February 26, 2007

OBE#3 Street Ballet in the Snow

OBE #3 Street Ballet in the Snow

My ethnographic report is based on Jane Jacobs “street ballet� in the city. My plan of action is to investigate how residents in the warehouse district interact after they’ve been handicapped by a fresh snow fall.

It’s Sunday February 25th, 2007 at nine in the morning. The crash of snow plows slamming onto the city pavement forces me to wake up with the look of fear. I tip-toe over to the frosty window and gently pull back the blinds. I’m praying in my head that my little Honda Civic has not been impounded from a snow emergency. Relieved that it’s still there, my look of fear quickly turns to the look of sheer confusion while I question to myself, “how in the name am I going to get that bugger from that killer snow bank?�

Jacobs: “Basic urban vitality comes from comes from the residents’ participation in an intricate “street ballet.� This reference is on how urban characters participate on city sidewalks. Today the street ballet was performed by locals leaping from knee high in snow drifts. The streets were sloppy with inches of snow; however the sidewalks had a clean pathway ready for residents roam.

Armed with a shovel I march to my car half awake. My empathetic neighbor stares me down while smoking his morning drag. It appears as though he’d like to help, but is far too preoccupied enjoying an early day nicotine fix and hugging the hot java. I selfishly wonder to myself if the yuppie hipster will come to my rescue. He must have caught my desperate energy because he managed to lend a helping hand and direct shovel forming a pathway from the mound of snow. Pleased to get out of my mess, I drive around the corner only too see half a dozen disarrayed drivers playing bumper cars in the parking lot. A crazy man without gloves pushes a young driver on way…or was it out of his way?

Three young ladies laugh as a good looking lad tries to dig out their VW Jetta.

Snow flies my way as a suburban extended cab roars through what now looks like off-road terrain.

Two girls, surprising fashionable for ten in the morning, gallop down the sidewalk looking half drunk from the previous Saturday night. Their glossy eyes offer a good day and continue on their way smiling at the snow fall.

Is it too early in the morning for rudeness? Does the Minnesota weather really unite one another? Either way there was lots of accommodating people helping one another find traction.

“A successful city district is that a person must feel personally safe and secure on the street among all these strangers.� (115)

Locals must have felt comfortable with each other today as they trustingly let strangers approach them to push their cars out of snow banks. Several cars sat idling unattended around the city the block. If people felt safe and secure enough to leave the keys in the ignition, surely they has some faith with local residents.

Apparently I felt at ease with my neighbors. Like an idiot, I accidently left me window half open to welcome a little snow or anyone daring enough to steal a used car with no gas.

The urban warehouse neighborhood on North 1st and Second Avenue definitely had “togetherness� vibe this morning. Perhaps these urbanites did not have much of a choice as everyone was bound together by the fresh snow fall, but there was a sense of responsibility to help one another move their cars.