The chief attraction of a city for me is the endless variety. There are always diversions. And there are so many things you simply can not get in a smaller place, or until recently could not get, such as good Thai food, rare books, and foreign movies. I am finding this is less and less the case, not only due to the Internet but to the spread of goods that has come about as a result of what is termed Globalisation. It was the case as little as ten years ago that hand-produced crafts were available only at the local bazaar, and that to travel was to discover objects unavailable in one’s home market. Whatever the nonsense about globalisation, it is doubtless the case that today everything is available everywhere.
I am tempted to say one can not live a full, interesting life without at the least automobile access to a city. I suspect this is mere snobbery, and yet it matters that one lives in, say, Bobville or Hepton Corner or New York City. It may be Bobville is just the place for you, but in any case the character of your life will be shaped to a large degree by the place you inhabit. Up to this point I have focused upon objects, which are readily available throughout the world, but in the case of, say, Hyderabadi Urdu, you are not likely to encounter this in small town America.
I am imagining the perfect day, the perfect days I had in Kingston when circumstances were propitious. Mostly it involves good weather and a leisurely, extended walk through Sydenham Ward and along the water, after which I find just the right bottle of wine in the liquor store and something tasty in one of the bakeries. (How much the perfect day is a matter of the gut!) I recall the mood effortlessly. These are the simple pleasures that make life agreeable. The hackneyed way of summing this up is ‘joie de vivre.’ But for me it was simply the basic pleasures of friendship and discovery and puttering about on a decent afternoon. Perhaps it was a nice cup of tea at dusk and a good seat from which I could observe the commerce of the day. For in the end I am in some peculiar sense perfectly suited to the world: it fascinates me in every detail. It is what it is, take it or leave it. And so I need a city, to offer up to me as much varied detail as possible for observation. I think those who understand me best know this peculiarity of mine and even share it. Really all I am asking for is a hot cup of tea and that the world keep turning a while. And so I am happy.