Three Years Into the “Move to SUMA”: Was Moving to the Suburbs the Right Decision?

Three years ago today, I moved out of the city.  I was 41 years old. I had lived in New York City since 1992, for most of 17 years, and was horrified about how moving to the suburbs of my youth was going to destroy my urban sensibility, and turn me into another colorless suburban drone.  The whole conceit of the “Move to SUMA” was the inside joke that “SUMA” was just another Manhattan neighborhood, that I needed to convince myself that I wasn’t actually moving into the suburbs if I wanted to survive.

So for the past three years or so, I’ve written about the good and the bad about living in the suburbs. I wrote about all my stereotypical suburban experiences — like getting a dog, buying an SUV, having a child, trying to find decent takeout food – and some less-than-stereotypical adventures, like when I almost killed my poor dog, or virtually destroyed my new boat.  Over time, I’ve also come to be a bit more of an advocate for the suburbs, almost to “validate” my decision — sometimes jokingly by pointing to all the celebrities allegedly joining me in suburban splendor, and other times more seriously to defend my new home from critics who argue that the suburbs are dying.  

But as I came to the third anniversary of my move out of the city, I realized that I’d never come right out to say whether I think I made the right decision to move to the suburbs. So let me make that clear: as much as it pains me to admit it, moving to the suburbs was the right call.

In fact, looking back, I’m surprised that it was a close decision at all. I’d had 17 years in the city, was looking to raise a family, and in my case my job was actually already in the suburbs.  And the more I look at the life I was actually living, the sacrifices I was making to maintain my self-perception as a smart, sophisticated city person were just too great. Frankly, it would have been monstrously selfish and unfair to try to navigate through the next phase of my life, as a parent, while still clinging desperately to that urban vanity.

For other people, the calculus might be different. If you don’t have kids, or you have enough personal wealth to provide enough space for those kids, or your work requires you to maintain that intimate urban sensibility, then maybe it makes sense to stay in the city.  I’m certainly not going to begrudge anyone that choice, particularly since it’s the choice I made for so long.

The longer I live in the suburbs, though, the more I realize that it was the right choice for me at that stage in my life. Like many people, the decision to move from the city is bound up in the decision to simply “grow up” – to get married, have kids, settle down.  It’s tough to separate one from the other.  Would I have moved from the city if I wasn’t married, or not planning to have a kid?  Maybe not.  But then I’d also have to think about the life I would have today as a 44 year old single childless man living in Manhattan, and whether that’s the life I want for myself.  That’s not a particularly pretty picture.

Moreover, I’m finding it increasingly tough to separate out my longing for the city from the general romanticizing about the life I had when I was younger.  That is, do I really miss the city, or do I just miss being the 25 year old, or even 35 year old, me who happened to live in the city — not married, no dog, no kid?   Basically, without a whole lot of responsibility and at the beginning, rather than middle, of my career?   Yes, I miss the freedom I had when I was 30 to get together with my friends Tom and Woody on a random night to play some pool and drink some beer.  But then I have to remember that they both moved out of the city years ago.  That life ended long before I moved to the suburbs.

I think that’s the challenge that anyone thinking of moving to the suburbs has to face.  Don’t think about the life you had in the city, and how living in the suburbs is going to change it.  Rather, think about the life you are looking to have, and where it makes more sense to try to have that life.

I started writing this blog to address the question of whether living in the suburbs would change me.  But that’s the wrong way to put it.  The better question is this: how will I change while I’m living in the suburbs?  The change is going to happen regardless of where you get your mail. It’s going to happen the first time you look around and realize that you’re the oldest guy in the club, or when you have a party and realize that all your friends have to drive in from their new homes, or when you realize that you can’t take cabs around the city with your baby in your lap.  The suburbs don’t change you.  You change.

And that change can sometimes be hard to accept.  You don’t want to be the guy with the two SUVs, and the Costco membership, whose nightlife revolves around game night with the other parents.  You want to be that other guy, the cool guy who still goes to Arlene’s to hear bands and chat up 25 year olds with navel rings.  But you’re not that guy anymore, not because you moved out of the city, but because that guy simply got older.  You can make the choice to stay in the city, but you don’t get the choice to be young again.  The question is whether you’re willing to accept the life you’re actually living, and give up the life that you’re living only in your head.

