Tag Archives: cities


ChristChurchI spent most of my last full day here in Oxford just wandering around looking at the town, since it is highly amenable to drifting, and everything shuts down by mid-afternoon anyhow.  Like Venice (and not too many other places), Oxford seems like an impossibly pretty place to have survived into the present century.  And unlike Venice, Oxford is not sinking under the weight of the zillions of tourists who have ruined it for natives (if, indeed, there are any real Venetians left). It seems to have adapted just fine, thank you very much, into the present while still fulfilling its primary mission, and being very, very pretty while doing it (allowing for the occasional and unfortunate stab at “modernity” that took the form of Brutalist dormitories, and the “Haunted Oxford” tours, for which there is no excuse).  So how did that happen in this rarefied place?  I often mull on an observation from an editorial on the demolition of Penn Station, in which the writer recorded the damning statement: we get the cities we deserve.  It helps me understand the dreadful state of so many cities that have been shaped by short-sighted politicians, for cheapness (not economy, but cheapness),and crude concerns for alleged personal conveniences.   But I have trouble understanding that sentiment in light of Oxford.  Does anyone really deserve all of this?  And don’t more of us deserve better?

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