Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Million dollar ideas

So yes, I’m alive and in Denver. The trip was full of crackerjack goodness, and I often wondered if I would make it here alive with at least 50% of my crap, but here I am, in an apartment half-full of boxes, in a computer room so strewn with wires, it looks like I’m trying to recreate an early prototype of the ENIAC computer. But I’m here.

Highlights of the trip: a week ago Friday, the movers came and packed up everything. They used approximately 500,000 mile-long rolls of tape and enough shrink-wrapping to seal up the Empire State Building to the point where you could throw it in the Hudson river without anything inside getting wet. And when we got down to the bare walls and suitcases we were taking (plus an Aerobed, for our two days of sleeping in the empty place), we realized that the movers had packed a bunch of clothes I’d set aside for the week or so before the truck got to Colorado, and I had nothing but the clothes on my back and about a week of dirty laundry, plus maybe a week of clean clothes I left in our car, which was sitting at the airport in Colorado. A quick trip to K-Mart got me some socks and underwear and one t-shirt. And yes, the Astor Place K-Mart brings back many memories. The snack bar used to be my small oasis in the big city, and the only public restroom in all of lower Manhattan. They tore it out, and now it holds housewares or something.

Anyway, Saturday we had a cleaning crew to come over and scour the place top to bottom, before we flew out Sunday morning. While I was in the shower, Sarah turned on the self-clean mechanism on the oven, thinking that it would somehow clean the oven by itself, as the name would lead you to believe. Instead, this started a fire in the oven, billowing out smoke. When I got out of the shower, the top four feet or so of the apartment was filled with smoke, and Sarah was wondering aloud if we should call the fire department.

I have an unnatural paranoia of firemen. Being on the receiving end of a two-alarm fire before with an old car that exploded into flames, I somehow built up an unnatural phobia. And my worst fear was that these fuckers would charge into the apartment, break down the unlocked front door ($2,000), fill the stove with water ($4,000), smash out the surrounding cabinets ($10,000), flood the apartment and the two below with water ($200,000) and trigger off a series of lawsuits from the nosy neighbors in every direction because they somehow concluded that our tiny smoke fire caused them undue hardship and trauma and caused their kids to have asthma or food allergies in the future. ($6,000,000 x 8-12). So I said “DO NOT CALL 911!!!” but they showed up anyway, because people on the lower floors were complaining.

So here come a dozen guys in full-on fire suits, and by then, the stove had pretty much gone out. The maintenance guys were there bitching and moaning that our stove was defective and they needed to shut off our gas and power. These are the people, by the way, that told us we had to pay a $500 move-out deposit, even though our lease said our $500 move-in deposit carried over, and we never signed a single thing saying we had to pay the move-out deposit, and the stupid bitch at the co-op office said “well, you didn’t sign anything, but that’s our policy”, to which my reply was “well, nobody at the co-op signed anything, but I have a policy that when I move out of an apartment, the co-op board pays me $10,000 cash, and that’s as legally binding as your stupid bullshit policy.”

We finally got all of the assholes out of the apartment, but then realized that everything we owned was smoked like a cheap pack of 7-Eleven beef jerky. The first immediate thought was to go downstairs to the laundry room, but the movers packed the card-key you use on the machines, so no laundry. At that point I deduced that we needed to get the fuck out of there and go to a hotel, so we packed everything up and got in a car service and headed to LaGuardia and stopped at some business hotel (Raddison? I forget) that was like a block from the airport. This was partially because we had an early flight and it would solve any potential fuckups with getting to the airport, and partially so we would have a TV and a real bed for a night. They didn’t have any laundry, so I put on dirty clothes that were in a plastic bag, which were comparatively much cleaner than my smoky ones.

We got to the hotel with four bags each: two large suitcases, a large carry-on, and a small carry-on. Everything else in the apartment went to the garbage or we left for the cleaning ladies to steal. The hotel room was this ultra-micro thing, very nice, but you could lay in the bed and touch both walls with your hands. We ate at the tiny restaurant in the lobby, then went for a walk in the cold and drizzle to find a bodega and pick up a few bottles of water. The irony was not lost on me that my very last night in New York was spent in Queens, about three miles due east of my old hellhole digs.

The trip out was pretty flawless. We upgraded to first class with some miles, so the people didn’t give a shit that all of our luggage was over 50 pounds each. (In coach, that would have been like $320 of fees, I think.) Getting everything to the parking shuttle was a bitch, but a few hours, we were in our car, filled to the brim with luggage (it also had stuff we left behind in it). We got to the apartment, signed a million papers and wrote a big check, and had they keys to our brand new loft apartment.

I should mention that the whole loft apartment thing is a somewhat bullshit term. Back in the old days, in France or New York or San Francisco, a loft was a huge, unheatable, unlivable space that was rented or sold at rock-bottom prices to starving artists needing a lot of room. At some point, probably in the 80s, some enterprising individuals realized you could make a lot of money chopping these up and refurbing them into apartments with high ceilings. Now, pretty much everywhere that didn’t have lofts in the first place either restructuring existing industrial buildings or building from scratch, and incorporating the “loft look”. This place was a giant tire factory at some point, but only the shell still exists, and that was pressure-washed and sandblasted so it looks like it was built from raw brick and mortar in 2004. As for the interiors, there are 9.5′ concrete ceilings, exposed ductwork, but otherwise the place resembles a new hotel more than an ancient apartment building. And I’m 100% fine with that – I would rather have six power outlets per room and windows that actually close and insulate during the winter than “old construction charm”, whatever the fuck that means. BTW in my neighborhood, they are building loft apartments pretty much everywhere you look. I’m just hoping this influx of people and money will also mean a boom of cool businesses and restaurants to go with it.

Anyway, in our first week (last week), we had no furniture. We went on some mega Target runs, but I didn’t have anything to sit on except the Aerobed (which doesn’t work well), or the toilet. Sarah had to go to work a week early because of a big project that was on fire, and I got to spend two days sitting around (correction: laying or standing around) because Qwest hooked up our phone to the wrong apartment. I also had no internet, I didn’t have my main computer, no phone, and I had three books with me, and managed to finish the third one by about 10 AM on Monday. The rest of the week was a lot of appointments and errands. I also managed to go to the gym three times last week, which is more than I’ve gone in the last ten years. I learned three things: my cardio is completely shot, even moreso with the altitude; my knee and ankle joints are in bad shape, and I’m not sure if more walking or weights will make that better or worse; and I did a lot better lifting weights than I possibly imagined. I think I can lift as much now as when I was lifting weights every day back in Seattle. I expected those numbers to be about 50%, max.

Our moving truck showed up at 9 AM Sunday, and they shoehorned box after box into the apartment. This place is technically a bit bigger than the old place, but the closets and storage space aren’t as well set up. And when everything’s in boxes, it takes up four times as much room, so we had crap everywhere. I worked twelve hours straight on Sunday unpacking, slept 11 hours, and woke up feeling like I slept three. I also worked all day yesterday, and we’re maybe 5/8ths done. I have my computer, my stereo, and I hooked up the PS3 to make sure it worked. There are maybe a dozen boxes in the offices, and everything’s entirely inefficiently set up. The living room and dining room are still pretty filled up; the bedroom’s not bad, and the bathrooms are okay, but the kitchen is totaled. It will take a few days to dig out of here.

The reality of not working yet has not hit me, because the days have been filled with too many things to do. When I get to the point where I can start a routine of going to the gym, doing some writing, reading a bit, doing the errands, etc, maybe I will think about it more. But now, I’m mostly thinking “where the hell is that Ethernet cable?” or whatever.

And I feel the same way about Denver. I haven’t seen a whole lot of the city except for the parking lot across the street from my office. I have wandered around a bit, and I do like the city a lot. I think it offers the same general vibe as Seattle, which I like. It has its own identity though, and that’s good. I find myself sometimes in a store or driving and I think for a split-second that I’m in Redmond or something, and that’s really weird, but also sort of reassuring in a way.

Anyway, I hope to keep more writing coming, now that I have my computer back. I have a lot of other changes in general I want to make to rumored.com, too. But first, I need to open some boxes, and see what’s inside.