Two extra days in squalor. Our closing got shuttled from this Friday to Monday afternoon. I suspect the seller of asking his attorney to stall so he could have the weekend to move in, but perhaps I’m being uncharitable.

In the meantime, after combing through the Macy’s website, I think I’ve found cheaper knockoffs of some of the sofas I’ve been eyeing for the last several weeks. Much better than signing over a couple of pay checks to Crate & Barrels of Money.

I’m also agog at how people have energy to comb through Craigslist for little treasures. It seems exhausting. I guess I’d rather pull out my credit card and just buy something off of Overstock. I did find an adorable MCM dresser for sale right in our neighborhood, but by the time I emailed the guy about it 2 days later, it was gone. NY Craiglisters are fierce. Which is pretty funny because we are trying to give away our ACs and are having a tough time about it. Our landlady ended up renting to one of the candidates that we brought in through our Craigslist posting, so we promised our oldest AC (that has been in my family since 1990! And still works perfectly!) to him. Actually, I have a right mind to demand that B give over his brother’s semi-functional AC and that we take my heirloom AC to our home with us.

I’m disappointed because I hate sitting around in this horrid squalor but it’s just too extra days and we’re about 95% done with packing. Next week we’ll officially be residents of the Dirty Jerz. I can’t wait!

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I haven’t bought a lot of clothes in a long time. A really, really, REALLY long time. Like back to 2009-ish I’d say. Sartorially speaking, I’ve subsisted entirely on business suits and 1 pair of jeans (re purchased every year) for the last 4 to 5 years. Here’s how that went down.

1) I got my heart broken really badly in 2009. I was extremely depressed but I managed to parlay my frustration with my life and how it was going into studying for the GMAT and then getting into pretty much every business to which I applied (frock yeah, go me). To deal with my depression while being quite productive, I ate everything in sight and gained 40 pounds (I hate that I am admitting this).

2) Before I started business school I lost 20 lbs. So I brought myself down from teetering on the verge of obesity to just being a chunk. I did not want to be a chunk so I only bought sensible things to get me through business school, like business suits for interviewing. I never allowed myself to spend on business casual clothes for the size I was at when I started business school.

3) I stayed at the same weight until late 2011, almost right after I got hired (with an extremely huge bonus) by an international pharma company. The bonus and the prospect of a new job and life outside of school sort of propelled me into taking my health more seriously and I lost 15 more pounds. This basically put me right back where I was in 2009 and I started to fit into all my old clothes. But hey, it turns out that trends change and bootcut jeans had given way to skinny jeans.

4) In early 2012 I start working on my own company. I raised some VC, moved to NYC and within 8 months…sold the company. I continue to not purchase clothes because at this point I’ve given up my job-with-a-bonus and I have no money to buy any, so I just rely on old clothes from my lawyer days. The company that bought mine lets me work out of the house so I don’t buy any clothes.

5) We decide to buy a home within 1 year and cut down on almost all discretionary purchases. I continue to not own any clothes.

6) We buy a home. A really good friend of mine invites me to come work for her…outside the home, at a real office. I realize that I need some real clothes again. We start packing up our stuff and B looks at my teeny tiny pile of clothes and says “buy some clothes, you never do anything for yourself.” A couple of weeks ago we bought some new boots so I could walk through the subways comfortably. How things change, readers! Four years ago I would never have deigned to wear anything less than four inches but now that I actually have to walk everywhere, often up and down steep stairs in NYC subways I was like “motorcycle boot me with some flats!”

So here we are. I went on a shopping spree today (40, 50 and 60% of sales everywhere due to Veteran’s Day) and I have more than enough clothes to last me for another 4 years. I must admit that I feel really good about myself in them-even B who is super blunt and will look at me and say “time for us to get back on the treadmill” was like “wow, you look…really nice. Really nice.”

So with Veteran’s Day sales driving my shopping spree I picked up some adorable stuff from Blandana, J Crew and GAP, which paired with older stuff pretty much make up a nice sized professional wardrobe. I might buy a few cheap sweaters here and there but after 4 years of not buying anything I kind of feel like “Holy crap, I have so many clothes!”

I hate to write about stuff like “oh, look at what I bought!” but you have to understand that I have purchased NOTHING, as in literally NOTHING for years now. And we have been so miserly for the last year. Other than going out to see friends, we’ve pretty much done nothing. In fact, we thought 17 times about even taking a honeymoon after we came back from India but we booked a cheap little Mexican getaway sometime in May when it went on ultra discount. I very much promise that this will not descend into a shopping blog!

