Since moving out to central Illinois a tad over 5 years ago, I’ve slowly started to accept the fact that I’m going to be here for a long time. The simple truth is, Sarah and I can live more comfortably here than we can back east. There are several reasons for this. One, we both earn really decent money. Two, the cost of housing is way, way lower than out east. Our house will be paid off in about 12 years and it doesn’t kill us to come up with the mortgage payment every month. Plus we own nearly 9,000 books, so if we were to move, we’d need another 4 bedroom home to accomodate them. Three, the university system here has an awesome retirement plan. And for me at least, retirement is no longer that far distant star on the horizon. So we’re stuck here. Still, there are things I really miss about New England. And there are things I really do not miss about New England.

Things I miss:

1. Seafood. Sure, you can get seafood here, but it is nowhere near as good or as diverse as what you can get in New England. Things like fishcakes are simply not available here. I’d love to have a place like Durgin Park pub to go for a quick lunch of fishcakes and beans.

2. The ocean. When I first joined the military and moved away from the ocean, it bothered me for many years. When I came back on leave, the first thing I’d do, not matter how tired I was, would be to jump in the car and head down to Nantasket Beach to just stand and take in the view and the smell. It took me many years of being away to get over that need to be near the ocean every once in a while. I still miss it, though.

3. The mountains. When I was a kid, my folks would take us up to North Conway several times every year. I love that area. I still carry a balsam “smelly bag” in my car to remind me of the forests there. And I check Hazecam and the Mount Washington summit cam on a daily basis, just to see what the weather is like “back home.”

4. Bookstores. We have Borders and B&N and Pages for All Ages here, but they’re in Champaign. Too far to go at night when we’re bored at home. Back east there’s always a bookstore a short drive away, it seems.

5. Dunkin Donuts. There’s nothing like the smell of Dunkin Donuts and coffee. I don’t really like their coffee and I avoid donuts for the most part (I love donuts, but they are evil things), but even driving by the half dozen donut shops on the 1.5 miles trip from Rt 24 to Bridgewater State College, you could smell the combination of coffee and donuts.

6. Really good Asian food. Especially The Chatta Box. There are a couple pretty good Thai places here, but the Chinese food isn’t nearly as good and there simply is no place that does Mango Stir Fried Chicken like The Chatta Box.

7. Boston. ‘Nuff said.

8. Easier travel. The flight from Boston to London is nearly 3 hours shorter than the flight from Chicago. Cheaper, too. Same goes for Bermuda. There are also far more diverse local travel opporunities, such as the aforementioned New Hampshire. Out here you have to drive two hours to get to a major city and even they are surrounded by more cornfields. Chicago is a three hour trip for us and it’s beginning to grow on us, but as far as mountains or ocean? Fuggedaboutit.

9. Foliage. Autumn just isn’t the same out here.

10. Cain’s condiments. May sound silly, but I really miss Cain’s products like mayo, relish, tartar sauce, etc. You can’t get them anywhere but New England.

11. Convenience stores that are…well, convenient. The ones here are few and far between and don’t carry things like half-and-half. I was dismayed when I got out here and found you couldn’t buy half-and-half anyplace but a supermarket. And it’s always in the farthest corner from the entrance.

12. Vehicle inspections. Ok, maybe not the inspection itself, but at least the idea that your vehicle should meet certain standards. Out here the first thing every pickup truck owner does is strip the exhaust system out. I’ve seen brand new pickups that sound like they just dropped a muffler at the last pothole. I’ve also seen cars that look like they were just pieced together from various junkyards.

13. Kettle ponds. There’s nothing like a nice, clear, calm kettle pond surrounded by sandy soil and scrub pines. Anything resembling a pond here is either square, having been a source of fill for an overpass or something, or it sits behind a dam. Most get downright nasty in the summer due to the lack of fresh feedwater. I miss places like Little Pond in Plymouth or Lake Chocorua in Tamworth, New Hampshire.

14. Hills. Or even just a change in elevation. Something to block the view of the horizon. A tree, maybe.

15. Last but certainly not least, family. I talk to my folks all the time, but I don’t get to see them nearly as often as I’d like. They’re not getting any younger and I know a day will come when I’ll be furious with myself for not having found a way to spend more time with them. We see Sarah’s folks a couple time a year, but I’m sure she’d rather have more time with them as well.

Things I don’t miss:

1. Traffic. If I’m more than two cars back from a traffic light here, I grouse about the heavy traffic. And unless there’s a wreck or some serious construction during a heavy travel period, you simply don’t get bumper-to-bumper around here. Trips to Chicago age me by years because of the traffic. I’d love to be calm and collected in traffic, but it actually causes physical discomfort for me to sit staring at a sea of tailights.

2. Winters. The winters here can be brutally cold and because of the drifting and melt/freeze cycles, an inch of snow can really mess up commuting for days. But overall we’ve had far milder winters than they’ve had back east, so I’m not complaining.

3. The ridiculous cost of housing. We own a 2400SF, four bedroom home on a wooded acre of land. We paid about $164k for it and if it were to go on the market today, it’d still be about that much. I periodically check the real estate ads from Massachusetts and I’m still seeing tiny old capes going for $300k in Taunton. Give me a break.

4. Crowds. It’s rare to be packed in here. We’ve been to quite a few movies recently and none were anywhere near half full. The malls usually aren’t bad either and for the most part, you can get away with little or no wait at restaurants even without reservations.

5. Traffic. Just because it needs to be mentioned again.

6. Gary La Pierre. While I generally liked WBZ (I can still pick it up from outside Sarah’s library), I couldn’t stand that pontificating putz.

7. Boston. ‘Nuff said.

8. Excise tax. I always hated paying that. It seemed they got you when you bought your car, every time you filled the tank, anytime you traveled west, and once a year just for good measure. I’m sure the same tax is hidden somewhere else out here, but at least it’s not in my face.

9. Abutting towns. In Massachusetts the only thing between neighboring towns is a sign with the respective town name on each side.  For the most part there was no open space between towns, especially closer to Boston. Out here you know when you’ve left town.

10. Outrageous parking fees. Here the most expensive parking is on campus where I work (sad, but true). I can park at the Indy airport for $5/day. I think Boston’s Logan airport charges that for an hour. 

11. Oil heat. Worst way ever invented to heat a house. Nasty stuff and horribly expensive to clean up in the event of a spill. Our heat pump and gas assist furnace works just fine and is a heck of a lot cleaner and easier to maintain.

12. Driving in the breakdown lane. What moron thought that was a good idea?

13. Manhole covers. Last time we were in CT, I was reminded of the annoyance of hitting manhole covers which had sunk below the level of the roadway (which is just about all of them). Few, if any, manhole covers here.

14. Inane blue laws. Massachusetts has some of the nation’s oldest and dumbest blue laws. Need beer on a Sunday? Tough, unless you live near the NH border. And now you can’t even ship wine to Massachusetts. For years I’ve been sending my folks wine baskets for birthdays and such, but no more. The best legislature money can buy has decided to end that right. Thanks a bunch. Someday maybe they’ll explain who besides the liquor distributors benefits from such a move.

As you can see, there are (barely) more things I miss than not. But things I don’t miss are biggies. Did I mention I hate traffic? Still, I’d like to find a way to get back there more often. I’d take my folks down to Plymouth Harbor to have some great fishcakes at Isaac’s and then stop by The Chatta Box on the way back through Bridgewater for some take-out. 😎