Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wtf parklet now has no benches, but it does have a list of rules

The parklet on Independence and St. Claude has no trash bin, no street lamp, and now no benches. It does, however, have a new name, a list of rules, and a curfew.

Private property developed with public money

My neighbors and I wondered how the parklet operators, an amalgamation of neighborhood associations and St. Claude Main Street, arrived at the decision to remove the benches and post the rules.

An email inquiry to the Bywater Neighborhood Association and St. Claude Main Street Board member/former President Jonathan Rhodes went unanswered for 12 days, at which point the BNA suggested I contact St. Claude Main Street or "the property owner," for whom no contact information was given.

[I actually do have the property owner's phone number because he creepily stuck his business card in my front door one night when I wasn't home, requesting that I blog about "the good things [he's] doing for the neighborhood, such as with youth."]

Interestingly, St. Claude Main Street just received a litter-abatement grant from an entity known as Keep Louisiana Beautiful. SCMS' excuse for the lack of conventional garbage pick-up at the parklet has been to blame the City for not providing a trash bin. Maybe now they can afford their own?

Art park with no art but, inexplicably, a gazillion bike racks

The immediate result of the bench removal is that parklet visitors now sit on the uncomfortably low mound patios. (There must be an architectural term for these structures?)

There is still a bunch of trash strewn about the lawn, and the lone tree continues to wilt due to landscaperly negligence.

Sad wilting tree of Wtf Parklet

I tried to look again at the "community survey" results from when SCMS kind of asked for neighborhood residents' opinions about parklets, but the webpage was taken down.

Instead I found a page thanking Maurice and Cynthia Slaughter, the owners of the parklet, for their recent generous contribution to SCMS: "We couldn't do it without you!" Indeed.

On grief and loss

Nine years ago today, I lost someone very important to me. He was unhappy with life, and he ended it.

I found out when I was in the gutted Willy Smith school in Violet, Louisiana, running a soup kitchen for survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the volunteers who came to support them. I felt alienated and totally lost. I was far from home trying to help strangers, while my friend suffered and died.

I wrote a long and rambling letter to his family, trying to explain that he loved them very much, though I'm sure it was a hard idea for them to process at the time. Having known him well, I understood why he did it, and I couldn't pass judgment.

When we think of grief, we tend to imagine those desperate few hours and days following a death, in which the whole world seems to cave in and suffocate us. We move as in a crushing water bubble: sound is distorted, and time is marked by meals, bathroom breaks, and going to bed.

We are alive, yet our loved one is not. We cannot touch them, see them, feel them, hear them, even smell them as we did before. We worry that we will forget - or have already forgotten - who they were, and what they looked like. We mix up tenses, wanting them to be present but knowing their lives have passed.

Every year as I get older than my friend, my mental image of him gets cloudier. I worry that I hold an unreal version of him in my heart. I worry that my memories of his life are imperfect. I worry that I am glossing over the complications of our relationship, so as to not speak ill of the dead. I sometimes think I am not supposed to feel disappointed in him, or angry that he left me, or guilty about his death, especially after so many years.

I accept that he is gone, but I keep his number in my phone. Every time I meet someone with his name, I have to pause to collect myself before engaging. I reach out to his sister and father, but I don't know if I do it for them or me.

Jewish mourning rituals extend for years, and sometimes indefinitely, following a person's death. Candles are lit on the anniversary day, and there is a special prayer known as the mourners kaddish. Some congregations say this prayer collectively every week to honor all Jewish deaths.

We talk about loss when a person dies, but mourners end up gaining a new depth of emotional experience. Very few things can soothe the initial angst, or the chilling, ongoing grief. I guess talking helps, but mostly I just sit with it, hoping he finally has the peace he sought.



May there be abundant peace from heaven,

and life for us and all people Israel, to which we say,