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.