Thoughts on the New “Quasi-Urban Suburbia” — What Do “Millennials,” “Young Professionals,” and “Empty-Nesters” All Have in Common?

It’s funny.  When I started writing this blog about my experiences moving from the city to the suburbs about seven (!) years ago, I thought my desire to retain a certain urban sensibility was unusual.

After all, I’d seen my city friends leave for the glories of suburbia, one after another, without ever apparently looking back.  So I sort of thought that my desire to maintain a walkable, urbanist lifestyle, my own “SUMA,” was unique, almost quixotic.

But either I just wasn’t tuned in to the world around me, or I was a bit ahead of my time.  Because now I keep reading how developers are trying to build multi-use, multi-family suburban communities that retain a certain urban sensibility.  Here’s an article from this week in the Times by Marcela Susan Fischler:

Some suburbs around New York City are becoming decidedly less suburban, as new apartment buildings and condominium communities close to mass transithelp expand the downtowns of these villages and towns. Multifamily housing is also popping up near highways and main thoroughfares.

Young professionals seeking more space than they can afford in Manhattan or Brooklyn, empty nesters looking to downsize and leave the snow shoveling to others and, to a lesser extent, millennials moving out of their parents’ basements are leading the charge to a more urbanized suburbia.

What’s interesting is not just that people are looking for that urban experience in the suburbs, but the TYPES of people looking for it.  As the Times notes, it’s not just millennials who are loathe to give up the urban lifestyle — we’re also seeing the appeal to “young professionals” and “empty-nesters.”

Now, of course, one of my main themes in this blog is that NO ONE who lives in a city  ever WANTS to move to the traditional suburbs, any more than people WANT to buy a minivan.  It’s a choice borne out of circumstance (or even desperation) when you have kids and you simply have to accept that you have to give up the urban amenities for a more child-friendly lifestyle.

That is, think about what “millennials,” “young professionals,” and “empty-nesters” all mostly have in common — NO KIDS. And that makes sense. If it’s just you, or you and your new spouse, or you and the spouse you’ve had for a while, then a two-bedroom with no back yard but with a short walk to trains and downtown makes a lot of sense.  Once you have a couple of kids, though, and that second kid is sleeping in a closet, and they’re driving you ABSOLUTELY FREAKING CRAZY when you’re cooped up with them all day, then you’re going to want a bigger place.  Go break things outside for a while, kids!

So what’s my point? That there are limits to this new urbanist suburbia, and that it’s not a replacement for the traditional suburbia, at least not for the vast majority of people who decide to move (however reluctantly) to the suburbs in the first place. And as much as I absolutely love that developers are responding to urban exiles who want to retain at least some of that lifestyle, I don’t think it means the end to the traditional suburb.

Anyway, tradeoffs do not have to be absolute.  I gave up my 2,000 square foot apartment on the Upper West when my wife and I decided to have kids, but I’ve retained at least a semblance of my former life by finding a place that’s a seven-minute easy walk to the downtown of Nyack.  I don’t have the full suburban experience of a one-acre lot and all that, but I’ve got a backyard and a small pool.  And I’m surrounded by people with that same sensibility, who are willing to take that same “half-step” of moving to the suburbs, getting the bigger house, but keeping just a touch of that walkable urban sensibility.

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.

How Do You Buy Fancy Art When You Know Nothing About Art?

As I’ve said before, I know nothing about art.  Seriously. I can name maybe like five famous artists, all of them long dead, and mostly what I know is that one of them cut his ear off or something, which I have to say is pretty badass.  I know that there’s something called “cubism” and something else called “impressionism,” and have a general sense that it’s not really art if it’s painted on velvet.

That said, as part of this whole growing up process that I’m going through, with the whole move to the suburbs and all, I’ve started to become more interesting in getting pretty things to put on my walls. I have a lot more walls than I used to have, so I need to cover them with something, and I’m a little past the age when I can get by with the same cheap prints I’ve been lugging around since college.

So in the same way that we committed to having an actual professional help decorate our home, we’ve actually found someone to help us buy real art to fill up those walls. We met this lovely woman named Heather Flow who happens to be a private art buyer — someone who advises you about buying art, and collects a commission when you buy something, a fee that, just like with interior decorators, is supposed to be offset by what you can save buying through her.

It seems absolutely crazy that I actually have an “art buyer.”  Even writing the words makes me feel a little squishy.  But as hopeless as I was with interior design, I was practically [editor note: insert name of famous interior designer] compared to my capacity for buying art.  So she has been absolutely indispensible.

And it kind of turns out to be a fun and interesting process. She took us out to look at a lot of galleries, places that in all the years I lived in Manhattan I never visited.  Apparently, that’s where they sell the art.  Who knew?   I never actually went to those places, partly because I didn’t have money to buy any real art and partly because I was little intimidated by the whole concept, sure that I’d be immediately dismissed by some snooty gallery wisp in that whole “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” way.

So she arranges for us to go visit, asks us what we like and don’t like, and has helped narrow down our tastes to guide us to something that won’t embarrass us when it’s hanging on our walls.  So we’ve come to realize that we like abstract art, don’t like things like videos of eyeballs (which was one of the options, apparently), and like a lot of color.  Again, who knew?

By no means are we jumping into this with any type of real budget. I get the sense that Heather has far more sophisticated clients in far higher price ranges.  But even at our relatively modest level, we’ve had some interesting experiences.

The best part is that the gallery owners don’t know what pikers we really are, because we’re with Heather, so they don’t treat us like some slobs when we come through the gallery.  For all they know, we’re internet millionaires or something. And, to be fair, the idea that gallery owners treat people like slobs is almost certainly something a fiction I’ve created inside my own head, not an actual reflection of reality. They certainly seem like nice people.

 And we’ve even started looking on our own — and in the suburbs, no less.  A few weeks ago, we went over to Armonk, in Westchester County, for the Armonk Outdoor Art Show.  The show is part of a circuit that various types of artists hit during the year, setting up booths to display their stuff.  So now that we had a little bit of edumacation from Heather about what to look for, we actually had a good time hitting up the booths and actually, amazingly, appreciating the art.
So let’s just chalk one up for the kid, shall we?  All these years of living in Manhattan, and now that he’s living in the suburbs, he’s finally developing an appreciation for art.

The SUMA Life: Our First Party, Superbowl 2010

I love Super Bowl parties.  As a sports fan, I recognize that the Super Bowl is way overhyped as a sporting event, and that some real sports fans hate Super Bowl parties because they take away from the actual game, but I love them.  I love the wagering, the chicken wings, the commercials, the whole thing.

So I’ve had Super Bowl parties at my place virtually every year for the past decade or so.  I can’t remember what year I started doing it, but it was largely because I got tired of casting about for a place to watch the game and just decided it would be better to bring the party to me.  And when we rebuilt our apartment so that we had a lot more space, along with a rooftop penthouse room with a flatscreen and outdoor space, the parties just got bigger, to the point that it became an annual bacchanal with probably 40-50 people.

So when I moved to the suburbs, I was adamant that I would continue to have the party, particularly because my new condo is an even better venue, particularly with a 90 inch projection tv in the family room.  I also realized that I could set up a secondary projector through Slingbox and broadcast the game in the living room, which for some ungodly reason has no actual TV, which would give me another 75 or so inches of gorgeous TV football goodness.

That said, I had two big problems.  First, I didn’t actually have the projector installed yet.  The people who sold us the condo had put in a state-of-the-art audio visual system in the condo, but it was state0of-the-art circa 2002.  And if you’ve been paying attention for the past decade or so, that state has changed just a little bit in that time.  So the projector they installed was the size of a suitcase, and probably cost as much when they bought it as a suitcase filled with gold bars, but it was completely inadequate for my needs.  And, of course, as a devoted procrastinator, I didn’t get around to actually figuring out how to replace it until about two weeks before the Super Bowl, which ultimately necessitated an enormously rushed and expensive job to get a new one installed and set up to work on the ridiculously elaborate system that’s set up in the condo.  But we did it.

The second problem was, of course, that no one who came to my old Super Bowl party in the city particularly wanted to come to my new Super Bowl party in the suburbs.  Getting people to leave the city to visit you in the suburbs is hard enough, getting them to leave the city on a Sunday when they can watch the Super Bowl at a million good bars is even harder.  So I did everything I could to make it easy, luring them with promises of homemade lasagna (promise fulfilled) and homemade ice cream (sadly, promise broken), and arranging for pickups at the Tarrytown train station so they could get an easy back and forth.

Amazingly, I got a good crew coming out from the city.  More interestingly, I was surprised to realize just how many of my annual Super Bowl party crew has actually moved out of the city in the past few years. It never occurred to me when I held the party in the city how many people were driving into it.  So maybe half the people who were habitual invitees actually had an easier trip than they used to have.  Which was great.

It’s one of the things that sneaks up on you.  When you leave the city, you think you’re leaving all your friends behind.  But your friends are getting older too, and what you find is that a lot of them are already gone, or on their way.

So our first suburban party was a pretty good success.  The one great wrinkle we had this year was that we made up a board with those boxes (the ones where people put in a few bucks to buy a box, and then you assign numbers for the team scores for each quarter) on one of the walls in the living room.  We haven’t painted the place yet, so I got a special dispensation from the wife to make up the board on the actual wall, using tape to mark off the boxes and giving everyone a piece of paper so they could stick it right on the wall.  Much better than cardboard!

Suburban Rite of Passage: Shopping at Marchalle’s

I have never been a big clothes horse.  At least, compared to what you see in the rarified air of Manhattan, where even straight men do things like get bespoke suits (a term I only even learned a few years ago), and read GQ, and actually, you know, have a sense of fashion.  I don’t keep track of whether my lapels are supposed to be wide or narrow, or what kind of vents I’m supposed to have in my suits, or, frankly, what vents actually are.

Essentially, the extent of my fashion knowledge boils down to some basic points that I’ve gathered over the years:

  • Three button suits, which were really in a few years ago, are not so in.
  • Double-breasted suits, which haven’t been in for a while, are still not in.
  • Pleats go with cuffed pants, flat fronts with no cuffs (I think).
  • In casual wear, don’t tuck your shirt on (it took me a long time to grasp this).

My only real fashion principle is that I throw out my ties every few years, sometimes if only because of the tomato sauce stains that end up on the ones I have.  But I also know that the fashion police have realized that ties are the one relatively affordable item that even fashionphobics like me will bother to replace periodically, and so they reinforce that impulse by making ties the one “fashion statement” that even schlubs like me can grasp and follow.  So ties get fat, then they get skinny, then paisley is in, then paisley is out, etc.  That’s why when you watch a late-90s sitcom like Frasier, where all the characters were ostensibly fashion plates, you see Frasier and Niles wearing dark shirts or those goofy ties, and realize just how old the show is.  Essentially, replacing your ties is a lot cheaper than replacing your suits, so the fashionistas change tie styles often enough to at least force the schlubby to go shopping every few years.

So the general point?  I’m not a big fashion guy.  That said, I’ve always had at least some degree of “Manhattan fashion sense,” which basically boils down to having a lot of black clothes.  Now that I’m in the suburbs, though, I’ve started to notice a change.  Less black, more jeans, more super-casual wear.

It’s a slow change, but it’s starting to happen. I can feel my impulse to put on dressy clothes when we go out ebbing, as I realize that I’m very overdressed for the crowd at the local restaurant or even at a bar or something.  What passes for normal on the upper west side, or even the lower east side, seems like pretension in the local Nyack eateries.

