Friday, March 21, 2014

30x30: The City is a Fickle Lover

One day I'm gonna live cliffside in California, in a house - doesn't have to be big - that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. 

I'll drink lots of wine, have a big dog and a moody cat, and go around barefoot most of the time. That, or a house set deep into some woods somewhere where deer will wander onto the property with predictable regularity.

In the meantime, Chicago will do. Its beautiful summers and civic pride make up for its homicidal winters and downtown parking rates that require the ritual sacrifice of your first born.

I grew up in a suburb, though, in the shadow of the Washington Monument. But by the time I was thirteen, I thought the 'burbs were pretty lame. I hated how everything was so residential. I hated the chains and the cul-de-sacs. I hated that almost anywhere you wanted to go, you had to drive.

I wanted the city! I wanted to walk places. I wanted fast, and open late, and full sidewalks, and cultural gems, and night life, and weirdos, and tall buildings. 

A century ago, only two of every ten people lived in cities. Today, more than half of all the people in the world live in cities. That's a lot of people all mooshed together on various parts of the planet, and for the last eight years, I've been happy to be among them.

I've loved the lights and street noise and the push and the sweep of it all. The cities in which I've lived have been multicellular organisms, with wills and consciousness all their own, with us urbanites pulsing like blood through its veins.

But lately I've been noticing just how loud the noise can be sometimes. And how dirty the snow gets not too long after it's fallen. And the landmines potholes. And the corruption. And how hard it can be to get on. And the devastating circumstances under which some city dwellers are forced to live.

And seeing all that makes me miss the roads that cut through the woods back home. And the deer in the backyard. And a quiet loud enough to hear the crickets. And a dark thick enough to see the stars.

I don't know that I will ever seek out the suburbs as a place to live, but I am beginning to understand its allure - the relative ease of suburban life, especially if one's family includes children. Like Neil Young says, there comes a time.

For now though, the city and I will keep going steady. The city still sweeps me off my feet. The city is a good kisser. She has given me such a life.

Original illustration by Isabella Rotman

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