Tuesday, September 15, 2009


"The traveler soon learns that the only way to come to know a city, to form a mental map of it, however provisional, and begin to find his or her own way around it is to visit it alone, preferrably on foot,and then become lost as one possibly can."

Michael Chabon, "Childhood's Lost Wilderness," The Week," July 31, 2009.

And then things change and get developed. You thought you knew a city and then pop out onto the sidewalk and feel the flush of lost. I've experienced this in Chicago recently, a city I know fairly well, when I've been walking downtown or in the neighborhoods surrounding the Loop. The landscape has changed, views down streets are unfamiliar, and I can't find the visual cues that told me where I was. Too much new development has occurred that has obliterated street-level messiness and familiarity. I turn in circles with no gut instinct. I seek out street signs. In this case, loss of the familiar does not feel adventurous and exploratory. Rather, I feel nostalgic about a lost landscape even as my mental GPS kicks in.

1 comment:

JN said...

I feel the same way each time I visit my hometown in Ohio. Each time I go there are a few more streetlights and chains, and a few less independently-owned businesses. What little character it once had is quickly evaporating as it is re-branded as generic college-town, USA.