The Land Of Mary

Late last year, I realized that I was sadly not going to have a job landed for immediately after graduation. Given the choice between the Ithaca area and the Baltimore area, I made the obvious choice of moving to Maryland – the prospects were undoubtedly better. Of course, I didn’t count on every IT person in the state being out of work, jobs being in short supply, entry level jobs being in even shorter supply, and entry level jobs where you didn’t need to have security clearance were non-existant. Shortly after the wedding, we moved to Ithaca, and things (luckily) fell into place.
We’re back in Maryland for a few days this week, as Katie’s boss was nice enough to schedule her days off so she’ll have effectively three days in a row. It’s been three months since the last trip down here – it’s not like we’ve been complete strangers – but this trip is special because it’s been a year since I originally moved down here.
Maryland is still, like almost all other states, a very strange state. At least, it’s strange for me, having been a very small-town guy my entirely life. It takes active search and effort to find what could be considered a “local” business. Practically every major chain restaurant and retail store on the East Coast can be found within 10 miles of the house I’m in at the moment. Interstates are the major mode of travel.
What makes this strange? Most of the country is overcommercialized right now, after all. It’s when you go into the main cities – Baltimore, for instance – it actually feels extremely uncommercialized in comparison. It’s that all this space in between all the major cities has been filled up by this suburbian towns with huge stretches of minimalls and shopping plazas and three-lane highways.
The uniformity isn’t limited to the business zones, either. Much of the farmland that wasn’t turned into malls was turned into suburbs. Someone decided to buy a couple acres of land off to the side of the main road we take to get to Katie’s parents house, place a very short road, and build about 5-10 houses on this, all of which costs a ridiculous amount of money. Another road I love to take has a great view in the winter of a community of houses that all look exactly the same and appear to be growing on top of each other.
As I’ve been here today, I’ve realized just how much of my time here last year was spent running from one business to another. That’s much of what life here seems to consist of – the only thing I really ever looked forward to was spending time and/or money somewhere. This seems extremely foreign to me anymore. Ithaca, while having seemingly little to do, has a number of locations you can go to and enjoy things other than shopping (Farmer’s Market, all of the parks, just walking around the Commons, etc). Even New York City doesn’t leave you with this feeling like you have to spend money in order to enjoy yourself – there’s a million things going on in the city. I walked by a street basketball tournament (ironically being played at a court I was familiar with thanks to a video game) that I could’ve just stood and watched for hours for free. Hell, I walked from Times Square down to the East Village just for kicks, and it was a great time, despite my legs being sore immediately after.
I will admit there’s one thing that Maryland has that Ithaca and Manhattan do not – and those are 7-11s, which make the heat bearable. Slurpees need better nationwide distribution.