Obviously his story is the story of Raleigh's infrastructure. For about two-thirds of On the Grid this aggravated and wearied me, being as I am a product of the instant gratification culture of the Internet and America. I found Huler's premise fascinating, but I wanted to know how all this stuff worked for me, not Raleigh. Huler points out that Raleigh has mirrored the demographic and developmental changes occurring throughout America. He says that "what's been happening in America over the last half-century is Raleigh." So it is, apparently, the quintessential American city. Still, I wanted the story to be more local. It finally dawned on me, though, that Huler's book was succeeding in exactly what it needed to accomplish: it was making me interested in how my town operated.
After that epiphany, I began to pay more attention. Of course he could only examine Raleigh. That made sense now. It was up to me to understand Kingman, Arizona and Huler provided in his book a good plan on how to do just that. He busticates the city, tackling one piece of infrastructure in each chapter: surveying stormwater management, water supply, sewage, electricity, gas, landfill, roads, technology. He explains how it works for Raleigh, which in truth probably is a fair picture of how the same system works for each of us. But more importantly he mentions who he talks to in his city management. This can be important because it will allow me — or you — to find a counterpart in our own city government and pump him or her for information.
I was also impressed by the amount of history and statistics that Huler packed into his narrative. He often will travel back to the founding of this country or further — to Rome in its heyday, for example — tracing each piece of infrastructure to its roots. He goes back to Rome often when discussing water management and roads (the collapse of its infrastructure did not bode well for that historical city) and he referred often to John Snow's troubleshooting of the cholera epidemic in London. The sheer amount of historical facts and the tons of garbage that need to be buried and the amount of rainfall that impervious and compacted soils can handle and Pierre L'Enfant's designs - it was all rather staggering after consideration.