Sunday, March 26, 2006

(click on image to enlarge that jellow map of....hmmm...what IS that a map of?)
My friend Piltdown Man ( complaing about how the little neighbourhoods in New Orleans were wiped out...that they have now lost so much. The small neighbourhoods which created NOLA Jazz, crab gumbo, blackened catfish... There are blogs from people ( who are IN New Orleans, and their attutude is a little different! Most seem to feel that some of the slums which got wiped out are better off gone. That possibly (horrible thought coming...brace yourself...) that people really didn't want to live there. And that possibly the fine jazz and good food had been replaced by gangsta violence, methamphetamine and crack use, and a crushing poverty.

He felt that the suburbs were soul-less, gasoline hungry carbon copy environments. Hard to argue with that. And gosh knows...when the great gasoline crunch comes, the suburbs will be mighty expensive places to raise your kids! I have always loved the idea of small neighbourhoods, villages in the big city so to speak. I have watched them change character over the years...usually they seem to go upward, but occasionally a nice little neighbourhood goes to hell in a handbasket. Below is the comment I put on Pilt's blog....

There is a perception that any nice little neighbourhood will turn into an isolated devalued introspective ghetto with little warning. Example...I watched a 9th ward resident complaining bitterly about how "those unemployed Vietnamese were coming in, cooking their fish heads and taking jobs away from po blacks." A telling example! So, people move the suburbs where housing prices are always on an upward curve, and it never becomes ghettoized. Example, Toronto's Chinatown. Example, Ottawa's Marconi road (the Italian Quarter if you will). People growing up in these tight little communities don't think of them as particularly dynamic...they think of them as restrictive, insular, run by moustache Pete's and old women who cook cabbage all day. Next thing you know, a couple of Pathans have moved in next door, and its "T'hell wit dis, Marta, we're going to the suburbs. Nice thing about the 'burbs is that it is always the don't get a bunch of "those people" moving in to threaten your daughters. You have a nice yard, a dog, 2.5 children, and the local shopping mall which will act as a surrogate village to raise your kids. How you gonna turn that around?

Thats a fair and valid question. How DO you turn it around? How do you bring the jazz and the blackened catfish back to a neighbourhood full of MacDonalds and Walmarts?


Jennifer said...

Hmmmm. You do a great Italian. We live in the burbs, and it is just as you describe. Manicured lawns, block parties, shopping malls... There are definitely disadvantages, imo, that no one ever seems to think about. Mainly, overpriveleged youth growing up with a sense of entitlement. As an aside, I read recently that the largest demographic of meth users is the suburban soccer mom, and I believe it. All Stepford wives, trying to run kids to soccer, keep a perfect house, host dinner parties, volunteer at church.... how else can they get it all done?

STAG said...

Hard to be super mom. In my family, grandma was around to help raise the kids. In fact, several grandmas were around, allowing mom to bring in the turnips, or run the wicket at the bank. The isolated nuclear family is difficult to create, and maintain. All power to anybody who can!

Ontario Emperor said...

How do you change things? I don't know if you can. As a society, the U.S. and Western Europe are moving toward bigger and bigger stores, and larger and larger chains. In terms of store size, the A&P which displaced a lot of local markets has itself been displaced by the Safeway, which is itself being displaced by the Super Wal-Mart, which will eventually be displaced by something which will make the Super Wal-Mart look friendly and quaint. And franchising is going through the roof, where every single shopping center now has a Starbucks coffee shop, a Quiznos sandwich shop, a Curves fitness shop, and a Calvary Chapel church. (Up your way you can add Tim Hortons to the list, I guess.) Meanwhile, people like me are (at this very moment, in this very comment) interacting with people thousands of miles/kilometers away. Neighborhood/schmeighborhood.

When David Byrne of Talking Heads created the film TRUE STORIES in the 1980s, one of his themes was the idea that the shopping mall is the new downtown.

STAG said...

It takes a village to raise a child.

We really don't work hard enough to make our environment into a village. I think the Simpsons TV show is the role model for the perfect family! Not MY role model, you understand, but it does seem like the lowest common denominator.