Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Tree Topples In Memphis

I’ve been asking people to complete the phrase “You know you are Memphian when…” 
I haven’t gotten many responses. And as of yet, no one has been able to tell me definitively if I can qualify as a Memphian, or if I ever will. But maybe you’re a Memphian when your heart gets broken by things large or small, in your neighborhood, or a nearby neighborhood, or even in a Memphis neighborhood you’ve never visited. 

A Tree Lives in Midtown.
An old white oak tree on the corner of Eastmoreland
and S. Willett, on the right. April 8, 2016

Every time I am out and about I take pictures. And on a recent Friday afternoon, on a beautiful spring day, I snapped a few photos right here in my Central Gardens neighborhood. I took a few in particular on one of my many favorite streets, looking south down Willett Street, and caught in my frame an old white oak tree, its limbs reaching out and over the street, tickling the leaves of the trees across from it. It was a beautiful sight.
That old oak came crashing down April 23.

Trees grow. Trees fall down. For a variety of reasons. It’s their cycle of life. From the posts on our NextDoor app and from the pictures it appears as though it died suddenly of natural causes. The speculation here was that its root system began declining with age to the point where the diminished roots could no longer support the tree’s weight. And then creak, sway, boom. Thankfully no one was hurt.

Same tree, same corner. Yesterday, April 26.

There is solace in the fact that it died naturally. Sad however that it died quickly, seemingly healthy, and without warning. And like everything else, it got me thinking about loss and the greater metaphor the death of this tree means to me, and to Memphis.

I said in one of my earlier posts that, “There is redemption in Memphis, as there is in me.” And one cannot have redemption without first suffering loss. As many of you know, in the fall of 2014 I lost my mother. She hadn’t been sick. She died suddenly, overnight, without warning. To use the tree-root metaphor it would have been a blockage in her heart that fell her. And though it’s sad she died without warning, there is solace in that she died peacefully in her sleep. 

But there is another loss that I am now and perhaps always will be sorting out. “Grieving” would not be the operative term for this loss, for it is a loss that will endure for years to come, and one that is destined for many twists and turns along the way. It was not due to natural causes. It has not been peaceful. Just like Memphis and her problems and her complex history, this loss too is complex, and with many layers. 

I have refrained to reveal too much of my personal life with this blog, and I will continue to do so in this instance, for a variety of reasons. But anyone who has had children, or has been divorced, and who finally has met that special someone and has found happiness long after leaving an Ex, will understand my story. 

Look up the definition of pathological narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Although the term conjures thoughts of egomaniacs and a warped sense of self-importance, the widely recognized personality disorder describes a person who will do or say anything to get what they want, influence others, or just plain win. Contrary to commonly held perceptions, narcissists are deeply insecure. So insecure are they that they must do everything, at any costs, to make themselves look and feel better. So insecure are they that they are virtually untreatable by psychologists, because criticism is their worst nightmare.

Narcissists will cheat, steal, and lie. Like another card on a deck, they will place lie after lie on top of other lies, even in front of a judge or in falsifying court documents, mocking the “at penalty of perjury” warnings. They will lie about their income, lie about things that were said, or twist the abuses they once heaped upon others to look as though they were the ones abused.

Required reading if you're trying to
understand the Pathological Narcissist

It is truly traumatic to witness the damage these people can inflict. Like a tornado sweeping through a neighborhood, they leave a path of destruction that is as tragic as it is shocking. Just one narcissist of this level can damage the lives of many in their path. It is remarkable the boundless energy and tenacity these people have for wreaking havoc just to counter some ill-perceived injustice. Simply calling them out on something they said or did, or disagreeing with them, can be a recipe for a storm. And just when you think you’ve seen the worst they are capable of, the F3 that passed through last month can be followed by a more destructive F4. 

Once a narcissist is scorned, no matter how trivial it might seem to the outside world, the narcissist will go ballistic to make themselves feel right and worthy and to regain their power. They are jealous people. They can destroy relationships. They inflict pain. They don’t care that what they do hurts, because the turmoil they create makes them feel alive. And in their warped minds they are just setting things straight according to the universe as they see it. In their minds they are being honest. 

But their lies are damaging. Their lies hurt. Their lies create a false universe in their harem of followers. And their lies can turn a son against his father.

My wife sent me this quote over the weekend: “When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you.”

