29 March, 2017

place

we spent four days in new orleans, taking in the colourful cacophony that is mardi gras. my second year, mr. monkey's first. i think i'm good now - not with new orleans, heavens no! but with mardi gras. it is fun but it takes a lot out of you, and it seems that i have less and less to get taken out before i am done. it's something that i'm glad i experienced, but it made me miss quietly meandering through the city's neighbourhoods. each time i walk the streets of new orleans, i am struck again with how much i love its uneven sidewalks, its tangled electrical wires, its tiny neighbourhood bars with their hand-painted signs, and the uncontrolled profusion of greenery.

new orleans is enchanting and charming and perfect in its imperfection in a way that our neighbourhood in texas will never be with its almost sterile elegance - each house similar in scale and style to its neighbour, tasteful landscaping, matching brick facades. it's pretty, sure, but it lacks soul, something that i manage to forget pretty successfully until i walk down a living, breathing street any place that feels distinctly like itself: suffused with a sense of its personality, history, vitality and identity. you can master plan a community, you can build a "main street," you can even throw in public art, but unless it is organically nurtured it becomes little else than a stage prop, a faux place, a photo op for the wealthy to pretend they're somewhere real. all you'll have is a pretty face with no soul.

much that is wrong with north america (from an urban planning perspective) comes, in my mind, from a  ubiquitous car-centric placelessness - you could be driving through kansas or winnipeg or tampa, and their outskirts would be indistinguishable from one another. sure, there is a certain safety to it, but it also means that you are always separate from where you are, a passerby, with no voice and no emotional investment. you are in a place with home depot and a walmart and a thousand faceless restaurant chains that will serve you entirely non-challenging food. granted, i live in the nicer end of the beige spectrum (shall we call it snowy cashmere? or translucent silk?) but it is beige nevertheless. i try to focus on the beauty that surrounds me, lest i go mad from the ugliness we keep letting be built around us.

takeaway: go to new orleans!

2 comments:

Zhoen said...

Getting the house was in no small part motivated from a desire to escape beige carpeted apartments.

I'd love to visit NO. Boston has a lot of character, walkable. If only they'd ban all the cars, but then the pedestrians there take a vote when they feel they've waited long enough at a light, and just cross, woe onto any car foolish enough to object.

polish chick said...

it's funny how different cities have different attitudes towards jaywalking. but don't get me started on jaywalking - this is a fairly recent invention to get the annoying pedestrians out of the way. used to be we had the right to walk any which way.