Escape from New England
July 13, 2004 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by this thread and informed by this thread, I've decided that I definitely need to run away from home. I've been in New England all my life, and I have close to zero experience with the rest of the country. Specific questions inside (covering topics such as Virginia, Oregon, commercial radio stations, and being young and looking for good nightlife).

I'm in my mid-twenties, and I'm finally ready to run away from massachusetts.

This is my ideal situation:

-There will be a wide variety of apartments available (perhaps I'd even share a place with a stranger -- college town style).
-Great social opportunities and nightlife including arts, music and food.
-Good commercial radio. A station or group of stations that has something good going on (Not even necessarily from a programming standpoint -- locally owned, a budget to hire people and do interesting promotions, etc).
-Openminded community, in general. (Liberal/Gay friendly).
-Not a HUGE city. Smaller than Boston.
-Bigger than a small town.
-Sometimes it snows, but when it does it doesn't last long.

Any ideas?
posted by TurkishGolds to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No idea about radio, but:

Asheville and surrounding mountains (and hollers)?
Chapel Hill (small but in a ~1M person metro area)?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:25 PM on July 13, 2004

I went to Seattle when I was your age and fleeing Massachusetts. I eventually [13 years later?] came back and settled, for now, in new England but man was it important that I got the heck out of here for a while. Seattle had a rough job market last time I was there, but it seems to have a lot of what you're looking for. So does Portland actually. Portland has a smaller-town feel to it. Seattle fancies itself a "world class city" and will tell you about it all the time. Both have good nightlife but suffer from the community Seasonal Affective Disorder hitting the entire population from basically late October through early May where it's almost impossible to get people to leave the house. Both places are driving distance from skiiing and real snow, but neither have any snow at all to speak of, maybe one "storm" every other year. They're near water, they're open-minded, they're not huge, they've got good food.

My main advice is to pick a city where you know a person or maybe two, not to be your best friends but to sort of know the lay of the land [I know there are lots of MeFites in both locations] so you can touch down actually knowing a few things, and then go from there. Now is the best time to hit the road, and not a bad time to leave Massachusetts either, honestly.
posted by jessamyn at 1:26 PM on July 13, 2004

No specific places to point you to (I've never lived in an area that meets ALL your criteria), but you're considering something important. I think that it's important for all New Englanders to leave for a while.

This is a unique part of the world, and you need to leave for a while to A) fully appreciate how special it is or B) recognize why it didn't agree with you. Word of warning-- other parts of the country don't have a Dunkin' Donuts every 300 feet.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:35 PM on July 13, 2004

Portland fits the bill for all of those with the exception of "good commercial radio" (is there really even such a thing? I thought it's all ClearChannel now). Well, and it only snows for maybe a week or two a year in the metro area.
posted by cmonkey at 1:41 PM on July 13, 2004

-Sometimes it snows, but when it does it doesn't last long.

Sounds like you're looking for Belleville, IL:

::Screen Door:: Uncle Tupelo

Down here, where we're at
The weather changes, that's the way it goes
Sometimes it snows, when everything's wrong
Sometimes it snows, but when it does, it doesn't last long

Down here, where we're at
All we do is sit out on the porch
And play our songs, and nothing's wrong
Sometime friends come around, they all sing along

Down here, where we're at
Everybody is equally poor
Down here, we don't care
We don't care what happens outside the screen door

Down here, where we're at
Sweat drips from the tip of your nose
You wear loose clothes, and you try to stay cool
We all still have a lot of fun, never saw much school

Down here, where we're at
Everyone is equally poor
Down here, we don't care
We don't care what happens outside the screen door
posted by COBRA! at 1:49 PM on July 13, 2004

Go to Portland, it's a beautiful, liveable city. I'll assume prices have gone up since I left, but if you're used to Boston, it'll seem like some sort of weird half-price sale on life. And while it's a wet winter, it rains a bit less than Seattle.