What is left now is completely out of my control. The root system, the beautiful relationship I had with my son, has been diminished to the point where it has come crashing down. To be chopped up into a million pieces. My hope is that the scraps left will not be sold for firewood, but used to build something. Something happy. Another house. A deck for backyard barbecues. A son who one day becomes a man and remembers that his dad is, and always was, a pretty decent guy. 

One can only hope. I can do nothing now except wait. For years, wait. Wait for that day when this boy will recover and see the truth.

Recently in a conversation a gentleman said to me that “Memphis loves people who’ve had hard knocks, who have been through hardships, and who come to Memphis for some sense of redemption.” I said, “Yes! Redemption! That’s a term I have used too.”

And so when I said in another blog post how for me what happens in Memphis is personal, I wasn’t exaggerating. At the risk of repeating myself... When I see an old house slated for demolition, I lament over what can never be again. When I see a precious greenway being carelessly graveled over for parking due to greed or ignorance, I worry that those actions now may take years to repair. When I see the homeless walking up and down Union, or children in poverty, or neighborhood kids being killed by collateral damage, I am saddened by lives that have been taken away. When I see fallen tree, I am saddened by the loss of the life and beauty that it once beheld. But I hold out hope that one day roots may return again.

All these losses. All these chances for redemption. All these chances to stop, think, take a moment and imagine possible futures, one where something has been destroyed and can never be replaced, or another future where something irreplaceable has been saved.

I love Memphis. I am heartbroken by its losses. And like the city, here too I have my own redemption and the hopes of a future with strong roots.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Millennial Comes to Memphis, Part 2

She was finally here!

When we picked her up from Memphis International, the first thing I learned about our dear friend visiting from California was that she didn’t exactly appreciate being referred to as a “Millennial.”
She is one of the most easy-going people you’ll ever meet. Ever. And I’m exaggerating only slightly when I say that she didn’t quite see the Millennial label I gave her. She was half-joking, or maybe pointedly joking. But on our way out onto the 240 she said, “Loved your last blog and honored you wrote about my visit… But a Millennial?!”
Image copiously copied from ProductDesignJournal

Chagrined, I looked into the rear-view mirror to measure her level of disenchantment. “Well, technically you are…?” I said. “If you were born between ’81 and ’98 or something they say you’re a Millennial.”

“I know. You’re right,” she said with a smile. “But I don’t think I exactly fit the profile of a Millennial.”


In my last post I said that Millennials “are passionate, energetic, and who value ideas and the chance to do something important and different.” Was I wrong? 

I was promptly reminded that the Millennial generation has a reputation for entitlement and stuck-in-social-media narcissism. “Oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve heard that,” I said. “Oops.”

She thought it was funny, and probably naively-old of me. And honestly, I solemnly swear, I do not think of our friend as entitled nor narcissistic. Not in the slightest! I’ve known a few (exhausting and utterly destructive) narcissistic people in my day and she is most definitely not one of them. 

“No, no,” I said, “I see you, and so does a big part of Memphis, as the Millennial population who is passionate, civic-minded, confident, and tolerant. There is a big part of Memphis that not only values your generation, but needs your fresh perspective here in Memphis.”

Passionate. Civic-minded. Confident. Tolerant. That… is our friend. She quickly snickered off the missed-assessment of mine and promptly soaked up Memphis exactly like I thought she would, embracing our sights and sounds and tastes.

But then, she had an amazing host! Right? I have to give myself a little pat on the back, as it turns out I had crammed in enough homework and had experienced enough of My city to give our guest a nicely well-rounded introduction to our city. 

The back alley entrance to Rendezvous

Rendezvous, Bluff City Coffee, our little place in Midtown, Check.
Babalu, Lafayette’s, live music, Check.
Central Ave, East Memphis, Hog & Hominy, Check.
Downtown, South Main, Midtown, Check.

Lafayette's Music Room
We also spent a few hours on East 40, into Nashville, and then West 40, back home. Nashville?! Whaaa? Yes, Had to. Had to see one of our best friends. 

Back to Memphis.

Yours-truly-provided driving tours, walking tours, beautifully-timed sunny weather, check.
Riverside Drive, Overton Square, Cooper-Young, Check.
Fun facts, historical facts, controversial facts, check.

I think it’s safe to say that she fell for Memphis pretty hard. She loved it. And I didn’t sugarcoat everything. In fact I made it a point to talk about our… our issues. Our crime problem, the homeless, our fiscal challenges, our heated rivalry with Nashville. I pointed out empty buildings, vacant lots, and I couldn’t avoid the potholes. Of course there are many areas around town that I didn't think of and that I haven’t ventured into yet. (But remember, I’m still new here.)

New and old boots

New boots, Brass Door, Civil Rights Museum, Check.
Madison Ave, Front Street, Gus’s chicken, Check.
Arcade Restaurant, Sweet-Potato Pancakes, a Peanut-Butter, Banana and Bacon sandwich, Check.

The iconic Elvis Peanut-Butter, Banana and Bacon Sandwich,
in the Arcade Elvis booth, no less

And the three of us made one final discovery. The brand new restaurant-bar-hangout Loflin Yard in South Junction. 

I’m no food critic, no one asked me to say anything yay or nay about the place, but my wife and I are typically spot-on in our assessments of restaurants old and new. And I’ll tell ya this much: the place is friggin’ off-the-charts. 

Conceived as downtown’s “backyard,” as one of the owners put it, it delivers with a wide smile and a breath of fresh air. Guests walk into this new treasure to an intimate bar that has the feel of a country store, where you can pick your own bottle of sparkling water or red wine, step up to the bar and order a cocktail or a draft, then head outside to the spacious patio or out to the sprawling back lawn, grab a few chairs and sit and listen to some live bluegrass. Play ‘shoes or Cornhole, grab a paddle and play some ping-pong, or play that bar game toss-the-ring-on-the-string-onto-the-hook-thing. 

Loflin Yard in South Junction, conceived of and constructed
by some inspired Tennesseans
When you’re hungry, go order some grub. Like delicious sweet-potato salad and slaw, fresh trout and grilled brisket, and the servers will bring it out to ya when it’s good and ready. 
Now this place doesn’t need my high praise to bring in more visitors. In fact on summer days comin' up I’m sure they will be fighting off the crowds. But I had to be one of the honored first to share the great experience this place hands over on a hot platter. While there I chatted it up with a couple of the investor/managers - terrific guys both of them - and I looked around at the little slice of heaven they had helped build, congratulated them and asked, “Why aren’t’cha poppin’ the champagne?!” 

And after the sun had set and we were saying goodbyes I shook their hands, took one last look around, and I thought about their fresh perspective, that they had done something truly different, and I told them “You guys and this place, ya'll represent Memphis really, really well.” 

Just like I hoped I did with my personalized and optimistic Memphis tour for our stellar-only Millennial-ish girl. It was a great way to bring her special visit to a shining close. 

Good eats, Great friends, Forever-Memphis memories. Check.
Gus's Downtown

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Millennial Visitor Comes To Memphis

We have a special guest coming in from out of town this weekend.

A dear family friend of ours is coming out from yep, California, to visit us. She’s been dying to see us in our new Memphis home, for we “Memphians to show me around your town” as she so nicely put it. And I’ve been counting down the days until her arrival, thinking about all the things we want to show her during her short visit. We will have her undivided attention for a little over four days. 

Memphis will have her undivided attention for those hundred-plus hours. 

First her vitals:  She fits neatly into the later Millennial demographic, late-twenties to early thirties. She is single, attractive, smart. 

She brightly represents the many qualities that I admire in this generation. Most of them are passionate, energetic, and who value ideas and the chance to do something important and different. They seem unafraid to face challenges.

I have a Millennial coming to town. And she just so happens to be just the type of person we Memphians - no secret here - are trying to overtly recruit. She also represents the generation, again not breaking news, who is perfect for Memphis and for the future of our city. A good part of Mr. John Carroll’s is built on this very idea. 

Do I treat her visit as a recruiting opportunity? Hell no! I wouldn’t do that to her. (Besides, my wife would kill me.) But it certainly is an exciting chance to showcase this great city that I now call home. 

The question is, Am I qualified yet to be a tour guide for Memphis? For that matter, am I even qualified yet to call myself a Memphian?

In New York, when asked “when am I a New Yorker?” many people tell you flat out “Not born here, you’ll never be a New Yorker, not nevah, now get outta here before I kick ya out.” 

Or you may get this answer: You’re a New Yorker after both a) you’ve fallen in love with the city, and b) when you’ve had your heart broken, truly broken, as in you can’t-won’t ever get over it when a favorite neighborhood institution is ripped away from you. When a favorite diner is demolished to break ground for a 40-story condo, when a beloved tavern is dismantled and rebuilt as… another condo, or when they tear down the ballpark you and your son and your father and grandfather and great grandfather watched ballgames in is torn down in favor of a colossal imposter next door (Yankee Stadium). “That,” they say, “is when you become a New Yorker.”

I guess that informally qualifies me. But what about a Memphian? What test do I have to pass to become a Memphian? 

I myself have been so bold as to call myself a Memphian already. It’s even in my profile. But the real passing of the test, I think, is when a born ‘n raised Memphian calls me a Memphian. And I have to ask you readers, What qualifies someone as a Memphian? Please comment! And I’ll put it on my Instagram as well, but complete this sentence: You’re a Memphian when … 

My Instagram post Wednesday, April 13

(I went to an event last night on South Main and the same question came up. And a gentleman, formerly from Michigan, who has lived here in Midtown for over twenty-five years, raised his kids here, told me that his wife has said to him “You’ll never be a Memphian because you weren’t born here.”  Hmm.  Again, would love to hear your thoughts.)

Because I’ve been thinking about our dear friend’s visit, whether I meet the qualifications enough to provide a tour of the city. For me in comes down to a fundamental question, in fact the root of my own search, and that is What is the Memphis narrative? The heart of Memphis may very well be found within the story of Memphis. For our visitor, I thought I'd forgo the Crump years and the cotton industry and yellow fever, and focus instead on the last fifty-plus years. 

So that means two obvious narratives: The Kings. Elvis and MLK. 

That means The Must that is the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but any meaningful visit to Memphis would be incomplete without a good 4-5-6 hours at what I called a miracle.

The Lorraine on the left, Sun on the right
Elvis means a visit to Graceland… or Sun Studios? And if you were giving a Memphis tour to a new visitor, if you had to pick between the two, which do you think is more important to Memphis history? Sun or Graceland? Or… Stax? I’ve been to all three. But I’ll let you decide.

But after my modest six months here, I feel qualified just enough to mention our personal must’s:

Live music. Probably Lafayette’s. Being a midtowner I’ve been liking me some Lafayette’s quite a lot.

Barbecue. I know Top's and Central and the G’Town Commissary, but I haven’t been to Rendezvous. Haven’t been to Corky’s or The BBQ Shop on Madison either for that matter.

Fried chicken. For me this starts and ends with Gus’s. And downtown Gus’s. My sister-in-law said it best when she said “Gus’s chicken is like crack.” She’s right. Already I gotta have my Gus’s fix about once a week.

And then other must’s on our list. The one and only Arcade and Cafe Eclectic on McLean for breakfast. A burger at Babalu in Overton Square. Fried catfish at Second Line. The Beauty Shop in Cooper-Young. Hog n Hominy in Brookhaven Circle. Must check out that new place Loflin Yard down on South Bluffs. A soul burger in Earnestine and Hazels! A drink at the new and improved Newbys or the old and classic Peabody.

I haven’t even gotten started with everything else. Visit Overton Park go see the Redbirds walk down South Main drive around the streets of Central Gardens browse at Burke’s Books shop at Goner Records drink on Beale skip the Zoo until they get off the lawn. 

But I don’t want to ignore the other things. Crime blight poverty budgets de-annexation potholes school cuts polite racism. Do I tell her about all that as well? Or is that TMI?

Maybe I’m not a Memphian yet. Or never will be. But I am overflowing with pride in calling Memphis my home. And I want to share my pride with everyone, especially our special guest. 

I think the Millennial in her can handle it.

Please share your thoughts.

(Author's note: In a rush to post, I misspelled a few things. It's Corky's, not Porky's. Its Babalu, not 'lo.' It's Tops with one 'p' not two. I have since made the corrections. Thanks dear!)

Monday, April 11, 2016

You Don’t Yet Know The Memphis Story

That You in the title is me. 

Learning a city and trying to absorb a lifetime’s worth of a city’s history and prejudices and narrative can be a daunting task. And writing about it can be very treacherous. Because your writing can only reflect your perceptions at that moment in time, when you still have a lot to learn, like a child moving from middle school to high school, understanding that just when you think you know the story, you don’t. 