(oh and not to mention I want to bring back stuff up in Boston. My parents save everything so I KNOW my mom has all those adorable flowy peasant tops from my early 20s stashed somewhere. They are going to look adorable with my new skinny jeans)

The Rise of the Skinny Jean/Riding Boot Combo

I still think boot cut is far more flattering on average, but there is something cute about wearing skinnies tucked into boots. A couple of weeks I lost yet another pair of shoes to age related destruction so when Band I were out at a movie near a mall I bought these boots at DSW. I love love love them. In fact, I dragged out a ripped pair of GAP skinnies (as in, they ripped in the butt, not like, deliberately ripped jeans) from last year and have been wearing them, rips and all, with these boots.


Love the braided detail the most. These are so comfy and have molded to my calves nicely.

legging cords

Corduroy skinny pants in white and navy blue. So soft. I’m going to wear the white ones with a new T from J Crew to our closing.

I buy almost everything from GAP in the 1969 series. It has lovely stretch and I think it's a pretty good brand for pear/hourglass shapes

I buy almost everything from GAP in the 1969 series. It has lovely stretch and I think it’s a pretty good brand for pear/hourglass shapes

Skinny cords from J Crew in a bright orange. I'm surprised by how much B liked these on me. I like these because they add a touch of color to grey NYC winters but I could wear them into spring and summer.

Skinny cords from J Crew in a bright orange. I’m surprised by how much B liked these on me. I like these because they add a touch of color to grey NYC winters but I could wear them into spring and summer.


Rounding out my dresses for those days when I have to look a little bit more put together.

I've lusted after BR's wrap dress for years. They're decent knockoffs of DVF at a third of the price.

I’ve lusted after BR’s wrap dress for years. They’re decent knockoffs of DVF at a third of the price.

I also managed to score 2 more dresses that I think were leftover from the summer season and therefore no longer being shown online. Both are sleeveless, so I can use them with sweaters in winter and transition to spring and summer while shedding some layers. One is kelly green with navy piping and one is mostly black with a block of white at the bottom. Tres cute. I absolutely adore BR’s dresses. I think they pretty much deliver a vintage/sheath shape almost every year since Mad Men came out.


This is one of the places where I’m safest. It’s rare that tops go out of style and even when they do, you’ll find that they can come back in just as fast, or perhaps an older style can be paired with a modern one for a newer look. I invested heavily in the peasant blouse trend of 2001-2003 and you know what? I think they’d look adorbs paired with skinny pants. I really hope my parents still have all of them because I swear 3 years ago I told Mummy to donate them all to Goodwill.

I got 3 tops and tees at J. Crew in royal blue (my favorite color! I even got my wedding lehenga in royal blue), dark maroon and white. It’s rare that I let myself buy from expensive brands like J.Crew for things like tops, because you can get them so cheap at Forever 21. Typically I’m only willing to invest for some quality in dresses, skirts and pants and I get all my sweaters and tops and tshirts at uber cheap places like F21, Target or TJMaxx but hey, an insane sale is an insane sale.

So that’s it for now. It’s funny because when I gained weight and felt unattractive…I almost entirely stopped looking at magazines, going out to malls or perusing what was available online. And my consumption level dropped significantly. But somewhere along the way I stopped the habit of looking at stuff and even though my weight has stabilized again and I feel more attractive, I just lost interest. While I was looking for the pics for today’s post I was like “oooh, that’s cute” but then I thought about all the property tax I am set to pay and closed the browser. I was very financially stable and scrupulous about purchases even in my 20s but in my 30s I just feel like stuff is stuff is stuff. I think I’d rather go on vacation. See a bit of the world.

Till you make enough to have everything you want, you’ve got to pick and choose…so adios to new pants for the next four years.

Posted in NYC Adventures, Work | Leave a comment

The Lion House

I’ll begin by digressing with a pointless anecdote about other stuff

Our house hunt always started with the same ritual. We’d get in our car (the Econobox lives on readers…it will never die, we’re sure of it at this juncture), argue over taking the Holland Tunnel or the Lincoln Tunnel, settle for Lincoln, do an exhausting stop-and-go drive across Manhattan, cross over into the Dirty Jerz and start making our way to my in-laws’ home to park our car and be picked up by our agent the next morning. Generally we’d stay over at my BIL/SIL’s house on Saturday night so we could all chill together, and also because they’d always point out that if we were going to make a $14 trip back through the tunnels, so why not enjoy the Jerz and sight-see a bit and chillax with family? I am lucky enough to really like my in-laws, so we’d usually make a Saturday night/Sunday morning expedition of the whole house hunting rigamarole. One thing I found out about Jerz as a result of these over-nighters…it has really really nice beaches! One time this summer B and I decided we were going to go out to Montauk, but the traffic got so heavy that we aborted our mission in the middle and ended up at Far Rockaway instead. It was okay-and I am not slamming it due to Sandy damage because I think if anything Sandy probably washed away some of the grime and skeeze (along with the boardwalk). The shoreline is definitely long, but I don’t think it compared with the cleanliness of the beach my BIL and SIL took us to in the Jerz. Plus, Far Rockaway was really rocky and I didn’t like the water as much as the Jerz beach. The Jerz beach also had nice dunes with grass, softer sand and a really clean and beachier foreshore. After we came home I was telling B that I sort of want to invest in a volleyball net and make a trip of it with friends because the whole atmosphere was so pleasant.

ANYWAY, I told you all of that only to mention that every time we’d drive over to Jerz to see homes we’d park at my in-laws’ house. And every time we did THAT, we’d take exactly the same route down the cliffs of NJ and pass this one house. The cutest Victorian house. It was an attached Victorian row house, but it was the end-unit so we knew it was the one with the drivable backyard/parking. The exterior is original stone and there were 2 excruciatingly awesome lion statues out front by its cherry red door. The whole home looked like it belonged in England. Every single time we drove by The Lion House (as we began to call it) we’d always say things like “man, wouldn’t it be awesome if the LION HOUSE went on sale? We would buy that house in a hot second.”

You know where this is leading, don’t you? We’d put an offer on the carriage house (which btw, is a gut reno of some Victorian stables!) and were in the middle of negotiating the price when the Lion House went on the market. GAH! So I put in an emergency call to our realtor and we rushed over to the Lion House to check it out. And readers, I would describe it as the home of my childhood dreams. B was sold on it for 2 reasons. First, the home has incredible curb appeal, with the original stonework, original ornate gatework, original Victorian statuary (except the new cherubs they replaced out back, horrid, cherubs are truly grotesque) and second, due to being the end unit, they had a paved patio out back that worked as a combination of an outdoor space and parking. Our carriage house has an amazing deck (with an attached grill), but the one thing we are lacking, as is everyone on our street? PARKING. There is a total of maybe one or two homes in our carriage house neighborhood that come with deeded parking. This was pretty much one of the only things that gave us pause about our property. In the end we decided to overlook it because a) we weren’t in a radically different situation than the rest of the properties in our area, since none of them come with parking either, b) we live a mile away from my brother-in-law who said he’d let us park our car in his garage as long as he lived in the neighborhood, which will be for a while and c) we will likely buy an investment property in the next few years and we decided firmly that we’d buy it with parking.

So the lion statues and parking sold B, and I’ll admit that I also fell for the home’s curb appeal, but what of the interior? One of the things I heard people talk on and on about for years was the issue of over-use of space in modern construction as opposed to Olde Timey Constructione. “There’s just way too much space,” people say as they wave their hands about. “And what happened to having rooms, open layout is so awful. Back in the day, people really knew how to build homes!”

When it came down to the Lion House vs. the Carriage House, the places were so totally different in every respect that we had to, at the end of the day, re-evaluate how we felt about Olde Timey Architecture vs. New-Fangled Modern Architecture. Even our real estate agent was like “I think this really comes down to which house you think will fit your needs from an architectural standpoint.”

First things first. The Lion House had been put on the market last year, or the year before, and then quickly taken off again. From what we can see, the owners spent that time putting a great deal of working into cosmetic refurbishment, as well as some structural improvements. I don’t remember if they upgraded the wiring/electrical stuff, but they did replace all the windows if I remember correctly. The floors had been polished and the bathroom upstairs had been renovated. The flow of the house was not bad but Victorian architecture ultimately fit Victorian needs. The vestibule was adorable, and huge, but also made me think “hmm, wasted space that could have gone towards living areas.” The parlor was a decent size, but the entry to it cut the room in a way such that absolutely no big screen television could be placed directly on the wall…for obvious reasons, I get it. But when you’re looking at the house and your husband slowly says “well, we can’t put a big TV anywhere,” you suddenly start realizing…modern homes are built for modern needs. Still, I won’t deny the home’s Olde Timey Charme. Were I 15 years old I know I’d be like “BABA, WE NEED TO BUY THIS HOME BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE I AM IN THE PAGES OF A CHILDREN’S FANTASY NOVEL.” That’s how cute and olde timey it was-I felt like I was in a C.S. Lewis novel while walking through it. The dining room was large and spacious but the kitchen? Oh readers. THERE WAS NO DISHWASHER. And after that I fainted dead away. The kitchen, as compared to the carriage house, was also fairly dated and we could tell that they had made a decision between an expensive reno of a kitchen or the upstairs bathroom and chosen the bathroom for cost purposes. We would definitely have been on the line for a kitchen renovation were we to stay in the house for any extended period of time. I think the owners had put in new cabinetry-oh, and I’ll say this-I know white cabinetry is all the rage right now and I do like it quite a bit and half-toyed with the idea of painting our cabinets white-but when it’s cheap white cabinetry, it looks terrible. I’ll take our reasonably expensive oak cabinetry in the carriage house any day over cheap white cabinetry.

