695

An Open Letter to Airlines (besides Air New Zealand)

Dear Every Airline Ever (besides Air NZ),

I suggest you send your top brass on a holiday to NZ, post-haste.  If for no other reason than studying what air travel should (and can) be. You’re welcome. Contact me for banking info so you can send me a cut of your inevitably skyrocketing profits.

The precedent is set early. A gate attendant quickly and deftly helped me resolved a lingering visa/passport issue with a simple call to NZ immigration.  I can imagine your policy in a similar situation: “figure it out yo-self.”  Why, thank you.  So helpful.

As we pushed back from the gate, a friendly flight attendant (yes, friendly) inquired about what I’d like to drink with my special meal.  Bwah? I’d requested a special meal?  Turns out I had! Thanks for remembering, and for the delicious Sauvignon Blanc, or “Sav” as they call it in NZ.  Loogit me, learning local slang!

But the in-flight entertainment was the real kicker.  I watched about five movies and ten television episodes between nodding off from the sleeping meds I’d taken (sadly not airline provided, so there’s one point for improvement) and the tasty meal service. There were even movies I’d been trying to see for some time: Contagion, The Descendants, Fantastic Mr. Fox, 21 Jump Street (lowbrow! brilliant!); and some classic comedies: Anchorman, The Hangover.  The list of television available goes on and on: Arrested Development, BBC/NatGeo nature shows, Modern Family, Family Guy, Family Ties (jk). I know, in-flight entertainment isn’t a new or unique thing, but it’s often done so poorly its hardly worth bothering. Usually either the selection, sound, picture, or interface are so terrible that I give up and go back to reading.  How primitive!

Oh! I nearly forgot the seats! The seats in coach class are easily more comfortable than my chairs at home.  They have headrests adjustable in infinite ways, they’re wide, and they lean back nice and far.  Why pay for first class?  Which reminds me, who are the crazy people spending $10k on a first class seat for their toddler?  That kid has no idea what he’s got going for him, and will be rudely awakened when the real world (and coach class) comes calling.

So, in short, that was the fastest twelve hour flight I’ve ever experienced. I was even a little disappointed when it ended. How will I ever know what happens to the Bluth family?

Signed,

International Air Travelers Everywhere

P.S. Maybe some other airlines do it right. If you know of any that pump Ambien into the air above toddlers, let me know.

789

“It’s the thought that counts”

Our departure was an awesome month long celebration, and while sometimes exhausting (169 bar, I’m looking at you!), we have felt so much love. Our friends took vacation days off of work just to go watch Batman together. Others rearranged client dinners to have drinks with us, came in from out of town to take trapeze lessons, took half days to go on boat rides around the city, and stayed out late on a Tuesday just because it wouldn’t happen again for awhile. And while I am a staunch believer in ditching work to have fun, I understand that this is also a very big deal.

We also received some really awesome gifts. As if our departure was Christmas or something! But, the best part of that was that every one was incredibly thoughtful. Often when people say, “It’s the thought that counts,” it is like a consolation. Like you missed the mark with your effort, but at least you sort of tried. Even if that card was a week late. Not with this crowd. Whether it was a gift card that takes up no space in a backpack, or a tiny leather man tool, or a text message on the day of our departure, it really is the thought that counts. It is that someone is thinking about you, thinking about how to express something, and then picks the best way. So many people did that and it feels awesome.

We have arrived safe and sound and couldn’t have asked for a better send off. Thanks guys!

 

582

Liftoff!

After several days of moving, cleaning, purging, and celebrating our life in New York, our journey has finally begun. I’m writing this from gate C126 at Newark International Airport, waiting for our 3pm flight to Los Angeles. From there, we’ll connect on Air New Zealand flight number 1 (how presendential!) to Auckland. Hooray!

For weeks I’ve been both anxious and calm; ready to go but with a series of hurdles left to jump.  People said that I didn’t seem excited. Perhaps I wasn’t – or I was just bad at expressing it, but reality has finally and definitively set in. At dinner with friends on Monday night, I was smiling ear-to-ear.  With all the worry over moving and packing finished, the excitement of our adventure finally has room in my crowded walnut. It’s a nice feeling.

