Cities only get one chance at a first impression

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An old adage states you only get one chance at a first impression. I fully believe it.

I’ve heard friends and family extoll the virtues of television shows, movies and books with the kind of fervor usually reserved for winning the lottery. And yet, I have sat down to see what the hype is about, and usually within five minutes I can tell it’s not for me.

Unless you draw me in right away, already have me wondering what’s happening or what will happen next or give me something to think about, I’ve usually made up my mind that I’m not interested. And once I’ve gotten it into my mind that it’s not something I’m going to enjoy, there’s no going back.

The importance of a first impression goes far beyond what we watch on the tube or the pages we flip through before bed. It applies to foods and drink. It applies to restaurants. It applies to people.

And, it applies to places.

I recently returned from my first-ever trip above the Mason-Dixon Line when I visited Philadelphia, southern portions of New Jersey and Washington, D.C. And though I didn’t spend too much time in these places, I didn’t need to. They told me everything I needed to know with their first impressions.

Philadelphia stinks.

I don’t mean stinks as in I don’t particularly like it, I mean my nostrils have never experienced such an onslaught of foulness.

The views were enjoyable with an interesting skyline, streets lined with row houses and massive shipyards and industrial complexes that were like nothing I had ever seen. But it was difficult to see these sights when my eyes were shut tight due to the putrid air.

Though New Jersey has a reputation for being unpleasant to the nostrils, I didn’t experience that and rather liked the wide-open landscape interspersed with built-up areas. However, I don’t remember much more because I suffered many concussions while traversing the roads.

I thought Hardscrabble Road from King Road to Crabapple Road was in need of a good repaving. But Hardscrabble has nothing on south New Jersey roads. I’m guessing by their condition, they were last paved sometime during the William Howard Taft administration.

Finally, we have Washington D.C., our nation’s capital. So what were my first impressions of the district that is a shining symbol of the country and a source of both pride and frustration?

The traffic was horrible. Interspersed with well-to-do areas were sections that were run-down slums. Even in the midst of a city, trees were everywhere. The locals were generally friendly with an “I’m in a rush” type of way. There was plenty to do, but it took quite a walk to get to everything. The restaurant and bar scene was diverse. And, to cover large potholes, giant slabs of steel were placed as cover.

I loved it.

And why wouldn’t I? For all the reasons above, D.C. reminded me of Atlanta.


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