19 June 2007

End Of An Era

Seven and a half years ago, I was at my first college cast party. (As an assistant stage manager - it'd be almost another two years before anyone let me act.) It was at a senior's house. I knew enough people to not want to hide in the bathroom and cry, but as it was October and I was a frosh, and it was a joint party with another show, there were plenty of strangers. At one point I saw a blond boy in a black t-shirt (stage crew uniform!) sitting in a chair in the living room. I remember exactly where the chair was - one of those snapshot memories. I also remember thinking, hey, I could go talk to him, an oddly easy/confident thought for the situation and this girl, but I let it pass and went back to, I dunno, watching the seniors being awesome.

That winter, I production managed a show. In January, back early before classes to rehearse and build the set, I became friends with the stage manager, tech director, and random helper-girl. The random girl (who actually taught me a lot about production managing, mentor-like) is still one of best friends. For those of you playing along at home, the stage manager grew up to be James, my gay husband and roommate of four years (and obstinate not-reader of this blog). And yeah, he was that blond kid at the party. That story doesn't really have anything to do with anything, but I like telling it - possibly the only, and surely the best, instance of me reading a person. I put that particular two-and-two together some time around junior year, and was very impressed. That's some uncharacteristically correct intuition. Just seeing this kid at a party, I knew that he was someone I could be comfortable with, friends with, one-sidedly codependent with.

So James and I have been friends for seven years. We've lived together for four. (With a parade of weirdos playing third roommate every year. Currently Kate, of the IMs and no job.) We've jointly acquired silverware, artwork, and a pair of cats. But in just a couple of months, we'll be tearing the cats apart (from each other) and moving apart. Sniff.

In case you're of similar logical inclinations as my mother, I'll assure you - yes, everything's okay. And yes, we'll still be friends. (She actually asked that. He won't be rid of me that easily.) Kate might stop talking to us for breaking up the house, but she'll get over it. Or be buried so deep in Brooklyn that I'll forget about it anyway. It's really just that James can afford a nicer, singler apartment, and as an antisocial snob, what better than a pretty studio? He also, apparently, wants to permanently scar our cats by separating them. Evil bastard!

Anyway, I didn't mean for this to turn into a sentimental ode to the guy who's usually pretty mean to me and whose friendship might be lulling me into boyfriendless complacency. Basically, I'm gonna be moving out of my teeny but lovely and still underpriced apartment. (Rent increase, per person, for next year's lease? Thirty bucks.) And because I don't work in the lucrative world of whateverthehell James does, I don't expect to be able to stay on the UES. Or anywhere below 96th Street. So this is what will probably be the first of many similar appeals. Everyone I know lives in Astoria (or my apartment), but I don't think I want to live in Astoria. So I need your help. Do you live in:

  • Inwood?
  • Washington Heights?
  • West Harlem?
  • Somewhere Nice In Brooklyn Near A New York Sport Club And Where The Streets Are Never Eerily Deserted?

Then I want to hear from you. I mean, if you want to email me a treatise on the pros and cons of your nabe, then for real, go ahead. But as that's a lot of spontaneous helpfulness to ask, if you want to just let me know what lovely and affordable neighborhood you inhabit, then I'll harass you for details a little later. Over the next couple of months (between, y'know, producing two shows - sigh) I'll be taking field trips into promising neighborhoods. I'm going full-out control freak type-A here and planning the shit out of this. This Saturday, Allison (the helper-girl/PM-guru from freshman year) and I are hitting up Washington Heights. Then some playwrights are gonna show me around Inwood, and James' other woman might help me out with Warlem. But I want to hear from you! More voices! More perspectives! Okay. This post is already too long.


Adam said...

I love carroll gardens but am getting priced out a bit.

CrimeNotes said...

