Tuesday, March 18, 2008

do you like living in a small town?

now if you live in a city..or in the suburbs of a city, the question is do you dream of living in a small town? there is such a romantic notion of what small town living is all about. i grew up in the suburbs of los angeles and then lived in downtown san francisco for 15 years. growing up in the suburbs of los angeles in the 60's and 70's was a pretty mixed bag of experiences. on one hand, my parents were good friends with many of our neighbors and most weekends were spent having dinner at each other's homes, barbecues in the summer and spending vacations together at the beach or local mountains.... pretty normal sounding, right?...on the other hand, being so near to los angeles meant the academy awards telecast was (still is) as big an event as the super bowl..and everyone there wants to be in show business..if not a star...for some people everything revolves around this dream and show business is the business...i remember one time when i was just beginning my career i was touring retail stores with corporate executives from new york. we were stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway because the police had shut down a 5 mile stretch . there were news crews and media helicopters everywhere... later we found out that this was breaking news on all tv/radio channels which interrupted regularly scheduled programming for most of the day. why you ask?....well, larry hagman (remember him..j.r. ewing from the dallas t.v. show??) was in the hospital and they were airlifting a liver for him for a transplant...major news in southern california.... the n.y executives were flabbergasted that this was considered a major, day long news story...at the time i did not even think it was unusual...scary...

now i live in napa, a town with a population of 71,000. not tiny..but pretty small..and, because of the emphasis on agriculture...lots of open space and vineyards....has a rural feeling (at least to me) and this is what i dreamed of when longing to live in a small town. i know the people who live on my street...and this never happened in san francisco...and i consider my neighbors across the street good friends. unlike the suburbs....where all get-togethers happen in backyards..and you do not talk to people you do not know...in my neighborhood we all have front porches... front porches are one of my favorite things...we sit on the porch and neighbors, visitors and tourists (due to the many b&b's in the neighborhood) walk by all day..they stop and say hello, play with mose and just "visit"... a true sense of belonging..the daily newspaper emphasises local events, local businesses and local politics (more on that in another post). i can easily walk to main street to eat, shop, have a coffee, have my hair cut etc..and most people here are just nice..no other word for it..there is loads of passion and discourse between the long time napa residents who tend to resist rapid change here and the more recent arrivals that are more accepting of "progress" and growth. community meetings are quite lively..but you get the sense that everyone really cares. my hope is that the open dialogue and opportunities to vocalize opinions will lead to effective solutions.

i went to the market the other day..ran into two friends...stopped and chatted..a totally new experience running into people i know in the grocery store..never happened in san francisco..never ran into anyone i knew there...could always feel pretty anonymous...not here. as i was leaving the store i ran into another friend..the president of the board of directors for habitat for humanity. we discussed a few board issues and covered off a couple outstanding items. he also moved to napa within the past few years..and he emailed me later saying how cool it was to live in a place small enough to run into friends, colleagues and neighbors while out doing errands, walking the dog or going out to eat. i realized that i too really enjoy living in a place where a sense of belonging is a way of life...i really love it here. (although i still cannot miss an academy award telecast)

please share your stories of small town living (or suburbs living, or city living) in the comments section of this post. as always, i love your stories..

napa farmhouse1885


Anonymous said...

I love your blog! I'm totally into simple living, organics, growing and sewing my own and dogs. Mose is just beautiful. We have a very old pit bull and a three year old border collie and they are spoiled children. We love them dearly.

Anyway, I moved to Idaho City in 1999. It is a small mountain town of about 450 people; give or take a dozen. This was the small town my husband and I had been looking for for years. The streets are still mostly unpaved and the wood boardwalks are still maintained. This town is not only small-town but old west town.

Everybody knows everybody. People pitch in to help their neighbors, their neighbors kids, their neighbor's pets. Basically, we are here for each other. Always.

I happen to live right on Main St and get a lot of tourists who take pictures of my flower gardens and house as they walk by. Our house was built in 1867 and we are doing our best to renovate according to period as best we can.

I really enjoy walking down to the store (mom & pop type) which should only take about 15 minutes to get there, get what's needed and get home. However, I'm ALWAYS stopping to talk to someone and sometimes it takes me an hour to get back home. But that's ok. I have trained myself to slow down, savor my life here and take things in stride now.

This town has been a wonderful place to raise our daughter and she makes us so proud every day. She will be graduating and going off to college this year and I just know she will do wonderful things for others. That is her dream and goal and I know she will accomplish anything she sets out to.

Well, I certainly rambled on, didn't I?

Bear hugs,
Lisa Marie

Anonymous said...

I live in a city but have always wanted to move to a small town. Something keeps holding me back. I fear I will miss the convenience of city life. Your blog just might make me change my mind. I love the way you write. I hope to read more comments like the first one to continue to learn about small town life.

A reader from Denver

Anonymous said...

I love the feel of a small town. I like that entangled dance that wraps itself around you in a small town. I feel overwhelmed in big cities and like knowing the grocer, where the feed store is, how the coffee shop makes my coffee, knowing the best places to thrift, sharing food, stories, love and life with those in your little community.

It is my ultimate goal to live in a little beach town in Texas, complete with gardens, furry friends, good food, lots of company and loving life!!


Aunt Jenny said...

