This is the story of how I found myself living in Texas from 1991 to 1995. And also a little bit about why I hated it as much as I did.
Back in the late 1980s, there was a brief vogue in Southern California for moving away to other parts of the U.S. in search of `quality of life'. Lots of people were moving to the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, and other places. I thought this was a stupid idea.
I like Los Angeles.
But we had a run of bad luck where we were victims of crime six times in eighteen months, and moving away started to seem like a good idea. Stress often leads people to do stupid things. As luck would have it, we were casting about for a place to move to on the day that the June, 1990 issue of National Geographic came. In it was an article about Austin, Texas. I went to college at Rice University in Houston, Texas. I remembered people there talking about Austin like it was some kind of Shangri-La, and the next thing I knew, we were moving there.
We spent 1,476 days living in Austin, Texas.
I hated it.
Now, by any objective measure, there really is nothing wrong with Austin as a place to live. Just about everyone who lives there thinks it's the greatest place on earth. [That in itself was irritating, but they are welcome to think whatever they want.] It's just not Los Angeles, and it's not where I wanted to live. I was very unhappy there.
I got a letter to the editor about this published in the Los Angeles Times in 1996. It was nice to get a chance to spread the word.
My favorite view of Austin was
the one framed in the rear-view mirror of my car. Because it meant
I was leaving:
The funny thing is: We left Los Angeles right at the peak of the late '80s real estate boom, and we made a killing selling our condo in Hollywood. We bought our house in Austin right at the bottom of the market there, and we ended up making a killing on it when we sold it in '95. So we ended up making a bunch of money off of something that I wish had never happened. And the money we made more than covered our expenses of moving there and back. Such is life...
But now we have a nice house here in Pasadena, California, and I'm as happy as the proverbial clam. So I guess things worked out all right in the end.
Postscript: As of 2008, I no longer hate Texas. My experiences there have turned out to be the thing that saved me right at my darkest hour this year. Nobody is more surprised by this than I am, but it's still a great thing. Read about it here: