This morning I left my apartment for the week with some relative strangers, saying goodbye to the decaying and too-big bathroom vanity and doorless kitchen cabinets. (Thanks to a past project of my husband’s, we have had no doors on our kitchen cabinets for eight years.) Contractors are starting today on a total renovation of our kitchen (a dishwasher at last!) and partial rehab of the bathroom (swapping vanity for a pedestal sink), and we are getting out of Dodge during the major work. We are doing this work less for ourselves and more to lure in prospective buyers to our apartment, as we are planning to put it on the market after we fix it up and hope the improvements pay off in the sale.
We still don’t know where to live next.
We have thought a lot about the perfect place to live next. We have taken a lot of weekend trips, have every Realtor/Zillow/Trulia app installed with filters set up (pre-1950, 3+ bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms, keyword: fireplace), and talk about potential towns with nearly every person we meet. Last night I started imagining what life could be like come January, once we have moved away from Brooklyn for a few months and what life could be like down the line. Here’s what I imagine:
(Note: this is entirely fictional and at least mildly satirical, so don’t think I’m insulting your town).
After 5 months: Wow, I forgot how pleasant life could be! The winter has been rough, but we light a fire every night and go snowshoeing on Saturday mornings! Sure, it’s a little isolated, but like going to a country inn every night! We can leave our doors unlocked, haven’t seen homeless people in weeks, and have multiple Trader Joe’s within a few miles! I did have to learn to drive at last, since I need a car to even get to the mailbox, but there is plenty of land for me to practice not hitting trees. It’s a little, uh, homogenous here, but downtown Boston is just a 15-minute drive plus a one-hour train ride away!
After 5 years: After V started school, I went back to PR full-time with a local hotel, and A got a job with an insurance firm in downtown Boston. Commuting sucks! I miss getting on the train and reading a book, but at least they still play Car Talk reruns on the radio. We’d like to have another kid, but not sure how we can afford it, between heating the house for eight months of the year, driving two cars into the city every day, the lawn guy, V’s ballet lessons, and the new barn for next year’s chicks. #SuburbanProblems
After 5 months: We miss being able to walk to the store, or anywhere for that matter, but parking is easy. We can’t leave anything in the car (have already replaced the windows twice) or it gets stolen, but that’s, like, any big city, right? You should see our house, it is huge! We have rooms we don’t even go into, which works since we can’t afford the heat for 5,000 square feet (gas costs more than our mortgage!). Midwestern winters are NO JOKE. Next spring, we’d like to plant some vegetables, but we get so much great stuff from Eastern Market every week, and it’s already biked in from across town. A is traveling a lot, but we are keeping busy with lots of projects and business ideas. Wonder if Idlewild Books would want to franchise here?
After 5 years: We are SO glad we got into Motown early! After Instagram opened up their headquarters downtown, the hipster population just exploded, and now you can’t buy an old house in the city proper for love nor money! A is about to open an office space for his consulting practice, and the travel cookbook store business is doing really well, plus we host a lot of local and visiting chefs for demos. I’m usually there on the weekend, or at the Market selling our local, biodynamic, halal, non-alcoholic wine (Michigan fruit rules!). We could get a sibling discount at the Waldorf school, but we have a good thing going with the only child, and V has made tons of friends at her Lil’ Motown Music lessons!
Raleigh, North Carolina
After 5 months: So while V is little, we figured it made sense to move near family. Took some convincing to move A down south, and we NEVER talk politics with anyone, but it’s as Yankee as the south gets, I guess. We miss non-chain restaurants and go to the same few places downtown over and over, but we finally get baby-free nights now that we are near my mother! The summers here are NO JOKE, but I’m not convinced it’s any worse than a NYC subway station in July. Think I’ve finally made up from my lack of pork consumption from two years in Istanbul in just a few months!
After 5 years: We just moved back north, A got a job offer in Connecticut we just couldn’t resist. Now that we have four kids (!), it’s going to be a little challenging, but after my sister moved with her family back to Mississippi, and my mother retired to the coast, we didn’t have much help in Raleigh anyway. Will be nice to have easier access to traveling abroad again, though not sure how well we’d manage an airport these days. Were people always so rude up here?!
