Open House Fever

A new series starts this week!

A new series starts this week!

Happy Monday!

Remember my popular car buying story, And the Winner is?  Let’s do it again, but, hey, let’s go bigger and up the stakes.  It’s time to try to buy an apartment.

This week I am starting a new blog series that will run periodically along with our other My Own Space regular features.  Called OPEN HOUSE FEVER, I am going to chronicle our hunt for a new place to live.  We started today, seeing 8 apartments in total, 6 of them with our new bestie and broker, John Wescott.  We are up in the air about what we are doing and as proof, I will tell you that the first thing John asked us in the initial meeting was, “Are you looking to rent or buy?”  Our response?

“Ummm….well…..????”

Next question.  “Do you have a neighborhood in mind?”  Our response?

“Ummm….well…..????”

Clearly, we are all over the map, and we have a bunch of needs and limitations.  I will tell you more about it, but first I think a little back story is in order.  I am going to re-publish a post I ran last November.  If you’ve read it, forgive me, but we have a lot of new readers and I want everyone on the same page.

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You know I love New York City.

Growing up I was obsessed with everything set in Manhattan.  Woody Allen films and Judy Blume books.  Broadway.

Two particular favorites were the Pacino film  Author, Author and Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl, because  both films

Even as a child I related to the actress Marsha Mason Mom, not the Quinn Cummings kid.

Even as a child I related to the actress Marsha Mason Mom, not the Quinn Cummings kid.

have to do with raising kids in New York while pursuing a theater career.  I probably watched them 5,200 times each on channel 19 on the 8″ screen in my kitchen (most likely with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon hidden under the table cloth for quick bites when no one was looking).

Remember that whole life visualization plan called, The Secret that everyone was obsessed with a few years ago? As Rob always says, I secreted the shit out of my adult life.  It’s what I wanted.  I could see it clearly.  And guess what?  I got it.  Here’s to the power of positive thinking.

But the reality isn’t always so great.

A few days ago I took Beatrix to the playground across the street from our apartment and while there, I had an encounter.  You should know up front that I am not a giant fan of the neighborhood I live in, I think it is dirty and loud and really far away from everything, but (and this is a big and worthwhile but) we have a giant and nice apartment.  We moved here when I was pregnant with The Beaz and we got what we wanted;  space and an elevator after years of living in 5th floor walkups on the beautiful but pricey Upper West Side.  The neighborhood we’re in isn’t unsafe, it’s more that we don’t really do much of anything up here.  There is a shortage of commercial “stuff” (a recent high point was the addition of a 7-11 store).

But, we do go to the playground, which is directly across the street from us and at the bottom of Fort Tryon Park (which is very pretty and houses the famous Cloister Museum).

(Editor Note:  This paragraph is stuck on bold.  Sorry!)  Yesterday was a beautiful day and Beaz and I were having fun.  It’s a big playground with a lot of open space and it attracts a wide variety of people.  In the day time it is full of old men sitting on benches reading the paper, and young guys doing pull ups on the monkey bars.  In the afternoon it has the school kids–high school age on down–and they hang out or do tricks on their skateboards or bikes until they are bleeding.  There are usually a few little kids and they stay in the playground area with a big play structure and swings.
Playground.

Playground.

On this day, Beatrix was pretending to be Dora the Explorer (complete with a back pack) and a little boy wanted to play with her, and his name was actually Diego.  For real.  Now all you parents just said, “Oh wow!” but you non-parents probably don’t know that Diego is Dora’s cousin in the cartoon.  So when the kid said his name was Diego,  Beatrix was like, “Oh hey, Diego, I’m Dora!” because of course Diego would show up and help her look for tigers, because she’s Dora.

We’re having a great day, one of those rare perfect weather days, but a little while later a guy and his son showed up and they are walking their dog.  Immediately Beatrix (Dora) says, “No dogs!  No dogs!” because she’s very into the signs at the entrance that have the pictures depicting no smoking, no litter, no feeding the birds, no bike riding and importantly, no dogs.  She’d already screamed at a kid riding a bike “NO BIKE”, so you can imagine when she saw the dog.  It was a problem for her.  It was an even bigger problem for me because the dog was a pit bull.  OKAY–calm down–I know there are nice pit bulls, but this dog was big and very muscular, and straining at the leash trying to get to a squirrel.  It was jumping on the benches and the guy–a big muscular 20 something year old guy–could hardly contain him.  Here are all these little kids, no bigger than the dog, and he’s just walking around, all through the little kid part of the playground.  I was mad, but as a general rule of thumb I’ll avoid an argument with a muscular guy and his strapping young pit bull .  I wanted to say something.  I didn’t.

