Friday, February 25, 2011

Goodbye Jackson Heights

When we first moved to New York, my wife and I had a 1-bedroom apartment on the UWS. It was a quaint little place with a kitchen the size of a closet, and it served us well. After our first year, the rent was raised to an amount we didn’t see fit paying. Sure, we were living IN the city, but paying over $2k a month to hear fire and police sirens (we were a block away from both departments), getting followed by homeless people into our building and living in a small place just didn’t seem worth it. So we did a little searching on craigslist and found a nice little neighborhood called Jackson Heights in Queens.

Our first impressions: “Look they have trees!” “Do you hear that silence?” “Access to 5 different trains?” We had hit the motherload. Our search then lead us to a 1 bedroom that had a decent sized kitchen with lots of counter space, more closet space, and a seemingly quieter neighborhood. What else could we want? Cut to four years later. My wife and I have grown as individuals and as a couple. We’ve learned some things, we’ve lost some things, and we’ve experienced more in that apartment than we could have anticipated.

For starters, we’ve lost a number of family members during our stay. Our first dog together, Molly, was a medium sized (she preferred fuller figured) border collie/cocker mix who enjoyed chicken bones, barking at other dogs and being sweet as hell. She loved people and always enjoyed giving them, and us, all of her unconditional love. Ok, maybe she wanted treats in return, but still, it was mostly unconditional. One day we noticed she had slowed down considerably, and that she was straining to do the things she could normally do with ease. We took her to our local vet who kept her overnight for observation. The next day while we were at work the vet called us, saying we needed to get there right away. Upon our arrival we were told that she was critically ill and needed to be taken to an animal ER right away. We found one in the city and waited to hear what her prognosis would be. It turned out to be a disease where her body was destroying her red blood cells at a rapid pace. Almost a week passed by, with multiple transfusions, multiple credit card charges, and worry filled nights wondering how she would do. At the end of the week she had blood clots in her lungs, and the only thing we could do was to ease her suffering. I hope we never have to do something as hard as that ever again.

Our stay there also saw the passing of grandparents and an uncle. My wife’s grandparents on her father’s side got into a bad car crash, and her grandfather died shortly after. Her grandmother survived and had to deal with both being all alone in the house they lived in together and the return of her cancer. My wife loved both of them, and it was hard to see her lose one while watching the other wither away. I couldn’t help but see us in them, and secretly wonder what I would ever do if I lost my wife prematurely. I’m so glad to have known them, and I can only hope that my wife and I have the same longevity in both our relationship together and our love of life and the people around us.

I, on the other hand, lost my grandmother and my uncle. Mother and son, both on my mother’s side. My uncle was stricken with Pick’s disease at a relatively young age, and we watched him deteriorate both mentally and physically. Pick’s is a degenerative disease of the brain, much like Alzheimer’s, in which brain function lessens and the body starts shutting down because the brain isn’t telling it what to do. I was only able to visit my uncle a few times while he was in the nursing home, and unfortunately he hardly knew who I was. I was told that near the end his throat had closed up so much that they could only feed him apricot nectar. My grandmother had lived a pretty full life with my grandfather, and she seemed to be doing ok although she had lost him back in 2001. They were like my second set of parents, and I’m still realizing how much I gained from them to this day. When my uncle got sick, my grandmother cried and said that she should not have to see her child die before her. Thankfully for her, that did not happen.

Living in JH also gave us a glimpse into the wonderful world of bedbugs. We got these unwelcome tenants (shhh! Don’t tell anyone we got them!) shortly before Molly got sick. After noticing the huge red bites on our arms and legs we alerted our landlord, who promptly questioned whether we were correct in our assessment. I assured her that we were, in fact, not joshing her by capturing one of these critters and showing it to her in person. They quickly got an exterminator, and we got to work washing everything with fabric on hot and sealing our personal belongings in oversized Ziploc bags and Rubbermaid bins (shameless plugs!). It was like we had gotten leprosy and we didn’t want to tell anyone else for fear of us being shunned. We hardly went out, and the few people that did know about it kept their distance (rightly so). We vacuumed the floors every day and lived like hermits for what seemed like an eternity. This happened almost 2 years ago and we are still waiting to open up certain bags, just to make sure that those things have died. Did you know they can live without food for a year and a half? Now you do. Sleep tight.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the rewarding relationship we had with the neighbors that lived below us. They are an older Indian/Bangladeshi couple whose favorite pastimes are karaoke and being inconsiderate assholes. Turn the kids away from the screen if they are reading this, shit’s about to get real. Our neighbors, or the “Noisies” as I will refer to them, tended to have company over in the later hours of the evening during most of the week. I’m told by a co-worker (who is also Indian, so my information and assumptions are based on valid, second-info) that it is standard practice for Indian/Bangla people to have later dinners and, thus, later gatherings. So imagine our surprise when a karaoke party lasted from 8pm to 11 or 12 on a week night! Oh sure, we knocked and asked politely to have them turn it down, yes, we tried. The music did get turned down, but it somehow (through black magic, I assume) crept back up. And yes, we can’t only blame them. The building is post-war, which means the floors are thinner and less patriotic, so sounds do creep through much easier. What’s even better, is that they enjoyed watching (or sleeping with) the TV on late at night. So anywhere from 10 until sometimes 2 in the morning, we (correction, I, because my wife can tune it out most of the time) would hear the high and low warbling of their television. No amounts of pounding on the floor or ringing their doorbell would get them to turn it down, off or to put headphones on. We have dealt with this since day one of living there, and I for one am becoming a little koo-koo for cocoa puffs over this.

So, it is with mostly joy and a little sadness that I bid JH adieu. We’ve found a nice 2 bedroom in Bay Ridge that (so far, and with fingers crossed) seems to be pretty quiet. The people we’ve met so far have been nice, we have friends that live within a 15 minute walk, and we have access to the main shopping areas without being too close to the action. I have high hopes for this apartment and the area, and I hope they don’t disappoint. However that’s the problem with moving in the winter: the crazies aren’t out right now. Right now they’re quiet, hibernating and figuring out which karaoke songs to perform once they can open up their windows.

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