It has been a month and a half that I have been living in the suburbs on my own. Yes, I’ve lived in Hockessin, DE with my uncle and aunt, but that was like being trapped in a neighborhood without a car. I still don’t have a car, but I am finding ways to get around.
Willow Grove, PA, where I’m at right now, isn’t anything like the suburbs in DE. Suburbs in DE are like ultra modern developments near big roads but somehow in the middle of the woods at the same time. Sometimes you’re driving down a big wide four-lane road highly developed on either side and all of a sudden you’re on a narrow winding road with thick foliage on either side. (Yes, that didn’t sound like someone who doesn’t drive, but I did learn to drive in DE.)
My friend asked me if I lived in a white picket fence suburb, and I was like “No….”. There are no white picket fences in Willow Grove. Or Horsham, which is where I work now. Horsham feels very, um, industrial? As in it’s full of office buildings. And Willow Grove, while a little bit more residential, isn’t one with neighborhoods in developments either. There’s a lot of apartments here. And then there are streets lined with houses.
I suppose suburbs in different states have different feels to them. Willow Grove is roughly an hour north of Philly. But I’ve been to suburbs on the outskirts of Philly. Those, again, aren’t the big neighborhood development types. They have more of a “town” feel. (Well, they are called townships after all.) There are houses and then there are shops and libraries all within a few block of each other, and you don’t have to drive out of your sea-of-houses-neighborhood to get to them. Most suburbs I’ve visited are like that (i.e. suburbs where I have family).
In those types of suburbs, you could not have survived without a car. But in townships, I think it’s probably a lot more easier. Technically, Willow Grove is part of the Upper Moreland Township, so yeah, there are buses and sidewalks and I get to live among stores and libraries and things and not far apart from them. Some people prefer the quiet, I suppose, but I don’t, really.
I like the townships. Or places like Queens, NY. I was there a few weeks earlier. And it has a very city feel, without having a “downtown” feel. And another thing I like about townships of residential areas of big cities is that they have a feeling of “oldness”. Because they are pretty old. These ultra modern development-type neighborhoods are probably no more than 30-40 years old (most are much more recent). But these townships and city outskirts have been here for a century or two. Which is not to say old as in falling apart, or without modern conveniences or anything of the sort.
I think the oldness comes from the fact that these towns weren’t planned when transportation was so much easier. So instead of separating out residential areas of your shopping areas and park areas among others, everything was built closer together. (In the case of Queens or Brooklyn, well, they’re still in the city, which is fundamentally different from towns in that they have everything smushed together to be compact. But more on that later.) So there’s less of a sense of isolation.
I really do hope to get back to living in the city or at least get closer to it. I was very unhappy about moving into a suburb, and I had a long list of reasons why. Which is going get a post of its own. But for now, I am acclimatizing myself to the suburb life, and hey, at least I am getting the experience of a little bit of the “township” life.