Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Move: To Madison, WI (Day 5)

The biggest news is that an apartment management company approved my lease application. The next step is to sign some paperwork, pay the deposit, and get the keys. The scheduling of those steps is tricky. Their office has business hours, and I work during those business hours. We’ll get there eventually.

I have completed two days of work at the new job. Everything is going well. Not sure yet when I’ll have time to return to Houston to move my furniture, but...we’ll get there eventually.

Checked the PO Box. Got some junk mail. Nothing personal yet.

Ate dinner at Saigon Noodle on Odana Road. It’s recommended. While the Chicken Soup was very good, the hot tea was excellent. The sense of fullness from the soup and the tea really took off after about five minutes had passed after eating. The sense of fullness reached its peak about fifteen minutes later at the Aldi. Bought some frozen dinners and lunches for the week ahead. The credit card bills look huge.

When it comes to thinking about Madison, there’s many comparisons that appear attractive to make, but also do not feel fair to make as of right now. While comparing Madison to Houston seems obvious and inevitable, it’s also unfair. The size difference alone drives many other noticeable patterns and trends.

If size was the primary controlling factor, then the only towns I could personally compare Madison to are Huntsville, Alabama, and Beaumont, Texas. While these three towns are not exactly the same size, there are in the same rough order magnitude (city-only non-metro populations between 100,000 and 600,000). Houston might be better compared to Chicago, but I’ve not yet been to Chicago.

So, how does Madison compare to Huntsville and Beaumont? For starters, it’s a northern city, while Huntsville and Beaumont are southern. There’s no ambiguity there. Madison and Huntsville have economies largely driven by government, education, or the military. Beaumont’s economy is largely oil and gas, though there’s a university in Beaumont as well.

Really, though, comparing Beaumont and Huntsville to each other is more interesting than either to Madison. While both Beaumont and Huntsville are southern, they represent different aspects of the South. Beaumont is Deep South, or Gulf Coast South, or Cajun, or something like that. Huntsville is the Tennessee Valley, or southern Appalachia, or the foot hills of Appalachia, or something like that. Beaumont gets hurricanes. Huntsville gets blizzards and tornadoes. Beaumont is like a mini-Houston, with few-if-any of Houston’s good features. Huntsville does not appear to be a mini-version of anything else near by. Birmingham and Chattanooga seem sufficiently different from Huntsville, and sufficiently similar in size.

Given a choice, I would rather live in Huntsville than Beaumont. Huntsville has the more beautiful countryside and cleaner air. But, if Beaumont has got you down, you can always drive to Houston, which is an hour-and-a-half away-ish. The nearest cities to Huntsville are about two hours away. Even then, the really big city that is nearest to Huntsville is Atlanta, which is about 6-or-so hours away, via mountain roads. Beaumont connects to Houston via I-10, which really has only one significant curve, near Winnie.

So, what about Madison? Even though I enjoy the short commutes, the light traffic, the very-good-to-excellent dining options, and the urban and suburban areas, nothing really stands out that says, “Ah! This is Madison!”

For people who live in or know much about Houston, imagine a city consisting only of the Clear Lake neighborhoods of Houston, plus Webster and League City. Surround it by several dozen miles of countryside. It’s just Clear Lake-Webster-League City. Interstate 45 largely bypasses it, yet both Webster and League City technically straddle I-45. The town hall and city government in League City is bigger, if it had to represent Clear Lake and Webster. The University of Houston – Clear Lake campus might be larger, as there is no longer a much larger U of H main campus 25 miles up the freeway. The hospitals might be larger, and more numerous, as there is no Texas Medical Center 28ish miles up the freeway. Johnson Space Center remains in place, at its current size. Ellington Field becomes a full-fledged airport, but still smaller than Hobby Airport,12 miles up the road currently. You get the idea.

What town in Texas is actually like this, today? Brian-College Station? A bit small. Its metro population is the same as Madison’s city population. Among Texas cities that aren’t part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the ones closest in size to Madison are Laredo and Lubbock. I don’t recall ever visiting Laredo, and I’ve only ever driven through Lubbock. Reading through Wikipedia, Laredo appears known for being almost entirely Hispanic, and having its economy largely based on trade with Mexico. Lubbock is a “hub city,” being a center of trade and services in an otherwise empty part of the country. Just like all the other western cities: Amarillo, Denver…

So, there you have it. Madison eludes comparison because there is nothing currently in Texas like it enough to draw a comparison.

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