Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We're Leaving New York City

After 14 years of living in New York City, I am leaving on Friday with my family to relocate to D.C.

I got here in the spring of 1997, leaving in Seattle to come to Brooklyn to help out my gram and grandfather, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was supposed to be a short-term stay.

It lasted nearly a decade and a half, defined by some of the things that a lot of folks here have experienced: Shuffling around apartments of wildly varying quality; a baffling dating scene that thankfully ended for me with a spouse and kids; dot-com boom and bust; and friends whose talents simultaneously make me envious and proud to know them.

In the end, what really mattered was my family: We started out just me and my wife in a studio in the West Village, then a soulless one-bedroom near Columbus Circle (above a Hooters), then a lovely 2-bedroom in Brooklyn Heights became more crowded with our first kid, then our second. The start of kindergarten for the older signaled we had maxed out of our space.

It was time to move again, to be sure. But none of the choices in the immediate area felt right (or affordable, either financially or on a commute) and we decided we would take the bolder step of leaving the New York City area entirely, joining the masses of entirely level-headed folks who specifically don't live in New York.

We chose the Washington, D.C. area for a couple of reasons: I grew up there, although I haven't lived there full-time in more than 20 years; the city is almost entirely new to me, and I will make a particular point to steer clear of "When I was growing up..." nostalgia. (Or at least try....) But it strikes us as wonderfully accessible, a mix of suburban living and "big-city" culture.

My wife's fantastic law firm has a DC office, which means she can continue working with incredible people and doing work she sincerely enjoys. My parents are in DC. My wife's cousins are here. We both have good friends - her closest friend from Brooklyn; my college roommate.

DC is a lawyers' town, to be sure. But it's a media town, too: Established incumbents like the Washington Post Company and Gannett, but also innovative challengers like SBNation and Politico. (And some in between, like The Atlantic and the ESPN crew that produces PTI and Around the Horn.) Some of my favorite writers, reporters and pundits are in DC, both friends and people I will get to know once I'm local.

It would be disingenuous if I didn't acknowledge the sports: That I am excited to trade the Knicks -- a team I never took to, even in '99 -- for the woeful Wizards, nevertheless a team I have been avidly rooting for since I was a kid. Following John Wall up close has me giddy. I am excited to rekindle my fandom for the Capitals, a team I went to see so many times growing up but lost touch with from long distance.

I am really excited about adopting the Nationals, particularly with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper on the roster for the next decade. I am particularly excited about figuring out whether my youthful contrarian loathing of the Redskins is ready to re-emerge, like the region's locusts that pop up every two decades or so. And I am more excited than anything about sharing all that with my kids, just reaching the age where they can begin to appreciate sports fandom.

But this week, it's about saying goodbye to New York City -- to ogling DiFara's pizza (OK: scarfing Lucali even more)... to sweating through summer weekends watching hoops at West 4th Street... to experiencing free Met Opera in the park... to slurping Joe's Shanghai soup dumplings... to sneaker-shopping along Fulton Mall... to having a letter to the editor published in the Times (and having my wedding announcement rejected by the Times)... to paying off parking tickets from accursed "alternate-side-of-the-street" parking snafus... to grinding away on Quickish at the communal table at General Assembly... to bringing home newborn babies in yellow cabs... and to the kind of neurotic exceptionalism that gives the city its aggravation and its energy.

I will miss all that -- I will miss even more the people I have gotten to know and love. Facebook and Twitter and Gchat and Tumblr and blogging break down the barriers of distance, but it's hard not to lament the end of the spontaneous happy hour on Atlantic Avenue or the random run-in (literally, on a run) with my high school homecoming-dance date who lives one neighborhood over or regular rides on my building's elevator with the A-list celebrity who quietly lives one floor down.

The access within the city -- even out here in Brooklyn -- is what makes the city so unique, but it remains, always, about the people.

Part of why we are moving is to get away from people -- to have our own space, for once. We found a cute little house that is small by neighborhood standards but fairly immense by Manhattan or Brooklyn ones.

What is next is less a homecoming or even a fresh start than building on the wonderful experience of being in NYC over the past decade and a half and growing it from here. I couldn't be more excited. And part of what I am looking forward to most is immersing myself in the people I know in the DC area -- friends and colleagues and people I admire -- and the ones I have yet to meet, but will make an earnest effort to get to know.

If you are in New York, I look forward to seeing you again on what will inevitably be regular trips up here. If you are in DC, I really look forward to seeing you down there. And if you are elsewhere, I hope you are as happy as I and my family are right now, over the anticipation of what might come next.

-- D.S.


Fortran said...

Welcome (back) to DC! If you're ever near Annandale and want some good Korean food, hit me up!

3609sio said...

Good Luck from a fellow Washingtonian living in NY then NJ. DC will always be home, Although I do follow the Knicks and Cowboys!