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entertainment

Say Hello to “Goodbye to All That”

A new book about loving and leaving NYC sparks a conversation

I moved to New York in late February 2005. I parked my car just hours ahead of the first snowflake. By morning, it, like everything else, was wrapped in white powder. “Poodle,” I said to my dog while looking out the window of my Park Slope apartment, “we’re not in Texas anymore.”

Two and a half years later, we were gone.

People move to New York for all kinds of reasons. And they leave for all kinds of reasons.

I relocated to the city to have an adventure — and to get my ass kicked. My life in Dallas had become too easy, my existential angst too great for me to stay put another day, and I’d grown envious of my girlfriends drinking wine and eating olives all over Manhattan without me. And so I quit my magazine job, called a moving van, and drove my aging BMW 1,600 miles to Brooklyn. I wanted something grand, and I wanted a challenge. And that’s what I got. Every. single. day.

But for me, New York City had an expiration date even before I arrived. I never kidded myself that I would be there forever. Twenty-four months after unpacking, I was in love with a man who wasn’t going to love me back, fogged over by what a doctor described as “garden-variety depression,” and exhausted by a battle against twin enemies — dirt and noise — that I was never going to win. So I moved to the Gulf Coast. Had I not been preoccupied by the best way to commit suicide, it would have been the happiest day of my life.

People move to New York for all kinds of reasons. And they leave for all kinds of reasons.

Which is what Goodbye to All That is about. Released today, the collection of 28 essays by writers who have lived in — and left — NYC is edited by the highly credentialed Sari Botton. She grew up on Long Island and now lives upstate. It includes stories from Cheryl Strayed (a Brooklyn resident for a mere eight months), Dani Shapiro (who called it quits in 2002), and Emma Straub (who spent three years in Wisconsin and contemplates leaving New York again a little every day).

I hardly need to tell you more. The book’s premise alone hooked most everyone I know who has even a passing fascination with living in the Big Apple — or fleeing it for other parts — as evidenced by the prepublication cyber conversation (New York magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, Jezebel, my own confrontation of the friend of a friend on Facebook).

If there are 8 million stories in the naked city, there are at least that many from people who have loved and left it. These are some of them.

Available at amazon.com, $12.

Photo: Courtesy of Perseus Books