I’m at home in Austin for the holidays, and holy hammers there’s a ton of awful new construction here. Home is actually in the country outside the suburbs outside Austin. Austin is, as you may have heard, the coolest city in Texas and should be in the nation’s top 5 for live music, friendly natives, great parks, enchiladas, or some combination. And the valley where I was raised is wonderful – it was gradually settled by independent folks who built their own houses with recycled materials and cedar from the surrounding woods. Though not historic according to the 50-year rule, each house has plenty of small-time personal history and colorful stories.

But the suburbs? What a mess. Almost nothing predates the 1980s, stucco yuckos abound, and there are no pedestrian crosswalks because there are no pedestrians. It is all parking lots and strip malls and strong contenders for Blandest Building of the Decade. Local businesses are almost impossible to pick out between chain stores that could’ve been plopped down anywhere. Residential subdivisions hold a few models reflected on different axes and constructed cheap and fast.

I forget how lucky I am to live in Philadelphia: a historic city built on a human scale, where commercial districts have buildings packed in tight, so’s to best walk between them, and row houses proudly display small architectural flourishes. I like the trolleys and spectacular churches and parks. I enjoy feeling a sense of history when I walk or bike around. More than that, I am glad to feel that I’m part of a continuing history. Perspective…

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