How Not to Leave New York City

If you’ve never lived in New York City before, and then you move here, you’ll have 2 choices:  you will either love it or hate it.  There’s no in between.  You can’t tell before you arrive, either — even if you’ve been a tourist here.  Love or hate, that’s pretty much it.

And, even if you like it here, you may not think of yourself as a New Yorker.  Plenty of people come for a few years, have kids, and then decamp to ‘burbs in the tri-state area.  Some of them leave for more exotic locales, like Moscow or Fargo.  They get a certain caché with their stories about that time the rat bit my foot (probably in Fargo — not so sure about Moscow), but they always knew they weren’t lifers.  Me?  I’m a lifer.

It’s a matter of knowing your personal priorities.  Let me tell you a story.  Once upon a time when the children were small and cute and I was feeling antsy, The Hub and I grabbed a piece of the American Dream in the form of a charming carriage house in Mount Kisco, Westchester County, USA.  The house was exactly what I’d always wanted in a house, and Mount Kisco is a lovely town.  It’s about an hour north of the city, and it’s as close to being Bedford Falls, the town from “It’s a Wonderful Life” as makes no nevermind.  Stone library, tall trees, nice people, window boxes with flowers, great schools, parks with fountains, and a main street named Main Street.

Us in Mount Kisco

Full of anticipation, we waved goodbye to Washington Heights and moved in the Fall of 2003.  Very quickly, we realized we just couldn’t take it.  In fact, the first week we were there, we had a simultaneous panic attack in the Walmart parking lot after buying a snow shovel, outdoor grill, wind chimes, a rose bush, and a bag of de-icer.  Since we’d only owned a house for one week, I knew we couldn’t put it back on the market that same day, or we’d officially be crazy people.  We made a pact to stick it out for a year and reassess.  So, we stuck it out for a year, and then looked at each other and said “yep, time to move back to the big bad city.”

Here’s what bamboozled us (or is the word I’m looking for flummoxed?)

  • Answering the door to find a total stranger trying to sell me stuff.
  • Gardening
  • Cooking food
  • The total darkness of night
  • Applebee’s
  • Things breaking
  • Never seeing other people
  • Organized playdates
  • Having to drag garbage cans out to the curb

Here’s what we missed about the city when we left it:

  • Stores that deliver.
  • Restaurants that deliver
  • Anything that stays open after 9:00 pm
  • Walking around the corner for an espresso and saying hi to all the neighbors
  • Never having to get into a car

So we sold up and left.  Moved back to our old building, too.  Even got a short piece in New York Magazine about people who flee the countryside for city life.  The week we moved back, I was filled with an inexpressible happiness that we were home again, despite the fact the wall behind our co-op toppled into the West Side highway that very month.  It was still better than eating at Applebee’s.


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