The State I Would Choose To Live In

The Finger Lakes in central New York. Penn Yan, where I was born, is at the northern tip of Keuka Lake.
The Finger Lakes in central New York. Penn Yan, where I was born, is at the northern tip of Keuka Lake. | Source
Berlin, NH. The view is of the Androscoggin River, with the old James River plant on the right.
Berlin, NH. The view is of the Androscoggin River, with the old James River plant on the right. | Source
A detail of the Chrysler Buildings art deco crown. The building sits over Grand Central Station, and I used to work in an office building right behind it.
A detail of the Chrysler Buildings art deco crown. The building sits over Grand Central Station, and I used to work in an office building right behind it. | Source
The skyline of Indianapolis has changed very little in the 23 years I've lived here.
The skyline of Indianapolis has changed very little in the 23 years I've lived here. | Source
Fishers actually is a great place to live!
Fishers actually is a great place to live! | Source
The block my step-mom's restaurant is on. You can just make out the sign on the very right.
The block my step-mom's restaurant is on. You can just make out the sign on the very right. | Source

My answer to "Pick A State"

What state would I choose to live in? Wow! In some ways that's a tough question to answer, but in other ways it's very easy...

I guess I should start by talking about all the places I have lived. I was born in New York, The Empire State. I was born in a little town called Penn Yan, though I've never lived there. Ironically, though, it is the town I had my first real job in, at the Super Duper grocery store. Penn Yan, and the town I lived in for the first five years of my life, Dundee, are in the middle of the Finger Lakes region of New York, which is also wine country. There is a lot of beautiful countryside there, gorgeous hills and beautiful lakes. The Finger Lakes are tourist destinations, every summer people rent cottages on one of the lakes. There are either eleven or twelve, depending on how generous people are feeling toward Cazenovia Lake. They are long and narrow (Cazenovia not so long as the others) and resemble fingers.

When I was a just about to enter the fifth grade, my mom and step-dad moved to Maryland. I've lived in Perry Hall, Severn and Bowie. Perry Hall is in Baltimore County, and at the time I lived there it was a little run down. Dick Dyszel, the legendary Captain 20 from Channel 20, WDCA (back in the days of UHF,) once called Perry Hall the "armpit of Maryland." I don't know that I'd go that far, but it wasn't posh. It was, however, close to Baltimore, and Orioles games and Colts games (yeah, I lived there back when they were still the Baltimore Colts!) and they had just built Harbor Place. Severn, I only lived there six months and didn't really enjoy it. Proximity to the airport and lack of air conditioning in the summer both contributed to that. Bowie (pronounced "BOO-wee," like American legend Jim Bowie. NOT "BOH-wee." David never been there!) was where I lived for four years and it was nice. The part that I lived in was largely a suburb of D.C. in many ways, but it was still nice. I practically lived at the library! Maryland does have beautiful countryside, but what I remember the most were the extremes in weather. During winter, if there was even a hint of snow then kids were practically guaranteed that school would be delayed for two hours. The reason is that Maryland, being on the water and therefor wet (surprise!) had a habit of forming ice on the roads. Salt trucks would salt the roads, to be sure, but then cars would push the slush off the road, the salt would go with it and the roads would refreeze. "Black ice," patches of ice you couldn't see with the naked eye, were common and so were accidents. Summers, also because of the proximity to the water, were hot and HUMID! Mugginess was your constant companion and jailer during Maryland summers, and more people died from the heat there (according to radio announcements) than anywhere else I lived. One of the ironies of Maryland was that, although it was right next to the National Weather Service, the weather predictions there were worse than anywhere else I've ever lived!

