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10 Factors When Picking A New City

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Suburbia is so 20th Century.

Take it from a kid born and raised in the ‘burbs. There’s a time and place for outer city limit novelties such as “grass lawns,” “good schools,” and “not being stabbed to death outside a party store by a meth head for Powerball money.” It’s called your 30s, when society deems it acceptable to allow your hope and dreams to succumb to the death throes of futility settle down with a loving family.

But now is not that time. Look at you! You’re young. You’re sexy. Your biological clock still has another one to three years before poofs of dust start sputtering out of your reproductive organs. It’s time to live and let live, baby! Time to rid yourself of the comforting shackles of safe suburbia, trade saved up engagement ring money for a new apartment, and start fresh in the big city.

But what to look for?

10. Weather

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I’m a Rust Belt boy. The saying here is “if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.” Our climate changes moods like Jay changes clothes. That entails triple digit humidity for three months, dipping down into the negatives for two, and hopeless, slushy gray malaise straight out of Saving Private Ryan in between.

That’s why I feel confident in saying this: weather is overrated. A non-factor. Nothing the addition or removal of a few layers can’t take care of. I even love snow shoveling. I’ll spend hours strategically crisscrossing across my driveway like I am an all-controlling heat miser and I’m ruining Christmas for all of the tiny snowflake people. And if you can’t appreciate that kind of raw, godlike power, then you’re too jaded as a person to enjoy the beauty of a diversity of seasons.

9. Culture

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Staying on top of your culture game is important, and no, having a Redbox machine within driving distance doesn’t count. You need to find a place that has a diverse range of art exhibits, historical museums, concert and symphony halls, comedy houses, the whole shebang.

Personally, color me an opera guy. It’s three hours of dressing dapper and watching people shout at each other in a foreign language. Do I have the slightest idea what they’re saying? Of course not! That’s the fun. Operas are ad-libs for grownups.

8. Time Zone

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How the hell do you West Coasters enjoy football season? There’s not enough McDonald’s breakfast in the world that could make listening to Terry Bradshaw ramble at 10 AM bearable. My fantasy team would be in shambles due to the last-minute lineup changes. Face it, NFL RedZone and Sunday Communion should never go head to head. Clean it up, Pacific Time Zone, and join the future with the rest of us.

7. Location

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Distance from home is all about striking a balance that is just close enough to your family that they’re within a day’s distance, yet far enough away that it’s an inconvenience for them to make the trip on a whim. You’ve seen your place. There are days when it looks like Brady Hoke just blew through after hitting up the all-you-can-eat burrito bar. I’m talking high-speed winds and ghastly smells leaving hurricane-esque damage. Nothing wrong with the after-party disaster scene, but a few buffer zone hours to clean your place before the folks roll into town wondering if you’re now a complete degenerate never hurt anyone.

6. Cleanliness

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Say what you want about Toronto. Their mayor is a crackhead. Their hockey boastfulness is the definition of insanity. The eggs at Tim Horton’s taste like Rosie O’Donnell’s boxers after a 16-hour roadtrip. But dammit, do those Canucks keep their streets clean. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not one cigarette butt embedded in the sidewalk cracks. No obscenity-laced graffiti to be seen anywhere. For god’s sake, they clean up their own peanut shells and throw them into the trashcan like civilized human beings at Blue Jays games! WHO DOES THIS?! It’s those kind of things that score cities like San Francisco huge points in the city scoping realm.

5. Public Transit

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Full disclosure: public transit, particularly subways, are so foreign to me that the signs inside of the Chicago ‘L’ may as well be written in Venusian. The idea of bringing groceries and laundry…that I EAT AND CLOTHE MYSELF IN…onto a bus filled with you animals terrifies me. I’ve seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I know what apocalypse-inducing diseases you’re capable of spreading.

That said, like any new experience, you not only get used to it, but begin to take it for granted. I recently went to Lincoln Park, and I’ll tell you, man: that kind of instant cab fare and train availability at 4am is a godsend compared to being on the same road as some of you Illinois maniacs doing your best Princess Diana impressions. Though I have a sick love of driving, I’ve immediately missed taking the train while stuck in traffic for two hours the other day. People change. Old habits die. Who knew?

4. Walkability

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There’s something peaceful about a nighttime stroll after a stressful day and not have to be clutching your wallet the entire time like it contains the secrets of eternal life. It’s a miracle that Detroit isn’t the leading cause of carpal tunnel syndrome in America. Not to mention, nothing shakes off your undergrad beer gut quite like all of life’s necessities being a five-blocks-or-less walk away.

3. Nightlife

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Now we’re coming down the stretch and hitting “big dog” territory.

We’re looking for diversity. Unless you’re Miley in the bathroom, you’re not going to want to rage every night at the clubs. That hangoverless streak isn’t lasting forever, and buying a night’s worth of VIP bottle service, while a power move, gets costly. Grow up, Peter Pan. Need to have a good blend of sports bars, dive bars, martini bars, and in an ideal scenario, a casino or two.

2. Food

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I’m one of those people where all I want to do on vacation is two things: eat and drink. Maybe catch a ballgame, but mainly eat or drink. This metabolism’s not lasting forever, no matter how many “YOU’RE BLOWING IT” pep talks I scream at my mirror when I get out of the shower every morning. And when you’re in a gigantic new city, nothing is exciting as exploring the local grub scene. I’m talking more hole in the walls than Chris Brown’s apartment. Why settle? People who stick to the same three restaurants are just the worst married.

1. Sports

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If a city doesn’t have four professional athletic teams, it’s not a real city. That’s just science. For this exercise, I’m giving Chicago “baseball” a free pass, but you’ve been forewarned, Cubbies: you’re on very thin ice.

It’s not just the availability of the teams, either. There is a HUGE difference between a town that has sports, and a sports town. You can see it in the eyes of those in attendance at Fenway, Lincoln Financial, or the Ballpark at Arlington. It’s that fire that bonds an entire population through triumph and heartbreak that cities without a strong sports presence like Miami could never understand.

What type of sports town an area is reflects a city’s identity like no other. New Yorkers are arrogant. Bostonians have a ridiculously unwarranted self-image of themselves as an underdog. Detroiters are loyal. San Franciscans are cool with their wine. The people of Oakland are batshit crazy. And so on.

And for when those sports moments collectively crush the morale of an entire city? See: Factor #3.

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J Parks Caldwell

J. Parks Caldwell makes jokes to hide the fact that he's upset, because that's what children of divorce do.

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