A big city and its stretch of influence

A major metropolis has a gravitational pull that reaches far beyond its city limits and suburbs. Actually, this can affect various fields quite differently.

Manhattan, for instance, holds sway over classical music and opera across the entire continent. Most soloists have an apartment there, as do many conductors who also reside in the cities whose orchestras they lead. It’s all about connections.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, has the movie industry, thanks to Hollywood, and Nashville is the nation’s country-music capital.

And Washington, as the center of national government, is always in the headlines.

You get the picture.

Across the country, smaller clusters appear. State capitals, of course, are one focus as they span all the communities in the state – and this often includes much larger cities. Again, consider Albany, miniscule in comparison to the Big Apple, or Harrisburg in between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Chicago’s long reach over the meat industry is another, or the Twin Cities’ impact on the grain industry. Think of Toledo, Ohio, with glass, Detroit with the automotive world, or Pittsburgh with steel.

In fact, the economic pull and push of a city is a fascinating topic of investigation. The money that powers the place has to come from somewhere – as do the materials that supply it. In turn, the city has to sell its goods and services somewhere. It’s a matter of balancing what comes in with what goes out, in more ways than one.

So business and finance are defining elements. Again, Wall Street’s role in corporate investment gives New York national prominence, but other cities have similar impact.

Then there are loyalties.

Major sports team affiliation can turn in unanticipated directions. For many years, the flagship radio station for the Cincinnati Reds had a directional signal at night, one that covered most of the South, where the team had no competition. Guess which major league baseball the listeners followed avidly.

Living in New Hampshire, I see Boston’s gravitational draw on the state. Many of our residents work in Massachusetts, and that does clog our highways in one direction or the other each rush hour. We’re even more likely to drive an hour south than an hour east or west across our own state for an event. You can see what that does for our sense of identity. We look south, mostly.

In my novel Subway Visions, Kenzie’s attraction to New York City would spring from its role as the center of fashion and magazine publishing as well as its preeminence in the art world – you have a gallery affiliation here, as one painter told me, and you’re set for life. Well, I’m not so sure about photographers that way, but the connections couldn’t hurt. A big city also allows for some very arcane circles to form. As the writer Samuel Johnson once said, it took a city the size of London for him to find the handful of friends he needed.

A similar thing emerged for Kenzie when he decided to follow Tibetan Buddhism. His guru could be found residing in SoHo.

Kenzie could be living high in the countryside hours north of Gotham, but he and his friends there still had their connections. It’s a dynamic and set of contrasts I find most interesting.

What cities have the most sway over your interests and the place you live?


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