This past saturday, we hosted the 1st Annual PHX BrewParty. Having gotten into brewing my own beer over the past year as a way to combine two of my interests, creativity & beer, we discovered that a lots of our friends were into the idea as well.Â Never wanting to miss a chance to spur the creativity of others (or to take advantage of a perfect creative party idea) we decided to throw a party that would showcase how good homebrewed beer can be, spur a little friendly competition between friends who brew, and spread a little community spirit along the way.
Well, now that the party is behind us, here’s some of the observations:
– it was good
– we had a really good and diverse mix of people (neighbors, friends, friends of neighbors, etc)
– we had some good music. My friend, Dee, and some of his DJ friends, brough it and it kept the party lively and fun.
– the beers were good – the Cream Ale took the prizes, but every beer was different, good, and consumed (we ran out of beer early)
– the labels were great – (having designers brew beer keeps the aestetic high)
– having a front yard party is the way to go – something about it being out IN the neighborhood breaks down the barriers of who IS and who ISN’T invited
– parties should be judged on their ability to unite people who don’t normally rub shoulders and by how well they capture a spirit of hospitality and community. (This is why we LOVE the throw parties)
– We love our neighborhood and the people we share life and proximity with.
– Everyone REALLY seemed to have a good time.Â People hung around for a long time.Â it was really good.
For those who missed it, here are some photos and videos to give you an idea of what it all looked/felt like:
I am a fan of the creativity being employed across the internet in recent years. Web 2.0 has taken over and a long list of free resources have popped on the scene – some useful to connect with friends online (aim, facebook, myspace, twitter linkedin) others useful for storing online media (flickr, youtube), and others simply to give those interested a glimpse into who you are (dopplr, shelfari, Last.fm, technorati, del.ic.ious). Sure these tools can suck up your time and distract you from the work that the "man" needs from you, but if used well, can open up dimensions of relationships and connectivity with those in new circles.
In an attempt to keep links to these tools I subscribe to in one place, I've added a new "my life online" section to the blog. If you've got some free time – check them out. If you have accounts on any of the sites, connect with me. If you don't, but like what you see – set up an account for yourself and connect with me.
Here's a quick rundown of each icon and what service/site it links to:
(AIM/iChat) instant messaging. I am online often – so look me up. (Twitter) micro-blogging tool that allows you to send short updates of what you're doing (Facebook) social-networking site that has quickly become the "it" way to connect online (MySpace) social networking site that used to be the "it" way to connect online (Last.fm) tracks the music you listen to and creates an personal online radio station for you (YouTube) allows you to store and share videos online (Del.ic.ious) a place to store and share all your bookmarks (Flickr) a place to store and share photos (Linkedin) a social networking site focused on business connections (Skype) a free way to make phone calls to friends around the world (Technorati) a search engine for blogs and blog posts (Dopplr) a list of past and future trips I've taken (Shelfari) an online bookshelf that keeps track of what I've read, am reading, and plan on reading
Having exited the suburbs into the urban core of Phoenix recently, I am discovering that being closer to recognizable need and exposed issues of city life is a really good thing.
One of the real issues in most US urban centers is gentrification. As I've mentioned this term in conversations with friends, more than a few have never heard the term and have been unsure of its meaning. Here's a quick definition of gentrification (in my words):
"Gentrification is the process in which lower-income residents are pushed out of areas/neighborhoods due to rising housing costs, property valuation, and/or re-development"
So gentrification works like this (using downtown Phoenix as an example):
Lower income (usually minority) families who have lived in their downtown neighborhood for years (if not generations) rent a home, condo, or duplex. These have become low-income and distressed areas of town because the middle and upper-class residents of phoenix long ago left the city center for the promise and luxury of the suburbs. While not the pretty (and certainly not the sexiest parts of Phoenix) they have become home and a part of identity for many. Recently though, in Phoenix (and many other parts of the US) there has been a re-urbanization value among young people causing them to revalue the community, diversity, and cultural advantages to urban life. Developers and city planners have long been trying to "revive" downtown Phoenix and it's finally working – people are moving back and it's once again being considered by many as a livable option in the Phoenix metropolitan area. ON a city development side – thing is great news. Though from this type of development usually means dire circumstances for those who have lived in these areas for generations. As developers enter into the scene with plans for profits, they often are willing to pay great amounts of money for plots of land not currently "maximized" in their housing value. In some cases, this means buying a few lots next to each other, demolishing the existing houses (often historic jewels of Phoenix) and building it their place modern, urban living spaces (condos, lofts, etc). These developers, having built high numbers of beautiful units, can sell them each for a high price. Happening at the same time, middle or even upper class homeowners begin to see these neighborhoods as developing and begin to buy, restore (or remodel), and either resell these homes at a high price or live in them now being valued much higher. As more and more of these types of projects happen, land and home values begin to rise, allowing landlords the option of either raising rents or selling these homes at a profit often pushing out the lower-income renter.
