Monday, September 24, 2007

Why we want to move to San Francisco.

I forgot to mention in my last post that the reason that we went to NYC on our way back to DC yesterday was to drop a friend off at JFK to catch her flight home. As we were driving down 678 toward the airport, we noticed a surprising number of police cars parked around, as well as cops stationed as lookouts on all the bridges and overpasses above us. Then we noticed in the other direction, headed away from the airport, a police convoy including several unmarked SUVs. Torsten and my friend both missed this, but at least two of the SUVs contained what appeared to be a SWAT team--men in black uniforms and helmets with assault rifles pointed out the open windows of the car. They looked very much like these SWAT officers, except they were seated and not running:

Man. I live in DC and I'm used to motorcades. The word in DC is that the way you can tell Bush's motorcade from Cheney's is that Cheney's has an ambulance, although Wikipedia says that Bush's also has an ambulance that contains a supply of blood of Bush's blood type (hopefully nobody with Bush's blood type will arrive at a DC hospital needing a transfusion and face a blood supply shortage). And I know that when there are motorcycle cops who drive ahead of the motorcade to stop traffic at every intersection so that the motorcade never has to slow down, it's someone important. I've seen those motorcades (as well as the resulting traffic nightmares). But I've never seen scary helmeted men pointing guns as alarming as those assault rifles out open windows of a motorcade before. In fact, I found the whole open window thing very surprising. We were thinking it might have been Ahmadinejad's arrival, but we have no idea what time he arrived in NYC yesterday (we saw the convoy at about 5 p.m.), and it could as easily been some other diplomat or head of state arriving for the U.N. General Assembly. I can't even imagine the hellish traffic the East Side will experience this week if every head of state gets a motorcade like the one we saw yesterday. What a zoo.

Speaking of NYC being a zoo, a few people commented in my last post that they were curious as to why I said that if money weren't a concern, without a doubt, I'd like to live in San Francisco. Alice is right that I mentioned it a bit in my post about the future, which is why I didn't elaborate further in the last post, but hey, since you asked!

There are several reasons why we want to live in San Francisco. Perhaps it's time for another list! This one will be numbered instead of bulleted, just to shake things up a bit.
  1. Ocean. Both of us love the water and the ocean. The Potomac River here in DC is not enough for us. So we definitely want to live in a coastal state, and preferably in a coastal town.
  2. Weather. The weather on the East Coast sucks. It's unbearably hot and humid in the summer even all the way up in New England, and even hotter and more humid (and for longer) down South. The winters from about New York on up are miserable, windy, freezing affairs. The Pacific Northwest, while gorgeous, is too unpredictable and rainy, weatherwise. That leaves California. I was just talking to a friend of mine from SF about weather yesterday, and she said something about how June and July aren't really summer months in SF, but in August and September it gets hot--like eighty degrees. I would KILL to live in a place where eighty degrees is considered hot, but where the winter isn't miserable. Torsten agrees.
  3. Culture. There are people from all over the world living in SF, which is one of the things both of us love about DC and would not want to give up. There's an authentic Chinatown. If we adopt a child of a different race, most people we encounter won't find that shocking and novel. Having a bilingual family there won't be totally out of the ordinary. Our kids won't feel like freaks. WE won't feel like freaks. Many people are crunchy hippie types, to the point where it may annoy me, but my college experience was like that and I managed to find the people who found the whole thing as silly as I did without disregarding the principle behind it completely. It's less superficial than LA.
  4. Landscape. SF is hilly. It has gorgeous views and gorgeous surrounding areas to travel to. It's interesting and complex. I feel like you could live there and constantly be discovering new little corners to explore that you'd never seen or heard of before. It isn't made entirely out of concrete. Plus, the hills mean that walking around will be especially good for our health.
  5. Jobs. I love the writer/editor thing and would like to either continue in that direction or move back toward book publishing as either an editor at a publishing house or a literary agent. SF is a literary city with a reasonable amount of publishing houses, both little independent ones and arms of major ones based in New York or London. There are also lots of non-profits and similar organizations that are moving in the direction of the combo writer/editor-web developer work that I'm doing now. No matter which direction I decide to pursue, I will have options in SF. So will Torsten--all major American cities have independent consulting firms, and most major national consulting firms have offices in SF.
  6. Atmosphere. The city has neighbourhoods that, while centrally located, also have a charming small-town feel. It doesn't overwhelm me like NYC does. And I don't mean to sound like a small-town hick when I say that. I love NYC and I'm sure I'd be happy living there. But the convoys and the rushing crowds on all the sidewalks and the too-trendy-for-me bars and the stylish fashionistas and counter-stylish hipsters and really tall buildings and impatient drivers just aren't really my style. Torsten would like it, but he doesn't crave it, and he would hate the winters.
  7. Shopping and restaurants. It's important to both of us to live in a place that has a variety of good restaurants, friendly (and tasty) coffee shops, and interesting, fun stores. It's also important to both of us not to go totally consumerist-crazy and buy things all the time. NYC is such a wonderland of shopping and eating that if we lived there, I suspect we would wind up fat and broke. SF's more hippie tendencies help to moderate that consumerist edge while still allowing for plenty of fun places to visit and blow lots of cash (after all, the SF hippies are the rich ones who can afford to live there, and therefore can't be THAT hippie).
  8. The lack of cons. There are two real cons to moving across the country to a popular city: distance from friends/family and high cost of living. I currently live within driving distance of my parents, and while that will change when we move to SF (notice I said when), they also love SF and will certainly fly out to visit quite regularly. My sister and I currently live in the same town, which is nice, but she doesn't intend to stay in DC forever either, so I can't make choices based on where she lives. And she too will visit. Torsten's parents already have to fly to see us, so a slightly longer flight won't make the biggest difference. My college friends are spread out all over the country, so wherever I live, I'll be near some friends and far from others. Torsten is the same way, except that his friends are spread all over the world. As for cost of living, from my research on Craigslist, it seems similar to that of any other major US city like NYC or DC, and we want to live in a major city.
So there you go--a rather thorough answer to the casual question a few of you posed. Also, as a side note to the people who commented on my "interview" post--none of you specified that you wanted to be interviewed, but I realized that I was unclear in my request when I said, "Comment if you want to be interviewed." I should have said, "Comment and TELL ME that you want to be interviewed." So, I'm re-doing this. If you want to be interviewed, comment and specifically say that you'd like to be interviewed, and then I'll write questions for you. I swear, they'll be personalized. Unless I don't know you and you don't post a link to your blog. Then they'll have to be generic.


