Saturday, July 16, 2005

Welcome to Edge City

I am in the Apple Store in Walnut Creek. This is one of the line of exceedingly prosperous Bay Area suburbs over the mountains east from the Oakland side of the bay. Washington Post journalist Joel Garreau fifteen years ago wrote the book Edge City about these kinds of places, of which the explicit subject was America's recent urban grown, but which in fact was an extraordinarily prescient book about the future of retail, of the information economy, the growth of the mentalities of red and blue states, and the kind of country that America was coming. This book influenced me as much as any book ever had. People like David Brooks and Virginia Postrel have spent the years since explaining the same things much later and with less insight. And as someone interested in how the modern world is growing, this book taught me what to look at.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Right now I am in an internet cafe in Mendocino in northern California drinking espresso and listening to Suzanne Vega being played in the background in the cafe. This is very northern California somehow. I went to a friend's wedding in Sonoma county just north of San Francisco last Sunday. Since then I drove up the I5 inland, ultimately visiting Crater Lake in southern Oregon (which is a truly glorious and remarkable place) and I am now making my way down the coast back to San Francisco.

Unfortunately the screen of my almost brand new Sony Vaio T2 laptop died horribly on the flight over, which has led to extreme frustration, as WiFi hotspots are plentiful in this part of the US but internet cafes are rare.

The striking thing of course about leaving the big cities of California is just how culturally different the rest of the state is: physically enormous and not extensively populated, and culturally the conservative American heartland. One imagines the American coast as quite densely populated, but the north of California is actually very sparsely populated - it feels like the southern coast of New South Wales in Australia or something like that.

More when I get back to London

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