Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Who’s Your (Geek) City?


Track Ball of Truth tells of the journey:

How did it end up that I was geeking out around the LucasArts facility in the Presidio in San Francisco rather than working there?

Tell us your story.

This occurred to me when I was taking a picture of the bronze Yoda statue by the front entrance, the only sign that a ton of really cool jobs working on the next Indiana Jones and Star Wars properties were on site. Only real geeks know that Lucas Arts moved whole hog from Skywalker Ranch and other locations to a nondescript but beautiful section of the Presidio.

People end up living where they are via three routes: accidentally, intentionally, and indirectly. Accidentally: most people in the US simply live where they grew up because it’s familiar, family and friends are close by and it is so easy to piece together an existence from all that familiarity. Intentionally: at some point early in their lives, some people say, look, I want to live/work/go to school there and then they make it so. Indirectly: some people follow a job, a spouse or a passion that limits where they can live, and the choice is just fallout from that initial decision. There are few nomads, other than those required to be so due to their job (military, sales, corporate execs, etc.).

As I travel around the U.S. to places I’ve always wanted to see, I play this game in my head of trying to figure out how people who live there came to live there. I’m in San Francisco now and my feeling is that there is a greater proportion of intentionals here than in other places. It’s the same vibe I get from immigrant and transient-heavy DC. Maybe it’s because both are creative class meccas, granted of different flavors. Richard Florida, who studies these issues, has a new book out called “Who’s Your City?” I haven’t read it yet, but it deals with this kind of thing.

Given my job, DC is the obvious choice for me and I realize now that I figured out where I wanted to live and what I wanted to do at about the same time. I wanted to go to college in DC but was stuck in NY for financial reasons. But I made sure to go to grad school inside the Beltway. Thinking these things through paid off very nicely for me. I would recommend to any high school student that he/she factor location into the college decision. College location feeds into social and business networking quite heavily. Yes, you can get a job in Miami after colleging in Seattle, but it’s swimming upstream. And above all, don’t let your location just happen, because these things tend to get locked in after a while. Someday, you might look at that Yoda statue, or the dairy farm in Vermont, or a restaurant in New York, and get pissed that you’re just a visitor.

If I had made a different career choice and was successful, maybe I would have ended up at a West Coast entertainment or tech company. Growing up in the Shire made this difficult (especially for laying the ground work for comp sci or anything artistic) but not impossible. I could see an alternate timeline where that did happen: I would be slaving away on animation shots for the upcoming Star Wars movie, halfway through my 30s, unmarried, wondering if what I was doing was truly meaningful and if life had more to offer. All geek and no life makes the Trackball a dull boy.

So how did I react when I saw Yoda and realized that I was on the outside looking in? I took his picture, with my kids in it, felt a little sorry for the people inside (I’m not kidding it was a beautiful day and I was on vacation) and moved on with a big grin on my face. I mean, I was standing right outside a geek mecca! Awesome! I score major geek points.

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