It keeps going round in my head, like unwanted advice from a tribal elder. But in typical twenty-first century fashion, this is not coming from my grandmother or my mother, or even a magazine. This one’s all in my head.
For the past five years, I’ve wanted nothing more than to spend some serious time in New York City again. Ever since I left I’ve been talking about going back. In fact, before I met D, I had already attempted the move once: in late 2003, I piled most of my belongings onto the stoop in front of the brownstone I’d been living in since 2000, and sold almost everything -- including silverware and even used art supplies. Two weeks later, I boarded a flight to London where I was finally going to get down to writing. However, within two months, I was back in New York, with a bad novel under my belt and a hunger for downtown growling in my stomach.
“It wasn’t for me,” I told people at the time, “I’ve never liked London”.
Neither of these statements turned out to be true, ultimately, but then again, every place pleasantly morphs when you’re living there with a lovely, kind, caring husband, rather than at your psychotic father’s house being bossed around twenty-four-seven.
But I digress…
Cut to January 2009. I’m writing this on the plane from Heathrow to JFK. I believe we are currently over Iceland, or somewhere like that. My three bags are crammed so full of clothing and books (including my own novel) that my closet in London is virtually empty. I am on my way to spend six months in New York – not just New York, Prospect Heights, my old neighbourhood where I spent the better part of my five years in The City.
I’m going to be two blocks from Prospect Park, I know the stores, the coffee shops, the subway lines, the yoga studios (I took my very first class there, actually. I hated it – the women were all super slim, fit and everyone seemed to know one another. This was before the term “yummy mummy” was coined but let me state for the record that Park Slope could give Primrose Hill quite a run for its money!). My friends – the people I knew before D and I got together – are sprinkled throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, like sweet sweet toppings on an already delicious dessert.
I couldn’t wish for more…
Yes, I could: D won’t be there with me.
I’m going all this way, starting down a path I’ve desired for so long, living in the place I’ve coveted since I left … I wished for New York … but this isn’t the way I would have chosen to go back.
When we originally conceived the idea, he was going to come spend good chunks of time with me: a week here, two weeks there, maybe even a month at some point.
Everything changed when another one of my wishes was granted – one that D very much shares with me.
As a Wandering Jew, as a woman who claims to have moved more times than years I’ve been alive (this is true, by the way), the one thing I have always wanted has been to set down roots, find a little house with a garden, make it mine to work in, to plant herbs and vegetables in the back, to throw dinner parties on a long table … a home in which to raise children.
And now, as I plan my departure, there’s some kind of weird, manic genie granting me wishes with a grand old sense of humour -- I have my wish.
Ten days ago, the house became ours.
It wasn’t meant to happen like that.
D engages in what I refer to as real-estate porn. He’s constantly looking at houses – sometimes in London, sometimes in the Maldives; always with a view to settle down. After all, he too has wandered, and he too would like nothing more than to find that one place he can call home, start a family, have an office where he can hide out when deadlines come crashing down, or we’re having an argument.
In an attempt to curb the more unrealistic side of my husband’s house fetish, I requested that he only show me truly feasible houses. No castles in the Cotswolds or villas in Spain. London, New York, Ojai (on my more forgiving days), affordable, accessible – nothing else.
We’d been looking here and there, but hadn’t pursued anything actively; so when he showed me the specs for the four-bedroom house in our area, I said what I always say when I’m trying to gage his level of seriousness: “should we go see it?”
My challenge with these things is not to get excited – real estate is supposed to be an unemotional affair, after all. By the time we got to the first sand-blasted radiator, I was a goner.
It was perfect.
Except that it was the third of December and on January 15th, I was leaving for six months in New York.
But how could I put the rest of my life on hold while I went to reinvent myself a million miles away? And was I really going to come back from six months on my own to our shared two-by-four-sized office?
We decided to go for it.
As a result, last week I moved twice: once up the road in London and once halfway around the world to New York.
This morning, when I made breakfast in our gorgeous new kitchen, D and I sat at the table instead of at our desks. We each have our own offices now, and the television is in a whole other room, separate from the dining area. For his fortieth, D’s getting a piano, because he can – we have the space. We’re going to have a proper cabinet built for our clothing, so we can actually fit it all into one place and, best of all, my grandmother’s bed – the largest in the world – will be reassembled. No more mattress on the floor, it’s going to be a “proper timber” (as the carpenter said yesterday) place to lay our heads.
At some point, we’ll get rid of the trois-couleurs-lilac in the bedroom, the headache-orange accent-wall in the kitchen, the pastel blue hallways, the fire-engine red corner of the living room. The house felt ours within a matter of minutes, now we just need to paint it to match.
I never thought…
I didn’t know…
There are so many things to be grateful for, so many wonderful changes in our lives, and it’s all happening now, simultaneously. It’s been stressful, tiring, I even found myself grumbling about it all. Then I caught myself: how can I complain about getting what I wished for?
The reason for my trip to New York is that I am studying to be a Holistic Health Counsellor. The studies themselves are fascinating and I can’t wait to get started down this new road. What has me in (private, silent) peals of laughter, surprisingly, is kale. Kale, that leafy green vegetable people either love to hate or loudly, resolutely, passionately embrace.
It turns out that Kale is to nutrition what the hammer and sickle are to communism. Every speaker so far has mentioned kale – either as proof of health or proof that they have not lost touch with the masses. Kale is the ultimate symbol of health or the rejection thereof. Kale says “I’m healthy, because I want to be” and it says, “fuck this, I want to enjoy life before I die.” Kale is a kind of (green) red flag -- as if once it’s been consumed for pleasure, you can never go back.
“I don’t just eat kale” a woman speaker said this weekend, “but I do make a point of including it as often as I possibly can.”
“Of course I love kale, but I also love pizza,” was a motivational speaker’s admission that though he doesn’t look it, he is, in fact, imperfect.
“Don’t go out there and try to get everyone to eat kale overnight,” was the marketing lecturer’s advice.
I was at the Santa Monica farmer’s market once, grabbing, as fate may have it, a bunch of kale. A woman leaned towards me:
“I know I should eat kale,” she said, “but I have no idea what to do with it.”
When I looked up to answer her, I realized it was one of the doctors from ER – the one who limps and walks with a cane. Though she obviously only plays one on TV, it was still a great rush – LA is fabulous for those kinds of moments.
In reality it’s not all that bad. It’s just green and leafy but these days kale is almost a political statement.
The irony is that kale is so simple, so easy to prepare, it’s less of a hassle than most any other food.
Pizza, for example, the poster child for junk food, takes layers of work – from the crust to the toppings, there’s so much prep involved that most everyone gets it delivered rather than futsing around for hours in the kitchen.
It’s miles away from kale. Good old, simple, kale, where less is more and ruffles are always in.
My current favourite way to make kale is to simply chop it roughly, add some crushed garlic, a pinch of salt and then boil it for a few moments in an inch or so of water using a wide, shallow pan, until the leaves start to wilt. To serve, I merely drain the excess water (which I sometimes drink as it is chock-full of nutrients – though that is by no means a must).
Kale is a wonderful accompaniment to roast chicken, grilled fish, or our winter favourite: roasted sweet potato wedges and hummus.
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