Reader Request Week 2016 #1: Living Where I Do

Welcome to Reader Request Week here on Whatever, where you suggest the topics I then write about. And let’s start off with this one, from Kilroy, who asks:

Urban v. Suburban living: Why I live on a big ass property in the middle of nowhere with awful internet when I could be living it up in a nice house in a big city with all the benefits of modern society and be around more people with the same political and social ideals that I do.

(Note that the “I” here is meant to be me, John Scalzi, not him, Kilroy.)

I’ve noted several times on Whatever how it is I came to live in Ohio, so there’s no point in going into great detail about it again at the moment (the short version: My wife’s family is from here and she wanted to be closer to them as our daughter grew up). I think the question is really about why I, a generally liberal, cosmopolitan sort of fellow, who has the means to move somewhere more in line with my politics and lifestyle, chooses instead to continue to live in a small, rural, conservative town in a small, rural, conservative county, in the Midwest, which is generally less cosmopolitan (and liberal) than the coasts.

Fair question, and here’s why:

To begin: we’ve paid off my mortgage. We’re not in a rush to get another one. I mean, we could afford a new one, I suppose, in a larger city than this, but why? To have the same home lifestyle experience we have where we live, we would have to spend a truckload of money we no longer have to spend here in order to replicate it. Why would we do that?

Well, possibly, to have a richer cultural and social experience than I do. Okay, sure, but let’s qualify that. I lived in the Washington DC area for several years, which meant that at my fingertips I had a whole range of cultural and social activities — and I took advantage of them and saw concerts and events and went out to eat at restaurants and such. And it was great! But we did those cultural events maybe a couple of times a month at most, and went out with friends maybe once a week. The rest of the time we stayed at home and watched movies or read or played video games or whatever.

Fast forward to today, and you know what? Living where we live, Krissy and I go to cultural events fairly regularly, and go out with friends maybe once or twice a week. The rest of the time we stay at home and watch movies or read or play video games or whatever. Which is to say we are who we are, regardless of whether we live in a large metropolitan area or in rural Ohio.

Bear also in mind what “rural Ohio” means. I live in small town of 1,800 and see Amish clopping down my road in their buggies on a daily basis. But this small town of 1,800 in rural Ohio is 45 minutes from Dayton, 90 minutes from Cincinnati or Columbus and two hours from Indianapolis. If I want to see a musical, or look at art, or go to a concert, or go get Ethiopian food, or any other number of things, it’s pretty doable, and the time commitment to and from is not actually all that much greater than it would be on the subway or the freeway. As I frequently say, I live in the middle of nowhere, but it’s the middle of nowhere, Ohio, as opposed to the middle of nowhere, Nebraska. I can go from nowhere to somewhere pretty fast.

The other thing here is that aside from this, I do travel a frankly enormous amount. In the next two months I’ll be in Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin for sure, and there may be other trips I’ll be taking as well. During each of those trips I will see friends, eat well, and go see (or participate in!) cultural events. Because of my travel commitments, I sometimes see friends who live thousands of miles away more often in a year than I will see some of the people who live in my hometown. It also means that when I do get home from travel, what I want to do is not see anyone other than my family and pets for a while. Which means, in point of fact, that living out in the middle of nowhere is perfect for my mental equilibrium.

Now, Kilroy points out another possible advantage to living elsewhere, which is that there would be more of a chance of people having the same mostly liberal-ish politics as I do, as opposed to living where I do, which is a county that went 72% for Romney in the last presidential election, and chose Trump over Kasich in the recently completed GOP primary, 43% to 40%. Even if I moved down the road to Dayton, I would find people whose politics and social stances are much more congenial to my own.

And maybe I would, but two things here. One, there’s the math question of whether I’m willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year in a mortgage (or hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a house outright) simply for the benefit of voting near people who vote like me. That math doesn’t check out, especially because for things like state-wide and Senate and presidential elections, it doesn’t matter how my county votes, it matters how the people in my state vote overall. It’s true my US Representative and my state reps are likely to be Republicans (they all are at the moment), but, eh. That’s life sometimes.

