Earlier this year, delegates met in Las Vegas for the Convention of American Cities. Attendees discussed all matters urban, cavorted in the Nevada oasis, and selected the American representative for the Convention of World Cities, to be held later this summer. A correspondent from The Urban Scene was on hand to transcribe exchanges of interest. What follows is his first dispatch, recorded at a Friday evening reception organizers dubbed "Registration, Itinerary Pickup & Champagne Mixer," held in the Luxor's sprawling 15,680-square-foot Egyptian Ballroom.
AT THE RECEPTION DESK
Registrar's assistant: "Karen, are all the 'Springfield' name-tags and packets the same, or can I just give them out in the order they come?"
Registrar: "The one from Massachusetts gets vegan meal tickets. Otherwise yes."
Registrar's assistant: "Okay, next?"
New York City: (stepping forward amid an entourage) "Yeah, we'll need five rooms."
Registrar's assistant: "I'm sorry, it's one room per city unless you pay extra and reserve in advance."
New York City: "Are you kidding me? El Segundo, Santa Monica and Compton get separate rooms, and we've gotta squeeze Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx into our second queen?"
Detroit: "I've got extra space in my suite."
Registrar: "I can take the next one in line over here."
Williamsburg: "Notwithstanding the late hour, I hope I can recommend myself for playing at billiards if any other attendees should like to join me, as I fear the God Almighty would nary look kindly on the lust I feel after drinking bubbly spirits."
St. Louis: "Oh, come off the old-timey schtick. You've got a Busch Gardens, for Christ's sake."
Corpus Christi: "There's no cause to take that name in vain."
Registrar: "Please, can I just take who is next in line?"
Juarez: "Si, hello senora, I am here to claim asylum."
ON THE FLOOR
Waiter: "Another glass of champagne?"
St. Paul: "I shouldn't."
Atlantic City: "Oh, come on, the first panel isn't until 10 am tomorrow."
Napa: "It's not technically champagne, you know."
Wasilia: "Oh, you wine-snob coastal elitists."
Napa: "Dude. You're much closer to the coast than I am."
Milwaukee: "Maybe he'd prefer the champagne of beers."
St. Paul: "Oh, it's not that, the champagne is perfectly delicious."
Minneapolis: "It's me he's worried about -- for some reason they've given us adjoining rooms again."
St. Paul: "It's the same at every conference! Celibacy isn't an easy vow to begin with..."
SEVERAL HOURS LATER, ALL THE EAST COAST CITIES HAVE GONE TO BED, BUT A SMALL GROUP OF INEBRIATED WEST COAST CITIES REMAIN TALKING IN A CORNER...
Los Angeles: Everyone has these Orwellian associations when they hear 1984, but it was a great year for me.
Berkeley: I know what you mean. I didn't want to say anything while Birmingham was here, but I loved the 60s -- looking back on them I feel like I'm getting old.
San Francisco: Tell me about it. Until recently they'd been running a Gap at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. It just didn't seem right.
Malibu: My hillsides have been through a lot the last few decades.
Los Angeles: But I don't know, guys. For me, the 1960s were about rising crime, some pretty awful racism in the LAPD, the Watts riots. Haven't things gotten better?
Emeryville: Well, you had riots in 1992.
Portland: And a bunch of your sprawl-loving residents started buying houses within my borders.
Seattle: Oh, boo hoo, Portland, you're not the only city that's dealt with ex-Californians.
Phoenix: Some of us welcome them.
San Diego: If only you were so welcoming to all your residents.
Phoenix: What's that supposed to mean?
Santa Ana: It means Joe Arapaio is an abomination. And an embarrassment. As for your new law --
Newport Beach: What's wrong with it?
Laguna Beach: Ask your other neighbor.
Newport Beach: Irvine isn't even here -- no doubt off handling some crisis about a house being painted the wrong color.
Costa Mesa: They're talking about me. I've been around since the 1950s, but I still have a Spanish sounding name.
San Juan Capistrano: It's even rougher for me -- look at my aesthetic, its all old Spanish style. That means I get asked for my papers, whereas Newport Beach and Huntington Beach -- not so much.
San Quentin: All I'm saying is when an illegal immigrant gets sent to prison for assault or something, could you not just release him back onto my streets? Can we at least agree to deport those guys?
Glendale: This conversation is, like, way heavy.
Juneau: Seriously. And it's not like your the only ones with thorny border issues.
Santa Cruz: Oh please. Is Putin rearing his head again?
Flagstaff: You liberal Californians are mighty self-satisfied considering how thoroughly all the Democratic majorities you've sent to the legislature have destroyed your state over the years.
Sacramento: That is an oversimplification. Our voters are at fault too. And Arnold Schwarzenegger---
Hollywood: Boy was he a cash cow in his day.
And on they talked, until cities drifting off one at a time left only Tempe and Pomona arguing about immigration, the authenticity of Mexican food in the Southwest, and whether Arizona State is in fact as big a party school as Playboy magazine would have us believe.
THE AGENDA FOR DAY II: CRIME