Reader Request Week 2010 #5: Rural Ohio, Revisited

One of the most popular topic requests this year involves me talking about where I live and how it affects me, in terms of writing, personal life and so on. This was actually a topic in the very first Reader Request Week that I did, but that was something like seven years ago, so it’s worth looking at again, I think.

For those of you coming in late, here’s a little background: Currently, I live in the village of Bradford, Ohio, population about 1,850 or so. I wasn’t born and raised here — I was born in California and lived my entire childhood in the Los Angeles area, excepting a few months in Albuquerque when I was an infant (and which I don’t remember), and a year in northern California when I was in kindergarten, when my aunt was caring for me and my sister while our mother was recovering from illness. Aside from those two very early sojourns, I was your typical suburban southern California brat.

Prior to living in Bradford, I’d lived only in suburban or urban areas: Los Angeles growing up, Chicago during college, Fresno in my early 20s (which contrary to its assumed rusticity had a population of 350,000 while I was there and is over a half million now) and suburban DC during my mid-late 20s and early 30s. We moved to Bradford because Krissy’s family lived in this part of Ohio, and after our daughter was born Krissy wanted to be closer to family. I fought against it for a couple of years because, honestly, why would I want to live in Ohio? But Krissy was insistent so I came up with a clever plan: I told her I would move if we could get at least five acres of land. My thinking there was I could never afford that much land. The flaw in my thinking was that I was going off of land prices in southern California and northern Virginia, not rural Ohio. Krissy promptly found a new house on exactly five acres of land for a price we could easily afford. Off we went to Ohio.

That was in 2001; I’ve now lived here in Bradford and in Ohio for more than nine years, which is the longest amount of time I’ve ever lived in a single place in my entire life. This creates some interesting personal dissonances; for example, I have no problem with calling Ohio “my state,” but I don’t ever call myself an Ohioan, because I’m really not. My wife is — she was actually born here and all her family is here — and so is Athena, because despite being born in Virginia, all her conscious life has been in Ohio. But my brain is still on “cultural Californian” even after all these years. It’s not that I don’t like living in Ohio, or that I feel I’m in some sort of exile — I really don’t, for reasons I’ll explain in a bit. But I just don’t have what I guess I would call Ohio muscle memory. I’m not passionately engaged with the Reds or Indians or Bengals or Browns, I don’t seize up with spittle-ly indignation at the word “Michigan,” and it still weirds me out that the nearest spot of historical import is a small patch of grass where the Treaty of Greenville was signed, rather than the San Gabriel Mission. I am at best a naturalized Ohioan.

And it’s pretty clear that I am a bit of an odd duck here in Bradford. The town’s folks are largely blue collar and/or farm folks, overwhelmingly white, most with a high school education and the majority solid, church-going conservatives (Miami and Darke Counties, which split Bradford between them, both went 68% for McCain in 2008, and 68% for Bush in 2004; Minority Leader John Boehner is our Congressional representative). Excepting the “overwhelmingly white” portion of that, I’m none of those things. If I walk over to Harris Creek Cemetery (which, yes, is the one featured at the beginning of Old Man’s War), I can see 100-year-old tombstones with last names carved into them that match the last names of some of Athena’s classmates, which makes our family interlopers, even after a decade. Bradford really is quintessential small-town America, except that in its case it also has a freaky science fiction dude living in it.

I enjoy the dichotomy of that, to tell you the truth. It’s fun to be a science fiction writer in a town where Amish buggies plod down the road, to be well-known on the Internet and have agricultural fields immediately east, west and south of me, and to work on a television show from a place as culturally different from “the entertainment industry” as it’s possible to get in the US (even if the particular show I work on is actually produced in Canada). The idea that so much future is coming out of little Bradford, Ohio just tickles me. And on the flip side, if I think about the fact that my Twitter list population is a multiple of the population of my home town, and that the daily readership of Whatever is close to the population of the entire county I live in, I’m reminded that I actually do live in the future.

I don’t think it means that rural living is for everyone. I’ve noted before that one of the reasons it works for me is that I am married and largely settled; if I were just starting out and/or single I’d be wanting to live near more people to have things to do and people to see on a regular basis. That said, living out here is not nearly as isolating as people often imagine it to be. For one thing, as I’ve noted before, I live in the middle of nowhere in a densely populated state, which means that I can be somewhere (in this case, Dayton) in less than an hour, and in a reasonably large city (Columbus, Cincinnati or Indianapolis) in less than two. It’s not like the middle of nowhere in a state like Montana or Nebraska (or Alaska, as it will be brought up), in which the middle of nowhere really is nowhere. For another thing, these days I travel a really ridiculous amount; in the first half of this year — a year which I am intentionally trying to reduce travel, mind you — I’ve taken three trips out of town already and have another ten scheduled before the end of June. No, I don’t know how that happened either. Clearly I fail at not traveling. But the point is, it’s not like I’m not getting around and seeing people.