The other thing is that just because people don’t vote like I do doesn’t make them horrible humans; conversely there are horrible humans I know of who share my politics. My next door neighbor and I pretty much cancel each other out when it comes to who we vote for every single election, and he’s as fine a neighbor as I’ve ever had and I would be hard-pressed to find one better. I’m pretty sure he likes me just fine too.

This should not be a surprising fact of life. A civilized society is one where you can disagree politically with your neighbor — sometimes bitterly — and still feel comfortable feeding his cats while he’s away and being glad he enjoys shoveling the snow off your driveway. Meanwhile I can think of at least a couple of people who vote like me up and down the line who I won’t willingly be in the same room with if I can avoid it. Our politics are not the whole of who we are as a person. It’s been politically advantageous for a while now for some folks to suggest we are only who we vote for, and that you can tell everything about us by who we want as president (or senator, or representative, etc). It’s not true, for most people, anyway.

I like my neighbors; I think most of my neighbors like me. I like the little town I live in; I think my little town likes that I live here. I like looking up at the night sky and seeing the Milky Way. I like that I can open my door and just let my pets out, and that every once a while a neighbor dog will come up to the house and ask if my dog can come out and play. I like it that my neighbor’s chickens walk up and down my yard like they own the place. I like it that if there’s a car in my driveway my neighbors don’t recognize, they’ll text just to make sure we know about it. I like that I can take sunset pictures from my deck that make other people jealous. I like the idea that I’ve been writing science fiction in a town where a traffic jam is three cars behind an Amish buggy.

That said, it’s true the Internet here sucks. I’ve had the same speed Internet for the last ten years. It’s possible that will continue to be the case for the next ten years. Dear CenturyLink: You suck.

But honestly, for me and for my family, that’s the major drawback to living where we do. And if the major drawback in your domestic life is slow Internet, well. You’re doing okay, no matter where you live.

(There’s still time to ask questions for 2016’s Reader Request Week — get your requests in here.)

50 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2016 #1: Living Where I Do

  1. I spent my middle school/high school years living on 5 acres about 10 miles outside of a town with a population of 2000. I am now that city dweller that hasn’t seen the Milky Way in years. The draw of just throwing down a blanket in the middle of a big yard and watching shooting stars all night is strong sometimes. Thanks for answering.

  2. As someone who generally agrees with Mr. Scalzi politically, I personally am quite happy that he is exercising his right to vote in a swing state, rather than in a reliably blue state. *smile*

  3. I live in a small town in the Washington DC suburbs, but it sounds like it’s similar in size and relative location to “more interesting” places as yours. Wouldn’t trade it for the world, no matter how much the people here occasionally get on my nerves. At least we’ve got decent internet, though – probably because so many government employees and lawyers live out near here.

  4. Great post, John. I have similar reasons for why I’m currently living in Simi Valley, CA (home of the Reagan Presidential Library) and yet my politics are as progressive as they come. I know lots of good people here and I can currently afford to live here as opposed to the heart of nearby Los Angeles.

  5. I get all that, but also wondering about how you felt about “raising your kids rural”. Did you feel the education system out there worked well for you and your daughter?

  6. CenturyLink does suck. It doesn’t matter if they’re doing DSL or high-capacity fiber-optic circuits, they suck at everything they do.

  7. Have you considered satellite internet? It usually works better than dial up. Sometimes storms block the signal but that is also part of life.

  8. I’d like to be able to see the Milky Way on a clear night, but it’s awfully nice not to have to drive twenty miles to shop for groceries. I settle for a week or so in the off-road section of the Outer Banks every once in a while. I get stars, the sound of the ocean, pelicans, and porpoises; the fresh seafood and the wild horses are lagniappe.

  9. I do wonder how different it would be to be a POC in the same position. Although I wish I could say that politics doesn’t make a person, it’s hard when the other person is someone supporting policies that directly deny your personhood. This is not to say that I can’t get along with someone who’s conservative — I know plenty of people who are conservative and we can have perfectly polite conversation.

