I was brewing beer in my underwear Sunday morning—turning water into wine, if you’re pious. I wandered out of the steamy kitchen and into the living room, where Maggie was pretending none of this was happening. Noticing my uniform, she suggested that the loincloth wasn’t really necessary, if all I cared about was staying as cool as possible. Well, sure, that made sense, I suppose. But I wanted to preserve the pretense of a sanitary brewery, if nothing else, and those undies were all that was left of that pretense.
Brewing, like most hobbies, shines a very harsh light on cramped life in the city. Trace this pathetic scene back: I wouldn’t be in undies if I weren’t so warm. I wouldn’t be so warm if we had central air conditioning, or if I could brew outside over a propane burner. I could have both of these things if we moved back to America.
Our move in January solved a lot of problems for us, at least the ones we expected to solve. Charlotte will attend a better public school in the fall. We have twice as much space as before. Guests no longer have to walk through our room just to pee in the middle of the night. That’s all good. But it pains me to admit that, in some ways, the move kinda made things worse.
The brewing space is not a big deal—hobbies should be challenging, after all. A bigger deal is that I catch myself staring out of our fourth floor window at the overgrown and unused backyard below. The yard is inaccessible to anyone but the tenants on the ground floor (with two kids!) who steadfastly refuse to use it. The thing is, I don’t even imagine using it for leisure. I just want to clean it up, give it some attention. Clear out the dead tree, pick up the rocks. Pull back the ivy, run a mower lightly over its curves…
I snap back to reality and walk back to the other end of the apartment and look out at the street. The asphalt reminds me of our old apartment on Classon Avenue. There, the only greenery we could see from our apartment was courtesy of an empty lot—empty only because of a massive and suspicious fire the night Obama was elected, which totaled the building that homeless squatters had been using since we moved in. Even the small patch of greenery that was left was lame. The lot’s signature feature, the cherry tree, blew over during Sandy.
So yeah, the move stirred up some dust. The truth of it is that I like our new apartment a lot and enjoy living here. Another truth of it is I’ve been dreaming of leaving this apartment pretty much since we moved in. It seems the urge for space wasn’t satisfied by getting more space. It’s discouraging, when I see this for what it is: a dumb human doing what dumb humans do, not being thankful for what he’s got and dreaming about something better out back.
It’s back to the drawing board, in a sense. Clearly, I have forgotten some important lesson I thought I had learned a long time ago. We have two years on this lease, so I guess time is on my side. The bizarre Monday morning impulse to search for real estate for Hudson, NY— a town I’ve never even been to—will have to remain just that. We’re here for a bit. Maybe it’s time to drop the pretense and walk around like I own the place.