Originally written in 1999, I think it’s time to resurrect this piece from the archives
Some People Think We’ve Lost Our Minds
(Why would you ever want to leave Marin?)
©1999 Warren P. Harris
As a result of a family get-together in Dallas last year, my beloved and I have decided to pull up stakes and move to the Lone Star State. It’s not because I’ve been relocated. It’s not because any outside forces have dictated this to be necessary. It’s not because we must be closer to an ailing relative. It’s simply because we feel we can achieve a much higher quality of life in Texas. Consider this: We just bought a home twice the size of the one we’re in – for 2/3 of what we sold this one for. Even after moving costs are figured in, we’re so far ahead it’s like winning the lottery!
I’ve spent the last five years building a successful computer consulting firm here in Marin which will continue to operate in my absence and I will simply start over in Dallas. Start over!? Some of our friends have expressed concern over this. OK, most of our friends have questioned this move. However, as I have said before, this is not my first business-from-scratch adventure. I have done this (successfully) on several occasions over the last 25 years and actually enjoy creating a business more than the day-to-day details of just running one.
It’s interesting how when we tell people here we’re moving to Texas, we get a fair percentage who just can’t understand why in the world we’d ever leave The Bay Area – “I mean it’s God’s country — the most beautiful place in the world. Have you lost your mind? And what about the rolling hills? They don’t have any hills in Texas, do they? Isn’t it all just flat?”
Nope! No rolling hills where we’re going – no non-rolling hills – no hills to speak of at all. The highest point in Texas is a freeway overpass (not really) — but how important is that, in the grand scheme of things? As a result of the ‘no hills’ thing, you have a really BIG sky with millions of stars. And how about those balmy (hot) summer nights. I just love hot summer nights. When was the last time you were able to go outside after dark (how about dusk) in a t-shirt and shorts and not come inside suffering from hypothermia 45 minutes later? Isn’t this ‘dress in layers’ thing a bit tiresome? While all of our little micro-climates are certainly ‘charming’, I personally find them to be most inconvenient.
“It’s HOT in Texas, you fools!” Y’know, that’s why God invented Air Conditioning (That’s what Karen says). You see this is not necessarily a problem. Some people (myself included) actually like hot weather. I’m quite comfortable when the temperatures reach the high 90’s and even exceed the century mark. For many people I’m sure it’s a problem, but for some of us it just makes our arthritic joints all the less painful – bonus!
“How about the people? I mean, my God, isn’t Texas in the South? Ewwww!” People here say to me ‘but you have to live with Texans’ (like they’ve got leprosy). Almost 100% of the time when I ask ‘have you ever been to Texas?’ the answer is ‘No’. OK, so who’s the bigot now? Geez! I’ve been to Texas on both business and pleasure numerous times over the last several years. All the Texans I’ve met have been friendly, helpful, polite (virtual Boy Scouts – OK, some may have been Girl Scouts) and would go out of their way to be helpful. What a nice change! In Texas, people actually talk to strangers in public (my gawd!) and even get to know their neighbors – scary isn’t it? A few months ago my beloved’s mother had her car die on 101 here in Marin and she was stranded on the side of the road for over an hour before anyone bothered to stop. Are we so self-absorbed here in California that we won’t even stop to help and elderly woman in distress? Apparently so. How pathetic.
“And what about San Francisco? Won’t you miss Beautiful San Francisco?” Well, true enough, San Francisco is a remarkable city and the Golden Gate bridge is an absolute marvel. But after you’ve been there a few hundred (thousand) times, you begin to notice the homeless problem; the traffic; the nightmare of parking; the fog; the cold. Need I go on? Do I love San Francisco? Yes. Do I need to be next door to it? No. Dallas is a fabulous, cosmopolitan city with manifold opportunities to experience culture, music, art, shopping, whatever winds your watch, so to speak. It’s not some hick big-city wannabee. It’s the real McCoy.
