There’s actually a pretty decent bus system
April 13, 2019 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Vox, March 26, 2019: Moving from Seattle to Cedar Rapids cost nearly $6,000, and I’m so glad I did it. By Nicole Dieker
I’m paying $650 a month for a gorgeous studio with a view of the Cedar River and in-unit laundry. I’m the first tenant to occupy this apartment (and the first tenant to use its brand new appliances). Considering that my first Seattle apartment was a converted hotel room with no kitchen and a landlord who advised me to wash my dishes in a bus tub and dump the dishwater into the toilet — WHICH I DID, EVERY DAY — living in this apartment feels like living in another world.

Also, there’s actually a pretty decent bus system. (I know, right? Everyone is surprised.) That, combined with a bike and the occasional Uber, meant I would be able to move back to the Midwest without having to buy a car.
Vox, April 8, 2019: Move back to your dying hometown. Unless you can’t. By Lyz Lenz
Living in the heart of America, they both argue, is the kind of noble choice that could bridge our nation’s deep divides.

But who is allowed to “move back?” Vance, like Anderson, is writing as a white cis person. For bodies that don’t belong — the queer, trans, disabled, person of color, or immigrant body — the close, tight-knit community that the Midwest prides itself on can be more isolating than uniting. It can mean violence, fear, and exhaustion.
posted by Monochrome (88 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is weirdly interesting to me because I have been considering a job opportunity in Cedar Rapids, and I’ve never stepped foot inside of Iowa so I’m not really sure what it’s like. I think we’ve gotten to the point where all the nice towns that are anywhere close to the ocean are unbelievably expensive, so when I’ve been looking for a place to settle down permanently, a lot of the best options look like smaller cities in the Midwest, southwest or mountain West. The author seems to have made a great decision for herself, but I wonder what it would be like to take a family from somewhere like Seattle to Cedar Rapids.
posted by skewed at 10:06 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


I lived in Cedar Rapids for a few weeks, on a job. It was uncomfortable. Not just in a "no decent Mexican food" sort of way, but in its depression. "We're the serfs of the master, maybe we'll have burnt pork for lunch." ("Burnt pork" is a quote, BTW.) The kids at the local mall treated me like a celebrity, "You live in San Diego! Awesome!"

My heart goes out forever to these kids who feel alone and neglected in a land of plenty. Please give them a reason to hope.
posted by SPrintF at 10:16 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]


Let's not forget "non-Christian" or "never-married woman" as disqualifying identities for comfort in many parts of the Midwest. (These will tend to get you less blatant mistreatment that the ones correctly called out ahead of them, but they still...don't make for comfort.)
posted by praemunire at 10:22 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


If we ever get around to having that Eastern Iowa meetup we've been threatening, we are totally inviting both Lyz Lenz and Nicole Dieker.
I lived in Cedar Rapids for a few weeks, on a job. It was uncomfortable. Not just in a "no decent Mexican food" sort of way, but in its depression. "We're the serfs of the master, maybe we'll have burnt pork for lunch." ("Burnt pork" is a quote, BTW.) The kids at the local mall treated me like a celebrity, "You live in San Diego! Awesome!"
Can we not with this stuff?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:23 AM on April 13 [30 favorites]


Let's not forget "non-Christian" or "never-married woman" as disqualifying identities for comfort in many parts of the Midwest.
Hi! I'm a non-Christian, never-married woman who lives in Eastern Iowa. Please, tell me about my life!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:24 AM on April 13 [75 favorites]


Well, skewed, we'll tell you how it goes. I was raised in the small town Seattle burbs, and, like I was supposed to, I moved to the big city when I grew up. My parents and sisters followed. But man, it's gotten expensive here. My wife, who moved here for Microsoft, is burnt out on tech. So we're moving to Detroit next week. We've got friends there, and it'll help us out of tech and back into nonprofit work.

From there, we're looking at Cedar Rapids. She's from Iowa, and though she doesn't have much family, we like visiting a lot. Cedar Rapids is a cool little city where a lot of people are trying to make conscious decisions about economics and sustainability. I like that.

I was raised in Washington because my Angeleno parents couldn't afford to live in LA anymore in the '80s. Their grandparents came to LA from Texas and Oklahoma in the Dust Bowl, and they or their parents came from the respective Old Countries where they could no longer see a future. Maybe two generations from now 20 and 30 somethings will move from the bustling, crowded, expensive midwest to re-discover declining coastal cities like Seattle.
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 10:26 AM on April 13 [8 favorites]


"Burnt pork" is a quote, BTW.

Pretending regional foods don't exist is kind of mean, in a way that would get you dragged if you were talking about ethnic food.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:31 AM on April 13 [18 favorites]


[Standard request, if you don't have direct experience of the place, please don't slag it. At the same time, let's recognize different people can have differing experiences of a given place, so don't tell other people their experience is wrong; let's try to avoid over-generalizing "place is 100% like this".]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:32 AM on April 13 [25 favorites]


I’m also not worried about money anymore. Part of that comes from having been able to take a well-paying freelance career — by which I mean $67K gross business income, $40K adjusted gross income — from a high-cost-of-living area to a lower-cost-of-living area

That seems like a key piece here in the first article. In some fields, the salary difference (and availability of jobs) can be really steep between the coastal cities and other locations. If that is your situation, then you might take a substantial hit moving to a small city in the midwest that more than erases the savings in the cost of living.

But at the same time, coastal cities in general and Seattle in particular seem more and more unlivable if you aren't earning above a certain level (and/or didn't buy your house years ago). I'm not surprised some people are calling it quits and moving to places with a more humane cost of living and less oppressive traffic.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:51 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


I lived in Cedar Rapids for a few weeks, on a job. It was uncomfortable. Not just in a "no decent Mexican food" sort of way, but in its depression. "We're the serfs of the master, maybe we'll have burnt pork for lunch." ("Burnt pork" is a quote, BTW.) The kids at the local mall treated me like a celebrity, "You live in San Diego! Awesome!"

My heart goes out forever to these kids who feel alone and neglected in a land of plenty. Please give them a reason to hope.


Are you for real? This sounds like a parody of an elitist California asshole.
posted by JeffL at 11:10 AM on April 13 [33 favorites]


I've been through Cedar Rapids, but never lived there. I took a moment to read up on the place while I was in town, and was surprised to learn about the devastating floods in 2008 and 2016 - media coverage of these events didn't reach me in Seattle. I now forget where I read that Cedar Rapids was established on the Cedar River "because this river never floods." I hope they're able to build up flood protection effectively, it seemed like a nice small city with low rent and cool neighborhoods.
posted by seiryuu at 11:14 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


I think one thing that has surprised me about living in multiple cities on the coasts is that they are not as diverse as I thought. I am often in places where I am the only person who is not white, or me and my friends are the only group with more than one person non-white person. So on paper there might be more diversity, but for whatever reason people seem to segregate themselves in real life. And to be frank, my experience growing up in the Midwest was far better in this respect.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 11:19 AM on April 13 [21 favorites]


As an author

Great you're a writer and can freelance wherever you want congratulations. Go live in Shitsville Oklahoma and save 600/month on rent but stop trying to act like the rest of us who work in media, tech, advertising, public relations, fashion, publishing, and a hole array of other industries that are centered in NY and LA and other expensive cities with larger economies can just pack up and leave our networks. There are jobs here, and colleagues and recruiters and mentors and all of it translates to more opportunities. If your job is selling ad space for the Padookaville Post and you get laid off let me assure you there will not be 50 or even 5 other media properties looking for an ad account manager at that moment.

"All you fools paying Seattle/NY/SF rent just need to move to the middle of nowhere! You can have the life you dreamed of!" Is turning into the new "you should have just studied for a STEM career!" in terms of shitty life advice.
posted by windbox at 11:24 AM on April 13 [44 favorites]


every town is terrible in its own way. the trick is to find a terrible with you can live with
posted by entropicamericana at 11:25 AM on April 13 [37 favorites]


Are you for real?

Yes. I was surprised by my reception in Cedar Rapids. "San Diego?! Wow! Can I go there?" Really, it was disturbing. I expected "rah rah" boosterism from the adults, but the kids I talked to at the bus stops were all eager to get out of town.

This sounds like a parody of an elitist California asshole.

Yes, maybe. Perhaps that was my point. I assumed, "elitisted asshole" that I am, that teenagers everywhere had hope. I was astonished at how depressed the kids I met were. If you have a solution for this, I'd be glad to hear it, because it hurt me to leave those kids behind.
posted by SPrintF at 11:25 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


If you have a solution for this, I'd be glad to hear it,

As a former midwestern teenager who lives in a southern Minnesota town of 20k and teaches midwestern teenagers, I think the point is that most midwestern teenagers are not hopeless. Fetishization of California (and New York City) is baked into US popular culture, though.
posted by dismas at 11:32 AM on April 13 [16 favorites]


I grew up in San Diego and was absolutely desperate to get out of town after high school, so maybe that's a "kids" thing and not a "Midwest" thing. I've lived in the Midwest for the last 4 1/2 years, in a couple different places of varying sizes, and it's fine. I do stock up on burritos when I visit home though.
posted by LionIndex at 11:42 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


Here's a map of "Major Depressive Episodes in Adolescents" and while you could make a vague argument that the South and Midwest are a few percentage points less depressed (with some significant anomalies) than the West, it looks more like the real takeaway is that shit can suck for teens all over, really
posted by scrowdid at 11:43 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]


Go live in Shitsville Oklahoma and save 600/month on rent but stop trying to act like the rest of us who work in media, tech, advertising, public relations, fashion, publishing, and a hole array of other industries that are centered in NY and LA and other expensive cities with larger economies can just pack up and leave our networks. There are jobs here, and colleagues and recruiters and mentors and all of it translates to more opportunities. If your job is selling ad space for the Padookaville Post and you get laid off let me assure you there will not be 50 or even 5 other media properties looking for an ad account manager at that moment.

As per the moderator comment above, have you ever lived in Shitsville Oklahoma or are you just assuming this?

I worked as a software developer in the computer game industry in a St. Louis suburb. When I got out of the computer game industry, I found a job at an engineering software company almost immediately, which pays more than Blizzard would have offered me if I'd decided to go to California.

My mortgage on a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1450sq ft house with an enormous kitchen and a basement and a good sized yard, ten minutes away from my workplace, is $700/month.
posted by Foosnark at 11:44 AM on April 13 [19 favorites]


All the kids I talk to want to move to Colorado for some reason. I'm actually a little perplexed by this. I used to think it was pot, but now there are other places where you can get legal weed. But yeah, kids here do not seem particularly hopeless, and "I met a couple of kids at the mall once, and now I am an expert on the entire city" is a weird take.

I actually think one of the interesting things about these articles is that the authors are (not surprisingly, since they're writing articles) freelance journalists. I've noticed a little trend of journalists moving to or staying in cheaper places away from the coasts, and I actually really wonder how it's going to change things like political coverage. Usually, a bunch of journalists from D.C. parachute into Iowa every four years for caucus coverage, and they round up the usual suspects at a Pizza Ranch or some small-town diner, and then they write the usual features about what the yokels are thinking. It's going to be really interesting to see whether people like Anne Helen Petersen (who wrote really good stuff about the 2016 election) and Lyz Lenz and Chloe Angyal change the way mainstream media outlets cover the Midwest.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:49 AM on April 13 [19 favorites]


I left Seattle three years ago for south Everett because rent was slightly more affordable... but it's climbed back up to half of my monthly take-home pay again, and now that the city of Everett is spending about $600 million dollars on development of the Port of Everett to turn it into a big shopping/restaurant complex and luxury apartments meant to attract wealthy single millennials and dual-income tech families, this area won't be affordable for much longer. So I'm extra glad that I have plans to move somewhere in the general Cuyahoga Falls, OH area in about three months. I know it's a privilege to be able to do so; my job comes with me since I work remotely already, and I'm white and cis so I won't have those layers of bigotry to contend with. But I'm a single, middle-aged, politically left, pro-choice woman who fucks around with witchy shit, so I anticipate at least a little social rough sailing.

That being said, I'm a little surprised at how encouraging my local friends have been when they find out I'm moving to the Midwest. Aside from one woman who's just always a negative Nancy, they've all been like, "omg, what an adventure! you can actually afford to have a life and see people, unlike here, where nothing is affordable and traffic is so bad we only see our friends who live an hour away about twice a year if we're lucky!" I expected a lot more of the elitist "why are you moving to the Midwest" talk, to be honest.
posted by palomar at 11:57 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


the kids I talked to at the bus stops were all eager to get out of town.

Kids everywhere do this. Pittsburgh has changed a ton for the better in the four decades I've lived here and is now considered a pretty hip, happening place. The one thing that hasn't changed? The endless handwringing over how to convince our youth to stay here. The grass is always greener in a big international megalopolis when you're 15.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:02 PM on April 13 [20 favorites]


But I come from diffuse Delaware suburbia. I did briefly consider moving to Wilmington, but when I realized it cost as much to live there as Philadelphia, the choice really wasn’t a choice at all.
posted by Automocar at 12:06 PM on April 13


Cedar Rapids has a nice museum, but I haven’t spent any real time there. But the people there that I’ve met have been fun and interesting.

I did get a lot of side-eye from DC area people when I moved to Nebraska. A lot of folks seemed to think I’d be living in a sod house with no WiFi. I don’t know how real the “silicone prairie” stuff is around here but at the very least the WiFi is fine. And our sled hardly ever gets attacked by wolves.
posted by PussKillian at 12:07 PM on April 13 [15 favorites]


Nice article pairing, Monochrome.
posted by doctornemo at 12:12 PM on April 13 [6 favorites]


Wasn’t there a article recently about people moving from Seattle/Portland to Cedar Rapids saying the rents and house prices started to creep up around them? Like this feels like a Red Queen race to find the last remaining livable midsized city before the investment firms and property hoarders and global capital buy up everything and turn I into another speculation bubble.
posted by The Whelk at 12:15 PM on April 13 [13 favorites]


To me it actually sounds like a significant part of the author's decision wasn't only the draw of Cedar Rapids itself, but that she would be closer to her parents and her hometown. So, I would treat this as yeah, her living costs and stress are down, but she also had the advantage of moving to back to an area she's familiar with and has a support network close by. I mean, even if moving elsewhere is cheaper, I think some would have to at least think twice if they weren't familiar with the place and had no connections there.
posted by FJT at 12:17 PM on April 13 [10 favorites]


I've been doing some work on rural* futures for a few years, and am wondering where MeFites think they might be headed.

