How to Have Good Apartment Karma

by Jackie D on July 27, 2014

apartment by the beach

I don’t believe in karma except when it comes to apartments. And I do mean apartments and not homes — homes are different. Apartments are special because a lot of the time apartments are rented, not owned, and if you’re renting it you’re not going to be there forever — you’re just going to be there for as long as the universe thinks you need to be either rewarded or punished for something you’ve done.

I have lived in 8 apartments in 8 years. It has been great. It has been awful. This is because I, like most of us, have been both a great person and an awful person. I have sent all sorts of vibes out into the universe.

My living situation in college was kind of all over the place. Freshman year, the dorms were great, thanks to the lovely person I had been all throughout high school. I karmically earned a good freshman year. A couple of the friends I made in the dorms are still some of my closest friends today. Sophomore year I had to make amends for some of the mean and/or stupid things I did freshman year, so I lived alone and hated every moment of it. Although I did get my cat that year, which is literally the only good thing about that year of my life.

Junior year, the universe figured it owed me for the horrors of sophomore year and so I lived in a 6 bedroom apartment with 5 great girls and it was ridiculously fun. Senior year, I lived with three close friends and it was also pretty great — I’m thinking the universe was probably pretty surprised that I had behaved myself junior year and so it was trying to encourage me to keep up the good work.

After that I moved to Chicago. I was pretty cocky about that decision and the universe decided I needed to be put in my place, and apparently “my place” was a tiny basement apartment with a cement floor, 8 foot ceilings, three small windows, leaks in every room, and centipede monsters.” *

And then I was blessed with two perfect apartments (hardwood floors, rooftop garden, bright pink toilet, best landlord), one in Chicago and one in Los Angeles. After that, I moved here to New York, and one of my best friends from college just happened to need a roommate right when I was getting into town. We started a search for a new apartment together last Saturday, and our apartment search lasted all of 4 hours. We found one. That’s it. In a city where the apartment hunt is a notoriously awful and confusing thing, we managed to look for and find one in 4 hours.

This baffles me. Four lucky apartment situations in a row — I’ve been throwing out some positive, productive karmic vibes these past few years, but I didn’t think they were so great as to warrant this much good luck.

These last four apartments have coincided with my last four major life decisions — my decision to fully embrace Chicago, my decision to leave Chicago and a relationship to move back to Los Angeles, my decision to move here to New York to try out a new job, and now, finally, my decision to stay.

Maybe the universe is trying to tell me that these were the right decisions. Maybe it’s encouraging me to keep moving to all of America’s major cities. Maybe this is how I end up going broke — moving from apartment to apartment every year. Turns out, moving is pretty expensive.

Whatever the case, I’ll be making my next move in early September — from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn! My inner hipster has never been so delighted. I think I shall go to an obscure cafe to celebrate.

*For those of you brave or dumb enough to want to see a centipede monster: don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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In Focus: St. Patrick’s Cathedral & iPads

by Jackie D on July 9, 2014

st patricks cathedral
One of my new favorite things about traveling is watching people take iPad photos. Literally there are few things more satisfying to me. I realize that this is probably just how it will be in the future — we will have some kind of device that combines phone with computer with camera with GPS with radio and whatever else — and we’ll all just be holding up these little screens taking photos of everything on the street.

This isn’t meant to be a snobby thing — I don’t look down on people who use iPads or phones to take pictures of things (I use my phone half the time, let’s be real here). I know that some people aren’t great with technology and so they only want to know how to work one device for email, Internet, photos, etc and so the iPad is great for that. I also know that not everyone can afford a really nice camera.

I just think the actual visual itself is strange and amusing — someone is standing there in front of a beautiful building or trying to take a great shot of their friends at a restaurant, and so they just hold up this big screen in front of the subject. It just looks so bizarre to me.

When I was in Ireland, people were taking iPad photos everywhere. I recently learned how to create more depth of field in my photos,  which I’m pretty excited about, and combined with my natural penchant to be nosy and, fine, sometimes a little creepy, I started taking photos like the one you see above.

I was traveling around with a photography tour group at the time, and everyone in the group was using their nice expensive cameras, meaning they had pretty little patience for these iPad photographers. We obviously encountered this type of thing everywhere we went, as you do when you’re traveling through a popular destination — people are always going to get in your shot. Sometimes, no matter how long you wait, you still won’t be able to get a perfect photo without at least two or three tourists and a few iPads in the frame.

