The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Twenty: Bradford, Ohio

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t want to move to Bradford. It was nothing against Bradford in particular; it was that it was in Ohio, and I didn’t want to move to Ohio. I was happy living in Northern Virginia, where we lived at the time, where I had friends, and work, and a nice house and a comfortable life. But my wife wanted to live near her family, who had moved to the Miami Valley of Ohio, where Krissy’s father was originally from (and where Krissy herself was born). I grew up in Southern California, in the urban milieu of Los Angeles, and the idea of living in the midwest did not appeal to me. I thought I would be clever and say to my wife that I would move if she could find a place with five acres of land, on the idea that I could never afford that much land. Turns out land in rural Ohio is surprisingly inexpensive. Off we went to Ohio, and to Bradford, where my new home would be.

Bradford is the smallest place I have ever lived. It has just around 1,850 residents, which is roughly equivalent in size to the high school I used to live near as a kid. It’s a rural and blue collar community, strongly religious (there are nine churches around town) and like the rest of both Darke and Miami counties, each of which houses half the town, strongly politically conservative. It’s 98% white and less than 1% Hispanic of any sort, that one percent of which includes both my wife and daughter, who have ancestors from Mexico. All the kids, from kindergarten through high school, go to school in the same building. The town is locally famous for its Pumpkin Festival, has no stoplights, has an IGA market and is eleven miles away from the nearest Wal-Mart. When you think about typical small-town America, Bradford or someplace very much like it is what you think about.

I admit when we first moved here all of this disconcerted me. I was an urban and suburban sort of person, lived in areas where not everyone was white and Republican and was used to having fully-kitted shopping centers, complete with fast-food franchises, less than a mile away, near people with college degrees and a preference for alternative music over country. When we moved to Bradford the fastest local Internet provider connected to the Web at 9600 baud. I was fairly certain I was gonna die out there.

It didn’t happen. One, I got satellite Internet (and then DSL). Two, on a day to day basis none of that stuff matters in terms of how people treat each other as neighbors. I’ve lived in Bradford long enough for people to know I’m an agnostic lefty; I don’t really think most people care. I think what they care about is if I’m I good guy and a good neighbor, which are things I try to be.

And as time has gone on I’ve come to appreciate some of the things that used to worry me about rural living. When I moved to Bradford, I was concerned I would be isolated; these days I actually like that I am a little bit isolated. I travel so much and I do so much when I travel that when I’m home, it’s nice to be away from it all. Being in a small town is great for focus when it comes to writing. I’m aware that this may come across as damning with faint praise. I’d like to emphasize the praise is not faint. My job is to write; my personal nature is to be distracted. And beyond that, the feeling I get when I get home from travel is like a happy sigh and a clearing of stress, looking out at my big yard and the fields beyond it. It’s nice to have space and not to have a feeling the rest of the world is impinging upon you.

I like our neighbors; I like the school and the teachers who teach my daughter and the fact the school is small enough that she gets enough attention from the people who educate her. I like that in the life of my town I am able to make a difference, and that’s not necessarily a feeling that I’ve gotten in the other places where I have lived. I am engaged enough in Bradford that it feels like I imagine a hometown is supposed to feel like, rather than a place I just happen to live. I don’t know that I would have known the difference before I moved here; now I do.

As with any place one might live, Bradford isn’t perfect, but then perfection isn’t what one ought to be expecting. It’s nice to live there among good people who by and large seem to be happy we’re there. I didn’t want to move there, but that was eleven years ago now. I’m there now and I like it. I think it’s been an important place for me to be in my life, and for what I do and how I do it. I’m thankful to be there. Or, more accurately, since I am in Toronto at the moment, thankful to be going back there. Not that Toronto isn’t a great city, mind you. But Bradford is home.

59 Comments on “The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Twenty: Bradford, Ohio”

  1. I have to agree…Ohio isn’t really that bad. I’m from Idaho, my husband is from New York, my college roommate (who moved here on my recommendation in 1974 is from Hawaii and her husband is from Tennessee. Everyone seems to be from somewhere else, but “Ohio, it’s not that bad.” (not that I expect to see that on our license plates any time in the future). Our state quarter has the Wright flyer and an astronaut (John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, or Nancy Curry..take your pick) See me next year at Chicon 7 and I’ll give you one…

  2. Ha, my town, Dipshit, SC, is 20 miles away from the nearest WalMart, has fewer people and more churches.

    We have a stoplight though, right outside the IGA.

