March 14, 2004
Marooned: I miss the city, part I.
The Brattle Book Shop, Boston. Spring 2003. I was listening to The Verve today, and I got sad for the city. Last spring, I was listening to the B-side from Urban Hymns called "So Sister," wherein Mr. Ashcroft sings, "I wrote your name on a subway wall..." I was also looking at some of Witold's Moleskine sketches of the New York subway at the same time, and I was very sad to think that there would be no subway in Carbondale, Illinios, where I had to move to work on my PhD. No more Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority subway cars and trolleys. No more looking at the interesting people on the Green Line into downtown Boston from Chestnut Hill -- or the even more interesting people outside -- while drinking coffee from the Espresso Royale Caffe' with two Fs. I was afraid that Carbondale was going to be a one-horse town without even the horse. Fortunately, I was very wrong. Carbondale is not as...monochromatic as some other towns in this part of the country. There are plenty of colorful, even fascinating, people here. But I miss checking out five or more bookstores for something I lusted after, before the buzzkill of ordering on Amazon. I miss being on trains surrounding by people who didn't speak any English. I miss the whirling lights and the noise. I grew up in Baltimore city, and my only time (aside from my undergraduate residence years at Goucher College, in the woods) living away from the city is now. I was in Boy Scouts and such during the majority of my youth, and my father, who grew up in the country, always took my brothers and I out of the city and into "Nature." In short, I have spent more nights outside or in a tent than a lot of people who are actually from the country. Nonetheless, camping trips would always end, and I would always go home to the glare and bustle of the city. Now, I haven't seen a skyscraper in over two months, and I haven't heard anyone speak a language that I could not at least identify in much longer than that. There is, indeed, much to be said for nature and its positive effects on human life. But what about living in a modern apartment outside of nature? Is it the worst of both worlds? I am just whining. I have fresh air here, and lots of trees and animal friends. I can see a myriad of stars at night -- so many little pinholes of light in the inverted nadir of sky that I get dizzy looking at them. Sometimes, well, sometimes, I downright almost fall over.