To make things worse, the home had been classified years ago as a multi-family, which automatically made B want to rent out the basement. The basement “apartment” was nice but also slightly damp and housed the second bathroom, which totally and thoroughly unacceptable due to being small and dated and cramped. I saw it and thought, holy crap, they just made the teeniest bathroom down here they could.

After we toured the basement, which had a staircase that would pretty much kill most people, I realized that the home did not come with a washer and dryer and my realtor read aloud “remediated lead paint” off the viewing sheet and I hit my tolerance limit. I could have worked around the dishwasher with a portable one and lived with a dated kitchen. But when you say sh*t like “doesn’t come with laundry” and “lead paint” in one breath I feel like my 21st century self, at 35 years of age, just thinks “frock you Victorians.” Because right now I am stuck with things like carrying the laundry out for servicing-and while I understand I sound like a spoiled brat because we don’t even do it ourselves and how bad could it be-let me assure you, that NYC habit of getting laundry “done” is not worth it. Aside from having to drag large loads of laundry around, you also will never ever own a pair of matched socks and your clothes get mixed up with others and disappear at a reasonably consistent rate. And I supposed I could have forced B to help me with it but realistically I know that I end up gritting my teeth and doing some things out of frustration (just like he grits his teeth and cleans because FROCK THAT) and one of those things is the task of routinely dropping off laundry.

Oh yeah, and the lead paint. After we escaped the clutches of our agent I kept asking B, “do you want your kid to be dumber than a dolphin? Because that is what we are heading towards. Your kid wouldn’t even be allowed to perform at Sea World!” After the dumber than a dolphin question failed to dissuade him, I tried some new tactics. “Are you trying to doom us to a flipper baby?” I’d say while making little fin hands and nuzzling his knee. A couple days later when he still wasn’t convinced, I pulled out the big guns and started drooling and looking at him cross-eyed in order to give him a taste of what a lead paint baby would be like in person. “I coulda been smurt, but Dada wanted a purking spot and some statues,” I’d slur at him cross-eyed over dinner. “Please don’t make that face MONKEY” B would screech in between giggles.

Wait wait…I haven’t even gotten to the upstairs yet. It was pretty nice, but the Victorians definitely were…smaller. It was also pretty funny to see the maid’s room. Because it had been turned into a reasonably sized walk-in closet to the next door master. HA! None of the rooms came with real closets. Instead, they had the original wardrobe built-ins, straight out of the Chronices of Narnia. I quite liked them but B started narrowing his eyes since he pretty much loathes anything Olde Timey and boy were these Olde Timey. “Do you think Narnia lies on the other side?” I asked B as he struggled to get one open. “We might be able to escape the Jerz for a magical land!” The bathroom reno was pretty nice, all things said. Except…realistically speaking it would be the only bathroom in the house. Which is fine when it’s the 2 of us, but I think would be horrible down the line with children, as well as when B’s parents or my parents or friends visit.

Modern houses are built for modern needs. Olde Tymey Homes are built for olde timey needs. This is my conclusion. It comes down to what you want most-can you deal with the discrepancies between how you live your life today versus how olde timey people lived theirs or do you want a place that fits your lifestyle as it is?

In spite of the dumber-than-a-dolphin baby questions, we dragged out the negotiation on the carriage house and ended up doing about 3 viewings of the Lion House. The third time I took my in-laws (who had seen the carriage house) and my realtor’s husband, who used to be a contractor. Aside from the issue of lead remediation and kitchen renovation he inspected the house and told us that the only space for a washer/dryer set would have been in the basement. Which B wanted to rent out. Which made the multi-family benefit to the home moot unless we wanted to be locked into the same cycle of resentful laundry hauling we were in now.

