City Dynamics

I often wonder what makes one particular city more livable than another—and what makes a city world class.

For a long time, I’ve kept a short list of five six US cities that I felt were as good as London, Prague, Budapest, and Madrid:

  1. New York City
  2. San Francisco
  3. Chicago
  4. Boston
  5. Miami
  6. New Orleans (Reflecting Pre-Katrina Status)

These cities have several important commonalities: a compact urban core, gay friendliness, and a reputation for Being Someplace. Just a warning though, I’ve only been to four of the six—Boston* and Miami** being the missing cities, and one of the six is on the brink of either being disneyified, destroy, or rehabilitiated.

Now, this isn’t a mark of a world class city, but all six on my short list have been host to The Real World. 1992/2001, 1994, 2002, 1997, 1996, and 2000. The only other Real World cities that was in the running to be on my list but didn’t make it was Seattle. LA sucks; Hawaii, Las Vegas and Key West are tourist traps; London and Paris aren’t in the USA; Austin is a great small city but by no means world class; and Philly—well, I don’t know enough about Philly to judge it adequately but it doesn’t strike me as world class.

I bring up The Real World, because I was snooping in the Rocky Mountain News*** today, and I discovered that my native Denver is about to join the illustrious list of cities where The Real World has set up shop.

I used to watch the Real World—each season opened with a predictable sequence of events—usually there is one GLBT type, and then there is the arch-conservative homophobe. The arch-conservative homophobe then spends the first two or three episodes trying to figure out if anybody is gay and if the faggot is going to hit on them.

I have to admit that this story line was fantastic the first few times I saw it, but by the third or fourth time I saw this story line play out, I wondered why any arch-conservative homophobe would ever agree to appear on an MTV show—I mean every other season of The Real World had had an out, proud, and loud faggot, so why wouldn’t the season they were appearing on have the same? Eventually I stopped caring and stopped watching.

(Parenthetically: The show is great for enabling a positive GLBT imagine for America’s youth. Consequently I don’t want the show to go off the air, I just don’t chose to suffer through watching it myself. I have fond memories of San Francisco, and I cry whenever I read Judd Winick’s Pedro and Me. I can see Danny Roberts kissing a blur, and gosh, that guy from Miami-Dan Renzi-is still a hottie and a horny slut.)

Anyhow, I digress quite a bit from the point of this blog entry: Is Denver really eligible to join the list of cities that are ripe for Real World?

The list of cities that have hosted The Real World as cities that are alive, dynamic, and vibrant. Cities like New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto. Now, about that last one—Toronto is home to CityTV, one of the more famous experimental television stations in the English speaking world—and famous for its high-energy and unconventional newscast, CityNews. I am aware of this not because I’ve been to Toronto (I’ve never been), or because I’ve seen the program (Never, not even streamed online), but because one of Denver’s television stations tried to imitate the program, complete with hiring one of the CityTV anchor/reporters, Natalie Pujo.

Let’s just say “REAL LIFE, REAL NEWS” took a television station with low ratings to record new lows—it was so bad that I gave up on watching Channel 7 after the first program—mind you that the station had my favorite weather personality, Pam Daale (wow! She passed away a few years back from breast cancer—my condolences I just found this out), as well as a few of my favorite reporters who covered Denver with a bit less flash than the rich and glossy competitors but a depth of knowledge that came from having lived and worked in the city for more than a few years.

REAL LIFE, REAL NEWS failed, not because the concept was stupid (it was), but because the format mis-matched Denver’s personality.

Denver isn’t a 24 hour party city (unlike New York, Amsterdam, or Berlin); nor is Denver a high energy 24 emergency news city (unlike New York, or, uh… I guess Toronto).

Denver actually has a pretty laid back culture—the kind of place where coffee shops, parks, and jogging in the mile high sun take priority over high-paced rushed lives—something that I believe is the antithesis of what The Real World is looking for.

On the other hand, I haven’t actually lived in Denver for more than a few years—perhaps the city has grown up a lot more than I think.

However, unless MTV in Germany starts airing Real World Denver, I will never know what The Real World of Denver is like.

* Boston is my kind of city—based upon everything I’ve read about the city. It seems to have great dynamics and personality.

** Miami, as far as I can tell, is world class due to its mix of cultures and life-styles, but it is not my kind of city. It has three strikes against it for me personally: Too Hot, Too Humid, and Too Florida. That doesn’t detract from its world class nature though, it just means I wouldn’t want to live there.

