NowBlowPoMe: The Forgotten City?

I understand why people move to New York. I moved here at age 27 because I always loved it. I decided to move to New York when I was a kid and my father took us to our first ever Yankee game. He drove us right through Harlem so he could teach us a lesson and show us just how good we had it. “Not everyone lives as comfortably as you do, kids.” In reality I think he was lost. I remember riding the subway convinced that I looked more like a New Yorker if I didn’t hold onto the bars. Only tourists need to hold onto the subway bars. I actually believed that. I believed that after living in New York for a while, you figured out how to ride the subways without having to hold on.

New York was where I wanted to live. Always.

I lived in Washington, DC before. Twice, even. I moved from State College to Washington, DC. Then, I moved back to State College, back to DC, to New York City, back to DC, to San Francisco and the back to New York. Writing that down sounds perfectly insane. But I can assure you that each move made sense. For example, the first time I moved to DC was for a job that wasn’t what I signed up for. I worked there for a little over a month before calling a quits. My apartment building was depressing and bug-ridden, and so I headed back to State College with my tail between my legs. (Back then, my life kind of looked like that Ben Fold’s Five song “Steven’s Last Night in Town.”)

But We thought he was gone
And now he's come back again
last week it was funny
now the jokes wearing thin
cuz everyone knows now
that every night now
will be Steven's last night in town

DC stuck the second time because my boyfriend at the time and I did it correctly; we lived in an apartment building in the city and one that wasn’t a housing project for those on house arrest.

Toby and I left New York because we were pretty messed up over what we saw on September 11th. I know that DC isn’t exactly off the radar where terrorist attacks are concerned, but it was a change of scenery for us and were therefore able to heal quicker.

Anyway, we’ve been here for three years and we’re at the point (again) where we want to leave (again). This time we’re going about it the right way, i.e.. slowly. And we’re talking about moving to Boston or New Jersey. We’ve even discussed moving to Providence with TobyJoe commuting to Boston every day. (Is that an insane idea?)

Truth be told, we’re looking for that perfect place to live. A place where we can raise Emory without running into too much trouble, whether it be something simple like subjecting him to incessant horrific language, or something a lot more serious like high pollution, or a murder rate every New Yorker tries to ignore. We want somewhere fairly safe. But we also want him to have the ability to grow up around art and culture. (I come from an art background. I really do put a lot of stock in the arts.) We want a backyard filled with fireflies not drunk and dying polish men. We want a garden fed with uncontaminated ground water as well as public transportation.

We’re readying ourself to move again. And we’re looking for the “Forgotten City”. The city on the East coast that isn’t riddled with murder or pollution. The city on the East coast with excellent public schools and affordable housing. We want to settle down and raise our son safely. Why does that seem so hard to do right now?

Part of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), where one writes every day for the month of November, which is easier said than done.


  1. well, i don’t know if a city like that exists on the east coast. but i’ll tell you where one does for shizzle exist…Chicago! You can live in a fun neighborhood AND own your home AND have access to good public schools AND public transportation. we have fireflies too! and I’m saying all this and i live on the “infamous” southside.

    i’m just sayin’ is all.


  2. That’s a pretty good description of Montreal.


  3. as a vermont native who has adopted boston as her new “hometown” i can whole-heartedly say move here. i love living and working in boston, and there are some really great suburbs around here for raising a family. as for tobyjoe commuting to/from providence? i personally wouldn’t want to do that, it is farther than it looks…

    good luck with the decision-making though!!


  4. It’s not on the east coast, but there’s Pittsburgh. It’s cheap, decent and maybe my mom will help babysit…


  5. Hi there!
    I live part time in gp (my boyfriend lives here) and somehow managed to find your blog on nycbloggers.

    I know what you mean about the neighborhood. Things are changing very very quickly. It seems like every neighborhood is quickly becoming overpriced.

    I grew up in a Boston suburb and would recommend it highly. It’s urban without being overwhelming. The schools are quite excellent and it’s generally safe. The only factor (and it’s a biggie) is cost…but there are tons of neighborhoods to choose from.

