What do 6 people standing at a bus stop mean? What to do when everything feels broken.

Thursday was raining, and cold at 50 degrees.  I reached the bus stop just in time to see the driver lurch off after discharging a passenger, even though I was but 2 steps from the curb.  The wind was also blowing, so standing at an angle with umbrella tilted, I waited for the next bus.  Shortly, a group of young women crossed the street to stand at the stop, and a few minutes later, another joined us.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity in the cold and wet, the bus appeared at the top of the hill…slowed down…and then kept right on going.  We all stood with our mouths agape, and I impulsively shouted toward the disappearing tail lights, “What do 6 people standing at a bus stop mean?”

Generally, the buses run every 5 minutes or so, but perhaps the rain had slowed them, or someone had not shown up to work–which is the usual reason for delays as there are fewer buses on that route than normal.  By the time the next bus came, we were a soggy cold mess, and the gay chatter had long stopped.  We boarded, and all sat in silence, grateful for at least not having to stand in the wind and rain any longer.  My feet were wet, my shoes and pants drenched, and I just felt weary.

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There has been a lot of that lately–everything feeling broken.  Things just do not seem to work in a helpful way these days.  I have half-heartedly begun a post a few times, but cannot move past the headline and the sense of not having a story to tell.  That is not to say it is all gloom and doom, because it is not.  There are moments of pleasure and joy, and a reminder that we have the capacity to grow and move forward.  It is oddly ironic that when I reach those spurts of insight and begin to act on cultivation of change that something seems to upend another relationship.  Triangulation in the system–it might not be fatal, but it is always disconcerting and increases the burden.  Like trying to walk in a broken shoe, it shifts our rhythm and lessens movement.

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This morning I was reading about an upcoming workshop for teachers at Tougaloo College.  The purpose is to help teachers in Mississippi learn to develop lesson plans to teach about the Civil Rights Movement, using the SNCC Digital Gateway.  While perusing the website, I found a digitized copy of The Student Voice, volume 1, number 1, June 1960.  It included this:

To Win Racial Justice

  1.  Use active non-violent resistance to evil.
  2. Never seek to defeat or humiliate your opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.
  3. The non-violent resister seeks to defeat the forces of evil, not the persons who happen to be doing evil.
  4. Avoid external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. (Hating the opponent)
  5. Accept suffering without retaliation.
  6. Have confidence that the universe is on the side of justice.
  7. Recognize that the center of non-violence is the love of God operating in the human heart.  Martin Luther King

While reading the news this morning, I kept returning to the second item in the list: win his friendship and understanding.  We as a people, whether at a local level or global level, seem unable to seek to understand each other.  Perhaps we never have been able to do so.  While change may happen on an individual level of transformation,

Transformation of large numbers of individuals does not result in the transformation of communities.  If we continue to invest in individuals as the primary target of change, we will spend our primary energy on this and never fully invest in communities.  In this way, individual transformation comes at the cost of community. (Block, 2008, p. 5, as cited in Soska & Feikema, 2013, p. 518)

Harry Specht described that phenomenon in 1994:  “We will never solve the structural problems of society in the Church of the Individual Repair.”  As I concluded the final class of the semester Thursday afternoon, we discussed the essentials functions of community:

  • Affirms and reproduces meaning
  • Constructs substantive reality
  • Develops morality
  • Fosters communicative action
  • Generates the public sphere  (Weil, Reisch, & Ohmer, 2013, The Handbook of Community Practice)

We generated a discussion of those functions, addressing what can happen when the meaning reproduced or affirmed is not one that is beneficial and nurturing to us as humans.  What happens when the substantive reality constructed is toxic?

I believe that is what Block meant when he said individual transformation comes at the cost of community transformation, and what Specht meant when he said structural problems cannot be solved at the individual level.  It does not mean King’s admonition that we should seek to understand and develop relationship is not relevant, as that “fosters communicative action” so desperately needed amongst us right now.  The creation of a nurturing and sustainable environment is essential in building healthy communities and families, and, it is essential for all of us, not just some of us.

Mission: to develop sustainable life enhancing systems.  (Nancy Mary, 2008)

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Rio, go rest high on that mountain

Tea time with my boy

I have struggled with how to write this post for 2 weeks.  I retired Rio’s gravatar on April 7.  This morning, I resurrected it.  Not seeing him did not lessen the grief, nor does seeing him make it harder.  I think it was more a symbolic tribute for me to retire his gravatar, and just as symbolic to determine to bring it back to his place as the face of Suzassippi.

These past 4 years, caring for Rio has been a profound joy, interspersed with episodes of sadness, like the past 4 years in general.  Rio maintained his grace in the face of profound change.  Dad is maintaining his grace in the face of profound change.  Sis maintains her grace in the face of profound change.  Mom always called me her changeling baby–the one the fairies leave when they steal your real baby.  (Yes, who knew that fairies went around stealing babies?)  I am reminded this moment of Anna Blake’s poem:

If this outlandish prairie, sun-burned and wind-scraped can show up every morning with a torrid definition of what an “earth-tone” looks like,

then claim this life deliberately with garish celebration; be no less than sunrise.

 

Posted in Country Philosophy, Texas | 9 Comments

Shutting down the windmill

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In what has become the new normal, I headed to Texas last week instead of to Biloxi–the carefully laid plans of the past year out the window.  J decided to go with me to help, and while it is rather unlike his nature, the help he provided was greatly welcomed by the household and the neighbors.  For several years, the windmill has squeaked.  It was not all that loud at first–just the kind of gentle creaking one used to living in the country grew up with.  Key point: one used to living in the country.  In an area where “city water” was nonexistent for many years, a functioning windmill was necessary.  Every day after school, my brother and I had to go shut down the windmill (with the brake, attached to the rudder) and remove the worn graphite packing string from the sucker rod, and replace it with new string.  The graphite string acted as a seal around the sucker rod and the valve, preventing water spillage.

Windmill and chickens 2

The windmill has not been necessary for many years in terms of pumping water.  The rods to the well were disconnected, but Dad enjoyed seeing the windmill turn–a scene that is comforting and pleasing to watch.  There is a long story involving that building visible behind the windmill, but keep in mind, the windmill and this pasture land has been here far longer than the business that decided to set up shop in the midst of rural pasture land where cattle, goats, and horses grazed.DSC_0015

In November, I told Sis we had to do something about the windmill squeak, which was noticeably louder–reaching the point of becoming downright annoying.  If you were in the house as they always were, it was not audible.  Out in the pasture or the barn, or doing the painting and repair chores that always fell to me (Sis and I have different skill sets!), it was obviously a nuisance.  The second evening we were there, I went out to feed and J asked “What is that god-awful sound?” Oh, that would be the windmill.

Spring is the windy season in northwest Texas, and it was flag-straight-out wind all week, thus, a never-ending screech.  Tuesday night was the mother of all storms, and for the first time, I could hear the windmill in the front bedroom.  I began looking up windmill repair.  There are certainly enough farmers and ranchers in the area who continue to utilize windmills to pump water for stock that I thought someone surely must be in the business.  They probably exist, but for obvious reasons, do not seem to be listed on the Internet.  Later that morning, I remarked to J that I was trying to find someone to fix the windmill and laughingly said I’d told his dad I needed to get this taken care of before he decided to climb up that tower.  “Too late–I already did it last night.”  In the storm?  In the dark?  “I have a flashlight.”

Windmill

The short lateral bars on the tower leg next to the flag are used to climb up to the platform (long gone) in order to service the windmill.  He had determined the motor, gearbox, and remnants of the brake were all missing or broken, but he had a plan.  It involved physics, and when I expressed concerns, he assured me “Mom, I know not to put my hands or any other body parts into a moving wheel with blades.”  I booted up and we headed over to the corner of the pasture with a lasso, metal hook attached to cables, and bungee cord (I insisted on a safety harness of some type).

The Plan. Securely knot lasso to base of tower, wrap lasso around and through tower, climb up to mid-tower, secure self with bungee cord in the event of loss of footage, wait for the wind to die down and the wheel to stop turning, toss hooks attached to cable secured to lasso through center of wheel and wait for wind to turn the wheel until the hook/cable caught and wound up the rope enough to stop the wheel from turning. Sounds simple right?

It was.  I gained a new revelation about indeed how smart my son is, and how competent he is.  When he began his ascent up the tower, a young woman with a small boy walked from the house across the road to the west and asked, “Are you greasing it or shutting it down?”  Shutting it down.  “Oh, thank you, thank you!”  She stood and watched and when we finished, I walked over to talk to her, and briefly explained about Dad’s failing health in the past three years, and that I had been unaware of how loud the windmill had become until this trip.  I said we were just aiming for a temporary fix until I could find someone to shut it down permanently.  She said her husband could do it, and the next day, over to the house he came.  Turns out, what he really wanted was to buy the windmill and move it to his property–just because he liked looking at it, too.  However, he was very gracious when I said I did not think we would sell it as long as dad is living.  I asked what he would charge to secure it permanently since eventually the rope would give out because of exposure to wind, sun, and rain.  He said nothing, and we walked to the shop to secure a length of chain and a link clip, and I told him when we got ready to sell the windmill, I would let him know.  Actually, I thought later that J had already done the hard work, and at that point, we could have secured it with the chain.

Windmill and Rio

I am sure the entire neighborhood all stopped to scratch their collective heads and ask, “Do you hear that?  I mean, do you not hear that?”

