Friday, December 08, 2006

"Lay the Tracks; Then Run the Train"

Today has been non stop, filled with lots of things I couldn't have imagined this time yesterday. And there are still things happening tonight that could affect tomorrow.

The title of this blog comes from Norbert, the Gentilly resident that I met this morning. He joined Christiana, John, and I in mapping parts of Pontchartrain Park. Norbert brought along Tyrone, who brought his camera to do some filming. For over an hour, we walked several streets and talked about this project while we mapped.

I felt better going through Pontchartrain Park this morning as compared to Thursday afternoon. On Thursday afternoon, I felt such a sadness. Christiana and I drove around the area to get an idea of the physical layout of the neighborhood. We must have passed a couple hundred houses, and just about all we saw were gutted. What was sad is that so many houses showed no sign of further renovation. Many houses just stood there empty, either left open to the elements or boarded up. Among them were relatively fewer houses where people were clearly rebuilding their homes. Usually only one or two houses were like this on an entire block. Sometimes they were in clusters.

The place we walked today somehow seem brighter to me, although the renovated houses were still far outnumbered by the empty, gutted houses. It may have been the conversation we were all having.

Norbert and I brainstormed during this morning's walk about how we might combine the current organization and technology of the project with his know-how about designing precinct walks for community organizing. He and I are meeting tonight in about 20 minutes to devise a system. As Norbert put it earlier, "We have to lay the tracks before we run the train." When he said that I added, "Yes, and we're going to run the train in the coming week." I don't pretend to know how exactly it will be, but I know the train will run.

We've coded about 90 houses in Pontchartrain Park since we've arrived. And we will do more tomorrow..

We're also going to have about 14 Dartmouth visitors in our house tonight, something I wouldn't have expected when Christiana and I landed in New Orleans on Thursday afternoon. But that's a whole other story....


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