Tag Archives: brooklyn

Motown love: Why I’m (still) on the D(etroit) train

Me and baby Vera at the old Tigers' stadium, Corktown, Detroit.

Me and baby Vera at the old Tigers’ stadium, Corktown, Detroit.

This is a post I’ve been kicking around for awhile, and with the news of Detroit’s sad but not unexpected bankruptcy, it seemed more important than ever to get off my chest. I have a feeling about the city that I can best describe as visceral, fierce, and sometimes unjustifiable. It is not a place for those with delicate sensibilities or without serious street smarts. I’ve written a bit of background on why we are thinking of leaving NYC after nearly fifteen years and what we are looking for in a future home, and some musings on what life might be like in another place. Detroit was the city that started our NYC “expat fantasies,” starting as a cheap real estate joke (“Why don’t we just buy a house rather than get a hotel room for the weekend?”), evolving into an appreciation of “ruin porn” and pioneer spirit, and occasionally a bone of contention over its inherent dangers and drawbacks. Despite its fairly serious issues, I have a deep and complicated crush on Detroit I can’t shake off, or even explain easily. While I was originally planning to write a straight-forward list of how it fit my personal qualifications for a home base (the excellent airport and proximity to water are two big pluses), Motown’s charms are less simple and quantifiable than that.

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Leaving NYC: Future Possibilities?

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).

Wayland, Massachusetts
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

Detroit, Michigan
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?!

Portland, Oregon
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.

Escape from New York (?)

My family at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where we were married June 6, 2004.

If you’ve been looking for me on the interwebs, you might want to direct your browser over to KnockedUpAbroadTravels.com, or better yet, Facebook or Twitter.  If you’ve been wondering about all the Detroit links and thoughts about other cities I’ve been posting on those social networks, keep reading. We arrived back in Brooklyn on Labor Day, after a month of travel in New Zealand and South Korea, and over two years living in Istanbul. Since arriving back, in between trips to Target and IKEA (moving back into an apartment after a few years away is nearly as much work as moving anew), we’ve been pondering what’s next for us. Ideally, we’d be packing and planning for another overseas assignment, but as life rarely happens as you plan, we’re looking for a plan B as well as a new place to call home, whether it’s in between expat stints or for the long haul. My husband’s consulting job has moved from client-side to pre-sales, and he can now pretty much work in his underwear from a coffee shop or from home anywhere in the US. Since moving abroad and having a baby, I’ve been working freelance in travel writing (need an article about Istanbul or travel with a baby? Email me) and public relations, and hope to stay more or less at home for a bit longer, especially  in a place where daycare isn’t on par with college tuition.

Perusing real estate ads and feeling a bit confined in our one-bedroom in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, we’ve come to the conclusion that IF we a) sell our apartment with a decent profit AND b) I go back to work full time, we can maybe afford a decent two-bedroom and be slaves to a mortgage and exorbitant NYC daycare costs. OR we could move to Detroit (yes, Detroit, really). But before I get to that, here’s some background on what we are looking for in our next city: Continue reading

I Heart My City – Brooklyn

National Geographic Traveler‘s excellent Intelligent Travel blog is doing an awesome series on “I Heart My City” with residents from all over the world filling out a questionnaire on their city faves.  Inspired by some excellent entries on Minneapolis, Baltimore, Santiago, here is my city.

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