Sunday, July 22, 2007

Return to PhD city: Day 1

I drive into town on a caffeine buzz. The mocha purchased an hour ago was an effort to undo the drowsiness from the allergy medicine and the lack of sleep for the past few days. It’s my second trip to PhD city in less than a week. Midweek I traveled to dream college town about the same distance away in the other direction. There’s been a lot of time on the road and my body feels it.

The northern edge of the city provides a view that I liken to hell. To the west just off the highway sits a monstrous monument to extravagance and wastefulness. An outdoor stadium built for car races, which occur maybe three or four times a year, sits empty most of the time. Its sheer size inspires awe, but in a horrifying way. It’s a scar on the landscape. To the east, a hilltop view reveals an endless sea of nearly identical rooftops, very little space in between, people riding on the wave of suburbia.

The traffic is already bad. I can see rain bursting out of the clouds to the south, tail lights and brake lights springing on like the high kicks of chorus girls at perfectly timed intervals as cars drive into the rain. The traffic slows and stops. I look ahead, but can’t see any problem. It starts up again, and just as quickly as it stopped, it resumes normal speed.

I’ve watched the city approach on the horizon for miles. I want to like this place in the same way that I want to like everyone I meet. It’s a city. It hasn’t done anything to hurt me. I called it home for eight years, but my return this time is met with the same lack of enthusiasm I felt as a kid when we visited unfamiliar relatives in Tennessee. No, it’s more like the yearly visits to the dentist when I was kid. Inside I’m kicking and screaming, desperately trying to break away so I can run as fast as possible in the other direction, and I probably would turn around, if only the drivers to my right would let me over to exit.

It seems silly to feel this way. It’s just a city, one that’s familiar to me. There are good things here. I don’t really understand why I loathe it so much. Last week I brought along a friend, fresh, unsullied eyes to see the place from a new perspective. It didn’t help. She started feeling sick about an hour outside of town. Coincidence? I think not.

I'm kidding, of course, but I do wonder why I have such strongly negative feelings about this place.


Songbird said...


Jan said...

Hope it's better than you expect.

PPB said...

Fear not. The nice thing about seeing this city now is that your car is all set to see it in the rearview mirror in a couple days!

Marie said...

It's no wonder you feel that way. I love what PPB said.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Were you unhappy there? I currently loathe Former College city, not because it's a bad place, but because I have such baaaaaad memories of it. Sigh. Hope at least you can leave soon!

Mary Beth said...

Well described. I think that big car place is the ugliest abomination unto the Lord I have ever seen.

Glad you don't have to stay!!

Yankee T said...

Makes home look pretty good, eh?
Hey-email me when you get a minute. I've got a question for you.