Saturday, August 24, 2013

Life and some Change: Part 1

Money, for me, is always tight. I am entering a phase of my life where it will be the tightest it ever has been. 

A photo from Pygmalion
A screenshot from Marley
Producing two shows this summer was not cheap. Thanks to the many generous donations that were given to my company, we were able to make shows for wonderful audiences and provide opportunities for our actors. We did not, however, raise enough money to completely cover everything so ended up paying for a good portion of these shows out of my own pocket which means money is really tight for me right now. In addition to that, I had my one year review with the food stamps program and they told me, ironically, I make too much money so I am no longer qualified to receive food stamps. This means, for the first time ever in my life, I have to start buying my own food. I know that might sound immature but it is true. I must say that the food stamps program has been a huge success for me. It helped me transition and carried me through a time in my life where I didn't have a job, and now I do. I am going to have to be better at saving and spending, and it won’t be easy, but I know I can do it.

Because all this is on my mind right now, I am starting a three part series about money with my blog; specifically how money effects my life in NYC. Part one will feature a short story I wrote about my first weeks here, part two will feature tips and tricks I have found to getting free stuff in NYC, and part three is a surprise, so keep checking back. And, without further ado: Part 1: 


It’s no secret that New York is an expensive place to live with its insanely high rent, expensive food, and costly utilities/transportation fees. That’s not to say that you shouldn't live here. I think everyone should try living here because it will teach you things about yourself that you can’t learn anywhere else. Things I can’t even begin to explain. Just moment of deep realization really... Like riding home on the subway at 2 in the morning and seeing young kids wide awake and riding with you leaving you wondering if you missed out on something in your childhood, or seeing a young gangster hold the door for an elderly woman, or seeing people of multiples faiths and religions all eating in the same one dollar pizza shop, and being happy, or sitting in Bryant park surrounded by tall tress and even taller buildings and knowing there are 1 million people near you and each on of them are worried about something...

New York will change you.

It wasn't a particularly pleasant day weather wise, with dark clouds treating to unlace their stores of water on unsuspecting victims. I got on the 7 Train at Times Square to ride to my home in Sunnyside, Queens. I had only been in New York for a few weeks at this point, so while the honeymoon period was still in full swing I was still worried about money. I hadn't yet received food assistance and I wasnt sure how I was going to afford to pay for food and rent.

The 7 train is my second favorite train, next to the 1 train of course, because it is one of the last “Above-ground” trains and it cuts right through the heart of Queens. Instead of riding deep below the earth, with nothing but streaming dark walls to view while looking out of ironic windows, you are welcomed with some amazing views of Queens: from the twisting ride around the graffiti training grounds of 5-pointz, to the humble homes in Long Island City. It’s a magnificent view.

As the train started its typical ascent from below the East River to the high-above of Queens, I heard the sound of rain pelting against the train car. It was an intense rain with buckets falling every second. I dreaded getting off and walking the 5 blocks it took me to get home because I knew I would end up drenched and with soaking wet socks. Nothing is worse than soaking wet socks. When the train pulled into the covered station, I quickly darted across the street to the nearest CVS. I figured, I had been hear a month, its high time I purchase an umbrella.

See, rain is interesting here. Back where I am from in Iowa you can get in your car in the garage and drive to work or school, all while its raining, and never get wet thanks to large swaths of covered space. New York City offers no such protection, so an umbrella here is like a sword to a samurai. A deep, symbiotic bond that, when treated with respect and care, offers protection from the harsh falling waters. Your umbrella is your shield and word against the falling water ninjas that threaten to ruin your day.

As I was standing looking at the umbrella selection I was suddenly hit with that anxiousness only money problems can bring. I did not have much money or a steady job to bring it in. So I had to decide. Spend 8 dollars on a cheaper umbrella, or 12 dollars on a little bit nicer one, or deal with it and be able to eat. I know getting worried over 12 or 8 dollars seems a bit silly, but when you have no income and 700 dollars in rent due soon, it matters. 

I decided to bit the bullet and by the 12 dollar one figuring it would last longer. I walked home from that CVS happy and dry footed, though still a bit worried about spending 12 dollars.

The umbrella lasted a whole week before it broke. I was utterly depressed after it happened. 12 dollars wasted that I could have spent on food, plus I’m also out of an umbrella. But see New York has a way of making things work out...

I was eating at my favorite lunch place one day when it started raining. I was instantly embittered by the fact that when I finished I would have to walk back out in the rain and wind up with wet socks. The restaurant I was in was also connected to a hotel, so I decided I would cut through the hotel to save some time from being in the rain. As I neared my way to the exit a kind doorman opened the door for me and asked, “Sir, do you need an umbrella?” I stopped, looked at him for a sec, and said “Yeah, actually. Mine broke.” So he went to a side little room off from the entrance and came out with a glorious round handled black umbrella and handed it to me. “Thanks...” I said, stunned by his generosity. “Don’t worry about it. Have a great day.” And off I went with a big smile and dry socks. 

New York is amazing because it will test you and push you to your breaking point, and then surprise you again with incredible generosity when you expect it least, and need it most.

Until Next Time.

I will not lend thee a penny.

Why then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.

Not a penny.

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