Rural – Urban – Suburban

In my lifetime, our world has changed dramatically.  We’ve gone from being a rural society to being an urban one.  For years, people have been leaving the countryside for the cities; while, at the same time, people in the city have been fleeing to the suburbs.  And this double migration is still going on.  So if you’re thinking of relocating, here are a few things you might want to consider before you make your move.  (Full disclosure: I have never lived anywhere but a large urban centre, so some of this is guesswork.  And if you’re proud of where you live and I’ve dissed it – please — before you send me that email questioning my knowledge, my ancestry and my sanity, remember this is satire!)  Enjoy!


Rural – You don’t lock your door because nobody in their right mind would wanna steal your pitiful pile of junk.

Suburban – You lock your door but keep a spare key under a flower pot, and the security camera tells you which neighbor kid found it and robbed you.

Urban – You have two locks, a deadbolt, an iron bar and a safety chain– but you’ve been robbed so many times you just close the door and hope for the best.


Rural – You know all your neighbours, but they’re so far away you can walk out your front door naked with a knife in your back and they wouldn’t find you until the coyotes were chewing your bones.

Suburban – You know all your neighbours, and they’re so close if you walked out of your front door naked with a knife in your back, you’d be on YouTube before you got to the street.

Urban – You don’t know any of your neighbours, so you could walk out your front door naked with a knife in your back and they wouldn’t even bother calling the cops.


Rural – You have a couple of dogs, a house cat, a barn cat, a stray cat, another cat, two horses, chickens, a rooster, something that lives under the porch and a goat — and every one of them eats enough to bankrupt Bill Gates.

Suburban – You have a dog that poops all over the lawn, the kids have a hamster that smells and you still haven’t thrown out the 4 bags of kitty litter you bought for the cat that ran away.

Urban – You had a fish but it died, so you put a cactus in the bowl, and now you just throw bits of pizza down to the rats in the alley.

Warm Summer Nights

Rural – You just want five minutes to peel off your soggy underwear when Eddie and Fran show up with a load of fresh pig manure that needs to be spread before dark.

Suburban – You finally just say “Screw it!” and turn the A/C to a human temperature so you can watch Netflix in your underwear until you fall asleep on the sofa.

Urban – You hang out in an air-conditioned bar with a bunch of losers because your apartment is a sauna and you refuse to spend the evening sitting out on the fire escape in your underwear like some peasant.

Waking up on the weekend

Rural – One of these days, you’re going to throttle that &$#?% rooster.

Suburban – Every asshole in history is out there, mowing his lawn at 7:00 A.M.

Urban – Sirens and the occasional gunshot.


Rural – You have a truck that’s held together with duct tape, Bondo, binder twine and rust — and looks like a refugee from a Demolition Derby.

Suburban – You have two vehicles and three car payments because you’re still paying for that stupid PT Cruiser you bought two minivans ago.

Urban – There was a dead guy on the subway last Thursday.


Rural – Exercise?  You work your ass off every day and need exercise like the Titanic needed another iceberg.

Suburban – You have a set of weights and a treadmill gathering dust in the garage.  You’re thinking about buying a Bowflex and you swear to God, this year, you’re going to go back to yoga.

Urban – You have a gym membership, but you haven’t been there since January — 4 years ago.

But in the end, we’re all the same.


Rural – There are two stores in town, but their selection is so crappy that you just buy your stuff online from Amazon.

Suburban – You have 2 malls, a giant discount store, a Walmart, a Home Depot, a Costco and an Ikea within a five mile radius, but it’s such a pain in the ass to drive there, find a parking space, wander around the aisles for hours and stand in line waiting to pay that you just buy your stuff online from Amazon.

Urban – You have tons of cool designer shops within walking distance, but they’re so damn expensive that you just buy your stuff online from Amazon.

“Funky”: Kiss of Death and Yuppies in the ‘Hood

There are few words in the English language that carry the destructive power of “funky.”  Way back in the day, “funky” (or “funk” as it was called then) was a musical term.  It was urban black.  It was loose.  It was uncontrolled and it was cool.  It meant something, although most people couldn’t describe it; they just knew it when they heard it.  So much for the history lesson.  Today, funky is the kiss of death.

