Wednesday, September 19, 2012
City of Tomorrow, Part 1
People tend to forget that Metropolis existed before him.
The other thing they forget is that before they learned to expect routine from their lives, they used to discover new things all the time.
It can be a hassle to imagine the world differently from what you’ve come to expect.
I’ve lived here all my life. My name is Barton Summary and I’m old enough to be your grandfather, so when I say I know this town, hopefully you’ll take my word for it.
Metropolis, as I’ve been getting around to saying, was known as the City of Tomorrow from the very start. It wasn’t always dominated by greedy billionaires, but I’m sure they had their part in its origins, too. I mean, how else is something like this going to happen? You don’t end up with this kind of innovation just by accident and speculation, though a little of that helps.
Its founders imagined Metropolis at the vanguard of the future, and fought hard to keep the march of progress going, long after dreams of utopia settled into the quagmire of reality. To achieve that, it had to remain at the forefront of the imagination, like any major center of population. Attractions were built into the cornerstones of the city, but it was also necessary to build celebrity. The founders were themselves celebrities, eccentrics one and all, though they were always the private type, preferring to keep their creation in the spotlight. Perhaps if you look in the archives or City Hall, you’ll see a picture of them, catch their names. After all, Metropolis wasn’t named after anyone.
It was to be the quintessential city, that’s how it got its name. The only way to lay claim to such a boast was to constantly maintain it, some might even say militantly so. Before the dream started to collapse and crime and suicide took over its brightest spots, Metropolis was always known for order. It had a place for everything and everything in its place. Success came at a price.
The City of Tomorrow was born in the 20th century. It was populated with dreamers to match the dreamers who conceived it, restless spirits who agitated for the future, innovators in every field. The only problem with a dream is that it always gives way to reality. Reality dictates that dreams have practical applications. Practical applications have a way of annihilating dreams. Metropolis fought this never-ending battle for decades. It had tried to transcend the world. It learned, over the course of time, that the world cannot transcend itself.
Year by year, day by day, reality began to sink in. The City of Tomorrow was forced to grow up. But, as with any forced behavioral change, remnants of a prior existence stubbornly clung around the edges. The past could not be entirely erased, especially when it was so greedily fixated on the future. As the future grew more grim, the dream became more entrenched. Those who hadn’t grown up in it and watched it erode began to come to Metropolis, still believing in that dream.
Whoever said there are no second acts in American lives never came to the City of Tomorrow.
I watched all of it unfold. I was there in the beginning, and I was there when it all started to come apart, and there when it started to come together again. And yes, I was there when he arrived. That’s a story for a different time, though. This time, Metropolis gets its due. This time, you get to hear about the City of Tomorrow, and some other souls who found their way in the improbable Metropolis, where dreams were planted long ago.
Maybe it all sounds foolish to you, just one more delusion in a time of delusions, a time that has forgotten the lessons of the past, and the old adage about those who forget them. Maybe so, but you don’t know Metropolis like I do, and that’s what I mean to correct. New things are possible. You just need to look around.