Thursday, January 10, 2008

City Fix

I grew up in a small town, as I’ve mentioned in past posts. My high school was so small, I graduated with 71 people. The house I grew up in had blueberry bushes, an apple tree and a pear tree in the back yard. I had chickens as pets. There was a farm next door, and the pasture from that farm extended behind my house. At any given moment you could look out the kitchen window, which faced the back of the house, and see horses, cows, sheep and goats grazing behind the fence on the edge of our back yard. There was a corn field across the street; there were cabbage and peppers grown in other fields down the street as well. On a summer day you would routinely see farmers driving tractors on our street, and they rode so slowly I could pass them on my bike as I did my paper route.

I grew up in the boonies, you get the picture. When I was in high school it was a very big deal when Burger King built a restaurant in our town. Now the town sports a multiplex cinema and a Walmart--which actually bums me out. I wish my hometown could have escaped all that development--though it did manage to escape becoming a low level nuclear waste dump, so that's good. When I was half way through high school my parents bought a house in an even smaller town—a town that still does not have a Walmart, a Burger King or a multiplex.

Like many other small town kids, I wanted to check out the city. Even though my parents forbade it, my friends and I used to cruise around in nearby Hartford or Springfield. My parents’ perception of Hartford was that of a city with drugs floating down the street and into my hands and mouth. “Mom, there aren’t piles of drugs lying around in Hartford. Do you realize that there are drugs in our town? You don’t need to go to a city to get drugs, you just need to go into the bathroom at school.” My parents didn’t understand that it was fun to be among buildings that were taller than the two story houses in our country bumpkin town. It was fun to watch people walk along the streets, and to check out people sitting in other cars when we were stopped at traffic lights.

Today I had an appointment in Providence. I’ve lived in Rhode Island for six years now, and still haven’t really explored Providence all that much. I’d long given up on being able to navigate in Providence. The moment I pull off the exit into the city, my sense of direction escapes me. I study my road map at traffic lights, and anxiously spot the “do not enter” signs and the “one way” signs that always seem to point in the opposite direction of the way I want to travel. I round the blocks over and over again, taking ages to find what I am looking for.

I scoped out the address of my appointment on Mapquest before I left the house. I studied the map until I felt confident that I knew where I was going. I parked my car next to a broken meter on Union St, and walked to my appointment on Westminster Street. I looked up at the old buildings and wish I’d thought to bring my camera so I could capture the gargoyles on this one building not far from Kennedy Plaza. I looked at the lights that were strung up over Westminster St, and remembered how festive they look at night when they are lit up. I stopped to look at a photo exhibit in a storefront window by Caleb Portfolio, and when I walked away from it I wondered how many people walked by it without even looking at the pictures.

I listened to a street musician playing a Lenny Kravitz song on his electric guitar. I smelled the exhaust from buses going up and down the streets. I felt my shoes skip over the cracks in the sidewalk. I watched people rushing in and out of buildings. I looked in the windows of the storefronts. I realized just then how much I miss exploring cities on my own. I came to a realization that I am an adult, not having to explain to my parents why I could possibly want to explore a drug infested city. Tomorrow I am going back to Providence to spend the afternoon tooling around in the city with my camera. I’ll be sure to post pictures of what I see.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Heidi said...

I was the same way...my graduating class was 55 :) It was always fun to go to Madison just because it was soooo different from my little town of 2000 people.

I still love exploring cities. I love the lights and the excitement.

January 10, 2008 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Gypsy said...

God, I miss exploring.

My cousin graduated with 20.

January 11, 2008 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Augs Casa said...

sounds like fun. I grew up in a town wiht one flashing light and you can throw a baseball across town. Now the resurvied the county and it's 3 times as big now. Oh and they have a SUPER Wal-mart. most of the orange/grapefruit/ and lemon groves are gone, and lastly, the fruit juice cannery shut down. SIGH!

January 11, 2008 at 2:54 PM  

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