31 May, 2007


I am back in the city. The city, the CITY, the Fabled Urbs in Horto. It's easy to make these things seem overly dramatic when really they aren't (see above). I'm here. I'm not there. Life continues onward. I flew back to Chicago yesterday afternoon. Stepping off of the jetway was such an exhilarating experience. I must have flown through the airport. Again, not the biggest of deals, but it meant a lot at the time. What has scared me all along is the knowledge that eventually I will hate waking up in this crazy apartment with this crazy commute in the rain when I can't afford coffee. It's almost like I am steeling myself against the idealistically rosy picture, defending my heart from becoming too set on this happy-go-lucky simple place.

I had the chance to spend some time surveying parts of the neighborhood south of me with Mikkele. The evening gave the trees and pretty lawns (That's right...beautiful lawns in Lawndale) a glowing freshness. There were families everywhere, children amok, cars and ice cream trucks constantly underfoot. The look and feel of the place is distinctive yet familiar. No barefoot running here. Stay inside at night. The place has this wonderful energy, an abundance of stimuli. There is also a wonderfully constant thrill of possibly being incinerated at any time by a passing (illegal) firework. In Pasadena, you remember, we found out in a city council meeting that everyone was able to purchase the perpetual fireworks out of rogue ice cream trucks. After talking to my upstairs neighbor Charlotte, it turns out that there are 3 houses on the block that purchase vans full of these things from Indiana and sell them to small children who apparently like to aim them at her front porch, especially while she is occupying it.

21 May, 2007


Asphalt is the ubiquitous urban surface. It is made up of residues from the distillation processes of several crude oils and must be transported in a heated state before pouring. According to the EPA and NAPA (National Asphalt Paving Association) asphalt is the most-recycled commodity in the US by tonnage and percentage. Re-using broken and removed asphalt is standard industry procedure. Nearly 80% of asphalt that is removed for resurfacing and widening projects is reused (reclaimed).

2 days ago, I had a very personal encounter with asphalt. The introductions were facilitated by my sister's mountain bike, a speed bump and a concurrent pothole. The asphalt, always the gentle host, insisted that I improve my image with a memento of our meeting. We deliberated and with my two arbitrating friends Gravity and Friction we decided upon 8 stitches to the bottom of my chin. I voluntarily decided to leave patches of skin from both elbows and knees with the pavement in a show of good faith. I am of the opinion that the bicycle didn't need to go so far out of its way to introduce us in that afterwards it ended up in a rather socially convoluted position.

Asphalt covers much of the urban landscape, capping the soil and keeping plants at bay. Nevertheless, stubborn greenery manages to work its way through small cracks and weak points. Perhaps, un-reclaimed, in fifty years my fall might have been more pleasant. As it stands, I am grateful that the pavement wasn't more broken because of the higher percentage of gravel that would have been scrubbed from my poor palms.

The ER was buzzing on a Saturday Night with a local shooting. I managed to finagle my speedy way out of the waiting area by conveniently bleeding on the floor. After hearing a number of other ER experiences, I find the best way to minimize your wait is to bleed, complain of great pain, breathe quickly and constantly find a need to sit down. Overall, I felt very thankful for my father's insurance and the general state of health care in my city. However, the city could make things easier for itself if it decided to stop paving roads. Less asphalt would mean fewer injuries for bikers.

17 May, 2007


I love cities; they are concentrations of people, their ideas, their plans and accomplishments. The city is a distillery of society and history, a place where flavors of time and space commingle and ferment. The connections to the past in a city are so much more potent due to the public nature of the space. Some people feel inundated by what appears to be an overabundance of stimuli particularly during excursions from the suburb. I argue that these visual elements run parallel to more familiar elements of the suburb or country neighborhood. When approached as normative elements, to be appreciated like a reclusive transcendentalist, this alteration of perception brings about a new way of approaching order, decoration and decorum in the city. In short, given time and an honest interaction with the space, an awareness of the urban aesthetic begins to appear. It is this aesthetic, its germinations, experiences and manifestations that primarily concern me in this virtual space.

Or, how do nature-lovers learn to appreciate the charms and beauty of the city?
What lessons does the urban aesthetic have to teach the world?
From whence does this pattern of beauty originate?
Why does this connect with the deepest roots of the Christian Life?