*** Rocky Mountain News is one of the major Denver daily newspapers. When the city was being established its name worked to its advantage (there were two cities, it chose to build its offices on the bridge between the two cities), while today the Denver Post had the clear name advantage.

8 comments to City Dynamics

  • You say “Too Florida” like it’s a bad thing.

  • chris

    I heard about this on the local nightly news.. I only wish I had some cynical comment to make. It appears they are sticking with the “Real-World Mold” as I understand the “loft” is located in LODO, let the drunken merriment ensue.
    I heard the loft is “suppose” to be here.

  • I concur with your “top 5” US city selection, except I would substitute Portland in place of Miami and drop New Orleans. LA definitely sucks.

    As for Denver, being “laid back” can be construed as a good thing, and Vancouver is definitely in the “laid back” category. Nature/outdoor activities are extremely popular among the city’s residents, and coffee shops are both ubiquitous and well-patronized (on weekdays, every table at Melriches Coffee on Davie Street is occupied by mid-afternoon). We also work fewer hours than residents of other Canadian cities :). And we’re the kind of city where residents can don jeans and t-shirts and still feel welcome in fine dining establishemnts. We’re definitely not “high adreneline”, but we do have culture and nightlife too.

    Vancouver just placed #3 in the Mercer Consulting report on the world’s most livable cities, and last year we placed #1 in both the United Nations quality of life survey and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s livable cities index. I’m guessing these factors play a part in our ranking:
    * Life expectancy / quality of health care
    * Quality of government services
    * Low rate of violent crime
    * Environmental factors (low pollution, hydroelectric power generation)
    * Multicultural atmosphere
    * Arts scene
    * Urban design (sprawl contrrol, transit provision, etc.)

    In the interest of balance, I should note one negative factor cited in Mercer’s assessment of Vancouver: 170 days of annual measurable rainfall. 🙂

  • MT

    It’s a good thing we don’t all like the same places or they’d be overcrowded. My heart is still with New Orleans … although I might have to settle for Lafayette, LA. I hate Miami (having lived in the massive sprawl that is Broward-Dade Counties) and I’ve done the whole Chicago thing. Blah. New York’s too big for me, San Franscisco’s too damned expensive, and my cousin lives in Boston so that’s out.

    For my money (like I said earlier), I’d go for the smaller cities: Austin, TX; Burlington and/or Middlebury, VT; Portsmouth, NH; possibly Anchorage, Alaska (the cold might rule that out – brrr); and any small city in coastal Maine. Another Possibility: Roswell, NM.

    Places I would never live: Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles; anyplace in Florida; pretty much any Ohio city except Cleveland and then only around the flats (German Village in Columbus would be okay except it is TOO close to my in-laws); and Nashville (because they are Haters who vandalized my car!).

  • Domoni- I admire the fact that anybody is willing to live in Florida. The fact is that my boycott of Ft. Myers was moot since I’d never voluntarily visit Florida in the first place. Walt Disney World is an attraction that you’d have to pay me to visit–and by pay me, I mean wire several million bucks to a secret swiss bank account. I tend to avoid places that are hot and humid year round–I find such places physicially uncomfortable.

    Chris- If the fact that The Real World is going to be based in Denver next season is on your local nightly news, I imagine things must be really quiet there. The “loft” is going to be in a nice part of town, I will grant that. It is not, however, where I would choose to live, if I were going to live in Denver.

    Jerry- New Orleans is on the list only out of respect to its past. Had Katrinia not happened, New Orleans would be on the list and Miami would be off of it.

    I have another list, this one of great US cities that aren’t world class for whatever reason–I’ll post it some time soon.

  • koko

    call me old but i don’t mind florida in the winter 🙂

    Seattle is at the top of my list…i love it. certainly my favorite place in the us 🙂

  • MT

    Bah! The weather might be great in the winter in Florida, but there are too many old folks who can’t drive down there. 😉 I wonder if the “Florida Migration” urge kicks in when people turn 65?

  • ChrisC

    I actually like Florida, at least the parts I’ve been to. The only thing I really dislike is that it seems to get hit by quite a few of those huge vacuum cleaners that swoop in off the Atlantic Ocean. That’s the only reason I’d have it OFF my list.

    If I had my choice, I’d probably live in San Francisco. Now that I no longer have my big city phobia I think I would find San Francisco to be a wonderful town.

    Oh, I still have that phobia when it comes to New York… there is something about NYC that intimidates me and I’ve never quite figured it out. I don’t get those feelings when visiting Chicago, SF, DC, etc. Whatever it is, it’s NYC specific.