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Hello, friends!

I need your help. I've never lived in the city (though I've seen plenty of NYPD Blue), and I need some intel from those of you who have or do. I've got preliminary ideas for the categories below, but I'd like to hear it from official city slickers.

1. Common city pets?

2. Common city sights and sounds?

3. Common city smells and tastes?

4. Ways that people play in the city?

5. City schools. Are there commonalities among them?

Thanks in advance! I'll just be here sipping a lemonade while I drop my bobber in the pond.  ;)
#1 - June 05, 2016, 04:50 PM
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Hi Jody,

Every city is different. It might help if you were to specify a city or region of the country. The tastes of New York are not the tastes of Kansas City. In fact, larger cities may have different tastes and smell depending on where you are within them. Socioeconomic class is also a factor. Wealthy folk have more space for pets and more money to use for playing. If you do have a specific city in mind, a lot of info can be learned online. Look for blogs by residents.
#2 - June 05, 2016, 06:41 PM
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Thanks, Debbie. Yep, I want to know what YOUR experience is, wherever in the world your city is, not what city experiences are generally.
#3 - June 05, 2016, 07:52 PM
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I'm suburban myself, though I've traveled to lots of cities and done online research on three, down to the weather on specific dates. I'm afraid that lets me out of the target for your question.
#4 - June 05, 2016, 08:29 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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I've lived in Portland, OR for the last 8 years. Before that, I lived in a rural university town, and grew up small, tourist town. The city has been a lot of fun for me. It's a city I chose because I liked its proximity to the great outdoors--a 45 minute drive gets you into forest and mountains, but I love that I am also that close to an international airport and that I live 15 minutes from downtown. Portland is interesting because, outside of the actual skyscraper part of downtown near the riverfront, a lot of it feels like smaller town neighborhoods. Before we bought our current house, I lived in a prime part of the city where my apartment was surrounded by grand old houses and I could walk two minutes to a grocery store, five to the public library, and ten to the MAX station where I could take the train into downtown where I worked. My current neighborhood is not near a train station because its too hilly for the trains in this quarter, but I can walk three minutes and be in a forest park. I can drive for five and be at an athletic center that also has a redwood forest hiking trails, a dog park, and a community garden. It's a really beautiful, homey city to live in.

To answer your questions:

1.  Most people have cats and dogs. I am sure there is also a fair scattering of terrarium and caged pets indoors that I never see. And in almost every neighborhood you can hear chickens clucking, as a lot of people keep chickens (but no roosters--they're illegal).

2. General traffic and sirens. My two-year-old loves that we have at least one firetruck a day go by, and often more. When I worked downtown, it seemed there was a siren at least once an hour.

3. I honestly think that Portland smells like cigarettes and donuts. (We have a really high smoking per capita, which is a bit frustrating when you don't smoke yourself and want to walk in smoke-free air with your child.) We also have a lot of reeally good food in this city, all kinds of international foods and specialty gourmet foods, ranging from vegan to all-meat. There is always something cooking when you're in the main shopping neighborhoods (Hawthorne, Alberta, downtown, etc.)

4. Portland is very outdoorsy and artsy. There is a lot of running, biking, hiking, skiing, etc. Lots of playgrounds. Lots of music, dance, theater classes for kids. I live near an arts center where you can take all kinds of classes.

5. My child is too young for school, so I don't know much about them. There are various international (taught in another language) schools in addition to religious schools and public schools. Several of the public schools are pretty competitive on the national level for various educational pursuits.
#5 - June 05, 2016, 08:42 PM

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Thanks, Debbie.

Thanks, HDWestlund. Portland sounds great. I love the specifics about it smelling like cigarettes and donuts, though I'm like you about actual cigarette smoke.

Keep em coming!
#6 - June 06, 2016, 04:57 AM
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Cross-posting with Holly here. I live in Seattle, which seems to have a lot of similarities to Portland.

1. Common city pets?

Other than dogs and cats, chickens are very much in vogue. Roosters can't legally be kept in the city because of the noise, but laying hens are allowed. They're cool in a we're-in-a-city-but-we're-earthy kind of way.

