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Motel 6

Fifty years ago Airline Highway was likely a very pleasant country road. No longer. I don’t have any pictures of it for you (maybe in an upcoming post) but I’m sure you’ve seen it before. It’s a sprawling commercial strip like any other. Every few years they expand the intersections to add another few feet of turning radius. Every few years the time it takes to cross the intersections in traffic takes a minute longer. There are no sidewalks, only ditches and culverts, auto dealers, buffet restaurants, the occasional mall, and a number of motel/hotels clustered around the entrance to the nearby highway, I-12. That’s where I’ve been since last Thursday evening.

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But I have been able to explore a bit of Baton Rouge. The downtown is lovely, if not lively. Beautiful streetscapes with the occasional parking lot where a building must once have stood. The area around North and 3rd Street is particularly excellent.

There’s some new development by the Mississippi River, the kind of extravagant if contrived development designed to convince the people living out by Airline Highway to come back to the city for some sports, fun, and culture. A museum of natural history neighbors an arts museum, a small gallery district, a sports arena, and a bit futher south, a casino. Except for this section however, the river’s levee has an industrial feel with a nice view of southern urban decay. There is a levee walk that extends to the Lousiana State University campus however — an excellent recreational asset, though I’d like to see more of a natural riparian buffer along the Mississippi, maybe a restoration of the great Weeping Willow trees that historically abutted the river, controlled erosion, and calmed and cooled its banks.

While wandering around the city Friday night I came across this weird gutted building. Checking the door I discovered to my surprise that this was the regional FEMA office!

FEMA's gutted office building in Baton Rouge

FEMA’s gutted office building in Baton Rouge

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Get Well Soon, New Orlans (wheat paste flyer)

Get Well Soon, New Orlans (wheat paste flyer)

I wish I could describe more interesting adventures while I’ve been waiting for my background check to come through. I did discover a few free wif-fi hotspots near LSU’s campus, and will be spending more time there just to get away from my motel room. And I’ll be taking some pictures of the levee and riverfront here too.

About Aharon N. Varady


Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find my work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support me, please consider donating via my Patreon account.

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