Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pinecote Pavilion (part 1)

I recently revisited Pinecote Pavilion - designed by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Fay Jones - located at the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Mississippi. The Arboretum and Pavilion are well worth a visit. More photos tomorrow.

30,000 Reasons for this Blog to Exist

The New American Village Blog just surpassed 30,000 unique visits. Thank you. 30,000 times, thank you for clicking in.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This week's newspaper column: (Read it in the Hattiesburg American.)

What’s in your neighborhood? If you’re lucky, a few locally-owned businesses.

A century ago, before automobiles came on the scene, almost all retail trade took place with small family-owned neighborhood businesses. The alternative? Travel a day or more by train, horse, or shoe leather express to make a purchase. Except for a handful of chain stores like Sears Roebuck, all business was local.

In today’s world, with the freedom of travel that cars and cheap energy affords, there seems to be no end to the proliferation of big box stores hocking everything from books to pet supplies. The Wal-Martification of America has completely changed our buying habits and our landscape.

But consider the neighborhood business; there are still a few of them around. Step through the front door and the first person you see may very well be the proprietor who happens to know you by name, or at least by face.

I’m sure you’re familiar with some of Hattiesburg’s locally-owned businesses like Moore’s Bike Shop, T-bone Records, The New Yokel Market, Coney Island, and Southbound Bagels to name a few. Visit one of these neighborhood “institutions” and you’ll be treated to richness of character, personality, and service that you will not find in big box America.

In contrast to slick building prototypes designed to get “consumers” in and out as fast as possible, the more personable environs of local establishments encourage patrons to linger long enough to have a conversation, visit with friends, and exchange ideas. Thus local artwork circulates on the wall and live or recorded music by area musicians is not uncommon. The neighborhood business is a social and cultural incubator.

Owner-operators have a stake in the community. They are your neighbors and are working hard to improve the local quality of life. They take care of their property, get involved with local issues, and unlike national retailers, profits earned by local businesses recirculate within the community.

And while national retailers construct buildings scaled for cars, neighborhood businesses respond to human proportions. The smaller footprint of a local shop fits beautifully into the fabric of real neighborhoods within walking distance of where people actually live. The horizontal chain store “landscrapers” with their oceanic parking lots are, at best inaccessible and at worst hostile, to the whole idea of livable neighborhoods.

Let’s do a little exercise.

Pick your favorite local business. Think about what the area would look like if that business did not exist. What would be there instead? A run-down shell of a building? A weed-grown lot? And how would your social life change?

Now, do the opposite: Imagine what the landscape would be like if there were many more neighborhood businesses, each with its own unique character. How would that change the physical landscape? And how would that add to the richness of your social life?

So be kind to yourself and support a neighborhood business next time you shop.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day, Earth

photo: NASA

This week's newspaper column: (Read it in the Hattiesburg American.)

It’s easy to take you for granted, but on this special occasion, here are a few words to express gratitude for all you are and all you do.

Where to start? How about at the beginning? Before we were ever alive, you were there, healthy and vital. Born out of the heavens, your beauty is beyond compare. We know a little bit about your past, but mostly, we can only imagine all that happened to shape you before we came along.

Without you, dear Mother Earth, life as we know it would be impossible. Although we sometimes seem oblivious to the obvious, we have you to thank for our very existence. We are grateful that you made a place for us in your world. Our lives began with you.

You were and still are the very definition of natural beauty. Mother Earth, you are complex and multifaceted, and sometimes difficult to understand, but one thing we do understand is that we would be nothing if not for you.

You give us a nurturing home. You provide us, Mother Earth, with the environment we need to grow and thrive. You protect us from the harsh “out there,” so much so that we seldom give it a second thought.

Though we may sleep, you are always there, every hour of every day and night anticipating our every need before we even ask. You give us comfort and all the sustenance we need to survive. Sometimes you make us work for it, but that just teaches us valuable lessons that we, in turn, can pass on to our children.

You are warm, and with your warmth you freely give us exactly what we need to keep on living. And even though you sometimes seem cold, we know that - deep down - your warmth is constant and will reveal itself to us when the time is right.

You’ve been through a lot, Mother Earth – good times and bad. Left to your own devices, you manage quite well. Sometimes though – through callousness or carelessness – we’ve done things that hurt you, and for that we are truly sorry.

Some of the scars we can see, but some are beyond our comprehension. Still, Mother Earth, you have aged so very gracefully. Although you have the amazing capacity to heal yourself, that doesn’t excuse thoughtless behavior on our part.

So dearest Mother Earth, don’t think we don’t care. I know it’s hard sometimes for you to see how much we love you; we often get busy with the comings and goings of our lives and forget to show our appreciation.

So from us to you, from the bottom of our hearts, we love you, Mother Earth.