Tuesday, June 22, 2004

So I called the Kalamazoo Honda dealer today, because Hondas are rated tops for safety and customer satisfaction by Consumer Reports. Perhaps this is not a wise move, because they regularly recommend Dell computers. But what other authority is there?

The salesman is a nice guy, and not pushy, but he's chatting me up. I mention that I'm moving to Portage, MI from New York, and he says something like "Oh, you're moving from the biggest to the smallest." I think there was the phrase "biggest time," or something like that.

I've gotten a lot of that during my job hunt. People who ask me why I'm visiting. All four interviews I had around the state have gingerly danced around this topic in one form or another. "Are you sure you want to come here after living in NEW YORK CITY?" I'm sure I'll get more, as I settle in. There is a sense of exoticism about New York that seems to touch its residents, as if by living here I've been forever stretched out of shape.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think anybody's being a rube. There is a qualitative difference to life in New York. The museums are great, the theater is ubiquitous, the restaurant are wonderful. The thing I think I will notice the most is the homogeneity of the population, although I don't think many places in the U.S. are as lilly white as they were when I grew up. Especially not Southeastern Michigan.

But here's the thing: except for the flavor of the landscape, if you are of the middle class EVERY PLACE IN THE COUNTRY IS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME. For one thing, nobody ever visits their own tourist attractions, so they don't count towards defining the reality of a locality. I will get just as much out of New York if I visit for a week every year as I do by living here. I can't afford the theater or the restaurants. Nightclubs are the same everywhere once you've turned thirty. How many times can you visit even a really great museum exhibit?

Having lived in a couple of places, and visited a few more, I don't have a need to live in places just because they are different anymore. Maybe I just don't have the scratch, but money and need are so closely linked as to be a force near like physics, and I'm not going to argue with physics. I couldn't live the high life on a middle class salary in Tampa, New Orleans, or Chicago either. I am much better off visiting the high life from my suburban redoubt. I imagine most of the people living in those places would be, as well.

I am realistic. There are things I will miss. There are also things I will not miss.

Things I will Miss

My Cupola
Built in reading time (what else do you do on a subway?)

Things I will not Miss

Homeless people on my doorstep at work
Having choose between owning a car and anything else
Subway trips to the Bronx
Brooklyn parenting advice

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