All Roads Lead to Chattanooga

I’m so excited! Good news from last week has given me a perfect opportunity to tell one of my all time favorite stories…

My undergraduate years at New Mexico were spent in a habitual state of homesickness. At the time, the internet was still unknown to me, news from home was in short supply and contact with friends and family was infrequent. Most of the students at UNM were New Mexican, Californian or from abroad. I never met a fellow Alabamian, and maybe only 5 other southerners in as many years. As a result, I desperately clung to all things Southern. I found that while I was there I starting caring more about Southern sports teams (Braves, Saints, and Falcons), my monomania regarding Alabama football became (unbelievably) even more pronounced, my accent got a bit stronger (particularly when young women were around), and my cravings for Baba’s food sparked an interest in cooking that continues to this day.

Step back in time to the spring of 19 and 92. I was skint and unable to join any of my friends on their spring break journeys. A small handful of us stayed behind for what was, as I recall, a remarkably boring week. Our rather large house, which was usually abuzz with commotion, had become a ghost town. Midway through this most boring week came a brief spark of excitement. Out of the blue, four strangers showed up at the house. They were fraternity brothers from Vanderbilt stopping by on their way to points west. I was beyond excited to see fellow Southerners and to get to chat with some normal people (for let’s face it, New Mexicans and Californians are weird). They stayed long enough to have a couple of beers and shoot the breeze and then continued on their way. The rest of the week passed uneventfully, and the memories of the week were retired to the farthest corners of my brain.

Last week I wrote that the thought of a city Department of Transportation scares the (expletive deleted) out of me. One need only look at what the various levels of D’sOT have done to our country over the past seventy years to find my justification. In my estimation, the way in which we have built our transportation system is the single greatest physical problem facing the country. The problem is so great that it extends beyond issues of urban design and land use and has a very real impact in the realms of finance, physical and mental health, environmental quality, and food security. D’sOT at every level spend massive amounts of money with virtually all of it spent on the automobile- and this has been going on for a few generations. So, please forgive my initial flinch at another layer of transportation bureaucracy.

Our community has spent the last several years counting down the days until a new Mayor would take the helm. Mayor Berke has arrived on the scene with a massive weight of expectation- and to this point he has not disappointed. On Friday, he appointed Blythe Bailey as Administrator of Transportation- this is a win for our community. I say that not simply because Blythe is a friend, but because he comes to the position with a firm grasp of urbanism and an understanding of the important role that a well-balanced transportation system plays in the life a healthy community. I suspect that he will face a number of challenges from the various layers of bureaucracy (which are driven by the transportation/industrial complex), but I will sleep well at night knowing that he will be an advocate for balance and sanity.

In the spring of 2002 I was working for Stroud at the Design Studio. My cubicle mate was none other than our kid Blythe Bailey. We worked together for probably nine months before we realized that we were brothers in the bond of Phi Delta Theta.  After discovering that I was a Lobo, he told me about the time that he and his buddies stopped by our chapter house on their way to Arizona back in spring of ’92. We quickly surmised that we had indeed met each other ten years prior, a thousand miles away, under vastly different circumstances. That night, I returned home and dug out my box of old college photos (I really must remember to burn that), and rifled through images of my misspent youth until I found an photograph of a young C.Rushing posing with four brothers from Vanderbilt, a young B.Bailey among them…

C.Rushing and B.Bailey- New Mexico, 1992.
I can't begin to tell you how much I loved that hat,
though I can offer no excuse for the acid-washed jeans.

It is indeed a small world and all roads lead to Chattanooga. With Mr. Bailey in this new position there is hope that it will be not only roads, but bike paths, transit, greenways, trails and sidewalks that lead here as well.

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