A Potential Life Reboot
Sometimes, life needs a reboot. A fresh start.
The perfect storm of yearning for a change of scenery, coupled with the recently-acquired advantage of work mobility via consulting has spawned the idea of making the move across the country. That is, migrating from the San Francisco Bay Area to New York City. The rationale behind this blog post is simple: jot down some thoughts on moving, and if they seem reasonable a month or two down the road, the idea is likely worth pursuing. Otherwise, it's a simply an emotional rant of fantasy.
Sleepless in San Francisco
In general, California is a unique place. Diversity is interwoven into the golden state's DNA, as routinely exemplified by the variety of food, people, and culture. Northern California boasts an assortment of climate zones; from sunny beaches to fresh powder-laden ski slopes. It's one of the few places where you can surf in the morning, drive through the desert, and ski snowy mountains the same afternoon. The only problem is, that's just not my thing. I'm a tech professional. I help companies unify their software and data across multiple business units. That means I spend the majority of my time under florescent lights in corporate office spaces. Long story short, "California living" has become more of a paradox than a paradise. That is, all the wonderful amenities offered by California's sandy coastlines, wine country, and sequoia park trails are kept at arms length; a virtual museum shielded behind the safety glass of a commuter vehicle perpetually trapped in congested traffic.
Moreover, the Bay Area has changed radically in the past two decades. Overall things have improved, as the San Francisco of the late 80s / early 90s was far sketchier than it is today. Yet the blue collar Bay Area grit I remember-- like my my childhood neighborhood comprised predominantly of sanitary workers ("garbage men" as they were called), cops, and our hard-working moms of retail are now a distant memory; never to return. The idea of buying a home on something like a postal worker's salary (as my good friend's grandfather did) is now ludicrous. You either slave in the tech industry, or take your chances at an alternate path and flirt with the poverty line.
Finally, the Bay Area culture has become downright foreign to me. Intense focus on quirky individuality and the commingling of politics in the workplace at times leaves me feeling alienated; marooned on an island of emotions where words must be constantly massaged and groomed to align with the flavor-of-the-day form of political correctness.
I am, and always will be, a kind human being. Yet I'm also forthright in my speech, and unabashedly genuine in my actions. I don't candy-coat things. I'm a meat-eater who enjoys a Dunkin' Donut from time to time, and I'll be a faithful Red Sox fan until the day I die. Maybe I'm an east coaster at heart. Then again, maybe quinoa, kale, and yoga were never my thing to begin with. Either way, I need to find my tribe, and I'm thinking eastward may be the ticket.
Why New York?
My recipe for revitalization may be asserted thusly: In order to increase free time in life, one must shed superfluous, time-consuming routines. Such extraneous activities include commuting three hours a day, and working seven days a week to keep up with the insane cost of Bay Area living.
If simplifying life is about getting core necessities within closer reach, then what better place to live than New York City? Fewer belongings, stellar intra-city transportation, and close proximity to world-class restaurants are just a few of the reasons why NYC may be the next place for me. Allow me to elaborate...
If the trajectory from California lands my family and I in a Manhattan apartment, some square footage will likely be lost. As I showcase to friends and family what three-quarters of a million dollars buys in Gramercy Park, I'm bombarded with smug comments such as "that kitchen is tiny!" and "that fridge is way too small!." In the California track home style of living, it's common to own behemoth homes with rooms rarely used, humongous kitchens, and yes-- large refrigerators. (Fun fact: many Californians boast two refrigerators: one in the kitchen, and one aptly-named the "garage fridge" for storing god-knows-what.) I've asked myself on more than one occasion: "do I ever want a garage fridge?" The answer, as you may have guessed, is a resounding: "no."
So I hereby profess that excessive possessions are chains of bondage! Tyler Durden, the hip and rowdy half of Fight Club's protagonist who suffered from multiple personality disorder (played by Britt Pitt) may have said it best:
I say if you don't use an object in your home at least once a year, then you probably don't need it. Think outdated clothing, clutter from junk drawers, and basically anything-and-everything from Skymall Magazine.
The other big-ticket items to shed are the family vehicles. My ten year old full-sized pickup that still costs a ridiculous $350 a year to register with the California DMV: see ya! The Honda hybrid in its twilight of tenure, about to start having nothing but problems? Gu-bye! No more worrying about parking spaces, gas, or new tires. All nonsense I may no longer be concerned with. Damn, I feel good already! Overall, downsizing is a positive in my book.
New York Cuisine
Where does one even begin when trying to describe New York cuisine? I feel as though carelessly broaching the topic of the New York food scene is an act of injustice; a type of reckless abandon that should be met with swift and stern Internet vigilante reprisal. So as not to upset the fragile peace of the foodie blogosphere, here is what I will say about New Yorkers' eats: the breadth is vast; the depth is profound.
I can walk the Italian markets ("mercatos") for days; surveying the interesting imports I've never laid eyes on before. And the restaurants are, well, crazy specific. You better specify whether you want a Cuban, Dominican, or Puerto Rican eatery. None of this watered-down "Caribbean" catch-all business where tacos are brazenly served along side a beverage suspiciously labeled as "sangria." If you're craving Croatian food, NYC's got you covered. Enthusiastic about Ethiopian? Check! Jonesing for a Jewish Deli? Please, they're everywhere!
The San Francisco Bay Area is no slouch in the culinary department. We have Boulevard. The French Laundry. Barvale. And let's not forget San Francisco has the highest percentage of Chinese-Americans in the US: a whopping 10.2%, followed by San Jose (also located in the Bay Area) at 8.8% for a total of about 630,00 Chinese-Americans who call the Bay Area home.  New York has about a hundred thousand more Chinese-Americans than the Bay Area at roughly 739,000. Yet this only represents about 3.7% of the Tri-state area population. As such, I thought my hometown heavy-hitters such as Big Lantern and Yank Sing would give any NY Chinese establishment a run for its money, and they do. But I'd be lying if I said I don't constantly think about the Drunken Noodles from Chop Shop II in the Flatiron District.
