Escape(d) from New York

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Dear patient readers,

I arrived in Birmingham more or less uneventfully, given the givens, last Friday, after a frantic two days of movers packing and loading their truck, and other types hauling out things that were not going with me, from lighting fixtures to furniture to designer clothes and shoes. And it wasn’t as if the weeks before that were a walk in the park.

A big round of applause goes to Lambert and Jerri-Lynn for stepping in and doing far more than their usual duty to enable me to leave New York after nearly 40 years and the apartment I’d been in since 1992.

Big thanks also to our generous donor who not only helped fund the enlistment of Lambert and Jerri-Lynn but also enabled me to hire the “moving concierge” In Order to Succeed. I could not have gotten this done without their help. The major domo of my move, Fiona Tiaramani, was extraordinarily efficient and focused, as well as resourceful, and the other members of the team were also highly professional.

Also thanks to the NC readers who came to my little underproduced going away party. It was gratifying to get such good turnout on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and see many faces I’ve seen regularly over the years, and enjoy the lively discussions. Several readers volunteered to haul away the remaining books (still over 150!) and it was Mickey who schlepped them to New York Public Library.

Finally, Stahl Real Estate was extremely cooperative (they’d already authorized the refunding of my security deposit by the time I was on the plane) and the building staff was very helpful and solicitous (they’d also gone out of their way to help when my cat was dying). I will miss them.

There is still a ton to do on this end. The truck is trundling here from New York and I’ll have a frightening amount of unpacking to do when it arrives. I’ve only changed a couple of addresses so far. I have to get a new driver’s license. A local reader, Joanne, has already gone way out of her way in providing leads for resources and even in taking on tasks.

And of course, even when you think you know what you are getting into, I know from my having moved to Sydney that you inevitably run into things you didn’t anticipate. I’ve already run into one incident of businesses not keeping the same hours and turnaround speed as in my former life. Intellectually, I should expect this, but I’ll probably have to learn the hard way to build in more small city lead time.

I expect to be back regularly, with a short visit in August already booked. I will also visit in November, probably the first half of the month, and will definitely do a meetup then. So once I am settled, we will be back to our regular programming.

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  1. cripes

    Yes, moving is always a little traumatic, no matter how well planned.

    I’m still shocked, shocked I say, that anyone in their right minds would abandon a rent-stabilized NYC apartment, if my surmise is correct. Why it’s almost a property right.

    However you may find compensations once you adjust to the easier pace of place, and the leisure to think and reflect a little more that NYC doesn’t encourage, despite or because of it’s many charms.

    Good luck y’all!

    1. Clive

      “Home is where the heart is” as is often said and heard.

      And certainly for me, it’s true. I live here in London commuterland, but it’s not home. I will never, ever, spend the rest of my days here. I try not to go on about it because it’s just the worst kind of self-indulgent whining and first-world problem’ing, but people I know can’t help be notice my endlessly looking at this-or-that property listing or the attention I pay to email services I sign up for with developers hawing new builds targeting the relocation buyer. Why, they ask, would I “give up” a house owned outright in not-awful commuting distance of London? I’ll never be stuck for somewhere to go, something to see or, assuming I’ll take any work, some sort of employment. Aren’t people desperately trying to “make it” in the dog-eat-dog world of London-centric finance (or tech, or legal or whatever) who’d kill to have what I have already and would happily “throw away”?

      I can’t answer that. Perhaps it’s because my family came from the north of England which has about as much to do without London and the south east of the country as chalk has to do with cheese. Or that my late mother’s Celtic roots (Ireland and Wales) always gave a sense of “otherness” that you can’t really pin down but if you live in England you realise you can never, quite, shake off. It’s like trying to explain colour to someone who’s colourblind. Or that I’ve lived in a fair few other countries and that has given me an appreciation that, unlike it seems pretty much the whole of my circle, I don’t get locked into a pattern of thinking that civilisation ends if you take an off ramp from the M25.

