My apartment looks into a courtyard, which is pretty typical for Brooklyn. It’s a nice courtyard, as far as courtyards go. The lack of direct sunlight does have benefits – my wife and I were amazed by how little we needed the A/C last summer. Sure, it’d be nice to have more sun, but we’re not home that often. Until recently. My wife’s been on disability while she recovers from surgery and we’re both going a little stir crazy.

A whole block of storefronts that didn't bother to shovel the sidewalk.

A whole block of storefronts that didn’t bother to shovel the sidewalk.

We typically clock 30 miles of walking on a weekend, so sitting in our dark apartment is not something we know how to do. Theoretically, she’s well enough to meet a friend for lunch or hang out at the neighborhood coffee shop, but the reality of New York City means that’s just not an option. The first time she took the subway we went 15 minutes away to check out a new donut shop. The place was packed, so there was nowhere to sit. We went next door instead. When we went to get back on the train we waited, and waited, and finally they said the train wasn’t running. Or maybe it was. Or maybe it was just delayed. By now Casey was exhausted and we just wanted to head home. We got tired of listening to the garbled announcements and decided to call Uber instead. But then our driver didn’t come to the correct spot, meaning Casey had to limp across four lanes of traffic and, ironically, we almost got run over by an Access-a-Ride bus running a red light. We thought we would be gone for an hour or so, but it ended being much more of an adventure than we’d bargained for.

We live in a neighborhood with many beautiful Victorian homes, which unfortunately means many of the sidewalks are slick with ice all winter. The MTA doesn’t shovel the plaza in front of our subway station and the shopkeepers only clear a path to their door, if they bother to shovel at all. If you haven’t taken the subway much, you might be surprised to discover how often people shove you on a train. The subway has a lot of stairs, the escalators are under perennial repair, the elevators serve as bathrooms for the homeless. New York is designed to repel homeless people, which means benches are scarce. Brooklyn is not a good place to be if you’re having a hard time walking.

We won’t talk about how difficult it is to bundle up for the cold. Dressing in layers when you can’t bend or twist is no easy task.

New York covered in snow

New York covered in snow

Our solution was to toss a change of clothes in a bag and book the cheapest flight we could find to somewhere warm and sunny. We were thrilled to find flights to Myrtle Beach and booked a suite overlooking the ocean with space for me to work. We have zero interest in laying on the beach, so we were happy to take advantage of off-season rates. Our room had two beds in the bedroom and a murphy bed in the main room, so Casey got to play Goldilocks and decide which one was just right.

It’s been lovely having a bit of a change of scenery. Every time I look up from my laptop the sky looks different. I love listening to the ocean waves. The beach is practically deserted, but we’re keeping ourselves entertained by making up life stories for the folks we see lounging by the pools. The snowbirds at the hotel appear to view us as unaccompanied minors, so mostly they just glare at us over the tops of their coffee cups in the morning and in the jacuzzi during the day. It feels a little bit like walking into the cafeteria on the first day of a new school, but I’m so excited about the warm weather that I don’t care that we’re in a geriatric version of Mean Girls.

Broadway at the Beach - a fake downtown for tourists designed to look like a Cape Cod village.

Broadway at the Beach – a fake downtown for tourists designed to look like a Cape Cod village.

Walking is hardly an option in Myrtle Beach, so it doesn’t really matter that Casey can’t walk for more than a few minutes at a time. It’d be hard to walk a mile if you tried. Thankfully, the car we rented this time was much more comfortable than last time – when she ended up laying in the back seat for the ride home because she was so uncomfortable. It’s the off season, so it doesn’t matter that we have not yet bothered to get a handicapped parking pass – all the parking lots are empty.

It was hard to tell which downtown motels were closed for the season and which were closed forever.

It was hard to tell which downtown motels were closed for the season and which were closed forever.

It’s a ghost town – I’d never been in an empty movie theatre before, but it was empty for both movies we watched. We drove our rental car up and down the golden mile. All the attractions are closed, so we explored the malls instead. The original strip malls lay abandoned. The early indoor malls are closed, the later models are slowly withering away. The new urbanist malls and theme park malls are both alluring and repulsive with their fake main streets in a sea of parking lots.

The Market Common is a new urbanist development at the site of a former military base.

The Market Common is a new urbanist development at the site of a former military base.

I have to remember that the charming neighborhoods of Brooklyn, with all of their character and grit, also started out as developments. Perhaps these spaces will feel authentic in a few years, only they’ll be easier to live in. We explore the real main streets, too, full of people who have been left behind. The original motels had been turned into SROs, only now they were far away from the economic center of town. I’m so curious to see it at the height of summer – do all of these empty spaces really come alive?

It was nice to get out of the apartment and have a change of scenery. It was really lovely to see the ocean and the shifting colors of the sky every time I looked up from my laptop. And I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can work flexible hours so Casey and I could explore the area. Going down South is a bit of a culture shock every time – everyone is so outgoing! It was also great to be in a space that was designed with accessibility in mind. Things were just simpler – everything had ramps, there were benches everywhere, there were different chairs to choose from and so many barriers had been removed. I’m not ready to move down to South Carolina, but we might head back again next year. Who can say no to escaping the city for a few days in the sun?20150127_102537