Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Bag + A Bed + A Bad Day = A Blessing = A Bag

Be prepared: this one's coming full circle.

Part I:
It is August 19th, my last day of work at previous Portland job.
In a flush of pride and freedom, pre- post-work cocktails with co-workers, I stop at Nordstrom.

The bag I have been wanting sold out during the Anniversary Sale. I mention this to the sales girl, who promptly finds me a few around the country that have been returned. As a gift to myself - as a celebration, really- I plop my card down and make the purchase.

The purchase:

It arrives in 8-10 business days: in time for my New York departure, but not small enough to fit in my luggage. I set it aside, tags in tact, to be reunited with me later.

Part II:

It is mid-October. I fear the darkening days and the gusts of biting wind warn of the cold to come, so I send for some winter things I have packed up at home, which my mother is nice enough to take care of for me. Among the sweaters, fur accessories, scarves, mittens and boots that arrive in the package, my Badgley bag is the thing I missed most.
It is prettier than I remember- all soft gray leather and bright gold hardware. I leave the tags on a few days longer until I am sure I have my job secured, and then I gleefully break them off and debut the bag.
I wear it every day for a week. It goes nicely with everything, I get some compliments on it, and I am pleased with my purchase.

...Until Saturday, while lunching at the (totally luxe and very fun) SoHo House*

with my cousin who is visiting from London, the strap clasp on the bag just up and breaks. Like, out of nowhere, all of a sudden, the thing is in pieces and I can't even FIND all of the pieces.

I am more annoyed and baffled than sad, and my cousin does his best to just knot the chain strap so I can carry it for the rest of the way home. Hmph.

The closest Nordstrom is a train ride away and frankly, I'm not sure I want it fixed if the quality of the bag is such that it could happen again. It's just that, looks SO LOVELY with all of my other things and I feel, without being dramatic, that I need it in my life or I will die.

Part III:

It is October 24 and the roommates and I are moving into our new apartment.
It is bright and spacious (the rooms are not large, but, the spaces between them are, which is kind of remarkable for an NYC apartment) and the flooring is new, and it's only on the third floor, which is an improvement over our 4th floor walkup, and we're all very pleased to have a place to truly call home for at least a year.
Although, we notice rather quickly that it's hard to call a few walls and windows a home when you have absolutely, quite literally, NO FURNITURE with which to make it the calm, comfortable, zen-like space we crave. The one item of d├ęcor I have is a framed print that I bought a few weeks ago because the color combination caught my eye, made me stop on the busy street, take a deep breath, and feel wonderful. Anything that has this effect in this city belongs with me, without question.

So I walked in and bought it on the spot. There is a nail in the wall of my new bedroom and so the framed print finds a home.

Part IV:

But one cannot sit nor sleep on a framed print, so I call 1-800-Mattress and select a mattress, boxspring, and frame with free delivery.
The only problem in this flawless plan is that they decline my credit card.

I don't get paid until later in the week and think it best to put a purchase of this nature on a credit card, so I ask if I can just pay on the day of delivery (2 days from now) so I can have a day to clear things up with Capital One. The mattress man says this is no problem and agrees.

It is October 25th, my second Monday at my new job. I end up staying until around 7:45 laboriously working on something that would probably take the previous Account Coordinator about 10 minutes, and leave, starving, and prepared to do phone battle with Capital One. I find the only quiet place between my office and the subway station to talk on the phone – one of those debit-card-entry ATM kiosks at the corner of a bank I don't belong to- and go to work.

I will spare you the details but basically, the credit card company assures me there is nothing wrong with my account, I am not eligible for a credit limit increase, but that this bed purchase should be totally fine. I say, “Well, nothing has changed since yesterday on your end, and it wasn't fine yesterday, so why would it be 'fine' today?”
“It just should be. There's nothing wrong with the account, no holds, no problems, here.”
“Okayyyyy,” I say unconvinced.

To avoid embarrassment on delivery day, I decide right then and there to contact the mattress company again and try to run my credit card again. Of course it is declined. Twice.

I call Capital One again. I have to talk to a different representative. I have to ask for a supervisor.
The moral of the story is that I end up crying in this strange bank kiosk out of helplessness and frustration with a company that is incompetent, incorrect, and infuriating. One young woman is actually compassionate enough to stop and ask if I am okay- this makes me cry harder. Also, I realize I haven't eaten anything but a bagel since about noon.

Part I (Back to the Bag):

I give up and head "home" to my (empty) apartment. I emerge from the station after a suffocating ride on the crowded 6 train, and as I am walking home, something hits me.
I realize there is a little idea sitting in the back of my brain, waving its arms frantically hoping I'll notice. This idea is small, but obvious.

I take heed, pull out my phone, and call a number I know well.

"Hello, this is Lisa in Handbags at Nordstrom Washington Square, how may I help you?"
"Hi Lisa, my name's Jessica. I have a problem, and I think you might be able to help me..."

Lisa reassures me that despite living in a city wherein there are no Nordstrom stores, I can ship the bag in with a note and my account information, and they will credit my account with the amount for which I purchased the bag.

I hang up, quite pleased with myself, and to my surprise, find in the giant black hole of a purse I am actually carrying, a receipt. Not just another Starbucks receipt or a bar tab, but the actual Nordstrom receipt I got when I bought that damn bag.
Seriously, I can't ever find my subway card in this thing, but in the dark, on the street, of course it only makes sense that I would reach into the bag and pull this out.

The amount I paid? $10 more than the bed I just bought. Which means it will just cover shipping.

I am still chuckling about this vivid illustration of divine providence when I get home and walk into my room, and see there, framed on the wall, the print:

Keep Calm and Carry On it reads regally. A commandment, an encouragement - though I see that they are one and the same.

It is all that I need to make peace with that fact that I am sitting on a deflated air mattress and eating candy corn while listening to How to Dress Well.
This was part of what I was looking for, right?
I signed up for this, I remind myself.

I stare at the print and listen to the sirens, the sports bars, and the city outside.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Necessity Accessories

One of the hard things about relocating geographically is the total lack of context you have for anything, anyone, traditions, landmarks, necessities, or luxuries.

The first time I traveled to Europe in 8th grade, we had multiple-session prep courses about what to expect, the nature of culture-shock, the lowdown on the buildings we'd be visiting and why, the political climate of the different countries we'd be visiting, and a detailed packing check list.

When I lived in Morocco, there were some hefty orientation classes we sat through upon arrival, and then a series of culture and daily-life seminars we took throughout our summer there. I also had a built-in tour guide in the form of a bubbly host sister.

In moving to NYC, I regrettably did not prepare in the same manner.
I mean, I've seen basically every episode of Friends, Sex & the City, Seinfeld, and Law & Order:SVU, so what else is there to know, right?

To be honest, I did actually start a list of literature and film selections I deemed worthy of absorbing to aid in my New York Education, but did I get around to any of them? No.
I still have yet to see a Woody Allen film.

So I am sort of stumbling along and learning like the grand majority of the other inhabitants of this city did when they first got here in their early 20s, looking for a job and a new sort of challenge with a wisp of adventure.

Part of what I am learning is that things that are "popular" really are popular, meaning, many of the great traditions and quirks of this city are upheld by the population at large, and usually for good reason.

Like, for example, women don't wear Hunter boots (or Sorrells, Sperry's, etc) simply because they're trendy: women wear wellies because they HAVE to. There is so much walking, and when the streets get wet and gross, encasing your foot in a waterproof stomping hoof is pretty much the only answer.
Rainboots are available at every shoe store, in every imaginable color and height and style. Being from Portland, I know that it rains a hell of a lot, but I also know that not every woman owns a pair of rainboots. We have the luxury of driving most everywhere, or own plenty of other weather-wise shoes, and I have never been able to find a really nice selection of boots at local retailers.

Same thing with the great notion of "owning a house in the Hamptons." Hearing of such a thing in Oregon, it sounded like a far off thing that famous people did with an excess of money and a lack of responsibility.
Then after spending a mere week of humidity laden oppression in the city, where the air is trapped between all the buildings and blows up hotly at you from subway grates (and even worse underground, where the thick stagnance of air rests heavily on your skin, and sweats itself out of your pores) I realized people started going to weekend homes out of necessity. Spending a full summer in this city is going to be painful, so I should probably work on securing a space for myself come next June. I'm sure the Trumps have a spare room for me someplace.

Another example is Central Park.
I honestly did NOT understand what all the fuss was about the park when I got here a few short weeks ago. Great... it's green. And pretty. Yep... not as pretty as all kinds of land right outside city limits, though, so, what's the deal?
And then on Saturday afternoon, the weather was so crisp, so gorgeously fall bright, all I wanted to do was be outside, and all of a sudden, the park was the only place I wanted to be. It was the only green space that reflected the sunlight just the right way, and there was all kinds of music playing and food being sold and people playing volleyball and picnicking on the lawn. It is the collective front yard of the city, and I realized I needed it, too.

I also met this guy,

whom I had seen on the subway last week. You know you're making yourself at home when you have a catalogued list of the local bums.
He tried to sell me a two-dollar bill in the park. I declined, but told him I'd seen him around, and I liked his fabulous hat.
"Well thank you, you know darling, things just come together when you got nothing but time on your hands to get high and sew. They just come together."

Another thing I have come to understand is why mod, sleek furniture got popular: I am pretty sure it has to do with the fact that a lot of us here in the city live in ridiculous walk-ups and the idea of getting a fancy bedframe or sofa up 4 flights (nineteen steps each) of stairs is laughable.
Most people my age here just sit at the tables left by the last tenants, and make do with the shelving units that have sat in the apartment for years, and eat out of the bowls left in the cupboards. This might not be a terribly green city, but there is certainly a culture of recycling, reusing, and repurposing.

Take for instance my little studio:

Honestly one of the bigger kitchens I've seen in the city. Furnished with an odd assortment of the lessee's old plastic plates, chipped mug collection, and one bread knife I've been using to slice everything from zucchini to cheese.

Our living room looks like a Goodwill donation center. I think the lessee is coming to claim his "art" this week, but I am going to insist we keep the amazing leather chair (in which I am currently sitting).
I sleep up there!

This is my huge bedroom. And a super classy air mattress, which I am basically sure 50% of the city also sleeps on. (Not this one, specifically, but, whenever I tell someone I just moved here their first follow-up question is, "Oh, do you need an air mattress? Because I have one." City of transplants and nomads, I tell you).

The job progression is, at this moment, at a standstill due to the deluge of rain and my unwillingness to go scout out a Kinkos to scan and email all my paperwork... it's just so cozy in here!
Alright...alright... I'm going.