Yesterday my sister and I had a mini adventure in NYC. I’ll be writing more about that here tomorrow, but in the meantime I’m thinking about cities and which ones are most important to me.
As an eastern Pennsylvania native, I’m lucky enough to live near three major cities: Philadelphia, New York, and Washington D.C. Growing up, this meant field trips and vacations to all three, especially the closest one–Philadelphia. If you’re wondering, the liberty bell is not all that exciting.
By the time I reached senior year in high school, DC was my favorite and since then, I’ve made sure to visit our country’s capital at least once a year.
In all fairness to rural America, I actually prefer living in the fresh country air among rolling hills. As the Alabama song says, “I was born country and country is what I’ll be” — and yet there is something about skyscrapers and masses of people that send shivers up my spine. I love the electricity in the air, the history, the promise of new, and as cliche as it sounds– the magic.
In the 1920′s, Greenwich Village was the center of New York’s literary and bohemian life and Edna St. Vincent Millay the “It” girl. She lived in a nine-foot-wide attic, wrote poetry, and was “very, very poor and very, very merry.” The first stanza of her “Recuerdo”:
We were very tired, we were very merry-
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable-
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
In some of my most unrealistic of fantasies, I am Edna St. Vincent. I am the Mary Tyler Moore, Carrie Bradshaw, big city girl I’ve always dreamed about.
After college I moved to a small city for 4 years where I tried to live out some of my big city fantasies; walking to cafes, living in closet sized apartments, and drinking wine on rooftops. It was romantic, lonely, and perfect. Mary Oliver says there’s a big question the world throws at you every morning: “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?” As it turns out, the city is one of the best places to answer.
Everyone has a city. A city you ache for, a city that stirs up your inner glamor, your inner heartache; a city that makes you feel alive. Maybe you live in it, maybe you work in it, maybe you only visit once every few years.
What’s your city?