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A Weekend of Projects: Large and Small

A great weekend, even if the temperature dropped 30 degrees. K and I managed to get a lot accomplished and still have time to watch Young Frankenstein.

On the large project front, we are taking the next big stab at the back yard which involves busting up the concrete slab where a lean-to shed used to sit. Been a while since we had a reason to pull the sledge hammer out of the attic so we made the most of it.

busting up the old concrete in back yard

And for a project of a much smaller scale, I took some time on Saturday to work on a guitar pick. Talking with John Rankin the other night about my tendency to drop my pick during complex rhythm playing, he suggesting several modifications to my right hand technique as well as some mods I could try on my picks themselves. These included gluing sandpaper to the pick, getting some grip tape for the picks (taking me back to my skateboarding days), and drilling holes in the pick to increase its friction.

I opted to try drilling holes in the pick as well as easing the upper and lower edges of the pick just a bit with some sandpaper to assist the pick in crossing the strings. Results so far are promising.

guitar-pick-modified

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St. Claude Ave. Bike Lane — Maiden Voyage

As my neighbor Sara put it, just when you completely give up on the city of New Orleans they go and do something cool.

I couldn’t believe it when they first began striping St. Claude Avenue for bike lanes. I still recall a conversation with the Department of Public Works when they said “We don’t want to put bike lanes on the streets because then if someone gets hit the city will get sued.” Never mind that the absence of action has rarely protected anyone from a frivolous law suit.

So when the paint when down and the lane was official, I decided to take a ride and return my overdue book to the Alvar branch of the library. It was a beautiful day and it turned out I was not the only one taking advantage of the new lanes.

Greg Schatz on St. Claude Ave. Bike Lane

If I’m not mistaken, that is “Greg Schatz”:http://www.schatzymusic.com/ in front of me enjoying the ride down St. Claude.

So congratulations to the city, to the Metro Bike Coalition, to the Regional Planning Commission, and to anyone else who had a hand in making this happen! Great work everyone.

And if anyone wants to attend the Official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, it will be tomorrow at 10:30 am outside the Universal Furniture building (“view google map”:http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=universal+furniture+saint+claude+avenue+new+orleans+&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=56.506174,108.105469&ie=UTF8&ll=29.968394,-90.050597&spn=0.030597,0.052786&z=15&iwloc=A ). Below is the official announcement from the “Metro Bike Coalition”:http://www.metrobicyclecoalition.org/ :

St. Claude Bike Lane Ribbon Cutting

Tuesday, May 20 – 10:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m.
You are cordially invited to attend a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to open the first designated bike lane in New Orleans! It will be held outside the Healing Center/Universal Furniture Building, at the corner of St. Roch and St. Claude

We hope that MBC members and friends can attend with their bikes, to show our enthusiasm for bike lanes and to be available to ride the lanes for media coverage. The Regional Planning Commission strongly encourages that bicyclists wear helmets and have back reflectors, so that coverage of the lane openings can also share a safety message with the wider community.

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Democracy Not Dynasty

geoff coats wearing the democracy not dynasty t-shirt

I first became eligible to vote in 1984. That means that there has been a Bush or Clinton in the White House or the Vice-President’s mansion my entire voting life.

And its not like things have been getting better with each passing year: no need to rehash all the grim statistics related to the decimation of the middle class, the wealth transfer to the haves and the have mores, the War on Drugs morphing seamlessly into the War on Terror, etc. etc. etc.

I can’t take it anymore.

It is just a small voice of protest, but I teamed up with my friends at Dirty Coast to produce this shirt. If you like the message, you can purchase them at the Dirty Coast store on Magazine Street next to the Whole Foods. Or, they will be available on-line at dirtycoast.com very soon.

UPDATE: Here is the link to buy them online: http://dirtycoast.com/product_view.php?id=107

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Disconnecting South Louisiana

In the religion of Asphalt, Interstate Highways connect people and communities. Observation — as opposed to faith — quickly reveals the lie beneath the ideology.

The Festivals Acadiens in Lafayette drew a bunch of us out to cajun country this past weekend. The weather, the festival, the friends, the music and the food were each one better than the next. I hope to write something about the festival in a later post.

Right now it is the drive back that preoccupies my thoughts.

We traveled out from New Orleans and back home via Highway 90 — or as many signs along the route proclaim: The future Interstate 49.

As Americans, we often travel by Interstate. Occasionally, we travel by state highway. Rarely do we get to traverse the odd and thought-provoking landscape that is a way of life in transition.

Much of Highway 90 remains a rural four-lane, heavy-use corridor. This itself is a rather recent and robust upgrade from the days of two-lane state highways. Nevertheless, these state highways continue to act in many ways as connectors between the cities, towns, and villages that make up rural America.

Several features of these older state highways are worth drawing attention to.

First, they exist in the same general plane as the surrounding landscape. That is to say, when traveling on one of these roads, you feel a connection to the surrounding farm fields, industrial pipe suppliers, roadhouses, antique shops, etc.

Related to the above, existing rural highways engage the communities through which they pass. True, these state highways often bypassed the old downtowns in a first step of de-connecting communities in a misguided reification of speed and efficiency. But Highway 90 still has the occasional stop light. Perpendicular streets intersect the highway — often with the cross traffic having a stop sign. And every so often the speed limit drops as you pass though a community.

The existing rural highways also allow for left turns. While this is considered sub-optimal for people trying to go from Jacksonville, Florida to Houston, Texas, people living in rural communities understand the importance of being able to hop on the state highway and turn left into the store, or to get to your uncle’s house on the other side of the highway.

But progress is coming to South Louisiana.

As Highway 90 morphs into Interstate 49, the totalizing infrastructure of Interstate Land must be created; no deviation can be allowed. No longer can a store, restaurant, or gas station sit at a corner. Traffic must enter and exit the roadway via on-ramps and off-ramps. Stores, restaurants, and gas stations must be pushed back to create the generic landscape of Mobile-BP-Chevron-Taco-Bell-KFC-Cracker-Barrels.

Wherever a road crosses the future Interstate 49, either the road must be severed (and traffic routed a mile or two up the way to a proper clover leaf), or I-49 must be raised into the air so that Interstate traffic won’t be slowed.

One intersection at a time, inexorably, a highway that connects people is converted into a speedway that divides people, bleeds dry local stores and restaurants, and spurs the growth of national chains. The cancer of Generica finds fertile ground and metastasizes.

The road disconnects itself from the surrounding community interchange by interchange, bridge by bridge.

Finally, when it is so disconnected from the community that it is seen only as an ugly noise-producing nuisance, the community demands that walls be erected to protect itself from the ugliness. Houses two hundred feet away from each other stand divided by 15 foot high walls surrounding an elevated expressway upon which traffic moves at 50 mph (or 3 mph depending upon the time of day).

Welcome to Metairie, Louisiana.

Welcome to the future I-49 corridor.

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Two Takes on Stolen

Relying on memory to show a friend the cool site stolen, I got it wrong and ended up at perhaps the funniest site I have yet encountered on the web: stolen.com. I am probably revealing a bit too much about my sense of humor with this one. So far, no one else seems to think this rises to the level of brilliance that I attribute to it.

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