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"I live close to home …"

I cope with living in the Greater Denver/Front Range region by mentally cordoning off parts of it. Early on, as we explored the area, I silently swore to myself that I would thereafter make it my business to ensure that I would never return to this or that neighborhood or town. I could not have explained exactly why some places failed to pass muster, and I'm uncertain if I even now could explain my exclusion process, but I've come to realize that I'd roughly marked off what I would think of as "my" territory. I would never have to learn about or overly concern myself with any of the area outside of my selected territory, for I would maintain it as more than simply unfamiliar, but unknowable. I would remain clueless about them.

Most of the Denver Metro area now lies within my temporal no-man's land.
I navigate within my self-selected safe boundaries and only rarely ever wander further afield. This simplifies my life, as I need not trouble myself to learn the tricks about navigating to, through, and back out of those areas. They do not exist for me and therefore do not complicate my life. In those rare instances when necessity might require me to enter there, I'll wait until The Muse can come along, and thus improving the chances that I might make it back out again. Even accompanied by The Muse, I maintain constant vigilance while visiting, appreciating that I know little about the local customs observed there. I keep a low profile and hope I won't be spotted before escaping.

My coping strategy stems from an observation fifty years ago. When I first moved from the small city where I grew up into Seattle, I spent my initial weeks there feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of the place. Houses as far as I could see in any direction, looking like mirror images reflecting themselves into infinity. I felt remarkably insignificant, though the immediate space surrounding me was no greater than it had ever been. I could see to the end of the block with some clarity and on toward every horizon with significantly less clarity. My space had not expanded, just relocated. In the small city, I knew what stood beyond every horizon. In Seattle, I knew nothing. Learning what might lie beyond every horizon there seemed impossible, so I began to cordon off with focused indifference what I felt I could realistically do nothing to understand. Outside places held no relevance for me. I let them disappear while I inhabited the ground I could actually see and influence.

And so it's been all my life since. I've coped with living in large cities by simply ignoring most of each Metro area. In Portland, the westside beyond downtown didn't really exist for me. I almost never found a reason to roam around out there. Likewise, anything east of the airport seemed like irrelevant hinterland. I pared down the otherwise overwhelming area into a more manageable size. I almost never left the area beyond the close-in Eastside and Downtown. The suburbs lay beyond my interest, outside my concern. I adopted a sanity-supporting cluelessness about the faceless city surrounding my easily-recognizable one. Portland thereby seemed about the size of the small city I hailed from.

When my family visits me in the BIG city, I never disclose that I've successfully pared down the big town into something my upbringing prepared me for. I've successfully maintained my studied cluelessness about ninety percent of the metro area. I know that those visiting from small cities and little towns wonder how one might reasonably cope with living in any BIG city, but I feel that nobody ever really lives in any big city. We live in the small town we've cognitively carved out within those otherwise overwhelming boundaries. Cluelessness enables me, and I suspect most, to live here, in a place we've carefully cluelessly created into something we can properly inhabit. I know nothing about anything East of the Platte, and care even less about that. I live close to home, though the cost of living there leaves me fairly clueless about the region within which I reside.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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