I just moved to New York.
Not New York City, mind you, but western upstate New York. It’s an area that most people – those that don’t live in the non-New York City part of the state – never think about, never hear about, and don’t even realize exists.
Until you move there.
This is not a new sensation to me. I lived in the suburbs of Detroit until I was eight, and in the suburbs of Miami for almost twenty years after that. I’m used to people knowing what I mean when I say where I live.
But if I say ‘I live in New York’, people assume it’s the city. After all, it’s arguably the most famous city in the world. Ask any person if they’ve heard of New York, and of course they have, unless they are an isolated group of people who are happier in their own culture than that of the world (and rightly so – I envy them). New York evokes so many images – tall buildings, frantic business deals, metropolitan arts, and blockbuster disaster movies.
That’s the flavor of New York City. But it’s not where I live.
The flavor of my city, a small one of about 10,000 people near the Finger Lakes of the western ‘arm’ of the state, is one of niche prosperity. It is an area that fosters local business and has a close sense of pride in their community. I like that. A lot. After having lived most of my life in Miami, where neighbors can’t be bothered to know each other’s names, much less their lives, I’ve already met several of my neighbors in the two weeks I’ve lived here.
When I lived in Miami, of course, the flavor was very different.The word ‘Miami’ brings images of tanned bleach-blond sun-worshippers in day-glo bikinis, possibly being busted for cocaine dealing by Don Johnson in a convertible and a white suit. Or a parade down Calle Ocho, with Cuban coffee and empanadas fresh from the fryer. I’d better stop – I’m getting hungry!
But Miami is so much more than those things. It is 24-hour culture, excitement, entertainment, certainly. But it is also amazing wildlife in the Everglades, horrible traffic during rush hour, and a humid heat so oppressive you feel like you’re melting on the sidewalk for nine months out of the year. The weather is fantastic for the two weeks of non-summer, perhaps in mid-January, where the sky is clear blue and the temperatures run around 55. That time was glorious. I longed for those two weeks during the rest of the year. Perhaps it’s a good thing I’ve moved farther north!
I don’t remember a great deal about Detroit proper. I lived in nearby Dearborn until I was eight, but we did go into the city frequently enough to visit my mother’s friend, Sandy. I have pockets of memories of small apartments, gritty streets, sheets on the windows, and dark alleyways. The few trips we made to Greektown and Trapper’s Alley were more interesting – an indoor shopping ‘alley’ full of interesting street vendors, such as the candle-maker who had his signature on his pillar candles in wax. The times I’ve gone back as an adult, I got impressions of lonely buildings, with empty eyes looking down upon the windswept street.
Gainesville is a college town. As such, the college is the focus of about 70% of the people and the buzz of the city. It does mean it gathers all sorts of culture and diversity. There were Japanese drum concerts and Irish concerts among the offerings each year, as well as some fantastic art shows and a long-running medieval festival (Hoggetowne Medieval Faire). If you didn’t work for the college, though, you were almost a second-class citizen, and ‘other’. It didn’t bother me too much, but I definitely felt like the city could care less if I was part of it’s life.
Morgantown is also a college town, but one with a very different flavor than Gainesville. Gainesville had a snobbish feel, as if anyone who was privileged enough to live in the area ought to feel grateful. Morgantown was more egalitarian. And yet, at the same time, it was even more exclusionary when it came to its downtown business plan. There is a kernel of business in the downtown area, but it was an exclusive club, and no one from the outside was welcome in. The rest of the city was much more accepting. Situated in a mountainous area on a river, it is a very vertical city, the most I’d lived in. And I have to say, I’m glad I live once again in a relatively flat town! Especially on icy morning commutes.
Each city has a flavor and personality. What is your own like? Tell me in the comments!
Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.
– Stunning, Strange and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland
– Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland
More info at Green Dragon Artist :: Home ,
Christy Jackson Nicholas, Author , and
Tirgearr Publishing – Christy Nicholas
No question that certain locales fit some people better than other locales.
Still, “who we are” trumps “where we are.”
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