Of Cleveland as the new Albuquerque (or: the mid-sized city blues)Posted: January 13, 2014
So, fine friends, over the holidays I found myself (once I returned from Paris) once more in my native land: the disturbed but compelling Albuquerque, New Mexico.*
This particular return had me thinking about mid-sized cities, of the off-center American variety to be more specific. Since I now, again, inhabit such a city (the lovely, if much maligned Cleveland) I have begun to notice what may be a pattern of commonly held notions among their loyal residents.
In no particular order, here they are:
-An unruly combination of loyalty and disdain for the city, not unlike the sort afforded particular families. In Albuquerque, as in Cleveland, much bitching is done by natives about their city. And in Albuquerque, as in Cleveland, this is paired with a refusal to validate claims by non-natives as to the specific city’s failings.
-A legitimate hope that despite reputation and failing political will, these cities can be and sometimes are exactly the best of what cities can be: that is, magical, engaging, lively, cultured and weird.
-An (also potentially legitimate) belief that those living in the city are more ‘authentic’ or ‘real’ than the populous of larger and more commonly visited metropolises such as New York City or Los Angeles.
-A general feeling that living in the city, or more specifically, having lived in the city for a very long time, means a cultural, emotional and existential experience that can be understood only by others who share long-time residence or are themselves natives.**
These above-noted links between Cleveland and Albuquerque are observational, of course, and my relationship with both cities means I lack a legitimate parallax view. But, given their distance between each other (both cultural and geographic), I wonder if some combination of poverty and size, blight and development, doesn’t open the space for such similarities to be more than coincidental.
Back in Cleveland now, again, I will tell you this: bone-chilling cold is not universal. Whatever that engenders in inhabitants of midwestern cities of any size I don’t quite know yet. But, for once, it makes an itinerant wanderer miss home.
*You think I’m happy about the Paris posts closing? I’m not. Home has its charms, but as per my previous posts, if I’d had to stay in the city of lights I wouldn’t have revolted.+
**This may be a belief held by social humans in general. That I feel it is particularly true in Albuquerque suggests that I am ill equipped, at this juncture, to gage it as universal, specific, or (more likely) somewhere in between.
+Except, of course, when my fellow Parisians chose to revolt, in which case, I would join them in solidarity.