The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

28 March 2004

Is that all there is?

My daughter (twenty-six this year) complains occasionally of boredom: if you're a certain age, which is to say around her age, there's not as much to do as you might expect in a city the size of Kansas City.

I have tended to dismiss this as an adolescent rant on a delay cycle, but then I started to see complaints in blogdom, some of them similar, some of them hitting quite a bit harder. Here's Bruce:

Tulsa really needs to try harder to find ways to convince younger people to stay here. Without young people with disposable time and income it will be extremely difficult to build a thriving downtown. This will not only mean keeping good jobs here but making it worthwhile to stay with a fun and growing nightlife.

Right now, Tulsa is [a] single person's hell.

And in Kansas City specifically, from Christine:

If I've been down on KC lately, it's only because I came to the realization that there has to be something in the water here. Something that breeds an apathy so thick it borders on suicidal. There's a sick sense of codependancy as well. As if the collective conscious is saying "stay down here with us". Of course I'm not talking about everyone. Some people are perfectly happy here and do well. Unfortunately, there's a demographic that just doesn't belong here. Progressive, creative, free-thinking individuals just don't do well here as a whole. It's not for lack of trying, I know people who bust their asses daily to live here. But it so very rarely pays off. Not in cash, creative, or spiritual rewards. I so envy the few people I know who are happy and thriving here.

We're starting to hear about a "creative class," a group of people, largely single, probably around Christine's or Bruce's age, who demand both reasonable employment and reasonable enjoyment. And indeed there are cities where they tend to accumulate, none of which looks particularly like Tulsa or Kansas City. Dr. Richard Florida, guru presumptive to this demographic cohort, says that this sort of thing is inevitable:

[B]eing able to afford food and decent health care is merely a baseline requirement. Most people, including those on the lowest rungs, have a bigger vision, and it isn't "the chance to get rich," the line Reagan once borrowed from Lincoln. It's Jefferson's idea: the pursuit of happiness. The dream is to reap intrinsic rewards from our work rather than merely be "compensated" for the time and effort we put in.

As observers from the sociologist Ronald Inglehart to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Fogel have pointed out, this is an effect of living in a post-scarcity, post-materialist society. Once a society moves above subsistence level, its members start seeking more than material rewards from their work.

I don't think I'm too old to recognize the validity of this observation, but I do think I'm probably too old to just pack up and move, the way Bruce might like to, the way Christine is going to. Part of this is the sensation that I've probably gotten all the career nurture I'm ever going to get, and I'm disinclined to start at the bottom somewhere else. But some of it is the fact that if I'm bored, I tend to assume that it's because of me, not because of where I live or what I think I'd like to do. Then again, I'm writing this while doing a load of laundry.

Posted at 11:45 AM to Next Generation

This whole creative class/Richard Florida thing totally fascinates me. I wish I had something more to contribute on the subject, but I can't seem to muster anything at the moment.

Posted by: Erica at 5:56 PM on 28 March 2004

I honestly believe that people, as a whole, believe, whether consciously or subconsciously, that wherever they live holds little, if any, kind of substance for them. "The grass is always greener", and I'd bet young people in NYC make the same complaint. If you GROW UP in an area, no matter what it offers, it's boring. But if you MOVE there, suddenly your life makes a 180. Interesting sociological phenomenon.

Posted by: Vickie at 6:52 PM on 28 March 2004

"But some of it is the fact that if I'm bored, I tend to assume that it's because of me, not because of where I live or what I think I'd like to do."

I actually think that is what it really is. Instead of looking at themselves, the "creative class" is blaming the location and other people instead for their boredom. Combating boredom is a proactive process. I live in a college town with no night life to speak of and no exciting large cities as neighbors but people nonetheless find stuff to do. The people who complain don't even bother to look at anything.

Posted by: sya at 7:00 PM on 28 March 2004

I'm trying to make sense of this out of my own experience. I've been in this metro area for most of the last thirty years, but almost all of that time was spent in one exurb or another. It seems somehow vastly more interesting now that I'm living in the city. And it's not like everything is that much closer at hand; admittedly, I'm now only three or four miles from the downtown Arts District, the nexus of much of what happens, but I was never more than twenty minutes to half an hour away from it during my stint in the 'burbs, and even now downtown is a minimum of ten minutes away if I make every single light on Classen, which I won't.

Familiarity may indeed breed contempt, though I suspect there's less of it in towns where the Creative ethos holds sway.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:08 PM on 28 March 2004

When I lived in D there were lots of things I really hated about the city but it was an interesting place to live and there was things to do. What I learned is that you DO have to discover your city as if you're a tourist/transplant. I too despise people that say there is nothing to do. But that is different than saying that your/my city needs to make living there an enjoyable experience for the "creative class" as you call them.

I know Tulsa pretty well. I sometimes take natives out and show them things they've never seen. You DO have to have a sense of curiousity about where you live. What I am finding though is that there is a gap in the demographics here, and I'm right in the midst of it; single and late-twenties, early thirties.

I wish I could live in Tulsa but hang out in Dallas. Each has their strengths, Tulsa is a much friendlier place to live and the atmosphere is great. Its a great place to raise a family...

Posted by: bruce at 9:00 PM on 28 March 2004