Category Archives: New York

confronting our neighbor, or how to say “b*tch, keep it down!”

picture of a woman trapped in a box. Photo by Dan Machold.

sometimes apartment living is like being trapped in a box

This is the first apartment Chris and I have lived in since 2002 where we lived close to downtown Montreal for a year and a half before returning to New Zealand.

Like everything else in New York, especially Manhattan, space is a premium. On the sidewalks everyone walks with a steely determination to get to where they want to go. On the Upper West Side this can mean veering in and out of moms with strollers and keeping out of the way of kids (and sometimes parents) on scooters. We’ve found that the floor between apartments in the old brownstones is paper thin, serving as a further reminder that we are all boxed into our cramped apartments literally living one on top of the other.

Stomp, stomp, stomp! That’s our upstairs neighbor padding across the floor at 4:00 in the morning. We’re not sure if she is actually a bear or in fact a human being. Her 4:00 am wake up call is usually followed by what can only be described as jumping and then self-flagellation as she races around after her shower (the f word and other expletives, are clearly heard in our room). I’m pregnant and Chris has busy days at work  – this loss of 2-3 hours of sleep per day has been wreaking havoc on our sanity for the past 2 weeks. Luckily her 1 bedroom apartment only takes up the back part of our place, so Preston never has to hear her – he gets to sleep like a baby. This is apartment living, so just lump it you say? Well, no I don’t believe it has to be like this. The she-bear living upstairs has no clue of her surroundings and or the basic things she could do out of respect for her neighbors. Things like not rocking around the house in high heels for 3 hours straight, putting your alarm on snooze while you take a shower so that is goes off again non stop for 15 minutes until you get out of the shower, slamming doors unnecessarily and skipping rope (I’m convinced her 4 am wake up is to do some sort of low impact workout that starts with skipping rope) would make her a much better neighbor.

We’ve decided we need to get up there and introduce ourselves first, then a week later if this is still going on we can hopefully bring up the subject in a friendly way.

What do you think? Have you ever had a loud neighbor? What did you do about it to restore some sort of peace to your personal space.

turf wars nanny style {Updated}

Preston enjoying the playground, oblivious to what bothers me

We have a lease on our present apartment til December 1st, the plan is that by that time not only will we have a new addition to the family, we will have decided where we want to settle in the city permanently. It’s not that I don’t like what the Upper West Side (UWS) has to offer – lots of kid’s classes, parks, proximity to Central and Riverside Parks, the many different playgrounds and cafes, restaurants and stores that cater to kiddies all within walking distance. But there is one big thing that I don’t like – the nannies. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against nannies. In fact, I have smiled at quite a few at the playground and said hi as I sat down next to them on the bench. Problem is they look right pass me, through me, anywhere but at me. I’ve had a few perfunctory smiles, but all in all they do not want to talk to me.

I was whining about this to Chris the other night, it went a little something like this.

Me: “I can’t make any friends, none of the nannies at the playground want to talk to me.”

Chris: “Will why would they?”

Me: “Because we are both at the park with kids. Wouldn’t the time at the playground pass faster if we all just got along?”

Chris: “Don’t you understand, you’re not one of them, they don’t feel the need to talk to you.”

I don’t understand. I don’t understand the division between mothers and nannies in everyday situations. It’s so against human nature to not interact with people in your immediate surroundings. I took a sociology of sexuality class in College and will always remember the professor saying that through the ages something like 90% of couples get together because of proximity (co-workers, neighbors, fellow parishioners – you get the picture). So if this division is the way the majority roll on the Upper West Side, I’m not sure I want to be part of it. First off, 4 out of 5 women at the playground, at storytimes, etc are nannies which means the chances of me making friends doing day-to-day activities with Preston look pretty slim. With monkey #2 coming in December, I will be an at-home-mom for the foreseeable future so I need a neighborhood that understands community and whose inhabitants are friendly. I’m not saying that UWS moms are not friendly, I wouldn’t know as I haven’t met any.

It hasn’t taken me long to see the lines of division at the park. At one particular playground, it is circular in shape and the benches are placed in 3 different areas along the gate. To one side you will see the Caribbean nannies chatting and texting on their phones, on another bench are Asian nannies and grandparents, on the third bench is what I’ve been told are Dominican nannies and never the 3 shall meet. So not only do nannies and mothers not talk, but within their own profession they stick to their own race. Is this ludicrous or is it just me?

