Saturday, August 29, 2009

Diary of a book tour

I've been Tweeting and Facebook-posting since the launch of Wrestling with Moses, but am now pausing here in Peru, Vermont to reflect on my experiences sharing this book thus far:
-- Tonight was Northshire Books in Manchester, Vermont, a very happening place, Howard Dean tomorrow night, hen Tracy Kidder and Richard Russo. Lots of New Yorkers with very good questions, including how we can possibly solve the gentrification dilemma. Today as well John Barber of the Toronto Globe and Mail weighed in with this piece:
-- Earlier this month I was in Toronto for media interviews and the Ramsay Breakfast forum at the University Club. The city is home to a great many Jane Jacobs fans; she moved there in 1968, in part to protect her sons from the Vietnam draft, and became a Canadian citizen. Her son, Jim Jacobs, was kind to meet with me and we talked for hours and walked around the city. He gave me a mason jar of some peach jam Jane had made, dated 2005, the year before she died.
-- Before that, the turnout at Politics and Prose in Washington DC was inspiring, lots of interest and people who care about cities and citybuilding. A number of Loeb Fellows attended, including DC city planner Harriet Tregoning and David Goldberg from SmartGrowth America. I dutifully took the Metro and walked a mile to the bookstore -- another wonderful independent institution.
-- The first talk was at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, and another good turnout for a Tuesday evening in August. That followed the launch party at Tory Row in Harvard Square July 30. That morning my old car overheated on Storrow Drve, and I figured it was the ghost of Jane Jacobs chiding me for using it too much (though I have low VMT). I traded it in for a 2010 Prius and I'm loving it.
The weeks ahead include New York, at Urban Center books, The Skyscraper Museum and the Tenement Museum; the University Club in Boston; Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., where we're screening the Lincoln Institute film "Portland: Quest for a Livable City," and after that a lunchtime talk hosted by SPUR in San Francisco.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thoughts on run for first time in a year

1. Nothing like waking up in Vermont to see one's op-ed essay about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses has been published in The Boston Globe:
2. Need to get life insurance.
3. Gorgeous hawk in the swaying trees overhead, peering down at me, hopping from branch to branch like a parakeet. Usually only see them soaring.
4. This isn't so bad.
5. I think I might need an oxygen tent.
6. Do sweat flies have any useful purpose in the ecosystem?
7. What do they do when I'm not here?
8. Around here, it's like the real estate equivalent of a red light district.
9. Does this vacation have to end?
10. Downhill ... margarita ... nachos.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Back to Boch

Faithful readers may recall my bittersweet experience at Boch Toyota for the premium-price purchase of a hybrid Highlander. Today I drove my 1998 BMW 238i 4-door sedan down to the dealership to get what I could for it -- I couldn't qualify for "cash for clunkers" because the car is listed at 20 miles per gallon at 130,000 miles, and the threshold is 18 miles per gallon. Pulling off Route 1 with steam billowing from the hood wasn't exactly a position of strength. I said at my book party Thursday at Tory Row in Harvard Square in Cambridge that it was the ghost of Jane Jacobs, scolding me for using the car so much; accordingly I took the T to get my seersucker suit at Brooker Brothers, and lugged a jerry can of coolant in a tote bag. Anyhow, Boch granted me a pittance for the beemer, and I must say I was a tiny bit emotional leaving the old rig, 10 years later. The car served me well, and I loved the peppy way I could drive it, the singular and slightly smug feeling, pulling up to a valet. It's a window into American culture -- car as identity, the vehicle you love to care for and pull through the car wash. As of today I have moved from car that symbolizes other things, to car as transportation. From the vehicle I dabbed with Armour-All wipes, to the car that keeps my eye on the Tie-fighter like readout, displaying how I'm getting 50 miles to the gallon, how I'm on battery power, emitting no greenhouse gas emissions. I'm finally walking the walk. It's a new era, and one I think we're all going to have to enter.