I was a 5th generation citizen of a very very small town. I mean we're talking the village is about 125 people - not because a "sign" told me so - I COUNTED (And knew them all!) - and my great-great grandfather was one of the first "white" inhabitants - and many of my townspeople are "cousins" of some sort. I now am now a proud Minneapolitan (whew!) and am here to blog about the experience of attempting to recreate the connectivity of my small town in my new urban environment as well as my experiences incorporating into my new reality the exciting, diverse experiences I have encountered along the way. This includes my love and affection for the historic, dense, built form of the urban environement (to me, exotic and wonderful!)
Being from a small town, I'm extremely nosy. I am the stereotype of the small town unleashed on the inner city. Most would think this equates to naivety. That's what I thought - at first. However, I found that I soon knew way more of what the hell was going on than anyone around me! Many urbanites were telling me that I must look the other way - be anonymous - mind yourself. THAT was the way to survive.
THEN I took a look at the results of this philosophy. AND I SAID BULLSHIT! I moved into a neighborhood where people who lived a few houses apart for almost 30 years (and their kids grew up together) didn't know each other. I introduced them. Seems simple? Revolutionary in a neighborhood like this! People hid behind their doors and turned blind eyes because prostitutes, dealers, and crackheads wandered the streets. I said "WHY?!" I can't say it happened overnight. It took me a while to acclimate, but the more and more time went on, I realized that I knew just about everyone around me and NONE of them were involved in drug dealing or prostitution. SO WHY SHOULD WE TOLERATE THIS GOING ON?
And I found that it is a fairly recent urban MPLS phenomenon to "Look the other way." Neighbors tell me that before the drug and prostitution rings took over the neighborhood that an elderly black couple owned my house and sat on the porch every night. AND NO CHILD COULD GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING BECAUSE MR. AND MRS. WRIGHT WERE WATCHING! This "Look the other way" doctine is not really the doctrine of the Big City. It is just that the real lesson of "community" somehow was lost along the way. No big deal. We'll find it. Pick it up. Brush it off. It's still good!! And we'll talk about it here.
This Blog (on the surface) is about the reclamation of a blighted neighborhood. This concerns not only livability issues but also a little too about historic preservation (ours is a historic neighborhood - an asset I believe should be built off of to reconstruct our future). But primarily, This Blog is about the experience and the people.
The decline of the urban neighborhood due to suburbanization movement of the 1960-80's is well documented. But I believe the process of the rebirth we are about to experience (due to the "new" urbanism and "green"movements) will not be recognized and documented until it is very uninteresting to document (as the colorful characters and wild times will have passed). I think it is VERY interesting to document what is here RIGHT NOW. Unless you live in my neighborhood you may not understand. I have almost completely given up watching TV because what is going on right from my front porch is WAY MORE INTERESTING THAN ANYTHING ON TV!!