Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why Is Everyone Leaving?

My brother has been guest-blogging over at Junkyard Blog this week, and I've actually added the JB to my blogroll. Fond as I am of my brother, I'm never certain just where his editorial whims will take him next. In this post he comments on an article written by Michael Barone of the OpinionJournal.

Barone's basic premise is that people are leaving the major coastal cities by droves and moving to the less crowded areas of the so-called "fly over" zones of America. Meanwhile, immigrants surge into those coastal cities to replace those who have left. The overall effect is one of having precisely the sort of two-tiered society against which the Democrats continuously campaign. Unfortunately, those same cities are the ones that provide the largest support base for Democratic policy and power today. It's a delicate tightrope for pols like Feinstein and Pelosi to have to berate the very societies that gave them birth, so to speak.

(Yes, yes... sweeping generalizations. That's what we do, here at the Woundup.)

Cam argues that it's not necessarily a cause and effect sort of situation, and I agree with him. I'm not altogether sure that's where Barone was heading with his numbers game, but I'll stick to Cam's extrapolation. The main reason why people leave cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco and move to Fuhgedabahdit, Colorado is... money.

I live in Orange County, California. Orange County has, for decades, been touted as one of the richest plums in a state full of plum trees, if you get my drift. I happen to live in an area right smack between two of the snootiest-per-capita areas of the county, Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills. When I say there's gold in them thar hills, I'm not really kidding. There is a lot of money here, old and new, which is why Yorba Linda's self-absorbed statement is "Land of Gracious Living." I don't think Anaheim Hills has any such statement, but they don't really need one. You don't find a dwelling under $1.5 million unless it's a condo. Maybe only $1.1 mil for a condo. At those prices I couldn't afford to rent one of their bathrooms, let alone a room with kitchen privileges.

But Cam also got me to thinking about our own situation and why we're still here in California, and why we won't be as soon as we're able to retire. Money is part of it, yes. But we also have some health considerations that will deeply narrow the choices of retirement communities when we're ready to make that plunge in about 15 years. Give or take.

Mrs. Woody and I both have arthritis. Actually, not to alarm those who happen to be my mother (not that this would come as any real shock to said mother), but my own arthritis is still only suspected, not diagnosed. And, of course, it's nowhere near as bad as Mrs. Woody's. But all this joint trouble means that we're probably going to be looking for places with nice, moderate temps for as much of the year as we can get away with. So, nice, moderate temperatures at nice, moderate prices. Any ideas out there in Woundupland? (Hands down, Mom and Bob. You, too, Matt and Amy. You'd be at the top of the list if it weren't for all those doggoned TORNADOS you keep running into.)

Therein lies the rub, alas. You see, we've basically grown up here in Southern California. We know what this weather is like from year to year and from El Niño to La Niña. We know all about earthquakes. Pound for pound, we tend to prefer temblors to tornados. Call us biased, but we don't care. If not for the fact that our biggest customers at work are various agencies of the United States government, I could honestly say that I'd much rather not have to deal with that much wind.

Believe it or not, the immigration "problem" (regular readers of this blog know what I mean by that) is nowhere on the list of reasons why we feel compelled to leave Southern California at some point. Immigrants don't generally bother me, unless they refuse to control their kids in public. In this part of the world, if my home were to be burglarized, it's about even money whether the perp would be an illegal, or dark-skinned, or some bored brat kid of some local politician.

Cam mentions the skyrocketing crime rates in places I used to live (Lancaster and Quartz Hill among 'em) and he's absolutely correct: I don't miss them. Not one iota. Housing was much cheaper "up there" than "down below," which meant that poor families were settling in those places and bringing their gang-indoctrinated kids with them. By the time I left, I was living just outside the boundaries of what was quickly becoming just another South Central LA slum, only about 75 miles to the north. We began calling our neighborhoods "Bloods and Crips, North."

So crime is a constant worry here. But I don't worry about (or fear) immigrants largely because I know quite a bit about where they come from. I lived in Guatemala for nearly two years, speaking their language and living in the same conditions they lived in, only with more money to spend in a month than they would see in a whole year of work. I can tell you what circumstances south of the border compel these people to risk everything to try for a better life in the hated United States. Politics may make for stange bedfellows, as the saying goes, but scrabbling for an existence can make them even stranger.

I dunno... maybe I'm over-simplifying the situation. I refuse to live too close to areas where illegal immigration causes the most trouble, so I'm removed from that dynamic. The people I know who are not native to this country are, for the most part, genuine people. I have them for neighbors. I count some of them as friends. I work with many of them. I find them to be honorable, hard working, decent people. They are not among the reasons why I need to leave this place. Eventually.

No, I leave because I won't be able to afford to stay here. I'm a middle-class guy living in an area that requires us to be either one strata up, or two strata down. I can't afford the one, and I really don't want the other. So we'll leave. We will move to a place where the cost of living will hopefully stay within our means until we pass into the next life, and hope the weather won't cause our inflamed joints to throb painfully for too many weeks out of the year. It will need to have relatively easy access to wherever our children are living by that time with their own families so we can do the Grandma-and-Grandpa-come-for-(SHORT)-visits routine. It will, if Michael Barone is correct, likely have immigrant families living there.

So long as I have Mrs. Woody there with me, it will be perfect.

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