My friends had a common response when I told them I was moving from California to Ohio: “FOR WHAT!” I was Prince Akeem, my friends were King Jaffe Joffer, and they could not understand why anyone would leave the royal comfort of Zamunda for the sake of Coming to (Middle) America.
Sure, California’s cool, especially San Diego, where I lived for 15 years. (Although “America’s Finest City” is an overstatement, even by city slogan standards.) There’s a lot I miss about the area, namely cheap ceviche and friends that say “fareals.” But there are some things I don’t miss, all of which make me wonder, “What the hell was I thinking all those years?”
For one, the mortgage is too damn high. The $200,000 house we just bought outside of Columbus, Ohio would cost at least $600,000 in San Diego, which would make sense if I could find three times the happiness or three times the life experience living in California. But in many ways, a major city in the United States is a major city in the United States. For better or worse, and largely thanks to the spread of hipsterism, you can find much of the same things no matter where you are. For example, craft beer, sushi, and a burger made from a cow that had enough space for daily calisthenics can be found anywhere. And if you can’t find it locally, Amazon can get it to your house in a few hours.
But back to the house…wages in California do not allow most people, especially young folks, to buy a home. And if you do buy that $600,000 home you’re actually spending more than a million dollars over the course of your 30-year mortgage. That’s fine if housing prices continue to increase, and better yet, you retire during a housing boom. But if they don’t, or at least not when you’re ready to sell or retire, that ass is deep-deep underwater. As for renting, even that’s out of control. And I’m too old and sensual to be living with three randoms from Craigslist.
San Diego is always sunny and lukewarm and you never have to make plans around the weather. I thought I’d miss that when leaving California, but its predictability became boring. Ohio has lightning and thunder and generally bipolar weather. I like the excitement of the unexpected and the consistent reminder via a big ol’ boom or a tornado siren that Mother Nature is running things, along with the urgency to take advantage of the good weather that follows. As for snow, that’s not my thing. But in Columbus we only get about 20 inches of snow each winter and I plan to be in Vegas for about half the downfall.
My last gripe with California is its illusion of racial harmony. San Diego is a majority-minority city, as are many others throughout the state. The demographics give the impression that everyone’s hanging out together and being chipper while listening to All-4-One. And there’s some of that, but it’s largely de facto segregation and people hanging out with people who look like them. (Except for us brothas; we’re always involved in something interracial). I can unfortunately find the same issues in Ohio, but without the pretense.
Well that’s enough post-breakup ranting. No place is perfect and I’m grateful for my time in The Golden State. California still has an air of optimism and previews where the entire nation is going, though that’s not always for the best. (Would there be a President Trump without a Governator?) And it’s a great place to be single; there’s a robust social scene and yoga pants galore, especially at Whole Foods between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
But if you’re like me and want the time and therefore the freedom that comes with raising a family in an affordable area with California-esque amenities, it may make sense to leave. Just ask all the former Californians flocking to Arizona, Texas, Colorado, and Ohio when we come back to visit in the winter.