You never know what Lady Fortuna has in store for you next.

Having quit college—after all, I knew what I wanted to do, and didn’t need lessons from some hippie in how to do it—I was shuttling between New York City and my parents’ house in the suburbs.  I was 19, aimless, and living at home—but not for long.  One day, my parents sat me down and said, “We’ll give you a one-way to ticket to anywhere.  Where do you want to go?”

Normally, this kind of message would cause consternation in the younger generation; but I was ecstatic.  I answered, without the slightest hesitation, “San Francisco!”

And so, with 50 bucks in my pocket and my portable typewriter, I descended onto Baghdad-by-the-Bay on St. Valentine’s Day, 1971.  It was a different world, indeed, where life was unhurried, inexpensive, and uncrowded.  In short, the complete opposite of what the Bay Area is today.

A lifetime later, and I’m out of the city, ensconced in Northern California’s Wine Country, and wondering: How did my California dreaming turn into a nightmare?

As I process the knowledge and experience of my 66 years, I have come to realize that, for me, 75 percent of life is weather.  I’ve managed to leave this state a few times, and each time I’ve come to regret bitterly my decision on account of the weather.  Seattle was never dry.  The East Coast was intolerably frigid in winter and a humid mess in summer.  I once spent a winter in Denver—not an experience I care to repeat.  These brief sojourns confirmed my growing suspicion that the country outside the Golden State is a dark, uncivilized place, not fit for humans.

The weather, however, is not the reason why Californians are leaving in record numbers—nearly 143,000 in 2016 alone.  That’s more than a ten-percent jump from 2015, and the exit numbers are picking up.  The middle-to-upper-middle class is moving (first of all) to Texas, then Florida, the Carolinas, Colorado, and Tennessee, where the price of housing is half of the Golden State median, and state and local taxes aren’t as onerous.  California is rapidly becoming the home of the very wealthy—for instance, the Silicon Valley oligarchy—and the very poor, i.e., illegal-alien field workers and the trashed-out remnants of the white working class.

Crime has been on the rise following a 2011 statewide initiative that reduced the penalties for certain offenses—theft, assault.  The initiative was an attempt to satisfy court rulings that addressed a class-action lawsuit that addressed overcrowding and inadequate healthcare in the state’s prisons.  Rather than run a decent prison system, the state simply released hordes of petty criminals, unleashing them on the population.  Criminals who know they won’t be prosecuted even if they’re caught are running wild.  And the state legislature is trying to enforce a law forbidding county police departments from turning illegal aliens who are doing time in county jails over to federal authorities for deportation.

My adopted hometown of San Francisco, this most beautiful of cities, has fallen on evil times.  Her streets are strewn with the detritus of a growing homeless population, which has taken over the downtown area and turned it into an open sewer.  The once-classic skyline has become a vertical hellscape of monstrous looming towers, with faux Victorian facades out in the neighborhoods.  The median rent for a halfway decent one-bedroom studio apartment is $3,000 per month.

The injection of so much cash into the San Francisco/Silicon Valley economy has inflated prices throughout the region.  In Sonoma County, where I live, the average price of a single-family house is well above half a million.  If I were buying today, I’d be priced out of the market.  Renters have it even worse.  A big fire destroyed over 5,000 homes last year, and the rental market was tight to begin with.  The antigrowth policies in place in much of Northern California mean that this lost housing isn’t going to be replaced anytime soon.

This radical price inflation has played into my plans quite well.  Yes, Lady Fortuna has smiled on me: I bought cheap and can sell high.  My dream of retiring and getting rid of my mortgage shimmers like a mirage in the desert of my life.  Is it really just an illusion, though?  I’m afraid so, because a looming question remains: If I sell, where would I go?

Surely, nowhere else in Wine Country, where prices are sky-high.  And certainly nowhere else in California, where problems caused by bad politics and outright corruption are making the place unlivable.  Texas?  If 75 percent of life is weather, then living in Texas means having, at best, a quarter of a life.  And all those other places Californians are fleeing to—Tennessee, the Carolinas, Colorado—might as well be on Mars for all the appeal they hold for me.

No, I suppose retirement is just one of those things that will never happen for me, like winning the lottery.  But hey, you never know.  My plan to quit nonfiction writing and begin a second career selling real estate, while writing best-selling science-fiction novels in my spare time, may yet come to fruition.