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Old 05-01-2008, 04:40 PM
 
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
209 posts, read 653,503 times
Reputation: 136

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I have always lived in cities – Louisville; Flint, Michigan; Chandigarh, India; Rochester, New York, and now Louisville again: all mid-sized cities, all with odd economic-political histories. Of course, St. Matthews, where we live now, would have been clearly and purely a suburb had I lived here when I was growing up. I would have gone to ‘county’ schools and my parents could not have voted for Louisville’s mayor or city council. Only a small part of county taxes would have gone to help the City of Louisville.

But now we’re part of Louisville Metro, politically and economically. As part of a ‘first ring’ old suburb, St. Matthews feels urban. We are surrounded by mixed-use zones, and can walk to retail, to restaurants, to services. There is plenty of fairly old architecture, including our house, and there are old trees and flora and parks… Yes, I’m a city dweller still.

That identity is important to me. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s as a kind of quiet rebel, I studied and identified, from about the age of 13, with jazz musicians, beat writers, avant-garde artists. My heroes spoke of the suburbs as the land of soullessness, of hypocrisy and paranoia and conformity. The idea seeped into me, and it is still there, though a bit more nuanced now, I hope.


Real estate, like biology, is destiny. Our aesthetics, our politics, our cultural and racial attitudes, our sense of space and place, are all informed by where we live, especially where we grew up… Yes, there can be enantiadromia, where we run off to protect our children from the perceived evils of urban life, only to find them drawn to the commercial trappings of that denied life: out of whitest suburbia come ‘wiggers,’ – low-riding, street-speaking, rap-loving children of affluence. You never know.

But also out of that separate, separated life of the suburbs can come a kind of taste that can, as I have seen on this and other forums, lead to calling the Seelbach, or Jack Fry’s, or Bardstown Road or Frankfort Ave. ‘seedy’ or grimy’ or ‘depressing’ or ‘decaying’ or even simply ‘ugly.’ The eye developed inside city limits, where there is an acceptance of age and change and history and palimpsests sees instead ‘shabby chic’ and ‘funkiness’ and, in Japanese terms, ‘sabi’ -the beautifully broken and aged. Patina. Soul.

Suburban aesthetics is centered on the new and clean and protected. Sabi may be present if it is faux: sped-up copper patina… expensive distressed denim… but for the most part it is an aesthetics of the denial of age, of the true past, of decay, of the outside and outsider.

The social dynamics of this issue are even more important. Each of us has a different level of fear. Each of us has different reasons to be afraid, some more real than others. But the growth of the suburbs, and now, the ex-urbs (read, for our constituency, Oldham and Bullitt counties), is predicated on various kinds of fear (and, of course, aesthetics. Some folks must, understandably, be quieter, closer to nature). People run to the suburbs out of fear of crime, of ‘the other’, of taxes, of control. Lurking in much of this fear is a fear of, well, responsibility. More and more we are realizing how interconnected our actions as citizens and consumers are. And more and more some of us simply want to shut off and run from those facts. We buy Hummers and Hummer Homes and defy anyone to criticize our selfish and self-destructive decisions.

I was radicalized into my present vision of things (I am trying here to be objective and highly subjective at the same time) by my experiences in Rochester. No matter how hard it might be for many people to accept, the Supreme Court decision of the early 70’s that forced the consolidation of Jefferson County Schools with Louisville Public Schools has been a major reason Louisville Metro is now a vibrant, growing, economically and culturally healthy, integrated and sophisticated town. It is far out-stripping most towns of its size and history. Rochester is a test-tube example of what we would be if our suburban retreat and fear were institutionalized and central to our politics.

When I moved to Rochester in 1970, Greater Louisville and Greater Rochester were almost the same size and had very similar feels. Stewart’s and Kaufman’s downtown in Louisville was just like Sibley’s and McCurdy’s in Rochester. The East Side of Rochester was the equivalent of the Highlands. Both Louisville and Rochester claimed Foster Brooks as Hometown Boy.