The mistake all us urban exiles make is that we compare our lives in the suburbs to the lives we had at the moment we left the city, a life experience captured at a perfectly romanticized point in time and lovingly encased in amber.  And then we flog ourselves mercilessly for all the compromises we’ve made and everything we’ve given up —  i.e., “can you believe I drive a minivan?” – without recognizing how many of those compromises were simply the inevitable result of, well, growing up.

And that’s what it’s really about – growing up. As I wrote last year in a riff on an old Winston Churchill quote: ”If you’re not living in the city at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not living in the suburbs at forty you have no brain.”  I lived in the city for much of my 20s and most of my 30s, and that was right.  But now that I’m in my 40s, I can’t imagine what life would be like for me if I was still living in a fourth floor walkup with a 18 month old kid and a dog.  Okay, I can imagine it.  Horrible.

But I can’t blame the suburbs.  The suburbs didn’t do this to me. The suburbs didn’t make me an uncool dad who goes out maybe once a month and drives a seven-seater crossover. For better or worse, I did it to myself. I just happened to live in the suburbs when I did it.

More Unhappy People Like Me Grudgingly Moving to the Suburbs and Writing All About It

I think I need to start a whole new section of the blog just to cover all the OTHER people who are writing about their own decision to move to the suburbs.  Here I am thinking I have some clever new angle — a blog all about moving from the city to the suburbs!!! — and I find that I am, in fact, legion.  Even worse, I’m pretty much the worst musician in the band, the guy they put on, you know, the triangle or something because he has a big moving van.

On the one hand, it’s nice to have the validation that I’m not alone in the world.  On the other, it explains why writing this stupid blog hasn’t made me rich.

Just to sum up some of our recent coverage:

Now, I’ve come across the very funny “Daddy Confidential” blog mourning his wife’s decision –he makes it clear that it was not his — to move to the suburbs.  And, as always, a kid is involved:

We are doing this, of course, for our son of 20 months. We’re figuring that instead of concrete, city lights and the honking of cabs, he’ll be better served by woods, stars and the sound of crickets.

Toddlers, it turns out, are not ideally suited to apartment life. My son doesn’t understand why banging a rolling pin on the floor is not an acceptable musical expression. He’s perplexed that sitting on the sidewalk is forbidden, on account of the neighborhood dogs vying for territorial supremacy.

None of this should imply that New York isn’t kid-friendly. It’s just not parent-friendly. Applying to preschool involves the effort, expense and statistical likelihood of finding a kidney donor. Our elementary school is so oversubscribed that its playground bears the aesthetic composition of a crowded prison yard. The whole business fills my wife with a dread that can only be banished by the sight of a Talbots.

Admittedly, I am starting to panic. The skills one acquires in New York do not translate well into the suburbs. The city has made me impatient, vulgar, and arrogant. (Though I was probably already vulgar.)

It’s good stuff.  The post was from about a month ago, and it’s actually entitled “Sex and the Suburbs, Part 1,” in what is probably a play on “Sex and the City,” since there doesn’t seem to be a Part 2.  Perhaps it’s still pending a trip to Abu Dhabi.  I’ll keep an eye out for it, as well as any further Daddy adventures in the suburbs.

Anyway, as the self-appointed driver of the Disaffected Urban Exile Welcome Wagon, I’m happy to say: “Welcome to the Suburbs!”

Would Albert Camus Leave the City: Moving to the Suburbs as an Existential Crisis

Always good to know you’re not alone.  I came across this post from Gaynor Alder in the Modern Woman’s Survival Guide, who writes about her decision to move to the suburbs (in Australia — who knew?).  I think she captures the dilemma particularly well, describing her decision as part of an “existential crisis”:

I’ve always been a city girl, and my sense of self has always felt lovingly wrapped up in the joie de vivre of its energy. The way its streets pulse with life. The glamorous lifestyle it offers its occupants. Being surrounded by creative people. Quick commutes to the city. Strutting out my door to a cafe for breakfast. Shops within metres from my doorstep.

