The price you pay

This is where I live.

In the summer it’s either hot and dry or wet and muddy. In the winter it’s frigid. As the crow flies this photo is roughly five miles from the nearest power pole. If you want water, all you have to do is dig straight down about 250 feet. The water you get will kill your kidneys in approximately five years, because it seems to be about 50% calcium. A trip to the nearest town, which is about ten miles away, often seems like you’ve stumbled onto the set of Idiocracy. The only well-maintained buildings in the whole place are Mormon churches. The closest movie theater is approximately sixty miles away, seventy by road. It’s right next to the closest Wal-Mart. We’re up to our asses in drunken Apaches and toothless rednecks, and the only people who’ll give you a good day’s work are illegal immigrants – who’ll sneak back later and rip you off when you’re not home. Only an idiot would deliberately live here.

I love it immoderately.

Why? All of the above. But I do admit it’s a minority opinion.

Today I got an email from a reader, who said, “I’ve read your blog for awhile and have the nagging question, how do you find places that are reasonable. Where does one look for a place where the taxes and living expenses are not crushing?”

The answer is, you look for places just like this one. Places no reasonable person would ever want to settle. Places where any half-sane young person moves away about six picoseconds after acquiring a driver’s license. Places with no decent jobs, no decent services, and genuinely foul weather. Places the tourists and the gentrifiers just slide on by.

To say the least, it’s not for everybody. In the time I’ve been here I’ve seen three good friends move in – and then move right away again. Didn’t blame them. If I had suggested that my wife and daughter move out here with me, they’d have murdered me in my sleep.

So what’s the point? It depends on your priorities. If you’re looking for a place in this country that’s cheap to live AND tolerant of a freedomista lifestyle, you can have that. But the tradeoffs will be brutal. I wouldn’t expect a Williams-Sonoma down the street. In fact there may not be much in the way of streets.

When I moved out here I was pretty close to the end of my rope legally, economically, and emotionally. You can get yourself into serious trouble just by ceasing to check in with our would-be masters on demand, especially in a place like Socal where the cost of living is so high that your choices are high-income employment or homelessness. .Gov can and will make that first thing impossible for you, just to be mean. When I moved out here I made a conscious decision to live as poor as I possibly could. And out here I can live very poor indeed, pretty comfortably, because this place’s economy is geared toward the presence of a great many poor people. And I don’t mean “all I can afford is fast food” poor. I mean so poor that fast food might be a twice-a-year indulgence. So poor you learn to eat cheap or you can bloody well starve.

It works for me, but I don’t proselytize because it sure wouldn’t be for everybody. Six years ago, to celebrate my first year in the boonies, I wrote a “lessons learned” piece that said in part,

Lesson four: If you need a conventional, high-paying job that provides your sense of identity, well-being and self-esteem, stay in the city. That’s where they keep those.

I’m being completely serious here. If I had a dime for every wannabe who told me he needs to stay in (Chicago, or LA, or Boston, or wherever) because that’s the only place he can work at his profession, I could afford to pay somebody else to set up my goddamn solar power.

That was six years ago almost to the day, and while the writing style is a bit florid I can’t really see much I’d change.

The point is, life in the boonies requires flexibility. You may need to adjust your standards just a little – and then adjust them a lot. You need to embrace the chaos.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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9 Responses to The price you pay

  1. MamaLiberty says:

    And, if that’s a little TOO far out and stark, Wyoming might be a good compromise. Take a look at Free State Wyoming 🙂

  2. Larry Rose says:

    How Long have you lived there? It seems to me many more than 6 years.

  3. anonymous says:

    It appears to be a place where you have to be comfortable with who you are. Solitude gives us time to remember places, events and persons we would rather forget. Or wish we could revisit again, even for just 10 minutes.

    The various distractions we have around us cause us to lose sight of that – you wake up and go the bathroom, and wonder who the hell is that old phart in the mirror. You look around and the kids are teenagers – didn’t I just take off their training wheels off the bike ?

    Time just slips away.

  4. Matt, another says:

    I spent half of my life in and out of that area. When I can get the kids on their feet and out of the house I’ll spend the rest of my life in that area. The area is some of the most beautiful and brutal in the state of Arizona. It does seem to attract some intersting bits of flotsam and jetsam from mainstream america, mostly they are good people that just want to be left alone. I do like the fact that the lonesomeness, wind and wildly varying tempatures have a tendency to keep the well minded city-folk to a minimum. You made a great choice 6 years ago Joel.

  5. billf says:

    I have to admit,between your photo and description,I personally think you’re in a little piece of heaven.For a long time,I wanted to move ‘where there’s no people’.My ex and I looked around Montana and Wyoming a lot,but I wanted the places that look like your photo,and she wanted to be closer to neighbors and the WalMart.Now that I’m alone,I could do it by myself,but my health prevents me from doing a lot of work by myself.
    How about an old folks home with a view of the desert?

  6. Celeste Fox says:

    Joel, I’ve been a lurker for some time, so as a “neighbor” I should introduce myself. Hubby and I live somewhere to your west, I would guess. Your view looks much like ours…though we have more grass & the White Mountains in the far distance. “toothless rednecks” made me laugh, I’m always telling hubs he’s not allowed to kick the bucket because I won’t be able to find any replacement for him who has any of his own teeth left in our neck of the woods. Love your blog!


  7. Joel says:

    It’s been seven years, almost exactly.

  8. naturegirl says:

    I’ve spent the majority of the past 9 years up around the north end.Looks pretty much the same up here, too. Love the solitude and freedom parts but loathe the brown everywhere and the “dirt that isn’t really dirt or sand or anything like I’ve ever seen before” (that magically turns into cement-like when it gets wet) not to mention the wind !……. harshest area I’ve ever lived in, so far…..

    Great for solar power, but I wonder about the water running out eventually……

  9. Joe Louis says:

    That was me asking, I feel honored. I thought your answer to me was helpful. It helped me focus on what my goals and what I could do without and what I couldn’t.

    Didn’t you tease us with a possible book about how you got out there from SoCal?

To the stake with the heretic!