Trying to talk about American cities can be a bit frustrating because America does this weird thing where its primary use of the word city is to indicate a governmental area rather than a socio-cultural urban space. By this reckoning, you end up with factoids like America only has 9 cities with populations over one million people and China has more than 160. This is how you end up with folks saying that Phoenix and San Antonio are among the 10 biggest cities in America, and behemoths like Atlanta and Miami are way down in the 40s — which is only interesting if you want to talk about administrative challenges at the local government level or maybe make comparisons between the history of annexation and incorporation by city governments in the west as compared to the east. But mostly it just means trying to talk about a Los Angeles in which Santa Monica doesn’t exist or a Detroit where Hamtramck doesn’t exist, and that’s just silly.
So I tend to avoid defining US cities by city population. But what to use instead?
The US also talks about the city using the far more intuitive frame of the metro area. But even this doesn’t entirely solve the problem; because there are a few definitions of metro area around, and not all properly encapsulate the city as entity. Just like I’d like a definition of Sydney that includes Parramatta (by which the city has a pop of approx 4.5 milion, I think it’s most sensible to use a measure, that, say, considers Seattle and Bellevue and Tacoma to be part of the same space, or Washington and Arlington and Falls Church to be of a piece but Baltimore to be a discrete place.
Primary Statistical Area seems too broad to me; good perhaps for discussing economic interdependence but too far-reaching to properly describe lived experience. I think a statistical measure that treats Trenton and Brooklyn as part of the same metropolitan entity is flawed for most purposes. Combined Statstical Area is likewise too expansive; Atlanta and Athens are not part of the same city in the way, say, Boston and Cambridge are. This is why I think the most useful definition is the Office of Management and Budget’s Metropolitan Statistical Area. It’s not perfect; I do wonder if the Inland Empire is distinct from Los Angeles and San Jose distinct from San Francisco–Oakland to the extent Chicago and Milwaukee are distinct from one another — if so, Riverside–San Bernardino is America’s fourteenth biggest “city” — but its definitions usually feel right and its population figures are logical for comparative purposes. Sydney and Boston being similar in size works. Sydney being four times bigger than Dallas does not.
In other news, Serbia is now on Streetview. Exciting!
Earlier that same year the whole city had had a party. There was a new bridge to span the sparkling water between the meat of the city and its northern outpost.
The folks of the Hills didn’t give too much of a shit about the proceedings, but they were proud in a general sense because they knew there wasn’t another city in their fine country that had a bridge as big or as beautiful. So they partied and then they pretty much forgot about it. Wasn’t like any of them would ever use it. Who wanted to go that far from the Hills?
Justine Larbalestier, Razorhurst (2014)
yeah, same tbh.
Hollywood, that is to say, Los Angeles, is not, of course, a city, and its sinister forces are very oblique. There’s no public transportation system whatever, so the people drive around as though they were living in Des Moines, and it has all the rest of the disadvantages of a small town, only filled with displaced persons. On the other hand, life there has an engaging surrealist quality, an almost exciting grotesqueness.
The cultural scene there in general is sped up, sort of concentrated. Southern California is a mecca for all manner of freakishness, beginning on the most middle-class level — hot-dog stands in the shape of a hot dog. If you go there, you’ll immediately see a carnival, Disneyland aspect that is different from any other place in America.
In the meantime, Green clamped down on all lawlessness, even banning cross burnings for a while, lest they be charged with violating local fire ordinances. Instead, he kept his men busy with improbable public relations stunts. Food was distributed to the needy and twenty pairs of long johns, stamped “K.K.K.,” showed up at an old folks’ home. In the most memorable act, a Klansman donned a Santa Claus outfit — over his white robe and hood — and presented a 107-year-old black man with a brand new radio.
Kevin M. Cruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (2005)
Worst. Christmas. Ever.
Incidentally, this is in 1947, meaning said black man had already lived through 25 years of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow.
The leaks came from Stetson Kennedy, an enterprising writer who had infiltrated the Klan and delighted in airing its dirty laundry. In a particularly inspired move, he contacted the scriptwriters of the Superman radio serial and gave them detailed descriptions of Klan ceremonies, right down to the passwords. Atlanta Klansmen soon found their own children imitating the episodes, fighting over who got to be Superman and who had to be the cowardly Klansmen.
I totally want to see this book adapted into a Mad Men–meets–The Wire 1940s Atlanta TV drama.
In New York, where thousands of bearded hipsters scamper around Williamsburg or Brooklyn reading Kerouac and drinking whisky, a new trend in facial hair has emerged.
Rachel Clun, “’Beard transplants’ are now a thing,” The Sydney Morning Herald, February 26, 2014
So, yeah, “Williamsburg or Brooklyn” is what happens when you start thinking of real places as trendpiece shorthand.
From the air, flying over Phoenix, you notice the nothingness first of all. It resembles a tan- and cocoa-colored moon, except that there are vast splotches of green-golf courses and the other pampered land where irrigation systems have been installed. From my Geology course, I knew that everything below me had once been a shallow ocean; and at dusk, when I flew into Phoenix, the shadows on the rocks were a tropical-sea purple, and the tumbleweeds were aquamarine — so that I could actually imagine the ocean that once was there. In truth, Phoenix still resembled a shallow sea, marred by the fake greens and blues of swimming pools. Some ten or twenty miles in the distance, a jagged ridge of reddish, tea-colored mountains were here and there capped with waxy deposits of limestone — to a New Englander, they looked like dirty snow. But it was far too hot for snow.
Although, at dusk, the sun had lost its intensity, the dry heat shimmered above the tarmac; despite a breeze, the heat persisted with furnacelike generation. After the heat, I noticed the palm trees — all the beautiful, towering palm trees.
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)