Going to Town

Last week I had to go into town. Going to town around here isn’t quite the event as for someone from Queens going into Manhattan. But it’s close.

When I just a youngster, back in a different century, I grew up about 20 miles from town. Then going into town was indeed an event. Actually we had to differentiate our in-town trips. If we went “downtown” that was to the business district of our suburban hamlet. That was easy. Every piled into Dad’s car and in 10 or 15 minutes we made the one mile excursion from home to shopping, a rare dinner out, or to the Saturday matinee.. If you weren’t in a hurry a bus could get you there in about a half an hour. But going “to town” – that was something else.

We went “to town” once or twice a year and it required serious planning. Did we drive in or take the train? And when we said train we meant train. This wasn’t some glorified subway extension or light rail system. This was a big one with names like Baltimore and Ohio, Wabash, or the Pennsylvania Rail Road. Our line was the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Rail Road. (Even though the P&LE began business in 1875 it didn’t actually make it all the way to Lake Erie until sometime in the 1970s. You got to love their spunk back then!)  If we drove it would only be after the car had a serious going over. Tires, oil, and water checked and double checked. There was a bus that made the trip but that was a true adventure. If you didn’t mind a little walking you could make it to town with only one transfer. I don’t think I did the trip by bus until I was in college and then would make a weekly commute from dorm to home with real food, a television set (although black and white) and a washing machine. And the 2 hours gave me some study time.

Last week’s trip was an easy one. Now I’m only a half dozen miles out of the center of the city and even budgeting for rush hour and parking it’s a quick 15 minute commute that I made twice daily for almost thirty years.

Since I stopped work I haven’t been to town other than once or twice a year just like from back in my youth. All those years later there are still diners and restaurants, bakeries and pastry shops, meat markets and delis that don’t have anything to do with national brands. You can still buy artisan products from meats and cheeses to fixtures and furniture from real artisans that you can watch being artisanal. There’s even a classic haberdasher.

Yes, it can still be quite the event. Only now when I get home I have to do my own laundry.

That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?

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