The Sunroof.

Lately Tobyjoe and I have been perusing the real estate market outside of this wonderful city. I’m sure this doesn’t come as much of a surprise to most. We are nearly five months pregnant and we do need to start thinking about a house, a yard, the future education of our child, our safety, conveniences, etc.

Let me begin by saying that I love New York City and I always will and no matter where we end up living, it won’t be far away from here. But I’ve become restless lately. Something has changed.

The restlessness bloomed about a month ago when I tried to wash my 31-year-old car. At the time the car was covered in months worth of dirt, salt, and BQE filth (which we live very close to). This wasn’t a problem in the past as I used to take it to the automatic car wash. But recently, given the Great Lock out of 2007, AAA used the already busted sunroof to get in, stripping it of its remaining life.

As the weeks wore on, the car became more and more filthy, to the point where I could no longer see out the windows. I tried every local gas station to find one of those window-washing units that usually sit next to the pump. To no avail. They were empty and/or ransacked or not present at all. I couldn’t take it anymore and decided that instead of taking it to the car wash and having a bunch of angry men yell at me in Spanish after having their heads covered in water, I would do it myself. I wrote my landlord to see if I could gain access to the hose, a hose I see our super (the landlord’s aunt) use all the time.


At the point of denial, I was 3 and a half months pregnant. And so on a Saturday in early February, two days after winter had finally arrived, I decided to wash the car using a lone bucket we had in our 3rd floor walk up. I decided to run up and down the stairs. I decided to wash the bloody car myself.

(I’ve had better ideas at 3 AM while blasted drunk.)

By bucket number two not only was I out of breath and freezing my tail off, but all I had done was push the dirt around. The windows looked tinted and the remaining salt had frozen to its exterior. It looked like it was covered in wax. It looked much, much worse than when I had started. I was livid and so I began to cry. I stood there, outside on the street, bucket in hand, freezing. Obscenities flew out of my mouth like cold spit. The monologue sounded something like this:


I was raging mad and Tobyjoe tried to calm me down. (Seriously, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen an angry pregnant version of me. Couple that anger with the feeling of unfairness, and you have yourself one furious, bitch of a woman.) Eventually, the two of us just threw our hands up and went to get something to eat. (He knows that food will shut me up right now.)

Since that day the moments that make up everyday living have been put under intense scrutiny. I am not nearly as forgiving of New York City and Brooklyn as I was 6 months ago. That day set in motion the irritation pileup.

We already have trouble living here. We can’t afford to buy a place and even if we could I’m starting to wonder if I even want to. Is it worth paying 400 thousand dollars for a 350 square foot apartment with no access to a yard? Is it worth paying almost a million dollars for a brownstone in a fairly sketchy area hoping the property value rises? Do I want to deal with a co-op? I keep thinking, “For 400 grand, we could buy something much nicer an hour outside the city.” Perhaps I’m being too practical, too hard on New York, too spoiled.

Now that we have a child on the way and I’m no longer making decisions based one what I want, my priorities have changed right before my eyes. Suddenly being in a great city near a booming main street with lots of bars and restaurants is no longer that appealing. Instead, I am becoming more and more intrigued with that parking lot that sits 10 feet from the door of a local, suburban diner. I’m even thinking about places like Papa John’s and a line free Trader Joe’s. I’m dreaming about the place where I can put a few coins into a machine and wash my own car. I’m dreaming about a house with a pottery wheel and a small kiln. I’m dreaming of a place where my kid comes home smelling of grass stains, his fingernails sheltering dirt. I want her to come home with a cocoon or a turtle, a jar full of fireflies, a head plump full of fresh air. I want to wake up next to blades of grass I can lick the dew off of. I want to fall asleep to the sound of crickets. I want our snow to stay white for more than a day.

It is going to come with great sadness when I do finally leave this city once and for all, (which is probably far off given we have no down payment). But once the baby is born and it’s not just Toby and me anymore, I’m going to have a hard time justifying living here. And that’s just it, Internet. The part that has changed the most in me during my pregnancy is the amount of room devoted to what I’m willing to forgive. The door that once shielded me from the things that chisel away at my patience is no longer working, much like the stripped sunroof of my poor, filthy, 31-year-old car.


  1. I still love this city, but Mike and I are also feeling very weary of it, and beginning to think about where we might go next.

    We had a conversation earlier in the week that started with me saying “I just want a little house, two little bedrooms would be fine, and maybe a small room we can use as an office. A small yard we can grill and garden in.” And so forth and so on. And it ended up with me in tears because it seems so unattainable right now.

    I am, for the most part, happy with our actual living space, but the neighborhood, the commute, the car alarms and loud parties and lack of services are really, really beginning to get old.

    I often find myself thinking that we’re just growing up, getting too old for this city, but then I think perhaps that is an unfair statement, many people live their lives here, raise families, grow old here. It’s probably easier if you have money and resources that we don’t have, I don’t know.

    I will be sad to leave, but I think that day is coming for us, too, not too far in the future.

    (I smiled when you mentioned the fireflies. We get them in our yard in the summer, and they always remind me of back home. The cats love them, too.)


  2. Jenblossom: yes, regarding the money and resources to live here. I was thinking about that earlier as well. In order to make myself happy here, I’d need to make a lot more money. We’d need to make enough to afford a 700 thousand dollar house and then we’d need to make enough to pay for our kid to go to private school. And I’d like to own a car as well, which is pricey.

    When you factor in what you get for the same amount of money living outside of this city, it just doesn’t make sense anymore. I think that pretty much means that the folks who can afford to live happily here (meaning, with all the things you and I mentioned) are making a HUGE amount of money. Somehow.

    Even if both of them work all day, they have to pay for a nanny, right? That’s money as well.

    I dunno. It’s just insane. The cost of living here is insane as far as I can see.

    Chris: I’ll be honest, if my folks weren’t moving to NJ, I would consider your neck of the woods. Really mean that, too.


  3. I hear you.

    We just bought our first house. Sunk every penny in savings into a down payment. I am scared shitless. Living as an expat means I have a free roof over my head and an ensuite bath in every oversized bedroom.

    The new house has A bathroom. The rooms will fit a bed (hopefully). But it is ours. The school is great, and the area is safe, and I plan on rocking my grandkids to sleep there.


  4. how can i convince you to live in Detroit?
    could 4,200 sq ft for $269,900 do it? with fireplace, hot tub, indoor greenhouse and a storefront space downstairs?? you know you want it…


  5. i mean, we have lots of green space and animal life. PHEASANTS! and our neighborhood is full of happy Bangladeshi children who come by for english lessons and bicycle repair.


  6. i understand. it’s just that i get $1 from the chamber of commerce every time i say ‘move to kansas city’ (i’ve made $54 already today!)


  7. And then there is us poor folk livin’ out here in San Francisco…. :o)
    We are juggling the same ideas about whether to stay in the city where we purhcased a postage sized stamp of a place for way too much money and our daughter goes to a school that costs about the same as my undergraduate university…. or moving out of the city where we could have more room but have to search to find a reasonable place where the minimum price of houses in the Peninsula are in the million dollar range…. but then again we could make that long jump back east if we really get desperate….
    I hear ya loud and clear Mihow! I remember a similar car moment when I was 5 months pregnant with Isabel and was living in Adams Morgan. I came home from prenatal yoga (which was Northern Virginia as it was not that easy to find a prenatal yoga class 5 years ago…) and I couldn’t find any parking. I was ready to call the cops to have every single car with Maryland and Virginia tags be towed just because I couldn’t find parking close to my house!
    Oh the frustrations of city living!


  8. If Ian Kennedy reads this, he’s gonna force us to Athens at gunpoint.


  9. Another item added to the pile up.

    State and local taxes swallow $9.02 out of every $100 in household and business income, putting New York’s tax burden far above those of the eight other American cities with populations over one million.


  10. Everyone knows the next big crisis the city will face is the lack of a middle class. And when I read stories about how hard it is for kids just to attend decent public schools here, it freaks me out.

    An old colleague of mine lived in Yonkers and loved it, because it’s close to the city, but no city taxes.

    (Where are your parents moving to? I grew up in NJ and know all 21 counties’ names, so I’m just curious.)


  11. Jen, they will most likely be in southern jersey, near Forked River. But they haven’t decided absolutely. My father owns a boat, which is there so most likely, they, too, will settle there. My relatives, both on my mother and my father’s side, have lived there forever. It’s been my home away from home since I was born.

    However, I am going to probably shoot you an email in bit to ask you where in NJ you lived and what towns you recommend. I knew that you grew up there but somehow it slipped my mind. We’re looking that way as well as I really wouldn’t mind sticking nearby them, you know, so I can drop off the kid every now and again. ;]

    Yeah, the middle class is a dwindling group in this city that’s for damn sure. You either have to be dirt poor to live here or rich as hell. It seems.


  12. the life of mihow seems to be turning itself on end! hang in there!

    i’m sure your parents would love to have you near bye and living in jersey. my sister just had her baby and went back to work where she dropped 7800 bucks on 6 months of daycare!!! there is nothing like working 65-70 hours a week so you can afford to have someone else raise your children for you…i’m staying home, call me old fashioned or maybe it’s because i grew up in a “stay-at-home-bread-winning-father-environment.”

    so many decisions!!!


  13. there is nothing like working 65-70 hours a week so you can afford to have someone else raise your children for you

    You said it!

    I, too, am old fashioned. I grew up with my mom at home and will do it very much the same way. One of us is going to be with the little guy. And Tobyjoe is the breadwinner, so that leaves me!


  14. There’s such a thing as a Trader Joe’s with no line? Unbelievable.


  15. boo.

    btw, you know papa john’s delivers? to greenpoint? dangerous for you, i suppose.


  16. btw, you know papa john’s delivers? to greenpoint? dangerous for you, i suppose.



  17. I think alot of it has to do with where you grew up. I grew up in none other than State College and had a pretty idyllic childhood/adolescence. I have lived in SF, NY, and now Madrid, and I am dying to return to the suburbs for much of the same reasons that you write about: fireflies, grass, space, riding your bike around and playing kickball with the neighbors. Public schools that are good and safe. And although the market has changed alot, you can still buy a nice house in State College for around $250k. With a garage, driveway, and a yard.

    On the other hand, my best friend still lives in NY (Upper W Side). She has two kids, 4 and 6, and could not imagine living anywhere else. She grew up in Buenos Aires and then NY, and I think because she knows no other life than a city, really, it’s her comfort zone. And she deals. She is definitely middle class. Their family is single-income; she’s a SAHM and artist, so they’ve never had a nanny (nor wanted one). They have gone through tough times but I guess it’s all worth it for her.

    For me, I can’t imagine living in NY again and dealing not only with the cost of living but the competitiveness of it all, especially now that I have a daughter. My friend had to write an application essay for her son to get into pre-school when he was 3!!! I don’t want that for her – I want her innocence and youth to last as long as possible.


  18. Also…how are you going to deal with a stroller and a 3rd floor walkup?

    Just wondering.


  19. I’m going to have really killer upper arm strength. ;]

    An aside: Do I know you?


  20. I think so. I’ll have to write an email to explain.

    As far as the 3 floors goes…not to scare you but I seriously don’t know how you will manage! Everyone I’ve known who has lived in a walkup and had a baby has had to move. Maybe you should do a test with a stroller and a sack of potatoes (or whatever else could weight 8lbs) before your belly gets too big. My only other thought is that you would use a Baby Bjorn up and down the stairs and store the stroller below. (Until she/he is 5 months and you can’t use the Baby Bjorn any more!)


  21. Yeah, since the landlord is so totally open minded about my using the hose, I’m sure she’ll be totally fine with my storing a stroller in the foyer.

    We’re screwed.


  22. We aren’t screwed, because I’m a hardass prick. No worries, love.


  23. i know how some people like busting on the burbs for having very little to do compared to the big city living…..well….they’re right for the most part. i moved away so i wouldn’t have to do all that fun crap! that being said, this evening, i am falling off the wagon and going to an event put on by WDVE 102.5 radio(biggest rock station in the burgh)! it’s actually walking distance from my house so there will be no drinking and driving. it’ll be in a stinky smelly smokey bar and most definitely there’ll be children running around ruining the fun, but i can’t pass this up. the radio station is putting on a mock-u-rock-you-american-idol blow out. this is not for the faint of heart, this is total 80’s glam/hair rockers only! grundge/hippoop/r&b/rap/country need not apply! so in 6 years, this is the first fun thing that’s come to my neck of the back-woods and i hope the only thing for another 6 years….so, for you naysayers who dis the burbs, ha….i know you all are green with envy right now!!!!!!


  24. kidding because you already knew? or kidding because you didn’t know earlier.

    here are the details, if you didn’t find already. (you can also order online)
    Taking Orders Now
    168 Graham Avenue
    Building dwellers must meet driver downstairs
    Brooklyn, NY 11206
    Phone: (718)388-7272


  25. Wow. Well, i know what I’m having for dinner at least one day this weekend.

    Greg, you’re a dork and that’s precisely why I love you.


  26. what’s even funnier is………… “i sang!!!!” hahahaha


  27. About the climbing the stairs might want to try a sling to put the baby in, or a Snugli/Bjorn instead of a stroller. A stroller just may not be practical for you where you live! And babies don’t stay at 8lbs for long! A carrier of some sort would be much better for public transit if you ever use it also.


  28. And babies don’t stay at 8lbs for long!

    Mine will. I’m going to feed it less so it stays sexy.


  29. Haha…some babies, mine being one of them, gain 2 oz per day for the first few months, and yes that means about a pound per starting at 7 lbs, and up to 14 lbs at 7 weeks!

    Also..another idea for the stroller. If you use your car much, or keep it parked on the street-how about keeping the stroller in the car trunk? Mine lives there, as it is too big to store anywhere in the house.


  30. email from julie:

    “i was about to write something in there and then noticed that tobyjoe already had you pegged….

    and seriously, people. have you even looked lately at houses this way? check this out:

    toby: my morning jacket is playing two nights at the forty watt beginning of march. drive by truckers are playing two nights acoustic at the ga theater.

    when i’m not working i’m throwing audrey in the bike trailer and heading down to the grit or one of the many great coffee shops and bike shops around town.

    honestly, guys. it’s paradise here. salt? it’s a seasoning. dirt? it’s what i ride when i’m not training on my road bike.

    in the next couple of months, just plan to come down for three or four days. stay at our place. we’ll take care of reminding you how good life can be. please, please do this. room and board, even beer and pool for toby are on me. in the meantime, take care of yourselves in the big shitty.


  31. Ian, we are trying to plan a weekend/week getaway before the baby is born. Perhaps we’ll take you up on that. I really want to visit Savanah as well. We should talk.


  32. We head from Huntsville to Savannah today – Saturday I think – WAIT everyday is Saturday with a couple of Sundays thrown in.


  33. Things to think about if relocating to the suburbs—don’t get too big of a yard. After being in an apartment for years we fell in love w/a huge yard. It was tolerable until we had kids & realized how much yardwork can dominate the weekends in the summer. 45 minutes isn’t bad, but 3 hours sucks when you’d rather be playing in the grass instead of cutting it. Also, if you are used to the convenience of walking to the store, etc. don’t go too suburban. We have to get in the car to get a carton of milk, and I feel guilty for using so much gasoline to go anywhere. I miss sidewalks & corner stores(and liberal democrats, but that’s another story.)
    Also, I recommend moving closer to your folks or at least near people you trust to watch your offspring. You will need a break sometimes and living where you don’t know anyone makes it really hard to find a babysitter you trust. Plus, there is no replacement for a close bond between grandchild & grandparents. Just my 2cents. Good Luck!


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