9.01.2011

LITTLE NEW YORK CITIES


on wednesday, huck and i went to the corner where chinatown meets little italy to have some prescription lenses put into some vintage frames. 

we were in a part of new york i don't see often these days, so once the prescription was dropped off we decided to walk a little further west along canal street to see what we could see. 

as canal street stretched further west and chinatown grew distant behind me, i happened upon an apartment that i looked at with my mom around this time last year. it was the cheapest apartment we saw, a one bedroom in a run down building on the ground floor, with garbage cans flanking the windows outside at street level. in the end we decided that the real deal-breaker (there were lots of deal-breakers) was the location. not really chinatown, not really soho, no subway stop close by, sort of a no-man's land. or so i thought at the time.

yesterday i realized this silly apartment was about a block and a half from some of my favorite parts of the city. oh it made me mad. you should never apartment hunt when you have no idea where things are in relation to each other, is the lesson i learned that afternoon. and until i walked past the building itself and saw those sad, dirty little garbage cans flanking that sad, street-level window, until then I was totally kicking myself for being so dumb. but then i got there and i remembered, oh yeah this apartment really was awful. 

the thing is, there are just so many ways to do new york city, because there are an infinite number of new york cities to do. 

right now we are doing the upper west new york city, with strollers all over the sidewalks and giant grocery stores on the corners and parks filled with kids and dogs and families. i love my neighborhood, and i love all of the friends i have here. but we could certainly have done the upper east, instead, with doormen and ladies in furs and glass-fronted shops boasting gucci.

or we could have done midtown with the hustle and bustle and traffic and amazing delis. 

maybe the theatre district, a little run-down grime and ambition around every corner.

or the financial district, surrounded by the skyscrapers, the streets dead until rush hours and lunch hours.

or cobble-stoned tribeca, or the east village with the rest of the kids my age, or the west village where it is perfect . . .

in a few weeks we are moving to another little new york city, it will be the same but it will also be different. we're leaving our tree-lined streets for a lot more concrete. we're abandoning some charm for lots of space and a washer/dryer and a full-sized fridge. it will be a different new york city. a little bit better, and a little bit worse. 

i thought about my new washer dryer yesterday as we walked through the west village. i think i am in love with my new washer/dryer, but that washer/dryer is certainly not my ideal new york. it is a compromise. as much comfort as you can squeeze into the city, and in the exchange, you lose a bit of the city you're trying to domesticate. 

i like to pretend like i could pick my perfect new york city. i think about it a lot. if i had all the money in the world, where in the city would i land? every day it seems like my answer changes. but if you asked me right now i'd say a spot somewhere south of fourteenth street, a little north of houston, and just a bit west of broadway.

or else brooklyn. and that's a whole other story.

20 comments :

  1. New York really does possess so many little cities within itself, figuratively speaking! i bet once you are in your new apartment you'll look back at your tinesy apartment and miss a few things about it :) or so you hope?
    Smoking Crayolas Blogspot

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  2. you are so talented!!! seriously such a good writer. good luck with the move, let me tell ya something about having a full sized fridge... my marriage is better because of it.

    ps renting these changed our moving experience 100%, i HIGHLY and i meaning super HIGHLY recommend.
    http://juggleboxmoving.com/

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  3. i struggle with this question, too. i live in gramercy and feel like i could live there forever, on my tree-lined street, with the perfect bagel around the corner. but i always see other apartments, with a little something more (like a washer and dryer, be still my heart), and think about moving. it's the great conundrum for all of us who inhabit this wonderful city.

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  4. Your NYC posts make this country girl long for the city -- if only for a visit.

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  5. I feel this same way every time I walk around the city! I could definitely be a different sort of happy in each different kind of neighborhood. They all have their pro's & con's.. and I kind of love them all.

