Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Broudos in Brooklyn

Photo courtesy of Sandy and Sheldon
I asked myself yesterday — when did I find time to write all those posts while we were away? Since we have been back, although I have certainly thought about writing, the days go by, and the experiences happen and the blog post never gets written. Is it a sign?

I am sitting in Montreal at 7060 Rue Hutchison, which is a lovely apartment I found through airbnb (more on that later). Mylene has it set up perfectly — right out of an IKEA showroom. The space and location is as perfect as the décor. We have been here now six days, and feel like we could stay for a lot longer. But if I get too involved with Montreal in this post, I will have skipped our New York experience, which would simply not be the right thing to do.

Right now if you could see me, I would be sitting with one hand under my chin, looking up blankly with a puzzled look on my face. The big cartoon bubble above my head would have this inscription: “Where to start?”

… The last two months in New York have been a gift. Although it is probably not often that parents move back in with their kids (when they are healthy and financially stable), that is sort of what we did. We didn’t actually move in, but a two month visit is certainly an unusually long period of time. But I guess, everything about what we have been doing the last year is a bit unusual. The “gift” part is that we had the chance to BE with our kids — be part of their daily routine, and feel a part of their lives in a very special way. This experience was as exciting and as memorable as anything we had done thus far. Thanks A & M for allowing us to be parents at very close range. (If we drove them crazy, they didn’t let on.)

The two months were also a time of transition, some might call it culture shock, after eight months of travel. And maybe that is true to some degree. But I think it is more than that. I remember Leslie saying before we left for Israel, Nepal and all other locations East, that it would be a life changing experience. She was right. We are not really different, but our priorities have changed dramatically. And I, for one, want to hold on to that.

Living out of a suitcase for eight months teaches you a lot. Firstly and most importantly, all you need in this world can fit in one suitcase. When you get sick of those things, throw them away and replace them (even if you don’t believe me — it is true). Secondly, if you carry too much baggage (take that literally or figuratively), it will drag you down and keep you from doing the things you really want to do. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice things. And I have a storage locker full of them. But I don’t miss them, and I don’t need them to be who I want to be. This is new. And that is the part I want to hold on to.

These two months have also been a time for reflection. We visited a lot of countries and had a lot of varied experiences. People always ask, what country was my favourite. And some ask if we found a country or a city we would want to settle down in. I always have the same reaction. Every city and every country and every experience was part of the whole adventure. I simply can’t play favourites. But did we find a place we could call home? Not until now.

If I had grown up here, I don’t think I would have this perspective, but as a person arriving in New York in 2012, I think it is a city that has everything the world has to offer all in one place. It is the place where all worlds collide, in a good way. There is such a mixture of culture that anyone can fit in, whoever you are (whether you have one suitcase or 100). We think we could live here.

To put it simply, we have spent the last two months living in Brooklyn. With Aaron and Melissa’s guidance we have sampled the artisanal food at the weekly Smorgesburg in Williamsburg, tasted the artisanal beer at the local bars, perused the stalls at the Brooklyn Flea, attended movies at BAM, frequented the weekly street markets, attended weekend outdoor concerts in Prospect Park, including GoogaMooga, visited the Brooklyn Museum (Marc has been three times!), the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens as well as an endless list of daily events, if you just have time to fit them in. We are starting to understand why New Yorkers tend to include at least three events into their calendars for each day. There is way too much to do around here, and most things are just too good to miss.

Coney Island

Coney Island

Coney Island during the Mermaid Parade

Some of the other highlights included:

Our friend Micah invited us to attend the Personal Democracy Forum Conference that he and colleague Andrew Rasiej have organized for the last 9 years. It was an amazing experience that you can read about here. There is a video of each of the speaker’s talks at this site and if you have time, I hope you will listen to some of them here. Food for thought.

We attended the Clearwater festival on the Hudson with D & D, S & G where we saw in person for the first time Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and family. I know for East Coast folks it is not unusual to see these guys, but for us it was a very special experience (one more item off the bucket list). The same weekend we also got a chance to get reacquainted with old friends Tom and Mary who hosted all of us for the weekend of the concert. An added treat was being joined by Micha and Leslie at the festival.

Arlo Guthrie and family at Clearwater

Tom Paxton at Clearwater

While in New York, both of our sisters came to visit on separate occasions and we were able to share our excitement with them. Aunty Sandy and Uncle Sheldon also made it to the Big Apple while we were there and we had a great day with them in Brooklyn.

Cousin Sheila was staying in Brooklyn exactly during our time there, so we were able to pretend we still lived in the same building (but this time in Brooklyn) and hang out eating great food while dreaming about being here full time.

We were able to have great extended visits with our friends Doug and Devora and our godchildren Gabi and Sophie in Princeton. Our home away from home!

We managed to make it back to the East Coast in time to celebrate Dotan’s Bar Mitzvah in Philadelphia — mazel tov to the Yardens! And thanks Josh for visiting us often in Princeton.

Friends and family telling their stories at Steve Miller's memorial in Manhattan

We also timed our return to be able to attend our friend Steve Miller’s memorial. Steve Goldman and Marc were able to be included in the multitude of speakers telling their personal stories about Steve. Shortly after the memorial, Bracha arrived and we were all able to have a great dinner with Pam at the only Druse restaurant in Manhattan. Sadly, it would be the last time we would see Bracha’s seeing eye dog Suki, who you can read about here.

Richie also managed to time his visit to New York while we were still around and we had the pleasure of his company for a couple of days. We have a joke going about gin and tonics which we took advantage of while he was in town.

We left Brooklyn on July 5th headed for Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Back to Canada, Canadian dollars, poutine and smoked meat, eh! More on that in the next post.

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