Reasons Why You’ll Love Living in the Suburbs: Because the bedrooms are actually, you know, bedrooms.

You know why you’ll love living in the suburbs?  Because the bedrooms are actually bedrooms.

If you live in the city, you know what I’m talking about, right?  That “two-bedroom” apartment where they carved up the living room, or put a wall down the middle of one bedroom? You ever live in one of those?  It’s really great if you don’t mind being able to hear EVERYTHING GOING ON IN THE OTHER ROOM.

How do you know when you’re dealing with a fake city bedroom?

  • The bedroom doesn’t have a closet.
  • The bedroom IS the closet.  It’s a bad sign if you can still see the imprint of the brackets for the closet rods.
  • The bedroom doesn’t have a window.  Bedrooms without windows are more properly called “cells.”

On the other hand, it’s also a bad sign if your “two-bedroom” apartment doesn’t have an actual living room.  As in, it’s two bedrooms and a kitchen.  Builders don’t make a lot of apartments like that, so it’s a pretty good sign that your second bedroom is actually the living room.

But it’s not just the fake bedrooms.  You can’t believe anything you read in a Manhattan apartment listing.  Take square footage estimations. Anytime you see square footage listed, just modify it by about 25%. If the apartment is listed at 800 square feet, it’s really 600 square feet.  And the one listed at 600 square feet is really 450 square feet.  If you took out a tape measure, you wouldn’t get to 600 square feet unless you counted the walls.

But the system works, if only because everyone has internalized the inflation.  You go see a “1,000 square foot” apartment that is really 800 square feet, and you marvel at how roomy it is compared to the “800 square foot” apartment that is really 600 square feet.  And once everyone has bought into the “Manhattan Modifier,” you can’t really opt out  If a broker listed apartments at their actual square footage, everyone would complain that they were overpriced.

For example, when we rehabbed our Manhattan place a few years ago, we ended up with about 2,000 square feet.  That was actual square feet.  We had the floor plans and everything to prove it.  So when we sold it, we advertised it as 2,000 square feet, and everyone who came to look at it said they were amazed at how roomy it was.  Why?  BECAUSE IT WAS ACTUALLY 2,000 SQUARE FEET.  If we’d used the “Manhattan Modifier,” we’d have advertised it as 2,500 square feet, and people would have said, “hey, this is so much roomier than that 2,000 square foot apartment we saw yesterday!”

You don’t have that problem in the suburbs.  You don’t have to carve up your bedrooms, because you already have four or five of them.  You don’t have to lie about the square footage, because you have enough space already.

And that’s also why city people are so amazed by the size of suburban homes.  We tell them we live in, say, 3,000 square feet, and they come thinking that it’s a “Manhattan” 3,000 square feet.  So then they’re shocked by how big it is, because it’s ACTUALLY 3,000 square feet.

Real bedrooms with closets and windows. True square footage.  Basically, space.  One of the reasons you’ll love living in the suburbs.

Reasons You’ll Love Living in the Suburbs: Your Life Becomes Much Less Garbage-Intensive

I miss a lot of things about living in the city.  The energy of the streets.  The restaurants. The take out food.

But you know what I don’t miss? The garbage.

Garbage in the city is a nightmare.  First, there’s the smell.  Oh, Sweet Jesus, that smell.  I forgot all about that smell until I spent a night in the city a few weeks ago.  Woke up bright and early to get some coffee, walked out of the midtown hotel, and it hit me.  The smell of 1.6 million people crammed into about three square miles, of dumpsters in alleys, of overflowing garbage cans on ever corner, of storekeepers with dirty mops splashing water around on the pavement, doing nothing more than just re-animating the stink. It’s everywhere, and when you live in the city, you just kind of get used to it, the way you get used to the noise and the crowds and everything else that comes from urban living.  But, boy, if you’ve been away for a while, it’s like a slap in the face. A big smelly slap.

And it’s not just the garbage on the streets.  Dealing with garbage in your home is one of the worst parts of living in the city.  As usual, it’s all about the small spaces.  When you live in 700, or 1,000, or even 2,000 square feet, every inch of your home is precious.  So it’s just simply appalling how much of that space gets given over to garbage.

To start with, you got your garbage can, sitting in the corner of your kitchen and blocking your access to your cabinets.  And if that’s not bad enough, you’ve got ANOTHER can for your recycleables, because God Forbid you mix bottles in with your more pedestrian garbage and kill all the dolphins, or whatever.  On top of that, you’ve got your pile of newspapers piling up in a corner.  All of that stuff, taking up your precious real estate.

But that’s not all, because at some point you end up with more garbage than can fit in the cans.  Alas, it’s not yet garbage pickup day, and you’re not allowed to just put your garbage out on the street any old time you want because that would be URBAN CHAOS, so you have to pull out the bag and store it on the floor for a few days, where various moist discarded products seep through that thin layer of polypropylene to add a little urban ambiance to your apartment.

