Self-Tagging Town Meme

In response to popular demand I now offer a self-tagging town meme. For purposes of this meme, a town is defined as a municipality with a population under 1,000,000. If you do not have five favorite towns of this size, or five towns you consider overrated, you may fill in with cities, but you must make a note of this. In addition, you must differentiate, in your negative list, between towns which are awful and those which are merely overrated.

In my opinion there are altogether too many towns, both pleasant and unpleasant, to choose from rationally. I will therefore complete the meme based on what first comes to me. I reserve the right to revise my choices at a later date.


1. Cusco, Peru.
2. Cachoeira, Bahia, Brazil.
3. Santa Barbara, California.
4. San Francisco, California.
5. New Orleans, Louisiana.

Runners-up: Seville, Spain; Fes, Morocco; Avignon, France; Suchitoto, El Salvador; Port of Spain, Trinidad.


1. Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico (arguably the worst place I have ever been).
2. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (the ugliest, lowest, and meanest metropolitan area I have ever met).
3. Rancho Cucamonga, California (faux-desirable and insufferably sterile).
4. Columbus, Ohio (actually a city, but notably horrid enough to deserve a mention, and the nation’s most overrated university town).
5. Baton Rouge, Louisiana (the Chemical City – need I say more?).

Enjoy yourselves, now. I look forward to discovering what you will say! And speaking of cities, I would also like to bring your attention to Dambala’s recent post in response to an e-mail by a denizen of St. Tammany Parish.

People across the nation and the world need to know that most of New Orleans and large parts of the coast are still destroyed, that there are families today just getting back into their houses after almost two years, that scores of thousands are still displaced, that the suicide rate is way up, and that vital services are still sorely lacking. If you wonder why we are touchy about the hurricanes (and yes, there were two), or why we have not yet “moved on,” you might remember that we are still excavating ourselves from them day by day even if we are so used to it that we do not mention this in every conversation, and that the present situation did not come about by our choice.




Filed under Juegos, News

13 responses to “Self-Tagging Town Meme

  1. i don’t know how many people live in these towns but…

    campeche, mexico;
    jerez, spain;
    laguardia, spain;
    montpellier, france;
    verona, italy (a cliché, yes, but still a beautiful town w great food: try the horsemeat)

  2. I just came back from a meeting in Gulfport, MS with coastal activists from AL, MS and LA. It is amazing how solidified the “post-storm” world has become for folks living in the region. First we had post-9/11, now we have the brave and ugly new world of the post-2005 hurricane season.

    After 18 months, my work is moving beyond New Orleans into the broader region, and it is amazing how little those of us outside of the region have paid attention to the rest of the Coast when responding to the on-going recovery problems down there. I am quite guilty in this; I have been foolishly myopic in overemphasizing the plight of New Orleans versus putting it in the larger context of how much work remains to be done across the Gulf Coast. Activists in AL have as their major priority trying to reverse the notion perpetuated by their public officials that all is well and good on the AL Gulf Coast. Can you imagine! What a disaster (pun intended).

    The problems of inequitable recovery in the Gulf Coast are multi-racial, multi-ethnic, classist, sexist, and there is so much energy towards trying to build a truly multi-cultural, cross-class and comprehensive movement for equitable development that not only influences post-storm rebuilding, but the systemic racial and economic inequities that have pervaded the region (and our nation) before the storms. It’s amazing and an honor to witness and participate in.

    Ok, I’ll stop, as I’d hate to slip off this soapbox in getting too wound up!

  3. PS: I know I have to report back with my favorite towns!

  4. Sonetero: what a great and original list – although I’ve never been to Laguardia, need to go. I almost put Montpellier on my list although I think it is over 1,000,000, and Firenze. There are so many lovely towns in Provence, Spain, Mexico and Italy that I was afraid to think about these countries too much when I did the meme. I am catching nostalgia for Extremadura, Tuscany and the Huasteca region as I type, and I permanently desire a hut on the French Riviera, hackneyed though this is.

    Leigh: good for you, and d***** straight – it’s also true all the way to the Texas border, basically, because of Rita. *I* need to be doing more. Looking forward to your list of towns!

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  6. So I never came back to this post, and now, it is at least a week later and of course, you have moved on to new and brilliant things. I really love this blog.

    Considering myself an urbanist, I had a difficult time choosing my fave cities/towns (I think I am also not good at ranking things – I can never even decide my top 5 favorite foods, even though I play this game w/myself quite often). In part I have a difficult time with this city question because truly I love the idea and existence of cities generally – and of feeling like life has an urban flavor to it (I am trying not to use the word “urbanism” because I do not love the Chicago School, though truthfully that would be the best word choice at the moment). Also, because I study cities, urbanism (oh hell) is truly available in degrees. So it is difficult for me to wade through all this intellectualizing of cities and my general love and appreciation of cities to actually choose 5 or so that I love or don’t love.

    (Plus I am not very good at following rules, as you can probably guess by the fact that I am using your “Self-Tagging Town Meme” to discuss cities. I have just not lived or spent enough time in cities > 1M people to be able to participate in your other meme, though I think I have visited more than I realize.)

    Fave Cities:
    1) I can tell you that I love Hartford though I have never actually lived there (odd, I know). My mom re-married and moved to CT when I was 18. This state lacks a strong enough identity for me, yet Hartford breathes life and history in so many intriguing ways – it is the capital, historically much more of a financial powerhouse than it remains, yet also is home to some important large HQ that are clearly outsize for the city in its current incarnation. It exemplifies many of the problems major cities have, with no support and effective hostility from the surrounding suburbs, and so much of its land occupied by non-profit, tax-exempt institutions as well as high poverty neighborhoods, so that it must resort to some creative revenue generating schemes without harming the lives of those who live there. I love that it has a Puerto Rican Mayor – the city’s first Latino – and that he has a bio that includes community organizing. Hartford personifies the transition that many small, NE/MW urban centers are experiencing with the long ago exit of industry and the vibrance of new ethnic/immigrant communities and commerce that too often are externally regarded as further evidence of the continued degradation of the place rather than the future lifeblood of the city (Lawrence, MA; Lowell, MA; Springfield, MA also come to this New Englander’s mind). At MIT my dept. referred to these cities as “Third Tier” (make what you will of that!) and Hartford for me speaks for many of them.

    2) I love Boston because I am a Masshole and my family history is here. I doubt I would love it much if I stumbled upon it otherwise. I never liked Philly because that is someone else’s Boston, and I don’t need more than one parochial city on my list.

    3) I loved Krakow because it reminded me of Boston in size and university population, which helped when I was traveling alone in Poland, and also because it was in Poland, which I think is a f***ing fascinating country.

    4) I feel compelled to list New Orleans because it is absolutely formative for me in my personal and professional development, but truthfully, my feelings are much more love-hate and ambivalent and I am glad my work is expanding across the Gulf Coast and giving me a chance to get the hell out of New Orleans for awhile.

    5) I love Memphis (phew! I was so worried I would not be able to even think of a 5th). In Memphis was my first formative experience working in the South, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the music. I also had a real range of colleagues in community development, incl. this white, conservative (more-religious-than-Baptist he described his church) GOP friend who I did not understand at all but there we were, working together on a minority entrepreneurship incubation project. Bizarre. Also, I will never forget the 24/7 bail bonds building across the street from the courthouse with the slogan on the side, “Justice never sleeps, and neither do we.” Yikes. My first foray into white county-black city power structure, the white/black of Southern politics that still clings to life in Boston too though most places have diversified far beyond what its older inhabitants are willing to admit (in Memphis a Latino activist told me that TN had no official recognition of Latinos in the state – e.g., a census definition).

    I knew when I finally put this list in print how US-centric it would appear; I am a domestic in my focus, though I like to think I have travelled abroad quite a bit (and would certainly add Dar es Salaam to my large cities meme, were I participating – along with L.A. and ones I’m not allowed to mention, i.e., NYC. For urbanites who believe in public transportation, NY is nirvana, I have to say).

    I also really like Seattle. Very green and fresh and diverse. Also, Minneapolis. I’ve only had good times when I’ve gone there. Another diverse, interesting place.

    I can tell you what I don’t like:
    – Tampa: wide land highways, strip malls and strip clubs – it’s the worst of U.S. development;
    – St. Louis: so boring and city completely empty at 6pm on a Saturday. Boo!
    – Philly: see above.
    – Atlanta: sprawl, traffic, humidity and the worst airport ever (along with Philly, btw!)
    – San Francisco (so pretentious), though that is too big for this meme, but I am so tired and have been rambling in this post for too long!!

