The Cost of Living. (Bumped to the Top.)

We had a conversation on the back deck overlooking a great big lake surrounded by southern firs and humidity. The sun, as if shy from what it had done the night before, was just starting to show itself again. It was Thursday, the 5th day of our vacation. I was up before 7 AM, a feat I find impossible during the workweek. I had woken to the sound of crickets and frogs just like I had every other morning. But on Thursday it was different; it had rained the night before so their chorus was much more robust, the soundtrack to happiness.

“So, where do you want to move?” He broke our silence.

“That’s funny, I was just thinking about going back to New York.”

“Yeah?” He sipped his coffee.

“Pretty soon, the sound we hear now will be replaced by horns, sirens, and inaudible subway announcements. I love New York City but…” I stopped talking.

“I know.”

“The longer you’re away from it, the more you begin to realize that it’s kind of bullshit.”

“Yeah.”

The sun was just about ready. And our vacation neared its end. My skin still smelled like chlorine from the swim we had the night before. Probably the sheets did as well. A boat horn sounded in the distance.

“Yeah.”

63 Comments

  1. Yeah, but it’s the best bullshit in America.

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  2. and bullshit is everywhere

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  3. and bullshit is everywhere

    just different flavours

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  4. hmmmm. I was just thinking about getting back to new york.

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  5. well, the bullshit in LA has nicer tits.

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  6. I gotta admit, I’m not a lover of large tits. Maybe that’s just because I loathe my own.

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  7. Oh, and Heather, tobyjoe is actually bringing me up your way soon to finally see your fair city. (I hope to see you as well.) Are there green patches in (or around) Boston? Are there crickets and fireflies? Are houses 700 thousand plus dollars? Do they have maintenance fees on top of their large mortgages? Are there co-ops in Boston? I’m not a fan of co-ops. It seems really weird kissing the asses of a bunch of people just so you can pay out the ass to live in a 400 square foot apartment that doesn’t even touch the ground.

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  8. Not bigger, nicer.

    They’re all custom made from plastic to correct god’s mistakes.

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  9. yay! yes, boston had green patches. its the home of olmsteads emerald necklace. (no zz top jokes please)
    and i fall asleep to the sound of crickets every night.
    fuck coops. they only exist because everyone wants to live in nyc. that shit doesnt fly here. we do it the original wasp way here; you have to be born into that shit.
    the only problem i had with nyc was that when i wanted to do something or go somewhere, so did 4 million other people.
    bostons okay. except for the gazillion college kids but because of them, its acceptable to dine out in your pjs. make of that what you will.
    am really looking forward to your possible visit.
    :)

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  10. There must be something in the air. My husband and I had this same conversation last night. As we walked out to sit on the stoop and chat about it, we noticed our upstairs neighbors were already sitting out there… having this same conversation.

    Boston is lovely – I lived there for a couple of years immediately prior to moving to NYC.

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  11. We priced a place called Goshen, NY last night after reading it off one of the trucks at the farmer’s market in Bburg. It’s right there. right near NYC and houses go in the millions.

    We’re screwed.

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  12. From time to time, I scour craigslist for rentals upstate, and from what I’ve seen, I’m not convinced we could even afford to rent a house up there, let alone buy one!

    It’s nice to dream, though.

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  13. should i even attempt to throw Detroit’s hat into the ring?
    PROS: 1. lots of wild green space all over populated by crickets, pheasants, raccoons and stray cats & dogs
    2. real estate couldn’t get much cheaper
    (2000 SF brick house for $75,000 w/ brick patio & 2 car garage)
    3. it’s apple season!
    4. short drive to 4 of the 5 the Great Lakes
    5. strategically located btw. the 2 coasts
    CONS: well, you know, depopulation, no urban density, you have to drive pretty much everywhere (although i’m looking into mopeds for the warmer months)…
    we’ve got a bad rap, but it’s actually kind of a magical place (OK, sometimes it’s dark magic, but magical nonetheless)

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  14. I heart DC.

    I freaking love it.

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  15. mike!!!!!!!

    Yes, yes we must! We simply must!

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  16. Yesterday, I noticed the trees on Ontario are just beginning to turn.

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  17. Every year around this time I start missing DC. I am not sure why. Fall there is lovely. Plus, I remember drinking a lot of hot cider, practicing a lot of yoga and throwing pottery for much of that fall.

