Bright Fights, Big Cities

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Rivalries are fun, but even more fun when you win. I know, because this weekend Harvard beat yale in The Game for the 8th year in a row (the Harvard Band remains undefeated).

I have experienced both sides of the rivalry see-saw. For one, I cheer for team Democrat, which is so bad at competition they couldn’t win a game of solitaire. I also live in Los Angeles, which tries hard to convince the world (and itself) that it is just as good as New York. It’s an awesome city, to be sure, but people come to the U.S. to see New York, then maybe L.A. later (after a quick trip up to Boston to photograph the John Harvard statue).

There is some serious rivalry between cities, as evidenced by the glut of “Umpteen Reasons My City is Better than Your City” lists clogging the internet, and the fact that anyone from Chicago will spend hours arguing it is the best place in the universe – never mind that they moved somewhere else.

(Smaller cities and towns are just as competitive; I’m from north-of-nowhere Berlin, New Hampshire, and you can bet we knew having the paper mill made us better than those lame-o’s in nearby Milan.)

Like rivals like, and within groups of relative equals those rivalries are free to get nasty and silly – like how I never capitalize the word “yale”.

Since I am a citizen of both the Ivy League and a top U.S. city, and am riding high off of my school’s continued Ivy dominance this weekend, and had yet another run in with a super-proud non-resident Chicagoan recently, I decided to mash up the rivalries. Because superficially judging your peers is fun! And mash-ups are totally in right now.

New York: NYC is the Harvard of cities. Harvard’s motto is “Veritas”, which means “Truth”, but I think of it more like, “Preach”. The truth is, there is only One. No matter how many other schools achieve equal quality, it will still be the only one whose graduates get to say, “I went to Harvard”. And then have everyone hate them. “I’m a New Yorker” carries similar magic.

Los Angeles: That makes L.A. yale. Totally legit in its own right, but it will just never catch up to the First. yale tries so hard, their motto is even a one-up on Harvard’s: “Lux et Veritas” (Light and Truth). It doesn’t matter how many national tours come to Los Angeles, New York still has the only Broadway. Quality has nothing to do with it – you can’t catch up with history.

Chicago: It seems like Chi-town should be Princeton, but Dartmouth fits best. Both schools are academically equal to the Big Two, but location carries weight. Chicago is a mecca of culture in the middle of our middle, featuring difficult travel to and from and godforsaken winters. Princeton, NJ is no metropolis, but it isn’t the Vermont/New Hampshire border, either. Dartmouth’s actual motto is, “A voice crying in the wilderness.” ‘Nuff said.

Boston: Princeton gets paired with Boston. It can hang with the big dogs but is palpably smaller, and Boston’s two main themes are History and Academics. The fact that Princeton not only hosted Albert Einstein but also still hosts his brain satisfies both categories.

San Francisco: I love SF, but its residents either have a giant chip on their shoulder or a massive inferiority complex (or both). Plus a mild haze of depression (for which I blame the fog). Sounds like Brown to me! Denizens of both passionately love their home – and resent their peers even more. Brown is also the quirkiest of the Ivies, which San Francisco certainly matches, and to top it off Brown’s motto is, “In God we hope.” That kind of has to be your motto when you live in earthquake central.

Atlanta: As the major city nobody seems to think about or even remember most of the time (except when watching The Walking Dead), Atlanta is the Columbia of cities. The parody lyrics to Columbia’s fight song are “Columbia! (‘What?’) Columbia! (‘Oh..,’)” for this reason. Both grab a little attention now and then with stunts like the Olympics or James Franco, but then quickly fade back out of mind.

