In praise of the suburbs, or, why I’m never moving back to NYC

February 18, 2013 · 6 comments

in Inspiration, Loving food, Relationships

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I never thought I’d lived to see the day when anyone would call my life in the suburbs a hot trend. But that’s what The New York Times is saying, so it must be true: Hastings-on-Hudson, which is where I’ve lived for 13 years, is featured in an article entitled “Creating Hipsturbia.”

Loved the story! In fact, I ripped it out of the paper and filed it away, happy dollar signs in my eyes…nothing like a positive write-up to boost property values.  ;)

But seriously, the Times makes some excellent points about Hastings. It’s the first village north of New York City, barely half an hour away from the Big Apple by car or train (on a good traffic day). We sit along the magnificent Hudson River with several other villages, known collectively as the Rivertowns. Now, the stylish young folks and artists who left skyrocketing rents in Manhattan for Williamsburg are being priced out of Brooklyn too.

As they approaching that next life stage of coming parents, they’re heading for not just the Westchester ‘burbs but throughout the Hudson Valley, which are the neighboring counties heading upstate. Just FYI, this is the farm-filled region that supplies NYC eateries with its gorgeous fruits, veggies, grass-fed beef and artisanal food products; its harvest was featured in Pres. Obama’s Inauguration luncheon.

Like all immigrants who put down roots, they are transforming the cultures of the new communities that they call home. The region is already so different from the one that I arrived in 23 years ago. Back then, it was hard to find a good restaurant or decent boutique in the land of generic malls and fast food chains. The worst part was that there was no place to go at night.

But things have improved due to another trend: Suburban cities all around the country are redeveloping themselves as walkable fun environments with places where you can get around without a car to eat, drink, hang out and shop. We’ve got a main street with a sustainably green vibe, a great farmers market, cute boutiques and dining spots that celebrate the farm-to-table movement.

Writing about this now reminds me — once again — that I have always, always, always been at least five-to-eight-years ahead of the top socio-cultural trends. Of course, whatever I’m living never feels like a trend at the time, especially when even close friends doubt me or are critical. It was the price I paid for going my own way in interracial dating and marriage and later, crafting a friendly divorce.

I still get annoyed when I think of how some friends gave me a hard time for raising my daughter holistically, especially when I’d let  her fevers run while giving her Chinese herbs (under the supervision of an herbal master, I might add) instead of pumping her full of Tylenol to bring down the temperature. And don’t even get me started on the grief I put up with for going on a gluten-free and sugar-free diet more than 15 years ago — everyone acted like I had an eating disorder.

But I digress. This is a new day, one in which I must increasingly have confidence in my choices. That’s the message in having my hometown discovered by the Times.  Gotta stop acting defensive about doing things that aren’t widely accepted at the moment. And quite frankly, what do I care what people think anyway? When do I finally fully celebrate my own life in all the glory of its quiet moments?

Let’s start now! The next hot trends are taking shape all around me. Here’s one from the other weekend, when I attended my first-ever house concert a few blocks from my home. I didn’t even know what a house concert was until I showed up at the residence of Peter Shafran and his wife Paula (who only wants to be known by her first name to protect to protect the innocent, haha).

They had pushed their sofas to the side and set up enough folding chairs for 40 of us to come and hear a performance by Barnaby Bright. The group consists of the married couple Rebecca and Nathan Bliss. I’m not particularly into Indie-folk music but they were wonderful and I bought their CD.

That’s the first trend….I didn’t have to haul myself down to a happening Lower East Side music venue like the Living Room on Ludlow Street. Instead of driving all the way to downtown Manhattan and dealing with the frustration of finding parking — or spending extra time to connect the train-to-subway dots, these artists, who perform at the Living Room, came to Peter and Paula’s living room.

Second trend…A sense of community is so beautiful. Peter is a music promoter (visit him at his RiverSpiritMusic.com website). When he and Paula throw these house concerts, they are free events that ask for a $20 donation, all of which goes to the artists who in this instance, are using the money to pay their NYC rent. They make no money off of this and do it for fun, to encourage musicians.

Third trend….Home cooking rules as a way to get people involved! Before each of their house concerts, there’s an hour of pot luck. At this event, I was impressed that guests took time to make lovely main dishes, side dishes and desserts. We are into food in this village, in all its hipsturbian forms; there was quinoa and hot chocolate made of rice milk.

Fourth trend…The environment matters. As a passionate recycler, I was THRILLED to see that they wanted us to save our plastic forks. And yes, they used paper dishes.

Fifth trend….Today’s desirable demographic is a mashup of the generations. The concert brought out music lovers of all ages. Grandmas and grandpas, middle-aged folk as well as 20- and 30-somethings. This is the new hipsturbia!

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To think, it took my teenager and a newspaper article to create a tipping point. There are things I want to do in my own art and development that sound a bit ridiculous. But trendsetters need to have faith in their entrepreneurship. Going forward, we need to have more faith in our creative, boundary-testing dreams. That’s our real DNA.

Stick with me, grasshoppers; that way, we can all stay in the loop. :)

 

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