      “Tired of London, tired of life” is another saying. I’m not tired of life, but I’m tired of London. And I live in a house, but it’s not quite home. I, for my own experience, I’d never dare take for granted that everyone is different and at different places in their lives, can’t wait to go to where the grass might be greener.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      With all due respect, you don’t understand rent stabilization. The fact that an apartment is rent stabilized does not necessarily = low rent. I was paying markedly over the average rent for a one BR in Manhattan. My apartment was a bit below market for its size and address, but not by much given that this was a low-amenity building.

      1. Joe Well

        A relative’s Brooklyn apartment was rent stabilized, which for him meant rent increases were limited to 5% a year…but considering how low inflation has been for years, that meant the rent went up quite a bit in real terms, much faster than his income could have, which really didn’t go up at all, anyway.

        Still, he was very much pained to give up the apartment in the end. Even at the end, it still lower than the asking rents on similar apartments nearby and now he is confident he’ll never live in that part of Brooklyn again.

        Rent stabilization/control should be inflation-indexed, not just a flat percentage.

      2. John Beech

        I don’t understand rent stabilization either but ‘definitely’ understand why builders are reluctant to invest when someone else – government – has the final say regrading your return on capital. Moreover, I especially look forward to the day all of Wall Street is changed so the Bill Gross’ of the world are limited in what they can earn in bonds, and stock traders are similarly limited because I’m certain government employees will be far more productive with capital than private enterprise. Not!

        Anyway, I hope you find life in Birmingham pleasant. It’s where I spent my formative years, where I experienced the tensions of black kids being bused into my neighborhood for school, where I was perplexed because I discovered they were kids just like us, and where I witnessed the changes in people’s race-attitudes. I subsequently attended university in Tuscaloosa (famous for a doorway-scene with the governor before my time), which is where I met my sweetheart and life long love.

        Alabama is a nice place with nice people. I hope you grow to love it. One word of advice? Don’t be hasty to judge. Give it time because it’s definitely not NYC. Oh, and I hope you quickly find a kitten.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thanks so much for you kind wishes. However, new construction is not subject to stabilization. There is a stock of rent controlled and stabilized units from WWII rent controls and for construction allowances/bonuses decades ago. My former building was completed in 1915. I believe the last new construction rent stabilized units were in the early 1970s.

      3. cripes


        I lived in rent-stabilized NYC apartments nearly forty years myself, fought landlordism at Community Board meetings and HPD with Met Tenants Council and Columbia Tenants Union and endured 53 dates in housing court only half of which I ever got notice from unscrupulous landlords and their “sewer service” practices.

        Hard to see that an apartment over the median one-bedroom rate in Manhattan of $2600 would not have been de-controlled by now, but anyway, my comment that rent-stabilized apartments are “almost” a property right was firmly tongue-in-cheek.

        Perhaps the bargain rates of Birmingham rental housing will compensate for the lack of tenant rights that are ruining property speculators profits in Manhattan.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Ahem, you don’t know the rules. “Luxury decontrol” isn’t just a function of the rent level but also the household income of the tenants. Please Google “luxury decontrol” and “New York City”. My former building has quite a few units that I am sure rent for over $2900 (what Wolf Richter shows as the current one BR average rental) that are stabilized.

          And as a result, my building doesn’t even pursue decontrol aggressively. They only asked me twice about my income, when they could have asked every year. One reason is they don’t have the usual motivation of getting out of rent controlled/stabilized apartments so they can coop or condo the building. My former landlord would much rather have low turnover, reliable tenants paying high enough rents.

  2. Pavel

    Good luck, Yves!

    FWIW, I have lived in various major cities (NY, London, Paris, SF, Montreal) and a few smaller ones and it is probably partly due to age but I find myself preferring the smaller ones now. I had a great time in NY in the ’80s and ’90s and still enjoy myself when I go back for a few days but I would never live there now… it has lost so much of its charm, and of course the housing costs are insane.