So now you’ve got your garbage can, recycling can, a pile of newspapers, and a seeping bag of filthy garbage cluttering up your small apartment.  Think of how expensive that is.  Manhattan real estate is about $1,200 per square foot.  A standard garbage can is maybe 2’x2’, which is four square feet (disclaimer – not good at math).  So one  garbage can is worth about $4,800 in space.  Add another one for recycleables, and then a few feet for the pile of newspapers, and another spot for that decomposing bag of refuse in the corner, and you’re talking about over ten grand just to keep the garbage in your home.

But it doesn’t end there.  Bad enough you have all this garbage in your home, you now have to get it down to the street.  Now, maybe that’s not so bad if you live in an elevator building, or if you’re blessed with one of those garbage chutes.  I was lucky enough to live for two years in a garbage chute building, and I miss it to this day.  Walk down the hall, open the hatch, fling the garbage down, and listen for the clunkety-clunk-clunk as it careens down 15 flights.  Just awesome.  I loved throwing stuff down that chute. I looked for things to throw out just to hear what it would sound like when they hit bottom.

But for most of my years in the city, I lived in a walk-up.  Which is also a walk-down.  Which means walking down laden with garbage – the seeping bags, clanking bottles, the bundles of newspapers that I had to tie up with twine in one of the worst chores of my week.

Here’s how it typically went:

  • Come home after a long day.
  • Realize that the apartment was filled with garbage and that the pickup is the next morning.
  • Explain to wife that I’m too tired to carry it down, promising to do it first thing in the morning.
  • Wake up to the sound of the garbage truck pulling away from my building.
  • Run down in my boxers and sandals carrying fistfuls of garbage.
  • Chase truck down the street.
  • Throw garbage directly into truck.
  • Endure disapproving stares from sanitation workers.
  • Walk back to apartment.
  • Endure disapproving stares of neighbors.
  • Get back to apartment.
  • Realize I forgot my keys.
  • Buzz up to my wife to let me in.
  • More disapproving stares.

This happened a lot.

In fact, I remember one time that I promised to bring the garbage down in the morning, woke up too late, and rather than admit to the wife that I had failed in what is a fundamental husbandly duty, I pretended to take the garbage down when I left for the morning.  But since the truck had already come, I instead carried the garbage to the corner and stealthily dumped it into a public trash can, looking nervously around for the garbage cops to come take me away.  Walking away from that trash can, having gotten away with dumping my personal trash in the public can, I felt like I was one of Ocean’s Eleven. OUTLAW!

I rode that high all day.  Then I come home, and my wife immediately confronts me with, “Did you throw our garbage in the can on the corner?”  To this day, I don’t know how she caught me.  Women are sneaky.

So that’s another reason you’ll love living in the suburbs – your life becomes much less garbage intensive.  No more garbage cans cluttering up your limited space, because the spacious kitchens all have built in refuse cabinets.  No more garbage bags in your hallway, because everyone has garages with trash cans all your own where you can dump the bags, then joyfully roll them out to the street for pickup.

And, of course, no more garbage stink on the streets, the smell of teeming, anxious masses who partied too late and too hard. No, instead you smell…nothing.  Nothing bad, nothing particularly good, just the faint scent of, well, blandness — the distinctive fragrance of the suburbs.  But in this case, bland is a LOT better than the alternative……


Reasons You’ll Love Living in the Suburbs: The Pressure is Off!

One of the great things about living in the suburbs is that the pressure is off.  What pressure?  That unrelentingly guilty feeling that you’re always missing out on something, that you should be going to more concerts and theater and museums and clubs, and bars, and hot new restaurants.  That nagging voice in your head saying that if you’re living in the city you should be taking advantage of living in the city:

What?  You’re going to stay home and watch The Voice? What’s wrong with you?  Artcat just posted that a series of Sara Swaty portraits exploring gender identity and the body is opening this weekend at the Leslie-Lohman Museum!  The 37th Annual Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival is in previews on Theater Row!  And you’re going to watch TV?  What a plebian! What a vulgarian!

Sometimes, living in Manhattan can be mentally exhausting.  There’s just TOO MUCH to do, too many choices, too many decisions to make, and you’ll never get to everything.  Even if you go out every night, you’ll never even scrape the surface of all the shows you should be seeing, art you should be appreciating, food you should be trying.  Think of it this way — New York City has 24,000 restaurants.  Even if you eliminate the half of them that are the various warring Ray’s Pizza chains, that’s still 12,000 places to eat.  365 days a year, 3 meals a day, it would take you almost 12 years to try them all.  That’s a lot of miso-glazed cod.

Another example: right now, at this moment, there are about 25 shows playing on Broadway, and almost 60 off-broadway.  That’s 85 shows.  Go see one a day, and you might get through them in three months, at which time about a third of those shows will have closed and been replaced.  And that’s not even counting off-off-broadway.

