Don’t get me wrong. There are great things about living in the city.
I grew up in a leafy – and smoggy – suburb of Los Angeles. On trips downtown as a kid, I would marvel at the tall buildings and the mess of freeway on- and off-ramps, overpasses and underpasses. I’d soak up the mayhem of beggars, executives and low-riders, the shifts in entire cultures from one block to the next.
New York and Washington blew me away on my first visits there, when I was nine years old.
And Buenos Aires? It’s a great city.
Where we live near downtown, you can walk most anywhere. Cousins and friends are around the corner. Buses and subways take us to see other friends, in greener parts.
The big city is all very different from back in the pine forest on the beach, where winters can get lonely. You can stop in the middle of a sandy street and yell out, loudly. You’re lucky to get a dog to bark back. Residents are holed up in their homes next to the fireplace to keep warm. And hundreds of houses stand empty until summer comes again.
I remember a lonely night last winter when we still lived there. The kids were in bed and we sat down to watch Sean Penn’s “Into The Wild,” the true story of a university graduate who drops out to live in the wilderness in Alaska. Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” kind of stuff. He hitches across the country to get there and heads off over the tundra and sets up camp. Hunts and survives.
But things go terribly wrong and your feelings of the joy of adventure suddenly sour and you come away thinking solitude isn’t that great. Family and friends are better. Hey, who fancies a trip to the city? To breath in the diesel fumes, see people, walk the bustling streets and wait in 30-minute lines at the bank, with those behind you breathing down your back, pacing and bitching.
That is, for a bit, at least.
Oh to have the best of both worlds. I guess that is an ambition of many.