    In any case, as Gerald Durrell quoted in the wonderful “My Family and Other Animals” — as they moved houses for the Nth time — a change is as good as a rest. Here’s hoping you will get some rest!

    1. Joe Well

      >>I had a great time in NY in the ’80s and ’90s and still enjoy myself when I go back for a few days but I would never live there now

      I keep having the same conversation about Boston (the inner part of it at least, especially Cambridge).

      What kind of place did you end up? I’m looking for ideas.

    2. Beniamino

      I’m two-thirds through “My Family and Other Animals” right now and just read that passage yesterday. The actual quote is I think “a change is as good as a feast” (one of Margo’s malapropisms).

  3. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Dear Yves,

    As a Southern exile of Faulkner’s second type, I wish you lots of luck of in a whole ‘nother world.

    And as I have learned by bitter example, be extremely careful about whom you to try to explain why macroeconomics is diminishing their lives.

    If it’s any consolation, as writer Matty Paris told me when I was depressed about being gentrified from my beloved Brooklyn Heights (which had gone from hookers trolling Atlantic Avenue to an Ikea in Red Hook*) to Jersey City, “You didn’t leave Brooklyn. Brooklyn left you.”

    You didn’t leave New York. New York left you.

    Ps. You’re gonna hear some amazing things that you would hear no where else. Be sure to write them down!

    * I knew the writing was on the wall when I was called up for jury duty for the umpteenth time and was having my voir dire. The case was between two Italian guys in the construction industry about some building on Van Brunt (old Joey Gallo territory).

    “Do you have anything further you wish to say?” asked the judge.

    “Yeah,” I replied, “I never thought I’d see the day when two Italian guys from Red Hook would settle their differences in court rather than one of them ending up in
    the swamp somewhere.”

    They could not get me out of the box fast enough.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    Very best of luck with your new home, Yves, I’m glad it all went without too much stress.

  5. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    Good luck & may your new place become Sweet home Alabama.

    Off soon on my travels again although not much in the way of distance, but well used to it as it has been the story of my life – probably because Papa was a rolling stone.

  6. skippy

    YS its good to shake things up once and awhile, hope your new surrounds are challenging without being fraught.

  7. Carla

    Be well in your new home, Yves. And best to your mother!

    BTW, as expected, our Citizens for An Elected Mayor charter amendment initiative qualified for the November ballot!

  8. KLG

    Welcome, South! I will make the drive for the first Birmingham Meetup! My schedule prevented attendance in Atlanta, and I am still irritated with work for that interference.

  9. bassmule

    On a whim, more or less, I left Boston’s South End in 2004 for Asheville NC. (the “hip” spot in the middle of Appalachia). Asheville was very good to me–I did well both as a wine salesman and as a musician–but after 10 years, I realized I was never going to really be comfortable in a culture where “Have a Blessed Day!” was a common salutation (hipsters are a big presence, but they’re still not a majority). So in 2014 I hauled my Yankee self back North, priced out of Boston, but living comfortably in Northampton, down the street from the Smith College campus. My very best wishes for a successful landing in Birmingham; if you adapted to Australia, I imagine you’ll do the same in Alabama.

    1. CitizenSissy

      Best wishes to you and to your new life in Alabama, Yves!

      I can concur about Northampton’s charms (though missing the late lamented Tibetan restaurant). My family hails from up 91 in South Deerfield and Turners Falls. Bassmule, if you’re a carnivore and like to grill, may I suggest a trip to the Blue Seal kielbasa plant in Chicopee?

    2. mistah charley, ph.d.

      I spent four and a half years teaching at a small college in southwestern Virginia – the corner that’s west of West Virginia. When I got there I was told the difference between a Yankee and a damn Yankee: a Yankee comes down, looks around, and goes home – a damn Yankee doesn’t go home soon enough. As I said, I was there four and half years.

