I Love [Leave] New York
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Last week I was walking down Sixth Avenue at lunchtime, and I saw about 700 people in the street. Everybody was looking up at one of the big office towers, necks craning, mouths open.

"What's up?" I asked a guy on a cell phone.

"Bomb scare," he said. He looked bored.

I don't want to live here anymore. I wish I felt differently. But I don't. So now I'm sort of thinking about alternatives.

Maybe a small town would make a good home for my family, a little village like the one that Ma and Pa Kent raised young Clark in. I grew up in one of those. It was nice. Movies were 35 cents at the Alceon Theater. The librarian knew all our names. It was flat there in Illinois, which meant that you could get on your bike and be at the other end of town in five minutes. In the fall we burned leaves in garbage cans, and the sweet, tangy smell filled the air from one corner of town to the other. Of course, this little burg was outside Chicago, where the Sears Tower looms over Lake Michigan, and only half an hour from O'Hare, the busiest airport in the world. That's not far enough away. Not by half.

I could find a really teeny-weeny village, I suppose, far from strip malls and the stench of the city. I'm sure they would like me there. I could be a pharmacist, if I learned that trade, or cut hair at the barbershop, or work for the local newspaper, and eventually people would come to accept me, the way I look, and talk, and dress somewhat differently from everybody else around, no matter how hard I try, and come to view me as a part of the community the way people do in small towns...after 50 or 60 years.

I should probably look at cities, right?

Los Angeles is the first one that comes to mind. I love Los Angeles when I am there. Of course, there's a possibility that I wouldn't be living in the Four Seasons Hotel on Doheny as I do when I visit now. I would probably have to buy a house of some sort. I saw a million-dollar home in Beverly Hills not long ago. It reminded me of a cottage my parents rented on the Jersey shore when I was a kid, only it was smaller. And then there's the fact that everybody in Los Angeles is sort of in show business in one way or another and the effect that has on their minds...and you sort of have to take into consideration that one day Los Angeles could be on a very large island just off the coast of Las Vegas...all in all...

Miami is nice. It has a booming economy, I hear. There are many elderly people there, living out their days in ice-cold air conditioning, mall-walking for exercise perhaps three times a week, but I wouldn't find much to do with them beyond that. Our mealtimes rarely coincide. Miami also boasts a large and flamboyant South Beach scene, but I was there once and felt out of place with no iguana on my shoulder.

Then there is Pittsburgh. I've spent quite a bit of time in Pittsburgh, because the headquarters of my dead corporation was there. I drank at Froggy's, which served an entire water glass full of scotch as a matter of course. I've stayed at the Hilton and stared at the glowing red Westinghouse sign across the river, and treated six hungry businessmen to a steak dinner for $87. I've had meetings in conference rooms looking over the point where the Allegheny and the Ohio join to meet the mighty Monongahela. The green hills stretch out away from Pittsburgh over the fields of Pennsylvania where the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant sits, pregnant with uranium.

All right, then, what could be better than Boston? I enjoyed the ten years I spent there long ago. Met my wife and got married there. I was poor and drove a cab to make ends meet. I would get in at 5:30 A.M. in the garage near Fenway Park--the same garage frequented, it turns out, by several of the hijackers who lived in the city for years--and drive all day to places like Foxboro, Roxbury, Lincoln, and Medford. By the end of the shift, tired but happy, I would clear between 40 and 60 bucks. Did you hear that bin Laden's brother lives in the Boston area? Or was it his sister? Whatever, right?

Seattle is very nice, although with the pop of the dot-com bubble perhaps not quite so prosperous and crammed with opportunity as one could hope. I could go there and live on one of those little islands you see in Meg Ryan movies, take a water shuttle to work at a funky little startup company where the biggest decision is what blend of coffee to send out for in the morning. It's a terrific city. I would love to go there. But I won't.

Why not Dallas? Or for that matter Monterey? Or wait--Atlanta! I haven't even considered Atlanta! Or Bridgeport or Rockport or Big Sky, Mont., or Fond du Lac, Wis.? What about them? People live there happily. Why shouldn't I?

Or...Canada! Yes. Let's get serious...in a tiny little cottage at the edge of the woods. A crystal river chuckles by against its banks. Birds twitter in the enormous pines that tower above our quiet home. On Sunday the wife and I get dressed up in our best outfits and head into town for the special dinner at the restaurant. They have pie for dessert, home-made pie. Afterward we take in a movie and then head back to crank up the satellite dish. The silence all around us stretches for miles. The air is as clean as God makes it. And aside from the odd French separatist here and there, there isn't an angry person within 1,000 miles.

Yeah. I might do that.

Last night I went to a cocktail party at the Century Club on 43rd Street. As I walked down Sixth Avenue to get there, mountebanks were selling American flags and pins and World Trade Center T-shirts with AMERICA FIGHTS BACK! emblazoned below the Twin Towers. "Check it out, check it out!" they said, as if they were selling hot watches. People were smiling. They were also buying.

The Century Club is a nice old Victorian place, with elderly carpets, a lot of dark wood, and bad art donated by generous members. The room we were in was a large one, and drinks and canapes were being consumed in mass quantities. As always, people seemed to like the deep-fried stuff the best. There was nothing healthy on the menu, but for some reason that didn't seem a consideration all of a sudden. There were toasts for the honoree of the occasion, and a lot of hugging, and a fair amount of air kissing, and even a few tears, as one sees these days, and still more drinks, and then it was eight o'clock, suddenly, and a bunch of us went out to dinner. We stayed pretty late and talked about a lot of subjects, including a few unrelated to our present difficulties.

The restaurant was relatively empty, but nobody seemed too concerned. Time moves on. Things will change. It will come back.

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.