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Front Porch Sittin’ Time

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I think it is safe to say, that at least in North Carolina, spring has arrived in earnest. It will shock me, but not by much, if we have one more hard freeze before May arrives. Yet, cold was nowhere  this weekend, on the patio at Nattys where I had lunch with a few fellow media professionals on Saturday, or my balcony (pictured above) where I chipped away at Andrew Ross’s The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Values in Disney’s New Town. More grittier than Celebration USA, I’ve enjoyed getting another angle of what it was like at the beginning of one of the first, most scrutinized, popular new urbanist developments. (H/T to Placemakers Scott Doyon for the recommendation)What better to read about while sitting on a porch-like structure than a community built around the powers of front porches. Unfortunately, at the time of the writing, the porches were painful reminders of the Florida heat and vermin. I had a wasp or hornet come inside with me Saturday night. It spun around until it finally died in the middle of the night.

Yet, that was just a minor pain in the ability to watch the sunset on my balcony and see what neighbors drove what, as well as a few new ones I hadn’t seen, since I’d not had “balcony time” since way before last winter. I noticed plenty of your photos on all the social sites of patios, balconies, porches and even a couple of hammocks and blankets on the ground. Whatever we did this weekend, it was clearly an ode to the front porches of our lives and the springs that make them awesome.

I’m also drawn, as many who are advocates of the return of the front porch are, to a quote from another book, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451:

“No front porches. My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn’t want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. My uncle says the architects got rid of the front porches because they didn’t look well. But my uncle says that was merely rationalizing it; the real reason, hidden underneath, might be they didn’t want people sitting like that, doing nothing, rocking, talking; that was the wrong KIND of social life. People talked too much. And they had time to think. So they ran off with the porches.”

I’ve lately been more conscious of the fact that we are in the “future”. Yet, as a neo-traditionalist, a Southerner, a person who likes socialization, who will attend at least 5 cookouts this summer, sit on that Natty’s patio (and the one at the Mellow Mushroom) at least 3-5 more times and probably grab a blanket at the NewBridge Bank park a couple more times, I believe that it will be a longer time, if never, before we will see the conditions described above. Yes, privacy and surveillance has become an issue, but the rebirth of downtown, sidewalk and patio bar/grill economies I believe will eventually trump all concerns of people congregating.

Do you have a front porch or a front porch-like space? Urbanists swear on its power, but does it have that magic for all my non-planner/non-builder types?

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