So I’m in St. Louis this week to see two friends ordained as priests in the Episcopal church. It’s a pretty overwhelming prospect, having friends who are priests I mean. One of them is only 25. She’ll be able to bless my car and give me holy water before I drive home.
I guess that means that they can’t testify against me in a court of law, so horray for the priesthood.
I don’t envy my friends who have to split their time between New Orleans and someplace else. It’s heart-wrenchingly difficult not to be there. I’d originally thought that this trip – my first time leaving the city since I returned in October – would be a great opportunity for me to recharge myself, but I find that all I think about is New Orleans. I miss the coffee and my cats. I miss the architecture, the fact that people actually seem to have a purpose, and I even miss the community meetings. I miss the contentious nature of a public dialogue in which people feel passionately about civic issues. I miss New Orleans.
Yesterday's Festival of Neighborhoods went off without a hitch. I was there representing UNO's College of Urban and Public Affairs. It was, perhaps, my first effort of purely academic historic preservation, as the College itself is set to be demolished in a week.
Luckily, we didn't have to answer many tough questions about the fate of CUPA. This is because we spend the entire day explaing that we were neither advocates nor critics of modular housing. We'd decorated our table with some posters from a planning class' recent recovery plan for Gentilly, and they included a suggestion that manufactured housing might possibly, maybe, in some cases be an affordable option for some people.
Note to self: never associate oneself with modular housing. People are really freaking militant about it.
Between being inspired by all the great planning work and complaining about the stifling heat, I got a chance to snap a few pictures. Take a look at them by clicking on the image at the top of the post.
Tomorrow I will be attending the Festival of Neighborhoods in the Botanical Gardens at City Park. The Festival will be held in conjunction with the Mid-City Art Market, and will give neighborhood groups a chance to show off their planning progress. Nonprofits will also be there to offer help. There will be food, music, childrens' activities, and various members of the plant kingdom.
I'll be manning the CUPA table and trying to convince people that urban studies and urban planning are still alive at UNO, an uphill battle in light of the administration's decision to disband our college.
I hope to see you there. Plannining is so hard core in The New New Orleans!
Last week my car became a whiner. Not entirely unlike my cats when they want to be petted, the car started demanding attention. It began, innocuously enough, with a service light and its attendant beepy noise, which would alert me that the car was feeling needy every time I turned it on. Being an attentive car owner, I immediately made an appointment and took the car in for an oil change. Well, apparently the car feels more comfortable talking about its needs with a disinterested third party, because it turned out that in addition to the oil change it also needed a tire rotation, a fuel system flush, and some sort of process that cleaned its rear brake pads. It became a car spa day of sorts.
Fast forward to this morning, when the car violently clanked its way down the driveway. I pulled to the corner, got out, and surveyed the damage of an entirely flat front tire. Now I'm not typically one to try and lift an entire vehicle several inches above the ground or replace its critical parts, but we all have to do our part for self-reliance in the PostKatrinaRitaWorld. So I stood ouside, alternately staring at the spare tire and owners' manual, and committed to changing the tire myself.
I should probably point out that I live directly across the street from the site where the Army Corps of Engineers is installing its flood gates at the Orleans Canal – not usually a fortunate location if one enjoys (1) sleep, or (2) unobstructed motoring. But this morning, as I was wiping the sweat from my brow and contemplating AAA, I learned to appreciate the small benefits of The Recovoery. Two workers walked across the street and offered to "fix your tire in a jiffy." That's a direct quote.
I don't like to stand between a man and a good deed, so I let them, all the time thinking:
* Whoever said sweating ain't ladylike?
* The federal government is probably spending millions of dollars for these guys to change my flat tire.
And you know what? I must not be as self-reliant as we thought. I sopped up that federal aid with a smile.
The Lakeview presentation started late, as community meetings are want to do, so I didn't 'get to Gentilly.
Since I had written the first draft of the presentation, I didn't learn much new information. But it was heartening to see so many Lakeview residents coming back to rededicate themselves to the neighborhood. Although I've done a lot of work with the The District 5 Recovery Team, I never stop being amazed by the organized but grassroots nature of their work. When it seemed that professional planners might never come to their aid, the neighborhoods developed an elaborate committee structure and combined the efforts of Lakeview, Lake Vista, Lakeshore, City Park, Country Club Gardens, Lakwood, and Parkview.
In the end, when the paid planners did come, Lakeview residents were ready for them. They had already developed a proposed land use scheme and overlay zoning districts. They had collected detailed data about current infrastructure needs and mobilized block captains to survey current conditions. So today's presentation was really an oportunity for planners to organize the information residents had already collected.
Here's a mercifully brief photo essay:
Paul Lambert did business before the presentation
Freddy Yoder and Martin Landrieu discussed the agenda while
Once the meeting started a consultant presented previous work done by the District 5 Recovery Group,
and we tried to pretend we weren't being filmed.
It was pretty difficult.
Come to think of it, it was very difficult.
Later, Jim Amdal got pretty fired up about infrastructure,
But who can really blame him?
Finally, Martin reminded us that a finished plan is only the beginning of the rebuilding process.
But it's a step in the right direction.
I'll be trying to make it to two meetings today: Alfredo Sanches' presentation to residents of planning district 5 and the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association housing committee. Of course they are taking place at exactly the same time, 1-3pm. This makes me strangely annoyed, as though Lakeview and Genitlly were colluding to ensure that I miss out on neighborhood planning breakthroughs. What if there were some revelation of the public will?
Or worse… what if I forgot about something I'd promised to do. I've never really bought into the anthropological ideology, but this participant observation stuff is tough. I'm constantly asking myself iterations of the same question: What skews my analysis more? Participating in planning as a concerned citizen of New Orleans, or the artifice of forced neutrality. There's an exhilarating dissonance that comes from flinging myself into this from both sides.
I had never really intended to become a "blogger." Even when my roommate used her LiveJournal to tell me that she'd moved out 3 days before. I thought it a personal afront rather than some sort of commentary on my life. She was a heartless egotist for using such an impersonal method of communication becuase it certainly was not the case that a LiveJournal could actually *be* your primay method of personal communication.
Still I was not a blogger. I was a reader. And when I'd post anything at all it was out of some strange sense of duty. As though there were was cavernous, lonely space all over the interweb just waiting for me to fill it. Fluff to fill the void, as it were.
Well, now I'm apparently blogging again. I'd say it was "despite my best intentions," like it's out of my control. But, of course, it's not. In fact, I think it must be because of my best intentions that I'm finally starting to presume a place for myself in the internets, with an inflated sense of self-efficacy as though I had useful information to give.
You know, in The New New Orleans community meetings are all the rage. I guess I should rage on, then. There might be some lonely interweb frontage out there…