2. Common city sights and sounds?

Construction is ubiquitous. Long lines of traffic are ubiquitous. I have a toddler, and the things he points out to me daily are diggers, diggers, diggers, fire trucks, ambulances, buses, trains, boats, drawbridges, more diggers, and taxis. Oh, he also loves those inflatable air blowy guys that get used as advertisements in front of shops. For some reason those are used to attract attention at all of the recreational marijuana shops that are sprouting up, and really, I don't see why those places need marketing strategies that appeal to toddlers. But I digress.

There are lots of new-looking apartment buildings, maybe five or six stories tall, with storefronts underneath. There are also lots of old single family homes. There's a building boom, and single-unit lots are getting split up into multi-family lots. You often see three or four tall, skinny townhouses crammed into a space that clearly used to have just one house. (Those townhouses might be flanked on both sides by older houses.) Alternatively, you might see an old, venerable-looking house with a tall modern-style house in the backyard. Gardens and gardening are very in vogue at the same time that yards are shrinking, and you see a lot of creative vegetable growing efforts crammed into small spaces and built with random construction materials. And the sad side of our housing boom: tent camps under freeway overpasses, families cleaning out cars they obviously live in, guys slipping surreptitiously into the patches of woods where they sleep.

People-wise, you see colorful hair, lots of tattoos, all conceivable approaches to gender expression. Oh, and there's lots of evidence of LGBT friendliness and LGBT pride. (Rainbow crosswalks, signs that say "all-gender restroom," etc.)

Most any time you're at the top of a hill, you can see mountains, water, or city skylines in one direction or another.

3. Common city smells and tastes?

The main smell that comes to mind is car exhaust, although there are also ocean and fish smells everywhere. Blackberries in August (They grow wild everywhere). I'm going to add sounds here and point out that you hear several different languages daily.

4. Ways that people play in the city?

The parks are packed full on summer days, and there's always a huge variety of things going on. There might be a playground full of little kids, a few homeless people napping, a guy flying a kite, some families picnicking, and a large group playing bicycle polo. On the kid equipment, ethic groups are all mixed up, but the picnickers and whatnot are often knotted into single-ethnicity groups.

In most Seattle neighborhoods, there are strips of grass between the sidewalks and the streets, and in the densest areas, you often see people using that space for recreation--sunbathing or growing a garden.

5. City schools. Are there commonalities among them?

My kiddo isn't school-age yet, so I'm not sure I can give you any details that would interest you. Wait, no--some of the elementary schools in the middle of the city open up their grounds as parks after hours so people from the neighborhood can use the space for walking dogs, playing on playground equipment, etc. I guess also there's a relative abundance of schools, with private and public schools just blocks away from each other.
#7 - June 06, 2016, 06:46 AM
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 06:51 AM by Melissa K »
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Melissa, you're the second to mention chickens, so I'm going to have to add them, don't you think? Interesting about hearing the different languages spoken, too. Hadn't thought of that. Think I'll leave out the inflatable pot advertising. Construction is good. Thanks!

Anyone live in a city in a different country?
#8 - June 06, 2016, 07:17 AM
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Quote
Think I'll leave out the inflatable pot advertising.

Yes, that's probably a good choice.

I've lived in Cape Town, South Africa and Vienna, Austria. I'll try to get back here and give you a few details about those places later. What age category are you aiming for here?
#9 - June 06, 2016, 07:43 AM
Twitter: @MelissaKoosmann

Ha-ha about legal urban chickens. When I lived in DC, Haitians kept them illegally in apartments and tossed them out their windows if they were attracting too much attention/trouble. They used to tie up traffic. (And then there's the story of me feeding them and the rooster, so they hung out at my place, which made some people very angry, especially the rooster in the morning...ended up with me carrying an unloaded gun I just happened to be cleaning, chasing a guy with a baseball bat who was out to "kill me some chickens," the two of us jumping fences with our weapons to an eventual stand-off. Cops got called. Big fiasco.)

I've only lived in a couple cities. I'll just give the things that stick out first in my mind.

Smell of diesel from, and the chugs of, city buses.
Car alarms.
Sirens.
Yelling/screaming, sometimes folks having fun, sometimes in anger.
Music blasting from cars, front stoops, houses. (Then came the bass thumps in stereos.)
Food smells...pizza places, ethnic places, hot dog/street food stands, etc.

Kids play in the streets.

In lower-income districts, most everyone is outside when its hot to escape the heat that's much worse in their apartments. (Heat increases orneriness! Tempers flare quicker, crime escalates.)

You get this in the country, but it's more pronounced in the city b/c of all the vehicles, concrete and buildings: haze of heat billowing off all the surfaces in hot weather.



#10 - June 06, 2016, 08:23 AM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

I grew up in NYC and lived in midtown for about 15 years.

1. Common city pets?
Dogs, cats, fish.

2. Common city sights and sounds?
When people not from the city came over, they thought the traffic sounded so loud. But to me, it was just white noise. Actually helped me go to sleep. Sirens and car horns are common. Also, random people yelling. Street performers.

3. Common city smells and tastes?
Coffee, urine, garbage, wet dog, sweat, steam, pizza, steak, pretzels, nuts. Yep, all mixed up together.

4. Ways that people play in the city?
People or kids? Playgrounds, parks, museums. In summer, kids gather at playground sprinklers a lot and fill up water balloons at the water fountain. There's usually a line.

5. City schools. Are there commonalities among them?
They're overcrowded and very diverse. A lot of people walk to school. Also, after school, people tend to gather at public playgrounds. I noticed a big difference with that when I moved upstate. Up here it's more about making playdates with specific people at their houses.

But you should definitely take a trip to your local city and explore.
#11 - June 06, 2016, 08:33 AM
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Melissa, early elementary, so I won't be able to go into great depth, but I wanted to know for myself.

Arona, wow! You rebel, you. Love all the specific details, especially the music blasting.

DianaM, all those smells together? Yum. ;) Interesting about the schools and after-school activities. Thanks. I live near a big city; I just don't visit it much. I think for the research I'm doing, one would have to have lived there.

Thanks again, all!
#12 - June 06, 2016, 08:55 AM
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2. Sound
Beep of signals at crosswalks, trucks backing up


3. Common city smells and tastes?
Cooking and food smells -- barbecue smoke from big drum roasters on the sidewalk, fried seafood and cooking oil

4. Ways that people play in the city?
Roaming groups of boys on bikes doing wheelies. There's a group of girls I see every day practicing dance routines on the sidewalk. A guy who seems to be their choreographer stands on the porch and directs.

5. City schools. Are there commonalities among them?
Uniforms common now at charters and public schools

Feel: Blowing air -- wind tunnels in between high rises, the heat of air conditioner exhaust from windows, steam venting from underground; rattles and vibrations from subway underground, passing trains and trolleys.
#13 - June 06, 2016, 10:52 AM
Kell Andrews
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Ooh, Kell, I love the wind blowing/steam vent ideas. I know those drafts. And the rumble of the subway! Thanks.
#14 - June 06, 2016, 12:10 PM
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DianaM, I would have said the same things about NYC after sleeping there two nights, with the additions of ethnic foods, languages on the street (about every language in the world), and incense. There is always someone burning incense in the subway to cover the smell of urine.

In winter time, the chestnuts are more prevalent at street vendors. So much depends on exactly where in the city and the time of day and year though.
#15 - June 12, 2016, 09:09 PM
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Absolutely, Debbie! Those are great additions. :yup
#16 - June 13, 2016, 09:54 AM
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Late to the party but I lived in Bhopal, India for many years and it's fun to remember these things.

1. Common city pets? Dogs, cats, goats, fish, snakes.

2. Common city sights and sounds? Honking of vehicles, lots of people on bicycles, many on foot, women in brightly colored saris or salwar-kameez, poor and bedraggled children in gray rags, maimed people begging, street vendors selling everything from dried fish to bangles or vegetables, or statues of Hindu gods. Cows, dogs, pigs roaming freely.

3. Common city smells and tastes? The good stuff -- spicy samosas (smell of cumin, chili peppers), sweets like jilebies (they are orange and have cardamom), pani-puri (little puffs of puri served with tamarind water), vendors selling hot-spiced-tea (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger). And now I'm HUNGRY.
Bad smells -- urine, [poo], animals,

4. Ways that people play in the city? Rich folks play in parks and sports courts but poor people play on the streets with balls, bats, rubber tires, sticks and rocks. At any construction site, you'll see kids playing with sand and mud. In the house, girls will play with dolls and little kitchen sets. Kids will play with whatever they find -- bottle caps, toothpaste caps, plastic animals that come in some toothpaste packets, shiny rocks, etc.

