Do you ever just start hankering for a change? You work really hard all your life for some stability and what happens? You get to middle age, you get comfortable, and then bam – you start fantasizing that maybe there’s something else out there that you might be missing.
For me, it’ s the idea of living in a city, living without worrying about driving or parking spaces or traffic jams. Earlier this year, within the space of several weeks, I had a wonderful taste of urban living. In San Jose, my wife and I went to a fund-raiser at a comedy club, and then walked a few blocks and had a fine dinner.
Not long after, we went to San Diego for a conference and stayed at the Hilton Bayfront next to the convention center. We took a cab from the airport. We walked across the street from the hotel to Petco Park to see the Giants beat the Padres. We walked to restaurants. We took cabs to Balboa Park and Old Town.
Next was an overnight jaunt in Seattle. I took the light rail directly from the airport. I walked from the light rail station a couple of blocks to the Hilton Seattle. From there, I walked to my appointments. In the morning, I was back on the light rail and heading back to the airport.
Then, on Mother’s Day, I was in San Francisco with my newly maternal niece. I think I enjoyed the Sunday-brunch bacon a little too much, given the resulting heartburn. But relief was only a block-and-a-half away at a local Walgreen’s, followed by a spontaneous stop at an Asian market to pick up some fruit.
I started fantasizing about the proximity of the city, how close and accessible everything is in a well-designed city. I’ve written before about my fantasies of living in a different city a year at a time after I retire, but this was an unexpected yearning. Is this the legendary midlife crisis coming on?
These yearnings are understandable for a boy who spent his life in the suburbs. I did once spend six months in a rural area: Ithaca, New York. I know it was rural because it was not on the way anywhere. You really had to want to be going there. Attending graduate school at Cornell was painful, and being in Ithaca didn’t make it any easier.
So it’s not surprising, having done rural and having done the suburbs, the siren call of the city would entice me. But then I started thinking about the whole idea with a more rational – and certainly a crankier – point of view. I started thinking about real sirens. The possibility of people living above me, clomping. The possibility of people living below me, complaining about my clomping. As a long-time suburban boy, how long would I be able to tolerate the people … the noise … the dirt … of a city? Not too long, I fear.
Then something happened last week that really helped puncture my urban fantasies – something that I don’t remember happening ever before in my life – on my side of town, anyway.
It happened in our nice little suburban neighborhood full of 50-year-old tract houses, under leafy trees, a place that could easily be used as a set for Father Knows Best or The Donna Reed Show. Somebody dumped a body in a garbage bag on the front lawn of one of the houses. It was a wholly urban thing to have happen. You’ll notice there’s no CSI: Suburbia, right?
Between that and my aforementioned concerns, I’ve decided to hang out in the suburbs a while longer. Unless, of course, the body dumps continue. Then I may have to re-think my whole rural aversion.