The Galaxy Hillbillies

The discovery of a gigantic black hole from the dawn of time has me feeling a bit like that small town boy who thought his world was pretty huge, until he found out about New York City.

We’re such small potatoes, universe-wise, the only way I can get my head around it is through the lens of the literature of my youth – TV show theme songs.

So these scientists was lookin’ at a big black hole,
though goin’ to visit wasn’t anybody’s goal.
The one that they found – was as wide as it was tall …
It made everyone feel impossibly small.

A massive hole. In vast space. Texas trench.

It was further away than a lot they’d seen before
It was large as the sun plus a dozen billion more.
They said “this is bigger than an older hole should be,”
An’ they added it all up to another mystery.

Dawn of time. Ancient gas. Quasars.

What’s the biggest city you visited as a youth, and what effect did it have on you?  

31 thoughts on “The Galaxy Hillbillies”

  1. Moved from the farm to Chicago at almost-17 to go to college – moved from the oldest-of-ten-kids to being surrounded by three million people, and blissfully able to find solitude among the crowds. I walked for miles in neighborhoods the university told me never to go near, reveled in Saturday-morning Operation Breadbasket gatherings and anti-machine political organizing, found friends and community in the city.

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    1. You mean the U of Chi. Me too. Welcome fellow Maroon (what a dumb name.)
      At age 10 we visited relatives on west side of the Cities. I remember clover leafs on 100. We ate at the kids table in another room with nasty city second cousins. City Mouse/Country Mouse. Awful.
      At age 12 we were in Chicago passing through but had a day. We got a taxi and got a tour, neat driver. We went to Lincoln Park, then went on to Kalamazoo, to meet other nasty cousins. I swore I would not live in a big city. Six years later I was on 55th and University on the south side.

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  2. Morning all. Clyde – are you on today? Did you predict this topic? I did!

    I know I went to Los Angeles when I was a kid, but I don’t really remember the trip. Of course, I grew up in a big city (St. Louis) so my first really really big city was Mexico City when I was 17. Seemed like it went on and on forever. I was living with a family for 6 weeks that summer and we spent 4 days in Mexico City. That’s where I took my first VW bug taxi and went to my first “real” piñata party!

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  3. The nighttime flaring of gases at a refinery in Pasadena, California was scary. The white-knuckle driving by my father on the spaghetti highways was scary. 100,000 people at the Rose Bowl was scary. Space Mountain at Disneyland was scary.

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  4. This should tell you how provincial I was: the “big city” that awed me as a kid was Des Moines! Oh, my. My town was Ames, and in those days Ames had no buildings higher than four stories. But Des Moines? Golly, I wouldn’t want to guess the height of some of its skyscrapers. The lobby of the Des Moines Register had a huge globe that spun slowly. Our family could stare at it for hours. We were amazed by Bishop’s Cafeteria, especially its “atomic” toilet seats (after you flushed the seat would be blasted with some weird kind of light that was supposed to zap all the cooties you might have left). The sight that made my jaw drop to the floor, however, was in Younkers department store. Younkers had an escalator! I would have paid money to stand there watching people being transported to the next floor above. “Beam me up, Scottie!”

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  5. Good morning. An early big city experience was driving through Chicago from Michigan to Wisconsin to visit relatives as a young boy. I didn’t see much of the city. Mostly I remember being scared when we drove across a long clanking wooden bridge crossing the railroad yards. This was before the development of interstate highways. One of my early memories of visiting Detroit was after the development of the interstate highways. The massive interstate exchanges I saw for the first time there made a big impression on me.

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  6. When you grow up in a town with 2,300 inhabitants, almost any city seems large.

    London was the first multimillion-inhabitant city I visited as an eleven year old. Five things made an impression: the double decker buses, the bombed out ruins of buildings, Woolworths, and the immensity of Paddington Train Station. But the overall impression was of a city where all of the buildings were covered with a layer of black grime, an impression that has stuck with me. In contrast, when I first arrived in Moscow almost exactly ten years later, I was struck with how clean it was.

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  7. Since Steve has already nailed the Des Moines experience, I’ll say Denver in 1958. I was in awe of the Museum of Natural History (downtown somewhere, I imagine), where it seems like we spent a whole day, but I doubt it. And Elitch’s Amusement Park, where I was terrified by the Wild Mouse which looked like you were going to be hurtled into space, but at the last possible second lurched to the left…

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  8. My family visited Washington, DC when I was in middle or high school. An aunt and uncle lived in Fairfax, VA — a commuter suburb. So we stayed with their family and went ino the city for sightseeing during the days. Absolutely marvelous — I loved it. Smithsonian, monuments, Mount Vernon, White House, etc., — we did it all.

    In high school, a teacher took a group of students either out East or out West. I went the year he went East to Boston, as he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard. Great trip, loved the juxtoposition of the old and new in the middle of town.

    And then coming to Minneapolis for college and staying — that was a big change as well. I love the excitement, glamour and arts in the city, but I prefer to live somewhere quiet and isolated.

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  9. 40 years ago when I was in my hard-core SF reading phase, to which I will not return, I read a book which was about a hill billy planet, a planet populated by the rejected backward citizens of a planet system. What was the plot? No idea any more.

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    1. clyde
      if son with ios training is interested have him check out flipgrid NOW
      they are hiring today and for the next couple months on an ambitious project. great team

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  10. Husband’s first big city was Detroit. We are currently in the metropolis of Fargo. I am somewhat concerned that the hotel room next to us is occupied by Mandan High school boy hockey players, in Fargo for the State Hockey tournament. It may be a rowdy night.

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  11. I remember being impressed with the 3M building as a child. We came into St. Paul from Hudson for holiday events with family. At Christmastime the 3M building would leave selected office lights on in the shape of a Christmas tree. We’d always watch for it. In the late 70’s, during the energy crisis, it was decided that you couldn’t leave all those lights on for such a frivolous purpose, so the 3M building went dark for quite a few years. The custom was revived again in the 80’s, and continues.
    I don’t have very distinct memories of the California cities we visited when I was a child, save Fisherman’s Wharf. Mostly “city” to me means the one I now call home.

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    1. i traveled that year when minneapolis helped the world by turning out th elights and was pissed that la didnt.. atlanta had the air conditioning on when it was 70 outside in april

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  12. I have a memory of Minneapolis being the 4th biggest city in the US when I was a child, so this was the big city for me.

    My cousin not only lived in Minneapolis but is also 2 years older than I am. It was always made clear to me that this gave her superior status and oodles more maturity.

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