Friday, September 21, 2007

Making Old Friends, Crisis, and Being a Jewish Mama

The adjustment is going slowly but surely...its humid still which doesn't help and to be really honest, disillusionment sets in....

But first, let's discuss the business of making friends. I have the experience over and over of meeting the same kind of person. I move somewhere new, I meet someone right away, and they have so many similarities to the same person I've met right away in other new places I've lived that I am not sure if it is just a matter of certain kinds of people attracting other certain kinds of people, or if I am just totally fucking crazy and I haven't moved at all and have known the same person all my life.

To profile this person, she usually comes in the form of a single mother, young, pretty, and esoteric. She is into things like healing through intuitive powers, yoga, organic food, and basically anything non-traditional western medicine-ish. She is usually bisexual, intense, and is positive and great to talk to.

Anyways, I met her here...and within days of arrival. I always wonder how I end up with these people, given the fact that I am not super esoteric, nor bisexual, nor a single mother, nor convinced by the powers of healing in non-traditional ways. I can, however, understand how the laid back, open types are attracted to the darker, neurotic types and vice-versa.

So anyways, this girl just moved here too. I love her of course, she loves me. Instant friendship. She moved here because her intuition told her that she should move here, of course. I told her that, initally, when I considered the idea of moving here, that my intuition told me that it was a Very Bad Idea. She got chills at the thought that someone would blatantly ignore their intuition like that. But that is what I did, and well, since I am playing the part of the skeptical neurotic, none of that should matter, right?

So that brings us back to the disillusionment.

I spent my entire childhood, then adulthood (=my whole life) moving every couple of years, so place becomes this huge theme. It is easy for me to blame feeling down on place...but it isn't that straightforward, now is it?

So let us turn to other possible causes...

In the last two weeks, I have experienced, for the first time since I decided 7 years ago to begin populating the earth, days with Nothing to do while BOTH children were in school for the good part of the day. I am currently enjoying that distinct feeling of a crisis coming on again...or at least, the pressure to get cracking on some work or a project of some kind or I'll start to lose my flippin' mind. C'mon, Mama Jens, get off your lazy little ass and get to work.

Which is basically what my husband said to me the other day. I had dropped everyone off at school, then I come home and get right back in bed. What? Don't all mothers do that? My husband came in and said something about its time to get a job, to which I replied, "I plan on getting some mother fuckin' sleep first." Thank the Good Lord Jesus for school.

But let's talk about something else, speaking of the good Lord Jesus.

Like, how Mama Jens is seriously blending in with the Hasidic Jewish community these days. Well, there is nothing new about my outfit. I have the Mama Jens uniform, which consists of a long, black, A line skirt I have owned forever, A black shirt (I have about 50 black shirts to choose from), and my black converse sneakers. My hair is kind of straightish and mid-lengthish. As it turns out, here in Brooklyn, I have found my people. Get this: There are blocks and blocks of people dressed the same exact way! The only minor difference is that the ladies aren't wearing converse shoes, but rather some fancy patent leathery sorts of things or else some tennis shoes of the non-hip variety. Oh yeah, and I usually have two or three fewer children in tow.

Well, I thought, when I started getting stopped daily by the Hasidic Jewish men that they think I am one of them. They stop me and say, "Are you Jewish?" to which I always reply, "No," but one of these days I'm gonna say yes, because I really do want to know what my people have to say. After a couple of days of taking great pride in the fact that I am now a real Jewish woman, I realized that they are stopping everyone they see, not just old Jewish Mama Jens.

This past Saturday, we went ventured out to Long Beach for the day. When we got in the car, my husband looks over to me, and says, "Honey, we're going to the beach, not a funeral." I of course had my Mama Jens, Jewish get-up on, black sweater, skirt and all. But get this, when we got to the beach, all the Hasidic families were out walking, and again, I fit in, which is basically all I ever wanted to do in this life for goodness sake.

So, keep an eye out, Mama Jens has some fashion changes in store for this community. In a couple of years, Jewish Mamas everywhere will be sporting converse sneakers with holes in them for better water flow.

Okay, enough for today. Have a good and godly day.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Starting Preschool, Street Cleaning Parking Protocol, and the Delightful Economics of a NYC Lifestyle

I am happy to report that we survived the first week at PS 321. This place is something else, I tell you. I still haven't gotten used to the thousands of people who show up on time for school in the morning and then pick-up in the afternoon. It is like going to a party two times a drop off your little homie in the lobby in the morning and hope he or she makes it to class without getting trampled, and then in the afternoon, you wait and try not to have an anxiety attack as all the little fish come swimming out of every door searching for their parents on the crowded, skinny sidewalks. Madness.

