On the move

Sean and I are moving this week, and I’m drowning in all the Feelings. (You can tell I’m not myself because it’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m wide awake.)

The neighborhood we’re in now was exactly what we wanted when we moved up here: beautiful, historic, and within walking distance of nearly every major Boston attraction (not to mention my office).

south end boston

Our apartment is exactly what we had in mind, too: a 19th-century charmer that’s full of character—from a big bay window and heavy crown molding to intricate fireplaces and exposed brick.

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living1

But comeliness and convenience come at a price—figuratively and literally. Those 150-year-old windows don’t do much to block out the noise from the busy street that we live on (and forget about insulation). Plus, we pay through the nose for our rickety little shoebox, and when management announced they were raising the rent by another 7% this year, we decided that it was time to start looking elsewhere.

living3

The new place is only about ten miles east, but it’s worlds away in terms of vibe. My current neighborhood is pure New England class and everyone who lives here is on trend. The new neighborhood is laid back and funky and everyone who lives there was definitely feeling the Bern at some point this year.

kitchen

And oh, my apartment! It’s so big I’m afraid someone is going to get lost in there (looking at you, Layla). The kitchen is the size of our current bedroom (nothing like that galley horror up there), which means my bed will fit just fine and I’m never leaving. It’s also on the top floor (byeee, stompy neighbors!), has brand new windows (thanks, thoughtful landlord!), and a big backyard (heeey, smoked brisket!). The best part? It’s $100/month less than what we pay now.

But in spite of all the positives, I can’t keep the Feelings at bay. Objectively, the new area is much more me. But the neighborhood I live in now feels like home. I had such a hard time adjusting when I moved up here: My only friends for the first six months were my familiar running route and these 600 or so square feet. And I’ll never see them again.

bedroom1

bedroom2

When my first fall wafted in, I breathed in the crisp air as I crunched golden leaves on the ubiquitous brick-red sidewalks. I worry that I won’t find that idyll anywhere else. When I finally settled in to fell in love with Boston, I walked these streets like I owned them. Now I don’t even lease.

south end snow

I’m only moving ten miles away, but I’m treating every meal and every moment here like it’s my last. (To be fair, ten miles is 30-45 minutes in Boston time.) I’m mourning the loss of convenience and admiring every nook and cranny of this picture-perfect place. I’m taking pictures for posterity and packing very slowly. It’s been a good 2.5 years, South End. Until we meet again.

The things you’re missing out on

A funny thing happened not long after I moved to Massachusetts: I became the boastful, “y’all”-slinging, Lone-Star-flag waving Texan your momma warned you about. Before I moved, I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about: I don’t like hot weather, I’m not the least bit cowgirl, I don’t own a gun, and have I mentioned how I feel about heat? But almost immediately after I got here, I got very nostalgic for everything I’d left behind. I mainlined Friday Night Lights, started hoarding Whataburger ketchup and Shiner beer, and used any excuse to cram casually slip a mention of my heritage into every conversation I had.

Now that I’m pushing two years as a Yank, I’m still as obnoxiously Texan as ever (in fact, I’m about to let my Boston Magazine subscription lag so I can focus exclusively on Texas Monthly). But I feel another shift happening. The tug of New England is getting stronger and stronger. Sean recently noted that this could (in theory!) be our last summer in Boston (he graduates next May so we’ll be free to do as we please) and I started coming up with any excuse I could think of to prolong our time here. We still have so many trips to take (the Cape! Nantucket! Martha’s Vineyard! Quebec! Bar Harbor again!). Not to mention, it’d be silly to leave Boston during the glorious summertime. Or fall, for that matter. That’s when most people want to visit, after all.

Ultimately, we decided we weren’t going anywhere and stopped talking about it. But the thing is, I feel very drawn to both places now—for very, very different reasons. If you’ve never had the pleasure of living in one or the other, well, you don’t know what you’re missing.

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  • Football, amateur flavor: Sure, New England has the Pats (and I’ve heard they’re pretty good) but any given Sunday ain’t got nothin’ on Friday night lights and Saturdays down south. You just can’t beat the hometown pride, the agony of watching your team struggle, or the joy of seeing a rival fail with flying colors. On Fridays and Saturdays, football is personal.
  • Earth-shaking thunderstorms: Billowing black clouds rolling across the sky, golf-ball size hail crashing into the windows, sheets of rain splashing against the pavement, rivers of water gushing down the street, sharp bolts of lightning cracking in the air, and thunder so loud it sets off car alarms. That’s what I call a storm.
  • “Ma’am” and “yes, please”: The last time I was home, I was treated so nicely at the grocery store that I told my story to anyone who would listen: “Then the checker opened up another register and apologized for making us wait in line even though there was only one person in front of us!” (The response was always something like “Yes, and?”)
  • Gut-bustingly good food: It wouldn’t’ve been fair to break this category out into its component parts—there’s just too much Blue Bell, barbecue, tacos, Whataburger, and chicken fried steak to mention.
  • Swagger: No other state plasters its flag to as many things as things Texas does. No other state is used as an adjective. And let’s be honest, no other state looks as good on a necklace. Plus, no other heritage gets you as much respect locally (“OOOH! A Texas driver’s license!?”) as it does abroad (“Hallo, Miss Texas!”).
  • Wide open roads: I’m going to let you in on a little secret: *whispers* I miss my car and doing 80 down a six-lane highway. (I also miss watching the central Texas sun set over a flat pasture as I cruise down a two-lane highway. Probably still doing 80.)

