Not so long ago, Kristen Jeffers (who blogs as the Black Urbanist) shared an article over at Afropunk called “The Caucasian’s Guide to Black Neighborhoods.” It’s very, very funny, and particularly useful reading for anyone who’s more interested in our ability to build meaningful communities than in the more prevalent discussion of who, in any particular place, does or does not belong.
Leading into the Thanksgiving weekend, a video of holiday traffic on Los Angeles’ 405 Freeway hit the Twitterverse.
Kinda hypnotizing, but probably not as fun to experience if you were in one of the cars “stuck in traffic.” (Smart Growth transportation planners couldn’t resist tweeting one of their favorite jabs: “If you find yourself in this situation, you’re not “stuck in traffic.” You ARE the traffic.”)
In this week after the most contentious U.S. presidential election of my lifetime, millions of us are feeling lonely, regardless of which way we cast our vote. Loneliness is not the result of being alone, but rather the feeling of being disconnected. Now more than ever, all that connects us to common ground – and to the neighborhoods we call home – is essential and deserves nurturing. Loneliness is more prevalent than depression, but we don’t understand it as well because we are generally not as willing to talk about it.
Last week I stepped back in time a bit to revisit the idea of NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard opponents to development) and consider anew whether their tenacious aversions earn them the lauding of heroes or the disdain we reserve for villains and scoundrels.
As I said then, in many cases, NIMBYs have kept the world from becoming a worse place, and that’s no small feat. But they’ve also kept the world from becoming a better place because their reactionary nature can’t seem to tell the difference between bad change and good.
When The New York Times used my wife and me as examples in a story about retirees’ growing preferences for urban life, it was a chance to literally walk the talk.
I’ve been writing about my Baby Boomer cohort for all my career, first in the ‘60s alternative press, then in newspaper and magazine stories as we aged through what is probably the longest adolescence in world history. The chance we’ll grow up before we die? Even money. But here’s something you can bet on:
The generation that moved markets at every stage of our lives is likely to have something left for a finale. And maybe it’s a walk-off nudge in the direction of neighborhood and community design.
Reprising: “Can’t we all just get along?”
Answer: Probably not. And we should be thinking about why and how that informs what we do to help neighborhoods and cities adapt to change.
Let’s pick an example unlikely to trigger the usual arguments over race, ethnicity and inequality, yet one that might be more helpful because of the absence of those factors. I give you Burning Man, the annual event in the Nevada desert where some 70,000 folks gather to test the limits of art, collaborative culture and diversity. On that last count, the one about tolerance for differences, a line was apparently crossed a few weeks back when one set of Burners decided others didn’t belong in the neighborhood.
The placemakers way is to enable the triple bottom line of resilience: environment, economy, and society, trying to balance the needs of people, planet and profit. And yet it’s always easier to measure the impacts of our collective choices on profit — or even on the planet — than it is on people. We’ve blogged extensively about happiness, with equity as an essential component. Social equity has been defined as equal opportunity in a safe and healthy environment. Social equity requires fair, just and equitable public policy. Social equity is a generator of social capital.
There’s nothing new about the subject of today’s post. In fact, that’s kind of the point. It’s an ongoing grassroots public art initiative that simply exists, and has for quite some time. Many have had the pleasure of experiencing it but many others have not.
That’s the nature of artistic cultural expression. It happens but it’s not a happening. It lingers and evolves in place, existing over time for serendipitous discovery and contribution by others. Like me.
In this case, I’m talking about the Portland Horse Project.
“Mom, I need to walk 10k today,” coming from my 11-year old this morning almost gave me whiplash, as I turned to look at him to ensure an alien wasn’t inhabiting his body. In fact, there was one, if you view Pokémon as other-worldly. The playful new video game, Pokémon GO, is distracting kids and grown-ups alike with an augmented reality (AR) that requires walking with friends, visiting places of cultural and economic significance, and “capturing” Pokémon as they appear on the sidewalk by “hitting” them with virtual balls. By level five of the game, you’re able to join a team and visit local virtual “gyms” to practice or spar. The walking 10k comment was about hatching Pokémon eggs, each of which require walking either two, five, or ten kilometers.
Whatever skills I developed in manipulating language were shaped by two decades on the staffs of newspapers and magazines. In my first interview for a newspaper job, a managing editor lectured me on the transition I should be prepared for. I could forget all that fancy writing stuff I may have learned in college. I was about to become a reporter serving customers with middle school reading skills and a lot of impatience with nuance.
Bottom line: Get to the friggin point, preferably no later than the second paragraph. So here it is: The broader you try to apply that advice, the worse it makes things.