Monday, October 1, 2007

The "dubious habitability of an unforgiving metropolis"

I was reading an article in the NY Times about sidewalk cafe's, and the theories of why we'd want to eat curbside, with the smoke, congestion, and cigarette smoke wafting above the dog poo and views of chain stores.

It's true; everyone I know seems to think that eating outside is better. I'm allergic to most things outside, and summer makes me sweat. Eating indoors is something I enjoy, perhaps with a window next to me, or in a booth with squeaky vinyl seats. And I do enjoy eating at restaurants, not on sidewalks.

One of my main complaints about this city is the sidewalks. I look forward to Chicago, which had the forethought to install alleyways for the trash and deliveries. Maybe that makes me provencial. Shut up.

This amazing point was brought up in the article by Frank Bruni:

New Yorkers have a highly evolved, unrivaled knack for glossing over the limitations, absurdities and dubious habitability of an unforgiving metropolis.

They walk into a friend’s 545-square-foot two-bedroom (one bath, no tub) and stammer: “Just $4,965 a month for this?” They walk into the Spotted Pig at 5:55 p.m. on a Tuesday night and exult: “Only a 90-minute wait?”

And they sit in a sidewalk cafe — sirens blaring, vagrants swearing and jackhammers jittering all around them — and sigh: “It’s so relaxing to soak up the street life.”


That said, the tiny apartment in the east village that we pay way under market for is beginning (or well on it's way) to feel like a shoebox, or a dorm room. I've had bigger dorm rooms than this apartment. I can't wait to live somewhere that has a bathroom all in one room (not a shower in the kitchen and a toilet closet off the "bedroom", which is really just a converted closet).

These rather non-bohemian desires have been highlighted regularly lately. I think my bf's new sadness is merely space related, and causing him to get a cold.

We went to brunch at our friend's in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, and then to see their railroad one bedroom in a borderline-great neighborhood about 30 minutes from manhattan. It was so nice it almost made me weep; much more spacious than our "great deal in the best location", and their place is tiny by all other cities' standards. When I think about the places in Baltimore... oh but how wretched a town that was to live in.

This weekend was the real kicker though. I had been applying to 80/20 housing all over the city last year, when my grad school applications were supposed to be finished and I was procrastinating, or rather, making back-up plans. (I did alright with the grad school in the end, I've been admitted to a post-bacc program at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which I deferred until next year due to funding issues. If you have any leads on funding, let me know..)
I was put on a few waiting lists, and perhaps my applications were not the most reputable math I've ever done, but I gave it a try, and got on some waiting lists- no harm there.

This weekend I was pulled off a wait list for a sweet apartment in Roosevelt Island. --The only affordable housing that I would say it truly affordable.-- Only, we're moving to Chicago in a few months, and any reasonable human would say- why move only to move again a few months later? -- but the idea crossed our mind, and broke little j's heart when I stomped my foot down-- Because I refuse to move to a bedroom community accessible only by one train, an overhead trolley, and a bridge that goes to queens, not Manhattan. Even if the apartments are big and nice and affordable, and a reasonable space for two adults to co-habitate. If we've lived in this tiny box in this sweet deal by the great favor of a wonderful friend for a year now, we can do it for a few more months. I hate moving.


I'm going to have to continue to pretend that the tiny diggs we live in, in a neighborhood that hit it's cool-kid prime about 20-40 years ago when my professors lived here in huge light filled lofts for a pittance of rent, now filled with roaches and mice and some other unidentifiables ,is exactly the kind of place that I totally want to pay half my salary to live in, somewhat legally. At least until spring, when hopefully I'll have won some kind of grant, or sold enough paintings, or worked enough extra shifts, to be able to afford to actually attend school again and move to a city where I don't have to step over dog shit and trash bags just to walk down the street.

Maybe the thing that means you should leave New York is when you are no longer willing to pretend that the New York illusion is enough, when you lose that "unrivaled knack for glossing over the limitations" and you proclaim to your hip cool new friends that these mirages of luxury don't actually correspond to anything wonderful--- and that my spine tingles at the idea of having a garage to keep our bicycles and tools in and a closet just for linens. Oh to be able to put a bed on the floor, not in a loft! or even, a dining room!! a dishwasher!! a kitchen counter!! to open a window without smelling that wretched filth of pigeons!!

Even the jail cells in the second season of "the Wire" are looking prime. They remind me of my friend Smoz's apartment across the street. Only they don't cost the inmates nearly a grand a month. And I guess the inmates can't leave either.

Chicago, I look forward to you.

NYC, I'll miss you- but don't expect me back unless I'm egregiously wealthy or willing to commute from distant boroughs.


Eric said...

I wish you the best in your upcoming move to Chicago! My wife and I recently took a weekend trip there, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is in prime area to enjoy the lakefront and other attractions, places to eat, things to see/do, etc. We took the train into Union Station each day and found it fairly enjoyable, as we could avoid traffic congestion and actually get to our destinations reasonably on time (for the most part... a couple trains were running behind a good 10-15 minutes). But the public transportation systems are well-developed and very useful. And while seeing all of the attractions can get old after a while, the luxury of having miles and miles of pathway to walk/bike/run, as well as numerous parks to enjoy, is incredible! (At least, compared to my wonderfully boring city of Milwaukee.)

So, for now, do your best to maintain your sanity, even if it is in a shoe-box apartment. I think you'll find Chicago a welcome, more down-to-earth place to live. Just watch out for the sports fans. They can get a little crazy! ;)

On a side note, I've been following your blog now since I was pointed here for the fake ID's, and have to say it's been nice to read about the happenings of life in a more sophisticated and mature way, instead of reading the drama of what could've been written by a high school kid. Thanks for some great reading! :)

Medium Reality said...

at the rate they are putting up condo high-rises around my converted warehouse in San Francisco you may be able to move here when you are done with school for the best of both worlds. Can't wait to sleep in your shoebox, sugar.

erin said...

You just wrote out everything I was feeling from living up there. I can't wait to come up and visit you in a few weeks, but at the same time, I will also look forward to returning to my 3 bed/3 bath house. Hearts to you!!!!

Misses you!!!!!


Cartooniste said...

I have to say, sometimes I enjoy walking through our tiny dining room and thinking "i'm not even using this room right now!" oh, the luxury.

tough call on the roosevelt island decision, but it sounds right for you guys. when is the big move happening? do you have a date in mind yet?

i knew something was weird when living in nyc and i would catch myself looking up at the uptown projects, thinking- wow, i bet they have a great view of the river.

yeah. maybe you're ready to go.

love you,

Bob said...

Rachel---it was good to see you on Sunday night, will try to visit one of your bartending venues soon, nice blog on living spaces, my blog is try to write a little bit every day......Bob