What’s your historical San Francisco and New York connection?
I live in New York (Brooklyn) now, after living in San Francisco for five years and growing up in the Bay Area. Throughout my twenties, I moved to bigger cities over time, adjusting incrementally to the chaos and complexity of cities. I started in a small-town community (and farm) located in the rolling hills of central Ohio; I moved to Philadelphia for grad school, wide-eyed at the big, industrial, gray, brown, and gritty nature of post-industrial landscapes. I spent the next five years living in San Francisco until a month ago, when I made the move across the country to New York. The move is part of many new adventures — both in my business and my personal life.
Describe your experience in SF.
San Francisco has unparalleled oceans and waterfront access, and an incredible community of crazy, ambitious, athletic people. As an open-water swimmer and Alcatraz fan, I had a space in SF that was one mile from aquatic park so I could get up in the mornings and roll down to the bay before work, go for a swim, and then head into the office. Despite how much I love it, my biggest frustration with San Francisco is the cloudy, moody, heavy Dementor-like presence that sits atop the city for much of the year: the fog. After five years, I found it hard to tell what month was which, and I longed for some marker (besides San Francisco’s affinity for costumes year-round) that would denote the passage of time. I craved seasons.
Describe your experience in NYC.
To be honest, New York never called to me the way it did for many of my friends. I’m more of a small-community person, and the size and scope (and pace) of the city intimidated me. I thought I would get lost, or lose my sense of self in moving here. Falling in love with someone changed this, and he lived in New York. I was ready to leave San Francisco to embark on my next adventure and he was in love with this city, so it made sense for me to try it out as my next home. And I ended up in Brooklyn.
Surprisingly, all of the things I thought would be true about New York were complete mental fabrications: they were hidden scripts and stories I had heard but not tested about this city. When I got here, it turned out that I loved the feeling of being alone in a crowd. As a slightly more introverted than extroverted person, the feeling of walking through a city and people watching, gazing, and having everyone ignore you is actually far more lovely than I anticipated. I get the titillation of stimulation without the necessity of interaction; essentially a writer’s dream. And as a writer, documentarian, journalist– I’m at home.
I adore the Fall colors, the trees, the mash-up of complexity and art and grit and personalities. I love how cities thrust multiple cultures and perspectives together in strange entanglements; you can walk from a posh Ballet performance down two levels to the noisy subway beneath and stumble into a street performance by Bklyn Beast and be astounded by the fact that two sets of people, quite literally stacked on top of each other in space, are creating performances out of their bodies for different audiences in entirely different venues. Both cities allow you to stumble into awesome (people, places, things) just by the nature of proximity.
What was the biggest challenge of moving from SF to NYC, or simply in splitting time?
The biggest challenge was confronting my own fear and taking the step. It’s far to easy to think about things and talk about things — but not actually do the doing of the things. Whenever I find myself talking or conjecturing too much, I remind myself to shut up and get back to doing and making.
Fortunately, I had a conversation where I made the commitment out loud to friends, which compelled me to follow through: I said I was going to do it, and I stuck to my word. In order to make it happen, I set a year-long plan in place to sell my car, quit my job, build up my savings, start my consulting practice, teach full-time, and get a new apartment in Brooklyn with the love of my life. None of those things were easy steps. I had a visual map drawn like a wheel up on my wall with a sequence of actions that I highlighted each time I completed. And then, one day, it happened. I put myself and four bags on a plane, left my old life behind, and picked up a new set of keys for our place in Brooklyn.
How can NYC and SF best engage with each other?
I think space is a real issue in both cities: when you arrive, you’re welcomed to the city by airplane and public transportation, and then… ? Then what happens? We need more co-working spaces and temporary or flexible transition spaces like what Breather and Coffee&Power are up to. We also need more ways of connecting communities (like this newsletter).
Anything we can do to facilitate the transition from the airplane to feeling at home within a matter of minutes or hours will welcome more people to both homes. The hotel industry is dated. Rather than $500 per night for a giant, empty, sterile, isolated space, we should deconstruct the elements that make us feel at home–a bed, a shower, a cup of coffee, power and internet, the smile between strangers, the spark of ideas–and reconfigure them in flexible and adaptable spaces that rent for hours and provide the elements that you customize.
I think a lot of folks would even love a room that’s the size of a navy ship’s micro-space if it was affordable and provided a place to lie down, think, shower, and grab some coffee and bump into cool people. Like hostels, but in today’s era. And less smelly.
Favorite SF secret spot
Bourbon and Branch, Aquatic Park (the South End Rowing Club is $6 drop in every other day), and the saunas and baths at the Kabuki Bath House in Japantown.
Favorite NYC secret spot
GreenDesk’s coworking spaces, Brooklyn Coffee Roasters, and Abhaya Yoga Studio in DUMBO. Also, Brooklyn Bridge Waterfront Park: I run laps along the soccer fields and admire Manhattan from across the river.
If you were not working for yourself, what would you be doing?
My favorite things are making work, writing, and movement. Most of the time I try to get out of meetings, events, or calls so I can have more time to write and explore ideas. I’ve cut out meetings from most of my days and I try to keep them as short and sweet as possible, in addition to stacking them all on one or two days of the week. That way I leave the rest of the week for creation and contemplation.
What’s on your playlist right now?
Muse, the Black Keys, Mutemath, Macklemore, Norah Jones, Bon Iver.
From the 2905 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + SAN FRANCISCO