But there was a big difference. Jefferson County had two governments, two school districts, two major divisions of police and fire departments. Now we are almost one. Monroe County had and still has 18 free-standing municipalities – each with its own school system, government, taxes, and often its own fire and police department. A law pushed through the New York State legislature in the early part of the twentieth century by rural and then-nascent suburban forces made illegal any annexation of adjacent suburbs by major cities like Rochester, Buffalo, or Syracuse. Laws also were put in place that made the funding of schools in the suburbs so outlandishly unfair when compared to city funding that I can’t explain it all without getting nearly apoplectic (I was a teacher for 35 years in the Rochester City School District). The result of all this is a kind of neo-segregationism, and a core city strapped for funds, losing good people, dying at the core, and burdened with horrible teen crime, teen pregnancy, teen drug use, and teen poverty, while the smug, self-satisfied, self-righteous and selfish suburbanites toss insults at the city for failing to solve its problems, problems that could be addressed if the whole county thought of itself as a city, instead of as a bunch of nice suburbs with an ugly, ignored neighborhood – the city of Rochester – that it unfortunately has to live next to.

Whenever I hear people on this forum talk about the city of Louisville a certain way, talk about it as a place to ‘get away from,’ I shiver. I know where such thoughts lead.

Unfortunately they can lead all the way out of the county, into what some here think as a ‘promised land.’ Like the issues that have made a mess of Rochester, the results of urban sprawl… now ever more apparent, now even more numerous … should be seen as a threat, not as a promise. Do I need to mention gas prices, SUVs on daily commutes, foreclosures, lost farmland that could help with regional food supplies, terrible draws on resources by widely spaced, inefficient housing; large, poisoned lawns…? Part of the narrative behind Museum Plaza is that Steve and Laura Lee saw the ugly development in Oldham County creeping nearer and nearer their farm and they wanted to do something about it, something to make the city the real ‘promised land.’ I support that move.

I understand the fears and affections that drive people beyond the city, but I believe more in the responsibility, the excitement, the potential, the community, the glorious risk of city living.

I am starting this thread hoping both dialogue and argument about the philosophy of place and space can happen. I’d like to see others ruminate on the psychological and moral aspects of where we live.

Last edited by louroclou; 05-01-2008 at 05:11 PM..
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Old 05-02-2008, 05:05 AM
 
6,766 posts, read 14,100,006 times
Reputation: 3115
Quote:
Originally Posted by louroclou View Post
I have always lived in cities – Louisville; Flint, Michigan; Chandigarh, India; Rochester, New York, and now Louisville again: all mid-sized cities, all with odd economic-political histories. Of course, St. Matthews, where we live now, would have been clearly and purely a suburb had I lived here when I was growing up. I would have gone to ‘county’ schools and my parents could not have voted for Louisville’s mayor or city council. Only a small part of county taxes would have gone to help the City of Louisville.

But now we’re part of Louisville Metro, politically and economically. As part of a ‘first ring’ old suburb, St. Matthews feels urban. We are surrounded by mixed-use zones, and can walk to retail, to restaurants, to services. There is plenty of fairly old architecture, including our house, and there are old trees and flora and parks… Yes, I’m a city dweller still.

That identity is important to me. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s as a kind of quiet rebel, I studied and identified, from about the age of 13, with jazz musicians, beat writers, avant-garde artists. My heroes spoke of the suburbs as the land of soullessness, of hypocrisy and paranoia and conformity. The idea seeped into me, and it is still there, though a bit more nuanced now, I hope.


Real estate, like biology, is destiny. Our aesthetics, our politics, our cultural and racial attitudes, our sense of space and place, are all informed by where we live, especially where we grew up… Yes, there can be enantiadromia, where we run off to protect our children from the perceived evils of urban life, only to find them drawn to the commercial trappings of that denied life: out of whitest suburbia come ‘wiggers,’ – low-riding, street-speaking, rap-loving children of affluence. You never know.

