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Old 10-25-2009, 02:01 PM
 
634 posts, read 1,267,178 times
Reputation: 712

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Be forewarned! This is a loooooong post! If you read it, I'll be forever grateful.


WHERE I STAND


I am a 32 year old woman of biracial heritage (father was African American, mother is Latina) who is now residing (trapped, really) in Austin, Texas and is determined to make an escape by June of 2010. I was born in Texas, raised here, but am unlike most Texans in that I have none of the nativist, bizarro-world devotion to the place. I'm a citizen of the United States. I could care less about being Texan. Being born in Texas hasn't done a thing for me and for all I care if I'd been born in Iowa or South Dakota it would be just fine with me. In fact, the best moments of my life to date have all been moments when I've been lucky enough to escape this place. Once, before I'd had the privilege of leaving Texas and seeing other places (San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Portland, Boston, Oaxaca), I was in love with Austin and ready to sing its praises to any who would listen. But then again I only had Houston, Dallas, Abilene, and San Antonio as comparisons. Now I know better. Austin is hot, boring, sprawly, has horrible public transportation, has aesthetically uninspiring architecture, and is incredibly homogenous and limited as to cultural offerings (Austin bills itself as the "live music capital of the world" but it's usually always the same types of bands for the same types of crowds, and I'm too old to be going to 6th street or any other street to drink with college kids), unfounded obsession with all things University of Texas (I'm an alumnus of the University, but have made it a point to make sure NOTHING I own is burnt orange and would sell my diploma back to the place if I thought they would purchase it, that's how much good my Football U education has done me).

Previously I lived in the SF Bay Area. I worked in San Francisco and lived in Oakland. I loved it. It was everything I wanted. The people were always very friendly and welcoming to me, but what was really important was that it was a genuinely cosmopolitan environment with an array of adult cultural offerings alongside your more conventional fare. I took myself out on a date one weekend in San Francisco (I went to WonderCon, the Chinese New Year Parade, and finished with a night at the Symphony). I also miss the museums in the Bay Area, thus am hoping to find something comparable in my next home. Unfortunately, with California's financial collapse came job loss. Unable to find another job before my savings ran out I was forced (very, very unwillingly) to return to Austin. Here in Austin (which shockingly tries to compare itself to San Francisco at times . . . I can only conclude that such comparisons are made by people who have never been to San Francisco) the only two "big" occurrences are the ACL and SxSW festivals. Most of the people who frequent the festivals don't live in Austin anyway and seeing as how I don't give two farts about "live" music, I don't feel like paying $200.00 to see indie bands with hordes of drunk college kids and tourists. At all other times the bands that one sees are musicians who never really had the talent to make music outside of Austin and are basically one notch above street buskers. Kudos for following your dreams (I guess), but really, how many more bad musicians can one place accomodate?

And then there is the lack of a diversified economy (or public transportation infrastructure making it possible for anyone to avail themselves of jobs. The first thing people assume when scheduling job interviews is that you MUST have a car, so they tell you about parking spaces, rather than mention nearby bus stops, and if they learn you are relying on Austin's public transportation they are then loath to offer you a position because everyone knows that Austin's Capital Metro is notoriously unreliable). The wages one earns in Austin are depressed due to the overabundance of university graduates who will take a job making $9.00 an hour, a job which would pay double that in most other cities. I searched or work for seven months in Austin and only found a part-time job in a warehouse as a forklift operator which will not permit me to work more than 19 hours a week. In San Francisco I worked as a legal assistant to a securities attorney in the Financial District. My current job offers no benefits, my skill set is not being enhanced, and there is no room for advancement. And I'm employed with the behemoth University so many here revere. Employers in Austin take advantage of the Peter Pan syndrome most of its applicants have bought into--they don't mind being 40 year old waiters/video clerks/barristas so long as they get to live in "hip" Austin. No thanks. You really do have to grow up eventually.

Austin is a fine place for people who have lower expectations or don't mind going to Eeyore's year after year, Spamarama again and again, or being required to be in their car for EVERY SINGLE THING. I don't want to own a car, so you can see why Austin is not a good fit for me. And cycling, while certainly an option in some places, not the best option in Austin in light of how many cyclists get smashed by SUVS in this place, not to mention that riding in the summer months here, well, I'm not out to die of heat stroke.

Austin is fine for people with families who felt house poor and don't mind living in master-planned suburban gated communities which require them to drive 45 minutes to reach Austin proper and engage in its supposedly "weird" offerings.

Austin is fine for retirees who enjoy the 80 degree fall temperatures and again, don't mind driving everywhere.

Austin is fine for many people. I'm just not one of those people. I have to get out of this place.

WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR

Affordable Housing: I am not married (nor do I care to be), don't care about the dating scene, have no children or pets, so living with others is not an issue. I lived with two roommates in Oakland and the arrangement, while not ideal, was a trade off I felt was worth making.

Cultural Amenities (the Old Fogie Kind): I miss having museums (plural) with stunning galleries and world-renown collections from which to choose from; I'd like to have more than just coffee shop studios, office building lobbies, or small two-room studios. Austin has one "big" museum (the Blanton), the Harry Ransom Center (also affiliated with the local University), and a spattering of the aforementioned studio-type venues, but that's it.

Public Transportation: Texas is car country. They've no desire to acquire the mindset needed to invest in their public transportation infrastructure. People are wedded to their vehicles. I don't want to own a car. I don't own one now and I pay for it. It takes me two hours both ways (4 total) to get to work because the buses here are as worthless as they come. Austin can't even get its worthless commuter train system running (which helps not one bit seeing as how it only serves a small surburban sliver), and I expect to be long gone by the time they finally get it together. I want to live somewhere with a decent, dependable public transportation infrastructure (buses, trains, etc).

Library System: It's important for me that I live somewhere with a great library system. In California I was floored to learn that one need only live in the state and provide proof of residence to get a library card. In Austin, you often have to pay for one if you're not within certain utility districts. That seems shameful to me.

Four Seasons: I'd like to live somewhere with actual seasons. It's the end of October here, it's 82 degrees, and I've broken a sweat walking outside. I'm sick of it. No more heat. Hot and hotter are not seasons. I'm ready for an actual change in temperatures when the fall months arrive. And no, the cold doesn't frighten me. One can always wear layers and thick coats, stripping down naked is not an option and the beloved Barton Springs is often closed due to cleaning, drought, or some other infestation.

Aesthetics: I'm sick of big box sprawl. I like density. Seeing as how I have no desire to be married and own a home and all of that jazz, I just want to live in a nice, walkable neighborhood with interesting architecture. I'd like to be able to walk to the store, library, coffeeshops, or other such things. You can't do that in Austin unless you can afford to live in the "cute" neighborhoods which are now overpriced and not really that cute to begin with, in my opinion.

Diversity: I'd like to live somewhere where I can meet people from ALL OVER THE WORLD because they often choose to mingle together. Austin's diversity is one of hipsters and tech executives, which is fine, but not really what I want. Oftentimes if I stop somewhere in Austin for a quick drink I am the only person of color. I have many white friends, but it is a bit disconcerting to often be the only minority. In Oakland I met people from South America, Africa, Canada, Scotland, England, France, Israel, Palestine, Jordan you name it! In turn this meant a broad array of culinary and artistic representations. I miss that.

Sports Teams
: I'm a rare female in that I love sports. I usually spend my evenings with Sportscenter. On my afternoons off you'll find me watching PTI or Around the Horn. As such, I want to live somewhere with REAL professional sports. No more college town obsessiveness.

Here are the cities I'm considering: (Please note that I fully intend to take a scouting trip before making any commitments, but your insights would be so greatly appreciated).

Philadelphia
Chicago
Minneapolis
New Orleans
Boston (expensive, yes, but someone dear to me lives there, and as mentioned, I'm not opposed to shared housing)
Pittsburgh (I'm told it's not nearly as cosmopolitan, still very much like Austin, but am curious about comments)

Any other suggestions you might have would be appreciated. Again, if you read all of this I cannot begin to thank you enough.

I hope you have a pleasant day.

Cheers!
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Old 10-25-2009, 02:09 PM
 
Location: Huntington Beach, CA
5,847 posts, read 11,028,213 times
Reputation: 3829
Pittsburgh would be my bet. It is a very cosmopolitan city. My European cousins and friends say it is the most european-like of american cities. I lived there for 4 years and love the place.

