I woke up thinking about cities and their energy this morning. I don't know why.
I can feel the energy change as I drive into cities. I mean, you definitely feel it approaching San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. Portland is not nearly so bad. That's one reason why it's become my fix when I need to visit a city.
Thinking about what I'd been thinking about, though, I realized there's a difference in the energy between the approach and how the city feels. Once you've entered the city, slipping past the riotous traffic and chaotic signs and shorn yourself of your metal chariot, you find a different world. Stroll along through SF's Union Square, or Portland's Pearl District and you'll feel the energy change again.
Yes, I realized, the energy of breaching the cities' perimeters and actually walking around it are different. Yet each city does have an energy level that you feel. It's like you, as a sentient being, have become part of a beast, and in assuming our roles, our energy shifts to be one with the city.
It's the same with flying. You're isolated and you don't feel the city itself. You do feel the airport. Each of them, too, have a feel. You feel that energy change as you break out of its confinement and reach the city.
Weirdly, though, I began to realize that certain cities had felt the same way to me. Paris, London, and Hong Kong, all wonderful and unique cities, felt similar to me. Portland feels more like Pittsburgh, PA. New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago feel like Paris and London, and even Berlin and Frankfurt. Boston seemed more like SF. San Diego, though, had its own flavor. The former Warsaw Pact cities behind the old Iron Curtain had yet another flavor. (How is that for pulling a term from days of yore?) I haven't been to any of them since the Soviet Union dissolved.
Contemplating the smaller cities in the SF Bay Area, Napa Valley, and southern Oregon, I see similiar trends and patterns. Sure, I'm subjective, and I'm part of the energy. Also contributing would be my reason for being there and how long I'm there but I always thought that Los Altos, Redwood City and Mountain View shared a flavor of energy while Sunnyvale, Burlingame, and San Mateo had another flavor. Palo Alto had its own taste. My little town of Ashland, like my former home, Half Moon Bay, both had unique flavors that I don't find elsewhere. I think I'm drawn to smaller towns because their flavors are more unique.
Why is that? I speculate that some of it has to do with geography and some of it has to do with the city's age, and its population's age, and its history. I haven't been to many of these cities for a while so they may have changed.
Sections of town and cities have different feels as well. Shopping districts and theater districts and their sensory experiences impinge on you differently than markets, industrial areas, the banking districts, and the docks.
I'm sure some people living in these cities would be aghast that I compare London with Paris or Chicago. Of course, they have their own bubble, their city bubble, where they follow their routes and routines, avoiding some areas, taking shortcuts only known to locals, or following traditions.
That would be a fun book to write. I always like oral histories and love hearing people remembering how it used to be. I have become one of those people. I'd like to travel to cities and interview people and just use their verbatim statements about their city. That would give me a chance to visit some favorite old friends like Paris, Berlin and Hong Kong, and meet some new ones, like the great Russian and Australian cities. France has a lot more cities than Paris, as does the UK, and I'd like to see how their energies compare. I've always wanted to return to Salzburg and Vienna, and Hungary and Bulgaria seem like they have some interesting, beautiful cities. Of course I'd have to go back to Italy and explore it more. Believe it or not, I've never been to Greece, so I would need to go there. Rio de Janeiro seems interesting, as does Mexico City. I'd love to feel its energy. Like to see and compare Toronto, Vancouver, and Monreal, too. Africa has fabulous offerings, then there's Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, India, Malaysia, China. I've only driven through Saint Louis, in the United States, and while I've been to Florida, I've never been to Miami. I would need to visit at least those places, along with smaller cities and towns to taste them. I think I've only been to 38 of our states so I should check out the rest.
My City - In Their Own Words.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com