When I tell you I live in a rural area, I’m not exaggerating.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the wastelands of South Dakota where people don’t actually exist. We have electricity, running water and internet service; just not a lot of it.
As part of my ongoing series exploring things I know nothing about, I wanted to find out how different life is in the big city. What am I missing, tucked away in my quiet little corner of the world?
So I reached out to Anna at the Home and Away blog for some insight on metropolitan living.
Now, we’re all about low brow humor hear at the Big Dick Chronicles. How I came into contact with such a lovely, sophisticated woman as Anna still puzzles me. But I’m not going to question my good fortune, I’m just going to pump her for information to help improve my blog.
She was kind enough to assist me and as I read her responses, I found that our lives could not be more different.
1. Some brief background; what is your history of metropolitan living? How much of your life has been spent in large cities? What was your earliest age for living in a large city?
“I was born in Moscow and raised in the center of the city – the Kremlin was down the street from my school.
Then, after a bit of back and forth between continents, I moved to the United States as a teen. After high school years spent in Suburbia (Maryland and Rhode Island) I went to college in Washington, DC and moved to New York City (Manhattan) after graduation. Nearly seven years later I was back to Moscow, which is where I live now. Oh, and while in college, I spent a year studying abroad in Paris and Madrid. When I travel internationally I tend to stick to cities for most of my itinerary as well – London, Florence, Amsterdam.”
Let’s put some context to that. The city of Moscow has a current population of approximately 11.9 million in an area of approximately 1,000 square miles. That’s a population density of 11,900 people per square mile.
In contrast, I have lived 93% (I did the math) of my life in areas with less than 10,000 people. More than half of that time has been spent in areas with less than 500 people. I currently live in the country, in a county with less than 10,000 people in 400 square miles. That’s an average of 25 people per square mile.
2. When you were younger (teens, college age) what did a night on the town look like?
“College was all about clubs on weekends. We were a pretty mainstream crowd – no funky underground musicians for us, just so we could seem cool! But we’d dance all night and then get a falafel from a corner cart at dawn before passing out. One of the unsung benefits of big city living is that nobody cards you at restaurants, especially when you’re wearing a suit on the way back from Congressional internship. So when not dancing, my friends and I would go out to “nice” DC restaurants for cocktails – we were such sophisticates! – and foreign policy debates. I don’t think any of us ever had a fake ID.”
In the late 90′s MTV aired a show “Sex in the 90′s” that highlighted the differences in life in New York versus middle America. The small town was Monett, MO. Not where I’m from, but nearby and similar enough. I wish I could find a clip to show you, but it’s long gone. Watching them try to describe the weekend “night life” in a small down was quite disturbing.
What do small town teens do on the weekend?
“Well, you just drive around on the main drag. Most folks turn around down there at the Sonic and then you drive down to the Casey’s store and turn around there. And you do that until you either find a girl or run out of gas money.”
My weekends were spent in a town of about 7,000 people. Our strip was the McDonald’s to the movie theater parking lot. When we ran out of gas money, we would run home and grab our bikes and just ride around town until 3 am.
Did I mention that I wasn’t real successful with the ladies?
But that was then. What about now?
3. And now? What does a night on the town look like as an adult?
“I certainly don’t take full advantage of Moscow’s nightlife, which is vivid and boisterous, because in my old age I am yawning by 1 am.(I actually tried to find some photos of Moscow nightlife to insert here, but they were all highly inappropriate for this article.)
Instead it’s theater (I have a dozen within walking distance from my apartment), a fancy lounge if a coworker is throwing a party (sugary cocktails have been replaced with vodka rocks with lemon), or a pub – my favorite. The weekends now are all about winding down from work, rather than being released into the wild!
In New York, one of my favorite things to do on a summer weekend was to go to the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for champagne, funky installations and gorgeous city views.”
Being in a rural area, we live an hour from everywhere. So a night on the town often begins with the hunt for a babysitter. Our over night babysitter is often the in-laws who are an hour away. That means we have to start by 4 pm, or we spend the first two to three hours of the evening driving.
Once that’s out of the way, we can choose from a movie, dinner, or an occasional comedian. Most times, we opt to just stay in. Grill a steak and watch cheesy movies until bed time.
We are starting to spend more weekends getting together with friends. This involves hanging out, grilling burgers, and drinking my buddy’s home brewed beer while the kids play. We’ve got friends coming over this weekend to enjoy some adult conversation while the kids run wild in the pool.
One of the things I hear people complain about is that it is too quiet in the country.
4. Step outside at 10:00 pm. What do you hear?:”
“Traffic! After-work rush hour might be over, but restaurant, theater and club rush is in full swing. Oh, and construction – usually for another hour at least.”
What do I hear? Bugs. Especially crickets. From every direction. Occasionally, the cicadas come around and it sounds like an electric generator right outside your windows. There was a pack of coyotes off in the distance tonight and occasionally, a semi out on the highway two miles away.
