Do I Change The Blog’s Name?

The Wife and I have done a lot of talking over the last week or so. We’ve decided that it’s just not happening for us in Tennessee the way we hoped it would — it’s not even working out halfway as well as it should for us to survive here in the long run. East Tennessee is too cliquish. You have to be in the club to get anywhere here, and we’re not in the club. Some people we’ve met who ought to be in the club aren’t doing a whole lot better than we are.

So that’s it. We’re going home. We’re aiming to be back in mid-June; July at the latest. It’s the high desert, which I once swore I’d never go back to, but damn it, it’s better than where I’m at now. There’s work there and I have a responsibility to provide for my family. No one here in Tennessee in a position to help me do that has done so; instead, both The Wife and I get treated like we have extra arms growing out of our foreheads. With some exceptions, native Tennesseans have treated us very poorly upon learning that we are from the Golden State, and pretty much only our money has been welcome here.

We broke the news to my folks, who are disappointed but supporting our decision. I’m disappointed for them; I know they were looking forward to living near us for once. But it’s not in the cards. We let my friend, who has the law firm where I will work, know that we were going to take him up on his offer. He’s thrilled, and so am I. It will be good to work with a close friend again; it will be good to work with laws and procedures that make sense; it will be good to have a full plate of work again.

The trip to Florida was sort of a reminder of what life was like. Florida was warm, comfortable, and relaxed. Fewer people put on airs and they cared less about their appearances than about their friends and family. California was like that. Tennesseeans have not proven to be that way — other than our fellow transplants. There, in Florida, we heard Spanish being spoken by people who did not see any reason at all to be self-conscious about speaking that language in public. There, in Florida, we ate fresh fruits and vegetables without a second thought as to what time of year it was. Even now, a gallon and a half of fresh Florida strawberries sit in our freezer, awaiting their ultimate fate (specifically, transformation into margaritas). In Florida, we were reminded that there doesn’t have to be a massive chunk of time spent every year shivering in the cold, wondering if the heating unit is ever going to work properly.

When we moved out here, we thought, “If we do ever have kids, we’d want to bring them up in a nice, safe place, and Tennessee offers much more of that than California.” We were wrong. Our kids would grow up less well-educated, and much more likely to be badly hurt in an auto accident here in Tennessee. The lack of diversity — and the lack of desire for diversity — made both of us question just what kind of people our kids would turn into if they grew up here. There’s physical danger, drugs, and bad role models everywhere, but in California, there is better health, more opportunities to provide good education, and a more diverse set of peers with whom our children could become acquainted.

It’s not just that California is what we know and are familiar with. It’s that the quality of life there is simply so much better than what we’ve found here. We’ll miss the friends we’ve made here, and we’ll miss my parents. We’ll miss the low cost of living and affordable housing. But getting a taste, even a tiny taste which was not the real thing by a long shot, was enough to remind me of what we’ve missed so much the past year and a half.

Trader Joe’s. Fresh fruit and vegetables, year-round. No asinine blue laws restricting when I can buy beer. Pulling over for ambulances, with living people who need help inside, insted of hearses, with people inside who are already dead. Identifying freeways with the definite article and the assigned number rather than references to a long-gone landmark. Finally making good on my promise to show The Wife around San Francisco. A system of laws and civil procedure that make sense, and a well-developed library of practice guides to explain things for when it doesn’t. Outlandish political figures, who propose ideas that no longer appear so outlandish, and who for the most part are substantially less corrupt. The great “In-N-Out versus Fatburger” debate. Wine sold in grocery stores. Golden poppies and ocean coastlines. Real skiing. Diving with sea lions in kelp forests.

California is where we belong. I can’t wait.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Hate to hear you’re going. Some of your criticisms of Tennessee I can identify with and agree with. Others I can’t (or they seem pretty much universal, circumstantial, or interchangeable with other minor gripes that arise anywhere). Life is largely what you make of it, regardless of where you’re living. Most transplants or visitors I’ve ever spoken with report that people in the south are astonishingly more friendly than elsewhere, so I’m baffled at your reception. Meh, whatever. Home is where your heart is, etc.

  2. I can only report on our experiences. Perhaps they are atypical in both locations, but it’s what we’ve been through.

  3. An extra arm growing out of your forehead would be shaken heartily in these parts.IMO, saying that “Life’s what you make of it” regarding your TN situation is like watching the Twin Towers come down, shrugging, and saying, “Well, I guess they just weren’t meant to be.”Or, to a Katrina refugee clinging to a rooftop: “Hey, you created your own reality.”I do not think that TN is unusual in being economically hostile to outsiders. Big metro areas just have more available. And, you can never judge a place by a warm reception upon visiting or from a friendly chat with a casual aquaintance. True acceptance is a very different thing.

  4. P.S. Dude, don’t expect too much from our “real skiing.” Snowboarders, mainly young teens, have jammed local sites to the point where worthwhile use is difficult. Totally changed the demographic, because there’s virtually no barrier to entry. But who says we can’t fly to Utah or Colorado?

  5. I completely understand your decision. While A and I will be sad without you here, I know that you’ll be happier out West.

  6. California has a lot to offer. My dad grew up in Georgia, lived in California for twenty years, then has lived in Georga again. He agrees with your experiance.

  7. I can’t say that I’m too surprised by the news. I hope that things go better for you and — more important — that you both are happier with your new home. California living certainly has it’s appeal, especially after a long stretch of cold winter days. Can’t say I haven’t toyed with the thought of moving back myself. But then one of these 75 degree days and a stroll through the cherry blossoms reminds me of some of the reasons why I am here…allergies be damned.Good luck and good times.

  8. Glad to hear that you are coming back…we all swore to never return to the high desert, but someday, maybe someday, even the most stubborn of us will return…lead us with your rays of truth… blah, blah, blah

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