Cue Skynyrd Refrain

Screenshot 2015-09-16 23.19.53

Welcome aboard Southwest flight #611 from LAX to Las Vegas. I’ll have a brief layover there before boarding another flight home to Alabama. It seems weird that this month-long trip is coming to an end but in other ways it seems like I embarked on it a century ago. So much has happened since I left for New York on August… the 11th was it? I don’t remember.

I got to remember how great it is to be in NYC. Among all the other things to love about New York, I was reminded how incredible it is immerse oneself in what is arguably the Theatre mecca of this planet. I love live theatre and if one loves live theatre as much as I do, in some ways New York is the only place to be. Another big plus to living in New York is the general friendliness of the city.

Vermont is beautiful and I loved my time there. I can certainly see why it’s the weekend-home choice for so many and I and see why those who do so chose to live there. I’m not sure I could handle the slow pace though and there’s a distinct possibility that I might not be smart enough or liberal enough to be a Vermonter.

During this sojourn, I’ve also spent time in San Francisco and LA. I love both these cities and could see myself being happy living in either one. Friendliness is important to me with regard to where I live and so in that category, it’s a big “W” for The Big Apple. A lot of the people I come across in LA act as if we’re all up for the same bit part on a sit-com and that all but one of us are destined to starve in the streets. Sorry to be so catty but there’s a whole lot of telegraphing of what appears to me to be an essential insecurity that I don’t find in New York. Maybe it’s that New Yorkers are confident just because they have the strength and tenacity it takes to live in New York.

I enjoyed living in LA throughout my 30s but I was a very different man then and the things that kept me busy during those years no longer interest me. I know that if I moved back to LA, it would be a different kind of life and therefore, perhaps, a different city. While I lived there (and since) I’ve always hated to hear people shit-talk LA so I won’t do that. I met some of the most wonderful people living there. They don’t call it “The City of Angels” for nuthin’. On the drive to LAX this morning I was reminded of one of the huge drawbacks of living in LA– the traffic! We sat in traffic at an almost complete standstill for the first half hour and were still no more than a mile from where we started. Now having had plenty of time to do so, the government seems in absolutely no hurry to build reliable and suitable public transit so that is a big check in the no column for moving back to LA. Another is the water problem. The Band-Aid solutions for the much larger problem will meet with catastrophic consequences, if not in my lifetime, in my children’s generation (should I be fortunate enough to have children).

I’ve got a Las Vegas burrito in my belly now and we’re aboard Southwest flight #1764 to Birmingham. Soon they’ll pipe the familiar strains of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic over the PA system and we’ll be landing in the land of banjos and barbecue.

I just had a great half-hour discussion with the CrossFitter across the aisle. I’m so glad I drank the Kool-Aid. Cults are cool.

Back to the discussion of where to live next:

Here’s another plus for LA– I want to change the world. I’ve long admired the playwrights throughout history who did what they did with a mind of bringing positive changes to the world in which they wrote. Shakespeare, Brecht, Williams, and Kushner are/were great playwrights because of the proficiency with which they attacked their craft but they have my admiration chiefly because of the way they showed the mirror to the masses. [Having used the metaphor I should point out that Brecht stated outright that he sought to bring not the mirror but the mallet (to mold society rather than mirror it to itself)]. Live theatre still does this, I believe, but not nearly on the level than film and TV do. The theatre of the masses is now TV and increasingly “TV” as it is broadcast via The Internet. In this way, LA wins over New York even though obviously a lot of filming happens in Gotham as well. Also, it is no longer a situation where one who aspires to work in film and TV must live in either of those cities but one is much more likely to come in contact with people who work in that industry if one lives in LA or New York, LA more so than New York. (Georgia is now the number three state as far a production goes but I’ll never live in a Red State again as my principle residence. Those people had the chance to educate themselves and they blew it. They can keep on doing it too but without my participation. We’ll keep the house in Alabama but it’s not going to be where I spend most of my time. This trip has reminded me what it’s like to live among open-minded people and it is hands-down my preferred way of existence. It’s what I deserve. There are wonderfully open-minded people in Alabama– and they are by far the exception rather than the rule.)

The weather is a factor. Most people tout Southern California weather as a chief selling point and I’ll admit that there are benefits to being able to wear shorts and flip-flops year ’round. But I remember when I first moved to Salt Lake after being in LA for ten years and how very excited I was when the first snowflakes fell. I actually like having seasons and I like doing outdoorsy stuff, not all of it geared toward warm weather.

I’m too old to live in squalor. What LA offers over New York in the way of housing all but seals the deal if it were down to these two cities. The last time I shopped for a place to live in New York, the places that I was able to find in my price range in the parts of the city where I was willing to live looked like something out of wartime ghetto. To add insult to injury most of the landlord representatives who met with me and the apartment broker (an almost-necessity if you’re shopping in New York) treated me like I’d be doing them a favor to live in their run-down, uneven floored, noisy, dirty, piece-of-shit dumps. Add the fact that I had pets and they either said straight-up “no” or wanted a king’s ransom as a deposit. If I ever had the money to break into the rental real estate business in New York City as a landlord, my company would sweep the boroughs like wildfire simply by offering clean, comfortable, cared-for, affordable places to live with courteous employees. Just because you can get away with operating a business in such a shitty way doesn’t mean you should. So on this front, fuck New York. If I’m ever lucky enough to live in New York again, it will be when I can afford to live there like a human.

It’s not like these are the only possibilities. There are several wonderful little cities like Portland, New Orleans, Nashville, Ashville, Salt Lake, Austin and the like. Apply my “no Red States” rule and that takes about two thirds of those off the table. Part of why those places are so cool is because every cool, smart, open-minded person has had to move to the city for safety from the sea of red stupidity that surrounds them. Even so, and as much as I love to visit these great little cities with the hometown feel, I’m afraid living in New York and LA and spending months at a time in San Francisco have sort of spoiled me. I’ve become a country boy who’s most at home in the big city. If I want to go to a sporting event, I want a lot of great choices. When I want to see a play, New York has 150 to choose from each night. There’s a reason it’s so expensive to live in these cities. Of course there’s places like Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta. They’d do in a pinch and I’ve always been welcomed in all three. But they just don’t bring it like LA, NYC, and SF. Maybe I haven’t given the others enough of a chance. But the time for me to move has come.

I’m just thinking out loud. Today was supposed to end the “Jeff decides where to live next trip.” But other factors have come into play and I’ll have to hold off on that decision for a little bit longer. I’ve got one more trip planned and it may just change my thinking on the matter altogether.

Thanks for taking this trip with me (speaking now of this last month) and thanks for your patience with me during the absences. I really do appreciate how you all have shared your own stories with me about what this last year has meant to you and how you’ve made similar journeys in your life. We’re in this together, you know. That means a lot.

See y’all tomorrow.

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