BY LAUREN JONIK
Editor's Note: A version of this article appeared on our old site.
"I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a love-hate relationship with New York," said Sari Botton of her new anthology, Goodbye To All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York (Seal Press). The Manhattan expatriate gathered tales of love, loss and ultimately, change from twenty-eight female writers including Cheryl Strayed, Hope Edelman and Dani Shapiro. The 48 year old Long Island native lived in the city for over a decade before relocating to a small rural "hipster" town in the Hudson Valley with her husband Brian. In an interview in Greenwich Village, Botton explained that the impact of having been a New Yorker leaves an indelible mark. "The longer I am away, the more I miss it."
With a title that’s a nod to Joan Didion’s famous 1967 essay, Botton noted that most stories in the book "are love letters to the city." While a New Yorker, Botton experienced her coming of age as an artsy creative professional who was part loner and part social butterfly. "I felt like New York City was where I became me. I felt more at home in the East Village than anywhere else," said the author whose appearance--with black-rimmed glasses and brown hair with chunky blond streaks--reveals an aesthetic that’s more funky than farmer. Her former shoe-box-sized apartment on East 13th Street afforded her a place to live and write. She ran in East River Park, heard jazz weekly at Rue B and socialized with neighborhood locals.
A graduate of SUNY Albany, Botton’s work has appeared in The New York Times in a "Modern Love" essay about ditching "the rules of dating" and meeting her future spouse online. A chance meeting with him in person in the East Village led to brunch which led to Botton moving into his "below-market-value loft in a Gothic Victorian former yeshiva on Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park" a few months later. While their personal love story was beginning, Botton’spassion for the city was waning, a result of gentrification and increasing costs. "A three-dollar umbrella was now five. The Second Avenue Deli was now on Third Avenue," she writes. When their building was given Landmark status and the rent tripled, the decision to leave was easy.
At first, life outside of New York City went smoothly, but then the longing crept in. Botton enjoys patronizing local small businesses in her adopted hometown upstate and finds herself more productive creatively. "I write more. I’m older and more disciplined." While she savors her slower-paced life in Rosendale, New York where she goes hiking up a mountain every day, she admits to still yearning deeply for the city. Last year to celebrate her birthday, she got an Anais Nin quote ("And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.") tattooed on the interior of her right arm while visiting her old neighborhood. "I had to get away from New York to get perspective on New York."
Lauren Jonik is a writer and photographer in Brooklyn, NY. Follow her on Twitter: @laurenjonik