As noted, you won't see too many Dunks, and getting a good slice of pizza is nigh on impossible, but the Pacific Ocean and the Cascades are stunningly gorgeous. And there's this smell, an earthy, rich scent that's subtle but always present, and somehow envigorating. I love Boston, but I miss Oregon...
posted by jalexei at 1:51 PM on July 13, 2004

I would say NRK in Portland has gotten better. They cleaned house after the whole Marconi scandal and they're going back to much more of a music format ... I can stand to listen to them again, but I still prefer by far to listen to the music library I've developed since I stopped listening to them when Marconi got popular. Anyway.

Portland pretty much fits the bill, but the job market here is brutal and the cost of living is high. Temp jobs, which are what I'd reccomend, are few and far between. Rents have skyrocketed in the past few months for some reason; units that rented for $500 last summer and winter are now regularly going in the low $700's, and the cost of living and especially of eating out is very high. Basic costs like the cost of gas is usually the highest in the nation, although electricity is very cheap. Taxes aren't bad unless you own property; there's no sales tax.

There is a decent nightlife, but socially it's a very cliquey city that's charachterized by small groups of friends that have known each other for a long time. Those that are open to meeting new people are usually transplants themselves. While it's an open-minded city that goes through pains to welcome minorities, it's minimally diverse (with the exception of gay/lesbian/bi) and the minorities that are here seeom (to an outsider) to harbor a rather large chip on their shoulders because of that.

I moved here from N'england (Connecticut, to be precise) a few years ago, and I chose to stay in Portland for at least my first few years. Even though there are some negative things about the city, it's still *home* to me, all of my friends, the groups I volunteer with, and my rather extensive social network is here, and I really do like the weather and climate.
posted by SpecialK at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2004

Jalexi - I, on the other hand, really miss the smell of fall in New England. I was on the east coast for Halloween last year, and as we drove to my friend's house, I practically had my head out the window trying to inhale as much of that wonderful fall smell as possible. I wish I could afford to vacation in Vermont for fall every year.

Oh, and it should be noted that the oregon Wet seems to be on hold for a few years; the drought that's plauging the southwest has extended up here. It's really been dry here for the past two winters, and it's been pretty dry during the rest of the year.
posted by SpecialK at 2:01 PM on July 13, 2004

Don't know about nightlife (I'd rather chill) and apartments can be hard to find and expensive depending on where/when, but DC's got a good small city thing going on. Definitely liberal/gay friendly.
posted by callmejay at 2:01 PM on July 13, 2004

Are there any good commercial radio stations? I liked REV-105 in the Twin Cities ten years ago, but I haven't heard any since then. WHFS in DC was good about 15 years ago but now stands for most of what's wrong with radio.

Apart from that, I would think that parts of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill would fit; there was a thread on the area a couple days ago. And there's lots of good non-commerical radio there.
posted by mookieproof at 2:02 PM on July 13, 2004

Another vote for Portland, OR.

You could move into a nice, laid back place on the outskirts of portland and hit the clubs in the inner city by railway transit or car. Expensive the closer you get to the center. Open minded, relatively clean, good people, great weather this year, liberal bias.
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:12 PM on July 13, 2004

When you say "rest of the country, how about getting a passport and spending some time somewhere out of the North American continent? Try Cape Town, Melbourne, Edinburgh if you only speak English. You won't regret it.
posted by quiet at 2:49 PM on July 13, 2004

You can't just pack up and move to Australia, Scotland, or South Africa because you feel like it. Or the rest of Britain, or Canada, or New Zealand, or Ireland, or anywhere else in the EU. Immigration or work permits will be rare, hard to acquire, time-consuming to acquire, and expensive to acquire.

DC's got a good small city thing going on

DC is a bigger metroplex than Boston, and by a good margin. City proper to city proper, it's only a weensy bit smaller than Boston. It might be low to the ground, but it's hardly a small city.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:15 PM on July 13, 2004

Salt Lake City. Oh wait. Not Salt Lake City. It sucks here really bad. There isn't anyone cool, no good local public radio stations, and the mountains are really far from town and are no good for snowboarding. Oh yeah and mormons, lots of mormons.
posted by trbrts at 3:48 PM on July 13, 2004

I live in Portland, am in my mid twenties and I enjoy living here very much. A transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area, it has a "small big city" feel to me. I find it to be relatively clean and safe, and am impressed by it's public transportation system and urban planning. I've found it to be very affordable compared to SF, and enjoy living in the SE quadrant of the city, where it seems like everyone in my neighborhood is between 20 and 35. I haven't lived anywhere else in the city, (I'm thinking NW, or the Pearl) so the vibe may be a little different, but the SE neighborhoods seem to be pretty laid back. The music / club scene isn't giant, but I think it's pretty vibrant, depending on what-all you're looking for.

