As a kid in Philadelphia, I dreamed of escaping to California but never thought it would happen. My family could hardly afford vacations to Atlantic City once a year. My quiet neighborhood was turning into gang territory with shootings on the streets. So I studied diligently and worked hard in school, and in 1981, that dream came through with a full-paid fellowship to Stanford grad school.
In Northern California, I didn’t find the beaches I had naively expected from the movies. But I did find a comfortable climate, beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures, intellectual stimulation, and modern infrastructure. I would brag to my friends back east about the miles of smooth, paved roads without potholes.
Being at Stanford, close to Berkeley, and in the heart of Silicon Valley, the intellectual resources were phenomenal. I got to meet my heroes: scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs who were changing the world.
As a young, single guy, I went up to San Francisco every weekend for the nightlife, often staying until early in the morning, and never feeling unsafe. I remarked at how clean and pristine San Francisco was. I had found paradise.
I met the woman who became my wife, started several companies, and even dabbled a little in Hollywood. We bought a house on a hill overlooking Silicon Valley, raised our son, and intended to spend our lives there.
Last year we moved to Las Vegas. It was hard for me to abandon my California dream. My wife was a 10th generation Californian who traced her roots back to Jacinto Rodriguez, a signer of the California constitution in 1849.
What had happened to make us want to leave our California paradise?
Crime increased. I no longer felt safe in San Francisco. Places like Haight-Ashbury, which had been rebuilt since the Hippy days into quaint shops and expensive gourmet and vegan restaurants, became a place where runaway teenagers shot up on the sidewalks. And where the shops all had barred windows.
The most beautiful city in the world became covered in human excrement as the homeless set up encampments along the streets. The same could be said of all the major cities, such as Palo Alto and especially Berkeley. Almost every freeway underpass had a garbage-strewn homeless camp.
I used to brag to my friends back east about the friendly drivers who, with a smile, waved my car into their lanes or stopped to let me cross the street. Not anymore. I installed a camera in my car to record tailgaters and sideswipers. And the roads were no longer maintained; potholes appeared regularly and were rarely repaired.
There was diminishing diversity of thought. It became difficult to “come out” as a political conservative. Conservatives were verbally and sometimes physically attacked in the universities and on the streets. I lost friends when they learned of my political beliefs.
While the standard of living decreased, taxes increased. I would get tax notices for things I had never heard of. My car lease payments went up, and when I called to inquire, I was told about a new tax that had gone into effect. When the city called me to tell me that they had been incorrectly demanding license fees for my businesses for the last 7 years, I asked about a refund. They don’t give refunds, I was informed. I was taxed on the office my business rented. I even paid a tax on my businesses that were losing money. Temporary sales taxes were extended indefinitely.
Paying taxes is my civic duty, and I never minded while I lived in paradise. But over the years, as my taxes went up, my standard of living went down. What was I paying for?
And what about the forest fires? I lived in the hills, and insurance companies started refusing to insure the houses. It doesn’t matter if you believe that the raging fires or the years-long droughts were due to global warming, resource mismanagement, or evil supervillains. The fact is that the infrastructure was never improved over the last 30 years, while billions of dollars were earmarked for illegal immigrants, the homeless, green energy, welfare programs, failed IT programs, and unfinished, over-budget train lines.
California has had three Democratic governors out of four in the past 20 years. Except for one year, the California Assembly has been controlled by Democrats since 1970. The California Senate has been under unbroken Democratic control since 1970. It’s clear that Democrats and progressive policies have failed California. Yet, like the proverbial insane person, California keeps doubling down on its failed policies believing that eventually they will work.
So last year, I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. Or as I like to say, “We moved from California to America.” My wife and I had one of our first dates here and enjoyed ourselves, but we never thought we’d want to live here. It was too glitzy and wild—great when you’re young, but not when you want peace and quiet.
Then I started playing poker in professional tournaments and came to Las Vegas with my wife once every 2 to 3 months. We drove into the beautiful deserts and colorful mountains of Nevada. We saw the quiet, elegant housing communities. We saw American flags flying proudly.
Housing is relatively inexpensive here. Restaurants are abundant, delicious, and reasonably priced. Traffic near The Strip is crazy, but away from there, roads are clear almost any time of the day or night. Gas is inexpensive. And there’s no personal income tax.
There’s even budding technology here, as Las Vegas is making efforts to entice startups and high-tech giants to set roots here. In Silicon Valley, I was one among many, but here I’m a small celebrity—a successful high-tech entrepreneur, and my advice is sought out.
And of course, there’s great entertainment in Las Vegas. It’s easy to drive to The Strip, park, get a meal, see a show, and drive back. My wife and I started “dating” and socializing with others again.
Overall, it’s very peaceful. From the balcony of my house, I overlook our neighborhood, a sprawling, but quiet villa of beautiful custom homes in a gated community. The Las Vegas Strip twinkles and shines in the distance to the south and Red Rock Canyon to the north.
Much of my family decided to also make the move out of California to Las Vegas. We bought a house within walking distance of our new synagogue. Our “liberal” rabbi has been to our house, and we find we agree on much more than we disagree. And we can disagree in Las Vegas. Liberals are willing to discuss issues rather than attack us. We debate politics openly, and sometimes loudly, in restaurants and no one stares. Sometimes people come over and join in.
Las Vegas has its problems, but it reminds me very much of the San Francisco Bay Area I knew 40 years ago. I only hope it stays that way.
Bob Zeidman is the creator of the field of software forensics and the founder of several successful high-tech Silicon Valley firms including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. His latest venture is Good Beat Poker, a new way to play and watch poker online. He’s the author of textbooks on engineering and intellectual property as well as screenplays and novels. His latest novel is the political satire “Good Intentions.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.