Archives for posts with tag: suburbs

We agree.  Let’s go see.

First, lunch.  The Hardee’s drive-thru near our office.  Charbroiled chicken sandwiches.  Neal’s driving so I get to eat mine first.  Neal wanted to try the jalapeno something-somethings, which look something like batter dipped french fries.  I try one.  Neal munches while he heads the car onto westbound I-64.

People, some people, around here still insist on saying “Forty” when referring to I-64.  US 40.  It is.  But after a year in St Louis I know it’s the old-timers.  Some of those old-timers really aren’t old.   It’s more a frame of mind.  US 40.  It hints back to a day before the federal interstate system.  Pre-Eisenhower.  I guess that when I was a kid someone was starting to build these interstate roads.

When I was a kid.  That would have been the days of Kennedy, Nixon.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

North on I-170.  East on I-270.  Exit and then south on Florissant Ave.  We turn left into the drive for a community center where Salvation Army and a few other agencies set up last Saturday, will again tomorrow, to serve people of Ferguson MO.  Park.  Go in.  Talk to a couple of the staff.  Who commiserate with us about the troubles.  Back in the car.  I drive so Neal can eat his now cold sandwich.

We continue south on Florissant.  It is a suburb that looks like a suburb.  Businesses, not close together.  Just enough space to give them the look of eyes a little too far apart.  We are seeing police cars everywhere.  St Louis County cruisers.  At about every corner.  It looks like the President could come through.  Not today.

We also see homes.  Neat, definitely not ostentatious.  Tidy neighborhoods.  Closer together than Florissant Ave. businesses.  Humble homes huddling together, still.  It’s early afternoon and they look very quiet.

Now, lots of police.  Cars, but now standing, small groups walking.  I notice the older policeman who seems to be represented in each group of county brown.  How they are described, they look, in their uniforms.  Yes, mostly white.

We have joined dense slowly moving traffic.

Somehow it reminds me of the tourists who visit Paris to see Notre Dame at Sunday vespers.  Worshipers sit.  Around them slowly circulate the tourists there to see the cathedral, hear the organ.  Not engaged, not worshiping.  Just came to see the thing.

On the left.  The burnt-out Quik Trip which is a landmark for these times of trouble in Ferguson.  Dramatic, how the burnt front and center is skeleton like, structural metal bare, swooping upward.  Now it reminds me of Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park.  I have an overactive associating mind.

On the right, the McDonald’s which is not burnt but has seen its share of troubles.  Lots of people and dozens of police.  Later in the day we hear it’s because Jesse Jackson was in there.

We see the Schnucks and Target stores and the ominous dark law enforcement vehicles in their lots.  I think Neal said ‘FBI’ and I think I saw SWAT on one.  Here and there, traffic lanes and drives blocked off.  Some shoppers.  All who we see, police and non-police, are in slow motion, not unpleasant.  Even the few protesters with signs seem to have that certain je ne sais quoi.

August night clouds 2014

I’m driving and Neal’s trying to take photos.  When he holds the iPhone up some give us looks.  Not real hard looks, just that squinty ‘hey, what …’ look.

We drive around the Schnucks/Target lots, back to Florissant Ave.  North to I-270.  The yellow then red traffic signal abruptly catches me and we joke about getting pulled over by the police.  We both give little nervous laughs.  We are out of here.



Urban.  People of color.  A lost presidential election.  Are these supposed to add up?

Michael Shear and Jennifer Steinhauer report in the New York Times that Paul Ryan is talking about the cities.  The article is full of facts and opinions about the impact, real and perceived, America’s cities had in last week’s election.  Marc Morial of the National Urban League makes an observation on the changing nature of our suburbs, something which is now almost old news.

Have you noticed the subtle inroads Flaming Hot Cheetos have made into American life?

They were coming into their own as a snack food in Detroit as the 21st century came into sight.  But if we wanted to find a sack for our daughter, the one who is a Salvation Army cadet … nowhere in the suburbs.  You know what I’m talking about.  Krogers?  Seven-Eleven?  BP food shops?  nope.

Except for a Shell service station down the road from the high school.  But it seemed to make sense to find Flaming Hots there.  The people who ran the shop were from another land, literally, and along with many of the shops in Detroit also run by people of other lands I knew that our Oakland County Shell shop manager was an in-the-know trend-setter.

Are Flaming Hots now becoming ubiquitous because –

  1. urban culture and tastes have influenced suburban life, or
  2. city dwellers have moved to the suburbs, bringing their urban taste for the spicy fried treats?

Music, fashion, language, food, worldviews, and people, migrate from the city to non-city places.  But do “non-city” places exist any longer?  The lines are blurred between city and suburbs as never before.  If a city person moves to the country, does this movement urbanize that place?  or is the urban person countrified?

ProximityOne offers a comparison of American urban populations 2000 and 2010.  Here’s a link.  One interesting observation:  the number of urban Americans has increased, but the urban population decreased.   Why?  Changes in definitions and criteria.   For what reasons?  The ProximityOne page doesn’t make the answer clear.

The next question?

Does eating Flaming Hot Cheetos make a person urban?

If you don’t know much about Flaming Hots here’s a link you may find helpful, but don’t believe everything you read.

Death of the fringe suburbs?  Something has been happening in America, “a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.”

Most of us have noticed resurgence of city centers and the inner ring suburbs.  People now want to live in the city, or at least in certain parts of the city.   Chicago?  Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Lincoln Square …  It’s also happening in Kansas City, Milwaukee, St Louis and other Midwestern cities.

Christopher Leinberger writes in the NY Times that “it is time to instead build what the market wants: mixed-income, walkable cities and suburbs that will support the knowledge economy, promote environmental sustainability and create jobs.”

If this kind of change is taking place in the cities, then what are the challenges for urban mission?  Finding ways to build bridges between the less-than affluent with their newly arriving middle class neighbors.  Serving as a voice for marginalized city dwellers often living in areas of the city coveted by the aforementioned middle class.  Changing the mindset of urban congregations/corps as their neighborhoods change …

Here’s an interesting discussion on Leinburger’s op-ed piece found at DetroitYES!  One of the participants pointed to a subdivision begun, yet now languising.

There seems to be a growing case that reversal is taking place in America’s cities and suburbs.

Yesterday we were driving west, into Hoffman Estates, a northwest Chicago suburb.

Near a busy intersection was a grassy park.  But no way to get to it.  The traffic far too heavy and fast, no crosswalks, and most telling of all there was no one in the park.

Actually, it wasn’t a park.  A faux park.  Apparently created near that intersection for the visual pleasure of those of us driving past.  Looked inviting without any intention of people walking on its grass.

I wondered if this is a characteristic of suburbs.  They are neither city nor country.  Though that’s changing in many suburbs as the distinction between urban and suburban begins to blur.  The faux park in Hoffman Estates seems to express a suburban yearning for outdoor spaces.   But as seen from a car window.

Are suburbs a twilight zone between city and country?

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