Jul22 Goodbye, for now, New York City

Living in New York City is a completely unpredictable affair. Some mornings you wake up, stagger out of bed, and the city passionately kisses you, filling the day with idyllic charm. Other mornings begin with what feels like a perfectly timed kick, worthy of the last penalty strike in a World Cup soccer match, that lands superlatively between your legs. Often, New York City greets you with both.

After 15 years of these kisses and kicks, it’s time for me to bid mercurial New York adieu; I’m moving to San Francisco. It’s a tough farewell, to say the least, but it’s time to say goodbye. (I’ll be staying with The New York Times, just working from the San Francisco bureau.)

I first arrived here in the summer of 1996. I was 20 years old at the time: skinny, nerdy and cluelessly wearing massive round glasses. I also sported raver pants too; a public uniform that paired with my spectacles, made me look like Harry Potter going through an identity crisis — minus the wand of course.

I entered the New York City alone. Slowly dragging the half-dozen tattered cardboard boxes that cointained my life across the piping hot concrete slabs of the city during summer. I remember feeling utterly forlorn when I arrived at my new home: a 7 foot by 10 foot box on 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue — I later learned that New Yorkers call this “an apartment.”

The city was incredibly gritty and grimy back then, overrun with crime, club kids and politicians who knew how to hide their infidelities. I was warned by my first cab driver to steer clear of dozens of neighborhoods, including Alphabet City, Bushwick and the Lower East Side. In the mid-90s these areas were cesspools; now they are stacked with multi-million dollar glass condos, fake speakeasy bars and more hipsters than cockroaches.

I remember the panic that took ahold of me when I finally realized I was in New York, contemplating the reality that I didn’t actually know a single person among the 10 million I had just moved in with. I barely slept a wink my first night as I lay awake listening to the chaos below: endless stream of police sirens, screaming homeless people and gunshots in an alleyway nearby. (I learned the next morning that someone was shot over a drug-deal gone awry. Welcome to New York, as they say.)

Yet looking past my early fears and trepidation here, and the thousands of kicks between the legs, I really do owe New York City everything.

I came here without a job and now work for the best newspaper in the worldThe New York Times! I’ve written a book here. I’ve been in a few bar fights; won some, lost more. I fell in love for the first time in New York. Then I had my heart broken into a million pieces. And I fell in love again, then had my heart broken again, this time into a trillion pieces. I’ve cried in parks, movie theaters and on random city streets. I had a girl throw-up on me during a first date in a bar (we didn’t make it to the 2nd date). I was trapped on the Subway during the blackout, forced to clamber through the tunnel with the sounds of rats scurrying nearby. I stood motionless downtown on a warm, cloudless September day and helplessly watched thousands of New Yorkers perish in the World Trade Center. I then melted into a city of millions who came together to help one another while F-16 fighter jets watched over from above. I met truly amazing, intelligent and caring friends, family and strangers here. And of course I met a fair share of jerks too. Like most New Yorkers, I never did visit the Statue of Liberty.

Yet in the end, I fell in love with a city that I can only hope fell in love with me too.

So, with that said, it’s time for me to say thank you and goodbye to New York City — for now. I’ll see you in San Francisco!

63 Responses to Goodbye, for now, New York City

  1. Marshall Kirkpatrick says:

    A well-said goodbye to the city, Nick. I hope San Francisco treats you half as well. (Sounds like that’s going to be a tall order) Looking forward to reading what you write from there.

  2. marie schwarzer says:

    What a move!!! Good Luck!!**

  3. Ken Yeung says:

    Wonderful recap of your time in NYC. Glad to hear you’re still going to be producing awesome articles and stories for the New York Times. Hope we get a chance to meet up while you’re here in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s definitely a welcoming place! Congrats on the move!

  4. Chris Cloud says:

    I love how you described your time in NYC. Best of luck with your move, Nick!

  5. Bart van den Elshout says:

    A wonderful story and thanks for sharig it! It makes me, a 17 year old boy from the Netherlands, even more eager to one day visit and hopefully live in New York.

  6. Jeremy says:

    I hope you come to know the best qualities about SF as you have with NYC.

  7. J says:

    Truly appreciated all the memories you shared. It reminded me of how much I liked San Fran and almost settled there. Enjoy, Sausalito was always one of my favorite places.

  8. Tikva Morowati says:

    Very moving and bittersweet blog post, Nick. And what a *gorgeous* story of NYC.

