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Pulling Up Roots

December 6, 2011

When it comes to moving, I don’t.

I’ve always been a bloom-where-I-am-planted kinda guy.  This has been the case since the day I was deposited back in the city at the (now long gone) 14th Street exit of the FDR, having hitched back east from my 10 week trip around the continent in 1970, and I stood there, at the foot of bleak Con Ed-fested Manhattan, knapsack on my back, sleeping bag under my arm, wondering: Should I really go back to Pad Six and my life in NY, or should I head straight to Port Authority and keep on going? But I chose to return to the East Village, and I never looked back.  

Now, 41 years later, I’ve spent my entire adulthood in one town and two boroughs, and my entire life on these two islands.

I’ve stayed in each of my apartments as long as I could, and grew not by moving around but by living a kind of isometric life, pressing hard on whatever was right in front of me as a way of getting strong. For the most part, it’s worked.

It may shock some people, but I’ve never owned a home, just as I’ve never owned a car. So when it comes to the material goods money can buy, except for collectables like books, videos and music (in all its formats), I’ve traveled this life light. When I’ve had the money, I’ve spent it on experiences, mostly of the self-improvement kind.

But now it’s time to move again. I don’t like to move. No one does, perhaps, but except for the pain medication I look forward to having my doctor prescribe this time, I’ve always dreaded it.

Every spring for the past several years, as our rent-stabilized lease was about to expire, we’ve considered moving, especially as the three flights of stairs up to our apartment seemed to inexplicably grow steeper. But the truth is, although I’m not quite sure what we’re doing in this neighborhood, we’ve loved our apartment since the day we saw it. The thousand square feet. The two bathrooms (couples take heed). The great views with all the trees in front, and the huge garden next door in back. The access to the roof for summer sunsets when we’d bring up a couple of beach chairs, a CD player and a bottle of wine. Not to mention the library directly across the street. The only thing it’s lacked are thin walls through which we could slyly broadcast our sex life.

But a strange thing began happening starting a year or so ago. A yawning and spooky abyss has grown in front of our house. One by one those great trees on our street that were right in front of us have been demolished. One by the tornado-like storm that ripped through Brooklyn last year, felling the old proud oak just to our right. One by some strange disease that made the city call in the Calcutta Cutters to saw it down. One by that freak snowstorm we just had in October.

I wrote the above paragraph last night. And then — I swear to this —  this morning I enter the living room and Shelley says, “If you want to open the window again, you can. I had to close it because the tree-cutters were out front making a racket earlier.” I look outside, and sure enough, another old tree, the one right by the old oak, lay in ruins by the curb, like a fallen hero with his legs cut off and placed alongside his torso. It had always seemed fine to me, but maybe it had a disease or something.

And maybe this all means nothing, but at the moment I choose to read it as a message: Great green and venerable things of beauty are dying or being killed one by one right before your eyes. Get out while you still can!    

On top of this, since July, of course, there’s been a much greater issue: Shelley’s been having a real problem negotiating the stairs.  So what I’ve been resisting for years is now an imperative.


I counted and this will be my 11th move since I was born; my 6th as an adult. Except for those sad guys I went to high school with who are still living in the same house they grew up in back in Great Neck, I don’t know anyone else anywhere near my age who’s moved as infrequently.

Shelley and I are determined not to settle, and to find a place that feels as special as our current abode. Preferably in a neighborhood currently accepting ageing hippies.

So listen, if you hear of anything for rent in Brooklyn that’s cat-friendly and has two bedrooms (one for my “man cave” as Shelley puts it) and two bathrooms and oh yes, Shelley wants lots of closets, 15 or 20 if possible, be sure to let us know, won’t you?

Looking forward to that Percocet…


4 Comments leave one →
  1. roy alexander permalink
    December 6, 2011 11:21 am

    I’ve often wondered if Irma and I are the only ones who have moved so infrequently. Were all those guys moving to the “Island” and Marlboro, and making car payments to ensure their safe journey to work in Brooklyn doing the right thing or the wrong thing. I was born in Kew Gardens, moved to Brighton Beach when I was three (my father died and we moved in with grandparents), stayed there until I married Irma (who had lived in one small apartment up until then, rented for five years, and, finally (possibly), lived in our house for 38 years so far with no sign of leaving. I don’t expect to head to Florida like so many others. That’s three moves for me, two for Irma in our 65 or so years. But, along the way, so many steady friends. That’s the best part. Roy

  2. December 6, 2011 1:42 pm

    In terms of moving, I moved alot as a militiary dependent. After a leaving the mid-west where my Dad was finally stationed and after spending a couple of years in Boston to study music in the early 70’s, I moved to my little one bedroom in apt. on W. 67 street and never looked back. Even after I married and left the city, something inside me said, “just don’t give up your apt. you never know what’s going to happen”. And sure enough, that never knowing did happen and I ended up moving right back to my little corner near Lincoln Center about 7 years later, ready to begin a new life, again.
    Since then, I redesigned it enough so that I can do my shrink work here, and I’ll probably be here for the rest of my life, watching the world change, and looking out at all my gorgeous trees so beautifully lit for the season with lights of white and blue. Michael M

  3. decline permalink
    December 6, 2011 5:40 pm

    Never thought to count before. It’s 11 for me. How about that.

  4. murray permalink
    December 6, 2011 9:13 pm

    Beautiful abode. Your apartment sounds and feels like a special place to live in and escape to. A place to curl up and into. I hope you two find a new heaven.
    In addition, I loved your description of the trees outside your windows. Though fallen, they still remain alive in your poetic essay.

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