  10. Susan the other`

    I’m glad you got there in one piece. First things first – find a good coffee shop.

    1. Svante

      Coffee’s outlawed, after 7:30AM. Here’s the Red Onion alternative, rahyt crost frum Chuck E Cheese… bah-bah-gu-NOOSH! Stick with SAW’s Soul Kitchen & Niki’s West!

      Got (glyphosate flavored) chickpeas, fava, cilantro & mint at the Farmer’s Market, down behind ACIPCO

  11. russell1200

    Did Lambert and Jerri-Lynn have Kurt Russell (aka Gruff Snake Plissken) go in to rescue you?

  12. Big River Bandido

    Congratulations on making it out! And thanks for throwing that party last Sunday! It was great to meet you and so many other NCers before you got out of town.

    And like a typical New Yorker, you already have 2 trips booked back, hm hm. Dave Frishberg has some words and music for that…

  13. David

    I grew up in Bham.

    Be prepared for the three questions in EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION:
    “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”
    “Auburn or Alabama?”
    “Where did you pledge?”

    Good luck with the adjustment.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have been visiting here for 40 years and met a lot of people. No one has ever asked me any of those questions.

      There is a synagogue and a Jewish community center in my mother’s suburb. That may help.

  14. Elizabeth

    I’m glad you escaped from New York and it’s good that you had lots of help with all the things that need wrapping up. Moving is not easy – I escaped from SF to a much smaller location in northern Iowa – but so far, I’m glad I did. All I can say, is take your time unpacking – I’m still not fully settled, but I tell myself, what’s the hurry? Take good care of yourself. Kudos to Lambert and Jerri-Lyn for all the work they’ve done – NC is something I simply could not live without.

    Best wishes to your Mom, also.

    1. sleepy

      I too moved to northern Iowa, from New Orleans. After almost 30 yrs, I would never have left NO but with a small child it was just too dangerous in the mid 90s–gunshots at night, people stabbed on my block, muggings and so on. That said, I still miss it dearly, go figure!

      But life here is certainly easy and I now have Iowan grandkids.

  15. David in Santa Cruz

    My cousin, born and bred in the S.F. Bay Area, married an Atlantan at mid-life. She recently talked him into decamping to Huntsville AL, just a hop up the Interstate from Birmingham. He has been pleasantly surprised.

    In this age of the Internet and the near-ubiquity of artisan baking and ethically-sourced and sympathetically-roasted coffee, it’s no longer necessary to cling to the great cities. The equivalent of 24 months of Bay Area overhead bought them a gracious home in a nice neighborhood, free and clear of debt. He recently supplemented his modest pension with Social Security, and reports that he is living quite well, thank you very much.

  16. False Solace

    My retired parents recently moved from the Twin Cities to central Florida. It’s not quite the deep South thanks to all the tourism and the very overcrowded infrastructure, but there’s a definite culture difference. Service people show up — or not — on a seemingly ad hoc basis. Nothing ever seems to get delivered on time, an attitude which permeates even to the national box stores and resulted in a remodel that was delayed by months. I think that in the north we’re always conscious that ‘Winter is Coming’. Up here people seem to have a bit more urgency toward getting things done.

  17. Jonathan Holland Becnel



    May ur arrival herald the trumpets of the American Political Revolution.

    P.S. Dont die, its hot n humid down here.

  18. kk

    Moving from the capital of the world to Alabama sounds very strange to me – where next Moosejaw?

    1. Beniamino

      On the other hand, moving from a place that thinks it’s the capital of the world to one that realizes it isn’t wouldn’t necessarily be that much of a stretch.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Your prejudice is showing. The ZIP code in which my mother lives is in the top 100 in the US in college degrees per capita.

  19. flaesq

    Welcome back to the deep south! It’s been almost 40 years since I did the NYC->deep south move and I don’t regret it at all except for the hurricanes… I hope that moving van packed a lot of cool Northern weather for you to blow some Florida way.

