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Thread: The Character of a city

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The Character of a city

    Quote Originally posted by Carl Sandburg
    HOG Butcher for the World,
    Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
    Player with Railroads and the Nationís Freight Handler;
    Stormy, husky, brawling,
    City of the Big Shoulders:
    (whole poem):
    http://www.bartleby.com/165/1.html

    Sandburg encapsulated the character of the City of Chicago as it was 93 years ago with that paeon to the old industrial heartland. While certain changes in economic activities have occurred during the last century, I contend there is still a kernel of truth behind those words. True, many Chicagoans now have service sector jobs but the underlying attitudes you see present in many of its residents still echo 'husky brawling Big Shoulders'. The Windy City may have its share of bold corruption but at the same time it also exudes an aura of power not felt in comparable sized urban centers.

    I wonder how many other cities' essence could be summed up in a few words? I know better than to ask fellow Cyburbians to actually compose poems (well except maybe Bear) about cities but wonder if it's possible to at least identify salient characteristics (or poetic qualities if one is so inclined) that in some way 'define' a city's character. For instance, could Buffalo be described:
    bypassed by time;
    echoes of mediocre grandeur.
    pray to Bathtub Mary
    you've got zubaz
    To wear to the Slayer concert
    after the fish fry

    If I had to come up with the best/fewest words to sum up New York I'd venture:
    Diversity incarnate; crossroads of the world. The zenith and nadir of wealth.

    Salt Lake City:
    where the west begins....to pall.

    Can you come up with words to encapsulate the essence of a city you've lived in or spent time around?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Oklahoma City - the Dusty Midwest who is often confused and thinks she's alternately the South or the West.

    Dallas - Corporate haven and big-money heaven.

    Fort Worth - A smaller, dustier Dallas with more of a western view, with denim, buckles, boots and hats, and loads of high culture - albeit with a skew.

    Austin - the spunky eclectic "small college town" that never was, despite it's occupants' best attempts.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Glass Streets

    Ahhh, a challenge.

    Here's a look at some of the character of Toledo.....back in the early 1970s. Toledo officials wanted to build what was called "The Downtown Distributor". It was going to be a freeway that connected I-75 (at that time, under construction in the downtown area) and I-280. That connector was to follow the Maumee River, effectively cutting-off the river from the downtown area. The primary southbound exit off I-75 (for the CBD) was even built with extra lanes for "The Distributor".

    A local group very vocally fought the plan, arguing that the Maumee River should not be cut-off from the CBD. This group pushed for the city to build a park along the river. In the end, the small and vocal group won the day. The freeway plan was scrapped and the riverfront is now a park.

    My poem takes an approach that the freeway-backers won.
    _____

    Glass Streets

    bewildered
    i stared down the brick street
    my dirty heels covering the name
    engraved into each brick:
    a company long gone
    a name long forgotten

    where is the steam plant?
    water street is dying
    not a slow death:
    rather quickly
    devoured by the earth diggers
    of progress

    they are bulldozing the remains of
    the burnt department store:
    long-term memory kick
    fresh cheese wheels
    sausage hanging above the counters
    stairwell mirrors that made me look thin

    nearly vertical
    that last block of jefferson:
    a cold snap challenge
    to anybody who longed for
    a shoreline view via
    sidewalks covered with great lakes ice

    there will be a freeway here soon
    blasting fords and chevys
    up the hill:
    feeding the glass city
    with more of the same
    while the lights flicker out
    _____

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Helena: the unpretentious Queen City of the Rockies - soccer fields and hiking trails abound; a government town where your kids are safe, but perhaps a little bored. Unassuming, yet solid and industrious. Home.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Anyone (who actually knows something about the places) care to take a crack at San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, or New Orleans?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    New Orleans: Formerly the City That Care Forgot, cannot forget care now and is languishing largely forgotten; the old girl was promised prettily she would be restored to her former luster, but alas, a liar's tongue spoke sweet and hollow words to quiet her outrage at being cruelly abandoned. Rise again she shall, though perhaps never to her former self of both elegance and bawdiness.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Anyone (who actually knows something about the places) care to take a crack at San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, or New Orleans?
    Boston- a gilded lady whose best days appear to be past, although her nieces and nephews keep coming to town and bringing money and inventive energy to keep her young. One of the last European cities south of Canada, squished and quirky and somewhat dirty. Doesn't like change much but exports it. Classical and folk, not blues and jazz.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    Boston- a gilded lady whose best days appear to be past, although her nieces and nephews keep coming to town and bringing money and inventive energy to keep her young. One of the last European cities south of Canada, squished and quirky and somewhat dirty. Doesn't like change much but exports it. Classical and folk, not blues and jazz.
    She's fluent in Chinese, French, Gaelic, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Vietnamese, and, of course, Yankee Blue-Blood English. She's one well-rounded chick, if she could just get over the racial thing

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