Editorial

In Search of Balance After a Rough Landing in Cleveland

The month leading up to my actual last day as a New Yorker was an emotional mine field. Twenty-two years is a long time, full of memories, struggles, successes, failures, loves, crushes… all associated with specific locations throughout the city. With every place I went and with everyone I saw, I consciously or subconsciously said to myself: “Take a good look. Remember everything you can. It could be the last time.”

Unlike some who leave, I did not have a party or event to mark the exit. I didn’t even announce the actual date of my departure. It was simply too hard for me. For the most part, I kept it on the down-low, making as many connections to people as time allowed. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to everyone I wanted. It was far more physically and emotionally exhausting than I imagined it to be. After all, I closed the book on nearly twenty-five years of my life. It’s big.

A key reason for my hastened and deliberately undramatic departure had to do with my mother. She has been in poor health lately, suffering from a weakened heart and lungs, and she’s been declining. After my stepfather died last summer (which was her third time being widowed), she’s had a tough time getting her bearings, even admitting to me several months ago that she felt “lost.” In my amateur observation, I’d guess that depression and sadness have been conspiring to chip away at her verve, will and desire to “get-up-and-go,” resulting in a decline in her physical well-being.

When I made the decision several months ago to move back to Cleveland, I could hear my mom’s excitement at the prospect. My siblings were also telling me that she was looking forward to my homecoming. As her visits to the emergency room grew more frequent and her stays in the hospital grew longer, it was becoming abundantly clear that cleaning up my affairs in New York and getting back home as quickly as possible was the right move.

As of this writing, I’ve been here for over a week. In that time, mom has been in (and out) of the ICU twice, in a lot of pain when she moves and not too interested in eating much. On one day in particular, it looked like we were at the end. The powerlessness that accompanies watching a loved one suffer is extremely frustrating. Against a backdrop of gutting losses for everyone in 2016, the prospect of all this isn’t thrilling.

In my case, it’s also been all-consuming, leaving me with little time or energy for much else, which isn’t healthy. This has all been a huge adjustment, and I’m working on getting a better balance with all of it. Under the circumstances, this relocation to Cleveland has not been pleasant so far. At all. I need to make time for things that bring me joy to counterbalance all of this. Otherwise, I’ll start to resent this move and be no good to anyone.

Under the circumstances, it’s been a bit difficult to write (or even think) about what to wear, what to watch, what to listen to. But I’m getting there. Contrary to what it might look like, I have not abandoned this blog or its readers. Thank you all for your patience and support.

41 Comments

  1. George,

    Please remember that you may have left NY and 22 years of ups, downs and sideways, but your friends are still here. Don’t hesitate to reach out when you need a “virtual” shoulder or hug.

  2. Yeah – NYC – don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out! Sorry to hear about your mom. A burden for an only son – been there, done that too. Hoping things improve for you and yours in the weeks ahead George.

  3. Sending good mojo to you and your family George. Thank you for making time to write this important blog. I wanted to reach out to you last month and get a group together, throw on some Indochino suits and take you out to a nice meal. But, alas, time (and two small children) wouldn’t allow. All of this to say, that family time is vital. I hope you can find the balance, it’s such a treat to read your posts.

  4. George. I love you, and I’m wearing a Burberry trench today because it’s raining. Best investment in a wardrobe. Hands down. All because of you.

  5. Best wishes to you and your family. Here’s to hoping your balance comes soon. Sincerely, Ann & Andrew

  6. Julie Peck-Kraiger Reply

    It’s heart wrenching to know of the struggles of the past weeks. Family is the highest priority. You and your family are in my thoughts regardless of never having met.

  7. Ksenia Roshchakovsky Reply

    You are a good son to commit to helping your mother on her journey. Once I realized that was place with my mother (rather than fixing it and making it all better), it was less frustrating and more real. All of us become caretakers at some point in our lives and we must remember to take care of ourselves during the process.

  8. Dear George,

    Your post was incredibly moving and also profound. You sound like a rock to your mother, someone your late Dad would be proud of. Change has its price, you know that.