I'd say it's a city with some character that's got some action, but overall it's fairly laid back. Also, I'd like to echo what others have said about Portland's proximity to beautiful natural spaces. The beaches and the mountains are only an hour away.

You're welcome to hit me up for more info via email.
posted by lpqboy at 3:49 PM on July 13, 2004

Portland's radio sucks. I will tell you this as a lifelong resident. KPSU's not so bad, but they share the frequency with the public school district's "educational" programming during the day, so you only get it afternoons/late at night.

The late-night dining is pathetic too, but there's great food when it's open. I especially like the little Ethiopian diaspora they seem to have going on MLK Blvd, and there's a pretty big range of options for food in every price range. I think Portland has the largest concentration of restaurants per capita or something like that.

Housing is cheap if you know where to look. A lot of transplants move into Southeast, Northeast, or North, so I would start there. It's a beautiful city, immensely livable despite its many faults, and I am proud to have called it my home for twenty years.
posted by calistasm at 3:54 PM on July 13, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for all of the advice. I wasn't talking about radio stations that are good to listen to, but stations that might be good to work at -- good budgets, management, etc -- that exists all over the place.

If I actually make this move it will be the most drastic think that I've ever done in my entire life. I keep thinking that I'd like to live somewhere else somday, and I suppose that someday will never come unless I actually get up and do something about it.

I'm going to look into portland more (I know there have already been a few threads about it).

No one thinks somewhere in VA is the place?
posted by TurkishGolds at 4:19 PM on July 13, 2004

I vote for Seattle - I moved here from MA in my own mid-twenties, fell in love with it, and am still in love with it now 9 years later.

Beautiful, clean, relatively friendly, great bars, great music, not-so-spendy rentals, great weather (IMO), small-town feel with big-city conveniences, gorgeous mountains and water, excellent public radio stations (can't speak for commericial), young populace, lotsa gays, liberal, intellectual community, good arts stuff, and great food. I really love this town!

And no, no one thinks somewhere in VA is the place. :)
posted by tristeza at 4:28 PM on July 13, 2004

About a year ago I moved to Eugene, OR, and I've been loving it. The population is only 150,000, but it has as much nightlife as I ever really want for and all kinds of great people to boot. It's the size of a small town (You can bicycle anywhere in about 20 minute, tops, and bike up tothe mountains no problem), but has about all of the big city features you could want. Thanks to a bit of a reputation, just about every music act worth seeing comes through town. (And theones that don't will go through Portland, a mere two hours away.) The job market has been kind of rough, but housing is no problem at all. And they've got an awesome local radio station that runs out of the Uni.

Good luck; if you need any more info, feel free to email.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:35 PM on July 13, 2004

Turkish Golds, I'm from New England too, New Hampshire, and although I'm making a political play, it may very well be the case that in a year or two I'll be moving to a far away place, possibly south-east Asia, where I have friends in the Phillipines. My goal - starting a tea company and also growing mangos all the time. Seriously, what do you think about that?
posted by crazy finger at 8:00 PM on July 13, 2004

You limit yourself too much with being picky about weather. In general, the towns that best fit your description are university towns. Unfortunatly these tend to be more difficult with regards to employment. That being said, I would suggest Austin, TX and Madison, WI. Also Tucson is quite nice. Or Athens, GA.

Don't burn any bridges, Boston is a wonderful city and you may wish to return. Perhaps getting out will help you better appreciate it.
posted by Goofyy at 12:35 AM on July 14, 2004

See this AxMe thread for my opinion about Portland. It echoes many of the things said above.

I don't think DC is for you. SpecialK talks about $700 apartments; you'd be hard-pressed to find anything that low here. I love it in DC, really, it's my town, but it doesn't sound like it's that much different from Boston.

