Four miles out

Occasionally I wonder about the local Downtown Or Bust types, mostly because they so bitterly resent the idea of spending money on developing 199th Street when there’s so much work to be done on 9th; these horrid and insensitive sprawlers, they say, should be required to pay for curbs, and then should be kicked to them.

Similar people exist in the Twin Cities, to whom James Lileks replies:

So here are the options:

1. Live in a dense multicultural city where you can either walk two blocks to get Thai, or order it delivered and maybe stiff the delivery guy because the last time they got the order wrong

2. Live in a suburb where you can drive to get Thai from the strip mall place

Which is preferable? The first, because you’re not driving. The delivery guy is, but it’s a moped, and that’s cool. Also because the first example is not culturally insular.

By which some mean: a thin patina of accents, spice preferences, skin colors, and breakroom tales about eye-rollingly strict parents paints an illusion of kaleidoscopic diversity over a solid brick of group-think concerning four or five basic core issues. This reduces human beings down to ticks and gimmicks, and uses superficial cultural differences as proof of “diversity.” It is diverse, but it doesn’t mean anything, really. Every group that looks monolithic from the outside is fragmented on a fractal level on the inside, right down to — and including — the individual.

The point of a city is to find the commonality, not the difference.

The point of a city is to encourage the difference in the context of the commonality.

This form of group-think, incidentally, is bricklike for a reason: the only concept it bothers to understand is “density,” as in we need more of it. It is of vital importance to get people to buy $400k homes in the core, and to leave those $100k houses on the edge for stragglers, misfits, and Section 8. (They really, really hate poor people, because poor people reduce their property values.) How do these edge-dwellers get to work? Not our problem.

And spare me the word “sustainable.” In this town, we obey the Second Law of Thermodynamics.


  1. McGehee »

    20 February 2013 · 9:38 pm

    Semi-related, I wonder about the stereotype of older folks as narrow-minded and younger folks as more open-minded. In my observation people who are narrow-minded when they’re old we’re narrow-minded when they were young.

    In fact, the more appealing one finds the stereotype…

  2. McGehee »

    20 February 2013 · 9:38 pm

    Semi-related, I wonder about the stereotype of older folks as narrow-minded and younger folks as more open-minded. In my observation people who are narrow-minded when they’re old we’re narrow-minded when they were young.

    In fact, the more appealing one finds the stereotype…

  3. McGehee »

    20 February 2013 · 9:39 pm

    So wise I needed to say it twice.

  4. CGHill »

    20 February 2013 · 10:17 pm

    I have never considered myself particularly open-minded, at least in the way I define the term: I admittedly have attitudes and positions all over the map, but they’re pretty much the same ones I’ve always had, albeit typically in Version 1.3 form.

    How I’m viewed is variable. At work, I’m a stick in the mud: your newest idea is wrong, and here’s why. (It does not help that I’m generally right.) In ponydom, I am the guy at the far end of the curve. My family, my parents as well as my children, have always considered me merely weird.

  5. fillyjonk »

    21 February 2013 · 7:10 am

    My biggest issue, the last time I lived in a “dense” downtown area? The noise. Ye gads, the noise.

    I don’t particularly care about being able to quickly and easily get Thai food as long as I am reasonably assured a night’s sleep NOT interrupted by multiple car alarms and the friendly frat boys deciding to scream their way home from the bars.

    So maybe that makes me closed-minded, I don’t know.But at least I’m not falling asleep at my desk.

  6. Tatyana »

    21 February 2013 · 7:21 am

    Then, Erica, you probably have difficulty getting asleep in my place: people next door have a cute white poodle who think himself a guard dog. He sleeps in their hallway, which shares a long wall with my bedroom -same wall where my headboard is. Every once in a while the doggie decides it’s time to alert the word of imaginary burglars steeling in the night to our 4-th story apartments in the quietest place in Bay Ridge. First month after I moved in I jumped every time he did. Now I merely turn in my sleep.

  7. fillyjonk »

    21 February 2013 · 7:56 am

    Yeah, I definitely would. One of my neighbors has a dog that he leaves outdoors about one night a week. It barks loudly enough to wake me up.

    I suppose I could use ear plugs, like I did in college, but then again, I might not hear a fire alarm when it went off, just like I did in college.

  8. CGHill »

    21 February 2013 · 8:04 am

    There is no wall that can keep neighbors’ noises out — or, for that matter, that can keep my noises in. Which is why I bought a place with buffer space.

  9. fillyjonk »

    21 February 2013 · 8:57 am

    So did I, but I’m fast learning I would desire more buffer space. If I ever take a notion to move it will be to a couple acres of land (posted No Trespassing) with a small house in the very center of it.

  10. Lynn »

    21 February 2013 · 10:59 am

    Where I live there is no Thai food and it usually takes longer to drive to the nearest pizza place than it takes them to make the pizza order after I phone it in. That makes me me a member of the group that is both most forgotten and most stereotyped.

  11. Charles Pergiel »

    21 February 2013 · 12:53 pm

    I don’t understand the attraction of Thai food, unless you mean spice so hot you can melt steel, which doesn’t attract me.

    One of the attractions of the suburbs (which I probably already knew, but just figured out) is that if you drive AWAY from the city, you can go for a pleasant ride in the country with hardly any other cars on the road. Traffic sucks.

  12. Jennifer »

    21 February 2013 · 1:17 pm

    I live in a huge old house in the historic distrcit of a town-that-wishes-it-were-a-city. I love everything about it. It feels like the best of suburbia married to the best of city living. Our neighborhood is a little urban suburb. But it’s not for everyone, I get that.

    Why can’t people just be free to make the choice that fits for them without so much harsh-ity judgment?

  13. CGHill »

    21 February 2013 · 4:27 pm

    Because we might be wrong, and that’s not allowed.

    The “four miles out” in the title represents the distance from my front door to City Hall as the crow flies, assuming you can get a crow to fly there. (My guess is, they’d rather hang around Burger King and wait for you to drop a french fry.) I miss the local definition of the core by a few blocks. My neighborhood is darn near walkable, which is unheard of way out here. And I’m even okay with making edge developers pay for new infrastructure. I’m just weary of being guilt-tripped because the number on my house has four digits.

  14. Lynn »

    21 February 2013 · 9:21 pm

    CP – Your description of Thai food makes me wish I could get it around here.

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