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  18. After graduating from Rutgers, I moved to Buffalo in 1989 with one goal: get the hell out. I’m still here 17 years later. I have season tickets to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, I have a great job, I don’t worry about my wife when she walks the dog in the middle of the night, I rarely lock my house, and I can play a round of golf for under $20. While a car is a necessity, you’re rarely more than 25 minutes away from wherever you want to go, and my 25 minute morning commute is considered long. The only thing we lack is good Vietnamese food.

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  19. I think everywhere but Vietnam lacks really good Vietnamese food.

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  20. And then there is San Francisco….We have seriously discussed moving out of the city to be closer to Isabel’s school..until we found out that the houses in that area of the peninsula go at 2 million to start….
    Now that we have two kids it is becoming more likely that we will be doing the move back East sooner than later.

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  21. I have no idea who is buying these houses. I’m actually very, very curious about it. Who the hell can afford these houses? We make a decent salary yet we can’t come close to this shit.

    I don’t get it.

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  22. Sunday’s NYTimes had a big article on it. People used these crazy loans where they pay interest only for a short time, hoping for two things: that interest rates won’t go up and that their home’s value WILL go up.

    If you borrow a million dollars with no or little money down and carry the interest at say, $5000/month. In 18 months the rate may go up, but you’re hoping that in 18 months the price will go up $200,000 (in some markets, it may have gone up $450k in 18 months). THen you turn around and refinance your home loan based not only on the equity, but 125% of their home’s value, using that extra $ to pay off the consumer debt you built up because you spend all your income on mortgage payments. But if the home doesn’t appreciate in value or if rates go up, your ability to refinance is restricted and then you’re in big trouble because your monthly mortgage payment goes up and you can’t afford to put food on the table.

    I don’t think I could sleep if I had a million-dollar mortgage. My chest hurts just thinking about taking on that much debt.

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  23. Thank you, Charlie. I was warned against taking such a loan. We’ll continue to rent until things look better. I know people said in the past (about Brooklyn) “That’s going for 300 thousand dollars? There is no way it’ll go up!” And then it did. It went up to 500 and now 700. And now we’re saying the same thing as we did when it was 300. The thing is, won’t it eventually stop going up? And if so, when and at what dollar amount? I simply can’t justify paying 700+ thousand for a house no bigger thank 400 square feet. it just seems way, way wrong.

    So, instead, we have decided to have kids and should we ever get thrown out of our NYC rental, by then they’ll have to take us in and make sure we’re housed and fed. Insurance = offspring.

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  24. Philly has excellent Vietnamese food. I just ate it 3 days in a row, in fact.

    Aaaaand (fabulous historic houses) are way cheaper.
    Most places are green.
    less than 2 hours from NY.
    cheap New Jersey liquor.

    Look at this example. Less than $400K
    5 bedrooms! sunporch! still in the city!
    http://www.thebuffums.com/MyHomeDtl.asp?lstPages=1&HomeID=398020

    just a suggestion…

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  25. Nico, we’re considering the 6th borough. Tobyjoe could conceivably commute. When we have baby, we will really have to consider this.

    Oh, and we got a hotel room for the 21st! Woo!

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  26. a friend here in pittsburgh just bought an old farmhouse with 3 out buildings(chicken coops) and a barn on 250 acres for 390 thousand dollars. but it truely is in BFE. another friend just built a house on 3/4 acre for 450 thousand dollars. the same house in the boston are would cost 1.2 million because of their outrageous land values…but boston is sweet. the burbs of philly are awesome too. my vote is for the catskills of ny.

    i don’t feel anyone in there right mind should move to pittsburgh, even though i love it here. more people are moving away than are coming….that’s my speed! pa has just become the oldest state and my county just become the oldest county in pennsylvania.

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  27. Excellent! I’d be happy to show you more of the 6th (a-hem) borough any time.

    emailing you about hotel…

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  28. I love pa. By far my favorite state, fyi. So pretty she is.

    Also, I think it was the recent Economist who was totally selling Pittsburgh. TObyjoe read it. I’ll ask him to clarify.

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  29. Apparently, the housing bubble is popping. Hopefully this means we’ll be able to afford a place. It also makes me feel better that I didn’t buy something over the last year.

    Click me

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  30. Unfortunately, the NY real estate market is really its own economy entirely. nationally, housing prices could crash like 50%, and we’d still be looking at $1.2M-3M brownstones in need of gut rennovations, in brooklyn and elsewhere.

    My question is, are there really that many filthy rich brooklynites, or are there just a ton of people “in debt up to their eyeballs?”

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  31. You should totally come to Philly!!
    And are you visiting here soon? What hotel? When? Can I see you when you are here?

