“A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.” Aristotle
I am a small town girl. My lovely little hometown has a population of 1500 or so in the town limits and around 25,000 in the whole county. To give you a little perspective, on a any given Saturday in the fall there are over 100,000 people in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.
So, I am used to knowing everyone and everyone knowing me. In fact, I am gifted in license plate memory. I can identify the cars of many friends, family, and acquaintances at home by looking at their plate. Scary. I know. Being the product of a small town means that you also have to get used to people knowing a lot about you. I went to high school with people whose parents went on dates with my parents before they were married. There are no secrets in a small town. And, hey, if some people do not know something for sure they probably will just make it up.
It is different in the “big city” – only a small group of people know everything about you rather than the entire town.
When I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia I got my first taste of anonymity. No one cared what I looked like at the grocery store, no one knew me at the Rite Aid, and no one told me that they remember me when I was a baby. Next was Richmond, Virginia – arguably a real city with a million people downtown. This was a bit different. No one knew me but I began to see how small communities developed within big ones. I may not know anyone across town but the 100 people who I work around and go to church with know all about me, or they think that they do. Same difference, I suppose. Enter the home of Neyland Stadium. I was in Knoxville three glorious years. Of course, law school being what it is – like high school – I was back in the fish bowl. Where everyone that you interact with on a daily and regular basis knows you. Then I moved on to a small Virginia town to practice law (where I happily met and bonded with the Cosmic Sisters, more on that later) and we are right back to knowing everyone in the grocery store and seeing people who knew you in diapers. But, as I said, I am a small town girl and I get it.
Fast forward to 2011, I voluntarily left my tiny little town to set up shop in FW, a city of 250,000 in a state of six million or so (I am guessing). I knew no one. But as you have seen I have made a bit of a life of experiencing new things and the culture of the place that I now call home. And one of the neat things about it is, despite being overshadowed by Chicago to the northwest, Detroit to the northeast and Indianapolis to the southwest, FW really has the feel of a big city. No, not NYC or Chicago or Houston. The skyline does not tower and the streets are not stinking and crowded, but it has a lot of big city-ness to offer. I shall elaborate . . .
I had the pleasure of hosting one of my Cosmic Sisters for her first FW visit. Sunshine arrived on a Friday bearing gifts from an Amish stop and the Lehman’s Orchard (hello, tasty cider) in Michigan. The Cosmic Sisters are adventurous too. Shocking.
An important fact to note is that Sunshine is a city girl. She was raised in the Bay area near San Francisco, California. She tells of growing up with kidnapping warnings that kept kids form playing in their front yards and small lots and just general city-ness. Basically the complete opposite of my childhood experience. (Also note, Sunshine is now living in a house with a yard, near a park so her babies can play in grassy fields and frolic in streams – she is a convert). I was a bit nervous of what she would think of FW. Would it be interesting enough? Would she have expectations? Would she be disappointed that the interstate does not run through downtown forcing you to drive 20 minutes to downtown? Would she be a fan of my favorite parks and restaurants? I am high strung, please understand.
After her arrival (love her heart, she drove in from Chicago), she rested up and then we spent the weekend hitting the town to cover my favorites . . . The Oyster Bar, J.K. O’Donnell’s, Granite City Brewery. Oh, the fun of having your cosmic sister around. There was of course constant communications with the remaining sisters, Daisy and Ruby Falls and one random email to a random dude in Wisconsin (long story). We also covered a long walk with The Queen at my favorite park – Foster Park. En route to the park, driving down Broadway, Sunshine proclaimed “you DO have a panaderia”. Huh? What?
For days before her visit Sunshine had been counting on being able to go into Chicago and find a traditional Hispanic bakery that reminded her of the ones she used to visit as a kid California. Unfortunately, she decided to abandon that plan when she arrived in Chicago at 7:00 a.m. on Friday morning.
I, of course, had never really been in a panaderia. I once walked through one in San Antonio, Texas, but I did not realize it at the time. So, Sunshine took me on a cultural experience in my own town at a place that I have driven by tons of times on the way to the park or to drive around and look at the pretty homes on Rudisil.
George’s La Baguette located at Broadway and Taylor has traditional pastries, breads, and other treats. All are made in-house and they are pretty and pretty tasty. Here is some of the fabulousness that we tasted, me for the first time. It was great.
Post bakery, we hit up the Firefly Coffee House (Sunshine even scored some prizes for her babies and herself) where my prediction that it would be a favorite of the Cosmic Sisters was confirmed! Then we went to a festival. Another shock – a festival in the Midwest on a Saturday? Of course, we did. The Taste of the Arts is an event hosted by Arts United and takes place in downtown FW. You can check out cool art and taste the food from all of the coolest places in FW. One of the fine offerings was from The Harp Condition. Who doesn’t love artists that travel in the “Cool Bus” and play the kazoo. Sunshine took home a shirt. Other artists of note were Dan Gagen from Albion, Indiana. Mr. Gagen did the most gorgeous painting of Keith Richards (my favorite Rolling Stone) that I have ever seen. Altra Design 2000, Inc. out of Huntington, Indiana made some super cool yard art (including the corn stalks below). Also, Elizabeth Balzer, Ph.D., the owner of 3R Gallery in FW on Three Rivers East. All pretty and interesting work.
All my concerns about her opinion of FW were answered when on her way out she happily said that she was initially scared that she would find me amongst “strip malls and chain restaurants.” She was happily wrong. Alas, she was pleased to find me among interesting events, fun places, cool eats, and nice people. She was won over by FW and is happy that I am here. That is a big deal.
The moral of this story? There is more than enough here in FW to please a bona fide city girl and just enough to make a small town girl comfy and cozy. That, my dear readers, is pretty.