Thursday, March 19, 2009

These are the aggravations in my neighbourhood

When the Duke and I moved in together last spring, we wanted to live in an area with a little action in it. It could be that three years spent in the suburbs when I first moved to BigCity had spoiled my appetite for pastel houses and strip malls. It could also be that I adored the apartment I was leaving, a little basement suite too small for two just off a main strip where I could wander a block or two for Thai take-out, blackberries, crepes, or a latte. As such, when we finally found a secret hardwood floored roomy top story apartment hidden out in an inconspicuous stucco building just a few blocks away from one of the busiest intersections in the city, we grabbed onto it and didn't let go. It may have helped that it wasn't owned by a racist, had a kitchen bigger than one square foot, and didn't have three colours of mold in the bathroom, like some of our other rental possibilities.


For the most past, I love it here. The apartment itself is wonderful. It is central, with buses to nearly every corner of the city a block or two away. My hair salon is half a block away, and I can browse for shoes in my pyjamas if I wanted to (not saying that I have, of course). I am only a bridge away from downtown, but with the luxury of less noise. Entertaining people hang out in my back alley, like the guy who sings reggae, or the latest wanderer, a woman with a love for showtunes. (Believe me, it is a vast improvement on Angry Guy at my old place!)

However, sometimes this neighbourhood utterly infuriates me. 

For one, some of the people are insufferably snobby. I've never lived in an apartment building where people are so disinterested in knowing their neighbours. When you pass them on their stairs, they will do anything to avoid eye contact, including pretended fixation with the patterns on the art deco style purple rug. I recall one time flinging open the back door at the same time as a fellow was trying to enter, and gasping with surprise. "Oh, I'm sorry! You scared me!" I proclaimed. He merely stared at me with disdain, and slipped on by me with nary a word.

The Duke has even overheard our next door neighbour, the one who we used to only hear when she was yelling at her boyfriend, declare pointedly during one of these blowouts that she was too smart for the people in this building. This amused me for two reasons. One, who even thinks to make those comparisons? I don't think I've ever one thought about the traits of the people one floor down in the northwest apartment and how they relate to my own. Two, we've never even met this woman. Is she aware that she is arguing this point next to what may be the world's nerdiest grad school couple?

But, really, the qualities of my neighbours don't matter that much. I have other friends residing nearby. Not to mention, the last time I made friends with someone in my apartment building, he ended up having a secret cocaine habit, and asked me if he could offer up his mind for me to "practice" my therapeutic psychology skills on. I declined this gracious offer.

What bothers me even more is that, perhaps because so many people come to browse and have dinner here on a sunny day, someone has forgotten the practicalities of actual living in this neighbourhood. The bulk of the nearby streets are filled with low-rise apartments with little to no parking, suggesting that this is an area for those of us with no cars (also, note the fact that it is a major transit centre). When we first moved it, though we were a little disappointed at the lack of fresh fruit and veggie markets, more than one overrated pub or a major grocery store, a half block away from us was a bakery, a butcher shop, and a mini grocery store with all of your staples. 

All three of which they promptly closed down two months after we moved in, despite the businesses being there for 20+ years. And have yet to fill with anything, though the other vacancies in the neighbourhood have been filled not with anything practical, but rather a Calvin Klein underwear store (just underwear. And there are already three lingerie stores on this ten block strip.) and a Pottery Barn Kids (I could go on an entire rant about why this store is even allowed to exist. Kids don't care about design and/or pottery). 

And now, despite the fact that I can get my nails done in ten different places, go see a play, have foie gras and find a prom dress, I can't get any damn groceries. This means that I have to go on an epic voyage to the nearest grocery store, and either break my back hauling food home on the bus, or take a taxi. Did I mention that almost every other neighbour in this city has an overabundance of grocery stores?

Okay, okay. I lied a little. There is a grocery store four blocks up the street-- though I use the term loosely. It is one of those dreaded "gourmet" grocery stores, with an entire aisle dedicated to balsamic vinegars, but no ground chicken and never any green beans. Caviar at the deli counter, but no roast beef. If you are lucky enough to find a standard product, like Miracle Whip or Sunrype juice, you are probably paying two dollars more for the luxury of purchasing it amidst the organic local ginseng infused juices adorning the shelves. I once dashed there to grab a jar of pesto, and found that they all ranged in price from $8 to $30. Thirty dollars for basil and olive oil. I bought the $8 one and it tasted like air. My $4 generic grocery store brand kicked its ass. I can't get a loaf of bread for less than $5 and it always goes moldy in two days. There is something to be said for preservatives.

The aisles are narrow and precariously stacked with exotic teas and grains, and it is always full of oblivious people blocking the aisles with their carts as they make sure that their cous cous is truly lead-free. The customers seem like they come straight from my building, harassing the deli workers that their ahi tuna should be cut just so, and where exactly did that pork loin come from? And did I mention they have paintbrushes beside the cash register? Not gum and chocolate bars, like normal grocery stores, but truffles and special exotic animal paintbrushes?

I never knew I would find shopping for cheese at 7-Eleven so appealing.

15 comments:

Ant said...

Have you tried online shopping from the major grocery stores? I swear by it.

Every saturday I do a minor shopping amounting to little over a bag of perishables etc. Every month I do a massive online shop then silently laugh as some macho, but slightly aged, bastard puts his back out bringing the groceries up the stairs to my flat (whilst declaring "ah' used tae bring the coal up here before yower even born...")

Word verification: "chess". Swear to god.

EF said...

I don't think you mentioned a Starbuck's anywhere...you 'hood still can get worse!...or better, according to perspective. I'll go ask the au pairs what they think...

sequined said...

I love browsing at those snobby stores, but not doing most of my shopping at them.

Mandy said...

I love exploring different neighborhoods. And your neighbor -- who thinks of thinks of things like that?

nicoleantoinette said...

Yeah, I live in white soccer mom suburbia and when it isn't EXACTLY LIKE THIS, it's all fake breasts and glow tans.

smidge said...

I live in a neighbourhood with a bit of life (although that life is a doss house full of junkies and methadone addicts at the end of my street). It does make for entertaining viewing and sleepless nights. As for groceries, i can buy packaged Mac+Cheese easy enough, but anything healthy? This is Scotland, we dont do healthy...

Madiha W.Q. said...

The gourmet grocery stores and the snootiness...sounds like downtown D.C., where my husband and I keep dreaming of moving (if we can ever afford to). We live in borderline suburbs, meaning we're close to public transport AND a strip mall, which should be great, right? But we want to move to the city so badly...guess because we're young, have no children yet and both love working in the capitol which is an hour's ride on the train. But after reading your post, I'm not so sure anymore if I want to give up our frequent trips to 'Shoppers'--cheap groceries galore in the favor of Dean and Deluca.

Love your blog, by the way.

The Clandestine Samurai said...

First, I think you should've taken the cocaine guy's offer.

Second, that neighborhood does sound pretty idiotically structured. Being surrounded by stores that have nowhere near your basic needs is beyond me (Manhattan is like that). Not greeting your neighbors is just part of the urban life. You never know who you're going to run into. It's not right, but people are super cautious about putting themselves out there in the slightest.

lmao at the jar of pesto tasting like air. I hope you find a store that sells better.

theoddduckling said...

I live in a college town so this type of grocery store doesn't exist in my part of town. I do however have my own snobby neighbours, won't be sad to say goodbye to them come summer.

gemma said...

i so get what you mean about missing full-sized spacious grocery stores with decent pricing. it is IMPOSSIBLE to find one in my area!

LiLu said...

My neighborhood is the complete opposite... my neighbors are bums, stoop-sitters, and crackheads. And I think I prefer it to snobs... at least they're entertaining, and definitely not above sharing a couple beers!

Crashdummie said...

for better or worse huh? The city life that is. I like living in the city in theory, but in real life, it drives me insane - the noice, the stress. Honestly, i dont need to have 6 saloons 10 min walk from where i live...

Ones should never underestimate the power of th edark side... or 7eleven. maybe its the same thing? hmm

Z said...

While we DO have a nearby grocery store, I feel your pain - it is SUPER expensive. I tend to buy my groceries near work and lug 'em home...

Alanna said...

I just stumbled upon your blog today and as I was reading this entry, I was all, "Gee, this sounds a lot like my neighbourhood". And then when you got to the part about Pottery Barn Kids and Meinhardt's I was all, "WELL THIS IS MY NEIGHBOURHOOD!"

Chances are, we live within a few blocks of one another. Or, I dare say, the same building. I doubt that though, because when I see people in the stairwell, I make a point of smiling and saying hello. I agree though, people in these parts are snotty. Try not to let it get to you.

Surfergrrl said...

I LOVE the comments on the grocery store. Hilarious!!! I feel the same rage when people give me lectures on buying organic or go off on how much they love shopping at whole foods. Do you KNOW I'm unemployed???

And did you have to take a academic entrance exam upon living in your unit? Just wondering how that girl knew she was smarter than everyone else.

And the people who never smile or say hello? drives me crazy!!! There was a guy at work who i would pass in the hall almost daily. I would look him dead in the eye, give a big fat smile, and say hello, and he gave me nothing...daily!!! After awhile I would get more and more exaggerated with my hellos, just to annoy him. Same thing, every day. Just don't get it!