Archive for October, 2006


My Fabulous Equestrian Life

Does not exist.

Per my usual monday morning, I’m sitting in the back of the classroom, studiously blogging and emailing alongside the other TAs.  However, this monday morning differs from all the others, as my jeans are tucked into my long brown suede boots. 

Jeans in Boots

I think I look good, and I’m certainly trying to be fashionable, but how much is stylish satisfaction muted by feeling just silly for going along with some of these trends?  Why have I spent almost $200 on these boots?  Why are my jeans tucked into them?  Do I ride a horse to school?  Bale hay between classes?  Slop around in a barn before catching the bus to campus?  No, no, and no, and when boots really matter up here, for sloshing around in snow and slush, I would hate to drag these suede puppies through that icy, grayish muck.  So, this is truly an attempt at a fashion statement, and nothing more.

And though I care a lot about looking good, and am willing to spend on clothes, I have an on-going conflict b/w trying to stay stylish with choosing clothes that endure across seasons.  Not in a stuffy Talbot’s or Ann Taylor kind of way, but in via “staples,” e.g., a white button down shirt, good jeans, and some black pieces that can be mixed and matched with a couple new sweaters or shoes each year.  My general policy is that each purchase should last through 2 1/2 seaons, with that third season being the one where I retire the item.  Unlike many women, I HATE purchasing shoes and bags, because they change so often that I think they should be MUCH cheaper than they are, being so much more expensive than a lot of other pieces with which we costume ourselves.  Plus loitering in the shoe department is akin to waiting in line at the post office or airport.  Crowded, tense and irritating. 

Anyway, it’s taken me a year to be willing to go public with this jeans in boots thing, and I can’t help but feel simultaneously glamorous and totally goofy.  Not typically two words you imagine linked together regarding your public appearance.  I’ve mused about this in other capacities before – how to be noticed without being conspicuous?  It ain’t easy being a sensation, whether in riding boots or mini skirts!

(This blog was originally going to be a comment in Wesley’s fashion posts.  Check out his knowledge – he shouldn’t be just my guiding light!)



This post is mostly a balm for Monday morning lethargy and resistance to being back in the office.  I was relatively quiet in the blogosphere last week, due to grading midterms up through Friday at 2pm.  Given my hazy understanding of my readership, I’ll refrain from gossiping too much about the experience.  What’s the appropriate length of time before I can declassify such thoughts? 

And I was gloriously off-line all weekend in NYC.  Another wonderful trip for the M.A.S., though we’re exhausted (and aging more rapidly than ever) after 3 nights of solid drinking.  We’re an impressive duo…is one way to look at it.  In vain resistance to the aging process, I strutted around this afternoon in one of those mini denim skirts much more appropriate for 21 than 31 year olds.  I’ve got the legs for it, but certainly not the comfort level to cruise around MIT campus in such a tiny number.  That’s ok, was nice to be a little arm candy for the afternoon!

Saw some of my Deis girls and their adorable daughters – we had a laugh at realizing the natural progression from being a tattle-tale (which I once was) to blogging.  And attended a baby shower Sat night where the one newborn in attendance was passed around among several moms-to-be who tried to pretend they weren’t practicing for what was to come.  Don’t worry ladies, you’re naturals! 

And now it’s dark at 5pm and my eyes are barely open at what’s really 12:45 am.  It’s going to be a long week of detoxing and needing sleep…Monday morning comes too soon!


“Like a Ton of Bricks”

For those of you following the struggles in New Orleans to save public housing, this is a phenomenal article from New Orlean’s Gambit Weekly detailing the primary “battleground” – the Lafitte housing projects in the 6th ward: structurally sound, dry, geographically desirable, and slated for demolition.  Despite the fact that it’s a) cheaper to renovate, b) easily convertible to temporary worker housing, and c) desperately needed to fill the employment shortages that continue to plague New Orleans.  All this and more is detailed in this piece. 

