Friday, November 30, 2007

How Things Can Change in a Week

Just a quick blog. Last Thursday was Thanksgiving. We spent the day with family in the Smoky Mountains. This Thursday we landed on Grand Turk. The trip was long to get here. We spent the day unpacking and getting use to our new home. We went snorkeling this morning. The water temperature has dropped since I left in late October. It is still nicer than Ohio, but at 82 it was on the chilly side here today. The press release went out a couple days ago about our relocation to Grand Turk as the new director of the National Museum. It was the lead story on the radio all day yesterday. Tomorrow is museum day. This is the biggest planned activity the museum does all year. Jumping in. Hope the water is fine.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Hitches Have Left the Building

Yesterday we sailed from Miami and have officially left the US. Well I guess not officially, we will still keep our Ohio address.

We spent this past week in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee with the Lee families. Spending our final days here with family and friends was very good but I am also anxious to get back to Grand Turk. I have been getting a furry of emails. Last week contractors working on a new condo development uncovered a cannon under about six feet of sand. The museum was called to identify the armament. Our cannon expert was flying into Grand Turk this week anyway, so I think this will all work out. I am looking forward to seeing this when I get back on island.

Thanksgiving was a joyous occasion, though the day was spent trying to finish up last minute work before we left on Friday. On Friday, the museum had an application due for the British Oversees Territories Environmental Program grant. I finished this on Thanksgiving and sent it to Deborah. I talked to her on Friday morning. With the grant, the permissions for survey work we are putting together, and the cannon identification, she sounded a bit overwhelmed. I think her exact words were, “You said this job would be easy while you were gone, you better make sure that the Triumph lands at Grand Turk.”

The Triumph? On Friday we left Gatlinburg and drove to Miami. We boarded the Carnival Triumph and are taking a cruise ship down to Grand Turk. It is the last stop on the cruise.

I had trepidation about how much stuff we packed. Those of you who saw the van will know what I mean. All last week we cleaned out our house. We packed a rental van last Saturday. I looked in and thought we had just more than a manageable amount of luggage. On Sunday we had a mad rush to finish packing what we wanted and storing what we did not. All five of us threw last minute “wants” into smaller bags. In the end, we had one super huge, too heavy to carry bag of “stuff,” ten suitcases of clothes (two a piece was going to be the limit), two bags of home school curriculum, two boxes of my books, sixteen carry on bags, and two skateboards. Thats right. You heard correctly. We checked 31 pieces of luggage. The best thing about the whole trip was the looks and questions about why you would let your kids bring skateboards on a cruise ship.

I was extreamly stressed about how we were going to get all the luggage on the ship. In the end it was no big deal. I gave a porter a $20, he loaded all our bags on a large cart and took them away. From the time we got on board until 10:00PM on Saturday porters brought bags to our room continuously. When I went up to the pursers office to enquirer about a lost soccer ball (thats right) there were ten unclaimed bags with the room tags ripped off; three of them were ours.

I have a lot to tell – I wish I had more room – I do try to keep to a word count.

I will give you a little foreshadowing:

We are an excessive people, the cruise ship is the epitome off this excess.

I thought the hard transition about this move would be living apart for three months. As it turns out, living apart is easy – the transition back to living together not so easy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Good Luck on Your Journey

I left Columbus today. This week has been spent trying to clean out twenty years of stuff from our house. It has been a very stressful week. Three months ago we talked about how we were going to just throw away all of our stuff and start over. This turns out to be harder than you think. I have too many really good books and too many GI Joes in my collection. This last statement led to many "my stuff" vs. "your stuff" conversations. The problem is that we have lived in the same house from the time we were married until today. Under the piles and stacks of expendable consumables is the 8x10 engagement picture, the airline tickets from the first trip we took together, and the pajamas and blanket that Davis came home from the hospital in. In the end, we saved too much, we through away too much, we gave away too much, and we packed too much to take with us. And, we left too much still in the house for the rest of the family to deal with.

Today after church, a new friend said, "Good luck on your trip." He said it again after lunch. I said, "You know we are not going on a trip. This is it. We are leaving for good." He said, "Its just for three or so years." I said, "Yes, but you should say good luck on your journey."

That's when it hit me. This is it. Today the journey begins. I have been planning the journey for some months now, and I have been preparing for the journey for weeks. But today, the journey begins.

This was "Thanksgiving Sunday" at church today. I attempted to express my thanks, but I knew my emotions would not allow me to say what I wanted to say. For the last 38 years in Columbus I have been surrounded by a church family, an extended family, and an immediate family who have been unbelievably nurturing, comforting, and supportive. This collection of people has supported my journey intellectually, educationally, theologically, and often financially. I owe everything I am to the people that took their time to invest in me. How could I ever put the gratitude I owe for this into words? I am truly, truly thankful for the dedication of the people that have been a part of this huge family. But, more than that, I am thankful that you have made it alright for me to leave. I don't know where it will take us, but today the journey begins.

