Mad Scientess Jane Expat (nanila) wrote,
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
nanila

Cities

On Saturday night, I rode a bus to Finsbury Park to meet Marco for dinner. As I stepped off the bus into piles of rubbish and a noisy horde of ecstatic Tottenham fans (Spurs 3, West Brom 1), the stink of piss and beer greeted my nostrils. I returned a couple of days ago from San Diego, specifically, the La Jolla/UTC area, where you could eat off the sidewalks and everything is shut and the streets are empty by 10 pm.

Is it possible for a city to be both clean and interesting?

I don't think so. A city that's clean requires a great deal of regulation of its businesses and its citizens in order to maintain that state. If you do not want to have wrappers, cigarette butts, broken bottles, piss, vomit, dog shit and various other malodorous decorations on your city's streets, you cannot allow your residents to consume drugs (in which group I include nicotine and alcohol), speak loudly, or collect in groups in public or on the grounds of your businesses without obtaining permission from the city's government. In fact, you have to create an environment in which all but the most radically antiestablishment will feel uncomfortable attempting to do so without permission. That's what La Jolla is like. You would never guess that some twenty thousand undergraduates are housed within a few blocks of the city. It's breathtakingly beautiful and horrifically dull if you're interested in the kinds of entertainment that start up after night falls. It's even horrifically dull if you're not, since there isn't exactly a thriving community of high culture (theater, opera, museums) either. However, if you don't legislate your citizens' behavior in this way, you end up in a never-ending losing battle against the filth that partying humans seem inevitably to generate. It seems to me to be a small price to pay to have top-notch entertainment available nearly every night, whether you're a devotee of high or pop culture. For the moment, I'd rather live in an interesting city than a clean one.
Tags: london, navel-gazing
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