  3. So, one of the messages of the story is that an urban lefty moves to a small town, finds his prejudices are overturned by the fact that the people in “flyover country” are highly tolerant and judge people as individuals. Too bad another prejudiced lefty, one who believes people in small towns are bitter climbers to guns, God, and xenophobia (I’m looking at you, Barack Obama) can’t have his bigotry overturned so easily. But bigotry and prejudice are two things which define or current president.

  4. I grew up in pretty much the same place you did (northern San Gabriel Valley) and I think the hardest part for me adjusting to rural living is that you’re pretty much expected to greet folks you pass when you’re walking the dog or just walking down the street. OK, this is rural Germany, so maybe it’s different, but I doubt it. We lived for 6 years in a row house in the middle of the row in a suburb of Düsseldorf. In the 6 months after we moved here, I knew more people by name and to say hi to than I ever did from all the people in that row. I’ve decided I actually kind of like that.

  5. I grew up in a small town, and after twenty-mumble years living in the Boston area — which is pretty awesome for a city — my spouse and I moved first to a small village in Northampton, MA (pop: ~29,000) and then to a nearby town with a population of about 2,500.

    We are *definitely* thankful.

  6. Wow, Scorpius, you are entirely useless, aren’t you? In a post about the power of being a good neighbor, all you can think to do is vomit bile.

    When my cat throws up, I have towels and 409. You’ll have to clean up after yourself.

  7. ” I like the school and the teachers who teach my daughter and the fact the school is small enough that she gets enough attention from the people who educate her. ”

    Just don’t forget to deprogram her when they start spreading right wing religious propaganda on her fertile little mind.

  8. @Scorpius

    Let’s see some of the right wing horse pis er hospitality in action

    “First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden were booed at the Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday, where they were present to Grand Marshall the final races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
    They were also visiting to raise support for a White House initiative that encourages businesses to hire veterans.”

  9. Hety come on Scorpius…give Ohio a little slack…we overturne the anti union Senate Bill 5 a few weeks ago, and I’ve been driving around with Barack Obama bumper stickers for two years now with out any broken windows or flat tires. We’ve got a major ballet company 20 miles away, several great museums, and a couple of respected universities all within a half hour drive of where Scalzi lives.

  10. I do believe that Scorpius *perfectly* expressed exactly why an “urban lefty” might not be super eager to move to the Midwest – or the Deep South, or the Mountain West. Thankfully, the majority of people *in the whole country* aren’t complete jagoffs, at least measured against his scale.

  11. My town has 350 people, there are 11 kids in the school (K-8) & we are 50 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my life in the wilderness away from the hustle & bustle of the city. :)~

  12. This comment comes to you from Carthage, North Carolina (population 2200, give or take), where I too am the resident lefty, as well as being the town writer. As another local literary figure, the late children’s book author Glen Rounds, used to say, “being the town writer is like being the town drunk. Everyone knows you, but it’s not like it’s respected.” All that said, I like it fine.

  13. I lived in a very tiny town for a year when I was young. It seemed to me small towns were a lot a like no matter where they were. There were nice things and there were drawbacks. If you had car trouble, the first car to come past would stop. On the other hand, total strangers often knew things about you that you hadn’t realized were the topic of conversation. When my cat got stuck up a tree, I waited overnight and then called the volunteer fire department to come get him down. Six months later, I was buying something at the county seat, about 12 miles away, and when I wrote a check, they accepted it without asking for ID because I had a local PO Box and phone number printed on the check. When the cashier asked me where I lived, I told her, and she said, “Oh, you’re the girl with the cat.”

  14. Scorpius’s out-of-left-field comments on the president are deeply ignorant, and could be cured by looking at what he actually said on the occasion referred to. Obama wasn’t expressing bigotry against the people he was discussing, but trying to explain and understand their aversion to him. It was a plea for his workers to understand and sympathize with people differing from themselves.