After 5 months: It is seriously pleasant here, but I constantly feel like I’m waking up from a nap: refreshed but slightly panicked, like I’ve missed something. Feeling a little house poor, but worth it to get something with a little history and community, right? We eat and drink almost all local, are coming around to composting, and just feel healthier. I finally learned how to ride a bike and no one even honks at me when I do something wrong! Not sure what I’m going to do career-wise, though it seems like everyone is hot for Portland. Wonder if Idlewild Books would want to franchise here?
After 5 years: It’s been years since we left NYC, but somehow I feel younger than ever! We try not to eat anything unless we know at least one person who helped make it, though we sneak in some fast food when we travel (after the GMO ban, I still crave some McNuggets occasionally!). Though we don’t travel so much these days, flights are expensive and we have a lot going on here. We weren’t sure having a second child was totally ethical, but Pyotr just sort of, uh, happened, what with all the natural living. I’m often at the vineyard, working on the next blend of our local, biodynamic, halal, non-alcoholic wine (Oregon fruit rules!). We have almost finished irrigating the mini-farm we have out back, plus we want to start salvaging wood for the new barn for next year’s chicks.
Wonderful! What an imaginative exercise! I’m no closer to a decision for you, though . . . And why no Pittsburgh?
Good point! I didn’t include because we still haven’t been! It might also be out of bounds just due to work, but I also don’t want to make a decision without checking it out. If we did live there, V could be from Pittsburgh, just like Auntie Mame’s Vera Charles (“She sounded English!” “When you’re from Pittsburgh, you have to do something.”)!
You forgot LA:
5 months: Armenian food is not Turkish food, but wine is more readily available and you won’t turn down a good shawerma. You do have to learn to drive, but you bought a cute house in Highland Park and never have to get on the freeways. You thought you would miss seasons, but not paying a heating bill has its benefits. Besides, there are seasons – rainy season, fire season, etc. Being 30 minutes from the beach is a major plus. Also, awesome bars that allow kids are a hop skip and a jump. AND you can buy wine at CVS, so bonus there.
5 years: You decamped from Highland Park to Pasadena when A got in on a software startup in Glendale, and you have a sweet midcentury modern in the San Rafael Hills. You have 2 kids and your mom is perfectly happy to visit every winter, plus you have 1 international and 3 regional airports accessible so travel is a breeze. Plus your friend Kate clued you into this great local day care with evening and weekend drop in service for cheap prices so you get regular date nights at all the amazing local ethnic restaurants. Vera is quickly becoming fluent in Mandarin since she’s enrolled in a Dual Language Immersion public school. Only downside is that A has discovered juicing and is driving you nuts. Fortunately, produce is cheap, especially at the Asian markets, plus you have about 10 fruit trees in your back yard.
I’m STILL trying to get you guys out for a visit.
HAHAHAHA! Love it! I’ve heard so many good things about LA recently, especially from NYC “expats.” I want to come just for a visit, though even in our frequent (every six weeks or less, it seems) travels, we haven’t been out west other than the odd PDX trip. I think it could be an option if A were to change jobs and not have to “commute” to east/midwest cities all the time, there’s plenty of industry/jobs out there. I like it more than the idea of Miami in many ways, less damp!
Making a difficult decision sounds fun, in your words. And your pal Kate has followed your tone, and persuasively, too. I personally have no arguments to make because, in my mind, no place (except Germany) is really a perfect place to live. And also, I’ve never really had a choice of where to live, so in my mind, the task is to find where you will be least uncomfortable of the place where you are stuck.
Now I want to move to LA. But don’t forget, while you are in Boston, to take the train to Rockport.
Meg — I have 2 grandaughters now graduated: Melissa is in Panama with Peace Corps and Julia just graduated and is on her way to California (Bakersfield I think). Maybe for post grad. No husband, no children have they. One brother in Vancouver BC, another in Knoxville, TN — mostly due to wives professions and both men are now widowers. So you have time
on your side — enjoy your options!!
Love — Terry Fuller
Can’t you totally imagine A getting into juicing? My boss has to go to Boston or NY every six weeks or so and it’s not too bad since there are direct flights.
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