“But aren’t they awfully Conservative in Texas?” How simply awful! In case no one has noticed, Marin is much more conservative than most would like to admit. Skateboarding is almost criminal behavior here. Being a teenager in Marin is boring – and we’re doing everything we can to make damn sure it stays that way. Heaven forbid someone, somewhere should be having fun! It seems Marin is intolerant to nighttime entertainment of any kind. If you want to go out at night (past 8:00 or so) a trip to San Francisco is in order. Even Sonoma County has more musical options than Marin – and we have more than our share of World-class musicians who call Marin ‘home’. I’ve seen so many musical venues go out of business in the last two decades I can’t even keep track any more.
How about proximity to the rest of the US of A? The contiguous forty-eight states abound with natural beauty, marvels of human ingenuity and engineering and points of historical significance. From Marvelous Marin, it’s a long schlep east to get to most of them with the exception, perhaps of Oregon and Washington locales (I personally think this whole Pacific Northwest thing is a bit overrated, anyway). However… Texas is smack dab in the middle of the United States and boy howdy does that make exploring the rest of the country do-able. Dallas is only 2 hours and 40 minutes by air from New York, a day’s drive from Santa Fe or Chicago (OK, a long days drive), and within 3 hours by air to Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America — hot damn! A weekend trip to Cozumel for some world-class drift diving is actually feasible — try that from The Bay Area!
“But what about your 16-year old? What about uprooting him to take him halfway across the country?” Well, lucky for all of us, he possesses the same spirit of adventure as us loony adults. Added bonus: The schools in Texas overall rate much higher than California schools (that’s pretty easy). The school district we’ll be in is #1 in the state, boasts an average SAT score of 1400 and a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1.
Speaking for myself only, I’ve lived here in Marin almost all of my life (an actual California native) and while it certainly is nice, I’ve been to a number of gorgeous places in this country (and others) and many of them are quite livable. Marin is beautiful, no doubt, but I prefer my rolling hills green and find them pretty unattractive when they turn brown (as soon as the rain ends) and this cold, wet, windy s__t is really getting on my nerves. The unrelenting traffic congestion, overpopulation and outrageous expense associated with living in Marin County (where else in the world can you buy a ‘fixer-upper’ for $500,000) all serve to significantly detract from the beauty. Our weather here is no more (or less) perfect than anywhere else. We have torrential rains, floods, regular 100+ degree days in the summer, cold snaps (we lost all our outdoor plants this winter), fog (we call it ‘natural air-conditioning’) and more than a fair amount of wind (I’m soooo tired of the wind). The Pacific Ocean is so very close — but it’s also so very COLD! When was the last time you actually swam in the ocean here (ok, how about just wading in a few feet)? You’d have to be out of your mind most days — that is if the wind doesn’t sandblast a frosted finish on your sunglasses before you make it to the water.
Don’t tell me you’ve never noticed the traffic here. It’s not going to get better, y’know. Really. Think about it. We continue to build homes. Sonoma County continues to build homes. People continue to move into them and commute to where? That’s right – San Francisco (and Marin). There is only one way into and out of Marin County – highway 101. The only way the traffic will not get worse (notice I did not say ‘improve’) is if we add another deck onto 101 or drop a low-yield thermo-nuclear device on Sonoma. Neither of these is likely to transpire. I was in junior high in 1964 (?) when the voters of Marin voted against BART. The general reasoning? “If we have mass-transit, more people will move here and our quality of life will be diminished.” True, but what happens if we have no mass-transit and we continue to build homes? Hmmm… Same problem – only no relief valve. Very short-sighted reasoning and now we’re stuck with it. Face it. There is no possible way to ‘fix’ the traffic problem here.
Where else can you go and find almost everyone you meet determined to convince you of just how wonderful (and what a privilege) it is to live there? In order to maintain our sanity, we must continually justify our decision to live here. We do this by exclaiming to anyone and everyone who will listen, just how terrific this area is, and how the expense and inconvenience are such a small price to pay to live in ‘paradise’. Marin is a beautiful place. It has much to offer. So does Dallas. Let’s not oversell Marin, OK? It seems to me if it’s that wonderful it is also self-evident, no?
We haven’t lost our minds — just changed them — I’m really enjoying the change.
Yeehaa! Texas, here we come!
Warren Harris and Karen Foster (and Scott and Raven and Max)