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  6. It's funny how something that seems important at one time becomes so much less so at other times. I really, reeeeally love having a washer/dryer in my 840-square-foot apartment (two kids under 3 means a LOT of laundry), but would I trade that for something more interesting than Draper, UT, on my doorstep? You betcha. Would I trade my 840-square-foot apartment for a really cute, funky 300-square-foot apartment with cooler stuff to do? Hells, NO! I'm pretty certain I could NOT live in a smaller place with two girlies and all their junk, no matter how cool the place was. And I'll bet as much as you'll miss your beautiful neighborhood of yesteryear, once you and the Holbs and Sir Henry decorate and stretch your legs and lay on the floor of that glorious mansion in the sky, you'll look back with fondness but look forward with excitement!!!

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  7. "You don't have to be tall to see the moon." Alright, Natalie, go see the moon, even if you are short.

    And I agree that the best is west village, if central park was in 5 min walking distance.

    North Meets South

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  8. I hope you know that first sentence was NOT veiled snottiness--I reread it and it sounded nasty! I only meant that I first thought being in this particular apartment was so important (W/D, close to Karl's office, near stores I like) but looking back, the perks are a bit outweighed by me being in cookie-cutter suburbia with nothing to do! Different place in a cooler neighborhood (or, uh, different state altogether?). More appealing every day! While you'll definitely miss the charm of your old place, I'll bet you'll love the space your new place will offer, and I'll bet you'll find things to love about your new concrete digs. I for one got off the plane in Paris and thought, "Seriously--is every building made of gray stone?!?" It was like the whole of Paris went to one single quarry for their bricks. So. Incredibly. Gray. And dog-poopie. But after awhile, I LOVED it. The gray was the perfect backdrop for some serious fashion, good food, and amazing architecture. I thought the city was impossibly colorful even in winter--but it took awhile to think that!

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  9. they are attempting to do this on a smaller scale in OKC...the new "trendy" areas are going up, and the city is divided into sections depending on what you want...it's just too spread out. you have to drive. that's one thing i do love about NYC...no driving. i hate driving lately.

    floridagirlinoklahoma.blogspot.com

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  10. I love the way you write about the city. I live in England, but when I read your NYC posts I really feel like I'm there, wandering the streets with you and soaking in the atmosphere of each little borough. Thanks, Nat!

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  11. this is funny because I actually WAS eating granola while reading this...

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  12. I live in Los Angeles, but I would also be in love with a washer/dryer. So I FEEL FOR YOU. Embrace the good that will come of no carrying piles of clothes to the laundromat. I will live vicariously through you.

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  13. Great post. It makes me even more excited for our trip (in three weeks) to visit NYC. It will be our first time and we'll have our 9 year old boys in tow. With so much to see, I just hope they can keep up with the pace of a busy city. I'm sure it will be amazing!

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  14. LOVE this post! I live in West Harlem and venture down the UWS frequently and my friends, and I have similar discussions all the time. I've been blessed to have in-unit W/Ds in 2 of the 3 super affordable (rent under $2K/mth) NYC apartments I've lived in and as my family and I look to move again this fall it's a feature we're hoping for especially as we're cloth diapering. Good luck with your move!

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  15. oh how you make me want to visit new york. possibly even live there.

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  16. I loved reading this! I have often re-visited spots a year or so later and thought "why did i think this way or that way about this place?" i love how nyc is always surprising like that!

    ps- great to meet you the other day at emily henderson's event! your blog is wonderful.

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  17. Well said! One of my favorite posts. I'll just copy and paste this post into my journal. In the 6 years we have been in NYC we have lived in 4 different new York cities. Have I told you about the beautiful apartment in Harlem that we traded in for an awesome spot on the UWS? I still miss that apartment but don't regret the decision at all.

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  18. Beautiful post! I adore the many cities of NYC (although I've only ever known them as an occasional visitor).

    I have just celebrated 10 years in my city (Toronto), and this anniversary has had me thinking of all that I've experienced here, and all that has changed in me because of my time here.

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  19. We have been trying to decide on a vacation for next year... it's been between NYC and DC {never been to either} I've read your NYC posts before, but I think you just sold me.

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  20. Love this post!

    This is exactly why New York is my favorite city in the world. It never, ever, gets old. There is always something new to discover, and somewhere new to explore.

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