So let’s start on the east coast. Washington DC is the center of our American political system. The city is home to a wide range of professionals who take “networking” to the next level. That means for just about every day in the week, there is some sort of meet & greet, dinner, brunch, etc. for all the well-to-do socialites of our nation’s capital. That veil of professionalism provides a stark contrast to the poverty and crime you can see as you leave the city proper. Seriously, sometimes the transition is a little off-putting when driving: one second, you will see beautiful art deco buildings with classical influence and a block later, projects, gun shops and liquor stores. However, it is also a cultural hub that boasts award winning museums, monuments and buildings of yesteryear. Food? It is great, until you want some Asian cuisine which is limited to some prohibitively expensive fine dining experiences to bastardized ethnic food chains like Panda Express.
The first thing I noticed the first time I went to New York as a young adult, I was awed by the skyline. I saw it on approach and it was gorgeous. The second thing I noticed was the traffic. The traffic was the worst I have ever encountered in the world. To give you an idea, I flew into LaGuardia, an airport situated on the eastern end of the state, and took a car into Manhattan where I usually stay. The distance between the airport and the hotel is about 10 miles. On my first trip, this 10 mile commute took two (2) hours. I really wish I was exaggerating. While public transportation is available with a plethora of stops, making this the most efficient option, this is not a viable alternative to taxis and rented cars since traveling white collar professionals who are often required to carry equipment such as computers and sensitive documents to and from the client. Not to mention, this is probably the rudest city in America. Positives? Well, if you can get over the perpetual fragrance of urine that dances along your nostrils when walking the mean streets (especially in the summer, forget about it), you will find some awesome dining including well-represented international cuisine.
Chicago is what New York wishes it could be. It is a sprawling urban area also situated close to a large body of water, with amazing vistas and some damn clean streets. Seriously, I don’t know why more people don’t leave the grimy clutches of New York. The food is great and if I had to put my finger on one difference between the people in the Windy City vs people in the Big Apple, it would be that it is much kinder than the city that doesn’t sleep. No people yelling obscenities, no one honking their horn 10 times in a row. On my first trip there, I was shocked at the number of people that waved their thank you’s while driving, held doors open, and offered “bless you’s” after someone sneezed. If there was anything bad to say, it’s that it gets damn cold. Like freezing cold. And trust me when I say, they don’t call it the Windy City for nothing. Of course, being that close to a lake also means humidity in the summer. A lot of humidity.
When I first saw Houston. I fell in love. It was from 10,000 feet and the planning that went into the city was clearly visible. Clean streets, little traffic, the city a conglomeration of perpendicular grid lines and right angles. It was all very Stepford-esque. That was until I stepped out of the airport. As soon as I left the air conditioned confines of the terminal, my glasses immediately fogged up and I felt like I was being smothered. Welcome to Houston the signs read… What they should have read was “This place will choke you out.” Aside from the 1,000,000,000% humidity, the city itself is extremely clean. I can’t speak for the food, I’ve only dined there on 4 occasions and unlike other cities, I haven’t found a go-to restaurant to write home about. I will say that people in Texas in general are pretty polite and considerate… And you really can’t go wrong with that southern drawl.
What’s there to say about San Francisco that hasn’t already been said by a hipster? Not much, I guess. Though if someone asked me to summarize San Francisco in one phrase, it would be “probably not worth it.” Let me explain. First off, SF is a beautiful city. It is, for the most part, clean, it offers pretty good food, has iconic architecture, isn’t half bad in terms of public transportation, and its proximity to the Pacific keeps temperatures cool. The bad? The city’s layout looks like a sad, irredeemable game of cat’s cradle. Streets are impossibly narrow in some areas, parking is inconvenient to put it mildly, and housing is expensive. That also translates into pricey dining and entertainment options. If you can get over being ripped off, this west coast liberal hub does provide a good backdrop for a young, well-to-do professional. God knows you need to stack some racks to live there so at the very least, you’ll know that you’re doing well for yourself, relatively speaking of course.
The first thing most people notice is that the city is sprawling. It is a good 30 minute drive with no traffic from downtown to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), a 20 mile journey. Traffic is bad during rush hour. Bad. Like New York bad. But also like New York, it offers a wide range of ethnic food options albeit a bit more selection if you’re looking for affordability. However, since the great Los Angeles Basin covers a lot of ground, the great options may be just far enough to give make the drive a hassle depending on the time of day. Any other cons? For LA it would be that the class stratification and geographic clumping makes the city diverse yet clearly segmented across its vast expanse. The best thing? It is a truly a motor city in that car culture is pervasive as it is expansive and home to the $1 dollar or tips only valet system. Almost makes up for the fact that the city has a shit public transportation system.