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city life

I'm on vacation this week, so posting and/or responding to comments will probably be slow, and topics will be nice and non-theological, like this one!

Right now, I'm in Chicago visiting college friends. I've been thinking about cities. I've been to Chicago three times now, and I really like it. I feel like I'm getting to know my way around a bit. I feel like it is an "easy-going" sort of city. I grew up in a small city (think 30,000 people) and I now live in an even smaller city (think 10,000). When I was looking at colleges, even schools in mid-sized cities like Syracuse University seemed intimidating to me. When I went to seminary, I chose Drew over Boston in part to location. Drew would give me access to NYC without having to live right in a big city.

During seminary, I interned at the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns (say that five times fast), and got to do the whole commute-into-Manhattan-thing. I hated it (the commute, not the agency). Aside from the fact that I worked beginning in September 2001, and had to deal with the immediate change of atmosphere from 9/11, I just hated the stress of the commute. My job wasn't stressful, but getting to it was. Being near other stressed-out commuters rubbed off on me. And Manhattan - something about it just seemed life-draining to me. (Sorry to you NYC readers!) I felt like my thoughts about big cities had been confirmed - could never live in one.

Now, living in a small town, I very much miss the diversity of living in the NY metro area. I miss seeing people who don't look like me. I miss not having people of other faiths living in my community. I miss not having anything open after 10pm!

So, here in Chicago, I'm thinking about cities. When I go back to school someday for doctoral work, I'm thinking you might find me in a big city.

What's your favorite city? Why? What's your least favorite? Why? Do you prefer smaller-town life?


will smama said…
A world traveler would be better for this but here is my 2 cents:

Chicago by far is my favorite city, but I think part of that is because I've always had great places to stay (it's not what you know, it's who you know).

Least favorite... I wasn't too impressed with Syracuse but I only spent a weekend there.

Small town life is ok, but I miss diversity. When I make trips to big cities I find myself staring and although I mean it in a 'oooh, you are so pretty' way; staring in general in cities is not a good thing.

I also miss public transportation, food delivery and the use of spices other than salt and pepper in foods.
Jody Harrington said…
I love London--to visit. "He (or she) who is tired of London is tired of life!"

I love Houston to live in.

My least favorite big city is Washington DC.

As for me, I'm a city gal myself!
Anonymous said…

I have lived in all three settings. I was born and raised and went to college (Christian Brothers '89) in Memphis, TN. I went to Grad School at Mississippi State, Starkville, MS.

Then, I lived in Schenectady.(actually Clifton Park). As a Southerner, that was a blast. A Cold Blast! Hey, it is the Post Card of the Rust Belt. But I had good friends that I met who "adopted" me as one of their own. I loved it, especially, Saratoga Springs. I am told that I had a lot of fun in Saratoga Springs. LOL!

I lived 5 years in Decatur, AL (~30,000). It was an old, Southern town. I loved the people, I loved the houses in Historic Distric, but just like in the movies, old Southern towns have their quirks and I was not born there, so I didn't quite fit in. I did meet and marry my wife in the First Methodist Church in Decatur.

Then we moved to Atlanta. The largest city in the South where nobody is actually "from" Atlanta. Atlanta is very culturally and religiously diverse, there is a lot to do. I like Atlanta probably for the same reasons that you liked NYC. I love working in Atlanta, I love the people, the stuff to see and do. But I hate living here and commuting here. Kind of the same reason you hated NYC! It is one of the worst commutes I have ever endured. Some days, it is the greatest test of my Christian Faith as I sit in traffic by myself, white knuckling the steering wheel, my blood boiling, froth boiling out of my mouth at the red lights in front of me.

I think we will move back to a smaller town (20-30,000), shortly. I will definately miss the diversity, and just the large array of stuff to do, but I won't miss the traffic. As long as I have my family and a good church to go to, I will be much more happy in a smaller, town. Plus, I know it isn't popular to say, but I really just don't want to live in a large population center in the times we live in.
Unknown said…
I love New York City. Sometimes when I dream of what I might do as an old lady, I picture myself in NYC, working with the marginalized and walking around with some collateral descendant of my great big dogs.
I really don't love Boston. I always, always get lost there!
Anonymous said…
I love Denton, where I live. Approx. 100K people, located about 30 miles from both Dallas & Fort Worth. Two universities with a student population of 41K on top of the rest of the population. Amazing music & art schools. Still kinda funky.

I do not love Houston, where I grew up. Am glad to have done so - many advantages! but it is too large a city and have too many bad crime memories from there.
I live in Turku (Finland) now. It's a city. The archbishop of Finland and THE Lutheran cathedral are here and it used to be the capital of Filand before the Russians moved it to Helsinki to dilute the Swedish influence. Turku's population is only about 160000 so tiny by international standards and I love it

I grew up in London, England. Big sprawling, dirty, cosmopolitan and it will always have a place in my life.

I've visited NYC once and loved it - and Melbourne (Aust) twice and loved that too. One day I'll go back to both of these places, with God's permission sooner rather than later!

