We just received our lease renewal. With the economy being what it is, we held out vague hope that our rent wouldn't rise much, though I don't think we ever really believed that was possible.
It wasn't. Not a terribly high increase and we'll probably sign for one year instead of two and for the first few months of 2010 we'll grumble and fondly reminisce about those halcyon days of 2009, when rent seemed just so cheap. The same routine premiered in 2005, followed by repeat performances every year since.
Maybe I'll bring up the fact I used to pay $400 for a big two-bedroom apartment in Fargo, which included all utilities. Management basically invited you to run the air-conditioner nonstop for three months. My apologies to the electric company.
We'll whine about the high price of life in New York, especially Manhattan, even though we live in one of the areas that's still considered inexpensive - Inwood at the top of the big island. And the next time I'm stuck on a stranded subway with a mass of humanity made up entirely of sweat and bitterness, I'll think about how nice it'd be to hop in a car and hit the open road. "Maybe we should think about leaving New York," I'll think.
But then I'll take a walk down Broadway. Not the most famous part of that street, but our part of Broadway up in Inwood. There aren't any stars or bright lights. But there's Liffy's, a neighborhood bar that's dark and a little dirty inside but still a perfect place for a late-night beer. There's our deli, complete with the blood-pressure machine inside, and entire families sitting outside like they're at the beach on the Fourth of July. There's Isham Park bordering Broadway, just blocks from Inwood Hill Park, a pair of large green spaces nestled amongst the concrete.
Then maybe I'll travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a world-famous facility 25 minutes away, just one of countless treasures so close and accessible that it's almost impossible not to take for granted. I'll take a walk across the George Washington Bridge and be awed by the architecture, the view and the idea that anyone could land a plane in the river far below. There are a thousand tangible things that keep us in the city, but it's the intangibles - the energy, the pride you feel when an old friend says, "Wow, you're living in New York? The city?" - that hold us here as well.
I moved here in 2004 to be with Louise. Talks centered on us staying three months or so. We'd see where we were at in life, decide if we wanted to stay or maybe move somewhere cheaper, quieter, closer to the Midwest. Sixty months later...here we are, staring at another lease renewal.
I love going back to Minnesota, and I miss it tremendously, mostly my family and old friends but also the towns and spaces. The small-town blood still resides in the big-city adult. I love traveling to Cape Town whenever possible with Louise, who's painfully far away from a family that misses her every day and always wonders if there's a chance she'll maybe one day return for good.
Visiting those places means leaving New York, for a week or two or six. Trips outside the city are always welcomed, providing a reprieve from the smells, sounds and crowds. But moving? For good? As the years go by, one bleeding into the other, it becomes harder and harder to envision taking that step. When kids arrive, and more space is a requirement and no longer just a dream, then it'll be time. Until then, we'll keep receiving the leases. The grumbling will continue. And we'll sign in a second.