In every city in North America, there are brilliant little neighbourhoods.  They exist on the fringes of the bigger, more famous areas.  They’re middle ground territory, neither rich nor poor and mostly overlooked in the urban sprawl.  They have houses and apartments, restaurants and shops.  Sometimes they have schools or a theatre or maybe a gas station, but definitely a couple of corner stores and at least one old-fashioned cafe.  These are great little places and people live there — all kinds of people — grandmas and students, bosses, workers, the guy who owns the bakery, Jamal, Eddie and Suzanne.  They’re not some 50s wonderland, filled with Andy of Mayberry characters, but enough local people know each other, or recognize the guy across the street, to make them real neighbourhoods.  They’re what urban planners dream about.

These neighbourhoods go unnoticed for years.   They go about their business and never bother anybody.  Then, one day, somebody wanders by (sometimes it’s a real estate agent, sometimes it’s a journalist, sometimes it’s just somebody with a big mouth) and calls them “funky.”  As in: “3 bdrm, TLC, close to transport, all amenities, funky old-world charm” or “My companion and I dined on authentic Portuguese squid, with plenty of funky atmosphere, for half the price of an expensive downtown restaurant.”  These people think “funky” is a term of endearment.  It‘s not; it’s a death sentence.  It’s a neighbourhood killer because, in actual fact, “funky” is a polite word for gentrification.  It represents the time period between when the first upwardly mobile couple moves in and the last original inhabitant is driven out. 

There are any number of ways for this to happen, but they all basically follow the same pattern.  Brooke and Meghan* buy a house in an area that’s less than ideal, maybe even a little rundown, because they can’t afford the big prices in the tonier parts of town.  They make up for their shabby address by putting on the brag about how great their neighbourhood is.  How urban cool it is.  How it just reeks of diversity.  How Bratislav cuts his own cheese and Nahoud bakes his own biscotti.  In short, how “funky” it is.  Eventually the word gets around: that it’s not such a comedown to live east of Main Street or south of Central, and other people start buying inexpensive addresses.

Any wave in the real estate market, however small, is battle stations red alert for property developers.  They’ve long since figured out that there’s a boatload more money to be made selling thirty brand-new condos, sitting on top of four retail outlets, than there is reselling four single-family homes.  They buy the lots, tear down the houses, vertically sub-divide and parcel it all out as urban living.

In turn, concentrated population increases attract the big boy franchisers — like throwing blood into the shark bait waters off the coast of Australia.  If there be condos; there be McDonald’s, 7-11 and Starbucks.  There might not be a WalMart (urban professionals don’t like them) but at this point, it doesn’t matter.  Wai Chow’s Golden Chopstick or Bayview Meats can’t compete with Earl’s, East Side Mario’s or Flying Wedge.  These people are willing to sign long leases for big money, and local shopkeepers just don’t have that kind of coin.  They’re forced to close and the cycle continues.

Back in “the hood,” Brooke and Meghan, those two crazy kids who started the whole process, aren’t helping matters much.  They aren’t actually living in the neighbourhood.  They might physically be there, but so what?  They don’t work there.  Their kids don’t go to school there.  They don’t ride the bus or shop on their way home.  In fact, they never consistently patronize the local merchants, at all.  They drive in and out of the neighbourhood every day for months, perhaps years, basically waiting for their generic world to catch up to them.  Their furniture is Ikea, their home renovations are Home Depot, their toilet paper is Costco and their gadgets are Future Shop.  When the bakery and the drugstore close, they play “ain’t it awful,” but it never occurs to them that they are the ones who don’t buy doughnuts or have their prescriptions filled.  And as every new Brooke and Meghan move into the neighbourhood, the problem accelerates.  Local merchants can’t pay their ever-expanding rents or taxes on an ever-decreasing customer base, and the developers pick them off, one by one.  At this point, Brooke and Meghan discover the new Starbucks or whatever and start actually hanging around, meanwhile, telling everybody they and their neighbourhood (it’s become their neighbourhood now) are uber-cool.  More people move in; more people move out.  Years pass, life goes on and the city digests the remnants of what was once a nice, vibrant place to live.  More corporations; less local ownership. Civic officials shake their heads and wonder what the hell went wrong.  They consult city planners and urban geographers to see how to artificially create socially and economically mixed neighbourhoods.  They fail.

 Just a bit of advice: if anybody calls your neighbourhood “funky,” run!  It’s a trap.

*Brooke and Meghan’s names have been changed to protect the guilty.