One thing in common with all four places are excellent public transport, and - in the main - friendly people. I hate the noise of big cities though and traffic.
John said…
My answer would vary with different phases of my life. As a young adult, I was a dedicated role-player. Finding a good gaming group requires a population fairly large, perhaps 100,000 at a minimum. There is typically about 1 comic book/gaming store per 100,000 people, so that would form the focus of the gaming community for the town. On that basis, I would most prefer to live in a substantial Southern city of temperate climate, such as Birmingham, Nashville, the Research Triangle of North Carolina, Dallas, or Atlanta.

Now that I'm older and married and the gaming thing is past, I'd like to live in a smaller town and one with good weather and access to the mountains. The obvious choice is Ft. Payne, Alabama.

I've never been to NYC, although I've longed for the opportunity to see it. I don't think of myself as well-travelled without having seen it. But from the descriptions of impossibly high rent, I don't think that I'd like to live there.
Anonymous said…
OMG. I love the city. You can see the world all around you and feel just how big it is in a city. I guess my very favorite city would have to be London. If I could get appointed to a church in London proper, I'd head down the Harsfield right now and head over.

After that, its a tie for second--New York and DC. Again, that's based on my time in Manhattan and the Disctrict, not the outer burroughs or the 'burbs of DC.

Hmm... there's also something really nice about Manchester. There's a city that has done some good work post IRA bombing.

Then, again, there is some nice about the small town, where you can do all your pastoral visiting at the post office.

I guess the only place I really don't like to live is the 'burbs. Its neither fish nor fowl. What's that Jesus said about lukewarm?
Girl said…
I have to say...Boston is your best bet. Although I grew up near NYC, I never visited without a chaperone and a 45 other kids tethered to the school bus.

I moved to Boston because there was a job. I had never even been before. I am continually amazed at what a great city it is. It is small enough to walk, and safe enough for the most part. In fact, once you know where you are, you don't think of it as a city anymore. You tend to think of it as a really big town. there's my two cents.

Come for a visit sometime :)
Emily said…
I grew up in Chicago, which has spoiled me for life.

I loved living in Tucson for the scenery and the size, and in St. Louis for the things to do and the architecture.

I now live in Oklahoma City, which is trying to grow up into a city. I enjoy being able to get out into the rural areas so quickly, but I'm not crazy about the sprawl.

I'd happily live in San Francisco or London if my fairy godmother waved a wand and made us independently wealthy!
Kristen said…
Saratoga Springs is the best small City there is. (I think Keith would agree! ;-) As for big cities in my opinion Nothing beats NYC. I do like DC and Barcelona.

Miami was my least favorite City
Rev Paul Martin said…
Sadly I have yet to visit USA so I don't know your cities. My daughter's best friend from our Cambridge days was from Boston and she hopes we one day visit there. I hope so too.

I enjoy cities with a sense of history. These include London (like Dr Johnson I think anyone tired of London is tired of life), Cambridge and Canterbury.

Generally I prefer towns with a sense of belonging which to be fair can exist in the latter two I mentioned.

Whilst I find the pace of Manchester a little too fast and find it to be rather impersonal, I do like to visit it (my first part of training was flying to Manchester for weekends from Isle of Man where I then lived) I do enjoy visiting it. It has a lively cosmopolitan feel - and the best possible Indian restaurants in the 'Curry Mile.'
Jules said…
I adore Chicago, and get there as often as I can. I currently live in a metroplitan area of about 1.5 million, but the 100 mile radius includes Chicagoland, so that means about 8 million. (Get those maps out and figure it out!)

I lived in the San Francisco area for 6 years and adore that, too! The things that both those great cities have over where I live now is wonderful public transportation, better food, and more hustle and bustle.

But for a mid-size city, my current town is better than most people think it is. It's a lefty union town. Great arts, very eclectic ethnic mix, vibrant downtown. And a Very Big Lake. Not so bad.

My favorite foreign city is Shanghai--the NYC of Asia. (Although residents of Hong Kong would disagree with that assessment.)
Anonymous said…

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day at The Parting Glass in Saratoga was truly a "religious experience". Okay, maybe not, but people up there really know how to celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick, unlike folks in the South. The antique woodwork on that bar in the restaurant is absolutely beautiful!When you think about how old it is, you really start to wonder who sat there before you?

The Saratoga Springs horse race track is truly beautiful in the summer. I could go there every day during the season.

The historic homes are truly beautiful and I love the main drag through the town.

But it it TOO COLD for me. I gotta stay south of the KY-TN state line.
Anonymous said…
I think my favorite city would actually be Syracuse. Growing up in Westernville, NY (population... 100? 150?... plus chickens, cows, and dogs...), then moving to Rome, NY (30,000), the "big, big city" tends to be a bit much for me. I love visiting NYC and other big cities, but I don't think I could live there. Syracuse, for me, is the perfect mix... part small town, a short drive to waterfalls and trails (and my mom's house), but with enough independent movie theaters, vegan restaurants, Indian food, club shows, used book stores, street fairs and the like that there's always something to do, something going on.
Andy B. said…
I'll put in a plug for Prague. Great history, great artistic community, beautiful architecture, and wonderful dark beer!
Ah, Praha!
Andy B.
DannyG said…
I've lived in Miami and Albuquerque and near enough to Orlando and Boston. Have visited extensively in San Francisco, San Antionio, New Orleans, London, and DC. If I had to live in a city, and quality of life was the only concern (e.g. money not an object) I would choose San Francisco in a heartbeat. But, that being said, I prefer to live in a rural area. I like deer & wild turkey in my yard. I like not having to deal with zoning and neighborhood commissions. (One city we lived in required approval for any plants or flowers planted..had to match the color scheme). I like being able to see the stars at night.
Randy said…
I prefer living in the country, far away from streetlights and noise. I like seeing the stars at night and observing the way leaves change color over the course of a day. I enjoy seeing yearling horses run and calves bump heads in play.