Underestimating New York's Chinese food scene is like taking an upper-cut from a scrappy southpaw in a street fight; you'll be caught off guard and humbled all at the same time. New York continues to keep me on my toes.
Urban energy is hard to quantify. It's an emotional response one feels, like perceiving sorrow from a song or sensing the electricity of a fleeting glance among two attractive strangers. If NYC has batted her eyelashes at me, I have indeed taken notice.
It may be hard to measure the "feeling" of energy, but it's certainly there. Other things we can measure; such as opportunity. NYC is a blank canvas of new beginnings. New York City is a global hub for finance, fashion, marketing, advertising and of course content publishing which is under constant transformation. As a technology professional I can work in any of those areas, and look forward to conducting more "tech for no-tech verticals" in the future.
Speaking of fashion: New Yorkers are well-dressed folks. People both old and young take the time to put themselves together in a way that's classically admirable. In California, especially Northern California, the trend is one of quirkiness and highly individualistic style. Norcal style screams noncompliance; a defiance of mainstream fashion as demonstrated over and over by techie-types sporting corporate blazers paired with converse shoes or childish Marvel Comics T-shirts. These scientifically-nerdy, nonconformist personas may be a San Francisco thing, but the fact is: they're a thing. In other words, it's still a fashion statement, which means an attempt is being made to look a certain way; albeit with a sort of incognito-like sense of artificial apathy towards tradition. I suppose all I'm trying to say is: New Yorkers are more upfront in their desire to look captivating, and I respect that.
On the topic of nightlife: I'm not sure if NYC is really the city that never sleeps, but one thing is cerain-- she stays up late. The inviting lights of bars, restaurants, and super eclectic convenient stores (often called "bodegas") service customers well after 11pm, which is rare in San Francisco. Travel outside of San Francisco proper, and you may feel as though you've ventured into an Amish municipality with conservative curfews strictly enforced after 9pm.
What remains a mystery to me is: why are New Yorkers up so late? Can the late-night routines of the native New Yorker be attributed purely to elongated hours of business operation, or is there some other covert factor at play? Some intriguing way of life only privy to the indigenous Manhattanite?
While I hunt for that elusive smoking gun, the truth may be a bit more mundanely obvious: Californians have evolved into early risers in order to adapt to the painfully-long commutes we endure on a daily basis. It is this Darwinian trajectory I must escape. I must swim away from this Galapagos and towards a different island; an island where cold beer is served until 4am, and hot pizza is readily available around the clock.
Weather is one of the primary reasons people move to California. San Francisco has a average temperature range of about 20 degrees (46-70F). This stands in stark contrast to New York's bewildering chasm of variance of 60 degrees; ranging from a chilly 26 degrees in winter to a balmy 85 in summer. Regardless, let the record show that I yearn for seasons.
I fully understand that seasons are a double-edged sword. I don't long for shoveling tons of heavy, water-laden snow from my driveway. (Not that I would anyway, as I wouldn't own a car.) Yet there's something downright embarrassing about putting up a Christmas tree in Bermuda shorts when temperatures soar past 80 degrees in December. I may have reached my limit with the steady gruel of predictably mild California weather.
I want seasons! I want to gaze at the rolling Atlantic waves as I dig my toes into the warm summer Montauk sand. I want to spot red and gold autumn leaves twirl slowly throughout Central Park. I want to look outside my Manhattan high rise and watch the first snow of the season coat the rooftops. I want to welcome the warmth of spring as it relieves the bitter cold with warmer and longer days.
Perhaps I'm being a too harsh on California. Technically we do in fact have unique seasons to look forward to: the drought season, followed by wildfire season, relieved by the very brief yet intense rainy season, all rounded out with the always fun mudslide season.
California: Keepin' it interesting since 1850!
Big Apple Ambivalence
Not every aspect of the Empire State can be positive, and in order to make a sound decision on uprooting I need to take the downsides of ultra-urban living into consideration as well.
As previously noted, a major benefit of living in a city like New York is having all necessities within close proximity. The flip side of this paradigm, of course, is that one rarely ventures beyond a fixed, 6-10 block square radius. To prevent metro cabin fever I'd had to rent a car and drive upstate, or routinely peruse the string of small towns that line the picturesque Americana we all know as New England.
Having watched dozens upon dozens of Youtube videos on moving to New York, a recurring theme is one of vermin; specifically of mice, rats, and cockroaches. Is NYC truly besieged with pests, or am I merely paying too much attention to young hipsters who can't afford a clean apartment? Either way, if the decision to move is made, indiscriminate chemical warfare of biblical proportions will be waged against all of god's creatures not of the human or canine variety who dare invade my personal space.
Finally (and again related to copious consumption of Youtube content) is the potential issue of neighborly noise. One Youtuber recorded next-door neighbors screaming at each other while blasting hip hop music at 3AM, which for me was genuinely terrifying. Not because of the rude people whom I'd unquestionably confront, but due to the fact the perimeter to my inner sanctum could be breached by an external force, leaving me with no safe place to find peace and quiet. Again, if the move is made, one of my top priorities will be vetting HOA or co-op rules thoroughly to ensure penalties for disturbing the peace are prompt and severe.
Wrapping It All Up
There are certainly many factors to consider when moving. The one thing I'm trying to keep in mind is that the decision to move is not ultimately about moving to a better city. It's about making a change.
One thing is for sure: I definitely need a night or two to sleep on it.