    On the other hand, overt racism is easier to deal with than the microaggressions from so-called liberals, so there’s that.

  10. As someone who grew up in the Deep South, currently lives in Los Angeles, and is planning to retire to the Sierra foothills … access to culture and the arts is not the be-all and end-all of deciding where to live.

    As our gracious host notes, if you live somewhere that has limited arts/cultural opportunities, there is a good chance that better opportunities are a short drive away. (And if you live in L.A., anything under two hours is “short.”) From my point of view, paying 300% more on living expenses just so LACMA (which we visit maybe once every two years) is ten minutes away is akin to paying 300% more for a 4WD 8-seater SUV (that would be used to its full potential once every two years). It’s ludicrous. It is, unfortunately, what we’re stuck with for a few more years.

    Live in the *environment* that suits your needs and makes you feel good, and then when you want something different you can afford to go find it.* It’s more or less the same as buying a small fuel-efficient vehicle for daily driving, and renting the truck when you’re heading out with a mob of friends and a ton of gear.

    *Living in one of the most expensive cities on earth means we often can’t afford to enjoy the phenomenal array of arts/cultural events available here. When our living expenses are 30% of what they are now, we’ll be able to cram every single available event into our calendar.

  11. Since you don’t have a mortgage to worry about anymore, are you considering dropping some cash on a possible Internet upgrade? Or is there actually an option that (a) doesn’t violate the laws of physics, (b) isn’t prohibitively expensive, (c) provides enough of a speed/reliability boost over your existing solution, and (d) doesn’t require you to adopt an on-site technician out there in the Middle of Nowhere (Ohio)? Or maybe you don’t really care about playing Xbox One while live-streaming your games via Twitch and being on voice chat with half a dozen other people, the way my fiancee does. ;-)

  12. Financial counterpoint: if you’ve paid off your mortgage, and buy a new house that costs equal to or less than what you sell your current house for (minus taxes and fees), you still won’t have a mortgage.

  13. Well, living in a small city about 25 miles east of you, and about 12 times the population, I’ll agree, CenturyLink DSL sucks. I can’t get any better without a huge increase in my monthly fees. Is it worth it to me? Not really…..if I were heavily into on-line gaming, or had lots of people in my household using the network at the same time, yes, I’d take the extra bandwidth and pay for it. Funny, when CenturyLink was Embarq, then before that was Sprint, they boasted that they had the first all-fiber-optic network in the world. I haven’t seen fiber anywhere between their central office and my house, it’s all copper…..
    I won’t touch Time-Warner Cable’s internet, and while I think NKTelCo is probably better than either CenturyLink or Time-Warner, I’m not committing to them, either. I can get a great rate if I choose to commit to a 24-month contract. Um, how about I just keep the month-to-month account I have, and if my provider makes me mad enough, I can just disconnect and go somewhere that I can use wifi……it’s not that important, I don’t live and die on the internet, and I’m sure that Facebook people will be glad that I’m gone…… [wink, wink, nudge, nudge]

  14. I hate, hate, hate, that I’m about to say this. But I am. Talking about your neighbors being nice people, regardless of their politics: it works wellin the type of town it sounds like you’re living in until you’re 1) female 2) not white 3) part of a mixed race couple. I have stories that would make you shudder…I now live in a “cosmopolitan” place with other people who vote like me because I feel like our family doesn’t get grief or worse simply because of how we look.

  15. This: “I like that I can open my door and just let my pets out, and that every once a while a neighbor dog will come up to the house and ask if my dog can come out and play. I like it that my neighbor’s chickens walk up and down my yard like they own the place. I like it that if there’s a car in my driveway my neighbors don’t recognize, they’ll text just to make sure we know about it. I like that I can take sunset pictures from my deck that make other people jealous.”
    I live on 1.6 acres on the very fringe of Melbourne and this is the lifestyle that keeps me here despite worrying about bushfires from November to March [our summer]. Home is where you /live/, not where you socialise.