As a bonus, my nephew was sniffing around the window ledges (low low low in keeping with Victorian architecture) and the first thing my brother-in-law said was “I think you should chemically strip the home of lead before you move in.”

So the Lion House, which we both admit has charm came with the following built in costs:

Remediate lead for entire home

Buy washer and dryer and give up basement apartment income or blow out back of home and add washer and dryer at huge cost due to historical refurbishment of back wall or do nothing and take laundry to laundromat

Buy dishwasher

Complete kitchen renovation within 1 to 2 years

Live with 1 bathroom for everyone

Birth baby dumber than dolphin

Aaaaaaaaaaaand that’s when I turned to B and was like “I can’t do it. I can’t live in the Lion House.” After some thought, B agreed that the modern house was made for…modern human beings and we agreed on a price and closed out the negotiations.

I’m disappointed readers. For years I was one of those people who said things like why do modern homes have to be so big and in Europe people live in apartments their whole lives and we should all ride bikes everywhere like the Dutch. But when it came down to brass tacks I went for a well designed larger home with no wasted space, more than 1 bathroom, a modern kitchen and closets.

At least I still think we should ride bikes everywhere like the Dutch.

Posted in Dirty Jerz, The Pursuit of Home | 2 Comments

In the meantime…

Apartment all Packed Up

We are in that in-between stage of living in squalor. I have bruises up and down my legs from bumping into things or falling over them. I can’t wait till we close.

Posted in Dirty Jerz, NYC Adventures, The Pursuit of Home | Leave a comment

The New Home

In the end it came down to 2 homes-and we were so so close to doing a simultaneous bid but this one won out. I’ll talk about the other house soon (as well as why we didn’t go with it) but in the meantime, here are some photographs of the place that I took during the inspection. Unfortunately, Booboo’s phone AND our iPad died during the inspection so we don’t have any of the bathrooms and I only got 2 of the bedrooms. It’s not at all the home I thought I’d buy one day (very modern). Actually, the home we passed on was a 150 year old Victorian. But after years of “settled for” apartment living I yearned for the convenience of modern construction, so here we are. It’s move-in ready and our seller actually had incredible taste, so we’re not even bothering to change paint colours. Here we go!

Exterior. It's a carriage house. We considered this a negative till we looked at the crime stats. But! I'm excited about buying Lockitron or August to let people into our house all futuristic-like.

Exterior. It’s a carriage house. We considered this a negative till we looked at the crime stats. But! I’m excited about buying Lockitron or August to let people into our house all futuristic-like.

From the front door you walk into a mini foyer. There's a room coat closet here so we're not sure adding wall hooks is worth it. Let's see.

From the front door you walk into a mini foyer. There’s a room coat closet here so we’re not sure adding wall hooks is worth it. Let’s see.

Taken from the foyer. Some of our livingroom. This is a really big open space with high ceilings.

Taken from the foyer. Some of our livingroom. This is a really big open space with high ceilings.

Another section of our main living area. I think long-term this is going to end up as a compact office nook but right now we are childless so the smaller room is going to be an office. B's friends gave us the perfect painting to cover up the electrical box-so either I need a frame or need to make one soon.

Another section of our main living area. I think long-term this is going to end up as a compact office nook but right now we are childless so the smaller room is going to be an office. B’s friends gave us the perfect painting to cover up the electrical box-so either I need a frame or need to make one soon.

Sooo. The kitchen. It's big and roomy and aesthetically not particularly to my taste. I loathe the tile. But it's also pretty new and in good shape.

Sooo. The kitchen. It’s big and roomy and aesthetically not particularly to my taste. I loathe the tile. But it’s also pretty new and in good shape.

The seller has a dog. I'm wondering if the stair carpet is dog-related because there's wood in the middle. If it was added by the guy we bought the house from, then I'll probably remove it as I really like the wood in this house.

The seller has a dog. I’m wondering if the stair carpet is dog-related because there’s wood in the middle. If it was added by the guy we bought the house from, then I’ll probably remove it as I really like the wood in this house.

We have skylights in every room on the 2nd floor. This is both good and bad for us (to be explained in separate post). Here's half the master suite. It's quite huge though B and I frequently shake our heads over the insane use of space. This is the front half from the back area.

We have skylights in every room on the 2nd floor. This is both good and bad for us (to be explained in separate post). Here’s half the master suite. It’s quite huge though B and I frequently shake our heads over the insane use of space. This is the front half from the back area.

Master Bedroom 2

Rest of the master suite. Did you notice? They never installed windows!! This is the first investment we're making in the house and it's why even our seller lives in what is technically the guest bedroom.

Rest of the master suite. Did you notice? They never installed windows!! This is the first investment we’re making in the house and it’s why even our seller lives in what is technically the guest bedroom.

Will be our bedroom till we install windows in the master. I love the colours in this room (throughout the house really)

Will be our bedroom till we install windows in the master. I love the colours in this room (throughout the house really)

Off the kitchen we have a roomy enough area/alcove from where you can go to the basement or out to the deck. Like our seller, we'll be doing bike storage here, though I also have some other plans for it.

Off the kitchen we have a roomy enough area/alcove from where you can go to the basement or out to the deck. The tile here is continued out from the kitchen so you can see more of what I hate. It has such a pink tone to it that with all the sun coming in it makes all these walls look pink even though they’re painted straight white.

We have a really huge, finished basement. I'm so confused as to why the basement has a more neutral tile! I love this added space. We're planning a gym and game room down here.

We have a really huge, finished basement. I’m so confused as to why the basement has a more neutral tile! I love this added space. We’re planning a gym and game room down here.

Not pictured:

Bathrooms (3, full!)

Third bedroom (office/nursery sized)

Pantry under stairs

Next up: proposed plans, design ideas, things I’ve been mulling over about what we absolutely NEEEEED to change versus petulantly want to change and why we didn’t buy the Lion House (even though with our last name we had the most awesome nickname for that one!).

Posted in Design, Dirty Jerz, Renovation, The Pursuit of Home | Leave a comment

Eternal Optimism of the Immigrant Mind

*flexes fingers* It feels good to get my thoughts out there. Even though I know I am holding back on some things for obvious privacy issues and discretion, it feels nice to get something down-both for feedback and to remember what I felt like at this time in my life (approaching my mid-30s and newly married). I feel sad about all the times I trashed past blogs. I had some funny posts. I think reading some of them now would hard (time teaches us so much!) but I think I’d still make myself laugh. Once a McWearingChaps always a McWearingChaps (I changed my name for B’s readers, did you know? His was prettier than mine but I still miss mine) and a McWearingChaps will always laugh at his/her own jokes.

I’m also listening to Fleetwood Mac and drinking a beer so I’m feeling all contemplative-like.

When B and I were looking at neighborhoods we kept coming back to the schools thing. “We can’t compromise on the schools,” we’d say to each other. I know everyone wants good schools for their kids, I mean no one sets out to be like “Hey, I’m just looking for mediocrity here!” but education is something dear to the hearts of S. Asians. It’s the greatest gift we try to give to our children and while you may say “yeah, but Monkey all those other yuppie assholes are trying to give their kids the same gift, damn!” it’s a little different with desis, I swear. Immigrant Indians come to this country with nothing, even today. My parents had $50 Canadian in 1981. I’m not sure how much B had but he’s just as scrappy as they were (my father and B are alumni of the same university even) and his personality falls in somewhere in between my parents’ weathered first generation determination and my second generation insouciance/guilt. So what I was saying was that Indians, even today, come to the US with very little but hopes and dreams and ambitions and often feel that part of their responsibility as human beings, is to provide their children with all that the US has to offer in terms of high quality education. And second generation immigrants like me feel like “oh sh*t, I can’t slide back to where we came from in India so I need to do better!”

Anyway, when we were looking for homes, B and I kept coming back to the education thing and the fact that urban schools are often hyper-localized in terms of quality. I went to pretty much one of the top 2 school districts in Taxachusetts so the thought of putting any future monsters in a less-than-stellar environment was weighing fairly heavily on my mind. We kept circling around one particular town in Hudson county with reasonably good schools but fact that it was only 8 city blocks across in length meant that there would be maybe 1 or 2 listings at anytime. “We can’t just rely on magnet schools!” I wailed to my husband one day.

Booboo’s ears immediately perked up. The think you need to know about B is that he’s absolutely obsessed with Big Cats. As in, frequently watches lion documentaries and we have far too many pictures of tigers around our home (for reals…I have a tropical bathroom planned for them). On the other hand, B always comments that living with me is a bit like living with a feral cat and truly B is the most dog-like creature I’ve ever observed. Whenever something new and unknown comes into Booboo’s universe his ears perk and twist, and his nose climbs a few inches into the air, exactly like an inquisitive wolf. “What is…this magnetic school you are talking about,” he inquired curiously. So then I had to explain the concept of the magnet school to B, in great depth. I watched as he knitted his brows together and the idea was slowly processed, deconstructed and absorbed into his prodigious, engineering-esque brain. “So…they will have to take a test to go to the magnetic school?” he observed to me after some time. “Yeah, they’ll take a test, it’s competitive, like getting into a college and they only admit the cream of the crop. We shouldn’t rely on them, I think,” I pointed out lamely. B turned to me and I could see confusion creep across his face.