  20. Michael K


    Congratulations on your move! I’m a native New Yorker who left Manhattan 25 years ago for the SF Bay Area, and this is the only place that’s ever really felt like home. I hope that one day you’ll feel the same about Birmingham.

    I’m sure NC and “the cause” will benefit from a more relaxed Yves, one who has a little more time to spread the message further afield.

    I’m looking forward to your next trip to the Bay Area. As a startup CFO who loves to deflate the crowdthink that’s ruined this place (and much of the rest of planet Earth, no doubt), NC supplies me with endless material to pierce the toxic bubble.

  21. ChrisPacific

    Glad to hear you have completed the first stage the move free from disasters (as you note, little things going wrong is to be expected). As a veteran of many moves I feel there is something uniquely unsettling about them, mostly to do with having all your old routines and sense of place annihilated without having had time to form new ones yet. I used to try to establish ‘anchors’ in the new place, like fully unpacking one room and spending some time there on a particular activity every day, or finding a nice coffee shop and stopping there regularly.

    Unpacking is a titanic chore but has its rewards too – thinking “room X is done” or “I now have everything I need to do Y” was always nice and helped break it up into manageable chunks with milestones and rewards along the way. I’m also a fan of fully unpacking, even if it comes down to buying a few storage crates or file boxes and transferring the last few things into those. Keeping not-yet-unpacked boxes around as storage always makes the move feel unfinished to me, and you can also never be 100% sure that they aren’t hiding some critically important thing (relevant when you have an “I need X right now but can’t find it anywhere” moment, as you inevitably will).

  22. KFritz

    Moving tip. Never discard a box without opening it to recheck for lightweight items inadvertently left in the bottom. It’s easy to throw things out that way. I lost a French press and some priceless photos in exactly this fashion in 2013.

    Buona fortuna.

  23. Forklift Driver

    “Burning bridges is a great way to drive you forward.”
    — Edward Snowden

  24. Altandmain

    Best of luck in your new home.

    I’m thinking about moving myself. Jobs these days are not secure and I’m worried about the long-term future of my industry.

    Finally, Stahl Real Estate was extremely cooperative (they’d already authorized the refunding of my security deposit by the time I was on the plane) and the building staff was very helpful and solicitous (they’d also gone out of their way to help when my cat was dying). I will miss them.

    I’m glad to see a landlord treating tenants well even as they move out. I have had my bad experiences with landlords, so it’s always nice to hear of a landlord that treats everyone well.

    The same goes to everyone else that helped make the move possible – Lambert, Jerri-Lynn, the movers, and the NC community.

  25. Abbie

    Dear Yves,
    Longtime reader here, not a commenter usually. Pausing for a moment to reflect that this is not just a pretty radical geographical relocation, but that you’re moving to be closer to your mother. Having spent 3 months in my country of origin last year, to help my mom recover from a hip replacement and the recent death of her partner (as well as assorted other family matters), I am so glad for you that you have this extended virtual community to draw on through the transition. Wishing you the very best, and with much appreciation for the work that you, Lambert, and Jerri-Lynn have done over the years.

  26. BobWhite

    It was really great to see you again while we were in NYC for the Left Forum (good timing)…
    Had some really good conversations, and got some good books as a bonus!

    While traveling through Birmingham, we found a good “middle eastern” restaurant called Makarios.
    (I do not remember which country they are from, so I kept it generic)

    Not sure if you have been there, but worth a try, they have an extensive (but not expensive) menu.

    Maybe you can make a trek to New Orleans for a meetup?
    We can easily make the arrangements… :-)

    All the best.

  27. Ricardo2000

    Thank you again and again for all the hard work and words. I don’t know how most of us would find intelligence on the web if it weren’t for you and your people.
    Hopefully, distance from the maelstrom of New York will provide a different perspective, renewed energy, and new circles of friends for the remainder of the distance.
    First thing I do when making a new home: open the windows wide, play my favourite music, and cook good food.

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