Friday, June 17, 2005



* I have not yet finished my review of CNU XIII, so in the interim I thought that I would make a quick post about a personal highlight from the conference*

A conference wide party was held last Saturday at LA's Union Station - a beautiful building that was constructed when public transportation was still a dignified and treated with a respect that it no longer commands. Unfortunately, the price to enter the party was way out of my meager budget. This upset me because I had read a few weeks ago that the party was going to feature a poetry slam, which I wanted to enter, and with a $500 prize hopefully win. As I discovered that more and more of my "Next Gen" friends were headed to the party I decided to tap my resources and see if I too could join in on the fiesta.

Luckily I was able to find a strong connection, which assured that I would be let into the party. For this, I was extremely grateful. When else in my life would I get a chance to party in downtown Los Angeles with free food and drink? PC, you are a hero.

Upon entering the event I immediately found a drink and a couple of new friends, Jeff and Cali. After a brief discussion we decided to grab a couple more drinks and write a poem that all three of us could perform in the upcoming poetry competition. In the short time that we had to complete the poem we decided to focus on our experience as first time CNU conference attendees, and on being part of the Next Generation of new urbanists. Well, after what must have been 10-15 minutes we had scraped together a skeleton of a poem that we thought was readable, and a little humorous as well - especially for those in the "older" crowd.

After we informed the judges that we were game for the contest, Jeff and I immediately grabbed another drink to, um....ah... to "enhance the art." I think that we were both a bit nervous. Nevertheless, when it was our turn to go onstage to spit the poem we were definitely ready.

I had the first verse and informed the crowd that I had thoroughly enjoyed my first urban planning camp, which is exactly what CNU seemed like. I then asked for everyoneunder the age of 30 to join us on stage. Roughly 15 people joined us, which was great, as it created that good old safety in numbers feeling. Jeff and I then readour formless poem and Cali did an interpretive dance, which went like this:


Down the rail lines of a movement unhinged
you'll find the visions of the urban few.
Yet, down the corridors of a dancing evolution still chained
by conventional thought, you'll find the need for change
that cannot be sold or bought.
And rest assured, despite the future battles lost and won
You'll find Jeff, Cali, and me at CNU 33
Rockin' new urbanism into this new century.

Young urbanists, T-3 Virgins like streetcars
smaller version of a big steam train.
We're all new at the CNU
watching the ageless Norquist, DPZ, and Poly who?
Mixed housing, urban design, and rail lines
density makes us hiiiiigh.
Infill retrofit
under 24 and lovin' it
'Cause we're new at the CNU
Mike is Next Gen
Cali is a rail fan
and Jeff drove all the way from Austin.
Because the future is us
form based and takin' the bus
We're new at the CNU.


Even though we were up against CNU Board president Hank Dittmar, and CNU President John Norquist (who wrote a hilarious poem defaming Randall O'Toole), as well as a slew of other talented urbanists/poets, we wound up winning the contest! I think we were all a little surprised, but then I realized that Cali's boss was one of the judges! Regardless, we graciously accepted the money and then turned around and donated to the "Next Generation" so that someone could receive a scholarship to attend CNU XIV in Providence, Rhode Island. This made me especially happy because I was a recipient of a scholarship this year, which made it possible for me to attend the conference. Overall, it was a great night that ended up with me riding a mechanical bull (a whole other story) and a great conference. I will try to publish my thoughts this weekend. Cheers!

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