Monday, January 21, 2013

How I stopped worrying and learned to function in suburbia

Thus far this weekend, Bisou has had one long woods-walk and one all-out woods-and-boulders hike. And her usual walks, because - permit a poodle-parent overshare - the canine digestive tract stops for no man. I also drove alone for the first time ever to the supermarket and back, and then to town and back. The most difficult aspect of solo driving is solo getting out of a parking spot when there's another car waiting to get in (I still think of them as cars, albeit cars with emotions, but not people driving) and a bunch more lined up behind, without someone else explaining when to go straight back, back, now start turning the wheel. So far so good, which I think means I can no longer claim I don't know how to drive.

Which is for the best, because I want to go back to Cranbury, NJ, to go back to the fabulous used-book store, and to check out the closed-on-Mondays consignment shop next to it, and the closed-on-Mondays coffee shop across the street. (None of this was MLK Day-specific. The town really is just closed on Mondays, except for the bookstore, which is instead closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) The car-and-ability-to-use-it really seems to be the difference between my being happy living here and baffled-urbanite-dom. It really wasn't New York snobbery, I promise, even though I wondered myself at first. I just couldn't go anywhere - not to the supermarket, not to anything beyond town, and even town was a production. While I could, in the pre-car phase, speak to the particularities of life as a trailing, dissertating spouse, and the effect that being in a "housewife" role, however superficially, can have on one's productivity, at least at first (ahem), I couldn't say much about what it's actually like to live in Princeton.

And it turns out, disappointingly, that I'm not one of those New Yorkers who could only ever possibly survive within X yards of Zabars. Or perhaps not disappointingly, given the bankers' playground I've left behind. Not sure what it says about the place I last lived that the Princeton Whole Foods strikes me as a relaxed, down-to-earth environment.

3 comments:

Shybiker said...

The suburbs were designed for automotive transportation, which is why they lack real mass-transit and the inability to walk to places. It's completely frustrating to exist here without a car (as you've learned) but easy with one.

I like to walk around my neighborhood for exercise and nature-watching. People driving past me in their cars always think my car must have broken down 'cause they can't imagine walking anywhere.

Phoebe said...

Yes, a car sure helps. Having a dog, I end up walking tons regardless, but indeed, other than dog-walking, you don't see a heck of a lot of walking. Jogging, yes, not walking.

Petey said...

"Or perhaps not disappointingly, given the bankers' playground I've left behind."

Ya gotta read that article more closely.

As the article notes, half the Manhattan apartment stock is rent-regulated. As a band that sounds like Bob Dylan so famously sang, bankers to the left of me, public housing to right, Manhattan is the middle class paradise of all-time. You've just got to do your rent-regulation apartment wrangling with all proper due diligence. (Cheese knowledge always helps, of course. But however you handle it, it's always been the Game Game of NYC.)

My favorite line in that article:

"There is no stigma, he said, to renting a place you can afford only because it is rent-regulated; such a situation is even considered enviable."

Just bizarre weirdness for the readers advertisers in the Real Estate section value most highly? Or the single driest line of perfect humor in NYT history? Damned if I can figure.

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"The suburbs were designed for automotive transportation"

Yup. The suburbs with a car and license at least have coherence. There are pro and con value judgments to be made, but the suburbs sans car are simply a form of minimum-security incarceration.

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"And it turns out, disappointingly, that I'm not one of those New Yorkers who could only ever possibly survive within X yards of Zabars."

You can survive in Elkhart, Indiana, y'know. But there are pleasures to be had in living within civilization.

But, IIRC, you were living in an inner-ring suburb even prior to absconding the Big Island, so that may help in being able to make one's peace with survivability...