Archives for category: Brooklyn to Brookline

It’s been over a year since we left the steamy, summer stoops of Fort Greene, Brooklyn to settle here in small town Brookline, Massachusetts.

That summer we left, we made the most of the fleeting remainder of our days in the Big Apple, spending money we didn’t have on meals in East Village bottegas and drinks overlooking the High Line.

On one such night, traveling home from a drunken trip down memory lane where hubby and I trolled Avenue A, privately reminiscing about my carefree twenties … mojitos every night, fridge bare but for takeout, cavorting with Latin men … we stopped for  frozen yogurt from my favorite hole-in-the-wall hot-dog/magazine/fro-yo emporium run by an adorable, toothless Polish man  and then hailed a cab home on the Bowery.

Here's the place

Here’s the place

Here's the Polish man. He's showing me his citizenship papers.

Here’s my beloved Polish purveyor of fro-yo. He’s showing me his citizenship papers.

Know the Bowery? Formerly occupied by flophouses, it’s now populated by trendy hotels and dominated by a giant contemporary art museum. Still, it retains its gritty origins, especially inching downtown to Brooklyn Bridge, where we were headed.

I stepped into the cab, and I have no idea how this happened but in closing the cab door, my arm brushed against my ear and my diamond earring flew off my earlobe and onto the street.

I stopped traffic — yes, like an aggressive traffic cop who’s had too much to drink– and desperately scanned the shiny turfed road for the earring I’d worn every day for so many years. Made by my mother for me from  a cocktail ring my Great Auntie Suzanne — a chic Frenchwoman who frolicked with Fernand Leger in the lavander-scented French countryside as a young girl — had left me in her will.

And now I was searching for the diamond on the gritty streets of downtown New York. And wouldn’t you know — I actually found the earring back?

But light turned green and I couldn’t stop the roar of cars impatient to arrive at their next stop — club, bar, rumpled bed.

My diamond? Not to be found. Blending in with the glittering rock embedded in the asphalt, it was indistiguishable. Maybe a flophouse holdout would find it, cash it in, heralding a brighter future.

I remained remarkably calm, as hubby noted. I knew from leaving New York once before, that it takes things from you when you leave. As if taunting you, saying, “See what’ll happen to you when you leave your dreams of glittering success behind? Don’t be a fool. Stay.”

The last time I’d left New York — to go study writing in Maine — on moving day, I stepped on a nail,  got pulled over by the cops and sacrificed my debit card to an angry ATM machine. But then, leaving New York also brought me my husband, who lived in Boston, allowing our knowing-each other to blossom at not such a long distance. And hence … my children … my life today.

Life began again.

So what if New York took my diamond? Big deal.

Because guess what I got in return?

A cozy new home we can actually afford. Oodles of fleece. Smart wool socks. Peace of mind. Good schools. I know … yadda yadda yadda … it all sounds so boring to my former, New York party-girl self. But today, it matters.

I may not have this:

A blurry Chrysler building -- my favorite NYC landmark

A blurry Chrysler building — my favorite NYC landmark

But I’ve got this:

Post-nemo snowman with the kiddies -- rivals the Chrysler any day, don't you think?

Post-nemo snowman with the kiddies — rivals the Chrysler any day, don’t you think?

I know diamonds are a girl’s best friend and all, but I really would rather have fleece. At least here in Brookline. At this stage of my life. It’s soft. It’s cozy. Forgiving. It won’t fall out of my ear. And what better way to stay warm, than to wrap up in a fleece blanket, snug in bed with your loved ones?

[Never mind that they’re nagging you to watch Yo Gabba Gabba or asking for their 10th glass of milk … hush now, hush now … let’s go with the fleece imagery…]

Advertisements

When I was 27, I broke up with my boyfriend, a brilliant but possibly unhinged (in retrospect) Spanish psychiatrist. I’d met him at a bar two years earlier, and was drawn to his Latin charm and aura of omniscience. He called me his “queen,” and we’d cavort till all hours of the wee morning, knocking back tequilas and smoking pot, collapsing at dawn in his East Village apartment. It was fun, until I began to think about the fact that he was 36, and wasn’t he too old to be doing this every night?

Breaking up with him unleashed me. For the next 5 years, in-between some longer-term boyfriends and before meeting hubby, I made the most of being single in New York City, dating a range of men from different countries and walks of life, who wined and dined me, kissed me and sometimes dissed me, intrigued and beleaguered me.

There was the Italian Video Artist and Composer,  for instance, whose music sounded like a rapid succession of cellphone beeps and told me I reminded him of a UFO (a compliment, he assured me). The Mexican Mogul, who after he bit my arse in bed, cried out, “I am the best lover you have ever had, no?” And the Real Estate Developer from the Upper East Side, who wore Hermes ties with cute little umbrellas on them, but who kissed like a washing machine on spin cycle.

