CITY living has been a new experience for me. For a long time, I'd been accustomed to having cows and geese as neighbors. Until I came to the city, ``noise'' meant frenzied moos and quacks during the animals' occasional breakouts from the pens and the grazing meadow next door to my parents' country home. Now my world is peopled by tired tenants and wailing sirens. Doors slam at night and jolt me awake. I talk with the tenants and listen to the sirens from a small efficiency apartment in a run-down building in Washington, D.C.
But, after almost eight months of being a transplanted, wide-eyed bumpkin, I still can't tell which I like better: raucous animals and green grass or the hodge-podge of people and the chipped paint that make up my living experience on Massachusetts Avenue.
My new living quarters are in an old, hot building. The floor is peeling and the repainted furnaces go crick-crick-crick in the wintertime. The place is similar in appearance to other buildings on this street: It's made of bricks, decrepit, and low-rent. No one here has much money, and there is little luxury.
IN this neighborhood there are rules, and they have to be obeyed. I remember moving in last October while tenants were being evicted. They didn't pay their rent. I got a free, dull-yellow chair with embroidered white flowers, and a TV rack. Ms. Bishop, the resident manager, shook her gray head in disgust when I asked her about the chair (I was unsure whether to take it or not). ``Maybe they'll be back,'' I said. ``They're long gone,'' she spat. ``They had it coming.'' Welcome to the neighborhood, I thought. But this was my new home. A far cry from a country manor.
City life is overpowering to the small-town boy who grew up with after-church breakfasts at the local restaurant. In the village back home, almost everybody knows everybody. The young are rowdy and shy, and the adults are content to talk about local affairs. Before it closed down a few years ago, the menu from the old restaurant never changed: Eggs, bacon, and scrapple.