In between tenth and eleventh grades, my mom and step-dad moved to Berlin (BER-lin) New Hampshire. Local legend is that it was originally pronounced ber-LIN, like the capital of Germany, but during WW II they changed the pronunciation. I believe this because a few miles down the road is the very small town of Milan, and it's pronounced MY-lun, not mee-LAHN. Anyway, this move was for my step-father's job. He became the Personel Director for the local James River paper mill. It was by far the biggest employer in the area. I understand it's closed today, but the town continues on! I didn't appreciate the place at the time, but I look back on it now and I can remember all that beautiful country (Berlin is at the foot of Mount Washington in the White Mountain Range, and I could see it out my back door. It is also in the middle of a large forest, or at least was when I lived there.) I can also appreciate the joys of small town living (Berlin was always really a small town) better now that I'm in my 40's than I could when I was in my teens and 20's. Even though New Hampshire had winters that were both colder and longer than Maryland (especially in the northern part of the state, where Berlin is situated,) during the two years I attended school there there was only one snow day. And I learned later that it had been the only one for almost a decade. New Hampshire has "dry" winters and although the snow can be deep, you don't have to deal with the ice on the roads. At least I knew for sure when the school year would end!

When I was 19, I moved to New York City. I was actually on my way to Omaha, Nebraska because of the theater community there (Henry Fonda got his start there.) But I stopped in the NYC area to visit some friends, and decided to stay. It was the first time I had been out on my own, and it was quite a formative experience. I did things then that I could never do now, like share living space with a dozen other people, sleep on the sofa's of people I'd never met before, and lose 30 pounds because of illness and malnutrtition. Of course I could, but I sure wouldn't want that now. And although rent is devilishly expensive in New York, food is incredibly cheap! I fell in love with New York pizza and wish I could get it now! And boy, I sure do miss NYC Chinese food! There's nothing here in Indiana to compare. New York also has the best mass transit system in the world! Sorry, London, I've never been on the Tube, nor the Metro in Paris, but I have a hard time believing they're any better! Yeah, I do look fondly back on my time in New York City.

Technically, I spent four years in the New York area, including Teaneck, NJ, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jersey City, NJ, and finally Blauvelt, NY, a small town in Orange County where I rented an efficiency that was the converted garage of an Armenian family. They were very nice. They treated me like a member of their own family.

While I was in New York, I met a nice girl, we fell in love and decided to marry. She came from Indiana, and decided to move back there. So I followed her! From 1989 to 1995 I lived in Indianapolis, which when I moved there was like one gigantic small town. It's gotten more urban since then, but it's still a lot less like a city than a lot of other cities I've been to. Since 1995 I've lived in Fishers, IN. This small town is regularly voted one of the best places to live in Indiana, and even America!

For our honeymoon, my wife and I went to South Padre Island in Texas. I fell in love with the landscape of southern Texas and was ready to move right then and there! Guess who wasn't so keen on the idea? A few years later we went back with our young son, and I loved it all over again. And one time, when we went into Harlingen (a small city that has the closest airport) to eat, we missed our turn on the way back. We wound up in Brownsville and went to the Gladys Porter Zoo. That was some cool zoo! But remind me to tell you sometime of my wife's near altercation with a gorilla... South Padre Island also has a state park, although we never got around to going into it. I wanted to see a real live roadrunner so bad! Never got to, though. Oh well!

The more attentive among you may have noticed I haven't mentioned my father. He and my mom divorced when I was four years old. My brother and I spent summers and alternating holidays with him and my step-mom. For a few years he lived in the proverbial "one horse town," Himrod, NY. It's in the same area as Dundee and Penn Yan, about a half hour from Watkins Glen and about an hour from Rochester or Syracuse. Then he took a job with a company that builds mines, and I've spent summers in Pennsylvania (the Allentown area, where I visited Dorney Park for my birthday!) as well as Virginia (Blacksburg,) and even Missouri and even Oregon! LIved in Missouri two consecutive summers, the first one in a little dinky burg on the edge of a swamp. Every night when my siblings and I would come in we had to check for ticks. We usually found some! During one memorable trip, Dad and my step-mom and my sister and I travelled through Death Valley and then went to Sea World near San Francisco! Remind me to tell you about that one sometime... When my sister was four or so (which would have made me about thirteen,) Dad and step-mom purchased a restaurant in Penn Yan which is still open today. Angel's Family Restaurant, been open for over thirty years! (I hope Hubpages doesn't ding me for that, it isn't my restaurant and I have nothing to do with running it!)

