Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guerrilla Gypsy Music

It was the grand finale of my four-week foray into tactical urbanism.

For the last of the meetings dedicated to "The Ephemeral Plan: Brook Road," the hardworking cadre of neighbors, local workers and city officials was treated to food from Max's on Broad.

Country pate, olive tapenade and salumi with grilled bread, roast beef sliders, cheese, flat bread and fruit were laid out in abundance before tonight's conclusion-drawing began.

Eating with half my favorite J-Ward couple, the other half being home and under the weather, I heard about their recent trip to snow country featuring cross country skiing and moonshine, although not at the same time. At least I'm pretty sure.

After three weeks of brainstorming, sketching, site trips and endless discussion, all the groups' suggestions had been synthesized into one simple plan for small scale, temporary interventions to reshape and improve the triangle at Brook and Broad Streets.

Many, but not all, of my group's bright ideas made it onto the final design: closing Brook Road at Broad with large planters, using the closed-off street for public tables and chairs, adding a colorful triangular crosswalk to make it safer and easier to cross Adams and Brook and painting a bright circle to delineate an area for public speaking.

But it was in the discussion that ensued that some of the design was refined to a point closer to what it needs to be, at least in my opinion as a nearly eight-year resident of Jackson Ward.

The people who made it to the fourth session are, like me, committed to being part of the movement that changes the look and function of that gateway to our neighborhood, so much so that at the end one woman raised her hand and asked point blank, "Okay, what do we need to do now to start making some of this happen?"

Answer: bypass some of the legal rigmarole and go guerrilla on the changes. Paint the circle and see what happens. Do the crosswalks in colorful chalk or tempera paint before a first Friday art walk and then count the people who use it.

Short story? Go Gandhi and be the change you want to see in the world 'hood.

In doing so, we'll be instruments of my favorite new term, tactical urbanism, changing how an area is perceived or currently works.

If any area could use a change in both, it's our little triangle. Now we just have ti figure out how we can paint a three-way intersection without being run over in the process.

But that's a problem for another week, so after bidding farewell to all the new neighbors I've met over the past month, I took my hired mouth to meet a friend and have some grub.

It wasn't difficult to talk him into joining me, either, because he's had some major goings-on in his life lately and desperately needed a distraction.

I can be the queen of diversions or so I've been told.

Once I finished the work portion of the night, I talked him into making tracks for Balliceaux because if I was sure of anything, it was that a) he never makes time to go out for music and b) he'd never heard Romanian gypsy music live.

We took care of two birds with one stone by finding seats moments before the Richmanian Ramblers began their set.

I don't care how much you have on your mind or how many things are weighing on your shoulders, it's practically impossible to refrain from tapping your feet or fingers once the tavern music of Romania starts playing.

Every song's a drinking song, every song has a call to the crowd to toast or dance or somehow participate in the shared revelry, whether it's a song about not paying the ferryman, how wine tastes or dancing with too many partners.

It doesn't hurt that the band's sound is rich, combining clarinet, upright bass, accordions, violin, drum, tambourine and guitar for rollicking melodies that finally got a couple up and dancing around the room by the last song.

I probably should have grabbed my friend, clapped a hand on his shoulder and started dancing him around the room to make him forget all about the present craziness in his life. Or more likely, make him laugh hysterically at my attempted gypsy dance moves.

See: Stevie Nicks.

What's a little personal embarrassment when ensuring a friend has a fun night when he needs it most?


  1. Too bad you didn't stick around for Rattlemouth. They had folks up and dancing.

  2. My friend was ready to leave. I just saw Rattlemouth last month so I know they are masters at getting a crowd to shake a leg!


    For your viewing pleasure I videoed the RR show and uploaded a couple of songs. This one is my favorite Lume, Lume