Its 9pm on a Friday night in Southtown. I’m finally off the clock as I hop on my old-fashioned bike equipped with a milk-carton crate, heading towards the river landing near Blue Star. While I usually ride leisurely along the river paths in King William, tonight I am in a hurry to meet friends across town. Riding now on the ground level, I pass the brownstone courthouse, and the colorful shade canopies at Main Plaza, both lit appropriately for their Spanish colonial architecture: intimate, yet secure. There are tourists admiring the facade of San Fernando, some locals taking a rest at the provided seating, and the thump of my wheel over the cracks of flagstone. I want to stop, but I’ve made plans; I’m in a rush.
Before approaching St. Mary’s, I have a habit of stopping by the Pearl Brewery, just to see what’s going on. As usual, there are the sounds of airy chatter over silverware, the clinging of glass with culinary fare I wish I could afford. The warmth of a shaded lamp and jazz radio fall to the street from a third-floor apartment. There’s a film screening at the amphitheater, and I catch myself watching the crowd, at least 300, more than the actual movie. I want to stop, but I’ve made plans, I’m in a rush.
Eating at one of the taco trucks on N. St. Mary’s along with some friends, we stumble upon over a dozen friends and some acquaintances. I point out the guy who fixed my bike the day before. “We were laughing,” I said to a friend we gladly ran into, “we used to joke that it was the Starbucks at the Quarry you couldn’t go to without seeing someone you knew.”
“Thank God, its a taco truck, now!” she laughed.
The Mayor talks about this as our decade of downtown. We talk about the future sitting at roundtables, arguing over grocery stores, light rail, and where the new condos will rise. I hear so much, too, about skyscrapers: like, man, when are we gonna get those!? But I’m actually very hopeful. I feel myself pulled by so many forces in this city; I see my opportunities in motion, and I weigh my options. I retrace my steps in pursuit of what I may have missed. That, I believe, is urbanism, which is above all a process, not an architectural product.
photo by Georgia Lloyd