Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Keeping apart

I am visiting a big city with an engineer from another state, where he lives in a small town. We are in a park in this city full of parks, on a sunny Monday afternoon immediately after eating a scrumptious meal in a gorgeous Italian cafe'. He looks around at the surrounding townhouses and condo towers and says "I don't know how anybody can live like this, with no space!"

I look at the old black man sitting on the other end of the park bench, the elderly Chinese man slowly winding his way around the track around the edge of the park, the young five or six year old Caucasian girl riding her bicycle unsteadily on that same track as her father worriedly holds his hand near the back of her seat. A pair of lesbians nuzzle each other on a blanket spread on the grass, a frat boy sunbathes on another blanket. A homeless dude lies down in the sun on what looks like half of a U-Haul furniture pad. A young Asian man performs some sort of exercise that involves headstands and various postures, and an Indian couple jabbers away while a Japanese dad photographs his spawn posing in front of the statue of Ben Franklin standing in this park. A stereotypical white yuppy family, mom, dad, son, daughter, sit on a blanket eating a picnic lunch.

All of these people live together in this big city and mix and learn and work together as one. And I realize that he simply will not understand. Because there is a distance in his life between himself and the people around him, a distance not only physical but in the heart, the same sort of distance that is in the lives of almost everybody else who lives in the so-called "heartland", and he does not understand how to live without that kind of distance. He does not understand how to live in the world, rather than apart from the world. And nothing I say will change that.

-- Badtux the Observant Penguin
Also posted in slightly different form at the Mockingbird's Medley


  1. Interesting observations. Even more interesting is your perception.

    I have lived in both environments and have returned to my rural roots. I have to admit that I like the solitude and space to a certain degree but I very much miss the interaction that I enjoyed with the different people and their cultures. There are times when the solitude and space makes me feel as if I'm going brain dead here among the rednecks that have never experienced life anywhere else.

  2. I have lived in Chicago (very large), Milwaukee (big, but not so large), Denver (like Milwaukee) and in smaller towns in Iowa, North Dakota and Wisconsin. I lived in Center, ND, population at the time was 618.

    You can give me a smaller town any time. I like knowing my neighbors, having people talk to me at the grocery store -- whether or not I know them -- and being able to leave my cars and house unlocked and my windows open throughout the night.

    I didn't hate the big city, but I much prefer my little village in Wisco.


  3. Please don't generalize us "Heartlanders". Some of us have it both ways. I live on a farm in Iowa, a short distance from the small town where I went to school. The same small town with a very large Hispanic population. It's also a short distance from a large Univeristy city with great diversity.
    It truly is the best of both worlds.


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