Friday, November 2, 2007

8 Foot Porch Guy

Last weekend I attended the Society of City and Regional Planning History conference in Portland, Maine. This is why I was not in the TCI during the passing of Noel. Thursday night I ate dinner with 2o or so distinguished scholars at a small Indian restaurant. I have been trying to build relationships within the history of housing academics for almost ten years, which has proved difficult as I am not really a full-time academic. This was the the first year that I received a pre-conference invitation to have dinner. Though, I must admit I am not considered a distinguished scholar either. Though, I am running into more and more people in this small group of academics who think they have heard of my work.

On Friday, I presented a paper entitled "The Near Urban Front Porch as an Integrated System of Access and Community: Lessons We Should Learn From." Basically, this was a paper arguing that in the 1920s builders figured out that the ideal dimension for a front porch was 8 feet wide. Today, many builders constructing "traditional" houses build 4 or 5 foot porches. This is just the "idea" of a porch and does not function as a usable exterior space that mediates the public street and private home. I argue that builders, planners, and zoning officials should be building 8 foot porches. This is what worked in the 1920s and this is what would work today.

The papers before and after my paper were both on the same planner, a guy named Halprin, though neither paper title really reflected this. Everyone in the room was a Halprin scholar. During the question period at the end of the session, I was not asked me a single question. It is just my luck to be absolutely captivated by aspects of historic housing in the 1920s that not another person really cares about.

During the reception that evening, I was drowning my sorrows in several bowls of Lobster bisque. I was talking to my new found compatriots (other scholars who don't get any respect). Someone asked how my paper went, because they did not get to see it (code for "it did not sound very interesting"). I said it went great, pretty good delivery, good images, people laughed where they should have, but in the end no one really cared. Just at that point, someone walked up and said, "you presented on porches today. I wanted to ask you a question but I could not stay to the end of the session." Everyone at my table rolled their eyes, because frankly it looked like an extremely well choreographed set up.

During our conversation about my paper, this scholar said, "I have only seen one other paper dealing with porches at a conference. This was four years ago in St. Louis." "Really," said I, "was it my paper, 'The Successful Street as an Integrator of the Pedestrian and Automobile.' " And in fact it was. Here was the only person who has heard both of my papers on the front porch. We went out dinner, and I bought them a lobster.

On my way home from Maine, I went in to use the restroom at the airport. I walked up to the urinal and the guy standing next to me turned and said, "Hey, the 8 foot porch guy." So now I guess I got that going for me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel

Hey, it is hard keeping up with a blog every couple of days. I have good intentions, but time gets the better of me.

I have received a lot of questions about the tropical storm Noel, which came across the TCI this week. I am actually in the states for a couple of weeks to get business in order and bring my family down. So in fact, the storm has not affected me at all. In this blog I will quickly report on storms.

If you look at the history of hurricanes, the TCI gets hit by a major storm every twenty years or so. Some decades, like the 1890s and 1900s, the islands were hit every two years. But in a larger pattern it is very unusual. Why, you might ask?

This year is a good example. In August, hurricane Dean came through the Caribbean Sea, south of Hispaniola and Cuba. The top of the storm just touched the TCI. On ugust 21, the category 5 eye slammed into the Yucatan peninsula. In September, Felix came through the Caribbean Sea along the very same line. On September 4, the category 3 storm hit Nicaragua.

In late September, tropical depression Ingrid was predicted to grow into a category 3 storm and the center track of the storm was to come right across the TCI. This storm moved north into the Atlantic and dispersed.

These storms are very typical. The currents, heat, and wind cause the majority of tropical storms to stay south of the TCI, or to veer far north. Noel did not follow this typical pattern. This storm developed in the Caribbean Sea and on October 29 it came directly north across Haiti and into the Bahamas. The storm came across the TCI on the 29 and 30. The storm was growing, but coming across the mountains of Hispaniola (island of Haiti and the Dominican Republic) the storm lost all of its power. There was more wind than usual and two days of rain in the TCI. People I heard from were very happy to have their cisterns filled. After leaving the Bahamas, Noel gained strength in the open ocean and grew into a hurricane.

I have had many nights when I have awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of huge rain storms. In the morning the sea is always very rough. When I look at, there are always huge storms far north in the Atlantic that we are getting the tail of. Most houses on Grand Turk depend on a rain catchment system to supply water throughout the house, so the storms and the rain are never seen as a bad thing. Water is life.