If you're a completist, I guess I should mention that I've lived in Corning and Elmira, NY as well as having visited Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta.

So how does this answer the question? The real answer is I would probably stay here in Indiana. My three kids are Hoosiers and I see little reason to uproot them. Central Indiana has a lot of beautiful, if flat, farmland and countryside, nice weather (and there's a saying about Indiana weather, if you don't like it, wait five minutes!) Fishers is a pretty nice place, lots of shopping convenient, restaurants, and they are attending school in the best system in the state (Hamilton Southeastern.) Down in the southern part of the state is Brown County, with it's gorgeous hills and famous state park, which is a massive tourist attraction in the autumn when the leaves start to turn. Close to the park as well is the Hotel Nashville in picturesque and historic Nashville, Indiana. It has the greatest pool, the kids love it there!

BUT, the question was, "What state would you live in if you could live anywhere you wanted to?" Well, the answer is...

I would move back to Dundee. Yeah, it's a small town. You know the old joke about rolling up the streets at night? I don't think they even unroll the streets there every other day. But it's in the middle of the Finger Lakes, beautiful hills, lovely forests. Carefully tendered vineyards make picturesque backdrops, and I don't even drink! The family has an ancestral home there that I wish I could purchase and go live in. I have a lot of great memories of that house. It's old and a little rickety, but it's really big and has serious character. The downstairs has a huge entry space, where the family tells me our ancestors used to move the furniture and hold dances! And there is a great, huge yard we called the North Lawn, where we would set up the badminton net and play, or hve cookouts. Yes, New York is an expensive state to live in, but memories are powerful things. And sometimes they exert a pull that you can't deny, even if you can't respond, know what I mean?

If I could afford a second house, definitely Berlin. New Hampshire is undoubtedly a lovely state, with all those beautiful mountains, and I can definitely appreciate the rugged, independent feel and small town atmosphere of Berlin. If it's still like that, because I haven't been there since 1986!

And quite frankly, I've always been sorry that I never got to see a real roadrunner bird when I was in Texas!



copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved


What state would YOU choose to live in if you could pick any one?

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Comments 6 comments

cloverleaffarm profile image

cloverleaffarm 4 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

Thanks for answering my question! You have lived all over. Very interesting. I shall have to check out some of the places you have lived...on the map for now.

I lived in Conway for 20 years and went to Berlin all the time to go to Rich's (which is now a Wal Mart). Use to do some grocery shopping to at the store next door (name escapes me right now) I have not been up there in a couple of years, but I would assume Berlin is pretty much the same as when you left. Not as stinky though...lol.

By the way, if you want a second home there, real estate is super cheap. You can get a house for like 50K! It's crazy.


Chris Neal profile image

Chris Neal 4 years ago from Fishers, IN Author

I believe the real estate is cheap. I used to hear that if James River ever left, the town would die. I'm glad it didn't. But I assume it's hurting.

Never been to Conway. Used to go to North Conway to the mall.

Thanks so much for your comment!


cloverleaffarm profile image

cloverleaffarm 4 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

Well, the town is definitely hurting. I think many people did leave after the mill closed. I use to work in North Conway at the movie theater at the mall. That mall is now totally changed. The theater is still there, but you wouldn't recognize it. Nice to chat with someone who knows the area.


Chris Neal profile image

Chris Neal 4 years ago from Fishers, IN Author

Well, I used to know the area. But it's always nice to meet someone who's been there!


LaThing profile image

LaThing 4 years ago from From a World Within, USA

Lovely piece, and very nicely written. It brings back memories. I lived in Maine for a while and went to NH. Both places are lovely. My husband is from Rochester, so we are always driving my the Finger Lakes, that area is beautiful!

Thanks for sharing, voting up!


Chris Neal profile image

Chris Neal 4 years ago from Fishers, IN Author

LaThing =

Thank you so much! I have many fond memories, and it is a beautiful area!

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