Friday, November 30, 2007

Caution: weird interweaving of thoughts here...

I saw this today. I also saw bayoustjohn's (not BayouStJohnDavid, as I've recently been informed) comments on it. Scroll down a little.

Sometimes, I get so full of the contents of a good, good book that I see things through its prism for a while. I hunt down all kinds of things pertaining to that book. In the case of the book I'm talking about, I've been looking at most everything recently with ideas in my head concerning salvage of the work of our hands. What is worth saving? What is clearly not in that category? Why in hell are we designing things that are destined to fail, stuff that seems to be headed for dead almost as soon as we create it? Are we accelerating that process? Is it in our best interests to do so, really?

I think about these things knowing full well that I am going right back into working with a material that has the reputation of being frighteningly fragile, depending on how it is used. And yet, glass is all around us, in our windows, our cooking and eating receptacles, on our cars, our TV screens and monitors. It's what we make of it. And what I've seen of it for many years before taking the time out to be full-time mom is still enthralling to me. I still dream about it. I still think about it a great deal. And I'm sure I still have a good amount of raw glass in my veins. Silicosis, anyone?

I'd be interested in what Jeff Byles has to say about the state of New Orleans. In his book Rubble, he comments on the experiment of "urban erasure"* that is the city of Detroit. If anybody wants to talk about blatant man-made disasters, there's one right there that can't be smoke-screened by the whole idea of flooding and storms as primary forces at fault for the devastation of an urban landscape. Industry and manufacturing bade Detroit good-bye a good while ago, contributing to drastic population decreases, surges in crime of all sorts and the creation of wonderful events such as Devil's Night to highlight the massive numbers of abandoned and blighted properties all over the city. Demolition of those properties is a problem that has plagued city government there ever since. Detroit's City Planning Commission had prepared a report in the 1990's calling for "a revolutionary program of urban nonrenewal."* Byles talks of how Detroit could have looked to New York City for a possible model of returning neighborhoods back to their natural states, and this is where BSJ's comments on the Times-Pic article struck a chord with me.:

Byles: "The stretches of empty blocks may then be knocked down, services can be stopped, subway stations closed, and the land left to lie fallow until a change in economic and demographic assumptions makes the land useful once again." It was strong medicine for an American dream obsessed with building up and growing ever bigger..."I surely cannot underestimate the fears engendered by this notion of growing smaller in a social milieu in which growing bigger has been the hope of those who have not had a fair share."*

BSJ (from the T-P article comments): For those of you feeling nostalgic for the projects save one building on each site. Erect a sign on the fence around it that says. "This is how we economically and socially isolated our poor people at the end of the 20th Century. In a town where economic advancement is often built on personal connections we made sure they didn't know anyone who had a job who could tell them how to get a job. We ensured that they remained so dependent upon government assistance, that they came to feel so at home in their government sponsored ghettos, that they were afraid to integrate with the larger community until they were forced to by the closing of these projects." Put that on the signs outside when you are feeling nostalgic about the projects.

These days, we are not only downsizing a tangible, brick, steel, wood, and/or concrete edifice when we knock down a building. We are downsizing lives. Make no mistake: I don't think the projects have worked. This massive list of imploded projects all over this country and, indeed, the world, ought to attest to my thought as well. Nothing says "this experiment in low-income housing failed abominably" better than the experiment's demolition by wrecking ball or strategically-placed dynamite charges. I just don't see much that is being done to find a new way to house people who are trying with every bone in their bodies to "grow bigger". I see much, much more being done to squeeze blood out of turnips. I still see people in the streets trying to do the best they damn can and still be unable to have a solid roof over their heads.

Like glass, we are all a fragile bunch. Some more than others. I just get to wondering what it takes to get more empathy and less entropy in this world. Discussions such as this are helpful and constitute steps in the right direction. What must be emphasized is that one's journey is never just a couple of steps. It is never easy. It can be sharp and smooth, it can break you or cause you to bounce back, renewed and ready for more.

I am heartened by the people who are doing their best with all of this. All I can do right now is remake a rusty old shed into a teensy studio to reconstitute broken pieces of glass into something of beauty. What is so wrong with giving more people a chance to figure out what they really want to do with themselves, to grow, to change, to move onward wherever they choose and however they choose?

It seems that that has become one of the biggest threats to "homeland security" ever, when it is really the other way around.


*from Jeff Byles' Rubble:Unearthing The History Of Demolition

5 comments:

bayoustjohndavid said...

That's not me.

Leigh C. said...

Huh. Coulda sworn it was you! maybe there's a NOLA blogger quiz, similar to the Peanuts quiz, that nola.com commenters have been taking before they post their comments...

New Orleans News Ladder said...

Hey Leigh,
nice piece, one peace at a time.
I did a respond-o-comment on the Ladder about that glass work, and then just typed a link to Studio Inferno's "tripod" site. If you click the pic it will go to another place to get their wares. I always try to link the pictures too, sometimes to subject sometimes not...but always somewhere.

bayoustjohndavid said...

I didn't have time to write anything more, but I've noticed him (or her) in those forums before. I think there might be another similar name on those forums as well. I recently saw the other BSJ (or somebody else with a similar moniker -bayoudavid?) make a comment that bothered me because it sounded almost, but not quite, like something I'd write. Can't remember what it was exactly, but I do remember that 80-90% of it was something I'd have written, but i really didn't like the other 10-20%.

Leigh C. said...

Too bad there's not a Creative Commons license for post comment expressions. Which reminds me - I need to get one for this here blog. I'd suggest you get one, too, David, if'n you haven't already...