Washington D.C.: U Penn’s parallel could be New Orleans, but Washington wins. Penn is the third-oldest Ivy, but is usually thought of late when listing the schools, in much the same way that D.C. is a major city very few people respect. I personally remember Penn as always good for a party (which is why NOLA was in the running), but motto is the key: “Laws without morals are useless.” (*cough* Congress *cough*)

Austin: Finally, Austin gets the honorary Cornell award for, “Aw, aren’t they cute trying to hang with the big kids.” Both came a little late to the party (Cornell is 100 years younger than the next-youngest Ivy), both embrace their weird with gusto (Cornell’s motto – “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study” – is practically a mission statement), and both are so isolated by wilderness (upstate New York; the insanity of Texas) that depression is a major issue for their residents.

If only Austinites had the support of similar safety nets.

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6 thoughts on “Bright Fights, Big Cities

  1. Benjamin Shahrabani

    Boston is the San Francisco of cities…but with more racism

    Sent from my iPhone. Please pardon any potential spelling errors.

    >

  2. Pere Solo

    I read your blog regularly, and theres something deeply immature about a 37 year old who spends this much time musing on their undergraduate school, no matter how prestigious it is. There were race riots in America last night. And you decided to use your forum to talk about how Harvard and NYC are the bestest places ever. Maybe your tongue was planted firmly in your cheek, but even still, who’s the target audience here? Insecure Ivy League freshmen? That’s the audience this seems most likely to appeal to. You don’t want to tackle the deep issues of the day? That’s cool. But what about your writing, which you say you’re so passionate about? You’ve expressed strong feelings about women’s issues. Do you have anything to say about bill Cosby? What about dates you’ve been on? It is supposed to be a blog about life and love. Obviously you can use your space to write about whatever you want to write about and I don’t have to read it if I don’t like it, but I am just stunned at the level of banality on display from a Harvard graduate.

    • I appreciate both of you reading my work regularly, and I am sorry you are both disappointed. I do not apologize for writing lighthearted pieces about the silliness of life from time to time, as I have always done, but yes (to clarify), my tongue was firmly in cheek. Debating what city is “better” than another is just as ridiculous as debating what school is better, since the concept of quality is inherently subjective and everything is relative. (It is perhaps unfortunate timing that the events in Ferguson unfolded last night after this piece was written, but this has never been or claimed to be a current events blog. It is merely a forum for my writing.) As for my choice of setting (cities and the Ivy League), I can only write from my own experience, as I have always done. Certainly, this particular piece has more of an “inside joke” quality than others, because these particular experiences are not as universal, and I don’t expect everyone to get or even care about the joke. The one thing we all can be sure of with this blog project is that next week will always be different!

      I do take umbridge, however, with your accusation of immaturity, Pere. There is nothing immature about having a deep fondness and appreciation for an institution that provided many formative experience and gave me the skills that I still use every day of my life. I know that many people do not like those who went to schools like Harvard and consider the mere mention of the names bragging, but I have just as much right to love and be thankful for my college experience as someone who went to a Big Ten school, or community college, or as a person who chose not to attend school might love whatever they did instead. The years after leaving home are a major part of who we all are, and their lessons stay with us always.

  3. H. Dowding

    I have to agree with Pere. Been a long time reader, and always look forward to Tuesday to read the posts, but the quality is suffering here. I could hardly get through this one. I kept saying to myself, “but I thought this was supposed to be comedy….” Then I read ‘Albert Einstein’ included in the tags and that made me laugh, so I guess there’s that….

    • I appreciate both of you reading my work regularly, and I am sorry you are both disappointed. I do not apologize for writing lighthearted pieces about the silliness of life from time to time, as I have always done, but yes (to clarify), my tongue was firmly in cheek. Debating what city is “better” than another is just as ridiculous as debating what school is better, since the concept of quality is inherently subjective and everything is relative. As for my choice of setting (cities and the Ivy League), I can only write from my own experience, as I have always done. Certainly, this particular piece has more of an “inside joke” quality than others, because these particular experiences are not as universal (as, say, dating), and I don’t expect everyone to get or even care about the joke. The one thing we all can be sure of with this blog project is that next week will always be different!

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