    In the short term it can be turbulent which breeds doubt. But everythinghas its season. Aim for the horizon and remember the old dictum ‘If a man’s reach cannot exceed his grasp, then what’s a heaven for?’

    We all have tough days but neither of us are on a Higgins boat heading for the Normandy beaches on that gloomy and treacherous Tuesday morning in June 1944.

    What gladdens this heart in Scotland is simply that I have total faith in the belief that your best is yet to come. Spring is around the corner and then summer’s promise too.

    Kmow this my friend: You have many pals you’ve never met. Have faith. Keep punching. And be kind to yourself.

    Regards,

    Eamonn

  9. Hang in there, brother.

    I’m so sorry to hear that your mom is struggling – and that you, in turn, are struggling as well.

    I used to be in Cleveland with some regularity – not as much, of late. I’ll make a point of paying a visit in the near term, and will look you up when I do.

  10. Cherish the moments, however hard, with your mom. It’s a blessing to be able to say all the things you need to say before it’s too late.

    As for New York, it’s a magical place but it doesn’t define you. The magic of you follows you wherever you decide to go.

    Thank you for sharing your life, I love reading your blog!

  11. George,

    I discovered you for myself several years ago when looking up shrink-to-fit Levi’s 501’s. After that I was hooked on your fashion savvy and honesty about making smart buys and when to splurge a bit. Though we have never met I consider you a friend. I love a quiet morning listening to a podcast of yours, a cup of coffee in hand, and thinking about where I might plug your insights into my own life. You always seem to wonder if people are reading and listening. I am confident in saying the George Hahn legion are many and that you impact a great many people’s lives beyond men’s fashion and grooming. I am not a praying person but I send my thoughts to you, your mother, and your family.

    Best regards,

    Josh Howard

    • Josh, that’s almost exactly what I want to say. Thank you.

      George, fully as per Josh, plus for me the dress shirt and tie-tying advice – the chukka boots notsomuch 😉 Thinking of you in this difficult period you’re experiencing.

      Kind regards,
      Jim

  12. Forgive the intrusion as we don’t know each other, but I wanted to say that this is definitely one of those “Put the oxygen mask on your self first” situations. And I hope you will. Sending strength in your direction…..

  13. Our dear George–not of New York, nor Cleveland, but of the greater world:

    Friends (all of whom know you) sat around the Thanksgiving table, talking about your move, and hoping it accomplished everything you’d wanted. We know it’s too early to call that, so suffice it to say that we are all thinking of you, and feeling the loss of you here in Gotham.

    Greater still is this matter of looking after your mother. Having lost my father a year ago last week, and regretting not having as much time with him as I’d liked, I get your reasons for planting yourself anew. You’ve written eloquently about your mother’s strength through the years, and now it’s time to lend yours to her. As someone said it so well upthread, to everything a season.

    Please bear in mind that your family will get the best of you when you are looking after yourself–and that includes those things that made your time here liveable, namely riding your bicycle with some regularity. You know I had to say that. I hope you have two wheels accessible to you, and some bit of road that’s safe for a daily sortie, DL-1 or no. It’s one of the first things I knew was true about you, and I hope it continues to be, no matter where life finds you, Its value is immeasurable.

    I’m sorry that a few unexpected things colluded before we could give you a proper sendoff, but perhaps that would have been more than anyone could bear. You have served as a source of inspiration (sartorial or otherwise) to so many of us, and you shall continue to. We send you strength and love.

    xoxo, on repeat.

  14. Hi George, so sorry to hear about your Mom’s decline in health and in living her life. You are such a wonderful son and I feel sure that she is so glad, that you are there with her. All the people who care about you, the ones you know and the ones you do not know, send you strength and love and you will see that it will all work out and you will be so glad you were there for her when she needed you most.

  15. Stuart Kaufman Reply

    I’m sorry George. This would have been a tough move even if your mother had been well, but her poor health makes it, as you said, wrenching. I wish I could help. And I certainly hope that New York hasn’t seen the last of you.

  16. So good to hear from you. I hope that in time, you come to see your move as a blessing. Your family – especially your mother – need you at this moment and you are there. There will be no regrets, no I-wish-I-hads. You are right to take time to focus on yourself. It will help you to help the others. We think of you.

