April 20, 2006



so, this morning i was halfway through my walk when i spotted updated traffic circle art. i also saw my friend joe, who lives adjacent to the circle.

today is joe's birthday, and he is one of the recipients of the birthday greetings. (the display is aimed at all april birthday celebrants in the neighborhood. note the sharpie left behind for additions -- it's an interactive display!) joe and i walked to the middle of the circle together and admired the handiwork up close.

while we were standing in the circle a car approached and slowed down. the driver wanted to talk to us. she was a middle-aged woman, nicely dressed, with glasses and a nice ponytail. she was trying to carry on a cell phone conversation while simultaneously talking to joe and me.

"the neighborhood would really appreciate it if you would stop putting these displays in the traffic circle." she said it so pleasantly that i thought she was joking. i smiled and with a wink and a nudge i said, "oh yeah?"

"yes," she said, "it's tacky. i was just telling my friend on the phone that i was so excited to be catching the culprits in action!"

both joe and i said, "oh, we didn't do this!" but we still kind of thought she was joking. she wasn't mad at all. she was really quite nice.

joe said, "it's my birthday! this is for me!" the lady said, "well, happy birthday. but maybe you can tell the people who did this to stop. in their own yard, it would be ok. but these displays make the neighborhood look bad."

i laughed out loud, still not sure whether she was kidding or not. "it makes the neighborhood look bad?!?" she was kidding, right??

whoever was on the other end of her phone conversation must have been trying to get her attention, and she became clearly torn about whether to talk to her friend or chew us out some more. she chose the phone and drove off, saying one more time, "just tell the people who do this to keep it in their own yard."

after she drove away, joe and i discussed whether she was serious or not. joe thought she was kidding. i was pretty sure she was serious... i think she's a traffic circle hater.

Posted by xta at April 20, 2006 12:26 PM | TrackBack

Country Club Wanna-Be

Posted by: John Boy at April 20, 2006 01:10 PM

Maybe she wants everybody's lives to be lived in light little boxes with siding. With pristine concrete for maximum neighborly control. How rude of her! And tacky. And tight-assed. Oops! Did I say that? Yes I did! [smiles brightly]

Posted by: erthsister at April 20, 2006 02:01 PM

Pshaw on her. I think your neighborhood and its traffic circle art is the coolest thing ever. Apparently the friends of Stewart and Joe and Marty and Carol and Jenni and Dan think so too.

I look forward to the neighborhood showdown between the Lovers and the Haters of traffic circle enhancement! I hope it is live-blogged and/or webcast (webcasted?).

Traffic Circle Art 4-Evah!

Posted by: minty at April 20, 2006 02:21 PM

Because she doesn't like...to be surprised? By totally delightful, non-offensive, public expression? What on earth could she find so objectionable? I think you're going to have to commission an original sculpture, "Monument to Tedious Conformity"--and put it in the traffic circle, of course.

Posted by: Penny at April 20, 2006 03:01 PM

very nice.

some people aren't happy unless they are making others unhappy.

Posted by: at April 20, 2006 03:50 PM

Where does she think she lives, a Martha Stewart McMansion development? Sheesh.

Posted by: Ssarah at April 20, 2006 05:01 PM

let me start by saying that i'm a full supporter of the traffic circle art, and it makes me love the neighborhood even more.

however. although it's duke park residents who are perpetrating these shameless acts of "tackiness", that street is the border between duke park and my neighborhood, old north durham.

since ond is to be featured in the old home tour in a couple of weeks, i think some ond residents are getting a little anxious about the way the neighborhood looks. there have been pleas to the list for people to fix up their yards and houses, and there's an earth day cleanup day scheduled this weekend. there was a campaign (and of course, subsequent argument/discussion of the durham housing department's policies) to have ond residents call the city and demand that one of the burnt-out houses on seeman street be torn down prior to the tour.

now, no one on the list has EVER mentioned the traffic circle art, one way or another. BUT, maybe the driver of the car was an OND resident who wants the neighborhood to look good for the tour and has gotten a bit carried away.

but you know, now that i actually write all of that, i realize that it's completely out of character for most OND people to object to art in any form. so maybe not.

