Sunday, April 1, 2007

Could this guy be partially right?

The Luddite likes cities, and so do I, but why?

OK, I grew up in small (and I do mean small) towns. These were towns with the Welcome and Leaving signs on the same sign post of the highway that ran through the outskirts of the town. Pine Bluffs, Wyoming is an example. Not much there. We lived right on the border with Nebraska. To do anything you had to drive to Cheyenne or Laramie; it is probably worse now. I don't think there was an interstate then, just a two lane road.

I love cities. San Francisco, Munich, Seattle, Portland, Amsterdam and others that I have visited or lived in all provide something small towns do not. Small towns are one neighborhood with one identity. You may live on the "south side" of the tracks. In Park River it was the east side of the tracks where the trailer courts were, but you were all from Park River.

In Seattle you are from Magnolia, Capital Hill or West Seattle, you have neighborhood shops, bars, restaurants and architecture that sets you apart from the rest, or a view and character, like Ballard an its Nordic roots. As a result you can live in the city and experience and do many things without leaving the city and traveling a long way. Want to go to China? Go to Chinatown. Want to experience open air markets, go to Pike Street Market (OK, it is covered, but what do expect in Seattle?).

Actually, the guy wants the suburbanite wannabes to leave his city alone, taking our laptops and elitist, commercial attitudes with us. Well, San Fransisco is not like most American cities, having its own chic and reason to exist it would seem. Large cities also have another characteristic: they change. I first visited the Bay area back in the late 80's an early 90's and it was a different city than today, with the Embarcadero and redevelopment of the downtown area. He is much like the people in the small town I live in today, Ketchikan, Alaska. The small blue roofed building in the center of the satellite image is KJ's, the bar my friends and I gather at on Friday night to loosen up, solve the problems of the world and generally make asses of ourselves among friends. Laptops are allowed, but usually become the center of social interaction as we all (all somewhat geeks) look at the latest video or crazy story. The more it changes the better it was before the changes happened, but Ketchikan is a small, century old city on the edge of the Pacific, on an island with the unpronounceable name of Revillagigedo. Try saying that fast five times. It must adapt or die and it is continually adapting.

San Francisco or not, you can still make your own place there, live there and even go to Manila there. Is the Luddite right? I don't know about San Francisco, but in Ketchikan, he is wrong.

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