Sunday, January 28, 2007

Its late. Sunday or Saturday or whatever. Mama Jens is totally obsessed now with moving to the city. Give me an idea and I just run with it. So I'm not getting many votes here, but we're going anyways. We just know its time. And in a couple of months, we'll be back in the chaos. Life is just so dang weird, I tell you.

Speaking of weird, my two year old is saying the word "weird," which is just total craziness. She rattles on about things in her half-understandable speech, and every now and then, punctuates it all by saying, "That's weird." And it is weird. Right on.

And so it is time for a couple of things. First, another get-rid-of-a-thon. If you followed my last one, then you know what I am talking about. Moving makes me want to get down to the basics - and by basics, I mean a couple of suitcases worth of belongings. Of course, this time we have furniture that we can just drive north, so that is a little less complicated, but still. I look around, and even though most people see something like an empty room, I see clutter. I get crazy over that. So now, with thoughts of moving, I feel the need to purge, even if we're just talking about thoughts.

And then there is the living-in-your-reality-as-you-are-experiencing-it problem. That means, everywhere I go, I think, "Take me to the big city." I have to work on that one...I have to accept the here and now and just appreciate it and enjoy the love and friendliness and good weather and slow pace. It is cozy here, for sure. And I appreciate how easy it is to do things, to get from Point A to Point B, etc.

And so I am trying...despite recent chemical imbalances and all kinds of other mental disturbance, I am trying very hard to exist, participate, and even enjoy.

So on that note, I'll tell you what we've been eating. Very Heathly Food. I am cooking fish like three nights a week, these days. Salmon, Tuna, Talapia...and the guys at Whole Foods never fail to give good and interesting cooking recommendations, down to suggested accompanying herbs and broiling times. Those guys rock totally and I only hope I can find them in the city too. And what have we been doing? Working, taking photos until our eyes pop out of our heads, and raking leaves. We live among some pretty dense and sky tall oak trees and several months ago, those things dropped all their beautiful foliage. We have done a lot of raking and blowing and even hand moving the frickin' things, but we are still swamped with them. A little kharmic leaf note: If you blow the stuff into the neighbors yard, it will just float on back when the wind blows. Don't even bother doing that.

So back to the city. Park Slope seems to be the location calling us. As we haven't actually been there, we don't know the general vibe. But we do know the basics, that A) it is next to a huge park where we can assure our children that grass and trees still exist and B) there is a very good elementary school there. And so being a Mama, you know, these are basically the driving factors. The downsides...well, from what I can tell reading about the place...A) it is popular because of my aforementioned attributes and therefore rent is AMAZINGLY high and B) it is perhaps overgentrified to an annoying degree. I can deal with some of that, but it can get pretty annoying too. That is what annoyed us about Prenzlauer Berg, as it related to other districts in Berlin. Not enough of a mix, you know. Hipster parents drinking their cafe lattes at the playground, more or less all wearing the same clothes like a freakish clone scene from a movie. We were characters too, I will admit. So when we go there, we can see for ourselves. Is it totally awesome and perfect for a family? Or is it so frickin' hip that we will curl with embarrassment? Whatever it is, it is in the city, and it is only a few stops from lower Manhattan, and it is not too far from mountains when we need an escape and the park sounds amazing, and there is so much more for us there with the kind of work we do, and and and....

Are we totally insane or what? Don't be afraid to answer yes.

Mama Jens

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mama Takes a Trip to the Big City and Wants to Move There

It is impossible not to feel completely blown away the first time you land in the big city. The buildings, the scale is so much larger than life, that you have no choice but to feel overwhelmed stepping in, no matter how many times you have been there before.

My first glimpse of the city through the windows of the airport shuttle was going over the Williamsburg Bridge. Along the highway, one sees acres and acres of rolling hills covered with headstones. And behind that, like a much larger version of the same thing, the Manhattan skyline.

After that initial scale shock comes the near-death-by-taxi (or in this case, Airport Shuttle) experience - which I always have. You see your life flash before your eyes, then SLAM on the brakes, and the people cross over the crosswalk in something like slow motion before you.

I drop off my bags at the Chelsea Lodge (cute, very cute, and not super expensive) and then set out to aimlessly wander for about four hours. Plans escape me and maps become obsolete. In any and every direction, I walk blocks and blocks and absorb everything around me. At some point, I realize I've had nothing to eat all day and I have no idea where I am. I see a subway entrance and go down, still with no direction. I get on a train, go a few stops and realize I'm in Queens. It is quieter there, but I am not ready for that yet. I turn around and go back. Central Park. 70 degrees in January. There are lanes of runners and bikers and families and people covering every little part of each path. Get a grip, Mama Jens. Jump into a taxi. Back at my hotel. Eyes red. Head dizzy. I look like I've been smoking crack all afternoon. I wash my hands. I sit on the bed and try to stop spinning.

Day 2: I wake up at 7am. Eyes wide, heart thumping in my refreshing morning panic attack style. I find my way from bed to shower (if the bed were any closer, it would be in the shower). I squeeze inside and wonder how anyone with body fat would fit in there. Then I'm off to find coffee and 4 GB cards for my camera. People are amazingly friendly, and I wonder why NYC has a negative reputation in that respect. Everyone seems helpful and loveable. I want to kiss them all. I get all my photo stuff together and jump in another death taxi. I think that if I have to spend $200 in taxis on my trip, it will be money well spent. For a moment, I like going fast. I like seeing all the buildings and streets and districts rushing past me. Mama Jens loves taxis, and if you you don't get me killed, you get a big tip. I reel from the chaos and wondering if the people that live there ever experience it any differently. I spend all day taking photos up in the big park. It is good fun and I enjoy interacting with the other humans. When this is over, I head to Tribeca via tea in Greenwich Village for yoga at Kula Yoga. This is the first yoga class that kicks my ass totally. There are like sixty people crammed into a teeny, 100 degree room and the teacher is this awesome, energetic, guy with piles of dreadlocks who just walks in 20 minutes late and is like, "Let's do some fucking yoga!" The beautiful men and women enter a space unlike any other for something like 2 and a half hours and I think, "Oh, this is how they survive in the city." At the end, I am sweating as though I had just run up and down 8000 subway steps and I feel amazing. Another taxi and I am back in my room, passing out at 10pm.

