Sense and the City

Having to pick up one or two kids on the way home from work means always being in a hurry to get out of the office, get to my first bus stop, and get the process going lest I incur late fees. And so it wasn't unusual for me to be furiously pounding the pavement, a day's worth of work issues still swirling in my head, one early evening last week. As I emerged from my office building and prepared to make a hard right around a corner and down the street, a street musician was banging out a catchy beat and the whole scene seemed to be animated by it: other workers spilling out of their offices, while other pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars filled the intersection, all seeming to walk and talk and honk to the beat.

I turned the corner sharply just as a pretty young blonde was doing the same, and as we both abruptly halted our steps, the musician paused, if only for a moment, before resuming just as we do-si-doed and resumed our quick walking in opposite directions. It was as if this musician was providing the soundtrack to this whole urban scene, pulsating as both were with energy and movement and the occasional freeze-frame pause.

Having been downtown for two months now, I have to say that I like this aspect of my daily routine. Downtown areas that are successful are so precisely because of this vibrancy and crowdedness. There is a certain excitement about taking it all in: the riot of visual stimulus, the cacophony of sounds, the constant movement. Julie Andrews may have sung that "the hills are alive with the sounds of music," but city streets are alive as well, with sights and sounds that overwhelm the senses but somehow at the same time are not so distracting that one cannot have a private conversation or a personal thought. The city, in a sense, is a great place for the senses.

Well, except the sense of smell. Unless, you're near a bakery or a nut shop, Philadelphia can be a little stinky. More on this tomorrow.

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