A year ago this week I escaped from Wichita.
Overall, it was a good move. The neighborhood here is quiet. I can read without interruption, listen to music without competing noise, and sleep without being awakened by cruising subwoofers at 2 a.m. And I have an entire house to myself, with a real yard, an extraordinary luxury after years in a duplex. I don’t have to worry about my neighbors playing loud video games or bad music when I need to sleep.
Although where I now live is one of the larger cities in Kansas, it’s still much smaller than Wichita, and saner. In Wichita nearly everyone wore masks everywhere. It was common to see individuals driving alone with the car windows up wearing masks. When I weeded my tiny garden in front of the duplex, masked passers-by made ostentatiously large detours around me, sometimes walking into the street to avoid my malign aura. It was hard not to laugh. There’s been little of that silliness here. I’ve never seen any of my neighbors with masks. Some people still wear the stupid things at stores, generally either the very old or the compliant young and their unfortunate children, but they’re a minority.1
There are drawbacks, of course. I live literally on the wrong side of the tracks, and trains run frequently. I need to leave extra early for appointments in case I get stuck at a crossing. There are fewer stores of any kind, and those that are here generally don’t have selections as extensive as their big-city counterparts. I can find acceptable basic wines and bourbons at the best local liquor store, for instance, but not sherry or port, or Blanton’s. In general, if it’s not at Home Depot, Walmart or the local Kroger affiliate, I have to order it online. And I’m still in Kansas, where there is no such thing as normal weather.
Nevertheless, the inconveniences are more than compensated for by the quiet. I feel more at home here than I ever did in Wichita.