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Where is the coolest place in the world to live? I'll walk you through a review of the candidates. But first, a slight digression to explain why the question even comes up.
I'm a city guy. I need to be in a place where things are happening, deals are being made, parties are being thrown, and movers shake things.
That's one of the reasons I moved from Montreal to Toronto. Montreal used to be Canada's top city, but it was knocked off its perch in the late 1970's. I wanted to live in a place that I think of mythically as "Centricity".
Centricity is an archetype, not an actual location. We city people may not know where it is, but we know we want to live there. We catch a glimpse of it on TV from time to time. But how close can we come to actually being in Centricity?
I remember the first time I stood at the corner of Yonge and Bloor. I reached out and touched the lamp standard that mounted the signs naming the two streets. This gave me a feeling of deep satisfaction: "I'm actually here!"
As nifty as Toronto may be, is it Centricity? If I was to continue my search, I suppose I'd have to start by looking south, to the United States.
New York or Chicago? Well, New York has two theme songs (which tell us that "It's a hell of a town" and "The city that never sleeps"), while Chicago has only one, which informs us that it's a toddlin' town. NYC is also the second-largest city in the world, after Tokyo, but being a blinkered Westerner, I'm not going to look for Centricity in the Oriental world, am I?
Still, as splendid as New York might be, I've been there and I know in my heart it isn't Centricity. I look across the ocean towards London, which I've visited only once. Many of the people who live there think it's Centricity. After all, it was seat of an empire upon which the sun never sets – or so the saying went, before the lights went out some time during the 20th century.
Nearby (relatively speaking) you can find Paris. Residents think it's Centricity because they say so. Next.
Okay, so how about Rome? The Western world was shaped by a thousand-year empire that arose from there. But what have you done for me lately?
Moving ever eastward, we come to Athens, which shaped the minds of Westerners. I can imagine that living there would generate a certain smugness. It must be an awesome experience to look up at the Acropolis and reflect on how much Greek culture has affected us. But still, there's something missing.
Eastward again, we find ourselves in Jerusalem, which is of central importance to three major religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). However, in my search for Centricity I don't envision it being a site of constant fighting.
Yet I feel we're getting close. This part of the world goes beyond being the source of television shows, great empires, modes of thought, or beliefs in a deity – we're near the cradle of Western civilization itself!
Once more we move east, to Jericho.
I hear you asking, "Jericho? Where the heck is that?" I wasn't sure, either; it took me 10 minutes to find it on a map. But I did remember one fact: the town of Jericho has been continuously inhabited for 10,000 years! What must it be like to live there? How can anybody say that their city is better when your town has such a track record?
Ah, but if you search the web for "oldest city in the world", you'll find several competitors, including Damascus and Byblos.
With so many candidates for the place that most closely approximately Centricity, how close can we actually come? Where is the city where the entire world comes together?
Well, isn't it obvious?
I searched Google for "the world's most ethnically diverse city". That's a long search string, so I expected a specific answer. I got one, too. Yup, you guessed it. Toronto.
Do you think I cheated? Of course I did. City people always cheat when it comes to pegging their city as Centricity. It's easier than moving.