Where would you like to end up in a few years time?
Funnily enough, when thinking up places to attend grad school or what programs to apply to for my coming years, geography was one of my main criteria. Though by nature I am very homely, (cooking, cleaning, and reading a book snuggled on a couch are by FAR my favorite pastimes), I have a restlessness that yearns to find spaces that are want for repair, looking for a kind soul. My love of the cold exteriors of the forgotten shop fronts in Downtown Los Angeles, alongside the newly bustling faux-posh neighborhood of Little Tokyo or the seedier Toy District that looks beaten up, but is just a community that prefers to conduct business a little looser, a little less constricted by the confines of what we call society, stem from this restlessness. I long to find a home in what others may deem lost. So I thought this would be a good moment to define the top 6 places (in no particular order) I would love to live and the (naive) reasoning that brought me to my decisions.
I have always loved the idea of living in Edinburgh, Scotland
. For me, England and Scotland have a mystical historical quality to them. They are equally the home of the Lochness Monster, the Knights of King Arthur, and Jack the Ripper as well as Princess Diana, JK Rowling, and Tony Blair, and black English Breakfast tea without milk. The mixing of the old between the new is not entirely foreign having lived in the Boston area for most of my life, nor is it foreign seeing as India has the oldest living culture on the planet, but the certain class and matter-of-fact attitude the Scottish have about this draws me to them. They are simultaneously proud of their brogues and rolling hills and castle towers as they are of being home to the first self-made billionaire author. They are openminded, intelligent, and are not fearful of diversity. There are many South Asians living in Scotland, and they even have an annual festival called the Glasgow Mela, filling the streets with South Asian food, dancing, and culture. Scotland would be a definite must visit for me, and possibly a decent place to live if I can handle being away from the glorious USA.
There are many places I have been in my short life, but I think that the one that tops my list of places I never dreamt of living in (until recently) was New York City
. I scoffed when people spoke of its gloriousness, singing its praises in that song by Jay-Z, or ever made an illusion to "An Affair to Remember", "Sleepless in Seattle", or even one of my favorite movies "You've Got Mail" that included a sentiment about this darn city. I'd suggest, "Go to Boston! It's much cleaner, and you get a healthy dose of skyscraper," or, "Why not Philadelphia? Much more history, much less traffic." Now I have to eat my words. Though I've seen the obligatory Broadway musical ("Mamma Mia!"), visited Times Square on numerous occasions, traced fictional relations on Ellis Island, taken many a photo with the Statue of Liberty, and even walked the Observation Deck of the Twin Towers a full two years before 2001, (I was 7, and had no idea the magnitude of the moment, asking my mother for some ice cream and why the building was so important.), I just did not like it. It felt so much more cold. The people felt distant, and even cruel. The presence of all the sidestreet vendors nauseated me, as did the mixing noxious odors of cigarettes, caffeine, and piss. Though since those trips as a young one, I have returned to the glorious Empire State of Mind many a time, that first impression died hard. Only on this last road trip with my family, where we spent a full six hours in NYC, did I truly fall for this megalopolis.
With my family by my side, I walked through Central Park, understanding why so many people the world over fall in love over and over with this city. Why in "You've Got Mail", Joe Fox tells Kathleen that it'd be a shame to miss New York in the Spring, and she says, "Don't you live New York in the fall?" and why missing New York in any season is a heartbreak. Going to Henri Bendels and Louis Vouitton, and oogling at things that I would never dream of buying, and then buying something I never would have dreamt would be mine. Finding an ice cream shop that not only serves ice cream, but serves it within a donut sandwich, complete with jimmies on top. Seeing that in the heart of New York City, there isn't the cold exteriors of corporations, but a castle (seriously! Look in Central Park!) filled with children and whimsical imaginations. In New York, if you play your cards right, you feel charged with possibility. I can fully see myself living amongst that crowd, happily riding a stinky subway car if it meant that I could experience that supercharged glow for even a day more in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
Another of my top 5 is a vacation spot for most, but I would not mind living here when I am old and grey and am no longer needed in the company of (most) people. I went here on a family vacation a few years ago, and I was thoroughly ticked off because it was such a remote location. I did not realize that its loneliness wrapped up 90% of its beauty. This, my friends, is Grand Teton National Park
, and to a lesser extent Yellowstone National Park as well in Wyoming. I love the solace and meditative silence that emanates from the trees here. They are all so old, and feel like they carry the wisdom of the Native Americans, and a world before us. I love how the wilderness reigns supreme, and everything is left to weather and ruin. I was struck by the starkness of the decor of every place I went here: no televisions, nothing that is extraneous or inessential. They leave you to be one with nature, one with the stars, the vastness of both our world and earth as well as the entire expanse of the universe, force you to reflect, give thanks, and recharge. The bare bones of it all drew me close like a friendly hug, and I never wanted to let it go. From the huckleberry pies, to the pizzas made by the most warmhearted family that side of the country, it all felt so safe and like home. I want nothing more than live there for a short while, a year or three or five, through the harsh winters so I can truly appreciate the beauty of it all.
Two more cities I would love to return to that are tied in their affection are Philadelphia
. Both are considered large cities, though have very distinct and differing vibes. Chicago is much more fresh and has that avant garde je ne sais quoi quality. The skyscrapers are daunting, the water all around is haunting, and Navy Pier is like an ode to the fleeting nature of childhood, jutting out into Lake Michigan. The scene in Chicago is decidedly younger than New York City, attracting a crowd of young professionals growing this minipolis into a megalopolis with small businesses, start ups, entrepreneurial ventures, and chutzpah. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is much more historically rich--the capital of the colonies and the city that built Benjamin Franklin, much like how Los Angeles helped to build me. I love that in Philadelphia, one can visit so many historical sites like the Signing Room of the Declaration of Independence, and the Liberty Bell, but at the same time, some world changing research and the history of our age is being made in UPenn as well as the eager youngsters who are beckoned to this burgeoning beacon, in search of something smaller, yet classier than the facades of New York, New Jersey, and Chicago. I would not mind living and growing in either of these cities because each speaks to me--the richness of the blend between the new and old in Pennsylvania as well as the call to create one's one story from nothing established in Illinois.
The last city on my list is very impractical, but I loved it so much that it must make this list. The last of the lovely places I would fancy inhabiting is Montreal, Quebec.
I do not speak French. That je na sais quoi up there? I looked it up because I love the saying. That said, Montreal is a pristine beauty. It reminds me that though all our US cities are 200 years old, we love trying to hide their flaws and their history behind walls of renovations while the Quebec denizens of Montreal allow the beauty to show through all the flaws of the architecture. I love St. Joseph's Oratory, and how it resembles and references European styles and the Basilica du Sacre Couer in Paris. The cobblestone streets seem impractically quaint, and the horses, though malodorous, add to the charm of this timeless city. Stepping here feels both like stepping back in time, and forward-- the intelligence and the reverence of these people make you feel rejuvenated, as do the flowers in their Botanical Jardins. And its proximity is like all the benefits of Europe at a fraction of the cost and heartache.
Finally, I would love to live in Boston
, but that is a give-in. No matter where I live for a few years here or there, I know that I will end up back here, at home. This space, New England, has raised me, and helped me to become the woman I am. Without my hikes with my family, and the neighborhood strolls, without Harvard Square, and eating lunch by the Charles, I don't know if I could ever be the same. The city, throughout my years, has revealed more of itself to me, and I am happy to let it teach me all its secrets.
Where would you live, if you had the chance?
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