We touch down in NZ Friday morning local time. Thursday, August 2nd just doesn’t exist for us, so this means I can add Time Traveler to my resume, right? We’re couch surfing for the weekend to briefly check out Auckland, and we’ll hit our first farm just outside town on Sunday or Monday.  They focus on raising cattle for beef, so it should be dirty and hopefully interesting.  We’ll be there for about two weeks, and then we’ll move to Uma Rapiti on Waiheke Island for a short stay. There’s not much farm work there right now, because it’s still firmly winter, so we’ll be bouncing around a fair amount at the get-go.

We’ve learned a lot from this experience, so expect more to come very soon about what went right (spoiler: almost everything) and the things that we would have done differently (a few small significant things).  Hmm, I wonder what we forgot?  Stay tuned!

905

New York: I Love You, but…

Via Longform, I recently discovered this article, by Cord Jefferson, about living in and leaving New York.  It begins as a somewhat haughty journal of dreams about moving to our fair city, early career struggles and cliched complaints (rent! winter!), but evolves into a touching and lovely examination of place and identity.  Oo la laa! How apropos!  Yeah, I know, but humor me for a bit.  I liked this part:

Getting out of New York helped me rediscover the outside world, while living in LA has reminded me to ignore the world if you’re happy with where you are and what you’re doing.

It sounds trite, but the thesis of the article really hit home for me.  I’ll offer you my own haughty journal and cliched complaints in explanation.

In my youth, we often took family trips to New York.  Both my parents went to college here, so they knew their way around and I was toted around from subway to cab, restaurant to show, never knowing which way was up and constantly feeling lost. This is probably a very common childhood experience, but it didn’t jive with my adolescent neuroses/know-it-all nature.  I liked knowing where the hell I was, and how to get out of this concrete jungle in case of zombie apocalypse.  Plus I think I got dog poop in my Tevas once. Oh, hell no.  So New York intimidated me, and it was dirty, and I’d made up my mind – I didn’t like it.

Then, when I was wrapping up my last year at Syracuse (G’Orange!), all my friends decided that they were moving to New York.  By this point I was a bit more comfortable with myself and new places, so gave it a go.  My dad was living in a nice place in Bay Ridge, so I spent my first three months here slingin’ burgers and beer uptown and riding the R train into the wee hours of the morning back to Shore Road and a futon couch.  This was a fun way to spend a summer, but certainly didn’t feel like the glamor and glitz that I’d heard about.

Once Dad and I had worn each others’ nerves sufficiently I started looking for cheap places to live.  Ah, there’s nothing that will wake a starry-eyed young boy faster than dealing with NYC real estate brokers during the height of the rental bubble: 2007.  I don’t think I ever even saw a single apartment – they were either non-existant bait-and-switch attempts or were snatched before I even made it to the open houses. But as is often the case in life and real estate: its all about being lucky and knowing the right people.  A friend needed a roommate in her $3k/month Upper East Side shoebox.

“Welp,” I said, “I can’t afford that, but how about if I move in with Stina! We..uh..don’t take up much space!”

Luckily, said friend was kind enough to let that slide and we had our first real grown-up place.  Or at least, tiny room with dark living room and one-person kitchen.  But it was OURS, dammit.  I commuted every day to work on the packed 6 train, pleased with myself for rubbing elbows with the elites and not the slightest bit annoyed when one of them farted nearby.  “My air is your air, friend! We are all in this together.”  I had made it, or so I thought.

Of course, we grew tired with that tired of living flanked by fratty bars and lunching ladies, and soon the search was on again.  “The perfect place is out there.  I know it.”  We wanted a one-bedroom and the only things in our price range were in less desirable ‘hoods.  There were some nice blocks of central and western Harlem that attracted us, but we ultimately settled on another friend-of-a-friend’s place: a massive converted loft in the South Bronx.  Yes, SoBro (as realtors kept calling it) was a bit avant garde for two young white kids, but Christina taught nearby and I could commute the entire way to work on the 5 train (interminably, it seemed at times), so it made some sense.  Anyway, the apartment was awesome.  It was a warehouse that had been home to a variety of industries – we could pry discarded sewing needles from between the floorboards – but had been bought decades ago by an artist and occupied by a variety of her peers in some attempt to create a pocket of utopia amid the drugs and violence of “SoBro” in the eighties and nineties.  She’d since converted it to condos and was selling it off, floor by floor.  We lived on the fourth floor in a unit recently bought by a parent’s friend.  The rest of the building was occupied by some remaining artists, academics, and others with similar ideals.  At times it still felt a bit utopian.  At others, we felt trapped.