Anyone have opinions on Richmond, VA? I hear it's a pretty cool little town.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:11 AM on July 14, 2004

Massachusetts pile-on! :D

I can't speak terrifically authoritatively about places to move to, as I just left New England recently myself, and didn't go quite so far--just down the coast a bit to NYC. My story is more of a small-town to big-city type, but even so, the NYC metro area is certainly different from Western Mass, and not just because of the population difference.

The good mayor said: This is a unique part of the world, and you need to leave for a while to A) fully appreciate how special it is. And it's totally true. Even the fairly small amount of travelling and correspondence I did before moving out showed me as much, and it's strange to realize that the attitudes and atmosphere I've grown up in, really are local to this part of the country for the most part. And most people aren't lucky enough to grow up in a 350-year-old house in an area where most buildings are over 100 years old and historical heritage in general is a very lage part of the local identity.

To use an old cliché: you may leave New England, but New England will never leave you.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:45 AM on July 14, 2004

I grew up in Mass. and lived away for a decade - and then I came back and bought a house. Now, I'm thinking of moving away again.

There's a lot to recommend the Massachusetts area, but the people are cranky and many are pompous. The high eccentricity index is endearing, yes, but may be partially tied to a general shared systemic load of Mercury produced by the massive burning of trash.

I agree with the seasonal affective mood disorder problem in the Pacific Northwest, but remember this - the rainy climate changes as you cross the mountains going East.

Nobody on this thread has mentioned New Mexico and Arizona, or the Mid-Atlantic area outside of DC. Baltimore has it's charms although it also has a lot of crime. People are friendly and laid back, and it was the mother load of inspiration for all of John Waters' films. Waters' stretches the truth - but not as much as one might think. Baltimore and New Orleans share much in common - 1) lots of crime and urban pathology, 2) lots of artists and musicians, 3) lots of truly original, bizzare eccentrics and self-made American primitives who would not be able to survive financially anywhere else.

The Pioneer Valley region, in Western Mass. - which as a cultural region runs arguably up to Brattleboro Vt. - fufills all of your criteria. It's in Mass, but it is significantly different from Eastern Mass - like another state or almost another country.


You might want to read Richard Florida's "Rise of the Creative Class". An excerpt :

"Stuck in old paradigms of economic development, cities like Buffalo, New Orleans, and Louisville struggled in the 1980s and 1990s to become the next "Silicon Somewhere" by building generic high-tech office parks or subsidizing professional sports teams. Yet they lost members of the creative class, and their economic dynamism, to places like Austin, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Seattle---places more tolerant, diverse, and open to creativity. Because of this migration of the creative class, a new social and economic geography is emerging in America, one that does not correspond to old categories like East Coast versus West Coast or Sunbelt versus Frostbelt. Rather, it is more like the class divisions that have increasingly separated Americans by income and neighborhood, extended into the realm of city and region. "


Why not arrange short trips to some of these areas ? Feel them out. There's nothing like being there except, well.....being there. Anyway, creatively managed travel can be cheaper than you might imagine. Consider joining the Educator's Bed and Breakfast Network : "$34 A Night For TwoMore Than 6000 Members in Over 50 Countries

Since 1986 thousands of educators from around the world have enjoyed stays with fellow educators.

"It's an effective and unusually congenial method of travel!"
- Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine, 3/11/2001

Stay With Any of Our Members Worldwide for only $34 a Night!"

What is an "educator" anyway? That is a broad category which includes teachers of all sorts, writers, journalists, researchers, probably DJ's........


I'm thinking of West Virginia, The Mid Atlantic, Ecuador.........
posted by troutfishing at 8:05 AM on July 14, 2004

Response by poster: troutfishing, I live in the Pioneer Valley right now -- Northampton. It's great, I love it, but I need to leave -- it's getting way too small for me here. Mid-Atlantic sounds good, I'm going to look into that too.
posted by TurkishGolds at 9:24 AM on July 14, 2004

I'm from Richmond, VA (I'm there right now, in fact), and it is a nice little town. One thing I'd warn you about, up front, is that the VA General Assembly recently passed a strongly-worded constitutional amendment (HB 751) regarding the status of homosexual unions in the Commonwealth. I'll let you search Google for it and make your own decisions. I have no idea if you are gay, and that could affect your decision.

