Friday, February 27, 2009
I Coulda Married Pittsburgh
When we were still living in Mexico, and had reached the point where we knew it was time to return to the States, I had an excuse to spend hours indulging in one of my favorite fantasies: “What if I lived somewhere else?” After all, that fantasy was kind of what got us to Mexico in the first place. We knew we didn’t want (and let’s face it, couldn’t afford) to live in California again. We were pretty sure that instead, we wanted to try the other side of the United States. We wanted a city, but not a huge one. Not after living in a Mexican village for four years. We wanted a college or university town, with all of its resources and the young people that come with it. I thought water in some form would be a very nice must-have; She is somewhat leery of water; especially rivers. They might flood. She's a Capricorn. The cost of living had to be relatively low, especially in terms of housing. Good libraries, bookstores, a symphony, local theatre, and excellent medical care all figured into the mix. Oh, and the weather. Not too hot; not too cold.
Inspiration came from various sources. The Internet was rife with lists of the “10 Best Places to Retire,” “5 Cities Where The Cost of Living is Low,” “Best Small Artsy Towns,” etc. Good friends were moving to Pittsburgh. How about there? No, they ended up in New Jersey. What about that? My favorite scouting resource was Realtor.com. I spent hours sitting up late, when our Mexican Internet connection moved the fastest. If Realtor.com came up with my dream house, the next step was to explore the local paper for that area, Google it, and so on. Sometimes I’d wake She up at 1:00 a.m. to tell her where I thought we should move. In not necessarily chronological order, here are some of the places where we might be living today, and some of the reasons we aren’t:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – too much snow
Newark, New Jersey –too much snow
Cleveland, Ohio – ditto
Columbus, Ohio – not much there, there
Baltimore, Maryland – too humid; too big; but great newspaper!
Kerrville, Texas – too hot and it’s, well, Texas
Jacksonville, Florida – there are 11,000 varieties of snakes in Florida. And crocodiles and alligators
Thomasville, Georgia – too small-town; too close to the Floridian snakes
Oxford, Mississippi - too hot
Asheville, North Carolina – friends had moved from there; said it was snooty and over-priced
Fayetteville, Arkansas – dunno why we decided against that one.
Norfolk, Virginia – too military
Isn’t it strange how we can discard a would-be life in the blink of an eye, based on a whim or rumor?
At some point, Richmond came up on the radar screen. It seemed to have all of our “wants,” and the James River was not a major threat, flood-wise. When we mentioned it to people, none of whom had ever mentioned it to us, they all had either lived in Richmond themselves at some point in their lives, or their brother did, or their cousin used to, and everybody loved it. Neither of us had ever seen it before in our lives.
We moved here in December of 2002, and within a year, She was sold on the place and wouldn’t live anywhere else. It took me much, much longer. After the initial delight of a new love, disappointment set in. It was much hotter and more humid than I ever could have imagined. I’m not really that fascinated by the Civil War. The James River not only does not flood (anymore); it is not easily viewable or accessible.
The first city I ever loved in person, and still pine for, is San Francisco. But the Lady of the Golden Gate has been unaffordable for decades. I loved Portland, Oregon dearly, but couldn't take her rainy mood swings. Now that I know I could live with her tears, she's gone and developed expensive tastes that are beyond my reach. Besides, I am (a) too old and tired to ever move again (b) beginning to maybe love this place. I don’t know why, really. And if I figure it out, I’m not telling.