There's a lot out there to learn

Having been fascinated with city history and urban development since I can remember, I am absorbing Memphis history like a sponge. But that doesn’t mean I can even remotely understand it all right away. It’s just not possible. So like that new high-schooler, right when I think I’ve written that profound blog post, I learn something new and suddenly I appear naive. I imagine watchful eyes, long-time Memphians of all races and incomes, or Boss Crump himself, looking down on what I have written, and saying “Young man, you don’t know nothin’ yet.”

E.H. "Boss" Crump, the man who shaped modern Memphis,
for better and/or for worse (stock photo)

But then that’s what this blog is. It’s an exploration. That’s why I called it “The Search” for Memphis’ heart. An explorer in the woods cannot possibly know what they will find until they find it. But during that exploration, they are free to comment on the trees and the meadows and the wildlife, without having to know yet the bigger picture, or even if the snapshots they take along the way make sense in the overall context of what the woods are all about. Seeing the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.

I’m still snapping photos of the trees along the way. I can’t see the entire forest yet, but I am sure as hell trying. 

All of which takes me back to one of my earlier posts. Newport Beach vs. Nashville vs. Memphis April 5, 2016.  Comparing the cost of living here in Memphis to California, I gave you readers some not-too-vague dollar figures that illustrated the cost of living in our household here in Midtown. And in reading Sunday’s Commercial Appeal and reviewing some city statistics, it dawned on me that our expenses for three to four months would be less than the total annual incomes of 20 percent of Memphis residents. 

Our expenses for three months! Less than many Memphians total annual incomes!? I had encountered a rather large tree that is representative of what Memphis is. 

Sunday's Commercial Appeal -
One of the best newspapers in the country 

I knew many of these facts going in. That we’re one of the poorest, most poverty-stricken cities in the country. I read it in the papers, see it on the news, and see it every day looking out my window. And it’s not lost on me that my wife and I are lucky, part of the other half of Memphis that can afford to take advantage of our city’s low cost of living. 

My perspective is also a white perspective. My wife and I will often joke about having “first world problems.” I realize of course it’s no joke here in Memphis. Believe me, I am very sensitive to the struggles others may have. And although some of my blog posts my appear rosy at times, I by no means wear rose-colored glasses. Lilly white maybe, but not rose. 

Tim Sampson in the Memphis Flyer last week wrote an excellent column, “Savage City,” that expresses his perplexity over violent crime in our city and what Dr. King would think of it all. And Mr. Sampson says at one point, “I’m not brainy enough to know the answer to all this.” 

New to Memphis? Pick up the Flyer for free every Wednesday
I hear ya, man. Those are exactly my sentiments when I think about solutions to our poverty problem. Or any problem our city faces. 

And I do think about them. While learning the city, while exploring its history, while discovering the prejudices that are present here, I also wrack my brain for solutions. I would love to be part of the solution. Somehow someway I want this blog to be part of the solution. 

So as you read my posts - hopefully you are actually reading them - please realize that I am green, so green, in my Memphis learning curve. Maybe I seem at times “brainy enough” with my posts, and I’d like to think that I am, but often I step back and realize that, six months into my journey, I have only just begun to see the entire forest. 

Keep reading.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Newport Beach vs. Nashville vs. Memphis

I began this post on April 4. And I could not write a post without making mention of that date in history, which is significant in its own right, but of course particularly significant here in Memphis. Many people say it’s Memphis darkest day. I can’t argue that. But having now been here all of six-plus months I look at this as a day of reflection, a reminder not of what Dr. King died for, but what he lived for. I hope all Memphians feel this way.


Now to the subject of my post. I’ll bet you’ve never seen two of those three cities being compared. Something out of Bazarro World. 

This is what I left behind. But before you look too longingly at this sunset, remember that this sunset comes at a big cost and a big price tag.  

I’ve mentioned in prior posts that my wife and I almost moved to Nashville. And I also said that, Thank God, fate stepped in and brought here instead. For as we prepared for our move and the days and our dollars wizzed by, two very big factors made us set a new I-40 course for Memphis: family and cost of living. 

I described in another post (How Memphis Saved Me, March 31) how I came to Memphis in somewhat a broken state. And with all that had bombarded my wife and me, she wanted - needed - to be closer to family. After all, she hadn’t been within casual visiting distance of family since she left Memphis back in 2004. Nashville was just a little too far away, even at 2 1/2 hours. And financially, we were by no means broke when we set out east from California (one cannot be broke and move two bedrooms and a full house two thousand miles across the country). However we did have financial motivations in choosing Memphis over Nashville. And cost was one big one.

