Twin Cities

I have never understood people who order soft ice cream and don’t get a twist — or a swirl, or whatever the particular soft ice-cream vendor calls the twinning of flavors, usually vanilla and chocolate.

At the same time, I am a creature of habit. I like to do the same things day-in, day-out. I have realized that it’s probably a form of self-medicating, that I don’t have a lot of talent for novelty. This week, my friend Terry Teachout celebrated an impressive milestone, one that involved making a big leap at mid-life. I congratulated him on it and he mentioned that he also admired my own midlife re-invention. I swear, I did not know at first what he was talking about. I felt as if I hadn’t attempted anything new for a decade. Um, duh much?

Almost three years ago, because of my husband’s job, I found myself living part-time in New Orleans. I treated it like a lovely pool on a May day; I took a long time to immerse myself. The first year, I spent as much time in Baltimore as I did in New Orleans. The second year, I still went home at least once a month. The third year — well, my beloved A-list status on Southwest may be in jeopardy.

It’s dangerous to find out new things about one’s self. I thought I could never live anywhere but Baltimore. Now I know I can and that opens up a Pandora’s box of possibilities. If New Orleans, why not London or New York or some bucolic retreat? (Actually, I am pretty sure I was not made for life in the country.) The other dilemma is that I’m always a little homesick. To paraphrase Buckaroo Bonzai, wherever I go, there’s somewhere I’m not. I get hankerings for the Abbey’s burgers and Iggie’s pizza when I’m in New Orleans; I miss Baru’s shrimp salad, lunch at Coquette and Lilette when I’m in Baltimore. I compare our two residences, too and it comes out a draw. In Madeleine L’Engle’s The Moon by Night, the hyper-intellectual Austin brood is always quoting “Comparisons are odious.” I agree, when it comes to my two cities, but it’s also inevitable.

The other day, my husband was telling me a story that centered on someone being “half drunk.” (It was a New Orleans story.) I interrupted and said, “See, that’s where you’re a pessimist and I’m an optimist. I see him as being half-sober.” To live in two cities that one loves is to be half-wistful, aware of the charms and possibilities of both. It’s also a rare privilege and I am grateful for it.


6 thoughts on “Twin Cities

  1. One wonders how Tess will get to New Orleans, and what intrigue she’ll find there. Hope she stops by Pat Obrien’s for a hurricane!

  2. Having lived in the Big Easy myself for 2 years, I totally understand. It really isnt just a different type of city, it’s an entire culture unto itself. Being half-full is a good thing, unless you’re at Cafe du Monde! Love your writing and miss Tess terribly. Enjoy life!

  3. I so understand! I always felt that Baltimore was where one lived and the rest of the world was for travelling to until my husband really, really wanted to try living in the mountains. I agreed to move to Colorado for 2 years and now its been 13! I miss and think I will always miss Baltimore but I would miss Colorado if we moved back.

  4. I know what you mean Laura. For 35 years I lived in Upstate New York and was a die-hard Northeasterner. I have lived in Virginia for 16 years and have embraced the Southern culture much to my family’s amazement. This Yankee even lets the occasional “Ya’ll” slip out! Still, I always think of Utica as home and yearn for tomato pie and greens!

  5. Having maintained residences in two cities (Denver and Birmingham, AL) at the same time, I can totally understand what you write. Now, I only live in only one and I do sometimes miss the contrast of lifestyle.

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