I have a story to tell you, but in order to do so I have to make two confessions. The first is that I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The second is that, as of July, Joo and I are leaving New York and moving to Washington D.C.
I haven’t owned up to where I live because Joo and I feel like impostors, living far above our pay grade in the city’s ritziest neighborhood. (Subsidized rent through Joo’s job makes this possible.) The Upper East Side is a very nice place to live – the Rockefellers, Roosevelts and Kennedys have resided here, Mayor Bloomberg keeps a place across from Central Park, and TV shows from “The Jeffersons” to “Gossip Girl” have made it synonymous with the good life. But hip it’s not. If we want to see live music, or hang out with Kia or Leonel or our other cool friends, we dodge past the rich old ladies with perfect helmet-hair and the kids walking home in their school uniforms and walk seven blocks to the subway at 68th Street.
Then there’s the move to D.C.
Joo’s work is the catalyst; She got a great position there, and I am equally pleased about my job prospects. We are excited to see trees, not skyscrapers, out the living room window. Frankly, we’re glad this blog is not Two Years In New York.
I tell you all this so you can understand the conversation I had this morning with John, the concierge for our building.
He asked when we’re moving. “In a week,” I said.
John is a little intimidating. A man in his late forties with a small black beard, he projects a hard-bitten air and always has dark circles under his eyes. He murmurs into the phone like a mobster. I would trust John to score baseline tickets to the Yankees, fire a sloppy window-cleaner or grease whatever palms need to be greased. He gets the job done.
But as we discussed moving, John’s eyes lit up and he began to nod and blink, which is what he does when he’s excited. He also started to stutter.
That-that-that’s so great,” John said. “I mean, you can’t live in this neighborhood. You wanna have kids here? Fugetaboutit. The nannies, they make more than I do. You gotta have references. You don’t want some random person off the street. And the public schools? They’re a joke. You gotta think about who the kids are spending time around. And-and-and the private schools, they cost as much as college. You figure in housing, food, entertainment…” He shrugged.
“That’s why I’m glad we’re leaving,” I said.
“And it isn’t like you can get out of New York City and find some space, you know? Sure, you can-can-can go out to Long Island, but there’s millions of people there, and you’re space on the beach is…” He held his palms four inches apart.
“Yep,” I said.
“But in D.C., you’ve got all these woods right outside of town, and inside the Beltway you’ve got all this space. The buildings, they’re-they’re-they’re so old and have so much history…”
“You know what, Dave?” John said, glancing both ways and lowering his voice, as if he were about to reveal a deep, embarrassing desire to solo on the ukulele at Carnegie Hall. “I would move to D.C.. I would. I would. I’ve lived in New York all my life, but-but-but I would move to Washington D.C. if I could find the work. It’s just that I’ve got this place in Astoria, in Queens, two-story house, whole first floor to myself. I live alone. And-and-and the rent is crazy cheap. Twelve hundred a month. It’s like the suburbs, this place. Tonight I have this big Italian dinner to go to, just a few blocks away. I go to that, I walk home. Easy. No problem.” John sat back in his chair.
“Same page, John,” I said, pointing an index first at his chest, then at mine. “You and me are on the same page.”