Saturday, June 2, 2007

Town & Country


I live in an area of the city that would be considered an urban neighborhood. It's well within the peripheral expressway and only but 3 miles or so from the city center. At the turn of the last century (18s - 19s), this area was actually where the wealthy city folk would buy land and build their country manors in order to get back to the country and revive their souls from the madness of the city. In the century following, as the city grew and absorbed this area and growing well past, my neighborhood became more densely built, gained more infrastructure and many more residents. This probably conjures up images of row houses or brownstones, graffiti, stoop occupying drunks and traffic noise.

Actually, my neighborhood is one of 100+ year old houses with yards with huge trees, most lovingly restored or modernized. There are families and children, retirees, singles, you name it. Just a 5 minute walk up my street is our central business district which has a small movie theater, a number of restaurants, a grocery store, 2 coffee shops, banks, a barber shop, a small library and most importantly, my favorite ice cream shop. An evening stroll will undoubtedly have me cross paths with several acquaintances, neighbors and friends.

I go to my coffee shop and they know how I like my latte. I go to my barber and he knows that I like my hair cut short, like Steve McQueen's in Bullitt. My ice cream "barrista" Molly always serves me up a massive portion of mocha chip and carefully balances the precarious lot of lactic goodness onto a small cone below. What I consider this is a true community.

What I find sadly ironic is that most of my coworkers live out in the suburbs, well beyond the periphery, in a land of matching cookie-cutter houses built in mowed down forests and fields and surrounded by massive thoroughfares and shopping plazas. On the rare occasion that my wife and I are forced to venture out of "the shire" due to invitation or the need to visit some store that only exists out there, we'll have panic attacks at the sheer madness of congestion and creepily homogeneous appearance to everything. When I care enough to ask suburban residents why they choose to live all the way out there they'll typically say that they live there because they like their "communities" (usually walled in enclaves named things like Arbor Centre or Crowne Pointe) and they want to be far away from the city, it's noise, traffic and crime.

I'm not sure I know what they're talking about.

7 comments:

Rena said...

This is a great post, and I so agree with you! You are lucky to live in an area that is not "creepily homogeneous" and also has so much to offer. Great piece of writing!

forgetfulone said...

What a beautiful town you live in. 100 year old trees... my kind of place!

gautami tripathy said...

It seems to such a beautiful place! Thanks for bringing it into life for us!

Patois said...

Oh, your area sounds mighty delightful. And I so like your last sentence!

Crafty Green Poet said...

I really enjoyed your description of your area and its history. It sounds quite a lot like where I live - a community area within a small city - though ours is made up of old tenement flats, rather than houses.

Molly said...

I, too, am not a fan of the suburbs... I cringe every time I enter and love that my town has very little of the big box stores and that we live far from that end of town anyway. No more to the same--hello to adventure!

Finn McKenty said...

well said.

when i was in high school, i dated this girl that lived in a cookie-cutter development outside seattle in a made-up neighborhood named Harbour Pointe (note the "u" and "e" to make it sound old and quaint, even though it was developed in the early 90s to house rich Boeing employees). the housing development itself was called "One Clubhouse Lane," and featured faux-golf holes (marked by those little flags) on the parking strip and near the manmade lake. who did they think they were fooling?