People do ask me when or if we’re planning to move away from Bradford and from Ohio; in the short term (being defined as “the next ten or twelve years”) I very much doubt it. One, dude, we just sunk a stupid amount of money into new floors, carpets and cabinetry. We’re going to get some use out of them, you know? Two, it’s obvious that living in rural America is not a hindrance to my career in any way at all, so there’s no practical reason to move anywhere else. Three, and a point not touched on here yet but well worth considering: It’s cheap to live here, and not just in terms of home and land values, although those are the most obvious examples of that. But watching a coastal friend of mine’s eyes pop at a $4.25 matinee ticket at the local movie theater when he came to visit was amusing. Four, our daughter likes it here, and I suspect will through her teenage years, because small towns are really cool when you’re young. So there’s no reason to uproot her from the place she’s known all her life.

Five, you know what? I like it here. At no point prior to my moving to Ohio would I ever have pictured myself living in Ohio, but that’s life for you, isn’t it; full of surprises like that. Now that I’m here I like where I am. I like my house and my stupidly large yard; I like my neighbors, who watch our cats while we’re gone and clear our driveway when we’re snowed in; I like walking out my front door, looking up and seeing the Milky Way splayed out across the sky; I like going away, seeing people and places around the country and planet, and then coming back to this little town where people have roots going back a century; I like putting Bradford in my books to suggest that a couple hundred years from now, it’ll be here still.

So we’ll likely be here for a while, and for my part I’m going to have fun writing more of the future from this little town with cornfields and Amish buggies. It’s not a bad place for the future to come from.

82 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2010 #5: Rural Ohio, Revisited”

  1. Funny how things work out, ain’t it? I grew up in a small town in upstate New York for 10 years, 5 years in a suburb of New York City — and I can’t stand L.A. and couldn’t imagine living there. Of course, I had no concept of living in Michigan either, but have spent over 25 years here, nearly half my life, and more years in Michigan than any other state (NY, NC, IL, MI). I certainly don’t get the concept that U of Michigan folks do that certain schools in Ohio are populated by the Antichrists — I find there’s a lot of Michigan people who go to college in Ohio and vice versa. I’ve taught a number of Ohioans in my college classes and my best man was from Ohio. And I like living out in the countryside, near but not in a medium sized city.

    Enjoy the shining house on the hill with the stars wheeling above you and the spiffy new floors underfoot. Even in Ohio. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  2. I am dying of curiosity now: What’s the rivalry between Ohio and *whisper* Michigan like, and why? I’d never heard of such a thing before.

  3. Don’t forget – it’s quiet in a rural area. You don’t realize how quiet until you go somewhere else. I moved to right outside the city limits of a small town 5 years ago, and I am amazed. When I leave work (college campus on edge of town), I hear virtually no traffic. It’s kind of awesome to revel in the silence when you’re used to noise all the time.

    Also, it’s great to decide at 8:45pm on Friday night to go to the just released movie and buy 5.00 tickets, then snacks, and plot down in decent seats in time for previews at 9:10pm (Twilight and Spiderman movies being the exception).

    The only bad thing is being treated for chronic, serious illness – hope none of you or your family have one – because driving 1-hour each way daily for cancer treatments, etc, is pretty exhausting.

  4. I was born in New York City but raised (mostly) over all the Northeast; eight years in Connecticut, five in Upstate NY, five in southeast Massachusetts. I also spent in a year in Michigan, California, Taiwan and ten years in Florida.

    I came back to Massachusetts to live with relatives while I finished college. I thought in four years I’d be gone.

    That was thirteen years ago.

    I have always considered Massachusetts my home state and though I live in a rural, hilly area, cities like Albany, NY and Springfield aren’t too far away.

    And it’s nice to see the stars at night!

  5. When you put it all that way, John, I kick myself for leaving. My wife and I grew up in Athens County but we moved to New York to follow my career. When she passed away a few years ago I took her home to be among her family. (Perry’s visit to the cemetery at the beginning of OMW felt very familiar.)

    I thought about moving back myself, for that and other reasons (including the ones you talk about here), but now I have more family here, with my kids starting families of their own, than I do in Ohio. I’ll always be an Ohioan (not a Buckeye – Ohio State can kiss my nethers), but my kids are New Yorkers.

  6. I remember reading excerpts from Plutarch’s Lives for a college history class, and the quote — paraphrased here, of course — that delighted me was “I am from a small town, and I choose to remain here to prevent it from becoming smaller.”

  7. [not serious]I noticed you said you moved to Bradford to be near Krissy’s family, but you didn’t list living near them as one of the things you like about living there. [/not serious]

  8. Are you a town celebrity or just that guy who writes those sci-fi books?

    I grew up in CT and for the longest time wanted to live in a real city. That was until I did for a short time before staying in T or C, NM for a couple months. Than I knew city life wasn’t cut out for me. I’m now in what most NYC people consider Upstate NY despite being able to drive into the city in an hour or so.

