Thursday, September 8, 2016

Immersed in Suburbia

I have been immersed in suburbia for a while now.

It wasn't always this way.

I grew up in a small city. It was a short walk to school, an even shorter walk to the park. In two blocks you could walk to a candy store, a pizzeria, and a place to buy hot dogs and ice cream. It didn't take many more blocks to get to more places.

I don't know if I imagined that I would live in a suburb in my adult life. I can't remember. The thing that strikes me most about suburbia is the vital importance of cars. I spend a lot of my waking moments in my car. This has made satellite radio important to me. At some point it changed from a luxury to necessity. It keeps me company.

If I walk long enough I can make it to a few places--a deli, a convenience store--but the walk is unpleasant and puts you in automobile traffic. Biking is an option too, but this suburb was not built for bicycles. It's all about cars.

I like walks. When I lived in Buffalo in my 20s I loved taking walks on Elmwood Avenue. I have fond memories of lunchtime walks to get a black bean burrito. It would serve as a reward. Write in the morning. Prepare for class. Then stroll for a burrito. Return home. Do more work. A cat nap was often part of the routine. That was life before kids.

Just before kids came along, my wife and I looked and looked for houses. The affordable houses for us were in the suburbs. We lived in suburb #1 in house #1 with one bathroom. Joyfully, kids #1 and #2 became our family. We moved to suburb #2 to a bigger house with 1 and 1/2 bathrooms. I do not take the 1/2 bathroom for granted. It's the only time in my life I have lived in an apartment or house with more than one bathroom.

This is the quietest place I have lived in my life, I often hear myself saying. I miss the noise of the city, sometimes. Suburb #1 was noisy too. Very noisy. But you can hear a pin drop in suburb #2. The kids play with other kids and neighbors wave and say hello. Sometimes the adults convene for beers. In suburb #1 this was not the norm. Only a few of the neighbors were friendly. Here, they are very friendly.

The days of walking for a burrito are long gone. A break now consists of a trip to the grocery store for provisions. There is a park where I like to go for a walk. There are times when only 3-4 people are there. This is in stark contrast to the days of walking in Buffalo's Delaware Park. On any given afternoon, Delaware Park is busy with walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, and basketball players. Where I walk now is maybe one person shooting hoops and a few people walking dogs. One time I saw a small group of women doing yoga.

I wonder if I'm getting used to the quiet. I kind of blend in wherever I am. I do tend to get restless. I imagine living in different places. It's not necessarily that I think the grass is greener elsewhere. It might be the case that I'm not the type to put down roots in a single place for thirty years.

There is something else about this suburb I will say. I've noticed it before but it really struck me today. Today was garbage day. Wherever else I have lived, garbage day usually meant stray garbage in the street after the garbage was removed by trucks and men. Here, it is near spotless. I have a hard time recalling spills or garbage spewed in the streets. Today, after the trucks came through, I drove to the pharmacy. On my way out of the neighborhood I saw one coffee cup. I kid you not, it stood out to me. Hey look, a piece a garbage. This is one clean place.

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