Wilmington, Delaware is a piece of East Coast suburbia that feels like a new utopia created for a post-apocalyptic future. I can describe it no better than by saying the trash cans on the street are never more than 30% full. Compare that to New York, the great American dirt-hole, where trashcans are 120% full six minutes after they’ve been emptied.
The downtown area of Wilmington leads into Brandywine Park, woodland that follows the eponymous creek, dotted with picnic benches, a gazebo, play areas for children, and a quiet little zoo with a goat petting area. The zoo may or may not be called the Vodkagin Zoo. There’s a railway track that ends midway into the park, presumably because the rest of civilization is now dead so there’s no reason to ever leave town.
There’s also, confusingly, a flower garden with a small wooden plaque that announces the sister city of Wilmington is Watford, in the UK. For anyone unfamiliar with Watford, imagine Wilmington as a plate of Michelin-starred food with the blandness of a piece of unbuttered white bread, and Watford as a half-eaten kebab you just fished out of the back of the fridge with no idea how long it’s been there. You get the idea.
Further north, past Brandywine Park, there’s a pleasant residential area full of pleasant suburban houses with porches and American flags and, I swear to god, even an actual white picket fence. Past that is Rockford Park, where there are a few couples and families picnicking, lots of people running in high-end sportswear, a big field where people toss balls and sticks for their dogs to chase. Everyone is beautiful, perfect, the best of humanity chosen to start this new society. Everyone waves and says a beaming “good morning!” as they cross my path and I get a sudden urge to throw myself under a car. A dog chasing after a butterfly runs into my leg and stops. It looks up at me, realizes I’m an outsider, and its eyes plead with me to take it away from this place, then its owner calls and it lopes away.
Everyone in Wilmington is content with the idleness of their lives. There’s nothing much to do. There are a few quiet bars, even an opera house, but the few people inside look confused, like pigeons given an entire loaf of stale bread.
By sundown I was at the bus station. I desperately needed my overflowing trash cans back. Yes, New York might be gross and dirty and the only people that say “good morning!” to you in Manhattan are out of their minds on cocaine, but at least the city feels alive. Adios, Wilmington. See you in the apocalypse.