Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Being Bicoastal

New York City Skyline Sunset

Image by mikeleeorg via Flickr

Greetings from New Jersey! Last Thursday, I flew from Seattle to Newark in order to enjoy a nearly three week vacation in the beautiful Edison, NJ area. While I realize that this is not usually considered a highly desirable vacation destination, it serves as a fantastic home base while I hit five states in my 19 days out here.

I love Seattle, but I truly miss the East Coast. I lived in PA for 9 years, NJ for two, and NYC for two.  Seattle will always be my hometown, but there are a lot of things that I miss about the mid-Atlantic region:

Seasons:

Seattle has two seasons – cold rain (November to April) and warmer rain (May to October). While growing up, I was used to this, but when I moved to PA, I became accustomed to have four distinct seasons. I loved the warmth of the summer, the cool crispness and changing leaves of the fall, the snow in the winter, and the actual spring.  Seattle doesn’t get much snow and has a very mild climate due to its proximity to the ocean. We also have a lot of evergreen trees (thus the name the Evergreen State), so we don’t have the amazing color changing leaves. I truly miss the seasonal differences that I grew to love out East.

Food:

I think the reason that I have had success with my weight loss in the past several months is because there is nothing to eat out west. Maybe if you have a lot of money and can afford fancy or cutting edge restaurants, food in Seattle is great. However, especially living in New York, I loved being able to walk in some little hole in the wall and having a fantastic meal.  The pizza is fantastic (all we have in Seattle is chains), the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to is a little family owned place just north of Times Square, and even at your little corner deli, you knew you could get a great sandwich (Seattle loves its Subway!). If I still lived here, I don’t know that I would have lost the weight I did, but I think I would be much more gastronomically satisfied.

Getting Around:

I know I’ve discussed this before, but Seattle has horrid transportation. It’s only been in the last year or so that I have been able to get to the airport without utilizing the services of a airport shuttle company of a taxi. We finally have one light rail line that goes between downtown and the airport. Of course, this still means that I need to get downtown, which I do via commuter bus. Once I arrived in Newark, however, I got on the monorail at the airport which took me to the NJ Transit station. Four stops down the line I was at my sister’s place. Easy Peasy. Why can’t Seattle figure this out??

I do love Seattle – on a sunny day in July or August, there is no place like it. It’s great when I want to go running in the summer – none of this 90+ degree temps with 60%+ humidity. The access to the water and the mountains make it ideal for the outdoorsperson. I just wish there was a way we could take a few of the really great things about the East Coast and add them to what we’ve got in the West. Maybe I’ll just continue to be bicoastal – spend the school year in the west and the summers in the east.

Now to end the week with a little Muppet goodness…

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Next week, the Our View From Here bloggers will be taking a well-deserved break. We’ll be back Monday, July 25th with our usual posting schedule. We thank you for your continued readership!

 

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Moving to the Big City (or in a New York State of Mind)

Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th ...

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Like many of my blogging colleagues, I have moved many times in my life. I moved from the Seattle area to central PA when I was 16, which was quite a culture shock. It was the mid 90s and to go from the center of grunge culture to the Grange Fair was a bit jarring. But nothing prepared me for the experience of moving to New York City.

I have been living in central Pennsylvania for nine years when I decided to go to grad school at NYU. The choice was as much for the specific program as it was for the location. I knew I needed to get out of PA – I’ve always been more of a city girl and the country was getting to me. I arrived in the NYC metro area during the first week of September 2003, and I’ll admit, I was overwhelmed. It was the first time in my life that I got to choose where I lived. The moves prior to this one had been dictated by my family or necessity.

I spent the first few months there trying to figure out my way around. I actually lived in Jersey City, just across the Hudson from Manhattan.  I had to learn both the PATH train and the subways. I had to learn a new way of shopping – different stores for fruit and veggies, bread, meats. The grocery stores, for the most part, were totally different than I was used to. The aisles were barely wide enough for the mini shopping carts that they had.

The whole process of learning the city was exacerbated by the fact that I spent most of my time in Greenwich Village, a part of the city that is not on the grid system that New York is known for.  Where else does 3rd Street cross 10th Street? Anything above 14th Street was easy, but that’s not where I spent much time.

I moved into Manhattan when I was done with school.  I chose to live in the slightly more affordable Washington Heights (almost to Inwood.) I became very familiar with the A train, as well as the buses that went East and West across the Bronx (where I worked).  I learned to love public transportation and became very good at it.

I was told once that you need to live in NYC for ten years before you can really call yourself a New Yorker. I was only there for four years, but I feel I knew my way around better than a lot of people. For example, a couple of friends were in town for a Daly Chihuly exhibit at the NY Botanical Gardens. Being a volunteer at the Gardens, I got in for free and could bring up to four friends. We spent the day at the garden and then decided to go out for dinner and drinks that evening.  We headed down to the Times Square area – not my favorite, but there are a lot of options there.  We then found a great Scottish bar where the waiters were in kilts. After a few rounds, I was rather inebriated. We left the bar and were heading back to my place when my companions realized they didn’t know how to get home.  As not sober as I was, I was easily able to navigate us to the 42nd Street subway station, get us on the northbound A train, and got us off at the Dyckman Street station.

There are some days I really miss New York. I left almost four years ago, but I truly believe that there is no place like that city.

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Movin’ and Shakin’

Empty moving truck!!!

Image by blmurch via Flickr

So, I’m moving again. I don’t quite yet know where, but I’m looking at moving in the direction of work, hopefully drastically shortening my commute and if I’m lucky, finding a place within walking/biking distance of my school.

I’m no stranger to moving. In my life, I have moved into 17 different homes, which is an average of a little over 2 years in each place. Some places I’ve been in as short as three months (summer sublets) or even 8 weeks (temporary place while waiting for our real house to be finished). The longest I’ve ever been in one place was between the ages of about 4 and nearly 10. I started school there, as did my sister. About six weeks before I turned ten, my family moved about 18 miles south.  Three years later, we moved again, three miles east. We were in the same district – I, being in junior high, went to the same school, but my sister had to change schools. Again.

The next move was the big one – western Washington to Central Pennsylvania. I was just shy of 16 (we often moved in the summer, my birthday is in early fall). That was a huge culture shock, but in many ways, ended up being a great experience for me. I lived in 9 different places in 9 years, but only one of them for more than a year. A good chunk of that time was college, though, and while I was spared the craziness of dorm life, I lived in a number of houses, townhouses, and sublets.

The first time I got to choose where I was going to live was when I went to grad school in NYC. I got an apartment with a friend in Jersey City, opting a larger apartment with a lower rent rather than being right in the city. The commute was quite easy, so it really was a fantastic set up. I only moved because I got a job in the Bronx and my roommate got a position in Brooklyn. The commute was killer – two and a half hours on a good day. I spent a year in upper Manhattan (the musical “In the Heights” always had a special place in my heart after my time up there) and almost a year in the Bronx, a five minute walk from my school.

Three and a half years ago, I decided to leave  New York and head west again. I had family out here and the struggle of trying to live by myself on a teacher’s salary in the most expensive city in the country was too much. My mom let me move in, rent free, until I got a job and was back up on my feet.  For three and a half years, all of my stuff has been in storage. I have what I need for day to day, but the rest of it has been residing in boxes. Anything new that I got for my home has been stuffed away in plastic Rubbermaid containers, awaiting my new place. I’ve even joked that the day I move some place else is going to be like Christmas because I will spend most of the time unwrapping all my new things. I have a full 8 piece set of Fiestaware that has never been touched. I want my stuff back.

So now, it’s just a matter of finding the right place. I tried for this great little house with a yard for my dog, but I wasn’t quick enough. I’m scouring the neighborhoods, looking for that right place that my pup and I can call home. Hopefully, within the next month or so, I will be able to say I have found my Home Sweet Home.

 

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East Side, West Side…

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

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I have been fortunate to live on both the East and West Coasts. I was born here in the West, spent many formative years in the East, and three years ago, I returned to the West. I honestly don’t know which I like better.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but there is definitely one thing about the East Coast that I like much more than the West: ease of travel.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, I felt like I could go anyway without too much trouble.  From where I was in PA, New York City was only a four hour drive, D.C. a little more than three, and Philly or Pittsburgh a little less than three.  Boston was even an easy weekend trip.  Living in NYC and NJ, everything (except Pittsburgh) was even closer! I loved taking off for a weekend with some friends and ending up two or three states away.

However, here in the West, road travel is not nearly so easy.  The closet major city – Portland – is about 3.5 hours away from Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. is about four.  That’s it.  I could go to Spokane in about six hours, San Francisco takes about fourteen.  I miss the long weekend trips.  It’s just too much of a hassle out here.

Even air travel is easier from the East Coast.  While living there, I had the opportunity to visit Europe multiple times and even went to Jamaica once.  To go to Europe, we still have to go to New York or D.C. to catch a cross-Atlantic flight.  We are closer to Hawaii, however, which is where many Northwesterners go for vacation.  We’re also closer to Asia and Australia, but neither of those trips are easy on the wallet. I miss the less than $400 tickets to London or Amsterdam that I could get out of the NYC area.

I’ve always had a bit of the travel bug. I love to explore new places.  I guess I just feel a little isolated up here in the upper corner of the U.S. after years of easy access.

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They say there’s always magic in the air

Just last week I had a conversation with one of my cast-members about the differences in pay between stage and television actors.  He offered a shocking example of comparable salaries.  In 2003, when Bernadette Peters, a highly sought-after and respected headliner on Broadway, starred in the Gypsy revival, she earned $20,000 per week.  It was the highest reported Broadway salary at that time.  In comparison, an unknown regular on Medium earned $20,000 per episode.  (Bernadette Peters later accepted a significant pay cut to keep the show open longer, and shortly after, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane beat Ms. Peters’ record, each earning $50,000 per week when they returned to The Producers in 2004.)

Choosing a life in theatre is not guaranteeing financial stability or “success.” Part of what makes theatre so thrilling for me is the remarkable people I meet in this field, who have all chosen a career for the love of the work, and not for the paycheck. Similar, I’m sure, to the non-profit and educational fields of my fellow bloggers.

I am, for the first time, making a living wage doing something I love.  I don’t have any dependents and I live with two fantastic roommates, which helps.  Luckily I really enjoy having roommates, especially these two. And I am actually grateful to have the experience of not having enough money while I was living in New York City.  I had to cut out different things from my daily routine and really decide which items or activities on which I spent money. I found free or discounted activities and this group of women has been very good at locating the best happy hours in the city!

However, I have memories of New York as a cold and somewhat lonely place. Particularly compared to San Diego, which is warm and full of the good friends I’ve made in the four years that I’ve been here.  I think that view of the city and that time in my life has a lot to do with money. While I lived there, I worked in a Malt Shop and Barnes & Noble, not making enough money either place and stage managing for free. I wanted to go out and do “New York” things and meet new people, but I was on a very tight budget.

The plan was to obtain my MFA and then move back to New York and “conquer the city,” being in a position to make enough money stage managing, without having to have another job.  Enough money to pay the rent and buy groceries, but also to go out after a show with my cast without worrying if it costs too much. One of these days in the not-too-distant future, I will move back to New York to pursue the dream of working on Broadway and rediscover my romantic love of New York City.

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Nine Years On…

Light beams were used to symbolize the missing...

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Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of 9/11. I have mixed feelings about this day. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who were lost that September morning. However, I am sickened by those who try to use it for political gain or just to get people riled up.

As we all do, I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001.  Still in Pennsylvania, I had graduated college a few months earlier and had a week until I started my new position with AmeriCorps.  I had been enjoying my last few days to sleep in, but on that particular morning I was wide-awake around 7:30.  I wandered downstairs and poured myself a bowl of cereal.  Before the milk even hit the bowl, the phone rang.  I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was my roommate (now my brother-in-law) calling from work.  I answered the phone and he told me to turn on the TV because “something was happening in New York.” The first plane had just hit.

I sat there, watching for hours as the second plane hit and as each of the towers fell. Because both of my roommates worked or had classes, I was alone for most of the day.  My mom called at one point, telling me that they had closed down some of the major skyscrapers and bridges in Seattle.  Then there was the silence.  Once all of the planes were on the ground, it was way too quiet.  Not only was the lack of air traffic odd, no one was talking much.

I didn’t cry much that day. I think I was in shock and just didn’t know how to handle my feelings.  I do remember, though, a year later, sitting in my apartment, watching the tributes to the people who died that day and crying my heart out. In many ways, it was cathartic – all that anger and sadness had built up and needed a release.

Then by the third anniversary, I found myself in grad school in New York. From where I lived in Jersey City, I could see the pillars of light representing the towers.  I was there when they opened the PATH train and subway station at the World Trade Center site.  It was eerie riding out into the crater itself.  Once I was teaching, I talked to colleagues who said that they watched the towers fall from their office window.  I had students who had been scheduled to have a field trip to the WTC that morning, but by some fluke of fate, their buses showed up over 45 minutes late. They should have been there when the planes hit.

And now, it has been nine years. I heard this week about the pastor who wanted to burn the Quran on that day to send a message to the radical Islamics.  While I understand that under the Constitution, he has the right to do this, but is this really how we want to remember the over 2,900 people who died that day?  Maybe the hate is what got us there in the first place. I am so tired of the “Us vs. Them” mentality. The vast majority of Islamic people had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks, so why insult the entire group by this hateful act? I don’t want to say something as simplistic as “love everyone,” but maybe if there were a little less hate in the world, we wouldn’t be remembering the sacrifice of nearly 3,000 poor souls this weekend.

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May I Introduce Myself…

I’m Samantha. Of the lot of us, I’m the oldest by about seven months.  I’m also the only one not on the East Coast, though I used to be. I currently live just outside of Seattle, where I was born and raised but have lived very little of my adult life.  From the time I was 16 until I was almost 29, I lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City.  I moved home a few years ago.

I went to Penn State for undergrad, which is where I met many of my best friends.  I served two years of AmeriCorps before deciding to go to grad school at NYU. Career-wise, I am a high school English, Drama, and Special Education teacher. I taught in the Bronx for two years and then in a suburban Seattle school district for two more.  During the second year there, I was told that I would not have a position for the coming fall. Fortunately, this allowed me to go back to school to get my Special Education endorsement. I have recently graduated with my Masters in Education from the University of Washington and now face the challenge to find a job. The employment situation isn’t as bad as it was two years ago when districts were laying people of, but they still aren’t hiring much.  Fingers crossed!

My little guy, Toby

I am the mommy of a two-year-old dog named Toby. He’s a Bichon Frise/Shih Tzu mix, though he looks much more Shih Tzu. Toby makes me laugh, as I have never met a more good-natured, happy little dog. He likes people, likes to go on adventures, and likes playing with his brother (who is owned by my mom!).

Nasturtiums on the balcony

Finally, in what spare time I have, I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, sewing, and I’m getting into cooking.  I have a small garden on my balcony – not that it did much with the weather we had this year.  I am in the process of sewing a comforter set for my bed and I’m almost done.  As for cooking, I am starting to experiment with new recipes. More on that later!  I’m hoping to get more into bike riding. We have a lot of great trails around here and I recently purchased a great new bike.  Now, just as long as the weather stays nice a little longer!

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