An Urbane Hick’s View of New York City

I was born in Indiana and, the summer before fourth grade, my family moved to rural Arkansas. If you’ve never been to southern Arkansas, you probably don’t understand the real meaning of “rural”. Driving from Little Rock to El Dorado takes about an hour and a half, but there are miles of road that are trees as far as the eye can see. There are a few run-down towns scattered along the way, but even they seem sparsely populated. Of course, people seem to spread out the further west you go in the U.S., but the difference between Lancaster County “rural” and South Arkansas “rural” is striking. In Lancaster County, you’re always in some township or another, there’s always a town in sight (if the corn isn’t too high) and you’re never alone. South Arkansas is so rural that my Indonesian sister-in-law flatly stated she didn’t realize she was moving to the “jungle”. But I digress. I left Arkansas for the small city of New Orleans. It was then that I began to understand the draw of an “urban” environment. I could go to concerts regularly, walk to shops or work, and eat at a relatively wide variety of restaurants. When I stepped half-way back into the rural environment by moving just outside of Little Rock and then dove in more deeply by moving to Lancaster, I reverted back to my old habits that had been dormant since high school. Quiet, boring days that stretch out forever. A sense of loneliness. And now, I’ve got a job that requires me to go to New York City a couple of times a month. The difference is striking. In Lancaster, people notice if you’re out of place. In New York, there are so many transplants and so many natives, no one really cares if you look odd. They see 20 odd people on the subway every day. In Lancaster, people’s favorite restaurants serve burgers and fries. There isn’t anywhere else to eat, really. Of course, since New York is filled with new people, there is a restaurant for almost every taste. Lancaster shuts down at 9pm. New York is open all the time. I’m still not sure if I’d want to raise my children in New York, but after reading more about the city, after watching children wandering around Manhattan, after seeing a group of 12-year-old skateboarders ride the PATH to New Jersey by themselves, I begin to see the facinating possibilities. And then there’s this: New York is America’s Greenest City. While I’m not much of an eco-nut, the economics of scale that make New York so “green” make things possible that are beyond the scope of comprehension for Lancaster. Still, and I are beginning to adapt to the rural ways. We brought a little of New Orleans with us by buying a Victorian “handy-man’s special” and that provides endless ways to fill up a weekend. It provides tons of Joy, too. I’ve spent my life watching my father expend his seemly boundless energy on various projects around the house and, somehow, along the way I’ve inherited that energy and drive to work (if not all the attention to detail). In fact, a couple of weeks ago, we tore out the wall to the kitchen. has, until tonight, when we put a temporary sink in, been living out her “Little House on the Prarie” fantasy by washing dishes in buckets outside. After we got the sink put in, she said “This feels like a Home!” So, while the city can certainly provide diversions, while it creates an environment thick with creativity, we’ve certainly found ways to make our lives more interesting here. In fact, just came in and told me: “After the kitchen, I have no fear. Let’s do the bathrooms!”

2 thoughts on “An Urbane Hick’s View of New York City”

  1. Nuts

    Ahem! I think dvfmama would like to say that she is making the most of the situation. Rural life is fine – for farmers, horses, and cows. City life is finer, and the finest life is a life in some sunshiny, southern city.

  2. all that way?

    Dude! You had to go all the way to the colo just to find that someone had tripped over the cord? Isn’t there anyone there that takes care of that stuff?

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