    Anyhow, I enjoyed your blog and will be back!
    cheers, k


  6. y’all rule.

    More and more I get the feeling we might end up near or in Boston.

    I want to know more. I must know more. Plus, there’s a really awesome Quaker school in Cambridge we’re interesting in learning more about.


  7. i can’t really recommend providence. it drives me a little up the wall with the fact that everything is dead after 8 and downtown can get really sketchy really fast. but i’ve only done occasional contract work there. its about 40 minutes on the train into backbay and a 10 minute walk from there.

    i think it’ll be fun for the little man to grow up in a place with so many awesome museums and things that isn’t as huge and overwhelming as nyc. boston has its downsides. every place does. but i get more attached every day to this city. it’s great. i know one of the tbg guys lives a commuter rail ride away and seems to enjoy it well enough.


  8. My vote is for Boston! Mike and I are leaving London to move there in the spring. Well, we’re moving to Worcester, which isn’t Boston, but it’s close enough! I think you would really love Cambridge or Somerville. Not sure how the public schools are, but I know there are many great private schools to choose from.


  9. yes, cambridge and somerville are my first choices (living in east boston for now b/c of cost…) but arlington, watertown, winchester, lexington, newton and beverly are all great choices too. and there are tons more, just can’t think of them at 10 pm on a sunday night.


  10. I have never been to Newton but I hear that it is really nice. I have been to Boston a couple of time and really like it. yeah, I give Boston a vote! :o)


  11. Ever thought of coming to Canada? Montreal or Toronto would both easily fill all your qualifications of a good place to live. Really. Worth looking into.


  12. Cary, NC would be my vote. I’m sure Toby could find an awesome job (you too). The arts aren’t like other cities I don’t think, although there is some to offer. Cary was recently named one of the best places to live in the US. Bonus: it’s warmer down here!!


  13. Well, I spent a good portion of my growing up years in the Boston area…Bedford, Lexington, Arlington (went to high school there)…college in Weston…Sudbury, Maynard, Worcester, Marlboro, Acton…all part of my old stomping grounds. Most of those towns run you 40 minutes drive time into Boston. Longer if you take the “T”. Most of those towns are too expensive to buy in. Bedford, Lexington, Concord, Acton, Weston, Sudbury – all really pricey but very pretty. Arlington, Maynard, Marlboro and Worcester (that’s a bit too far from Boston to commute) are more working-class and affordable. All have good schools. I recommend Maynard. It’s right next to ritzy Sudbury, but it has a more comfortable vibe. I lived and worked there for a few years. It’s not a bad commute to Boston (you can take a bus or there are a few place to drive/park and then take a train). My parents live in Sudbury but they’ve been there for going on 20 years. Home prices in many of these areas are INSANE right now. I used to rent half a 2-family home in Maynard. Great place built in the 1920s. Nice hardwood floors. Rented 1/3 of a 3-family town-home in Marlboro for a year or so too. I liked Maynard better. Marlboro is a little too built up for me. To be honest, to escape high taxes and auto insurance rates (and high rents) I moved to New Hampshire (Nashua). It’s just across the MA border. The daily commute on Rt. 3 was HELL. It didn’t take much convincing from my then boyfriend to get me to move to NJ. Netcong and Stanhope (the area I live in) are very similar to Maynard in feel. Older homes, 1920’s old time lake front vacation destination, sleepy suburban with nice scenery, friendly people (which MA has in short supply), and still an easy commute to NYC (train station in Netcong). We lucked out and got into new home construction when we moved here 10 years ago (when it was still cheap). It was the first new homes built in the area in more than 50 years. Since then, other new construction pops up every couple of years, but there are loads of older homes that come up for sale too. Those are more economical these days. Great schools in this area too. There is a local community theater too. Come on down! :-)


  14. I was going to suggest Baltimore… until you said, “no murder problem”.


  15. Becky: Thanks for the awesome suggestions! We really need to explore NJ more. And soon.

    StFarmer, you just made both TJ and I laugh out loud. Thanks for that.