Posted by: lisa at April 20, 2006 05:16 PM

Wow... and here I always thought tacky was something like trying to hold a conversation from your car as though a public roadway were your driveway and also being on your cell phone at the same time...

There's just no accounting for taste, I guess.

As a sidenote, did you all see the lead story on cnn today about some recently-released study about how cell phone use causes a lot of driving accidents? Shocking, I know. I wonder if that study also has a category to account for slowing down to chastise people admiring an art display in a traffic circle?

At least we can take solace in the fact that the British are dreaming up even more extreme forms of creative traffice calming:

Posted by: marie at April 20, 2006 05:31 PM

I think that if she really feels this, she should be given all the pity we can muster.

Posted by: Becky at April 21, 2006 12:14 AM

Moments like these are tough for me. While I deeply believe that the woman (presuming she wasn't kidding) should be blessed with a more open nature, I'm less clear about the debate over use of public space.

If one doesn't like it, should many desist? (Incomplete reference: Thomas Jefferson's cautions against "the tyranny of the masses.") I just don't know!

Maybe this is why I'm an envelope-filler rather than an envelope-pusher.

Posted by: Phil at April 21, 2006 12:58 AM

she's a Circle Jerk.

i chuckle quietly myself, at the art. i like it even more for how it makes traffic slow down like a roundabout is supposed to. and STILL the little aluminum posts marking the lanes and circle boundary itself are FREQUENTLY getting run over. they made this roundabout TOO SMALL, if you ask me!

Posted by: ray roundabout 230 lbs. ubinger at April 21, 2006 01:46 AM

When's the home tour? Maybe I should put on a bikini the day of the home tour and hang out in the traffic circle. The sight of lumpy, pasty-white me in a bikini will make everyone wish it was just a little harmless "tacky" art ...

And what's with the whole "the neighborhood would really appreciate it" crap? So she and her cellphone buddy appointed themselves "the neighborhood"? I've got one word for her: CARY! It exists just for people like her ...

Posted by: Lisa B at April 21, 2006 10:23 AM

Obviously she never saw the purple man.....no one could possibly hate him. I've been jealous of your neighborhood ever since you posted about him. I hate haters!

Posted by: lainey at April 21, 2006 03:04 PM

Maybe "Cell Phone Woman" is who complained to the city about the Hallowe'en decorations on the 1500 block of Glendale last year. (And who was the lucky person accosted by the city flack then? Argh.) One of the reason I avoid neighborhood associations like the plague is people like Cell Phone Woman who think they're "doing good." I wish all those people would move to the Trinity Park Ghetto and leave the rest of us alone.

BTW, I wasn't sure whether she was kidding or not, but the whole interaction was so odd that I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. She probably was complaining, and emboldened by being on her phone and in her car. Argh. Another reason to hate phones and cars.

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas at April 21, 2006 05:00 PM

This is what scares me the most about owning a home, (not that I will be doing that anytime soon)! I LOVE the traffic circle art, if anything, it would make me want to live in the neighborhood more so.
You handled this SO much better than I would have. I probably would have resorted to swearing at her or throwing rocks.

Posted by: Tanya at April 21, 2006 05:24 PM

You know, I've been living on this corner for 8 or 9 years. How much say does Cell Phone Woman get compared to me, or others who live immediately nearby? The traffic circle by itself is *not* aesthetically pleasing. CPW probably doesn't like it that my car is parked in the yard, either. :/ Maybe she stole Purple Man.