5. Let’s see a photo of what your daily life looks like.
What an amazing amount of life that is going on all around!
This is the view from my driveway;
I always enjoy finding out what people enjoy most from their adventures. So I asked.
6. What has been your favorite place to live? Your least favorite?
“I LOVED living in Manhattan. New York overwhelms a lot of people and I think the key here is finding your own little corner that’s a spiritual match of sorts. For me it was the quiet, green streets of the Upper East Side, with lots of sushi restaurants and Irish pubs. I took to it like fish to the water. Also the months spent in Madrid were pretty epic – that’s the city that embodies the “never sleep” mantra more than any other where I’ve lived. And I love Moscow, of course!
On the flip side there was Paris. Beautiful but overrun with tourists 365 days a year, it was also very difficult to enjoy for a poor college student incidentally placed in a very posh neighborhood. I was constantly counting my Euro-centimes and couldn’t do what I wanted to. It felt like a city for the rich – unlike NYC or Madrid, which could be easily enjoyed on the cheap.”
My current location is by far my favorite, mostly because it is mine. It’s the home that I’ve helped create. This is the place where I first began to feel like an adult.
The small towns where I grew up held too much dysfunction for me to romanticize; mostly because they were filled with my dysfunctional family. I don’t miss them.
Metropolitan life is so starkly different from anything I’ve ever experienced, that I can’t help but wonder, what am I missing?
7. What is the attraction of city life?
“So many – where do I start?! I think for most people, myself included, it’s about 24-7 access – to food, entertainment, basic services. It’s about freedom – doing what you want when you want to. It’s about choice – whether of the kind of cuisine I want to have for dinner, or whether I want to spend my weekend at a zoo or a movie theater or ice skating rink or a park. It’s about being able to call a friend on a whim and meet for a drink half an hour later, without anyone having to drive several towns over. It’s about having a dozen of friends and acquaintances all connected through metro lines. I also have a strong feeling of community and safety in a city – we are all in this together. If something happens there are a dozen doors I can knock on in 2 minutes. You are never alone. I love that.”
Dang, it’s hard to compete with that.
I think the first attraction of country life is the freedom. The land is mine to cultivate, build, create as I please. Life in the country requires a degree of self reliance. I have to know a moderate amount about construction, auto mechanics, and household repairs. We’re too far removed from service providers to call someone out every time something goes wrong.
There is no intrusion, no loud neighbors that keep me up at night. I can go outside and pee in the yard. We can swim naked in the pool at two in the afternoon (when the kids are still at school).
We basically live in a park. I can sit in a tree stand and watch a bobcat walk by 40′ away. Tonight I watched two large bucks jump across our road and into the woods next door. I’ve watched a coyote walk up to the base of my tree while hunting. We had a flying squirrel that liked to sneak into a closet and eat our dog treats.
It is quiet and relaxed. We don’t need speed bumps on our road. It’s gravel. Common sense keeps you at a leisurely pace.
So what if that all changed tomorrow? What if my job suddenly threw me in the middle of New York City?
8. After living my entire life in a rural setting, what would be the hardest adjustment if my family suddenly had to move to a very large city?
“Oh boy. This I can answer only based on the complaints of suburbanites who’ve visited me in New York or Moscow. Thus I am going to throw three options at you.
1-The noise and the lights. You would probably need earplugs and light-blocking curtains to go to sleep. By contrast, I have a problem going to sleep in a rural area because it is quiet and scary and creepy.
2-The traffic, both human and automotive. There is always a congestion, there is always honking, there are always people pushing you aside if you’re blocking their path onto the train. Everyone crosses on the red light when the cops aren’t looking. It’s mad. Only the strongest will survive.
3-There is no back yard for the kids to play in. You have to go to a park or a playground, and usually some supervision is best. In the summer a lot of people head out to the countryside at least for a few weeks. BUT – there are zoos and sea worlds and museums and festivals and amusement parks and educational resources like no other. I loved growing up in the city.
PS – there is a persistent stereotype of city people as rude and unfriendly. It is totally false. We just don’t like it when anyone is blocking the sidewalk as we rush to office/home/theater.”
Hearing this wonderful homage to city life, I’m left with the question; am I missing out?
The city is a wonderful life for some, but I’m a very laid back introvert. I would feel crushed in the city. The teeming masses would suck all of the energy out of me. Conversely, some people cannot handle the openness and lack of creature comforts that come from life in the country. To them, the silence is deafening.
What did I learn from researching this post? If I ever travel to the city, I better find a guide. I would be completely lost and forget to enjoy a single moment of it.
When you’ve had your fill of dick jokes, I highly recommend you check out Anna’s blog for some legitimate culture. She has some unbelievably beautiful photos from her travels throughout the world and travel magazine quality commentary.