When Sam and I lived in New York City last year we fell in love with that city. For her, it was first love: fresh and new, filled with wonder and promise. For me, it was a chance encounter with an old lover who, regardless of time or distance, forever held hostage an essential part of me. We were going to end up in bed.
I went back to New York for work so for convenience I sublet an apartment in Brooklyn close to the studio. A classic 4th floor brownstone on a quiet street in Clinton – the neighborhood flooding me with memories of the 20 years spent there in my youth. On its way to being gentrified like most of the old neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Sam and I enjoyed the full spectrum of urban living. We were awakened by the 2 a.m. cuss-outs on the street below, endured our daily walk past the permanent-pot-smoking-dope-selling-domino-playing fixtures on our corner. We navigated the late night walks from the subway – including the one when Samara asked to ride her scooter home and refused to hand it over. I gripped her hand and said, “Not tonight baby-right now this is not your scooter, this is a weapon.” On the flip side there was the fabulous nouveau donut shop, the hipster bistros where we brunched, the Caribbean restaurants with curry rotis and doubles(a traditional Trinidadian street food), the bustling farmer’s market on Sundays and some of the most amazing pizza in a 60-year old pizzeria just around the corner. We loved it.
We did not, however, enjoy the 4th floor walk up, devoid of a washer or dryer and full of huge water bugs that lumbered up through the drains. (God I hated those!!) I quickly learned I am too damn old to be trampling up and down four flights of stairs, day in and day out, turning on the bathroom lights with a shoe in my hand. And did I mention we also had our dog Alfred in tow? The first loads of groceries I hauled up 4 flights and the second load of laundry I carted down cleared any romantic fog of returning to my Bohemian youth. And did I mention our DOG Alfred was in tow. The deal was sealed when I got Sam into a wonderful school near Wall St which necessitated navigating the subway every single day. The New York subway, though infinitely more comfortable and dependable than when I lived there 20 years ago, still felt like a drag through the steaming bowels of a bloated Gothic beast. Descending those stairs every morning felt like stepping onto the ferryman’s barge, anonymously crossing the black waters of the River Styx. Calling to arms my inner guardian, I’d don my armor, hold my breath, dim my light and then disappear my soul lest it be held forfeit for the fare. With my “cloak of invisibility” securely thrown over my child, we jostled our way back and forth to school. It was exhausting. Given a choice I didn’t want that for my daughter… not every day.
As fall approached, I was no longer willing to pay the price our cheap apartment in Brooklyn was actually costing. So we moved to a new sublet in the Wall St. district just 6 blocks from her school. We loved The Blue School. Sam scootered and I walked the six blocks and, as a bonus, I gratefully reclaimed my day. We were in heaven…until winter came.
The concrete buildings of the financial district loomed over us like the colossal legs of stone gods standing vigil over their fortresses of gold. Clearly designed to dwarf mere humans, relegating us to the status of worker ants, Sam and I made our way as best we could. As winter took hold and the sun completely disappeared, the few cement circled trees trapped into summer service, like the air and the sky and the people, ghosted to stone grey. Sam and I began to lose footing. With no green, no blue, we were lost. As January blustered in, the merciless winds whipping round frigid buildings, we braced for yet another storm, the bating snow quietly muffling our hope and freezing our tears.
Like all New Yorkers, we went to ground. Lighting a small fire deep inside, we huddled together, fanning its flame with books and soup and blessed routine. We grew strong that winter: strong in love and resilience and patience. As we waited for the rains to come, the first buds to reappear and the sun, the blessed sun, to break through, I remembered anew why I fled this city. In those cold, desolate months I had forged a new plan. We had to move again. Our survival depended on it. We had to go to the water.
That spring in a miraculous moment of kismet, late one night on Craigslist, I found a lovely apartment in Brooklyn. Ignoring the time, I desperately called them at 11:30 pm. The next morning, I went by and immediately signed a lease. After several trips to IKEA and many late nights shopping online, Samara and I moved into a minimally furnished, awesome water view piece-of-heaven apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We were home.
And the very best part of our new found sanctuary was that everyday, I took Sam to school on the ferry. The East River water taxi pulled up to our building and off we would sail to school. This daily crossing made our souls sing. I breathed a sigh of gratitude every single day for the waters of life: beneath me, above me, within me, surrounding me. I knew that, come next winter, Sam and I would be fine. We had found our Lovely.