  7. Also, not a huge fan of Chattanooga or Ft. Worth – very bland, esp. Ft. W – what a terrible, manufactured downtown. And I hate Bradenton, where my dad has a condo. All cars and a/c and white people. BLECH. Houston is a disaster, but I had some serious laughs and fascinating experiences there, so I remember it fondly. I was kind of into Bismarck, ND too – lots of parks and public greenspace, and Native American history, and amazing bacon (funny what our memories are) and my first encounter w/ the behemoth that is a 24/7 WalMart, where I bought cd’s for my drive through the Black Hills (when not radio surfing and discovering a G. Gordon Liddy talk radio show in the middle of nowhere).

    Btw, Santiago was ok. Really easy to get around and people helpful if perfunctory, but the dry, arid air killed me.

    Recife, Brazil, on the other hand, now that place is mind-blowing.

    Ok, I have violated all sense of protocol in your city and town memes.

  8. Oooh, Leigh, you have really interesting and original lists! I’ve been through Memphis many times and never stayed, wanted to, I should just go up and spend a few days. S.F., pretentious, yes it is true. I would *love* to go to Dar Es Salaam. (And Cairo.) Atlanta, yes, despite the King things and so on, the sprawl and commercialism are awful and it has the Old South feeling I find asphyxiating. Recife, mind-blowing in a good or bad sense? I really like it, largely because of the people – sweet, direct, profound, real nordestino spirit.

  9. Recife to me was totally nuts because it was massively overdeveloped in parts – it seemed the bulk of the high rises had about 40% occupancy on average, if not less. Creepy tall buildings with story after story of dark floors. Then there was the high end vacationing set in Boa Viagem where my boyfriend and I had this amazing crab dinner one night, in contrast to the crumbling, historic, totally marvel of a downtown that almost looked burned out in parts with that enormous market in the middle where we wandered for hours and I bought a dress and underwear because my luggage was lost and I speak no portuguese other than what I was teaching myself over the course of the week so I mimed “thong” (think about how you might do that) to the sales woman helping me find some underwear (she understood).

    It was just such a wild study in contrasts, so old and new and high and low and dangerous and glamorous and apparently a healthcare center for Brazil? And Olinda nearby, where our black almost-no-English church tour guide described to me and my boyfriend – both white – about historical Dutch discrimination but now contemporary integration – i.e., everything is great now – by pointing to his skin, then our skin, and communicating less than a handful of words he’d learned, and we could understand and concur because we are from the U.S. with a similar color line. And our brown Brazilian Pentecostal taxi driver/city tour guide embraced my boyfriend because they are both Protestant, whereas our church tour guide and I were both Catholic and the other local tourists in the Church incl. one woman who was praying for a husband, she told us. And then the first synagogue in the Americas in Recife, with a picture of a synagogue from Central Park West inside, because some roots of the NYC Jewish community originate there. And I used to live near CPW! And here I am, on the otherside of the world, looking at a picture of my old neighborhood.

    Then we went to the beach outside Recife (I forget where) and met Emilio and Teresa, the cop and physical therapist taking the day off for the beach, and drank cachaca with them and Emilio wanted to know when my boyfriend and I were getting married and insisted we call them whenever that eventually happened.

    And TAM Airlines, it’s like a developing-country-bus in the sky. Christ.

    I was totally entranced by Brazil but it seemed like the place I’d like to work v. vacation, where I’d have to go regularly and get to know it vs. just spend some time there “relaxing” (I’m not that good at relaxing).

    Finally, the other thing that was a riot about the whole Recife experience was that every night from 6-8pm Law & Order was on, in English. So it’d be like day time adventure, 2 hours of L&O, nighttime adventure.


    (And so I conclude my post about Recife here at

  10. How could I forget this – I totally love Vegas. Adult Disneyland.

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  12. Ah yes, Vegas is hilarious. And that is such a great description of Recife!!! Brazil, yes, it’s for work, not for vacation. Although while you’re working, it has great weekend trips. It is a marvelous and strange place, I toy with the idea of moving there again. If I could find stable enough employment.

  13. Pingback: Self Tagging Town Meme « Automatic Preference

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