  17. You have made the right move, George. I know it was hard; I left New York after 30 years in 2010. This was after I went to “middle” school there 1958-1962, then lived there in 1970, and again 1977-1978. And that was after my parents (who met there in 1925) left in 1932, vowing to return, but never did.

    I am *not* vowing to return. New York is still there. My mother came back every year. I’m there four times a year, and I can stay a week a fine hotel for much less than I was spending for an often vacant apartment.

    Zero guilt. I love New York, but I love much of the world. Hong Kong has been fun too, and Bangkok, and soon I’ll be back to India. And then New York again.

    Hell, I even like L.A., and the Houston suburbs, and St. Petersburg, Florida where I am writing this. It turns out, it’s about you, not the town.

    And that aside, the truth is here: “Tt was becoming abundantly clear that cleaning up my affairs in New York and getting back home as quickly as possible was the right move.”

    * * *

    I am sure you are right, and in time this will be confirmed. For one thing, Cleveland a much better place for real winter clothes than New York. If it was good enough for Henry Luce . . .

    In the meantime, I will come see you as soon as I can! I have only been there once since big Mobe meeting in 1966 (National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam). And I liked it!

    * * *

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MTDsV2gB7E

  18. George, hang in there. Things have a way of sorting itself out. Look forward to your future postings.

  19. Ah, dear one. I’ve been keeping up with your “transition” out of the Big Apple and home to Cleveland. A city of fond memories for me. I worked at the Playhouse in ’93 for 9 wks in April, May and June. Spring helps and it made Cleveland look beautiful and seemed to bring out the city’s cute young gay men, to boot! I had a friend visit from my hometown in the Baltimore/Washington area and we took in the world-class museum and generally enjoyed the beginning of downtown redevelopment, Shaker Heights (where I was stayed) and the private bar/club attached to the theatre featuring the local eccentric donors and patrons.

    One patron, a young attorney with a limp and a cane, came from “old Shaker money”. He’d sold the family homestead and bought a condo on the “west side” on the lake. Drunk, he’d fallen out the window a couple of years earlier hence the limp and cane… He was a delightfully crazy alcoholic like myself with an even crazier art collection. He entertained the entire company one night with a dinner party preceded by a 3 hour cocktail hour because the house boy (a young prostitute he’d represented pro-bono) forgot to turn the oven on. We were all so drunk we forgot where we were and why we were there. The eventual chateaubriand turned out very rare indeed… Old school.

    Early on I met a boy. Sigh. His name was Troy. Why shouldn’t he be named Troy? He took me around gay Cleveland and showed me a good time. We spent Gay Pride together on a river cruise with the other locals gays. The river that had once burned yet I just couldn’t see it. I’m from Baltimore and know redevelopment/gentrification first hand so while downtown Cleveland’s rebirth was in its infancy, I only saw pretty. I told Troy that I loved him once. Drunk. I meant it though. Drunk. He looked at me funny so I clarified and said, “I can have love for you at this point. I can.” I could. Drunk.

    You will be glad that you’re at home with your mother. My mom had a terminal cancer diagnosis so when she needed me she called and said, “Ric, I think I need you.” I went home to Howard County. A beautiful suburb of DC/Baltimore. She died quickly and left me her condo which she’d downsized to 20 years prior. I never lived there and had no attachment to it… until she died. I think you know some of this but in retrospect I was compelled (with a sense of willingness) to transform a very large, very sad, deeply rich physical/material legacy left behind. However, bad, bad juju hovered. I ended up sage-ing/creating/recreating one of the grooviest places I’ve ever lived. Her former home became my second home. I started a teaching biz and reconnected to my roots teaching my contemporaries kids and the professional theatre community of DC/Balt- part time- for 6 years. All the while maintaining my home and business in NYC. I loved it. It was exhausting. Eventually, I moved on. Fond, fond memories and no regrets.

    A big part of my family lives in Akron. I visit there and while I’d only see you on our street every now and again, I will visit you, too. I think of this major life event of yours a lot, George. As I’ve read your posts and blog it’s occupied more space in my head than you might imagine.

