Big Big World29 Sep 2005
It was 1987, and we were happy young urban professionals in South Minneapolis. We owned a townhouse, my wife had a good job, and I was in grad school. Then the Twins won the World Series, and everything changed.
It had nothing to do with the Twins, of course. But as the playoffs started that fall, my wife's boss announced he was selling the business and moving to Arizona, taking his supervisor and several low-level employees with him. My wife's position would remain with the new owner, she was in effect sold with the company.
About the same time, I realized that I didn't really want to be an economics professor when I grew up, dropped out of grad school, and started working in the real world.
Things did not work out with my wife's new boss. All her friends were in Arizona, happy in the land of sun and fun. We were unhappy and jealous. Her old boss didn't have a job for her, but he would be expanding real soon and she could perhaps work a few months for an acquaintance of his until he was ready for her.
However, our young urban townhouse was just a bit too urban. We were on the fringe of a drug neighborhood, and while police raids with bulldozers on crack houses are exciting to watch, they don't do much for property values. Having financed 95% of the purchase price, the townhouse was now worth much less than what we owed. We couldn't afford to sell, even more so with our student loan and credit card debt.
So we wanted to leave, but we didn't have jobs and couldn't sell our house. So what did we do?
We left, in May 1989. We left the house with my brother, packed 3 cats and everything we owned into a U-Haul, and drove to Wickenburg, Arizona, a desert nest on the road from Phoenix to Las Vegas where we could work for 6 months.
The job with the old boss never materialized, we ended up losing the townhouse (we sent the bank the keys and let them foreclose), and we had arrived in Arizona just in time for the Savings and Loan bust and recession. So moving to Arizona was the dumbest thing we could have done, right?
Wrong, it was the smartest. In Arizona we made the connection that brought us to Germany. In August 1990 we once again packed everything we owned, this time into a shipping container, and we and the 3 cats boarded a plane for Hamburg.