Bookshelf: Goodbye to All That

At the recommendation of a very good friend, I bought this book right after we decided to leave the city. I read it every free second that I had. I read it on the train during commutes and immediately after Vera feel asleep each night. I can see that someone who was not in the exact frame of mind might not be as intensely engaged. Even my mom, who only lived in New York for a few months, picked it up and couldn’t stop reading it. The day before leaving the city, we had a mother-daughter coffee date and talked about the book. We both ended up crying in the coffee shop thinking about our New York experiences and how the city changed us.

The book is brilliantly put together and reveals several different scenarios of native New Yorkers, transplants, and even some writers that leave and return. I hope that one day I will take the time to put my own experiences into a short story. In the meantime, below are a few of the quotes that resonated most heavily with me:

Things delighted me that I can hardly stand now- the subway, for example, and the strip of Smith Street in Brooklyn that was just starting to sprout bistros and specialty cheesemongers and boutiques selling very expensive children’s goods.
— Ruth Curry, Out of Season
…after we’d drained our bank accounts and accumulated a severe amount of debt, spent more time with strangers on the subway than we did together at our own kitchen table, and finally had enough of New York, Andrew and I quit or day jobs, gathered the dogs and our belongings, rented a U-Haul, and said goodbye to all that and hello to more peace, more quiet, and less distraction.
— Mira Ptacin, Homecoming
I learned that the city has resilience like no other city during natural (or man-made) disasters, and that the people of New York generally coexist peacefully, which is impressive, considering there are 27,352 people per square mile, But it is a class-divided society. It’s a rich cultural environment, full of galleries and incredible restaurants and museums and shows, but unless you’re wealthy, the city requires sacrifice to enjoy those things. Unless you are rich, you struggle, every day. You grind. You ride the subway for two hours just to work at Starbucks. But there’s also nowhere else to be for professional networking. You can access the movers and shakers. You can be a mover and a shaker if you work hard enough. Just plug yourself into the scene, whatever your scene is. But what ends up happenings-or what ended up happening to me–is an unplugging from family life, an unplugging from the things that make you feel whole and rooted.
— Mira Ptacin, Homecoming
Which came first, my devotion to my family or my devotion to my city? I know several people who have moved out of the city, their former lover, to be closer to their families. These people almost always have small children, which might mean that families win out over cultural advantages, especially if the babysitting is free. I wonder how their Brooklyn Bridge tattoos fare out there in the world-what can they say? “For a few years, I lived sort of near this?” As for me, I’m forever on the fence, searching for my own Shangri-la, though I assume no such place exists. I spend a little time every day looking at real estate listing on the Internet, telling myself, It would only be for a little while. I wouldn’t stay away for the long run; how could I? Could I?
— Emma Straub Someday, Some Morning, Sometime
That was the thing about New York. For most people who moved there from a smaller place, the way I did, things were never the same afterward. It was like a great love in your life that you could never forget whether it had gone sour or not. And my many years there prepared me for wanting something utterly different, a different extreme. It was true that New York lent you a certain toughness that made you think you could handle difficulty in all sorts of forms.
— Janet Steen, Heedless, Resilient, Gullible and Stupid