|We lived in Marin County for 34 years followed by 2 years in Napa. The last 25 years in Marin were spent in an historic house that we loved but was a money and time sinkhole, just like the movie “The Money Pit.”
In 2009 my outplacement business was busier than it had ever been. Unfortunately it was a case of “the best of times, the worst of times”. While we were busy, fees were very low, the likelihood of finding jobs for our candidates was low and payables were very slow to come in. Then my credit line was frozen and I found myself living from fee collection to fee collection in order to pay my employees and the overhead. It was a very stressful next two years.
Our solution? Sell the money pit. This turned out to be Step One on our way to Portland.
Over the years we had discussed where we would move when the time came. We narrowed our search to Austin, Texas eliminating all West Coast cities due to costs (Bay Area & Southern California), weather (Seattle) or nuttiness (Portland). We’d seen a couple of episodes of the TV show Portlandia and knew we couldn’t live in a place that required living on a sustainable chicken farm if you wanted to order chicken in a restaurant.
Step One was completed when we sold our house. The sale was complicated in that we had only three weeks to move before closing. Since I still owned and ran a business based in San Francisco we had to find something that would enable me to continue working. The short window forced us to rent rather than buy. This turned out to be Step Two as it didn’t tie us down to one location; rather, it gave us flexibility once the lease expired.
We found a decent rental house on the water in Napa. From there I could access all my Bay Area offices relatively easily. So we settled in Napa. While there we began a casual house hunt. We found little of interest that was affordable. As time passed we liked living in Napa less and less. While there I was approached by a national firm that wanted to acquire my business. Sold! Foolishly, I thought that I would find something interesting and acceptable in Napa but it turned out that I was old, gray-haired and not in the food, wine or hospitality industries. A friend of mine pointed out that while I thought I had 40 years of experience, HR saw an ambulance waiting outside the front door. In other words, I didn’t exist as a potential employee for someone else and I had no interest in starting another business.
In a quirk of fate I found a job listing at a company where a friend of mine is an executive. The job was in Portland. I asked Stevie “If I got a job in Portland, would you move there?” She answered “Yes. I’d move anywhere you found a job.” (That comment made my situation seem even more desperate than I had realized) So I called my friend and started the application process. A day later Stevie asked if I would consider moving to Portland even if I didn’t get the job. “Absolutely not,” was my response. However, as a sensitive, cautious husband normally does I began to reflect upon her question. Why would she ask that if she wasn’t considering it? What happens if I just ignore her? Where else will we go? I didn’t have a better option and time was slipping away. We went on a 90 minute hike and did a T-chart comparison of Austin with Portland and for various reasons, at the end of the hike we were moving to Portland. It also didn’t seem to be as popular a destination, (Portlandia notwithstanding) as Austin .
We booked a trip: Step Three. We arrived midday on a Saturday and picked up our rental car. Of course it was a Prius. More Portlandia. We drove around the city to get an idea of where things were. I had made an appointment to look at a house in Lake Oswego first thing Monday morning. We walked around the area and got a beer at a local pub. While sipping the beer we concluded that Lake Oswego was just like Larkspur, our hometown of 25 years. Since we were in a different place in life we decided the house and area was not for us and cancelled the appointment. Big mistake.
After looking at houses and apartments each day we had scheduled dinner each night with friends to discuss our possible move to Portland. Arriving at the restaurant the first night I couldn’t figure out to how shut off the Prius. Stevie finally said “We’re in Portland. Go inside and ask if anyone has a Prius. I bet everyone in there will have one.” So inside I went and spoke with the hostess about my problem. She had a Prius! And kindly came outside to show me how to turn it off.
Our friends all encouraged us to make the move. At dinner the last night we were in town my friend’s wife suggested that since we knew nothing about Portland, we should rent a small apartment downtown to become familiar with the city.
Step Four: The next day we rented a one bedroom, two bath loft in the Museum District which is downtown between the Pearl District and Portland State University. Now we were committed to the move and had little more than a month to downsize again, sell one of our vehicles and arrange for the move. I packed a box with essentials we would need for the first night spent in the apartment waiting for the trailer to arrive. Unfortunately it went into the moving van so we had no essentials like towels and toilet paper. We did have an Aerobed. A leaky Aerobed as it turned out. Amazingly we also had duct tape. With several reflations and the duct tape we made it through the night though when I climbed out of the Aerobed in the morning it snapped shut and swallowed Stevie much the way a Venus Fly Trap catches insects.
Step Five: Towards the end of college friends would ask what I was planning to do and I’d answer “my life is like a snow globe at rest for awhile and now it’s time to turn it upside down and see what new comes of it”. Since our lives had just turned upside down we dove into life in our new city. We lived in the loft for two years and became familiar with the city and met a lot of people through work, and especially through Newcomers Club. The biggest surprise to us in this move has been the increased social activity. Our willingness to reach out to meet new people has made the move successful. We now have a circle of new friends, a new house that is sized to our needs and are living in a less expensive area that has ocean and mountain access in less than two hours from our house. We haven’t seen an episode of Portlandia since we’ve moved.
Q. Would we go back to California given the chance?
And that my friends is our story. My next interview will be with a woman who has followed her husband around the Country as he has taken on new jobs. She has had to reinvent herself many times and has always insisted that she’s much smarter than her husband. I know them both and I must agree! Find out what she is doing now.
3 thoughts on “Life is like a Snow Globe”
I loved this, Stevie! It was so much like our move to Las Vegas from Huntington Beach, but I never wrote it or thought it like you did. Very good, my friend.
Thank you Leslie! That is really nice to hear. Yes, it’s a leap of faith and change is good.
What fun! I sent it to Byron, I’m certain he will laugh also.