 

 

 

 

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Standard Life Building: The towering Art Deco of 1929

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When I arrived at the historic King Edward Hotel (now known as the Hilton Garden Inn) last Tuesday afternoon, I opened the drapes to check my view, and spied the Standard Life building.  Little did I know at the time where that one photograph would take me, or that the last option I would choose to discover the answers to my confusion would be right back to Preservation in Mississippi‘s E. L. Malvaney.

I started with the newspaper archives, as is my habit these days, because it is just so fascinating to read about history from the perspective of what was just “news” at the time it was written.  The first thing I found was this:

A Century of Progress

A great many people of Jackson have not been financially able to go to Chicago to see the great world show.  The next best thing to seeing A Century of Progress would be to go to the office of the Highway Commission and see the great number of people they have employed.  We understand, when you see this show, if you visit it first in the day time and then visit the same place at night, you will see just as many people on the night shift as you saw on the day shift.

The only surprising thing about it will be that the Standard Life Building is strong enough to hold up as much weight as there is on that floor.

When you enter the building, you might think that Jim Farley had arrived. (The New Deal. Jackson, Mississippi. October 20, 1933, p. 3)

So, who was Jim Farley, and what did he have to do with the Standard Life Building?  I will get back to that later, because this is one of those convoluted trips through time.  Meanwhile, go back to 1929, and the only thing I can find searching Standard Life was that it was the first completed of three skyscraper projects in Jackson in 1929.  According to the Biloxi Daily Herald (Dec. 31, 1929, p. 8), the Standard Life building was open for occupancy, and had “set a world’s record pouring concrete” (Clarion-Ledger, Nov. 17, 1929, p. 32).

Next up, I headed to the MDAH Historic Resources Inventory, and hmmm…there is no Standard Life Building listed in the named list…that seems odd.  I put in a search for Standard Life and it took me to Plaza Building (Standard Life Building, Banker’s Trust Building), a 1929 Art Deco building on Congress Street that did not look like the Standard Life Building and listed the architect as N. W. Overstreet, when I knew it was supposed to be Claude H. Lindsley.  It was also listed as being remodeled 1981, when the Standard Life Building was remodeled in 2010 to convert it to apartments…back to the list.  That took me to Tower Building [Standard Life Building], 1929 Art Deco, and a photograph I recognized, with Claude H. Lindsley as the architect.  Now back to the newspapers, where Tower Building gets a lot of news.

Only now, it is Jackson’s newest Tower Building that breaks the world’s record for the fastest concrete work (Clarion-Ledger, Sept. 10, 1929, p. 10).  Huh?  Greenwood’s Commonwealth (Apr. 9 and 17, 1929) described the Tower Building as  22 stories of reinforced concrete and brick with terra cotta or stone trim, set-backs at 13th, 15th, and 17th floors, Gardner & Howe as structural engineers, and O. M. Grim Construction Company as builders.  Now I did what any self-respecting Mississippian who wanted to know something about an historic Mississippi building would do: I checked the Preservation in Mississippi blog.  Lesson learned: I should have started here.

The Tower Building was the name assigned by newspaper editors when the building did not yet have a name according to MIP‘s E. L. Malvaney (Newspaper Clippings: Jackson’s Art Deco Icon at the Beginning, August 1, 2012).  When the Standard Life Insurance Company relocated from the “new 12-story building” constructed by Plaza Investments into the Tower Building, they changed the name.   The first newspaper reference I find connecting the building with the Standard Life Insurance Company is in 1964 when the Clarion-Ledger noted the the home of the company as Mississippi’s tallest skyscraper and the photograph pictured the former Tower building.

 

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Hotel King Edward

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Suzassippi slept here…

I was in Jackson Tuesday night and Wednesday for Advocacy Day at the Capitol.  I decided to stay at the historic former King Edward, now operated as a Hilton Garden Inn.  Can you believe in that gorgeous lobby with the columns and opulence, I did not take a single photograph?  We were having too much fun in the Bar & Grille, where we spent a little time after the networking event (held at the Parlor Market up the street).

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Grandjean Bridge: New Orleans City Park

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The Grandjean Bridge, named for George Grandjean, park commissioner and designer of the original lagoons, is one of nine bridges built by the WPA in New Orleans City Park.  Constructed in 1938, the bridge is located behind the New Orleans Museum of Art and serves as entrance to the sculpture garden.

It is the only concrete rigid frame bridge among those constructed in the park.  The rigid frame design originated in Europe and began to see use in the US in the 1920s (Mead & Hunt, 2016, Management Plan for Bridges in City Park, New Orleans).  Engineer Richard Koch with George Rice designed 8 of the 9 bridges constructed by the WPA.  Research could not document their involvement with the Grandjean bridge, however.  The concrete rigid frame design was the “last major development in concrete reinforced bridges” and is built by “substructure and superstructure joined in a monolithic, cast-in-place unit” (Mead & Hunt, 2016).

