I was sitting on Karla’s balcony last night enjoying the last night at her place. I had had a relaxing day and was thinking back over the last week and why it is that I seem to be drawn to a big city. Certainly there is a noise factor that can’t be called appealing – and yet it has its own rhythm. Neil Diamond wrote a song about this back in the 70’s and there is a certain consolation in the noises: trains, cars, boats, and occasionally people (Karla’s condo is pretty high up…so not a lot of vocal noises get up there). I was actually more struck by the noise this time around than I was last year when I stayed here. There is also no shortage of light in a city: every single building has its own “light branding” that is unique and in its own way this contributes to the beauty of a large city.
What draws me in completely to a big city is the possibility: the possibility of being anonymous; the possibility of becoming something else or other; the possibility of witnessing greatness; the endlessness of possibility itself. Cities attract diversity and culture. The allow one to experience something beyond one’s self and culture and to share in a human experience that would otherwise remain unknown. We are all far more alike than we are different and yet the differences are what become pronounced in places like big cities. I think this is the draw for me. The opportunity to travel without going anywhere. And Chicago is a city that is for more cultural and cosmopolitan than any other place that I have lived. Chicago is a city that is old and set in its ways and in many cases this is to its advantage. I know where Greek town is, and China town and Polish-town….and therefore know where to go to experience those cultures and in particular – food.
This is also the disadvantage because going on one of these excursions alone is intimidating. There is often times a language barrier and a perception barrier that prevents us from making those treks into unknown territory. Sometimes it is actually physically unsafe for us to venture into a new part of town. But all in all, experiencing a small taste of another person’s culture is a true gift – one that should not be ignored or pushed aside out of fear of being uncomfortable.
With all this being said, however, I will be glad to return to my suburban life and to a routine that is somewhat more “normal” for me. My class begins this week and so I will be once again steeped in academia and the pressure to “make the grade”. Karla, if you are reading this, thank you for allowing me a week away from my “normal” and for the chance to experience some of what is your “normal”. The opportunity was much appreciated. (I’m also very sorry about your plants….some of them may not have survived a week with me and for that I am truly sorry. I will be more than happy to reimburse David for any such failings on my part.)