    All the best to you, my old friend. xoRic

  20. Timothy Riffle Reply

    Timothy here! This is my first “Dear George” letter ever! ha Ha. . . just responding to say: hang in there. I’m like minded, my mother is currently dying of emphysema. I have know idea what to do or say? I empathize with you. I live on the corner of Lamberton and Meadowbrook. I have ducks and alcohol to share. It’s the big blue house on a hill. Stop by; we’ll talk philosophy and urban farming. You can meet Matilda and Basil; they will share some of their eggs with you.
    You will have a great time and definitely feel more at home in Cleveland. I look forward to meeting you soon. Grow in Goodness, Timothy

  21. I’m sorry I didn’t see you before you left New York, George. I completely understand the powerlessness in watching those we love suffer. There is no answer, not even in acceptance–could we but achieve one fraction of that. Yet, accept we must, and be present. God bless you. –James

  22. It was sad to read this blog post. Hang in there.
    I left NYC just over 5 years ago to Shanghai for work. It is not easy at all. It will take a long time to adjust even without your mother being ill. All the best.

  23. Michael Snook Reply

    I am so sorry to hear about your mom’s health. I hope that she rebounds. We will be here when you are ready to be back.

  24. Read your story in NYSD, which I used to write regularly for. Friend me on FB, Ned Brown, Charleston, author, and we will get you here during the bleak parts of CLE winters. Regards,

  25. Another Former New Yorker Reply

    In 2003, I left NYC after living there for 20+ years. NYC is a state of mind; I’ll be a New Yorker for the rest of my life even though I may never live there again. I miss the energy and sophistication and my friends. I find it takes longer to form new friendships the older I get – I guess I’m more discerning than I was when I was young and everyone has more competing demands on their time. Maybe I’m looking for other former New Yorkers and there just aren’t that many of them. Nonetheless, my former New Yorker friends and I are still somewhat astonished that we have exciting, rewarding, comfortable lives elsewhere, which is easier than ever today with the internet, e-mail, and inexpensive flights. When I was younger, I used to be somewhat disdainful of people who judged the quality of life by the size of their house and their car and the ease of getting a parking space. Culture and diversity and stimulating experiences were what mattered! But today I find that all those things contribute to my quality of life, and I’m not willing to make such dramatic sacrifices of my creature comforts for more “substantive” things. Unfortunately NYC has changed a lot over the last two decades. Long-time institutions are vanishing, and the cost of living is so high that many young creative types can’t afford to live there. A city full of hedge fund managers and part-time residents isn’t nearly as interesting as one with a more diverse population. As for your transition, I wish the best for you and your family. One day you won’t have the opportunity to spend time with and help your mother, and you won’t regret that you made the move so you can be with her. As for your transition, give it time. One day you’ll suddenly realize you’ve made a satisfying and exciting life for yourself outside NYC.

  26. Lincoln Kerney Reply

    Six months ago I moved home after 12 years away. It was the right thing to do for many reasons. It is not the same town I left but I should have expected that. What I can offer you, being 20 years more experienced in life, is that nothing is forever. For better or worse, we never know what the future holds. Love those whom you love. There is little time for the others. But enjoy every day!

  27. Geraldine Mcgowan Reply

    Just discovered your blog. But wanted to say something about caring for your. Mother. I went through the same a year ago. And a friend just buried his mother yesterday after the sort of things you’re doing now. When your mother goes as you expect you will find yourself feeling sad and strange because she’s gone. Or it could be one’s father but you will yourself feeling a sense of peace and a wholeness you haven’t previously known. It will stay with you. It feels hard to do what you’re doing but it really isn’t. You’ll look back and not remember the difficulty at all. Like child birth as they say. Good luck to you. Hang in there. You will have no regrets.

  28. Wow, had I not read Blair Sabol’s piece this morning, I WOULD NOT BE AWARE OF YOU! What great fortune.

    You are very noble to do what you are doing at this moment in time. And, the big wrap-up in NYC is behind you…a major accomplishment.

    John Giesler
    Dallas

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