Here it is: The best America’s got, in all its sprawling glory.
Here it is: The best America’s got, in all its sprawling glory.

So Forbes came out with a list of the coolest cities to live in America and topping the list was … Houston. You know, that city with a bunch of irate residents because people keep moving there for the scene. What’s that, I’m not talking about Houston at all? A listicle with a counterintuitive No. 1 (and 2: Washington, DC) is obvious and sad linkbait. Here I am talking about it, so sadly you can consider us baited, but when you write an article about cool places to live and include a dictionary definition of cool, well, you aren’t cool. Same thing if you’re trying to quantify coolness with graphs and charts and instruments of arithmetic instead of just looking around.

The Forbes list hinges on things like population and employment figures. Forbes even says that it’s no fun to be in an empty bar. Obviously their intrepid listicle makers didn’t bother to visit any of these places, because if they did, they’d see that even with a 10 percent unemployment rate, Brooklyn’s bars are still humming. Houston does, at least, have a Montrose neighborhood where some of the cool kids live (but don’t worry: the Times is on it!)

As far as population, well, Houston is gaining on us, it’s true. Of course, if Brooklyn could be even half the size of Houston, it’d probably have three times the population. Houston has an area of 656 square miles, Brooklyn 81. That means you can fit eight Brooklyns in Houston’s space. Really, sprawl is not cool at all. Driving everywhere sucks, it’s a suburban style of living in an urban setting. And while we’ve been appropriating Texas barbecue and Mexican food, we know that putting “Houston” in front of Fette Sau or Pies’n’Thighs or Oaxca Tacos won’t bring it any extra cultural cachet. Can’t say the same for Houston.

Still, this isn’t about shitting on Houston, where people are probably very nice, especially since I’m visiting in a month and don’t want to get punched. Listen Forbes nerds, we don’t need a “Recreation Index” to know there’s a ton of things to do around here. There are four other boroughs, with five and a half million more people, full of parks and zoos and happenings happening. Put all five boroughs together and we form like a cultural Voltron.

I can’t even say I’m insulted by this alleged snub; I just feel bad for anyone who has to come up with a “cool places to live” list that has to bend themselves into knots so as to not list New York in the top three. I understand that a lot of this “coolness is about history and mystique” obviously comes off like the argument of a jerkwad Yankee fan. But, like the Yankees, New York is really good at mythologizing itself. And everybody knows a major factor in being cool is being so self-involved that you’re often accused of being full of yourself.

Follow Dave and tell him to stay out of Houston: @herbertharper.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. “Baltimore is in transition because it has been down and out for a long time but it’s beginning to come back because it’s affordable,” says Sperling. “[And] Philadelphia had been forgotten, but now it’s being referred to as the Sixth Borough.”

    No. No, it is not. Biggest [citation needed] I’ve ever seen in my life.

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