Grit and dirt and noxious smells are part and parcel of city life.
And Andy and I are reminded of that every morning when we walk to his car in a nearby parking deck.
“This place always smells like death.”
“And Chinese food.”
Experiencing life within city blocks nested within neighborhoods nested within metropolises is like an endless sorting of matryoshka dolls. Each shell is hiding something new and amazing, or amazingly disturbing.
And within each shell are countless people that’re systematically blurred out–whether by too many mimosas that morning, or the conditional cleansing of our social lenses.
Because everyone learns to see the city their own way, and figures out how best to cope with the overwhelming stimuli firing off around them.
Some choose to ignore the person asking for money, the man thumbing through the garbage, the old woman pushing an overloaded shopping cart to an underpass–the invisible, the overlooked, the under-served.
Others engage everyone, strike up conversations–all with a smile, as if remembering the punchline of some past joke.
Whether a carryover from our species’s first foray on two legs, a survival instinct more pungent than overstuffed dumpsters seems to permeate and mix with the hive’s low, buzzing din–propelling us forward with heads up, eyes ahead, blinders on to all distractions. As if the slightest stumble–a glimpse of your imperfect self–will elicit an attack from passersby. Or find you in the gutter with those whom you’ve objectified as amalgams of your worst fears.
Fronting your way through a crowd, hardening that soft, fleshy exterior almost seems requisite for some reason. But it’s just another trait I’ve wrongly assumed to be shared by most big city people.
Because the key to connection is simply being open. Showing those around you that you’re not frightened at the prospect of them ignoring you. Or saying hello back.
Last weekend at LA Pride, I was reminded of the importance of connection. Of just being yourself, and how that can trigger a conversation or connection that redefines your trajectory and helps surround you with friends. (Like these!)
And while I was always taught to be polite to everyone–minus the guy in the serial killer van–it’s frightening how quickly the herd mentality can buck civility to the back of the manners line.
Because it’s so easy to lose yourself within these nested layers, to forget what and who make you your own person–make the place you call home a home.
So many can turn a blind eye to that part of their personal history, and actively seek to forget the difficulties and triumphs that brought them to this very moment of being, and never attempt to acknowledge the same reflected in the eyes of those buzzing around them.
And while I don’t have the best eyesight, I hope I can always catch the slightest glimpse.
And never forget what a gift it is to cherish.