A Millennial Couple’s Journey From Saint Paul to New York City: Part Three – Morgantown, Mountains, and Entrance to the East Coast

by Troy M. Olson

Our view entering Manhattan last August.

Morgantown, WV — Jacki and I began the last leg of our journey driving over the Appalachians on what was turning out to be a longer drive than we had planned. We thought we could get to New York City with all of our possessions in three days. However, since we had the Penske truck for five and a very angry cat, we took the more scenic route. We took our time. No regrets at all. Because traveling further south than we needed to allowed us to see family the night before officially arriving.

D.C. Suburbs — I got see my East Coast relatives on the night of August 1st, which was badly needed. Outside of coming back to Minnesota for funerals, seeing the Jones family of Maryland has been the only time this past year I’ve seen family. While I had experienced this lack of familiar connection before during my year long deployment earlier this decade, this time it affected me more because it was self-imposed and I was always just a plane ride away from the Midwest. As Jacki and I get more and more established out here, this is definitely something we will rectify.

The next day was going to be a long one, and Harrison Potter needed some exercise. He met his nearly identical tuxedo twin in McNugget. Several mosquito bites, even more kitty hair loss, and a night spent breaking things and we were ready to get to our new home.

East Coast and Our New Home — New York City, Borough of Manhattan, Harlem.

By midday on August 2nd of last year, nearly a year to the date where Frodo was stabbed on Weathertop (oops…wrong story), we arrived at our new home in the Heart of Harlem and began the arduous process of unloading the Penske truck. I saw the road ahead and it was not pretty. I immediately called the only human being I knew at the time in New York City, my lifelong friend and co-writer of various screenplays, famous pre-mudgeon and Brooklyn film industry alum Zach Kangas. One year later, I’m happy to report I know hundreds of fellow New Yorkers now, to varying degrees. However, only Zach would help me unload a Penske truck.

Jacki and I arrived in New York last year without guaranteed jobs, very little to our names, too many books to count (let alone, fit in our apartment), and about seven craft beers. Objectively speaking, moving here was insane. One year later though, I know now more than ever that it was the right move.

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What We’ve Learned So Far…  Jacki and I are now employed and more or less have been since the start. In fact, we work every single day in some capacity. Her in finance, and me in real estate. We could not have got here without the love and support of our extended families.

It is not lost on me that many would correctly point out, that we are gentrifiers in our new neighborhood. We are. It is a fact I’m very aware of each and every day. In a city as diverse and concentrated as New York, you end up seeing just about everything you can imagine. It’s easy to disappear into it. Looking back on a journey that took my wife and I from growing up in towns of under 10,000 to the second largest city on Earth (Tokyo, Japan is the largest), I cannot help but feel more connected to our common humanity than I’ve ever felt. Whether it is thinking back to then or looking at now and where we want to go.

Jacki and I have experienced nothing but a very welcoming and positive attitude. The old adage that New Yorkers are aggressive and mean is not necessarily true. I would argue New Yorkers are direct and to the point. While I always retain a good amount of my midwestern passive aggressive, in fact, a good amount of my satirical nature depends on it, the direct and “I’m outta time” nature of this city suits me at this stage in my life.

The one time either of us (Jacki) did face something unpleasant, it led to my favorite sentiment of all this past winter. Jacki was riding the subway when an older (white) woman yelled at her for being new to the neighborhood, for being a gentrifier. Irony being completely lost on this woman, she continued to single out Jacki until eventually, a black man stood up and said: “Everyone is welcome in this neighborhood.” This sentiment is undeniably America on its best days. It should be true for all communities and neighborhoods. Yes communities and neighborhoods. Don’t be fooled by the skyscrapers. Every American city is a series of communities where people find belonging and commonality each and every day, a series of neighborhoods both famous and unknown, new and old, and a series of streets named after Presidents, civil rights leaders, or just made up to be a numbered grid so tourists can’t get lost.

“Everyone is welcome in this neighborhood” is the country that I believe in. I hope it’s the one that you believe in too.

A Millennial Couple’s Journey From Saint Paul to New York City: Part Two – Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa

by Troy M. Olson

Goodbye, Grand Avenue, Saint Paul. It sure was a great ride.

Now that I’ve finally wrestled the pen and paper away from professional instigator Harry J. Potter (tuxedo cat version), I’m digging into my journal (and likely horcrux for Harry) to tell our version of the journey from Saint Paul, MN to New York, NY.

Leaving Minnesota

We spent our last few days making the rounds to our favorite restaurants and favorite friends and people. Admittedly, I may have indulged in this a bit more while Jacki spent 90-plus degree days packing our stuff, the stuff we couldn’t get rid of and did not throw away. I feel okay admitting this bout of laziness now because I ended up driving the Penske “big rig” the entire way. Although the move was certain, perhaps I wanted to soak in every last drop of Minnesota unsweetened tea. We were excited, nervous, and pre-nostalgic. Very millennial.

After packing up the truck all day, with the help of parents, we were finally on the road at about 8 P.M. Harry was excited, or terrified. Or excited. Or terrified. We’ll get to that later. Later that night we crossed the Minnesota-Iowa border. While I’ve spent significant time in the Middle East, England, the state of North Dakota, and the state of Missouri in my life, this was the first time I could ever truly say I was leaving Minnesota, perhaps for good. It was bittersweet.

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A Millennial Couple’s Journey From Saint Paul to New York City: Part One – the Kidnapping of Harry Potter

by Troy M. Olson (with Harrison J. Potter excerpts from the SophistiCat Journal)

Harrison J. Potter, shown above, was photographed extensively to ensure that he comported with NYC Housing Law and Landlord Preferences.  

Editorial Note: for optimal enjoyment, read out-loud in your best Sarah Koenig impression, while listening to this.

Last year, a young Millennial couple packed up everything they owned into a Penske truck, gave away the rest, and drove halfway across the country to move to New York City. This is the first in a series of posts about that journey. 

Part One – the Kidnapping of Harry Potter, the Cat (not the Wizard)

Harrison J. Potter:

It all started when my caretakers brought me boxes. I appreciated the gesture. I love boxes. But then, something changed. They started packing things up, a little at a time. And then more. I thought, well it has been awhile since my stuff has been cleaned, and new pillows….would be nice. And then one day, it escalated. Everything went in the boxes. My books. My pillow on the bed. My pillows under the bed. The entire bed itself. The pillow on the chair on the way to the other bed. It was madness.

I knew they had been fighting, the balding one had been gone for a few days, and food source had been busy scanning papers, and was particularly upset when I tried to perform my usual accounting work. They demanded I pose for a photograph, which normally I have no problem with, but I also don’t like being told what to do…I was torn. Ultimately I chose to pose for the photograph, but I waited to cooperate for like 15 minutes. I don’t want them to think they are in charge.

There was a lot of talk about this… New City. But I never consented to any of this. This was all happening so fast. I had so many worries. Such as, would my caretakers be able to find my favorite organic cat food and single malt whiskey (two ice cubes)? Would I still be able to keep an eye on the squirrel revolution down below from my office? I was concerned about the logistics. And what about my council? They had been haphazardly separated, divided, and leaderless! I was in a panic.

Then, it got worse. They took me into a giant yellow box on wheels, and told me this was my new home for a couple of days. Do they even know me? I enjoy a car ride just as much as the next SophistiCat, but not nearly as much as those easily entertained Dogs. But multiple days, in a yellow box? Are these human days? Because that’s like, a couple of weeks for me.

They put only one pillow in the middle for me to sleep. And no keyboard! And we’re leaving in the dead of night because the balding one and food source had seriously overestimated their packing abilities. What’s a cat to do… I may not survive this. Hopefully they didn’t skimp on the food like they did on the pillows.

Until next time,


Still to come…

Part Two: Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa.