Friday, June 26, 2009

Do Not Attempt

Last week my dad asked me if I'd hired movers for my new apartment that I was moving into Saturday. I shrugged it off, thinking it was unnecessary for our situation. After all, we were in a small NYC apartment and only had to move a few blocks and avenues over.

Plus, it seems like the New York thing to do is move yourself, just as I've helped friends and co-workers move with U-Hauls since I've been here. Save some money, right?

Wrong. I couldn't have been more wrong.

What started out as an empowering, spirited project last Saturday quickly turned into a grueling, 14-hour nightmare. It was the Move from Hell, and for some reason none of us saw it coming.

It didn't start out bad. I got the U-Haul in the morning and drove to the Bronx with my brother Chris to pick up a leather couch with a needed pullout bed. Driving through the heart of the Bronx was certainly an experience, but the trip went off without too much trouble besides dealing with the weight of the couch and temporary parking issues.

We returned to our apartment around noon to find our girlfriends already hard at work cleaning and boxing things up. Although I'd gathered enough boxes for the move, the first major problem was fairly obvious: NOTHING WAS BOXED UP. Chris hadn't been home in a few weeks, and I'd admittedly put it off because I wasn't in the mood to start packing things up until I was in true moving mode.

Two words: procrastination kills.

By the time we'd packed most items up and put the first load in the truck, four hours had already flown by, and I was supposed to return the U-Haul two hours after that (which obviously wasn't going to happen).

Nope, our day was just beginning.

I have to say that driving a 14-foot U-Haul in New York City was easier and less daunting than I'd originally thought. Not being able to rely on a rearview mirror was restrictive at first, but I learned to trust my side mirrors. Navigation was a little trickier with the one-way streets, and I struggled a bit with yielding to pesky pedestrians, narrowly missing a few. But overall it wasn't a whole lot different than driving a van, other than maneuvering between double-parked cars.

I will admit that I committed my first hit-and-run, but it wasn't totally my fault! ("Go, go, go!")

Parking was our next major obstacle. When we arrived at the new place (which is on a 2nd Avenue hotspot), nearby parking was nonexistent. After circling the block a few times, we decided to park as close as we legally could, which was only, oh, a good 70 yards away.

The distance greatly exacerbated our situation. It took only a few trips back and forth to realize what we'd gotten ourselves into, grossly underestimating the time and effort it takes in the countless stages of the moving process: packing our things, moving them out of the apartment, loading them in the truck, unloading them on the street, moving them inside the apartment lobby, and finally moving them three stories up and into the new apartment.

Oh yeah, and then there's all of the actual unpacking and arranging, but that's neither here nor there.

There were enough stages here where I started to become angry and exasperated—"How have I not put those shelves in my apartment yet??" "How can we possibly have all this stuff???" It all seemed to repopulate on its own. As the day wore on, I grew delirious with the item respawning that was surely taking place. Every time I thought we were making progress, I quickly saw that there was always something else to move.

It just wouldn't stop.

As the torture continued, expressions like "in over our heads" and "epitome of underestimation" kept running through my head. Also, there were words like trying, frustrating, exhausting, miserable, demoralizing, soul-crushing, and never-ending. It was that bad.

We were in too deep. But it wasn't too late to ask for help.

Chris's girlfriend Laura, who had been slaving away with us in her pointy-toed copper heels, came up with the idea of hiring some more manpower to help us finish the move. Initially I was opposed to the idea, if for no other reason than to not admit that we couldn't do it all on our own. But I was outvoted.

So she and Chris set off to a nearby New York Sports Club and found Bruce, a stocky, mid-30s half-Irishman who was willing to help us out. Bruce turned out to be a godsend, especially when it came to lifting and twisting the bulky couch up to the fourth floor. Once we'd gotten the first load in by 8:30 p.m., he even agreed to meet up with us at the other apartment to move the heavy stuff out, which he did.

When he left at 9:30, he told us he had to go meet his girlfriend, who was about to give him "the ax." Then he refused to take the money (plus a nice tip) that Chris and Laura originally promised him. His reason: We actually helped him by giving him an activity to take his mind off the imminent dumping. He left on a somber note, but gave us his number so that we could catch him under better circumstances when he'd be bartending nearby.

Even after Bruce was gone, we still had stuff in our apartment, and the whole place still needed a good cleaning. But it was getting late, and we had to take care of the second load. So we decided to cut our losses and come back for everything a few days later. (That would end up taking another handful of hours.)


"What'd that take us—15, 20 minutes?"
"Four hours."