But also out of that separate, separated life of the suburbs can come a kind of taste that can, as I have seen on this and other forums, lead to calling the Seelbach, or Jack Fry’s, or Bardstown Road or Frankfort Ave. ‘seedy’ or grimy’ or ‘depressing’ or ‘decaying’ or even simply ‘ugly.’ The eye developed inside city limits, where there is an acceptance of age and change and history and palimpsests sees instead ‘shabby chic’ and ‘funkiness’ and, in Japanese terms, ‘sabi’ -the beautifully broken and aged. Patina. Soul.

Suburban aesthetics is centered on the new and clean and protected. Sabi may be present if it is faux: sped-up copper patina… expensive distressed denim… but for the most part it is an aesthetics of the denial of age, of the true past, of decay, of the outside and outsider.

The social dynamics of this issue are even more important. Each of us has a different level of fear. Each of us has different reasons to be afraid, some more real than others. But the growth of the suburbs, and now, the ex-urbs (read, for our constituency, Oldham and Bullitt counties), is predicated on various kinds of fear (and, of course, aesthetics. Some folks must, understandably, be quieter, closer to nature). People run to the suburbs out of fear of crime, of ‘the other’, of taxes, of control. Lurking in much of this fear is a fear of, well, responsibility. More and more we are realizing how interconnected our actions as citizens and consumers are. And more and more some of us simply want to shut off and run from those facts. We buy Hummers and Hummer Homes and defy anyone to criticize our selfish and self-destructive decisions.

I was radicalized into my present vision of things (I am trying here to be objective and highly subjective at the same time) by my experiences in Rochester. No matter how hard it might be for many people to accept, the Supreme Court decision of the early 70’s that forced the consolidation of Jefferson County Schools with Louisville Public Schools has been a major reason Louisville Metro is now a vibrant, growing, economically and culturally healthy, integrated and sophisticated town. It is far out-stripping most towns of its size and history. Rochester is a test-tube example of what we would be if our suburban retreat and fear were institutionalized and central to our politics.

When I moved to Rochester in 1970, Greater Louisville and Greater Rochester were almost the same size and had very similar feels. Stewart’s and Kaufman’s downtown in Louisville was just like Sibley’s and McCurdy’s in Rochester. The East Side of Rochester was the equivalent of the Highlands. Both Louisville and Rochester claimed Foster Brooks as Hometown Boy.

But there was a big difference. Jefferson County had two governments, two school districts, two major divisions of police and fire departments. Now we are almost one. Monroe County had and still has 18 free-standing municipalities – each with its own school system, government, taxes, and often its own fire and police department. A law pushed through the New York State legislature in the early part of the twentieth century by rural and then-nascent suburban forces made illegal any annexation of adjacent suburbs by major cities like Rochester, Buffalo, or Syracuse. Laws also were put in place that made the funding of schools in the suburbs so outlandishly unfair when compared to city funding that I can’t explain it all without getting nearly apoplectic (I was a teacher for 35 years in the Rochester City School District). The result of all this is a kind of neo-segregationism, and a core city strapped for funds, losing good people, dying at the core, and burdened with horrible teen crime, teen pregnancy, teen drug use, and teen poverty, while the smug, self-satisfied, self-righteous and selfish suburbanites toss insults at the city for failing to solve its problems, problems that could be addressed if the whole county thought of itself as a city, instead of as a bunch of nice suburbs with an ugly, ignored neighborhood – the city of Rochester – that it unfortunately has to live next to.

Whenever I hear people on this forum talk about the city of Louisville a certain way, talk about it as a place to ‘get away from,’ I shiver. I know where such thoughts lead.

Unfortunately they can lead all the way out of the county, into what some here think as a ‘promised land.’ Like the issues that have made a mess of Rochester, the results of urban sprawl… now ever more apparent, now even more numerous … should be seen as a threat, not as a promise. Do I need to mention gas prices, SUVs on daily commutes, foreclosures, lost farmland that could help with regional food supplies, terrible draws on resources by widely spaced, inefficient housing; large, poisoned lawns…? Part of the narrative behind Museum Plaza is that Steve and Laura Lee saw the ugly development in Oldham County creeping nearer and nearer their farm and they wanted to do something about it, something to make the city the real ‘promised land.’ I support that move.