5. City schools. Are there commonalities among them? School isn't compulsory. It's a privilege to be able to go to school so those who go tend to be conscientious. Children must wear clean clothes and have shoes. I went to a Convent school so we had a uniform with ties and badges, bus-rides, we had to purchase our own books and other supplies. Schools compete in sports, academics.
#17 - June 13, 2016, 02:06 PM
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Thanks for your thorough response, Vi. Interesting to note the differences between how the rich and poor play and school.
#18 - June 13, 2016, 02:48 PM
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Jody, I lived in Philadelphia for an academic year. It was a while ago, but some of the things I can echo are:

Lots of noise. I came from quiet suburbia and the city noise doesn't stop. Sirens, brakes, horns, yelling, a drunk in the alley behind the dorm. He was pretty regular. And he'd fall over the trash can while he was singing or talking to himself.

One of the things I wasn't expecting was how gritty the dirt was. We'd open our seventh floor window and there would be black grit on the sill by the end of the day, particularly if it was windy. It was everywhere.

I learned to wear sunglasses or not look up when I was walking on the sidewalk and it was breezy, because dirt would swirl up and blow into my eyes.

I baby-sat a young boy for pocket money and I had to walk him to a neighborhood park where there was a sandbox. There must have been more things to play on, but that's all he wanted so that's all I remember.

When we walked by a fountain, a lovely mist would spray over us. I loved sitting on the fountain at Logan Circle.
#19 - June 13, 2016, 04:04 PM

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I'd recommend being specific about your city as that level of detail really makes a difference, and also checking out youtube videos. There are countless on the street videos of every place in the world. They're very helpful.
#20 - June 13, 2016, 04:09 PM
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It's interesting what we remember, huh, JFriday? The grit, the sandbox, the drunk falling over trash cans.

I agree about being specific, Melanie. I'm limited by word count, but I'm going to try, anyway.

Thanks, all, for your feedback!
#21 - June 13, 2016, 05:41 PM
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I live in the Midwest.

Common city pets?
Dogs, cats, rabbits, fish, caged animals
We hear chickens too. And the sound of peacocks and monkeys from a zoo.

Common city sights and sounds?
Sirens. Horns. Car alarms. Yelling/screaming.
Lights. Traffic jams. Bikers. Apartment complexes. Hi-rise buildings. Trees. Parks.

Common city smells and tastes?
Fast food. Car exhaust.

Ways that people play in the city?
Video games. Television. Outdoor barbecues. Sports.

City schools.
Mobile lifestyle. Diverse. Poverty. Not a lot of readers. Kids who have watched too many horror movies. Overworked parents. Absentee parents.
#22 - June 29, 2016, 01:04 PM

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Thanks, Allison!
#23 - June 29, 2016, 08:15 PM
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Hi Jody,

It may be too late but here are my thoughts. (I live in Los Angeles.)

1. Common city pets?
Definitely dogs. People take them on walks even in busy areas throughout the city and some businesses even allow them inside.
Cats. I have indoor cats but people certainly do have indoor/outdoor cats. In some cases these are cats who just appeared!
And then all sorts of other inside pets! Birds, rabbits, reptiles, etc.

2. Common city sights and sounds?
Traffic and cars! Ha! We hear and see lots of traffic all night and all day.
When I take a walk, I see:
-buses. You sort of start seeing the same bus routes at the same time every day.
-Starbucks!
-litter, like fast food cups and containers (I am convinced a lot of this falls off the trash truck, though, because I see it happening.)
-People of course.
-Office buildings

3. Common city smells and tastes?
-car fumes.
-as you pass by different restaurants, you can often notice their smell. For instance there is a bakery near me and as you walk by it smells sweet.

4. Ways that people play in the city?
-Bike riding, scooters. Those are the main ones that come to mind. Children aren't generally playing in a commercial street around me. Usually they play either at a public park (which is often on a major street, but fenced and full of trees) or they're playing on a residential street.
-We have hot summers. A lot of buildings have fountains kids can play in. The kind where water spurts up from the ground.

