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I'm Outta Here, New York!

Knowing when it's time to leave the city.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New York City. New York City. (Andrew Anderson/flickr)

In 1967, Joan Didion penned “Goodbye to All That,” an influential essay about leaving New York for the West Coast. Four decades later, New Yorkers are still grappling with the realities of life in our expensive, rapidly evolving city. (Just read David Byrne's recent op-ed for Creative Time Reports.) Sari Botton, editor of a new collection of essays called, yes, Goodbye to All That, joins us to talk about loving and leaving New York.


Sari Botton

Comments [11]

Edward Torres from Manhattan

As a Native of Brooklyn, I could Never be Anywhere else. I've lived in Florida for a while & began to feel sick, mentally. I came back & Love it more than ever. When I lived in the South I didn't feel like I fit in. I am doing Much better than I ever imagined. A Dream come True. I see so many people from other States that move here & many of them seem So Angry. You can see they are Not happy & don't fit in with the Culture here. I think Many of these people evidentially go back home to where they come from. It is something that Will happen. People feel the connection to their childhood places.

Oct. 30 2013 09:35 AM
ReformedDilettante from Brooklyn

New York City is a terrible place to navel-gaze, shuffle your feet and ruminate on one's own importance. It's just too expensive and loud for that. But it's a great place for DOING.

Before I moved to NYC in 2010. I had a whole past life in a not-very-large Northeastern city. I'd left my full-time media job -- a job that paid $25,000 per year and that most people told me I was "lucky" to have -- as the company that employed me atrophied. I couldn't find work, full-time or freelance. For two years, I tried to find a warehouse space I could turn into a real community arts depot, but I couldn't wing it alone, and one potential partner after another backed out each time I/we found a suitable space. I had developed a serious drinking problem through idleness and depression, and I had a couple run-ins with the law. My friends and acquaintances were, by and large, 20-something, underemployed, miserable, and likewise drunk half the time. I moved to Brooklyn in part because I realized I was on a fast track to an early death.

Cut to 2013. Since moving to Brooklyn, I've worked a couple of full-time jobs, making an "adult" salary for the first time in my life. I work as a freelancer now, and most months I have more work offers than I can deal with, because I live in one of the media centers of the Western world and I do the things I tell my clients I'm going to do. I run a performance space that puts on events regularly. I'm gigging with two bands, each of which released a new album this year. Meanwhile, my friends "back home" are still doing exactly what they were doing three years ago. A few have gotten married. That's the main difference.

If you want to try being an artist/"creative" in a small town or city -- well, goddamn, good luck with that. I'm done with luck, personally. I would rather live in a place where I can apply skills and expect results.

Oct. 18 2013 11:55 AM
Mindy Lewis from New York, NY

I strongly relate to the subject of this anthology and look forward to reading it. Unlike most people, I didn't come to New York frome somewhere else because I had the incredible good fortune to be born here. Then there was the karmic happenstance of moving into a rent stabilized apartment on the upper west side of manhattan when I was nineteen, back in 1971 when the neighborhood was kind of dangerous, with drug deals going on in broad daylight and you ran the chance of being mugged on Broadway. When I moved in, a friend I grew up with downtown said to me, "Never give up your apartment!" - she knew a good deal when she saw one. There were times I wanted to leave. Once, on a trip back from Maine with my boyfriend, I cried all the way back from Portland. After we broke up, I didn't unpack for 8 months after a paint job, thinking I'd join the migration to Park Slope, and then, maybe Woodstock. But I never left, and gradually the desire to leave the city left me. At one point my mother moved to Florida, a place I find totally foreign, and when I'd arrive back in the gray grid of Manhattan after visiting her, I felt like kissing the sidewalk. I am ridiculously patriotic about the city (is there any other?) and often when I see it's skyline in a movie I get teary, almost patriotic (embarrassing!). It's noisy, crowded, dirty, glossy, a city of economic extremes that's in a period of soul loss, franchises and empty storefronts, but it's filled with life and energy and art and music in spite of it all. Let's just hope the tide turns. Meanwhile, I can't afford to live anywhere else. And since I learned to drive at 42 and have never become a confident driver, aside from my bicycle, I depend on public transportation, and the subways may be annoying, but they're fast. Vive New York!

Oct. 17 2013 09:38 PM
suzinne from Bronx

Not done cranking. David Bryne is wrong when he says he doesn't buy the fact that "hardship breeds creativity." WRONG. Artists create their best work when they're NOT comfortable. Being hungry and on edge fuels the artistic process. And that's why the 70s in NYC were so kinetic, it was dangerous and crackling with energ. Now Manhattan just looks and smells like money.

It's more than a little ironic that Bryne writes this essay from Venice too. Why doesn't he just stay there?

Oct. 17 2013 09:21 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Read the comments about the "book" at NYMag:

Enough with the drama around this "book," which should really have been a few blog entries, perhaps a magazine story, at best. Proof the publishing industry simply doesn't know what to do with itself these days.

Heyyyyyy--look at all these cool people upstate! Why the talent is simply gushing northward <>.

Oct. 17 2013 09:19 PM
Joann from NYC!!!!!!!! Manhattan baby!

It's a bit of a slap in the face to hear this woman complaining about NYC (and not living here) longing for a return while padding her bank account by exploiting others' accounts of leaving the city. Why not interview people who are still here struggling to stay?

Oct. 17 2013 09:19 PM

I moved here 20 years ago from Minneapolis to go to grad school at NYU for film. A couple of years later, I met the woman I would ask to marry me – when I was back home visiting my parents in Minnesota. For the past five years now I have been going back and forth between wanting and trying to move back there to be with her, and family, and just deciding I can never leave this city. In the last year though, I finally decided I wanted to move back "home" permanently. This summer, I tried to move in with my fiancee in St. Paul, but I could not find work there as a freelancer. So now I feel trapped. I signed a new lease in my Brooklyn apartment (at $250 more a month). I feel like I came back here with my tail between my legs. And yet... it's still kind of amazing here!! Plus, once you leave, they don't let you back in...

Oct. 17 2013 09:19 PM
Tony Milstein from Highland Park, NJ

Goodbye to All That is the title of Robert Graves' memoir regarding his childhood and his experiences fighting in World War I. It preceded Joan Didion's essay, I think.

Oct. 17 2013 09:17 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Oh please. Yet another person who spent a few months post-undergrad who "had to leave."

Most of us see the prospect of staying in New York as a metaphor for surviving and thriving. As Mick Jagger once warbled on the subject, "You must be tough tough tough tough tough tough tough!"

Couldn't you do this without ripping off Joan Didion's title, as well? Ugh.

(and "flying off the shelves?" really? please.)

Oct. 17 2013 09:12 PM
suzinne from Bronx

The author of this book wasn't even born here so for me that pokes holes in her book. She's a Johnny come lately so her attachment to New York is not nearly the same of a native New Yorker. David Byrne too, born in Scotland. Patti Smith - Jersey. Who cares what they think? David Byrne's filthy rich, so instead of complaining about how bad it's for artists and musicians, DO something philanthropic?

But as for leaving New York, never thought I would but yeah I'm done. The party's long over. Happy to have lived through the 70s punk scene, but I too poor to live here anymore.

Your guests lately - pretty awful! Where do you find these people? Are they friends and family?

Oct. 17 2013 09:10 PM
Tony Milstein from Highland Park, NJ

Goodbye to All That is the title of Robert Graves' regarding his childhood and his experiences fighting in World War I. It preceded Joan Didion's essay, I think.

Oct. 17 2013 09:10 PM

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