Even though I hate the place, you may actually like Saint Louis. Its a bit of a dump, but very cheap and affordable, with great museums and other amenities. Climate is probably closer to Austin's too. Caveat is to have employment lined up before your move. The locals are very parochial and leery of outsiders taking their jobs.
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Old 10-25-2009, 02:14 PM
 
634 posts, read 1,267,178 times
Reputation: 712
That seems to be the Catch 22 of relocation: Have job before arrival, but most employers won't take you seriously if you apply from outside of their borders. And that leeriness you speak of is very common here as well. There are far too many Austinites (Texans in general) who rail on and on about those darn Californians and "Yankees" (Earth to whomever, the Civil War ended a long time ago), invading their precious land.

I thought about St. Louis.

Last thing! I'd like to have a decent University nearby in the event that I decide to take classes. Even a reputable community college system.

Thank you for your response Dinsdale.
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Old 10-25-2009, 02:46 PM
 
Location: Arvada, CO
13,238 posts, read 24,442,308 times
Reputation: 13010
Denver would work if you chose to stay within the few square miles south and east of downtown.

However, I think you would be happiest in one of the bigger, more cosmopolitan cities (Chicago, Philadelphia, SF, et al).
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Old 10-25-2009, 02:49 PM
 
634 posts, read 1,267,178 times
Reputation: 712
Chicago and Philly are both high on my list. I was already planning to make my way out to Pennsylvania in the spring. I hear great things about Chicago, but my understanding is that the housing crisis hit them pretty hard and that unemployment remains a pretty significant problem. And maybe I'll get to meet Ira Glass (I have the biggest crush on him ) And I know I'd be happy in San Francisco . . . but alas . . . I'd need to save all of next year to get there and I'm not sure I can stand another Texas summer.

Thanks David!
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Old 10-26-2009, 02:50 PM
 
Location: Saint Louis City
1,563 posts, read 3,318,630 times
Reputation: 629
I've been in Saint Louis 5-6 years now and I absolutely love it. Not only is it cheap (I am 29 and have owned 2 houses), but it has all the cultural amenities of cities much larger. However if you want an extensive public transit system, you may prefer Chicago. It is #1 on my list of places to move if we are relocated. When I was visiting this summer, I didn't get my rental car out of the parking lot once. I would also love to live without a car, this is what makes Chicago desirable to me. Saint Louis has the metrolink, but if you don't work in the city, it can be hard to ride to work. Boston is also an excellent choice, I could definitely see myself living there. Overall, I would move to where you get the best job offer.
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Old 10-26-2009, 07:09 PM
 
634 posts, read 1,267,178 times
Reputation: 712
In light of the fact that my current employment isn't doing much to enhance my skill set . . . ANY job offer is better than where I stand now. The job market in Austin is very, very overhyped. The supposed "phenomenal job growth" Texas is attributed with having is largely in the service sector and not in jobs with any long-term potential or growth. So in addition to great public transportation I'd like to find a place with a genuinely diversified economy where employers are not quick to offer slave wages because of a glut of qualified applicants.

I'm starting to think it's in my best interests to make a trip to Chicago next spring.

Thank you for your input stlcitygirl!
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Old 10-26-2009, 08:26 PM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,084 posts, read 34,177,379 times
Reputation: 16839
Personally I would lean toward Chicago if I were in your shoes. It has a LOT going for it, and it sounds like you have done your homework. In addition to your list, it also has a great beach right in town. For being the 3rd largest city in the US it is amazing to go down to Lake Michigan and find a very nice beach. Good luck in your search, and I hope you find a place better suited to your desires.
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Old 10-27-2009, 08:25 AM
 
Location: New York City
2,814 posts, read 6,022,202 times
Reputation: 3164
Boston sounds perfect for you.
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Old 10-27-2009, 09:05 AM
 
634 posts, read 1,267,178 times
Reputation: 712
Default Chicago . . . my kind of town?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bydand View Post
Personally I would lean toward Chicago if I were in your shoes. It has a LOT going for it, and it sounds like you have done your homework. In addition to your list, it also has a great beach right in town. For being the 3rd largest city in the US it is amazing to go down to Lake Michigan and find a very nice beach. Good luck in your search, and I hope you find a place better suited to your desires.

It's starting to move up on my list. Honestly. I actually have a few friends who have moved to Chicago from Austin and they love it. They love the summers, the cultural amenities, riding the El, all of it. It's going to be a bit of a task to plan out two trips in the spring, in terms of funds, but I'll do what I have to do in order to ensure that I make the right decision.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and offer your insights! I am very grateful.
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