Archive | travel RSS feed for this section

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.


23 Mar

I adore traveling. When I get to choose where to go and what to experience, I could go explore new cities each month. I’ve always felt this way, but recently I’ve been feeling especially cooped up. As much as I love Chicago, it’s been my home for almost as long as anywhere has. There’s a lovely familiarity that comes with knowing your city so well, and the wonderful thing about Chicago is that there are always new nooks and crannies, neighborhoods and places, to explore. But I’m a little bit of an adventure junkie, and I miss the way that I took in the city the first few months I lived here. I was hyper aware of every little thing that seemed amazing – the architecture, the sidewalk cafes, the hustle of the people.

So we’ve been scrimping lately to try to find time for a weekend away. It’s been tough deciding on a location, because we’re kind of picky people. I wish we could go somewhere tropical, but those places aren’t really in our price range right now, and we want something a bit more adventurous than a resort.

Our top choice was actually New York City. Neither of us has ever been, which seems horribly wrong somehow.

But, um, have you seen the hotel prices in NYC? We could probably swing it, if we didn’t, you know, eat that weekend.

We also considered Key West (we’ve been, and love it) and Miami but we’ve explored both and kind of want someplace newer to us, that we can see with new eyes. We’ve talked about New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, and Portland. So far, though, the top of our list is Washington D.C. It’s kind of a funny choice, because we’ve both been there (together-ish, on a school trip about eight years ago) but neither of us feel like that counted since we were shipped around from monument to monument while watching a ridiculously obvious Christian rip-off of Remember the Titans.

We’re not sure when we’ll be able to go, but we’re hoping to wrangle a good deal on a hotel (my current favorite is the Normandy just outside of the Dupont Circle area) – in the meantime, anyone have any must-hit spots in D.C. (non-touristy) I’d love to hear them!

(All photos courtesy of Jetsetter.)

%d bloggers like this: