Postcard From the American Decade

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We've been asking people for their own U.S. Census information. Nathaniel Friedman, founder of Freedarko.com and co-author of the "Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History," was prepared to give us his take on the last decade with plenty of snark, but looking at some of the data took the edge off his commentary. What was Friedman's postcard to us on the 2010 Census?

Nathan Friedman's postcard:

For many, the 2010 Census data may come as a shock, or evidence of a seismic shift in this country. To me, it's oddly familiar. I'm not used to seeing myself reflected back in clumps of numbers that sum up our national character. But to me, the 2010 Census isn't news; it's autobiography. Apparently, like Latrell Sprewell, I am the American Dream.

I moved to Philadelphia out of college because it was a big, strong eastern city. I left in 2004 to go to grad school; I stayed away because, increasingly, New York no longer seemed the center of the universe. I've lived in Austin, Houston, and Seattle, all in states whose populations have gone up, while Pennsylvania and New York have declined. I manage to write for a living, which was always the plan. But it's a hell of a lot easier where there's no income tax, like Texas and Washington, or Florida. I didn't marry a nice Jewish girl; I found a nice, half-Cuban one, and getting married scored me a bunch of Cuban relations — and in case you hadn't heard, Latinos are the subtext of most of the census data. My wife turned down Michigan for grad school because it was too cold. Seattle, with its elusive "quality of life", won out. At least in Utah, they have skiing.

I'm taking an optimistic view — not everyone moving to, or being born in, the South or Southwest is a terrible person. In fact, chances are, as people like myself end up never making it to New York, or states like Texas and Arizona grow from immigration, these places will change. I was just in Oklahoma City for ten days; the mayor told me about their attempts to lure white collar coastal folks to OKC. They build them raw food bars and rowing centers. What do they do, though, when these transplants want more than a different kind of shopping mall?

Guests:

Nathaniel Friedman

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