Monday, June 30, 2014

I Took A Little Trip

So I took a little trip. Your urban blogger went as far South and East as he's ever been: to Kentucky. I present my impressions, the promise that blogging shall resume forthwith, and thanks for your patience.

10. Cars Are Liberating

Traveling by plane may be quite efficient, but there's something engaging and empowering about driving oneself in one's own car. Going where you like, as quickly as you like, and with whom you like, you feel acutely in control of your destiny. You also sense the power that's sending you on your way, whether from the growl of the engine, the bugs splattering on the windshield, or the wind roaring past. You can sense your surroundings and your place in them.

9. Driving in America Is A Privilege

Cities, towns, bridges, farms, forests, and trees, we've got it all, much of it beautiful. Moreover, you can drive among it all at your will, traveling from an urban metropolis, over rivers, and past fields fallow and thick-planted, all in one day. Fuel for you and your car is inexpensive and abundant, and today cell phone and GPS technology can get you out of practically bind in which you find yourself. America is the land not just of extraordinary but multifarious plenty.

8. America Needs Some Cardio

Perhaps it's because they rely more on driving than walking, perhaps it's the diet, but suburban people are packing a little pudge. This surely doesn't apply to many demographics, such as manual laborers, but the same types of people seem a tad hefty. I can't say with any certainty whether they're any more rotund than urban denizens, but I noticed the weight.

7. Tattoos  For All

Likewise, the tattoo phenomenon is not confined to cities. It's everywhere and I must conclude we're a tattooed nation.

6. Friendly Folk

When I walk about in the city I look up and around at people. I try to smile and acknowledge them, attempts which usually fail to elicit a response. Outside the city, people actually smile back. They make small talk and ask you about yourself. Parents let their children go about and the little tikes even say hello to you, a stranger, with an innocence you thought had vanished.

5. Brand Relief

I spent a day at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, and yes I was skeptical. You know what, though? The substitution of American traditions for the usual Disney-Warner Brothers franchises was refreshing. I didn't feel like anything was being sold to me and the experience didn't seem tailored to pry open my wallet, though it did so.

4. Construction Gets Finished

We must have passed a dozen large construction sites between here and Kentucky, all of them abuzz with apparently useful activity as we went by. Such is in contrast to construction projects in the city which seem to lay fallow for weeks on end. The sight of those active projects might not have been representative, but one couldn't escape the sense that the work might soon be finished, a feeling which eludes even the most optimistic New Yorker.

3. We're All Just Folk

Whether it's y'all or you's, a twang or a drawl, people are still more or less the same. The elitist in me wants to raise myself, the curmudgeon wants to bring everyone else down, and the New Yorker in my wants simultaneously to praise and condemn everyone outside the city, but it seems people are all just folk.

2. Travel is Instructive

Not tourism, mind you, but the travel which by which you get to know people. I found it enormously instructive to observe, and in this case enjoy, the manners and customs of other people. I'm not so persuaded by the globetrotting dilettantes that I'm going to gain so much by seeing a building, arch, or river in person, but one cannot deny there is no substitute for directly interacting with people. You're a little self-conscious at first, but after a little introduction a happy exchange of accents, manners, and oddities is underway. Who uses which turn of phrase, what town or street is pronounced how and why, these are life's enriching details. Such exchanges are both refreshing and conducive to introspection. I can't help but see my less-traveled self as a little small-minded.

1. Courtesy Rules the Day

The word courtesy stems from Latin's cohors, of which here it'll suffice to say that it suggests a group, and what is courtesy other than treating someone as part of your group and therefore worthy of some respect. Courtesy not only treats others well, but it creates a sense of space, of a community in which people share something. Manners make society.

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