…Saints and Super Bowl…

…so we’re all living in this brave new world for just over 2 weeks now…The Saints are the Super Bowl champions! Repeat that again, slowly:


There are so many levels of surreal wrapped up in that statement. Now I fully recognize that in the whole scheme of things, this would seem to be rather insignificant. There are wars, hunger, poverty, disasters, etc. So “a football game…come on…move on already” is a perfectly justifiable response. But, it’s been hard to move on for us die-hard-life-long Who Dats. All of these world problems linger in our consciousness in varying degrees and a big football game can obviously provide some much needed distraction. Being so serious all the time eats at the soul. But this is bigger than a mere distraction.

And we have heard ad nauseam about the lift the Saints have provided for New Orleans and the Gulf coast post Katrina. Often over looked in those observations are the people who have endured hurricanes before (Camille, Betsy) and since (Rita, Gustav, and Ike) but Katrina has become the archetypical image of disaster and doom. The profound symbol of the Saints overcoming their history and all odds no doubt buoys the spirits of a region that just few short years ago was thought to be hopelessly and irreparably destroyed.

However, there is more to this “mere football game” than a heart warming Life-Time-Movie-Network story. Lost among the Ritz Cracker/beer/Go-Daddy ads and the ex-player-talking-heads filling up hours of time prior to the kick off was a profound piece by Wynton Marsalis.

“You ever wait for something for so long that waiting for it becomes the something?” —Wynton Marsalis

Have you? For life long Saints fans, that question resonates deeply. There were years where thoughts of simply winning more games than we lost was unimaginable. It took 21 years for us to accomplish that. (By the way…with a Saints fan, its always “we”…plural possessive, never third person…its personal) There were other years—late 80s, early 90s—when we were actually pretty good. Bobby Hebert…bayou kid, “cajun canon”…leads us to our first winning season, first playoffs, first division championship. Those were the years the “Dome Patrol” roamed the field. Ricky Jackson, Sam Mills, Pat Swilling, and Vaughn Johnson…4 linebackers, 20 Pro Bowl appearances (in ’92 I think it was, all were selected the same year…first time in NFL history). In typical Saints karma…those years happened simultaneously the glory years of a little team called the San Francisco 49ers…Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, 5 Super Bowls…they happened to be in our division (why were the NEW ORLEANS Saints in the NFC West?). Remember the (once very rare) appearance on Monday Night Football when we jumped out to a 21 point half-time lead, only to lose the game in the end?

Enough. Way more of that than anyone wants to read. …so we find ourselves here in a strange new place. We’re not waiting for the Super Bowl anymore. I’m not sure what that means. It feels a little strange. I’m not sure I know how to do that. For so long, the waiting was the something. The hope and expectation. The anxiety of wondering how we would ultimately lose. That’s all different. (awkward way to end a post…but I’ve got to get to work)


…architecture and community/sustainability

Houses of the Future – The Atlantic (November 2009).

NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 24: 1631 Tennessee Street - Photos of New Orleans Houses photographed for Atlantic Monthly on August 24, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Atlantic Monthly)

This is a link to an intriguing article I read on Monday in the November 2009 issue of The Atlantic.  Several things were interesting to me.

In particular are the comments sprinkled throughout the article that pertain to remembering, re-building, nurturing , and sustaining community and the role that is playing in the architecture on the homes being built.  One interesting section describes features of some of the traditional homes of New Orleans…tall ceilings (“allow residents to live below the worst of the summer heat”); shotgun cottages lack hallways (“allowing for efficient cross-ventilation in every room”); transoms (“make the walls porous and keep the air moving”).  Michael Mehaffy, Executive Director of Sustasis, says “What we’re learning is that these traditions are not just fashions.  They’re rooted in the real adaptive evolution of a place.”  Such an observation requires living in a place and listening to its voices.

An observation by Andres Duany, co-founder of the Congress for New Urbanism, was particularly insightful:

“When I originally thought of New Orleans, I was conditioned by the press to think of it as an extremely ill-governed city, full of ill-educated people, with a great deal of crime, a great deal of dirt, a great deal of poverty,” said Duany, who grew up in Cuba. “And when I arrived, I did indeed find it to be all those things. Then one day I was walking down the street and I had this kind of brain thing, and I thought I was in Cuba. Weird! And then I realized at that moment that New Orleans was not an American city, it was a Caribbean city. Once you recalibrate, it becomes the best-governed, cleanest, most efficient, and best-educated city in the Caribbean. New Orleans is actually the Geneva of the Caribbean.  …All the do-goody people attempting to preserve the culture are the same do-gooders who are raising the standards for the building of houses, and are the same do-gooders who are giving people partial mortgages and putting them in debt,” he said. “They have such a profound misunderstanding of the culture of the Caribbean that they’re destroying it. The heart of the tragedy is that New Orleans is not being measured by Caribbean standards. It’s being measured by Minnesota standards.”

As someone who grew up in south Louisiana near New Orleans, this is the first time I’ve heard that description of the city…frankly, it rings true.  Much damage is done to culture, place, community in the name of progress or good intentions.  Duany came by his observations by living in New Orleans and walking the streets, talking to people who love the place.  Brad Pitt, of all people, has bought a home in the city and is an integral part of the “high design” Make It Right development in the lower 9th ward.  Again, grew to love New Orleans, moved there, spends time there and becomes part of the solution.  (from the article, “BRAD PITT FOR MAYOR t-shirts are not uncommon around town.”)

The writer of the article quotes Steve Mouzon speaking to a group of contractors and architects: “The very core of sustainability can be found in a simple question: ‘Can it be loved?'”  Ultimately, that will be hinge of success in the rebuilding of New Orleans.  Wayne Curtis closes his article with, “The past here has much to inform the future, not just for New Orleans, but for an entire country that needs to rethink the way it designs its cities and homes.  New Orleans won’t be rushed—it never is—but the chances are good that whatever results here will be loved.”