Farewell to Texas

Three weeks ago, my family bid farewell to Austin and made a long pilgrimage to Boston, starting a fresh chapter of life in New England.

My wife was born and raised in Texas. I moved around more during childhood and lived in a number of states, but Texas has been home for the bulk of my life, about 35 years. All four of our kids were born in the Lone Star State. And the bulk of our extended family lives there. So our relocation is, in many ways, a substantial dislocation.

The Decision

Texas has changed during my lifetime, and it is continuing to change. The climate is changing, becoming hotter, drier, and more extreme, making wildfires more frequent and extensive. Allergies have grown more severe and persistent, which leads us long-timers to feel “under the weather” for a considerable portion of the year. Culturally and politically, Texas has become stranger, more extreme, and more volatile.

Texas was a model of dysfunction regarding pandemic response for two years. The mayors of the urban centers worked hard to try to contain and mitigate COVID, desperate to keep the hospitals from collapsing under the strain. Meanwhile, they were often actively opposed by our governor, whose strategy seemed to be one of “preventing prevention.” As a science researcher, I had actually built my own predictive model for COVID during the early days of the pandemic. To me and other people of science, the situation was the sort of madness that only narrative-bound illiterates can conjure. Off in the distance, we glimpsed places where unreason did not seem to hold sway. We found ourselves gazing at the horizon more often, sometimes feeling, with Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”

The buildup of observations came to a head during this past year. For every camel’s back, there is a final straw. I think that straw for us was a cluster of new laws that hit all at once: the abridgement of women’s rights, a new gun carry law, and an education bill. I began to accept that politically, Texas seemed to be on a path of radicalization. It was increasingly choosing a posture of hostility toward many of the people who live there. It’s odd to be from a place that seems to want you to leave, but it felt that way more and more often.

Now, one could view all of these as abstractions. Find a Zen state of mind. Tell yourself it doesn’t actually affect your day-to-day. Play the long game. Etc.

But the visceral intrudes, reminding you that it is actually quite real. The fog of persistent allergies made us realize that we just didn’t feel good in central Texas much of the time; if you don’t feel good, it makes the rest harder to shoulder. The Great Freeze revealed that the Lone Star State had no intentions of planning for or mitigating climate change. I looked at my wife and my daughters, and I realized that half the people in my household had actually lost their rights; that doesn’t slowly become OK at some point in the future. Then I saw an unstable looking wannabe with a model 1911 handgun in a thigh holster, standing on the sidewalk where my son practices soccer; I grew up around insecure people with firearms and had planned to raise my kids differently. And finally, as if to verify our perceptions, I found myself the recipient of physical violence from a madcap Trumper at a New Year’s Eve party. It was a situation that my old jujitsu rapidly neutralized, but I remain as convinced as ever that there is further violence simmering beneath those red caps all around us.

The scales on a balance remain unmoving as they slowly accumulate mass. But eventually a key threshold is reached. Then all at once, they finally tip.

There were three main factors — health, climate change, and politics. The time horizon for those three factors were all different: health for the present, politics at least over the coming decade, and climate change over a multi-decade horizon. I still loved Texas, the way any person loves home, but I saw the future somewhere else.

The Process

I began to do the research thing, vetting different states and cities according to a range of criteria. My goal was to choose a solid urban center with a strong tech presence. We wanted a city with a lower allergy index than Austin. We looked pretty heavily at climate and climate change; some places have better prospects than others over a 30-year time horizon. We looked for a place with good schools and smart people. We looked at cultural factors like political composition, gun laws, and religiosity. We also looked for places that had kept their heads during the pandemic and embraced evidence-centric policies.

As an interesting aside, you can often find clustering of variables within statistical analysis. In our fairly large database of accumulated information, it turns out there is a single proxy measurement you could use to simplify the vetting: vaccination rate. Places with high vaccination rates tend to have evidence-based laws and policies on abortion, gay rights, gun laws, etc., while having low levels of religious fundamentalism and other ideologically driven static.

The process was long, but it eventually led us to New England and Boston.

The Present

I’m currently writing from a short term apartment in Brighton. Later this week, we’ll move into our house just north of the city. It’s a beautiful time of year in New England, and we’re spending weekends visiting sites in Old America. I see great new prospects for professional collaboration in my field of science research, and what we hope is a better future for our kids — the boys and girls equally. We’re glad for this new chapter.

