any situation where poo goes up, out and everywhere (literal or figurative)
synonyms: shitstorm, calamity, misadventure, catastrophe (you get it)
It’s been six months since Danny, Sam and I moved to New York City from Montreal and I finally feel ready to tell our story, or rather our poosaster. Danny and I invented that word (at least I think we did) during one of our multiple baby blowout experiences, which literally deals with poo going up, out and everywhere. In this context it replaces the more popular, ‘shitstorm’, and believe me that comparison is well warranted. Let me preface by saying Danny and I were clueless as to what New York City was like, let alone what it would be like for two small-town folk like ourselves to live there. To be honest I don’t even think it occurred to us that we wouldn’t like it. We saw it as an excellent adventure in the 'most amazing city in the world.'
We were a little anxious leading up to the move...
To give a little more context as to where we were emotionally I think it’s important to note that 1) we are first-time parents, which naturally means we are in a constant state of fear/wonderment/sleep deprivation, which equals emotional basket-case sometimes. 2) although we have visitors come from BC once and awhile we don’t have any family out east, so it feels pretty lonely a lot of the time. I never imagined raising my kids away from my hometown. Sometimes it makes me sad that Sam won’t know that place deeply until later in his life. And, 3) Just before moving to NYC we were confronted by Montreal’s infamous International Moving Day - a ridiculous tradition where everyone in the city moves ON THE SAME DAY, July 1st (I am not kidding). This means that almost all leases in Montreal expire on that day and often getting your landlord to agree to let you move on any other month is a major pain-in-the-ass. So, three months before our lease ended (the designated lease renewal time) we received threats from our landlord’s family and were faced with having to leave a month before we wanted, and this all when Sam was only three weeks old. So, out of pure exhaustion we eventually gave in and agreed to move out our Montreal apartment a month before we were legally allowed to enter the United States to live. We thought of going to BC for that month but instead we cat-sat for some friends in Montreal and lived in their house, which was lucky but also involved us not having any of our possessions for that time, as well as the rather arduous process of having to constantly find places for our cat to live in the meantime - she moved three times that month (poor kitty). So, the month before the biggest move of our life, to another country with our new son, we were feeling pretty anxious and displaced.
Apartment hunting in New York City is the pits...
Thirty days before the big move we took the Amtrak down to New York City to apartment shop for just under a week. We had two connections down there to make, one was my dear friend Katie who put us up for four nights in her apartment in east Harlem and even gave us her bedroom (Sam would roll over for the first time there), and the other was a friend-of-a-friend in Bushwick Brooklyn who was a broker, and would help us find an apartment. We didn’t know that he would be the only way we were going to get even close to finding an apartment in five days’ time. In fact, in the first 24 hours of being in NYC we learned that we had three main things riding against us, 1) we did not have American credit, so landlords could not see our good credit history 2) we did not have social security numbers so landlords risked us dropping out of a lease with no consequence (ie. they couldn’t ever bring us to American court) and 3) we did not have an American guarantor (someone who says they’ll be legally obliged to pay our rent if we can’t). Our Canadian one did not count. If we had just one of these things our rate of success in finding an apartment would have greatly increased. But we did not, so our broker was not confident he could find us a place. After hearing that news we felt pretty discouraged.
Our broker was based in Bushwick, Brooklyn so he really tried to sell us on that area, which was hard at first. I was particularly turned off by the lack of nice playgrounds for Sam (they looked like gloomy jail yards) and the general lack of green space (I know it’s NYC, what did I expect?) On our first day we were actually able to view an apartment, which was unexpected and exciting - until we saw it. This apartment was rough, I mean a major fixer-upper, and really dirty with signs of mice and bugs. But it had some good points, it was large with high ceilings and had a lot of sunlight. I remember walking up through one side of the apartment, while Danny went through the other, and recall some forced optimism urging me to think, ‘we could make this work’. Moments later Danny and I met eyes and I could tell he was really unimpressed. It was then that I realized how I really felt, I wanted to run out of that place. I knew New York City apartments on a budget were rundown but this place was a dump. It was not a place I could call home. Shockingly, our broker seemed to think that was as good as it got for places in our price range.
We wanted to persevere and see what else was out there. So, on day two of our apartment search, in the hopes that our broker was just being fatalistic, we ventured out to other ‘affordable’ parts of Brooklyn and attempted to contact other brokers. That’s when reality hit, it was just as our broker had predicted: we could not get another broker to talk to us let alone show us an apartment. Furthermore, all of these neighbourhoods seemed to be a lot more city-like than I ever imagined they could be in Brooklyn; jammed packed sidewalks, always an emergency vehicle going by, and just generally noisy, and super dirty. We officially felt like a country bumpkins in the big city, and we were freaked out - were we really moving here? We were beside ourselves. Don’t forget, we were doing this all on transit with a five-month-old baby in the peak of NYC summer heat.
Suddenly Bushwick was looking very attractive, with it’s rugged industrial feel, artistic community (there is beautiful graffiti everywhere) and best of all, quiet small-town feel compared to places like Flatbush. So, back to Bushwick we went to our broker who we hoped would find a landlord who thought we seemed like nice, trustworthy foreigners. We were there for another day and still not one landlord would consider us, so with our days running out we bit the bullet and applied for the dumpy apartment, the only one we would view all week. In our final days in NYC, as we awaited a decision from the landlord of that scary apartment, we considered the fact that if we did not get it we could not move to New York and would instead go home. The sad thing was we no longer knew where home was: we were in the process of saying good-bye to Montreal, and it had been years since we considered what we would do (work-wise) if we were to move back to British Columbia. The last two days of that visit felt dark; we talked a lot about giving up on New York and where we would go if we did. Our introduction to New York City had us really scared. We truly felt that even if we did move we wouldn't last the whole five years in the Big Apple, so we wondered if we really wanted the apartment. Finally, on the day before our train back to Montreal we got an unexpected ‘yes’ from the landlord and we decided to sign the lease. The eleven hour train ride back to Montreal the next day felt especially long as we wondered if we were doing the right thing.
For the next three weeks there was a lot of back and forth between the us and the broker regarding home improvements to our Bushwick abode. We sunk a chunk of our savings into making it, what we thought, would be livable.
The big move to the Big Apple...
The weeks leading up to the move were made easier by the fact that we had already packed and stored all of our belongings in preparation for house-sitting. Then getting to New York from Montreal was easy, especially for me since I arrived with Sam by air five days after Danny had driven a U-HAUL full of our stuff down to Brooklyn. Danny and I spoke a lot in the days that he spent there preparing the apartment, and he warned me multiple times that the renos didn’t do much for the overall feel of the apartment (we had the floors pulled up and the walls and ceilings washed and painted). Also, the deep clean that we ordered didn’t happen, so Danny and his friends were working their butts off. When I arrived I was in shock, even after improvements it was worse than I remembered: the walls were heavily textured in a very hodge-podge way and some holes at eye level had been filled with expanding foam. The kitchen cupboards were small and dingy, and the floors were no better than the four layers of vinyl and linoleum that we had had pulled up. The worst part was that the steam heaters were very dirty and had mold behind them, and many of the outlet and heater holes were gaping, dirty and moldy. We became more and more concerned about the mold that we were finding and decided we would get it professionally tested for toxicity.
In that first week we became more familiar with our neighbourhood; there was a music festival on our street as well as a false alarm about an rumoured impromptu concert that Jay Z, Beyonce and Justin Timberlake were going to do on rooftop across from my new favourite cafe, which made for a fun day as hundreds of New Yorkers gathered and waited.
Then the mold inspector came. He told us it was bad. Even before we got the test results back he told us that we should not stay in the apartment longer than two more weeks. We couldn’t believe that we were back at square one. After all we had been through, and knowing how hard it would be to find another apartment before the first of the month (it was one week away), we wondered if we had made the wrong decision coming. That was the most anxious week yet. On the bright side we had wonderful support from my sister-in-law who came from BC that week to help (what a doll) . We sent emergency emails to everyone we knew in NYC hoping to find a lead on an apartment, and even called Craigslist ads that offered rooms-for-rent, and also considered temporarily moving in with some friends.
One of the emergency emails we sent was to (our now friend) Shauna who we met via email months prior via CUNY. She had offered us her apartment for rent in Jersey City, but our attempts at contacting her during our apartment hunt were unsuccessful. We wondered if it was still available. Believe it or not, she had just moved back into it since she could not find tenants! Luckily she was willing to try to find a room-for-rent for herself in order to rent us the apartment (an amazing gesture!) In three days' time all of her leads fell through and with only a couple more days before we would be homeless we were able to view another apartment in her building and, since it was amazing, apply for it. The day before we would move back to Canada we got the ‘okay’ to move in, and the next day we moved for the third time in two months.
We've made a home...
Today we are in Jersey City, New Jersey. Our home is a large, renovated one-bedroom with lots of sunlight, and no mold. We live in a residential neighbourhood right next to Lincoln Park (sister to Central Park and Prospect Park) and it contains the nicest playground I’ve ever seen. Best of all, we are a mere 50 minute commute to NYC, which pretty much makes it the perfect location; close enough to the action, but not in it. We have required this entire past six-months to settle in (including a brief retreat to BC and a multi-family vacation to Hawaii) and are finally feeling (mostly) recovered from our beginnings here in the USA. We are still a little culture-shocked, but these days we are feeling a lot lighter-in-spirit (ie. less traumatized). We have actually grown very fond of Jersey City. Sam and I attend playgroups, I joined a knitting group and Danny is really enjoying school. I go into New York regularly to attend exhibitions and visit museums, and last week I attended my first NYC Handweavers Guild meeting (I was in heaven). So, to wrap up this long-winded yarn, I am elated to be able to finally say that we are now happily living in the Garden State, especially since spring is now showing its signs of arrival.
The pictures below will expand and show captions if you click them.
Thanks for taking the time to read about this crazy journey we're on,