Thursday, March 31, 2005

HEY RUBES. Ezra Klein:
So far as I can tell, from a fair number of visits and a large number of friends, the Chi-town/NY mystique is entirely an invention of hardship. Unable to compete with the massively enjoyable lifestyle offered by California, they've fallen back on some ephemeral claim to sophistication and worldliness (though, so far as I know, Chicago isn't very sophisticated, and nor is Brooklyn)...
I guess Ezra imagines Brooklyn as it was pictured in old Bugs Bunny cartoons (Sheeeee's the dawter of Rosie O'Grady/A regular old-fashioned goil...). Please tell him most of us no longer loiter the waterfront in bowlers and stained t-shirts, pitching pennies and wondering how Dem Bums would make out against the Jints at Ebbets Field. On the other hand, it is true that we do not have endless summers and a healthful disdain of "hardship," and so do not grow the kind of authors who need a constant supply of sunshine and weed to remain productive. So Brooklyn will probably never spawn a Tom Robbins, alas.

From the opposite end of the political spectrum, Virginia Postrel:
The professional intellectual could do a lot worse than Dallas, however. You could, for instance, be stuck in the provincial ghettos of New York or San Francisco. There you'd have lots of other writers to talk to. The newspaper would report publishing gossip as major business news. You'd go to book parties and free lectures. You'd know who was arguing with whom about what.

But unless you traveled a lot, you'd have no idea what the rest of American culture is like. Reporters in New York have called me up to ask about the business significance of Whole Foods Market and the cultural meaning of the Left Behind series -- both ancient news everywhere but The New York Times. New York is an intellectual cave, and San Francisco is even worse.
Whereas, says Postrel, in her beloved Dallas, "You'll know that this part of Red America throbs with ambition... You overhear sophisticated lunchtime conversations about logistics management and telecom configurations." God, think what I've been missing! It makes we want to hop a bus over to Jersey and hang out at an office park, to soak up the authentic American culture.

As a New York citizen of many years, my first reaction to these assaults, was, of course, fuck you. But as Charles Laughton said in Advise and Consent, I can affo'd to be charitable. Dallas and Cali have their own splendors and treasures, which I have enjoyed on visits. Still, it is marvelous that our little town continues to haunt their imaginations so.

UPDATE. As you might imagine, comments on this have been a joy. "As a citizen of Philadelphia (whose stepfather is from Brooklyn)," writes one correspondent, "I can say, Fuck New York, California, and Texas. :)" That I can get behind! Regional rivalries can be good fun at the jackass level. New York's okay if you like saxophones, said the pride of Los Angeles. Boston Sucks, bawls the T-shirt at a Bosstones concert in New York. This is at heart collegial; no one would bother to dis a band for being from...

... insert your town (which sucks) here.

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