Leaving the inner city ring is like someone slowly switching off my oxygen, and my soul screams out as it drains the life out of me, suburb by suburb, street by street, home by home. JUST. NOT. ME.

But, something else has become important to me at this point in time. My independence. Having my own space. A sense of security. A sanctuary for my soul so that I can continue to create, without being at the mercy of other people. And as I continue to grow a successful writing business, I have a decision to make.

I could keep living in an inner city apartment that has a shoebox for a wardrobe, or I could move out for a year or so, into a 2 bedroom townhouse in the suburbs that has a space for my office and be financially buoyant. But it doesn’t make the decision any less excruciating, and this inner crisis is a doozy, because it pushes on my core fear. My very essence. Everything I’m about.

I hear you, sister!  

Man, and here I thought that I was only dealing with the loss of good ethnic food delivery. I never realized that I confronting the devastating awareness of meaninglessness.

Then again, as Albert Camus said:

As a remedy to life in society I would suggest the big city. Nowadays, it is the only desert within our means.

He definitely would never have moved to the suburbs.

Why Do People Move to the Suburbs? Simply Put, They Have Kids

Why do people move to the suburbs?  Let’s think about that for a minute, break down that question.

Note that the question is not, “why do people live in the suburbs,” which is, in my mind, a very different question.  People might live in the suburbs for a bunch of reasons. Maybe that’s where they grew up, and never left. Maybe that’s where they work, so it doesn’t occur to them to live anywhere else. Maybe they just never had the hankering for the big city lights, and prefer the quieter, slower pace traditionally associated with the picket fences and all that. Maybe it’s simple inertia.  Maybe they just like the Cheescake Factory.  It could be a million reasons.

But our question today is different: “why do people MOVE to the suburbs,” which implies that those people are currently living somewhere else, probably a city.  In that case, the answer is usually simple — they’re having a kid.

That’s what it almost always comes down to.  You don’t see a lot of happy-go-lucky 30 year olds — single, no kids, with a job — who suddenly decide to trade in their urban life so they can commute an hour or so every day to work. No single person wakes up one morning saying, “Hey, I’m just getting tired of Asian-Latin fusion takeout, and muddled drinks, and lots of 20-something single hotties who enjoy casual sexual relations, and being able to take cabs home when I decide to spontaneously celebrate Cinco de Mayo in September.  What I REALLY need is a guest bedroom!  Time to move to the suburbs!!!!”

No one does that. Single people don’t need space, they don’t care about schools, they don’t generally want the quiet. Even for married couples without kids, the tradeoffs of the suburbs versus the city don’t seem to make sense, so long as they can live in a a two room coop without ending up in a War of the Roses situation.

No, any discussion about moving to the suburbs is inexorably, invariably, going to become entwined with the decision to have kids. If it was all about you, then you’d stay in the city.  But when it’s suddenly all about a mini-you that doesn’t have a particular affinity for 20-something hotties or delivery Vietnamese or infused tequila, and who is currently sleeping in a crib at the foot of your bed, you start to re-think your priorities.

I did things a little backwards, of course. We moved from the city in 2009 simply on the anticipation of becoming parents in the near future, and our expectation that life would simply be easier for us and better for him/her in the suburbs. But for people who already have kids, who are actually living in confined space with a little child and realizing just how much becoming a parent is inconsistent with remaining an urbanized sophisticate hipster, I think the choice is even more compelling.

I was thinking about this because I came across this lovely piece by Jordan Reid in her Ramshackleglam blog, where she writes about her fear of how her life would change in moving to the suburbs: the fear that she won’t make friends, or that her friends won’t be the “kinds of friends that I have in my life now,” or that she’ll wind up feeling like she settled for a life that’s less exciting or interesting than the one she would have had in the city.

