Rent $2,100 (market)
Square feet 750 (railroad apartment in four-story building with siding)
Occupants Miles Thompson (computer programmer), Louise Newdack (paper conservator), Baxter Gray (14 months old)
Your placenta . . . [Louise] I had Baxter at home. We lived on the Upper East Side then. I think home birth is a lot more common in New Zealand. We’re both from there. It was a long labor but it was good, 45, 50 hours. No, no pain medication. You’ve just got to get through it. [Miles] The apartment was at 77th and York. We got it because, oh, we knew some South Africans who were moving out. Not that they were South African had anything to do with it. So, Baxter was born there. The placenta was also there. We put it in the freezer. You don’t want to just chuck it out in the rubbish. We thought we might find a garden somewhere to plant it. We moved out on the 26th of December. It was very cold. We were very disorganized, we were going to New Zealand for a month the next day. The upshot of it all is we locked the apartment, put the key under the door. We realized we left the placenta and the gin in the freezer. I didn’t know whether to call the landlord and say we left some haggis. [Louise] The placenta was in a Whole Foods bag. I was kind of sad we left it. But that was also a little sign because that’s where he was born and that’s where the placenta stayed. [Miles] It’s a New York thing, the freezer. [Louise] If we were in New Zealand we would have planted it in the garden. That’s what people do. It’s easier in New Zealand because you often have a garden. [Miles]. I always imagine Baxter coming back to the place he was born in.
The placenta is everyone’s first home. You heard about this neighborhood six months ago from a woman you met in prenatal yoga. Your whole family has different last names! [Louise] Actually we’ll all be one name soon—Gray. We chose Gray for Baxter because we couldn’t decide whose last name to go with. At the time, we thought maybe we should just have a new one. The midwife was very confused when we had to write out his birth certificate. We kind of want to get back to New Zealand by the time Baxter needs to go to school. We’ve been here just over two years. We came over for a change. Basically Miles worked for a company that was expanding all over the place.
You said you miss New Zealand, how it’s so fresh. [Louise] Clean air, green hills.
Here you are in the neighborhood with more environmental problems. [Miles] Toxic chemicals. I saw a sign: “This neighborhood will explode.” [Louise] It’s very industrial here. That’s what gets me down, very ugly.
It’s funny how it’s perceived as the coolest neighborhood, well, mainly by people under 30, and yet visually it’s so homey—siding, awnings, housedresses. That garden next to you with all the plastic butterfly pinwheels whirring madly. On the way, I stopped at JS Pastry Polska Cukiernia on Bedford for a sugar roll—plastic doilies, little aluminum napkin holders, a mural of water rapids, and the orange-and-black sign “Yes, We’re Open.” The only sound is the hum from the soft drink cooler. I prefer it to Verb which was really hopping—a man selling Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing, girls in lingerie packed next to each other on the wooden benches. Verb is so ’70s potbelly stove, wood floors, strummy guitar music. Then, down the street, a man on a lawn chair was opening a government check envelope with a knife. [Miles] There’s a gap between the young hipsters and the older Polish. There’s more happening for babies around here. There’s going to be a new little play area called Play Williamsburg. [Louise] Then you get all the Tibetan nannies.