March 29, 2014, Washington, DC: The city of Miami is itself a work of modern art. Its scale pushes boundaries. Its colors are arresting. Its bold and sculpted subjects ooze style. The other night I watched from a high downtown balcony as someone threw a rainbow of strobe lights against this interactive exhibit to gear up for the weekend’s Ultra Music Festival. The city literally pulsed to the sound of a rave.
In Miami, I instinctively describe the city as an art critic might describe a gallery opening. I begin to study the negative space between shiny buildings, to consider perspective from high above Biscayne Bay, to observe how the shapes and lines that cover this canvas rest on the edges of the Miami River and spread wide over the port and South Beach beyond. I am struck by the contrast of the landscape, by this obsession with the color blue, by the bright white light and the glare and the pushing of the envelope.
Take a walk today and imagine your city as a work of art. What do you see? Who might have painted or sculpted it, and in which museum might it belong?
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February 14, 2014, Washington, DC: I’m continuously inspired by the writers and thinkers who record their observations about the power of place and our changing cities. Two years ago, I posted a list called, ‘Writing About Place: A Reading List’ on my blog, Neighborhood Nomads. I’ve updated it intermittently in the Comments section since, and invite you to comment with your own recommendations today.
Here are some of the words that have crept up since my last update, now added to the running list. They’re long overdue odds and ends, all worth a read on an icy winter day…
April 13, 2013, New York: Early on in high school, my art teacher started taking groups of us on outings known as Saturdays in the City. Every month or two, we’d take a train trip into Manhattan to go to an art exhibit, walk around New York, and head out to lunch. They were easy afternoon trips — in retrospect, a simple way to take advantage of New York for students who lived in a nearby town but weren’t yet ready to navigate a city they didn’t live in on their own. Funny that I hadn’t given much thought to those trips, let alone noticed their presence among many influences that have unconsciously shaped Neighborhood Nomads. Not until this morning, that is, when I woke up and looked out a window onto New York and thought, This is just the type of day that reminds me of Saturdays in the City.
Whichever city we’re in, Saturdays in the City are old hat these days. But isn’t it nice to see them like we used to, full of something fresh and different that we’ve never laid eyes on?
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November 6, 2012, Washington, DC: The second anniversary of our move to Capitol Hill came and went last week in the days preceding today’s election. While I sensed our move to southeast DC was part of a larger trend, I got a better sense of the actual growth of this side of Washington from the information shedding light on Election Day. According to Washington Post District reporter Mike DeBonis, Ward 6 where we live has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of registered voters since four years ago, with 16,000 more of us voting here since 2008. Part of that equation is due to redistricting, but much is due to growth. It’s been such fun to become part of this ever-changing slice of the city, and the list of things we love about it grows longer by the day.
Among the factors to appreciate is the neighborhood’s high level of local, civic engagement, especially given its location in the heart of a major city. Do you enjoy the same sense of participation in your own hometown? If you live in a city, to what extent are you and other residents involved in the neighborhood, and does it matter?
October 21, 2012, New York: I love mornings in New York, especially after arriving here at night and in traffic. In the early morning, Manhattan’s streets are again breathable and streams of sunlight barrel between buildings onto this city island. Runners dodge down near empty avenues while there’s still room. Night owls in pajamas slowly walk their dogs.
I’ve never been much of a night owl, but there was no choice but to become one as a college student here in New York. I’m glad that’s no longer required of me and I can again relish my role as a morning person in the city that never sleeps. It’s the best time to look at New York’s architecture all lit up from the east and see its buildings reflected in puddles before the images are eclipsed by shoes and taxicabs.
September 6, 2012, Washington, DC: Peaches, salsa, oysters, tortillas and more arrived in abundance this summer in our neighborhood on Capitol Hill. While every season in the city brings change, this time most of it revolved around the smell, sight and taste of food. If last summer was our summer of sweets, this summer was our summer of the salty and the savory. Within a four-block radius, our options multiplied, all of them focused on yet another great meal.
August 18, 2012, Washington, DC: The river was remarkably quiet Friday given the stunning weather. The beach volleyball courts between the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center were empty, the splash park in Georgetown enjoyed by only a happy few. The bike trail west along the canal was green and shaded and breezy, noticeably absent the usual hollers from cyclists announcing their presence. No one was in the way.
It is recess in the city and not many people stick around to play.