  1. Oh, such a good choice with SF!

    I remember being so freakin' jazzed by the first motorcade I saw when I moved to DC. It was for President Clinton. I felt proud and happy to see them. Not so much with his successor.

    I have seen them with open back windows in the SUVs. SO CREEPY to know you may or may not have a gun pointed at your head by a sniper that you cannot see. That never felt RIGHT.

  2. Oh, and yeah. I got totally used to everything stopping in place to let a motorcade through. Funny the things you get used to in DC...

  3. Dude, you totally know what you want. I have not mastered this ability yet. Somedays I want to move to London, and then somedays I think the Northwest Territories sounds just great. You should teach a class, or maybe just interview me and then you can see just how muddled my answers can be!

  4. I'm a SF Bay Area native living in Chicago. You just made me homesick for the first time!

  5. Found your blog through Clink, I think.

    It's great that you know exactly what you want in a place to live. I don't know if I could bear living off the East Coast, but San Fran is great!

    Interview me!

  6. You forgot one other big con about San Francisco: the insane crowds. All the pros you listed are accurate reflections of the things that draw people from all over the world to the Bay Area... unforunately, that translates (at least, it did in my experience) to having to fight your way through enormous crowds each and every time you want to go anywhere to do anything. Movies, grocery shopping, going out to dinner, finding a parking spot... uh... anywhere... all of these things become legitimate tests of your patience and intrinsic good nature.

    That being said... I had a great time living in San Francisco, and have no regrets about the time I spent there.

    Not that you asked.

  7. oh, i've always thought of living in SF would be great, too.
    of course, its not like i can get myself out of NY in the next 10 years or so, so there's really no point in pining.
    SF does sound great, doesn't it? I couldn't bear to live away from the coast, either, and the weather always sounds so perfect there.

  8. I would love to live next to an ocean - sigh.

    If you're bored, interview me! (Please.)

  9. Artemisia--While walking to the Metro after work today, a motorcade drove past with the guns pointed out the open windows. Right after I had just posted about how that doesn't seem to happen in DC. And yeah, it's creepy.

    Flibberty--Interview questions sent. And thanks for the compliment.

    Yasmin--Sorry! Not my intention.

    Stephanie--Welcome! And the questions have been sent.

    TwoBusy--I didn't ask for the advice, but it was still helpful. And an interesting thing to think about. I think we'll manage the crowds, though. At least I hope so.

    Claire--Yeah, I totally agree. As does much of the rest of the country, apparently, which is why the cost of living is so high there.

    P&D--Questions sent! And yeah, the ocean thing is nice, especially when it's a coastal city rather than living on a beach. I wouldn't want to do the beach thing.

  10. Would earthquakes be considered a con? :)

    I no longer wonder about where I'll live during my raising a family years. That sort of just happened, and while I may not have selected it had I been handed a list of places and told to choose, it's a pretty good place to live, especially for the kids - near a big city, good schools, lots to do, etc.

    That said, I DO wonder where I'll live when the kids are grown and we are retired. I kind of want to visit a lot of places and see what I like. A lot will probably depend on where the kids end up, though. So I'll push them toward becoming independently wealthy and buying a small tropical island on which their doddering old parents can spend their golden years. :)

  11. Wow, very interesting about the motorcade. I wonder who it was...

  12. because im feeling kinda self absorbed, if you even get this. can I pretty please be interviewed? Feel free to check out my blog to come up with the questions.