Good morning! It’s 5:26 AM. I was awoken at 4:30 by a bizarre meow coming from the living room. I recognized Louise’s voice but not the type of meow. Was she getting harassed by Top Cat, our temperamental spotted kitty? When I walked through Charlotte’s sleeping area to investigate, she was standing up in her crib, also awake. The cats were hiding and the cause of the strange meow wasn’t apparent.
I nursed Charlotte to help her get back to sleep, then I got back in bed. But I was alert. I realized, hey, why not just get up? This is that Free Time you’ve been wishing for. Go write. I made coffee in the dark, fed the cats. Walked past sleeping Ben, opened the blinds in the living room to see the sun come up. I’m in my little office, one of the things I will miss the most about this place.
I’ve been considering starting this blog back up again as a place to write about leaving New York City, where I’ve lived more or less steadily since November, 1998 (my single year in Germany from 2001-2002 still feels like a dream). In June Ben, Charlotte and I will move from our apartment in Bushwick to Milton in upstate New York, where Ben’s father and stepmother live. We will spend time with family in Philadelphia, in Narragansett, Rhode Island and in Burlington, Vermont, and then, in early September, we will take Charlotte, Louise and Top Cat to Los Angeles. We’ll be living in a house (a house!) in Eagle Rock, a part of Los Angeles with which I am not terribly familiar. Ben will be screenwriting and directing, and I will be with Charlotte a lot of the time, looking for itinerant teaching work some of the time, and finally, finally….doing the writing projects I have been cooking on the back burner for the past year.
This blog has been a place where I come when I am far away from loved ones. We know people in Los Angeles, but we do not have roots there. All of our roots are in the Northeast, a part of America I know will come into greater focus once we are transplanted. In fact it already is coming into clearer focus as I begin to imagine myself elsewhere, in a desert on the opposite edge of the country, in a metropolis organized around entirely different principles than New York City.
By the way, this isn’t going to be the most polished writing, this newest phase of Parasites and Other Adventures. It will mainly be quick entries in early morning hours. It’s embarrassing how fragmented the written thoughts are these days, given the attention I need to pour into being with an active, inquisitive fourteen month-old.
So here are the Thoughts this morning, in more or less listy format.
Finding the Roots As I Pull Them Up
- I take for granted how familiar I am with the overlapping worlds of education in New York City, from Bank Street College to my little special ed school to the loose network of teachers I know in schools all over the city. And yet, it’s an uncomfortable familiarity, the sort of illusion of Knowing It All that you get as a teenager about to leave home. I’m hankering for exodus from the school world of NYC, to be jarred out of my current jaded state, to pull back on the picture and see the edges. Actually, come to think of it, I feel about as confused about my identity as a teacher as I did when I last left New York and moved to Berlin. It’s such a familiar feeling, this welling up of frustration with the inadequacies of The System, being flooded daily with empathy for parents stuck trying to get their kids cared for in said system and being appalled, yes, APPALLED by the astounding waste of talent and human potential. More on this, I am sure, in later posts.
- When I arrived in NYC as a twenty two year old graduate from art school (RISD, film and video major) I was desperate for human connection, for friends and mentors, lovers and surrogate parents. Incredibly, I found all of these over the years. I have so far managed to botch my goodbyes to most of these folks (those closest to me being by far the shining example, and more on that later) by virtue of being completely overwhelmed by the richness I am leaving behind. In the months since Ben and I made the final decision to leave, I have been unwittingly focusing on all the little irritants of this place, a sign that it is time for a period of self-exile, for a refresher course on Loneliness Vs. Community.
- As we begin to imagine how our lives will change in Los Angeles, I’m seeing with fresh gaze the workings this city, the ease of covering huge amounts of ground each day via subway, the buzz of being here that keeps me hooked at the same time as it makes me crave Quiet. I remember back in my early years here how different New York felt than anywhere else. Driving back over the bridge or through the tunnels always felt like being a pinball launched into a series of bumpers and flippers, dinging bells and flashing lights. In those early years I left the city often, ambivalent about having left the nest I’d built amongst my artist friends still living in the quiet of New England, in post-industrial Providence. I contemplated moving back often, almost instantly nostalgic once I’d stopped paying rent there. (It turns out it’s a longstanding pattern I have, this quirky relationship with staying, leaving and goodbyes.)
- There is nothing quite like the mashup of cultures here in New York City. The other day I was with Charlotte in a playground in Dumbo. It was recess hour at a nearby yeshiva, and hordes of Orthodox girls in matching plaid dresses filled the playground. Their teachers, all young women in the long skirts, wigs and sensible shoes of Williamsburg orthodoxy played along with them, tossing balls to each other and swinging on the swings. “This I will miss in Los Angeles,” I thought. This, the instantaneous nature of cultural immersion that happens in my city. This phenomenon that taught me I, too (this person who grew up thinking she was without roots) am from a particular group of People.
It’s 6:35. Sun’s up and soon Charlotte will be too, turning on the classical music lullabies on her crib mobile. I go in to work today, so it’s off I go to get ready for the day.