It’s a cultural treadmill, and the guilt trip never ends.  Just pick up a copy of the Times, and you’ll see pictures of society events you never have the time to go to, reviews of restaurants you’ll never try, profiles of bands you’ll never hear.  And, even worse, it seems like EVERYONE ELSE is somehow finding the time to get more out of the city than you ever will.  You finally get out to a club, only to be told that you REALLY should go there on Tuesday nights.  Tuesday nights?  People go out Tuesday nights?  Seriously?  What do they do all day?

That’s what’s nice about the suburbs.  Yes, like everyone says, there’s not a lot to do.  But in a lot of ways, that’s a blessing.  Fewer choices, fewer decisions, easier to focus.  Rather than trying to stay afloat in an unrelenting cultural stream, you have to actually seek out opportunities for interesting theater, art openings, new restaurants.  They’re out there – even in the suburbs, there are some good restaurants and galleries and concert halls. Not as many, of course, but that’s the point.  Because the choices are fewer and further between, you don’t have that pressure to ALWAYS BE DOING SOMETHING.

So you get to give yourself a break.  It’s not your fault.  You’re living in the boring old suburbs!  So what else are you going to do but sit on your couch, put your feet up, and guiltlessly watch some lowbrow reality tv?

Reasons You’ll Love Living in the Suburbs: Cuter Vermin

One of the nicest things about living in the suburbs is that you get a better class of vermin.  In the city, you got your three basic types of vermin: rats, mice, and cockroaches.  They’re all horrible.  And no matter where you live, or how nice your place, you end up dealing with them at some point.

Rats, of course, are the worst, but unless you’re living in a hovel, you probably don’t have them in your home.  It’s just that they’re everywhere else, hiding out and just waiting until you’re staggering your way home after a long day at work or a long night of drinking, just biding their time until they JUMP OUT FROM BEHIND THE GARBAGE CANS GAHHHHHHHH.  Just the worst.  I’ve seen rats the size of cats, bigger than most dogs people have in the city, pacing around on the subway tracks, in alleys — they’re everywhere in the city.  Now, I guess we must have rats in the suburbs, too, but I just don’t see them as much.  I think rats like the city better.  They’re very sophisticated, those rats.

I had mice in my apartment, of course, pretty much every apartment I ever had in Manhattan. The only good thing about having mice was that I could pretend that I was their MOUSE GOD.  Like a real God, I had the power of life or death over them.  I could be a beneficent God, getting lazy and leaving food on a dirty plate in the sink, creating a bountiful harvest.  Or I could be a vengeful God, smiting them with the Plague of the Trays of Glue.  When you’re 25, living alone in the city, no money, working for The Man, you take your opportunities to be ALL-POWERFUL where you can get them.

But I wasn’t really cut out to be Mouse God.  I’m too much of a softie, definitely more of a New Testament Mouse God.  Mouse traps are horrible things.  Have you ever heard a mouse scream when he realizes that he’s stuck in a glue trap.  It’s a horrible sound.  And then what are you supposed to do with a glue trap that has a mouse stuck to it, the poor mouse terrified, struggling to get away, looking at his Mouse God and begging for mercy?  Horrible.  I never knew what to do — the kind thing would be to kill it quickly, but I don’t quite have it in me to take a hammer and beat a mouse to death with it.  And if you throw it away, you’re consigning that mouse to a miserable starvation death in the garbage.  No good option.

Now, cockroaches are a different story.  When I’m retired, I’ll happily take a part-time job hammering cockroaches to death, if someone was willing to pay me to do it.  DIE COCKROACH DIE.  No problems there. Very satisfying work.  I’d hammer away all day long.  So would you.  Nothing worse than coming home, turning on the light, and seeing a bunch of cockroaches scurrying away from your kitchen sink.  And then you also have those “water bugs,” which are giant mutant cockroaches that sneak into bathrooms.  Every time they did construction on our block, we’d get an infusion of those water bugs everywhere we had a faucet.

So if you were to ask me what I love about the suburbs, I’d have to say that I love the better class of vermin we have out here. Three years, I’ve yet to see a mouse, a rat, or a cockroach.  Instead, we have really cute vermin, like deer.  Seriously.  Deer.  That’s our biggest problem.  Because, you know, they eat stuff from the gardens.  Isn’t that awful!  And instead of rats, we have squirrels.  Cute little squirrels, big bushy tails, scampering joyfully from tree to tree, saving up those nuts for winter.  Awwwwwww.

Of course, once in a while, a bear comes down from the local state park and tries to eat us or our dogs.  That’s not good.  And one more reason why I live in a condo, because most bears have trouble navigating elevators.

But that’s unusual.  And, anyway, what’s worse — dealing with rats and mice and cockroaches in the city every single day, or taking a very small chance of someday getting eaten by a bear in the suburbs?

I thought so.