That being said, I haven't noticed any particularly strong anti-gay feelings around here. It may be more of a "don't flaunt it and it's not a problem" attitude, but Richmond seems fairly tolerant (or at least neutral) towards homosexuals. There's at least a community here.

As for the rest of your questions, I'll address them in order:

1. Apartments. Oh, yes, there are lots of apartments available, in whatever price range you want. The Fan is a popular area for students and that sort of crowd -- it abuts the area's main public university, VCU. There are also similar places in the West of the Boulevard neighborhood, in Oregon Hill and Church Hill, and lots of high-priced stuff being built (lofts, mostly, in old converted tobacco warehouses) in Shockoe Bottom and Manchester (just south of downtown and the James River). And, of course, there are the usual things in the suburbs -- Northern Chesterfield just up against the city line has some decent stuff. I'm not really sure how far you want to commute, or what kind of living style you want...
2. Nightlife and Arts. For its size, I'd say Richmond has a great atmosphere for the arts. We have several museums (including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts), lots of art galleries and student-related exhibitions, festivals (my favorites include the Carytown Watermelon Festival and the long-running Greek Festival), and public radio/TV. We also have lots of concerts, like the weekly Friday Cheers (now called "citycelebrations" or something) and various stuff at local clubs. If you want to get a feel for what goes on here in the way of arts and entertainment, check out the Times-Dispatch's Weekend section. (I can send you a paper copy, if you'd like.) As for nightlife, Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom are where it's at, really. Carytown is the city's main shopping district, but unlike DC's Georgetown, it kinda shuts down after 8 or 9 PM. Aside from that, there isn't a whole lot in the way of nightlife. But there are plenty of folks here to form clubs and the like -- you just have to advertise and look on local bulletin boards and such.
3. Local Commercial Radio. If you had been here five or six years ago, I'd tell you that commercial radio was definitely a going venture in Richmond. Unfortunately, ClearChannel has been around long enough to reformat several mainstays of the area (including XL102, B103, WRVA 1140, and others). Y101 is still independent, I believe -- they're an alternative rock station. There is also Radio Free Richmond. Check out this list for more information on who owns what.
4. Openmindedness. Like I said above, there are some recently passed laws that could be troublesome as far as contracts between homosexuals go. But I urge you to check that out on your own and make up your own mind -- I am not qualified to tell you one way or the other.
5. Size. The City of Richmond itself is about 197,000 people, I believe. The entire metro area (Richmond and the counties of Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover) is about 1.1 million or so. The nearest metro area is the Tri-Cities area to the south (consisting of the cities of Petersburg, Hopewell, and Colonial Heights) which is about 72,000 people.
6. Snow. Well, when it snows, it tends to shut down everything -- we're not as adapted to the snow as Midwesterners and New Englanders are. You'll see a mad scramble for bread and milk at Ukrop's (a locally-owned grocery store chain) when the forecast calls for any snow at all. It's amusing, somewhat. But it doesn't usually snow often or much (less than Massachusetts, anyway).

Hope that helps you out. If you have any more questions, feel free to post them here or email me.
posted by armage at 11:03 AM on July 14, 2004

Baltimore and New Orleans share much in common...

That's where i would suggest, altho the weather in New Orleans is always muggy and gross (but for different from New England, it's like another planet). Baltimore is fun and small and quirky and kinda cheap, and you're close enough to DC to go there at night if you want or for more culture (altho Baltimore's good for that too)
posted by amberglow at 2:02 PM on July 14, 2004

people say good things about Pittsburgh too, but i've never been.
posted by amberglow at 2:03 PM on July 14, 2004

amberglow - yeah, I didn't mention that but have thought it often enough - Baltimore/the Mid Atlantic are a good pivot point.

Then, there's also the "shock therapy" approach, of leaving the US altogether. This has it's merits.
posted by troutfishing at 7:53 PM on July 14, 2004

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