This week I spent my days walking and driving the streets of downtown Greensboro, thinking about the emergence of the modern American City, urban architecture, livability.
And every free moment I could get, I spent gliding through the skies of a very different city, swooping down to fight crime and gather clues.
That’s right: In my spare time I’m Batman — at least I am when my teenage boys aren’t around and I can have unfettered access to the PlayStation.
Like other video games of the franchise, Arkham Knight is magnificent. Lush graphics. An engaging storyline. Superior ass-kickability. When I’m Batman, I routinely take out groups of a dozen guys or more with brutal grace and balletic finishing moves.
It struck me over the weekend that Gotham, for all its problems with masked supercriminals and creepy lighting, is a great American city.
It’s a coastal archipelago, not unlike New York City, of three main islands: Uptown, Midtown and Downtown, and a few smaller ones connected by ample bridges and tunnels. One of the islands, unfortunately, was relegated to house Arkham Asylum, a very poor piece of urban planning.
Gotham, for all its problems with masked supercriminals and creepy lighting, is a great American city.
But there are business and government districts along the south shore, residential neighborhoods along a central park and an amusement park in the far north, just past Crime Alley. A true rail system cuts across vertically, horizontally and diagonally, giving comprehensive access to every corner of the city for those who don’t glide above it like a nocturnal mammal.
The architecture, too, is stunning: a mix of urban gothic, art deco and new-city glass and steel, with cranes everywhere working on new construction — a constant battle in a city like Gotham where huge explosions often take out entire city blocks.
It’s got red-light districts, high culture, a casino and a harbor. I’ve got to assume the restaurants are pretty good — good enough, anyway, for millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne — and from the looks of it, there are plenty of great apartments.
The problems with Gotham, though, are the same as with every American city its size and age: corruption and crime, a crumbling infrastructure, income inequality and the loss of manufacturing jobs which led to a lack of good positions for working people.
On top of that, its people have to deal with fancy, costumed terrorists, fear-gas attacks, frequent kidnappings, the occasional mandatory evacuation and random explosions.
But that, friends, is what Batman is for.