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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Cities [20050214|11:05]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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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.

[User Picture]From: sadira42
2005-02-14 14:49 (UTC)
Speaking of filth, my first experience of London partying was kind of amazing, even for a jaded New Yorker. It was in Leicester Square, probably about 1 in the morning. We were standing outside, waiting for some friends, and the streets were covered in empty beer bottles and even glasses. People were staggering around drunk - it was a HUGE crowd and it felt like noon, except for all the dr0nkenness. I mean, New York seemed clean in comparison, and if you've seen New York, that's saying something.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-02-15 09:34 (UTC)
Heh. It's still like that at the weekends, especially in the summer. However, Leicester Square is in the borough of Camden, and in the past couple of years Camden Council has put a major effort into cleaning up the filth on a regular basis - hourly, on the weekdays. So it never piles up quite the way it used to do. I still wouldn't touch the pavement with a bare hand if you paid me, but it's not as bad as I remember it being in 2000, 2001.
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[User Picture]From: sekl
2005-02-14 16:27 (UTC)
Sterile cities are just that. La Jolla had nothing on Irvine as far as trying to straight-jacket the student population into bed by 8PM. If you can't get out, relax, and let your hair down, you begin to obsess over whether your neighbor's painted their house within the 5 allowed shades of brown.

However, having thrown out a pair of shoes from walking around New Orleans, I've found that I like a mix. Filth is fun, but a day without dog crap and vommit ain't bad either.
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[User Picture]From: sekl
2005-02-14 21:55 (UTC)
Er, vomit.

I have got to learn to drink more coffee, or sleep at night.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-02-15 09:30 (UTC)
I was forgetting about Irvine. I tend to block out memories of travels behind the Orange Curtain. I know that the La Jolla model isn't the most boring possibility for a city. There are at least a few places that stay open past 10 pm near UCSD (BJ's, TGIFridays) and they're within walking distance. If you don't like that particular scene, the beaches, HIllcrest, and even the Gaslamp are a short drive away. It's not that terrible, it just isn't that convenient either. I like being able to stagger home or hop on a bus or get a reliable taxi from just about any street corner. You can't do that in La Jolla (or most of the rest of San Diego either).

Camden borough has actually done a fair job of getting the filth under control. The streets here are a lot cleaner than they used to be. They don't stay that way on a Saturday night, but by Sunday morning, most of the rubbish has been picked up and the pavements hosed down. It's part of why the council tax here is so high. Other areas of London (e.g. Hackney) are much, much worse.
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[User Picture]From: mejoff
2005-02-15 13:41 (UTC)
And yet Hackney has the highest council tax in London (one of the reasons I moved to Docklands)

Try Milton Keynes, they tried for both, and managed neither in great big bucketfuls!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-02-15 19:37 (UTC)
Where does the Hackney borough's money go? Besides expensive, shoddy gym facilities that have to be closed after what was it, a year or so of operation? Did they contribute to the Millenium Dome fund or something?

I love planned communities, and the way they never seem to turn out quite like they were supposed to.
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From: joegotamuffin
2005-02-14 16:29 (UTC)

You travel more than anyone I have ever met before. You're conus, then you are oconus, and then conus again.

I'm not a big fan of the excretory city-scape. I don’t care how bust’en with urban funtasticalness a place is. I would rather have the zoning. But, not too much zoning. There is a city near here, where they have a poo-processing plant stone throwing distance from an elementary school and houses. Sadly, there is no evidence of culture or entertainment, there. No, not a dance club in sight. But, I have to confess that the drunken, baby-factory, uber-welfare nature of the sliding income apartment complex, in which I proudly reside, has provided a certain degree of entertainment, under the right circumstances, when the moon is full and the bbq is roaring, and the twelve packs are dancing wildly to the sticky music of summer. Come to think of it, my neighbors do tend to piss outside, a lot.

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[User Picture]From: katyakoshka
2005-02-14 17:57 (UTC)
Even though it's not high on the entertainment skill (they've worked hard to get the dive bars, strip clubs, and prostitutes toned down to attract more tourists, and less Marines), there is a general dirt-level that makes Oceanside a "comfy" place for me.

And sekl is right. While La Jolla is sterile, Irvine is sterile and neutered. Until my third or fourth year, the only way to get food after midnight was either a trip by 1am to the Albertson's, a drive to one of the four Ralph's in Irvine, or Del-Taco (if you had a car). The paint comment -- totally true; as it is, you buy a house in Irvine, you own the house... and have a 99-year lease on the ground under it. Oh, and La Jolla is walkable. Irvine, outside the immediate area around UCI... no way.

This is also why, IMO, New Orleans trumps Vegas any day, twice -- nay, thrice over.
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[User Picture]From: communistgnome
2005-02-14 18:23 (UTC)
Go to Sydney. You'll see that it's possible.

God I love that place.
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[User Picture]From: tinkerbell_mk
2005-02-14 21:42 (UTC)
also from what I've been told (no personal experience) singapore is absurdly clean and also has interesting areas.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-02-15 09:22 (UTC)
I was planning to visit Sydney. It was going to be part of my graduation present when I finished my Ph.D. Instead I ended up going straight to work. This is the kind of moron I am.

At the moment, however, I have more motivation to go to New Zealand, since I have friends to visit there.
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[User Picture]From: hunterxtc
2005-02-15 00:40 (UTC)
I will vote for Victoria BC as a clean and interesting city... it is right on the water, it has a cool university, it is the provincial capital of BC, and it has all sorts of interesting people. I loved it there...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-02-15 09:20 (UTC)
The last time I was in Victoria, I think I was about eight years old. It seemed interesting then, but I couldn't remember whether or not it was clean. Heh. I liked Vancouver a lot when I was there for the wedding last year and it was pretty clean. It has the Bard on the Beach performances in the summer and those were brilliant. I didn't stay long enough to find out much about the other cultural attractions and nightlife.
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