Monday, January 23, 2012

What's Your Story, Baton Rouge?

When I moved to Baton Rouge, I was warned about the lack of routes for cyclists, about its bicycle unfriendliness. I went to Critical Mass because it is, at its best, a positive demonstration against car culture encouraging cyclists and making a route safe for one night. It worked. I rode in a few lovely large rides, with 200 or more riders. Together we rode to parts of town that seemed unreachable by bike. I met my future roommate and best Baton Rouge friend and later my sweetie, both at Critical Mass. And then I stopped going. I was busy with school, I started working Fridays and the ride did not seem important to me. The city is still sprawl but I found my favorite routes, including a quiet 3 and a half mile one to school.

About a week ago, an acquaintance of mine was riding on a busy street with a friend. A drunk driver hit them, killing Nathan Crowson and injuring Danny Morris. Baton Rouge is small, so people knew the cyclists and the drunk driver. It was sad, really really sad but people got together, planned memorials, a bike ride, a fund for Nathan's five year-old daughter. Online, I foolishly read a string of comments about the situation, the questions and comments blaming cyclists. But few addressed the probelms with car-centric urban planning. Baton Rouge is sprawl. Many people drive everywhere, and plenty of them drive drunk. Bike paths are limited, and though there has been great improvement since I moved to Baton Rouge, many thanks to B.R.A.S.S., the overwhelming attitude is that bikes don't belong on the road. So instead of thinking about what can be done to solve transportation issues-- integrating bike lanes, pedestrian paths, making all parts of town accessible to non-drivers through public transportation and bicycle routes--drivers get defensive and angry and nothing gets solved. Instead of thinking of practical ways to prevent drunk driving, people shrug and says that "it happens". Mostly, it makes me too angry to express, because that young man did not have to die. He was biking on a busy, unfriendly road and was killed by someone who shouldn't have been driving.

Two nights before I left Baton Rouge, I met with about 400 other cyclists to ride from LSU campus to the site where Nathan and Danny were hit, and the ghost bike memorializing the event. We were told to be extra extra friendly to drivers, to avoid confrontation, to honor our friend. We blocked traffic but only took up one lane, allowing others to pass, and blocked intersections so we could remain a group, like many cars do in funerals. Except that we had no police escort and the cops ticketed one person for obstructing traffic. No matter, I was glad to be a part of the sea of blinking lights riding between the lakes from Dalrymple to Lakeshore. It didn't solve the problems, but at least offered a positive supportive place for the cyclists of Baton Rouge.

photo by Erin Arledge

Mark Martin
wrote a much better letter to the city calling for transportation improvements.

This is a video of the Critical Mass ride.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I leave next week for Italy, I have to move out of my house before then and what am I doing? Sorting type I acquired a few years ago. And looking for something to mix with coffee for my moving sale tomorrow morning. It's weird to be so busy working towards a due date and then to suddenly realize it means that something is over. I am leaving this town, the job I liked so much, a few great people. Today I ran a few errands but also said goodbye to a few people who helped so much in my last semester at LSU.

Taylor came over the other night for one more dinner at the thai place down the street and then some beer drinking and printing. I printed the first layer of the next Keep Writing postcard on the gocco printer I bought to bring with me to Italy. This drawing of the Mississippi River Bridge is a good start for my new traveling best friend.

Because of the moving sale, I haven't packed much else, as evidenced by this string of holiday cards still strung in our kitchen. I'm going to miss this house, and I am not doing an efficient job packing, but adventure awaits, whether the type is sorted or not.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Test Run

How will I send you postcards from Italy? With this. I am slow to the gocco print trend but I was convinced to bring one in my suitcase to Milan. Tonight I tested my first drawing for Keep Writing number 38 and the screen looks good. So easy. Complete with toxic lightbulbs. I have been asking for donations to cover the extra postage (about 2 dollars a postcard) and I am excited about this plan. I am printing the gocco tomorrow, the letterpress soon. I don't know what customs will think of me. Or my roommates in Milan. But I think I am not going to want to travel without this again.

One thing I am leaving behind that isn't mentioned in next month's postcard is my garden plot at the Hill Farm Community Garden. Even when I only stop by once a week to pick hot peppers or lettuce, or check on this crazy cauliflower, it always made me feel so much better. It is a great quiet spot in the middle of crazy campus. Not to mention all the saurkraut. I have a second giant batch of sour veggies on the fridge right now so I can leave A. with plenty of fermented food while I am away. I guess I should go back to packing.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

From Insomnia to Sick

The Movable Type Truck came to Baton Rouge this week for a lecture and then a downtown lunchtime demo. Where were you? Kyle Durrie outfitted this stepvan with a mobile letterpress shop. Two presses, type, ink and a bunk for sleeping all cozied into this truck. She is traveling for 3 more months. Check out her website to see if she is coming to your town!

Meanwhile I realized I am leaving for Italy in two weeks! This week I had trouble sleeping but I cleared out my studio, started packing and panicked a little. Don't worry though, I have a plan to continue sending postcards to you. I will share it soon. Maybe after a two day nap.

Oh, and to my postcard friends...the "my name is..." line on the most recent card is for you to tell me who you are. Yesterday I got my first card with no name. I would like to keep sending postcards to you, whoever you are.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's A New Year!

I welcomed 2012 the best way I could:
printing New Year's postcards for Keep Writing.

making kimchi and soured beets with these lovelies from the garden.

setting woodtype for another of Jason's mystery projects.

Now off to bed with hot buttered whiskey. I need to get my rest. There is a lot coming up this year. Stay tuned.