Monday, September 24, 2007

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Today, for some reason, I found myself reflecting upon my travels. From a young age, my parents made sure that I saw good bits of the States, and I am not dissatisfied with my journeying.

Meinen Sie Zürich zum Beispiel
sei eine tiefere Stadt,
wo man Wunder und Weihen
immer als Inhalt hat?
So far, I've travelled to 34 of the states (and lived in two of those). I am amazed by the diversity of this country. My current home state, Maryland, is called "America in miniature", and I can certainly see why, but it's just not quite as encompassing as I'd like it to be. Baltimore might have marvelous neighborhoods, but it isn't quite Chicago. That's okay, though. If Maryland had everything in the United States to offer, I'd have less reason to travel. I love the Appalachians, but I just have to see the Cascades again.

Meinen Sie, aus Habana,
weiß und hibiskusrot,
bräche ein ewiges Manna
für Ihre Wüstennot?
I have yet to find an American city I like as much as San Francisco, but Chicago and Washington are close contenders. I also really love Seattle; if they'd just get a rail transit system going, I'd be there in a heartbeat. It occurred to me as I signed an acceptance letter to the University of Maryland, that after having shortlisted 7 cities in which to live for the next several years, that I would have to reject 5 (I'd already been living in Atlanta). I had allowed myself to imagine myself living in a number of cities from Vancouver to Chicago, but it didn't sink in that I'd be living in only one until it was time to decide. Somewhere deep down I have this urge to actually live in these cities for a time, but realistically, I know that I have to settle down somewhere.

Bahnhofstraßen un rue'en,
Boulevards, Lidos, Lann --
selbst auf den fifth avenue'en
fällt Sie die Leere an --
I suppose that the voice I hear (I'm being figurative; not crazy) deep down is what the Germans so aptly call Wanderlust, and I'm not afraid of it. I suppose that that feeling is part of the reason I've been spending so much time exploring DC. Even though I'm a local now, I still have this deep-seated need to see it all. I suppose that given a month in all of the cities I've visited, I'd do the same thing. I saw quite a bit of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Chicago on my most recent travails, parts that most tourists don't make it to. But that's what makes travelling worth it. I always visit cities, although I spend quite a bit of time in the great outdoors, because those are the places where humans have made the most of the artform that is life.

Ach, vergeblich das Fahren!
Spät erst erfahren Sie sich:
bleiben und stille bewahren
das sich umgrenzende Ich.
Maybe I'm just being romantic, or perhaps it's my affection for cities (I am studying to be a planner, after all) but I can't get enough of these places, which are comforting to me. I'm not sure why I feel this affection for places of density. I grew up several miles outside of a small mill town of 7,000 in rural north Georgia. There "downtown" consisted of about four linear blocks of Main Street, plus a block or two on a couple of side streets. Nevertheless, I knew what my habitat was to be the moment I moved to Atlanta. Of course, the hub of the southeast was not quite what I was looking for in a city, but it was the best I could have found in the deep South. I hope that I can continue to build upon my experiences, and I certainly hope I find time to travel soon.

*The poem, interspersed above, is entitled Reisen and it was written by Gottfried Benn. It was the first, and only, poem which I was required to memorize for being late to a function while on my summer-long study aboad program in Germany.

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