Meeting hubby was a relief. Though I enjoyed the ritual of dating — ruffling my peacock feathers, coquettishly displaying my wares — I was ready to put away the accompanying second-guessing, unrequited yearning for intimacy and the self-conscious dance of it all.

Eight years into my marriage, therefore, I find it unnerving to be thrust back into the dating game, this time with 2 kids in tow.

Don’t worry. My marriage with hubby is going strong. I’m not secretly trawling the pages of Match.com.

But I am, each time I go to the playground, engaging in a sort of mating dance, in my quest to find new mummy friends.

As I encounter both new and familiar faces at the playground, my inner monologue runs something like this:

ah, she looks like a kindred soul. i’ll approach. phew, introduction over. does she think i’m interesting? am I guffawing a little too loudly at her jokes? ok, i’m coming on a little strong here….oops — I’ve lost sight of my two-year-old as we’ve been chatting about potty training….I have to cut off our conversation to make sure my daughter hasn’t run into oncoming traffic…was that a deal breaker? oh well, I’ll ask for her number anyway.  is it too early to call her tomorrow? will she think I’m desperate? coming on too strong? a loser?

Where has my dating mojo, formerly brimming with confident estrogenized hormones, gone?

Alas, here are the six key differences between dating then, and now:

1. A decline in personal grooming. 

Then, I was dolled up in Prada, wrists dabbed with unguent perfumes, lips plumped with enticing gloss. Now, I’m sporting a straggly chin hair, and am trying to keep the odor of unwashed armpits at bay.

2. The body’s southward momentum.

Then, my boobs were perfect. Seriously. My best feature. Now, they resemble those of an African sorceress.

3. An uptick in aggression (though some would call it confidence):

Then, I usually waited for the guy to make the first move. Now…Watch out, bitches, as I stuff my Blackberry with emails, cellphone numbers and enough female contact information to make a pimp proud.

4. Am I still hetero?

Then, it was men I was after. Now, men are useless in my quest. Do men understand the secret of spanx? Or the particular angst we feel when we’re falling short of succeeding at both parenting and our careers?  Methinks not. Hence, my quest for the perfect mummy mate.

5. Lack of subtlety

Then, I might sidle up to a bloke who caught my fancy and ask, “Have you got a light?” in the hopes that lighting my cigarette would lead to flirting. Now, my popular pick-ups include, “I like your crocs” and “What’s your favorite Summer Camp?”

6. An alarming ability to tolerate violence:

Then, safety mattered. If I got any kind of whiff of violence or disturbing behavior, either in or out of the bedroom, all further communication was aborted. Now, I’m on the prowl for partners who understand and at times, even condone, violence. All potential mummy mates must be comfortable with ninja battles and light saber jousting.

How have your efforts at the playground been going? Please chime in!

Last Wednesday, I went to meditation class. It’s about my 6th or 7th class now, and though I haven’t been showing up mildly soused, as I did on night 1, I’ve been meeting extraordinary people, who’ve been the main reason for my return each week.

I miss my New York posse of close friends — women who’ve known me since college and with whom I can unburden my worries, laugh at my foibles and celebrate my strengths. Our wine-fueled outings kept me sane. Newish in town here in Brookline, I’ve been on the prowl, scoping out potential — for new friendships that may never reach the depths of my old ones — but will nonetheless hold their own meaning.

My second time at meditation, I met a lovely young girl (Granny Alert! I am now, at 41, calling women under the age of 30 “young girls”…) named Sarah — coincidentally, the name of a former co-worker, who was adorable and dressed like a young Jackie O. And this Sarah — my potential new buddy — had a cute Emma Stone  stone vibe.

We struck up a conversation, and just as I was imagining our future life together, dissecting the pros and cons of Vipassana versus Zen meditation while nursing shots of Don Julio, she told me that she was moving to Austin, Texas in a few days to join the man she had asked to marry.

Wow. Ballsy.

Masking my disappointment — “Hey, that’s greeeaat!” — we said our goodbyes. I returned the following week and sat next to a seasoned science journalist, a lovely woman with whom I exchanged Cliff Notes on our mutual love for writing, and our experience of meditation.

Truthfully, I find meditating excruciating. Sitting on a cushion, following my breath, is more mentally challenging that convincing the boychild to let me clip his toenails. I’m constantly fidgeting, annoyed with myself for thinking the ridiculous thoughts that crop up (just why do I need to be contemplating Jennifer Aniston’s relationship with Justin Theroux?), fighting the urge to fall asleep or surprised by the intensity of emotions that arise.