Ultimately, though, she writes that it ended up not being a difficult decision, particularly once she considered not what she wanted, but what her son needed:

Most of all, though, the reason we want to move is that city life is not what we want for our son. I grew up here, and I had a great childhood, but I want something different for him. I want him to have a yard to run around in with Lucy and Virgil. I want him to go fishing on Saturdays with his Dad not because it’s a big, special production involving car rentals and long drives, but rather because that’s just what they feel like doing. I want to pick up our pumpkin in a patch, not in a grocery store. I want him to have a swing set of his very own.

****

But now it’s not about us anymore, not really: it’s about a little man who smiles so much when he looks out our New York City window, even when there’s nothing to see outside but the apartment building across the way, that all we want to do is set him free to study the sky. And when we take that into account…

well…

it’s not really a decision at all.

It’s just what we’re going to do. 

It’s really a beautiful piece, certainly better than anything I’ve ever written about the subject, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she has to say once she settles in.

And it certainly reinforces the point that for some reason has eluded me for so long. I’ve been belaboring my decision about moving to the suburbs, painting it as something I did by choice, something that I could second-guess if it didn’t work out.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that, like Ms. Reid, I didn’t really have a choice.

The bottom line: people don’t move to the suburbs because they want to, they move because they have to.  And the decision often isn’t theirs to make. So I should give myself a break….

Lessons for Exiles: The Challenge of Decorating an Actual, You Know, Home

When you live in Manhattan, the biggest challenge you face in designing your home is trying to find places to put all your stuff.  When you’re living in 800 square feet, pretty much everything you buy has to be multi-purpose — your dining table doubles as a desk, your living room couch is your guest bed.  Most of my life in the city, I ate dinner on a tv tray sitting on the couch.  Our dining table, which we only pulled out for guests, was this clever foldout that seemed to defy the laws of physics in its ability to convert from about an 18-inch end table to seating for six.

In the city, square footage is at a premium. I actually convinced my wife that we needed flat screen TVs with the argument that they were SAVING us money, because they freed up floor space that cost like $1,000 a square foot.  You put a TV on the wall, you open up like 10 square feet — that’s $10,000!  That was a good argument to win.

But when you move to the suburbs, no matter where you move, you’re going to double or triple your square footage, so you all of a sudden have this enormous obligation to buy a lot of stuff.   Now you have a dining room, so you have to buy an actual dining table that doesn’t fold up like an accordian when you’re not using it.  And you have actual guest bedrooms, so you need places for them to sleep.

Sadly, they don’t just give you all that furniture when you cross the border into the suburbs, you have to go and buy all that stuff.  It’s one of those hidden expenses of living in the suburbs, like property taxes and car insurance, that you don’t generally prepare for when all you’re thinking about is how much cheaper the actual real estate is.  Congratulations, you now have a 4,000 square foot colonial with five bedrooms!  Now take out your credit card so you can fill it up with a bunch of stuff!

And it’s not like you can put it off. There’s nothing sadder than popping in on someone who moved out to the suburbs a year ago, and you find that they’re still storing boxes in the guest bedrooms.  You gotta suck it up and buy some furniture for those rooms.

So that’s what happened to us.  We had a little bit of a head start, because in 2005 we combined our apartment with the one below us, so we went from 600 square feet to a relatively, for the city, roomy 2,000 square feet.  We bought a lot of stuff back then, but we still were going from 2,000 square feet to 4,500 square feet, with all sorts of new rooms to fill up.

Here’s what happens when you start trying to fill it up:

  • You’ll start to resent your friends.  The idea of spending a few thousand dollars for a bedroom set for guests is galling.  A bed is like $1,000 right there, plus they need a headboard, and a table, and some sort of dresser, and, you know, towels and stuff.  Who do these people think they are?  What is this, a hotel?  Bring a blow up mattress, you’re lucky I’m not making you sleep on the couch.
  • You realize how much stupid, useless furniture you need.  When you live in the city, every piece of furniture is important.  In the suburbs, you just need lots of stuff so that your place doesn’t look all empty.  Who has end tables in the city? Who has a foyeur?
  • You realize how expensive it is to cover walls.  In the city, you maybe have five or six actual walls to cover up with art and stuff, once you take out the walls with lots of windows, kitchen walls, etc.  Now, in the suburbs, you have like thousands of feet of bare walls.  Start shopping.

