To RV or Not to RV?

295799422_a02e151ca1_oBill and I are moving to the Seattle area. We know that much. And we have a target, if challenging, departure date: September 1.

Pretty much everything else is up for debate. Beginning with where, exactly, we’re moving to. “Do you have a place?” friends and colleagues asked at the ASJA conference last week. Well no. We’re planning to start out by renting and you can’t rent a place in May if you don’t plan to move in till September. We’ve looked at plenty of rental listings and rentals from the outside and even a few on the inside, and that’s about all we can do.

Besides, we don’t quite agree on where to rent. About 45 minutes from the city proper is a town named Snohomish that we both like a lot, and even if we didn’t, it would be tempting for its name alone. It’s a gem of a small town, as Bill calls it, with bars where he’s been getting gigs. Our very good friends Drew and Cindy live just a few miles away. There’s a nice Thai restaurant, a lovely used bookstore, a gorgeous yoga studio, and, this being the PNW (Pacfic Northwest, for the uninitiated), several great coffee shops. And a theater where a lot of his musical pals play every Friday night.

Not only that, unlike most of the towns around there, Snohomish has buildings that date back to the 20s and 30s. That’s a big plus for me. I’ve spent my whole life in places where history was all around. In Ulster County, stone walls built by farmers a century ago still run through the woods. Moving west I’m likely to go through Old Stuff Withdrawal.

Snohomish v. Seattle

All signs would seem to point to Snohomish. Except. That will put me a 45-minute drive outside a vibrant, happening city. How often will I actually go to Seattle? Will I really get to know it? This concern mystifies never-been-urban Bill. Woodstock is a small town, he says. You love living there.

I do love it but only because I already thoroughly know Manhattan. If not, I might find it frustrating. This is a sentiment he cannot understand no matter how many times I try to explain. He grew up in a small city 70 miles from New York and that’s about as close as he ever wants to get to it.

We talked about living in the city but the more that seemed like a reality, the more Bill couldn’t bear the idea. We talked about living in Snohomish, but the more that seemed like a reality, the more it felt to me like stepping onto a path in which nearly everything would be pre-decided for us. I’m moving 3,000 miles for your music career and you can’t live in the neighborhood I choose? I say. Snohomish is where the places I play and the musicians I play with are, he retorts. You’re moving 3,000 miles for my music career, but making it harder for me to play.

Then there’s the question of how we get there. With three cats to whom we’re absurdly devoted, we can’t fly. Maybe they’d be OK riding in a car for ten days, maybe not. But stuff has to come with us too. To Bill, this all adds up to one solution: “RV.” Or maybe “RV—at long last!” He’s been suggesting an RV trip almost since we first met. I’ve been resisting the idea for just that long. Now, with an entire continent to drive across, especially with three cats, the RV solution is sounding more logical, and he’s planning a lovely-sounding itinerary through several national parks, and studiously shopping the used RV market with my somewhat uncertain blessing.

But then he upped the ante: “Let’s live in an RV park when we get there,” he suggested, mainly because they’re inexpensive and, let’s face it, he loves the idea of RV living. My feelings about living in an RV park are similar to his about living in the middle of the city. “Maybe you should live in an RV park and I’ll go find an apartment in town!” I snapped at him.

The following morning, he burst into my office with excitement. “I think I’ve found a solution!” he told me. “We’ll have an RV in an RV park and a studio apartment in the city.”

“I said that.”

“But you were joking,” he said. (That’s a lot nicer way to put it than “being snotty” which might be closer to the truth.) “I’m serious. I’m looking at the rents of studio apartments. We could get one, and rent a space in an RV park, for less than we’d spend on a one- or two-bedroom apartment.”

So he’s found some good deals on real estate sites, but will they turn out to be places one would actually want to live? I don’t know. Will we really be able to berth an RV as inexpensively as he thinks? No clue there either. Is this just another wild idea that will evaporate in the harsh light of reality? Could be.

But this is the kind of reason I married the man. Faced with a complete disconnect of our desires, he mentally jumps the track and thinks up a solution that gives each of us what we really want.

And so, at least for now, this is our plan.

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Image: Bruce Fingerhood (Image is for illustrative purposes only. We don’t have one yet…)

Why I’m moving 2,907 miles from a place I love

Last fall, I had dinner with a group of writers. I mentioned that Bill and I were planning to move to the Seattle area later this year. Since we live in Woodstock, New York, that’s a long way away and people always want to know why. So I explained how I’ve always been happy in the Hudson Valley and he hasn’t, necessarily. As a writer, I’m lucky enough to be able to work almost anywhere. He’s a musician, or he was for many years before he got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and couldn’t keep up with the physical rigors of setting up and performing. He’s gotten better, though it’s a slow process that took decades. A few years ago, he realized he was well enough to perform again.

Meantime, there’s his best friend Drew, who moved to the Seattle suburbs a few years ago after he reconnected with an old flame there. Almost from the beginning, he was reporting back to Bill: It’s really nice here. People are polite. They’re supportive to musicians. There are more places to play. It really doesn’t rain as much as everyone says…

Right away, sight unseen, Bill was just about ready to pull up stakes and go. I’m the cautious one. “OK,” I said. “Let’s spend some time there and check it out.” And so we have, for the past year and a half, several weeks at a time. We’ve explored small towns and different sections of the big city. We’ve made sure to experience the rainy season, not once but twice. Admittedly, it has its dreary side. But I’ve always been intrigued by the damp majesty of the Pacific Northwest. And the literary community there is so impressive it’s almost intimidating. I love my writer friends in the HudsonValley but it will be fun to get to know this whole new writer community.

Mainly, our friend is right. When he’s there, Bill has someplace to play out nearly every night. This is something he needs and loves to do, and something he’s incredibly good at. He’s going to be 62 in a couple of weeks. He’s a pretty young 62, but still. If he’s to be a performer, now’s the time.

It was around this point in my story that I noticed one of the writers at the table looking at me with one of the saddest expressions I’ve ever seen. He had lost his wife of many years, another writer, very recently. “Maybe they had unfulfilled dreams,” Bill guessed, when I told him this later. But I think it was something else, the unspoken comment I seem to get from so many people when I tell them about this move. You must really love him a lot to be willing to change your whole life.

Fifteen years ago, we did something similar. Bill (who’s a geek as well as a guitarist) got a job at a dotcom in Williamstown, Massachusetts. I wasn’t wild about Williamstown, but after an annoying commuter-relationship period just to make sure the job would last, we packed up our cats and our many computers and books, and made the move. A year later, the company had been acquired and Bill had moved to a telecommuting job based on the West Coast. We could live wherever we wanted. We might have gone off in any number of directions. But knowing how attached I was to Woodstock, Bill insisted on moving back here, returning to a life that wasn’t his first choice.

We’ve been here ever since, and it’s been good to us in many ways. I doubt I’ll ever love a house as much as I love this one. Everything here is familiar. Our family is almost all nearby. We have deep roots of the sort that make me see why people our age don’t usually pick up and move across the country.

But we’re not usual. It’s Bill’s turn now to love where we live, and mine to have a spouse who’s as happy with his career as he is with his marriage. And both of us are ready for a new adventure.

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Photo credit: Tavis Jacobs