Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

Some cute pictures to offset the sour mood of this entry:
Stella during naked playtime (before her pasta face has been washed.)

Stella, The Brooklyn Baby Daddy and cousins Sammy and Sophia in our sister-in-law's pool.

Miss Sassy-Pants at the park. (After our mile-long hike to get there.)

More stinky cuteness.

It happens so slowly, so imperceptibly, you don't even realize it.

You and your significant other outgrow his studio pretty quickly. You are, after all, two separate people and you need your space.

So you move from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Rents are fairly cheaper, apartments are bigger, but there's still a very happening and with-it neighborhood. For a while, you love it.

And then you have a kid. Suddenly, that 650 square foot 1-bedroom doesn't seem as spacious as it did four years ago. The three floors you must walk up are taxing while carrying a 19 pound wriggling baby.

You decide you need more space, but quickly realize you can't afford anything in your neighborhood. So, like every creative, poor and tenacious New Yorker, you look at the map of NYC, take your finger and move outward from Manhattan. We were in Park Slope, you say, so let's try something south of there.

Kensington appears like a beacon in the night. Apartments are palatial by NYC standards and very cheap. It's close to a lot of other neighborhoods that you like, even if it doesn't have much in the way of its own shops and cafes and whatnot. This will work, you tell yourself.

You begin to use your car more, which is weird, but it only makes sense as you have to drive to a real grocery store and drive to visit friends. Toting a kid on the subway or bus, which are both a good walk away, can be frustrating, so you use the gas-guzzler more than you ever thought you would.

Then you really notice your lack of parking space. And your plethora of parking tickets. You get really annoyed that you have to bring a cart to the store because you might have to park ten blocks away and that's the only way to carry the groceries.

On nice days, you notice how far you are from playgrounds and the park. You tire of packing snacks and diapers and a cell phone to walk a mile to the park, play for thirty minutes, then return in time for your baby's dinner.

You dream of living in one of the million-dollar Victorian homes in Ditmas Park. Why? Because you could have a yard, a parking spot, a washer/dryer, a dishwasher, plus you have your own neat little neighborhood and you're close to the city.

Ah...the rare good life.

Except, then you realize it. Areas like Ditmas Park, the exception to most NYC rules, are the norm in most American cities. To have your own house, your own yard, your own parking spot, all in a functional and interesting neighborhood that's also pretty close to a bigger part of town? Those of you reading my blog from outside of NYC are probably thinking to yourself -- what's the big whoop? That's normal in most cities.

But you think to yourself: I can't leave NYC. I just can't. I came here to make my dreams come true. I can't give up now.

But then you also think to yourself: What dreams do I have that can only be attained in NYC? I no longer want to be an actress or a playwright. I tried that life and it made me unhappy. I love being a teacher and want to work with kids who really need me. Many kids in many areas of the country could really need me.

And all the cool parts about NYC, the parts you can't find elsewhere -- I'm not really using them, you realize. When was the last time you could afford to see a Broadway show? When was the last time you had enough energy to catch a cool concert? Taking a 14 month old to the Met seems taxing, as it's a good hour-long subway ride away and she would just want to toddle around anyway.

And you also realize that as NYC has become more and more expensive in the 11 years that you've lived here, you've seen more and more cool people leave. Artists and actors and teachers and musicians and writers who could no longer afford anything worth anything. Which makes you think -- if they all left NYC, that means other places are getting an influx of really cool people who just happen to not be wealthy.

And then you think: maybe I can be a really cool person who moves out of NYC, too.

But then you remember: you are one person in a family of three. The littlest member might not mind leaving town. It's hard to know; she doesn't talk yet.

But the man of the house has a job, a family, friends, an entire life here.

And this is where the Brooklyn Baby Manor remains: in a geographic limbo, so to speak.



Holly said...


I know what you mean (although not the part about living in NY with a child...yet). We went from fun Hoboken to Union City to get more space for less, realized that Union City was way too inner city, so bought in Jersey City because it was moderately priced and had more trees. We thought we had it figured out. But then we got pregnant and couldn't deny the fact any longer that, while trees on your street are nice, they still don't fill that desire for your own backyard.

So now we are moving out to the suburbs. Some parts are going to be a bit of a shock. I have not driven more than a handful of times since 1999. It's going to be strange not to be able to walk everywhere. And I'm sure I will sometimes miss the hustle and bustle and excitement of the city. I am also sure it will only dawn on me once we are firmly there what I have lost.

But still, I would rather have that at this point in my life.

Good luck with figuring out what is best for you and your family.

Christine said...

Randi - I struggle with this a lot too..it's okay to want these things for your family. Keep struggling with it - it will keep you focused and inevitably lead you to possibilities that will make everyone satisfied - New Jersey anyone?:)

Let's do another karaoke night soon -- we miss you guys


Kellygirlnyc said...

Oh my my my. These thoughts go through the old brain almost every day for almost every reason. I can only imagine that it gets more intense when you're regarding a life that includes a little one.

The nice thing about leaving is that you can always come back if you reaaalllly want to. :)

You guys can even stay with us. We have a spare room in our tiny apt. :) Unless we've left by then...Maybe you could come see us in Australia.

Randi Skaggs said...

Thanks for the comments, guys! It's nice to know others feel the same way. Sometimes I feel like a weeny for being upset by NYC, and I know I've offended many of my NY'er friends. But I've been here 11 years, so I feel entitled to my angst.

The hardest part about leaving, if we ever leave, will be missing our amazing friends here. If only our friends were more accessible as is, though. I hate that it takes me 45 mins - 1 hour to see anyone.

Again, I sigh.