Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sheep in the big city

Sheep in the Big City was (is?) a cartoon that was on Sunday evenings a few years ago on Cartoon Network, at least I think so. It's about Sheep, who leaves the farm in search of a "happy life". It was always funny, not so much because of its plot but because of the pun-ny writing -- Sheep was constantly being searched for by the military, led by General Specific, Private Public, and Major Historical Figure.

The first time I came to Washington as a quasi-adult, it was a few days after Christmas with my mom to check out the place I'd be living for my externship. We walked out of the hotel on K St. to do some sightseeing and I told Mom "I don't know if I can do this." Buildings were big. Traffic lanes were wide. People were everywhere.

I had grown up in a small town, went to college in a small town, then went to graduate school in a small town disguised as a medium-sized city. My experience with cultural diversity ranged from taking a few classics classes with a girl who was Wicca and swore that God lived in her pen, an Asian professor who took a picture of each student and gave us a copy of our own, saying "it's fun to have picture of yourself", and people who wore cowboy hats and meant it. I had never had Thai food, been the only white person in a room, driven highways as part of a commute, or been robbed. I had mental images of my story being "ripped from the headlines" on L&O, as all I really knew about Washington was that there were parts of town you just don't go to, and that the neighborhood of the hospital was less than desireable (a mentor who knew my mother recommended the hospital as an externship site, but cautioned "don't let your mom see where it is").

That morning as Mom and I set out, I didn't know if I could do it. I was going to be alone, and even though I would be living in the burbs, I was somewhat sure that I would be swallowed up whole.

I had to work today, and on the way home I was driving over the 14th St. bridge with the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin on my right. The cherry blossoms technically peaked last week, but they are still in bloom and gorgeous. Planes were coming right over the car into National Airport. I was listening to music from an amazing band coming to town next month. I heard a radio ad for this weekend's Washington Post, teasing the food critic's number one complaint with DC restaurants -- not parking, not crowds -- "it must be noise", I thought, then when I got home I saw that's exactly what it was.

I moved to the Washington area in February of 1998, just over 10 years ago. I thought I would be here for 2. I have eaten Thai food (and Indian, and Lebanese), I have been the only white person in a room, I have sat in remarkable traffic jams, and I have been robbed. I've also figured out that cities have personalities just like people do, and if you take the time to get to know them, they're not so scary. I'm glad I didn't turn tail and run that December morning, and though there are definitely times when I would give anything for a quiet pastural moment, I am happy to be a sheep in the big city.

Come visit.

No comments: