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America, the Awesome

America is an awesome country, filled with awesome places! And I’m in the enviable position of possibly being able to choose from any of them!

Due to a variety of circumstances, some happy and some not, I have the ability to consider moving, basically anywhere in the United States. There’s some biographical background to my present alignment of the stars and planets, which you may skip over if you do not care about my personal life. Some among you will be curious though, so if you wish to read that, go ahead. Most, I predict, will find it insipid and should skip ahead to my list of plus and minus factors.

 

How’d This Happen, Burt?

So over the course of about a year, I suffered a string of really bad life events, culminating in divorce. I got pretty depressed and decided that I needed to make some changes. Changes in my professional life, changes in my personal life, changes in my hobbies, changes in my geography. Then, I found new work, which is no small trick for a 25-year lawyer. A different kind of legal work, not litigation anymore. In Orange County.

I wrote about packing up all my stuff and getting ready to move a while back. Many readers here found that essay depressing; if that describes you, marvel that when I wrote it, it felt hopeful to me.

Now, what I didn’t include was that right around the time I published that essay I’d met a woman.  She was not very long divorced like me, clever and witty and fetchingly attractive. It became clear enough that she was interested in me too. Her daughters are precocious and adorable. But, by then I’d committed to the move to Orange County. This was a good choice for me, for all the reasons I wrote about back in February.

For about two months my new employer put me up, rent-free, in a house right on the sand in Newport Beach. A damn nice perk. I put my house on the market and had every reason to believe it would sell quickly and for at or more than my asking price, and I’d soon enough be buying a (much smaller) place in Orange County. The beach house lacked a yard — so that was lots of walks for my senior dog, who lacks speed and energy and grew scared at the sight of other dogs out on their own walks.1 Every night I spoke for hours or texted for hours with my prospective lady friend. On the weekends, I looked at condominiums and hauled possessions from my desert home to the beach house.

But my house in the desert didn’t sell, so I couldn’t buy a new place in Orange County. Dates fell through with the lady friend at the last minute because her ex-husband was flaky about sharing custody of their attention-demanding daughters. Then, the new boss comes to me and says she needs the beach house for some new hires who are coming in for a few weeks of training for out of state, so could I please vacate the house? And since she knew that would be inconvenient for me, she expedited my initial review and had decided that I’d learned the job well enough and demonstrated enough aptitude at the work. So I was granted the ability and equipment necessary to telecommute.

So for the time being, I’m back up in the desert. Hauled all my stuff back. My dog likes it here better – she has her own private back yard. But I like the area less than where I was in O.C. In theory, there’s my new lady friend, but in practice she can’t ever break away from taking care of her kids, thanks to her flaky ex-husband and other stressful circumstances in her life. It doesn’t matter how much we’re attracted to one another if we can’t ever actually get together to have a date. Disappointing, but that seems to be just a part of dating in middle age.

Here I am:  I’m childless, not quite fifty, guardian to a senior hearing-impaired dog, recently self-confident and not-depressed again after a life setback, well-educated and well-cultured, healthy, and slowly but surely accumulating enough equity in my house that I could in the near future sell it for the prices that were being offered to me before. And I don’t have to move to very-nice-but-very-expensive Orange County if I don’t want to.

I don’t have to stay here in the desert if I don’t want to, either. Were things developing as I’d prefer with my new lady friend…? But all available evidence suggests that, despite mutual attraction, it isn’t going to work out with her, so I need to be ready to move on from there until and unless those circumstances change.

There’s no particular anchor to keep me here.

 

So Where To, Burt?

I could be literally anywhere in the world that I have a reliable high-speed internet connection and reasonable access to a good airport. Which are trivially easy things for most locations to offer. Other than that I can work at home whenever it’s convenient.

The question on the table is, where might that home be?

Probably in the U.S.A., for starters. Relocating out of the U.S. presents a higher level of logistical problems that I might wish to take on. Unless you can tell me that it would be easy to get residency in Canada, and that there’s awesomeness available there for me. But even with a stay-in-the-States rule, there’s all sorts of options. And I get to choose, based to a large degree on the kind of lifestyle I want.

Here are the things I’m looking for:

  • Substantial social and cultural opportunities. Both to find a new romantic partner as well as to make friends and do the sorts of things I like doing with my free time. Here in Southern California those things consist of weekend picnic-and-concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, sampling craft beer and wine, patronizing the many art museums around the city, pub trivia nights, and movie-and-dinner nights out with friends.
  • The realistic ability to purchase my own residence, preferably with a yard for my dog and homebrewing hobby, and preferably sufficiently large that I could reasonably anticipate dedicating a room to serve as a home office. So the more affordable housing is, the better. My senior dog may not have many years left, but there will be another dog after her and that dog will want a yard.
  • As much access to year-round fresh fruit and vegetables as I can get. I’m spoiled by not having to worry overmuch about what season of the year it is — it’s not hard to find whatever produce you might want at a reasonable price pretty much any time of the year.
  • Similarly, I’d like to have a cost of living reduced from what I muddle through here in exurban L.A. Particularly the price of all things automotive – gas, insurance, vehicular maintenance – is sometimes wearying.
  • All things considered, I irrationally self-identify as a Californian, so the closer a proposed destination might be to my beloved California the better. But that identification is potentially malleable should the destination prove sufficiently awesome enough that I start to call it “home.”

Things I do not want in a new environment if I can avoid them:

  • Snow. I guess a little bit of snow a few times a winter is tolerable. I didn’t mind the snow so much in Knoxville, Tennessee, where we’d get a couple of inches five or six times a winter, which would melt away in a few days. But this roots-in-Wisconsin boy has no further appetite for months of the wet cold dirty stuff hanging around.
  • Long drives to stuff. One thing I didn’t like in Tennessee was a forty-five minute drive down a windy rural road to get to the Wal-Mart. What I haven’t liked about Orange County is navigating through a bunch of heavy traffic to get where I want to go. So I’m probably looking at more urban-to-suburban areas.
  • Blue laws. I don’t want to think about what my neighbors think I ought to be doing with my Sunday morning if what I want to do is pick up a six-pack of beer and lazily watch some NFL at home.
  • Allergens and insects. I know ragweed is everywhere, but one thing I’ve liked about Southern California and especially the desert here is that there are really very few of these around. I like hanging around in my back yard, grilling steaks and brewing beers and hanging out with friends. If we’re constantly being attacked by vampiric mosquitoes or sneezing by the wort from all the ragweed, that’s kind of not as much fun.

Now, I realize that every place imaginable is going to have some trade offs. But one thing I’ve noticed is people seem to fall in love with their own communities and when they find someone who, like me, is considering moving elsewhere, everyone is suddenly a volunteer ambassador for the local board of realtors.

So pitch me. Tell me how great your community is and why I should move there. Who knows, if you make a good enough case, you might just wind up with a brand new neighbor!

Photo by Addison Place at Boca Raton America, the Awesome

  1. People say dogs are good for meeting potential dates. My dog, however, proved to be an atrocious wingman. []

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Pseudonymous. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Lives in Southern California (for now). Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. Homebrewer. Atheist. Likes: respectful and intelligent dialogue, good wine, the Green Bay Packers, and long romantic walks on the beach. Dislikes: mass-produced barley pop, magical thinking, ketchup, and insincere people. If you follow him on Twitter at @burtlikko you may be disappointed.

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68 thoughts on “America, the Awesome

  1. Burt,
    Congrats on being in a good situation: divorce over, good job prospects, having OPTIONS. Couple things:

    ” It doesn’t matter how much we’re attracted to one another if we can’t ever actually get together to have a date. Disappointing, but that seems to be just a part of dating in middle age.” No, that’s dating a single mother. It’s one reason why I never did. That, and because I had no intention of raising / paying for someone else’s kid. I’d recommend you look into single women your age or women who’s kids are in college. AT 50, the kids in college mom are pretty plentiful. Fair warning on the no kids women…they have their own baggage.

    Where not to go? Don’t come to the Mid Atlantic. Humidity, congestion and costs are near equal to LA. My drive is an hour reliably-each way. I live in the second most expensive county and commune to the first most expensive county in my state.

    Where to go? Might want to look into the Upstate of South Carolina–Greenville. Decent airport. Friendly people, weather’s good. Good food. Greenville is a decent size city. It’s no LA but it’s, what, 2 hours from Atlanta. Good technology and bio med. BMW, and several other major companies are there too.

    Good luck!

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    • You’ve offered me valuable insight into mid-life dating before, , and this is another bit of that, which causes me to cumulate my gratitude.

      I’ve taken two lessons from my desultory experience with this particular woman. First, mutual attraction is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a happiness-producing romantic relationship. For younger folks, temporal availability is much easier so nearly everyone in the dating pool has it. Not so much at this point in life.

      Second, even though it’s a prospect I have to abandon, the experience has silenced a demon of self-doubt that had done rather a lot of whispering in my ear after my divorce — but despite the demon’s lies, I now have personally experienced that I do have something to offer, that I can attract a desirable mate. This may seem obvious to other people, but it was not so obvious to me for quite a while.

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      • That second one is quite obvious to me, so I’m glad you’re aware of it again. It must be good to feel like life is open to you once more, or at least to have that be among your feelings.

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      • Burt,
        Thank you for your kind words. Divorce can be a pit of despair for the one being left, so I’m glad you’ve come out of it on the positive. I did learn some things post divorce:

        Relationships with friends (male or female) and experiences are the most important. Stuff isn’t. Status isn’t–not that I was big on that. My life is richer for learning these things. Good luck.

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    • Don’t come to the Mid Atlantic. Humidity, congestion and costs are near equal to LA.

      Humidity I will give you, but cost and congestion depends. “Mid Atlantic” is pretty expansive. The devil is in the details. Get away from the big cities and their immediate environs and both cost and congestion drops fast. I live 45 minutes (non-rush hour) from downtown Baltimore. I pass woods and corn fields to get there. Traffic isn’t an issue the first half of the trip.

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  2. To recycle my own list when he first brought this up on Twitter, noting these try to stick to his original qualifiers that also included airport considerations:

    Charleston, SC
    Wilmington, NC
    San Antonio, TX
    Raleigh/Durham, NC

    If you take out airport these three go way up the list
    Flagstaff/Sedona AZ
    Temecula CA
    Southern Pines NC

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  3. Having options at that age is wonderful. I was just shy of 50 when I was told my services were no longer needed at the giant telecom where I worked, which was at first terrifying. Then, thanks to a discussion with a rabbi over a beer, I realized that while relocation wasn’t one of my options, I had the freedom to make a lot of choices about the rest of my life. His remark that I remember most vividly was “Mike, does God have to write it out in the sky in big letters for you?”

    Californians have been moving to Front Range Colorado in large numbers for at least 30 years. I’ll run through the reasons, and even point at a specific neighborhood for examples: the Highlands area in west Denver, which is in the midst of a big revival. A female friend, applied mathematician, late 40s, divorced, excited to have her life back now that her kids are grown and gone, recently bought a house there and gushes. There are other neighborhoods, and of course there are ‘burbs that are pretty much indistinguishable from any other set of western US suburbs*.

    Any way, running down your list of things you want: Fiddlers Green and Red Rocks if you like your music outside. Everything from the club scene to Boettcher Concert Hall if you like it inside. Mountain things year round — in the summer, you name it and there’s a mountain festival for it. A surprising set of museums. Craft beer on a massive scale (pass on the local wine, though). Wide range of food and pubs within walking distance in the Highlands, and growing fast. If you can afford a house where you are now, you can afford a house in the Highlands. Some renovations might be in order in an older house. Things automotive will be cheaper than California. Visiting California means flying, but there are flights from DIA to all of the California airports. I used to have to do one-day trips: get up early, fly to the California airport nearest where I was going, spend the day in meetings, fly back to Denver and be in my own bed by 11:30. Not fun, but feasible. Local produce in the late summer and fall, fresh imports from California and Mexico all year.

    Running down the list of don’t wants, leaving out weather: No blue laws, but groceries can’t sell anything stronger than 3.2% beer, so you do have to hit the liquor store. Insects if you raise them (eg, have lots of irrigated foliage and don’t do bug control), otherwise not; it’s a semi-arid climate that doesn’t lend itself to the little juicy ones. The worst pollen season — I’m a sufferer — is spring when the urban forest is blooming. Beer, wine and grilling out on the deck is a thing here, too. A total of 20 minutes of driving time will let you loop through most sets of errands — grocery, liquor store, cleaners, a big box for odds and ends. The only thing I drive longer than that for regularly is fencing, 25 minutes each way, but that’s a pretty obscure thing.

    Weather: Yes, there are four seasons. If you’re going to live in a place with four seasons, the Front Range is about as good as it gets. Certainly better than any other four-season place I’ve lived. It snows in the winter. It’s almost always light fluffy snow, and it melts soon. Once a decade or so, it snows epically, as in 20 inches or more. It melts soon. During monsoon season, do your outdoor stuff in the morning. Mornings that time of year are beautiful, but you can have anything in the afternoon, from continued sunshine to big ol’ thunderstorms rolling off the foothills. Due to altitude and semi-aridity, 40-degree temperature swings over the course of a day are not uncommon. No matter how you dress, you’ll be over-dressed or under-dressed for the weather at some point.

    * My friend the anthropologist says that the suburbs in US major metro areas west of the Great Plains are all more like each other than they are like anything east of the GP. They’re much denser than eastern ‘burbs, and typically larger. A city of >100K people is an enormous ‘burb in the East (not unheard of, but rare). In the West, it’s the rule not the exception.

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    • Yes, I suggested Denver as well.

