"The last time I was in New York was in a cold January, and everyone was ill and tired. Many of the people I used to know there had moved to Dallas or had gone on Antabuse or had bought a farm in New Hampshire. We stayed ten days, and then we took an afternoon flight back to Los Angeles, and on the way home from the airport that night I could see the moon on the Pacific and smell jasmine all around and we both knew that there was no longer any point in keeping the apartment we still kept in New York. There were years when I called Los Angeles 'the Coast,' but they seem a long time ago."
—"Goodbye to All That," Joan Didion
As Z and I plan our third move in less than a year of marriage, it strikes me that I may never live in New York again. That's the truth, though it hurts to even type it. Of course, you never know and life has all sorts of unexpected twists and turns and I never imagined living in L.A. or Madison or San Diego, so who knows? But it's possible that this could be our last major transcontinental move (with a summer full of stops, en route). It's likely that even if we move cities, we will aim to stay in the warmth and sunshine of Southern California. There are very good reasons for these things (which seem even better after experiencing a lengthy, frigid Midwest winter), but it still makes me sad.
My family is in New York, and I miss them (sometimes) and feel powerless in the face of crises that I am too far away to assist with, but I am also reminded of the George Burns quote that "[h]appiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city." I miss my friends, but the truth is, few of my best friends remain in New York City, proper. Some do, but some have spread to Long Island, Boston, Maryland, Israel. It is not as if I would have the built-in community of loved ones and the like-minded in New York City that I once had. There would be few, if any, Washington Heights impromptu all-girl dance parties, even if I moved back to New York.
But, still, it is painful to think that I may never live in The City again. It took me a long time to learn to love L.A., and even now when I'm in L.A., I miss the hustle and bustle of a real city. I miss the dirt and grime of a place where people are just plain too busy to worry about the aesthetics of things. (Columbia, unlike USC, to the best of my knowledge, does not have a million-dollar endowment for its lawns.) I miss living in a place where everything you can possibly imagine is just a subway ride away. I miss living in a city that is dotted with my own personal landmarks and memories.
The two-person scavenger hunt I went on with my sister in Times Square; the newly minted, still enrobed Columbia grads a friend and I saw in H&H Bagels, knowing that would be us in a year; lots of places where I went on terrible shidduch dates and lots of places where I spotted other people on terrible shidduch dates; the room in MoMA where my 5-year-old sister yelled at me to "take me home now"; the Brooklyn and GW bridges that I have walked across with friends; the crosstown bus I took with a red velvet cake for a friend's birthday party; taking my sister to see her first Broadway show; seeing sunrise from the college newspaper office; picnics and barbecues in parks; the time my father surprised me on a school trip at the Guggenheim; doing a terrible job canoeing in Central Park; the Strand.
And it's true that when you live in a city for long enough, any city will start to accumulate special places, but there's something about New York that makes any other city I've been to feel sterile, less magical, less like home. And I'm not even sure that means I want to live in New York. One of the last times I was there, I was crammed into a subway during rush hour, I wanted my car, and nothing about New York seemed as charming in the freezing rain, and my paper shopping bag got soggy and tore, and I wished I was wearing flip-flops and not a bulky winter coat. But a lot of stuff happened to me in New York. I grew and changed and learned and had fun, and it's hard to say goodbye to all that.