Diary of a Transplant: Two Years Later, Country V. City

By the time we left the city, I didn’t think I’d miss anything about it. I was so tired of everything. But we’ve been country dwellers for two years now, long enough for some old grudges to fade, and new passions to calm down a bit. Yeah, yeah, we have a dining room table and a walk-in closet. And a sun room. And ponies. Yawn. Whatever. (Actually I am still pretty ecstatic over these things.)

So it’s time to take stock. Herewith, then, a catalogue of desires and dismissals in the eternal country v. city debate:

Things not to miss, probably ever, about the city:

1. Most of all, my next door neighbors, who were the worst people I ever met in my whole life, and we shared opposite sides of a living room wall — a  pulsing, pounding, cursing, electronically-alive wall– with them for 10 years. The absence of their presence in my life is nothing but good.

2. Parking tickets. Okay, I got a parking ticket up here the other day. For $25. Pfft. That’s all you got, Hudson?

3. Hunting for parking spaces. It is like fall daylight savings every day up here. The gift of a full extra hour, which was once spent hunting for parking, every day.

4. Double-Parking outside of my house, groceries and kids in tow, the dinner hour at hand, knowing it would be be another 45 minutes before I would be in my kitchen. This situation was in the process of altering my brain chemistry by the end of our lives in Brooklyn.

6. The Gowanus Canal. I know it’s going to be great someday. But it was literally the stuff of  nightmares for me when I lived in Brooklyn, and an effective way to bum out many a nice long walk in the spring sunshine.

7. Religious consumption of the Sunday Times, and of all media publications and of all current now-ness, and knowing things like what makeup Marc Jacobs put on his models, or what Chloe Sevigny’s bedroom looks like. Just like the extra hour every day from not having to search for parking spaces, I may have discovered a source of extra brain space. I’m not sure how wisely I’m using it, but at least I’m working on decluttering.


Things I do miss (Mostly Friends, and Food)

1. The Park Slope Food Coop, Fairway, Trader Joe’s, Eagle Provisions, Sahadi, Hong Kong Market, and especially the corner bodega across the street, which had everything from Grippe Treatment to papayas to canned chipotle to salted cod to frozen mango pulp. I miss this most of all: ”Hon, can you run out and get me a lemon/some cilantro/a stalk of lemon grass/a pack of corn tortillas, but make sure they don’t have sodium benzoate. Hurry, the food is cooking!”
2. Friends, and acquaintances, and neighbors, even those I didn’t hang out with regularly but who I would run into here and there and have lovely chats with.
3. The fig tree in our backyard, and our backyard in general, which I just adored… except for when constructions noises started at 9 am on Sunday, or when our neighbors’ pool water would splash on to our picnic dinner.

4. The Brooklyn thing. Just being at the epicenter of this incredible, growing, pulsing growth, and excitement. I miss that. I do.
Up Here and Now: Things I Love

1. The vast amount of space. Outdoor space so extravagant that my kids ride their bikes all over our property, and indoor space that is not outrageous but comfortable and there is finally a place for everything.Not that everything is actually IN its place, but it could be.

2. The animals. We are animal people, can you tell? We have four ponies, three goats, one dog, one parrot, two budgies, three cats, a rabbit and about 30 chickens.  I love them all.

3. Growing my own food. This part is like I won the lottery. I pick my own asparagus when it is asparagus season, rhubarb when it is rhubarb season, strawberries when it is strawberry season. I have kale and brussels sprouts seedlings in the hot house. Yukon potatoes pieces in the ground. Bourbon red turkey poults fattening up. This Thanksgiving we will truly give thanks and eat food that we have grown. I just love this.

6. Wild edibles like nettles and dandelions and purslane and lambs quarters. The natural world is filled with edible greens. I am just discovering them. It is like learning a new language. I am learning Pasture and Forest. It is as gratifying as I when I learned Italian.

What about you? What would you miss if you left the city? What would you love to leave behind?

Category: Top Stories, upstate new york

By: larissa | 4 May 2012 03:30 PM | 8 Comments

8 Responses

  1. [...] great posts today on Upstater, the Catskills answer to Brownstoner. The first is a post from a former Brooklynite who decamped for the Catskills two years ago and now talks about what she loves about life upstate, what she doesn’t love, [...]

  2. jp says:

    I guess I’d have to say I would miss my wife most of all. ! … !! I’ve been dying to sell our place in Brooklyn and move to the Catskills full time (we have a house in Sullivan County) but my wife doesn’t want to leave Brooklyn. So, to be fair, I’d say I would miss my wife most of all. ;)

  3. cara says:

    I hear you on the pros and cons, Larissa. My list would be similar (horrors of NYC parking and the tyranny of the NYTimes). On the plus side, my thing is not animals or vegetables, but ornamental gardening on a Long Island half-acre. I lived in the city forever (30+ years) and in the country full-time for a year-and-a-half and loved every minute. But, being single, with grown kids in different parts of the country, I felt the need for a Brooklyn base again. So I rented a 1BR apartment and now have a foot in each world (a pied in two terres, you might say;-) If forced to choose, I’m happier in the country, where I’m never bored or lonely. I’m always anxious to get out to the country when I’m in the city, never anxious to get back to the city when I’m in the country. No doubt such a set-up would be a financial strain for many; I manage because I’m an old lady and have owned the Brooklyn place for so long, it’s rented out at a magnificent profit…but something along those lines is a possible solution to the conflict.

  4. Larissa says:

    Cara, that sounds so ideal. A pieds in two terres, I love it! I always miss the country, too, and can’t wait to get back.

    And JP- yes, for years it looked like if I moved to the country it would be as a single mom, since my husband was not budging… Then, one day he budged. You never know. ;)

  5. sean says:

    I actually moved to rural Japan for three years in my quest to leave the city. I’m back in NYC now and glad to be back. I met a lot of other expats in the countryside too, and the one thing that never gets mentioned in these city vs. rural life pieces is the most important thing: money.

    It’s almost impossible to make a living in the countryside by farming. Everyone who can leave the city has some workaround to the need to financially support their family, but that never gets mentioned. It’s like a big secret or something. A trust fund, a commuting spouse, or a killer telecommute job must exist to support a hobby farm.

  6. larissa says:

    Sean, that is so true. When I go back to the city I am dazzled and overwhelmed by the abundant goods and services– essentially, the economy of the city. There is just not a lot of money in circulation in the country, and yeah, farming does not seem like a viable means of financially supporting a family. I do know some people who have figured out how to support themselves well up here (We still go back to the city). I’ll do some posts on them! Thanks for the comments!

  7. sean says:

    Hi Larissa,
    Thanks for the reply. I love the series, by the way. When I lived in rural Japan, just 8 months ago, I remember feeling the “yeah, yeah” way about some of the spectacular things. Scenery is wonderful, but even a castle on a forested mountain is just another part of the day after a while.

    Still, I miss pulling bamboo shoots from the ground at this time of year and cooking them up, I miss the fresh grown veggies, and watching my son play in rice fields on his way home from school.

    My life has gotten better since I moved back to the city, but I don’t think my son’s has. I’m working on it though.

  8. lvnhrts says:

    We moved to Coxsackie from Washington Heights…a very different Hudson view. For me, you’ve hit the mark describing our new home..stepping off the train after a jaunt to the city…”That first moment of fragrant electric air or the mass of stars pressing down “. The air is ELECTRIC here. It breathes like home.

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