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  32. Keith, that was my biggest question as well. Who ARE these fucking people? And how can they afford that? I just don’t get it. I really don’t.

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  33. the strange thing about pittsburgh, taxes are low and cost of living is low and proterty values are low even within 15 miles from down town. there are parks and recreation right outside of town and there are cultural things right inside town allong with 3 major sports thingies too…….but nobody wants to live here. it’s odd to me that a person can buy a duplex in “lawernceville” (essencially in town)for 65 grand, rent the other side for 850 a month and have a mortgage payment escrowed including all property tax in the range of 675 bucks month while still being able to walk to work down town at roughly the same salary as an equally skilled person in any other city in the nation. but once again, who wants to live in pittsburgh??

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  34. Does it mean anything that 2 of Mihow’s readers are from the oldest county in PA? Maybe we can start a trend & drive the average age down.
    Isn’t the reason why no one wants to live in Pittsburgh because there aren’t as many jobs here? Or not the right kind of jobs? Or not the right kind of people(young) for the right kind of jobs(high paying)? Seems like that’s what the newspaper is always tellng us.
    Maybe it’s just that I can’t find any good Chinese food, let alone other Asian food here.

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  35. Do you two know one another? I think, someday, a beer might be in order! :]

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  36. i don’t believe i do…….michele, is there a reason you haven’t mentioned new jersey? or is that reason enough…?

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  37. hahahhahhahahha

    I dunno. Maybe NJ. We have thought about it but for a reason I can’t back up (as I know what I’m about to say is not true) I feel that there are no real farmy type houses in Jersey. Again, stupid. I know that there is.

    I want trees. I want PA, actually. State College should move closer to NYC.

    We will probably end up in upstate NYC, just outside the city. When/if we manage to save up a downpayment. Who knows.

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  38. if state college moved…even to say scranton….i’d be there in a second! i know what you mean! personally…..i want to move to West Virginia, something about being surrounded by hillbillies is very comforting to me. city life is getting me down! ; )

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  39. Tobyjoe mentioned WV the other day. He was saying that if we lived in DC we could buy a great big mountain in WV. :]

    Son, you got a pretty mouth.

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  40. those inbreeders really picked a pretty state to hunker-down in and scare average people from mass migration!

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  41. pittsburgh has awesome asian food :) it really shines in the subcontinent though. check out people’s indian on penn ave.
    really, pittsburgh has all the right things, including what most cities lack – a sizable pool of eager young folks clamoring for jobs. up until very recently there just weren’t any effing jobs there for someone who wasn’t excited by the prospects of a) flipping burgers or b) livin it up 9-5 stylee at one of our few Large Anonymous Corporations.

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  42. Psst! San Francisco. Big city in bits, small town in bits. I hear it’s better the second time around.

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  43. Two people have told me that they disliked SF the first time they lived there and the second time they lived there they fell in love. What is it about that fair city?

    I do miss her sometimes. I miss the freaking amazing scenery. I haven’t ever seen a prettier city, that’s for sure. And I miss the weird fog. I miss the smell. NYC smells like ass compared to San Francisco. Actually, NYC just smells like ass period.

    regarding pittsburgh: I haven’t seen much of it. I saw a few shows there when I lived in SC. And I spent some time at Greg’s house when he was leaving for Japan. Otherwise, I haven’t seen much. I really should head back sometime.

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  44. What is the big deal with State College? Everytime I go back I want to bang my head against a wall. I hate it.

    Really, I’m curious.

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  45. That’s a good question. And addmitedly, I haven’t been back in almost two years. (Which is really uncool because I really like my parents. I suck.) I dunno. Maybe it’s because I had a lot of really great times there? Granted, you can’t go back in time and I think if I were to actually go back there, I’d quickly realize the huge mistake I’d made. Who knows.

    I think it’s an ideal in my head. But I have no real intention of ever moving back.

    But she sure is pretty! And it was just so easy to live there. It’s green and cheap and the hiking was good and the farms were plentiful. I dunno.

    Again, I think that I’m making it out to be more lovely and amazing retrospectively. You know?

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  46. i think state college is nice because of its stripped down singleminded approach to life without the distractions of being a city that is something, was something, or tries to be something. it’s about the individual choosing a path and that path has little resistance. i don’t have a better way to describe it other than, it’s a state of mind, one that removes “life” from “living” and that is a comfort to anyone who’s experienced it. the fact that state college has limited things to do, in my experience, has interesting implications. it really forces the person to be introspective and forces them to create the world which they live as opposed to altering for an established culture, mindset, city that is existing. state college in its endless boredom is essencially “pure potential”, not for the town, but for the individual. it’s a place that is where the statement,” you can be whatever you want to be,” actually lives (mentally of course). i do think state college puts a large burden upon the people who live there by forcing them to get up and invent ways to keep themselves from getting bored. it really sparks the creative mind in a completely different way from other cities that have “things to do.”. however, this isn’t for everyone. who knows?

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  47. Can I just say that it’s been really fun and informative to read this thread – so many of the places mentioned are places I have either lived (Detroit, Boston) or that my husband and I have discussed moving to (the DC and SF areas; upstate NY). It’s nice to get other peoples’ input and perspective on places, too, and to take note of certain things. PA is someplace I hadn’t even considered, but I’m intrigued enough by what I’ve read here to do some investigating.

    It’s amusing to me that I have always considered myself a city girl, but as time goes on I find myself wanting lots of green space to plant and grow things, a home without neighbors rightnexttome, peace, quiet, crickets, a place with plenty of room for the cats to run around, a sweet old mutt and possibly a kid or two. I want to see the stars and night and walk through fallen leaves up to my knees. Having a mostly successful little Brooklyn garden for the last two summers has made me completely obsessed – I want to grow as much of what we eat as possible. I want chickens and goats. I want to learn how to make cheese.

    Ultimately for us, the goal is to end up in or near a city that my law firm is located in so I can just transfer offices (which gives us some decent options, since we have 10 offices around the country), and somewhere that is a direct flight away from our families (mine in Detroit and Alabama, his in southern Indiana).

    We’ve got another year on our lease, and we may end up staying another year after that. But I guess it’s never too soon to start planning and scheming and figuring it all out.

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  48. Maybe. It is green, safe and the farms and spaces outside of town are pretty.

    Perhaps I am too negative, but this is what I see now: (with apologies to scbob et al in advance)

    – horrible suburban development that is destroying a once-quaint downtown. Does a town that size need TWO giant Walmarts and a Target and chain restaurants all the other sprawl crap?

    – People complaining about parking downdown where you can literally park in a garage for a quarter(!) an hour, hence helping to kill of the business where my mother once worked.

    – A pro-Bush sticker on every other vehicle

    – bad food that is increasingly expensive in the town’s attempt to go “upscale”

    – crappy sports culture that pervades everything

    – a shitty art museum for the caliber of the school

    I could go on. Nowhere is perfect, but I am just increasingly disappointed with that place.

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  49. Yeah, I get the feeling that the SC in my head is much, much different from what it is now. I had no idea about the downtown. It used to be really nice. I had no idea they were getting rid of all the mom and pops. However, we all know how it is, once a Wal Mart comes to town, town goes under.

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  50. providence?
    anyone?
    seems kinda happening.

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  51. The downtown is still nice, but many of the old stores that catered to the community – not just to students and tourists – are gone. The ones that remain, at least the ones don’t sell Penn State merchandise, are struggling because people don’t want to park downtown.

    But this is just my own form of nostalgia, I know. Things change. If I had my way, I could still get a grilled cheese sandwhich at the Murphy’s Five and Dime lunch counter.

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  52. Tobyjoe lived there. He speaks of it fondly. I think he liked the weather. How far is it from Boston? And aren’t all those snotty Brown kids living there? I kid.

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  53. Nico, I wholeheartedly agree. I miss those old stores. Everytime I get back that way I’m amazed at what’s gone and what’s in its place. Seems that the only old time places still standing are bars. Go figure.

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  54. greg – I’m glad that was the SC experience for you. I think the place has bred many interesting kooky people for that reason.

    However, the few people I know that are still there seem depressed. and fat from drinking.

    I’m just dissapointed by the sprawl and the homogeneity.

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  55. well, yeah, the one person i knew well who lives there complained about that all the time but isnt that the general feeling towards college kids?
    it just seems like its got a pretty vibrant and varied arts scene going on and most of it is pretty original, for a change. i dont know what the quality of life in terms of housing is like though. but hey, its the ocean state? how can you lose?

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  56. And they have a killer license plate!

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  57. I love Pittsburgh. You can still get houses for 99K. To be really happy in P’burgh you need to be into the whole P’burgh culture: the accent, the sports, the neighborhoods, fish sandwiches… once you get that, it’s the greatest place ever. (Yes, I am still homesick.)It’s got some of the best urban architecture and it goes totally unappreciated and enough culture and counter-culture to be interesting. Job hunting can be challenging though…

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