Lenz' conclusion points to a rural future that's increasingly separated from the rest of America:
I no longer believe in bridges. I don’t even believe in fixing our divide. Instead, what I believe is that we need to together stare deep into the gaping hole in our country and have an honest discussion about the cracks in our nation.

A recent NYTimes piece by an economist about rural America concluded that the best thing to do was accelerate migration out of the country and into cities. Presumably the next stage would be a depopulated heartland, perhaps staffed lightly by some ag workers in industrial farming.

The aging of the countryside points to a different future, with the country serving as a giant retirement area, populated mostly by retirees and associated service workers.

Or could be build up new ways of living in rural districts? Alternative energy is viable in some, and can anchor communities. The first linked article suggests a kind of Richard Florida countryside, driven by cultural workers. That would involve dealing with problems noted in the second article, not to mention the problem of bad internet.

*Setting aside, for the moment, the midwest's urban areas. (I used to live in one.)
posted by doctornemo at 12:17 PM on April 13 [5 favorites]


Cedar Rapids is not rural, you guys. It's not a big city, but it's a city. The biggest employer is Rockwell Collins.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:30 PM on April 13 [22 favorites]


I expected a lot more of the elitist "why are you moving to the Midwest" talk, to be honest.

In my recent experience, I've found that when you tell people you're making a big surprising move that explodes your life as you know it, they're intrigued and supportive, because they all dream about detonating their lives too. The specifics of the Big Change hardly matter: if it comes from a place of "fuck this, I'm out," your friends are generally with you, because most people's lives in this system are some degree of utter shit, and everyone secretly or not-so-secretly wants to toss the match and stride away without looking back.
posted by Beardman at 12:31 PM on April 13 [32 favorites]


Monochrome, thanks so much for including that second link.

I'm someone who grew up in a biggish city that has become bigger and REALLY fucking expensive (Seattle). I always grew up kinda-sorta fetishizing life in smaller-town America, perhaps because my mom (who's from Spokane) and my dad (from St. Louis) always made it sound so nice. Some part of me always expected to end up somewhere a bit further from the hubbub of city life.

This was all before I met the woman I fell in love with and eventually married. I'm a white man who grew up in a *breathtakingly* white bubble, and my spouse is a black woman who grew up in a diverse zip code where black role models (doctors, teachers, public officials) abound. Early in our relationship when we were sharing our ideas and dreams and hopes for our lives, I talked about living somewhere in "small town America." She gently told me that if our relationship was going anywhere serious, I needed to know that wasn't an option for her--that she did not feel safe or comfortable living somewhere without a sizable black population & where black folk were part of the institutional power structure.

We're incredibly lucky to have found a home that pretty much ticks all of our boxes: a tight-knit community that's economically and racially diverse, close to family, close to the city, and safe for our mixed-race kiddo to grow up in. It's also got the leisurely pace of life I always imagined I'd cherish (and I do!).

But I find this is a conversation I need to have over and over AND OVER again with my parents and other relatives when we're talking about family trips. Like, no, we're not going to northern Idaho! I've been there and it's beautiful and has plenty going for it, but my family's safety cannot be guaranteed in... lots of places in this world, and Coeur d'Alene certainly makes that list.
posted by duffell at 12:42 PM on April 13 [38 favorites]


I'm so glad to be leaving Seattle for my hometown of New Orleans in about a week or two. New Orleans feels so cheap after watching the rent on my moldy 2br ratchet up another hundred dollars every year. It's like, I feel like there's actually still room for a middle class there.

I am also probably spoilt by coming from there instead of Conservative Farmville Honkytown. Ain't nobody gonna give two shits about me being a trans lady down there.

The people I really feel sorry for are my friends who grew up in San Francisco and did not end up in tech. They will probably never live there again.
posted by egypturnash at 12:47 PM on April 13 [18 favorites]


Stayed in Seattle for three short breaks, and a seven week spell about a decade ago.

Lived in Grinnell, Iowa for two summer months in 2011, and three summer months in 2015. Coincidentally picking the time when it's swarming with presidential candidates. Many anecdotes. Mike Huckabee sure can sweat in a suit in high summer, even when he's standing awkwardly close to you in the walk-in beer chiller room of your local foodstore and cafe that has a rotating daily menu.

If I had to choose between Grinnell and Seattle for a permanent stay, and bearing in mind neither is perfect and neither is desperately evil, I'd pick Grinnell in less than a heartbeat. It seems affordable; for example, here's a four bedroom detached place for less than 150K. Unsure what that would buy you in Seattle?

It's also very quiet (which doesn't suit all), there's a surprisingly large variety of places to eat and drink at, and the college, which dominates the town, has a lot going on. The county fairs are cute, the state fair is somewhere between awesome and bonkers, the fourth of July parade is farmer-oriented, and A&M diner opens before 6am, the pies are fantastic, the menu cheap, and the Christmas tree is lit every day of the year.

But yeah, it's not for everyone. If you want lots of shopping options, then nope. You drive for an hour or so to Des Moines or some other city. Public transport is virtually zero. Major league sports: nope. A vast variety of food options: nope (though some of the other towns in Iowa turned out to be fantastic; one of the best meals I've ever had was in Marshalltown). Starbucks? Nope; there's Saints Rest cafe and that's better.

If you want a quiet walk to see fireflies in woodlands (someone else's video as I found them wonderful but near-impossible to photograph), cornfields, famous cornfield/baseball combinations (picture by Jessamyn), ice creams and - again - quiet. Rural Iowa.

Oh yeah, one other thing.

Culver's Butterburgers.

I think it's time to make plans to go back. IRL meetup, anyone?
posted by Wordshore at 12:48 PM on April 13 [11 favorites]


Where moving to lower cost of living locations that have commensurately lower salaries will fuck you is if you have significant debt. Obviously, this constrains the choices of people who have large student loans or a high revolving debt load.

If you're not in that situation, there are islands of diversity and sanity even in the reddest states.
posted by wierdo at 12:49 PM on April 13 [10 favorites]


(On reviewing my comment, I should clarify: I'm not calling St. Louis a "small town"; my dad grew up in the STL burbs, and spent a lot of time in small-town America around the Midwest in his twenties, which is the context behind that comment.)
posted by duffell at 12:55 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


feeling the kind of disconnection that comes with only knowing a handful of people and only seeing them once a month or so because the city was so large that it took half the evening to get where you wanted to go.

This part hit home for me - there's a running joke in my friends that the first step of any social event around here starts with, "first, drive for half an hour." I have a good sized circle of friends, but they're scattered anywhere from 10-60 minute's drive so it's hard to get together on a regular basis, especially as more and more of many of their live are consumed after having kids.

