I visited New York for the first time when I was still based in a Southern California exurb. It was overwhelming, beginning with the clear memory of a man yelling at me to get out of his way upon exiting an elevator. I’d been to many cities but New York is a singular experience: dense, difficult, and beautiful.
When I got a new Mac earlier this year, my first reaction was to its beauty. After years on stodgy looking PCs, the contours and heft of the hardware were a revelation. I think of it with the same sensibility as I do New York the city - a place I visited, a place that was cool and surprised you continuously.
The exurbs I’d gotten used to are comfortable places. You must have a car to get around but it’s easy to find places you like to eat and hang out. The people are relaxed. You can still get to the proper “city” but only after working up the motivation to deal with traffic and drive for 30 minutes. I did it all the time but relegated it to night time, when working hours were over.
I think about my PC in terms of those exurbs. The comfort and familiarity of oft wandered environs, an intuition for where things are and how they can be managed. I can still get to “the city” - install powershell, cygwin, other components to have feature/tool parity and yet these are always visits; my real home is in explorer and other executables I run in the gui. Like MarkdownPad, where I am typing this entry.
Oddly enough though, now the Mac is where I get my work done. I commute from comfort and familiarity to a polished, glittering environment that is seductive and yet requires regular interaction with a terminal, vi, and unix utilities of yore. When it all works I feel like one of the cosmopolitans I saw navigating the streets and public transit with power and ease. When I hit a road block I go back into bumpkin mode sensing that if so many people can do it I should be able to figure it out and yet yearning for a the kind of protective abstractions built into suburbs: cars that separate you from the street; chain stores where service is standardized; Faustian bargains with cheap fast food.
And yet time is having its effect. No one becomes a part of the city overnight but the difference between a small country town and a booming metropolis is that an outsider can live in the former for decades and never really become the embodiment of the place while cities absorb people whole, blurring origins until they are a part of the throng and cannot remember when they arrived.