Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Finally Have A Signed Contract!

I signed the contract for the sale of my Manhattan apartment today.  After thirty-eight years, I thought I might feel something emotional, but really it was one of the easiest things I've ever done.  In about six weeks, Beau, my six-year-old brindled French Bulldog and I will leave the most exciting city in the world and move more than three thousand miles away to sweet, slightly rustic and unspoiled Portland, Oregon.   I'm desperately need of a new chapter in my life on the cusp of fifty-nine, and I'm hoping that Portland will offer me a quieter, less expensive, greener and roomier place in which to get restarted.  

I entered New York a wide-eyed youngster, nearly twenty-one years old to pursue a career in publishing (my first ambition was hotel management).  I enjoyed a long tenure working in some of the best known publishing houses, then spent fifteen years as a publishing consultant promoting a huge variety of books and authors,  Just three years ago, I moved my business into my airy one-bedroom apartment downtown just above the Village.  I met some wonderful authors over the years, some I would call friends and others with whom I would enjoy warm aquaintanship.  People like the thriller writer Ken Follett or the poet/novelist Erica Jong.  I made a contribution to many books that became bestsellers.  My work on cookbooks has perhaps been the most fulfilling and I've loved working with such talented cooks as Jacques Pepin, Deborah Madison, Susan Wyler, Maida Heatter, Martin Yan, Rose Levy Beranbaum, and many others.  

But running a business in a one-bedroom apartment started to feel really cramped in no time at all.  I found myself wanting a designated office that I could close off when not working. If I didn't make my bed it stared at me in rebuke.  I was longing for space--a house with a guest room, and a roomier kitchen to more fully pursue my cooking passion, and a real dining room.  And when I really thought about it, I wanted a washer and a dryer.  I've never had really white-white socks or Calvin Klein underwear.  Doesn't matter if I did the washing in my apartment house laundry dungeon or sent it out to my local washing place which uses organic bleach. You can separate the whites from the darks and still come out with gray socks and BVDs.  I wanted a yard for Beau to explore instead of having to always walk him.  Not that I mind.  He's adorable and a rock star in my neighborhood where he's happily greeted by everyone he encounters.  But it would be nice to let him out after dark instead of making sure I was dressed to take him for that final walk. 

I was getting tired of the grind of living in New York.  The past eight or so years have been especially difficult.  The city managed to rebound after 9/11, but it didn't seem the same to me.  For one thing, the World Trade Center towers had always been part of the view from my bedroom and living room windows.  The first time I came into the apartment and they were gone was a huge shock.  I felt as if someone had sucker-punched me.  And the space they occupied has seemed empty ever since.  

The ups and downs of the financial market have been acute, especially to someone who has been contemplating the future as I have these past few years.  My 401K took a bad hit when the tech market crashed.  It took another hit with 9/11 and again this past year when the real estate boon went bust.  With each crash, my little stash was reduced in half.  The last two times it came back but I still lost a lot of ground.  The latest Wall Street crash was by far the most worrisome and again, my worth was cut in half and I'm not convinced it's ever going to come back.  

The cost of living here in the same way that I've lived for at least twenty years has now gone beyond my means.  I'm at an age where going to the supermarket isn't very good for one's blood pressure.  Grocery costs have skyrocketed.  And dinner out at a modest place averages out at $50 person.  Good theater seats cost more than $100 per seat.  Hell seats in the last row of the highest balcony cost that much these days. My subscription seat at the Metropolitan Opera used to cost me $34 per performance. It's now $64.  And a high percentage of those evenings just doesn't measure up to the cost. I finally understood what sticker-shock means.  I'm tired of paying for Manhattan real estate.  

Picking up and leaving friends was the one wrenching thought about moving away from New York.  And as I've been rich in loving friendships over the years, not even the pain of leaving behind friends who are very dear to me, entered my mind as I signed the contract.  It meant, I was really going.  There could be no change of mind. The cost of buying a new apartment would be wildly beyond my retirement savings even with the generous profit I would realize from the sale of my apartment.  

My new buyer is a young law student, age 27.  It seems right this youthful man who will begin his law career at a prestigious downtown law firm in the fall should take over the ownership of the apartment as he ambitiously enters the competitive Manhattan work force.  It is he who will have the stamina to work the long hours that young men are required to work in order to succeed here.  He will now haunt all the favorite restaurants of his new neighborhood, and attend the big theater and sporting events that are part of the fabric of big city life.  Let him take over--and all those other young kids who flock to the Big Apple in search of success.  I had a nice long run, and it's now time to go.  

I'm gonna write about my old life in New York--the one I'm leaving behind.  But I'm also going to explore, as fully as I've done before, a very new 

Here's to a new phase in my life...O what the hell have I done?