It’s been a little more than a month since I moved out of New York City and headed north, to the other side of the state, to Rochester. Do you not have much knowledge about Rochester, NY? Good. That’s just the way I like it. Rochester, for those not in the know, has a population of about 210,000 people, and it’s the third largest city in the state, behind Buffalo, and New York City itself. NYC, where I lived for the past seven-and-a-half years, has a population of over eight million, so obviously, it’s way, way different to live in a place like Rochester. There are some people who would be bothered by the change, but I’m not one of them. I had the feeling I was going to be very happy living here, after my long stretch in New York, and so far, nothing I’ve done, seen, or experienced, has changed my mind on that score.
Like I wrote about in my previous post a few weeks ago, New York takes its toll on you. If you’re not independently wealthy, the grind, having to work long hours, the commute, and dealing with the craziness that seems inherent to the New York lifestyle, wears you down. It has to, no matter how dedicated you are to making it work. You need to have a tough-as-nails attitude to make your way in New York; you need to be ready to fight, you need to be quick to shove somebody out of the way, literally or figuratively, when you leave the house in the morning. I don’t know, maybe if you’re a person of leisure, and you’re living in a penthouse on Park Avenue, and you’re being driven around in a limousine everywhere, then it’s different. But I don’t know anybody like that, so anyone I would talk to felt the same pressures, the same stresses, that I did.
That’s why, when it became possible to buy a house more than five hours away, I jumped at the opportunity. I know that few people know anything at all about Rochester, and that’s what really made it perfect. When people know about a place, they move there in droves, and that’s just not happening here. The population has remained remarkably steady, over the past decade. That’s not to say that I’m living in farm country, or something; this is still a city, if a significantly smaller one than New York, or Los Angeles, or Pittsburgh, or Cincinnati, all of which I’ve spent time in over the years. Yeah, this is a city, alright, a smaller one, an economically depressed one, with a number of dicey neighborhoods. But we didn’t move to one of those. Ours is comfortably middle class, or maybe lower-middle class, but we feel safe here, and we’re liking it, the more we see of it. This is a place where the neighbors know each other, and say hi. It isn’t like New York. The pressure, the intensity, isn’t here. And I’m loving it. It feels fantastic.
It seems to me, now, like I’m recovering from a years-long illness. The weight of so much was on my shoulders in New York. I worked fifty hours a week for more than four years, and took spare quiet moments to work on my writing. While I still don’t know exactly what my work situation will be here, I know that it’s not going to be so intense. Who needs that sort of stress? I’m well into my thirties now, I have asthma, a heart condition, and high blood pressure, a triple threat of health problems. To scrape and struggle, just so I can proudly say to people “I live in New York! Brooklyn, no less! I made it here, just like the song says!” Yeah, I made it there. I did it for several years. Till I got tired of it…and at this point in my life, I don’t think I have anything left to prove.
These last few weeks, I’ve stood on my back deck, as winter has come on, and I’ve watched and felt the wind moving the branches on the ancient tree that overshadows my property. I’ve stood in the kitchen and observed silently as a young falcon landed on that same deck, and preened, and scared the squirrels. I’ve talked with the neighbor behind me about football, and the weather. I’ve said hello to people I’ve passed, walking around the neighborhood. And I’ve thought to myself, this is what it’s all about. This is what I wanted and needed in my life, I think. This feels comfortable. This feels normal. This feels like something that I could get used to, for a long, long time. I don’t need the clubs, I don’t need the culture, the museums, the art galleries, the latest restaurants, the Michelin stars. I don’t need to stockpile anecdotes about running into actors and singers on the streets; I don’t need to worry about being a terrorist target. I highly doubt anyone is bombing Rochester. No, I think I’m done with the New York time of my life. I’m ready for a little peace, and quiet, and contentment. If anyone wants to come and see me, they’re welcome to. Just don’t move here. The last thing I want to do is start a trend.