Vallejo’s Story: A New Breath for Roshanda’s Hometown


Photo Credit: Roshanda Cummings

This is one in a series featuring cities, neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

January 23, 2013, Washington, DC: “The stigma hangs.”

That’s how Roshanda Cummings described her hometown of Vallejo, California when she first wrote me about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads. She described a city that struggles to project a positive image despite having a lot going for it, despite triumphantly exiting bankruptcy in 2011. She shared links to a project she’s been working on called It was beautiful — the landscape, her photos, her words, all of it.


Photo Credit: Roshanda Cummings

When Roshanda and I talked a few days later, the story of the hometown that she grew up in and later returned to quite by accident took on a more meaningful shape. Roshanda never intended to go back, but since her return, she envisions greatness for Vallejo’s future.

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Neighborhood Nomad: Stuart of Broad Ripple

Justin Vining

Photo Credit: Justin Vining

This is one in a series featuring neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

January 12, 2013, Washington, DC: “It’s all cyclical, right?” Indianapolis resident Stuart Drake and I are talking about how our choices concerning where to live often mimic those faced by our parents. Stuart’s friends and family constantly ask him when he, his wife, toddler and dog will leave the city and move to the suburbs. And Stuart and his family very well might. But Stuart also feels a tremendous pull towards his urban neighborhood of Broad Ripple– the very same neighborhood in which Stuart’s parents asked themselves these questions decades ago before packing their bags.

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On Common Ground: Nomads and Neighbors of 2013


December 30, 2013, Washington, DC: What do the people interviewed this year on Neighborhood Nomads have in common? They share an admirable commitment to their homes, neighborhoods and cities, and use their professions as a springboard from which to connect to their communities. This year, I interviewed several formidable nomads and neighbors whose work has enabled them to plug into their surroundings. Whether architects, writers, artists or other creative and engaging professionals, they reflect on their environs close to home and close to their hearts, and it was a pleasure to learn from them on Neighborhood Nomads.

Follow the links to their stories below:

From Bozeman, Montana… Backcountry Lessons in Living
An interview with Campbell Gerrish of sustainable housing company Yeshaus

“We take impressions from our surroundings. It makes a difference for me to live in a space that reflects how I want to be.”

From Detroit, Michigan… Thoughts on a Struggling City
An interview with author Kerri Schlottmann

“I wanted to engage with the city as a backdrop. The parts about Detroit that are in the novel are very much personal to me, just the way that the characters process the city.”

From Washington DC… Documenting Chinatown
An interview with filmmaker Yi Chen

“I feel more connected to the Chinese American community, to the larger Asian American community in DC. That was something I didn’t expect, but that came out of [the project]. It’s a sense of finding my own community in the city that I didn’t have before.”

From the streets of our neighborhoods… Gaia’s Artistic Contributions
An interview with mural artist Gaia

“My favorite place to work in is Baltimore because there is a freedom that exists in that city’s streets.”

From Washington, DC… A Tour Guide’s Outlook
An interview with historian and tour guide Canden Schwantes

“I love the city and I love the country and I love the suburbs. Ideally, I’d want to live in a Civil War-era Main Street town that has an awesome plantation, but also has a Metro stop.”

From Phnom Penh, Cambodia… Settling In Abroad
An interview with expat Bill 

“Right away I was amazed at how easy it is to live in Phnom Penh as an expat.”

From New York… Designing the Third Place
An interview with architects Tim and Robert

“The design is industrial which is appropriate in the neighborhood, especially given its unique history and evolution, which — almost remarkably — hasn’t been built up by developers.”

Do you love where you live? Would you like to be featured on Neighborhood Nomads? Click here for more information about participating.

Related Posts on Neighborhood Nomads:

Living in Detroit: Kerri’s Thoughts on a Struggling City

Detroit graffiti

Photo Credit: Kerri Schlottman

This is one in a series featuring our cities and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

July 26, 2013: There’s one Detroit memory in particular that novelist Kerri Schlottman recalls after all these years. Her childhood recollections of the parade at Hudson’s department store or a visit to the museum aren’t particularly clear. But growing up in Detroit’s suburbs in the late 70s and early 80s, Kerri saw the streetscape change dramatically en route to occasional family outings downtown. Of all things, the car ride into the city sticks with her.

