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I Want to be Lost

mmanzone's picture

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To understand what the city means to me you first have to know that I grew up in a very small agricultural town.  There are family farms whose land come from grants dating back to when William Penn first settled the area.  There are no police or fire departments and the most exciting thing to happen in quite a few years was when Hurricane Irene hit and the bridges were too flooded to cross.   My town is small enough that I know my neighbors, have a regular table at a small restaurant every Thursday, and have babysat for one of our Township Supervisors, our equivalent to a mayor.  I drive down the roads and I see cows and horses and signs for home farmed eggs and milk.  We have one traffic light at the intersection of a veterinary hospital, family-run hardware store, post office and elementary school.  My town is the quintessential small town.

It is hard for me to get lost in my town; I know where things are and which streets connect to which.  Most people visiting us, however, cannot seem to grasp the concept of using a Revolutionary War canon or a burnt down house as landmarks.  I can tell you where to get fresh eggs or milk or where to pick your own apples and pumpkins, but I cannot tell you the fastest way from Point A to Point B in Philadelphia.  If I miss a turn in my town I can automatically figure out the next shortest route but if I miss a turn in Philadelphia, I am lost for the fifteen minutes following.

Even the towns next to my town do not provide me with actual city experience.  Kennett Square, the closest town to mine, is full of unique, family run stores with only the one location.  There are not hoards of people trying to navigate a subway system or bus schedule or even rushing down the one-way roads.  Going into Kennett Square, however, you can tell it was designed to be city-like, it just has not gotten there yet.  The borough of West Chester, the next closest town gives a slightly more urban experience; there are buses and busy streets, but it still lacks the natural chaos that cities posses.

Growing up in a town of 4,582 (“Pocopson township”), it’s hard for me to picture living in a city.  With all the people to meet, places to go, and things to do, I get overwhelmed.  I could go from place to place on foot and I would not have to slow down for tractors or horse trailers. I could sit in a restaurant without running into my second grade teacher and her husband. There really is not much to do in my town; we do not have a movie theater or concert venue, we don’t have any clothing or shoe stores, not even a grocery store.  To me, going into the city grants me the freedom to be lost, even if just for a while.   On the occasions that I do go into Philadelphia, I am usually going to a concert or a special exhibit at a museum.  Being in such a big place with so many people allows me to even get lost in the music of my favorite bands or in the artifacts from the Titanic exhibit for the fifth time.  I can sing along to all of my favorite songs without feeling embarrassed that the kid who sits behind me in history can hear me; I can stare at the dishes recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic without feeling judged for being a history nerd.  Nobody knows me in the city, and I will probably never see them again; I can be whoever I want to be.  

Though the crowds of people rushing from here to there or screaming on their cell phones can be very intimidating to me, I find them fascinating.  I grew up in a farm town with land conservancies and battle fields and cannot picture living anywhere else.  But they cannot see living outside of their fast-paced world of concrete and high-rises.  I grew up picking my own berries and apples and they grow up picking which mode of public transportation to use. 

I chose this Emily Balch Seminar, at least in part, so I could get a better sense of life in Philadelphia.  I have never just wandered the city to see where I would end up, I have always felt that I needed a final destination or activity.  I have never just stopped to watch the people interact with each other or their surroundings because in my town there were never really people to observe.

"Pocopson Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania." American FactFinder - Community Facts. United States Census Bureau, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2013.