This is non-responsive to your question. Myself, I lived in big houses or apartments with lots of people for eight years. Huge houses with 10 people in college, smaller houses with 5 people in grad school, big apartment with a roommate when I first came to the city. Then I ended up on my own in a nice one-bedroom downtown. It seemed like the responsible and easier thing to do (it was) but ever since, I've really missed having lots of people around. I get stir-crazy. I wish that I'd never jumped off the roommate track. Now that I'm off, I don't think that I can get back on -- too much stuff (books, mostly) and like a spoiled only child, you get used to having your way all the time. Still, living alone < having roommates. It's not debilitating, but I still find it disorienting, like losing partial hearing in one ear.

In conclusion: You should find some new roommates, don't live alone uptown, and move to Park Slope.

Moxie said...

Like all the other lemmings, I just moved to Astoria and am enjoying it immensely. Can you explain why you don't want to be there, and maybe that would provide some insight into where you would be happiest?

Steven said...

Yeah, Jaime. Maybe you should just move to Astoria like all the cool kids. Don't you want to be cool? Huh?

Jaime said...

Crimenotes: I'm going to skip the fact that this is obviously a plea for me to be your roommate. (I think you'd get along with Kate better.) My reasons for wanting to live alone are similar to yours - it's the grown-up thing to do and a grown-up step I want to take, and I don't want to have to move/shuffle roommates every year. I've lived in the same apartment since graduating college, and I want my next place to be somewhere I live for a few years. I like that stability. I also think it might be good for me to live alone, and that living with roommates who aren't James might be too weird to handle. I'll admit, I haven't very thoroughly interrogated my gut instinct to live solo. Obviously. I think this decision was made, like four days ago. (Though, nb, I'm also going to be looking at share-type places with Kate, just not as choice one. But she is, despite a weird insistence that I always do my dishes, a fantastic roommate and I wish we could just stay where we are.) But just judging from your blogged antics, I think I'm more suited to living alone. I'm not a misanthrope like James, but I like some quiet, I like my own space, and I like singing really loudly and rather poorly. I might go insane after two months, but that'll be more about not living with a couple of specific people (James, and Kate) rather than the fact of living alone. There's also the neighborhood issue - Kate's more inclined to Brooklyn than I am, but that brings me to Moxie's question...

Moxie: Like Crimenotes, you've caught me making all sorts of unsubstantiated decisions. It's totally a gut feeling about Astoria. It just doesn't feel right for me. I've lived on the (far) UES for the last three years, and I really like that, while not midtown, it feels like the city. It might be building height. It might be something else. (I keep trying to figure out how this is something other than borough snobbery.) Here are my neighborhood criteria. Which I think Astoria technically fits:

-Grocery stores & drug stores. I don't like having to do all my foodshopping at bodegas. (Snob.)
-Walking distance to a NYSC, or other gym. (Obvs already considering breaking this for Inwood.)
-Does not get deserted at night. There are lots of perfectly lovely Brooklyn neighborhoods where I've been walking somewhere at, like, 10pm, and been the only pedestrian in sight. No good.

But then there's also the X factor, just whether or not something feels right. Again, criteria Astoria technically fits - I like less-hip neighborhoods, but theoretically and in practice. (I know this is silly, I like the idea of answering "Where do you live" with "West Harlem" better than "Park Slope.")

I still have a lot of exploring to do - hence this post - to find places I don't know that might feel like home. (Am I looking for places that feel like the home I have now? Maybe.) But Astoria just doesn't feel right. And although Astoria shares are cheap and spacious, someone who was recently looking for a one-bedroom or studio told me those are actually more expensive than in Upper Manhattan, so I can't afford it, anyway, and if we stay together, I know Kate doesn't want to go there.

Now I'm wondering if it's bad and small-minded that I might be looking for neighborhoods that feel like where I live now, or if it'll just make for a more comfortable transition... y'all are making me think too much. This is why I make gut decisions without evidence - once I start looking at why I drive myself insane. (Kidding. Keep the questions and input coming. This is good. And sort of like free therapy.)

Jaime said...

Steven: Only if you leave.

(I really hope this is the Steven I think it is.)

Susan said...

Been reading for a while, first time commenting. :) I live in Sunnyside, and absolutely love it. I have a feeling you might not like it, since it's really close to Astoria, although I think it has an entirely different feel. Alas, no NYSC, so I won't go further with pros and cons unless you ask for them. But consider it - it's close to the city, friendly, affordable, great eats.

