Small Town Guy Vs. Big City Livin’
Since I took the time out of my day to throw some shade at Dallas a few weeks back, I thought perhaps I owed it to the city I technically call home to sing the praises of one of its more fun aspects. As those of you who’ve been reading for a while know, I grew up in a very small town in Texas. Like, the Walmart was our only place to hang out after 9 p.m. small, unless we went into the woods. Like, a coffee shop tried to stay open until midnight, and the city council torpedoed it with fines and permits until it shut down small. Dancing wasn’t banned, as far as I know, although you had to drive twenty minutes into the nearby “big city” (Beaumont, ironically enough) to do it anywhere half-decent.
Point is, I was not raised as much of a city boy. And Lubbock, while a great fit for me at the time, was like going to college in a really big small town. If that seems crazy, just trust me that it makes sense with the right perspective and history. Anyway, it’s only been in the last five years that work and circumstances have given me the opportunity to live in a downtown environment or two, the longest of those being the one where I’m currently at: Deep Ellum.
For those of you familiar with DFW, I’ll just say that Deep Ellum has gotten a lot less stabby in recent years. For those of you unfamiliar with DFW, Deep Ellum used to be a cultural music hub, then a shithole with lots of crime, and now it’s turning into an up-and-coming neighborhood that will probably price me out in a year or so. But for now, I dwell here, and I wanted to share some of my impressions of living in a downtown area with any of you fellow country folk wondering if the change is right for you.
There is Neither Boredom, Nor Peace
Walking was hands down the biggest change for me when I first started living in Deep Ellum. To some of you, that might sound lazy or crazy, but you need to understand that Texas is a big fucking state, and our public transportation is at best semi-decent in major cities. Anywhere else, it may as well not be there. So all of my life, the options to get anywhere have been bike or drive. Walking was flat out, unless you literally wanted to spend an entire day making a trip to a store. There was simply nothing in walking distance, except maybe a gas station if you were lucky.
Then I came here, and suddenly there was so much only steps away from me. Restaurants, entertainment, bars, all of it within stumbling distance of my doorway. I can always find something to do, whether my friends are around or not, and that is a truly novel, awesome experience. It’s gotten to the point where leaving Deep Ellum for anything other than errands feels strange, because what does the rest of the city have to offer that I can’t get right here? With the ease and convenience of activity, boredom vanishes.
However, the excitement comes at a tradeoff. Anyone accustomed to life in the suburbs will quickly begin to notice that with the endless cars driving through, people walking around, and music drifting in from all over, your brain doesn’t quite know how to process the lack of peace. I used to be able to sit on my back porch and listen to nothing but the sounds of nature. Now I can go sit by the apartment pool and listen to drunk people yelling, or hit the street where there are more drunk people yelling. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been much of a “nature” guy, but even I miss the serenity sometimes out here. So if you really like that kind of thing, be aware that it’s hard to get downtown.
Leaving Becomes a Chore
Thank the gods for Uber and Lyft, without which I would probably never leave my neighborhood. Here’s something that’s been true about literally every major city’s downtown I’ve ever been to: driving in it is a son of a bitch. Traffic is bad, and parking will be so awful you may honestly contemplate giving up altogether. The places are built to hold people, not vehicles, and that becomes all too clear as soon as you try to find a spot to stow yours.
With ride-share, it’s not as bad as it once was, but those can get pricey over time. And, like I said above, when you have access to so much right outside your door, it starts taking some serious persuasion to leave your neighborhood. I used to not bat a single eye at heading out to meet some friends across town. Nowadays it’s rare if I drive out even once a month, errands excluded.
And those errands themselves are a pain too. We all hate traffic, but most of us see it on the highway, or maybe at a poorly constructed intersection. Being downtown means that almost any time of day you leave, there are ample other cars making their way around. Mercifully, I work from home, so I can schedule things during times when traffic is usually thin. It’s never entirely traffic free though, and sometimes even picking the best times I hit some crazy shit. It would be maddening if I had to deal with it every day, driving to work and all.
Something to keep in mind when deciding if it’s right for you.
Its Constantly Changing
There are a lot of really awesome things around me. Glazed Donut Works does massive, homemade donuts and ice cream that have probably added five pounds to me over the last year. Deep Ellum Brewing makes amazing beer and does kickass parties every Saturday. Stone Deck Pizza has delicious food and offers flights of homemade moonshine. I could go on like this for a while, if I wanted to, because living in a central location comes with awesome perks.
The drawback, though, is that I can never allow myself to get too attached to any of it. With the area becoming more popular and less crime-ridden, rent is going up for businesses, and those who can’t capture the attention of the community fade away fast. I’ve seen a half dozen businesses fold shop in the last year alone, some of which I truly enjoyed. They get replaced with new things, some improvements, others a massive step down, but the fact remains that the whole neighborhood often feels like it’s built on sand. You never know from one day to the next what will still be there.
For someone who went to the same restaurant most Wednesday nights for close to a decade growing up, it’s weird to wrap my head around. It’s not bad, inherently, just different, like most of the experience.
Overall, I’m really happy I made the choice to try this sort of lifestyle out. I can’t say how long I’ll keep at it, sooner or later my need for space will probably drive me to look for a house in the burbs. But at least for now, I’m enjoying the adventure. And if any of you are ever in DFW just send an e-mail; I’ll be happy to use my local knowledge to point you toward some awesome bars!