As daily life goes, things have been hectic and heavy around here for the past two weeks. Getting ready for the holidays and for a visit by the Strong Towns team kept the household buzzing, and events in the neighborhood and around the nation have kept us talking about the most serious of issues most of the time. I want to take some time out, though, and thank Chuck Marohn and Jim Kumon for taking the time to come to Springfield and to share their insight and their enthusiasm with us.
Putting this whole thing together started with Jim, so I’ll start with him. Jim is knowledgeable. I mean knowledgeable to the point of intuiting what you are going to ask before you ask and having an insightful answer at the ready. As an example, when my daughters came to live with me post divorce and I needed to look for a larger living space I looked in 4 of the city’s 17 different neighborhoods. Without me ever bringing that up, Jim pointed to a map of the city and said “the problem going forward is that most of these neighborhoods are cut off from the downtown…except for this area and this right up here” and he had just pointed to everyplace I had considered in my home search.
Jim laughs a lot. He enjoys urbanism so much that the tiniest little thing will start him cackling (and it is sort of a cackle): oriel windows in an alleyway, an exposed brick wall, a new Englander complaining about stroad problems, inexpensive pastries. He never tires of talking about cities. Never. I met my match. One last thing, Jim takes every bit of new data and uses it to reevaluate its impact on his previous conclusions. He is both nimble and courageous in that sense.
Charles Marohn is a different sort of character. I made the mistake of mentioning that the Apremont Triangle (The transformation of which will end up becoming the first visible manifestation of the Curbside Chat in Springfield) was named in honor of a Springfield regiment’s participation in the eponymous battle during World War I. Chuck wanted details. But I had just given him all of the details I knew. Luckily I had invited my brother to the post chat get together at Theodore’s and they were able to spend half the night discussing the Great War. Then, first thing the next morning Chuck is coming upstairs bright and early because he wants to get a picture with my stepdaughter LuLu for his little girls at home. He talks with LuLu for the better part of an hour about anything and everything an 8 year old can talk about. He’s thrilled that LuLu’s school is on Mulberry Street…the Mulberry Street. When I interrupt with grownup stuff Chuck is quick to get the conversation back toward LuLu, and recess, and snow days.
Jay Minkarah of Develop Springfield, as Jim Kumon puts it, “gets it”. Watching and listening to the interactions of these three, Jim, Jay, and Chuck, as they walked around the city from the downtown to the South End and back was a great experience. I am an amateur urbanist. As I have so often made clear, I am not a process guy. In the words of Jorge Luis Borges, the mechanism is of no importance to me, but listening to three people who understand how to get things done was amazing. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what should be. With these three there are ideas for how to do it.
The next step, the most important one of course, is the doing. I can’t wait to learn how to be one of those “doers”. I have a feeling, along with Ben and Paige from Develop Springfield, Wilfredo López Jr. and Katie Stebbins will help me get out of my comfort zone. See you at the Apremont Triangle?