Archive for April, 2006

A Heroine for Planners

Posted in hit bull win steak on April 28, 2006 by samsondoggie

I want to use this space to mourn the passing of someone who helped me decide to change careers. There are not many heroes in the field of urban planning. I have wondered why for a while. What heroes there are tend to be on the margins of the field. They are authors, or iconoclasts. Few work for a county devising zoning regs. One of those authors was Jane Jacobs, who passed away this week. She lived in New York and Toronto. She believed in density, but she argued that everything was best in moderation. She believed in functional cities with a tolerance for messiness. She liked alleys. She thought delivery trucks were the enzyme of skyscrapers. She hated the Vietnam War. She felt the same about our follies in Iraq.

Jane Jacobs never used regression. She never made maps or any kind of regulation. But she put into words the feelings that people had about their favorite places that were otherwise left unsaid. Why is it so pleasing to watch pedestrians? Why is it so lonely driving around at night in a suburb? If it takes a person to commit crime, why do we feel more safe in places with lots of people?

This reminds me about the degree to which planning reflects a belief in the power of environment. Planners see the will of nurture above the ability nature. They think that a person is very much a chameleon, capable of changing depending upon place.


Jury Duty

Posted in hit bull win steak on April 25, 2006 by samsondoggie

Seat three, Adam Rust.
The bailiff pulls a low hinged door open and motions for me to sit in the rear. The judge continues.
“We have decided to excuse three jurors.”
Of course, because one said that she could not convict a 17 year old, another is a Ph.D. in blood pathology, and another said he cannot trust any Durham police officers. The judge tells us that this case could last more than three weeks. I do not doubt the sincerity of these stories. But they could be motivated for alterior reasons.
“Let’s move on,” says the judge.
Good, I think. There were originally 224 jurors. Now I remain among 26. A sign on the wall mocks us: unlawful for occupany of more than 82 persons.
“Does anyone know the defendant?” asks the judge.
“Yes, I do, maybe not personally, but I know him,” says a lady in seat One. “I know him from when he came into the bank at CCB. He was always writing bad checks.”
“I think we will take a recess,” says the judge.
In the jury room, we talk about missing persons in Aruba and if blind people like to go on cruises. But then juror number 8 mentions the big topic on our minds:
“That was Mrs. Too Much Information!”
True on that. Of course, CCB is hardly just any bank. They have quite a record for behavior in the community.
Only 11 of us remain when we return.

“That was untrue, what the lady said before recess,” says Judge Stephens. “Nevertheless, it could bias what you think about the defendant. And because this is such a serious crime, I am going to have to excuse all of you. Now I know that two days is a long time. It is for us, as well, to have to start over.

Birthday Par-tee

Posted in hit bull win steak on April 22, 2006 by samsondoggie

John hosts 11 children and their parents today. We have a bounce house. We have chips. We have salsa. Not too hot. We have napkins. We have it ready to go. Then it rains. Not a little rain. Buckets. Gutters full. Maybe four or five inches in an hour. No problem, just bring all those little feet indoors.

Today John had some intriguing questions:

“Daddy, what did your daddy, named John, ask you about?”

I had to think. I suppose that he asks me something most days, if I listen.

John is perched on his new Tonka bicycle. Red flames and stiff training wheels. The rain has paused. Only paused. More buckets come later.

“He told me to pay attention to what is unsaid, John,” I said. I remembered him as I searched the toolshed for a trowel. Something about craftsman tools, damp air, cement and wd-40. Our shed just seems like his kind of place.

“Daddy, what did he do in the morning?”

This was John’s question all day about me, about Susie, and about Lisa Davidson, who was visiting.

“He used to read a book, the same book, while sitting in his bed. He did it every morning.”

John thought about that.

“Daddy, what is your status?”

I love that.

Get back to work

Posted in hit bull win steak on April 17, 2006 by samsondoggie

This is a lot of mail to have sitting on your desk after a few days out of the office.

%d bloggers like this: