There are times when I start thinking about something and then I can’t stop thinking about it, I get obsessive. And OCD of sorts. No, I’m not a freakish hand-washer or locked-door checker. I get obsessed with things, usually unimportant things. Food would be the obvious example—yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about where I could get Middle Eastern lamb served on the bone but not a chop. And then I started speculating which wine would be perfect with the ultimate bone-in lamb. And in the process, no important real work was getting done at all because lamb had taken over my brain.
Recently, it has been vacation (meal) planning. Even though I’m not going anywhere until two months from now, I can’t stop researching where to eat and how that will fit into my schedule. I haven’t gone so far as to create an Excel spreadsheet, which I’ve done in the past. But I’m going crazy trying to whittle down my long list of Hong Kong, Macau and Bangkok must-eats (fish balls, Under Bridge Spicy Crab and Issan food are the latest victims of cuts). Realistically, I can only eat two meals a day (I’m sure that I’m missing out on all of those done-by-10am morning markets but I can’t get up early enough for breakfast and vacations are supposed to be relaxing) maybe three on a few days, so that’s at least 28 meals to play with.
Maybe this is a fixation of all New Yorkers, but moving fantasies also take up a good portion of my brain. Which neighborhood is the best? Since day one (four years ago), I’ve loved my physical apartment while loathing the environs. I know it’s strange to dislike a place because it’s too nice, but too nice attracts a certain element (yes, the babies, dogs, SUVs and so on). I don’t get off on grit either, no need to keep it real, so there’s nothing particularly enticing about places like Bushwick either (other than the J/M/Z which would be ideal for my commute).
The Brooklyn Paper’s article Thursday about hipsters in Greenwood Heights (I noticed this growing amenities phenomena last summer) got me to thinking. Well, first off I was mildly rankled about that invented neighborhood name. Even though I’m hardly an NYC old-timer, I dislike made up monikers (Portland’s Pearl District will always be Old Town to me). I’m fairly certain that everything south of 16th street/Prospect Expressway is technically Sunset Park even though I agree that it doesn’t feel like real Sunset Park until 39th Street. When I lived in that no-man’s land people call Greenwood Heights (interestingly, the cut off in this article was 22nd and I lived nine blocks beyond on 31st) I would’ve welcomed gentrification.
(No, not a glut of stay-at-home daddies–those frontal baby slings seems to be a very cool accessory with the young men in Carroll Gardens. And while I’m on this baby-aversion thread, what I’ve never been able to figure out is why an obsession with showcasing babies is so upper-middle class. Everyone has children, that’s nature. Not a big deal. When I lived in Sunset Park my immediate neighbors were white, lower middle class non-working moms who chain smoked on their porches all day and yelled at their kids. The sweet strains of “get ovah hee-ah!” penetrated my shut windows on a daily basis. Women had kids, plenty of them. Whatever, but you could walk ten blocks and never see a stroller. Here in Carroll Gardens I play a game, a game you can’t win where I try to make it to the end of the block without passing by a child or dog and no matter how fast I walk, I am thwarted, often by two or three examples, sometimes by as many as five. Do poorer women not take their babies outside? I never saw strollers when I lived in Ridgewood, Queens either, and certainly denizens were procreating. I don’t have a problem with families, what I find creepy is the endless baby parade that apparently is now appropriate even in bars, as if moms and dads have nothing better to do. Honestly, I’m not sure what they should be doing but I think the world would be a better place is everyone stayed indoors more. Oh shit…while I happen to be rambling…Baby Joggers. I just stepped out to go to the gym and the first thing my eyes focused on after walking out my door was a young woman in shades moving along at a rapid clip pushing one of those sporty baby carriages. I had already put it out of my mind by the time I belatedly cracked open this week’s New York on the treadmill and started reading Jay McInerney’s, he of the bourgeois marriage proposal, article about the rise of the yuppie. Yeah, there was a time when working out, eating sushi and brunching was insanely exotic and elitist, but more importantly, Baby Joggers were mentioned: “The glistening spoke-wheeled stroller that made its debut in the eighties. So many elements of yuppiness were present all at once in the Baby Jogger: quality time with your child, exercise, and a technologically advanced, ridiculously expensive thing everyone else could admire.”).
I’m not even talking good coffee or restaurants beyond White Castle (though I did appreciate living so near one—they’re fairly scarce in the city) and KFC. I meant a grocery store, bank, drug store and laundromat that you could walk to. Fresh produce, ATMs and easy to pick-up prescriptions. I had to bus or long walk into Park Slope to conduct any sort of routine business. It wasn’t a “bad” neighborhood (though someone did try mugging me once in broad daylight) so much as isolated and ratty, but it happened to be where I could find a one-bedroom with a yard only two express stops to Manhattan under $800. I still see things for under $1,000 there and if I had to trudge out on my own, Sunset Park would quite possibly be where I’d end up again.
Last month, my real estate obsession was Ridgewood. I know, I know, I moaned and suffered the three years I lived in Queens. But obsessions aren’t always rational. I’m thinking in terms of buying, not with my money, obviously. It’s that you see houses in Carroll Gardens for over $2 million that would have to be totally renovated. I can’t stand granite, marble, travertine and vessel sinks, so anyone who has updated an interior expecting more money, is just pissing me off because I’d rip that crap right out of there.
You could buy a whole house in Ridgewood for $450,000, sure it might look like Archie Bunker’s pad inside, but for another $450,000 you could customize it to amazingness. Sure, you’re in the middle of nowhere (but importantly for me, on the M line) but it’s quiet, safe, likeably blue collar and way cheaper and closer than moving to an actual suburb. Plus, we would be right near my favorite grocery store, the Western Beef headquarters. Ok, that’s not going to happen. James wasn’t as enthralled with my plan, rightly surmising, “I might as well buy in Baltimore then.”
My new obsession that started this week is Prospect Heights. Maybe not even prime Prospect Heights, not the area snug against Park Slope where new restaurants and bars reside. I became crazed over this wacky condo development, Hello Living, on a pretty grim stretch near Washington Avenue close to the Crown Heights border. Maybe it seemed like a good idea a year ago to build designy, floor-to-ceiling glass ostentatious housing in a semi-slum but in the current economy it feels more like the bad idea it probably is.
No matter, I’ve become fixated on the model home in one of these buildings. There’s so, so much ugly modern construction being built, but I have to say that these condos are unusually tasteful. I saw an ad last week and decided that it would be the perfect place to live (never mind the wrongness of a $1 million-plus residence in the middle of nail salons, car washes and cash checking joints, no grocery store in sight). It’s been reduced nearly $300k since the spring, who’s to say it couldn’t go lower? What kind of nut would buy a building’s most expensive apartment in a fringe neighborhood during a recession? Probably no one living in my household, but I’m going to try and convince a drive-by and closer look this afternoon.
Next week I will probably be singing the hypothetical praises of Staten Island. They do have a Costco, tiki bar and Korean fried chicken.