Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The American CIty

            So far this year, I’ve visited three American cities, four if you count my Christmas holiday trip to San Francisco.  The first city I lived in (and visited frequently as a child) was Buffalo, NY.  Over the years I watched its downtown transform from a busy place with department stores, shops, and restaurants into an after work ghost town unless there’s a special event taking place.   That’s increasingly the way an American city functions- it’s a place to escape from to a suburban home or it’s a place to go for entertainment like seeing a team play or going to a play.  The idea of including activities with living space has largely vanished except in larger cities like NY. 
            In a smaller city like Buffalo many essential needs can’t be met within the city.  My neighborhood has a café, restaurants, and boutiques.  For all practical concerns, I have to take a bus.   Contrast that with my neighborhood in Barcelona, called Gracia.  It had all of the above plus a supermarket across the street, a gym minutes away, and a medical center and cinema all within  walking distance. 
            “City Life” by Witold Rybcznski addresses how American cities have changed, and why, and how some may even thrive.  All the American cities I visited required a car thought if I lived in one of them, I’m sure I’d find a way to manage without one just as I have here in Buffalo.  I think that’s because they’re older cities (Philadelphia, Charleston, and Pittsburgh) all created before the car was the measure of all things.  I might not be able to manage in the newer cities like Phoenix and Dallas.  Let me know if I’m wrong. 
            In any case, I’m still clinging to my image of what a city should be, perhaps formed by the second city I lived in, Paris.  Need I say more.

No comments:

Post a Comment