My love letter to the city.

2 May

I don’t usually like to use quotes in blog posts, but this one is too perfect to pass up:

“and if there is a deep reluctance on the part of the true city dweller to leave his cramped quarters for the physically more benign environment of a suburb – even a model garden suburb! – his instincts are usually justified: in its various and many-sided life, in its very opportunities for social disharmony and conflict, the city creates drama; the suburb lacks it.” – Lewis Mumford

The other day, someone in my life asked me what the city could possibly offer that the suburbs didn’t. It’s frustrating to try to explain this on the spot, and I generally don’t even respond to these types of questions when taken to heart, because unless they’re asked out of genuine curiosity, they’re usually not coming from a person who wants to hear the answer. But of course, the question has been floating around in my head all week. The answers have made themselves known, always, on my walks to and from shoots, classes, or running errands. They’re usually fairly eloquent, but as eloquence goes, I tend to lose it the second I sit down to put pen to paper.

The city has a life of its own. An energy and a connection that draws people out of their apartment buildings and into its crowded streets. It feeds off of neon and bright lights, skyscrapers and little walk-ups, and it exists by cramming as many people as possible in a small area. And so we leave our cars parked, and we walk places. We interact with each other, because not only are we all in this together, but we’re all a part of the city. There ceases to be this scary “other” who is lurking around the corner. There is no big, bad evil out there that shares a certain facial feature, characteristic, or outfit. There’s no neighborhood that’s completely safe, hopeless, wealthy, or poor. There are no faceless homeless, because they are people, and you recognize them. There is a lack of tolerance of drive-thrus and garages, instead we favor walking in, talking to the face behind the counter, and leaving our cars in the perfect spot until we absolutely have to drive it because why in the world would you give that spot up? There is the fun of always having somewhere new to go and experience, the feeling that everything you could ever want is in a five mile radius, and the very odd phenomenon that is the intimacy of a big city: the fact that you run into the same people over and over regardless of where you live, work, and eat.

Life here is complicated, and you learn on your feet. I can vouch for that in terms of rush hour tickets (not what you might think), the sacredness of Sunday brunch, farmer’s markets, patio dining, walk-if-you-dare blizzard specials, a winter that doesn’t quit, the insanity that is the hunt for the perfect apartment, and forgetting where exactly you’ve parked your car, or how to drive for that matter.

Of course, these things are not mutually exclusive to the city. One can experience them, and does regularly, in the suburbs. And there is something to be said for a break in the country, for a wide-open pasture or a non-lake beach. But it’s only in the city that you feel all of them, together, which such intensity. And there is a price to be paid – some people want yards (to which I ask, WHY?! when that clearly means lawn chores. But I suppose you all are the same people who want kids, and that’s a completely different matter) and others would like square footage for a price that just won’t be found here. Others yet like quiet, and don’t get the same rush of adrenaline off the buzz of the city. And that’s fair, and has merit. But I am loyal to the city with a ferocity that is hard to match – it doesn’t have to be this one, but I know it when I feel it.


11 Responses to “My love letter to the city.”

  1. Erin May 2, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    We moved to Chicago four years ago, from cute little Kansas City, just as a lot of our friends were starting to buy big houses and minivans. I have worked hard since then on just accepting that different people like different things. I could go on and on about how terrible I think the suburbs are (because I seriously hate it there), but I try to just accept it because I don’t appreciate when people question our city lifestyle. I totally agree with you in this post… it’s sometimes hard to put it into words, but it’s a special place where we live!

    And I totally agree about NOT wanting a lawn! We’re planning to try to raise kids in the city, and all I really want is a park within walking distance 🙂

    • Anni May 2, 2011 at 11:30 am #

      Erin, I completely agree with you! If we were the kid-loving sort, I think the city would be a wonderful place. There’s so much to experience and learn here! When we got our dog, people kind of treated it like “is it really fair to a high energy dog to not have a yard?” which I feel like is the same mindset as those people who think you can’t have kids without a yard/minivan/house. But in all reality, our dog is much happier, because we take her out for lots of walks, runs, to dog parks, etc, instead of just letting her out in the yard by herself.

      • Lucka January 7, 2015 at 8:02 am #

        What a great reocsrue this text is.

  2. Jessica May 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    This is exactly why I heart you. And why I envy you.

    You said it all perfectly and while my suburban life gives me that yard (that Kevin mows, lol) and the quietness I’ve come to love, I’m so jealous of all those things you listed.

    Saturday, my friends and I were sort of tourists in our own little city. 20 minutes from my house, we parked in the parking garage and just walked around. We lunched and explored the little unknown shops down side streets. It was a blast. 🙂

  3. Blueberries For Me May 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I miss cities. We live in Montana and so the biggest “city” here is 150,000 people. I love it here, but what I miss is all the resources. It’s funny explaining to people at Apple that no, I can’t just drop my computer off at the Apple store because the nearest one is hundreds of miles away. Or when I went home to VA for Christmas, I asked my mom for gift cards so I didn’t have to pack gifts back with me. Then she gave me a card for Ann Taylor Loft, and i don’t even think there is one in this state! Oh well, you make do with what you got.

  4. Layla May 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    Rest assured, your eloquence did not vanish when pen was put to paper. Beautiful post.

  5. Gogo May 5, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Oh do I love cities. Minneapolis and I are high school sweethearts. Paris and I are soul mates. Boston (where I am now) and I are steady friends who always have something to say to each other. New York is an erratic friend of a friend.

    I also love the country. Forests and fields. But the suburbs? general yuck. Urban or rural. Anything in between just doesn’t do it for me. By trying to combine the best of both of those worlds, I think too much gets lost. Plus they are an environmental nightmare.

    Technically, I live in a kind of suburb of Boston. But we’re on the subway line so it’s not quite the same.

    I am feeling inspired to blog about this myself …

    • Anni May 5, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

      I feel the same way! There’s something romantic about the country. I love wide open fields for long gallops and the seclusion of it. But only for short visits. 🙂

      Also, I am in love with your city descriptions. I’m going to be looking out for your post now!

  6. amanda May 5, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Love this post! It’s so nice for you to find your place in the city–realizing that your pulse can match the city and that you enjoy the fast-pace life.

    Love how you described the energy of the city…

  7. Smtty {just b.CAUSE} May 7, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    Beautifully written, and I couldn’t of said it better myself! The soon-to-be-hubs and I are planning are making the move out of the suburbs and into the city in a few short months. Do I see myself living there when I’m old and gray? No. But while I’m young and…not gray?…I want to experience it all!

  8. AL August 1, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    I’m trying to find 600 people who will donate at least $10 or perhaps 1 person who will donate $6000. My email is my name AL at saveanavyvet. My page also explains my situation. I’m running out of food. I haven’t found a job and I’m about to be evicted. Thanks everyone.

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