So with gentrification, there two things happening:
1.) low-income, often crime-ridden parts of a city are redeveloping, beutifying, and rebirthing
2.) low-income families and individuals are being pushed out of the neighborhoods they identify with, have grown up in, and have existing social structures within.
This creates a paradox for people like me who want to see his city develop, but to develop in a way that cares for and gives place for the low-income and working poor communities who call downtown home.
Without having a clear answer to this paradox, what is clear to me is that we need to advocate responsible (re)development of our urban cores. Just as we give pause to development that causes irreparable harm to wildlife, we should too give pause to urban redevelopment that pushes out those who have found their identity and home within these neighborhoods. Maybe it is idealistic to think that we can do both well – redevelopment with low-income housing as a part, but raising the white flag of defeat because we can't come up with creative possibilities doesn't sit right with me either.
My friend and Foundarts partner-in-crime, Jamie, sent me the following article a few months back.
This article offers creative approach and ideology to the issue of gentrifcation. As a person of faith, it's even suggests a theological lense with which to see this issue through. It is thought-provoking for sure and at the very least offers hope that we can indeed come up with creative and imaginative ways to view the real and deserate issues our cities face.
Recently I've been thinking a lot about the rise of oil/gas prices here in the US and wondering what affect it will have on us long-term. I (like many others) are convinced that high gas prices aren't going away anytime soon. Our economy is not so good at going backwards when it comes to pricing. We will inevitably (and it is scary that this is so) adjust to the cost of $4/gallon gas and forget that we once complained that gas was $2/gallon or then $3/gallon.
While this may be the case, high gas prices will certainly affect the future of the United States of America. We are already adjusting and beginning to imagine life beyond the automobile, or least to life with less automobile. We are driving less, using public transportation more, and inventing new words like "staycation. I personally am excited about the renewed value many are putting on riding a bike and focusing more on local consumption. But despite these new and creative ways we are getting by as Americans, we are still doing it with a sense of hostility toward high gas prices. In other words, our negative postures toward these news ways of life imply that if and when gas prices roll back we'll return to our gas-guzzling car-loving ways. The implication is that we'll sell our new Prius for that SUV, allow our bicycles to grow cobwebs and dust once again, and return to our excessive carbon-footprint ways.
I want to suggest we take a different view to all of this. Sure the pain of $70 tanks of gas leave us wondering how we'll stretch our paychecks to survive and we get less product for more money all the way around (high oil prices affect everything from food costs to electricity costs). But maybe this is the best thing that could happen to our future as a people. Maybe this pain we currently feel will finally force us to reimagine what it means to be an American. Possibly we will finally have the creative courage to look at other ways of living – one that are more responsible, other-focused,and ecologically-friendly. I sure hope it will.
As I have been imaging the affects that this gas crisis might have on the US, I can't help but begin by imaging what a new Phoenix might look like as a result of raising gas prices. Here are some initial thoughts:
– might residential development in Phoenix look more urban as opposed to the typical Phoenix suburbs. Will this finally force us to value high density residential living and to see it's value as sustainable development in contrast to suburban development?
– will we finally take public transportation seriously? I am wondering how many of the numerous people who've told me that, "the Phoenix light rail project is the biggest wste of money" might be rethinking that perspective.
– might we move from automobile-driven development (high parking space per capita) to community-driven or sustainability-driven development.?
