17 March 2008

Living Culture.

"I don't mind city living, missy, but I have my preferences," he said.

"We all have our preferences indeed," I said matter-of-factly.

"Well, you live near the metro," I mused.

"Who rides that?" he said wryly.

"Oh, I don't know, people like me."

People are always going to have their preferences about where they like to live and how they like to travel around this (or any other) metropolitan area. Some people prefer to stay as far away from a metropolitan area as humanly possible. Or they are fortunate enough to have spent part of their adult formative years in a major metropolitan area such as New York or LA or Chicago or London or Paris. They enjoy where they are now because about that part of their lives they can say, they've "done it," with a wistful tone in their voices.

I was not one of those people. I wasn't running around Manhattan or Brooklyn in my twenties. I wasn't in Philadelphia or Baltimore or Richmond.

D.C. was seven miles away, and I wasn't even living there.

I chose (however mistakenly) to spend my time in urban sprawl --the entrails of the megalopolis--the parts that are disconcerting and convoluted. The kind of places where people never really had think about neighborhood dynamics or population growth, or pedestrian safety, or any of those things that urban planners architects and geographers are certainly trained to consider closely, until, of course, it was too late.

All too often the bottom line and cars dictate how things work. And that's just fine in the in suburbs, or in more sprawling southern and western cities, but I wanted something different for myself.

I am the daughter of man who spent his whole life in a city, who eventually, at the behest of my mother, left it. He bought his house in a pretty part of Baltimore county and then he learned to love it to the point he couldn't imagine return to urban life. He hoped his daughter would buy a farm and keep moving away from the city. However, he had a daughter who kept trying to plot her way into the city--and it didn't matter which one.

And I, that daughter, got to live and spend her time in a city, finally. I made it to Washington DC at 29.8 years old. And I have been really happy for the last year and a half. My neighborhood might not be the safest (cf the stabbings at La Molienda) the hippest (cf Petworth is the new hipsterburg) or the most polite (cf. mean woman yelling at me for not my not giving her money for her kid's pampers) or the most conscientious of other people's stuff (cf bike theft of this month), but I'm quite happy here.

Don't get me wrong; I have reflected on the times that I thought about leaving the urban sprawl, or even the city of DC itself. I found that I would be willing to leave it for a something or a someone. But now I know, it would be a big deal for me to do that. The something or someone would have to be pretty damned special to me.

But if none of that happens, and I magically earn my miracle half a million dollars, I'll buy a condo on 9th and Vst NW or I will put an offer on the "house on the corner." I can live in the modern architectural section of DC and be a city dweller for ever.

Or not.


a little of this, a little of that... said...

entrails of the megalopolis - well turned phrase. Never thought of it quite like that, but in hindsight, interstate highways have quite a few things in common with the lower intestine.

Certainly preference comes into play, but so does perception, how we value certain (types of) places depends on how we see them and understand our experiences with them.

Dexter Colt said...

I find myself torn between wanting to live in a remote cabin in Montana (see Ted Kaczynski) or a NYC brownstone.

For lack of a better choice I ended up in Richmond. But, it still beats Kentucky living.

Megarita said...

I'm so much happier in cities now. I grew up in rural and suburban areas, so I'm still soaking in the urbanity. It's funny, though, I can't seem to end up in BIG cities. Just wee ones like DC or Atlanta. Hmmmm...maybe those are just the best fits.

Dear god I miss the metro. MARTA doesn't come anywhere near me, and the buses are nonexistent.

HomeImprovementNinja said...

this post sounds vaguely familiar ;)

suicide_blond said...

i love the city... i NEED the energy to be RIGHT OUTSIDE(sometimes inside) my door... but i cant bring myself to give up ...a tiny little spot in the country... just for balance.. for nights when the crickets are the ONLY company i can deal with....

m.a. said...

ALOT, You are absolutely correct. I think that part of what makes me happy is a well planned out place. Winchester, VA, which is not a large city has captured my fancy as well. :)

Dexter, I keep hoping you'll move our way. That would be awesome.

Megarita, I kept wanting to understand MARTA. It seems like it should go everywhere considering how huge A-town is?

HIN, Well, then stop having brunch with me!

SB, I know. Every once in a while I want to be in a little house in the middle of nowhere with nothing but cable and some books. :)

Claven said...

I could very happily deal with a bit less urbanity.