Sunday, September 17, 2023

The perfect city


Yesterday in this very space I had some pictures showing my "Venicification" of my city, Saint Minneapolis. I altered the sleepy streets and alleys of my neighborhood to put in calm canals and an occasional gondola, plus maybe a cat, or a parrot, or a decorative bit.

And then I talked about getting rid of cars, and the Internet went mad!

Well, they would have gone mad if any of them came here. But clerkmanifesto is read strictly by 3-14 entirely sensible people so instead everyone remained calm and sane.

So in your face car lovers! Ha!

I accidentally wrote "cat lovers" instead of car lovers at first. But think of that! What if every car were replaced with a cat? Every second, out my window, instead of a loud, world ending car roaring by, a cat would saunter along. That would be kind of lovely. But muse on this sensible person: There are so many cars thundering along relentlessly out my window, on a fairly average American street, that if we replaced them all with cats, a delightful non global warming inducing creature, there might actually be too many cats! It might be a little disconcerting to see so damn many of them marching along the streets.

But, and songbirds may disagree, it surely couldn't be worse than the current situation.

So, you see, I have not stopped thinking of my ideal city. I have not stopped my dissatisfaction with living in a car crazy city, or with having any cars at all, and I have not stopped altering pictures of my city to make them show a world that is more what I'd like to live in.

Yesterday I made my pictures first, and as I wrote the accompanying "war on cars" text of my column, I could see it would be nice if those pictures illustrated a little more of my ideal city. So when I went out and took new pictures, and when I spent the day manipulating them, that's what I had in mind.

The first point I'd like to address is the one of canals. In my pictures yesterday my canals had a tendency to make the neighborhoods look flooded, and maybe even a little post apocalyptic. And as the global climate disaster slowly ushers in the end of the world as we know it, we will regularly be treated to similar, but actual, pictures of cities like Miami, where the streets will have become waterways to disastrous effect. 

So this made me reflect: Maybe the canal isn't the ultimate agent of change we should apply to a city to improve its human scale and its transit effectiveness, even if it is the most entertaining one to add to photographs. 

But then I came to my senses. 

There is no engineering problem with adding canals to a city like Saint Minneapolis. Just as there is no fundamental problem with putting in gondola lifts running on cables above the city (another change I'd love to see occasionally in any city). Both of these things actually exist in minor ways already in my city. The new Highland Bridge development has what is more or less a short canal/stream system running picturesquely through the middle of it, and Centennial Lakes Park has an even better recreational canal system running through a rich area of dense housing and some shops, offices, and restaurants. Furthermore there are gondola cars that, though unfortunately used only during the state fair, exist at least as an operating example in our fairgrounds. So what seems as patently absurd in my pictures, already exists here and all over the world.

It is purely a matter of scale and will.

And while I'll concede that trains, trams, bike paths, trolleys, and trails are probably more efficient and cost effective than canals, the diversity of transit and its aesthetics matter profoundly. And as to cost, the amount of money we spend collectively on the car infrastructure and operation in my city could handle an absolutely profligate alternative. But that is a discussion for another time.

And so once again my build-up has likely overwhelmed my pictures. I have four today, with the images mostly originating on or near a local University campus. Canals predominate the changes, then, increasingly, density, until I work more practical pathways into the scenes. I found that the closer I got to the vision I was looking for, the more I was cutting away from what was actually in my original photographs. And so you will see a progression as you progress through the photographs to more and more changes. I have nevertheless eschewed adding people, which surely says something about me. There are cats though. If you like you can see them as replacements for cars.



  1. I think a cable car like at the Fair would be nice. I'd like to go from the airport to the UMN campus, please...which I have to do tomorrow on the light rail.
    And I'm glad that the alligator is gone.

    1. Yes, maybe the alligator was a bit much. I've updated that picture anyway, adding more gondolas and trains! Light rail to the airport is pretty good though. This city is already 2 percent of the way to a paradise!


If you were wondering, yes, you should comment. Not only does it remind me that I must write in intelligible English because someone is actually reading what I write, but it is also a pleasure for me since I am interested in anything you have to say.

I respond to pretty much every comment. It's like a free personalized blog post!

One last detail: If you are commenting on a post more than two weeks old I have to go in and approve it. It's sort of a spam protection device. Also, rarely, a comment will go to spam on its own. Give either of those a day or two and your comment will show up on the blog.