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The Best Place to Live in America

A former co-worker of mine told me that she never watched the news, or read a newspaper or a news magazine because she'd heard that people who follow the news score higher on tests for depression. She figured that if something really important were going on in the world, people around her would be talking about it and she would hear about it that way. Her goal in being purposely ill-informed was to be a happier person. To my mind, she wasn't very successful at being a happy person, but maybe she would truly have been less happy if she knew what was happening. These days, I can definitely see her point.

In past tragedies, like this one in New Orleans (and Missippi, too, and other areas) I've wondered out loud why people live in these areas. My motivation for asking that question, often, has been frank envy. Coastal areas frequently are home to fancy, multi-million dollar mansions and it's easy to see that those people have a choice of not living there. They spent more money than I can imagine to get and maintain those homes and, yeah, if a huge hurricane comes by and they're inconvenienced ... nope. I'm not sorry for them at all. Even with the loss of their giant, gross castles on the sea, they're still a lot better off than me.

The fact of the matter is that most areas of the country have some variety of crappy, and occasionally, life-threatening weather. I'm drawing a mental map of the United States and I can't think of anywhere that you'd want to live year round. California? Mudslides and wild fires. Seattle? Rain. Arizona? Heat. Hawaii? Hmm... is there anything wrong with Hawaii?

Oh. That's right. Monsoons. Actually when I was living in Minnesota I met a guy who had grown up in Hawaii and moved away as soon as he could. 'Why,' I asked him, 'Did you decide to move to this frozen Hell?' (It was mid-winter) 'Did you get sick of paradise?' The reason, he explained to me, was that the temperatures in Hawaii were usually in the mid-eighties and very humid and that wasn't very pleasant to him. And Minnesota looked better.

Here where I live in Western Wisconsin, the crappy weather comes in the form of brutal Winters. Say it gets a little colder than usual, like now, when Fall's coming, you can never say: "Gee, it's kind of cold out today." Because Someone is definitely going to one up you. "You think this is cold ...?" For the record, if I ever slip and say that again, what I really mean is that it's colder than it has been recently, and not that it's the coldest that I've ever experienced in my life. You don't have to regale me with tales of how frigid and nasty it can get. Believe me, I have my own stories, thank you.

By the way, the coldest day I ever experienced in Wisconsin was fifty-five below. That's fifty five regular fahrenheit degrees below zero, too. No windchill. That was, of course, an unusually cold day for the area, but every couple of years or so it will get to thirty or forty below. Here's an interesting fact: When it gets to thirty three below zero, you can take a pot of boiling water outside, throw the water into the air, and it will then come down as snow. Then, as you're watching the pretty snow that you just made fall to the ground, you're also thinking that somehow you've got to start your car.

The reason that I live through this is because simply this is where my life is - job, family, friends, memories - the whole ball of wax. To move would be to sever all connections and leave my foundations. Which I've done in the past. When I was in the military I moved around quite a bit and when I went to school, I did it in a different state, Minnesota, and stayed there afterwards. I did stay within driving distance of my hometown so I could visit on weekends. I'd have to think it's like that with most people. Like those in New Orleans, and Mississippi.

Okay. Assuming there was somewhere in the United States where the weather was always perfect and every citizen lived in prosperous peace and harmony with all their neighbors, what then? Should all two hundred and seventy million of us move to that little bit of paradise? You'd think - wouldn't you? - that with that number of people it would just stop being a paradise. No. We have to spread out a bit. And those with less means are naturally going to have to be in the less deireable areas. Do you think, perhaps, that millionaires are living in trailer parks in Tornado Alley? None that I know of. You live there because that's what you can afford.

About the Author: Steve Sommers new book, Evil Super-Villains Need Love, Too ... and other important wisdom, is available at
His novel, REXROI, is available at

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