Friday, March 11, 2005

Praise and Curse of the City

David posted in a Flickr thread called Praise and Curse of the City about Scranton.


"I love that my immigrant grandparents made a life here, and my memories of their house across from the park and the museum, and hearing my grandmother's Yiddish as a child. I love the railroad tracks and the boarded-up coal mines and the slag heaps. I love the careless accents and the affability of my neighbors' voices. I love that there are soaring cities to the east, and endless forests to the west. I love that we still have our original chrome diners and our wonderfully awful newspaper, and one remaining human elevator operator. I love that Harry Chapin sang a silly song* about our town.

I hate that so much was lost when our city fell ill, around the time that I was born, and the youth and optimism that bled away over the years. (I love that health is returning, though.) Sometimes I hate that my city isn't quite big enough, so that foreign films and foods and people don't find their way here. I hate that the nearby farms are turning into housing developments, gated communities full of New Yorkers, wealthy and imprisoned. I hate the inept, corrupt and - worst of all - unimaginative public officials.

I love and hate the idea of leaving it, someday. I am Scranton.

*30,000 Pounds of Bananas.

Original post

David writes beautifully. I wish he'd write more. In the meantime, I'll be his publicist...

Especially since it was such gorgeous weather in Vancouver for most of February (21C *sob*), I've tried not to think about what I'm missing and just carry on with setting up a different sort of life here. Since the people who read this blog are scattered around the globe, and some of my friends have never stepped foot in North America, it may not be clear what the differences are.

It's a big continent, North America, with disparate climates, culture, attitudes, and populations. I don't even know where to begin outlining the differences between the West Coast, where I could dip my toe in the Pacific Ocean by walking less than 100m from my front door, and here, where we have to fly 45 minutes east in the Tri-Pacer to see the Atlantic Ocean shimmering (with pollution, no doubt) beside the skyscrapers of Manhattan. In the throes of a wet winter the people of Vancouver fly a couple of hours south to places like Palm Springs, California, or further south to Mexico. Here, people jet to the Caribbean or Florida. In Vancouver the next major city of comparable size is 250kms south -- Seattle (I can't really count Victoria as a major city, can I?). Even touring east from Vancouver, it takes hours to reach a city more than half a million people -- Calgary, which is nearly 1,000kms away, across mountain ranges. On the West Coast, until you reach Southern California, cities are fairly wide apart. On the East Coast, however, where the cities are much older and more established, the accents are stronger, the ideas more entrenched, and the winters most definitely colder, there is less isolation --Philadelphia and New York are as close by as Seattle is to Vancouver (and I don't have that wildcard called the U.S./Canadian border).

There are all sorts of other differences living on this side of the continent, but for the sake of brevity I'll cover those another day.