Thus, it was with some degree of fascination mixed with revulsion mixed with anticipation that I stepped into Marshalls for the first time.  Marshalls, the epitome of the suburban “place to buy clothes where you don’t really care what you look like anymore” mall store.  Or, as we call it in the suburbs, “Marchalles,” with a frenchified accent.

And, you know what?  Not so bad!  Lots of ridiculously cheap stuff that is clearly not “trendy,” but reasonable looking and ridiculously cheap and, have mentioned, ridiculously cheap.  I’m not going to buy a suit there, I haven’t fallen over that cliff (at least not yet), but got a couple of pairs of jeans (one fashion principle I refuse to accept is the idea that, one pair of jeans is different from another pair of jeans), a bunch of very discounted “Life is Good” t-shirts that I wear around the house or theoretically if I ever go to the gym, and some socks. Socks are socks.  These ones were socks like other socks, but cheaper.

From a SUMA perspective, here’s the way to think about Marshalls. If someone opened a “remaindered” shop somewhere in Dumbo, or in some burned out storefront on the lower east side, and didn’t put a sign out, and spread the word through Twitter or whatever about the amazing deals you could get on cheap jeans and tshirts and stuff like that, all the trendies would flock to it in that “semi-ironic so we don’t admit that we’re doing something uncool but really in our hearts we know that we’re being ridiculous” way.  They’d all be telling their friends about this super-great discount store that popped up, and they’d be staggering out laden with all sorts of cheap booty that they’d wear ironically.  Take out the burnt-out storefront, and the underground viral whispering campaign, and replace it with a big airconditioned supermarket clothing store filled with suburban housewives, and that’s Marshalls.  Same stuff, just a different attitude.

So Marshalls is okay in my book.  I just have to squint a little to blur out what it is I am actually doing, and keep repeating a mantra to myself that an $8 tshirt that I’ll wear about 100 times in the next few years is a great buy.  Fingers crossed, though, that I never get to the point that I’m buying my suits there……


The SUMA Life: Finding Dim Sum in the Suburbs

The whole idea of building a “SUMA life” in the suburbs is to try to find ways to recreate and fashion an urban experience in the suburban environment, in what is probably ultimately a failed attempt to retain some semblance of the life you lived before you exiled yourself.  It’s not easy.  But it’s not supposed to be easy.  The whole point of living in the city is that you can have experiences that you simply can’t replicate when you live in the suburbs.  But as with many things, there is heroism in the attempt.

With that in mind, we wanted to try to find a place to get dim sum — the “Chinese brunch” experience that you can get in like a dozen places in Chinatown and, I would guess, in other urban Chinatowns, and, I would also guess, in, you know, China.  My wife is a Chinese-American, so dim sum became a pretty regular staple of our weekends. Most weeks, we’d just order dim sum-like appetizers from our local Chinese place, but that’s not the same.  Dim sum isn’t about the food, it’s about the experience, which requires certain atmospherics:

  • First, you need a huge warehouse-like space with a ton of people sitting, often community-style, about big tables.  You can’t get real dim sum in some fancy upscale Asian fusion restaurant.
  • Second, you need the carts, those metal monstrosities being wheeled around with all the little plates on them.  You can’t get real dim sum by ordering from a menu. Flagging down a cart, getting a plate, and then having the waitstaff stamp your “card” with some totally incomprehensible mark that eventually determines how much you’ll pay is part of the fun.
  • Third, you need a lot of food that the white people like me won’t ever eat. It’s not real dim sum if you don’t see stuff like bird’s feet or pig’s knuckles (or bird knuckles and pig’s feet, I can’t remember which) that isn’t, in my opinion, actual food, but which real Chinese people like.  (Indeed, one of the things I’ve learned about marrying into a Chinese-American family is that the greatest delicacies are precisely the foods that are most inedible, something I have learned at many Chinese wedding banquets where the only thing I could eat was the plain lo mein noodles served at the end like a palate cleanser).
  • Fourth, you need actual Chinese people eating there.  You go to Chinatown, you can tell that you’re getting authentic dim sum because there are a lot of Chinese people there. I’m not racially profiling, or whatever, I’m just pointing out that you can take certain comforts in knowing that you’re not in some tourist trap, and that the food must be good, or at least authentic, if you see them there.

