Farewell, New York
It came New Year’s Eve, 2017; the resolution which would catapult our lives in a startling new direction came with simplicity. While the rest of the city was celebrating the coming new year, we sat listening to music and sipping wine. Suddenly, we came to the decision that once and for all the time had come. “The time was now,” we said, “After so many months, now going on years, we are finally ready!” We even made announcements that very night to our families: We were going to move the family to Seattle...and leave New York. But, when we were going to move, we had no clue. The only thing we knew: we are ready. So, how does one get ready to leave perhaps the greatest city in the world? It happens easier than one might think. Here are a few reasons:
*the city is getting super fucking expensive. Even for shitty 2 bedroom apartments in questionable neighborhoods, you have to pay an arm and a leg.
*we have had two kids in the past few years. Yet, our 1 bedroom in Brooklyn will always remain one of the most magical places in the world to us. How could it not be when you have seen your child take her first steps, or watched your son dancing in his mother’s arms within those walls. But the place was becoming smaller by the second and it was a walk-up to the fourth floor. When I was at work, Boni hand to navigate down the narrow, wobbly stairs holding a double-stroller while carrying an infant, and making sure our headstrong toddler doesn’t trip and fall and crack her head open (which nearly happened at one point).
*kids growing up in NYC are forced to grow up fast. Sure, there is something to to be said about raising kids in the city with so many incredible cultural institutions and interesting people. But, there is a downside to that as well. The ugly always come with the good.
*tired of the city. Boni was and I was, too. It stopped being fun. Everytime we went anywhere, it was a chore. When we were dating, we would taxi around town and be out until the sun came up. Now, as parents, we would rather sit and watch our children grow and develop a deeper, long lasting relationship with each other. Life has taken on different shades and textures since Boni and I decided to begin a family. Parts of the city which I loved now seemed a little hollow. The nights out at restaurants and bars, even the parks and museums, seemed redundant. We were developing a yearning to experience a new kind of richness which New York couldn’t provide. Our visits to Seattle accentuated by our trip to the Tuscan countryside cemented our desire to live in a landscape where nature handsomely compliments the lifestyle. In New York, nature is artificial and planned. Yes, Central Park is a marvel. Perhaps, my favorite part of the city. Yet, it isn’t wild.
*I had a strong desire to live back at home. I moved away July, 2001. Nearly seventeen years. I have lived in Los Angeles twice. Seattle for a few short stints in between moves to New York. I had been in New York already for seven years, and another three a few years back. After nearly ten years, I couldn’t give anymore to the city (I didn’t want to give anymore). I missed not being around my parents. My sister moved back to Seattle. Her kids are growing up. Suddenly, it felt less and less like home.
*Boni had a strong desire to live somewhere else. She had grown up most of her life in the city, living in various parts. She was looking beyond the city. Her visits to the Pacific Northwest stirred her imagination. The vastness of what nature could offer were possibilities of adventure unlike any she had experienced.
Maybe to some, these aren’t reasons to leave. Even to me, I will always love New York. New York is a place you move to for the people. So many tremendous souls I have met, I couldn’t begin to count. I will miss them. Also, my children will be missing out on a grandmother, aunts, and uncles. My wife has never been away from her family. Her family has become my family. This was not a decision made lightly. But for all those reasons and more, it was ultimately an easy decision because it was a decision we had to do. There seemed to be no choice in the matter.
** * **
Strangely, on New Year’s Eve, when we made our minds, it still didn’t seem believable. Sure, we said “we are leaving New York and moving to Seattle!” But, when would that be? With Boni staying at home with the kids, and me being the sole earner, money was pretty lean in early 2018. Hell, it still is. So, Boni developed a strict budget which allowed us to put a few pennies away, though it still wasn’t enough to move. Then tax season came around and we got a decent return. We did some number crunching and suddenly realized it would be tight, but we could do it.
From late- February to early-March, we thought of nothing but the Move. Everyday when I was at work, Boni was putting together a spreadsheet for the cheapest ways to ship our stuff. We had a stroke of luck when, instead of doing business with those crappy FedEx or USPS or UPS companies, we went to a local shipping place called Global Transit Group. There, we had a savvy gentleman, who spoke both Russian and English, package and ship our stuff safely and in the cheapest manner. He saved us 100’s for sure. Meanwhile, all of our furniture had price tags on them. Boni became a master of Ebay and Craigslist. We sold what we could. Sadly, some of our most prized pieces couldn’t make the trip. Farewell, rug where my children played! Farewell, crib where my children rested their heads. Farewell, cockroaches! How many families, how many generations did we kill of you and yet, your presence never diminished! Farewell, Cherry Hill market, NetCost (home of $1 dollar Apple Cider bottles). So long Turkish market where we bought our couscous and tahini. So long Tour Les Jours. Goodby D train. I hated you and I loved you. So long, Coney Island. So long Fort Greene and your Greenlight Bookstore and beer gardens. Adios, Grand Army Plaza and your lovely, lovely library. Take care, NYPL. Farewell, Frank and Sal’s. They say you were better back in the day and you are now a shell of your former self. Don’t listen to them. You are still great. I will talk about your roast turkey forever. Your roasted red peppers lived to die on my sandwich. Your prosciutto spreads like butter. Your chicken cutlets were…farewell, Villages both East and West. Au revoir, both Upper East and Westside. Goodbye Queens. Farewell, MOMA. Farewell, Met. So long to it all, the whole shebang.
On the last day, with our final boxes in a rental van, Boni and I drove to the Newark Penn Station (not to be confused with the Penn Station in Manhattan). We shipped our final 500 pounds through Amtrak. Then we went home to our near empty apartment. There Grandma Kim and Uncle Grant were waiting with Amara and Lennox. We ate some spaghetti and then drove Grandma back home to Spanish Harlem (Uncle Grant would stay the night). Boni’s brother and sister, Uncle Gavin and Auntie Braya, respectively, were both just getting off work. I picked them up and we had a short joy ride. It was a sad beautiful moment. Gavin was meeting Amara and Lennox at the exact same time they were saying farewell, for that was the first time they had all met. Soon after, we dropped them off in Spanish Harlem, too. Then we went home for the last time.
We drove slowly from 109th street and Lexington all the way through the city down to the Brooklyn Bridge. We crossed the bridge, hopped on the BQE to the Belt, with the Verrazano Bridge gliding by in the distance. We got off the Bay Parkway exit and drove to 159 Bay 29th Street. Everyone went to sleep early that night. The next morning, we called Bensonhurst Taxi. The driver was there in five minutes and drove us to the airport for $35. A few hours later we were on the plane taking off, rising over the city that changed my life in millions of incalculable ways. For all that I learned and all that I became while drinking your waters and walking your streets and meeting your citizens and playing in your parks and marrying your finest gal, I say thank you. Farewell, New York.