But another woman did.  She started yelling at him that there were NO DOGS ALLOWED and telling him he had the

So many rules to break.  Only one Beatrix to monitor it.

So many rules to break. Only one Beatrix to monitor it.

whole park to take the dog in (the park is huge) and the playground is the ONE PLACE (she was screaming) where DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED.  Atta girl.  He was mad, they got into it, and Beatrix and I (along with all the other little kids and their fellow chicken parents) quickly migrated to the other side of the playground where the “big kid” swings are.

We played happily for a while, and I kept an eye on the dog fight, feeling rotten that I’d left the woman taking a stand for all of us, but I have to say, she kind of had it covered and was fearlessly taking on this dog owner.  As Beatrix played “Tinkerbell” on the swing with another kid (they were “flying” by swinging on their bellies and running to push off), we were joined on the swings by a group of about five teenagers, who came and took over the rest of the swings.  They were flirting and smack talking each other and screaming f-ing  n-ger at each other.  Wow, I hate that word (the “n” word).  I just don’t think anyone should be saying it at all, no matter what your race is, I think it’s demeaning.  I understand that there is a movement to “reclaim” that word, but maybe it is one word that should just be let go.  Too much baggage. Find a new word.

It went on for a couple of minutes, and it was getting worse, so I finally said to the girl who was the worst offender, “Hey–do you mind watching your language?  You are surrounded by little kids.”

She looked at me and said, “No, it’s my mouth.  I’ll say what I want.”  Then she looked at her friends and said, “I f-ing hate white people.”

Nuh uh.  She did not just say that.

I was in no mood to argue on this pretty day and in front of my kid, but I had to clarify, “This is not a “white people” thing, it’s about little kids.  Period.  Any little kid.”  She then yelled at me that Beatrix hears worse language than that and she went on and on, wanting to escalate it into an argument so she could look tough for her friends, but I wasn’t a willing participant.  I swooped up Beaz, who started screaming that she didn’t want to go home, and we left the playground entirely.  This made Beatrix really furious, and me too, because it was a beautiful day in a year of rare beautiful days.  But there was a pit bull and a vocabulary lesson we couldn’t stick around for.

On the way out of the playground, Beatrix picked up a used condom.

Really, she did.

I think it might be time to move.

It makes me sad and mad and left feeling like, Really?  Am I there?  Am I at the point where my tolerance for Manhattan has grown so thread-bare thin that we have to leave?  I have put up with $6 gallons of milk and broken elevators (or no elevators) and no dishwasher and roaches for 20 years, but now, in one day, a dog and a teenager in playground puts me over the edge?  And then I go into further despair, thinking, is this is where we are in our lives?  Living in a crummy neighborhood at the tip of Manhattan and barely scraping by despite Rob working all the time and me auditioning for jobs that would barely cover my babysitter if I got it?

I know that most families leave for the ‘burbs.  Rob and I both know that we have been swimming upstream in an expensive city with kids for years, and we are getting tired.  Broadway gig or no Broadway gig, it’s just getting too expensive to live here with kids.  More and more we look at ads for teaching positions out of town, and we try to pretend that a dishwasher and a washer and dryer and a dog are choices we really want in our lives.  That the decision to go is ours, and it’s not that we are getting kicked out.

But do you want to know what I really want?

What I really, really want?

To be able to make enough money working at the top of my profession that we can actually afford to live here–in the city of our dreams–and not feel like we are failing when we are admired by others so much for “making it.”

As I say to Rob all the time, “It’s just money.  We have so much:  it’s just money.  We are so lucky.”  But at some point, the money thing has to be taken seriously.  And I think we might be there.  It might be time to go.

His play paid his mortgage, but he was loveless.

His play paid his mortgage, but he was loveless.

But (and now you should know that I am laughing out loud with the absurdity of it all), the TRUTH is, and this is so obvious that I can’t even believe it, I really DID  “Secret the shit out of it” because if you remember, Marsha Mason  cries through the majority of The Goodbye Girl.  She is out of money and alone raising a kid, until the very broke Richard Dreyfuss shows up and even then, they can only be together if he takes a job out of town.  Remember?  He leaves New York to make enough money to live in New York.  She even gets mugged in one scene and they take all her groceries.  Even in Author, Author the bulk of the movie is spent worrying that he is going to lose his giant Village brownstone (which houses numerous children from various wives) if his play isn’t a giant hit.

And then it was a hit, and he was loaded….but he couldn’t find love.

Because nothing in New York is perfect or easy.

Not in the 70′s when those movies were shot, and not now.  It is, what it is, what it is.

It’s the fear that gets you.

So….I guess as a kid I wanted all the sturm und drang that comes with this life.  I really did, and I wasn’t afraid of it.

So, maybe it’s time for me to “Secret the shit” out of something a little…easier…for phase two of our lives?

Or maybe I’ll just remember that all these great stories are brought to you by Sharon Wheatley’s life, because it’s what I’ve wanted since I was a little kid.  Occasionally glamorous, usually scraping by, but always grateful and amazed that I’m actually here and doing it.

And I don’t feel shame, I feel pride.  Because even with a pretty empty bank account we have a lot.

And a lot of people are in the same crap  financial position we are in right now.

And fear sucks.

And it will all get better.

And underneath it all, New York keeps pumping along.

And opportunity is right around the corner (and all that optimistic crap that I inherited from my Dad.)

So there.

 

About Sharon Wheatley

Mother of Charlotte and Beatrix. Sometimes an actress. Sometimes a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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7 Responses to Open House Fever

  1. Jen DeRosa says:

    Ugh Sharon! I'm sorry to hear what happened in the park. I know you guys loved it there and I can see why that day pushed you over the edge. I can totally relate (and am so grateful to read that a REAL adult who HAS made it still goes through crap like this)… it's one thing to put up with everyday NY frustrations but the guy with the dog, the punk with the potty mouth and the obviously unfortunate discovery made by Forensic Detective Beatrix is more than frustrating… that's violating!
    Lately I've been feeling the same way about working so, so hard and so, so many hours all to live in a bogus neighborhood where I am commonly followed home by a creep or inadvertently traipsing through blood spatter on the sidewalk…. It's good to see someone else saying "enough is enough" …. and it's nice to realize that the reason why I'm living here isn't because I'm not working hard enough…. it's just because NY makes it kind of impossible for most people.

  2. TMR says:

    Great blog! I'm eager to hear where you end up!

    Just know that New York City isn't only Manhattan! You could look at Queens, Brooklyn, or the Bronx, which all have nice areas within a 40-minute subway ride to the theater district. They're not cheap, but definitely a LOT cheaper than Manhattan! Good luck!

  3. Amanda says:

    Thank you for writing about all aspects of New York life, because as much as I devour your theatre-related posts (vicarious deliciousness), I also need to hear the other side of things….And as I sit here already in Phase 2 of my move to New York (ie: I've gone from dreaming to planning now), the apartment research has begun. And as much as I tell myself that I could find a nice little studio in Brooklyn or Woodside, posts like this one scare me. And the deeper I search, the more often I find stories like this…(*sigh* cont…)

  4. Amanda says:

    (…cont…)I just want to clarify – I want to get this part out of the way – let's just say right now that I'm not entirely naive about the ups and downs of New York City life, and I know the sort of job I need to have in order to be able to AFFORD to live there ($57k+)- so we can skip over that part and just get right down to talking about it as if I am going to move there for real and for soon. So what I'm trying to say in this comment is (as I reiterate) your post scares me (but in a good way) because I really want to live in New York, and I have a ton of friends there already who seem happy enough, and every time I go for the weekend (which is all the time) I feel happier than I do any other day in my life, but there's always a part of me that's scared and wonders what I'm getting myself into…. So I look forward to this blog series, and who knows? Maybe I'll even end up becoming "Besties" with John Wescott, myself, when the time comes.

  5. Deb Victoroff says:

    This was a great and heart-breaking post on so many levels. There is a generation of young people (feel like an old fart using that term) who are, in the truest sense of the word, "uncivilized". They are little more than animals. It's like a horror movie in the making (actually, they already made it: it's called "Clockwork Orange") when you can't go to your neighborhood playground with your child and feel safe. I will say, that I think the girl who you told to "watch her mouth" might later think about what you said and know she was in the wrong and perhaps (and I'm being optimistic here as well), try to steer her gang from the playground in the future.

    But these kinds of people can't not talk back in front of their peers, because that is the pack mentality. (someone stop me before I talk about how this leads to gang violence and 14 year olds with guns murdering people to be "accepted" by their peers.) "I hate white people" also lets you know where this kid was coming from. Fine, hate "white people", and traffic jams and spoiled milk and long lines, and whatever people love to hate, but keep your sorry ass off the playground!!

    Anyway, what I really wanted to say was: check out Brooklyn. Really. I love the Upper West side too, lived there for 25 years and moved kicking and screaming to Brooklyn Heights but it's a fast ride into Manhattan and is like a miniature Upper West Side. PLEASE check out Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill. Also, Parts of Red Hook. It's getting pretty cool down here and all we need is more artists (I'm a playwright). Then we can open a community theatre. There is already a very cool music community building here around the music venue and teaching facility "Jalopy".

    Williamsburg is way too expensive, as are Brooklyn Heights (to buy but maybe not to rent) and Dumbo, but these other neighborhoods (I mentioned above) are still reasonable.

    Good luck. I love your blog.

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