Wednesday, June 13, 2007

City or Town?

Meandering through downtown Albany today, I was debating with myself over the pros and cons of living or constantly surroundings oneself in a city environment versus a rural environment.

With cities, I think I have a love-hate relationship. I love the culture and creativity you'll come across in a city. There's more exposure to art in its various forms: paintings, music, slam poetry, sculptures, graffiti, etc. You run into a lot of people who have both positive and negative influences on you, despite whether you actually talk to them or not. They may anger you as they cut you off and honk their horn, they could yell at you from a street corner and make you feel funny inside, or they could could offer a compliment or greeting from God (by which, all I have experienced lately).

For my job, I have to walk around the city, and as I was walking, I slowly took in my surrounding environment. I smelled the pungant aroma of hamburger wafting from an open door, the strong smell of cigarette smoke from business men and women on a break, the smell of gasoline from a passing car, or the foul scent of garbage surfacing from an unknown area. I heard the clanging of metal on metal from construction workers, the yell of one person to another, the orchestra of cell phones ringing off the hook, car horns screaming at one another, the loud bass of a passing car blaring rap music, and the clock bells ringing from the local court. I see a mess of people, business men in black suits, teenage girls strolling over conversation, policemen dishing out parking tickets, flustered mothers clasping their children by the hand, homeless men loitering the alleys with canes and shopping carts, and mobs of people flocking outside the doors of tall office buildings as they sip on their cigarettes, perhaps dreading their return to the Nth floor. I feel the heat on me, perhaps stronger from the increased amount of cars in pollution in the air, but I can definitely smell the difference between city and rural.

Smell triggers the most memory and calls the strongest reaction in the human brain. Whenever I enter the city, I am conscious of the change in smell. The city air tastes and smells worse than in a local town. For this, I appreciate and enjoy a rural enviornment more. It feels healthier to my body, cleansed, remote, and calm.

I don't think I'd ever really want to work in the city. The combustion of cars makes me claustraphobic and angrier from increased road rage from fast, rebellious drivers. I would not want to work on a high floor in a tall building. Recently, I watched World Trade Center, and even though I know about the tragedy from living through 2001, the movie actually made me think about what a collapsing building physically looks like. As I stood waiting for the elevator today on the 8th floor, I couldn't help but stare at the ceiling and imagine the plaster begin to crumble as I felt the building shake beneath my feet. That loss of stability must be terrifying. This paragraph is more a sidenote than actual comparison between city and town, because, frankly, tragedies can happen anywhere. I wouldn't base my opinion on something like 9/11.

So, overall, I think that I would stay with rural or town. I love the peace you get from a quiet home, when you can sit on the back porch and listen to the crickets at night or the birds in the afternoon or late morning. I like being able to ride my bike under a mile away and being surrounded by forests or a small stream, away from the noises of everyday life and traffic. I think that my brain can expand its thinking when it is not overwhelmed with external noise and energy; I would rather have fewer neighbors that I knew well or not at all than to be surrounded by many that I'd rather not know in my life. I love the surrounding trees, bushes, flowers, and animals that are in my environment. I wouldn't pass that up to live on a tall floor in an apartment building in the city.

I like going into cities occasionally, but I cannot be in them too long. I wouldn't consider myself a "country girl," more suburbanite who likes to experience both worlds. I can't live without the city, for how else would I travel or experience music festivals, concerts, or art shows? I can't live without the town, for how else would I be able to center my energy into a calm, relaxed state?

I side more with a rural home, but I'll compare my relationship as a vanilla coke: the vanilla is the city, the flavor to the coke which is the base of the drink. Without the city, my life would have no flavor.


Megan Bottle said...

It's good that you can appreciate both environments... I believe that makes you a more versatile and more relatable person. Large cities scare me (I once had a near panic attack in NYC). There's too much noise, too many people, too many weirdos, and too many cars. Cities smell pretty bad too.

Reading your narrative made me wish that I was more comfortable in a city environment. I think of things that I miss out on: the culture, variety, and uniqueness of it all. I'm the type of person who needs space... and water... and fresh air. I need wild animals, butterflies, and flowers. Not to mention quiet.

On the other hand, I'm happy liking the country. I feel that there aren't enough "Bumpkins" left. Farming is decreasing (oddly enough as the demand for milk, fruits, and vegetables is increasing), once hidden forest retreats are now becoming overrun by sattelite dishes, sprinkler systems, and in-ground pools.

Maybe I'm just a traditionalist... maybe I'm shy... maybe I'm just not adaptable... I dont know. I just feel at home among the trees, dirt, and wide-open sky.

Jami said...

I love YOUR narrative Megan.. Well said and I'm right there with you.