All that said, I didn’t have high hopes for finding dim sum in the suburbs.  I can’t even get good everyday Chinese food like vegetable lo mein in the suburbs, much less a lip-smacking plate of bird feet.  It’s not like I’m going to eat the bird feet, but I like knowing that it’s there.

Against all odds, though, we found a place.  A simple Google search turned up an actual Chinese restaurant in Westchester called Central Seafood that’s about 20 minutes away and had some reviews mentioning the dim sum.   So we went, and it was perfect — big rooms, round tables, lots of Chinese people, food I wouldn’t possibly ever eat.  Not quite the Manhattan experience, but with some advantages like, you know, parking, and cleaner rest rooms (don’t ever go to the bathroom in Chinatown.  Ever).

So we found a small piece of SUMA, a place to get our dim sum fix  once a month, with the bonus that it’s very close to a great dog run where we can take the dog.  Although, obviously, we won’t bring the dog to the restaurant, both for the health code issue and, you know, (stipulate to a Chinese people eating dog joke).

UPDATE: We have since found another place called Aberdeen in White Plains that we haven’t tried yet.

Another street fair?

I will say this about Nyack. These people love their street fairs. We’ve been here two months, and this weekend is literally the third or fourth street fair since we got here, not including the relatively lackluster parade I wrote about a few months ago. And that’s not counting the big Halloween parade coming up. (If you’re curious, my company puts out a list of suburban events here.)

These are fun. Indeed, the street fairs in Nyack are like a million times better than the ubiquitous street fairs in the city. It seems like every weekend from April through September, some area of Manhattan is enduring a street fair that’s really an excuse for half-assed vendors to sell bonsai trees, sausage and peppers, corn arepas, and socks. When you first come to Manhattan, you love them because of the novelty of walking down the middle of an avenue without dodging cars. But eventually you realize that (a) the merchandise stinks, (b) the merchandise is the same at EVERY street fair, and (c) you have to walk four blocks out of your way to get a cab, because all the blocks are closed off. It’s annoying.

The Nyack street fairs are a lot more integrated into the merchant community. There are a few generic vendors, but a lot of booths are localized, including the food. Much more fun.

This weekend is antiques. Since we’ve moved from 2000 square feet to 4,000 square feet, we have a lot of empty space. Off to check it out.

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Date Night in Nyack

Last night was our first “date night” in the suburbs. We’re still living with my parents while we wait to close on our new place (that’s a whole different post), so we’re not yet really “living” here yet. More like an extended vacation. But we decided to go out Friday night to our new neighborhood in Nyack, one of the classic “rivertowns” in the Hudson Valley, on the Rockland County side. Right on the water near the entrance to the Tappan Zee Bridge. A great little town, lots of restaurants and bars and antique shops and stuff like that.

So we drove down, actually got a parking spot on the street, and went to LuShane’s for dinner. As is the new custom, we of course ran into someone I know from working in the area for the past eight years. My wife is a little concerned that we can’t go anywhere in our new neighborhood without running into someone who knows me (I grew up here, too,) my mom (lived here like 30 years and started a business here), and my dad (doctor at Nyack Hospital for years). We have sort of lost the anonymity of Manhattan, where we lived 15 years but never, ever, ran into anyone we knew in the neighborhood — even the other people who lived in the neighborhood with us.

