Monday Musings: Realistic Headlines When People Die Tragically; Could We Live Without Parking?

This edition of Monday Musings comes to you somewhat late: between seeing Black Swan last night, then getting up early to drive to Providence for an eye doctor appointment, catching up with old colleagues, and then some unexpected work, it was a busy day!

I saw a headline in People today — “Her Brave Last Days” — about Elizabeth Edwards. (I was in a doctor’s office: what else is there to do but read trashy magazines?) Not to disparage her since by all accounts she was a good person who did good in the world (not to mention that she must have been saint to tolerate her scumbag husband), but I would, just once, like to see realistic stories about people who die tragically. I realize it’s journalistic rule that anyone who loses his/her life in some unexpected way is automatically granted sainthood, but does it really honor someone’s memory to turn them into a one-dimensional cliché?

I’d love to see a headline like “His Screaming Crying Last Days” or (tribute to Dylan Thomas) “He Raged Against the Dying of the Light.” And then quotes like “He could be a real asshole sometimes, but he had a good heart.” Or “She was a terrible driver so I’m not surprised she got into an accident. But it’s still a tragedy.” When I go, I want my headline to read “Loud Obnoxious but Occasionally Funny Canadian Dies.”

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about the idea of planning cities for people, rather than cars. That’s meant looking at all the real estate lost to parking that could be better used for more travel lanes (including more bike lanes) and wider sidewalks, not to mention creating a much more pleasant urban environment. And thinking that we essentially give this public real estate away. People have to feed parking meters at some times in some places but in most residential areas, you can park on the street for free (although some towns ban it overnight). (I pay $10 a year in Medford, which is free as far as I’m concerned.)

I live on a street that’s one-way and has parking on both sides, even though most houses have space for at least 3 cars. During the recent blizzard, parking was banned on one side of streets to allow for plowing (although the plows didn’t actually move the snow out of that side of the street), and now a week later, that side of the street is still full of snow and people are still parking either in driveways or on the one side of the street that’s still available. Obviously they’ve made it work (and not just on my street but all the local streets) with relatively few problems. So why can’t we adopt this solution permanently? Because people have come to see it as a right to be able to do whatever they damn well please with their cars, no matter how much it costs our society as a whole.

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