  16. I lived in Temple, Texas, for a couple years. I was young so I wanted a bigger city, but I thought of it as “an hour from anything, but within three hours of everything.” (It was an hour to Austin, two to Dallas, three to Houston.)

  17. Craig:

    Satellite Internet isn’t substantially faster than what I have and typically comes with data caps that make it unusable for what I do. So, no.

    ina:

    In fact, for the first several years we lived here, one of our neighbors to the house immediately west of us was a black woman in an interracial marriage. If I recall correctly, she was very happy living there. They didn’t move for any reason relating to racial tension. This is not meant to counter or contradict your experience, of course; just another data point.

    That said, in a general sense I think it’s generally correct that inasmuch as I am a well-off straight white man, it’s much easier for me to live in most places, regardless of my personal politics. There are advantages to being the sort of person the culture is generally built to advantage. Maybe I should write something about that.

    Brian Greenberg:

    Alternately, I could just buy a house for cash (which in fact we did recently when we bought a house for Krissy’s mother).

    Or, since as noted I am happy where I live and have no desire to move, I could just… not buy a another house.

  18. ina: I hate, hate, hate, that I’m about to say this. But I am. Talking about your neighbors being nice people, regardless of their politics: it works wellin the type of town it sounds like you’re living in until you’re 1) female 2) not white 3) part of a mixed race couple.

    My experience of small towns (pretty limited, but not non-existent) is: if you have a connection to people who have been living there for a while (like, sixty or seventy years, maybe more–again, my experience only speaking), then you are One Of Ours and will probably be all right no matter what your race, gender, or sexual orientation. I suspect that isn’t true of all small towns, though. However, I currently live in a major metropolitan area with neighborhoods that . . . I wouldn’t want to live in if I were one of the some categories that you name (I am female, and I also suspect that that one by itself is probably less of a problem than the other two, in general), and having local connections wouldn’t help at all. Nothing would help, except maybe armed guards and the FBI on speed-dial.

    That said, I think the point you are really making is that small towns can vary widely, from town to town–as widely as big cities can, and as widely as people can. Some of them would be welcoming and “nice”; others wouldn’t be. The problem is, for me, that it sometimes takes a while living in a place to figure out which you’ve got . . .

  19. I grew up in what was then a very small town, and is now a middling-sized town of 70,000. I don’t live there anymore, but I am still nostalgic for the way it was back then–it had the same feel Scalzi’s description does. I remember getting called, as a kid, to go help the neighbor round up her cows, because another neighbor had left the gate open too long and they all just walked out of the pasture and into the roads. We kept an eye on each other, then, and now, living in a city with ten times the number of people in my hometown, I miss that feeling.

  20. You make a really good point that I think a lot of people forget that you can peacefully coexist with people you don’t agree with. I too live in a rural area, about 100 miles from Chicago. We like the peace and quiet and when we want some culture we just drive into the City. Our neighbors are very nice and we all look out for each other. Sure they’re all gun toting NRA members and one even sells guns but that doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I’ll take my big house on 3 acres anyway over a townhouse in a city.

  21. I grew outside of a very small town, and I went to a small city to chase jobs. There are advantages to both places. If I could live in a house where the neighbors can’t see you when you step outside without giving up the access to employment I have here I would. The sticker shock of moving to the city hits me all the time. Across the road a 2000 sq ft 4 bedroom split foyer house with 1.5 baths just sold for a bit over 150k (I’m in Kentucky, I realize even city prices are cheap compared to other parts of the US). A listing for a 4600 sq ft 4 bed, 3 bath split level home in my hometown? 119k. That hurts a bit. That’s a newish house in town, it’d be even cheaper out in the county. Most things are more expensive here, things that you mostly can’t not buy like milk. Gas is cheaper because economics of fuel are bizarre (hometown basically sits in the shadow of the refinery). The farmer’s markets here mark up their veggies because apparently they are fancy, farmer’s markets back home are guys wearing overalls with no shirt selling cheap out of their truck. As far as I can tell the tomatoes are the same.

    As far as culture, I’ve run into bigots in both places. Access to cultural events hasn’t increased my attendance. Heck when I was a kid if we went to a concert or a play there was a sense of adventure involved, or at least potential for a meal in a restaurant. I don’t have kids but I can verify that kids turn out either fine or not fine no matter where they grow up.

  22. When I first was looking at colleges, I liked the idea of a rural town. On the east and west coasts, I’d seen it as a small town with access to larger areas. This is not the case in Montana, and it’s finally time for me to move to a larger area, with the perk of decent internet.

  23. That said, in a general sense I think it’s generally correct that inasmuch as I am a well-off straight white man, it’s much easier for me to live in most places, regardless of my personal politics.

    It’s probably easier anywhere, but the politics of the place affects *how much* easier on each of those dimensions. And the difficulty of not taking politics personally depends greatly on whether or not any of those politics consist of attacks on groups you are a member of (openly or otherwise).

    There are advantages to being the sort of person the culture is generally built to advantage. Maybe I should write something about that.

    Who knows, it might turn out to be one of your most popular posts ever.

  24. I live on the edge of a major metropolitan area and my options are CenturyLink and Comcast. Trust me, John, you’re not missing a damned thing WRT your internet speed.

  25. Just a minor point, John: Are those horse-and-buggy folk really Amish, or are they Dunkards? Similar to an outside observer, but not quite the same thing. I moved out of the area over 30 years ago, but I had lots of relatives on my mom’s side among the Dunkard community living in the Covington area, many of whom travelled by horse and buggy. (They were the Old Order; the New Order drove a car — as long as it was black and didn’t have a radio.)

  26. @Atlemar: I’m in Round Rock, which no longer has the same “small town” feeling as it did even ten years ago — Austin has overwhelmed it. Temple shouldn’t feel too secure; if it’s not Austin creeping north, it’ll be Waco creeping south.

    Since I work on the south side, I’m wondering whether it’s worth moving to Bastrop or Lockhart. I’ve looked at some places in south Austin and generally I’d be paying a lot more for a lot less space, and the only benefit would be a shorter commute and potential access to Google Fiber. So I’m still thinking about it.

  27. My worry living in a small time with most folks with different politics and worldview (i.e., religion) is that The Kid will feel she is different growing up, and how this might affect her. I am a worst-case scenario kind of guy (that’s what CS training does to you), so I actually loose quite a bit of sleep over this. Did you have similar worries?

  28. As a British small-city gal myself the notion that *an hour’s drive* is “not that far” is just… completely alien to me. Most of the places I want to be are within a half hour’s easy bicycle ride of my house! Rural life would likely get me more house for my money, but the expense and hassle of running a car are not worth it for me.

  29. As others have said, I’ve found cultural/political differences are a much stronger consideration when your demography can lead to shouted insults outside your window at two in the morning or dead cats on the lawn. And it’s very important to be able to walk into a local doctor’s office, the only hardware store in town, or your town hall knowing you’ll get the same service as others without more than the usual hassles.

    That written, we found a small town in a rural area that can happily tolerate our sort fifteen years ago and moved. If we can just continue to weather the terrible job market, we’re staying put.

  30. I was born in Nebraska, and when you dissed Nebraska my feelings were hurt.
    But I will admit, it’s the place I was born in, not the place I want to go back to.

    I wouldn’t live in a city, but your yard is a bit barren for my taste. I love that I can’t see my neighbors for the trees and hills.

  31. Just another anecdata point: after growing up in the cosmopolitan DC suburbs, I lived in southern Virginia for a couple of years, and although no one was at all mean to me because of my POCness – quite the opposite actually, everyone was really nice! – they also never stopped treating me like some sort of exotic stranger / ethnic ambassador. Eventually it got to me and I moved back up north with the liberals.

  32. Hilde and I primarily stay in the metro Phoenix area for access to good medical care. We’ve been seeing some of our doctors for literally decades, and it’s really nice to have local branches of the Mayo Hospital and Mayo Clinic within driveable distance. (Extremely high standard of care and expertise there. Some of the other patients we’ve talked with in waiting rooms travel hundreds or thousands of miles for that higher standard.)