– we will finally take our existing urban spaces seriously and attempt to make up for the decades and decades we've neglected them? Might new urban spaces emerge throughout the valley?
– will this all lead to the rise of an "ethos of the other" for those who call Phoenix home? In other words, will we discover what it means to deeply share life and city with those our live on our streets? Will we remember how to be neighborly?
– will we through all of this discover a new commonality as Phoenicians that bind us together into a city not of buildings, infastructure, and municipalities, but a city of people sharing a common identity of place, story, and common dreams.
I for one, sure hope so.
BTW: I wonder how the crash of the housing market will play into all of this as well
While you can anticipate a full update the Taco Day Tres site by tomorrow AM, I figured for those of you anxious biting your nails for an update on how things went this past Saturday, I figured I'd post the photos, the time lapse video, and the totals we have so far. Tis Taco day was by far the best documented, most well received, and most talk about taco Day yet. Thanks for all of you who played a role in helping make it such a success!
And I am happy to announce that German Mike repeated as this year's Taco Day Tres eating 24 tacos (and living to tell about it!)
Taco day Tres Totals:
Total People: 120+ Total Tacos Eaten: 493 Total $$ Raised for JustOne: $1186
From April 9th to April 14th, I'll be traveling to the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to raise financial support for our new ministry initiative in downtown Phoenix. In the days leading up to the trip, I am setting up appointments with those interested in hearing more about communitasPHX and open to sharing resources with us to kick this effort off. Here's what the schedule currently looks like:
Los Angeles leg: (I'll be staying with friends in the Ventura County area)
Wednesday, April 9th @ 9am – arriving Saturday, April 12th @ 1pm – departing for the Bay Area
Bay Area Leg:
Saturday, April 12th @ 3pm – arriving Monday, April 14th @ 7om – departing for Phoenix
If you live in these areas and would like to hear what we're up to these days and discover how you can partner with us in it, email me and we'll set up a time to meet.
A good friend of ours, Rob has posted a short video interview about my upcoming trip to the bay area for those of you wanted a bit more detail. Here's the video.
BTW: Thanks for those of you who are putting me up, hosting groups for me to meet with, or otherwise making this trip happen! You know who you are.
Months ago Kelli and I joined the staff of CRM (Church Resource Ministries) to launch a new "Communitas" team in downtown Phoenix. Communitas is a division within CRM that is focused on creating teams of people that would explore how to engage the people around them who are outside the current reach of the church. If you know me at all, this mission is right up my alley, always interested in how to expose the reality and availability of the Kingdom of God in new, fresh, and creative ways.
The past few months have had us spinning to prepare for this new work – assessments, training, travel, moving, settling in, raising support, etc – it's been pretty crazy. But as we've dug deeper into the support-raising side of things (we raise our own support for this), we recognized the need to get our dreams and directions on paper and on the web ASAP.
So today that's what we did.
If you've visited www.communitasPHX.org in the past few weeks you've found a simple (but good looking I must say) splash page that has no info and links to no other information. Friends, churches, and potential supporters have all mentioned their desire to learn more about what it is exactly we're out to create in downtown Phoenix. As of today (April 1st), we've added a blog to the site as well as an email link for more information.
As of 11am this morning, there's only one post, but on the blog you'll also find some communitasPHX documents that will help shape who we become as well as some links to those we call partners in all of this.
We want to invite you to follow the journey we're on. Check back at the blog from time to time to learn more – or better yet, subscribe to the feed with your favorite feedreader.
The concept of a new-monasticism has been one I been extremely interested in as of late and a book a I've been reading hasn't helped the obsession. If you are interested in imaging a people of God oriented around a common set of vows as I have – you should check it out.
For years I have been using ichat to communicate both with clients and friends. While I work alone out of my home, IMing allows me to quickly communicate and share ideas as if my "buddy" on the other end of the line was in the room with me. Sure it's not physical touch, it's virtual proximity at best, and it can be used lazily to replace true relational interaction, but it also can be a technological tool which builds community and allows people who don't work together or who don't live in the same locale to share life regularly..
So a bit selfishly I ask you who I call friend but don't IM, please consider getting an AIM (ichat for you fellow mac'ers) account. And when you do, drop me an IM at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add you to my buddy list.