Thursday, December 11, 2014
NYC, San Francisco... and Arlington, TX?
How legitimate is this list?
It puts Arlington, Texas, between New York City and San Francisco as the top three cities for today's millennials to live.
It reminds me of the little ditty, "one of these things is not like the others."
Hey - I live here, and I'm single, although I'm no longer in my 20's, like millennials are. My Dallas friends consider Arlington a cultural wasteland, however, and most people across the rest of the country only know of Arlington as the place where the Dallas Cowboys play.
Arlington, Virginia, is far better known, and even here in Texas, is probably considered far hipper and attractive to twentysomethings than Arlington, Texas.
Yet the self-absorbed webzine Vocativ says they've crunched the numbers, and in their second survey of America's 35 most populous cities for millennials, it's New York City in the top spot, with Arlington in the second spot, and the city by the bay in the third spot. At least as far as being attractive places for today's twentysomethings to live, work, and play.
For its part, Vocativ is a relatively new media concern that has yet to impress the digital community, and it's struggling to establish itself within its target demographic: millennials. Will this survey help make the website appear relevant to such people?
To be fair, this survey of theirs isn't so much about where millennials are currently living, as it is where they should be living, at least according to the perceived metrics millennials embrace in their lifestyles. As interpreted, at least, by Vocativ.
So, OK: Having New York and San Francisco anchoring two of the top three spots isn't hard to understand. These two perennial urban hot spots have been magnets for young people for generations. In fact, what's surprising is that Portland, Oregon, commanded the top spot in Vocativ's first such listing. Sure, I hear Portland is a hip and trendy place, but in terms of raw appeal, especially to impressionable and highly idealistic young adults, there's no comparison between the Big Apple, San Francisco, and any other city on this list.
Which brings us again to Arlington's curious association with such appealingly cosmopolitan, world-class, popular, and expensive cities.
There's nothing glamorous about this city I'm living in. Sure, we have an impressive stadium for the Dallas Cowboys, and an attractive baseball stadium for the Texas Rangers, but they're surrounded by acres of parking lots, not trendy neighborhoods full of quirky restaurants, gastropubs, and coffee shops.
We do have something approximating a downtown area, but it's hardly what anybody would call bustling. Most of the buildings downtown are occupied by government agencies and non-profits, like the miniature empire of Mission Arlington, a Baptist social services center. We have a large university district, but it's for the University of Texas at Arlington, whose aesthetically bland campus and academically average pedigree prevent it from exploiting a prominent collegiate profile.
We have an outdoor concert venue downtown that is pleasant enough, but its schedule is limited to 50 nights out of the year when the evening temperature is bearable. However, Arlington does boast the original Six Flags amusement park, as well as a convenient 15-minute drive to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. We have some charming older residential neighborhoods, along with a lot of aging cookie-cutter-type subdivisions and sprawling apartment complexes, in which housing is abundant and affordable. Just about every chain restaurant known to man has at least one outlet in town, shopping in plentiful and all parking is free, we've got three major freeways to get you anywhere you want to go in the wider north Texas region, and we're geographically located smack in the middle between Fort Worth to the west, and Dallas to the east.
In other words, Arlington is the affordable, pleasant, convenient, family-friendly, conventional American city that those of us who live here know it to be.
It's not flashy, or trendy, or sophisticated, or artsy, although we do have a respectable amateur theater scene. Most residents have to commute outside of Arlington to their jobs, but that's the story in many of the suburban communities clustered around Fort Worth and Dallas. We have a world-class cancer center here in town, but hopefully that's not something millennials have to worry about in their young lives.
Vocativ admits that Arlington's relative affordability represents the single biggest reason we're number two on their list. They try to paint our humble town as an up-and-coming hipster enclave, but if that's the case, it's news to all of us who live here. Basically, if you're a level-headed twentysomething who takes responsibility for your own personal expenses, Vocativ's list gives you something to consider in Arlington. Otherwise, Arlington seems to be more of an aberration within - rather than an affirmation of - Vocativ's statistical prowess.
And if you dig a little bit into Vocativ's other results, you'll see that Arlington's prominence isn't their only analytical oddity.
Cleveland, Ohio, for example, comes in at #10 in the entertainment category. News to you, too, huh?
Then too, when they calculated housing costs, Vocativ threw in a consideration for how much a house cleaning service costs - which either says a lot of negative things about how pampered Vocativ's staffers are, or how spoiled millennials are in general.
And when calculating the costs of spending an evening on the town, Vocativ factored in the cost of marijuana in various cities across America.
Let's just say that marijuana is illegal in Arlington. Weed is something in our lawns that we mow.
So if you're single, young, and looking for the most truly "livable" city in the United States, you'll find a lot of rational, boring reasons for taking a look at Arlington, Texas. Sure, we're just about the antithesis of what New York and San Francisco offer you - or demand from you, but should life be all about big city excitement?
Hey - for that, what about Cleveland?