That’s what I am.
I’ve gone camping. I’ve done resorts. I’ve been on cruise ships. They all range from “this is fine” to “why are we pretending to be in an episode of the Walking Dead?”
I’m definitely a city boy, through and through, though. When I travel, it’s to other cities. It’s staying in the hustle and bustle, with people and museums and restaurants and shows. It’s being within walking distance or a metro ride and a hop, skip, and a jump to everything. Hitting ten thousand steps a day becomes easy peasy lemon squeezy.
When I was married, after we had kids, we chose to move close to my in-laws, who lived on the edge of suburbia. More square footage. More driving. More boxes made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.
I’d go for walks and the scenery is monotonous. There’s not a lot of visual interest.
When my ex and I first separated, I rented an apartment downtown. Cramming two kids into a small apartment, driving them to and from the suburbs for school. I made it a year before moving back out to the suburbs.
In the height of the pandemic, when everybody was buying places in the burbs or in the country to escape from covid, I bought a place in the heart of downtown. It might’ve seemed like the wrong move but I figured that things would eventually turn around. And for the most part, they have.
Downtown, there’s a vibrancy and excitement.
This felt exemplified with my routine this morning to visit the nearby coffee shop. I’m in there often enough, they know my name, and the coffee is superb. (Sorry, Starbucks and Timmies doesn’t even come close.) A stream of people shuffling in and out with their caffeine fix. As I finish my coffee and step out of the shop to walk back, I notice bagpipes playing from a nearby memorial.
At lunch, I step out to walk to the barber and there’s a regiment marching down the street. There are festivals of buskers, ribs, jazz, and poutine. There are rivers and museums and architecture.
That’s not to say that it is without its downfalls. There are people screaming. There is loud music when I want quiet. There are car horns blaring. (Fuck you, convoy.) And yet, it feels like it all adds texture to the experience.
I will perch myself on my balcony, with a cigar in one hand and a cocktail in the other, and watch the sun slowly set behind the buildings and hills.
Antithetically, perhaps, being downtown calms me.
As my kids transition from teenagers to adults and I’m left with an empty nest, I may not always be in Ottawa but I would surprise myself if I didn’t find myself in a downtown somewhere.