“Why not?” he responded.

“Don’t you understand? They don’t let anyone in. It’s competitive.”

“So these magnetic schools are in the other towns? And tests can be taken to get in?”

“Yes, but it’s not like, automatic, I just told you, they make the kids take a test. Not everyone gets in.”

Booboo’s confusion was replaced by the same look I often note on my father’s face. Complacence.

“If all that is required to get into a magnetic school is to take a test, then we can go ahead and expand the zipcodes right now,” he responded to me.

I was baffled at his confidence. “You do understand that they may not GET IN, right?” I asked him.

So I say that Booboo reminds me of my parents in some respects and the specific trait in question is that when his complacent conclusions are challenged Booboo immediately moves from placid calm to affront and righteous indignation. “Why the hell not?” he responded. I tried to explain that magnet schools admit children on a merit based test in combination with other factors. “See, it’s not automatic, they actually have to do WELL on that test and we can’t predict that.”

Booboo moved from indignation to steely determination (also so so like my father, Babs). “I’ll tell you what…if they don’t place on that test after all we are doing, I’ll beat the sh*t out of them. Because that’s how we do in India…it’s not like here.”

Alas, there was no reasoning with him and here we are because we just bought a home in the city that houses the best high school in NJ (magnet of course). There’s a blue ribbon elementary magnet school next door and our plan is to buy an investment property there fairly soon while prices are depressed. We are playing magnet school craps, I guess, and I am a bit nervous about it. Where my visions lie in the realm of hazy hope and careful planning for eventualities, Booboo lives firmly in the world of first generation expectations, hope and optimism. And I think it is the generational difference of taking such a huge risk to come to a different country with so little. After all, if you leave the life, culture, people you’ve known since your birth and gamble on a completely different part of the world with nothing more than hope and prodigious brains, what’s a little roulette when it comes to your kids’ education? But at the end of the day I think it’s the combination of hope, optimism and desperation of the immigrant experience that drives that curious sense of expectation that so seems to define first generational Indians. I find it hilarious because you’d think that I’d be the risk-prone one, having known mostly stability…but it’s Booboo who finds it incomprehensible that our monsters wouldn’t get into magnet school.

After we bid on our (now) home I called my father up and was talking with him about the bid and our plans. “How are the schools?” my father asked (as one of the first questions, of course). I responded carefully. “Well, the public schools aren’t great but we get a very high quality free pre-school program that will save us a lot of money before any kids turn public school aged and there are very good magnet schools, the best in the state, actually.” I could hear relief flood through my father’s voice.

“Oh a magnetic school? That’s alright then. You two are all set.”

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House Hunting Review: A Tale of Declining Expectations

I remember when we started house hunting and I laugh and laugh at how naive we were. Everyone says to sit down and look at your finances and your must-haves and want-to-haves, then match them up with a neighborhood and begin a careful, methodical process of elimination to hone in on the right house. This is not how it worked out. We looked at our finances (excellent!) and our goal list (good schools, decent home) and 10 minutes into the house hunt realized that we had nothing to buy. That’s what happens in New York. Because in this market a hell of a lot of people have both great finances and minimal expectations related to comfort, security and quality of life. Everyone else is trying to rent your apartment and keep their heads above water.

When Booboo and I first started looking we were under the impression that we’d move to The City. As in, the island of Manhattan. Unfortunately that lasted for approximately one day and 4 (miserable and cramped) places. The first thing you should know about Manhattan is that unless you are uber-wealthy, you won’t actually own a place, even as a condominium (forget a house, we were never so idealistic). You’ll own shares in a cooperative corporation that asks you for your kidney and firstborn in exchange for buying in, and then will proceed to bully you about everything. B is the type of person who decided he wasn’t even going to visit Bhutan because the travel situation there is so bossy (they monitor you from morning till night) so by the time the second real estate agent at an open house lectured us on how she needed to see what investments we’d made in our retirement portfolio, and how we wouldn’t be able to make any changes to the apartment or rent it out EVER, we quickly decided to set our sights elsewhere. Initially B was huffing about moving back to our own borough, or maybe that hip one down south, but a quick Trulia search revealed that the coop infection has spread across the boroughs and the only place we’d be able to escape it would be Long Island. So, the suburbs. Staten Island wasn’t even a possibility for us-it’s pretty obvious if you’ve been keeping track of how Hurricane Sandy .

