Part of me wants to hammer the keyboard with both fists over a rash of store closings in Manhattan: the Rizzoli bookstore, J&R Music World, Pearl Paint. J&R and Pearl are chains, but had the mentality of indie shops run by knowledgeable curators. Rizzoli was more or less irreplaceable. (If the Strand is next, I'll eat my hats.)
To me, losing this stuff isn't about having that many less places to shop. It's about having that many less perspectives on what a store can be, what it can provide people, and what sort of other things it can cultivate. But it's most symptomatic, if anything, of how the city just isn't "the city" anymore — of how, as James Purdy put it, New York is a city with no memory.
Such losses are not the main things that compelled me to leave the New York area, but they did come up time and again in talks with my wife about such a thing. I know that I could go back and pretend it was still the same place, and cling to the things that have somehow resisted change — this museum, that bookstore, those restaurants, these people -- but that would leave me with an increasingly deluded view of how the city was changing, and not always for the best.
The single biggest reason I left New York was practical: I just plain couldn't afford to live in the damn place anymore, not even in a neighboring county. The job market there continues to tilt increasingly towards supporting the sort of standard of living where you'd need at least $150,000 a year just to starve there. Florida is cheaper, and not by a little, either: up north, you couldn't find anything like the houses we looked at during our first wave of real estate shopping, let alone the neighborhoods they could be found in, at three times their price. (The cynic in me wonders how long such a bargain can last.)
Time and again I told myself the cost of living (and the horrible winters) was all part of the price any person would know they had to pay to live there. You want the Met and the Guggenheim and the gunk in the gutters down on Mott St., you gotta pay a premium. You want the privilege of living in, or even near, a city that idiosyncratic, yes, it'll cost you.
I admit, identified closely with all that. I liked thinking of myself as a "New Yorker". I still do, but only because I identify with the New York that remains in my heart rather than the one I actually found myself living in.