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.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
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.