I attended some of the planning meetings linked with the company Zyscovich cited in this article.  It is true – and poignant and upsetting – that Treme residents talk about the “buildings” when talking about Lafitte.  The buildings themselves are as much a part of the community fabric as the neighbors and families that lived in these projects and neighborhood.  And it’s true that you don’t get much sturdier than this in NOLA.  It’s devastating to think that these buildings might come down.  And it’s confounding when you see them for yourself.  Every visitor I’ve had to New Orleans who sees them is confused all over again about HUD’s claims of the necessity of tearing them down.  It’s marvelous to watch them grapple with the contrast of the project with the notion that they must come down.  The consistency of everyone’s confusion is also righteously satifying, for those of us who are fighting to see these buildings survive.

It is my work in this battle that earned me the unjustified attacks by the housing activist back in August (a litany that continues to this day, btw), and this article covers my colleagues on all “sides” of the debate.  Although, it’s pretty difficult to see battle lines against anyone other than HUD.  Providence and Enterprise know its cheaper and better to keep the buildings than tear them down.  For those wishing to oppose Providence et al., they might redirect their energies at HUD and this Administration’s assault on the urban poor. 

You know, when the state redeveloped the West Broadway (“D Street”) projects here in South Boston, the tenants – including my aunt and cousins – lived in the projects throughout, as building by building was renovated.  There is no justifiable reason a similar situation could not be reached with Lafitte.  I wish you could see for yourselves, because it’s hard to present this case here when it seems so politically ideological versus what is best and most effective for residents, the neighborhood, city and economy. 


It Never Ends

On a recent post here regarding the fifth anniversary of September 11, Wesley commented movingly on how he processes his grief and tries to make sense of the disaster in his life.  Obviously, this is a highly varied and personal process for Americans, and for many, it is a journey that is nowhere near close to over, one that will never really end.** 

And now, no matter the emotional or geopolitical “progress” we’ve made so far, the discovery of human remains at Ground Zero is another painful reminder of all we lost on that day, as New Yorkers, Americans, and cosmopolitan citizens of the world (the latter category being the latest concept we’re debating in my comparative urban politics class).   It’s unbelievable that as we watch the powers that be jockey for control of rebuilding the still empty site, listen to Nagin compete for national attention with Ground Zero to rebuild his own city, and argue the merits of how (not to mention whether) to rebuild these sites, we’ve almost missed that more than 40% of World Trade Center victims have never been identified.  Meanwhile, bodies in New Orleans continued to wash up through the summer.  More than 4,000 victims lost between the two disasters, and likely only half of those identified, claimed and laid to rest in some way by their loved ones. 

This, more than any other snapshot of our post-9/11 and post-Katrina world(s), symbolizes how these disasters permanently rupture our lives.  When people wonder about the progress made in either New York or the Gulf, what I hope they’re asking is how we’re doing building a new emotional, social and physical landscape that captures some of our surviving past, and incorporates that history into a different life and place for the future.  Progress is not rebuilding what was lost; that’s virtually impossible (though Varsovians made the best attempt at this in rebuilding Warsaw after WWII).  Progress is appropriately memorializing that loss in a new world. 

And this is a life-long project, for individuals personally, and for those of us who work to breathe new life into cities irrevocably damaged by disasters.

I learned this lesson of perpetuity in two ways, personally and professionally.  When I broke my back in 2000, cliff-jumping at Rick’s Cafe in Jamaica, I narrowly missed paralysis from my thoughtless antics as just another tourist on Spring Break.  A random, unplanned act that forever altered my life and my outlook.  I can feel myself tightening up inside just thinking about it.  Then almost 18 months later to the day, the world underwent a similar brutal lesson, when those planes struck the Towers (then the Pentagon, and finally crashing in that Pennsylvanian field).  By coincidence, I began a new job on September 17, 2001, and spent the first two months or so working directly on designing a 9/11 response program.  Eventually I was transferred into our Community Economic Development group and spent the next ten months working in Memphis, Miami, and Houston, but not Lower Manhattan. 

