Manhattan doesn’t want you anymore. That is what the jury clerk said to me when he confirmed that I could no longer be called to jury duty in Manhattan because I was now an official resident of Brooklyn. Truth be told, I have been living in Brooklyn for the last eleven years and on and off before then. But I never gave up my Manhattan address - mentality, perspective, and, well, attitude. Having been recently married, and now about to have a child, my borough citizenship and identity are on the brink of change again.
My industrial loft in Clinton Hill, aptly called La Cave, has been the home for entertaining, hosting, and lodging for friends and family for more than a decade. Unfortunately, the concrete floors, deteriorating brick walls, and dim lighting that made the perfect atmosphere for a couple is not exactly ideal for raising a baby. While it has been my safe, warm haven, my husband happens to be from the great outdoors of Northern New York and needs the balance of nature and light to survive this urban life and soon-to-be growing family. So, we have begun the hunt for one of the most expensive commodities in New York City: a backyard.
According to Dictionary.com, a backyard is the portion of a lot or building site behind a house, structure, or the like, sometimes fenced, walled, etc. For my husband, it has always served as a place to quietly read the morning paper, enjoy a morning cup of coffee, reflect on the day, work on a project that will drag out over months, or get fresh air in his pajamas, enjoying the small parcel of nature that belongs to him, untouched by uninvited guests, sights, or sounds.
The second definition is the one that's been a part of my urban vernacular: a familiar or nearby area or neighborhood. I never had a backyard (or even felt like I needed one) because I always thought of the entire city as my backyard. Every turn of a corner, change of a traffic light, and gaze upward at the city in the skies could lead me to another great discovery. My backyard was an urban landscape of imagination and breakthrough.
Outside the Liz Christie garden on Houston Street, a temporary residence has been set up in a 6x4 foot concrete square on the sidewalk. The base of the dwelling consists of a beach chair, the roof by an umbrella, and a number of garbage bags have been strategically engineered to create insulation and protection from the elements. Usually when I pass by, the owner of this house isn’t there, and I assume s/he is getting breakfast or going about some other daily morning routine. But, last week, I finally saw him. He was sweeping around his home, pushing the fallen summer flowers and pre-autumnal leaves into piles by the curb. He was gardening his backyard - his personal oasis in the middle of SOHO.
So while I continue my search for my husband’s perfect backyard in Brooklyn, no longer a Manhattanite, I am still a New Yorker. I invite you to follow my journey through my backyard and discover the wonders, surprises, and treasures hiding in the layers of concrete and brick, just beyond the doors of my home… and yours.
So, let's check out what’s in your backyard. If you're up to exploring this weekend, check out the events of the Tenth Annual Open House New York this Saturday and Sunday. More info here: www.ohny.org.