beto o'rourke

Why Beto Left New York

Beto O'Rourke at Columbia.
Beto! Photo: Beto O’Rourke

In 1967, the Saturday Evening Post published a Joan Didion essay called “Farewell to the Enchanted City;” you likely know it as “Goodbye to All That.” In it, she bid New York adieu for her hometown of Los Angeles; in the years since, dozens of writers have been compelled to write their own good-byes to New York, which in turn inspired other writers to mark their territory and say they’ll never leave. If onetime Senate-candidate Beto O’Rourke would like to take some time off from deciding if he’ll run for president to write his own, well, there’s no need: the New York Times wrote it for him.

“All at once, New York City seemed to be conspiring against Beto O’Rourke,” the opening sentence from a new profile, published Wednesday, reads. This would be dramatic, if it wasn’t my exact line of thinking when I miss the connection from the C to the A train in the morning by a grand total of 0.5 seconds, or when another beloved restaurant closes.

Young Beto — which is what we’re calling him now, YB for funsies — lived in New York City for seven years, beginning with his four-year stint at Columbia University, where he rowed crew. Robert, as he was then known, balanced being in a punk-rock band with 4 a.m. wake-up times for crew practice; he was not particularly political, apparently. (As a former friend explained, no one had any idea he might be the Democratic Party’s new darling: “It’s like, wait, one of the weirdo musicians might run for president.”)

In the years following Columbia, Young Beto worked as a live-in nanny for an Upper West Side family; he lasted a few months before moving to Brooklyn. He later settled in a loft in pre-Union Pool Williamsburg with a bunch of other people; there was a “rooftop trampoline, recovered from the set of a Busta Rhymes music video,” but few walls. As the Times explains, Beto’s Williamsburg life was the kind young hipsters expect to have when they first move to the city, before they realize just how expensive Williamsburg proper now is.

Eventually, it seems, it was getting a job with an arduous commute — all the way to the Bronx! — that did him in: “I just had this vision of being in my truck with the windows down. I remember calling my folks that night, and I said, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to come back,’” O’Rourke remembers now to the Times.

In sum, it was an experience that is pretty difficult to dunk on — consider this your warning, GOP — and which would make for excellent rom-com fodder. Think of it as a mix between Scarlett Johansson’s The Nanny Diaries and Zac Efron/Michael B. Jordan/Miles Teller bromance vehicle That Awkward Moment. I volunteer Shawn Mendes for the gig, as they are both tall and have faces that are best described as “long.” Hollywood, call me. I have ideas.

Why Beto Left New York