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City Girl

July 31, 2007



For as much as I like to think that I’m a country girl, I think I’m really a city person at heart. While undulating green landscapes will always catch my breath and bring me calm, the unique, intriguing, and sometimes calamitous ways in which human beings create and operate within urban spaces complements my love of observing and contemplating people.

This thought occupied my mind as I walked along the Italian Market this evening after dinner at La Lupe, one of more than a dozen Mexican restaurants and shops that are slowly transforming the meaning of the neighborhood’s red, white, and green color scheme. It was 7:30pm, so most of the storefronts were shuttered or barred, but norteño music drifted out onto the sidewalks from a nearby record store, giving the grimy streets the exotic, eery feel of Mexico City after business hours.

I think a lot of the energy I get from traveling abroad has less to do with the fact that I’m abroad and more to do with the fact that I often find myself in cities when I’m abroad. Since I’d never lived in a city before moving to Philly, I’d confused what is actually an awe for cities with what I had thought was an awe for foreign cities in particular–however, I often find myself experiencing the same thrilling, motivating sensations in American cities that I have always experienced when traveling in foreign cities. Human depravity, gaiety, and ingenuity are visible around every corner whether in the USA or elsewhere. (This is not to say, however, that I don’t still love to travel abroad!)

I love the diversity and intensity of cities. There’s always something to do and to see, something to be shocked, stupefied, or amused by.

Best of all about cities is that I don’t have to shop at Wal-Mart or Wegman’s to get what I need, or drive a car to get there. I can pick up fruits and veggies at the produce stand on my way home from work and grab a carton of milk at the store around the corner. If I’m out of mouthwash or toothpaste, I can walk to the Rite Aid on Oregon Avenue, and if I need my nails done I can walk to Broad (not that I’d actually get my nails done–but if I did, I’d only have to walk a block!).

Need coffee? Chocolate? Pastries? All within two blocks of my house. Ice-cream? Custard? Just down the street. A library? A lawyer? A mortician? Right around the corner.

People carve so many neat niches out of cities, too. Take my back patio for example. From the street out front, one would think that there was no green space to be found on my block of South 15th Street–but where I’m sitting now is a secret garden of tomato and pepper plants veiling the cinder-block walls in green. The wrought-iron table I’m typing at and the crooked wooden gate that opens to the alley behind add a quaint touch to this quiet space that is no less relaxing than my front porch back in Pine Grove Mills.

Cities are polluted and dirty and disgusting, but they have a lot going for them nonetheless. I have a feeling I’m going to end up in one again after my brief stint in Amherst.


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