"You can't have Bach, Mozart and Beethoven as your favorite composers," Michael Tilson Thomas once declared. "They simply define what music is." By the same token, we might say you can't have New York, London, and Paris as your favorite cities, collectively defining as they do the standard against which we measure — and usually find wanting — all other cities. I myself have never named New York, London, or Paris among my favorites, though I've only spent a few weeks each in the first two. Paris I've never set foot in, possibly in subconscious reaction against its sheer belovedness, especially among my fellow Americans abroad. Even apart from my basic condition of Europhilia-phobia, something in the city's popular image always grated: not for me the picturesque City of Light and its innumerable boulevards, squares, and back alleys, all arbitrarily forced to retain their mid-19th-century shape.
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