(Now before you poo-poo the family and financial reasons we moved here rather than Nashville, remember that we did not yet know how much we’d love it here, and that prior to moving we did hear the echoes of the voices who didn’t hold their very own Memphis in the highest regard.)

From the website choose901, perhaps the
best source for all-things-Memphis

I’m gonna throw some numbers at’cha. And this will sound like one of those Top So-Many Reasons for Relocating to Memphis promotions, but da truth is da truth. There are blogs and articles and stats available all over that boast about our low cost of living, about our favorable cost of living index and how a salary here can be double or triple its value as compared to other cities. But I’m going to give you some tangible numbers to consider. And I pulled these numbers from my own experience and from

The average rent in my zip code, 38104, is just over a $1 per square foot. So a one-bedroom, 750-sq-foot apartment would go for about $750 a month. In my old zip code in California, the average was about $3 per square foot, or over $2200 for the same place. Three times that of Memphis! No joke. In Nashville, if you picked the 12South 37204 zip code, that figure is somewhere between $2-2.50, so about $1700 for the same place. I would be afraid to compare this to New York, but the figure is easily closer to $4 per square foot. You do the math.

Our place in Newport Beach - Don't get too excited,
we only leased the top floor. Asking price for the whole thing:
$1.8 Million

The numbers are even more staggering when buying a house. Here in the 38104, a midtown house could sell for maybe around $125 per square foot, or about $200,000 for a 2-3 bedroom, 1600 square foot house. Now that same house, in my old zip code, would go for … wait for it … not $200 per, not $300 per, but over $600 per square foot, or close to $1,000,000. You read it right. That’s a lot of zeros. 

In that 37204 Nashville zip that same house goes for about double what it goes for here, or around $400,000. Some comparable zip codes in the Atlanta area are about the same as Nashville.  

I don’t need to remind any Memphians that in the TN we have no state income tax. How big a deal is that? Well, for my wife and me that means over $900 a month that is not deducted from our pay checks. Nine Hundred Dollars. Each month. That’s a mortgage here. 

I can afford... one of these. Thanks.

Let’s look at dining out. How much of a difference can that make from city to city? Turns out a lot. A cocktail in a Newport Beach restaurant could go for about $12-15. Try covering the bar tab for your friends on a Friday night. Damn! Who ordered $180 in drinks?? And we haven’t even eaten yet!! Here in midtown it’s what, maybe $8-10? If that? And everything else is less expensive here as well: entrees, deserts, sides. So a dinner out here is just a little less expensive. 

Groceries are less expensive. Trips to Target, about the same. Basic utilities here are less expensive. Car insurance, about the same. But our cable bill was almost $250 a month. That’s for cable, 2 boxes, and our wireless internet service. Here’s it’s less than $150. And I haven’t even mentioned gas prices. A gallon of gas in our area in California was costing us around $3-4 dollars for 89 octane. Last time I filled up here it was about $2.20 a gallon… for 93 octane! That’s a difference of about $20 per every trip to the gas station. 

So let’s add this up a bit. In our modest little 2-bedroom place in Newport Beach, if you include the state income tax we had to pay, our cost of living was, without being too revealing, something over $8000 a month. Here, again without being too revealing, it’s dropped to something around $4000. That’s half. 

I’ve heard some Memphians complain about the high sales tax rate of 9%. In California it was 7.5%, and if you figure how much more everything else cost there, its roughly the same. 

So I say, Rejoice Memphis! The blanket statement “the cost of living is cheaper in Memphis” really doesn’t give context to just how dramatic that savings is. Ya’ll are lucky here! And now, my wife and I are as well. In California, we truly lived to work, just to pay the bills and scratch and save for vacations and to go out to dinner every now and then. And, we could never even afford to buy the house we lived in. Not in Newport Beach. Here, the direct opposite has occurred. Not only can we afford a house, we’re no longer part of that set of people who have to live for work, who live for their modest 1200 square feet. Here we can work to live. Really live. 

I would never again trade it for any Pacific sunset...

I'll take this one instead. Any day.  

Tell me your thoughts on cost of living here versus elsewhere.