Thursday, August 16, 2007

First impressions of life in Big City

Our apartment is really starting to look like an inviting place now that we've unpacked or hidden most of the boxes. I have three very heavy boxes of books that need to be moved to my grad student office one backpackfull at a time. It will take a while before those are gone from the living room. We also need a lot more houseplants.

We've been walking around and getting to know the neighborhood. There's a bike shop, a few small corner groceries, and a hardware store within 2 blocks. Our congressman's office is about 4 blocks away. I like this neighborhood and it's very conveniently close to school for me. Hopefully Jon will find a job nearby. I do, however, have a few substantial complaints about life in Big City so far.

Public Transportation: It's not nearly as good as it should be. I'm sure my list of complaints will get longer, but let's start with infrastructure. I have to walk under train tracks to get to school. The metal beams supporting the tracks are seriously crumbling. I'm talking about a centimeter of airspace at the base where there used to be metal. I am not convinced that this is sufficiently sound in light of the recent Minneapolis bridge collapse. Aside from infrastructure, the whole transit fare system is complicated and not user-friendly. The buses don't give change! You can't buy their stupid fare cards everywhere they can be used! At least if the infrastructure sucks they could make the system user-friendly. I also think the fares are on the expensive side (especially if you're paying cash). If you really want people to use public transportation instead of driving then it should be cheaper because it CAN be a pain to take a bus instead of drive your car... which brings me to the next point.

Air Pollution: It sucks. And it makes my face break out in big, nasty pimples. It took me several years to make a connection between air pollution and acne but I'm absolutely convinced of it. Hopefully in the near future the scientific literature will begin to support me on this (as far as I can tell, there is NO ONE doing research on air pollution and acne so if you're a dermatologist I've just given you a way to make a name for yourself). My coping strategy is to wash my face 2-3 times a day (compared to only when I shower every other day or so in low-pollution areas). The air pollution in Big City isn't helped by the...

Lack of green space: My section of Big City is particularly park deficient which is a shame. I'm keeping my eyes out for community gardens but nearby one was recently turned into a parking lot :-( There are definitely some empty lots with potential. I would LOVE it if a community garden started nearby. Big City doesn't even have very many trees. Trees give us shade to keep us cooler in the summer! They clean our air! Why didn't they have the foresight to plant more trees? I've been taking mental notes on other people's container and window box gardening techniques. I have to admit that I'm usually a bit of native plant snob and frown upon impatiens and other boring water-hogging non-native annuals but in Big City I find myself appreciating ANYTHING green and growing, including the highly invasive tree of heaven. Even an empty lot full of weeds makes me thankful for some green in this sea of concrete!

Ok, enough ranting. I really don't want my blog to be a laundry list of complaints about life. We have a great apartment, we can happily live car-free even with the public transportation shortcomings, and next spring I'm going to have beautiful window boxes.

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