Re: There's A Screenplay In There, I'm Sure

1

community is dead.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:55 PM
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Long live community.

Can anyone find data about the settlement of New Orleans residents who haven't returned? I must not be a good Google searcher, because I can't find the magic terms.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:58 PM
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If you look at the town i grew up in on a map, you can see its cancerous growth. The south side of downtown is bordered by old factories. Housing development spread north. Starting with some nice victorian houses, moving foward in time. Gradually becoming ungrid street patterns, large patches of grass that noone ever is on (both yards and those grass areas around strip malls). On the far north side is a walmart and a megachurch.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:00 AM
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The downtowns are being abandoned because they are no longer economically viable. Evacuating New York City won't magically make them viable again.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:10 AM
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4: But any lack of viability is due to demographic quirks and sunk infrastructure costs in other places, not because of some inherent problem with the geography of Michigan. It's not that cities in general are falling apart, it's that some cities are gaining while others are losing. Get rid of a few coastal cities and the interior ones will be a lot more appealing.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:36 AM
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6

write the damn novel, already, and retire.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 1:48 AM
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For some reason, port cities are popular. So Hamburg, being a port, rivals Berlin, even though Berlin is the capital. I'd have thought that the diaspora from a ruined coastal city would tend to relocate in other coastal cities. You need lots of people to make a culture vibrant.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 4:19 AM
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3 brings back memories.

You need lots of people to make a culture vibrant

That's true, although you need a lot fewer to make it pleasant to live in. But you're right about the kind of vibrant that generates economic growth, inmigration, and keeps young people living there. Since downtowns need population density, you need some real buzz to get them back on their feet. That hundreds of people in small towns, thousands in small cities, and tens of thousands in the huge abandoned swaths of Cleveland or Detroit. At the least -- that's just to get some semi-viable gentrification going, not to transform them completely.

I do wonder how much of this is the weather. Most of the really abandoned-seeming downtowns are in the inner Northeast or upper Midwest where the winters are horrible. People don't put up with much discomfort any more.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 5:32 AM
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Also, I think that screenplay's been written -- ever see "Northern Exposure" or the various small town bohemian TV series that spun off?

Becks, what were you doing in that city? Are you a consultant or something? WIthout violating anonymity, of course.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 5:34 AM
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I sometimes imagine little stories about the arrival of urban refugees into a small town with a dying Main Street, the inevitable culture clashes that would occur, and then an eventual community emerging that combines the best of urban and rural life.

Welcome to the State of Vermont.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 5:40 AM
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There are obviously countless small towns that fit this description, but you've made me think of one for which I am particularly fond and which has also wilted under the economy in recent years. I take comfort, though, in knowing that eventually urban sprawl will do it's thing and this quaint, somewhat abandoned little rural town will one day enjoy rebirth as the suburb it was meant to be.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 5:47 AM
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12

its, not it's


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 5:48 AM
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Small towns have many merits but you need a density of population to have a thriving culture. I have a friend here who promotes music events and tries to keep in touch, but closer than Minneapolis (100+ miles) there's really no scene, and he has to travel long distances on weekends.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 6:29 AM
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It depends on what you mean by abandoned small city: more like Pittsburgh or Detroit? Both are off of their peak in terms of population at their heyday, but Pittsburgh seems to have retained enough of a middle class and encouraged enough new industry that it's actually a pretty nice place to live already. New young people fleeing the coasts are pretty much what the city needs, if they can get over the 'omg, like, so where are the steel mills!!' bit.

Detroit would need a way to make money. A lot of small towns collapsed because one solid working-class-but-livable-income employer moved out. The people who could afford to leave did, so you're left with minimum wage jobs and a handful of professional ones, and nothing in between.

Or did you mean somewhere like Bethlehem? Burned out tiny town that was never a major city that's just on the edge of Easton and poised to see a small housing boom as the real estate seekers creep inward.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 6:33 AM
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those grass areas around strip malls

My absolute least favorite feature of suburbia.

Funny thing is, I hardly even noticed them as a kid, but now after living in a city for a while, whenever I travel back I can do anything but sit and stare in awe and horror at the ugly waste of space.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 6:35 AM
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Welcome to the State of Vermont.

It does seem like 2/3 of Vermont moved there from NY.


Posted by: chas | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 7:05 AM
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Places like Santa Fe and Vermont are spinoffs of big cities. If New York dies, Vermont dies. The money has to come from somewhere.

