Leaving the city

We do the strangest things sometimes. I was supposed to fly home today for a short visit but decided not to go at the last minute. Not the last minute; I was at the airport though. I called my wife and said, “I’m not getting on a plane today. Is that stupid?” She said simply, “Not at all. I’ll see you at home.”

In The Sun Also Rises, Lady Brett Ashley says, “One’s an ass to leave Paris.”


She says this after referring to Paris as “this pestilential city.” Another character in Hemingway’s first book says she doesn’t like Paris. “It’s expensive and dirty.”

I guess that’s how I feel about New York. But I also feel like a fool when I leave. Now that I’m married, I don’t want to do it alone if I can help it. I want a buddy. My buddy.

I know it’s important to leave the city. My friend calls it resetting. But I just couldn’t imagine leaving today. New York looked so beautiful from the car window on the way to the airport. The city itself is resetting in the form of Spring. And it’s halfway over! A weeping kind of willow tree in our neighborhood has already cycled through it’s pretty white flowers to green.

Perhaps New York at this time, like Paris in the twenties, is “pestilential” and “expensive,” but I think what Ashley is saying is that one is an ass for giving up, for letting it get to you. I came across a commentary about Hemingway’s book when I was searching for the book jacket image. The section of the analysis that I read claims that Ashley’s comments and those of others “provide a measure of one’s ability to live fully and intelligently, getting one’s money’s worth” in gay Paree (Imagining Paris…, J. Gerald Kennedy).

Call it the beautiful struggle (tongue firmly in cheek). The struggle is very real for a lot of people in New York. Still young and vulnerable at 38, I try to remind myself of this. It’s forced on me once and awhile, too. I once struck up a conversation with a security guard at The Frick Collection museum who wanted to know if I liked living in New York. I replied yes. Did he? Not really, he said. It’s a very hard place to live for many people.

I feel grateful that I am eligible to make a choice: stay or go. A person is indeed an ass for leaving New York. Or Paris. Or anywhere for that matter. Maybe what we’re trying to do when we travel is leave ourselves.



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