But I enjoy the cultural events and restaurants of cities, so it's nice to live within an hour's drive of a place where we can eat dinner at a nice Thai place and then go to a play or concert or a martini lounge.

Cities are fun to visit, but I don't think I would be happy living in a city for more than a few months. Nashville, Memphis and Atlanta are all nice places. Chapel Hill, though not huge, is exciting. New York is amazing for a week, but it loses its charm. Seattle is wonderful if you like the rain.
Thanks for visiting my blog! I surfed around on your blog, also checked out your church's website (mine is under construction), read your "All" sermon and liked it, and read your post about

Small town? 30,000 is not a small town! I live in a town of 3,000. THAT is a small town. ;-)

I was born in Los Angeles, CA, and grew up in nearby in crowded Southern California. I lived in Washington DC for awhile and visited Seattle, Chicago, St. Louis, and many others.

I live in a little bitty town..but I am a city girl at heart, even though I love the country and nature. I live in Wisconsin and I commuted to Milwaukee for seven years before taking the pastorate of a small rural church. Milwaukee is a funny place...yes, there is lots of beer, lots of cheese, lots of frigid temps and blustery wind and snow. There is also the lakefront where you can stroll along Lake Michigan, great Mexican food (yep, Mexican) and a wonderful place called The African Hut which serves fufu and agusi soup. There is SummerFest where you can listen to music ranging from folk or swing to rock. There is the largest clock in the world, bigger than Big Ben. There is diversity. I miss that very much...Greeks, Hispanics, Africans, Asians, African Americans, Scandinavians, Germans, Poles, etc. That is what I miss most about the city. Diversity. That and a big beautiful library.

I enjoyed "The Wesley Blog" too, btw. Thanks, again. I'll be back.
I forgot to add, HEY, REV. MOM, I know where you live. :-) Giggle. Girls CAN do math!
Jason D. Moore said…
In my travels and my throughout my long series of moving as I grew up I'd have to say my favorite cities would have to be Boston, DC, London, Omaha, Cape Town, and Kyoto.

I'm not much of a city person, really. I like to visit them from time to time but I wouldn't really want to live in one again. I went to Boston University which isn't RIGHT downtown but it's certainly an urban campus. Even though I love the feel of Boston and the history of it, I didn't really like the crazy drivers, the night sounds of the city - the sirens, the T, the drunk college students coming home midweek. I love the fact that it's a walking city. And that you can get virtually anywhere in no time at all on the subway.

London and DC, for me, are the same way. I like that you can see so much on foot or the subways are so convenient. After spending a few hours in London I felt as comfortable with the Underground as I would've if I were a native. So, definitely prefer them for visiting.

Omaha is on the list mainly for family reasons. My mom grew up there, she and my dad got married there and my mom's side lives there too. We'd visit every couple of years so it's part of my "home."

Cape Town along the waterfront at least is such a nice place. When I was there it was lively with street performers, great food (excellent sparkling wine and hard cider), and it was pretty laid back. Kyoto is just beautiful. I love Japanese architecture and it was great being guided by my friend who lives there.

I couldn't really say what my least favorite is. If we're talking internationally, I wasn't a big fan of Salvador, Brazil or Mombassa, Kenya. I can't say why, really, they just didn't feel like my kind of places.

I wouldn't want to live in the middle of nowhere but I like living outside of the city. I like having it quiet in the evenings and on weekends. I like being close enough to be able to find whatever I may be looking for yet I'm far enough out that I can find trails and other outdoors activities too. I like being able to see trees out my windows and the river across the way. It makes the commute worth it.
Jules said…
I'm winking at you, singingowl. Nice description!
Although I grew up in the NYC metro area - yes, the City is an acquired taste, if you didn't grow up there and get used to it in all its stinky glory - my two favorites are Providence RI and Venice.

I lived in Providence and its environs for 17 years. Lovely, quirky college town (Brown, RISD, etc.) with outstanding restaurants, interesting cultural life, diverse population, entertaining politics, with a couple of rivers running through it, one of which was moved (!) for a downtown redevelopment project. Despite some sad memories of a marriage which ended there, I still miss it.

Venice is my favorite non-US city.Lovely quikry former capitol of a Republic (La Serenissima). Outstanding restaurants, Italians who don't consider themselves Italian (They're VENETIAN), interesting cultural life, entertaining politics (at least what I can understand in my limited Italian from the newspaper), and a lagoon and canals running through it. A bit of commonality...

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