Characteristic defining features of the Grandjean bridge included

…integrated curved wing walls…crowned parapets/railings…beveled pier caps…aesthetic treatment seen in bold font in Art Deco style letters in the concrete endposts…

Posted in Art Deco architecture, Bridges, Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans, Works Progress Administration | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Rain Goddess

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Rain Goddess

Enrique Alférez was the son of a Mexican sculptor.  He came to the United States and studied with sculptor Lorado Taft in Chicago, moving to New Orleans in 1929 (New Orleans City Park).  Alférez’ works are seen throughout City Park and other locations in New Orleans.

 

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McFadden Cabin: New Orleans City Park

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The Works Progress Administration (WPA) is seen in many of the artistic and functional structures of New Orleans’ City Park.  The McFadden Girl Scout Cabin was donated to the park by William McFadden and constructed in the early 1920s, specifically for the Girl Scouts.  Architect Richard Koch and landscape architect William S. Wiedorn designed the Arts and Crafts style cabin (Works Progress Administration in New Orleans City Park, neworleanscitypark.com).  It was “improved by WPA 1935-1936.”

…a simple, one room structure that has great artistic integrity, including scissors roof trusses, stone work, window shutters, clay tile floors. Tucked under large live oak trees with hanging Spanish moss on the City Park lagoon, the girls are transported in time when the shutters and doors are pushed open. (Girl Scouts Louisiana East, gsle.org)

McFadden was born in West Virginia in 1869, and at age 19, began working in the Mackintosh Hemphill Steel Foundry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  By age 40, he was president of the company.  He resigned shortly after due to illness from his lungs having been affected by work in the steel mills and moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, preparing to die.  He did not die, and went on to become a multimillionaire in the oil business of Oklahoma.  In 1920, he married Helen Charlotte Williams Levi of New Orleans, where they lived and constructed the McFadden Mansion.  The mansion and land was sold, becoming both City Park and the Christian Brothers school, and the McFaddens moved to Ft. Worth, Texas, where he lived until his death in 1956.  McFadden apparently had a heart for Girl Scouts as he also funded a private camp for scouts.

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Fountain of the Four Winds

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Enrique Alférez created the Fountain of the Four Winds sculpture and fountain in 1936-1937 for the Shushan Airport–later New Orleans Airport and currently, Lakefront Airport. Alférez served as director of the sculpture program for New Orleans WPA artists (Works Progress Administration), and was also responsible for the bas reliefs in the airport interior.3

The four nude figures stirred controversy in the 1930s; in fact, Alférez is said to have stood guard at night with a rifle in order to protect the sculpture from vandalism.  Ultimately, Eleanor Roosevelt intervened and demanded the sculpture remain as Alférez created it.  All but the North Wind figures are women.  Alférez’ daughter explained that when her father was 12 years old, he joined Pancho Villa’s revolutionary army and gathered wood and water for the women who fed the soldiers and who often joined in the fighting–women who, he said, were the real backbone of the Mexican Revolution. (Fountain of the Four Winds. Retrieved from Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport)

The fountain is in the process of restoration.  To see it in 1938, with water, click the link above and scroll to the photographs at the bottom of the article.

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Posted in Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans, Works Progress Administration | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Flight Over Bali: Xavier Gonzalez

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Xavier Gonzalez is pictured sitting in front of the mural Bali, holding a paint brush.  This mural is missing from those in the former Shushan Airport of New Orleans.  Some evidence exists that it may have been destroyed (either accidentally or intentionally) in efforts to remove it from the wall during the conversion of the airport to a 1960s era nuclear fallout shelter.  As the murals were uncovered during the 2013 restoration, only pieces of this mural were found stuck to the wall.  The murals were attached in a process where the canvas was attached to the wall with adhesive, and it may have been damaged during the attempt to remove it.

When the Royal Netherlands Indies Airways (KNILM) began service from Sydney to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) in 1938, their advertising logan was “dinner in Darwin (Australia), luncheon in Bali, then Batavia for dinner.”  Batavia was the “capital of the Dutch East Indies” during the colonial era.

Airplane passenger service from airlines in the Netherlands and Europe began serving Bali, related to the Singapore-Sydney and Batavia-Sydney routes.  The Fokker (barely visible in the upper right corner of the photograph, was the airplane used in the 1920s and 1930s for this route.  Plans are to recreate the Bali mural from the photograph, and hope that it may yet surface, even if in pieces.

Posted in Louisiana, New Deal Administration, New Orleans | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments