Sunday, January 4, 2009

so this is the new year

Looking down the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver.

This is a time for reflection, because I am still young and stupid but particularly good at navel-gazing. I've been down on the blog for a little while now, always unsure of what direction to take Just Up The Pike in, always impatient as I see blogs newer and with better resources than mine shoot to the vanguard of the local blogosphere. I've always been pretty rabid about defending this place I call home, but something seems to have come loose while I was in Colorado this past week. For the first time, coming home felt kind of foreign, and I wondered if the D.C. area is really the only place for me.

I'd paid the Midwest no attention before, but suddenly I can imagine myself settling down somewhere far away from here, in a place where the land goes from plains to mountain before your eyes; where the people are not only polite, but willing to tell you their life stories; where the streets are not only clean but beautiful and everyone seems to hold their heads high as if they knew God had a hand in making this place. Maybe I'd start going outside more, because there's actually an outside to go to; take up an instrument so I could play for pocket change on 16th Street; stop worrying about money and the future and start writing poetry again.

Everything that stereotype tells me "East Coast" means came back all at once upon my return: getting shoved into the aisle by an impatient woman on the plane; a traffic jam on a Saturday evening; the fact I can't tell where I am anymore because I have neither skylines nor snow-capped peaks to orient me.

I figured a week away would be invigorating, but instead it's left me both excited and a little confused. I want to keep going, East County, I want to keep giving back to this place that has made me who I am, but I don't know how long I can keep this up, at least in its current form. A new year means starting over, and I'm ready. I just don't know how to begin.

Crossing a pedestrian bridge over the Platte River next to Commons Park.

Foursquare houses off of East Colfax Avenue.

The Front Range and a few man-made hills in the Stapleton planned community.


Dave Murphy said...

As a loyal reader of this blog, I gotta say it's kind of nice to hear you wondering like that. Everyone at some point in their life should leave home and live somewhere else.

I have two brothers. The oldest moved out west and stayed out there for 18 years before he came back east... and even now he's going back out there for a few more months before he ultimately resettles in West Virginia.

I joined the Army to see the world, and as fate would have it, after traveling the Midwest for training, I wound up getting stationed at Fort Meade and resettling close to home. I'll probably live in this area the rest of my life.

My little brother is just now getting ready to move to San Diego. He's never lived anywhere outside of MoCo. It'll be good for him.

Bottom line is, you never know until you try. I'll be sorry if JUTP goes also, but it's no slight on the home town. Everyone should live somewhere else at least for a little while. Good luck with your decision.

jen said...

as someone who couldn't ever go back to live in my hometown, i understand where you are coming from. but i also think that when a town starts to feel like it's closing in on you, it's easy to look at other places and think the grass is greener. that's not to say you shouldn't leave, but be wary of falling into the trap of thinking that ANY place is going to have all the answers for you.

Dan Reed said...

Today I remembered about the Smithsonian, and realized that the one of the world's largest museums is not only in my backyard, but free, whereas I would've had to pay $6 to visit the Denver Art Museum. Perhaps there are reasons to stay here, which I am learning of.

Well, I have until May to figure myself out, so we'll see what happens and where I eventually land.

Thomas Hardman said...

Dan, when I was 18, I moved to a major city in Texas, because their help-wanted section was larger than the whole Washington Post. That was in the late 1970s and I got some of my first lessons in Urban Planning, when I started hanging out with folks in a small suburb of that city, which by the time I left had been absorbed (and then some) by the main city, which was growing at a rate that beggars the imagination of people in this area.

I went there to visit, and stayed there to work, but things can only grow so far so fast before they have to be reined in or collapse on their own. In the latter half of 1980 the emerging Oil Glut began to crush much of the oil-related industry in Texas, and everything there depends on oil. Add to that the Fed "tight money" policy at the time, and it became clear that I needed to come back here.

But it became pretty clear that suburbia had few attractions and that I had become a city boy through and through. And though the city I had been in had its attractions (Texas ladies, for example), in terms of public attractions it could not begin to compete with the District and not even with the environs. That city had one of the lowest ratios of parklands per capita; DC topped the lists.

On many occasions, I have left the area again, to live for a year or three in other parts of the country. Yet this place keeps dragging me back, as it were. For all of its very many faults, this is in fact the center, the touchstone, the heart and the height of the American culture. That this culture is becoming twisted by time and seems increasingly doomed to become yet-another corrupt little former pretender to Empire, this is my home.

I could move someplace else, and live there for years. But I know I'd always be back. So I can take vacations, and they can be long ones, but this is home, and as long as it's home, there's maintenance and upkeep and planning and renovation... more than enough to keep me and any number of other people busy.

There's probably more than enough to keep you, too, busy.

You've been doing an exceptional job here at this blog and I expect you'll continue to do an excellent job at any comparable project you care to try.

And keep in mind that when you're trying to rank this blog against others, remember that the important thing is not the popularity. Sites featuring photos of cute pet animals (or triple-X) are immensely popular, but are they actually worthy? I'd say that the worth of the blog is the quality of the controversies, and the character of the dissent.

You, at least, tolerate dissent as long as it isn't genuinely an outrage. Unfortunately, some folks have got the idea that a blog's worth is measured by how many people they can get to comment "me too". That's not discussion, that's sycophantcy.

Whatever you do, do it well!

I'm hoping you see fit to continue with this.

beyonddc said...

My years living in Colorado were valuable. I enjoyed them, but they left me with a healthy appreciation for the east coast.

Ironically, having grown up in Gaithersburg, living in Boulder was my first real experience with car-free walking-based urban living. But as I learned how to live that lifestyle, I could not help but notice how superior the east coast is to Denver in that regard.

The other thing that bugged me about CO was its isolation. In Washington there are countless other places you can go quickly/easily. New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, Norfolk, all major cities within day-trip range, plus myriad smaller options like Harrisburg and Roanoke. It's easy to get away from here when one wants to. Denver, OTOH, is 600 miles from another large city. Oh you've got the mountains, and they're great, but if you ever want anything else then it's pretty hard. The longer I was in Colorado, the more I felt like I was on a desert island somewhere, missing the real world.

Anyway, if you've lived your whole life here then I think you *should* try somewhere else for a couple of years. I came back from Colorado knowing exactly what I wanted.

Scott G said...

Denver's downtown is severely lacking in my opinion. I get bored there after just a few hours. It's also an extremely suburban city in general, with far worse traffic than you'd imagine. Go to Denver to explore the outdoors and ski, but not the for the city itself. My friends out there say the city is ok (really small with not many restaurants and bars in downtown), but they're only out there for the skiing and mountain biking and they love it for that.

By the way, whoever said DC has a low percentage of parks per capita is way offbase. ~20% of DC is covered by parkland.

Thomas Hardman said...

Scott G: re-read my post again. I said that DC tops the list of parks-per-capita, in contrast to a certain unnamed Texas city that has one of the lowest rates (of parks per capita). I shall have to remember to write more clearly in the future, as on these local blogs I keep running up against the fact that one third of all college grads are not "deeply literate".

BeyondDc: If you think Denver's kinda scary about being in relative isolation, try the town where I was born, and in which I spent the best part of a year (tending an illness in the family) before moving on to Denver. Try Farmington, New Mexico, which actually has fairly good Urban Planning, all things considered. Albuquerque is a long way off, so is Denver, so is Phoenix, and so is (twitch twitch) Salt Lake City. Great scenery, tho'. And lots of Navajo. ;)

My time spend in Denver caused me to resolve to never again live more than 100 miles from large bodies of salt water.