I spent a long time in an area about half the population and size of Cedar Rapids and it was so much easier to be social because everyone was so centralized. It was possible to be social on an impromptu basis in a way that's not in bigger areas unless you happen to live in an area with people friends nearby. My neighbors are nice enough people but they're nearly twice my age, learn towards conservatism (and to some degree racism), and have little common interests.
posted by Candleman at 12:57 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


Oh, forgot; Raygun, of Iowa t-shirt fame, have a nice selection of Cedar Rapids merchandise.
posted by Wordshore at 12:59 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Hi! I'm a non-Christian, never-married woman who lives in Eastern Iowa. Please, tell me about my life!

I grew up in the Midwest and much of my family still lives there. Sorry, going to have to reserve the right to talk about mine. I even went to the trouble of saying "many parts of the Midwest," not all, so if your experience has been different from mine, that's fine. But some of us were pushed as much as we were pulled.
posted by praemunire at 1:36 PM on April 13 [15 favorites]


When I met my now-husband, we were living in DC, and I lived in Alexandria and he lived in Takoma Park. Had we both not worked on M street it would have been like a long distance relationship. We noped out of DC after being together for a year and moved back to Pittsburgh (though we met in DC, coincidentally his family is from Pittsburgh). It was so fucking expensive to live in DC (even in the 90s). We boomeranged back a couple times but I'm so so so glad we landed in Pittsburgh. I never wanted to leave, it was just job stuff that forced us to leave for a few years.

We both have good relationships with our parents, so being close to them is priceless, especially now with a wee sprog. I wouldn't side eye anyone who was enthusiastic about moving back to flyover to be close to family. That makes total sense.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:37 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


Every time I see one of these articles, I feel like writing a parody where I return to my hometown and rhapsodize over how connected I feel to humanity as I sit in traffic on the 10. People from small towns and New Yorkers who pride themselves on never having even touched a steering wheel don't understand the surge of joy that comes when suddenly cars start to move again. There's a feeling of community that is built when you signal and the driver in the next lane slows down and waves you over. You will never know each other's names, unless she rear-ends you when the cars inexplicably throw on their brakes again, but it is a moment of profound connection that has to be experienced to be understood.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:46 PM on April 13 [12 favorites]


I wouldn't side eye anyone who was enthusiastic about moving back to flyover to be close to family.

Yeah, I'm not really sure who she thought was going to find that weird. Pretty much everyone over the age of 30 (or who has a kid or two) understands the value, and sometimes necessity, of being close to family.
posted by praemunire at 1:47 PM on April 13


I was born and raised in Seattle, moved to San Francisco (and later Oakland) in a way that was timed to watch both cities swell up with money and lose their stitching.

But what was most striking was moving to London. I mean, it was foreign and had steam engines older than the US constitution, still running and so on. Even Tony Bennett said the food was good now, and it was!

But everyone I'd talk to here when I told them I'd moved from Oakland, well they'd get this weird look on their face. Like "Why would you move from Cal-i-fornia to this dump? I mean you were already living in paradise, right?"

I'd just mumble stuff about how I hate cars and never learned to drive and the US makes it hard to live unless you do, and how Seattle's climate is almost exactly London's, and so on and so forth. But it didn't matter: I've actually lived in all of these places for years at a stretch. I've had to go from the honeymoon period of just-got-here through the quirky anecdotes of "OMG can you believe this place?" down to disillusioned "ugh, you people, you've never lived here so you'll never even understand how broken things are, here" and finally to "Yeah it's a rum old world, I guess, and everywhere's got its problems"

But when you talk to someone, they only have a rough memory of propaganda and myth and cultural artefacts filtered through all sorts of systems designed to glamourise some things and brutally typecast others. And when you bring your own stories in, you're only feeling part of the elephant anyway.

But hey, mass generational migration is just the way the US has always been. It stirs the pot a bit. I love that people who moved to big cities to get to working transit systems are finding that they can cycle and ride the bus now in less dense areas. Maybe they can help drive transport policy in those places! Sounds great!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:56 PM on April 13 [5 favorites]


Considering the realms of basic blog content this author slogs out, I guess that living somewhere cheaper might mean fewer but better pieces.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:01 PM on April 13


Ouch. She was the main writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog that shut down a couple of months ago.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:05 PM on April 13 [11 favorites]


Like this feels like a Red Queen race to find the last remaining livable midsized city

I get that people in some industries face strong pressures to very expensive areas, and that many people want to live in highly desirable metro areas. But there is still lots of the US that's more or less affordable, and it's not limited to midwestern or rust-belt midsized cities. Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa, Jacksonville, Charlotte, and so on.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:09 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


Yeah but the speculation bubble is coming for them soon too
posted by The Whelk at 2:10 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


...Unless the economy collapses first, she says cheerily.
posted by praemunire at 2:16 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


Something I think that is hard for people to see because there is an exterior homogeneity is the actually variety that exists in the Midwest. I was born and raised in Eastern Iowa and the difference between some towns and others is huge even if they look the same to an untrained eye. The difference between a Grinnell and a Pella, two small towns from the same part of Iowa, is HUGE. Yet, I don't know if someone not from the area would realize the cultural difference without a long-term stay (other than the whole Dutch thing in Pella).
I'm a lesbian, my wife is a POC (and grew up in a far more rural Iowa town than I). If there is fear to be had we have it, yet clearly there is more than that. Feeling discomfort and fear is real, but isn't the whole of our lives. Just isn't always apparent to those who don't know how to look for it, or are accustomed to certain kind of symbols and signals that are different here, or who value different amenities in their daily life.

For Cedar Rapids specifically: the NewBo area of Cedar Rapids is a thriving interesting cultural area. My friend is a baker and artisan in that area. I've actually sold my own art and goods at the NewBo market before. They held a women's music festival there in the fall. Most cities are what the people there make them, and after the 2008 flood the people of Cedar Rapids rebuilt the Bohemian district into what it is, and it's a pretty great community. Also CR and IC have great public libraries.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 2:38 PM on April 13 [16 favorites]


Pittsburgh has changed a ton for the better in the four decades I've lived here and is now considered a pretty hip, happening place. The one thing that hasn't changed? The endless handwringing over how to convince our youth to stay here.

My wife is from Portland, Oregon, and after a recent trip to Pittsburgh she told me it reminded her of Portland before it became what it is right now.
posted by mecran01 at 2:53 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


My wife is from Portland, Oregon, and after a recent trip to Pittsburgh she told me it reminded her of Portland before it became what it is right now.

As someone who deeply loves Pittsburgh and hopes to get back there someday, that scares me a little bit!
posted by DingoMutt at 2:56 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


One of the best parts of moving to a smaller city is how much easier it is to do things, and how much more I actually do things. In bigger cities there were so many things to do, but the effort required meant we really just sat at home most of the time.
posted by bongo_x at 4:07 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]


As someone who deeply loves Pittsburgh and hopes to get back there someday, that scares me a little bit!

