How Can You Live There?

Source: windturbinesyndrome.com/

Source: windturbinesyndrome.com

Recently Gorgeous had a reading with a client who lives in London.  When the session ended, she told the woman how lucky she is to live in such a beautiful and wonderful city. The client saw things differently, though:

“What’s so lucky?,” she asked.  “It does nothing but rain here!

True enough.  It does rain an awful lot in England.  It also rains a fair amount in our former home of Portland, Oregon.  We both were blown away by the sheer number of consecutive days of overcast skies during the winter months there.  Some people become affected by such seasonal weather patterns.  There’s even a medically scientific disorder for it.

Prior to Portland, I lived for over ten years in Fresno, California, located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley.  Even in “normal” years, it absolutely never rains in the Valley during summer months.  Although I got used to it, it was difficult living in such a dry climate.  Of course, at the moment the entire state of California is completely parched from a long drought, and state officials are drawing up emergency water usage plans for homes and businesses.

Anywhere you live there are harsh realties that one has to face.  Growing up in Michigan, I feared tornadoes; living in California, it was earthquakes; now in Florida we will soon enter our first hurricane season.

The only place where I felt relatively safe from natural disasters were the 20 years that I lived in Washington, DC.  However, even there an absolute and utter danger lurks at dinner or cocktail parties when you can suddenly be cornered by a policy wonk.  There is nothing scarier than listening to, say, a demographer, who might explain sampling methods for state unemployment statistics.  It can be challenging to find a graceful way of escaping from such an onslaught.  That would be a man-made disaster, of course.  But still one that can cause great fear and discomfort.

Since graduating from college, I’ve lived in so many different places.  Each one offered opportunities to enjoy nearby scenic beauty and also its local culture.  Philadelphia, for example — where I lived for a whole four months after college — had such wonderful street food that I still think about how great it was for that reason only (of course, there’s also bit of history in that fine city too).  Fresno has a tremendous Armenian population, and the bakeries and markets there are absolute treasures for gourmet cooks such as my half-Armenian wife.  Portland prides itself on being weird to such a degree that it becomes something to admire with establishments such as Voodoo Doughnut or Salt and Straw, to name just two.

Any place that you call home, though, still has its own unique set of setbacks.  I loathed Michigan’s brutal sub-zero winters probably as much as Fresno’s 110 degree and higher summers.  Likewise, I disliked DC’s humidity in the same way that I know I will feel about Florida’s in just a couple of months from now.  Barely two nights ago, we caught a little Gekko crawling on our living room wall.  Your humble blogger belatedly realizes how great it would have been to snap a picture of it for this posting, but I didn’t think of that at the time.  I was utterly disgusted by the creature’s appearance in my home, and the “ewww!” factor was quite strong.  Yet, critters such as this are common guests when you live in a tropical climate.

In spite of the negatives in those places where you once lived, the positives usually come right to the top as soon as you leave.  Since we’ve arrived at our Florida hamlet, Gorgeous regularly waxes nostalgia for Fresno’s bike lanes, Portland’s foodie offerings, and Michigan’s cider mills.   I bet there are places you miss too.  Perhaps the city or campus where you attended college, the neighborhood where you were raised, or the downtown apartment you had before you got married.   Sometimes things like the omnipresent loud fire trucks from the station two blocks over, or the nosy neighbor next door become less bothersome the further we get away from those memories.

As Gorgeous and I head into our first hurricane season, I am conscious of the fact that generations of families have endured many awful tropical storms and continue to live in the same place.  New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents are somehow still recovering from Katrina,  New Jersey and New York coastal communities are also managing to slowly rebuild after Sandy.  The same can be said for the damage caused by years of flooding to Midwestern communities.  Some people do move away, but most stay because it’s home. Having roots is important.

I’ve lived so much of my life as a bit of a gypsy, and I have every intention of making this my final destination.  I assume that I will appreciate settling here more than I might otherwise simply because I’m too exhausted to think about moving to yet another place.

Florida, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.

Gorgeous’ client from London is in her twenties and apparently seeks a world beyond that which she’s always known.  I certainly understand — I was not unlike her when I was the same age.  I hope she eventually gets to where she wants to be, but I also hope that she experiences many wonderful things on the way there just as I have.  Sometimes It truly is the journey more than the destination.

Where is “home” for you?  Where you are presently, or somewhere still to come?

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22 thoughts on “How Can You Live There?

  1. Oh wow. If I had greater confidence,i would pay Gorgeous to do a reading. I also lived in Fresno…San Joaquin Valley, when I was a kid. You know that you can see the mountains like they were there. I live in Chicago area now. Love it.

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  2. I grew up in a country setting, having backyard gardens, beaches in walking distance and Caribbean heat 24/7 . I liked the beaches and the gardens but hated the heat (I don’t function well in heat, and I don’t like the critters). When I moved, I sought a destination that had cool weather most of the year as in Spring, Fall, Winter. I figured if it needed to be hot at least it would only be for 3 months or so then back to cooler temps. So I made it to New York and have been here for 20 yrs. I did a yr in Philly but I wasn’t there consistently…only weekends. I felt pretty safe, weather-wise, in this part of the States, but recently the uptick in hurricanes, blizzards, etc has me wondering if I should start exploring another region.

    I like city life since pretty much everything is in walking distance and I don’t need a car, but like you said, it has its good and bad!