I sympathize with Phil's wonderings on the use of public space: I have them myself. But the result seems to be things going from un-regulated to over-regulated. E.g.: When Duke Park was refurbished, cars were forbidden. One of the rationaizations I heard was that people were parking (in the daytime) and then taking a nap in their car. Maybe cars shouldn't be there at all, but that's a fairly big dose of regulation. Is it wrong to take a nap in the park? I hope not, because I've done it. I can see someone thinking it's wrong, but I don't agree. It may be illegal for me to park my car where it is, too: I know it's illegal in some places to park your own car in your own yard. But the more people treat me badly with a "do-good" attitude and "benevolent" regulation, the more I'm in favor of them leaving me alone. It might be mildly disturbing to someone to see me asleep in the park, but it's definitely wrong to steal Purple Man.

To get back to Phil's point: it seems those of us who go along to get along (or leave matters to individual discretion, or who are liberal in what we accept from others, or are simply open-minded) can eventually expect bad treatment from others like CPW who have definite opinions. Unfortunately, people like CPW predominate neighborhood associations, school boards, town councils.... Then, out of a sense of "fairness" or "even-handedness," some city ordinance about someone's junker leaking oil on the curb is used against me while I try to stop my car from being vandalized again. Or a group of neighbors have to take down their Hollowe'en decorations. Argh.

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas at April 21, 2006 06:18 PM

someone complained about the halloween decorations? no way! that's so absurd. god forbid someone celebrate a holiday and have a block party...

lisa b, the tour is may 6th. and i think you should decorate the traffic circle any way you see fit! the more outrageous, the better.

Posted by: lisa at April 21, 2006 09:22 PM

Someone in a city truck drove through and I happened to be outside. She complained to me about the stuff in the traffic circle and the things attached to the telephone poles. She said it would all have to come down. Again, like CPW, I don't know what her problem was. Maybe I never will.

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas at April 22, 2006 04:14 AM

When she gets creamed by a trash truck because she was on her cell phone complaining about someone's positive outlet of creativity, I will feel certain the FUN GODS have had their way.

I love your traffic circle. From afar, I still love it. I would welcome it outside my own house!

Posted by: Gidge at April 22, 2006 07:27 AM

I think for the next piece of traffic circle art, you should resurrect the purple guy and make a speech bubble for him saying "Keep it in your own back yard".

Posted by: marianne at April 22, 2006 08:16 PM

sadly, the purple man (http://www.singintomymouth.com/blog/archive/002483.html ) was kidnapped! the last time he was placed in the circle someone stole him. there are signs posted around the neighborhood depicting a milk carton with his photo on the side.

Posted by: christa at April 22, 2006 09:50 PM

Perhaps someone should do a piece on not driving while talking on your cell phone...an art nouveau piece that shows us all how technology is much less important that the beauty of nature, and traffic circles, which we can't absorb when we are immersed in gadgetry.

Posted by: Gidge at April 23, 2006 12:22 PM


I love the traffic-cirlce art! It makes me want to live there. What a freak.

I second the motion to put up a "Monument to Tedious Conformity". Maybe put up a female manniquin talking her her cellphone or something.

Get a life lady!

Posted by: Matt at April 24, 2006 10:50 AM

BTW - I think it would be fabulous if everyone put something truly god-awful in their front yard, with a sign that said "KEEP IT IN YOUR YARD"

Posted by: Matt at April 24, 2006 10:52 AM

There's a house on Club Boulevard in Watts-Hillandale with about 5 bathtubs in the yard. But they're *nice* bathtubs, *nicely* colored. Is that still there?

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas at April 24, 2006 07:13 PM

it's still there, yes.
and it's funny that you mention those tubs, joe... i saw the owner of the house at the corner of glendale and seeman refinishing a tub in her front yard for what i assume is the same purpose. she's already got a fabulous garden; my guess is she's adding a tub to it.

Posted by: christa at April 24, 2006 11:45 PM

Wow, some people. I lived at the top of the hill on Markham and drove up and down there all the time in the days before the circle. I think the installations are awesome. Thanks for allowing a neighborhood expat to see the fun and hear the battle stories. Great stuff. Maybe a Lucy 'Peanuts' style 'Doctor' stand could be set up and a sign put out that says 'Free Chill P*ll' for neighbors.

Posted by: David F at May 8, 2006 03:16 PM
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