I understand the fears and affections that drive people beyond the city, but I believe more in the responsibility, the excitement, the potential, the community, the glorious risk of city living.

I am starting this thread hoping both dialogue and argument about the philosophy of place and space can happen. I’d like to see others ruminate on the psychological and moral aspects of where we live.

One of the finest posts I have seen on here in a long time. Thanks. I will comment later....
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Old 05-02-2008, 06:06 AM
 
Location: Louisville KY Metro area
4,824 posts, read 12,978,415 times
Reputation: 2129
Quite frankly, the OP obviously does not know me or most of the people I know living in both Jefferson and Oldham Counties. This is especially true of me, as I moved from rural Kentucky to Louisville proper, then to Oldham County. I know what the op doesn't; there is a huge difference in city kids and true country kids. I'll take the country, thank you.
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Old 05-02-2008, 06:19 AM
 
Location: Kentucky
6,749 posts, read 20,176,961 times
Reputation: 2141
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomocox View Post
Quite frankly, the OP obviously does not know me or most of the people I know living in both Jefferson and Oldham Counties. This is especially true of me, as I moved from rural Kentucky to Louisville proper, then to Oldham County. I know what the op doesn't; there is a huge difference in city kids and true country kids. I'll take the country, thank you.
That is true Tom. I work at the zoo and I see kids from all over. I have to admit, the best behaved kids are the ones from rural areas BY FAR.
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Old 05-02-2008, 07:30 AM
 
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
209 posts, read 653,503 times
Reputation: 136
Where in all my post did I attack country kids? Jeez. If you're referring to the 'wigger' comment, my point was simply that sometimes - sometimes, not always - choices meant to lead a certain way end up doing just the opposite. That's the meaning of that admittedly obscure word 'enantiadromia' (it's a Jungian term). All I was saying was that our best efforts to stave off the world can sometimes fail miserably. I could have mentioned Columbine.

That said, do I think 'country kids' and suburban kids have better 'manners' than city kids? Yep. Agreed. Though I am frequently amazed at the inate politeness of many of the city kids I run into here, especially compared to Rochester kids. I never had, as I have here more than once, a kid on a skateboard say, 'Excuse me, sir' as he whizzed by.

Please don't tell me you know more about kids than I do. I spent most of my life - 37 years - with them, all day. I'm an expert.
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Old 05-02-2008, 07:35 AM
 
Location: Kentucky
6,749 posts, read 20,176,961 times
Reputation: 2141
Quote:
Originally Posted by louroclou View Post
Where in all my post did I attack country kids? Jeez. If you're referring to the 'wigger' comment, my point was simply that sometimes - sometimes, not always - choices meant to lead a certain way end up doing just the opposite. That's the meaning of that admittedly obscure word 'enantiadromia' (it's a Jungian term). All I was saying was that our best efforts to stave off the world can sometimes fail miserably. I could have mentioned Columbine.

That said, do I think 'country kids' and suburban kids have better 'manners' than city kids? Yep. Agreed. Though I am frequently amazed at the inate politeness of many of the city kids I run into here, especially compared to Rochester kids. I never had, as I have here more than once, a kid on a skateboard say, 'Excuse me, sir' as he whizzed by.

Please don't tell me you know more about kids than I do. I spent most of my life - 37 years - with them, all day. I'm an expert.
Oh hun I am sorry if I offended you. I am just going moreso by observation. I see entire groups of kids come into the zoo on a field trip. We don't worry near as much about the country kids having chaperones as we do the city ones. I don't know if it has more to do with the raising or what, but it is just something I see quite a bit. However, I am also not saying that city kids can't be wonderful either. There are plenty of wonderful city kids as I have worked with many.
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Old 05-02-2008, 08:08 AM
 
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
209 posts, read 653,503 times
Reputation: 136
Oh, I was responding to tomocox, missy, not you! And it's pretty hard to offend me!

