My last day
City Repair HQ
I get to HQ not expecting a lot to happen today since Kirk texted me last night that he would likely only have about an hour with me between meetings. I am greeted by Robin and Peter as I walk in. I never write about them in my field notes, but they are always and naturally the first to say hi to me whenever I enter HQ.
I walk straight into the City Repair office where Kirk and I look at each other and simultaneously pause with knowing looks that these are my last moments I’ll spend here on my field study. I sit down with him to help him with harvesting one of the lavender bunches we collected from a past CVC work party. It has officially come full circle, as my first day consisted of lavender harvesting with Kirk! Organically, we begin my closeout with me beginning to reflect on all of the highlights (which are hard to decide on!), namely (1) the Rockwood Community Celebration painting for being the most consistent project through the summer and for exposing me to a truly youth-led community effort, (2) all of the T-Crab events this summer for allowing me to witness the impacts of ephemeral placemaking and for providing me a platform to practice (and fail at!) my research skills, (3) the CVC work parties for handing me a bunch of opportunities to hone my leadership skills, and (4) the interviewing process and research project for testing my communication skills in facilitation and articulation, for giving me a research focus on my field study, and perhaps my personally most cherished gain, which is the project gave me my confidence as an academic again.
Throughout our conversation, Kirk and I share laughs as we reflect back on our time together, from when we were at one of Ladd’s Addition’s rose gardens and he threw roses at Rachel as part of the typical “City Repair hazing/initiation process” to our times spent with the T-Crab, to trimming bamboo, and everything in between. I miss Ridhi and wish she were here, but (this will sound very Portland - who have I become?) I feel her presence in the room today. Kirk offers me a lavender satchel (smelly sewn pillow stuffed with harvested lavender that City Repair typically gives out to partners and guests) to take on my travels.
We close with me saying that I hope he feels like I contributed to City Repair as much as I feel City Repair has given me, and he bounces back with “Well what do you think you’ve contributed to City Repair?” This question hits me, as I had not exactly thought about this concretely, but I answer with the hopes that I have furthered the function of the T-Fleet, that Ridhi especially has found me useful in co-facilitating our collaboration with the MYC, and similarly with Kirk regarding the CVC events. I explain, but perhaps not as thoroughly as in these field notes, that though my work at City Repair is technically not done, since I am taking home the blog posts over the break, I do hope that it gives City Repair insight on the larger picture of placemaking in this city, opening space for newfound understandings and perhaps frameworks in terms of DEI development, since that was one of the original intentions of my research project.
While harvesting, Kirk checks his phone and reveals to me that he is meeting with Greg Raisman from PBOT (same one I interviewed) in about 5 minutes and must excuse himself. We stand up and hug for what feels like 5 minutes. I will miss this guy.
On my way out before I leave the office, I take one final look around the room, thinking back to the first few weeks spent here when Mari, Rachel, and I would overcrowd the space with our laptops while coworking. I also think back to all of the check ins and placemaking meetings I witnessed in this room. I look at the strung herbs hanging across the ceiling, thinking to myself haven’t those same bundles of plants been up there since Priti’s departure? I am pretty sure they’re the same ones. I turn off the lights and leave the room, but not before grabbing myself a lavender satchel on the back table. I move through the kitchen area where I reflect back to all of the mornings when Kirk and I mixed tea for the T-Crab together, where I prepared food for Lunch Club and for placemaking info sessions, where I used to direct CVC volunteers to dry tomatoes in the corner with the culinary dehydrator, and where Ridhi would sometimes make me homemade mate tea. I pass by the large wooden dining table I have sat at so many times for Lunch Clubs, Core meetings, interviewing people, and even harvesting plants during breaks. I hug Kirk one last time before he sits down with Greg at the dining table and I say my farewells - though while also saying I will keep in touch. I step foot out of the door and just like that my field study is over.
My time with City Repair has come to an end. As I reflect back on the whole, I could not have predicted how much could transpire in the course of these six months. I have grown in a multitude of ways, from someone who absolutely wanted to avoid an interviewing method at all costs due to my articulation insecurities to someone who conducted twelve interviews by the end without supervision; from someone who had never witnessed a youth-led project to being someone to co-facilitate and coordinate one in the first two months at the field study; from someone who before the field study never knew the value in and practice of placemaking projects to having a consistent role in the planning processes for Placemaking and Core meetings (the behind the scenes stuff); and to add some silly ones… from someone who was so uptight on the habitual 9-5 schedule to being able to let loose and be self-disciplined enough to be just as productive on 3 hour days as 15 hour days; and finally from someone who went from saying you all to y’all! I want to make it known too that none of this could have been achieved without the absurd amount of trust both Ridhi and Kirk placed in me. They made my field study what it turned out to be.
Though my understanding of placemaking has considerably been influenced after witnessing and practicing it through City Repair and after learning about its many shapes and forms from various interviews, I find myself believing in its potential even more. And although I am unsure whether it is appropriate to include this in my field notes, I want to reflect that while I undoubtedly developed as an academic and individual in the workforce, I never could have predicted that so many personal gains would come with this field study on the side, and for that I am forever appreciative of the Community Studies program.