Day 3: It is raining, so I can't take more photos like I had planned. I go back to Cafe Gitanes in Nolita where we went last time and have a croissant and some coffee. I wander around in the rain for awhile before I decide it isn't such a good idea with the equipment getting all wet. I do some shopping and then stop at beautiful Italian wine bar somewhere around Broadway in Soho (I wish I remembered the name) and have an incredible glass of wine in broad daylight. In the evening, I meet an old friend.

Day 4: An emotional morning. Feeling fully adjusted to city life again and it only took 4 days. I go to the same coffee shop. I feel the comforts of a neighborhood feeling around where I am staying. I am in love with this city. I go down to the World Trade Center site and take pictures of cranes and business men getting their shoes polished around Wall Street. I head back through China town, where I really enjoy the eye candy. I buy a fan for one of my daughters and a silk wallet for the other. I head back to Chelsea for a bowl of soup at a nondescript restaurant where I have eaten most of my meals. Then, I find the galleries. Blocks and blocks of old brick warehouses. Not much info on the outsides, apart from the occassional, discreet sign that clues you into the fact that there is something inside. I go in a few. Galleries upon galleries upon galleries. I wander for hours and find myself impressed and inspired by the paintings and photographs within. Then, I spend some time being a voyeur. It is dark now, and I can see right inside those beautiful houses, many of them single family homes. I see their light fixtures and staircases and wonder about their histories. At 7, it is time for the Emily Haines concert at the Hiro Ballroom. Beautiful, stylish New Yorkers file in and sit down. Nothing here feels down to earth. I enjoy the music, but reject the scene. I find my way back to my room, and go to sleep.

Day 5: Jet Blue back to Raleigh. Without you, we'd just be flying a bunch of TVs around the country. Jet Blue rocks totally.

Very nice to make a Mama Trip, but VERY hard to adjust to the reality of life again. Days later, I feel whole again.

And so here's what's happening here, we are seriously considering a move to the big city, folks. I realized there, but mostly when I came back, that I felt infinitely more comfortable in the urban jungle. To check for idealistic projections, we will make yet another trip beginning of April to check it out family style and see if that is ultimately where our adventure is leading us. We kind of saw it coming, but it happened sooner than we thought. We love it here too, and it was perfect for the transition from Berlin, but boy oh boy is the big city calling us. Cast your votes today for or against. And make your recommendations on neighborhoods. Think: schools, parks, love, rent.

In the meantime, we are just doing our research and enjoying and appreciating life here. Namely the quiet. It is sooooo quiet. Outside, quiet (apart from the occasional prancing feet of deer and a distant car on Franklin Street). Inside, quiet (no TV this week...a nice, refreshing experiment in creativity and imagination for our children). Metaphysically, quiet. Give us our neurosis back!!!!!

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Love, Mama Jens

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

John Edwards (Again) and NYC (Again)

Here it is, less than a month after my last post and I am blogging. Productivity. Apart from feeling like my feet aren't touching the ground lately, things are going pretty well.

We saw John Edwards speak at Southern Village (remember - Truman Show, swingers club, sex toy parties, etc...?) over the weekend, which was pretty rockin'. I was proud of the old guy, with his big time, hometown turn-out. He was lookin' good out there, but you couldn't hear him too well, since he was being quietly fed into all the tv station vans framing the crowd. But what I am more interested in than politics and the entire fate of the universe, being the Obsessive-Compulsive Real Estate Mama that I am, is the 25,000 square foot house that he bought somewhere around here. I gotta find that dang thing. I hear it has multiple drive ways, depending on whether you plan to enter the living room first or the kitchen. The dude's got millions, nice hair, and maybe even a chance (it would be pretty awesome if the Prez was from Chapel Hill...would make me feel kinda even then since I lived in Austin when George W was governor...and I remember my husband, then boyfriend, saying, "Can you BELIEVE he was elected GOVERNOR???!!"). So there you go. Rock it, democrats.

And here it is now, 2007. My feet, yes, they are still hanging off the ground, and on that note...I will go to NYC this weekend. I know it is only a couple of blog entries since my last NYC trip...but maybe we will just start seeing a pattern here. Maybe I won't be content with 4 trips a year. Maybe it will be more like every other week, and then we will move there! :) I tell you something, I miss the city life. So there you are. I am going there. On my ownsome. I will go to yoga everyday. I will take photos. I will paint some pictures. I will wander. It is a real Mama Escape. And you will be so proud of me... being the Real Estate Voyeur that I am, I have even set up appointments to look at apartments. Now that I know everything about every house in Chapel Hill, I decided to move on to Manhattan.

And speaking of Manhattan, the book about NYC that my husband lovingly gave the old city freako for Christmas, really keeps talking more about Brooklyn. And so this time, I will check it out. I'll give you the full report.

Ah, a short entry. I have to sleep now. Good night and sweet dreams.

Mama Jens