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Slices of Life... Small town girl in the Big City - maybe not so out of place after all

I had to take a trip to the Big City last weekend. Some might look forward to such an excursion. Not me.

I used to live in the City. I was a City-girl. When I moved away from the City over a decade ago, I was unequipped for life in the country. I didn't even own a good pair of winter boots. I looked at my new, small-town life with a wrinkle-nosed smidgen of disdain. I wondered if I'd adapt, or if the City would be in my blood forever.

It's interesting how things - and people - can change.

While I used to covet City life, it is now wrought with things that fill me with trepidation, not the least of which is City traffic. If there's one thing I dread about going into the City, it's going into the City. There are exit ramps criss-crossing with merging traffic coming from all sides and cars zooming everywhere. So many cars trying to get into the City, with everyone except me knowing exactly how to get where they are going.

In the City, there are more one-way roads than parking spaces, and that is an understatement. If I get to my destination without going the wrong way on a one-way, I consider it lucky; if I find a place to park once I get there, it is nothing short of a miracle. What does the City have against parking lots and two-way streets?

On this particular trip, I cheered silently when I found a parking ramp less than a block from Orchestra Hall, which is where I was going. I pulled my dirty minivan in between two over-sized, shiny black SUVs and headed out for the big City streets.

It was just about then that I realized no one had forwarded me the dress code. Apparently any color other than black is outlawed on Saturdays in the City. People wore black leather, black trench coats, black wool and even black denim. Their purses were black. Their briefcases, gloves, hats and scarves - all black.

I wore cream. I had to. I can't wear black. I have a yellow Labrador retriever at home.

While I walked, I looked at my map. When I visit the City, I am not proud. I blatantly carry a map, which is akin to announcing to the world, "I am a stranger here. Rob me."

When planning the trip, I'd noted that Orchestra Hall was close to the Target Center and I thought maybe I could get a little shopping done before the concert. This is (unfortunately) the truth. I couldn't make something like that up. Don't worry, though. I figured it out before making a complete fool of myself. The Target Center is not the same as a Target store. OK, I get that now.

So, I wound up at Orchestra Hall with a little time on my hands. There were others waiting as well. They'd all received word on the black dress code, and apparently their information also included a semi-formal clause. I gave silent thanks that I'd put on my good jeans that morning.

Because this was a concert put on by high school students, the folks around me were mostly parents and grandparents. The moms wore big heels, big jewelry and even bigger purses. I looked down at my (practical and warm) winter boots and wondered if anyone could tell that I'd gotten my purse from ShopKo. It has sequins; in my world that spells semi-formal. Perhaps I wasn't so completely out of place after all.

Therein lies the truth. Once upon a time I was a City-girl. One-way streets and black leather felt as familiar as a good pair of Sorels. Now I go into the City and see the people there as different from me. Maybe they aren't. They may wear trendy black clothing and have purses with labels that I've never heard of, but we all came to Orchestra Hall on a cold Saturday afternoon with the same purpose in mind: to hear our children sing.

And sing they did. Beautifully. Everyone in attendance would agree.

At the end, parents hugged children and children hugged parents. My daughter and I made our way to the door and tried to figure out which direction it was to the parking ramp. As we stepped into the winter City air, she grabbed my hand, a freezing gust of wind blew in our faces and I was glad that I'd worn my warm boots.

Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award winning freelance writer working with graphic designer Nikki Willgohs to provide writing and design and other marketing services to businesses and individuals. You can check out their Web site at or e-mail Jill at