I warned you that this column would occasionally be bloggy. This is one of those times. Turn back now.
‘You fuckin’ cracka. You want to kill me? You can’t kill me, you fuckin’ white boy.’
I was sitting on a slow moving train at 4 in the morning last week, listening to this drunk black guy say those words to me for the better part of an hour and I said to myself, ‘This is what I’m going to miss about New York.’
Last summer I made the decision to move to Los Angeles. I think a lot of people who knew me didn’t believe it, but I’ve spent most of the last year saving some money (probably not enough, but you do what you can) and steeling myself for the eventual move. The decision came quickly – I was in LA for the week after Comic Con and had an opportunity appear before me that I had to turn down because I needed to be back in New York City the next morning. This opportunity was great, and probably once in a lifetime, but the fact that I had to turn it down based on geography was beyond infuriating. So I made up my mind – I would come to Los Angeles and see what the livin’ was like.
I was born and raised in New York City. I have spent a couple of years here and there living elsewhere – the suburbs of Chicago, a wonderful college town in the Shawangunk Mountains – but my heart beats to the rhythm of the A train. New York City isn’t just where I live, it’s part of who I am. People who live in great places, places they love and that have a soul, will understand that. People who live in cookie-cutter subdivisions and anonymous suburban hives won’t, and I feel bad for them, because a sense of place is one of the most incredible things you can have.
But it’s that very sense of place that’s also pushing me out of my city. The New York I see now isn’t the one I grew up in, and it’s strange to walk around this town that feels more like Toronto than itself. Nobody can deny that it’s nice to be able to enjoy the city without that familiar undercurrent of fear, but it was that edginess that always made New York City what it was. I don’t want to return to the days when you would crunch crack vials underfoot on walks down certain streets, and I’m not romanticizing the criminal element I knew (although growing up when I did, The Decepticons will always have a double meaning to me), but a happy and safe New York… well, it just feels off.
I could live with all of that, I guess. Even with the fucking yuppies and hipsters moving into my once nicely downmarket neighborhood and bringing their organic food to my corner bodega (a bodega should specialize in loosies, not tofu!), I could put up with this new New York. But the new New York can’t put up with me. I’m being priced out of this city, which is a strange and horrible thing to experience. My lease is up in July and it looks like my options are to live on rice and get an apartment in a convenient and enjoyable neighborhood or move to goddamned Bay Ridge, or worse, Queens. I spent much of my adolescence in Queens, and they’re not getting me back.
Every now and again that old New York edge resurfaces. I wasn’t worried about the drunk attacking me – the state he was in, I could have taken him fairly easily (not that I’m bragging, but he was super fucked up and could barely stand) – I was more worried that he would whip out his dick and pee in my general direction or puke on me. Which would have been so old New York City.
I recognize that Los Angeles is the wrong place to go to escape yuppies and hipsters. And it’s really the wrong place for someone fleeing high rents. And to be really fair, I despise Los Angeles and most of the people who live there. Plus, I don’t have a license. Obviously this is quite the litany of reasons to NOT move there, and I’ve just scratched the surface, but I feel like I need to make a change and challenge myself. Also, the weather is nicer. Mainly, though, it comes down to more opportunities for me as a CHUD writer and more and more of my friends are ending up there. Two years ago my best friend moved to the area, and my brother has been in Los Angeles for something like seven or eight years now.
The ironic thing is that I have always regarded the majority of transplants in New York City with a certain amount of disdain. Now I’m joining the hordes of idiots who stream into the other great urban magnet. I’m willing to take my lumps as they come, and I assume they will, and I’ll be documenting whatever ones are interesting over the course of the next few months as I prepare for, and finally make, the move.
In the meantime I’d love to hear your stories and your advice – I know that our reading audience is filled with people who went west, and some who came back. I’ll be back in New York some day I’m assuming, but in the meantime I’m just wondering whether I’ll always be the ex-pat New Yorker squinting beneath a palm tree or if I’ll assimilate into some kind of bluetooth head-setted asshole dropping names at the Coffee Bean while working on my script on a lap top.