Friday, June 09, 2006

Month One

Now that I have finally restored my ability to write from home (yes, even public library internet circumstances suck in New York, at least at the one I now can say used to go to), I will chronicle my experience thus far.

For those not in the know, I moved from Nashville to Fresh Meadows, Queens last month. I now work at an 8-screen movie theatre. When I got the transfer, I was going to be booth manager and have, probably, my regular schedule to which I was accustomed. One of the first things I was told when I drove up here was that a new deal had been struck with the unions up here and half the hours up in the projection booth go to union guys. This is a short-term deal, because the advent of digital technology will probably make the projectionist as we know them extinct. New York City might be all-digital sooner than expected. So, my working situation is much different. I work most of the weekdays with a little bit of relief and the union guys take over on the weekend. This is an unusual relationship, to say the least. Union guys come from one school, manager/operators (like me) come from another school. I'm still booth manager, but I exercise a more limited role.

My move up here was incredibly heart-disease prone.

"Go that way!" the NYPD cop yelled. It's 2 AM and I had just been told by the toll clerk that there was no way I was going to be going through the Holland Tunnel with my U-Haul. She had told me that a cop car would be by to lead me out. She pointed in some nondescript direction so I planted the behemoth next to some orange cones, waiting for rescue. It was a torrential downpour outside. The cop was not thrilled with me. In fact, I think it would have given him extreme pleasure to impound the U-Haul, take my furniture as evidence that I work for Al-Qaeda, and throw me in the slammer for the night.

"Which way?" I asked stupidly. The cop was completely beside himself. His eyes couldn't have rolled farther back in his head, and his body nearly convulsed at how incredibly dumb I was. "Over there!" he pointed. Remember now, I'm parked next to orange cones, there's a small strip of road leading to my right that the cones block. I don't want to breach the cones and have every cop in New York bombing my U-Haul. Better to be yelled at than tackled in New Jersey, so I point and confirm, "That way?"

The cop wanted to strangle me. "You see that police kiosk over there? Drive to the right of that!" Finally, I was given real direction. I was on my the Lincoln Tunnel, which for some reason, accepts U-Hauls.

Normally, every time I drove up here, I would go the Lincoln Tunnel route. But rain and confusion led me to miss my exit and I went the Holland Tunnel way. I didn't know, and a 14-hour miserable trip filled with rain and traffic snarls got worse. There was no way I was going to go through Manhattan during the day in a U-Haul. You can fuckin' fuhgettaboutit.

My dad made the trip with me. It was an amazing feat for this 73-year-old man to stay in this U-Haul with me for 14 hours. For that, I am extremely grateful.

Somewhere in Flushing, New York, there's a U-Haul tossing and turning. It keeps having the same recurring nightmare. It disturbs all of the other U-Hauls. The dream is always the same. It is driving to a Lincoln Tunnel toll booth with a green arrow underneath it and no attendant is there. It has to back up, find another booth, and on the manuever gets caught on one of the black barriers, tearing into a section of the wheel well, something that for humans is like getting our teeth pulled--at least that's what I believe. The nightmare then switches locales to Astoria, Queens, some time after its driver has finally moved his contents out of its belly. In Astoria, the narrow roads and massive traffic has led to this vehicle's growing claustrophobia. It shudders as the parked cars along the street seem to get closer and closer. And the traffic lights never change. It just wants to get out, but is being prevented from doing so.

The drive from Nashville to New Jersey was fairly rough, but bearable. It's mere mileage is responsible for the bulk of the hours on the road. But that trip from Jersey to New York felt twice as long. Especially when you figure in the moving time.

The house I live in has a front door that opens towards the inside, and towards the staircase that I must go up to get to my room. On the right side, the living room door is locked, and directly in front is a small closet. At first, I got the owner to open the living room door so we could use the living room for maneuverability. But eventually, my dad and I had a proposition.

"We need to take the door off its hinges," we told the mother's son. Luckily, the mother was not there. I don't think that would have sold well. I would have been shooed out with a broom or something. Door locked behind me. My desk and endtables that I had already moved would have been lost, like the Ark in the first Indiana Jones movie.

Victory was assured at last. My stuff was moved. The U-Haul had been taken the scenic route through Astoria to Flushing, where as I said before, it suffers from horrible nightmares. I was back home, ready to get something to eat after a hard day, and boy was the food going to be good. These are the things I was thinking as I looked into my running car from the outside, doors locked.

