Where You Live

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   June 20, 2023

In 1953, a woman named Polly Adler published a book which became a best seller and also gave new dimensions to two familiar words, “house” and “home.” Her book was called A House Is Not a Home, and, in this context, the “House” was a New York house of prostitution, which she had owned and run. 

But, for many or most of us, our home really is a house, or a part of one, or an apartment, or at very least, some kind of enclosed space, such as a vehicle. And in our lives, we may experience a whole series of these habitations in different places, often in different countries, sometimes voluntarily, but not always. 

Within the vast United States, people are more or less free to live wherever they choose. So, it has always surprised me that so many are still living in parts of the country where I would never want to reside. I’m thinking of areas, for example, which have extremely cold winters and extremely hot summers. Some of those people must actually enjoy such complete changes of season. But many other factors are no doubt also involved.

One thing that determines where you live must be the sheer circumstance of where you were born and grew up. That’s the territory you know best, where you have friends and family. And also, no matter how harsh the climate, it’s something you’re used to, and know how to deal with.

Then of course there’s the economic factor – where you can afford to live, and where you can make a living. I happen to live in a place – Santa Barbara – where so many people would want to live, if they could, that prices are higher than elsewhere, and living-space less available. In my case, it was somewhere my wife wanted to live, because it was where her closest relations were already well-established – and we had an income-providing business which was relatively easy to move. My own preference would have been for a more urban environment – a milieu I was more accustomed to.

But this is what we may call the social factor in one’s living location. I lived for an extended period in San Jose, California, only because a girl I was very interested in at the time (who soon became involved with somebody else) had friends there, and they had a house I could share cheaply.

There are also aesthetic factors which may affect your choice. My wife and I once lived for an extended period in Cape Town, South Africa, which, as you may know, is scenically situated at the foot of a sort of plateau known as Table Mountain, a part of which we had a good view from our apartment. It happened that, when the Moon rose, it appeared to be coming up from behind the Mountain. When the Moon was full, it actually looked as if it were rolling down the Mountain. This was an unforgettable background against which to have sex.

Another factor in the choice of living places has always been the matter of safety and security. This of course may help to explain why our earliest ancestors probably lived in caves, and why the first civilizations developed from settlements atop easily defensible hills.

But the position must also offer easy access to a ready supply of drinkable water, and preferably a navigable river. Today it’s still evident that people are drawn to any shoreline, which is why the settlers following our Westward Movement more or less ignored the land in what are now the Western States, and headed for the coast, particularly the warmer, dryer southern part.

I myself, since coming to California in my early 20s, have lived outside its borders for a significant time only once, when I made the mistake of accepting a teaching job in the Central Oregon town of Bend, where I was able to rent a whole little house. Even there, however, the extremes of temperature, among other factors, soon drove me away.

But most people would probably agree that, all else being equal, it’s better to have a room of your own than a whole house in which you’re not comfortable. And of course, the songwriters offer ample support, as with the poor flower-girl Eliza’s plaintive plea in My Fair Lady, that: 

All I want is a room
Is a room somewhere,
Far away from the cold night air,
With one enormous chair – 
Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely! 


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