Urban Authenticity

By Richard Florida

America is awash in generica - from generic stores and generic malls to generic food and chain-restaurants. Anthony Bourdain, the culinary adventurer of No Reservations searches the globe for the authentic, the unique, the real. America's older industrial cities have one great advantage on their side, he says - their urban authenticity.

"What went wrong here?" is an unpopular question with the type of city fathers and civic boosters for whom convention centers and pedestrian malls are the answers to all society's ills but Harvey [Pekar] captured and chronicled every day what was--and will always be--beautiful about Cleveland: the still majestic gorgeousness of what once was--the uniquely quirky charm of what remains, the delightfully offbeat attitude of those who struggle to go on in a city they love and would never dream of leaving ... A place so incongruously and uniquely...seductive that I often fantasize about making my home there. Though I've made television all over the world, often in faraway and "exotic" places, it's the Cleveland episode that is my favorite--and one about which I am most proud ...

As Joseph Mitchell once owned New York and Zola owned Paris, Harvey Pekar owned not just Cleveland but all those places in the American Heartland where people wake up every day, go to work, do the best they can--and in spite of the vast and overwhelming forces that conspire to disappoint them--go on, try as best as possible to do right by the people around them, to attain that most difficult of ideals: to be "good" people.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/07/urban-authenticity/59926/