So, through another stroke of luck and timing, we ended up in what we once thought was the perfect apartment in the perfect neighborhood.  And it still may be.

New York has been my only adult “home.” I know I’ll miss it desperately, but I know there’s also a lot more out there to see. It’s hard to picture living anywhere else, but as soon as the time comes I’ll remember Jefferson’s words from above: “ignore the world if you’re happy with where you are and what you’re doing.”  The grass will always be greener somewhere else; find your spot and make it the greenest it can be.

962

Moving

Moving sucks. It is expensive and exactly how I don’t want to be spending my time. But, in one week the move will be over and we will be cleaning our empty apartment. As of right now though, nothing is packed and we still do not know how we are going to move. The kicker in our situation is that it is not just a move.  Everything is going into storage for two years (translation: moving = $, storage = $$$). At this point, I think I have looked into just about every option for moving and storage that is out there. And there are lots of them.

Here are some options we have explored and thoughts we have thought:

PODS: $175/month plus $500 for pick up, $500 for drop off, $500 for this, $500 for that, and $500 for the other thing. Oh yeah, and they may not be able to actually drop the pod anywhere close to the door of the building, depending on the street regulations. Clearly, this option isn’t going to work.

Store our stuff in the basement of a friends office that may or may not flood. Where we may or may not get a bunch of moldy stuff back. I mean, if we used tarps and pallets…. so cheap, so tempting… But, no.

Use a moving company to move and store our stuff. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Here, take it away. We got a reference from a friend, who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who came over for an estimate. After tallying our belongings and tapping away on his iPad for an hour, he came up with an estimated $10,000 to move and store the contents of our one bedroom apartment.  Hold on, let me go see how much is on my money tree. Nope, not that much. Thanks anyway, asshole.

The good old fashioned way looks like the most realistic and cost effective.  Rent a UHaul, get some dudes to help us load the truck and schlep it to a self storage facility, where Mom and Dad will help us unload it. In Brooklyn, a 5×15 ft self storage unit is $250. In PA and northern Jersey they are around $100. In Atlantic City however, we found one for $50. Guess where we are headed? AC, baby!

We have one final estimate this week. It is being done by a guy who suggested that we use his moving company to help us move into a self storage unit instead of using a UHaul. This would be ideal. Keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t break the bank.

And thus, the packing begins tomorrow. All of my makeup is going in the garbage. So is my strapless bra that claws at my ribcage. And the pilly sweaters and dingy camisoles. It is time to PURGE! Gal pals come on Sunday to help empty the liquor cabinet and pack up the kitchen :)

1,211

Preparing for the Slow Life

Don’t get me wrong — I’m beyond excited to GTFO of New York City and start adventurin’ (patent pending), but as the date of our departure approaches (August 1) I’ve come to dread the inevitable shock of not being able to drop $50 on dinner if we don’t feel like firing up the stove on a particularly sweltering evening (like today in NYC).  We’ve been fortunate; with no kids and steady gigs, we’ve rarely had to sacrifice a fun time for the sake of saving a sawbuck here and there.  But soon, when the paychecks stop coming in, we’ll have to make some tough choices about what we can and can’t spend our money on.

At least initially, the plan is to live frugally and find free and fun things to do.  Our expenses should be pretty minimal, considering we’ll be WWOOFing in exchange for room and board.  Fixed monthly costs should be limited to cell phones and student loans (student bailout, anyone?). At least, I think so.  It’ll be interesting to revisit this after a few months in NZ, to see what our real monthly costs are. No doubt I’ve forgotten something already.

Transportation is obviously another consideration, but that’s closely tied to entertainment.  My grand vision is that we’ll be within a stone’s throw of awesome beaches and hikes and just hang out, write, talk, read, and enjoy the slow life for a while. Sounds…perfect! Right? RIGHT?!

1,162

Am I going to need a thong?

I’ve lived out of my (and by my, I mean my sister’s) H frame backpack twice and learned valuable lessons about packing with each trip. In 2010 it was for a one month trip to Hawaii. During my Hawaii trip, I learned that make up is unnecessary. To most people, this seems obvious. But, to a citified gal, this may seem unnerving. Turns out I got citified, but didn’t realize it until I was sitting on a farm on the Big Island, embarrassed by the fact that bronzer and mascara were in my toiletry bag. Yes, I brought bronzer to Hawaii. I am now stretching the last of my mascara through the last of our summer weddings and parties and can’t wait to dump it in the garbage before we ship out. In 2011, Zach and I took a week long backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. While schelping the contents of my backpack up and down the mountains, I learned that you don’t need to carry 4 shirts when you can get away with just taking 2 and washing them as needed. I’m catching on.

