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Monday, April 30, 2012

City Mouse and Country Mouse

For most of my life I was a nabe in one of the towns in the boroughs that make up NYC. I never lived in The Bronx or Queens. Just not me. And most of the time I was in Brooklyn or Staten Island I wanted to be in The City.

In every neighborhood I lived in I found the best view of Manhattan across the water. I cut school to go to the women's room in the pre-Trump Plaza Hotel, hoping to meet the famous. We walked out of the all-girl Catholic school I was in for 1/2 of 10th grade and went to the Algonquin Hotel to have lunch there. Fruit salad was 12 bucks there in 1973! Peggy and I ordred oe and split it. The waiter was very sweet. I don't remember how much we tipped him but we left for home right after so we could use our transit passes. We were in our uniforms, too. And the ubiquitous Catholic school raincoats.

Anyway, each neighborhood in each borough was its own town. It probably is still that way. Every block is a village within that town. That's where everyone knows your business if you're a family, and speculates if you're single.

Living in a country town is the same thing, only different. There are less people. You're not really anonymous, ever. Neither is anyone else. And there's more time because there's less going on, so gossip is the second-favorite indoor sport.

I had sharp edges when I moved here. My boss used to call me off people who were being asses dressed as customers. These weren't just customers. They were free to criticize and be nasty because they were O-So-Special Coop Members and they owned us here. I was a new widow. I'd gone from making 60K a year to making $6.07 an hour. After years of working at The Magickal Childe I took very little from people anymore. It was a tough adjustment and there's a different work culture here. It's a small employment pool and you can be blackballed. Which means you suck up however you're treated and go find somewhere that better matches your mood. For me that was The E St Grocer, a rundown convenience store in a crappy building in a buggy area. But it attracted a clientele I could handle, young thugwannabes, the old, the drunk, the poor, the violent, the crazy. Every night was a show. It was exhausting and nuts but I worked off my Cityness there. You get to saturation point in drama and never saw such dramas in the City. I'll never forget the little girl who came in night after night, never spoke, and would play Space Invaders while crying and shaking. My boss said her stepfather was raping her. And though everyone talked about it, nobody did anything. Yes, very different to the City.

Adjusting to country life has become easier. I see how things run because a while ago I decided to shut up and watch. It's awfully akin to the politics and power plays that I saw in the City. Again, the same thing only different.

Wherever we are, it's always like that. Humans don't differ all that much. We congregate, we define our tribes, we care about our corner of the bigger corner of the world, we suspect each other, sometimes we care for each other. Whether in the City or Country, the mouse is still a mouse, for all o'that.


The Elephant's Child said...

And the mouse has to keep a weather eye out for cats in both the town and the country. Different cats, but the same principle.
I lived in the country for years and loved it. Back in the city I am still finding my way.

Anonymous said...

It seemed that life in the country was an "everyone knows your business" kind of a life. Mom and Dad loved to live in the country but hated the intrusiveness of people. I find life in the city lonely. No one wants to know you. I'd love to go back to living in the country.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I live in the country but am glad it is only an hours way from a city. I don't get there too often, but knowing that it is not far makes me feel better. You can never really take the spirit of the city out of a person who has lived there, however, I do love the scent of the country also.

Austan said...

EC- I don't think I could stand to live in NYC now, both it and I have changed a lot.

Austan said...

Lawless- They each have their perks and drawbacks. In the city there was always something new to see, but it was too expensive to go. I've grown to value the quiet and there's lots of that in the country. I can honestly say I don't miss the city, after almost 17 years away from it.

Austan said...

Arleen- Our recent excursion to Danbury was enough to remind me why I stay in the hills. :)