City Dweller

All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful: but the beauty is grim. – Christopher Morley

I am back in eastern Washington for part of my winter break. Coming directly from Corvallis, it’s not as big of a shock as it was when I would come home from Bellingham or Seattle–or when I came home from the Caribbean.

I took the train out of Oregon, a precaution I normally take to avoid driving in winter weather in my Toyota sedan. (Note to self: You really have to get those two back tires replaced.) My first train ran from Albany, OR to Seattle, and it left at 6:13AM. I slept for the first part of the ride, and when I woke up, I was outside of Portland.

It was a clear day, the sun was coming up, and the train crossed right above the river. From my window, I could see the sunrise, silhouetting ducks on the water and early morning joggers. A group of bicyclists, apparently stopped to enjoy a snack, waved at the passing train; I waved back.

It was–for a lack of better words–beautiful.

From Portland, I traveled north to Seattle where I had a four-hour layover. I took the opportunity to stow my bags (thanks, J.Bro, for the tip) and grab lunch in Pioneer Square. I settled on an old bar and cafe for lunch, sitting myself down at the bar. Comfort food was plentiful on the menu, and I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with a heaping side of fries. A person I’d seen briefly at the train station sat down next to me, and we had possibly one of the best strangers-at-a-bar conversations I’ve ever had. He was handsome, which helped, and we chatted about our jobs and where we came from and where we were going. (Thanks, ex-Marine and current engineer Matt; you really made my day.)

After lunch, I walked around Pioneer Square for a bit in the cool air. It’s an area where I haven’t spent much time, considering I used to live in Seattle. I found a used book store, browsed for a bit, then bought a book of Albert Einstein’s essays from his later years. I wandered into Zeitgeist Coffee, a new-to-me coffee shop, and plunked down in the corner to read.

I felt more at home in that coffee shop than I have anywhere in Corvallis, even at my favorite hipster coffee shop.

In Portland the other weekend, I felt like I was a missing puzzle piece to that city. It didn’t bother me that only a few people could join me in PDX for my birthday; it just felt right to be in the city, having endless opportunities for exploration.

On my last leg of the train trip, I talked with a man from Montana. I gathered from our conversation that he’s a small-town kind of guy, as he’s given L.A. and Seattle a few tries without much fondness. He talked about the dirt and the grime, and brought up the dangers of living in the city. I mentioned that I grew up in a small-ish town (granted, it’s pretty big here now, but it’s got a sticking small-town mentality). It was a good place to grow up, I said, and I explained that my move to Bellingham (which is where he’s currently living) was a shock–yet one that opened my eyes to a whole new level of thinking. I told him I’d lived in Seattle for while, but I neglected to tell him about how after that, I’d moved to Madrid for a month, and how I came to realize I no longer belonged in rural spaces.

Yes, the city can be scary. The cities in which I hope to live, however, are full of wonderful communities and fantastic friends. Those cities are also full of opportunity–both in work and play. I never thought that I would fall in love with city life, but here I am.

I will be there to embrace your imperfections, Portland/Seattle/L.A.; I will be there to grow through mine.

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2 thoughts on “City Dweller

  1. Justin Lawless says:

    This is great! I really like how you describe your experiences, about being a piece of the city. Essentially that’s what cities are; groupings of people that create a culture which dictates how a city evolves and what it eventually becomes. Have you read any Jane Jacobs? The Death and Life of Great American Cities is excellent and makes you love the big cities of the Pacific Northwest even more.

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