Initially, I wrote that I’d be packing for two years, but that isn’t the case as the contents of the pack will surely change over time. I’ll be packing for four seasons. Today was my first packing trial run. We need clothes (obviously) and have decided to bring camping equipment as well, since camping and backpacking is one of our top priorities. I want to bring the slackline, too. I know it is heavy and takes up space, but I want to bring it. Check this out to see why. 
So, here is the plan:

A. Hiking Boots

B. Flip Flops

C. Bunch of underwear

D. Bandana, bathing suit

E. Sports bras

F. 2 Tshirts, 1 tank top

G. 1 long sleeve, 1 sweatshirt, 1 denim button down that I can’t live without

H. Sneakers

I. Socks

J. A dress

K. Mesh shorts, Jean shorts, Jeans

L. Tent

M. Thermarest

N. Sleeping bag

O. Fleece and Rain Shell

P. Kindle, Journal

Q. Spork, Leatherman, headlamp

R. Pack towel, camp stove

*Not pictured: first aid kit, toiletries, slackline, computer, guide book, camera, chargers

 

The good news is that it all fit in my backpack. Okay, well I didn’t feel like taking the tent out, but Zach and I are going to split it up and I’m pretty sure it will fit. We will also be bringing day packs for shorter jaunts, to be worn front ways like a marsupial baby while we travel to and from the airport.

 

The bad news is that we have a ton of stuff to put in storage and to ditch. Ebay and Goodwill, prepare thy selves! Friends, come drink the contents of our liquor cabinet!

765

Introducing: Awesome Things

Thanks, Hank

The first in a new category of things I find awesome.

Thanks, Hank…I mean, Mr. Rollins (don’t kill me).

1,102

NZ Todoodle

“Ohmigod you’ll LOVE it there,” a friend on my recent climbing trip said when I mentioned that I was heading to New Zealand in a few short weeks.  This is not entirely uncommon.  It seems as though every third person I meet and talk to long enough for this to come up (or maybe I’m so excited I just launch right in and bash them over the head with it?) has some strong connection to NZ.  Either their sister is WWOOFing now, their college buddy spent a summer surfing on the south island, or as was the case this recent evening, they lived there in the flesh for nearly a decade. I’ll take all suggestions, but this was someone whose arm I’d happily twist for the inside info.

Here’s what I ended up with on the to-do list, roughly from South to North:

  • Mueller Hut Trek on Mt. Oliver
  • Stewart Island
  • Abel Tasman waterway by kayak
  • The Remarkables
  • Milford Sound
  • Climbing at (the?) Darrens
  • Milford Trek (7 days)
  • Heafy Trek
  • Fox Glacier
  • Bouldering at Castle Hill and Flock (?) Hill
  • Cave Stream (bring headlamp and thermals)
  • Climbing at Takaka and Pains Ford (near Nelson)
  • Mt. Aspiring National Park
  • Fairwell Spit
  • Te Papa (in Wellington)
  • Eat the brioche at Fidel’s in Wellington
  • Surfing at Pomston, New Plymouth, Gisborne, Napier
  • Lake Taupo
  • Rorotua
  • Great Barrier Island
  • Waitomo Caves (glow worms)
  • Pancake Rocks
  • Kirikiri

Let’s see how many of these things (or more!) that we do.

1,064

Rainy Day Climbing in Rumney

zm-rumney-3584

I spent three days last week tramping around in the rainy woods of New Hampshire’s White Mountains — and loved every minute of it. Sure, I would have preferred sunshine, but I’m happy to say we made the absolute best of a bad situation.  When you hit an unexpected bump in the road, you can’t just throw up your hands and give up; you roll with it.

I’d been looking forward to this trip, three days of sport climbing at Rumney Rocks with nine friends from Brooklyn Boulders, for weeks. So I was more than a little disappointed when the forecast called for persistent rain all week.  We thought of postponing the trip, but some of us (including me) had jumped through hoops to get these days off and couldn’t easily reschedule.  So we went for it, and our faith paid off.

