Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Bike, An Airport, and A Front Porch

We slept in this morning and upon waking Bob asked if I would run out and get the paper. I had been pondering that very idea, wondering if I could just pick a Daily Sun and the Arizona Republic at the Flagstaff Airport. Going to the airport just to pick up the paper might sound a bit odd but we live just down the road from the little municipal airport, which is a very charming place with mountainesque architecture. We've even joked about just leaving our car in the garage when we go on trips and walking to the airport as the urban trail leads right to the entrance and is a mere 7 minute run from our front door.

I told Bob that I thought I'd just ride my bike up to the airport and see if they have any newspapers. Surely they have them in the cafe (they have a happy hour for heaven's sake, why not newspapers?). Planner Guy looked dubious. Wouldn't it be just as easy to ride to the Circle K, he asked? Easier yes, but the airport is beautifully landscaped with Ponderosa pines, Aspens, and desert scrubs; the terminal, as I mentioned, is a fine example of thoughtful mountain design; and light aircraft sit adjacent to the driveway. The Circle K, on the other hand, has a big plastic logo over the doorway, lots of unadorned asphalt, and a host of big, ugly trucks and Hummers pumping gas at the not particularly visually appealing gas pumps. You tell me which ride sounds more scenic?
I dressed and set out on my airport adventure. The road was free of traffic so I decided to take my lane rather than use the FUTS. In 5 minutes I pedaled up to the door and, finding no bike racks (I must speak to Martin about that) locked my bike to a sign behind an Aspen.
A TSA officer and the cafe hostess were sitting at the counter drinking coffee as the morning flights had departed. Oh goody! They had both the local and the Phoenix paper! Come by any time, said the friendly hostess. We have a really good happy hour, too! Don't mind if I do, said I. My husband and I will be back next Saturday for pancakes prior to our flight to LA. And off I went.

Bob seemed surprised but impressed by my quick and successful trip. We should go for happy hour, he remarked as he prepared the coffee, Eight o'Clock Coffee, which we love and is inexpensive. I made some breakfast tofu a la The Bluebird Cafe in Athens, Ga. Anyone who ever lived or went to school at UGA will know about breakfast tofu, a concoction of tofu stir fried with veggies and covered with nutritional yeast and a dusting of Swiss cheese. My classmate Rosemary worked there and shared the recipe with me. A symphony of flavor! Along side the tofu, I served banana bread that I baked the night before. A morning feast fit for a king and his queen. We carried our feast to the front porch.

Milo, Splash, and Jade followed us out and assumed their usual places around Bob's cozy chair, waiting for him to share some tid bit of his meal. He is a soft touch when it comes to the dogs but that's why I love him.
There is almost no place I love in Flagstaff, or on Earth, more than our front porch. Planner Guy and I rarely see our neighbors on their front porches and are a bit saddened by this. Front porches are for "setting", sharing coffee (or a glass of wine after work), and chatting with your neighbors. We sometimes wonder if our neighbors think it's strange that we're always out on our front porch. It's not as if we don't have things to do but surely there is time in life for sitting back and contemplating the tree tops over the porch rail. The the other night we actually met a young family from down the street, the children being interested in our three dogs. Their mom must have noticed us and came over with their new puppy. The dad mentioned they came by this past Halloween. I reminded the children that I always have good candy (a true statement). They were very nice, and I think we all were a little less afraid of one another.

Anyway, I'd like to see more people on their front porches. That's why they are there - to encourage a sense of community - a notion possibly lost of the developer. The houses were constructed so that the front porches are often blocked from one another by garages that jut out in front of the residence, preventing the time honored tradition of neighbors sitting on their respective porches and talking. I see this type of design all over the suburbs and frankly, it is so suburban. My husband has neighborhood planning and design books that strongly discourage this type of design in favor of the idea that the front porch and doorway should be the most important element of one's house from the street because they are inviting and reinforce that the architecture is about people rather than cars.

Over the course of the next few months, I'll probably post quite a bit on life on the front porch. I believe front porching goes hand-in-hand with bike commuting. Both are about quality of life, as much as economy. I'd like to hear comments from readers about whether or not they spend much time on their front porches and how they perceive the sense of community where they live.


Philip said...

great post, a chuckle for ages. Alas I dont have a porch, but i do have the company of hundreds of cyclists who populate the local countryside. They give me a sense of community

GhostRider said...

Front porches ROCK! Our neighborhood is blessed with them on nearly every house(1920s Craftsman-style homes inside a local historic district). We all spend a lot of time on the porch, talking to the least until mosquito season hits full force here in SW Florida.

She Rides a Bike said...

Thanks for your comments! I've really been obsessing about front porching and community. While I have the former, our life has been a bit lacking in the latter, something I really miss from where we moved from. I think living in an older, more densely populated city has something to do with it. Where I used to live, people belonged to the same parish their grandparents grew up in, might have even gone to the same school. I suspect the younger cities and towns of the west might not have the same sort of deep, family ties. Happily, three years we're starting to meet other with similars desires for a greater sense of community.

Cyclin' Missy said...

I love your front porch! My house doesn't have one at all. We have a screened porch in the back of the house, which is typical in Michigan. I like the sense of community that the front porch offers. Maybe on our next house!

jbubble said...

i so so so miss the screened in front porch with a porch swing we had on our bungalow in kansas city. our house in portland has a porch, but it's not covered, and we don't really use it. i keep meaning to get a glider or a bench or just some chairs to put out there so we can sit out in the evenings and watch the bikes go by (we live on a busy bike boulevard). this summer, i will accomplish that goal.

The Running Bob said...


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