Escape from… to New York

This week:

Around 7 p.m. last night, I stood by the baggage claim in the dank, musty basement of (world-renowned shithole) LaGuardia International Airport. I had checked two bags that morning in Kansas City; the first was one of the first to appear on the track but, as these things tend to go, I was among the last few people standing around waiting for the last few bags to pop out. So, I waited.

I’d already been waiting for a long time by that point; I’d procrastinated my packing until Saturday night and only managed to squeeze in 45 minutes of sleep before waking up and heading out to KCI before the sun came up. I couldn’t sleep on the plane to Milwaukee — which the pilot blazed through in just an hour — and I would have to wait another two hours before boarding a connecting flight to New York. Milwaukee’s airport had Wi-Fi, but charged $10 an hour for it like fascists, so I sat around for about an hour when a small crowd began to form around the departures board outside my gate. Sure enough, as these things tend to go, the flight got delayed to 4 p.m. The combination of sleep-deprivation and anger left me with a pretty solid headache to deal with, so I popped an Advil and tried to sleep in one of those stiff, black leather chairs you see all over every airport in every city.

Now that I think about it, I’d been waiting for a long time by that point, too. I basically whiffed my junior year of college; I spent a lot of time studying and a lot of time trying to focus on school, but my shoes were just on the wrong feet. I’d do the work, but I wasn’t retaining anything and I didn’t feel like I was really moving forward. I spent the end of each semester digging myself out of holes that I hadn’t realized I’d dug in the first place, and believe me, that completely drains you, both mentally and physically. I wasn’t having any problems with anything else, but when you’re a full-time college student, school becomes a pretty large part of your life, and I was in desperate need of a break from that.

ESB

My second bag — one of those folding bags designed to keep your dress shirts from wrinkling (yet they do a horrible job of it) — rolled out onto the baggage track and, as I grabbed it and climbed into the back of a taxi, I finally got that break; my third consecutive summer in the city had finally begun. I told the cab driver to take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — which gives you a fantastic view of the entire skyline — into the city, and that’s when the relief started to set in. Some of the stories you’ll hear aren’t incorrect; this city is very loud, dirty and quick, but there’s something very romantic about it, especially when you’ve grown up somewhere like the Midwest.

It’s not like the Midwest is a bad place; it’s just hard to feel like you’re moving in any direction after you’ve become an adult. It’s a fantastic place to raise a family and it’s a fantastic place to grow up, but, unless you have a family or unless you’re still growing up, it can be a bummer. I’ll always love Kansas City and I’ll always be proud of where I’ve come from, but I’ve been badly itching for years to get the hell out of there. These summers, though fast-paced and taxing, are therapeutic to me. A lot of people consider country roads or beaches with bright, white sand to be serene, but for me, serenity is the sometimes skunky smell of street cart food and the chorus of passing trains and taxi horns. If that makes me nuts, then fuck it: I’m nuts.

***

I started work again today at the Huffington Post. The first few hours of the first day are always a bit of a pain in the ass; you have to go through orientation and fill out the same paperwork you filled out last year (and the year before) and learn how to use the company’s website like you did last year (and the year before). Orientation’s only an hour though, and AOL/HuffPo isn’t really one of those companies like you’ve seen in Office Space — they have ping-pong tables and free vending machines on each floor — so our orientations are probably riveting compared to everyone else’s. I got to know several people who are interning for different sections of the website as well, and were all pretty cool. Again, just like last year (and the year before), I’m virtually the only person out of the group who isn’t from the East Coast, so almost all the questions I got asked had to do with either KU Basketball or tornadoes — which, really, are the only two things worth knowing about Kansas.

As far as actual work is concerned, I’m essentially doing the same thing I did last year with Huffington Magazine, with a few tweaks here and there. Last year, the magazine used to run stories before they hit the website, but that’s changed and since they’ll run first on the website, I won’t have to do as much copy editing. I’ll still be writing a lot of cutlines and captions throughout each issue, and possibly a small piece or two if they’d like me to do it. I’m going to be doing a lot with the magazine’s social media accounts, this time; Last year, the main site’s social media editor handled all the social media for the magazine, but she left during the year for another company, so I’ll be behind most of the things you’ll see on Huffington’s Twitter and Facebook posts. It’s a bit trickier than it sounds — our main publishing program also has a feature where you can schedule a bunch of tweets to run at strategic times, so at the beginning of each morning, I’ll have to come up with six or seven new ones and queue them up in the system to publish throughout the rest of the day.

Things were a little strange because a lot of the people who were around last year either left or are working on different parts of the site. I’d worked with the majority of the current magazine team for at least a little bit last year, though, so I’ll probably be able to hit the ground running a bit faster than last year. I’ll still need a few days to fully get back in rhythm from last summer, but even though I’m aware of how much work it is, I’m excited for it.

WTC

As far as places of living are concerned, I’m staying in NYU’s summer housing system again. I’m still up in the air as to whether my current situation is better than the years before, but as of now, it feels like a big step up. Like my first year, this building doesn’t have air-conditioning, but I don’t have a roommate (I do share a bathroom with the guy on the other side of the “suite,” but he hasn’t moved in yet) so any and all fans will be directed towards me at all times. Even though it’s just me in here, they left two beds so I’m going to buy some bigger sheets and put them together so I don’t have to sleep on a twin-sized bed. Also, since a lot of friends from home are living in NYC area this summer, I can just pull the beds apart and put a different set of sheets on the other bed so they’ll have somewhere to sleep if they crash here. The location isn’t quite as marvelous as last year — when Washington Square Park was essentially my front yard — but it’s on Fifth Avenue, which is both close to work and badass to say out loud. The pictures you saw above were taken from my window (though you have to crane your neck out to see both buildings). I’m pretty happy about it; if you’re in the area on vacation or whatever from now until the August, stop by.

That’s it for now. I’ll finally get to meet up and go out with all my friends who are up here this weekend. Plus, we’ll be drinking and gambling at the Belmont Stakes, which, if last year was any indication, will be a blast.

All the best
AJ

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