After twenty-two years in the city, I left New York in 2016. I moved to my hometown of Cleveland to be with my then ailing mother, help her back onto her feet and try to build a life there. But after year one, I started to miss New York terribly. So I moved back at the first opportunity, in January 2020, just eight weeks before the city shut down. Two weeks after that, I was furloughed from the job that brought me back to New York, with no sign as to when (or if) I’d be returning. It would have been understandable for me to pack up the dogs and head right back to Cleveland. But I didn’t. I stayed.
New York City is not just a geography to me. Ever since I was a kid, and to this day as a 51 year old man, it’s the only city I’ve ever wanted to live in. As cities go, it’s a world capital, HQ for so many industries and, arguably, the only city in America that doesn’t have an inferiority complex.
New York is the place where I really became who I am. And so much of who I’ve become and what I’ve been able to accomplish was possible because I was here. In a sense, this city made me.
At a time like this, to leave the city that made so many things possible for me would have felt like abandonment or even betrayal, almost like walking away from a sick loved one and saying, “Listen… You’re not well. Let’s reconnect when you’re better and more fun.” I couldn’t do it.
Instead of spending my money somewhere else, it was important to me to spend my money here and support local businesses the best I could. As I write this sentence, I’m sitting in the local diner that has been here for me and the rest of my neighborhood throughout these dark days. As a former server and bartender, I’ve always been a good tipper. I’m an even better one now.
And speaking of money… I couldn’t really afford to bail when things got ugly back in early 2020. I’ve never been on the level with those who have a second home to which to escape. I had also just signed a new lease on my tiny apartment. To break the lease and cough up the money to move or get storage would have been cost prohibitive at the time. But honestly, even if I had the money, I’m not interested in going anywhere else. This is my city.
It’s worth noting that I don’t have the considerations of a mate or young children. If I had, along with the resources to seek other options outside the city, I might be telling a different story. Alec Baldwin and his wife, for example, have like 17 kids, which can be a tricky prospect in a New York apartment even under the wealthiest of circumstances. They need space, and I get it. But I do know several couples with young children and some dollars who stuck around. Different stories for different people. This one’s mine.
With or without the pandemic, there are so many things I love about New York that I’ve written and talked about many times. Recently, someone challenged me to sum up why I love New York in one word. I had to really think about that one. But I came up with the word: access.
New York offers an unrivaled level of access to so many things. Access to people, to business, to resources, to connections, to any kind of food, to art, to fashion, to entertainment, to sports, to schools, to healthcare… all of which can be accessed via public transit. You want to go to the beach? You have access. You want to head out to the country or go skiing? You have access. You want to hop on an easy train to Boston or D.C.? You have access. You want to pick up the best bagel or slice of pizza you’ve ever had, grab a fantastic cup of coffee, stop into a clothing store or a bookshop, hit an art gallery, walk in the park, catch a movie, grab a drink, run into a friend you haven’t seen in ages and get invited to a party they’re having and meet even more new and interesting people… all within walking distance of your home? You have access to those things in New York – a kind of access you cannot get anywhere else. I love that.
Yes, New York is expensive. That’s not news. But access to anything worthwhile has a cost. And since I don’t have any car costs (monthly payments, insurance, parking, gas, maintenance, cleaning, tickets, repairs, accidents… ), liberating me from all the time and money spent in, around and about the car, things level out in some ways, depending on your value system and what matters to you. And I have no love for a model of living that requires a car.
Of the dozens and dozens of videos I’ve made during the pandemic, one that remains most personal to me was a little Valentine to a city that was hurting.
Leave New York? No. As I said, it’s the city that made me. To be able to stick around, show up and return the favor during an unprecedented time has been a privilege.
A little favor…
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