Assuming you end up keeping the stuff you had in the city, that you haven’t been living all this time with the milk crates that you bought in college as your bookshelves, you’ll probably at least be able to use some of your city stuff in the suburbs.  What happened with us is that everything we had got downgraded a level.  The stuff that we just bought for our living room ended up in the family room, requiring us to buy all new stuff.  And our bedroom set became a guest bedroom set (which frankly is more than you deserve, you freeloaders).  I guess it makes sense: as you get older, you hopefully have more money and can afford better stuff, so your new stuff is nicer than your old stuff.

So be prepared.  If you’re moving to the suburbs, don’t put all your money into your down payment, because your real estate closing is just the beginning of all the crap you have to buy…..

Moving In

Moving is heinous.

Real estate people (and I’m a real estate person) never tell you that. We focus on all the happy parts of the move — meeting the new neighbors and planting a new tree and setting up the area in the pantry where you’re going to put “junior’s growth chart.” We don’t talk much about the actual moving date itself.

I guess it’s like having a kid. When people picture having a kid, they picture all the fun stuff: little league games, story time, “junior’s growth chart,” etc. We don’t focus on the actual birth date itself, with the pain and the screaming and the gore and something called a placentia that I understand is extremely unpleasant (I should point out that, yes, I am as yet childless).

So moving is like having a child: lots of fun once that actual event (i.e., the move, or the birth) is actually over. But the move itself is no fun.

The worst part of our move is that we did it in two parts. We moved out of our place in the city a month ago, going through a horrible day (days, really) of packing and packing and packing and cleaning and watching guys struggle with our furniture while they went up and down the stairs (okay, that last part was probably tougher for them than for me). And then we had the joy of spending three hours trying to get one couch down the stairs, convinced that it HAD to be able to get down if it got up, and then finally taking parts of it off to get it to fit, all the time wondering if we could amend our sales contract to include the couch in the sale, maybe affixing it to the wall or something so we could pretend it’s a fixture.

So now we did the move in, and it was just as horrible. To get the day started great, we overslept, and the movers showed up at my parent’s place to pick up the stuff we’d stored there (including ourselves). So what was going to be a stressful day started even more stressfully, without time for a shower or breakfast and a hurried stuffing of our everyday things into suitcases so we could move them into the new place.

At least this time, we had an elevator. After 20 minutes of trying to figure out how to cover the elevator with the blankets that we luckily found in a utility closet, we started the move.

And, again, the couch. I’m not sure why anyone (in this case Henredon) sells couches that can neither get down apartment stairs or fit in apartment building elevators. The couch should be specially marked in the catalog with some sort of description like “Only buy this couch if you live on a single-story dwelling with a big door.” Another two hours trying to get the couch up the elevator or, in a potential solution that made the movers none too thrilled, up eight flights of stairs. It didn’t matter. The couch couldn’t fit in the elevator OR the stairs.

So we figured that maybe this was the end of the road for this couch, that even if we somehow got it out we’d just have the prospective horror of dealing with this stupid freaking couch 10 years from now when we moved out of this building. But a quick internet search found a service that actually comes to your home and takes apart your furniture, something we probably should have discovered years ago. It was great. Guy came over, I gave him an astounding wad of cash, and he took apart the couch so we could get it in the elevator. It was a little disconcerting watching him pull apart the couch, it felt a little like he was pulling apart a person. I was flashing to the flying monkeys tearing apart Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

So now we still have this couch, even though I try to sit in it a little gingerly so as not to have it collapse underneath me.

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Advice for People Moving to the Suburbs: How We Found Our New Home

We just closed on our new place yesterday.

I haven’t written about our new home because (a) I didn’t want to jinx it, and (b) I didn’t want to sit here and reveal how much I love my new place while there were still little issues to work out with the seller.  Nothing undermines whatever bargaining position you might like to maintain than a public blog that explains how much you love the new place and will pay ANYTHING to get into it.

