It's not just the landscape I'm talking about, though. There's something about the way that major thoroughfares look, the mixture of independent businesses and chains that line them, that is evocative of the West even if the mountains in the distance are obscured by darkness. I suppose what makes Boise a nice place to live -- the people here seem pretty devoted to it -- is that it's a city, though a small one, that feels like an elaboration on the towns you see driving U.S. highways in California or Washington or even Arizona. The presence of the river in the middle of everything is telling, because it still feels semi-rural, despite the fact that the city's biggest buildings and busiest locales are only blocks away.
I realize, in writing this, that I'm projecting more than usual here. Boise was largely a blank space in my cognitive map of the United States until this trip. Being the cartography-obsessed person that I am, I have spent a great many hours researching various portions of the country. But southern Idaho was never one of them. If I readily perceive likeness here, then, it's at least in part because humans are metaphor-making creatures when they are confronted by the new. Nevertheless, I am convinced that you could drop someone in the hills behind my sister's neighborhood and tell them they were in rural California or Washington or Colorado without them perceiving the ruse. The most distinctive feature there is the silence, which belies their proximity to Boise. Aside from that, though, the place would be perfect for any number of generic location shots. If it were in Canada, I'm sure it would be used to that end.