  16. I just found your site through a link on Fussy and I think it’s fate because I have the answer: Portsmouth, NH. A friend of mine just moved there after 10 years in DC and she is pretty sure she’s died and gone to heaven—it seems to have all of the great parts of cities and small towns both.


  17. A) I think you have the same problem as me- The grass is always greener syndrome.

    B) I lived in Boston for five years- I think you’ll like it.


  18. I have to agree with sambot about Providence. It can be a very sketchy city—not a great place to raise children. That being said, there are some nicer neighborhoods, but I don’t think it is worth the hour train ride to Boston.


  19. My husband and I are in the same position as you-in Brooklyn, with an 18-month-old and ready to get out of here. It’s just too taxing, in so many ways. We’re also looking for the ideal town-it’s gotta be out there, right? I grew up in Pittsburgh, and it’s definitely on our short list: affordable, supportive of the creative arts, beautiful, but a little clannish. We also like Philly. Flemington, NJ, is also interesting for a small town, with easy access to NY and Philly. Big taxes in NJ though. I’ll keep checking in to see what other people recommend.


  20. Pittsburgh is a great idea – very charming and a great art vibe. Excellent Warhol museum.

    Forbes just released the list of 10 most murderous cities. They are Detroit, St. Louis, DC, Baltimore, Oakland CA, Cincinatti, New Orleans, Newark, Philly, and Buffalo (not necessarily in that order). So, perhaps none of them.

    Otherwise, Canada just might be your ticket. Lovely cities, low crime rates, universal health care, and fresh air (for the most part). Montreal only if you speak French but otherwise there is Ottawa and Toronto. With your brainpower, I can see it being easy for you three to immigrate.


  21. I live in a suburb of Philly right now, and I went to High School in Providence (I grew up in a town 20 min north). I am biased, but I love Providence. It is affordable & has the arts community you are looking for. The city has really gone through quite the turn around in the past 5-7 years. Saying that, however, the commute to Boston every day would be a bear.

    I have a sister in Somerville (outside of Cambridge). The cost of housing in Boston & its suburbs is still very high right now. But, Somerville is a great town. I love visiting. The schools, however, are not the best you can get.

    New Jersey has unbelievably high property taxes, and the housing market is still tough (aka, not affordable). You will however, get great schools.


  22. You would love Cambridge or Somerville. Somerville’s a bit more affordable, but you wouldn’t even need a car in Cambridge. Plus, housing costs are pretty low right now with the slump in the real estate market. The Quaker schools are definitely a bonus. It’s safe and there’s lots of smarties around!


  23. For NJ, how about Montclair? Not sure about schools but NYC commute is easy and town is lively. Central Jersey has some nice towns on the train lines as well. I am surprised no one said portland maine. I lives in Burlington Vt, which is very easy to live in (but cold) and surprisingly has some graphic design firms. It got too small for me quickly and I wanted to be near family – flexible babysitters and all. Beacon, NY?


  24. We looked in Beacon. It’s awesome. It was an option. I wonder if it’s too far tho. Then again, same distance as Providence to Boston.

    I will check out Montclair. Thanks, everyone!

    Canada would be nice but too far from the family. :}


  25. We went on the road and checked out Philly the other week. It is gorgeous. Very similar in look and feel to Beantown. Brick, brick, brick.

    Some other suggestions:
    Virginia, parts are close to DC. Beautiful, yet close to a city.
    South Hadley, Mass. Really cute, artsy, very liberal town. Near Amherst & Northhampton.


  26. Check out Brookline. It’s on the subway, it has amazing schools, back yards, it’s safe, family-oriented, etc. Expensive, but you could probably manage it.


  27. I lived in and around Portsmouth NH for all of the 90s, but left for NYC due to boredom and job opportunities. It was kind of a dump back in the day, but now its def a lovely place to live, although very expensive. Its tough to forecast a city, due to the housing market woes and unstable economic news, but i’d bet that Providence will be a solid investment both now and long term.


  28. Dude, New Castle, Delaware. Or any Delaware north of that.


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