So now that we’ve closed, I can talk about the process.  The first thing you need to know, if you don’t already know it, is that I’m in the real estate business. I’m one of the owners of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, one of the largest real estate companies in New York City’s northern suburbs.  It’s a family company, started by my mother Marsha about 25 years ago, and now owned by Marsha, me, and two of my brothers (Greg and Matt).  In fact, the reason I’m moving from the city is that I’ve been commuting to our offices for the past 9 years, and I’m finally tired of it. As much as I love living in the city, when you work 10 hours a day and commute for 2, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to enjoy what the city has to offer.

So in moving to the suburbs, I was really going home.  Going home to the area that I grew up in, that I lived in until I went off to Georgetown for college and law school. And going home to the area where I’ve worked — IN REAL ESTATE — every day for the past nine years.  (Okay, not exactly every day, or even every work day, since I took any excuse to stay in the city and work from home whenever I could).

The second thing you need to know is that I was pretty much locked into Rockland County, the smallest county in New York, on the Western side of the Tappan Zee bridge.  It’s where most of my family lives, where our headquarters is, and where I’m most familiar.  In retrospect, I probably could have spent more time looking in Westchester, but the types of places I wanted were a little out of my budget in Westchester.

All that is by way of saying that I had a bit of an advantage in buying in the suburbs: I knew the area, knew local real estate, and had about 800 agents that would help me buy a home if I asked. My mother is a Realtor, my brothers are all Realtors, I’m a Realtor, and my wife is a Realtor.

And it was still a pain in the ass.  Physician, heal thyself.  No matter how much you know about real estate, it’s still tough buying a house for yourself.

We had certain ideas about what we wanted.  We wanted to be within 30 minutes of Manhattan, since my wife will still be commuting to her job in the city.  And we wanted something interesting.  If that seems vague, it’s because it is.  We really just wanted some sort of home that would be distinctive, that when we brought people out from the city they would nod their heads and say, “ahh, I can see why you moved from your place in the city.

So what were the kinds of things we thought were “interesting”:

  • We loved this house on a cliff in Upper Grandview, this great architecturally interesting house with amazing panoramic views of the Hudson River.  We went to see it about eight or nine times, driving my friend and colleague Margo Bohlin, the top agent in our company and the region, crazy. But ultimately, our friends with kids, knowing that we’d like to have kids someday, explained the fundamental concerns about owning a home on a cliff.
  • I loved a house in Valley Cottage, this big giant huge enormous house with 10,000 square feet, 25 acres, a pool, and a full basement that I would have turned into essentially a commercial pub complete with the DirecTV football package. I loved it, but my wife was concerned with moving into a house on the top of a mountain, surrounded by 25 empty acres, in an area where she knows no one except me.  She thought it would be isolating.
  • My wife loved this house in Sparkill that was big, comfy, beautifully done up, and only about 15 minutes from the GW Bridge.  I liked the house too, particularly that it was about 5 minutes from a private golf course I play on, but didn’t love the lot. Or the price.

We saw lots of other houses, most of them nice but not interesting, or interesting but not practical.

Then something funny happened.  We had looked exclusively at houses, houses on big lots. Then my mother, who has had a real estate license for about 35 years and was known as an absolutely killer buyer agent before she opened up her own brokerage, suggested we look at this condo in Nyack.  Nyack is this charming old village on the Hudson River, the one really walkable community in Rockland County. It’s got restaurants, bars, shops, all in a very small compact area.  People sometimes say it’s “city-like,” but that’s not it.  What it mostly reminds me of is my old neighborhood in Noe Valley, San Francisco — charming, cute old buildings, a strong but small commercial district, and a couple of hills.

We hadn’t really looked in Nyack, mostly because the houses were outside our price range.  But my mother knew about this condo in a complex right on the water, two blocks from the Nyack downtown. It had been on the market for three or four years, chasing the market down on price for most of that time.  It also had a lot of trouble selling because (1) the taxes are outrageous (I’m not even going to tell you what they are, and (2) the place was done up a bit in a very specific style, which a lot of people can’t see through.  So it had been on the market for a while.