      What were the must-haves?
      “Substantial social and cultural opportunities”

      You’ve got all of the amenities of a bigish city there… football, baseball, basketball, and *HOCKEY*. You’ve got a huge number of venues for all kinds of concerts (inside and outside, as you pointed out). You want theater? We’ve got theater. Craft beer that is the best in the dang world. Art museums. Hipster restaurants! God, the hipster restaurants. The Tattered Cover. Boulder to the north when you’re feeling like you want to feel old, Colorado Springs to the south when you’re feeling like you want to feel young.

      “The realistic ability to purchase my own residence”

      Yeah, Colorado has that. If you’re willing to spend an additional 20 minutes in your car, you can probably knock low-to-mid five figures off the cost of the house. Willing to spend an extra hour? Six figures. Live in Arvada. Live in Brighton. Live in Castle Rock. Fort Lupton is nice this time of year, I understand.

      “All things considered, I irrationally self-identify as a Californian”

      Good news! Everybody in Denver does too!

      (Plus we have the international airport DIA just down the road.)

      Colorado is awesome.

      (This doesn’t mean that anybody else should move here, mind. Just Burt.)

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    • I’ll ditto Denver as a great destination, but then I would.

      I’ll say I hadn’t even heard of Highlands until a few years ago. I kind of knew the area, because my mother lived there for a few years, but I didn’t know it was called Highlands. But yes, there’s been a lot of development.

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    • A female friend, applied mathematician, late 40s, divorced, excited to have her life back now that her kids are grown and gone, recently bought a house there and gushes.

      So, she’s single! If I take a field trip out there to check out real estate, you’ll set me up?

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  4. Burt so glad to hear you are coming through your stressful path and things are going well. I haven’t lived there in 18 (eighteen can’t be) years but my vote is also for Denver/front range area as well. If I could get back there I would. The decade I lived there is one of my fondest memories and still have many great friends out there The weather is the best yeah some snow every now and then but mostly stays up in the mountains. The people can’t be beat.

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    • Thirding Denver both on your criteria and because it’s awesome in so many ways. My life is *here*, but if I were picking a place in Colorado from scratch (and not feeling so isolationist that I went with some tiny town up in the mountains somewhere), I’d pick Arvada or another one of the Denver Metro Area (smaller version) cities. For sure.

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      • PS Speaking as a Canadian, the snow in Colorado really doesn’t count. I mean, I think the longest stretch of *real* winter we have had in 10 years was 8 days long or something like that. When they say “it melts” they don’t mean, “it hovers above freezing and it melts” they mean “it’s 70-75 degrees in FEBRUARY and it melts”.

        Seriously.

        The weather in this state is amazing.

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      • What is it with you guys and Arvada? Arvada is where you come when you’re looking for bland.

        The schools are good but not great. There’s a surprising number of small businesses if you know where to look, and consultants working out of their homes, but for the most part it’s a bedroom community for jobs in Golden, Boulder, the Highway 36 corridor, and Denver. Denver cops retire here because the crime rate is ridiculously low. For a long time, we were the only city in the US with >100K people but neither a hospital nor a hotel (we recently acquired a small chain hotel). The arts center is good on a small scale. The city government seems to be moderately competent. The city council is largely embracing rail-oriented development, if the #@%*! PUC would let the trains run (tracks and stations have been done for 18 months). It’s mostly a restaurant desert, although that seems to be improving (my wife’s stomach is increasingly finicky, so we don’t keep up).

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        • I promise it’s not about you:).

          The friends we visit most in Denver are both Colorado natives, one of has lived in Denver Metro her whole life (she spent her misspent youth in an apartment on Colfax, no more commentary needed, this is a family-friendly comment), and she’s in her 30s now, the other just turned 50. They’ve lived all over Denver (each of them separately, and together), and Arvada is where they settled. They’ve been there for some time now – maybe a decade? chronology is hard – so I’m kind of familiar with it. There are several delicious (IMO) shops and restaurants and a pretty funky art scene downtown. They have a big yard and a Mad Scientists Hut with lots of room for the Dawg and good walks to take her on. Their house is delightful and ridiculous and it was extremely affordable, houses for sale in their neighborhood still (I think? Haven’t checked in about a year) tend to be affordable. You don’t really need a hospital or a hotel because Denver is *right freaking there* kinda like it is for Wheat Ridge, only w/out Wheat Ridge’s other issues. To me, living vicariously through them, it seems like the best balance between “living in Denver” and “the advantages for grownups of living in a suburb rather than living in actual Denver.” If you want to go somewhere else from there, ie explore the state, the routes are straightforward and multiple, also. (Though it is a fur piece from the airport compared to some of the other still-close-by options, I will grant you.)

          *shrugs* YMMV… or maybe you just don’t want us driving Arvada prices up :P.

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          • When I lived in Denver I lived in Lakeside right by the amusement park then Pearl and Colfax (don’t know that my youth was ms-spent or not) had a house in Commerce City then finished up in Broomfield before moving to NYC for graduate school. Strangely I really miss my teeninsy apartment off Colfax.

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          • I still miss Stapleton Airport, 25 minutes from parking garage to my driveway. But the metro area had already outgrown it by the time we moved here.

            I’ve been here long enough to remember when Arvada’s Olde Town and everything down the hill to the creek was semi-blighted. It’s substantially improved in 30 years. In another 30 it will probably be unrecognizable. Depends in part on what they do two miles east at the next light rail station. South of that station there’s a semi-blighted largely empty hundred acres or so. Two mile straight shot south to the Highlands. A mile south and a mile east to Regis University. Easy access to both I-25 and I-76, plus 15 minutes or so to Union Station downtown by rail. It’s one of the sites I would have shown Amazon when they were on their HQ2 tour, as a “if you want something that’s more of a fixer-upper” possibility.

            Drive the prices up all you want :^) I’ve got mine, and this year we’re eligible for the senior citizen property tax discount.

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  5. Except for the mountains part, I cannot praise Houston enough. It’s even close enough to the sea that day trips, or afternoon trips, are possible.

    One of the best cultural and museum scenes in the country(*): opera, ballet, symphony, concerts. Scores of pubs and microbreweries, a cost of living that it is below the USA average. A very liberal city (thrice elected a lesbian major) with sizable minority communities (we have our own Chinatown, as well as some of the largest Hindu and Vietnamese communities in the country).

    And weather wise it is marginally cooler in summer and warmer in winter than the rest of Texas, including San Antonio and Austin (neither of which have such good cultural life, though they have great music/pub scenes). Plus, unlike most of Texas, it is gloriously green and full of trees as far as the eye can see.

    And two international airports a short Uber away

    Does it show I love my city and wish all the good people in the world could experience it?

    If mountains are a must, I second the Raleigh Durham proposal (I prefer Durham myself). If I was exiled from Houston, I would probably go there.

    (*) For me, this was the thing that made moving here from Miami so attractive. As beautiful as it is, Miami is a cultural desert

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  6. Given the parameters you specify – stay more or less where you are. The cost of living/cultural opportunities dynamic seems unlikely to be any more favorable than what you’ve got, especially if allergic climates (pretty much the whole rest of the country outside a few hundred miles of where you are) and snow are off the table.

    Is your erstwhile lady friend the only woman in S CA? Maybe finding a new lady friend is a better use of your efforts.

    If on the other hand what you’re looking for is CHANGE, then I suggest you throw out your lists, get a map, a blindfold and some darts.

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  7. PacNW baby! Winter snow is a rare and short lived thing. Long drives are not a given (depends on where you live). Lots of culture & diversity. The place is wired to the hilt. Very few annoying insects.

    Affordability is there if you don’t have to live in the heart of Seattle or Portland. Likewise yards.

    I love this part of the country, so will you.

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  8. You can always try northern California but its expensive. The New York area has a lot of what you ask for but it is very cold.

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  9. THE CASE FOR PORTLAND

    1. PDX has a strong with the arts and culture. In a way, it has more to offer than Los Angeles, in as much as any play, art exhibit, spoken word event, pub trivia, etc, isn’t going to require you to an hour or two time on the road getting there and back.

    2. PDX has really become a foodie town — better still, a foodie town that is full of local wineries and distilleries. When a national food mag does a 10 best restaurants in America feature, it’s rare that place in PDX aren’t on that list.

    3. PDX is a huuuuuge dog town. People take them everywhere, and you can’t throw a stick to be fetched without hitting a dog park.

    4. Oregon is a state that has little regions bunched together, and PDX is right in the middle. So it’s 1/2 to wine touring, 45 minutes to either the beach or mountain climbing/skiing, an hour away from desert resorts and white water rafting. For that matter you don’t even have to leave town, because PDX is chock full of green spaces, including an actual forest inside the city.

    5. We have snow for a day or so once every several years, and it’s fun. The city literally shuts down with an inch of show, but you can still get around (because it’s an inch of show) so it’s like everyone gets a day off and does stuff together.

    6. Blue laws, shmue laws! We have distillers, pot dispensaries, and the highest per-capita strip club ratio in America, baby.

    7. If you came up here, you’d have a free place to stay while you figured out where you wanted to buy/rent.

    Seriously, why is this even a question?

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    • PDX was already on my list. *HIGH* on my list.

      (Did not intend to make a reference to the dispensaries, but I guess I just did and I’ll just leave it there because it’s funny.)

      A field trip is in my future, as I’ve corresponded with you offline already.

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    • 2, 3, 5 and 6 are spot on. Can’t vouch for 7.

      1 is pretty subjective but I don’t find it to be the case. The arts and culture scene in Portland is pretty lackluster for a city of its size, and also its popularity among young people. It has less going on than your average college town, which makes sense because the schools that are there aren’t really high prestige schools. The music scene in particular is pretty dull, I’m used to places where every corner bar has live music every night. Portland isn’t anything like that.

      4 is a lie. PDX to Cannon Beach is 90 miles. You’re going to do that in 45 minutes? 2 hours if you’re lucky. From his posts, Burt doesn’t seem to be particularly lucky. Make it 3 hours.

      PDX to Timberline is 60 miles. Maybe an hour and a half in light traffic. Light traffic is on Christmas Eve at 2 AM. Otherwise 2 hours maybe more. This will only get worse since in Portland, they want to get rid of highways and make driving slower, and the population is increasing fairly rapidly.

      That’s the congestion part of why I left, then there’s the communism part.

      For example, in Portland they think the way to make more housing available is to make it less profitable to build or provide housing. I’m joking of course, they don’t really think that, but they advocate those policies as a way to give more power to the government. That’s probably a plus in Burt’s spreadsheet given the climate here, opinions vary.

      The third reason I left was the crime, I got tired of not being able to leave even a fast food bag in my car without having the window busted in. The shitty graffiti all over everything. The needles and feces on the sidewalk. The drunks passed out in front of your door. The pyschos screaming in the intersection. And the cops that can’t do anything about it because they were told not to do anything about it.

      So probably not a bad match for Burt, but wanted to provide some alternate input.

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  10. I refuse to recommend Chicago, although it might technically meet some (definitely not all) of your criteria. That said, if you did move there, the city would be the better for it. And we could grab a beer or a brunch sometime.

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  11. As much as I love it, I think winter takes the Northeast off the map. The Hudson Valley has a lot of what you want as does the Boston area.

    So I think it sounds like the Northwest your place.

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  12. A completely different set of factors you might want to consider…

    When I play with cluster analysis and inter-state migration patterns, it is fairly clear that people in metro areas west of the Great Plains tend to generally stay west of the Great Plains when they move. There are the obvious geographic attractions (staying where there are mountains, low humidity, lots of shiny new infrastructure). I claim that there are emerging cultural aspects as well. People don’t say “I’m from the West” the way people say “I’m from the South” yet, but it’s happening. @j_a makes arguments for the opposite point of view. I’m probably not going to live long enough to find out if I’m right (work on the damn book, Mike!).

    Staying within the West, consider water for the long term. The climate models pretty consistently draw a line that runs from between Seattle and Portland on the west end to between Denver and Colorado Springs on the east end. North of that line, cooler wetter springs and winters in the future. South of the line, warmer drier winters and springs. Snow pack over the last several winters has generally shown the same line. Permanent water emergencies aren’t fun. (It’s not just the West. Georgia is fighting with all its neighboring states over water. Each time Texas has a drought, the effects are more pronounced. Miami is likely to run out of drinking water due to salt intrusion in the aquifer long before rising sea levels become critical.)

    I’m a nut, but care about where electricity is going to come from in the future. The Western Interconnect states are on a path that looks like natural gas as a bridge fuel to a very largely renewable future, with a reasonable chance of making it happen. That’s my preferred path. Neither of the other two interconnects can, IMO, make a similar claim.

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    • Not that nutty, at least not by my lights. (Quite possibly we both are.)

      One of my usually sub rosa reasons for staying in CO is that at some point I expect to be a family/practically-family anchor for rising-tide climate-change leavers from both coasts (and potentially NZ and Cornwall as well, personal relationships and multiple citizenships being what they are). Hopefully when I’m really old. I feel silly about it, but it does add to my rootedness… (When I get really stressed, I of course start to think about stuff like floods, forest fires, katabatic winds, etc…. but hey, gotta stick it out *somewhere*…)

      That’s no reason for Burt not to move to PDX and enjoy it while the enjoying is good though :D.