  15. That astronaut on our quarter is definitely in a lunar spacesuit, which rules out Glenn and Currie. Along with a whole bunch of other Ohio astronauts not named Armstrong. :^)

    Actually, I suppose you COULD make a case for it being Jim Lovell, as he would have worn that same sort of suit on the moon’s surface. However, his Apollo 13 mission had a little snag that kept him from actually making a landing and getting to walk around.

  16. *sigh* and the usual jackass brings in his personal politics again. Well done. Try respecting Scalzi’s wishes and shut up about them.

    Sounds like Bradford isn’t so different from southwest Missouri, just smaller than the 10-40 kiloperson towns that I’m used to, having grown up in a town of 9000 and lived in the area all my life. It’s nice that this place is quiet, not full of people or gang violence, open spaces, but sometimes one wants more cultural things nearby, more choices in restaurants, more available jobs.

    It’s a balance.

  17. Wow, I go out to dinner with friends and find this when I come back. Well done, folks.

    Now I’m about to go out for drinks with another set of friends. Allow me to suggest that commenters from this point forward try to avoid the same level of thread crappage. I thank you in advance.

  18. I am a huge fan of small towns. I came from a town of less than a thousand people. Everyone looked out for everyone else. I remember our family was driving home from church one day when we came across some cattle that were out on the gravel road. We got out (in our “Church clothes”) and herded the cattle back into the lot they were in and did a quick patch on the fence. That farm was miles from our farm, but we considered them neighbors, and neighbors looked out for neighbors. The fire department is volunteer. So is the rescue squad. People give their time and risk their lives, for no monetary compensation, for no other reason than it makes them feel good to help their family, friends, and neighbors.

    Helping people out of the kindness of our hearts. Working together to help people in times of need. All without any monetary incentive to drive it. A bunch of lefty, bleeding heart liberals, we were.

    Well, maybe that’s a bit too far. My memories of small town life included very real instances of racism, of homophobia, and of religious intolerance.

    But there are some good things to learn from my home town. Looking out for our neighbors being one of them. Honesty. Hard work.

  19. Thank you for squeezing in my daily Whatever fix amidst the tumult of Contario. Hope to hear about how you rocked the place to the ground!!eleven! after you return and decompress. Wish you a safe journey back to Bradford (and hope the twittered plea for help wasn’t too serious ;^).

  20. Whoops. Scalzi@8:53 was crossposted with my message at 9:09.

    Just to clarify, my “lefty, bleeding heart liberals” bit wasn’t intended to contribute to the “thread crappage” political bickering. I think that “help thy neighbor” aspect of my home town really is very lefty/liberal and is something I admire. Wasn’t intended as snark towards my town or towards the political commentary on the thread. I really do love the town I grew up in and the people there. And, like any other town, they’re not perfect.

    (rubs an old loving-mallet-of-correction shaped bump on forehead)

    That’s all I was saying…

  21. I grew up in a small town: no stop lights, no grocery store outside of the local general store / gas station, and I can attest to the neighborly feel and the ability to get things done when there’s nothing else to do. I then went from there to London, which was a big shock for the first couple of days.

  22. Toledo is considerably larger than Bradford, to be sure, but still has a small town mentality. This alternately amuses and annoys me, depending – it amuses me with the neighborliness (and occasional nosiness), annoys me with the “OMG, I can’t wait to get out of here!” ‘tude copped by the chronically bitter.

    Me, I love Ohio. I don’t really love the weather in the winter, but I love all of our hidden and not so hidden gems, and I love all the genuinely nifty people I meet.

  23. Scalzi 8:53 pm

    Somebody used the words “left” and “field.”
    Every time I hear the term ‘out of left field’ I scream a bit,
    and try to forget about the baseball that didn’t push my left
    one all the way up my
    Pancakes are nice.
    Pancakes with bacon and syrup are nice.
    Pancakes with bacon doughnuts, ham and maple syrup are
    very nice.
    Bacon on a cat is furry, and not very edible, and a baseball to
    the groin is not nice.

