Dec 21, 2021Liked by Addison Del Mastro

I just had a conversation with my girlfriend similar to this topic last night. She lost her car during the flood a few months back, and she recently received money to buy a new one from her insurance company a couple weeks ago (it was delayed do to the insurance company being short-staffed while taking on a massive volume of accidents claimed). But during this time, we were forced to share a car, which while she had it, forced me to be locked into whatever location I was before she left.

We discussed that if we lived in Malta or Italy, these situations would never happen. If she had the car, I could still stroll into town to a coffee shop and wander cobblestone streets. A fantasy of a lot of people I encounter is to spend time in another country for this reason alone, and because of the friendliness of its average citizen--which I argue the friendliness of them is because they are forced to socialize regularly by just walking outside rather than being able to isolate.

So the question is, why don't most people move out of the country if they fantasize about this?

Well for me, the obvious is friends and family. But the more foundational reason is I believe America is the best country in the world, because of the freedom of speech--something no other country has implented pridefully.

With this is mind, I would like to see communities in the style of other countries, and not to be confused with cities like New York but thriving small/medium towns, become more commonplace here while being built upon the values of what America was founded on.

And what's also odd, and perhaps I digress, but the small towns that do it well near me (such as New Hope, PA) get the reputation for being new age. It seems to have a peace sign in your window is too new age for older people. But I believe they put this there because thriving small towns that work harmoniously is a rarity. But it seems this outward friendliness is a deterrent for the more seasoned generation that like to isolate on the outskirts of towns. Although even I will admit, some shops in those areas definitely put out a witchcraft vibe.

It would be beautiful to see Euro-inspired towns with the foundation of America, and without the need to push the fact that it is unique, but rather it just is.

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Yes to New York - that's fine, but Americans seem to have trouble understanding that "urban" doesn't have to mean "big city." That's what I don't get - we know that, because we all love these small towns and smaller cities, but the idea that we could live in them or build them again is not really considered.

I've seen the opposite of the "new age" thing - successful towns in Virginia, say, that think their success is due to family life, religion, patriotism, etc. Sure, but the land use and the urban form is really important - it even helps those other things! - and we just aren't used to thinking in those terms.

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Wonderful essay. Thank you for this.

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I remember my freshman year of college my boyfriend at the time was driving my car on the freeway and he lost control on a patch of ice and we were struck by a full-size pick up. We were both fine, but my car was totaled. This was just after Christmas, and I went back to start my second semester of college without a car. I was miserable. There was nothing much around campus, and being January in northern Michigan made walking extremely unpleasant. I remember being brought to tears trying to figure out how to get a ride to see a movie. The theater in my collage town was located on a highway or "stroad" and was basically inaccessible on foot. Finally I managed to get a ride from an old high school classmate. I also remember after weeks of campus food, trudging through a foot of snow on an unshoveled sidewalk to get Hardees, the only fast food chain near campus. A few months later thanks to the generosity of my grandfather, I did get another car (though not as nice as the one that was totaled). During that miserable time I was without a car, I couldn't imagine that I would go on to live most of my adult life without owning a car and being pretty much okay with it. I ended up living in walkable cities since graduating college. When I was 18, I thought the only way to be an independent adult was to drive a car. Driving was so important to me that I let my boyfriend at the time drive my car without a license because I felt it was essential for him to learn to drive so he could experience this independence as well. We were lucky we didn't die the night of the accident. But only years later, do I now redirect my anger not at my lack of car but to the choices that were available to me without one. Why was it that the theater downtown was closed and a new one built on the stroad? Why was my college campus surrounded by parking lots instead of fast food joints? Why weren't the sidewalks shoveled? Why did my boyfriend and I have to drive on an icy freeway for six hours instead of being able to take a train to visit his mom for Christmas? We built most of the country for cars and pretend like it's the only way. I would still think that if I hadn't experienced living in places where a car isn't essential to being a functioning adult, and even then it took me years to appreciate it. Sorry for my mini essay, but I do think it illustrates at least how we commonly think about driving and why people feel so attached to them.

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