5. City schools. Are there commonalities among them?
-Yes...I mean I guess there are commonalities. One thing that always strikes me about Los Angeles schools is that most of our public schools have no grass, only blacktop play yards. Schools are me are completely fenced and have security guards. There are lots of signs near schools, regarding driving rules and speed limits around schools.
-Around me, during school drop off and pick up hours, you cannot drive in front of the school unless you are picking up/dropping off a child.
-There are exceptions. I went to a private elementary, definitely within urban Los Angeles (right off the freeway in fact) and we had tons of grass and trees. But again, the thing that may be a striking difference from a rural school is the fencing and amount of security. And again, most of the security pertains to traffic and road safety. The concept of pervasive crime is a myth perpetuated by Hollywood.
#24 - July 21, 2016, 12:04 AM

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Not too late! Thank you, Christine.
#25 - July 21, 2016, 05:06 AM
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I lived in San Francisco for two years.  Compared to everywhere else I've lived in California, far fewer people had pets in SF (at least that I knew of or saw) because of the absence of yards or very tiny yards.  The houses are very close together and many don't have yards. My landlady had a front yard the size of a welcome mat and trimmed it with a pair of scissors.   The sounds I remember were street sweepers almost every morning, constant buses, muni-metro and BART trains whooshing by, garbage trucks, traffic, lots of people walking on the sidewalk, and occasionally fog horns near the bay. 
#26 - July 21, 2016, 07:53 AM
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Sometimes when I'm mowing, I wish for a yard like that, Rebecca!
#27 - July 21, 2016, 08:05 AM
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Scissors! I always wondered.
#28 - July 21, 2016, 08:09 AM
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I lived in Atlanta for a while, and in Philadelphia for much longer, where I still work.

1. Common city pets?
Cats and dogs, but also mice, hamsters, fish. A guy I knew had a parrot. Another had ferrets. Backyard chickens, as people have said. There are urban farms now, too.

2. Common city sights and sounds?
Homeless people everywhere, sleeping in the corners of train stations, on grates, next to buildings, on steps. Sometimes asking for money, sometimes holding up signs, sometimes just sleeping or sitting.
Buskers, playing instruments or singing (or both).
People driving around looking for parking spaces.
The new rent-a-bike stands filled with blue bikes.
Honking, jackhammering. Sizzling from food carts. Engines. Phones going off. The hush at the orchestra or theater when the lights go down. Overheard conversations. Loudspeakers at the train station through which the conductors give unintelligible information. The beeps and electronic voices on the subway that tell you the next stop, and "Doors are closing" warnings. The clatter of trains. Walk/don't walk signals that count down the seconds until the light turns.
Cities are made up of neighborhoods. You have the upscale areas with their high-rises and penthouses, the old money with their brownstones and private courtyards, the student areas, the sections with beautiful old houses crumbling or being restored, the pockets of different ethnic backgrounds (Chinese, Korean, Italian, Russian, Polish, African, Indian, etc.), the business district, the touristy areas with museums and historic attractions, the parks where people gather to sun and play Frisbee and so on. There are the riverfronts. The airport. The industrial zone with its oil refineries and auto junkyards. Philadelphia has a wildlife refuge within its city limits; it consists of woods and marshland, and a pair of bald eagles nests there every year. You can be in one neighborhood, and four blocks later be in a completely different neighborhood.

3. Common city smells and tastes?
Curry, exhaust, tar, garlic, grill smoke, cigarettes, incense, popcorn, coffee, burgers, cinnamon, rain-wet pavement, garbage, sour dumpsters, beer, frying onions, new clothes, body odor. Every subway station smells like urine. When the wind is wrong and the clouds are low, you can smell the sewage treatment plant. In the winter: wet wool and fresh cold air.
In the parks: grass, lilacs, roses, dog droppings.
At the river: a muddy, swampy smell. At the docks: the smell of wet wood.
In the historic buildings: an old, musty but pleasant smell, like old library books.

As others have said, play and school will be very income-dependent. But I will say that on a sunny weekend day, you will see people out in the city skateboarding, bicycling, jogging, walking, playing with their dogs, lying around in parks. If there's a blizzard, a few people will always cross-country-ski through the parks (or the streets, if the blizzard's bad enough to shut down the streets). There are sports teams to go see, and museums and movies and concerts and a few ice-skating rinks. In very hot weather, people will jump into the public fountains (though it's technically forbidden) or go under hydrants.

#29 - July 21, 2016, 05:30 PM
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Thanks, Jenn!
#30 - July 21, 2016, 07:51 PM
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