  24. I meant “bacon, doughnuts.”
    But I do think that a bacon doughnut would be better than
    a blueberry pie.

  25. I just moved back to San Francisco, after being gone for 11 years. I spent three years in Cleveland, and Copley, OH (was in NYC before that). What I discovered is that I’m very much imprinted on urban living.

    I can certainly appreciate small towns. NE OH is the right place for some of my family. And it was good for me to go back there for a while, I think, to learn why it is not the place for me. These are important things to learn. Getting back in to the rhythm of walking everywhere, the local galleries, sidewalk produce, overpriced coffee and underpriced vietnamese food, and, yes, even the noisy crazy guy ranting outside my window at 1AM made me feel like I was finally back home. As much fun as NYC was, it wasn’t home, either. On my second day back, Frank panhandled me. A week later, the Hayward fault threw a small welcome-home earthquake, it felt like, just for me.

    Wherever you find it, home is a good place to be.

  26. I feel somewhat obligated, as a native of Michigan, to make snotty comments about Ohio, but my sense of self-preservation suggests I wait until after the Big Game next weekend.

    Bradford sounds like good people. Small towns have their good and bad points, and it sounds as though Clan Scalzi has landed in a decent one.

  27. I went the other direction, grew up in a small town in the midwest and landed here in Northern Virginia. …and I think this is all I have to say about that:

  28. John, you’ve shown, with the SFWA, that when think an organization is being poorly run you are willing to step up to the plate. Any chance you’d run for election in Bradford? Mayor? Councilman? Board of Ed?

  29. Man, I’m glad you like it there but having escaped Dayton ten months ago, I can’t comprehend anyone liking any part of Ohio. And a whole town half the size of my high school… I get twitchy in any city under a million.

  30. John, I’m glad you enjoy living in a small town. I don’t honestly think I would ever enjoy it. I’ve lived in the city and I’ve lived in the suburbs, but never truly rural locations. Oh, I don’t live far from rural locations (living West of Philadelphia), but I’m not a writer and I enjoy my distractions. The Internet has alleviated this, somewhat. It no longer matters if I have to drive a longer distance to a good bookstore, games store or electronics store….at least not as much as it once did. Getting high-speed internet at remote locations is no longer the challenge it once was, which alleviates many of the issues I would have.

    But not having access to stuff like Indian or Thai restaurants, for example? It would bug me. I don’t travel as much as you do, so the place I’m in needs to be near stuff. I like stuff. I could live in a small town, but I wouldn’t want to.

  31. Having grown up in urbia, suburbia, and ruralia, I’d personally love to own a home where I walk out my front door and am within a ten-minute walking distance of work, the supermarket, library, hardware store, post office, etc. etc. (as I am now), but be able to walk out my back door and see an acre or two of lawn surrounded by trees and Appalachian-esque mountains in the near distance; nearest neighbor at least a half-mile away. I hate having to choose.

  32. WizarDru:

    Thai restaurants are really popular (relatively) here in southwest MO/southeast KS, and they can be surprisingly good, and Greek to a lesser extent. Indian, though. *groan* Ah, Indian. Have to drive an hour to get to a mediocre one, and two for a good one.

    We’re lucky in having probably the biggest Vietnamese-American festival in the country once a year, so one can get Vietnamese food without excess travel.

    I’m with you on high-speed Internet, though. I’d be lost without it.

  33. Good grief.

    I too was raised in Southern California (north San Fernando Valley), so I’m a city boy. It freaked me out when I went to school in Socorro, NM (population at the time about 8000, 2000 of which were the student body and faculty of NM Tech). Went back to the city after that, but then 4 years ago, we moved to 5 acres in Loveland, CO. Even with a population of 56,000, this feels like a small town to me.

    But 1,850? I can’t even imagine.

    Also too, why do you put up with Scorpius’ shtick? Do you think it’s just a shtick? Does he amuse you? Cause, my god, 3 comments in…

  34. I grew up in the Detroit area, and then moved to rural NH for a while. I thought that small town life would grate on me, but I found that it did not. I liked being part of a small community, and I liked the proximity of everything- I liked being able to walk to my office, and I liked having regular haunts.

    That said, I moved back to MI, for love. Definitely made the right choice in that regard.

  35. John, my questions about Bradford life are two:

    To your knowledge, does being split evenly between two counties have any effect on how the town is run? I mean, I don’t suppose it heavily impacts citizens’ daily lives, but it might make for some administrative kludges. Not important, it’s just an odd thing that strikes my nerdy interest.

    Also, did your wife and daughter actually list themselves as “of Hispanic origin” on the census last year? Because that’s where the figures of what percentage Hispanic a place is come from, and if they didn’t then it doesn’t include them, and therefore there could be more like them than the census implies.

  36. I grew up in this region, just over the line in Miami County. And I certainly don’t remember Bradford being tolerant in any way, shape or form. I do remember going to a bar there one night to meet some friends from Greenville with a black friend and not only were we not served but got to overhear a lovely selection of rope jokes. This fits with childhood experiences of going to the pumpkin festival with large groups of friends and hearing every racial slur you could think of directed at the non white members of our group. Mind you this was all two or three decades ago, but I’ve always thought of Bradford as some strange, racist, little dump that the word “hick” was designed for. I don’t mean to imply that all small towns are like this, just this one in particular. Hopefully for you and your family this has changed over the years.

  37. The last place I lived was small-town midwest (Iowa, to be precise). We lived there about 3-4 years, and by then were screaming and beating down the doors to get out. It wasn’t that the people there were awful – they weren’t, but the sheer insularity, lack of imagination, and homogeneity of the place was unbearable. There was no bookstore – one tried to open up and lasted about six months before they went under. I think my family of four was almost half their business. Everybody knew everybody else, and most of them were related. By the standards of most places I’ve lived I’m barely unusual, in rural Iowa I was downright weird, which was uncomfortable.

    The final killer, though, was the schools. I’m very glad that Athena is having a good time in the Bradford schools. Our son ended up with an ulcer halfway through kindergarten, before we pulled him out to homeschool until we could get out of town. He was too different from the other kids, and the teachers couldn’t cope with him – he spent half of his school days in the principal’s office, and kept coming home with bruises. The source of all this bothersome difference? 1) He could read already when he hit kindergarten (and work math up to fractions), and they had nothing they could do with him except make him do all the same work as the other kindergarteners, even though it was boring him to tears. 2) He wasn’t into sports. 3) We took him on trips outside of town (and state) regularly, so he had experiences the other kids didn’t. When he was being called a liar by his teachers for saying he’d seen a soft-shell turtle (he had, at an aquarium in MS), scolded for reading in the library, because the books with words were for the older kids, and his teacher flat told me to stop teaching him things at home because he was already too weird, we pulled him out. He’d lost nearly a grade level of reading ability during his stay in kindergarten.

    And these were well-regarded schools – above the average for Iowa. Now we live outside of Louisville, and neither I nor my kids are considered particularly weird for being ourselves. Much better.

  38. I’ve noticed that a lot of people here prefer cities because of the greater variety of foods that they can get in restaurants there. For those of us who don’t happen to have a well-developed sense of taste and take a Wellingtonian[1] approach to our diets, though, this isn’t really much of an enticement.

    This isn’t just a question of cultural conditioning. Many of us simply don’t experience tastes as intensely or with as fine of discrimination as others, and the subtleties of fine cooking are pretty much lost on us. In high school science class, when we did the classic “people with their noses plugged can’t tell different flavors of baby food apart, while people with unplugged noses can pick them right away”, I couldn’t distinguish any of the foods other than on whether or not they were sweet. Even though I was one of the people in the “nose unplugged” control group. I’ll eat most anything, but I get about as much pleasure from random leftovers as from food from fine restaurants.

    [1] “One day when staying in Paris, the Duke of Wellington was asked to dinner by M Cambaceres, one of the most renowned gourmets of France. The host having pressed a dish upon the Duke asked eagerly when his plate was cleared how he liked it. ‘It was excellent’, replied the Duke, ‘but to tell you the truth, I don t much care about what I eat’.”