My guess is that if NYC went under, a port city would mushroom upstream, probably not as far up as Albany.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 7:43 AM
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It does seem like 2/3 of Vermont moved there from NY.

Parts of NC seem the same way. Though they usually went to Florida first before halfbacking their way here.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 7:45 AM
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9 & 14 - The place I was in was probably more like Bethlehem. It's a small town. I was there visiting family.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 8:20 AM
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There's a post-apocalyptic novel, maybe several, to be written about what happened to Detroit. Cleveland and Buffalo are cities that declined and that aren't ever going to approach their peaks (Philadelphia too, although its presence in the northeast corridor masks a lot); Detroit already had its Katrina, and it's still ongoing.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 8:56 AM
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Philadelphia too

Really?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 8:58 AM
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Yeah, just because through much the nineteenth century, Philadelphia was a wealthier and more powerful city than New York. It's never going to go into steep decline while NYC is rich, just like Baltimore has slowly morphed into an exurb of DC, but it's not nearly what it was.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 9:05 AM
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Baltimore and Philly also have vestigial financial industries (not nearly on a scale with Boston or Chicago, let alone New York), whereas Cleveland and Buffalo have always been almost entirely making-stuff sorts of towns. And then there's Detroit.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 9:08 AM
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St Louis is a bit like Pittsburgh-- some decline, still livable. There is discreet decay; there's a spontaneous museum with huge welded slides and an amateur aquarium in an old building at the edge of downtown, with monumental industrial detritus (an old vault, machinery) upstairs. Also a working pinball machine. A lot of fun.

Wallace Stevens grew up near Reading PA, where he wrote this:


Elsie--you will never grow old, will you? You will always be just my little girl, won't you? You must always have pink cheeks and golden hair. To be young is all there is in the world. The rest is nonsense--and cant. They talk so beautifully about work and having a family and a home (and I do sometimes)--but it's all worry and headaches and respectable poverty and forced gushing...By gushing I mean: telling people how nice it is, when, in reality, you would give all of your last thirty years for one of your first thirty. Old people are tremendous frauds. The point is to be young--and to be a little in love, or very much...


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 9:10 AM
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This essay, THE BUFFALO COMMONS AS REGIONAL METAPHOR AND GEOGRAPHIC METHOD, from the original Buffalo Commons folks is worth a read for a discussion of "leftover" areas.

Includes some discussion of Detroit:

In 1995 New York City author and photographer Camilo Jose Vergara suggested that 12 crumbling square blocks of downtown Detroit be preserved as a monument to the high period of early modern American capitalism.

I would also love to see a comparative history of Toronto versus Buffalo NY. From the data I can see, Buffalo bigger and more vital until early-mid 20th century, since 1951 accelerating pwnage by Toronto. If US had "won" the War of 1812 - would there be a vital growing city on the north shore of Lake Ontario?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 9:34 AM
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That was an underlying current in the recently cancelled "Jericho". There were refugees from outside, and the empty homes of those who were not coming back, but a lot of resistance from the community about acknowledging the obvious solution.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 9:46 AM
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Toronto is another example of the financial and service centers with global reach; its nearest analog is Chicago.

Canada has dying (less so because of more favorable economic conditions for manufacturing) towns just like the ones in PA, Upstate, OH & MI. See our own Xinejc's wonderful photos of downtown Hamilton on the Flickr page.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 9:48 AM
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5

"But any lack of viability is due to demographic quirks and sunk infrastructure costs in other places,
..."

No, places like Detroit or Buffalo or North Dakota would be declining even faster were it not for sunk costs. Plently of elderly people in these places would move to Florida or Arizona in an instant if they could sell their houses for a reasonable price.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 10:58 AM
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For some reason, port cities are popular.

The wealth, diversity, and tolerance resulting from sea trade make for a certain kind of cosmopolitanism. At least that's the case with your Hamburg example.

It also doesn't hurt that they've undertaken this insanely large and cool urban development project.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 11:34 AM
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snarkout in 23:

Baltimore and Philly also have vestigial financial industries (not nearly on a scale with Boston or Chicago, let alone New York),

I'm actually a little bit worried about Boston. We have higher education and biothech, but much of our financial services are moving out of state. Fidelity has some back-end processing going down south, and they're moving a fair amount of the stuff to Rhode Island too.

