What is it like to be young in an American mid-size city? More specifically, what is it like to be young in a mid-size city situated in the heart of the northeastern rust belt? Is community possible? Are there young-people with vision and commitment to bring the place back to life? Is there anything to do?
I grew up in Allentown. I went to Parkland for High School, but then, like many of my friends, went away for school. My studies took me to some of the greatest cities around the world. Then, I did something unusual for people my age--I came back to live here.
In the abstract, the Lehigh Valley always had its pluses and minuses: Urban sprawl versus Appalachian vistas and fertile farms; food deserts versus the bustle of the farmer's market; the death of manufacturing industry versus a superb hospital system and two new medical school.
There is genuine hope in the counter-examples. It is too easy to fall into despair; to blame others for the cancers of the city; to retreat into the isolation of suburbia. All too often, the negativity of the Morning Call comment section makes this place seem like a wasteland--like nothing can be done. This, at least to me, seems short-sighted and self-interested.
In fact, there might be a renaissance afoot if only we could change our perspective--to see the good in things instead of the bad. This is not an intellectual project. It is a project of action. It is a project of actually going out in the community and interacting day in and day out with its institutions and people.
And that, ultimately, is what this blog is about. What it is like to live in the Lehigh Valley and to appreciate and comment on what is happening. I'll start later today with a trip to the most Allentown of Allentown institutions--the Fairground's Farmer Market.