Saturday, July 08, 2006

Archive I: We’re Moving Where?

I always knew that Marty and I would not remain in the Northeast long term – the main reason being that he does not like living there. When we moved there from Houston in February 2001, I was hoping to get 3 good years. I got 5 and am grateful.

I should clarify by explaining that I grew up in New York City. Yes – in the city. On a quaint street named East 73rd. While most kids were learning to ride bikes, I was learning to jaywalk without getting run over. While most kids were learning to drive their first cars, I was learning to hail a cab in midtown at rush hour (although I did learn to drive on the West Side Highway).

New York is in my blood. It always will be. It’s how I identify myself. Who are you? I’m a New Yorker.

At the end of August in 1999 I moved to Houston, TX to go live with Marty (then boyfriend, now husband). Before I moved, I went to a trendy boutique in Nolita and purchased a pink felt “cowboy hat” (cowboy hats were very trendy at the time). I proudly showed it to my man – who promptly laughed.

“That’s not a cowboy hat,” he snapped.

“Of course it is.” I didn’t mention that it was a very expensive cowboy hat and he better damn well like it.

“No it’s not.”

We argued for a while about the true status of my hat before I gave up. I didn’t get it.

Six months later I attended my first Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. I showed up the first night to the BBQ Cook-Off sponsor dinner in a black strapless dress, satin wrap and 4 inch heels (a sponsors dinner seemed no place for a cowboy hat – even one as charming as my pink beauty…). I was greeted with stares. I’d like to think it’s because I looked gorgeous. But in reality, I stood out like a sore thumb on that rain-soaked, wind-whipped campground. Apparently – no one had told me that the uniform was Western wear. Real Western wear.

So what does a faux cowgirl do? She goes shopping the next day and buys Wranglers, Ropers, a REAL cowboy hat and a Western shirt that was so stiff with starch, it was nearly impossible to wear.

What’s my point (besides the fact that I’ll use any excuse to go shopping)? I embraced the culture. Granted – the Rodeo in Houston is a once-a-year, 3 week long event and all of my cowgirl gear is promptly tucked away at its end. I mean – it’s not like I’d wear this stuff in public.

Still, life in Houston was tolerable. In fact, after a period, I down right loved it. Say what you will, but there are other cities besides New York (Gasp – have I just lost my New Yorker status by uttering such a comment?). And Houston is one of them. I think the only time I missed being in New York was at 10pm on a Wednesday when we were trying to find a post-theater dining spot and our choices were limited to 2 trendy Italian restaurants that Marty hated.

When we moved back to the Northeast, we moved to Hoboken, NJ. Yes New Jersey. That seemed almost as offensive to me – if not more so – than moving to Texas, but I actually fell in love with Hoboken (which is – despite being in a different state – akin to being the 6th borough of New York City) and stayed there happily for 5 years.

Two years ago we bought a farm in a little town called Lincolnton. Why? Well, for one thing, my mother-in-law was selling it. The home on the property had housed her business for many years but she was getting ready to shutter the business and retire. Additionally, the farm was across the street from where my in-laws lived and it seemed like owning a home nearby would give us the proper impetus to come down and spend time with them several times a year. I think we also may have discussed this becoming a long-term destination in the grand scheme of our lives, but I don’t recall. I was too busy picking out new paint and wallpaper.

Of course the best laid plans sometimes go astray. For starters, my in-laws moved to Myrtle Beach a few months after we purchased the house so suddenly traveling to Lincolnton to spend time with them was no longer an option.

Secondly – despite being only and hour and ten minutes in the air from Newark to Charlotte, we never had an easy breezy trip. Delayed equipment, delayed crews, countless ground stops at Newark – what was supposed to be a 2½ hour trip in totum often stretched into 5+ hours. Much of it spent sitting on a runway or waiting at the airport. Not to mention that prior to Jet Blue announcing that they were picking up a route to Charlotte a few months ago, UsAir and Continental both charged exceedingly high fares for what in reality could be considered a commuter flight.

So traveling to the farm 6 – 8 times per year was in reality more like 2 – 3.

And then one day Marty could take it no more – it being life in the Northeast. He wanted out. He wanted peace. He wanted traffic free roads. He wanted land. He wanted to be surrounded by polite people who said “excuse me” and “thank you.” He was tired of being whacked in the head with briefcases by people pushing past him on the bus. He was tired of being herded each morning onto the ferry like cattle. He wanted to wake up and look out over the pasture and see cattle. He didn’t want to be cattle.

And so we made the decision. The inevitable decision. To move to Lincolnton.

I had always said that I had 2 criteria for where we ultimately settled. One – there had to be a decent school system. I didn’t care if it was public or private, but I want my children to go to a school where the end game is a traditional 4-year college. Not vocational school or community college or worse – straight into the workforce (Or worse yet married and pregnant). I know people who come from small communities. My cousin’s boyfriend grew up in the back woods of Michigan and he is the only one in his class that went to a 4-year school. I don’t want that to be my kid.

Second. I am Jewish. So there needs to be some semblance of a Jewish community. I don’t expect that it will be like New York City. But I don’t want my children be ostracized for being Jewish in an area that’s got more churches than Imelda Marcos has shoes.

We never had to discuss the school system because I am pretty sure I am the only Jew in this town. And I hardly constitute a community.

So I suggested that we live in Lincolnton for a year or so, get familiar with the area and then buy a home in Charlotte – which is quite a lovely city (did I mention that Neiman Marcus is opening up in the fall of 2006 plus they’ve got a Dean & Deluca?). Marty pushed back. What was wrong with Lincolnton? He had grown up there (sort of – he went to high school nearby in Hickory) and turned out fine. Plus, he assured me our children wouldn’t be the only Jews attending St. Steven’s (where he had gone to high school). At this point I fainted.

Still we pushed forward with the move even as we were unsure of how long we would stay here.

Our original move date of autumn 2005 was postponed when we couldn’t sell our house in Hoboken and I am grateful because in those extra few months, my husband became friends with a colleague who started sending him links to new real estate developments in Charlotte and pretty soon he was on the bandwagon to buy an apartment in a brand new, full service amenity high rise going up in uptown Charlotte.

So we moved to Lincolnton, NC. Or as my father lovingly tagged it Donna Karanless, NC. Population: 9,965 (80% white).

The plan is to stay here a year or so until the high rise in Charlotte is ready for occupancy (although there’s been some debate on that recently because management in the building is being a pain in the ass on several issues) and then keep this place as a weekender.

*****

I started writing this piece a while ago – probably in the first week or 2 that we lived here. I got as far as that last point and then stopped. I couldn't quite figure out how to end my thoughts on being a fish out of water and what it might mean.

Well, I have since been living in Lincolnton for ~ 2 months. And while I am still a fish out of water (the fact that I don't weigh 400 lbs. is reason enough to be noticed when I walk into Wal-mart), I have to say I love it here. I truly do. I don’t think it of it as a long term living situation (which may be why I am so happy in the here and now), and despite a shortage of iced decaf and only 3 bars to choose from on any given Wednesday night (that number cuts down to 2 on Mondays and Tuesdays), I have found life here to be pleasant, peaceful and satisfying.

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