New Orleans Graffiti

New Orelans was amazing…. and also a little hellish, but that’s what I get for going someplace in a high-tourist season.

My favorite thing was to just wander around and look at the architecture….and the grafitti. I love grafitti, not the kind that’s this is my gang area or Leroy was here, but the unexpected bit of art kind.

Warehouse covered in graffiti in New Orleans at Elysian  Fields and Charrtres

There was a ton of fantastic graffiti in New Orleans. Notably, the historic houses were mainly clear, artists, even taggers, saved their efforts for sidewalks, signs, and abandoned buildings, which I really appreciate. I think it showed a lot of respect for the area. Another sign of respect? People didn’t grafiti over each other’s art.

I fell in love with these koi on the ground by Jeremy Nova – particularly with editorial comments.Grafitti koi by Jeremy Nova with children's editorial comments.  New Orleans.

I also loved these footprints also by Nova.

Bootprint sidewalk grafitti by Jermy Nova, New Orleans.

Being in New Orleans made me realize how much I love art on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are so boring. Speaking of unexpected sidewalk art.

Spray-style sidewalk grafitti on Chartres between Montegut and Clouet.

Being in New Orleans made me realize how much I love art on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are so boring. Speaking of unexpected sidewalk art.

What’s Your Architectural Guilty Pleasure?

Picture of Ohio House Motel in Chicago

This is one of the reasons why I love Chicago so much. In most places land this close to downtown would be too valuable for a dinky 1960s motel, but not Chicago!

I know it’s a bit of a embarrassment to admit, but I do like the awful 60s and 70s architecture around Chicago in small quantities.

Making a Vacation To-Do List.

As you read this, I have probably started my world-wind 72-hour trip to New Orleans, stock full of things that I am super super excited about. I get a lot of comments on my travel-fu, so I thought it was only time to share my process.

First, if you know nothing about your location, look it up on Wikipedia or other basic knowledge-providers. It’s weirdly helpful to know the basics of what you should be excited for. It’s even helpful if you think you’re in the know; anyone trying to plan a trip to Chicago based on reading The Jungle will be severely disappointed.

After that, there’s a few websites I like to hit: Atlas Obscura, Roadside America, the Lonely Planet, weirdly Yelp, and even Pinterest. At that point I’m just brainstorming ideas and places to explore more thoroughly.   This is a great time to also Google for things you’re generally obsessed with; for me that’s vending machines, which lead me to the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco.

There’s also knowing what you like. I, for example, am not a huge fan of tours, but some people really love them. Meanwhile, I love window-shopping weird stores – it feels almost like a free art gallery – but a lot of my friends do not (until they end up in the store full of fossils or a candy store demonstration using 100 year old molds).

There’s also asking people you know or even asking people you don’t know. One of my best travel suggestions was given by the owners of an Irish knitwear booth at the Kriskrindlemart (a German Christmas market in Chicago). You may get a lot of suggestions that are eye-roll-worthy, but it’s a good way to find new things to do. I also like taking out travel guides out of the library for the same reason.

Urban Bourbon Trail Passport from Louisville, KY Tourist BoardDon’t automatically rule out the super touristy. Sometimes things are popular for a reason – the Art Institute in Chicago – other times they can be fun in a kitschy way. When we went to Louisville last summer we did the tourism board’s Urban Bourbon Trail. Go to five bourbon heavy bars, get the world’s most elaborate “passport” stamped at each, get a free t-shirt and certificate, and get to keep the overly fancy passport. On the other hand, do not just do the tourist. No one will be impressed with your trip, it will be overpriced, crowded no-matter the time of year, and it’ll weirdly feel just like being a tourist anywhere else.

Now that you have your list, it’s time to prioritize. It can be as simple as jotting a few things on a post-it or as complicated as… well… this:

spreadsheet(in my defense, my travel buddy did the color coding).

It helps to know what’s near what else and to make sure you don’t forget that one thing or two that you really really want to do. However, don’t over plan either. I’ve gone that route and it almost never works out. There’s always a random street that needs walking down, an emergency coffee or beer stop to make, or, sadly, transit problems.

My goals for New Orleans? Bars like the Carousel and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop; beignets, proto-tiki (?) and Cajun food; the ‘tit Rex and Chewbaccus parades; the Pharmacy museum, architecture, and cemeteries; and plenty of wandering around enjoying the 40+ temperature bounce I’m about to enjoy.