Also, I'm all for living alone. I lived in my apartment alone for two years between roomates and boyfriend (now husband) moving in, and I'm so glad I did.

Rocco said...

I lived in Astoria for 3 years, and at first I loved it. But after a while it just turned into someplace I didn't want to be. I really don't know why. They even built a multiplex across the street from my apartment. I just needed to get out.

I have a lot of friends in Fort Greene, BK. Its really nice there.

Anonymous said...

this whole thing is so sentimental i'm inclined to retch. fuck this. fuck you guys. i'm not going anywhere.

Jaime said...

Kate: I love you, too.

Moxie said...

No, No, I feel ya. There is definitely something about Astoria having all the accoutrements of the suburbs that feels... well, suburban. The buildings are small and cute, we have a verizon store and a pathmark, and yes, Rocco, the multiplex! On the other hand, it's one of the few places in NYC that I've spent time where you can still go into the center of the neighborhood and hit the butcher, fish store, bakery, and produce market in one or two blocks, and spend $20 on a ton of groceries while supporting local business. And the restaurants are super. So I dig that kind of stuff. But as far as feeling like a part of the "real" city, it's the opposite, and feels to me more like a haven and escape from the madness. So that's my Astoria pitch.

Plus you're right about the pricing, though you can find the occasional rent-stabilized place that's waaay below market, if you have some time to do some sleuthing with a good broker.

I feel like Carroll Gardens or Park Slope might be a fit. I would say Washington Heights, but I think that might fall into the deserted late-night streets category.

CrimeNotes said...

No, you shouldn't live with me because I'm 1.) very rowdy, 2.) don't like theater and 3.) a stranger. I just don't recommend going it alone. It's overrated. It doesn't make you more adult, it just makes you bored more often.

anna said...

if i were moving back, i'd aim for the more polished side of prospect heights. i also dig fort greene - i don't know if it's actually where the cosby show was set, but it sure seems like it. however, i'm sure just about any neighborhood in brooklyn that you'd like is residential enough to get pretty quiet at night.

but i feel a lot safer and more comfortable there than i do in upper manhattan. oh, though i have a friend in a great spot in washington heights - wanna talk to her? and another who loves her place in harlem (though it's about a block from housing projects).

Tina-cious.com said...

So I'm guessing Fairfield, CT is too far...

Robert said...

Hi. So I found this blog because of the mention of Inwood/Wash Heights. I used to live in Astoria (19/Ditmars) and now live in WaHI (190/Ft. Wash). Wherever you go, you'll miss Astoria sometimes because Astoria is pretty much awesome aside from not-so-great access to the west side of Manhattan or anywhere in BK. WaHI, like anywhere else, has its ups and downs. I can't speak for Inwood since I've only visited a few times but I can tell you a little about the Heights.

First the good: WaHI has a ton of theatre people (as I'm sure you know) and you get a LOT for your money. I pay $100 less for an apartment 3x the size of the place I lived at in Astoria and my old place was pretty big for a 1Br. People are still afraid to live up there for some reason, which keeps rent cheap. There are some nice spots on Ft. Wash to eat/drink at as well. The A is fast when it's running express and gives you great access to the westside and everywhere from 14st below.

The downside is that there is nowhere near the amount of people and places up here that there are in Astoria. The part you'll feel safe in alone at night is small compared to Astoria (guessing here about your zone of comfort out there) and the park is more woodlands than fields. People are afraid to come that far uptown so getting people from other parts of the city over can be a chore (the first time - after that people like to come out).

riese said...

1. Do not live in Inwood. No one is ever happy with that decision.

2. Washington Heights can go either way.

3. I heart West Harlem.

4. I lived in W'Burg, there was no nearby NYSC, that was annoying.

Uptown Editor said...

I live in Harlem. I write about Harlem. Anything you want to know about Harlem you can probably find out about from my blog. Bonus: we happen to have a NYSC with two more on the way!