In August 2002, I was re-assigned to our Lower Manhattan initiative, a program I helped launch back in October 2001.  It would formally conclude in May 2004, but essentially just morphed into a new scope of services under a different name downtown.  When I came back to the Lower Manhattan group in 2002, it was as if I’d never left.  Sure, I’d miss 10 months of operational development and initial recovery activity downtown, but the vast impact of the disaster downtown, city-wide, nationally and internationally, left more than enough room for me to jump right in and carve out a role in our work and our place in the community downtown.  I worked downtown through January 2004 before leaving New York.  I continue to follow the progress of rebuilding, for formal research purposes and for personal interest.  This work, as I evidence in references to friends like Jake as those with whom I was in the Lower Manhattan “trenches,” will forever be with me.  Just like the titanium rods in my spine, and my new fear of heights. 

This is how I comfort myself when I get restless and frustrated that I have not been to New Orleans in almost two months (since the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina).  Everyday I think about when I’ll be back, in what capacity, and for how long.  I had been planning to move there next year, and that option remains in play.  But in what role is increasingly a mystery, as my work affiliated with MIT wraps up and I make no efforts to extend most of it.  I feel confident that the work is so immense and the need is so great, that there exists some piece to which I can contribute.  But I have more flexibility than when I worked downtown, and thus my options are also much more tenuous.  But what’s reassuring to me (and simultaneously so upsetting) is how the work to be done in New Orleans is a permanent part of its future. 

So while I shudder, like the rest of you, at the thought of bones being pulled from New York City manholes, five years later, I also secretly hope that this gruesome evidence reminds us all of the need for our long-term commitment to rehabilitating these cities we love, share, or at least, own collectively as a nation.  When you query about “progress” in New York or New Orleans, remember that survivors and practitioners in both cities are struggling with visions of their futures as much as they’re putting up buildings or restoring homes.   At a minimum, your on-going debate on the hows and means to recover these two sites is your contribution to this work. 


**(It is this sense of a life-altering new world set in motion for most of us that clashes most strongly with the government’s rhetoric of a “war on terrorism.”  Rather than having any end in sight, or defined battle ground, like the Civil War, Korean War, WWII, etc. this one must define a new epoch, like the Cold War, the war on drugs, poverty, etc.  Doesn’t sound promising, people, since I think we’re still “fighting” all those pathologies too.  Ok, maybe we got the Commies, though not from what I can tell based on the New Orleans activists I routinely bump up against.)


Latest Rant

It’s nothin’ but politics this week here at The Redstar Perspective.  (Ok, so I did blather on for a bit about one of my other favorite subjects, drinkin’!) 

Make me happy and check out my latest at Foresight.  Though I voted for neither in the primaries, I’ve become absolutely fired up about Healey’s shenanigans against Deval Patrick in Massachusetts’s governor’s race. 

Not that he needs my tangential rant.  At the latest debate b/w the candidates last night, he told her to “get off her high horse.”  She looked like she’d punch him in the face if a) they weren’t on stage, and b) she wasn’t trying to pretend she was a lady. 

Welcome to Massachusetts, where the M Stands for Shut the Fuck Up.



My Hip Mom

She’s small but compelling, a woman at ease with folks from the streets (“my people” she calls the indigent and mentally ill of Boston, Newark, Hartford and elsewhere), a fan of wearing her collar up, or vibrant and artful styles from Chico’s.  From Franklin Hill in Mattapan to the shore of the Long Island Sound in Connecticut, she’s show me a lot and lived a variety of experiences. 

Now, it seems, we should all be paying attention to her and her neighbors in her adopted home in Connecticut. 

“Political observers and party activists alike view the sprawling 2nd District as a bellwether for the nation,” in the dead heat race for the 2nd U.S. congressional district. 

As you probably can imagine, my mom and stepdad’s yard is crowded with Courtney signs.  Consider this the unofficial Redstar endorsement. 


Workers of the World, Unite!

This story arrived in my in-box just as I’m preparing for a meeting to discuss 5 books on Marxism that I’ve consumed in the last week.  I was feeling pretty skeptical until now…of course, Marxists are only now catching on to the importance of shared culture and other attributes, as this collection of Latino/a workers emphasizes.

As for the child care issue (re: the revolving hours), don’t even get me started.  My mother was just recounting the other day how she had to take me to her sister’s in Boston when we lived in New Jersey and I came down with the chicken pox, because she couldn’t miss work.  That’s one of the longer treks I’ve heard for emergency child care!