E.B. White Said It First

E.B. White said, “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”  I know this because I just looked it up to make sure; I wasn’t feeling lucky enough to risk looking like an idiot.

Yesterday, my husband and I spent our first day in New York in shifts.  We were waiting for UPS to deliver God knows how many boxes of our clothes, my husband’s new hot-shot computer, his professional books.  To avert disaster, one of us had to stay in the apartment at all times.  My husband had already gone downstairs to make sure the buzzer worked.  It sounded roughly like a five-alarm fire siren; you’d have to be dead or completely deaf not to hear it.

At lunch, I headed out to Zabar’s, which is only two blocks away, and promptly fell in love with the place.  I swooned over the knishes, the already-prepared soups, the fruits, the vegetables, the caviar, the crazy mixture of customers, the world-weary, seen-it-all clerks.  With Zabar’s only minutes away, I told myself dreamily, I’ll never have to cook again.  Then I reminded myself I’d never cooked in the first place —  so get over it, honey — and ordered two sandwiches to take back to the apartment.

“UPS delivers until seven p.m.,” my husband said as we ate lunch.

“You hope,” I pointed out.

“It will get here today,” he said confidently.  He’s like that.  Everything will work out, he’ll tell me as I collapse in a tornado of nerves and begin to drool uncontrollably.  Calm down.  Take deep breaths.  Blah, blah, blah, everything will be fine.

After lunch, we went our separate ways — or as separate as you can get in a 1,000 square-foot apartment.  I enrolled us both for mass transit tickets.  I looked up nearby yoga studios.  I got Saturday matinee tickets to see “Our Town.”  I let everybody I know in New York know that we were here, in case they were wondering.

I read Time Out to see what was going on — and promptly got overwhelmed.  The Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright show!  The Fringe Festival in the Village!  The Frick, the MOMA, the on and off and really off Broadway, the music, the Shakespeare in the Park.  I decided that Time Out was a little too exciting for someone like me, who tends to spiral out of control on a regular basis.  We have months and months to do these things, I told myself.  We can’t do everything, after all.  Then I decided, to hell with Time Out.  I’ll rely on rumors and The New York Times, as usual.

Time passed.  Four, five, five-thirty.  No boxes.  My husband started to get nervous.  He began to moan softly about his computer, the book he’s going to write, the utter mess our lives will be if our boxes didn’t arrive.  “Don’t forget our clothes,” I told him.  “I packed some of my best clothes so I wouldn’t look like a total hayseed.”

Six-thirty.  I noticed my husband was beginning to lose his usual buoyancy.  He looked, in fact, a bit down.  I hate it when my husband looks down; it’s so unnatural.

We decided to go to an outdoor table at the pub next door, where we could simultaneously drink and watch our front door.  Seven o’clock came and went.  We began to joke about life in the big city with no computer and no clothes and a minuscule insurance payment about as big as a 10-year-old’s allowance.  I almost reminded my husband –not for the first time — that he should have insured the boxes for more.  But he looked too downhearted to be teased.

Seven-fifteen.  A UPS truck pulled up with all our boxes in it.

I watched my husband barrel up the stairs with a big grin on his face.  Optimism had once again prevailed.  In New York — and everywhere else he’s ever been — he’s always been more than willing to be lucky.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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14 comments… add one
  • Ah, we are moving in parallel, in a way. Yesterday I locked up my house, made clean and ready for my tenants, and tonight I am on my narrowboat on the South Oxford canal. I’ve had the boat for three years, but this is the first time there has been nowhere else to go at the end of the day. There is no Zabars. Instead there is the Rock of Gibralter pub, but after sleepless weeks sorting out the move I am too tired to go out. Night has fallen, though I can still just see a swan, and hear him hissing. My boaty neighbour says the swan hisses at us because mink ate his babies and man released mink. Swans are not stupid, says my neighbour. Not far away the last small airplanes of the evening are taking off from Oxford Airport, recently renamed London Oxford Airport in hopes of attracting unsuspecting businessmen. But oh woe, and alas, there is no UPS. Every box, containing all my worldly goods that I haven’t given or thrown away, has to be heaved along the towpath, delivered by me. Bad luck!

  • Suzy Link

    I love this.  And I miss New York so much.  Live it well for me.

  • Paula Burney Link

    Ruth!  I’m confused………………..in New York?………………an apartment?
    Moving clothes and stuff?   What are you up to?

  • paul Link

    well get all set up and get out there!  my vicariosityesness is anxiously anticipating the adventures we will share!

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Duchess — how to put it?  Oh, yeah.  Sometimes, life sucks.  I’m hoping for better times for you and swans that know when to shut up.

    Suzy, thanks.  We’ll do our best.

    Paula — Don’t panic.  We’re just here for the school year.

    Paul — Wow!  A comment from you.  Keep’em coming.

  • I’m really glad for you that your boxes came. And I’m glad to know the whereabouts and relative well being of the Duchess. This is a funny way to keep track of my daughter. But it works.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Funny the way we keep up with people these days.

  • Hey, times on the boat are pretty good. But it is a long way down the towpath.

  • Sounds like you are starting an excellent adventure, so to speak. Enjoy!

  • I like that being open to being lucky and how you and your husband both practiced that, in diferent ways. I’ll bet the UPS driver did as well, both in findinga  parking palce  and finding you home to receive your goods.

  • Having caught up on your move, the arrival of clothes so you won’t be nekkid and the super-duper computer, I find myself…jealous…about all those restaurants and delis in the neighborhood!  It makes me (almost) wistful for D.C. I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventures there.  Enjoy!

  • Now I’m really envious.  When I graduated from high school, my chief dream was to live in New York for nine months (I don’t know why it was nine months, but that was it.)  I’ve never made it. I guess that means it is now on my Bucket List. But you are doing it now! Hope you’re lucky all the time.

  • I like your husband’s optimistic attitude. Thank goodness the UPS delivery saved the day. I’m looking forward to more posts from NYC.

  • Hi Ruth – I don’t know what I loved more, your writing or what you wrote about! Great to read this. My husband is trying to convince me to sell the house (our last child is almost out, but I think we’re treating him too nicely for him to really want to leave!) and move into the city (we used to live there). But I’m afraid to take the leap and lose all the space and my garden, my privacy…where do I stop? After reading your post, it sounds so enticing to go back; there is so much life and opportunities to learn.
    PS. Promise not to tell him that I said this.

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