Thursday, August 10, 2006

While I was lamenting my dissatisfaction with my current place of residence and wondering where else I might go, Greensmile challenged me to make some lists:

things you want to get away from [negative weightings]

Things that make life fun for Amy[positive weightings]

candidate locales

That seemed like a reasonable place to start, so here's what I've come up with:

Things I'd Just As Soon Avoid In A New City

- a population of more than, say, 3 million
- a population of less than, say, 100,000
- average high temperatures in summer above 95F
- an economy based heavily on defense or the military
- an active real estate bubble
- underfunded schools
- a political monopoly held by either party

Things I'd Really Like In A New City

- an established and efficient public transportation system
- a diverse international community, particularly in the form of ethnic enclaves
- at least one fairly large undergraduate college or university
- an active arts community
- at least one really good cinema, one good video store, and one good bookstore
- pedestrianized areas and bike trails
- a big GLBT community
- a good library system
- a stable, prosperous downtown
- ready access to mountains and/or the ocean OR
- ready access to a world-class city
(I wouldn't ask for both at once -- that's just greedy)

A few of these things run deeper than they might appear -- for example, "underfunded schools" doesn't have only to do with the quality of the schools themselves. Poor schools lead to an undereducated local workforce, which in turn ultimately leads to an unskilled labor-based economy, periods of high unemployment and economic depression, a demoralized underclass, and a lot of poverty. Those things will, of course, be present to some extent anywhere, but in some places (like Memphis) they can become a dominant force in a city. If there's one thing I want to leave behind, it's that.

The problem is that any city that manages to deal effectively with these problems will immediately become a strong attractor for new residents, leading to other problems, like an unrealistically high cost of living and a housing crunch. There's an inherent catch-22 built into my lists. So I don't know -- this place probably doesn't exist in reality. The ideal thing would be to find a city that's only in the early stages of the process, a city that's becoming this kind of place but isn't a long-established hipster haven. (I'm not counting on it.)

Having said that, here are the places I've considered so far (limiting myself to North America, since emigration overseas is a dearly-held ambition but not a realistic option):

- Boston
- Montreal
- Austin
- Chapel Hill
- the Pacific Northwest in general

Obvious but definite exclusions (as in, I wouldn't seriously consider any of these at this point):

- New York
- Los Angeles
- Chicago
- San Francisco

What do you think? If you were custom-building a city for yourself, what factors would you add to these lists? Is there any such place in the world? Have you spent much time in any of these cities? Do you know of another place that fits these guidelines that I haven't mentioned?
3:32 PM ::
Amy :: permalink