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How to say goodbye to a city

This is something I wrote a few months back for a friend’s zine that has now been released.

5 minutes ago, I had myself a really strong cup of coffee from the office machine. So forgive me if my fingers skip a letter over, or leave out a word entirely. I will not be going back to edit it. This will be a forward-moving exercise, and that is the first step in saying goodbye to a city. You must not look back, only pack your things, both tangible and otherwise. I am not saying you cannot reminisce while in the process of leaving, only that you must never stop being in a state of leaving. A pause to think, “oh, if only I could find a way,” does not help your cause at all. If there was a way, you would likely have taken hold of it in a desperate manner much, much earlier on. Resign to your fate, it will be easier.

Like the weary half of a long-stagnant partnership, imagine yourself a young nubile female recently freed from her possessive mobster boyfriend. Look forward to all the cities you will now be sleeping with. Remember all the times when failed public transportation systems slapped you across the face, sending you reeling into Ming vases and all manner of mantelpiece decorations. If that wasn’t enough, now you can finally stop lying to your family about what this place really does for a living. Remember, look forward and not backwards, unless it’s to frame, sully, or misrepresent the past.

Say goodbye to the friends you’ll leave behind. You know, the ones who declined your offer of lifelong companionship (in locations of your choice). They may not be the most sincere of friends, but say goodbye anyway. It is a magnanimous gesture that helps to ease them into some semblance of a life in your absence. Promise to call, and write letters to rehash and reheat the meagre strings of commonality that will scarcely bind you in the lack of physical proximity. Or hell, since it’s 2007 you could just add them to Facebook and be done with it.

Take a tour bus, or regular public bus, around the city for a day. Allow yourself to realize that there were many places you never ventured out to explore. Many faces you never met. Cities are, by the very nature of their naming, very large places indeed. And does Jesus kick himself every night about not appearing to every man, woman, and child in Jerusalem during his time? Does Mick Jagger bemoan the groupies he had to lock out because there is only so much coke and whores a man and his band can accomplish in one evening? Don’t answer that. Instead, try switching them around in your mind. What Would Jagger Do with the ability to generate alcohol from thin air? Given Mick’s position, would the Son of God… you know…? That’s far more interesting, don’t you think!? My point is, learn to let things go.

Have some fun burning bridges. If you’re never coming back, take every opportunity to push the limits of human decency. Hit on that checkout girl who’s always letting her top fall open at you. No, it’s not an accident you fool. Give her your dirtiest come-on. Afterwards, teach her son how to play with knives.

Take photos of everything. No matter how resolutely you leave – and as mentioned earlier, you must – there will be days where a stray song, or stray TV commercial, or stray hair in your food will reduce you to fond tears for your former home. In these moments of unmanly weakness, you will find comfort in leafing through stacks of these mundane images. But remember, although it may salve your forlorn heart, never mistake this for an acceptable practice. It is the nomadic soul’s equivalent of squeezing one out in the toilet of a strip club.

Finally, and most importantly, have your last meal. Only you should have more than one. The same way vacation overeating is excused, the effects of last meal dining tours of a city on your body are forgiven by friends and loved ones. Have at it. Eat all the duck fat, pork belly, smoked sausage and Mexican food you want. Provided you’re not some sad schmuck who frequents chain and themed restaurants, you’ll never find anything quite the same anywhere else. Although you may plan to return to them someday with new friends, Fate is cruel and your favorites will always be shut down on account of rodent infestation and incest. Or an infestation of incestuous rodents, if truly unlucky. I speak from personal experience.

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