8th most creative
an alternative SUIT column by Chris Jungle
It's official, they have a poll for just about everything nowadays, but it's still nice to be up at the top. A guy named Richard Florida wrote a book called "The Rise of the Creative Class," and he listed my hometown of Albuquerque as the most creative mediumsized city (population half to one million) and eighth in the country overall.
Four factors make up Florida's Creative Index: how many creative people are in the work force, the city's high tech industry, a city's innovation (number of patents per capita), and diversity (tolerance for different races and orientation). How he came up with numbers for each of these categories is something I don't quite understand, but as long as he says my town is extremely creative, that's good enough for me.
I've always maintained that Albuquerque is an excellent place to create. Of course, if you want to be rewarded for that creativity, you will be thoroughly disappointed. The Catch-22 of creating in my town is that you are allowed to do whatever expressive talent you want with a minimal amount of scorn or backlash, but no one will be too impressed with your output because they are all doing their own thing.
The town is full of writers, actors, directors, rockers, swingers, flamenco dancers, poets, bikers (motorcycle, mountain, and racing), rock climbers, artists of every style and medium, photographers, spiritualists, palm readers, hippies, punks, geeks, bums, inventors, and just plain weird people. If you are willing to put up with a group of people, they are willing to have you. If you don't want to deal with any of them, they will leave you alone.
Tattoo and piercing parlors, art movie houses, theatres, art galleries, coffeehouses, gay friendly bookstores and clubs, adult entertainment centers, rock and roll bars, biker bars, sports bars, okay all kinds of bars, pool halls, holistic clinics, alternative medicines, alternative religions, alternative lifestyles.
If there is one overarching reason why Albuquerque has all of these creative options, it is its diversity of race. New Mexico is one of the few states in which white people make up less than half the population, and Albuquerque is the center hub. As a result, you have to deal with so many people from different backgrounds that to bear grudges against entire races is not recommended. Once you get past the preconception of whitey, niggers, spics, gooks, drunken Indians, wops, greasers and preps, you realize every person has their own way of thinking and living. Everyone must be evaluated on a casebycase basis. Once you see people as individuals, you yourself have become creative. You do not accept all of the social norms that have been brought to you by education, television and isolated incidents.
Unlike most other cities on the creative list, Albuquerque is a poor town. While we accept people's quirky talents and lifestyles freely, we can pony up very little money to support it. This is why talent stays here for a while, but eventually, folks pack up in hopes for riches somewhere else. Like most things creative, the town goes on with or without everyone.
During the last eight months alone, I have done projects that legitimately label me as a writer, actor, director, columnist, critic, lover, fighter, hiker, biker, drunk, pot head, naturalist, spiritualist and enthusiast. My income has averaged four hundred dollars a month, and I live more meagerly than most. The rewards of such a creative lifestyle have not come in the form of accolades and cash prizes (I have received a little of both but its never as much as you hope for). The real joy comes from actually doing these things as opposed to having said I've done them.
All this is being said from the 8th most creative town in America. Just think what the people in San Francisco, Austin, San Diego, Boston, Seattle, Chapel Hill and Houston have to say.