I'm about to turn 35, and my life is finally coalescing around an ideal that I envisioned for myself 15 years ago, when I would take the L to Chicago and park myself at the Pick Me Up Cafe, chat with the baristas and patrons, and get my study on. To live and work and contribute to a city that helped shape the country, and ensure its continued success. I just finished reading this article from Salon.com about city branding. It uses Chicago's poor infrastructure decisions to denigrate a one-size-fits-all approach to revamping a city's image - something perceived as necessary as our economic geography rapidly shifts and cities scramble to stay viable. In many ways, this makes sense. Using an aggregate analysis to drive community development initiatives, independent of a community's existing assets, is asinine. But Sacramento really is an amazingly bikeable city, and is a lovely place to live, with all its trees, cool new/old architecture, great music and hardscrabble art scene. I like to call it California's hidden gem, and it very much reminds me of all the things I like about the other cities in which I've lived - Seattle, Chicago, DC, Saint Louis and even Anaheim. It has distinct neighborhoods with architectural characteristics that harken back to a history that still shapes us, it's walkable, surrounded by water, and functions as an urban oasis.
For this reason, I disagree with the argument that Chicago's current troubles are the result of an inattention to its roots. Instead, I think there's a natural ebb and flow in terms of placemaking. All the effort put into Millenium Park, and the waterfront in general, doesn't take the city away from its gangster history, it just focuses on the other elements that make Chitown awesome - phenomenal art, film, theatre, music, food, people. That is just as much a part of the city's history, and more central to its future, than Al Capone. (Something I never really thought about when I lived there.) Chicago is losing ground because it's too expensive to maintain its dominance, not because it doesn't want to be known solely for its ties to prohibition.
I've got more to say about this, but I'm going to venture over to the antique fair and look for furnishings for my new midtown abode and keep ruminating.