“Most of my memories are of looking out the car window, driving down Woodward Avenue,” Kerri told me this weekend. “You’d go from these nice, well-manicured suburbs to seeing burned-out buildings, windows smashed out, graffiti. This was the mid 80s; the city had been in decline for quite awhile at this point. It was always so intriguing to me. I did not understand what happened and no one talked about it.”

“These memories are stronger than my memories of the events we were actually going to,” she said. “I just remember thinking, ‘What happened here?’”

It is a question those who care about Detroit continue to examine on the heels of the city’s declaration of bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. I’ve found the story of Detroit compelling as I consider the lifecycle of place, but I’ve been curious to hear more personal stories from people who feel a connection to the city. Beyond the financials, what does Detroit mean to the people who love it?

Kerri gave us one perspective. Read on for snippets of her conversation with Neighborhood Nomads.

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Gaia’s New Mural on Barracks Row

Gaia mural, Barracks Row, Washington, DC, May 2013

This is one in a series featuring our city neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

May 7, 2013, Washington, DC: Talented street artists Gaia and Nanook recently completed this massive mural on the side of a building in my neighborhood on Barracks Row. The newly opened Persian restaurant Tash and Asian restaurant Nooshi now feature this image of a woman with fish and fishing boats flowing into her hair, a piece as vibrant as city life itself on this DC main street. Because not many people experience their surroundings like this — from atop a ladder, creating large-scale art that the neighbors will see everyday, I suspected 24-year old Gaia might have a unique perspective to share with Neighborhood Nomads. When he replied that, “The fish were a delight to massage into the wall,” those suspicions were confirmed.

Read on for more from this artistic neighborhood nomad…

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Living on Capitol Hill: A Tour Guide’s True DC

impromptu block party, northeast dc

Photo Credit: Canden Schwantes

This is one in a series featuring our city neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

April 24, 2013, Washington, DC: Washington tour guide Canden Schwantes is living proof that Capitol Hill is not all senators, congressman and politicos. She may spend her days telling stories of great American history on the National Mall, but at the end of the day, she returns home to a neighborhood on the northeast side of the city where the narrative is very much happening in the present day. It’s a place where grills and guitars are dragged out onto the sidewalk for impromptu block parties, where children publish their poetry and adults make music.

Canden is at home among many creative types who live just off the H Street corridor of Capitol Hill; in addition to being a tour guide, she’s also a writer whose first book, “Wicked Georgetown: Scoundrels, Sinner and Spies” is due out next month. I first heard about her when I learned of Literary Hill BookFest, a neighborhood festival coming up May 5th at Eastern Market, where Canden will be debuting her work. Right away, I thought the local authors featured at the festival might make for good additions to Neighborhood Nomads — not only because they’re my neighbors, but because they’re people who know a thing or two about the role a strong setting can play in telling a good story.

Read on for an interview with Canden Schwantes about the neighborhoods of Washington, both past and present.

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Miles from Monday: Expat Living in Phnom Penh

Phnom Pehn

Photo Credit: Bill Gallery

This is one in a series of interviews about the world’s neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

March 11, 2013, Washington, DC: As someone constantly on the move, it’s strange to suddenly be the member of the family staying put. In the last year or so, several of my relatives have packed up their belongings and made a new place home, including my brother-in-law Bill. Bill and his fiancé, Laura are nomads who met in Kabul, Afghanistan working in the field of international development, and they’ve been eager to live abroad together — albeit somewhere a bit safer — ever since. In Bill’s words, their reasons for doing so were “partly for the professional experience and partly to get away from the bureaucratic malaise that comes from working in a home office for too long — and maybe partly to prove that we could.”

Southeast Asia appealed immediately, and Laura was recently transferred for work to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They moved overseas just after Christmas and promised a Neighborhoods Nomads update in expat living once they settled in.

Read on for Bill’s reflections on life in Phnom Penh.

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