    @Mac Google the term “go blow” and Michigan.

  9. Viva Ohio! West Virginia draws a whole heap of tourist dollars from you guys. We’ll take that, but you can keep John Boehner and the hair he stole from Sam Donaldson.

  10. Stan Taylor:

    In fact I like my in-laws very much. They’re very good people.

    The Mad Hatter:

    More of the latter. I don’t know that most people here know what I do, and those that do don’t treat me any differently than they treat anyone else. And of course, the fact is that there’s not much fame in being a science fiction writer in any event, outside of the actual science fiction community.

  11. Having grown up in a small rural community, I know in a town like that, most everyone knows everyone else. How do the folks of Bradford react to your profession? Especially when you first moved there?

  12. JoanD:

    Well, when I first moved in, I hadn’t written any novels and only one non-fiction book, so there wasn’t much to react to. Nowadays, those who know about it seem to think it’s neat, but that’s about it.

  13. “Yeah, that Scalzi fella. Says he’s a writer, but I ain’t never seen anything in the newspaper by him. Just hangs around the house all day with the cats and that dog of his. Sure gets a lot of packages, too. Strange, if you ask me.”

  14. As someone born and still stuck in Dayton, I cannot comprehend a word of this post. You are an alien to me, mister Scalzi!

  15. I’ve lived in (northeast) Ohio for about 87% of my life. I’ve never walked out my front door and seen the Milky Way. I wish…

  16. I remember, vaguely, living in an area where an hour or two of car travel would allow you to travel a significant distance.

    Now, in northern Virginia, between getting to the metro and then gettin into DC, two hours in the morning is just the commute and it gets me barely 25 miles.

    A bicycle would be faster. Although most likely significantly more dangerous here.

  17. Fresno has the best chicken pie shop. San Diego has a pretty good chicken pie shop, too, but the gravy is yellower in Fresno. Sorry for going off-topic, but I’d be a little sad for early-20’s John if he never ate at Fresno’s chicken pie shop.

  18. Just did a similar move 5 years ago. After growing up in suburban Fla (west of Tampa) and then bouncing around the country for 15 years (Air Force and multiple colleges), ended up back in Fla, married and housed. Took just 4 hurricanes and a layoff in one year to convince us (we discussed things for 30 minutes or so) to move. Anywhere.

    Since I had family in New Mexico (and 2 acres waiting), we headed west. We now live on the edge of 40 family acres that was cleared and farmed by my grandfather, back in the ’30s, with mountains all around and yeah, the stars overhead.

    Now, if we could just convince our employer to allow us to telecommute instead of driving in to Abq every day (40 minute ride), we’d be set.

    And yeah, country life for a kid is great. I’m sure she’ll be wanting to spread her wings eventually but hopefully, she’ll want to return.

  19. I grew up as an only child on 5 acres in the middle of nowhere that was within an hour of “somewhere” and I think it’s the best childhood a little girl could hope for.

    There’s just so much freedom to run and play and have an imagination in that much space. And it helps that all the boring adults don’t feel the need to keep their eyes on you every second of every day, for fear that you might be abducted.

    Athena is lucky that you didn’t understand relative property values when you came up with your clever plan to thwart Krissy’s Ohio-bound desires.

  20. Hmm… I’ll go ahead and change that last sentance to:
    “Athena is lucky that you didn’t factor in relative property values when you came up with your clever plan to thwart Krissy’s Ohio-bound desires.”

  21. Scalzi,
    Did you photo shop that rainbow??

    And you are right, you have the perfect way to live in rural America.
    Within reasonable access to urban convenience, the ability and need to travel to larger cultural centers that bring out the best of both worlds.

    Its easy to say what is wrong with LA, if you live in NY and visa-versa. But you appreciate both if you live in Bradford. And you appreciate Bradford when you see outside on a regular basis.


  22. … small towns are really cool when you’re young.

    As someone who grew up in a small town, my first reaction to this was, “Are you friggin’ kidding me?!”

    But then I mellowed it a bit. Overall, I’m glad I grew up in a small town even though it sucked in many ways.

    After 22 years in the Boston area, my partner and I moved to a small village in Western Massachusetts, and 2 years after that we bought a home in an even smaller village nearby.

    Now that I have — almost — given up on the possibility of getting off-planet before I die, being able to see the universe from our back yard is some consolation.

  23. Since I’m a born and raised Cincinnati girl, I love this entry. :D Ohio gets more hate than it does love it seems.

    Although I’m more of the “Bengals are awesome, man Pittsburgh sucks, how in the world can you like Gold Star Chili?” type. You’re probably better off being on the outside of the sports/food craziness. ;)

  24. Oh yes, California real estate prices. I told a Southern Californian that my parents in rural Illinois had 3 acres for their yard on the edge of town.
    She rolled her eyes and said. “Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody can afford that much land.”
    She was quite surprised to hear not only was it true, but my best friend (not a millionaire by any stretch) lived on 62 acres with 5 horses.