    I’d say I’ll miss you, but I’m bicoastal nowadays since Singly and Locker Project are based out of SF. I’d love to see you! This city has incredible food and cocktails to keep us happily entertained! Also, if you ever want to cowork out of our beautiful office space in The Mission, lemme know!

  9. Irina G says:

    Beautifully written, and funny too! Congrats on the move, enjoy the new city! But I bet you’ll be back here in no time…

  10. Great tribute, Nick. It’s been great getting to know you this year. NYC will miss you, but I’m sure you’ll be back often.

  11. Flavia says:

    Interesting perspective upon NY :) Hope to visit it someday, I’m magnetized by it. Hope you’ll have similar experiences in San Francisco!

  12. fred wilson says:

    say it ain’t so joe!

  13. we never got to have our dinner! wonderful post. when we first moved to nyc i went to the statue of liberty with a friend on our day off. you have experienced a much better part of nyc…we all have our love stories with this town. it will miss you.

  14. Elena says:

    Amazing post, Nick! I feel the same way about Paris (daily kisses & kicks) so I can relate.

    Best of luck with the start of your San Francisco adventure!!! :)

  15. Craig Mische says:

    Well done. An enjoyable story to read. Best wishes on the left coast.

  16. Dane Golden says:

    Good piece. Welcome to San Francisco!

  17. Alberto Escarlate says:

    I’m glad I’m one of many people you met during this time in NYC. Best of luck in SF.

  18. Elsa marin says:

    Nick thanks for sharing the journey of your life well describe very moving I understudy every sentence we are very proud of all your accomplishments I’m sure there will be many more don’t forget us

  19. Nigel Hall says:

    Welcome to the West, Nick. It’s a truly different experience out here. Feel free to reinvent yourself. Everyone else has.

  20. Meghan says:

    I completely relate to your NYC goodbye. I arrived around the same time you did… walked home 7 miles to BK in the blackout, lived numb through 9/11. I left 4 years ago to live in Australia but desperately miss NYC everyday. You tend to forget the kicks and remember the kisses 😉 I’ll be back! Best of luck in San Fran.

  21. Gabe says:

    Nice post. You’ll do fine in SF. See ya soon.

  22. Rachel Sklar says:

    I will visit you in San Fran – you can drive as fast as you like. xo

  23. J Fox says:

    Sir – best of luck in the City by the Bay, it’s really one of the only places in the world that can match the Big Apple. I foresee you spending long hours tracking down the perfect cup of joe in the perfect spot…and yes, it does exist there so don’t stop looking.

    I suggest starting at 24th and Guerrero. You won’t be dispappointed.

  24. Bob Buch says:

    Congrats Nick, and well said about NYC. Just let us know your size – your obligatory North Face fleece will be waiting for you when you arrive.

  25. Nick Douglas says:

    This time the cabbie will tell you to avoid the Tenderloin. Don’t listen to him, everyone in that hood just wants to shoot up or take a shit on the sidewalk in peace.

    But watch yourself in SOMA, that’s where I got mugged.

  26. what a beautiful goodbye. we met at Foo Camp this year, a week after I made the same move after a lifetime in New York. the biggest adjustment is remembering to allocate 15 minutes to find a taxi anytime you need to get somewhere. :)

  27. Peter says:

    Best thoughts for SF. I moved to NY around the same time. Totally feeling yr lovely goodbye.

  28. Kathy morillo says:

    Nick, just want you to know that we love you. You are part of our family, you are always welcome in nj. Will miss you a lot. We are so proud of you. Tia’s prayers will always be with you. Adios is too final I just say hasta la vista mi hijo! Tia

  29. Dan Rollman says:

    Great post. I connect to several of these memories in my own way, including the fear of living here in the late 90s (I used to walk around at night with my shirt off to make possible attackers think I was homeless), the intensity of 9-11 (I was in the Woolworth Building when the second plane hit), and, of course, the fierce pain of trillion piece heartbreak.

    Best of luck in San Francisco. I lived there for five years if you need any advice.

    • Ivan leon says:

      Hey good luck in this new path , is funny i just came from san fran is a nice city and i also tough to move there , i got sorprise to see my friend embracing the technology that well that make me feel iliterate ,the first thing that i did coming back to new york was go to barnes and noble and pick a book and the first thing that pick was your book buddy ,i start to read your book and is very interesting the shape that our society is taken. Good luck nick in san fran and yes is freaking difficult to take new york of our head once you live here.