  33. Interesting! I understand your reasoning, although it is almost directly opposite to mine. I grew up very rural (larger town than yours, but dramatically more isolated) in the Canadian north… we didn’t get Internet access until I was 18, so late ’97/early ’98, and then it was dialup until I was in my mid-20s. Things would be different today, of course, but one of the things I found when I went to university was how ridiculously, dramatically behind I was compared to the urban students, even though I was very nearly head of my class back home. They’d had access to specialty schools, research libraries, and such a broader array of experiences generally that I was playing catch-up well into my third year. Things are different today, of course, with even bad Internet being better than none, but still, it’s something I’m hyper-cognizant of.

    Re: neighbours – I totally agree that political differences do not make for bad neighbours. My concern has always been about how that affects local policy. For example, when I lived in places dominated by conservativism, things that I thought of as necessary public infrastructure didn’t happen, partly for “small government” reasons, and partly for “we want to feel like a small town” reasons, so it left the poorest and least physically able in our community behind. I could spend my time advocating for those projects (which is not in my nature nor my skill set), or I could move to a place where they already see them as an inherent part of their communal responsibility (to varying degrees of effectiveness, of course).

    Likewise traveling for Ethiopian food or what have you; all of that is predicated on owning a car, which is in deadly opposition to how I enjoy living. I hate driving (I’m good at it, I just hate it), and I utterly loathe looking for parking. If I were to live rurally again owning a car would not be optional, however. Living in a major city (Toronto!) makes owning one not only unnecessary, but actually counter-productive. But that, to me, is the major advantage of living in a city: you don’t move to a city to replicate disconnected “house and car” living, you move to a city to live a connected, urban life, built around mixed use buildings and public infrastructure. I can’t think of a thing I’d hate more than owning a detached dwelling. In my last apartment, work was a 15 minute walk away. Groceries were a 7 minute walk away. Little Italy, Chinatown, Korea Town, Little Portugal, Queen West (bohemian, artsy, sexy), Bloor Street (book stores, restaurants, clothes, cinemas, parks), Kensington Market (international cuisine, grungy& punkish and glorious, and unbelievably cheap groceries) were all inside of 15 minutes away on foot.

    My father (and many of my friends, and especially my coworkers–I’ve spent the last three years working in the bush in the far north on public infrastructure projects, driving down ice roads and getting to and from work in a helicopter because the jobs sites are too remote to access via the ground) think I’m utterly insane, because many of them feel like they couldn’t survive without being within spitting distance of a fishing hole, but it’s diff’rent strokes, right? I’ll happily pay $1800 a month for a one-bedroom apartment if it means I’ll never have to get behind the wheel of a car to go somewhere interesting ever again.

  34. A civilized society is one where you can disagree politically with your neighbor — sometimes bitterly — and still feel comfortable feeding his cats while he’s away and being glad he enjoys shoveling the snow off your driveway.

    Co-existing with people who disagree with you: is that even legal any more?

  35. You good sir, are an awesome human being. I really like your philosophy on life. Don’t always agree with your politics but I nearly always agree with your humanity.
    I thought you lived nearer Dayton. I am about an hour and a half away. I kinda like it here but I want to move back to New Hampshire. Very good people up there.
    But it all depends on your view. If you are good people you will find good people.
    Keep enjoying your awesome life and helping others lives better.

  36. Alternately, I could just buy a house for cash (which in fact we did recently when we bought a house for Krissy’s mother).

    Or, since as noted I am happy where I live and have no desire to move, I could just… not buy a another house.

    Didn’t mean to pry into your personal finances – most people cannot afford to buy a house for cash. But if you’ve paid off your mortgage, then the proceeds of a sale are 100% yours (after taxes & fees). Most people in that situation ARE able to buy another house without a mortgage (unless they choose to upgrade).