Yeah, but Pittsburgh has considerably shittier weather. That's a deal breaker for a lot of people. The secret is definitely out, but snow.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:15 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


"Kids everywhere do this."

When I was growing up in the Chicago suburbs we whined constantly about there being nothing to do, but the issue was really that teenagers can't GO to a lot of the really cool places, because they can't drink, or because cool things are very expensive, or because they have curfews. In Peoria high school students would always say to me "OMG you grew up in CHICAGO, you could go to CLUBS!" except, no I couldn't, I too was 16 and the clubs were 21+. And sure, going to Second City was great, but it's like $50! You only go once or twice. The problem of teenagerhood is that you're either too young or too broke to do the cool shit you'd like to do, so wherever you live is boring.

"Culver's Butterburgers."

A. fricken. men.

I'm biased because I'm a Midwest homer, but I haaaaaaaaaaated living in DC and could not WAIT to get back to the Midwest. What I really liked about living in the small-city midwest (Peoria) is that culture is very participatory. In Chicago (or any coastal big city), you can go see a professional classical ensemble any night of the week. But in Peoria, if classical music is important to you, you're gonna need to play in the local symphony. (As the managing partner at my husband's lawfirm did.) If you love architecture, you're gonna need to join the local architecture foundation and help plan the architecture walks. If you think your city needs a children's museum, you're gonna need to create, plan, fundraise for, and open a museum with 100 of your closest friends (as I did). If you love comedy, you're going to be getting up at open mics. If you love indie rock, you're going to go to the Park District and convince them they need to run a summer indie rock series and they are going to give you funding and let you plan it and you get to meet all your favorite bands (as my friend did).

Because there's less going on, everyone goes to a wider diversity of stuff. We'd go to the Ren Faire (which is our jam) and we'd see EVERYONE WE KNEW, regardless of whether they were "ren faire people" because it was the big cool thing that was on that weekend. We'd go to our friends' events even when they weren't our big interests, because it was something neat to do, and we got exposed to a lot of stuff we otherwise might not have tried. Plus local events are SO CHEAP. The Civic Center touring Broadway productions and arena concerts are expensive, but the symphony, the opera, the ballet, minor league baseball and hockey, college basketball, garden walks, etc., it's all SO CHEAP or else free. Plus the local zoo and museum were 10 minutes from our house and had free parking; we went to the planetarium literally twice a week when Micro McGee was space crazy at ages 3-4 to watch the star show; a yearly membership to the museum (art, science, local exhibits, and planetarium) was $85 for the family. And we went TWICE A WEEK! Zoo was about the same, we generally went weekly.

There's much bigger and better stuff in Chicago, but it takes close to an hour to get to the museum campus from here and costs $24 just to park plus admission for five is easily over $100. Chicago offers so much more higher-quality stuff than Peoria did, but it's so much harder to take advantage of what the city offers than it was in Peoria. (Plus in Peoria basically every group -- social organization, volunteer group, church, nursing homes, alumni clubs, even the park district -- were constantly organizing trips to Chicago where for $55 you'd hop on a bus in the morning, shop and have lunch (on your own), go to the theater in the evening at group-purchase rates, and have the bus bring you home. Which, that's probably what it'd cost for me to go by myself from the suburbs, so it was a pretty good deal.)

Anyway, small-city Midwest: Culture is participatory and really easy to access. And after 2 years there you'll know 75% of the people on the news -- anchors, man-on-the-street interviewees, local politicians and bigwigs, even the criminals. And you get to watch the news while texting all your friends, "YOUR TIE LOOKS STUPID!" "YOUR KIDS ARE SO CUTE!" etc. (Oh plus we got to be in a local PBS promo which, honestly, lifetime dream achieved!) Watching the news in Chicago I'm very grumpy, like, "I don't know ANY of these people!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:16 PM on April 13 [28 favorites]


As someone who grew up in Southern California and currently lives in Chicago having lived in Eastern Iowa (Iowa City and Cedar Rapids), I fucking love Iowa. I moved there with no family, no friends, and no safety net save for my grad program, and it was one of best decisions I've made. My born-and-raised Iowan friends -- some white, some POC, mentioning only because sometimes people forget POC can be from Iowa -- are among the kindest, brightest, hardest-working, most progressive-yet-grounded-in-that-Midwestern-way people I know.

I love Chicago but I miss pieces of Iowa sometimes. That "heartland" thing is real. I understand my experience is not that of others, and that's valid too.

(For good Mexican street-style tacos, hit up La Regia in Iowa City. Caucho in Cedar Rapids is good too, albeit fancy. And if you think I need to qualify my recommendations with "I grew up in SoCal" and "I ate about 10 street tacos and 6 restaurant tacos when I spent a week in Mexico City", well there you go.)
posted by nicodine at 4:25 PM on April 13 [8 favorites]


I've been doing some work on rural futures for a few years, and am wondering where MeFites think they might be headed.

It's interesting having recently visited my small town (pop. ~5000) in the Berkshires (MA). As I've grown up and out I've watched the town and surrounding area wither and shrink over time as most of the industry disappeared about 100 years ago when the textiles/paper/etc. industries went away when the train from Boston stopped coming.

I didn't grow up in "Tourist Berkshires" and that world was completely alien to me, but there was always a vague push locally to do get some "huge $1 million grant" to transform the area into a destination, usually tourism-based or art-based. Growing up, the town always talked like they were one big idea away from fixing the economy for everybody.

I can see now that we had a rich, mahogany-laden library and a huge, weirdly impressive school auditorium because the town had once been rich. People came there for jobs and most people left when the jobs left. My whole childhood was watching that withering process continue - most people were working jobs supporting the community in some way but there was no money coming IN so people were extremely cost-aware and things like yard sales were key. There were a lot of old people, lots of cousins with the same last name in school and a very townie feel overall.

I say all this as a backdrop to seeing how the place has changed. The old broken train tracks have been replaced by an exercise path, some of the abandoned mill buildings have been converted to co-working spaces and art studios. I now see two completely separate experiences there. Old friends from high school on Facebook who still live there are still circling the drain: more than a couple of them have posted about young people dying from OD, which was unheard of there when I was a kid. Meth is a big problem. Money is still a constant problem, probably worse then before for those without schooling.

But there is this small and growing rich-ass community that is building an alternative experience there. They have urban sensibilities but came for the natural beauty, the slower pace and the cheaper prices. Just like art studios are going into the carcasses of the mills, they are slipping in high-end cafes and food markets while the sad local supermarkets and old malls are getting torn down.

So I see this shell of town is starting to be taken over and rebuilt by outsiders but instead of propping up the local economy it is replacing it. I know that townie mindset and most people aren't integrating or embracing these changes, they are ignoring them and just seeing the old places and things they know continuing to fade away. So it's a little complicated - even with new industries coming in some of these rural locations are too hollowed out to benefit from them, at least directly right now.