And now, a new week to survive, as my younger one starts preschool for the first time tomorrow. I thought I was a Seasoned Mama, and that sending my second child off to school for the first time would be no biggie, as I have already gone through all those emotions of letting go and trusting a stranger to take care of my child, etc. but It Just Doesn't Work That Way. For every little human being you bring into the world, be prepared to suffer all the complex emotional sways again and again. So, on that note, another bottle of wine, up late, fretting, making sure all the lunches are packed and extra pair of underwear properly labeled, and so on and so forth. I wish the school gave me the warm fuzzy vibe and was just around the corner, but so far it doesn't, and it doesn't seem to be moving any further south either. So for now, I will summon up the good energy and positive outlook and hope that it all goes smoothly and the first day will change my perceptions. If you are out cruising the streets in Brooklyn in your car, remember there are a lot of kids walking down sidewalks in a line to playgrounds and such. Drive attentively and slowly.

Speaking of driving slowly, parking is a real mother fucker here. During the summer, it was like big, wide spots open everywhere...but now that school is in session and everyone is back from their vacation homes in the Hamptons, parking spots come open about every 45 minutes of driving around all the surrounding blocks. And boy oh boy you'd better read those street cleaning signs before you park. Every street has a different day - and it is just one side of the street on that day. So, very punctually, at 8am, all the cars on the side of the street being cleaned, move over and double park on the opposite side of the street. That means those parked cars on the other side are blocked in until precisely 11 am when street cleaning is done and the cars can move back. No one bothers to honk if they are blocked in...they just all know what the hell is going on. Then all the different trucks pick up the piles and piles and piles and piles and piles of trash. It is AMAZING, and one of those funny, quirky things about the workings of this neighborhood that I have already come to love. I am not sure why I love it...if it is the fact that between 8-11am one day a week you can get away with doing something illegal (double parking), or if it is because between 8-11am one day a week if you weren't paying attention to what was happening on the other side of the street, you have a pretty good excuse for not being able to drive anywhere (some jackass double parked and you are blocked in), or if I just like seeing neatly filed rows of cars all up together side by side...whatever it is I just like it.

So that whole double parking extravaganza is the cool part about owning a car in NYC (that, and you can leave the city when you need a breath of fresh air, seriously). The not-so-cool part is that insurance goes up by 4 times. And this, my friends, is something we are truly In Denial about. We can't bring ourselves to register the damn thing and change the insurance. Yeah, yeah, I know we have to, and we will, but we plan on dragging this one out a little longer. Unfortunately, that 4x rule seems to apply pretty widely to things around here, we've noticed. Preschool, for example...holy fucking have to be a millionaire to send your kid to preschool around here...or maybe that is the norm in the U.S., and we are just still used to preschool in Berlin, which means Lots of Government Funding which means Dirt Cheap (as in you can almost find the change you need in your couch and that includes meals!!).

Which brings Mama Jens down Memory Lane. A beautiful, sunny Chapel Hill Sunday morning. We go to ACME in Carrboro for a lovely brunch. (The food is incredible here, by the way, so stop in if you are every in town...their French toast with fresh strawberries and cream is to die for.) We are sitting next to an older couple who thinks our two kids, jacked up on sugar from the french toast and climbing all over the chairs and pouring out the salt and pepper and so on, are just adorable. We strike up a conversation with them. It turns out they just moved from NYC and bought an amazing 1960's Cogswell house in one of the downtown Chapel Hill neighborhoods. It was even featured in a recent book about Chapel Hill architecture. Anywayz, we were telling them about our upcoming move to the big city and the guy said they decided to head south (much to the disapproval of their children and friends who were like, "You are moving WHERE?") because of the warmer weather and because, "in New Yowk, ya make a hundjred thowsan' dahlas an' yur nahthing, here, you make a hundjred thowsan' dahlas an' yura king." He was right.

Anyways, it is Mama Jens' bed time. Gotta get ready for preschool tomorrow, so more later.

Good night and no more terrorist attacks, please. Love, Mama Jens

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back to School, Tips for Survival in NYC, and A Laundry Update

It is amazing that it has already been a whole year since I was last up late with a bottle of wine, butterflies in my stomach, and trying to get through the night-before-the-first-day-of-school jitters (well, the bottle of wine part happens a little more frequently than once a year). Judging by the bag of nerves that I am, you would think I was starting second grade tomorrow. We are all excited, ready for our early wake up call, and thankful (because, you know, the bottle of wine) that start time is an hour later than it was in Chapel Hill. We had the pleasure of meeting my daughter's teachers a couple of days ago and getting to go into the school, and could already feel the good vibes and the progressive approach. The teachers introduced themselves by their first names to my daughter, and one of them was wearing converse, which naturally immediately made my heart melt (Mama Jens' basic uniform includes dirty, old, black converse with holes on the sides so that my feet can bond a little with the water when it rains.) I think it will be a good year.

Wish me luck as I join the 1300 children and their parents who will descend upon 7th ave tomorrow morning. Holy Jesus. We heard that the ice cream trucks are lined up at 3pm when the crazy masses launch out of the building. Maybe I should invest in an ice cream truck.

So, we are figuring out big city living. It will take some time for sure, and every little step making it easier is just rockin'. Until this weekend, I was feeling a little disillusioned by the part of living here that insists that you are somewhere exciting. You live in this great, gigantic city...there are 8 million insanely incredible things to do everyday...but it is so big and so crowded, that it takes forever to get anywhere and you feel dirty and exhausted by the time you get anywhere, not to mention a little freaked and tweaked by the flourescent lights on the subway and the level of awareness you have to keep up should it be your turn to be mugged that night. Whew. But here is the thing, all it takes is careful planning. You can experience your beautiful neighborhood and all the city has to offer too, as opposed to deciding that it is all just craziness and you will have stay in your beautiful neighborhood. Planning, that's all. A couple of examples:

You want to go into Manhattan and do things with your kids? Just wait until it is Saturday morning, then you go over the Brooklyn Bridge, then up FDR drive along the river (in a car, yes) and enter Manhattan where you want. Voila! No walking forever to the subway, no schlepping all the strollers and kids up and down subway stairs, no watching dirty ass subway germs go from subway window to your child's mouth, no walking eight hundred blocks in the heat trying to figure out which way is north south east west. It can be painless, fast, traffic-free, and there you go, you've had yourself a lovely Manhattan afternoon in Central Park with your children. I don't mind doing all the aformentioned on my ownsome, but with kids, holy shit, its like torture and child abuse all at the same time.

Same with Target. You HAVE to go to Target once in awhile, ladies and gentlemen, let's just face it. And if your local Target is on Atlantic Ave and Flatbush, then let me tell you how it works best. You get up on Sunday morning at 7am and you get to Target when it opens at 8am. You park in the parking garage next to the entrance to the mall, smile at the security dude in the garage on your way in (and cash in on a little of your good kharma to assume he is actually a security dude), go in, and Voila! You have yourself almost a suburban version of Target. No people, no lines, lots of cheap stuff, heaven. If you can't get your lazy old ass out of bed until 10 am and then decide to go, you can count on there being 8 million other people there too with not much left on the shelves.

So let's rewind to Central Park. After we took a walk around and enjoyed the lovely scenery, we went to a playground in the park. This is what I saw: Not nannies, but real-life Mamas. And some mamas they were. One had this sort of tight, thong work out suit on, loosely covered by some sweat pants. She had her blonde curls piled high under her sports cap, and the botox-y face revealed a sort of how-in-the-hell-do-I-control-this-child expression. I couldn't keep my eyes off the thong, and all the other people at the playground were like, is that woman seriously running around a playground all thonged out like that? It was freaky. And then, there was this other Mama. Huge boobs (of the implant kind), perfect hair, make-up only a stylist could have done that morning, and again, a botox-y grin. I was in such another universe watching these people, that it was hard to keep track of my own children.

And now for an update on the is another reason to find some principles that would involve not owning a washer/dryer...and Listen Up Ladies: When your husband sees you hauling trash bags of laundry a couple of blocks to the laundromat, he will OFFER TO DO IT THE FOLLOWING WEEK! I am not shitting you. Try it. Just make up an excuse to have to go to a laundromat..kick in your wash machine and break it or whatever...and you'll see that this works. Voila! Fresh, soft, warm laundry - piles of it - and it was done by someone else - and your husband to boot. Ahhhhh!!!!

Allright, time to get back to obsessing over going back to school. Good night and good lovin'.

Mama Jens