In 2006, I lived for six months in New York, for no other reason than that I thought the writing industry was mostly here, and I had a better chance of getting my stuff noticed. While the publishing industry is indeed mostly in NYC, I had no luck getting the right manuscript into the hands of the right person, and I was forced out due to lack of money. I always knew I was going to come back, though, and indeed I did, along with my then-girlfriend Megan in late June of 2009, after sojourns in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and South Carolina. Both of us wanted to live in New York. I still felt it was the best place for me as a writer, and she, as a small business owner, felt that the city afforded her unique opportunities in networking. We came here with little money, but plenty of ambition.
I got a job in the security industry, and, in the seven-and-a-half years in between now and then, I’ve risen to the pinnacle of that profession, to the point that now, as I prepare to leave my current job, I hold four different titles, security officer, fire safety director, emergency action plan director, and security supervisor in my building. I can’t complain about the work, really. There are parts of it that are infuriating sometimes, but it’s been steady income, and I’ve found that I have an aptitude for it. Of course, all the time I’ve been doing it, I’ve been writing on the side. In the time that we’ve been here, I’ve written several novels, and many short stories and essays. Megan has sold her goods at a number of different craft shows around the country, has had products featured in dozens of national and international publications, and has sold her stuff to several celebrities.
So why now, after meeting with some measurable degree of success, are we leaving New York and moving upstate? Well, there are a number of reasons for it, but here’s the biggest one, summed up in one word: expense. New York, if you’ll excuse my language, is just too goddamn expensive. Brooklyn is literally the most expensive place to live in the country, and our rent here in Bay Ridge has continued rising and rising exponentially. It used to be somewhat “reasonable” living here, since we’re in deep south Brooklyn, far off the beaten track, but lately, the neighborhood is being discovered more and more, as denizens are being forced out of Park Slope, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and other locales closer to Manhattan. It’s getting more crowded, and also, crime stats are going up. There was a murder in nearby Owl’s Head Park; the police think it was drug related. There have been several armed robberies in broad daylight. In the nearly six years that we’ve been the neighborhood, this is the first we’re hearing about this sort of thing.
So why, you might ask, don’t we just try to find another neighborhood? New York is a huge city, and we might have better luck in Queens, or the Bronx, or even Staten Island. But it’s expensive everywhere, and there are other issues. We’re tired. I mean that in every sense of the word: we’re just fatigued, weary to the bone, ground down by the City That Never Sleeps like previously sharp pencils now reduced to stubs. This city is hard on you, man. I’ve been working at that good old steady job of mine fifty hours a week since 2012. That’s a long time. I know that people in some industries will scoff at that. Fifty hours a week, that’s nothing! I work sixty, seventy, eighty hours a week, you pussy! Well, maybe so. But there comes a time when grinding and grinding to make ends meet, and to live a lifestyle that is only “comfortable” by a very dubious definition of the term, is just insufficient. Me and Megan want more and different things now that we’re in our thirties, like a back yard, one big enough for a dog to run around in. Like a back deck, where I can grill out on sultry summer nights. Like a house, one that we can actually own. And when a confluence of events took place last year that allowed us to get some money together, we had a sincere and earnest discussion with each other about what we both wanted going forward. It was to leave. That’s what we decided on, and we’ve taken steps since then to make it happen.
New York didn’t beat us, not this time. On the contrary, I feel like we’re walking away victorious. No doubt, there have been some ups and downs in the seven-plus years that we’ve been here, but we did more than “keep our heads above water” during this stretch. I think it could be accurate to say that we’ve thrived. Yes, we’ve thrived…but it’s taken a lot out of us. By moving upstate, and getting our own house, with all the amenities I’ve mentioned, we’re not admitting defeat. What we’re doing is slowing down. We’re getting away from the hustle and bustle, from the aggressive beggars and the train traffic and the vague fears of a terrorist attack that are a grim reality of a big American city in modern times. We’re going to have, literally, a change of pace. And I can’t wait. New York City can be a magical place, and I’ve had some experiences here that I’ll never forget. Megan and I got married here. I’ve attended Yankee playoff games, Wrestlemania at Metlife Stadium, my Bengals beating the Jets and spoiling their season opener. I’ve seen Hurricane Katrina batter the five boroughs, the end of Bloomberg’s reign and the beginning of DeBlasio’s, and I’ve eaten more great meals and seen more scintillating live music than I can ever even remember. It’s been a privilege to look out my window and be able to see Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey, and the lights of Manhattan in the distance, all in one dizzying panoramic shot. Likewise it has been a privilege to see Lady Liberty holding up her torch, proud and true in the idealism she represents, on my way to work over the Manhattan Bridge every morning. I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened; it’s all helped to mold and shape me. But I find I simply don’t need to be here anymore. I can do my writing anywhere. And so, New York, farewell. You have been a home to me, but you are and always will be a harsh mistress. It is bittersweet leaving your embrace, but for the sake of my own sanity, it is necessary. Perhaps I’ll tread your streets again, somewhere off down the road.