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    • Actually if you look at the reports from Ercot as to where new generation will come from you find that of the total of 71 mw of proposed new capacity, gas is 13 wind is 33 and solar is 24. If you consider that solar and west texas go together since there the question is acres per cow so solar displacing cows is a net wind for the land owner. Solar in Ercot was 1000 mw in 2017, will be 17mw in 2018, 3156 in 2019 and 3356 in 2020. (new projects might come in) Further Texas is somewhat fortunate in that the big load areas are up to 1/2 hour of sunlight east of where the best solar is. Note that coal is phasing out with 3 plants closing this year. Further the wind and solar play nice together in that in the mid afternoon the wind does not blow much, but by nightfall it picks up and peaks around midnight. (Might differ as more offshore wind is put in, but Tx has a large continental shelf and you can go 9 miles out before the feds get involved).
      Not that wind in Tx in 2018 is 23689, in 2019 30403 and in 2020 30961 mw. (Max demand at ercot is like 70,000 mw in august.)

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  13. Burt, so sorry to hear about the shitty times, but glad you’re doing well now.

    I don’t know if you’re on FB, but if so, please friend me.

    Can’t pitch my hometown to you, though. No snow. If you don’t mind rain, maybe the Pac NW? There are some nice towns just outside Portland. Or if you want dryer. ABQ may be a choice: not as many cultural options, but NM is welcoming to oddballs so it’s an interesting place if you enjoy eccentrics.

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  14. Let me tell you about the Shenandoah Valley…[looks over the list]…hmmn…well, if you ever feel like visiting the fall season is nice.

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  15. I am glad to hear that things are good for you Burt, that makes the pull out of the divorce dispair much better.

    That said, I would look to the south of Portland a little bit, to Ashland! Though it only has a puddle jumper airport, it has culture (Shakespear!) Beer, the coast is fairly close, it is just above CA for that homey feel, but most importantly, you know that you will have many friends no matter where you go!

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  16. It’s been mentioned upthread but I really love the research triangle. You’ve got a cluster of smallish cities that each provide a mix of bars, breweries, restaurants and so forth. There’s a state park between Raleigh and the airport, NC’s beaches are about two hours to the east and the Appalachian Trail is about four hours to the west. The Panthers play in Charlotte, which is about two hours away, and everyone here loses their damn minds for NCAA basketball. You can expect maybe two or three snow days per winter, and it’s extremely rare for snow to stick around for more than 48 hours or so. Oh, and compared to CA the home prices here will be unbelievably cheap, so finding a nice place with a yard for dogs and easy access to whatever you want to get to should be no problem at all. Give it a look.

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  17. New Orleans!

    – Substantial social and cultural opportunities – top tier for this!
    – The realistic ability to purchase my own residence – top tier for this as well: you can get a new place in a nice location for ~200K.
    – As much access to year-round fresh fruit and vegetables as I can get – pretty good for this, although our prepared meals are generally considered superior to our produce.
    – Similarly, I’d like to have a cost of living reduced from what I muddle through here in exurban L.A. – top tier for this.
    – All things considered, I irrationally self-identify as a Californian, so the closer a proposed destination might be to my beloved California the better. – you’ll have to give this up.

    – Snow. – There’s a dusting once every 5 years or so and everything shuts down! Other than that, if you like 70-degree winters, New Orleans is the place for you!
    – Long drives to stuff. – Everything is 15 minutes away from everything else!
    – Blue laws. – The only things you’re not allowed to do is pee in public and pet the police horses.
    – Allergens and insects. – Sorry, this is actually pretty terrible though.

    Consider it! Come visit at least! Hit me up if you do!

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  18. It’s a pleasant May afternoon, if bit rainy, in Ellicott City, MD right now. Listening to live music and about 10 miles from Thurgood Marshall (BWI) airport.

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  19. I want to recommend Minneapolis but, well, you don’t like winters and it’s hard to get around winters in Minneapolis. I am, however, delighted that things are looking up and I’ll admit Portland is pretty spiffy.

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  20. Louisville has many of the things that places like Portland offer (great food, good cultural scene, world-class museums, etc). Southern Charm with Midwestern sensibilities. Etc. With that said the summer heat and humidity are pretty ridiculous. I have seriously flirted with the idea of moving north to escape it, but alas, Louisville is home. And if you have allergies, forget it.

    All told, I am a proud easterner, through and through. I would make a pitch for somewhere to the right of the Mississippi, but it sounds like you are fairly commited to the western U.S. (nothing wrong with that!) Having spent a ton of time there in the last few years for work, I have really come to love New Hampshire. Weather is amazing spring, summer and fall and Manchester is in close proximity to a million cool activities. If you can tolerate the winters, it’s a good choice. Right now, if I had to leave Louisville, that would be my destination.

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  21. Coming to this discussion late, but here goes:

    You have some semi-incompatible elements here. If you want to live near world class museums and concerts, you have to pay for it. On the other hand, if you are willing to settle for “drive an hour to the concert” things open up a lot. If you are willing to go with “thriving local arts scene” then many, and often very interesting, possibilities open up.