I love living in a small town. I grew up in a beach town on the central coast of Calif..it grew and grew and grew..not so small now..still home, but not small...many many people have moved there from LA and SF to live and comute.
Nearly 6 years ago we moved here to the very smack dab middle of Utah to the best small town there is. Our little town has 3,000 people, no stoplight on our one Main street. We have an elementary school that is WONDERFUL and a great high school too. The middle school kids are bussed to the next town and we share their middle school. Their high school kids share our school. Our town has a wonderful park, fair grounds and lots of community pride. People are just amazing here..so caring and friendly. We have never for one minute regretted moving here. Our 4 youngest kids are thriving here and it is a wonderful place to raise them.
I am able to have my milk cow in town and chickens and a couple sheep too. we live only 2 blocks from main street!! Everyone gardens and cares about our old houses. Ours is over 100 years old. There is plenty for kids to do here with a city pool, sports teams and church activities and a college in the next town too. I can't imagine a better place to live.
I love Napa by the way...beautiful place..I haven't been there in about 10 years...but loved it.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in both big cities and small towns. I think I prefer small towns, but I liked living in a big city, too. I loved living in Cleveland. Our neighbors were friendly, and our neighborhood was very well-kept and safe. And we had a lot of neighborhood branches of city services (we had our own library branch, grocery store, fire station, and police station), so it felt like a small town, right in the middle of a big city! And if we were in the mood, good restaruants, museums, concert venues, and sports arenas were all just a 20 minute train ride away. As much as I liked it, though, when it came time to move again I chose a small town. All that stuff was fun at first, but after a while it all seemed kind of "too much." Now I'm content in my small town, and I think I won't live in a big city again.

St. Johns is smallish - about 7,000 people. It has an old-fashioned downtown of about 3 city blocks, bordered on one end by the county courthouse and the other by the Veteran's Memorial and the grain mill. We celebrate the Mint Festival in August with a giant market, mint farm tours, Miss Mint and Little Miss Mint contests, and a huge parade (my house is right on the parade route!). We also have a Christmas festival with a parade, live nativity, and municipal tree lighting. The Congregational Church has bells that plays hymns throughout the day, and on Halloween they play the theme from "The Addams Family!"

Of course, there is always a flip side. Getting AFFORDABLE organic vegetables in the wintertime is nearly impossible (in the summertime we have gardens and a weekend farmers' market), and there aren't any women's clothing or shoe stores in town (Rehmann's downtown only sells men's clothing and shoes). My husband travels a lot for his job, and that means a long drive to the airport. And if you need something computer-related, you need to drive half an hour into Lansing.

But I love it here, and the good overturns the bad. I don't ever want to leave.

Anonymous said...

I always tell people I'm like John Cougar Mellencamp... I was born in a small town and I can breath in a small town... gonna die in a small town...

You get the picture!

I was born about 10 miles from where I live now. My hometown has one stoplight. I graduated with 19 people. I still attend the same church I was raised in and I wouldn't change any of it.

My husband grew up in the next town over - another one stoplight town! Almost all of our family lives around here and we're all very close. We have such a sense of belonging and a sense of place. We both went away to college but hurried back as fast as we could. We don't live in town - we live on our farm - but we consider ourselves part of the community. I love seeing our children participating in the same community activities we enjoyed when we were young.

I can't imagine making a life anywhere else. This place is in my bones.

Anonymous said...

I love everything about it. I was brought up in a small town. My husband and I have lived in large cities and small communities. Now we live in an extremly small town. The population of the WHOLE county is 2,500.

I really appreciate it right now. I am in Las Vegas overseeing a convention and I just want to get home where I hear my rooster crow instead of sirens going full blast every morning

Anonymous said...

I LOVE it.
It is still pretty small, even though the yuppies from a local large company discovered it and moved half of their executives in- we have now lost some of its charm. It has been my experience that Yuppies don't like the slow pace either.
I love that we still have lightening bugs, I don't HAVE to lock my doors-but I still do, I can walk to just about everywhere in town.
Everyone is friendly.

I hope we don't get too much bigger. I might have to move.

Anonymous said...

Yay for the John Cougar Mellencamp quote-right on the money!
I have lived in Idaho City for over 30 years, before that Nampa and Boise Idaho. This town takes care of it people and that includes our elderly and our children.
When I moved here the population was under 400 now it has grown to 424 so it will never be much larger than that. We have under a dozen stop signs but no traffic lights. We have one gas station, a clinic, postoffice, couple of stores, the county offices, forest service and a police station. We actually have at least 5 churches but only 2 in the city limits.
Boise is the nearest city, a round trip of 80 miles but also the capital of Idaho.
You can be yourself here and be accepted just as you are. You can open a business for the cost of a business license ($60) and whatever rent you pay.
For people who wish to remain anonymous a small town is not the place. Not only do you run into someone you know wherever you go you know all the clerks at the businesses by name.
I too, was recently in Las Vegas and I hope I never have to go back there.
Bright lights, big city, are for others. Small towns are for people who are not afraid to be known for who they are.
Please check out Idaho City online to find our more about the wealth of history we have here, and if any farmgirls ever come here please look up Lisa Marie or myself Rose, and we will gladly show you the town! The newest MaryJanes magazine will have a four page article about Idaho City so you can read more about us. The magazine comes out the end of April.

Anonymous said...

I think the Larry Hagman story is really funny. Do things like this really happen in California?

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that the new April/May issue of "Small Town Living is now available online.
Rural Living Tips:
Saving Gas - Advice for cutting your consumption and increasing your fuel efficiency

Are All Eggs Created Equal
The important differences in eggs. Essential things to know before you buy your next dozen.

Crafter Profile:
Dawn Edmonson gives New Life to Old Antiques
with her altered art.

Growing Strawberries
The basics for establishing your own patch.

Restoration of the Green River House: Pt. 2
Mimi Moore continues her account of the ongoing restoration project she's involved with...and the
treasures they've turned up from beneath the floors.

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to visit Napa, California. I have never even been to California. Can you please tell us about your life in Napa? Do you have a vineyard?

Becca@Bin Hire Melbourne said...

I prefer to live in the city! All we need is in the city. I agree that in the city, we get more of the faster lifestyle, vibrancy of the city, you can forgot the use of the car and we’re always in the middle of the action.