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  • Weekend trips: Drive an hour east of Boston and you’re on the Cape. Three hours west puts you in the Berkshires. An hour south takes you to Rhode Island; two hours later—Connecticut. Go an hour north and you’re in New Hampshire. Two hours more and you’re in Vermont or Maine, depending on your scenic pleasure. Have an extra day to kill? It’s only four hours to New York City and six to Montreal.
  • Scenery: Fiery leaves, rocky coastlines, stoic lighthouses, quaint covered bridges, windswept mountains, clapboard houses, cobblestone sidewalks, tree-lined highways, pastoral farmland—there’s literally nothing unattractive about this part of the country.
  • Trail blazing: It’s rather nice to live in a state that’s always been on the cutting edge of history. “Nationhood…the abolition of slavery…marriage equality—you’re welcome, America. Love, Massachusetts”
  • Seasons: Picture this: It’s the end of April. Everyone has been hibernating for the past four months. But today, it’s 65 degrees. The sun is bright, the trees are blooming pink and white, and parks are filled with people in sandals and sundresses. Now it’s July. Everything is lush and green, and you’re leaving work early for a long weekend at the beach. Enter October. The leaves have turned maroon and gold, the air is crisp, and people are practically skipping down the street in the boots they haven’t seen in six months. Which leads me to…
  • Snow: I don’t need to set any records, thanks, but I’m still convinced that winter and snow are MFEO. I love walking in flurries on my way home, watching fat flakes fall as I lay in bed, and marveling at pristine white streets before the plows scoop it all away. And yes, Virginia, I even appreciate a blizzard or two—strong enough to make me relish a steamy bowl of chili, a cozy blanket, and a cuddly cat.

TXlovesMA

The daily commute

A lot of questions came up when we decided to move across the country: What neighborhood would suit us? How will we find an apartment? Where will we live in the meantime? What if all our stuff doesn’t fit in our new place? But one thing was certain: we were only going to have one car, and Sean was going to drive it.

Street parking is hard to come by in Boston. It’s a challenge to find one parking spot, let alone two. Plus it comes with a fair number of perils: drivers who don’t give a darn what they bump into, overzealous meter maids, and blizzards that bury vehicles under piles of snow. We park the car in a garage about a quarter mile from our apartment to avoid all that, and it costs a pretty penny. Garage parking for two cars would be ridikilus.

Sean got a job before we moved, and his office is some miles outside of Boston and not really on any public transit routes. Meanwhile, I was working from home and have never been especially fond of driving anyway. So Sean got the car by default, and it was up to me to find a job I could get to by subway or bus.

I cast a small net when I was searching so I wouldn’t snag any leads outside of the commutable area. (I actually ended up having to turn down a promising opportunity when I realized — after a great phone interview — that it was waaaaay too far outside the city to work for me.)

The job I wound up getting is in the perfect location. It’s less than two miles from my apartment and easily accessible via the T. When I first started, I was taking the subway to and from the office every day. But after a couple of weeks, I realized that I actually preferred walking home — fewer people to contend with, no waiting for the train to arrive, and a $2.10 fare saved every, single day. Plus, I figured the nice walking weather wouldn’t be around forever, so I ought to enjoy it for as long as I could. A few weeks after that, I discovered that riding the T in the morning only saved me around 10 minutes, so I might as well walk to work, too.

I’ve been commuting by foot almost exclusively since September, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love having 40 minutes before the day starts to amble the sleep away, and I love having 40 minutes after the day ends to unwind. Sure, there are lots of other walkers on my route, and yeah, I stroll past plenty of anxious drivers, but once my headphones are in and my podcast is playing, I don’t really notice the all traffic.

Weather hasn’t been much of a factor so far. A few mornings have been chilly-ish, but after a couple of blocks I’m so toasty from moving that I don’t even notice the cold. And on days that are especially rainy (Nor’easters, ho!) the T is always an option.

My goal is to continue commuting this way until the first big snow storm hits. I don’t have any interest in slipping on black ice or braving searing winds or being pelted in the face with wet snow — thank you very much — but as long as the weather’s cooperating, I’ll be walking.

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