On the flip side, I think this article and others like it are showing that the urban experience is reaching a level of unhappiness that is making these rural locations appealing again. Shitty towns are always full of teens dreaming of getting out, that's not news. But urbanites dreaming of going rural? As long as a place has a kernel of something unique to draw people that is outside of what the city offers (solitude, nature, art, tourism, community, etc.) I think more rural places will have this sort of rejuvenation and rebuild slowly thanks to remote working and the crush of urban expenses.
posted by lubujackson at 4:31 PM on April 13 [17 favorites]


In bigger cities there were so many things to do, but the effort required meant we really just sat at home most of the time.

THIS. I live in San Francisco and there are so many amazing things to do, both in the city and within a ~4 hour drive, that literally top the list of "What I would do on a perfect day." But the other aspects of my life in SF, with job, stress, sadness/helplessness for the homeless people who are suffering all along my street, difficulty getting basic things done, time/money/energy spent on visiting far-away family, that I do so little of it. The vast majority of my waking hours are spent doing the types of activities that I would be doing anywhere - waking up, eating, going to work, going to the grocery store, hanging out with my spouse in our apartment.

BUT our career fields, the proximity to other people who are in our stage of life and have similar values/outlooks, the weather... those are still winning out over our hoped-for move to More Affordable Midwest City. And economically, both my spouse's, and my, extended family members have struggled with finding and retaining jobs as employers shrink in all but the biggest cities, so there are very compelling reasons on both sides of the equation.

Everything about these tradeoffs gives me a kind of constant FOMO-like "Fear Of Having Made The Wrong Decision" (FOHMTWD, not as catchy), and I'm feeling less alone after reading the thoughtful comments in this thread.
posted by rogerroger at 4:32 PM on April 13 [10 favorites]


I think that in addition to the existence of certain fields of jobs, how much better off you are relative to the local economy can make a ton of difference. If moving from a higher CoL area to a lower one boosts you a few (or even more than a few) percentages up the economic spectrum, even if absolute earnings remain the same or is even lower, a lot can be forgiven about the lack of amenities in the lower CoL area.

I grew up in Vancouver, did undergrad/ college in Iowa (3.5 yrs in Mt. Vernon, a semester in Ames). Cedar Rapids and Iowa city were both 20 minutes drive away, in opposite directions, from Mt. Vernon. I found Ames to be actually kind of interesting and the restaurant scene wasn't bad.

I was living in a prime location in Vancouver and my commute to work in a suburb was 35/40 minutes. Then work moved to a distant rural suburb and went up to 1.5+ hours each way. I moved an hour away to cut my commute back down to 35/40 minutes and despite the distance, I'm not really saving much money - and I have to drive everywhere for everything, having moved away from one of the highest walking score neighbourhoods in the city.

The nature/ stage of my job changed, and I'm a major equity holder in the company going through a delicate transition period so there really wasn't much of a choice to trying to find another job - another job in the same field would end up being equally (or even more) remote.

The US interstate and highway system is a thing of beauty. If my current career implodes, I'd at least seriously consider moving back to a rural liberal arts college town in Iowa if I had reasonable assurances of tenure track in a STEM field. With the internet and USPS/ Amazon, I could deal with it - despite being PoC and trans (I figure I'd have to go back further in the close thought; my first time around as an college student didn't work out at all).

"College towns" don't really exist in Canada, our smaller settlements between major cities are much smaller and far more remote than those in the USA.
posted by porpoise at 4:41 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


urbanites dreaming of going rural?

A millennia-old fantasy! If there had been a Mefi in the heyday of Rome, it would have been full of people bitching about many of the same things we bitch about in the city now, except I guess we wouldn't be denominating the rent in Arabic numerals.

"College towns" don't really exist in Canada, our smaller settlements between major cities are much smaller and far more remote than those in the USA.

Kingston seems pretty nice?
posted by praemunire at 4:50 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


A whole lot of "is living in small town x acceptable" is gated on whether you visibly fit in with the locals. The bigger the city, the larger the standard deviation of appearance/behaviour can be before you start getting stared at.

My partner and I would sure as shit be financially set if we'd stayed in Small City, Canada, but I'm sorry, being glared at endlessly because you present as non-binary is like endlessly having to breathe poisonous air. We're broke as fuck (like, where is the cheap cheese on sale this week kind of broke) in Largest City In, Canada, but we have found Our People and Our Place and the "air" is fresh and clean.

So what I'm saying is, job portability vs cost of living calculations are nice but if you've even been spit on walking down the street, judge carefully your next place of residence.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:54 PM on April 13 [12 favorites]


Kingston seems pretty nice?

Kingston's, like, 125,000 people. Mt. Vernon, IA is about 4,000. Grinnell is a little bigger at 9,000.
posted by porpoise at 5:08 PM on April 13


Fetishization of California (and New York City) is baked into US popular culture, though.

I was going to skip this, because it's sort of a pet peeve of mine, but yes. California is really good and really bad, and it's all really different, it's a big state. But what it's not is some sort of paradise.

These discussions always seem to lean towards "you can live in a large expensive coastal city, or else some small city in the Midwest".

There's a whole lot of other places to live in the South and Southwest. Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston, many others are not small cities and are not expensive. There are lots of smaller and mid sized cities to choose from.

I get the bias, I know pretty much nothing about the Midwest. It seems like a foreign country to me. So don't forget there's a whole other half of the country.
posted by bongo_x at 5:33 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


In my experience, smaller cities in the Midwest or anywhere in the U.S have a whole different and better feel if they have a decent sized state college, say, 10,000 students or more.
posted by JackFlash at 5:45 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]


The vast majority of my waking hours are spent doing the types of activities that I would be doing anywhere - waking up, eating, going to work, going to the grocery store, hanging out with my spouse in our apartment.

Yes. I started saying "You know we could live 99.9% of this life in a city a tenth this size"
But like I said, it wasn't really true in the way that I thought. I moved from really big city, to big city, to medium sized city, and found I was more engaged and doing more with every move.

Some of that is age and personality. Just not wanting to make all the effort required after a while.

Everything about these tradeoffs gives me a kind of constant FOMO-like "Fear Of Having Made The Wrong Decision" (FOHMTWD, not as catchy)


There's also the "LA/SF/NYC is the center of the universe!" thing that makes people feel like if they leave it's equivalent to living in a hut in Antarctica.
posted by bongo_x at 5:47 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


"These discussions always seem to lean towards "you can live in a large expensive coastal city, or else some small city in the Midwest". ... I get the bias, I know pretty much nothing about the Midwest. It seems like a foreign country to me. So don't forget there's a whole other half of the country."

I wonder if this is because post-WWII, Midwestern states funded education like WHOA, and funded their state university systems like WHOA, so you have a lot of really well-educated Midwesterners in the chattering classes who are now moving back to the Midwest (where we no longer fund education or higher education nearly so well). Education in the Midwest -- both K-12 and collegiate -- was one of the crown jewels of the nation, these glorious land-grant universities where farmers' sons were studying Shakespeare and going to grad school at Harvard and discovering warfarin and building the internet and creating the Mayo Clinic and turning the US into the breadbasket (/cornbasket) of the world. Not nearly as much these days (although Minnesota is going for it).

