I've talked about moving and living in different states before, so I thought I'd offer a quick snapshot of 8 places I've lived. You know, if you're considering a move or a vacation or maybe you're just nosy (that would explain why you keep reading my blog--kidding).
Here they are (in no particular order):
1. Marysville, WA. It's about an hour's drive north of Seattle. If I can say I grew up anywhere, it would be here. I lived here from about age 5 to 11. Rain? Yes. But when you're a kid, rain just means you get to jump in puddles. I think it made the sunny days that much more special. When it snowed, school was cancelled because it happened so rarely. We had a Fred Meyer store, which was awesome, no Wal-Mart, and a Taco Time. I only went into Seattle a few times, so I can't say much about that. It was a pleasant place to grow up.
2. Jacksonville, FL. Jacksonville is probably the least favorite city I've lived in. Let me clarify: I had some great friends in Jacksonville. I met people that I'm still in touch with, people who I feel I have a real connection to, and I miss them a lot. I had fun times there. But. The vibe of the place is yucky. There's a lot of racism. There's an odd mixture of fast-paced city attitude and old South. No one who worked in customer service understood the meaning of the word. You can drive for 45 minutes, with little traffic, and still be in Jacksonville. There aren't many mom-and-pop restaurants. It's hot. Then it pours down rain for 10 seconds and gets even more humid than it was before. The beach is lined with tall hotels and the water is kind of brown. And there are a lot of Republicans.
3. Olathe, KS. This is another place I sometimes cite as the place where I grew up, but that's normally only when I meet someone from around there. Olathe is located in Johnson County, which is The Hills of Kansas. Olathe isn't snob central by any means, but they're around. Not only that, but the predominance of Christianity makes for a strange mix. People seem to believe that their wealth is directly related to their faith (God's on my side so that's why I'm rich). The schools are good, maybe not as good as they say, but I've learned that I had it good compared to what most kids deal with these days. People generally drive 10 mph below the speed limit, and there are a lot of smokers. There are definitely seasons there--sometimes all four of them in the same week. I'm not joking.
4. Pensacola, FL. Beautiful beaches, low cost of living, nice people. I loved living here. I was in college at the time, though, so I didn't exactly live like a true resident. Most of my friends weren't from there, but the locals I met were nice too. It was hot there, but the beaches were so pretty and clean that they made up for it. I heard hurricane Ivan changed the people there, but I haven't been back there to find out.
5. Eastern Washington. I don't remember a lot before I lived in Marysville, but I was born in the eastern part of the state and lived in a few different towns. I've been through the area enough to know a little bit about it. It's totally different than the coast and Seattle area. There are distinct seasons there, and the scenery is made up of a lot of hills and valleys. There are a lot of small towns and more blue collar industries than in the western part of the state. Because of that, I think the attitude tends to be a bit conservative when it comes to politics and social issues. I considered moving to this area when I was trying to figure out my post-divorce course of action, and it seemed the cost of living was pretty low. When I've gone there recently, I feel very comfortable.
6. Midland, TX. Again, this is a town I lived in when I was very young, so I don't have a lot of memories about it. I remember stink bugs. I remember going to church for the first and only time period of my life. I remember brown grass. My parents talk about how our neighbors only wanted to be friendly to us to get us to join their church. They also talk about being concerned that when we moved back to Washington that my older siblings might have gotten too far behind in their grade levels because the schools were so terrible there. My mom knew someone who (probably innocently) pronounced a restaurant called Jorge's as "George's."
7. Monterey, CA. This is where I live now--in case you're just joining us. This is definitely my favorite place so far, which is why I'm still here. Pros: The weather--some people complain that it's always cold, but I like the weather here. The scenery is beautiful with lots of trees, hills, and of course coastline. Everything is close by and accessible. Farmers markets. Cultural diversity. Cons: Mold and mildew. You can't actually get into the water, despite the beaches being lovely. The cost of living is crazy. Monterey County actually has a really high number of people who technically fall below the poverty line because we have ridiculously rich people living in Pebble Beach driving up the cost of living as well as the ridiculously underpaid agriculture and service industry workers. The political vibe is mostly liberal, but there's an interesting mix of conservatives and libertarians here too.
8. Owego, NY. Owego is kind of a blast from the past. There are a lot of mom-and-pop places, old houses, and questionable fashion choices. It's quaint in some ways, but it's also economically depressed. There are meth labs. One of my students got arrested actually because he was stealing from the drugstore he worked at in order to help people make meth. But I say this with sadness rather than flippancy because I think Owego and that whole area has potential. There are beautiful seasons there. I used to think fall was where it was at, but spring time after a crazy long winter is the best thing in the world--allergies and all. And the summers aren't so hot that you really need AC. People there were helpful, although not that great at accepting newcomers. But really, everyone was nice. People there hung their clothes out to dry and planted vegetable gardens. Owego is where I decided I should be living more simply. One of the only doctors in town was also in a local performance of Noises Off--he had to spend a good bit of time on stage in boxer shorts. It's about equidistant from New York City, Philadelphia, and Buffalo. It's actually really close to Scranton, PA, in case you wanted to go visit Dunder Mifflin sometime.
So, that's it. That's everywhere I've lived actually. I can tell you that when people talk about a change of scenery, there's something to it. Places can make one person feel great and another feel miserable, but they do matter. What places have had the biggest impact on you in your life?