August 9, 1994
San Jose Mercury News
By Timothy Taylor
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Hello, house in south Minneapolis that costs 90 percent of what our Palo
Alto home did. It has three times the floorspace, on a lot that is 60 percent
larger. It was designed by well-known prairie-style architects, and includes black
walnut built-in cabinets, 17 stained-glass windows, and a fireplace with a semicircular
YES, I KNOW the winters are cold. Everyone keeps reminding me. But I'm moving
to Minnesota anyway.
The reason is that my wife, who has just finished an MBA degree at Stanford,
has taken a job in Minneapolis. So I'm going to be a '90s kind of guy and follow
her. If I want to be supported in the style to which I hope to become accustomed,
some sacrifices may be necessary.
Actually, it's no sacrifice. I attended junior high school and high school
in Minnesota; my parents, two of my siblings, a grandmother, and various friends
still live there. But since I went away to college in the fall of 1978, I've not
lived within 1,000 miles of my folks. I'm looking forward to spending casual time
with them -- a bike ride, an evening walk -- without the pressure of a one-week
visit or an overshadowing holiday.
I won't have to quit my California job, either. The economics journal that
I have been running at Stanford University will simply shift its administrative
offices to the University of Minnesota. The journal's editors and authors are
already spread all over the country. We connect by telephone, conference call,
overnight mail and e-mail. I have geographic flexibility.
Through the magic of modems and Mercury Center, and the tolerance of the big
cheeses at the Mercury News, I will continue writing for these pages, as I have
for the last six years. You will forgive me, I trust, if metaphors about frostbite,
cryogenics, cabin fever, the wind chill factor and pneumonia start appearing more
often in my musings.
Winter is the major downside to Minnesota. It can be shatteringly cold; not
just below zero, but below credibility. January and February usually feature a
couple of weeks where the daily high is below zero. In high school, I remember
waiting for the school bus in 20-below -- and that was the temperature, not counting
Now, I fear that California and adulthood may have thinned my blood. Listen
hard next winter, and you will hear me whining.
As for the summer, we are returning to the land of window-screens. With that
well-chronicled Scandinavian sense of humor, Minnesotans refer to the mosquito
-- swarms breed in the proverbial 10,000 lakes -- as the "state bird."
But even with winters and bugs, the Twin Cities look attractive.
It's real estate heaven, of course. The price of our house in south Minneapolis
is about 90 percent of our Palo Alto home. It has three times the floorspace,
on a lot that is 60 percent larger. It was designed by well-known prairie-style
architects, and includes black walnut built-in cabinets, 17 stained-glass windows,
and a fireplace with a semicircular mantle.
The house is a half-block from a string of five lakes that stretch across south
Minneapolis. The lakes are connected and surrounded by bike paths, walking paths
and parkland. You can swim in them, fish in them, picnic beside them. Across the
lake closest to us is a bandshell that offers free concerts all summer.
We're a 12-minute drive from downtown Minneapolis. The good Lutherans of the
upper Midwest don't exactly create a San Francisco-style nightlife, but they do
support an extraordinary range of good theater and music. And although retail
in the downtown has suffered from suburban shopping malls, like everywhere else,
the "skyway" system allows one to walk all over the downtown without
When you talk about leaving Silicon Valley, you find some people who just can't
comprehend why anyone would leave -- and a whole other group who want to stow
away in your suitcases.
I've lived in the Bay Area for 10 of the last 12 years, and I will miss it.
This area has the largest number of spectacular weekend trips of anywhere in the
country: Monterey or Napa, San Francisco or Yosemite, and on and on and on.
But I've done those trips, many of them two or three times. I'm ready to spend
less of my life in the car. I'm ready for a house with five bedrooms. I'm ready
to have clean air, a park, and a body of water at my doorstep, not down the road
someplace. I'm ready to live where trimming back on work for the sake of family
is a normal pattern, not a peculiar accommodation.
I'm ready for Garrison Keillor and Kirby Puckett. I'm ready for the obscure
ethnic jokes about what happens when a Norwegian meets a Swede and a Finn. I'm
ready to dig out the bug repellent and the woolen sweaters and the snow shovel.
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