  25. I live in the same community as a rather famous horror writer and can attest to the fact that for the most part, writers just don’t seem to attract the same amount of attention as other kinds of celebrities.

    Which, if I were a writer, would seem more like a feature than a bug.

  26. I got to grow up just west of Dayton where a classmate’s family had a barn, complete with hay bales, where we built our homecoming floats! I’ve ended up in Columbus, but at least once each summer I have to take an evening drive (with the car windows down) through the farmland outside of Columbus just as the haze is settling down over the fields of soybeans and corn just to smell the crops growing. It’s hard to explain, but it is very special.

    My only memory of Bradford was the Pumpkin Festival. It had my favorite marching band contest, just march (walk in time) down the street, play a song in front of the reviewing stand, make a left turn, put the instruments away then buy confetti and ATTACK band members from other schools. Do they still do that?

  27. It’s kind of interesting (to me) how much my own reactions resemble yours, John. I moved here (Dayton) in Feb 2002 after eight years and nine moves in the military… and yes, this is the longest I’ve lived anywhere as an adult. Feelings about OSU & Michigan? Check. “My state?” Check.

    Admittedly, Dayton’s a weeeee bit bigger – but since I was coming out of Fort Leonard Wood (the town outside of the base was population 3750 in 2000), I wanted to be somewhere a bit bigger.

    One thing I’ve noticed about Dayton is the kind of reaction Grand Fromage had above: It seems like there’s a sizable number of people who were born in this region who like it a lot less than us transplants. Is it the same out there where you’re at?

  28. I tossed this one out when John first opened up for topics (sorry, didn’t see it in the list from earlier episodes), because I had a similar arc coming from almost the same area (Monrovia is just a few towns closer to LA), although I wound up in rural Germany. So, I wondered how his experienced compared to mine.

    I agree wholeheartedly with almost everything you’ve said. That passage about going out at night and seeing the Milky Way really hit home. It’s one of the reasons I don’t mind walking the dog before bed.

    2 follow-ups: How do you react to LA when you go back (apart from satisfying your In-n-Out cravings)? I last flew back in early 2003, left snow and ice to 75°F and sunshine. As the plane made its descent into LAX, I looked at the window and saw all this familiar stuff — Baldy, the San Gabriel river, the Big M — and all I could think was, “Turn the plane around. I want to go home.”

    Second, what do you do with your acreage? We have 1 hectare, about half of what you do, and we lease most of it to the neighbor to graze his dairy cattle. It’s cool to be able to look out the window and see cows, practically in my backyard. Not to mention the endangered red kites and just nature in general.

  29. That’s not a picture, that’s a *Sign*. An affirmation. A constant visual reminder that, indeed, the woman is always right.

  30. 1. You’re probably the [asynchronous] exchange person for Harlan Ellison (born Painesville, OH, bounced around, then Los Angeles for the last 40 years).

    2. The Milky Way is cool, isn’t it?

    3. As a New Yorker who currently lives in a smaller city, I must say that, yes, it is quieter out in rural areas. Too quiet. How do you sleep without a little background noise?

    4. While I understand sports rivalries, I don’t (and will probably never) get continuing college sports rivalries past graduation.

  31. It’s not a bad place for the future to come from.

    The future comes from Riverside, Iowa, birthplace of James T. Kirk. In all other respects, it sounds like you’ve found/made a real nice home for yourself. I’d lose my mind anywhere other than Brooklyn, NY. I simply need lots of people around me all the time, stores within walking distance, and proper street games for my kids to enjoy.

  32. Barstool Babe:

    The pumpkin festival and all the confetti are indeed still here.

    Steven Saus:

    I think people who come to a place always have a different view of it than the people who grew up there, if for no other reason than because what adults want out of an area is different than what kids/teens want out of it.


    We don’t do anything much with the acreage other than run around on it.

  33. “ Four, our daughter likes it here, and I suspect will through her teenage years…”

    Funny, my mom grew up in a small town and had the opposite experience as teen. She always said there was nothing to do in small towns but get in trouble.

    ….Although, her town was a lot smaller and not in Ohio. I doubt you’ll have to worry about it with Athena.

  34. You mentioned that those who know you write thinks it is neat. Do many people know that you are a writer and what type of stuff you write? Any “fanboys” in the town?

  35. There is a secret to living in a non-metropolitan area.

    Don’t treat your town as your universe. Make your vistas wider then then the county line and you get the joys of quiet and reasonably priced real estate without becoming “small-town” in the pejorative sense of the term.

    I live in a town of less than 100k in the middle of Illinois. I returned here after college with my new bride who happened to hail from the Chicago area. She was ready to move back in an instant for the first two years of our marriage until all of her friends up north started to get married and talking about the house market and the school systems.

    My wife, son and I get to see all the things that Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis have to offer on a regular basis, as well as occasional trips to NY or LA, but we get to come back to a place where we are comfortable and enjoy living.

    And it isn’t just Ohio that dislikes Michigan… pretty much every state with a Big Ten conference school will have stores featuring the “Muck Fichigan” sentiment.

  36. It sounds like a great place but given the importance that your education seems to have played in your being the person you are are you at all concerned about Athena being educated in a place where people are ‘overwhelmingly blue collar’. I hope you don’t take this as overly rude. The reason I ask is that I recently moved from a similarly working class part of the UK to close to Cambridge and I’m amazed at the difference in people’s horizons in terms of what they can imagine their children doing.

  37. “If I walk over to Harris Creek Cemetary (which, yes, is the one featured at the beginning of Old Man’s War), I can see 100-year-old tombstones with last names carved into them that match the last names of some of Athena’s classmates, which makes our family interlopers, even after a decade.”

    That is a poignant and beautiful description. What’s a “cemetary”? :)

  38. As a transplant into Ohio (albeit when I was 1) I can attest there is a ways bit more for you to go, John, because it’s


    not Ohioan.

    Sheesh, it’s like you’re from Michigan or something. [waves at Dr. Phil]

    Cassie, Hoosier by birth, Buckeye by choice

  39. I think it’s a sign of progress that an “overwhelmingly white” district would vote for a person of orange as their congressman.

  40. Bradford is a “BIG” town compared to where I grew up.
    I’ve mentioned this before but I grew up in south central Nebraska in a town of 260 people. It was a good life growing up and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, but…

    We moved back to Nebraska for three years, “05-“08 (family issues mostly) and thought that it would work out. What we found was that the Pacific Northwest was actually home, having lived there for the 10 years prior.
    Like Athena, my daughters had really grown up there and felt no connection to Nebraska at all.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that home is where you think it is and in our case it’s being on the Puget Sound and driving the 30 minutes into Seattle whenever we want. I can’t afford 5 acres, it’s true, but I hate mowing and landscaping anyway.

  41. We don’t do anything much with the acreage other than run around on it.

    Really? How in the world do you keep it from going completely wild or turning into a fire hazard? Is that something else your neighbors do, come over with the tractor and baler and knock it all down a couple time a year?

    Also, as others have pointed out, don’t be surprised if Athena appears to be less than thrilled with small town life between the ages of 13 and 16 or so. I doubt you have much to worry about beyond some whining and moaning, but don’t expect to get off scotfree.

  42. I loved growing up in a rural area.

    The bookmobile (a library in an old converted bus) actually use to stop at the end of our driveway every third Wednesday around 6:00 PM.

    The worst thing about living in the middle of nowhere was the bus ride to school every day. Don’t ask why, but it took about 90 minutes to get to school in the morning and about 60 minutes to get home in the afternoon. Then my brother and I would have our farm chores. Supper was around 7:00PM, howework and then bed. Up at 5:00AM or so for a few chores and then off to school.

    On 2nd thought, I hated living in the middle of nowhere…

  43. I have lived in expensive, crowded urban areas my whole life. I need to since that is where the work I do is.

    I would prefer a more rural area. With the internet you are never really isolated. There are more restaurants where I live now (Northern Virginia) than I can possibly go to. How many do I need?

    I also like the land prices in rural areas.

    You are lucky to live there.

  44. Le sigh. You’ve just described perfectly why I would love to move out to the country and have my own five acres. For one thing, my 300 pounds of dog would have a territory properly supersized for them, and we would then have space for the horses, goats, chickens, extra cats, and other critters that I would love to have. On the other hand, living in Ann Arbor is incredibly cool. I have professional musicians, scientists, famous heart surgeons, writers of course, and lots of other incredibly cool people all around me, all the time. The schools are fantastic, and there is lots of wholesome stuff to do. I know that it can be hard to be a teenager in a small town where there’s “nothing to do.” If only I could have the benefits of both…

  45. I may have gushed about this before (fanboi alert!), but!

    After reading OMW, I felt sure that you had been raised in the midwest. I almost felt like you had ripped me out of reality and into your book. It would have only been a better fit if you had written it out of Columbus instead of Dayton.

  46. “naturalized Ohioan”…This is actually the term my wife uses to describe how she feels about living in Ohio after moving here 16 years ago.

  47. I love this post! As a life-long NE Ohio resident I’ve seen the stars so close you could touch them, worked my uncle’s sugarbush making maple syrup, travelled on the horse and mule drawn sledge through the forest with only our breaths for company…. and still find excitement travelling into Cleveland for the museum and the orchestra.
    John, it sounds like you are at a place of contentment.

  48. I grew up in a small village in England – 400 people, 5 pubs and 3 churches – they had their priorities right in those days. Then I met my wife and moved into London. Which I hated but put up with for nearly thirteen years until we made the move to Canada. Now I live in a town that is large by Canadian standards but small by English ones. It’s a compromise that works for me but I would live back in that small village in a heartbeat.

  49. looking up and seeing the Milky Way splayed out across the sky

    That’s worth the price of admission right there.

  50. Do you maintain the vast swaths of grass yourself and what kind of mechanical contraption do you use?

  51. I wonder, would there be fewer dystopias in SF if more SF writers lived in places like this rather than urban areas?

    I grew up in small town Texas, when I see King of the Hill episodes I grew knowing people exactly like that, and living in Dallas now I pretty much want to buy some acreage and move out to the country. There’s just not so much software development work out there.

  52. “I like walking out my front door, looking up and seeing the Milky Way splayed out across the sky.”

    The single, biggest thing I dislike about living in an urban (or semi-urban area) like I do is that I can’t see the Milky Way. Just the odd few dots of light – and most of them are airplanes or satellites instead of stars anyway, most likely. And, living in Britain, there aren’t a great many places I could move to and see it anyway. Indeed, the only time I’ve seen the Milky Way in all its glory was this one time my parents took me on holiday to a gite in remote France when I was much longer (and aside from seeing the Milky Way, I hated every minute of it. Because when you’re a young kid who can’t speak French, being stuck in the countryside with nothing to do is tedious beyond recounting).

    All that is a long way of saying that I envy you your Milky Way, you lucky, lucky man.

  53. *sigh*

    As if I didn’t miss home enough already. Home being Wisconsin, not Ohio, but you get my point.

    Sooner or later (hopefully sooner) I’ll be able to move back, because New England and I just do not fit together very well. One would think I’d be used to it after 6+ years, but it just isn’t happening.

  54. I want to see pictures of the office with the bookcases installed.

    Given the nice floor and attractive new wall colors, I think I covet your office. BUt I will only be SURE I covet it when I see the desk and shelves. Pictures! Pictures!

  55. My wife and I are on the verge of moving from a major metropolitan area (pop. 2.5 million) to my home town in ND (Pop. 600+). The loss of restaurants will be devastating to us, the great libraries here will be replaced by a bookmobile, and there is next to nothing to do. A high school basketball game is a big event. But on the other hand, I haven’t seen a sky full of stars in almost 17 years, the air is so sweet you’d think it was filtered through honey, and we long for quiet nights.

  56. So you live in Greater Metropolitan Piqua, eh? Holy moses. I’ve been to Piqua (including the beautifully restored Fort Piqua Hotel), and Troy, and even Tipp City. And in a month and a half, I’ll be down in Trotwood for Dayton Hamvention.

    ‘Tis indeed a small world!

    And you don’t need to sound so apologetic for living there, because it’s a really wonderful, quirky, interesting and very historic area of Ohio, from Dayton right on up.

    Maybe some day they’ll put up a sign at the village limits? “Hometown of John Scalzi.”

    Or more likely: “Birthplace of Baconcat.”

  57. Usually a lurker but had to comment. I grew up in San Diego. Ended up in Toledo, Ohio for med school. Ended up in Lancaster Ohio-smaller area just south of Columbus. Big culture shock when I first was in Ohio. Also it sounds stupid but it was weird in the winter time to look out a window and see sunny blue skies and have the temp be below 30. I remember in California wearing a sweater when it was 60 degrees which is shorts weather in Ohio.

    Regarding football, I was neutral but I remember during one rotation with a rapid Michigan fan Internist fervently hoping Michigan would win because he would be in a foul mood if they lost and then rounds would completely suck.

  58. Dragon @# 53: If memory serves, in previous posts he’s referred to it as a “Father-in-Law”.

  59. It’s weird to think of Bradford as a small rural village, with wide open spaces and an almost all white population… was it named after Bradford in West Yorkshire (which is where my brother has lived for 40 years) or just some chap called Brad Ford? Actually, that too was a village once upon a time (“”Bradeford” in the Domesday book of 1086″), but in the 19thC it was the wool capital of the world and now is largely a post-industrial place, with one of the highest proportions of South Asian Muslims (mostly from Pakistan) in the UK.

    One minor claim to fame is that it is home of the world’s longest-running (English-style pub-based weekly) folk club, The Topic, which has been going since 1956 (and for which I do the website).

    Actually, I am currently in a village in the south of the UK and I don’t get to see the Milky Way in all its glory without some effort as unfortunately there are orange street lights even in these little places. I did get get to see the space shuttle and its detached external tank sometime last year… unusually, the shuttle lifted off in the late afternoon from Florida, and so it was not long after dark when it passed over me about 25 minutes later. I was surprised to see two sparks flying in formation, but then realised the lower, orange item was the dumped tank on its freefall way to the Indian (or Pacific) Ocean. No-one in the US ever gets to see that as the shuttle always launches out across the ocean.

  60. I appreciate your post. A lot of things in it rang true for me.

    Blairstown, where I live, has a population of 680. We are literally the oasis in the middle of a sea of soybean and corn fields. From about August through November, the air buzzes with the sound of grain moving into the elevator. You just sort of acclimate to that after a while.