Rumney is one of the premiere sport climbing destinations in the USA.  Most of the routes were established in the late 80s and early 90s, though some even more recently.  It’s best known for some classic climbs of 5.11 and above, but has solid routes all the way down to 5.0.

DAY ONE

On Monday, June 4th, I rose well before dawn to meet the group in nearby Williamsburg.  My neighborhood was still bustling from the previous night as I strode, dreary eyed but filled with adrenaline, to the subway.  This is something wonderful and unique about New York City.  Even on a Monday morning the previous night’s revelers mix with the early morning laborers on their way to another day.  We quickly packed the cars, discussed our route and set off for points north.  About an hour into the five hour ride the rain began.  Too late to turn around now.

We arrived at 10:30am, and while the rain had stopped for the moment, we knew the rock would be wet for the rest of the day. Our spirits, however, were not dampened.  We checked in to our accommodations at the wonderfully rustic and perfectly convenient Common Cafe, grabbed a quick and delicious egg sandwich, and set off to scout out some routes.  A few of us had been climbing here before, and suspected some areas might be overhanging enough to stay dry regardless of the rain, and they were right!  We were able to climb portions of routes at the Orange Crush wall, including a classic route by the same name.

I can’t say our first day was totally satisfying, but we got out there and got loosened up, which was far more than I expected as we hiked up to the crag in the driving rain.  We got a taste!

DAY TWO

We awoke to the blissful silence of dry weather, and while the sun didn’t fully cooperate, we were beyond grateful for this small gift.  Tuesday was our only full day here, and if we were going to be lucky this was the time to cash in our karma.

After a lazy morning we hiked our gear up to the New Wave wall and discussed our options.  There were dry-ish climbs, but they were all 5.11 and above — not exactly in my wheelhouse, especially for a warm-up.  But a few of the stronger climbers in our group wanted to give it a whirl because we’d hiked a decent distance up to it, so we split from them and headed to the Meadows area and the Parking Lot Wall.  Here we found a trove of solid 5.7-5.9 climbs ranging from 40 to 70 feet and mostly dry.  Hallelujah!  We set up shop and busted out the gear.

Climbing highlights for me were sending my first full lead climb on the long and slightly damp Glory Jean’s (5.6). It was juggy and had clear beta, save for a tricky hand traverse and awkward top out.  At about 65 feet it was the perfect first lead: got my heart pumping and tested my resolve, but didn’t present a technical challenge.

After a nice rest and a few shorter climbs I hopped back on the sharp end and (with plenty of beta from my belay partner) successfully led Egg McMeadows (5.10a).  Maybe I was feeling energized by the improved conditions, but if you told me I’d lead my first climb (inside or out) and a 10a in the same day, I wouldn’t have believed it.  To put it mildly, I was feeling good.

DAY THREE

Our plan for our last day in Rumney was to climb for the first half of the day and head home after lunch.  Unfortunately, that was not in the forecast.  Soon after we woke the rain began again.   After staring at the darkening skies for a few hours, we decided to bag it and get a head start on the trip home.  My plans to work on Jolt, a classic 100 foot 5.10b, were dashed. On the bright side, this left us enough time to rendezvous back at Brooklyn Boulders to scratch the itch once more before we officially split up!

If I ever doubt my love for climbing again, I’ll remember this trip and the incredible experience I had in the face of huge disappointment.  I can’t wait for next time.

DETAILS

If you prefer cheap, cozy, and convenient to sparkling clean and luxurious, stay at the  Common Cafe for $25 per person per night without linens or $35 with linens.  Their main business is the adjacent cafe where you can get a very good breakfast.  The smoothies ($5) are delicious and a meal alone.  They also serve lunch, though we packed our own.  A limited selection of climbing essentials is also available for purchase upstairs.  Staff was very accommodating and welcoming to us city folk.  The Rumney Climbers Association has a nice list of other options.

Plymouth, New Hampshire is about 10 minutes away by car and has nearly everything you might have forgotten.   Walmart and a Hannaford grocery store are well stocked.  Thai Smile is an excellent dinner option.  The Drunken Noodles ($12) were perfectly spiced and satisfying, and the Tofu Triangle ($5) appetizer was also very good.

Parking ($3 per day) at the crag was no problem for us, but if you’re going on the weekend I heard it fills up fast.  Get their early.  There are two lots a few hundred feet apart with about twenty spots in each.  If you don’t get a spot there you’ll have a long walk to the crag.

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