The Walls are Closing In

Near the wall

Near the wall (Photo credit: Niamor83)

I thought I would feel better after my rant about fear and changes in my last post.  Wrong!  I posted, and then checked out this week’s posts from blogging friends, and ended up in an interesting conversation with Caitlin Kelly from Broadside Blog, prompted by this post.

Sometimes I question my perception.  Everyone is struggling in this country right now.  Everyone I talk to, anyway.  Jobs that offer a true living wage are scarce, gas is high, health care costs are obscene, and on down the line of what’s needed to survive.  I know the cost of living here in Manhattan is crazy, but I’m certain I’m romanticizing life in the country, too.  Everywhere presents a unique set of challenges.  And then something reminds me I’m not completely insane, after all.

Check out this article from the NY Times.

Now, we don’t pay an insane rent.  We’re lucky.  If we didn’t have a rent controlled place, we’d be homeless in Manhattan.  Literally.  Sounds good, right?  Except that means we can’t move within NYC, stuck in a too small apartment with a doll’s kitchen and a nightmare of a bathroom.  One bathroom.  Makes virus season lots of fun.  And let’s not forget the rest of what goes into the cost of living.  I’d love to put Flower Child in an art class, or even better, private art lessons, so we could work around her health and limited energy.  Can’t afford it.  One once per week after school class, run by the school is $600.  And that is reasonable compared to the cost of lessons and classes not run by the public schools and those lessons are often fabulous, in just about anything you can think of.  Makes for awkward moments on the blacktop when the other moms are talking about what their kids are enrolled in.

Schools here? Crazy. If you can’t afford private schools, which are >$30,000 a year here, you have to be very, very lucky.  Too many kids competing for too few decent spots in the too few decent public schools.  The stress involved is horrendous.  This is for entry into nursery school, Kindergarten, and again 6th grade (middle school), and 9th grade (high school).  Have more than one kid?  This is for each child, not each family.  Don’t forget the testing and the interviews.  And testing for K, 6th, and 9th grade is much like the SATs have become.  Test prep.  Costly, private test prep.  Private test prep for public middle school, high schools.  Excuse me while I tap into my Brooklyn roots.  Get the fuck outta here.  Have a child with special needs?  Well, you know those too few spots?  Forget it, you’ll find yourself wishing for those days of 1 in 4 odds.

From this recent HuffPost article, NY has the curious distinction of holding 3 of the 10 most expensive cities (they’ve separated the boroughs into cities for this) to live in. A hellofa town, for sure.

But it’s New York!  Theater!  Tickets for a Broadway show, let’s say Wicked.  On a Saturday afternoon, seats in the mezzanine.  $160 per ticket.  Are you surprised that we haven’t gone to see it?

March 1860 Godey's Lady's Book Fashion Plate

March 1860 Godey’s Lady’s Book Fashion Plate (Photo credit: clotho98)

How about going to the Met for an opera?  Hah! Maybe, if we want to buy a year in advance and stand up for the show.

I would miss the easy availability of any type of food I’m in the mood for.  I can see it now, “Mrs Fringe learns to use a crockpot.”

Why don’t we forget being fancy.  How about bowling?  $9.25 per person, per game at Chelsea Piers (on weekends/holidays, yanno, when you’d take your kids bowling), $6 per person shoe rental.  Don’t forget the Metro card fare for us to get there and back, and the long, long ass walk from the train.  So, for our family of five to go and bowl 2 games, no frills, no snacks, no lunch, it would cost $147.50.

We don’t go to the theater, infrequently go to the museums (and only the ones where it’s a suggested donation, not a mandatory admission fee), we don’t even go to the damned movies because of the cost.  The nice part of living here is that when we do go to a museum, we don’t feel compelled to pack everything into one day, and we don’t have to be pillaged buying lunch at or near it, we can wait until we’re back home for sandwiches.

A few years back, I was determined to take the kids to see a performance at Shakespeare In The Park.  These shows are great, and they’re free.  You just have to go the morning of the performance and stand on line for tickets.  Limit, 2 tickets per person.  OK.  I got the kids up, we went to the park and stood on line.  Heh, three hours before the ticket booth opened wasn’t early enough. Bonus seizure from Flower Child while we waited to be told they were sold out way before we got to the front of the line.  Tried again an hour earlier the following week.  Still no go.  Really? So many NYers,  infamous for brunch at 3PM are getting on line for tickets at 6AM?  Turns out a good number of people pay someone to stand on line for these free-so-everyone-can-enjoy-theater-in-NY tickets.

Please, someone tell me why I’m here. Yes, Central Park is free.  And beautiful.  I hear some people have backyards where they see trees and birds.

Gutter Ball Graphic

Gutter Ball Graphic (Photo credit: cote)


  1. I lol’ed @ “Mrs Fringe learns to use a crock pot.” Speaking of which, I used mine last night. It was only for the 2nd time in something like 5 yrs though. The other time was to make chicken stock, so I figure I’m okay. 🙂


    1. 😀 I’ve actually put thought into this. It has to be a practical choice for convenience on those days when you’re too busy/tired to really cook, but can’t have dinner delivered to your door.
      *Makes a note not to tap Weetie for crock pot recipes 😉


  2. I’m going to press “like,” but only because this was so well written. I’m sorry you’re struggling, Mrs. Fringe, and I empathize. The cost of living here (down south) is low, but wages are lower here too. Gas is high, and so are groceries. I cut so many corners, our house is almost round now. Hubby’s retiring in a month, and our income’s about to be cut drastically. I’m terrified. Happy, but terrified.

    Remember Reggie? That train hopper I recently wrote about? It seems that so many people are in similar situations. My daughter certainly is. She’s working at a department store while waiting for her orders to go to technical school (she’s military). We recently put pen to paper. After gas, daycare, presentable clothes, etc., she’s almost breaking even. And of course, they give her just enough hours to keep her from qualifying for benefits.

    We don’t go out. I cut my own hair. We have one car. Thank God for basic cable and rivers. And writing. 🙂 If I ever discover that some rich, distant relative has died and left me a bundle, I’ll send some funds your way. Big, big hugs to you.


    1. Thank you, Moonbeam. Though I’m sorry you “get it” so clearly.
      Round house indeed. I do remember Reggie, and know for every person like myself, living on the fringe, there are 3 more who have dropped off.
      All of this is what makes me tempted to try a big move. I don’t expect to suddenly be able to indulge in luxuries, but maybe, just maybe, to live somewhere with a lower COL we’ll actually be able to cover the necessities.
      And I agree, I’m grateful for my comfort in my own fantasy land, and the hubris to let it spill onto the keyboard. And the internet, because it allows me to have a social life and the knowledge that I’m not alone.


  3. This is simply terrifying. I also want you to write this for the NYT…Opinionator or an op-ed. Do it! People must hear from articulate NYers how bad it is….all they do seem to do now is feature $$$$$$$ homes and celeb profiles.

    It makes me appreciate more — childless — that we can somewhat afford *some* of Manhattan. I am very lucky that my husband is in a union which gives us access to discount music and theater tix — like $125 Broadway seats for $35, so I go a few times a year, which would be prohibitive otherwise. Living in the ‘burbs, though, means owning, fueling and maintaining a vehicle — our 12 yr old single car hit us this year with $4,000 (yes, really) in expenses. It makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs…and that is still less than probably one year of a new(er) car’s payments, so we did it. I am in no mood to add another high fixed cost to our monthly expenses right now.

    I just woke up after sleeping 11 hours. That tells me how damn exhausted I am, as well.

    Hugs to us all.