    While I am an Iowan, I did not come from Blairstown. People often ask why we moved there, the expectation being that our family is from the area. We came because the house we live in captivated us. However, we both work and spend a lot of time in the big city of Cedar Rapids (smaller than Fresno), so we don’t feel too isolated.

    You’re absolutely right about the standard of living. People can’t believe what our house cost when they find out. I am always surprised why people don’t consider the cheaper advantages of living in the Midwest.

    Sure, Iowa is dull. Sure, you have to fill your time in the winter. It’s kind of ideal for writers who need to stay on task. And, it’s a great place to leave your stuff. When you travel, no one’s stolen anything.

    Oddly enough, I am not the only writer in town. There are two of us, although she is a free-lance non-fiction writer.

    Apparently Iowa produces good enough writers that two of us made it to VP last year. I think that says a lot for boredom and its many uses.


  61. Oops, should have checked first! It is named after a guy called Bradford.

  62. I’m jealous. Really jealous. Five acres huh? That’s amazing. We have all of 12,000 feet for a lot. That’s what you get in Southern California. 12,000 lousy feet. I’m certain I could buy five acres with a nice house in Ohio for what I paid for this money pit. It’s becoming a nice money pit though.

    As someone who was born in Kentucky, but now lives in Southern California, I still consider myself a Kentuckian. As much as I love/hate California (and I’ve been here most of my adult life), I’d still love to go back and live there, on five acres, in a great house just like yours.

  63. AWESOME!

    Great post. I am surprised that you are able to use your 5 acres at all. Even running around on it as you say is difficult to imagine, as I have difficulty making any use of the 5000 or so square feet in my backyard…

    I hope you have a good mower…

  64. What are quiet nights? I live in rural Maryland. One of our property lines is the railroad right-of-way, and there is a crossing in front of our house (requiring the train to blow its whistle). CSX does its level best to keep our night devoid of peace and quiet.

    OTOH, my neighbors are dairy farmers, and heavily armed, so I don’t need to worry about stray dogs chasing my chickens.

  65. I liked living in a small rural town as a kid and I love it as an adult (different town and much smaller – 800 people). But I *hated* it as a teenager. Everything I wanted to do – and I was a pretty nerdy, studious kid, so it wasn’t even all that much – involved getting a parent on board for an hour or two driving each way. I suspect the internet will make a difference now (it’s not 20 minutes drive each way to the video shop, it’s just a button press away) but not for sports, music or playing D&D. Fortunately, my parents would let us have 12 teenagers to stay overnight on a regular basis (we all slept on the floor or outside on the ground if it was summer) and thus D&D happened.

    An hour each way to high school (and my brother going 2 hours in the other direction to the orthodontist) wasn’t awesome, either.

  66. In re transplants, even here in benighted southwest Missouri we’re getting retired Californians, attracted by some of the lowest costs of living in the country.

    For example, gasoline is currently about $2.50 a gallon. A new 1900 square-foot house with a 2-car attached garage, 3 beds & 2 baths on a standard in-town lot (quarter-acre?) runs ~$160k to $180k.

    Can’t tell you what milk or bread costs (don’t imagine it’s /that/ different) because my wife handles the money.

    OTOH, incomes are lower out here. Household median income in 2000 was $30k, or ~$38k for a family of four.

    We’re close enough to the regional small city that sky viewing is pants, though.

  67. I am always surprised why people don’t consider the cheaper advantages of living in the Midwest.

    Because they’ve considered the disadvantages of living in the Midwest, and understand that maybe there’s a reason why is it cheaper to live in Tinytown, Iowa than in San Glamoroso, California.

    Please don’t take that as coastal snobbery; I grew up in the Midwest and think that people who use the term ‘flyover land’ in seriousness need to be repeatedly kicked in the ‘nads. And there are many things I miss about the Midwest (abundant water; nobody gives a rip what your sign is). But there are reasons people move away, and it’s not “they are afflicted by a brain disorder that makes them unable to judge housing prices accurately.”

    re small towns being cool when you’re young, they’re very cool when you’re very young, but the comments from folks here about their teenage years pretty much match up with just about everything I’ve heard from people who grew up in small, rural towns (including Mr. Mythago). I’m sure Athena will be smart enough not to decide that the way to alleviate Ohioan boredom is to blow up mailboxes, but still.

  68. I’ve always lived on the coasts, with the exception of a short 6 month interlude in rural Kentucky. I think if I was settled down with spouse and kids it might have been OK, but as a single, bi, fairly liberal, atheist person used to Boston and San Francisco, it was painful. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I do miss the cost of living in Kentucky. I earned half what I earn in San Francisco, but rent was 1/5 of that in San Francisco.

  69. Yeah, there’s not a lot to do here that doesn’t involve driving a fair distance, say an hour or two on the highway.

    Plus we’re lousy with teabaggers.

