My friend Oliver and a few other people who check into this blog wondered where the hell I actually live, since my definition of “here” seems to change every couple of days. And sometimes it’s good to write down exactly where you are whilst writing these things; too often you reread an old diary from high school and it drones on about your solipsistic, hormone-addled crushes and half-baked musings on the meaning of existence when all you want to know is “where were you writing that, and what shirt were you wearing?”
So my geography lesson is this: I moved to the East Village in the summer of 2000 and worked at the Woolworth Building (see arrow) downtown. By the time September 11 happened (click here for the same picture on that day), I was basically living with my erstwhile-girlfriend-now-fiance Tessa in the West Village. A week after the attack, her father passed away and we set off on a giant cross-country trek to attend his funeral and try to put our frayed nerves into a beta state.
Of course, Tessa’s dad Blakey, ever confounding, secretly left her a wheelbarrow full of Mexican Libertad silver coins behind some suits in a closet. It seemed like a fortune (and if you’ve ever lifted pure silver, it felt like a fortune, but let’s just say that silver is not gold.
At the same time, we began talking about getting a house somewhere cheap up in the country our friends Dana and Lindsay had just bought a great place in Millerton, NY for next to nothing – and for the cost of a 10-foot storage unit in Manhattan, we could be paying a mortgage on an actual house. The minute we got back to New York, we started looking for houses away from the city (and America started bombing Afghanistan; the two seemed quite related). The very first place we saw was an 1820s farmhouse in Columbia County, NY with a basketball court on the second floor of the barn. This place had me at “hello,” but Tessa, being a completist, made sure we saw another 25 possibilities. Obviously in love with the Columbia County place, we would find ourselves driving past it even when it wasn’t on the way.
Metaphorically, we dumped the wheelbarrow full of Blakey’s silver bullion into a downpayment on the farm, and closed in February this year. Keep in mind that Tessa was still living in her West Village digs, and I was still paying rent for the shoebox in the East Village. The same week we closed on the farm, I mentioned that one of my favorite bloggers Gus lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and asked Tessa if she liked that neighborhood. Three weeks later we were living there. Tessa rented out her entire place, I bid a sad adieu to Lars, and we moved half our stuff to Brooklyn, the other half to the farm upstate. Impulsivity is where it’s at, man.
Both moves were done at one of the worst times in my life; I was driven by an apocalyptic frenzy that ensured that we lived at least three miles from any major target zone in New York. Although Celexa and therapy have quelled those beasts somewhat, I still think it’s the Survivalist Mormon in me that keeps me from thinking too permanently about any one place. I grew up with family members hoarding cans of green beans in secret apocaly-closets where a family could live for a year. It’s not necessarily such a bad instinct, but I could do without the day-to-day worst-case scenarios rushing through my head.
One thing is for sure: my paranoia drove us to live in some pretty fucking awesome places. Park Slope, especially where we live (near Grand Army Plaza), is a constant delight. The people are really cool, it feels like an actual neighborhood, and Prospect Park is the best-kept secret in New England.
And Columbia County, 2 hours north, where we spend the weekends and the occasional week, is too cool to imagine. I long for the place like people long for ancient homelands. The sunsets are unfathomably gorgeous, and the fields are English-moor magical. The farmhouse itself keeps surprising me with secret beauty hidden under bad paint and inexcusable wallpaper. And there’s a pool table and a basketball court and darts! I feel like going back to my 10-year-old self, alone on a playground, and telling him not to worry.
our street in Brooklyn
Oh yeah, I’m in my room at 2:15am and I’m wearing a Carolina T-shirt. Just so my later self knows.