Dinner was good.  Great little place (we’d been there before) with a lot of atmosphere: old-fashioned tile floors, copper bar, tin ceiling.  Appetizers were great (short ribs were fantastic), entrees were okay (her fish was cold, my pasta was a little bland).  A little pricey ($100 with tip, no alcohol), but great service and generally tasty.  Would go back.  We were going to get ice cream at Temptations, a cute ice cream shop on Main Street, afterwards, but it was hugely crowded. Indeed, the wait outside Temptations kind of reminded me why I like Nyack — it has a little bit of a feel of one of those Jersey short or Hamptons summer towns, with a small but vibrant town center that is filled with locals on weekends, even though it’s a year-round residence.

Afterwards, it was off to the Palisades Mall for a movie — big giant mall, big giant movie theater, classic suburban experience.  The one lowlight of the trip was finding out that the Fox Sports Grill has closed there, so I don’t know where I’m going to get my Sunday football ten-games-at-a-time fix this fall.  Working on it.

Concerts in Suma

So last night we went to go see Fountains of Wayne at the Tarrytown Music Hall, probably the first live concert I’ve gone to in the past year. So why did it take me moving to the suburbs to go see live music. I have two theories.

First, less competition for tickets. If you try to go to a concert in the city, you pretty much have to be on top of the announcement if you want to get tickets. You can’t wait a few weeks after tickets come on sale and then pop onto ticketmaster or whatever to pick them up. I tried to see FoW at Joe’s Pub a few months ago when I saw an announcement on Facebook, and they were all sold out. Probably sold out the day they were put on sale. Just so many people in the city competing for scarce tickets. In contrast, I found out about the FoW concert about two weeks before it happened, went onto the Tarrytown Music Hall website, and got pretty good seats that day. There were still seats available the night of the show.

Second, and this is more psychological, is the overwhelming aspect of Manhattan — there’s always so much to do, so many places to go, that sometimes you shut down. A few years ago, I basically gave up on trying to stay on top of the restaurant/club/lounge scene, since it was becoming a full time job. And with all the various places to go see live music, it’s impossible to keep track of everything that’s happening to the point that you just stop trying. So there was a little of that.

In contrast, there’s not, ummm, quite so much to do out in the Hudson Valley, so it’s (a) easier to keep track of, and (b) easier to lock the relatively few events as appointments — sort of like “must see TV”.

Anyway, the concert was great.   One observation — a very different crowd from the one you’d see at Joe’s Pub.  Lots of people in their 50s, and lots of teenagers. I don’t know if that’s subscription based (i.e., people who live in the area might get subscriptions to see all the shows at the Music Hall), since the crowd seemed to know the band.  We’ll see if that holds up on other shows.

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Why am I leaving Manhattan for the suburbs– I un-heart NYC???

Someone pointed me to two articles in the Sunday Post, asking if I was leaving because I am bearish on Manhattan, the real estate, or the general economy.  The first is a Post review of an economic report saying that New York is dead last in something called “economic outlook.” The Post calls it non-partisan, but it was written by the guy who created supply-side economics, so I think it’s probably got a viewpoint.

The second one is by Peggy Noonan, predicting a downsized world, where people forego cable and the internet and raise pigs and some such stuff.

And then the Post profiles a bunch of people who are leaving Manhattan to go to parts far away.  Places like Minnesota and West Virginia. 

Okay, let me make this clear. That’s not me. 

I’m not moving to West Virginia.

I’m not going to raise pigs.

More importantly, I’m not down on Manhattan.  Far from it.  I hate leaving.  Yes, I think that Manhattan real estate is probably going to go down in value for a period of time, although I priced my home to get it sold so I think my buyer got a pretty good deal. But that’s not why I’m leaving.

I’m leaving because I work out in the suburbs, and I’ve been commuting out there for seven years, and it’s finally gotten to me.  Plus, the stairs.  The damned stairs.  More about the stairs another time.

But I love Manhattan. And if it becomes a little more affordable for people, I think that’s a good thing.