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  33. Phillip Georgiou says:

    Hi Nick

    This is Anthony,Maria and Phillip

    From Astoria to San Francisco we wish you the best of luck.

  34. Lydia says:

    Looking forward to your second beginning, and the exegesis of it all on the cusp of your next. . . Thank you for offering bits of humanity in the spirit of technology. Cheers.

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  36. Joe Ciarallo says:

    Nice post, Nick! Enjoy SF! And Bushwick is still pretty gritty.

  37. shelley says:

    I didn’t visit the statue of liberty either, but I sailed by it once. Good night and good luck.

  38. Beautifully written and so touching! We wish you the best of luck in SF and continued success, always! We’ll miss you here in NJ.!! All our love, Sylvia, Steph and Jess.

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  42. Rose White says:

    I loved every word of this, Nick. Imagining you here in SF is a little hard; you personify “New Yorker” to me in lots of ways (20 years will do that, I guess). I was only in NYC for 9 years, and I still miss it just about every day.

    Truly, though, SF is a city worth falling in love with, it’s just different in a million, trillion ways. People don’t rush to cross the street when the light turns yellow. There are nearly a Boston-level number of fleece-wearing anti-fashion victims. (You, being sui generis, will fit in fine.) Ice cream and coffee are sacred here, so that’s all good.

    But what Renee says above about taxis is true: Sometimes you even have to *call a car*, as if you were in BROOKLYN or something. Crazy. Looking forward to getting a drink with you here. Be well.

  43. Enrique says:

    Lovely, and so true Nick. I too recently came to SF after 15 years in NYC, exchanging skyscrapers and subways for redwoods and banana slugs… much better for my kids, but I miss the it achingly, desperately, atomically every day. I used to take the A train and read my New Yorker, now I ride the company bus to Cupertino and read the new Yorker… on my iPad.

  44. BettyMingLiu says:

    i met you when you were initially freelancing for the times and trying out for a full-time job. do you remember giving my new school class a tour of the old times building? thank you so much for your continuing generosity via your stories, twitter and more. i’ve just bookmarked your website and look forward to following your adventures.

  45. thanks for the time you took to write it, here.

  46. Robin Graber says:

    Welcome to the West Coast! I just started reading your book. Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

  47. GADEL says:

    Always remember that Farewell is not good bye :)

  48. You have expressed it all so well :) I am sure SF will kiss you on your arrival! :)

  49. I am reading your book. Hope to learn more about the future of news. Have a great move to SF. You will like it.

  50. solarMD says:

    I like your book and am trying to realize my dream of practicing engineering to the benefit of the world’s photovoltaic system owners and operators.
    Looking forward to your perspectives from SF on Silicon Valley.

  51. KaZ says:

    I have lived in both NYC and San Fran. I loved them both for different reasons. I would live in both places again. (I am still hankering for mass transit and not having to own a car, among other reasons!) I will see how my life evolves in the next few years while I complete my studies. I trust your life will evolve quite well in San Francisco, it has a lot going for it and so do you!

  52. How’s it going out there? Do you miss us? Has anyone thrown up on you yet?

    I think out of all the cities in the US, San Francisco is the only one that can dance with New York. It has a bit of the crazy, a taste of the culinary and a common sense of “anything can happen here”.

    On a recent trip to Berlin, however, I realized that you can never really leave New York because it follows you wherever you go. Late at night, in a dark underground bar in the middle of Berlin, the sounds of New York City Boy started echoing across the dance floor. The DJ was from Tel Aviv and at that moment I realized that one can never truly leave New York. It’s as you described – a friendly, ferocious beast that is simply too big and fabulous to ignore.

    Hope you get to come back to our fair little island off the coast of Europe soon and often. In the meantime, if you’re feeling homesick, go get an espresso at Caffe Triesste on Vallejo. Sitting at a small table in the back next to one of the cranky regulars – you’ll almost believe you’re on Mulberry Street.

  53. Lisa Green says:

    Great piece. How is San Francisco treating you?

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  56. Anna says:

    Nice piece. I’ve been in NY for over 10 years but always love going to Cali, wondering if you think you made a good decision…

  57. Le Silicium says:

    This is a beautifully written ode to NYC. Welcome to San Francisco… not nearly as city of a city as New York.

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