Saturday, December 08, 2007

Find Myself a City to Live In, Part the Third

Connor posted this a while back, and I thought I might as well play with it. Bearing in mind that I have not lived in New York for more than three consecutive months in the last seven years. And that I'm twenty-five years old. And that I am perfectly well aware of my crazy elitism and what problems it causes, thank you very much. Also, that this leaves out a lot of the sociopolitical aspects of both cities that I object to or honor.

Either way,
New York versus Chicago in subjectively determined categories as posted by Connor. But, y'know, with my answers.

I feel like there's a lot more off-the-record, private, flexible work to be found in NY, which is worth it for folks with artistic interests. But I've loved the work I've found here.

What's available in Chicago is about equivalent to what would've been available in New York twenty-five-odd years ago, probably at comparable prices. If you are a New Yorker who knows New Yorkers who bought their homes twenty-five-odd years ago, you'll understand what I mean. And I think Chicagoans just get it. Most of my friends in Chicago genuinely love where they live, and those who do not are aware that there is a possibility of doing so.

New York.
Whenever I'm visiting my family these days, I still tend to leave Chicago-time to get places, which means that no matter how far afield I am travelling within the city, I end up with at least half an hour to kill. By contrast, I find myself cursing at bus and train stations here, muttering invective at the system after waiting for thirty-five minutes, which itself would have been the approximate time I intended to spend on that bus or train. I'll admit Chicago is better than most cities, but it ain't got nothin' on New York.

New York.
Connor claims Chicago here, and I can very much see his argument in terms of the design of the CTA. But to me, perhaps because I grew up in New York's system, I find its ability to fit so many systems, make itself so far-reaching, and still have it be comprehensible and truly efficient quite impressive.

Connor answered this question in a way that seemed to ask "in which city do neighborhoods have more ferocious individual identities?" In that case, the answer would definitely be Chicago; neighborhoods turn on a dime here and families, particularly on the far south side, tend to live in one neighborhood for generations. For me, though, the more important question is, "Where does it mean more to live in a neighborhood?" Which I guess is similar in some ways, different in others. I loved both my neighborhoods growing up in New York, but it was more my immediate neighbors—the other residents of my building, the other people on my block—who made the difference. I love the neighborhood-based identities in Chicago, I love how many things a neighborhood becomes. I even love how much political infighting is genuinely based around neighborhoods and their borders. My neighborhood in Chicago means more to me as a place of residence than most NY neighborhoods did or do, and I see similar patterns throughout.

I hate this fight. I do feel, however, that Chicago-style pizza is can be reproduced outside of Chicago, while I have yet to see a pizza place outside New York reproduce New-York-style pizza in any reasonable way, rather like bagels. I like deep-dish, but it doesn't mean Chicago to me. New-York-style pizza very much means New York to me. In addition, New York has a true culture of a Pizza Place, whereas in Chicago places that serve pizza are either full-fledged Restaurants or such holes in the wall that it's honestly unpleasant to be there. Connor mentioned, compellingly, that one should not rely on the culture around the pizza to determine which pizza was better, and as such they're really just apples and oranges to me.

New York.
I'm not wild about either gentleman, and Bloomberg coming into office after I left New York, I know much less about him. As such, this is a somewhat ignorant choice. But while I admire Daley's lack of ambition to be anything other than mayor of Chicago, and his truly local focus as a result (unlike one former mayor of New York I could mention), too many systems that are too nasty continue to be upheld and encouraged under him, and he has maintained under his reign a painfully segregated city only encouraged by transit problems and community isolation he refuses to aid. Bloomberg strikes me as basically harmless, though I'd love to hear from some current New York residents on that.

New York.
I am not good with art museums, but while I think highly of the MCA and the Art Institute, I feel like the Met and the MoMA offer a great deal more and that smaller museums with more focused collections maintain a higher profile in New York—P.S. 1, the Guggenheim, the Whitney and the like. There are fabulous galleries and interesting gallery scenes in both places, but I think that New York maintains greater diversity in a more interesting way.