Yet we find ourselves both saddened and angered by the political tectonics of this week. I have said over the past year that the United States appeared to be balkanizing, coalescing into regions with notably different civil rights — two Americas. This week, that balkanization was formalized by the raft of states with trigger laws, and Texas is among them.

I fear the balkanization will worsen, and citizens of the US could have very different civil liberties depending upon where they live. It seems that in many places, “theocracy cometh.” There are other groups and rights already slated for the block. We may have to begin referring to our balkanized regions differently.

But when I look at my daughters, I take some consolation from being, at least for the present, in the Free State of Massachusetts.


  1. Great choice of new homes! And good on you for protecting your girls.

    So utterly miserable, though, to hear of Americans who’re now forced to move because of the rise of the ISIS-like right and their “Land of gun care & health control.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I saw that turn of phrase on Twitter and found it clever. 🙂

      Yes it is unfortunate to arrive at this place. Theoden: “Alas, that these evil days should be mine.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Matt and John,

      To many, there are sobering implications of the current state of affairs whose chaos and disruptions are very topical areas for exploring the many outstanding tensions between (the sociopsychological states of) sanity/stability and insanity/instability, affecting not just reproductive freedoms but also the very existence and survival of humanity. There is plenty to explore regarding the escalating conflicts between the two major parties. Any reasonable and discerning person can conclude that the USA has been plagued by ignorance, dogma, falsity, blind faith, spiritual stagnation and epistemological impasse . . . . .

      We have been witnessing so clearly the insidious nature of political polarization perverting democracy for nefarious purposes and for justifying, obfuscating or muddying the waters of systemic sexism, racism, historical negationism, discrimination, marginalization and curtailment of civil rights. Even just the fallouts of the main event regarding the SCOTUS’ decisions on abortion and its striking down Roe v. Wade can have various implications and ramifications for the following:

      Reproductive freedoms…
      LGBTQ freedoms…
      Contraceptive freedoms…
      Migrants freedoms…
      The freedom of liberty (common sense gun safety, and police reform)…
      The right to vote…

      You are hereby invited to peruse my latest post entitled “🏛️⚖️ The Facile and Labile Nature of Law: Beyond the Supreme Court and Its Ruling on Controversial Matters 🗽🗳️🔫🤰🧑‍🤝‍🧑💉“, published at


      As you can see, my said post was published exactly on the same day as Matt’s post here entitled “Farewell to Texas”. I have since been expanding the post by a great deal from top to bottom. It now has nine detailed and stylish illustrations, and also a new, expansive Conclusions section, which covers diverse areas and disciplines, including neuroscience, logic and conflict resolution.

      Yours sincerely,

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Congratulations, though Texas will certainly be worse off for your leaving. Given your criteria, I assume western Washington was also on that list? Sure, there’s less sun, but we don’t have anything like those Nor’easters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Travis – yes, we looked at Seattle pretty hard. I lived there a kid for three years, and I have fond memories. It certainly is milder, no question of that.

      What pushed us the other way were three main factors. One was sunshine, as you mentioned. The second is that the climate prospects for the Pacific NW aren’t necessarily as good as for the NE. That weighed into our thinking. The last was the density of cities on the east coast. Seattle is a great city, but cities out there are far apart, just as in TX. There was an attraction to the density of states, cities, and historical sites out east. Different all the way, I suppose you could say.

      Anyway, as the Zen master says in Charlie Wilson’s War, “we’ll see.” 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I hope you’ll still be able to cast an absentee ballot in the fall.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t realize you were in Austin. I live here, too. It’s the only city in Texas to live in, but we are looking at leaving for the same reasons as you and your family – political climate and environmental reasons.

    Water supply and energy infrastructure are and will be serious problems here, as you know. Addressing climate change is just lip service. The politicians (Abbott et al) are THE worst – not public servants in the least. You picked a good state. I grew up in the NE. Boston is a great town. Love your blog. Hope you keep writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, that’s always nice to hear.

      We’ve been up in Boston for a couple of months now. Been lovely weather, especially compared to TX. But as George R R Martin would say, “winter is coming”. I’m sure it will kick our tails for the first couple of years. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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