  39. Having grown up on a farm and now living in a city, I can report seeing racism and homophobia in both. the difference would be that in the city, the population diversity acts as a sort self-correcting system that puts pressure on bigoted people, whereas the small towns I have experience with are homogenous, white, christian, straight, group of people, and can express bigotry towards nonwhites or nonchristians or nonstraight people without running into corrective pressure from the population. But that compares a town with a population of 1000 to a city of a million or so. The thing is, in a city of a million, I am fairly certain you could find more than a thousand people with prejudiced feelings and attitudes. The difference is the rest of the population provides alternatives that embrace tolerance. If the only bar in a small town refuses to serve you, you may br looking at driving another 15 miles to find another bar. If the same thing happens in a big city, you might just have to drive a half mile.

  40. I’ve often thought that living in a town that small would be a wonderful thing. But I wonder how it would be for my kids. How does Athena like it? Are there kids her age? Is it tough for her to go over to their houses to hang out (or do kids even do that anymore)?

  41. Different strokes. Perhaps if I traveled as much as you do, John, I wouldn’t be quite so unfulfilled living in the suburbs of a medium-sized city (Sacramento, California). It may just be that I got so spoiled living in Chicago during my graduate-level education and for the first 12 years of my career that I’ve never been able to adjust to anything else with any ease. If I had the money for it, I’d move to the East Coast, preferably Manhattan but equally happily in Boston/Cambridge or Washington, D.C. As it is, I pretty much live for our infrequent trips to big cities.

    That said, there’s no way I could afford as much space as I presently rent if I lived in any big city. And space is pretty much necessary when you have a library as vast as mine. And since books make me happier than anything else in the world (except my husband), having all these books around me and visible is something I don’t want to live without. Trade-offs, always trade-offs.

  42. I grew up in a small city, but always thought I’d end up moving to a major metropolis. Yet I’m 34 and have bought a house in Brantford (were I grew up and then moved back to thanks to the incredibly affordable housing). Now, Brantford has many stop lights and schools and a WalMart and close to 100 thousand people, so it really isn’t in Bradford’s league of ‘smallness’. But its blue collar and right wing and deeply religious (pretty sure we have more churches than Tim Horton’s — and we have a ridiculous amount of those). There is a lot about the place that I feel I don’t fit, but I’ve grown to love it dearly. I’ve realized there is a lot charm in living in a smaller place. More importantly, you can happily live in a place where the demographic has very different beliefs, backgrounds and educations than you.

  43. We moved from the Northern Virginia area to Nebraska, which was a big change, although Lincoln isn’t nearly as tiny as Bradford. In fact, people from the outlying little towns in the rest of the state fret about driving here, because “the traffic is scary.” Coming from just out of DC, you can guess how that struck us. I don’t think we’d be happier in a smaller town, but being in this sort of little city suits us pretty well – there are enough different types of people, the university keeps cultural events coming through, the medical facilities and care you get are incredibly good, and yet it doesn’t take us more than about twenty minutes to get anywhere in town.

  44. This is why I love living in Oregon. I live in what is essentially a small town, with all the aforementioned great small town qualities, thought it’s 20 minutes form Portland, so I can get my city-fix whenever I want. I can also drive ten minutes in the other 3 directions and be, variously, in farmland, woods or (a little further out) mountains. The Pacific Ocean is just an hour away.

  45. It’s interesting (to me) that I could live in a small town and be perfectly happy, but I would never do so. By “I could”, I mean that most of my entertainment would transfer perfectly well to a small town. I don’t require museums, concerts, or any of that stuff. I generally cook at home, so the lack of decent restaurants would only bother me occasionally.

    So why am I so opposed to the idea of living in a small town? Is it just that I have something in my head about “small town people” and I don’t think of myself as one of them or is it something more? I should note that I don’t particularly want to live in a city either, so “herf, derf, uneducated yokels” is probably not the whole story. I’ve always been a boy of the ‘burbs, but I’m not entirely sure why.

  46. Maybe so, but I think you might like it. It’s all about writing. And it had Neil Gaiman. A mini-Renaissance on the Simpsons, these last few episodes.

  47. Athens, GA is a nice combination of both worlds. Population 115K, of which 35K are University of Georgia students. Population can nearly double on the weekend of a home football game, which for us is a bug but for umpty-thousand other folks is a feature. Plenty of good restaurants, great music scene, quirky arts community, nationally-recognized online farmer’s market (recently featured in Mother Jones!), great public library, pretty good schools, lots of parks, rivers, woods, etc. We love it. Also, you can readily get either your extremely-small-town fix or your big-city fix (if Atlanta counts as a big-city) and it’s about an hour’s drive to the mountains.