I don't have a phone book anywhere, the family that lives downstairs wasn't home, and none of the local businesses seemed to have one. Information (411) wasn't working. I started calling people left and right. Finally got hold of State Farm, and they hooked me up with a locksmith.

Work. Atlas Park is a new theatre, and the brass from Regal's home office in Knoxville are all out and about, making sure every detail of the opening is being attended to. For me, I've been upstairs getting to know the equipment, and we have a bunch of older movies playing for the masses as a glimpse into the new entertainment palace. We have Take the Lead, Pink Panther, Nanny McPhee, Curious George, Date Movie, V for Vendetta, 16 Blocks, Hoodwinked, Doogal, and interestingly, Men In Black and Spider-Man. It was a great pleasure to see Spider-Man on the big screen again. I forgot how much I liked the first one. The opening was a big, well-dressed party, with a ticket-tearing ceremony, donations to charity, Giants kicker Jay Feely, and Over the Hedge.

The DMV, as illustrated by "The Simpsons" over the years, is one of the nation's most ridiculous institutions of time wasting. "Sometimes we don't let the line move at all...We call those weekdays," as Patty and Selma are glad to point out. I'm also reminded of stand-up comic Dane Cook's ruminations. "Nobody says anything at the DMV, but inside, we're all thinking the same thing....AAAGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

There are 6 letters in the English alphabet that are preventing me from getting my NY license right now. They are, "T, O, P, H, E, and R." You see, my driver's license from TN has Christopher, my birth certificate says Christopher, but my social security card says merely "Chris," and this is enough to be kicked out of the DMV. Perhaps I should have brought "That 70's Show" actor Topher Grace and filled in the remaining blanks. "You need to change that before you do anything else," I was informed. Where is Topher when you need him?

Those are the big things in the first month. I've been to Manhattan twice, once to see a movie and another to attend Fleet Week, where I got to stand on a giant aircraft carrier, Intrepid. And all of these kickass planes and helicopters were parked on it, and a sobering reminder as I left--there was a piece of the World Trade Center, a big block of concrete and metal that once had a window you could look out.

Speaking of which, there were some audible gasps in The Omen when pictures of the WTC were shown collapsing. There was also a story about the "too soon" aspect of the World Trade Center movie coming out, the trailer that was on Da Vinci Code, but I think those tend to be overblown. There are a couple of voices in protest and then the story becomes "People Shocked at WTC Trailer" as if there is a massive gathering of furious patrons. But most people I've talked to about 9/11 seem to think 10 years should have gone by before any film came out about it.

Driving--I've been honked at many times. I've done some stupid out-of-towner stuff, but the kind that enfuriates me are the ones where I know I'm in the wrong, and everybody who comes up on me knows I'm in the wrong, and I still get a honk, as if I don't know. Like, for instance, when I have gone down a one-way street the wrong way, and I'm trying to back out of it. I am certain that NY drivers have one hand on the steering wheel and one on the horn. What else would explain the unprovoked honk when you are walking down a sidewalk, there's only one car on the road, and there's still a honk--almost like an involuntary one. What gives me some satisfaction is that no driver on the road gets more honks than native New Yorkers.

I won't judge the experience from the first month. I still have some things to do (like the DMV thing) and then I can possibly settle in a little better. The less worries, the better the experience. I have become a semi-master in mass transit, as I don't drive unless it is to and from work (a costly 12 miles per working day, as insurance is twice as much here as it is in Nashville. The gas is more expensive, but I don't pay for it that much because of the limited drive time). I went to a Mets game and watched the Diamondbacks beat them 7-2, and I saw the major league debut of this Lastings Milledge kid, who hit a double for his first ML hit. Of course, at the time, I had no idea that the Braves were about to tailspin into a performance I haven't seen since the eighties. They are god-awful.

Overheard at the Social Security Office, clerk to senior citizen, "Forget Chinatown." I had to stifle a laugh.


At 6/09/2006 10:47:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Sounds like you are having quite the adventure, and I'm sure things are going to get to normal as soon as you can get past that pesky DMV. That's always a bitch. The best part about the Dane Cook bit is when he starts talking about the future and how we will be able to get anywhere in 2 seconds due to advanced technology, but the DMV will still take "9 SECONDS!!!!!!!"

At 6/10/2006 07:12:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Jay Feely! Wow... so the move's already paying dividends... but seriously, thanks for the update. People keep asking me, and now I can send them here. Life will get easier soon. I went through some of this when moving to freaking Louisville.


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