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