Wellington is still privately owned, so I don't think that they have any plans to move. John Hancock is no longer a local company, having been bought out by a Canadian company. Fleet Bank was bought out by Bank of America.

Boston is starting to turn into a more provincial town. Companies aren't based here; they've got regional offices. This isn't just happening in financial services, either. Gillette is now owned by Procter and Gamble.

It's actually a serious problem for a lot of non-profits (other than the hospitals) and particularly cultural organizations. The financial services sector used to donate a lot of money to those organizations, and since upper management no longer has community ties, they don't as much anymore. Shakespeare on the Common used to run for two weeks, but they had to scale back to one this past summer.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 11:38 AM
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30: Geez, shouldn't they be able to hit up Harvard and MIT for something like that? If Boston turns into a no-fun kind of city without concerts in the parks and such, that can't be good for Harvard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 11:52 AM
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Yeah, no one will want to go to fucking HARVARD anymore.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:01 PM
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33

Harvard would likely just gate the campus and sponsor its own concerts.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:03 PM
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34

30-34 is a little unfair both to Boston and to Harvard. Although BG is right that most corporate HQ have disappeared from Boston, there is a lot of economic activity that is arguably more conducive to a vibrant cultural scene: venture capital, entrepreneurs, professional services, universities, research hospitals, etc. You want to see a city with a bunch of corporate headquarters? Go to Schaumburg, IL or Jacksonville, FL. Bunch of corporate drones. No thanks

As far as Harvard/MIT goes, do not forget the cultural enrichment that Harvard brings through its facilities and student body. For example, there are three undergraduate orchestras, all of which give concerts open to the public, and any one of which would do a mid-sized city proud. Then there is the Fogg Museum, the film archives, the ART, etc.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:10 PM
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Circular reference in 34 was unintentional.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:10 PM
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Harvard would likely just gate the campus

Already gated!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:22 PM
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Circular reference in 37 was intentional.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:26 PM
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38

This is not a circular reference to 38.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:33 PM
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39

Next person who refers circle-wise is banned.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:34 PM
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40

Wedding bands are circles.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:35 PM
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41

40: except when they aren't


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:39 PM
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42

Somehow I was under the impression that Boston has always been provincial.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:46 PM
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43

People are moving into North Dakota to retire, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:50 PM
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42: hasn't it?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 12:55 PM
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42.Somehow I was under the impression that Boston has always been provincial.

The hub of the universe? Surely not.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 1:04 PM
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The hub of the universe? Surely not.

I do not think that word means what you think that it means.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 1:06 PM
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45, meet 45.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 1:07 PM
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Which is the more provincial attitude- thinking your city is best (Boston, Chigaco) or knowing it (NY, Paris, London)? Note I don't even consider LA, which is as provincial as it gets.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 1:21 PM
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Elsie--you will never grow old, will you? You will always be just my little girl, won't you? You must always have pink cheeks and golden hair. To be young is all there is in the world. The rest is nonsense--and cant. They talk so beautifully about work and having a family and a home (and I do sometimes)--but it's all worry and headaches and respectable poverty and forced gushing...By gushing I mean: telling people how nice it is, when, in reality, you would give all of your last thirty years for one of your first thirty. Old people are tremendous frauds. The point is to be young--and to be a little in love, or very much..

That is Wallace Stevens? You're joking. It reads like L Frank Baum crossed with CS Lewis at his kitschiest. At least--or so Google informs me--he was only in his late twenties when he wrote it and hadn't really gotten going as a poet. Still, what awful treacle!

Definintely an arguement for the Big City.

Er, lw, I hope that's not your favoriet Stevens ever.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 1:33 PM
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Not fave, but I hadn't seen it before. I liked what he had to say about age more than the sentiment to Elsie; that still interests me because of what happened to their marriage later. On the other hand, I do have a maudlin streak, and I like a lot of CS Lewis.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 2:14 PM
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Its a curious way how what is crumbling in detroit is midpriced in detroit and lusted after in new york. in a generation most of the good parts of chicago will be gentrified.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 3:36 PM
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48 Somehow we have to factor in how badly wrong the though is ...


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-25-07 3:38 PM
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Put your hands up for Detroit !
De-industrialized cities are a substrate for good music -- a
Roland TB-303 sounds better in Manchester, Sheffield.


Posted by: Econolicious, aka Anonymous D | Link to this comment | 10-27-07 1:52 AM
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