    As for snow: Many people demand no snow ever. This severely limits you. This is why people are willing to put up with to my mind astounding crapfests to live in Florida. Not wanting an endless brutal winter is perfectly reasonable, but there is a wide range between that and Florida. If you are OK with keeping a snow shovel in the basement and bringing it out once or twice a year, you have far wider options. (Pro tip: Slip a twenty to a neighborhood kid. I do my own snow digging, but I pay a kid to mow the front lawn. We are both happy with this arrangement.)

    Airport: How long a drive to the airport seems reasonable to you, and how major does it need to be? There is a wide range, from airports with a puddle jumper flight once a day, through places that fly smallish passenger jets to nearby hubs, to places you fly to Paris from.

    Your wild card is that you don’t need to commute to work from wherever you end up. This gives you huge flexibility. There are lots of places that are great places to live other than having no jobs, and other places that are great places to live other than the hell commute to where the jobs are.

    I like small cities in pretty places. Flagstaff is a great example of this. I also like small towns that are within, say, an hour to an hour and a half of a major city. Draw a circle with a radius of thirty miles centered on downtown Pittsburgh. Within that circle you can have a cabin in the woods and get to a world class symphony with a reasonable drive. (Upon reflection, good internet is likely to be an issue. This would require research ahead of time.)

    College towns: A good local school can do wonders for the local culture. Better yet, several local colleges. It is likely to help the internet access issue, too. You can find a lot of towns and smallish cities this way with a surprisingly active local scene. Asheville, North Carolina: Admittedly, I have visited once, and that was fifteen years ago, but I had an immediate visceral response of this was a place I where I would be happy to live.

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    • I agree with a lot of the logic you are covering here. I have never understood the snow-aversion thing. I like my 4 seasons. In Louisville, Day 1 of a big snow can be a little challenging but the roads are cleared by Day 2 and then it’s just lovely. And of course for me there is the added detail that without winter, my hunting life changes dramatically.

      I also think the mid-size town, close to other things is important. I can literally drive 5 minutes from my suburban life and I’m looking at farms. For me, that is hard to beat.

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      • Tied to the four seasons bit are the fresh fruits and veggies Burt wants. You can get that anywhere large enough to have a decent supermarket. Sure, the produce is coming from Chile (or California) and is going to be frankly mediocre, but my recollection is that this was largely true living in California, too. Live in four seasons country and you can only get local produce in season, but it is vastly superior. After I moved east, and after the first time I stopped and bought tomatoes at a local farm stand, I was flabbergasted. I called my mother and apologized for all those years I rolled my eyes when she claimed that eastern tomatoes were vastly superior to what we got in California.

        Local strawberries are going to arrive in a week or two. I will spend the three weeks following inhaling strawberries till I puke. Then I will be off strawberries until next year, because once you have had the real thing, there really is no point to supermarket strawberries. But that’s OK. There will be a brief, glorious two weeks of sweet cherries, then peaches to tide me over until the fresh apples come in.

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        • Agree 100% on the tomatoes. I firmly believe they need our eastern humidity + heat to really reach full potential. I have sadly not had much luck with them in my current yard due to soil quality, but we hit the farmer’s markets hard in late summer.

          Strawberries in June – heaven on earth. I can almost taste them now.

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          • Before I was married and had kids, but after I moved east, I developed a weekend routine starting in May where I would drive south an hour or so to buy local strawberries. The next week I would drive slightly less far south. And so on, working my way up until I was driving an hour or so north to get my fix. It was an insane routine, in retrospect. Now I just enjoy the few weeks I get them here.

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            • There’s a country store just beyond the Blue Ridge in Marchmaine’s neck of the woods where you can do this without that much of a drive (except to this store, of course). You can track the harvest line as it moves from Georgia to Pennsylvania (and back) as the sign listing the town of origin on the corn and fruit changes weekly.

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        • I wouldn’t recommend southwest Kansas (or any other part of it, for that matter), but my Dad used to grow these massive beefsteak tomotoes that were so good I can remember coming home on leave and standing over the sink while I ate one like it was an apple.

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  22. Side note:

    Any place that is a college town will have a lot of the things you’re looking for whether it is a larger, more urban area or not.

    (I see this was already floated out.)

    Personally I would go up coast rather than inland. I have a thing about having a mountain range between myself and the Gulf of Mexico. Portland has an extended area where you can really have “not city” living still within reasonable travel distance of downtown (I have friends who have a goat farm in Clackamas).

    I’m sorta partial

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  23. Have you considered Pyongyang? It doesn’t meet any of your criteria, but you could surely come out with a book deal if you lived there a year.

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