The Western states were smaller population-wise, and their education systems less well-funded for much of that period. So I wonder if the uniquely powerful Midwestern university system from 1950-1980ish leads to some of this Midwest focus.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:05 PM on April 13 [11 favorites]


I grew up just outside of Cedar Rapids, it's not a bad place. The state gives a shit about its schools, you can afford a house there, and you can get some damn fine sweet corn. It's the City of Five Smells Seasons. (Small nitpick on the article: the Crunch Berries are from the Quaker Oats plant, the General Mills plant often smelled of Cheerios.)

Once I graduated, there wasn't much there for me, and I left. I don't miss having Chuck Grassley as a Senator, I am thankful not to be in the "heartland" anymore (how I hated that term), and being ground zero for every political campaign every couple of years seems to be incredibly draining when I talk to the folks.

Iowa City would be my choice for where to live, hopefully the water has gotten better since I lived there but you can't beat Prairie Lights for bookstores.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:14 PM on April 13 [5 favorites]


We made the choice to go from a long term situation in Charlotte to a rural but dense town in Minnesota because it's a hell of a lot more comfortable to live here. Sure the weather is crappy half the year but the flip side is the whole area is designed to accommodate the weather being crap half the year. You can walk across town in 20 minutes, there's bars in neighborhoods, every street is a through street.

The pay might be lower but you don't spend 30 minutes going 2 miles because every single housing area is a tiny isolated subdevelopment that feeds into an arterial road so you're not eating hours a day sitting in traffic to get to a slightly higher paying job.

Honestly, there's lots of things that drive me crazy about the Midwest (hello weird passive aggressive judgment) but small cities that were built to be accessible and not just isolated suburbs is such a huge plus.
posted by Ferreous at 6:22 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


t eyebrows, the sad thing I've realised about the decline in progressive values in the Midwest was that for a lot of the states that progressive nature was based on ethnic homogeneity. It's much easier to sell the communal good when everyone looked the same as you. Bill Jorgenson was just fine with funding taxes to send Fred Johansen to state University but much less comfortable with those taxes funding Juan Sanchez.

Seeing the decline of Wisconsin is especially galling but not surprising.
posted by Ferreous at 6:33 PM on April 13 [11 favorites]


I lived in Cedar Rapids for a few weeks, on a job. It was uncomfortable. Not just in a "no decent Mexican food" sort of way, but in its depression.

Well, thank god you didn't swing by Waterloo.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:36 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Kingston's, like, 125,000 people. Mt. Vernon, IA is about 4,000. Grinnell is a little bigger at 9,000.

Kingston's about the same size as Ann Arbor, MI, which I think would qualify as one of the top five Midwestern "college towns" most people would think of. Just saying: you have one!
posted by praemunire at 7:05 PM on April 13


I mean, if you want to get political in the heartland

I heard the Columbus groups are doing lots of low profile good shit, some around food deserts.
posted by The Whelk at 7:10 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Iowa City would be my choice for where to live, hopefully the water has gotten better since I lived there but you can't beat Prairie Lights for bookstores.

Iowa City replaced its riverside water treatment plant early in this century with a new facility north of town on high ground. The water now is excellent.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:20 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Just saying: you have one!

I concede my previous denial, and I'm not going to get fighty over this. It's probably my background where college/ undergrad has a different distinction than college/ university/ community college in the USA.

While I am aware of a plethora of - expensive - private liberal arts colleges rivate liberal arts colleges scattered throughout the USA, many established in the earlier 1900's, the "small schools" up here are more akin to "distance learning" or "online degree" level places.

Langley, BC (~25,000) has Kwantlen Polytechnic University, it's a far cry from an institution like Grinnell College or Cornell College. Trinity Western is also in Langley and has about 4,000 students but it's a fucking travesty. Getting from Langley to Vancouver is closer to an hour over the 0 minutes from Mt. Vernon to Iowa City.

An important distinction is that there are a lot of small towns in the USA that are built around institutes of higher learning; up here, as settlements get larger there becomes a demand for a cut-rate/ subsidized institute of higher education to keep young people in the area instead of relocating to the urban hubs. It's all down to the absolute distance and population density thing. We're far fewer and a LOT more spread out.

Huh, looked up my old alma mater and the faculty has been remarkably stable, over 20 years after I enrolled as a freshman - and the assistant chem prof from Grinnell who defected to Cornell in my Junior year is a full prof now.

With my credentials, I'm never getting a shot at Queen's in Kingston as a TT Prof, whereas I could be a juicy candidate at private liberal arts colleges, given appropriate timing as is the case this this kind of thing.
posted by porpoise at 7:37 PM on April 13


While it's great to hear that people know POC who live happily in the midwest, I don't think that anecdotes like that would help non-white people trying to figure out if your midwestern city is a good place to raise non-white families.

What I want to hear ( particularly from non-white folks in or from the midwest) is what rules you have to live by to get along? How much of the city/ state can you travel by yourself? Can you date or marry someone of a different race and still be received well? What neighborhoods should you never step foot in? How do you have to interact with police? Teachers? Neighbors? Do you have to get dressed up to shop without being harassed? I'm a black person and I have yet to meet another black person who doesn't have the answers to those questions on the tip of their tongue--wherever they're from. These are the things I discuss with black people considering moving away from someplace like DC where, by and large, we're treated pretty well. Learning these rules is taxing and frankly demoralizing, but it's necessary for survival. They are what I consider first, when I think about moving to a place, cost of living comes well down the list.

For me, the DC-area will always be expensive, have bad traffic, and be less than fashionable, but I can travel pretty darn freely; sit down and be served in pretty much any restaurant; and hold my husband's hand ( Hi, duffell :-*) without being stared at. It's worth the price of admission. I'm also lucky that it's home. I've only had to learn so many rules and I'm just unwilling to put more ceiling tiles over my sky.

Also, can y'all do me a favor and be specific about your race/ ethnicity or the race of your POC friends/ partners in these responses. There's a world of difference between the experience of a green-eyed white/Asian person and melanin-rich Black American person. To my good white people: I know we often frown on saying "my black friend" or "my Latino friend," but this is a conversation where a blanket "POC" is kind of meaningless.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 7:47 PM on April 13 [34 favorites]


Iowa City water news is good to hear. There is a reason the Breathed “farewell to the city” comic specifically called it out as tasting like household cleaning products!

Also Cedar Rapids has the Kolache Festival. I could go for six or seven dozen about now.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:01 PM on April 13


Well, my brother and his family are looking to move out of Ann Arbor because--among other reasons, of course--my sister-in-law, coming most recently from the East Coast, does not feel particularly comfortable or safe as a Jewish person raising a Jewish child there. Ann Arbor!

I concede my previous denial, and I'm not going to get fighty over this.

Sorry. Not trying to lecture you on your own career! Kingston just always seems underrated to me.
posted by praemunire at 10:29 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


every town is terrible in its own way. the trick is to find a terrible with you can live with

Seattle is a wonderful city today, if you can make it work for you in 2019. If you can't, then you would be happier anywhere else. But I suspect this is true of every place on earth, at every scale, for every human being, who is where they are, and being either happy or unhappy.

There's a lot to objectively make Seattle not work well for most, at this point in time. Many are perhaps coming to Seattle expecting the city to work well for them. New financial and transportation equilibriums may be reached by 2035-2040, but those equilibriums may not ever be workable for more than a small percentage of workers, in any case.

At this time in history, as of 2019, this is perhaps true of American cities with an economy that is focused on technology, which is what now drives investment and hiring, along with the cycle of problems with growth which accompany those.

Cities either grow or die. Places change. In the future, climate change may drive the kinds of change that make the Midwest unlivable in its own way. Migration of workers away from less-inhabitable coastal regions may drive up rents and secondary living costs for workers in formerly livable areas like Cedar Rapids and the like.

Seattle was a different city in 2009. I would be curious to know what Dieker might think about her new living situations in 2029 and 2039.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:40 PM on April 13


Growing up in small town New Jersey in the 70s, I couldn't imagine living anywhere but New York when I grew up. It was the biggest most exciting city and parts of my family had lived there for more than two hundred years. But when I was grown up, I followed a girlfriend to Pittsburgh, of all places, with the agreement that we'd only be here until she finished grad school. That was in 1989 and I'm still here and will probably never leave now.

Once you're embedded in a small city for more than a few years, it's hard to even imagine dealing with the expense and complexity of a place like New York or SF. I'd have to figure how to rent an apartment or even how to live in one. I just could never give up my walkable neighborhood and a mortgage payment that's about 10% of our income to live somewhere where I'd have to spend half my income just to live in a two bedroom apartment.
posted by octothorpe at 11:45 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


The first link was really setting off my "sponsored content" alarm bells and sure enough the entire Vox vertical "The Goods" is an American Express property. Credit card companies have completely saturated the personal finance space over the last 8-10 years so now instead of just blatantly shilling credit cards, the articles encourage general increases in credit card-friendly spending. Like dropping $6k to basically move back home.
posted by joechip at 10:16 AM on April 14 [17 favorites]


Yikes. Good catch, joechip.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:45 AM on April 14


praemunire, what about Ann Arbor made your sister-in-law feel unsafe raising a Jewish child there?
posted by doctornemo at 3:19 PM on April 14


Not offering my experience to neutralize someone else's, but I grew up Jewish in a decidedly non-coastal (southern) town of 30K (well, middle school there and then high school in an adjacent town of 200K) and if I ever experienced any antisemitism, it was so subtle I didn't pick up on it. I think I was the only Jew in my grade in the smaller town, and my classmates were benignly curious and came to my bar mitzvah.
posted by Smearcase at 3:28 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


As I understand it--we are not super-close, and I didn't want to appear to be questioning her experience by cross-examining it in detail--she felt that the minute she stepped outside of central Ann Arbor proper she was surrounded by red hats and Jesus bumper stickers wherever she went.

(Perhaps she also spent two or three minutes with some of my other relatives living nearby (though out of the city precincts), who think they "stand with Israel" when they want to use Jews as puppets in their apocalyptic fantasies...)
posted by praemunire at 4:20 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


(I'm embarrassed to admit that I first learned of the continuing viability of anti-Semitism in the modern-day U.S. from a friend living in North Carolina explaining to me the security measures her synagogue had to take, even back then [= 20 years ago].)
posted by praemunire at 4:23 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I moved to St. Louis, and then after that Louisville, after living in N.Y.C. and my family is new england east coast. We did look there! But housing is expensive and job opportunities are few and far between, so moving to a small town close to family wasnt an option for me.

Midsized midwestern cities it was, even without knowing a soul. And it turns out, if you move to a city - any city, really - there are racially and culturally diverse populations. And they cling to each other. So now we pay $500/month to live in a house, and we hang out w poly folks, queer folks, antifa, folks of color, trans folks, etc. I get that it's not for everyone, especially depending on your occupational field, but it may be a better fit for more folks than ppl initially think.
posted by likeatoaster at 5:20 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Thank you, praemunire.
Yes, there's long been a cultural difference between Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.
posted by doctornemo at 6:08 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I feel like we do these threads every few months and we don't do them well.

I've lived in Seattle for almost 24 years (save a year in the UK). I can tell you the place has changed radically, twice, in that time. It's not the same city. It's also unaffordable thanks to uncontrolled population growth slamming into a racist control on housing growth (our shitty zoning laws). It will never be the weird artist commune it was once. On the other hand, the year I moved here there were over 60 murders. Two decades on we average 25 murders a year with a 40% larger population. And the food scene is now world class. Still, rent is atrocious now, even over just 10 years ago.

I grew up in Tulsa. That was a town in stasis. It's improving now and is finally seeing its arts scene really pick up with an influx of new blood chasing rock bottom housing prices. But it's also a place where there was a rolling battle over whether they'd abide by Amazon's trans-friendly bathroom policy for their building code -- despite the capital (and the allure of "it's Amazon") being injected.

My mother is from a market town in Oklahoma. It's also been trying hard. But it's also vacant building after vacant building. They got rid of the traffic lights on the main drag because they didn't need them anymore. My mom fled from there because it was small, insular, and judgmental. She went to Tulsa. (I fled from Tulsa because it was small, insular, and judgmental. I expect my kid will do the same to Seattle.)

The point of all this is simple: Everyone has reasons they live places -- Be close to their older parents, cheaper cost of living, good schools, diversity, being around a community of like minded people, food. Maybe instead of descending into puerile judgements we should be considering the whys and whether the communities we need to create in our interconnected and climate change scarred world should be more than simple dismissals. I am not denying the lack of safety that people who aren't cishet WASPs feel in most all these places. But I am asking if calling a place "Shitsville, Oklahoma" is the right answer to where we are now, where there are a dozen people living in the creek bed a few blocks from me because they simply can't afford the $2000/month average cost of a one bedroom apartment while I'm considering whether to help my mother buy a house for herself in Tulsa (for what amounts to pocket change around here).

There just has to be a better way forward. And I don't know if waiting for the assholes to die in Oklahoma and Iowa is the answer.
posted by dw at 9:10 PM on April 14 [8 favorites]


There's a whole lot of other places to live in the South and Southwest. Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston, many others are not small cities and are not expensive. There are lots of smaller and mid sized cities to choose from.

I complain about it endlessly as a born-Southerner, but there’s a lot of awesome in the South. Although, and I say this living in one of them, a growing number of the awesome places are no longer, strictly speaking, cheap.
posted by thivaia at 7:02 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


"All the kids I talk to want to move to Colorado for some reason. I'm actually a little perplexed by this. I used to think it was pot, but now there are other places where you can get legal weed. But yeah, kids here do not seem particularly hopeless, and "I met a couple of kids at the mall once, and now I am an expert on the entire city" is a weird take. "

Colorado is a beautiful place to live, good weather, infinite shit to do if you're the "go outside" kind of person, there are regressive pockets but overall the state seems progressive. I only lived in CO for a few years, but I often think about returning, but it's terribly expensive and seems kind of like a state more or less for rich people, kind of like Cali and NYC (which isn't a state but let's be real, it plus that chunk of NJ should have long been made into just one wonky state).
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:20 AM on April 15


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