Having exhausted our East River borough possibilities we quickly set our sights to Manhattan’s unassuming 6th borough, across the river from the Hudson. Yes my friends, we got off our high horse and down into the dirty Jerz. I am not a native New Yorker (Boston 4eva), so I don’t have any snobberies regarding The Jerz. I mean, growing up in Boston I’ve always had a bit of a…refineries and turnpike image of The Jerz, but that’s mostly because that’s all I ever saw as we were zooming across it. Intellectually I know that there’s more than tolls and various chemical factories, but I hain’t seen any of it, savvy?  But when you tell people that you might be moving Jerz-side, there’s a peculiar reaction common to anyone who is “privileged” enough to fork over City Tax. A sharp inhalation of breath, a flare of the nostrils and creeping pity across a concerned visage. The mental reaction is so obvious the anvils nearly shoot across the distance and slam you in the face. “B and T, B and T omigod, they are going B and T.” Given that Booboo retains a bit o’ NYC snobbery along these lines, I had to slowly lead him to the Jersey shaped trough of reality. “Are we really going to let people dictate what to do with a home we’re spending a sh*tload of money on?” I’d ask him while he took to our couch with a glass of whiskey and a cold compress, “are they f*cking serious with these questions?”

Here’s what happens when you cross the Hudson though. Your expectations go up. Way up. When you’re looking Manhattan you’re always saying things like “550 square feet doesn’t sound bad, right? I mean, we can swing that!” but when you move across the Hudson all of a sudden it’s like “Hey, I’m in Jersey so I deserve a 1000 square feet and 2 bedrooms! And I want a dishwasher, W/D, a pony and someone needs to give ME a kidney and a firstborn.” UNFORTUNATELY, what also happens when you end up right across the river from Manhattan is that you’re suddenly competing with thousands of people who want a kidney and a firstborn and a washer/dryer too. And what definitely did not help us out is that interest rates have been low, low, low so pretty much everyone hoarding a downpayment is out there looking at exactly the same neighborhoods and properties you are. There were times when I’d send listings to my agent and get back all but 2 of them with the note that the rest were in contract or under attorney review. Most of the time they’d only be on the market for 7 days or less. But since we both work and couldn’t come in till the weekend, people would rush over during weekdays, bid and put the property under attorney review. One time we were on the way to a bloody home, and our agent got a call that it went under AR. It was incredibly frustrating because making the drive to Jerz was neither cheap in terms of time or tolls (bloody B&T indeed!)

In fact, what was just 15 months ago a depressed/static market suddenly became a hot market with almost no inventory. What makes me want to make Manhattan snobs in the snoot is that it’s actually much easier to buy in Manhattan these days than it is to buy in Brooklyn, Queens or the good parts of Hudson County.

So our Jerz tale was pretty remniscent of our Manhattan-Borough tale. The only difference was that we didn’t compromise on wanting more space and a reasonably updated home. “We’ll get that second bedroom, I’m not compromising on that one,” B would say to me after every trip of looking at between 1 to 3 listings to the tune of a $14 tunnel ride back to our borough. We rejected available apartments for various reasons-sometimes the monthly HOA would be sky-high, other times there would be zero light inside even with a full on sunny day outside.

If I sound like we searched for the whole year and rejected a thousand apartments, I want to clarify. Due to the lack of inventory, we literally looked at 10 apartments and only in September and our agent repeatedly apologized for having nothing to show in a reasonable price range. Fortunately, our luck turned on the 10th place. The property had been under contract/attorney review for something like 6 months but the buyer finally admitted that he was unable to obtain financing so the deal fell apart. On a Saturday night. Coincidentally, we were slated for viewings the next day on Sunday morning so our agent rushed us over to the place.

And it pretty much beat every house out that we’d seen to date. I don’t want to say too much about it because I’d rather show you in some pictures (soon, I promise!). But it’s a nice place. It’s way way more than we ever wanted to get but we just lucked into something we can stay in for a long time. Well, provided our future monsters get into magnet school, I guess.

We bid on it a day later and here we are. I’m packing up boxes and fielding calls from people who want our apartment and squabbling with B about whether or not we should put Madhubani and Warli paintings on our walls and how to spruce up the bathrooms (3 of them, y’all).

New York real estate. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, I think.

Posted in Dirty Jerz, NYC Adventures, The Pursuit of Home, Us | Leave a comment