A condo, but 4,000 square feet, four or five bedrooms, and unbelievable views of the river. With a lot of great touches: three refrigerators, two giant wine fridges, six or seven terraces, high end sound system, etc.
I was resistant to looking at a condo at first, but she made me go look at it.  And when I saw it, I realized that it was the right place for us.  My wife was concerned about moving to an area where she didn’t know anyone, so moving into a condo complex with other people, and two blocks from the one true downtown in Rockland, made sense.  We both wanted something interesting, and what’s more interesting than the biggest and coolest condo in the region.  Plus, I don’t need to learn how to cut grass.

So we made our offer, worked it out, and got into contract. Closed yesterday. It’s ours.

Our first night in the place, there was a massive thunderstorm that came through the Hudson Valley.  We stood at the windows with the lights out drinking wine watching the lightning strike the Hudson River, outlining the Tappan Zee Bridge in silhouette.  Very cool.

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Return from Exile: Methdadone Weekend Review

So we move out of the city on Tuesday, take Wednesday off, and then we’re back on Thursday staying at the Soho Grand for my wife’s birthday weekend.

And it was interesting.  We got a room in a completely different section of the city, down  at the bottom of Soho near canal.  It was a great opportunity to see the city from a different perspective. I forgot how much I like Soho, where I haven’t really spent time in the past few years.  It’s a very “Manhattanish” neighborhood, if that makes any sense. (And I got to check out the new High Line Park in Chelsea on the far west side, yet another way Manhattan is taunting me as I move away.)

Sadly, you can take the couple of the Upper West Side, but you can’t take the Upper West Side out of the couple.  Between a doctor’s appointment, an event at the Met, her birthday dinner, some lingering work appointments, and a party at the rooftop of the Empire Hotel, we made no fewer than six cab rides from Soho to the west side above 42d street.  I’ve spent years and years in cabs going from my uncool uptown neighborhood to downtown parties and events, so I finally become a downtown person (for a weekend) and end up spending the whole weekend handing cabbies twenties and getting back change.  I want to thank my friend Mike for waiting 15 years to throw a party on the UWS, waiting it out until the first weekend I no longer lived there.

The weekend does show the way for a recovering Manhattanite to come to a soft landing. This was a splash out weekend, for her birthday, but it is entirely possible to find a reasonably (for Manhattan) priced room, cobble together a series of things to events (hopefully that don’t require cross-island cab rides) , and have a Manhattan weekend now and then to recharge those batteries. I think the problem a lot of Manhattan exiles have is that they promise they’ll come back to the city, but let themselves sink into a suburban stupor of easy evenings at the local restaurant and an early movie rather than a 45 minute trip over a bridge and to a $60 parking garage.  I know that’s what we went through in our trial exile in 2005 when we were doing renovations, so I hope that we keep this commitment to come into the city regularly to keep that part of ourselves connected.

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The Sad Realization of a 41 Year Old Man Living with His Parents

It just occurred to me that I’m a 41 year-old man living with my parents.

The fact that this is only temporary while I wait to close on my new home in Nyack is small solace. Mom made dinner the other night, Dad took me to go play golf. I feel like I’m 14.

Although that makes sleeping with my wife at night strangely salacious.

Everyone should move now and then.

Moving is a good thing. It’s like a re-boot, an opportunity to wipe off the slate and start from scratch. The best part was cleaning out what we called our “utility drawers,” which really were just places to stash random crap that we didn’t have an immediate use for. Found lots of interesting stuff there:

  • Many, many types of tapes, including the “original lost roll of tape” and many “replacement rolls of tape when the original roll of tape got lost.”
  • Same for batteries, lots of batteries.
  • Enough spare change to probably buy a couple of sandwiches from Lenny’s.
  • Menus from closed restaurants.
  • Proof of car insurance, something that was supposed to be in my car when I got pulled over by suburban cops a few months ago, and would have saved me about $100 of tickets and a few hours of my life.
  • Ipod headsets.
  • Phone charger cords, many many cords.

You get the point.  Moving gives you a chance — an expensive, time-consuming, debilitating chance — to clear out the detritius of your life and start from scratch. I don’t recommend it unless you’re actually going to a new home, though.

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