  48. Having grown up in a small town, left, then moved to another before moving to the city, I can safely say that small towns vary as much your typical neighborhoods in larger cities. Growing up, I wasn’t part of the “good stock” of my home town, so high school was hell. And it wasn’t just other students, most of the town made sure you knew you weren’t really welcome (Got the ‘eyeball every time I went to drug store, etc). After I left the military I lived in a town just 6 miles down the road but it was like moving across the world. Everyone’s attitude towards me was much better, in general people were friendlier, etc. That said, now I can’t imagine having to drive 15-20 miles to get to a 24-hour store.

  49. I’m from a small town, but it had about 10-20 times as many people as Bradford. The high school only had one section of calculus, one section of AP history, one section of AP English per grade, etc. I assume that where we had a small classroom full of people, Bradford would likely have one or two students. It seems like that might complicate matters for those students who need something other than the most popular offering.

  50. Oh, sure, things are going fine in Bradford now . . . .

    Ten years down the road, though? I like the idea of Board of Ed Member Scalzi. The only drawback is that, as with SFWA, you probably wouldn’t talk about it on your blog.

  51. Tim: “I’ll eat most anything, but I get about as much pleasure from random leftovers as from food from fine restaurants.” That really sucks, not being able to actually taste most foods or derive much enjoyment from them.

    I will say that my examples with restaurants was meant to highlight choice. I’ve lived in the city and glad I no longer do. I’ve visited rural locations and have no desire to live there. The suburbs are perfect for me. I can go to the city if I want to see a game from any major sport franchise. I can drive out to a rural area if I want farm-fresh produce right at the farm/orchard. But I’m not distant from either. The suburbs offer me CHOICE. Near me, I can locate 5 Thai restaurants, 4 Indian restaurants, 3 Japanese restaurants, 12 pizzerias, two dozen chain restaurants and probably two dozen ‘fine-dining’ restaurants. There are three zoos within an hour’s drive, more museums than I can count (including a nationally recognized art museum, a famous author’s personal gallery, a museum of medical oddities), several aquariums and at least three botanical gardens. I have my choice of comic books stores, board game retailers, book stores and even choices for high-end supermarkets.

    The point being is that it’s not just restaurants, it’s EVERYTHING. Scalzi wishes to avoid distraction…I CRAVE IT. :)

  52. I lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a city of a million at the time I left it for studies in the States. At 17, alone, I thought the whole of US would look like New York. When my plane landed in LA, I was ecstatic. As I slowly made my way to the midwest–smaller plane, smaller airport, then bus, then truck, all the way to Ohio, I started rethinking the NY fantasy. When I arrived in Athens, OH, two weeks later, with my four huge pieces of luggage and wearing my unsuitable heels on the brick road, and being told there was only one cab in the town and it was out, so I had to wait alone in the darkest taxi stand in the world, and knowing I was going to be there for four years, I thought I was gonna die too. :D

  53. I’ve lived in Suburbia, I’ve lived in Big CIties, I’ve lived in Deep Rural Farming country, I’ve lived in Mountainous Woods. I have observations:

    There is no actual rule regarding whether people are more or less polite in any of these environments. People are nice or people are assholes. I’ve lived in really-built-up-Suburbs (e.g. public transit is available and it’s close to a major city, but it’s still a small town population-wise) where racism is rampant, and I’ve lived in pastoral farming communities where expressing racial slurs in public is Just Not Done (or if it is, that person is called to the carpet pretty darn quick). I’ve even been in northeastern rural communities with pop. <5000 that had Indian restaurants, community theatre, proper cafes where the espresso is made by hand (vs. pods or super-automated machines), a supportive art and music community… and I've lived in a southern city where it's hard to meet new friends because everyone appears to think you want something from them.

    All that to say, my experiences have led me to prefer the rural community over the suburban. If I had to be in a city, I would probably enjoy that too, but I like having space even more & I just can't afford the price tag on generous space in the cities of the world.