You’d think it’s not that hard to sell Arizona during “Chiberia”

One great thing about living in Chicago is that we get some really elaborate, fancy advertising.  The finest that the marketing and advertising world can think of.  It’s advertising true, but it’s nice to look at something a little different than the usual eight billboards over and over again.

Public transit is particularly popular for this type of treatment and often one campaign will take over an entire station or train leading to the unusual experience of entering Montana or Super Smash Bros while commuting.  (There’s also a great Christmas train run by CTA employees which gives the same experience, but even better).

This is a long-winded way to introduce some advertising I saw a couple of days ago for Arizona.  It’s a good choice, reminding Chicagoans that someplace is actually currently warm.  However….

picture of CTA turnstiles with ads for Arizona

Themed turnstiles are completely basic advertising.

giant sunglasses advertising Arizona at CTA Station

Okay, that’s cute and a little different. It was the first advertising bit I noticed

Weight bearing posts in CTA station poorly dressed in swimsuits for Arizona advertising

Okay then…

And then a particularly big advertising fail.  I’m not sure what’s better: that the padded butt in the bikini makes it look like a speedo or how the swim trunks look more like the ugliest curtain ever.

Remnants of Batman vs. Superman Filming

Uptown filming of Batman vs Superman

“Transit Oriented Development:” so not going to fix Chicago’s car problem

This DNAinfo article on “Transit Oriented Development” (and its comments) made me have so many feelings.

I appreciate the comments that say we should focus on making Chicago more pedestrian-friendly, and their frustration that it seems like their opposites are simply pro-driving; some of them are. But some of those comments are also pointing out a fine line – just because we want less driving doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. As much as we want to drop reliance on cars, Chicago is a driving city.

Does Gotham have better public transit than Chicago? Picture of Lawrence red line station transformed to Green River station for Batman vs. Superman filming.

Does Gotham have better public transit than Chicago? (El station transformed for Batman vs. Superman filming)

Having access to a car in Chicago is so helpful. Much of Chicago has crappy public transit and is based on the assumption that you only want to go downtown. My neighborhood has great public transit, but trying to go west instead of north/south? Such a pain in the butt. A car means not having to wait forever for a bus in the cold, not having to juggle groceries on a packed train or buying them at expensive neighborhood stores, or worrying that the bus you depend on will be cut. It means that you can live in those places with crappy public transit, places that often have cheaper living costs.

But more importantly, employers expect to have you to have a car.

I know this because while I live in a household with a car, I don’t drive. I was born without depth perception, which makes city driving a poor idea at best. (I can and do drive in rural areas. Give me a wide-open, curvy New Hampshire road and I’m happy, but anything involving merging or tight parking is just asking for problems.)

I also job searched for a long time before I was lucky enough to be able to freelance fulltime. And not driving? Really screwed my job search.   While there are certainly many jobs downtown, many many jobs are in the suburbs. Even companies downtown often have offices in the suburbs, offices they expect their workers to go to on a regular basis. A lot of companies are even closing up downtown locations or moving most of their workers to suburban offices.

And the assumption is that type of travel isn’t going to be an issue. When I was talking to recruiters or looking at jobs, they’d always look at me funny when I said I couldn’t drive. At best, I’d get the expectation that I didn’t currently have a car but could always get one if I got hired. Explaining that no, really I can’t drive didn’t ever seem to sink in. There wasn’t any awareness that the only way to get to their office was to take a Metra to a Pace bus via walking half a mile along the highway, or that it might be a problem (and again, remember I live someplace with good public transit).

Transit oriented development assumes that people will always have the luxury to work in their neighborhoods or downtown, and that simply making it harder to own a car will make cars less necessary. That is so unrealistic.

Believe me, I am exceptionally pro making Chicago more pedestrian friendly; after all, I am an often-time pedestrian. But building a bunch of apartment buildings without parking near public transit is just building a bunch of apartment buildings near public transit. It won’t solve any of Chicago’s actual public transit issues like access for those who can’t afford to live near good public transit or who have to take whatever job they can get;  it’s a bit dumb and offensive to focus on that instead of actually improving public transit access.

Mini Jaffa Cakes! (There were delicious!)

A complete-computer-meltdown derailed my goal to post every Tuesday but I’ve finally started to get things all arranged again and have big big goals for next year!  (posting regularly here, an architectural series on the buzz, and hopes to get involved with Atlas Obscura).
Mini jaffa cakes from Scotland