I’m praying the wheels don’t come off my ridiculously overpacked suitcases as I drag them across the floor at JFK, thinking: What the hell am I doing?
I’d bought the suitcases for this daring mission a few days before from a vendor on West 14th Street, well aware that they might start falling apart by 13th Street. You’ve got to be suspicious of a store that has no doors.
The guy wanted $40 per bag. I offered him $75 for two. I didn’t really care about the extra five bucks, but this was going to be my last New York street bargaining battle for a while and I wanted to make the most of it.
The vendor makes a face at my offer, as if I’ve just told him his mother is ugly.
“Gimme eighty,” he says. “No tax.”
“Seventy-five,” I insist. His eyes narrow.
I hand him the cash. He gives me the bags. He checks the bills with one of those funky marking pens to make sure they’re not counterfeit. I examine the bags along the seams, trying to look like a luggage expert. It warms the heart to do business in a climate of such trust.
“I’m moving to London,” I tell him. He blinks at me and shrugs as he pockets the bills. That’s about the reaction I expected. God, I was going to miss this city.
I go home and pack everything I wear from the skin out into those bags, as well as the stuff my British wife Kim had left behind at our Greenwich Village apartment. They bulge as if they’re about to give birth and I know they’re both overweight, but at least the wheels are still rolling and the seams aren’t popping.
The airlines hit you hard when your bags are too heavy, and I’m ready to shell out for the extra freight, but I catch a break when the woman at the check-in desk waves them through.
I deserve a break. Uprooting your life takes a series of exhausting, suspenseful steps. Finding a tenant to sublet your place, and hoping the co-op board approves of the tenant. Canceling Con Ed and cable, and re-directing the mail. Storing stuff in your parents’ garage, and convincing your mother you won’t get killed looking the wrong way when crossing the street in London, where traffic rides on “the other side.”
And finally, telling your boss you won’t be returning for the new season.... That was my final step.
I’d been a producer for the TV show “Inside Edition” for more than fifteen years and my contract was up at the end of May. That’s when I sat down with the negotiator.
The first move is mine. It’s going to be the only move. Here goes nothing, I say to myself.
“I’m moving to London.”
His eyes widen. He can’t believe it. “Holy shit,” he says.
I understand his reaction. It’s a bold move, a half-crazy move for a longtime worker bee whose next birthday begins with a “6.”
But at this point in my life, it’s the only move. The kids are grown and gone. It’s just me, Kim and the dog. I’ve got to take my shot on the other side of the pond.
“Thing is,” I tell the negotiator, “I want to see what it’s like to live with my wife full-time, considering we’ve been married twelve years now.” That was it. Game over. I was taking my ball and going home.
Home to my wife. Imagine that. For the first time in years, all of my underwear is going to be in one drawer.
The negotiator shakes my hand. “What are you going to do over there?”
“Well, I’m writing a book, among other things.”
He wishes me luck. I finish out the week on the show, and just like that I’m out of that job and out of New York City, snoring away at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic as if I’d been drugged.
Phase one complete. I’m on my way, a New Yorker and an American of Italian-Irish descent aboard a Norwegian airline, heading for Great Britain.
We are the world, baby.
(Next time: If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be London)