THE BEST PLACE TO LIVE

Selmer Bringsjord

This piece appeared in The Schenectady Gazette.
Danish translation by EnGlobe.
View this page in Romanian courtesy of azoft.
Fortune magazine, for the third consecutive year, has rated our area as one of the best places to do business in America. A recent issue of Money magazine, however, proudly declared that Sioux Falls, South Dakota is the best place to live in America, and Capitaland was nowhere to be seen. Sioux Falls? Bowling-alley-flat and spit-in-midairfreezing South Dakota? That's right. And just in case you don't grasp the gauge at work here, you can flip the page to find that Fargo, North Dakota rounds out the "Top Five Places to Live!"

Not.

If you want to find the best places to live in this country, all you need is a bit of brainpower and some logic. You don't need the sort of hocus pocus number crunching the Money types go in for. It's an a priori affair, a matter of simple armchair deduction -- deduction which, I submit, puts the Capital District at or near the top, not only for doing business, but for living:

For starters, study a map of the U.S. while trying to forget where you live. In fact, let's get your brain as close to an objective tabula rasa as possible: pretend that no towns and cities are on the map yet. Your job is to decide how to distribute our 1992 population. Now focus on topography and climate. And start picking locales, starting with the people you really like. So, you magnanimously pick a lovely spot in the Dakotas first. Or maybe you'll pick Columbia, a Money-recommended spot in Misery oops! Missouri. Yeah, that seems about right. You want it to be frigid in winter, humid as hell in Summer, and you're friends are turned on by tornadoes.

Not.

What you would do when starting from scratch is to pick places which maximize the likes and minimize the dislikes of the citizens you're settling. What would that spell, in practical terms? Capital District. Four seasons, mountains and seascapes and lakes all within easy reach, no Deep South or Southwest scorchers, no Great Plains pancake the drive through which can drive you batty, none of the Northwest's depressingly constant precip, and no fault lines which everybody knows will sooner or later dump the entire West Coast show into the Pacific.

Here's a second technique. Don't solicit the opinions of the immobile. They're likely to be biased. Ask some of those with some cash to burn where they'd like to nest. Or better yet, take an armchair shortcut: pretend you have a pile of greenbacks for relocating to the place of your dreams. Where do you go? Sioux Falls, of course. It's easy to jet in and out of, you can get a penthouse at the Holiday Inn overlooking all the playgrounds featured in the Money piece, and there are a number of college kids doing theater.

Not.

But you might pick a place where the NYC Ballet dances and the horses run.

What about your kids? Well, if you follow Money, you'll have that sewn up. After all, the data's easy to come by: Harvard, Yale, Stanford -- they're really missing the boat, takin' all those dimwits from Shaker High when the valedictorian from Sioux has SATs that would nearly put him in the middle of the Niskayuna pack. Heck, you'll prolly go private anyway, and everybody knows institutions like Emma Willard come a dime a dozen in the Great Plains.

Our thought-experiment is easily extended to handle other categories ... like health care. There you are, over in Russia, say; you're the one-in-a-million entrepreneur who's made it, and you're real rich -- and also real realistic about the caliber of native doctoring. You come down with something nasty. You need the best medical care money can buy. Where do you go? Well, one thing's for sure: you'd steer clear of here. I mean suppose you have an aneurysm best treated by a state-of-the-art brain surgeon. In that case, forget Albany Med; and don't even worry about being within a short drive of such backward places as Columbia-Presbyterian. You'd better just zoom on over to the ER at Fargo General.

Selmer Bringsjord lives 20 minutes from 1100 feet of fallline skiing, 20 minutes from world-class under-the-stars opera, 40 minutes from the largest wilderness area in America, 2.5 hrs from Broadway, 3 hrs from the Cape, and 8 minutes from America's acoustically perfect music hall.