    I also didn’t mean to suggest you SHOULD move. You seem very happy where you live (and what, with the state legislature declaring you such a swell guy – why would you move?!?) ;-)

    I was just pointing out that “don’t want to take on another mortgage” isn’t likely an impediment…

  37. Just chiming in with the others who point out that there’s an aspect of privilege involved in being able to comfortably live with those who politically disagree with you.

    Just a few examples: even with perfectly nice neighbors it’d be tough to live among those who were deeply offended by the gender of your spouse. Or felt scared enough of your skin color to follow your child when he or she entered a store. Or feared that your religion meant you were likely to associate with terrorists. Or etc.

    To put it another way, living with those who disagree with you is easier on your (and my) difficulty level.

  38. for values of “liberal” that include “tolerant”, the mutual satisfaction with your neighbors isn’t surprising. The midwest in general and smaller towns in general have a good capacity for tolerance. They aren’t perfect, but they are working on it.


    Regards,
    Dann

  39. Granny Roberta, another Nebraskan here :: waves ::

    I was driving to a friend’s house yesterday, and I can assure John that there’s at least one Ethiopian restaurant in Omaha NE ;) .

  40. Granny Roberta: What a coincidence–I was born in Nebraska also! And I’ve been back more recently than you have. Everything he implied about it is true.

  41. This post about sums up my feelings on the matter as well! I live in rural Pennsylvania, a bit outside of Scranton. We’re about a 10 minute drive from the local small town, a 25 minute drive from Scranton (small, but a city), and 2 hours from New York City or Philadelphia. I enjoy being able to visit a large city on occasion and have access to all the perks thereof, but I enjoy living in the middle of the woods much more on a daily basis. My family and my wife’s family are both very close by, which is great for our kids.

    I also had “the internet access problem” here for many years, surviving with 1.5Mbit Verizon DSL. I recently set up a short-range (about 1/4 mile) WiFi link from my house to my aunt’s house, and got Comcast service hooked up to her house, so I now have 150Mbit service. The Ubiquiti networking equipment I used is good for some ridiculously long range, like 10km+, so if you have a willing friend or neighbor with roughly-line-of-sight access (5Ghz WiFi goes through trees) you might investigate that possibility!

  42. Interesting. I live in one of the more ‘rural’ parts of central Massachusetts, but in an hour I can be in Worcester, Springfield, Amherst or Northampton. Plenty of ‘cultural events’ within easy driving distance.

  43. Oddly enough, in my small town up here in Canada, we make and import culture on a regular basis. In town of 4000 we have a bookstore, multiple art galleries and art tours, a trio of concert series (classical, folk, and jazz), and we now have cilantro and hot sauce in the grocery store. Kids move away for school and come back to settle down — and bring back city ideas like ethnic food and gender fluidity with them. Yes, we joke about my kids playing for “team pasty” in basketball (we’re gingers), but we’re also welcoming Syrian refugees. It’s not an either/or proposition.

  44. when I could be living it up in a nice house in a big city

    Somebody hasn’t checked the price of housing in big cities lately, I’m thinking.

    Chiming in with the folks who have noted that it’s a lot easier to ‘agree to disagree’ with your neighbors politically when the areas of disagreement don’t affect you personally all that much, as opposed to being matters of daily life and personal safety. And I’d also love to read a Scalzi post on that.

  45. Only read this now.

    Mortgage paid off?! Wow, congrats. With retirement coming up that would be one big ape off my back. Kudos.

    Regarding people and politics, I grew up republican but am a liberal now. My family is split between the two. Many of my old friends and classmates are republican too. I love them all dearly. Politics is something we all bitch about (who ever spoke fondly and lovingly about politics? Cato maybe? Still, he never let us forget about Carthage, now did he?). Using it to exclusively bitch about each other has until recently been frowned upon and considered rude behavior. Times change perhaps, but not me on that count.

  46. My wife and I bought a house about 4 years ago and we took a year and a half to do it. Why? Because I’m a teacher and can’t afford much and I wanted to live out of town. We walked every neighborhood and visited many, many houses before we found the right one.

    Like you we have horrible Internet service and only a few miles away it is very good, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I get to live in the country with a beautiful view and neighbors I know and like.

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