Southern comfort.

My grandmother was a landlord, my mother is a landlord, and I will be a landlord as well. This depresses me considerably, not because I have a problem with the profession in question, but because I am afraid the Southeastern United States is the only region where the career change I’ve embarked upon is viable.

I am in Georgia and I am miserable. I have been to Alabama; I was miserable. I have been to Florida; I was miserable. The oppressive heat, the conservative culture, the massive insects, the insufferably long commutes to access any commercial or industrial district—I cannot stand it. Of course, were I a Republican Christian man who loved to drive and adored the great outdoors, this would be the best place on earth. The South isn’t a bad place in general; it’s just bad for me.

The plus side? Houses here are cheap. How cheap? A well-crafted, modest home in a safe area can be purchased and paid for in full for roughly half the US median household income.

Actually, I just had an epiphany while typing the previous sentence. I am not going to stay here! It’s as simple as that. I’d rather own a couple of trailers in California than settle for brick ranches in Georgia.

Oh, man! I can’t even imagine what my grandmother’s Brooklyn brownstone would go for now.

ETA: I just looked it up—roughly $800,000. Yeah, unless I win the Powerball tomorrow, I won’t be moving back to the old neighborhood! Actually, if I won the Powerball, I wouldn’t bother buying a home at all. I’d be too busy traveling and setting up meetings with geek moguls and culture mavens.

Girl, I’ll house you.

housingPick two attributes—only two. In America, a house in possession of all three does not exist. I know. I’ve searched for one!

Adding in my three remaining requirements—nice weather, a commercial district, and close proximity to a body of water—makes the search futile. I spend my weekends scouring Google Maps for places that look interesting, affordable, and hospitable to people of all ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations. On the plus side, dating isn’t a concern, so demographics aren’t important, and a career switch from publishing to property management means that I no longer need be tethered to a major city.

Still, that doesn’t make my search much easier. So far, the areas near Arcata and Fortuna seem nice. (I’m amused that the typical double wide in the region is superior to a basic New Jersey ranch—at only a sixth of the price!) Of course, were money no object I’d have moved to Santa Barbara long ago—best weather you’ll find in a blue state.

The search continues.

The choice.

I am approaching the same topic, the creative community, from two different viewpoints—the personal and impersonal—so please bear with me. The creative community that I am only tangentially a part of deals primarily with storytelling, be it the life of the protagonist of a video game, the saga of a comic’s champion, or the adventure of a fantasy novel’s heroine. I am surrounded by world-builders and artisans who trade in fictional people. Some of them draw, some of them write, some of them design code. Some of them assemble the audience, some of them edit the script, and some of them critique it. The community is vast, but the subset I admire is small—and close knit to the point of being impenetrable.

The community is a happy blend of virtual and corporeal. There are physical hubs—some as small as three people and some as large as one hundred strong—within the cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, etc. These physical hubs are virtually connected through websites and social media. And therein resides the problem for me, for I am virtually connected, not physically. I am merely a ghost hovering on the fringes. I am a specter. I am a spectator.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about this community, how a small section of it banded together to provide a memorial for Robert Washington III. It is the type of community to which I long to be a part. But I remember Washington’s final words as well: “Have a back up plan.”

As much as I ache to be an actual physical part of a creative community, I would like a nice, quiet home in a safe and progressive area. And I would like a commute that is less than one hour in order to be part of said creative community. And it is impossible to have all three—or even two. And so I must think very carefully about what I must give up.

For me, to embrace the creative community is to fully embrace poverty. Without a job in the higher echelons, moving to a city will result in substandard housing in an unsafe area. What life can one build with a salary of $28,000 in New York City or Los Angeles? Yes, interesting work abounds. Yes, one is surrounded by creative compatriots. And all one must do is give up safety, cleanliness, and quiet.

However, if I merely desired material goods, I could eschew the creative community entirely. I could live in a beautiful home in the “red area” of a “red state” with racist reactionaries, mind-numbing work, and soul-crushing loneliness to greet me daily. But again, I’d have a quiet and lovely home to return to each night and enjoy on weekends. It is not a fair trade, but it is an available one.

At the moment, I have attempted to scramble down the center of the fork in the road and have failed miserably. It has resulted in a shabby, cramped, noisy apartment on the outskirts of a pleasant and progressive (and expensive!) suburb on the outskirts of New York City. I am afforded only the rare chance, after a hectic commute, to physically be a part of the community I admire. I am massively dissatisfied with my living situation and my creative contribution. I am being pulled in two different directions by comfort and culture.

I can only follow one.