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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Struggle of the City

Is every city struggling?

I find myself constantly having to defend St. Louis for bad decisions, for appearing on the top crime list year after year, for the intense segregation, the empty blocks of buildings, the empty downtown on weekdays, but the more I travel, the more I realize it's less of a St. Louis problem and more of a major city problem.

I wandered around downtown Cincinnati for several hours tonight, just taking in the streets and it had such a familiar feel I pulled up my phone map several times to make sure I was actually in Ohio.

I saw the street by street divide. Race street had predominantly African American families hanging out in the park and listening to music whereas one street away...

Vine street was predominantly white, filled with people enjoying craft beers with Cincinnati Reds shirts on. There were huge swaths of land where upscale markets and restaurants lined the streets, but all closed by 8 pm on Vine street.

Rural and Suburb living isn't for me. There's too much space. Too little diversity. It creeps me out. But I understand why people would want to live there. There's the relative safety, the elbow space, the greenery, and the "newness." But me, I like the patina of decades of use city concrete has on it.

There's a beauty in knowing your neighbors so intimately that you have to work as a somewhat cohesive unit.

Sure, people throw their Big Gulps into the street, and paint is coming off the buildings, and billboards are covered in graffiti, and most bricks need a good acid wash, and the summer heat can magnify all of your problems, but it's great to be a human unit, rather than small tribes where you know the 3-4 people that live in your house with you and maybe one or two neighbors on your street.

I talk to anyone in my neighborhood that is willing to listen.

Woody Allen's City doesn't exist for anyone but the rich. The real city is smelling the BO of people that have worked hard, the faint smell of cigarillos drifting in the air, and the sound of people playing their music loud and proud for their neighbors to hear. It's teenagers making noise in skate parks and basketball courts, the traffic and sirens, and the aroma of seemingly infinite ethnicity all making the food their parents taught them to make.

I love the city. Others may spit at it. They may say it's too dangerous, that it a hive of sin and excess, but to me, the city is where real life is. You're face to face with both poverty and vast richness. You can rub elbows with anyone. You can have the best night or the worst night of your life in the city.

She's a beautiful, tough, lively and diverse environment. I don't know that I could ever do it any other way.

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