I’m curious what others think about when they hear the word “culture.” When I think of culture, I think of a diverse community, open to public artistic expression, music being played upon cobblestone sidewalks and a diverse mouth-watering array of food ready to hit my hungry palate.
Upon my return home from Chattanooga, Tenn., this weekend, I began to miss the light-hearted, well-fed hours I had spent in downtown’s North Shore. Like any old town or city, there are abandoned buildings and graffiti-exposed brick walls, among foreclosed homes and unattended sidewalks. But something was different that contrasted from London’s abandoned establishments — a rising sense of culture.
Businessmen have taken advantage of the affordable housing market in the midst of a possible double-dip recession. Buildings are being stripped inside making way for condos and new storefronts. Many members of the community have opened up their own private businesses that are relevant in supporting the local economy. In addition, the city had taken full advantage of a 1890 Walnut Street Bridge that spans across the Tennessee River which is now an urban renewal edifice for tourists and the community to enjoy.
I sipped frothy coffee freshly brewed at 9 a.m. from an espresso machine at the Chattanooga Coffee Co., where they roast beans daily that are later distributed to various coffee shops downtown for the jitter-crazed citizens. I’d indulged in an Italian lunch at Tony’s Pasta Shop and Trattoria, where they hand-cut pasta and make fresh sauces with herbs and tomatoes from their own gardens. The delicious penne pasta dish paired well with a comforting Cabernet Sauvignon as I overlooked the Tennessee River within the Bluff View Art District.
The following day, I took the liberty to walk from the art district to the Walnut Street Bridge that led me to North Shore. The truss bridge established a romantic viewpoint of the city and encouraged me to muster up some physical activity to battle my spoiled appetite. Runners, joggers and walkers alike passed by as a group of pigeons congregated in the middle of the worn, wooden planks like elders at a potluck waiting for second helpings.
Despite the brisk wind that numbed my rosy cheeks in the 50 degree air, my heart was warmed by the quality time I was able to spend with those I was journeying the city with. It’s a rarity to find joy spent with others in the outdoors in a small town such as London, laughter and exploration seldom leaves the living room. On the drive home from my mini-vacation, away from the stresses that life reproduces for humanity to coddle, I thought what a great place London would be if there was more culture.
Instead of traveling away from home to enjoy a place well-versed in living, why not make home a place you want to stay?
The Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, and writer had the right idea when he said, “life must be lived as play.”