We’re finally settled into our new home in Florence, MA and I do have to say that after a bit of a snowstorm on Thanksgiving [which really wasn’t that bad] it’s been rather mild here compared to what I’ve been told by my neighbors.
Normally we should have snow everywhere, but we’ve only had two days where the snow has actually hung around. Thanksgiving was the worst because we did have to dig out our driveway and school was delayed a couple of hours, but otherwise it’s been business as usual.
The seasons have come around full circle now since we got here for the tail end of winter and saw lots of bare trees only to see them all come back in bloom within a month for Spring then into the hot summer, the lovely colors of fall and now back to winter full force…sort of.
Our coldest morning so far was waking up to 8° which sound pretty awful for people in the Bay Area, but you go to your warm car and then to a warm building, shopping center, grocery store and you only have to deal with it for a couple of minutes. The big thing is the wind. You understand wind chill factor here and learn quickly that it’s a big deal vs. San Francisco weather. 8° is cold, but it’s not as bad as 30° on a windy day. That can just suck all the warmth out of you, but we don’t have windy days too often.
To end out the year I decided to put together a little montage of things I’ve done and seen around Northampton, MA…check it out!
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 1/5th 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.
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.
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.
Total square footage for the house is actually 2534 sq ft.
The house itself is on 1/3 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 1/5 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.
I knew it would be cold when we moved to Massachusetts, but we didn’t think we’d see any snow. We were wrong and we learned about several variations that came down on us since last night that caused a few minor problems today.
Last night we looked out the window and it looked like snow was on the cars, but we didn’t see any snow falling. My wife informed me that it had iced over which means the air isn’t cold enough to freeze the waters but the ground is so rain drops hit the ground and splash up breaking apart and then freeze. It made things kind of dry rain if something like that can be said to exist, but it wasn’t unpleasant even though it was 30° out last night. I stood out talking to a friend of my on a phone call for about 10 minutes and while if was cold I didn’t feel like I was freezing.
Apparently overnight the rain stopped and snow fell and there was a couple of inches of it on my car and lots of other cars in the morning. It stopped raining so it was pretty out, but hard to walk since it was still cold and the ice that remained was slippery. This caused us to hold off driving anywhere since our California Honda Civic LX didn’t have tires suited for this type of weather and we didn’t want to risk it.
Then the rain came back. The problem was it was daylight and warmer so we didn’t see any icing over, but instead the warmer rain came down very slowly melting the snow creating slush. It was like a 7-11 slushee machine exploded all over the area only it was fairly dirty if it was on the streets. As the rain melted the snow there were suddenly huge puddles everywhere. As the rain continued through the day it got a lot heavier and appeared close to what the El Niño rains were like in San Francisco. It wasn’t that bad to drive in, but there were still remains of snow and slush from earlier in the day that you had to be a little careful of.
So the last 24 hours have been a bit of a work out, but for me who’s a big kid down deep inside it was a lot of fun. I’m getting used to the colder weather which isn’t that bad I figured out because cold and clear feels a lot warmer than cold and overcast which explains why I used to complain about 50° weather in San Francisco, but 30° with the sun out isn’t so bad.
This is a little late in coming, but we got up early Saturday morning and hopped on a plane and are back east after a two hour layover in Philly. I got to have a cheesesteak from Geno’s at the airport which wasn’t very spectacular, but it was from an airport so I won’t hold it against them. The first leg of the flight was pretty awesome since it was real first class with an entertainment system, lie flat seats and decent food. The flight attendants were really, really nice. Especially when you’ve got an autistic daughter on her first flight and leaving home.
We’ve been running around while trying to get ourselves settled and adjust to weather that’s about 26° in the morning or “feels like..ARE YOU NUTS!!!!” Oddly enough I was just outside and it’s about 32°, but while it’s cold it’s not freezing.
So far I’ve noticed a few things like, you have to drive to get places, but there’s lots of freeways and less traffic so you get there faster. We’re staying in Holyoke, MA which is about 9 miles south of Northampton, MA where we’re looking to live and it takes maybe 15 minutes to drive there. Just as a comparison, when I was driving for Uber it could take me 30-45 minutes to drive 4 miles to get to downtown San Francisco.
Then there are the stores. We got Walmart here and it’s so big along with grocery stores like Big Y and Stop and Shop that my feet started to hurt after walking so much. Seriously, after growing up in San Francisco we’re talking grocery stores that are the size of Costco and just groceries. The other upside of being here is that the groceries are cheap. We’re staying in a suite with a kitchen so we stocked up last night and have a weeks worth of food for about $20. I think I rarely got out of a grocery store in SF for under $60.
Today we’re going to try and go a little north of Northampton, MA to Deerfield to visit the Yankee Candle Factory because our daughter has been really, really good throughout the transition and that should be a fun place for her to visit. Posts will be short and sporadic unlike my usual feature length articles, but it’ll be fun to share my experiences quickly.
Incidentally, I got up this morning to a snow flurry. While it’s been about 15 years since I’ve been in snow it wasn’t falling snow so this was a weird experience for a San Francisco Native to have. I probably looked like a goober doing this, but I shot a little video outside as I was experience falling snow for the first time since I was about 17. Enjoy!
I’ve been writing this blog for over 10 years now, maybe not as often as I would like to lately, but things have been changing and it’s time that I have to unfortunately announce that I, of all people, am packing up my house in the Sunset District and leaving San Francisco to move my family to New England.
Just to recap, I’ve lived in San Francisco all my life. That’s over 55 years now and I’ve seen lots of changes going on over the years. The worst part of all of it I have to say is the ever increasing population. San Francisco has added 150,000 residents since 2010 alone and things are just getting a little too crowded for me. Add to this the tech world taking over the city in a put all your eggs in one basket and once you pass 35 unless you’ve got yourself set in a job it becomes harder and harder to find work.
This is something that’s been developing for a long time. I started to notice that when I started this 10 years ago I was writing about all the great things there were to do in the City. If you look back count how many of them are still around today — very few is the correct answer. I started to notice that instead of writing about what was great about San Francisco I was having to focus on what was wrong with the City. Unfortunately I don’t have enough pull to really make any change and most of the time when I do get contacted by people who can make a change they’re asking me to stop writing about what I’ve been writing about.
There are other things too. $4 toast has turned into $18 toast. Burritos have gone up $15 in some places. Rent, well we won’t even talk about rent other than it’s more than a monthly mortgage in most other places of the US. It’s just getting more and more expensive to live here and with those who can live here more easily the rich are getting less and less liberal while spending more and more money. San Francisco was always the city where counter-culture reigned supreme, but now our local politicians are listening more to the conservative votes because they have more money to donate to their election funds [after they spend $30 at the local coffee shop].
San Francisco has always been about change, but now it’s a kind of change that I just don’t feel right being in the middle of it. While the city is getting more and more crowded the new people want to add more and more affordable housing which they don’t seem to realize that every time San Francisco has tried to add affordable housing since the late 50’s it’s ended up not being affordable [SIDE NOTE: SoMA, Mission Bay, Hayes Valley were all originally built to be affordable housing which they aren’t.]
So as you read the last two paragraphs you’ll probably get the feeling I some crotchety old guy sitting in my rotting old chair waving my cane spouting about how, why in my day…
I don’t want to be like that.
So I feel it is time with me and my family moving to step down and let other people talk about what they find great in San Francisco. I’ll still miss places like Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, the Musee Mechanique, Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge, hell, I’m going to really miss the view out my living room window [see right] but it’s time for a new adventure for me. My family and I will be relocating to Western Massachusetts where the wife is from and her family lives, somewhere probably around Northampton, MA. Northampton actually has a feeling like San Francisco used to have — vibrant thriving arts and music community, an affordable food and beer culture, lots of historic places to see and things to do, but it’s got it’s own New England vibe as well. With great schools and lots of space.
I’ll be continuing on for awhile chronicling the move for all of you so you can keep up with what it’s like to move across country and leave San Francisco behind. You’ll all get to laugh at me when I walk out into that thing called snow that we’ve heard about in San Francisco, but on the upside everyone has heating and air conditioning back there which you can’t say about San Francisco.
Right now the house is a mess as we pack up things and get rid of stuff we aren’t going to take back east with us, which is most of what we own. Selling a house in San Francisco and moving pretty much anywhere else is kind of like winning the lottery since for what we’ll get for the house here we’ll probably be able to buy a nicer larger house on a bit of land as well as a couple of multi-unit rental properties for income. It’s kind of weird that we can’t afford to replace an old refrigerator here, but if we sell the house we can afford to buy a newly built house with all new appliances plus we’ll be the man that we’re working for there. To a lot of you it may not seem like we’re moving up in the world, but to be honest, I’d rather be rich somewhere else than poor in San Francisco. This is going to be a whole new adventure for me and my family and I’m hoping you’ll look forward to what I find to share with you. In case you know nothing about Northampton, MA then here’s a little video to tell you a bit more.