Thursday, August 20, 2009

Transport is arranged

Today Liz told me that mornings make her miss Bulgaria. She said she misses seeing goats, old women in the gardens, and small shops long her walk to work. I completely get what she is saying. Waking up to the decor of new cars, vinyl siding and parking lots doesn't give me the same gumption.

I've been trying to narrow down what it is about other places and cultures that makes them seem so much more charming or interesting or whatever you want to call it. And the biggest factor I can see is space. We have a problem with space in America, we have too much of it. We spread out big houses over vast amounts of land, our cities cover more ground than others, but hold fewer people.

This space issue has lead to, and in some ways is caused by what has been called our Car Culture. Walking, biking, or taking public transportation is, in many other places, the norm. Here, it is the exception. And so, if everyone is driving everywhere, why not spread out? And when everthing is spread out, why on earth would you walk anywhere? Just drive.

One thing I loved about Bulgarian cities, towns, and even villages is that they almost always have a town "center" that was blocked off to cars, and was full of businesses. People would go there to do their shopping, eating, banking, and other business, all on foot. It was so much more communal. You got to see everyone else who lived in your town, because everyone else was there too. There's something so isolationist about drive thru services, or even private parking lots.

This is one reason I enjoy living in Ypsialnti. I can take a bus or bike to work, I can walk to a food co-op for groceries, great coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, and also my friends' houses. The only time I drive is when I leave town or have to do laundry.

It's still not like waking up to goat herds and mountains, but it's about as good as it can get right now.


Jason said...

I think part of it about other cultures is simply that they are other.

Joel said...

Yeah, you're right. As my friend once wrote...

Home is always where I am not.