Tag Archives: Roosevelt Island

I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Part 5

Sunbow Entertainment logo close-up adapted for Tim Finn blog post

In our last episode ([Part 1] [2] [3] [4]), Tim moved to Roosevelt Island in New York City, oddly quiet and seemingly abandoned.

That effect was accentuated because Nick and I had too-different schedules.  Our plan had been to work our respective jobs during the day, and then see movies, write and draw comics, go to museums, and walk around the city at night and on weekends.  Sunbow interns worked between one and four days per week.  On the advice of my dad, and wanting to make a good impression, I volunteered to work the maximum, so I was there Monday through Thursday 10 to 6.  (It seems that people in the entertainment industry are an hour shifted past traditional 9 to 5.  Or perhaps East Coast offices do so to have more overlap with their West Coast counterparts.)  But Nick worked at a video store, and his hours were more like noon to 8 six days a week.  Best friends since 7th grade, and with plans to both work hard and play hard all summer, we barely saw each other.  It was disappointing, and I resented Nick for being so busy, even though he was the one with the real, paying job, while I was the couch surfer with the unpaid internship.  But our mismatch allowed me a lot of time to myself, which meant reading outside and the occasional afternoon drawing at the zoo (both the Bronx and Central Park), a habit I had picked up the previous year in school.

Late Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons were the only time we both had off.  This was probably a good thing, since I had a habit of getting snippy if we spent too much time together, but for good friends with everything in common it put a serious damper on our plans for summer fun.  A few nights in the apartment we watched movies Nick was appalled that I’d never seen, like The Wild Bunch, Heavenly Creatures, and Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control.  Since the TV was 13 inches, I wasn’t too thrilled.  Moreso, I was at the peak of my unreasonable Transformers fandom that year, and had brought the entire run of Beast Wars on VHS for Nick to catch up.  He politely declined, citing the show as ugly, or silly, or boring, or not enough like the original Transformers.  Did I mention we were writing and drawing an annual Transformers fan comic?  Nick’s resistance to Beast Wars puzzled and bothered me.  Worse, the living arrangement did not work out as planned.

Nick’s sneaky idea for me to crash was a good one.  Amazingly and unfortunately, Nick’s three roommates also had the same idea.  And no one thought to tell anyone else until we had all shown up.  So in a two bedroom/four bed apartment with a kitchen, common room, and bathroom, there were eight of us.  Or maybe just seven.  I guess one of the roommates’ friends was actually his girlfriend, and rather than her moving in, she was just staying over there every night as boyfriends or girlfriends sometimes do.  But they were asleep in the common room on the fold-out couch every morning at 8am, my plans to eat sugar cereal and watch Transformers each morning foiled by the unconscious, spooning couple splayed just in front of the TV.  This also meant I couldn’t even eat “normal” breakfast.  I had to eat “quiet” breakfast, so every morning I woke up, left all the lights off, spoke to no one, made my meal with as few clinks and slams as possible, and chewed in darkness, standing in silence, slightly miserable.  Is it any wonder I resented Nick for our reverse schedules?  I didn’t have any friends at the internship, and I kind of avoided the other interns, so it was a somewhat lonely summer, even in a packed apartment and a full office in the busiest city in America.

The only thing that made the living situation bearable was that everyone had different schedules.  Two of the three roommates were bouncers, another worked the late shift at a restaurant.  So generally half of the apartment was nocturnal, leaving for work when the other half got home from it.  Again, which made the whole social aspect odd.  I didn’t get to know the other roommates at all.  And there was also a little tension in the air.  Everyone was angry at everyone else for bringing in a squatter, for taking up space, for using the bathroom, for just being there.

Additionally, halfway through the summer that empty bed got filled when Nick’s school placed a transfer student from Europe in our apartment.  Nick was nervous.  This transfer student might blow the whistle on our free ride.  And reasonably so.  He wasn’t supposed to have 7 roommates.  Us squatters hadn’t signed any paperwork.  We had no right to stay, and a simple phone call would have cast us all out, and gotten Nick and the actual roommate in serious trouble.  To the transfer student’s credit, and our relief, he never did tell on us, although three times he threatened to.  Each time Nick or one of the actual tenants talked to him and calmed him down.  I think ultimately he just went with it because he didn’t want to be the heavy, and maybe part of him realized all us hangers-on could use a break.  Also, it meant his rent was significantly cheaper.  I’m surprised we didn’t bribe him.

Now I had to make sure I didn’t put my foot in my mouth at work.

What idiotic thing did Tim say that should have gotten him fired?  Tune in next time to find out!

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I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Part 4

Title card for Tim Finn's blog post about his summer internship using a still from "Transformers: The Movie"

In our last episode ([Part 1] [2] [3]), Tim interviewed at Sunbow Entertainment and was offered an internship!

Nick’s school had had a housing shortage that year (emergency housing not usually associated with that institution), and he was possibly being kicked out of his apartment at the end of the spring.  So perhaps I could stay with him, but we shouldn’t count on it.  Between his classes and his job, Nick had little time to look for summer housing, whether that meant some kind of apartment with a month-to-month lease (I’m not sure if that really exists in New York) or a sublet.  One idea that emerged was staying in the NYU dorms, which people seem to do in the summers, although we didn’t actually investigate it.  So come June I must have run home to Maryland for a week or two, and then jaunted back up to New York, a plan having unfolded through no effort on our parts.

In short, we got lucky.  It turns out Nick was not being kicked out of his apartment/emergency dorm for the summer, and one of his roommates was moving out, and their school was slow to fill that slot with another student, so Nick’s sneaky idea was for me to squat.  I was a squeaky clean suburbanite, so this appealed to me:  Living in New York in an apartment I had already visited and was therefore familiar with, rather than leaving it up to Nick to find something on his own, something that could have been a living situation-nightmare the likes of which I’d only seen on TV and in film.  And it was a nice neighborhood, if you could call it that.  (More in a paragraph.)  And further, as much as it was an apartment, it was also a dorm room.  Again: safe.

But then there was an element of danger:  What if the school found out I was there?  Would I be kicked out?  Would Nick?  Would I have to couch surf all summer, bouncing from apartment to apartment, using up any goodwill I might have had with the cousins and friends-of-family who lived in the Big Apple?  But since I didn’t know anyone in New York, this scenario was tantalizingly worrisome and romantic at the same time.  (I actually did know a friend-of-the-family in NY, so it probably would have fine, but that option was off my radar since this was to a be a summer with Nick, another 18-year old very much in my boat, doing what college sophomores did in the summer: work.) Plus it would be cheap, and meant I had to do no legwork.  All I had to do was to move into Nick’s apartment.

I should note here that Nick’s apartment was unusual.  It wasn’t in Manhattan, even though his school was.  And it wasn’t in Brooklyn, even though that’s where a lot of cool, artsy people that couldn’t afford Manhattan were moving.  It was on Roosevelt Island, a no man’s land that even native New Yorkers don’t know much about.  It’s a little sliver in the East River, between Manhattan and Brooklyn.  My knowledge of it is limited, but almost no one actually lives there.  And with so few residents, hardly anyone is ever outside.  From my limited view in 1998 Roosevelt Island boasted two apartment buildings, a mental hospital, a grocery store, a video rental store, a beautiful view of Manhattan, and nothing else.  It was isolated.

A single subway stop allowed access to the two neighboring boroughs, (although long term MBTA construction meant that the F train acted only as a shuttle all summer, moving between two stops and requiring an additional transfer).  Barely anyone drove cars.  No traffic lights.  Just one or two roads.  You couldn’t even drive to Manhattan, despite the fact that the island itself is directly under the Queensboro Bridge!  The lone road off the island takes you to Brooklyn, and then you can turn around and take the Queensboro back to Manhattan.  A giant trolley car does ferry people directly from Roosevelt Island over the river and into the city, but this felt more like a novelty ride than an actual mode of transport, like taking a Duck Tour in Boston to get from your hotel to Fenway Park.

Plus the southern tip of Roosevelt Island is abandoned.  Maybe there was a power substation there?  Much of the island was green, with grass and trees.  The two apartment buildings seemed to be mostly students from Nick’s school.  The total effect was that of a ghost town.  People were there, but we didn’t see them, and everyone left for the workday.  It was strange, and I noted while reading books in the park looking out on Manhattan, oddly beautiful.  So, yes! What a thrill!  I lived in New York City for a summer in college!  But no, I didn’t really live in New York.  I lived in The Twilight Zone.

What scenario threatened the peace in Nick’s apartment?  Tune in next time to find out!

[Click here for Part 5]

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