As my time in Montreal is ending, I have been thinking about how it compares with the many places I have lived during my academic journey around North America. Leaving aside the Philadelphia suburbs of my youth (didn't really partake of the city nor have incredibly fond memories of high school) or summer camp (great place but it could have been anywhere--the experience was entirely the people), that leaves us with Oberlin, San Diego, Burlington (VT), Lubbock, suburban Virginia, and Montreal.
As always, when grading, the top and bottom of the scales are the easiest. As readers of my blog know, I was not very fond of my Lubbock experience. I never felt like I belonged, entertaining my kid meant going to the mall since it was too hot to do much for about four months, the dust storms and the raining mud, the place was hostile to Halloween, and all of my friends were either in the department (only temporarily since all were destined to move on) or on the frisbee team--and it took a few years to get enough people together to have just one team. We were friendly with our neighbors but had little in common. Not a horrible place to live, but not one that I would have chosen.
The ones in the middle are harder to rank. I have a deep fondness for Oberlin because it was such a great place to go to college. Just a lively environment, interesting and interested people, but the winters were dim, the spring and fall were windy and often gray. In my day, there were few restaurants. While the college did a great job in bringing stuff to town, it is a great place to be a student, but to live?
Suburban Virginia (Burke in Fairfax County) felt mighty familiar as my wife grew up in the Maryland suburbs, I spent two years there as well growing up, and many of my camp friends were from the area. I did take my young daughter to the Mall on a regular basis--mostly to the natural history museum. It was a great place to be in the policy world as I did get to go to a bunch of events at think tanks until I got competent enough in my Pentagon job that I could not disappear for a couple of hours. We had a chance to spend much time with my in-laws and my blond nieces. The traffic was awful, but I didn't experience it much since I went to work so early. If I lived there for real, the traffic would have ended my ultimate career, I think. The Metro system is falling apart, according to my twitter feed.
So, if I have to rank where I have lived (and blog rules say I must), focusing on where I would like to live again:
SD > Montreal (due to ultimate community) > Surburban VA/DC > Burlington > Oberlin > Lubbock, but with Mtl/DC/VT very closely ranked. I might have a different order of those three if I was in a different mood. Recency bias may be at work.
I will miss Montreal a great deal. The folks where I live, many of the faculty where I worked, all of the people I played ultimate with and against will be missed. The skiing choices will not be as good or as close in Ottawa. The ultimate, however, should be fun, as their community of frisbee folks is bigger than Montreal's. But will I find folks to be as spirited, as silly? Probably not.