When we were finally done, my brother quoted this line from the movie Gung Ho. It was 1:30 in the morning, and my forearms looked like I'd either been tortured or was suicidal; I had the matching cuts, scrapes, bruises, and rain-dripping hair to prove it. Also, my oversized, light-blue Hooters t-shirt was soaked in sweat, dirt, grime, blood, and all the bad memories from that day. I've always liked that shirt, but after all we'd been through, I never wanted to see it again. And I won't, because I tossed it.

The next day we walked out to the U-Haul, only to be slapped in the face with a $115 parking ticket for parking in a temporary, almost-invisible construction zone. However, when we returned the truck, the U-Haul attendant waived the day-late charge. That was one of the few breaks we caught.

Looking back on it all, I like to think that despite the laborious undertaking, the whole event built a lot of character. Maybe when I set out with the desire to move ourselves, I was seeking that sense of accomplishment in the true can-do spirit of New York City.

Two words: classic mistake.

Two more words: never again.

Given the back-breaking work, I have a newfound respect for professional movers. I'm also incredibly indebted to our very own moving staff. We couldn't have done it without the huge help of Laura or my amazing supergirlfriend Erin, who endured everything and toughed it out all the way to the very end of the 14-hour ordeal.

Looking back on it, the thing that I can't figure out is why I didn't listen to my dad in the first place. He's helped me and my four siblings move several times throughout our lives, and he was invaluable less than two years ago when he helped me move from Nashville.

Dad, all I can say is: You were right.

You were so right.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Celebrity Sighting #6

Out of the five celebrities I've seen in New York since moving here, none have been in my neighborhood. Until now.

It was early Saturday morning, and I'd left my apartment to wait for my brother at the U-Haul I'd just parked on 97th Street. Within seconds of walking out my door, I spotted a couple sitting outside the cafe Salata. And specifically, an attractive, middle-aged blond woman sporting big black sunglasses. With one look I had that instant realization that I've had with so many celebrities before: It's Heather Locklear. But with the sunlight revealing the lines on her face and the makeup trying to cover it, this was an aging Heather Locklear.

Heather was sitting with an unknown (to me) male friend and his dog on a leash. When they were done eating, they walked down 97th Street and entered what I'm guessing is his apartment. Then she was gone.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Over the Line

In recent years sideline reporters have increasingly pushed the boundaries when it comes to interviewing coaches during games. It seemed to start a few years ago in college football when sideline reporters like ESPN's Erin Andrews would catch up with coaches on the trailing teams halfway to the locker rooms, just before they were about to ream their teams for blowing a two-touchdown lead before halftime.

"Coach, what went wrong? Can you talk real quick about the second-quarter collapse?"

It's a good thing you're a pretty face, Erin.

At the time this initially struck me as kind of amazing. Why were coaches putting up with this intrusion—this interference—when the game was only half over? After all, they'd be taking questions from the media when was all was said and done anyway. But with impatient-yet-obedient body language from the coaches, you could tell they were seemingly under contract to cooperate and politely spit out trite answers to trite questions, which to this day remain pretty much the same: "We just need to get our heads in the game and go out there and execute," is what they spout off before quickly darting off at the first break in conversation.

As astonishing as all this was, it soon became the norm for on-field reporting, and I think we've all grown accustomed to it since. But what I saw Saturday night during the Penguins-Red Wings game made me realize that this inside-the-huddle immersion has crossed the line.

Between a face-off during the hockey game, NBC on-ice reporter Pierre Maguire actually had the nerve to step over from his private booth at center ice onto the Detroit bench and ask coach Mike Babcock about a play that had just transpired. I don't remember the specifics of the exchange, but it doesn't really matter. It's just that the mere timing of his question—on Detroit's bench before the next face-off—really shocked me and made me realize that this style of reporting has gone to the next level—from intimate to invasive.

This simple act got me thinking "what's next?" Erin Andrews chasing Jim Tressel into Ohio State's locker room, pushing past security and unrelenting before the dismissive Tressel answers her question about why he continues to call predictable plays? Or Maguire in Detroit's locker room, pounding on the bathroom door for Babcock to come out and tell him what his strategy for overtime is?

"It took me a while to pry the bathroom door open on Mike Babcock, but Detroit will definitely be switching things up for the overtime period," he would say shortly thereafter. "Expect a conservative trap formation where the left winger forces the play. Just watch."

Exaggeration aside, it seems like it's only a matter of time before these walls are completely broken down and we have full transparency that borders on flat-out spying.