  70. Quotha Our Gracious Host @0:

    […] and it still weirds me out that the nearest spot of historical import is a small patch of grass where the Treaty of Greenville was signed, rather than the San Gabriel Mission. I am at best a naturalized Ohioan.

    To quote one L. McCoy, M.D.:  “You mean ‘yet.'” [1]

        **<wavy lines>**
    Dateline – 22 September 2056
    Bradford, OH / USA / Sol III  [GNews]

      Thousands of Bradford residents gathered today in the heart of the Greater Bradford megalopolis to witness the formal declaration of a new state historical site. Hizzonnor J. Perry Blatherson solemnized the event: “On this site, exactly fifty years ago, an almost-unknown writer registered the Internet domain – and thereby transformed this county beyond recognition…”

        **</wavy lines>**

    Nearest historical spot?  Dude, you’re (sitting|standing) on it!

    [1] And to paraphrase a certain J. Kirk:  You’d better hurry – you’ve only got about six months to renew that domain.

  71. I couldn’t wait to leave my small town in northern California when I was a teen. Our town was two years backwards from Los Angeles trends in fashion, and everything else with cool-ness. And, Los Angeles had Disneyland close by. So, I moved, and spent 17 years in Los Angeles, which included the ’92 earthquake, which knocked down the Washington St. overpass near my apartment. When I moved to Orange County and 10 miles from Disneyland, it took over an hour to drive there. Huntington Beach was 10 miles away, and took even longer to get there (and didn’t look anything like Baywatch). And, parking, no matter where you went in Southern California, was always hard to find and a competitive nasty ordeal. So, I didn’t want to go anywhere. Then, one day, stuck in traffic, I had revelation, and immediately (sold my ugly home in 5 days for $350,000 more than I purchased it for 5 years before) moved to a rural location near Lake Tahoe. My Los Angeles friends didn’t and don’t get it. They say there’s nothing to do where I live. I don’t get that. Here, in winter, there’s skiing, sledding, snow boarding, moon light snow shoeing, dog sledding, ski mobiling, hot mulled wine… In the summer, there’s hiking, geocaching, horseback riding, white water rafting, kayaking… and bizarre events to attend, like the annual camel races in Virginia City, the outhouse races, to name a few. In between, I get organic fresh eggs from my chickens and ducks, and my turkeys (I couldn’t bring myself to killing at eating them… the City in me). I can also drive to a city 60 miles away and find easy parking in less time than it took me to drive 10 miles in Los Angeles. Best of all, I can see the stars at night, and hear the coyotes sing to me a night. The weather is amazing because there IS weather. Fluffy clouds in weird shapes, as many as 5 rainbows at one time, wind, snow, rain, sun… the local saying is, “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change.” I haven’t gone back to L.A. since I moved here 5 years ago. I am having way too much fun. Real white water rafting is far more fun than a ride at Disneyland that you wait hours in line for and lasts minutes.

  72. As a native Michigander, I’d just like to explicitly state something that has been implied in these comments.

    The near violent dislike between the two states is largely among serious fans of college sports.

    The rest of us think you have a perfectly nice state down there. (even if you did steal Toledo from us) ;)

  73. @76 The near violent dislike between the two states is largely among serious fans of college sports.

    a-HA! That explains everything. Thanks, Dan. :-)

  74. Dan C., you may remember that they got Toledo in return for us taking the U.P., which for me permanently settles the “which state is smarter” question. ;)

  75. This was a very enjoyable read. I grow so tired of “the grass is always greener” attitude in terms of where we live or where we think we should live. It’s refreshing to hear someone’s satisfied opinion of living in an “uncool” place like Ohio.

  76. mythago @ 78

    In the long run it was probably a pretty good trade, but personally I’m more of an urban person than wilderness sort, so I’d have to pick Toledo. ;)

  77. Grew up in a town of 613 in Central NE – went to NW Ohio (Bowling Green) for grad school and ended up back in the largest city (50,000) near my hometown. I love being back. Ohio was nice, but it was never going to be home. My oldest son, on the other hand, will definitely move somewhere else as an adult. Growing up in a small town is difficult in that you are still with all the same kids and families that you’ve known your entire life – in bigger cities every time you change schools, there’s the possibility of new friends and ideas. That does NOT happen in small communities. So if you fit in, it’s great. If you’re different, it’s a special kind of hell.

    When we lived in NW Ohio, the malls had the very unique Ohio State/Michigan stores, where half the store was Ohio State memorabilia and the other half was Michigan. They even had a line down the middle and two sets of registers so that you never had to sully yourself with the other team’s people. Growing up in NE, I know about college football insanity, but this was a whole nother level.

  78. You forgot to mention the Pumpkin Show! lol. I was born and raised in Bradford. It is wonderful to know someone thinks so much of my little town. I lived in Cali when I was in the Navy, and LA was my favorite place to be. I consider it my secobd home, but in all honesty, so glad to be raising my kids here.

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