If I had ever lived near Yankee Stadium in New York, I might vote differently. Yankees fans are jerks as often as not. But Cubs fans, who are overwhelmingly drunken idiots, are right on my route home. I've had my bike tripped and my helmeted head grabbed by drunken Cubs fans, I've been groped by drunken Cubs fans, and it takes more than an hour longer to get home when they're playing.

I was raised by a Mets fan, and while again some of my favor might come from not living near a stadium, White Sox fans to me are a much more likable, less fucking obnoxious bunch.

Mostly because I have never been very involved in any music scene, and my knowledge of music history is limited. I see more forms that were presumed to originate in Chicago and with Chicago culture, but a more constantly active scene that's based itself in New York.

New York.
Just barely. This might well be Chicago but for sentimentality, but my childhood was marked by frequent voyages to both the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Aquarium. I love the Shedd, though I haven't been there in quite a while, but the New York Aquarium is so delightful and incongruous, and if we're counting aquariums as science museums we have to count zoos, and Lincoln Park's got nothing on the Bronx Zoo (Brookfield Zoo being way too far afield, and not within city limits). The Museum of Natural History, though the exterior architecture isn't quite as beautiful, is fuller and more of a pleasure to explore than the Field. The Museum of Science and Industry has never impressed me, but it is within the city limits, which is more than I can say of the Liberty Science Center, the closest comparison I can think of in the New York area. So this goes to New York for me, but it's squeaky.

New York.
The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, team. Ain't nobody said nothin' about the el.

I plead the fifth.
This would be the most sensitive question for me at the moment. I'm impatient with both for different reasons. It's too comprehensive a thought process and would offend too many people I know in both places for me to put this musing out in a public forum. If you want to have this conversation with me, I'd love to.

The biggest change September 11th brought for me was the change in skyline. But nevertheless I continue love the irregularity of Manhattan, and even the way Brooklyn has crept in as part of the silohuette. Chicago is more condensed, as such a little starker, but it certainly and pleasurably indicates to you that you're there.

This is the first definitive win that I gave Chicago while Connor did not, I think. I have tremendous admiration for Central and Prospect Park; I think they display tremendous dedication and foresight on the part of the city, and I think a few of the city's smaller parks—Stuyvestant, Corona—are truly lovely. But I also think community in Chicago is based in and around parks in a way that it isn't in Chicago, and that makes a huge difference in how parks are received and treated by the residents. Pretty much every neighborhood in Chicago has a park, a real, full-sized, well-maintained park, that serves as a community center and a summer destination. Some neighborhoods are fortunate enough to have parks that are bigger, more and better than that, and it's not just wealthy white neighborhoods. Plus, there's a lot to be said for forest preserves within your city limits.

I don't care.
I can't figure out a worthwhile thing to change this category to. Coffee, by Connor's report, seems to be cheaper in New York, and I'm inclined to believe him. I never found a café to settle into in New York in quite the same way as I have here, but at eighteen I didn't really need one. So I'm not going to give much to this question.

What New York's trying to do with its waterfronts now—and this has been an innovation of the last ten years or so—is based upon Chicago. If not directly so, it's certainly a poor imitation of the city planning decision Chicago made, with regards to the lakefront, decades ago. Even when several New York boroughs have the advantage of being surrounded by water on multiple or all sides, they have not managed to make the beautiful, expansive public use of it that Chicago long ago made a priority and has preserved with pride ever since.

New York.
As Lorrie Moore—or a character written by her—once said, if you don't understand how this paper is better than that paper, I want you to go out and stand in the hall until you do.

Living in New York for eighteen years I never had occasion to open the Post. I retain some genuine curiosity about the Sun-Times.

21. CITY.
I plead the fifth, again.
If I knew, I'd be in a completely different emotional place right now.


At 10:32 AM, Blogger Connor said...

I like this list!

And I'm *definitely* interested in hearing your thoughts on the theater comparison sometime.

At 12:03 PM, Blogger John_Halfz said...

Regarding neighborhoods:

Elmhurst; Jackson Heights; Dyker Heights; Brighton Beach; City Island; Broad Channel; Jamaica; Red Hook; Sunset Park; Flushing; Riverdale; Mott Haven; Fordham; Tottenville; Tompkinsville; East New York; Bedford-Stuyvesant.

It's likely just a question of saying fuck all to Manhattan.


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