small. But super cute. The kitchen was painted red. I love red.

I’d wanted to live in NYC my whole life. And there I was!

There was only one bedroom. A loft bed.

So Lindsay and I shared the bed. We were in our early twenties. Why not?

We lived in Hell's Kitchen. In Manhattan! In a place that was super cute!

The bathroom was split. The toilet was in one room. The sink and shower were in another.

So New York.

A few months into us living there, Lindsay booked a national tour. She packed up her belongings and hit the road.

So Amanda moved in.

Lindsay, Amanda, and I had gone to college together in Oklahoma. Amanda was engaged to be married. Her wedding date was April 24. Lindsay was due back from tour in late April so the plan was Amanda would live with me until she got married. Soon after, Lindsay would return from tour and resume being my roommate.

While Lindsay was away, Amanda and I shared the loft bed.

Then some bed bugs moved in. And they shared the bed with us.

Then Amanda and I moved into the living room and slept on the pull-out couch.

The bed bugs joined us.

We slept on the floor. They joined.

It was a nightmare.

Lots of itchy bites and very little sleep. The apartment began to feel less cute.

But we were never without humor. I was a hostess at a kosher Jewish restaurant a few blocks from the apartment. They had a playlist on repeat that would often play on repeat in my mind when I wasn’t at work.

One of the melodies from an instrumental song was often on repeat in my head and became our bed bug song. We wrote our own lyrics: I bite you. I make you itch.

We finally got the bed bug situation under control only to find out the husband-the-opera-singer had booked a show at the Met. They were coming back to the City and needed their apartment back. We had until February 15th to find a place, pack up, and move out.

Ah, New York living.

Amanda’s fiancé, Chris, lived in a basement apartment in Astoria, Queens. It wasn’t an ideal “first apartment” for them once they were married, and the plan had always been for them to move into a new apartment together.

This eviction notice of sorts lit a fire under the apartment search. Amanda found a place a few blocks from Chris and secured what would become their first married apartment.

The plan shifted so that Amanda and I would live in the new Astoria apartment, starting February, until she and Chris got married in April, at which time I would swap places with Chris. He would then live with his wife, and I would live in the basement apartment. With Lindsay. Who would be back from tour.

In the meantime, I would sleep on an air mattress in “Chris and Amanda’s apartment”.

It all sounds crazy now. But, at the time, it all seemed to make sense!

Chris and Amanda’s apartment in Astoria was available for move-in February 1. We didn’t have to be out of the Manhattan sublet until February 15. This meant there was some overlap between having to be fully out of the Manhattan apartment and fully into the Astoria apartment.

I wanted to stay in the Manhattan apartment as long as I could. While living there, I had dreams I would get married, buy the apartment from the Rockette and Opera Singer, and live there with my husband for the rest of my life.

Them needing their apartment back was putting a damper on my dreams.

Amanda and I had some acquaintance-friends who needed to move around the same time. We all chipped in and rented one moving van. It was February in NYC. Winter. Snow. Freezing cold. Not an ideal time to move.

We also decided since we were going to have a moving van, we may as well move as much of Chris’s stuff into the new Astoria apartment considering he’d be living there full time in two months anyway.

Amanda and I were moving from Manhattan to Queens while our friends were moving from Queens to Brooklyn. In hindsight, it was a ridiculous idea to share a moving van. But we were young. And poor.

We loaded Amanda’s stuff, Lindsay’s stuff, and most of my stuff into the van and moved it to Astoria. We put Lindsay’s stuff plus most of my stuff in the basement apartment. We put Amanda’s stuff, most of Chris’s stuff, and the stuff I needed for two months in the new apartment.

We also moved our friends and got the van stuck in the snow. But that’s another story.

I didn’t move all my things to Astoria. I stayed in the Manhattan apartment by myself for the remaining two weeks. I needed to grieve my dream of owning it one day. Plus it had been my first NYC home. I didn’t know anything about Astoria.

Finally, the day came. I loaded up all of my remaining belongings. Which was a lot more than I had realized.

It never looks like a lot when it’s scattered around your living space.

I had clothing. And coats. It was winter after all. I had my pillow. Bedding. Who even knows what else!

I put on my clothes. All of them. And every coat I had. And my winter hats. I was layered to the max.

My backpack was full-to-overflowing. I smashed my pillow between my back and my backpack.

I also had two large Duane Reade bags that were made of plastic and had plastic handles. Duane Reade is a drug store in NYC. They gave out sturdy bags to help you get your purchases home safely. I was thankful.

I bid my dream apartment adieu and headed for the subway.

I grew up in Oklahoma. Where people drive cars. Public transportation isn’t really “a thing”. Cabs exist but aren’t a mainstay.

I slugged through Midtown Manhattan to the Times Square train station. Two and a half avenues plus three city street blocks. The Duane Reade bags were sturdy, but the plastic handles were cutting into my fingers because they were packed to the gills with my belongings.

I imagine I looked like a homeless person.

I made my way through the train station and boarded an N train for Astoria. Thank God I didn’t have to transfer to any other trains.

Four subway stops in Manhattan. Underground through the East River. Seven subway stops above ground in Queens.

I got off the train at the last stop in Astoria. Ditmars Boulevard. I’d only ever been there by car or with other people who knew the area.

I got off the train, hauled myself and my stuff down the two flights of stairs to the street level, and realized I had no idea how to get to the apartment.

I started walking in one direction and quickly realized I didn’t have the energy to lug my crap all over the place while I learned the ins and outs of Astoria.

This was no time for pride! And GPS didn’t exist yet.

I zeroed in on a nearby human and asked “which way to Ditmars?”

The other way.

Of course.

I have the absolute worst sense of direction of anyone I’ve ever known.

I turned around and found Ditmars about a block away, turned left, walked six streets to 24th Street, turned right and walked almost a full avenue toward 21st Avenue, and finally arrived at the apartment. I opened the door to the building and proceeded to haul myself and all my crap up four flights of stairs to the fifth-floor apartment in a building that had no elevator.

I was spent.

I walked into the apartment, trying to remain invisible. It was February 15, and Chris and Amanda were having a Valentine’s Day meal together. I would just slip through the living room with all of my worldly possessions strapped to me and cutting through my fingers and quietly collapse in the bedroom. No one need know I had arrived.

The moment I walked through the door, Chris and Amanda spotted me. And took in the sight that I must have been.

I slogged through the living room, detected, and dropped my stuff in the bedroom.

When Amanda realized that I looked like death-warmed-over because I had dragged myself and my things through Midtown, the subway system, the streets of Astoria, and up four flights of stairs, she said, “Why didn’t you just take a cab?”

Hmmmm. Good question.

Why didn’t I take a cab?

Because it never occurred to me!

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