To start by answering your question, I’m not really sure what I notice first when I’m in a new place. That said, I think one of the things that most defines whether or not I like a place is its openness. If I were a better person, perhaps, I’d mean that in a liberal, forward thinking sense, but I don’t. When I say openness, I mean my ability to situate myself in a place, and how much the place allows for that. How a space allows for context.
For example: while there are many aspects of my life in Boston that I love, the city itself isn’t one of them. I never quite feel like I can get a sense of where I am. Brighton, where I live, is on the edge of the city, almost in the next suburb over. And I feel every inch of my distance from the downtown area, with its morose gray buildings and strange winding streets. The Freedom trail marks an angular red line through the city taking you from the Boston Common to Paul Revere’s house and beyond, without ever really giving you a sense of their connectivity. And though from a distance there’s something of a skyline, when you’re in the middle of it, you can’t see around the corner. I never feel like Boston wants me to know where I am, to know how I fit.
This is in part, I think, a cartographical problem. Boston sprung up organically, and it makes no sense. The shortest distance to any place is not, in fact, a straight line, but the one that curves back through the neighborhoods. New York and DC, with their grids and the naming patterns of their streets, are easier to understand. But Venice is close and tight, and I’ve spent all my time there lost and wandering aimlessly, and I love it – dark corners and sinking buildings, decaying grandeur and dilapidated boats and all. I think this is because no matter where you are, if you follow the canal, you’ll find your way to the sea.
Brisbane is a bit of a mystery in this sense. I feel like its pretty open, easy to situate yourself in. But I bet this is mostly because I’ve spent all my time along the river, or with the parents. It’s easy to find context with the people you love, who love you. Music is always better when you recommend it to me. Perhaps Brisbane will always feel more open and easy to understand because I didn’t have to figure it out on my own. But the parents’ balcony, the irresistible demands of the river, the abrupt hills also give you the opportunity to look out over the city from a hundred different places, and I like that too.
Okay, so when I said, “to start by answering your question,” I clearly meant to end that way too. I could probably make a connection from your discussion of adaptability to building your own context, but instead I think I’m just going to leave it here.
Anyway, I hope your week got a little less crazy. I wish you were here too. My love for you knows no bounds!
P.S. Did you want me to watch the War and Peace series because I’ve read it or because you trust my opinion on period pieces? Because if it’s the former, let me just say it took me a year to read that book and I don’t remember much. But I’d definitely still watch it. I do love a good period piece!