Getting to Know a Place

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said or written the phrase, “I just want to get to know this place” in the past few weeks. I tack it onto the end of every self-introduction. I put some variant of it in every cover letter. It’s how I justify every request to observe and document somebody in the course of their daily life.

Rail yard on Saginaw’s northeast side.

House on Saginaw’s northeast side.

Empty lot on Saginaw’s northeast side.

It’s not strictly untrue either. Not in spirit. But after repeating the phrase so many times I can’t help but wonder if there’s something inauthentic or disingenuous about it too. The fact is that I’m an intern on a six-month contract. Get to know a place my ass. Who do I think I’m kidding. People who actually live and are from here?

Sometimes I think that “getting to know a place” (or a person, for that matter) is something that happens behind your own back. And the second you tell yourself that that’s your “goal,” you actually wall yourself off.

In other words, getting to know something, somebody, or someplace is an accident that happens when you let yourself wander without a purpose and do things for their own damn sake.

Saginaw, MI
March 2020

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