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Cities

  • In the home we make certain distinctions about functions of rooms and corridors; we do not deliver the groceries straight into the baby's crib. In hospitals we do not take the food trolleys right through the operating chamber, and we rarely have the recreation room next to the convalescent room. We sort out the functions. We have to sort out the functions of the city and the streams of traffic and re-create arterial systems that allow us to breathe ... the shape, pattern and sense of community which you expect if it were a home.

    • Barbara Ward,
    • in Eda LeShan, The Conspiracy Against Childhood ()
  • There are people who have a penchant for cities—more than that, a talent for them, a gift of sensing them, of feeling their rhythm and pulsebeats, as others have a highly developed music sense, or color reaction. It is a thing that cannot be acquired.

  • Reno! The land of the free and the grave of the home!

  • Lord, if there is a heartache Vienna cannot cure I hope never to feel it. I came home cured of everything except Vienna.

  • For all the insularity of the old guard, Pittsburgh was always an open and democratic town.

  • Pittsburgh wasn't really Andrew Carnegie's town. We just thought it was. Steel wasn't the only major industry in Pittsburgh. We just had to think to recall the others.

  • There is no solitude in the world like that of the big city.

  • Life in Boston, on the corner of Mt. Vernon Street and a cobblestoned alley, was interesting ... To begin with, we were thrilled when someone told us that our little house was a hundred years old; also that in its cellar was a bricked-up spring, to which, when the lot was still an open hillside, the first child born in the colony had been brought to be baptized. The thrill subsided when someone else told us that there were houses on the Hill even older than '112,' and that many of them had 'springs' in their cellars, to which this 'first child' had been carried for baptism.

  • In the suburbs, everywhere you go you're trespassing, but a city is public property; if you're there, it's yours, and we set our feet down on our city as firmly as kings.

  • I never walked through the streets of any city with as much satisfaction as those of Philadelphia. The neatness and cleanliness of all animate and inanimate things, houses, pavements, and citizens, is not to be surpassed.

  • Townfolk know pleasures, country people joys.

  • Most gay, conversational, careless, lovely city ... where one drinks golden Tokay until one feels most beautiful, and warm and loved — oh, Budapesth!

    • Winifred Holtby,
    • 1924, in Alice Holtby and Jean McWilliam, eds., Letters to a Friend ()
  • Swingers are all from the suburbs and consequently brain-addled by car pools, shopping malls, and welcome wagons.

  • Visitors to Los Angeles, then and now, were put out because the residents of Los Angeles had the inhospitable idea of building a city comfortable to live in, rather than a monument to astonish the eye of jaded travelers.

  • In a few hours one could cover that incalculable distance; from the winter country and homely neighbours, to the city where the air trembled like a tuning-fork with unimaginable possibilities.

  • We do not look in great cities for our best morality.

  • No rural community, no suburban community, can ever possess the distinctive qualities that city dwellers have for centuries given to the world.

  • Lovers of the town have been content, for the most part, to say they loved it. They do not brag about its uplifting qualities. They have none of the infernal smugness which makes the lover of the country insupportable.

  • This is a city of absolute enchantment in the literal sense of the word. It loosens all the bonds binding the traveller to his own age and sets him free to live in a past that is vital and crude but never ugly. Herat is as old as history and as moving as a great epic poem — if Afghanistan had nothing else it would have been worth coming to experience this.

  • In great cities where people of ability abound, there is always a feverish urge to keep ahead, to set the pace, to adopt each new fashion in thought and theory as well as in dress — or undress.

  • ... the air of luxury in Sarajevo has less to do with material goods than with the people. They greet delight here with unreluctant and sturdy appreciation, they are even prudent about it, they will let no drop of pleasure run to waste.

  • Vienna was the city of statues. They were as numerous as the people who walked the streets. They stood on the top of the highest towers, lay down on stone tombs, sat on horseback, kneeled, prayed, fought animals and wars, danced, drank wine and read books made of stone. They adorned cornices like the figureheads of old ships. They stood in the heart of fountains glistening with water as if they had just been born. They sat under the trees in the parks summer and winter. Some wore costumes of other periods, and some no clothes at all. Men, women, children, kings, dwarfs, gargoyles, unicorns, lions, clowns, heroes, wise men, prophets, angels, saints and soldiers preserved for Vienna an illusion of eternity.

  • One always, sooner or later, comes upon a city which is an image of one's inner cities. Fez is an image of my inner self. ... The layers of the city of Fez are like the layers and secrecies of the inner life. One needs a guide. ... There were in Fez, as in my life, streets which led nowhere, impasses which remained a mystery.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1936, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 2 ()
  • Detroit is really the most perfectly laid out city one could imagine, and such an enchanting park and lake, — infinitely better than any town I know in Europe. It ought to be a paradise in about fifty years when it has all matured.

  • Moscow, Rome, London, Paris stay in place. Leningrad and New York float, spreading all their sails, cutting space with their prows, and can disappear, if not in reality, then in the imagination of the poet creating a myth, a mythical tradition on the grounds of his secret experience.

  • In Reno, there is always a bull market, never a bear market, for the stocks and bonds of happiness.

  • The anonymity of the city is one of its strengths as well as — carried too far — one of its weaknesses.

  • ... all large cities are alike at night.

  • ... people in New Orleans really care about food, care about it passionately, can spend hours arguing over whether Antoine's is better than Galatoire's or the other way around ... in New Orleans, there is basically nothing to do but eat and then argue about it.

  • New Orleans is one of the two most ingrown, self-obsessed little cities in the United States. (The other is San Francisco.)

  • ... in the big city nobody has time to make friends. The big city is a big solitude.

  • Reno with its brilliant, sordid truths fascinated me far more than the artificial casino by which I recalled its name. I had some difficulty in going to bed in this town where hope and despair never sleep.

  • New Orleans could wreck your liver and poison your blood. It could destroy you financially. It could shun you or embrace you, teach you tricks of the heart you thought Tennessee Williams was just kidding about. And in August it could break your spirit.

  • But the pop-up suburb has an incomplete feel to it like something that just wasn't right, wasn't quite real, almost like a movie set. When people raised families in that sterile environment, it produced directionless children who became directionless teenagers, then directionless adults. With no roots, no past to stand on, you got hollow kids.

  • They talk in New York of a man who lost both his sons — 'One died and the other went to live in Philadelphia.'

  • The sky through the window was freshly laundered and glowing. Someone should write a song about great days in Philadelphia. Three songs. One for each of them.

  • Was there ever a name more full of purpose than Chicago's? ... spoken as Chicagoans themselves speak it, with a bit of a spit to give heft to its slither, it is gloriously onomatopoetic.

  • Buildings are seldom just buildings in downtown Chicago, they are Examples, and not a city on Earth, I swear, is as knowledgeably preoccupied with architectural meaning. Where else would a department store include in its advertisements the name of the architect who created it, or a newspaper property section throw in a scholarly exposition of theoretical design?

  • Chicago's downtown seems to me to constitute, all in all, the best-looking twentieth-century city, the city where contemporary technique has best been matched by artistry, intelligence, and comparatively moderated greed. No doubt about it, if style were the one gauge, Chicago would be among the greatest of all the cities of the world.

  • During my stay in Boston I have visited different churches, and it has so happened that the greatest number of them have belonged to the Unitarian body. So great, indeed, is the predominance of this sect in Boston that it is generally called 'the Unitarian city.'

    • Fredrika Bremer,
    • 1850, America of the Fifties: Letters of Fredrika Bremer ()
  • That is what is so marvelous about Europe; the people long ago learned that space and beauty and quiet refuges in a great city, where children may play and old people sit in the sun, are of far more value to the inhabitants than real estate taxes and contractors' greed.

  • But Celia soon grew to love Havana, its crooked streets and the balconies like elegant chariots in the air.

  • In our big cities there is nothing at all not made by ourselves except the air. We are our own context and live by picking each other's brains. There's no vital force. Electronic Man.

  • New Haven cultivates ... an open gloom that seems happy to acknowledge disrepair and the superfluity of appearance. ... I realized that what cramped the town was the weight of unwritten volumes: they scored lines of unfinished writing on every second face that walked the streets ...

  • Although I was city-raised, I was not city-souled.

    • Diane Boyd-Heger,
    • "Living With Wolves," in Linda Hogan, Deena Metzger, and Brenda Peterson, eds., Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals ()
  • The quintessential American city. That fast-beating stubborn heart.

    • Joyce Carol Oates,
    • "Visions of Detroit," (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities ()
  • Budapest in late May is a city of lilacs. The sweet, languid, rather sleepy smell of lilacs wafts everywhere. And it is a city of lovers, many of them quite middle-aged. Walking with their arms around each other, embracing and kissing on park benches. A sensuousness very much bound up (it seems to me) with the heady ubiquitous smell of lilacs.

    • Joyce Carol Oates,
    • "Budapest Journal: May 1980," (Woman) Writer: Occasions and Opportunities ()
  • Were modern cities only beautiful after darkness hid everything but their lights?

  • All through organized history, if you wanted prosperity you had to have cities. Cities are places that attract new people with new ideas.

  • But look what we have built ... This is not the rebuilding of cities. This is the sacking of cities.

  • Being human is itself difficult, and therefore all kinds of settlements (except dream cities) have problems. Big cities have difficulties in abundance, because they have people in abundance.

