The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

While a lot of what I’ve been posting lately is about how wonderful and rosy everything is here. I do have to admit that there are a few things I encounter here that I didn’t encounter in San Francisco that take a little getting used to. So let me tell you about them.

The following is a list with comments I’ve put together that aren’t in any particular order, but it’s a comparison and contrast of living in San Francisco to living in Northampton, MA that is taking a little getting used to:

  1. You’ll drive more to get places: but you’ll get better gas mileage and it’ll take you less time to get there.
  2. It’s hot and humid in summer and cold and dry in winter: Make sure any place you think of getting has central air and heating. You’ll thank me for that advice.
  3. Did I mention it’s humid?: It rains a lot and you’ll get wet, but in the summer it can be like getting in a shower.
  4. Snow…it freezes and gets slippery: You’ll need an SUV for the family and definitely snow tires for the winter.
  5. Bugs: We got them. BIG BUGS. You’ll have lots of mosquito bites when you get here, but luckily most bugs don’t come inside. See picture above. I had to get rid of a wasp nest in front of our house in the first week.
  6. Vermin: It’s cute here. Chipmunks, squirrels, bunnies are all over, but they can do the same damage as mice and rats.
  7. Gender fluidity is really fluid here: Sometimes you’ll be talking to someone and you just can’t figure out if they’re male or female. It’s not unusual to find women with mustaches and men with breasts who are still actually female or male. I kind of got hit on by a lesbian who didn’t realize I was male.
  8. Healthcare is either free or really cheap: But it’s a headache to get set up right.
  9. Doctors are different: They seem more interested in asking about your sex life and sexual partners than whether or not you physically feel OK.
  10. People are different: They’re really, really nice and helpful and don’t have a chip on their shoulder. That’s a good thing, but it’s weird compared to San Francisco.
  11. People are people: There’s way less us vs. them here. It’s a bit homogeneous, kind of like the Marina in SF and people put themselves before their ethnicity. Pride day wasn’t trying to make a statement so much as being a celebration for all.
  12. Food: There are farms everywhere so fresh produce and meat is pretty easy you just have to check out a few places to find the best deals. While we live ten minutes from downtown Northampton and thirty minutes from Springfield, MA there are farms that sell direct within five minutes.
  13. Eating Out: Mexican and Chinese food can be had, but it’s a bit of work to find it and don’t be surprised if you see a pulled pork burrito or Philly cheesesteak egg rolls. Those are a thing in Western Mass.
  14. Walmart: You’ll end up loving it and hating yourself for loving it, but the people are paid pretty well here and get a 401k as well, unlike in other parts of the country that you hear about in the news.
  15. Clothing: You’ll need a lot of it for the different seasons. It’s not uncommon for the basement of a house to have a cedar lined room for your winter clothes
  16. Houses: Closer to town is more money, but usually older and might have a few problems. You can get newer houses 5-10 minutes from downtown, but you still need to check the year it was built. Some can be awesome, others will definitely need work. The most striking part is that because the houses aren’t butt up against each other they look small, but when you read the stats of the houses they’re actually bigger.
  17. Schools: They’re great especially if you’ve got a special needs kid, but you just have to learn the language they speak because it’s a little different than in California. As mentioned before gender identity is a really big thing here, even more so than in San Francisco.
  18. It’s so “White” here: Actually it’s not. Hispanics are included as Caucasian, Spanish Surname. Yes, compared to San Francisco it’s going to look a whole lot more white, but it’s really a whole lot less Asian until you notice the large East Indian population that’s here as well and the fact that the population while diverse is a bit more homogeneous and adaptive.

That’s a good start for now. I’m sure there will be more added to it over time. I have yet to experience anything really abhorrent here, but there are a few things that we’ve needed to adjust to. I’m still not sorry I had to move, but the Connecticut River isn’t quite the replacement for the Pacific Ocean and yes, there is sourdough bread here, but it’s not as sour as in San Francisco. If anything it makes me question how special San Francisco sourdough is since it doesn’t taste too much different here.

We Found A House!

It’s been awhile since I was last able to post and part of that is that we were able to find a house here in Northampton, MA. We got to move in the beginning of May so we’ve been kind of busy settling in.

The first thing I have to say is that this house actually spoiled us. It cost us ? of what we got for our home in San Francisco and it really needs very little work. It’s a three bedroom/one bathroom house at the moment, but we’re going to change that. The way houses are sold here is a little bit different so I’ll have to explain a bit.

The listed size isn’t really the size of the house. Our house was listed as being only 1334 sq. ft. which compared to the 1511 sq ft we had in San Francisco sounds smaller, but the concept of livable space is a little different here.

  1. There’s a room connecting the garage to the house that is sort of a mudroom/laundry room. It’s 300 sq ft, but isn’t considered livable space so it wasn’t included in the overall size of the house.
  2. Basements are in pretty much every house and not considered livable space. We have a finished basement that we’re adding in a 4th bedroom, full bathroom, office/studio, media room and storage. Total area of the basement after we’re finished is 900 sq ft. Even though basements aren’t considered livable space they are used for more than junk storage here and it’s not unusual to find bedrooms and bathrooms and workshops, game rooms, movie theater, man cave, etc in the basement. 
  3. Total square footage for the house is actually 2534 sq ft.

The house itself is on ? acre of land to compare that to our home in San Francisco, we could fit four and half of our old home plus the backyard into the space we got here…for ? the cost of what our house sold for in San Francisco.

It’s a pretty quiet neighborhood about five minutes from downtown Florence [a village that’s a part of Northampton] and eight to ten minutes from downtown Northampton or Easthampton. The people are all very nice and friendly around here and there is plenty of wildlife running around. I get up in the mornings and pour myself a cup of coffee and look out into my backyard and notice the tons of squirrels and chipmunks and rabbits running around our backyard. We inherited some bird feeders and bird houses so we have blue jays, cardinals and chickadees holing up in them and having babies right now.

Probably the best thing about the backyard is that it really is usable unlike our overgrow terraced backyard in the Sunset District. I do miss looking out my dining room window to see some of the ocean, but looking out into a forest isn’t that bad either. I’m sure people who live on the hills in SF would agree with me.

The summer has been a bit on the warm side being in the upper 90’s for a week, but now we’re down in the comfortable low 80’s. Luckily we have central air conditioning and heating so heat and cold aren’t a problem for us. In addition to that little downside there are bugs. Ants are different here. We don’t have any coming into the house, but we have tons of little ant hills outside in the front and back of the house. There are also little gnats which are only annoying when they buzz up to your ear and you think it’s a mosquito or one of the wasps that there are quite a few of as well. I’ve heard there are ticks here, but I haven’t seen any yet. 

As for getting down to dollars and cents, houses around us run around the $230k-$500k price range. They’re a little newer on poured concrete foundations. As you get closer to town the homes are a bit more on the historic side so they’ll have brick or fieldstone foundations and have been messed with over the years because it’s not unusual to found homes built in the early 1800’s here. When you look at the layouts of these homes you’re reminded that people lived a lot different back then and while there’s been a lot of remodeling there are still a few odd quirks you can find in the houses.

I’ve almost finished getting my video studio up so the videos will return shortly.