Sunday, September 09, 2012

Living on the Edge

California is unusual in that none of its major cities are situated near other states. (There's San Diego, of course, but that borders another country.)

It's far different here in New York City, where you can work side by side with folks from New York state, New Jersey and Connecticut  maybe even Pennsylvania.

I wonder what it does for community cohesion when the people around you abide by different laws, don't vote in the same elections and have less of a shared identity. At the very least you have to be careful about making New Jersey jokes.

I spent part of this week in Kansas City, which in some ways has even more of a schism.

Kansas City, Mo., is the major city in the region, with about 463,000 people. It's also what most people think of when you mention the name Kansas City.

Just across the border is Kansas City, Kan. It was founded 30 years later and has about 146,000 people, making it less than a third the size of its Missouri counterpart. (In fact, Kansas City, Kan., is smaller than the neighboring suburb of Overland Park.)

Why anyone thought it was a good idea to have two cities with the same name on opposite sides of the border is beyond me, but residents have found ways to cope. When they refer to Kansas City, Kan., they say "KCK." (For Kansas City, Mo., they say "KCMO," but since this is the default Kansas City, it's often unnecessary.)

Despite sharing a city name, residents of the Missouri side are said to be distinct from those of Kansas. Missouri was a slave state and there's more of a connection to the South. That may explain the preference of many locals to pronounce it "Missour-ah."

People from Kansas are more likely to consider themselves part of the West. They also aren't afraid to sell you a ton of "Wizard of Oz" tchotchkes. (Actually, I saw a lot of that on both sides of the border.) I assume making a joke about how you "aren't in Kansas anymore" when you cross into KCMO would be fairly well-trod ground by now.

I prefer the situation on the border of California and Nevada. There's a Nevada City on the California side, but no one thought to put a Nevada City in Nevada. That would be silly.