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  3. I haven’t moved as much as you and my moves were to neighboring states. I loved Wilmington Delaware best. The gardens are beautiful. It’s a little warmer than where I am now. I also loved northern New Jersey (yes, I know I must be the only one). The area is so eclectic that in my neighborhood no one was a native NJ-er. The restaurants were fabulous and oh the bagels! I spent a couple summers in a beach house and love water. There is a therapy about it. I think you got it right. Instead of being holed up for the winter like the rest of us, you will be holed up for the summer. For that you get 3 glorious seasons.

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    • My parents spent a year in Wilmington when my dad was in the army air force back in WWII. He was stationed in Dover, but my mother lived in Wilmington — lots of back/forth for him. I took them back there when they were in their 70’s to see it again — they remembered the tall trees there. NJ has GREAT food, and I know I”ll get in trouble for saying this, but also FAR better pizza than in NY. There is nothing like the Jersey Shore. I miss Mid-Atlantic, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Cape May beaches.

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  4. I prefer living in the mountains outside of Fresno …. at least 3000 feet. At that elevation you get a couple weeks of snow, just enough to have fun, and the summers are warm but not dreadfully hot. BTW: Fresno misses you two 🙂

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  5. Hey, we like our policy wonks and towel drenching humidity in DC, thank you very much!! Actually, you mentioned being relatively safe from natural disasters in Washington, DC during your 20 years here. Since you left, we’ve lived through an earthquake in 2011 and two hurricanes: Hurricane Isabel, 2003, and Hurricane Sandy, 2012. I never thought I’d be dealing with hurricanes living in the DC area, 200+ miles from the beaches, but we’ve lost two trees, an outside light fixture and had to have a $200 re-shingle job done due to them. Sandy was the most terrifying, packing enough wind and rain over 24 hours to give us a feel for what it’s like to go through one on the coast. No thank you. My idea of retiring to Pensacola one day kind of took a detour due to Sandy. Growing up in the mid-west, St. Louis, I’ve also seen plenty of tornado warnings, damaging winds, baseball-size hail, and funnel clouds travelling overhead until they touched down somewhere outside the city, in my time there; massive humidity (worse than DC) and mosquitos galore. I do, however, miss the slower pace there, family and incredible food. Your blog topic is timely as my wife and I are considering where to retire as we have no ties to the DC area once we no longer have to work and we really want to start over somewhere else with 32 years in the area by then. After an expansive look at possibilities before hitting the road to check them out, we are coming to the conclusion that no one place fulfills everything we want. I would love a climate that is less humid, for instance, but that would mean moving west – where cities are sometimes 600 miles apart and water is getting scarcer – or north – where bitter cold and snow rule most of the year. I can’t live somewhere where there’s the potential to shovel snow in September or May or fearful of the roof caving in after a blizzard that leaves several feet of snow. I’d rather dodge the humidity while going between air conditioned cars and buildings. So, we will be travelling about over the next several years to hopefully fall in love with a place where we will ultimately retire. Not being grounded to one place due to family or a job makes me realize how lucky we are that we can potentially move anywhere, but having too many options is a bad thing too! 🙂

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    • You hit the main point, Tony. EVERY PLACE has some setback. There is just no perfect place! So you do end up choosing to live with the lesser of certain evils — in my case the humidity, critters, etc.

      And you’re right– it does appear that DC’s weather did get incredibly strange right after I moved away starting in 2002. Weird!!

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      • I forgot to share my one and only gekko story. I worked with a woman while with the Navy who was born and raised in Guam before moving to this other tropical paradise called DC. Evidently, tropical critters, including snakes and gekkos, greatly outnumber the human population on Guam. She would tell us that gekkos would get into her family’s house all the time and were quite inquisitive varmits. She told me the story of when she came home from an outing one evening, took off her contacts and put them in solution, but did not, however, remember to place the lid on the contact case. When she woke up the next morning, the contacts were gone. She shortly spotted them attached to a gekko running around the house.

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      • The first year I lived in my house here in a tony NoVA suburb, the local paper had a story about the season’s first snowfall. It said: “The local Safeway’s shelves were soon bare of milk, bread and hearts of palm.” Priceless!

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    • Yes, snow in any amount paralyzes this city. Growing up in St. Louis where we got our fair share of snow, I never saw empty grocery shelves before a storm until I moved to DC or the sudden and weird disappearance of windshield wiper fluid at the hint of snow. I also never saw the schools all close BEFORE the snow actually starts or for a forecast of high winds and rain. There is always an interesting annual event – a run on snow shovels at the first mention of a snowstorm – which makes me wonder if the residents throw them out once Spring starts.

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  6. Portland resents the aspersions you have cast on it. “Portland has had an average rainfall of 39.14 inches over the last 30 years, which is 0.03 inches inches less than the average nationwide,” http://average-rainfall.findthebest.com/l/201/Portland-Oregon AND, you can let Gorgeous know that it has not rained a day since you left. Well, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but Portland is certainly in the competition for Best Weather of the Past Year. Most of the country seems to have had one bad thing or another weather wise, while we have suffered not at all. Hardly even had a hint of winter. Maybe two days below freezing, and barely below then. Certainly nothing like the year we had 3 feet of snow when we lived in DC back in the late 1970s. Of course, there is little snow in the mountains, meaning some of the ski areas never were able to open, Come summer, Oregon is likely to have more than the usual number of forest fires.

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  7. At the moment, it is pretty much a different city each week for me. I am working away from home a great deal at the moment and am getting slightly disorientated by waking up in different towns and cities. I sometimes have to remind myself where I am and what day of the week it is!

    And trust me, London is a great place to visit, but definitely not a place where you want to live…

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