Urban Planning: Case Study #7
Tim Horvath

The city that was in denial that it was a city had a weekly farmer's market that ran through late fall. It drew farmers from miles away. They had to drag their wares on the subway or through gridlock. The central plaza went from its pigeon-molt weekday self to a Saturday morning bounty of fruit so bright and burnished it seemed to exhaust the light around it. They talked of the harvest, traded tips about fire blight, and muttered obscene things about those who took free samples with no intention to buy. One man made puppets of his potatoes and was at once a big hit. At the end of the day they all packed up except the pigeons, who strutted and churred amidst the fallen toothpicks and cheeses and relish.

The city that was in denial that it was a city called the skyscrapers "mountains," its giant central train station "The Butte," its industrial waterfront "the marshlands," its spindly bridges "land bridges," its vacant lots "the ocotillo patches," its sewers "the arroyos," its sidewalks "eskers," its elevated trains "cutbanks," its skyline "the treeline," its brownstones "brown stones," its city hall "The Glacial Erratic," and its mayor "The Fungus Gatherer from Between the Hills." Commuters, craning their necks in search of any sign that their train's lights were coming closer, sighed and reminded themselves that they were, after all, dealing with a terminal moraine. They glanced occasionally at their watches, which they stopped short of calling "the sun."

The city that was in denial that it was a city went to a support group for other cities with similar problems. Only they weren't the same problems at all. One city was dealing with overcrowding, another with a crime wave, bodies bloating harborside. Another was shutting down factories like crazy, its 'stacks no longer spewing. The city that was in denial listened patiently to the other problems, eloquently delivered, but when it was its turn it stood up. "Look," it said soberly, "there's been some mistake. I simply don't belong here. Y'all are great...fabulous. You"—it pointed to the non-spewer in particular—"haven't danced your last two-step. Any of you—we could grab a drink, catch a late flick. But at the end of the day, we must part ways, we going back to our endless starry sky and you...well, we are glad to send you a postcard of our starry sky." The starry sky was the 2, 3, and 4 o'clock shows at the planetarium, which they'd dubbed "Old Hoag's Field."

In the city that was in denial that it was a city, they used the expression "sweet hickory borne on the wind" often, but most of all on days when the wind was carrying southeast from the waste treatment plant.

Under a weird sky in which silvery pollution had congealed into a solid concavity, the city that was in denial that it was a city caught a glimpse of itself one day. For the first time ever in its existence, it was confronted with its gridlines, its fuming drivers, its onslaught of suits and ties, the dirt-encrusted blankets of its transients, its grayness, its dearth of smiles, heard its Ornette Coleman horn-bleats and medley of languages and saw its garish mannequins and spattered canvasses and its sleek triple jogging strollers and acres of paper. There was a silence as a citizenry entire gaped. The stock market, aka "the livestock market," ground to a halt, and even the taxi meters knew to freeze. After a while, a fog started to creep, then roll in off the ocean, shrouding everything. The collective exhalation (which took several minutes), was powerful enough to sate ten thousand hickories, carrying enough of their scent to make cities hundreds of miles away weep.

Tim Horvath has stories in or coming from Conjunctions, Fiction, Puerto del Sol, Sleepingfish, and others. He's the author of a novella, Circulation (Sunnyoutside Press).

To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201011urban.htm

Detail of artwork on main page courtesy of Joao Grando.

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