America is a beautiful place filled with kind and gentle people, and a welcoming spirit. But we’re not talking about that. What we’re talking about is anger.
But we also want to be clear about something: our evaluation of a city’s anger doesn’t come from the deep well of extremely serious issues every city struggles with. There are a lot of really important and valid reasons to be angry in many cities. But this isn’t a story about those.
Instead we’re looking at the more irrational, often trivial anger-inducing behaviors that make up the DNA of a particular city’s inhabitants. Their general attitudes toward sports, traffic, tourism, food, other people from their city, why the fuck that guy on the street is looking at them like that, and so forth.
So check the list below and let us know if anything we missed is making you mad:
And it’s rising, fast. One thinks of Nashville as just a chill little quasi-Southern city where you can enjoy some hot chicken and get your country music on. But here’s the thing: Nashville’s increasing food & drink profile coupled with a fairly central location and a lively party scene has fueled its ascendance as THE hot bachelor/bachelorette party destination. How many Nashville bachelor(ette) parties have you been to in the last year? If you say less than two you have zero friends. A relatively mild climate means that party train is chugging most of the year, bringing hoards of bros and bro-ettes to ruin everything in sight every Thursday night through Sunday morning.
Fact: Journey covers in live music videos have risen 187% in the past two years, just because the band would rather get it out of the goddamn way rather than have Claire the maid of honor spitting lemon drops in their faces because they haven’t played it yet because “she’s REALLY marrying a boy born in raised in South Detroit”, even though South Detroit is not a thing.
On top of that, the show Nashville coupled with the spotlight The Voice puts on all of the music star wannabes desperately trying to gain a spot in Blake Shelton's country mafia by blackmailing their parents into moving here is really turning it from "The Athens of the South" into "Los Angeles, but specifically for country music and stuff." If you were a local, wouldn’t you be angry if you suddenly had to deal with all of these people? At least Marcus Mariota might be good? (Spoiler alert: he isn’t.)
10. Las Vegas
It goes without saying that Vegas is a casino town. You might not think you work for the casinos because you’re a yoga teacher or sell third-rate pet food out of your truck, but you wouldn’t have anyone to sell to if Herbert Hoover didn’t decide to build the Boulder Dam, and allow the mafia to create an entire industry based around entertaining the men building that dam.
And from there we all know what happened: small casinos beget larger casinos beget entire adult playscapes that essentially function as the physical embodiment of mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed. But those giant adult playpens need people to run them, and so there are jobs. And the people that work those jobs need to get food and put their kids somewhere and not light their houses ablaze smoking vanilla cigarillos, and so there are more jobs playing off of those jobs. And so you, as a citizen of Vegas, work for the casino, because, now that the Dam is built, the casino is the only reason why Vegas is still a thing. But isn't that kind of crazy? That, um, the entire premise of the city is based around filling a need that technically no longer exists?!?!
But now, in some sense, we are all the guys building that dam. The fathers of Sin City made a smart pivot, and figured out a way to maintain relevancy by promising a place whose hilariously effective tagline to attract visitors is basically a slightly more cheerful version of the mafia’s omertà rule. And living and working there year round, in that bubble, or even just slightly outside of it, has to cause some hard edges and anger. Great concerts though.
I’d always thought of this testing ground for hipsterfied ideas before they’re marketed to the mainstream as a chill town, but over the past few years on my annual trips there to visit and unsuccessfully attempt to fire Andy Kryza, there is a decidedly less-chill vibe emanating. Portland’s anger does not present itself in the same manner as many of the East Coast cities -- blunt force swinging directly at you. Portland instead exists as a cauldron of passive aggression, but that aggression is becoming less passive, thanks to an artisanal, perfume-free laundry list of complaints:
1. Tech bros from SF (well, anyone from California is a devil impostor according to PDX standards, but SF is the most notorious) are coming here and buying stuff and e-commuting and that is ruining the scene.
2. Gentrification, like coffee, is hitting its Fourth Wave, which is leading to stuff like this.
3. Everyone leaves notes for everyone else everywhere. Park oddly, or too far in the bike lane, and you get a politely aggressive note with a smiley face in lieu of a middle finger.
4. They hate when local businesses open new locations, and hate it even more when they sell out.
5. They hate the Portlandia references and the thing I did earlier when describing it as a testing ground.
Of course, people will not tell you these things. They will merely wait until the anger builds and then blog about it, or put it in that note. :)
8. San Francisco
Californian anger is not like other anger. It isn’t quite the passive-aggressive anger you see up in Portland, or the face punching anger you see in Boston. Imagine the most chill guy you went to college with, likely on the ultimate frisbee team, having the worst day of his life, with event after event falling outside his favor. At first he’s like “whatever, this is just a crappy day, it’s cool, man.” But EVENTUALLY he just blows his fucking top. That is California anger, and SF is your chill friend from college’s worst day, every day.
I’ve lived in SF for eight years now, and watched as the city has bent and adjusted itself to the second tech boom with the guilt of liberal rich kid, the city equivalent of Philip Seymour Hoffman in 25th Hour. It still takes the money coming into the city, but you can tell somewhere in its core, it doesn’t feel good about what it has done to the soul of the town. And the anger around the issues this has created: London housing prices, gross traffic starting at 2:30pm on every bridge, a wave of people moving there not for the energy and the ethos of the city but because of the riches and the restaurants, and pad that on top of the longer-lasting SF problems like an aggressive homeless population, and fucking GIANT HILLS EVERYWHERE cramping your calves, and you have the Perfect Angry City Storm.
Still, it is only California anger after all, so it’s not rising above eight.
7. New York City
Compared to, say, New York 25 years ago, this might be the least angry New York has been ever in its life. And yet that still easily puts it in the top seven angriest cities in America. New York anger is a reflex; it is a genetic trait passed down by generations of New Yorkers, and also a virus that spreads quickly to expats from other, more relaxed areas. There is no cure as long as you still live in the city, and you can only treat the symptoms with alcohol and colorful curse words.
New York anger first sort of bubbles up from impatience, impatience when someone doesn’t know how to do something you know how to do, like use a MetroCard, or order at Katz’s, or buy drugs off of Craigslist. I remember the first time I drove with my friend Frank, who grew up in NY. When we were going to take an exit off the highway, there was a long line of cars. Frank drove all the way to the front of the exit, and then, at the last second, spotted a car slow to move forward in the line, and popped right in, cutting off about 45 cars. As the people behind us beeped and flicked us off, Frank looked at me smiling and said, “What are they going to do? They should’ve thought of that. Fuck ‘em.”
And that, friends, is the New York anger: a palpable sense that, at all times, you have to be looking for an opening to fuck someone over, lest they see that opening first and do it to you.
A breakdown of the annual cycle of Chicago anger, starting on Jan 1st: hangover anger, back-to-work anger, fell-on-a-patch-of-ice-coming-back-from-work anger, scraping-off-your-car-in-the-morning anger, dibs anger, how-the-hell-is-it-still-snowing anger, is-Derrick-Rose-ever-going-to-be good-again anger, how-the-fuck-is-it-snowing-this-much-in-March? anger, Rahm anger, 15-hours-into-a-St.-Patrick’s-Day-that-started-with-an-ill-advised-attempt-to-see-them-dye-the-river-that-has-now-lead-you-to-a-bar-you-swore-you’d-never-return-to anger, the-Bears-screwed-up-the-draft-again anger, it’s-too-cold-to-be-at-this-baseball-game anger, how-is-it-not-warm-yet? anger, how-did-it-get-this-hot-already? anger, Cubs-vs.-White-Sox anger, this-street-fest-is-a-goddamn-nightmare anger, why-did-I-go-to-Navy-Pier-to-watch-the-goddamn-fireworks anger, it’s-Lolla-weekend-and-everyone-is-terrible anger, Rahm anger again, bullshit-CTA-closure anger, how-is-it-fall-already anger, Jay-Cutler-did-something-unforgivably-stupid anger, October-snow anger, getting-bowled-over-on-Michigan-Ave-by-hordes-of-American-Girl-doll-grubbing-suburbanites-from-Winnetka-while-Christmas-shopping anger, dealing-with-O’Hare-in-any-capacity-during-the-holidays anger.
Annnnnnd repeat. Every year.
So it’s hard to grapple with the Detroit anger divorced from the industrial decline and other heavyweight factors that this relatively trivial endeavor promised to avoid. But here’s the thing: Detroit, even at its absolute biggest, brassiest, car-makingest peak, STILL would have placed somewhere in the Top 10 here. Detroit, quite simply, has always been fueled (!) by a combo of rage and dickishness. This is the city that gave us the Bad Boys and the Malice at the Palace. It has slaughtered an untold number of octopi in its pursuit of macabre and twisted hockey celebrations.
It gave the world the musical stylings of Kid Rock (can only be truly enjoyed by the perpetually angry) and Eminem (same, and also quite the angry fellow himself). So yeah, to recap: Detroit has plenty to be quite legitimately angry about, but rest assured, anger was coursing through that city’s veins well before the tough times showed up.
4. Washington, DC
As the epicenter of the anger firestorm that is the American political system, DC’s one of the few American cities you could almost argue was designed for anger. Where else are the lines between diametrically opposed viewpoints so clearly demarcated (had to use big words there, because DC people paid big money for those fancy educations that have left them in terrible debt while they slave away on a congressional staff hoping to make enough connections to stumble into some more lucrative lobbying action).
Where were we? Oh right, so not only is most of one side of the population gunning for the other side’s jobs, but the roads are a waking nightmare, the Metro isn’t much better, and they somehow handle the whole “snow removal” thing no better than Texas. And also, if people aren’t angry about the rest of the country trying to change their embarrassing racial slur of a football team, they’re angry about having to share sidewalk space with the former.
I think the best example I can give of Boston anger is the fact that, before I moved out, I thought everyone everywhere normally got in fights at 2am outside of Downtown bars, or when they saw guys they played high school basketball against at the mall, or when taking smoke breaks in the parking lot of their confirmation classes.
Boston anger is a combination of things: sports fandom that goes well past obsession, fickle and unpredictable five month bone-chilling winters, a population of people heavily associated with pugilist Ireland, an insecurity stemming from constant self-evaluation against New York, horrible traffic on the Pike, 93, 95, Storrow, and beyond, a sizable population of college students who only use the town’s dazzling public spaces as a receptacle for vomit and urine, and an irrational cannoli rivalry (the answer is Mike’s dammit).
It’s an entire city of people all carrying a chip on their shoulders the size of Roger Goodell planking, and those are the more welcoming ones.
When the notion that God himself hates your city becomes not really an insult to much as an oft-repeated truism coming off a seemly unending series of sports heartbreaks (don’t kid yourself, this Cavs season isn’t gonna end well), it’s hard not to be sad, but also more than a little angry about that sadness. Hell, their football stadium is now rightfully known as the Factory of Sadness, thanks to a hilarious video that is also, well quite angry.
And sure, the downtrodden sports fan thing is everyone’s shorthand go-to for Cleveland, but it’s also so powerful quite specifically BECAUSE Clevelanders have so very much to be angry about, and yet the passionately followed local teams fail time and time again to assuage that anger, even just a little bit, just for one glorious day. All the Great Lakes Christmas Ale in the world can’t make that right. As a result, there’s a pronounced edge to Clevelanders. As Bone Thugs put it: “Cleveland is the city where we come from, so run run”. Also, Bone Thugs should have had a way bigger career. Another thing to be angry about!
Has there ever been a more ironic nickname for a city than Philly’s Brotherly Love moniker? Or perhaps that is fitting, as brothers tend to show their love by beating the shit out of each other repeatedly.
The biggest challenge in writing about Philly and its anger issues was where to begin (though you should start by reading this). Perhaps with the infamous sports fans, including the most recent despicableness, in which Flyers fans threw bracelets honoring their owner who’d recently died of bladder cancer onto the ice at a game to the point where the announcer had to yell at them. Or past transgressions, like the fan who intentionally threw up on an 11 year-old-girl at Phillies game in 2010, or the ones who loudly cheered when Michael Irvin sustained a career ending neck injury in 1999, or their penchant for throwing batteries (at J.D. Drew) and snowballs (at Santa and pretty much everyone else).
It goes well beyond boorish fandom. Some of the elements are similar to Boston -- the insecurity when comparing themselves to NY that manifests itself as over-the-top bravado; the penchant for street festivals devolving into public urine and vomit competitions; an accent that sounds like someone threw a chainsaw into a trash fire filled with gravel, etc.
But Philly is its own unique beast. Many years ago, I was standing outside a bar in Boston with my buddy Casey. Case asked a guy wearing a skullie cap if he could bum a cigarette. The guy eyed him up and down while blowing smoke out the side of his mouth.
“Where you from?” he asked.
“Here,” Casey said, somewhat uneasily. “Boston.”
“Well,” the guy said, smiling in a twisted way. “I’m from somewhere better than youseee.”
Despite recognizing that he was now an unwilling participant in a rhetorical set-up, Casey played along: "Where?"
“Philly,” our man said, in a challenging proud voice. His eyes had a little bit of crazy in them. He looked like a combination of a wounded animal and Johnny Ringo in Tombstone when he finally decides he’s got to face off against Doc Holliday. He stood staring at Casey for a good 10 seconds, then flicked his cigarette at his feet and walked away.
Just then, the bouncer, who'd been watching this whole thing take place, let out a low whistle and spoke all of the truth.
"Man," he said. "In Philly, you just come out angry."