  • To approach a city, or even a city neighborhood, as if it were a larger architectural problem, capable of being given order by converting it into a disciplined work of art, is to make the mistake of attempting to substitute art for life. The results of such profound confusion between art and life are neither life nor art. They are taxidermy.

  • When we deal with cities we are dealing with life at its most complex and intense. Because this is so, there is a basic esthetic limitation on what can be done with cities: a city cannot be a work of art.

  • Today barbarism has taken over many city streets, or people fear it has, which comes to much the same thing in the end.

  • Great cities are not like towns, only larger. They are not like suburbs, only denser. They differ from towns and suburbs in basic ways, and one of these is that cities are, by definition, full of strangers.

  • Cities are an immense laboratory of trial and error, failure and success, in city building and city design.

  • The point of cities is multiplicity of choice.

  • In small settlements everyone knows your affairs. In the big city, everyone does not — only those you choose to tell will know about you. This is one of the attributes of cities that is precious to most city people.

  • What if we fail to stop the erosion of cities by automobiles? ... In that case America will hardly need to ponder a mystery that has troubled men for millennia. What is the purpose of life? For us, the answer will be clear, established and for all practical purposes indisputable. The purpose of life is to produce and consume automobiles.

  • Does anyone suppose that, in real life, answers to any of the great questions that worry us today are going to come out of homogeneous settlements?

  • Harvard (across the river in Cambridge) and Boston are two ends of one mustache. ... Without the faculty, the visitors, the events that Harvard brings to the life here, Boston would be intolerable to anyone except genealogists, antique dealers, and those who find repletion in a closed local society.

  • Boston — wrinkled, spindly-legged, depleted of nearly all her spiritual and cutaneous oils, provincial, self-esteeming — has gone on spending and spending her inflated bills of pure reputation, decade after decade.

  • This city is made of stone, of blood, and fish.

    • Joy Harjo,
    • "Anchorage," in Joseph Bruchac, ed., Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back ()
  • They say that Chicago has two kinds of weather: winter and August.

  • In the country life is what you make it, while in the city life is what you make.

  • One of the the things she most liked about the city — apart from all its obvious attractions, the theatre, the galleries, the exhilarating walks by the river — was that so few people ever asked you personal questions.

  • Cadiz is a city of magic, like Cracow or Dublin, to set the mind on fire at a turn of a corner. ... The eye is continually fed, the imagination stirred, by a train of spectacles as charming as if they had been contrived.

  • It seems hardly fair to quarrel with a place because its staple commodity is not pretty, but I am sure I should have liked Cincinnati much better if the people had not dealt so very largely in hogs.

  • The city feeds his mind, but in so doing he is manipulated by it, its sights and sounds condition his responses, he is its product and its creature. Neither can do without the other.

  • Sing a song of subways, / Never see the sun; / Four-and-twenty people / In a room for one.

    • Eve Merriam,
    • "Sing a Song for Subways," The Inner City Mother Goose ()
  • Istanbul ... the constant beating of the wave of the East against the rock of the West ...

  • Does anybody really want to attend to cities other than to flee, fleece, privatize, butcher or decimate them?

  • Everyone in New Orleans that can afford it gets buried in mausoleums. That's one good thing about living there.

  • How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn't love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.

  • I've never known a Philadelphian who wasn't a downright 'character'; possibly a defense mechanism resulting from the dullness of their native habitat.

  • There could never be a more beautiful city than this. It was cold, austere, belonging only to the water. ... Stockholm was a northern city, her beauty stark and frozen even in midsummer, the blue water like the pure caverns of a glacier ...

  • A great city is a great solitude.

  • People in towns are always preoccupied. 'Have I missed the bus? Have I forgotten the potatoes? Can I get across the road?'

    • Nancy Mitford,
    • "Diary of a Visit to Russia," The Water Beetle ()
  • Billings is some lively town. It supports about fifteen hundred toughs. These are hectic days — like hell let out for noon.

    • Calamity Jane,
    • letter (1893), in Karen Payne, ed., Between Ourselves ()
  • The spring in Boston is like being in love: bad days slip in among the good ones, and the whole world is at a standstill, then the sun shines, the tears dry up, and we forget that yesterday was stormy.

  • Chicago was my unescapable affinity. If I had ever felt for any man what I had experienced for Chicago — I would not only have proposed and bought both the engagement and wedding rings, but even procured the marriage license.

  • ... in the '70s Prague was pewter gray in spirit, broken and oddly adrift in the middle of Europe. The most golden thing about it then was its silence. Loneliness was its chief allure, radiating a sullen romance bred of cigarette smoke and satire.

    • Patricia Hampl,
    • "Reflections on a Golden City," The New York Times Magazine ()
  • The seeds of civilization are in every culture, but it is city life that brings them to fruition.