Chris and I have already decided to opt-out of the turf war and stick with our original desire to be in Brooklyn. Both our gut, research and talking to people at his work has pointed us to Brooklyn since we started planning this move – the creative industry; the community feel; good public schools, parks and museums; mothers who stay-at-home, work-from-home, work part-time, nannies. It all sounds much more blended yet balanced at the same time.

The verdict is still out on the exact part of Brooklyn we will start looking in, but it’s exciting nonetheless that we have at least narrowed it down to that Borough.

October 15 update: Huffington Post recently wrote an article on the war between nannies and stay-at-home-moms. The angle they have written from is surprising to me, I did not realize people could be so petty and so able to make flip judgments on people based on status. Or that mothers could be jealous of other mothers instead of supportive in whatever way they decided to raise their kids (as long as the kids are not in harm’s way). This article and conversations I have had after it solidify my belief that the UWS is probably not for us. Not to mention that storekeepers and people at other UWS facilities have mistaken me for Preston’s nanny one too many times. As his former soccer coach informed me, “you never know in this area. It’s usually only the nannies that we meet.”


Preston tucks into his food rations while on our supermarket trek

Preston tucks into his food rations while on our supermarket trek

I am not a huge fan of grocery shopping in the first place. But the choices at Fairways in the Upper West Side is phenomenal. This is just half of the cheese on offer and my brain nearly imploded trying to choose from well over 300 varieties of tea. I’ve heard you have to put a jacket on before going into the chiller to choose your meat at the Upper East Side store.

best chocolate cake in the world

Best chocolate cake in the world

Best chocolate cake in the world

While we are staying in SoHo, we are so close to Little Italy not to try out  some world famous New York pizza. Chris trekked out with Preston yesterday evening to scour the Little Italy/Nolita (just North of Little Italy) area for the perfect pizza slab. He did pretty good and even managed to bring me bake the most delicious, moistest piece of heaven – the Best Chocolate Cake in the World.

Honestly, I think this cake definitely warrants its name. I had the small bite size cake and it was more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

the amazing race: urban style

photo from Marionzetta

After only 2 days in the Big Apple and only one of those at our new apartment, we headed up to Montreal to visit my friends and family. We decided to embrace the maze of the New York public transport system. We needed to get to Penn Station for 7:30 for a train heading North. Through the nifty iPhone app, we figured out that our nearest subway stop was only 4 blocks away and the local train that stopped there would get us to Penn Station within 15 minutes.

So off we trekked after a jet lagged night of sleep – this means intermittent waking at all hours and Preston asking at about 4 AM weather it was morning or not. Preston had his little backpack, Chris and I had our carry-ons and rolled a suitcase each. On top of that, Chris was laden down with a car seat that we had decided we’d bring up to Montreal, we figured we were more likely to drive their than in New York.

Chris was pumping up the road at a pretty brisk pace, forgetting that his walking mates are a nearly  30 week pregnant oompaloompa and a dawdling nearly 4 year old. We all made it to the subway in one sweaty heap – thankfully the subway was only 2 blocks away (Many New York subways have multiple entry points, sometimes confusing as they do not always correspond to the name of the subway). For this time of year, New York is remarkably hot and humid. I’m happy about this as we just left winter in New Zealand and I am not particularly looking forward to my first North American winter in over 8 years.

Down the stairs we travelled – thump, thump, thump our bags go behind us. Though I think this is a 24 hour station, this entrance is unmanned. Hmmm….how do we get our bags through the turnstiles, and not to mention P as he just fits under the height limit as a free rider on the subway.

I buzz the help button, assured that this should be easy enough to do. I tell the voice on the other end our predicament and a garbled message comes back – something about swiping the metrocard, pushing a button and opening the gate. I pretend I didn’t hear him and hope when he repeats himself it’ll make more sense…but it doesn’t. After he turnstile munches up one entry and doesn’t let us through, we maneuver or bags and Preston through somehow.

Still not sure how we are meant to get prams/strollers, free kiddies or other big tickets items through the gate when there is nobody to buzz you through. Any ideas? If you are a New York mama that can give me insight on how to do this, I would love to hear the answer! I figure their will be lots of trips with prams in the future so I really do need to get this sorted.

The good news is we made Penn Station with plenty of time to spare. I think on the return trip we will hail a cab though.