I am still trying to figure out my own personal style as a photographer — trying to distinguish between things I find visually interesting and things that would actually make good photographs — so I experimented a little and just embraced the people using their iPads, trying to get a creative view.

Cathedrals as a whole aren’t really that interesting to me — they remind me of being bored in church as a kid and suffering through one particularly difficult medieval art history class in college — so it was actually kind of nice to have something else to focus on when we were photographing at St. Patrick’s. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had while trying to take pictures inside of a church.

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ireland coast
“Embrace what you don’t know, especially in the beginning, because what you don’t know can become your greatest asset.  It ensures that you will absolutely be doing things different from everybody else.” -Sara Blakely, founder of SPANX

Let me first say that it is amazing what you can accomplish when you have absolutely no idea what you are doing but have access to a reliable WiFi signal, a search engine, and an email account.

Almost a year ago, I mentioned an idea in passing to my boss at the photography studio where I was working – I reasoned that since he, his wife, and I were all going to be in Ireland in May 2014 for the wedding of our mutual friend, we should just extend our time there and lead a photography tour throughout the country for about a week.

For years my boss  has led these types of tours all throughout California, the USA, and even internationally (how sad for him), so this wouldn’t have been an entirely new venture for the company. My boss said he would be up for it if I planned it all out — and so I began to Google.

I  Googled for the entire year. I Googled tour guides, hotels, pubs, neighborhoods, scenic outlooks, road maps, exchange rates, photography blogs – and then when questions started to come up I Googled even more: “Does the hotel have hair dryers in the rooms?” “Do stores in Ireland only accept those credit cards with chips in them?” “What time is sunset on the east coast of Ireland? How about on the west coast?”

We decided we wanted to include some trivia in our information packet and on our social media pages, so I Googled trivia – did you know that Ireland is physically about the same size as the US state of Indiana?

I supplemented my Google searches with emails. Irwin, the tour guide I hired, was an invaluable wealth of information and support.  My friend Allison studied in Galway in college and she sent me dozens of recommendations (I think she probably just has them at the ready; she LOVES Galway). A couple of our regular customers let me look at their photos and itineraries from their recent trips to Ireland. My boss helped me with the less fun, more technical and financial aspects of planning a tour like this.

Our tour ended up being a 9 day journey from Dublin to Galway to Dingle and back to Dublin with our own private bus and tour guide. We were shooting photos for hours every day, everything from landscapes to street scenes to abandoned mansions in the middle of nowhere; we visited a distillery, a sheep farm, and a jewelry maker; we took a boat out to see the Dingle dolphin and we drank with rowdy Irishmen in the middle of the day (in the middle of the street!).

I am constantly astounded by the things the Internet has allowed me to discover or accomplish in terms of traveling – things I never thought I’d be given the chance to do are suddenly made possible by a simple Google search (or seventy); people who are across the country or across an ocean suddenly become only an e-mail or Skype session away; photos of beautiful places are so easy to share with family, friends, and even strangers.

Here are my tips for planning something, anything — a tour, a trip, a game-plan for a new job, an afternoon out with friends — when you don’t really have any idea what you’re doing:

1. Think hard about what you DO know. I knew about international travel and European culture, having traveled extensively in Europe for the past several years. About half of the tour participants had never been to Europe before — some of them had never even left the country — and so I made sure to impart everything I knew about passports, airports, converters, travel insurance, credit card fees, tipping — because I am a nerd, I also made an Ireland reading and movie list. It’s pretty good.

2. I knew how to market the trip on social media. I announced a new “mystery destination” in our newsletter and then had a guessing contest on Facebook for a week (the prize was whiskey because, obviously), and people LOVED it. I will never understand why we love guessing games so much, but we do.

3. As mentioned, I spend probably more than half of my life on the Internet, so I was able to figure out things that I didn’t really know how to do and then it was just a bit of trial and error. Let’s be honest: the Internet is the true hero of this story.

4. I knew the types of things people want to see when they go to Europe, because they are the same things everyone wants to see when they go to Europe: castles, sidewalk cafes, tiny towns, famous buildings, medieval churches, delicious and exotic foods, traditional cultural attire, historical sites — these are the things that make Europe Europe, and so I made sure to have a variety of these things on the itinerary.

5. Look, when all else fails, find sheep. Irwin somehow this sheep farm for us to visit, and I got to feed a little lamb a bottle of milk, and my heart just. I mean, it just. I can’t. Sheep.

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