Skip to main content

Why (Most) Cities Aren't for Me

Most cities are not places where I can thrive. My wife knows I can barely function in some cities without wanting to scream. Okay, I have screamed, turned the car around, and headed back to the country. I hate some cities that much.

While my biggest complaints involve the crowds and the sensory overload, I don't think I'd like the cities even if we were the only two people in one of them. An empty city is still a city.

I've written on this site several times about the problems I had living in Minneapolis, an older city with narrow roads and a cluttered, illogical downtown. The cramped nature of older cities is too much for me. The traffic, public transit, and tall buildings add to my anxiety.

Historically, the cities on the East coast evolved "organically" over the decades and centuries. Walking paths became wagon ways, which became roads. The streets of cities were shaped by geography, too, with roads going around hills and avoiding other obstacles. In the rare instances cities do have grid patterns, the grids are only a few blocks. Forget trying to navigate with the assumption that some roads are North-South and others run East-West. No, the roads just happened.

Below is a map of Pittsburgh. It is a map from Hell. Trust me, Mephistopheles would get lost trying to locate the financial district in Pittsburgh. Even when you can see the tall buildings, you can't drive in a straight line towards them. Recently, my wife and I were headed to the Bloomfield neighborhood to meet friends for dinner. A construction zone forced us to veer onto something like a highway, but not quite, and we ended up right back across the river near Mt. Washington. GPS was useless, since roads twist and turn faster than you can read the map. Good luck finding a city map anymore — first you'd have to find a decent bookstore or retailer with maps.


I hate the disorder. I despise it.

Compare Pittsburgh to Fresno, California. Notice the nice, perfect grids. You can drive along Shaw Avenue from State Highway 99 across Fresno and into Clovis, right past Fresno State. It's a straight line that crosses other straight lines. There are breaks in the grid and a few winding roads, but the major arteries are organized. This reflects the open, flat lands of the West. The cities were and are planned. Even new developments follow grids, or at least the commercial districts are on grids.



When I visit cities, I find that I like the cities that are organized. I like open spaces, too. This means I like the cities of the West — the "new" cities. San Francisco, with all its hills and strange traffic patterns, is still a grid. Los Angeles isn't quite a grid, but the major streets do at least attempt to be something of a grid pattern. Order matters to me. Simply looking at a map, I know if I'll be okay in a city. Not great, of course, but will be "okay enough" in a city with a grid.

Comments

  1. Have you been to Chicago? Thanks to Mr. Burnham, we are on the grid--have been since the rebuilding of the city and the Columbia Exposition. But traffic here is just horrible and the drivers are top 5 rudest in the country.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Comments violating the policies of this blog will not be approved for posting. Language and content should be appropriate for all readers and maintain a polite tone. Thank you.

Popular posts from this blog

Autism, Asperger's, and IQ

"Aren't people with Asperger's more likely to be geniuses? Isn't genius related to autism?"

A university student asked this in a course I am teaching. The class discussion was covering neurological differences, free will, and the nature versus nurture debate. The textbook for the course includes sidebars on the brain and behavior throughout chapters on ethics and morality. This student was asking a question reflecting media portrayals of autism spectrum disorders, social skills difficulties, and genius.

I did not address this question from a personal perspective in class, but I have when speaking to groups of parents, educators, and caregivers. Some of the reasons these questions arise, as mentioned above, are media portrayals and news coverage of autism. Examples include:
Television shows with gifted characters either identified with or assumed to have autistic traits: Alphas, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Touch, and others. Some would include She…

Listen… and Help Others Hear

We lack diversity in the autism community.

Think about what you see, online and in the media. I see upper-middle class parents, able to afford iPads and tutors and official diagnoses. I see parents who have the resources to fight for IEPs and physical accommodations.

I see self-advocacy leadership that has been fortunate (and hard working, certainly) to attend universities, travel the nation (or even internationally), and have forums that reach thousands.

What I don't see? Most of our actual community. The real community that represents autism's downsides. The marginalized communities, ignored and excluded from our boards, our commissions, our business networks.

How did my lower-income parents, without college educations, give me a chance to be more? How did they fight the odds? They did, and now I am in a position of privilege. But I don't seem to be making much of a difference.

Demand that your charities seek out the broadest possible array of advisers and board members.…

Life Updates: The MFA Sprint

Life is okay, if more than a little hectic at the end of this first month.

With one month down, I'm 11 months away from my MFA in Film and Digital Technology. Though things might happen and things do go wrong, so far I'm on schedule and things are going well —— though I'm exhausted and working harder than I did for any other degree. Because the MFA requires projects every week, this isn't as easy to schedule as writing. Even researching a paper can be done from the comfort of home, at any hour.

You cannot make movies by yourself, at any time of day. It doesn't work that way. Filming takes time, and often requires a team of people. It's not comparable to working alone on a degree in writing or rhetoric.

The team-based nature of film is exhausting for me, but I enjoy the results. I also like the practical nature of the skills being taught. You either learn how to adjust ISO, f/Stop, shutter speed, and other variables or you don't. You can have theories …