    1. Thanks Caitlin.
      “all they do seem to do now is feature $$$$$$$ homes and celeb profiles.”
      That’s because the only people left here and reading are the ones where this is their life. Or those like myself, where it’s so far removed from reality that it’s porn.
      Op-ed, not a bad idea, let me see how I might tweak this. 🙂
      I know there are many who might read this and say, well, they shouldn’t have had children. Guess what? This wasn’t the life I expected to be living. And I’ve got fabulous kids. My boys are already absolutely productive members of society, finding opportunities for themselves. Maybe because they understand what life on the fringe really is. Not romantic.
      I’m glad you were able to get a good night’s sleep. Take a breath, pour the coffee, and enjoy the day!


  4. I spent five days in New York in 1978. It certainly was a cultural experience for me by the sheer diversity of people and traditions. I didn’t do any shows or anything as we were on a shoe-string budget. I felt I was in the centre of the universe and the experience is imprinted in my mind forever as being so awesome. The city had a real atmosphere of hustle and bustle and vibrancy; a real oomph in living. I have never given a thought as to what it must be like to actually live there, or bring children up there.
    I live in a rural area in Tasmania, Australia. Public transport is practically non-existent so a car is a must and this, with the mounting cost of petrol, adds to the cost of living here. We have also had other rising costs this year such as electricity. I have certainly had to tighten my budget this year. So I have not eaten out much for example, not that that is a big thing here anyway with there only being the choice of three restaurants and four coffee houses (now that IS a bit exaggerated), unlike the rich and diverse choices you get in your city. It is a two hour drive there and back (to a larger city) to go to a decent show, or a one hour plane flight to Melbourne. So that is generally off the agenda unless it is a first class act (and then horrendously expensive), especially if you add on plane flights and accommodation. Very rare event indeed. Otherwise, the ‘living in the country’ has a strong community atmosphere and it is a great place to live with views and space all around.
    So I guess what I am saying is that each place has its ‘for’ and ‘against’ and so in answer to your question ‘Please, someone tell me why I’m here.’; I would say that you are in amongst the action of life, at the centre of the Universe, in the ‘city that never sleeps’. And yes, Central Park is truly beautiful.


    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, both as a tourist in NY and your life in Australia. 🙂
      Yes, it does have that center of the universe feeling. Living in the midst of the hustle and bustle can be exciting, but also draining. No strolling–lest you be taken for a tourist 😉 move, move, move.

      Right now I’m in love with the idea of SPACE.


  5. Unbelievable! I remember when a high school classmate moved to NYC in the early 80s. She told me her rent was 2K and she had a single bedroom, and that I could stay with her when I visited. On one of my first visits I pondered how difficult things I did all the time might be – walking the dog, grocery shopping, and the like. I wondered if people who lived there missed grass and dirt. I can’t imagine making it there. I love visiting – seeing the sites and enjoying the energy, but to live there must be such a challenge. It seems you have to make the most of your space and that would be the hardest for me. I need space too much.


  6. When I was just hitting the “you’re on your own” stage Bill Gates had made Seattle the capital of the new age, and Reagan had closed the mental instutuions, asylums dumping patients on cities, one small city bussed their homeless to Seattle. Hundreds of homeless, whacko street-pissing screamers and depressed who lay on cardboard all day with a cup in front of them, and $200,000 cars with 20-something millionaires whizzing by with their $300 sunglasses kicked back on their perfect hair, cut for $75 every two weeks. I don’t have the get rich knack, so I had to change environment. Take your crock pot, a spare pair of socks and run. I want to see video “Mrs. Fringe’s Escape from Manhattan.” I’m starting to feel guilty, all the posts we put up about life in a small town full of beach bums.
    On my Way…


    1. Heh, I made my living through the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, in supported living settings. Honestly, you can’t imagine how heartbreaking this time period was. There was everything you saw, and then there were many who were “lucky” enough to get spots in programs like the ones I worked for, but they couldn’t adjust. To someone who has been institutionalized for their entire adult life (10, 20, sometimes over 30 years), that adjustment was impossible, because they never developed the skills necessary.
      Add in that our system is designed to keep people sick, and it is a tragedy.
      Don’t feel guilty! I love your posts and feel myself getting braver as I read them 😀


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