Whack-a-Mole Alternatives to New York and LA
I went to high school with a girl named Lora Emerson, who was a senior when I was a freshman, and I worked for her on the school newspaper. She and another girl were my editors. I remember they always smelled good and looked nice and they were very good at everything they ever tried as far as I could tell. Usually around Christmas break one or both of them would come home from college and visit our newspaper staff.
I remember one of Lora's visits particularly well. I was now a senior, and soon I would be headed to Indiana University. Lora asked me if I knew where I was going to live yet. (Truly I was so terrified of the whole prospect of leaving home that mom and dad had to force me to fill out my college application.) I told her coolly that I hadn't given it any thought at allmostly because whenever I did consider my future I felt like I was going to throw upbut she didn't need to know that.
Anyway she gave me some very, very useful advice about one on-campus dormitory. She said, "No matter what you do, don't live in Collinsthat's where all the freaks live." Right then a door in my head opened just a crack, and I felt hopeful and calm. I knew I would live in this place.
As it turns out, many Collins residents were artistic soulsand some just looked artistic. They were pierced before piercing was popular. Some were spiky-haired, tattooed beauties. Atheists mixed with Jews for Jesus. Dreaded-up, ganja-smoking Rastas consorted with vampires. Best of all, no one minded if you were sort of like me either. I was home.
Now if only Lora would come back and offer advice on the larger scale. Something along the lines of, "No matter what you do, don't ever, ever move to Bisbee, Arizona. It's small and dusty and weird..."
I happen to think that every Lost Soul deserves to live in a comfortable, colorful, and affordable community. Certainly, the very nature of the following undertaking will piss some people off, but I wanted to offer you a short list of decent alternatives to New York City and Los Angeles.
Of course I know that by acknowledging these charming communities I put them at risk. (Assuming that lots of people even find this book, read this chapter, and act on it, that is...) Some critics might say, "Imagine the stampede of rubes, tourists, and sundry polluters!" And it's all my fault. Fortunately, I don't dare take any of this as seriously as all that.
And then there are the cities and small towns that I've left out. Well, it is a very short list, and I either left out locales because I never learned about them in the first place, or I left them out on purpose becauseeven though they may be artsy and coolthey have become altogether gentrified or are at least well on their way.
The most perfect place would be a creative, arts-supportive community with inexpensive housing, a reasonable cost of living, and plentiful jobs. To that end, I pored over really boring government statistics, spoke to some friends, and guessed a little bit to come up with my list of suggestions. As it turns out, this task was not unlike playing "Whack-a-Mole."
Now in case you've never heard of "Whack-a-Mole," imagine a pinball-style machine with a series of holes on its horizontal plane. Every so often, a mechanical, buck-toothed mole pops out of one of the holes, and you have to smack it on the head to make him go back "underground." The object of the game is to smite as many of these popping-up moles as possible within a given time. As the game progresses, the moles begin to appear with increasing frequency. I've seen plenty of people play "Whack-a-Mole," and, believe me, the moles always win.
Anyway, while I was looking through my statistics I might hit the Artsy-Spot-mole squarely and then, with grace and speed, whack down the Affordable-Housing-mole only to be caught utterly off guard by the Terribly-High-Unemployment-Rate-mole. It was virtually impossible to satisfy every category, but I sure did try. Finally, I owe it to you to say that I've never lived in any of these places, but you might consider them anyway.
Susan's Top 16 Whack-a-Mole Alternatives to New York and LA
1. Berea, Kentucky
2. Iowa City, Iowa
3. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
4. Lanesboro, Minnesota
5. Missoula, Montana
6. Burlington, Vermont
7. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
8. Oxford, Mississippi
9. Bisbee, Arizona
10. Natchitoches, Louisiana
11. Athens, Ohio
12. Lawrence, Kansas
13. Ithaca, New York
14. Austin, Texas
15. Madison, Wisconsin
16. Athens, Georgia
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