The Oransky Journal

Interesting stuff that doesn't fit on Embargo Watch or Retraction Watch

On leaving New York, and maybe my impostor syndrome, behind

with 2 comments


Last sunset over the Hudson as a Manhattan resident

I first fell in love with New York City as a teenager growing up about 30 minutes from the George Washington Bridge. It probably happened when I started taking the commuter bus from the suburb I grew up in to the Port Authority and blossomed into romance when I’d travel to Columbia for the annual Scholastic Press Association meeting and a science honors program on Saturdays. By the time I was in college in Cambridge, I knew I needed to live in New York, and that made NYU an easy choice for medical school.

Except for about two years between 1998 and 2000, I’ve lived on the island of Manhattan since 1994. It’s been quite a love affair. And while it’s not ending, exactly, it’s shifting to a new phase. Cate and I are leaving the Hell’s Kitchen apartment we’ve lived in since just a few weeks before we were engaged in April 2004. It’s the same building I’ve lived in since September 2000.

That means I was standing on my balcony on September 11, 2001, watching the Twin Towers fall.

I was 20 floors up during the blackout of 2003, although I was spared a blackout by a few blocks during Hurricane Sandy in 2011. Along the way, I fell in love, got married, began teaching at NYU, changed jobs several times, bought the house in Massachusetts Cate and I are moving to full-time, and had all sorts of other adventures too numerous to list. It’s where I became great friends with Adam Marcus, with whom I co-founded what has become my life’s work, Retraction Watch.

In short, New York has been very good to me. But it’s hard — at least, for me — to escape the sense that it was all a bit of a mirage.  For one thing, it changes around you, leaving you feeling like the polar bear on a shrinking ice floe. When I first moved to Hell’s Kitchen seventeen years ago, the neighborhood had gentrified, no doubt, but there was still a whiff of the grit that the Westies, the gang that ran the place until the 1980s, inhaled into their lungs every day. I read TJ English’s book on the Westies with a smile, even the gruesome parts. I devoured every Matthew Scudder novel by Lawrence Block, after my brother Andrew recommended I read about the former detective who lived in the ‘hood. And it felt as though when you walked down Ninth Avenue — particularly below 42nd St.; anyone remember Bellevue Bar, featuring a casket on top of a piano? — you were walking in a real urban landscape, not a Disney set.

But that’s all changed. Ninth Avenue has become even more choked with traffic — pedestrian and automotive — and most of the old haunts are gone, seemingly replaced by a succession of Thai restaurants. We have nothing against Thai restaurants, in fact quite the opposite, but the hole in the wall we prefer is now on Tenth Avenue, where most of the more interesting bars and restaurants are. There are even some tony places on Eleventh Avenue, which when I first moved here seemed to be home to nothing but car dealerships and gas stations. The site of the Market Diner, the classic ’60s diner where Adam and I used to meet regularly, is turning into a luxury apartment building.

Change is a constant, and I don’t want to romanticize the past. New York will be nice when it’s finished, as the saying goes. For me, the real struggle of living in New York is that it has always felt like one long episode of impostor syndrome. There’s always someone doing more interesting things than you, making more money than you, having a better time than you, doing more worthwhile work than you. I and many others thrive on competition, but at some point it all becomes too distracting.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve loved every minute here. And I’ll continue to cherish the time I’ll spend in The City — are there any others, really? — when I return to teach at NYU and take other meetings. We also love Northampton, Massachusetts, where we’re moving full time. We can stretch out, not kill ourselves to afford to live, and enjoy great culture, while living in the woods.

But we can also get back to New York in under three hours, and I won’t pretend that’s not important. Even though we’re turning in the keys tomorrow, this love affair’s not over yet. It’s just that we’ve appreciated who we are, and we’re happier for it. So I’ll see you soon, Big Apple.

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 9, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Ah Ivan! NYC will miss you. I recall the night i spent at your apartment,when you put me up even though I think i was intruding during your then very early relationship with Cate, or was it just your 30th birthday i’m recalling? Anyway – your work with Adam is sorely needed, and at least that will continue even if your writing home changes.
    All best to you and Cate – but shucks, where will i crash when i’m in the city now?

    Jeanne Lenzer

    June 9, 2017 at 10:24 pm

  2. Dear Cate and Ivan May this move be the beginning of a whole new great adventure. The very best of luck to the two of you.

    Love ❤️ Aunt Barbara

    Sent from my iPad


    Barbara Oransky

    June 9, 2017 at 11:27 pm

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