Where I Live

When Prof. Zero (you should really read her remarkable blog) posted a favorite cities meme, I thought she put too many parameters around the cities we could nominate.  I was particularly put off by the size requirements, as I’ve come to learn in school how varied cities are in size and scope, not least because the boundaries between cities and suburbs, and urban vs. sub-urban life is rarely as clear as we pretend.  And bigger does not necc. equal more urban.

In response to protests, including mine, she offered up what she called a “self-tagging town meme,” to which I finally responded the other night with a stream-of-consciousness thread of my favorite cities, that included a heavy dose of random memories and specific characteristics that matter to me in cities.

One of the things I love about the M.A.S. is that he and I both look at cities critically and value urban life deeply – mainly, we crave the density, walkability, accessibility and diversity that many cities offer (what is with suburbs and the absolute absence of sidewalks, for instance???).  I believe that if we go through life together, we will be able to live in a variety of places, because I trust our ability to knowledgeably evaluate and recognize if places have the characteristics that we seek at a much deeper level than a schools/taxes/property values equation (though all of that goes into the mix).

Though I hope you’ll read the professor’s posts and my comments, in short, I gave a shout out to:

1) Hartford and economically struggling but ethnically vibrant old NE/MW towns everwhere;

2) Boston, ‘cuz that’s my hood;

3) Krakow, ‘cuz its collegiate, historic and amiable personality – not to mention Krupnik honey liquer – nurtured me through the very dark hours of visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau;

4) New Orleans (though this is more of a love-hate relationship);


5) Memphis.

Seattle, Minneapolis, Houston, Bismarck, ND and Vegas (“Adult Disneyland”) got shout outs too.  L.A., London, NYC (public transportation “nirvana”) and Dar are in my big city category.

Cities I could live w/o:

– Chattanooga, though I did find its train-station-sized-airport charming;

– Ft. Worth;

– St. Louis;

– Philly (“somebody else’s Boston”);

– Atlanta.


Of course, there’s no place like home, or my couch, at this moment, for that matter.

What are your favorite cities?  Bonus points for your stories.


7 Responses to “Where I Live”

  1. August 20, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    **Philly (�somebody else’s Boston�)**

    LOL! Good one! I always liked the line from “1776” when Adams refers to it as “foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy…Philadelphia!”

    I’ve never lived anywhere but Boston, but based on travel, I could live in Seattle, New Orleans or Dubai.

  2. August 20, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Oh, I haven’t been to Dubai but I am totally enthralled by what I’ve heard!

    And thank you, Maggie, for the Irish classification. I’ve long wondered how to explain myself to outsiders who have only Good Will Hunting, Mystic River, All Souls, Angela’s Ashes or Denis Lehane books as popular references to being Irish and/or from Boston.

  3. August 21, 2007 at 1:36 am

    The most marvelous thing you have ever heard about Dubai could never do it justice. I was there for 11 days in 2003. It was just this time of year and it is on my mind 24/7.

    You’re welcome on the Irish thing, but I just tarted up an excerpt from an even better article by Jerry Thornton. I didn’t know it at the time (I got the list in an email), but another Universal Hub reader left me the link. I got to credit Jerry after the fact and he was gracious enough to comment at my place about it.

    Here’s the link to the original.

  4. August 21, 2007 at 8:49 am

    I worry about the level of development in Dubai, and its fascination with being the highest of upscale – there’s a nomadic sort of superrich who recently ended their fascination with Miami (leaving us to pick up the pieces), and have moved on to other, chic-er destinations like Dubai. As someone who lives a vicarious life of leisure through Conde Nast, I’m at once interested and appalled.

    I don’t entirely understand the distinctions in this favorite town discussion… since much of my response to other cities has to do with airports, it’s often possible for me to hate a town… and love their airport (Dallas), or vice versa (Tucson).I can’t really imagine living anywhere but the northeast – except maybe a Caribbean island, or a beach resort town on the east coast (and that still could be northeast). Nothing else really interests me long term. And, in the end, what I like is cities, much as you do – but I think what we mean is a city with a defined downtown urban core and rings of housing and services around it. That’s the difference between a Boston and, say, Houston, which is nice in spots, but lacks a certain kind of centrality (which has to do with heavier zoning in the northeast than in the South and West).

    Perhaps the most interesting exception that proves the rule for me is… San Diego, which actually behaves, in many ways, like a traditional city organized around a recognizable downtown urban core. My stays there were only for 2 or 3 days (around conferences), but each time, I found myself really enjoying the weather, the sights, and the layout (including Coronado, the island it’s pretty much attached to)… and sad when I had to leave (it also serves as the West Coast base for the Navy, which gives it the definition and stability of, say, a Norfolk).

    If you love cities… really, what else is there to say?

  5. August 21, 2007 at 11:05 am

    I agree on the definition problem, but we can’t all be urbanists… 🙂

    PZ wanted cities to incl. only those with pops above 1M people, but I found that very exclusionary. She offered up “town” but then we all just kept talking about cities, albeit smaller ones.

    I’ve only spent an evening in San Diego, so I have no impression of it really. My biggest memory of it is driving down from Newport Beach and seeing the careful of migrants sign on the highway of a woman clutching her child and running and that image has never left me.

  6. 6 PZ
    August 22, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Well though, I could never keep it rationally down to only five without some way to limit the pool.

  7. 7 PZ
    August 22, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Well though, I could never keep it rationally down to only five without some way to limit the pool. The game seemed so much harder without any limits – although perhaps that is the more attractive challenge.

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