Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reflections On Being In Between

The move is over, new life in the apartment begins. The first thing to note about our apartment is that it is not quite anywhere specific. When we lived in Park Slope that was it, we were in Park Slope. You might love the area, you might not, very much not for some people, but it was someplace. This area is a little bit harder to pin down. It's near Ditmas Park, but is not in it. It's near Kensington, but Kensington itself is kind of not that sharply defined a place. We are near the Flatbush area, but, again are not in it.

Here is what I know. We are on Ocean Parkway, which is one of the nicest strip of roads in Brooklyn. We are within walking distance of all those places above. And our area does have a flavor all it's own, it's just not one that already has "marketing" so to speak.

My building, I get the sense, is very Jewish. All our neighbors have mezuzahs (sp?) on their doorposts out front. We are conspicuous for not having one. For those not in the Jewish religion, or still learning about it, a mezuzah (sp?) is a box, usually metal, that you attach to the doors of your home. It has a prayer in it, and is used to bless those who walk through the door.

The prior resident of our apartment obviously used to have one, and quite a large one at that, because the front door post has a massive space where a mezuzah used to be. It's almost like a chalk outline on our door. So we would like to get one. And not too long from now.

We had one, and I do mean had. It was made of stone, and was very pretty, I thought. The problem was that we tried to attach it to the door of our past building via double sided foam tape, because the door frame was metal. Before not too long the tape came loose and our beautiful stone mezuzah fell to the ground and cracked. Surely this was some kind of bad omen, or at least it felt like it could be. I tried not to think about it, to be honest.

While I am proud of such Jewish traditions I also put a Native American dream catcher above Stella's crib, and would like to burn sage inside to keep away evil spirits. If I could find any sage to burn, outside of what they sell in super markets.

Our new apartment is probably about twice the size of our last place. The living room alone, by New York standards is enormous. The kitchen, though, is actually kind of tight, and the bathroom is, believe it or not, smaller than our last one. But each bedroom is a nice size. We are moving in with all deliberate speed. We are trying to figure out the best way to make use of the space before we decorate so that we use our new space as efficiently as possible. I, for example, am typing this in our foyer, which doubles as our "office area." It's as far from the bedrooms as possible. I guess this is why it's the office. No one wanted to listen to me type.

But even though we have more space still, there are a few bugs to be worked out. To wit, when we tried to use the toaster and the microwave at the same time it blew all the fuses in the apartment. Some of our paint is already peeling, which worries us, as we have a little baby just waiting to crawl, and this apartment is quite old. So lead paint is a concern. I am sending out samples this week.

Our bathroom, oddly enough, doesn't have even one outlet in it. Now, I'm an analogue kind of guy. I like vacuum tubed guitar amps instead of transistors, my razor is a manual one, and I even make popcorn on the stove over nuking it. But c'mon, that's just kind of silly. No outlets in the bathroom? Not even one? To trim my beard the other day I had to make a three pronged extension chord from Stella's room, and bend down quite a bit as I faced the mirror. As you can imagine I got an immaculate shave.

Other problems. Our closet door just doesn't shut. Our front door saw the doorknob almost come loose today, and we could barely get out. I had to fasten the doorknob so we could leave. Which is not what I expected in a new place.

Oh, but the big one I left out. They polyurethaned the floors multiple times before we moved in, so it was extra smooth and shiny. Unfortunately it also not only reeked, but the fumes were making us all sick. I, in all my days, had never gotten sick from refinished floors before, so they must've done quite a job to accomplish that. To cure this, eventually, Randi, no lie, got on her hands and knees and rubbed down the surface with a lemon. Now that's dedication. I couldn't believe her discipline. But it got done, and now the room smells a whole lot better. Kudos to her.

Otherwise, living here is an adjustment but I'm enjoying the change of scenery. The area is also heavily Polish, as well as Jewish. When we go into the local shops that's most of what I heard spoken, Polish. And I am just getting into experimenting with Polish delicacies. I already bought a jar of imported pickles from Poland, and they were excellent. Now I want to try one of the seemingly infinite different kinds of canned fish these folks consume. We also have come to drink Baltica brand beer, made is Russia. (Which is close to Poland.) It's $2.00 for an enormous bottle, and strong too.

Culturally there was also some shock. It really does feel like a different world than Park Slope. For starters, there are all these middle aged Polish guys who hang out in front of a pharmacy, all wearing black, most with mustaches. There's like 10 of them. I would call it a minyan, but they probably wouldn't appreciate the joke. What they do there all day I have no idea, but they love hanging out, talking/smoking.

There are also some Mexican delis down the street, and even a place where I can get my fortune told Santeria style. I have no idea what that would mean, but it intrigued me, although the fortune teller is never actually open. Maybe she just pops up when there's a customer.

Overall, our little stretch of Ditmas road isn't exactly pretty, but it's real. I am not a critic or foe of gentrification, in many cases, but it is interesting to live in a place that so far has not been completely exploited by white, middle-class yuppies like, well, us. Maybe we are the harbingers of doom, or at least Thai restaurants. (Thai restaurants are my personal indicator that an area has been yuppified. It's high-end kids stores for Randi.)

We also had to switch our cable service, and now are on the Optimum Triple Cast, I think it's called. We get phone, Internet and cable TV, all for one low, low price that escapes me right now. One thing that's been really great is that they have some free channels on demand, and Randi and I have gotten totally hooked on Mad Men. Such a cool, stylish show. And, really, who had ever heard of any of these actors before they got onto the show? Jon Hamm, who plays lead guy Don Draper, was virtually a bit part actor, for years. And then he got his break in a role that looked like it was created for him, he owned it, and now everyone can't get enough of him. For someone, like me, still looking to sew his creative wild oats on the world's biggest stages, this is an inspiring story. Believe in yourself, no one can do it for you. Easier said than done, as always, but I would like to start living what I say in this department. And taking responsibility for my impact.


Rachel said...

there are several thai takeouts near you -- who will deliver - i don't think they only serve gentrified white folks..

To Be Thai
126 Beverley Road (bet. McDonald and E. 2nd)

718-871 9115
359 McDonald Ave

We had a high end toy store on Cortelyou between Argyle & Westminster but it went out of business

be sure to sign up for the local listserve -

David Serchuk said...

Hi Rachel,
Wow, thanks for the tips. Rest assured, we will be ordering from at least one of those places in the not-too-distant future. And thank you for the list-serve tip, too!

Quick, if perhaps silly question, do we know one another in the real world? Or do you know Randi?


Rosewood said...

Hi David,

I was looking around the Net for you for the sage. I think there's a metaphysical store in Brooklyn called Botanica Yemaya. Ask if they sell any bundles of sage. If you can't find any stores near you, you can always hop down here to Salem and pick some up. :)


alexlady said...

I love Mad Men!!!

i missed that you were looking for sage, i know a place near the christopher street PATH that sells sage bundles. are you smudging for spirits?

i just re-lit one that i had bought for our place last night, or i would stick it in the mail for you right now!

Rachel said...

I am surprised that the last resident did not leave a mezzuzah behind given that you are Jewish and all. I was always taught that if Jewish residents are taking over your home, you are supposed to leave it behind. BTW, our stone mezzuzah (which we attach with velcro) just hit the floor last week so now we have just the Klaf part on the doorway. We need to fix that big time.

David Serchuk said...

Wow, duelling Rachels!

Yes, the exact same thing happened to us. We should've kept the cracked mezzuza and crazy glued it or something. But I think we ended up throwing it away. :-(.


Holly said...

Glad to hear you're enjoying your new digs! You mentioned the Polish population by you. Michael and I recently discovered an authentic Polish deli in our neighborhood in the Heights. We're hooked on the fresh potato and cheese pierogies. Mmmm!