Several weeks ago, I was flooded with a wash of such intense rage, I had to forcefully stop myself from letting out a giant primal scream. Which, on reflection, would have been a great way to attract new friends. With men in white coats.

But after last night’s session, I finally started to understand what meditation can give me. Not friendship with others, but friendship with myself.

There’s a lot of self-flagellation that comes with being a mum (at least for me). The voices say things like:

“You’re not Betty Crocker enough!”

“You’re too Betty Draper!”

“Why isn’t your career more thriving?”

“Why can’t you just be with your kids more, instead of managing them so much?”

It can be downright exhausting, and really, a reflection of what goes on while sitting on the meditation cushion. But instead of yelling at these voices — “Stop!” — meditation harvests compassion for the barrage of inner judgement. With practice, the voice gently says, “I’m listening, sweetheart, but you’re talking too much. Let’s focus on the breath instead.”

In other words, let’s forget this nonsense, and live. Be present. Enjoy the moment.

I’ve met some lovely women in Brookline, and I’d still love to find my dream buddy — with Emma Stone style, Christiane Amanpour smarts and Kristen Wiig humor — to share weekly glasses of wine, giant plates of fries and trade stories from the trenches.

But for now, I’ll settle for me.

Last year, my family and I moved to a lovely town called Brookline, just outside Boston. The perks of leaving New York City continue to flow. We can breathe in the air around us without choking. It’s a short drive to Maine. And we’re no longer bleeding cash.

But I miss New York. Its intensity and creative energy. I miss the anonymity of living in a big city. Boston is comparatively provincial, and though I’m all for making new friends, I don’t really want my neighbors poking their heads into my business.

You see, there’s a middle-aged Russian lady in our ‘hood who regularly bangs on our front door to say hi.

Her mission? To return our cat Viktor from his daily walkabouts. She’ll find Viktor somewhere and bring him home, banging on the front door in the middle of the day to announce his return, causing me to stop mid-salted-caramel-ingestion and think to myself,”Who the f@!% is that?” and momentarily contemplate being axed to death, before I realize it’s probably the Russian Cat Lady.

I will open the door and there she will stand, holding Viktor in her arms. Typically, our conversations go like this:

“He has come home, my dearrrrr,” she’ll say, rolling her r’s like a Checkhovian pro.

“Thanks!” I’ll reply, thinking Listen, he’s a cat, he’ll come home, he always does, please don’t worry about him and bang on my door in the middle of the day like a crazed UPS delivery person in need of meds.

“Have you ever thought about putting in a cat flap?” she’ll ask.

“No!” I’ll reply smiling,  thinking I’ve thought about a lot of things lately, Cat Lady, but cat flaps ain’t one of them. Try saving for our kids’ college accounts and finding a writing job with decent pay. Though you might be right…there have been numerous reports of coyotes and raccoons in the area. Is Viktor prepared for battle?

“It was so sweet the way I found him,” she’ll continue. “He was rrrrubbing up against my leg, and I thought it might be the missing cat from the posters on the street, so I checked his collar. He is so frrrriendly. It is as if he rrrrrecognized me!”

“I know, isn’t he sweet?” I’ll reply, thinking: Are you trying to tell me he needs more attention? Listen Cat Lady, why don’t you try remembering to freshen his water bowl when you have a 2-year-old clawing at your leg for “More wawa please” every 5 seconds?

So imagine my surprise, when last week at the public garden down the street from our home, I spied Ms. From Russia with Love for Cats. A sunny, 4:30 in the afternoon, I was with Miss B, watching her play in the giant sand pit, when I noticed Cat Lady sitting on a nearby bench. As I squinted, trying to figure out whether it was actually her, I noticed she was swigging something out of a bottle that looked remarkably like a Heineken.

Gasp! Shock! Horror! An open container near my 2 year old! I knew there was more to her story. She is a lush!

I texted hubby, who advised me to “Make a citizen’s arrest.”

And then,

“Not a good influence on Viktor.”

Ha!

And then I realized. It’s happening. I have just taken the perilous first step to becoming the very person I loathe: a nosey, hypocritical puritan!  Give this poor woman a break — she’s from Russia!  She probably brushes her teeth with vodka!

In that moment, I realized that it doesn’t matter who my neighbors are and whether I live in a small town in Kansas or the top of a skyscraper in Dubai. I’ve got to remember to take New York with me. It’s OK to embrace the odd animal-loving nosey parker…as long as I don’t become one myself.

After all, Perhaps Cat Lady is Viktor’s guardian angel in disguise. She might save Viktor’s life one day (sniff). 

The next time she drops off Viktor, I’ll invite her in for a beer.