A good while ago, on another thread, I spoke of my affection for and identification with what I call 'thin-soil' intelligence - people who develop intellectual curiosity and grow superior minds despite a thinness of nurture and opportunity. That's why I love kids who come out intact and rich and interesting and truly smart despite backgrounds in poor country areas, or from redneck backgrounds, or from the inner city. They may be unmannerly and awkward and even annoying at times, but when they fully emerge, they benefit us all. Simply dividing kids into good kids and bad based on real estate doesn't help. I know I have made some large sterotypical statements. We always start there. But the next step is to see the anomalies and nuances and individual variations.

As for calling suburban or exurban kids 'country kids', there's a certain disingenuousness there! Are Oldham county kids from wealthy McHomes just, gee, shucks, 'country kids' workin' hard on the farm?
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Old 05-02-2008, 08:37 AM
 
Location: Kentucky
6,749 posts, read 20,176,961 times
Reputation: 2141
Quote:
Originally Posted by louroclou View Post
Oh, I was responding to tomocox, missy, not you! And it's pretty hard to offend me!

A good while ago, on another thread, I spoke of my affection for and identification with what I call 'thin-soil' intelligence - people who develop intellectual curiosity and grow superior minds despite a thinness of nurture and opportunity. That's why I love kids who come out intact and rich and interesting and truly smart despite backgrounds in poor country areas, or from redneck backgrounds, or from the inner city. They may be unmannerly and awkward and even annoying at times, but when they fully emerge, they benefit us all. Simply dividing kids into good kids and bad based on real estate doesn't help. I know I have made some large sterotypical statements. We always start there. But the next step is to see the anomalies and nuances and individual variations.

As for calling suburban or exurban kids 'country kids', there's a certain disingenuousness there! Are Oldham county kids from wealthy McHomes just, gee, shucks, 'country kids' workin' hard on the farm?

Are they all in McManshions in Oldham? Are there not any working farms there anymore?
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Old 05-02-2008, 09:36 AM
 
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
209 posts, read 653,503 times
Reputation: 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by missymomof3 View Post
Are they all in McManshions in Oldham? Are there not any working farms there anymore?
Oh, of course, you're right. The farms aren't completely gone. But tomocox will fix that! You know, calling all kids in Oldham 'country kids' is like, now that I'm reminded, the roads and tracts in suburbs being named after the flora and fauna destroyed to build them.
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Old 05-02-2008, 09:54 AM
 
54 posts, read 215,298 times
Reputation: 39
I'm pretty much in complete agreement with louroclou's initial post. And, hopefully, we'll see the inner-ring neighborhoods continue to improve. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood. We had almost 1 acre of land. As I reflect on my childhood, I realized what a waste of space that was. And, the other kids in the neighborhood did not shield me from the dangers of society. Alcohol and any other drug was readily available from the suburban kids as well. So, although my parents thought they were protecting me, eventually we all have to go to school and learn what the other kids are in to.

I also cannot for the life of me understand why moving to a suburb or exurb gets you away from the congestion of city life. If one could live in the Highlands or Old Louisville and take a ten minute drive home from downtown after work, why would they prefer a 30 minute drive on a congested interstate? I would much rather navigate the intersection of Broadway and Baxter than Hourstbourne and Shelbyville. Furthermore, when you get home, if you want to go out but don't want to fight traffic, a traditional inner-ring neighborhood affords you the opportunity to walk to anywhere you want to go. It's not that you can't drive, but you don't have to. I don't understand what is so attractive about having to drive.

I guess you can sum up my feelings with one generalization. As long as I'm living in Louisville, I won't live outside of the Watterson Expressway. It's not that I don't think anything is worthwhile in the 'burbs. I just do not prefer it.

I would like to see a concentrated effort on infill development. We should utilize our existing infrastructure before building new roads and sewers. It's more efficient and provides just as good of a quality of life as any suburban development.
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