The Santa Fe Trail

Albuquerque, NM -- I've been in Santa Fe, 60 miles north of the airport from which I'm now writing, for the past three days. Was attending a conference put on by a CIA think tank, and even though I'm a reporter I think it's pretty badass that I'm actually not allowed to tell you anything about the conference. Nyah nyah.

But Santa Fe put me in mind of a book on my shelf that I haven't read yet, The Tourist City. The point of it, based on my skim, is that cities sometimes turn themselves into tourist attractions -- not real, living cities so much as Disneyland-esque "CityLands," places where visitors can get the sense of being in a city while actually engaged in little more than commerce. Shopping, I'm saying.

So I don't really know if that's what Tourist City is about -- hey, man, this is a blog, and I'm giving you exactly the amount of reportage that you're paying for. But that's what the book should be about. Santa Fe is almost entirely built in faux-adobe style. During the holidays, nearly every wall is topped by fake, durable versions of candles-in-paper-bags, for pretty. The downtown, and much of the surrounding residential areas, are non-stop shops. Galleries, boutiques, etc. (at least most of them appear to be independantly owned).

So, it's an artisanal economy supported by legislation (building codes in Santa Fe must be murder). I got no problem with that. But isn't there more to the urban experience than going to a big mall?

And if there is, what is it? Arts? Culture?

Are cities places for people to interact with people different than themselves -- Otheropolis -- or are they places for people to shop -- Shopolis? Or are those the same thing?

Discuss. I gotta go get on a plane.


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