Last night I walked toward Market Square at 8:00. I’d made the decision to forgo the Little Walter Tribute to attend the Donald Brown jazz show at the Square Room. It was a bit of a decision at $24.50 a ticket. I knew it would be worth it, but the cost combined with the need to stay home and write left me a bit ambivalent as evidenced by the the fact that the show started at 8:00 and that’s when I left home.
I didn’t go straight to the show, either. I wanted a photograph of the Sunflower installation on Krutch Park. It’s an impressive Labor Day tradition-in-the-making and it will serve as a back-drop for dancing, drumming and general revelry Friday night. It will be one of the places to be for First Friday.
When I finally made it over to the Square Room a shock lay in wait: a long line snaked from the entrance to the Square Room, out the alley and into Market Square. Stunned, I asked the obvious, “Is this the line for the jazz show?” The line was filled with twenty-somethings, so it didn’t compute. Generally jazz shows are filled with older fans. I was assured by a good looking young couple that, indeed, this was the jazz line. Worse, I noticed a sign on the door to Cafe Four announcing that the show was sold out. I couldn’t believe it.
After making a gentle inquiry to the ticket takers and being assured that when they said “sell out,” they meant all the tickets were gone, I walked away. I wandered down to say, “hello,” to 710 and 712 Walnut Street. They are still hanging around, but any day could be the last chance to say “hello.” As I walked away, I couldn’t help but notice the buildings at the corner of Clinch and Walnut. They are that different from their friends down the street, but they are filled with offices and condos, contributing to the tax rolls and connecting the adjoining parts of the city the way that buildings are meant to do.
Can I be honest and say that as much as I love Donald Brown and live jazz in general, I wasn’t completely disappointed to hang onto my $24.50 and to have most of the evening left to write and take care of business at home? No doubt I would have enjoyed the show and I wish I’d seen it, even now, but I also didn’t mind the extra time.
It’s an irony that a friend mentioned recently. She noted that she sometimes feels guilty for not being out in the city when things are happening – which is all the time. The irony is that most of us moved to the city at least partially for that very reason: Something is always happening. It’s exciting even when the happening isn’t a planned event. Some of the best evenings in an urban environment are the ones that surprise us. It may be an event we didn’t expect or it may be a quirky moment on the street. It may be old friends or it may be off-beat strangers. Sometimes the strangers become friends. It’s all good, but can it get to be too much?
When I lived in the suburbs I didn’t think twice about staying home and watching television or reading a good book all evening. To leave the house meant making a decision to climb in the car and go out for the evening. Staying home and chilling was the default position. Living in an urban setting turns that paradigm on its head. The default becomes going out and staying home can come to feel like wasting the night. What if something happens – and it probably will – and I’m not there to see it?
I thought writing this blog was what made me feel that way and there’s some truth to that. If I don’t leave my condo I don’t have much to write about, do I? But my friend’s comment made me realize it’s more than just the obligation I feel to cover the city for my readers. Sometimes the city can wear a person down. It can get to the point that the next event on the list begins to feel like an obligation and that’s not a good thing.
It’s not something I’d ever considered before I moved downtown. How could I have imagined it when the default was set in the other direction? I’d call it a hidden hazard of urban living. The constant stimulation can lead to a deprivation of quiet reflection and that’s something I value greatly. It’s something I need to carve out for myself, a space to be renewed, time for thought and rejuvenation. It’s something everyone needs, but perhaps our urban neighbors need it more than most. Can I get a witness?