The Selection Process

How I choose the Backseat Cities

Busts on pedestals in a museum, illuminated so that the heads glow

First and Second Century Roman Busts, Cleveland Museum of Art, September 2018

Reading time: 2 minutes

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The Selection Process

*** I am currently seeking representation ***

I have rules for selecting Backseat Cities.

  • According to 2017 Census Bureau estimates, the MSA (metropolitan statistical area) has an approximate population between 250,000 and 2.5m people
  • It’s not a widely recognized tourist destination, and is not particularly close to one
  • In general, if you tell people you’re going there on vacation, they make a face and ask why
  • Exception to the rule above: If you live near the city in question, it’s common to visit for the day or a long weekend
  • It’s not a beach town
  • My choices allow for balanced geographical distribution in the United States
Statue of an angel with a slight smirk, a fresco is in the background

Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY. Aug 2018

Large tower of a red brick church ascending toward a blue sky with puffy clouds

Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Lafayette, LA. Oct 2018

I have visited the Backseat Cities for Book 1. I've written 52,800 words: an introduction, plus chapters on Rochester and Lafayette. Finished manuscript should be 95K words.

Populations below are 2017 estimates for the MSA.

Book 1

City Population MSA Rank
Cleveland, OH 2,058,844 33
Rochester, NY 1,077,948 51
Boise, ID 709,845 80
Lafayette, LA 491,558 108

Tentative follow-up projects:

Book 2

City Population MSA Rank
Milwaukee, WI 1,576,236 39
Richmond, VA 1,294,204 44
Wichita, KS 645,628 89
Tuscaloosa, AL 242,799 189

Book 3

City Population MSA Rank
Indianapolis, IN 2,028,614 34
Tulsa, OK 990,706 54
Spokane, WA 564,236 98
Lincoln, NE 331,519 154
Capitol dome on a sunny day against blue skies

State Capitol, Boise, ID. Sep 2019

Book 4

City Population MSA Rank
Kansas City, MO 2,128,912 30
Grand Rapids, MI 1,059,113 52
El Paso, TX 844,818 68
Chattanooga, TN 556,548 99

Guidelines

I tried to follow these guidelines when visiting a Backseat City:

  • Visit at least two museums of any kind
  • Visit at least two historical sites or monuments
  • Go to a market, if there is one
  • Do the most touristy thing there is
  • Do something stereotypically [city name here]
  • Do something you think you will dislike or find boring
  • See the oldest thing in the city
  • See the newest thing in the city
  • Eat where there is live music
  • Eat the local specialties in different neighborhoods
  • Play games
  • Read local newspapers or magazines
  • Participate in one of your interests with locals
  • Visit parks or gardens; sit on benches and watch people
  • See a government building
  • Walk as much as possible

Read more

Archive

About

A smiling Francis and me, sitting outside in front of some shrubs

Some basics

A brief biographical sketch

Me on top of a sunny Mt Pilatus in Switzerland, with mountains in the background

Travel

Pardon the saccharine and the obvious, but travel is everything

A couple standing in front of a large Gothic church, on a bridge over the Seine

France

France deserves its own section

Francis, as a two year-old in a car seat, in sunglasses reading a French picture book

Reading

The bullshit of daily life? I'd rather read.

Stage with musicians going at it - they're Gogol Bordello, and they're crazy

Music

Let me take you back

Little boy sitting on a big white bed, looking at a tablet

Television

I watch a lot more television than movies

Live action from a soccer game at Crew Stadium - yellow versus blue

Soccer

The only sport that matters

Ugly photo of a pig knuckle after it's been eaten - really, it looks horrible

Food

As a travel writer, I have to talk about food

Me in an outdoor restaurant drinking from a green coconut with a long straw

Dumb stuff

You will not feel smarter after reading this

Dumpster full of garbage

Minimalism

Trying to live simply

Me getting out of a red Ferrari F430 with a guy clapping for me

Other Interests

I've only driven a Ferrari once

Dude wearing orange pants and orange and green shoes walking on wet grass

Get off my lawn

A few brief rants

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