Last October I had a run of good timing. The video of my TEDx talk on the important difference between a road and a street was released and, a week later, we released the companion booklet to the Curbside Chat. Both of these efforts brought us and the Strong Towns movement a lot of attention and, through it all, we caught the gaze of one of the people I admire greatly, James Howard Kunstler.
I've met Jim before at the Congress for the New Urbanism. I blog during CNU and so I sit in the front and, when Jim sat down beside me, I made it a point to shake his hand and greet him. Like a giddy school kid, I even blogged about the experience. I'm sure he would find that amusing.
Last October I got an email from Jim giving me some praise about the TEDx video and the Curbside Chat booklet. He kind of casually threw out the idea that we could someday do a podcast together. I may be a giddy school kid at heart sometimes, but I'm also an opportunist. A chance to have an extended conversation with one of my favorite social commentators was one of those experiences I had to pounce on. I emailed him back and said I'd come to his place -- or Duncan Crary's -- and we could make that happen.
Now I was going to be in New York on business, and I've always wanted to see upstate, so this was something I could have fit into my schedule. Unfortunately, I think I came across as a little over eager, especially since when I said I would "drive up" Jim apparently assumed I meant from Minnesota. He thought that was ridiculous -- told me so in the way you would imagine him doing -- and that's kind of where things ended.
Fast forward to 2012 and I'm sitting here with a copy of the KunstlerCast book written by the host of the program, Duncan Crary. The two of us are Facebook friends and, in chatting with him about the book, he agreed to come on the Strong Towns podcast.
We were able to pull that off this week. I want to take the blog post today and make sure that those of you that don't subscribe to the podcast know that the interview is there. I thought it was fun and it turned out really well. Duncan is a good subject for an interview. He made many thoughtful and insightful points that you don't often get a chance to hear from him on the KunstlerCast.
Although we've never met in person, I feel a little bit of a kindred spirit with him. We are both of Generation X and, while he laughed at my use of the term "slacktivism", we've both chosen to live in small towns and to, in our own non-traditional, Gen X way, push for change in those places. While my parents (and his parents probably too) would scratch their heads at the idea of spending significant time on a river barge this summer to write about the experience, I totally got where we was coming from when he said that was one of his upcoming projects. Hopefully we'll do another interview when that book is out.
A few things about Duncan. Not only is he the host of the KunstlerCast, but he runs Duncan Crary Communications where he does P.R., publishing and all-around assisting with communication projects. He comes across as a very down to earth guy; someone who believes in what he is doing but doesn't take himself too seriously. If Jim Kunstler is the court jester -- a title he has given himself that has far deeper significance than simply "clown" -- then Duncan is the town crier. These two are a great team.
Finally, I have to recommend the book Duncan has written. I'll admit that I was skeptical when I heard he wrote a book about conversations from the podcast -- how interesting could that be? Having read it now, I can say that it is very good. I'm immersed in this stuff and I learned new things from it.
For those of you wanting a good overview of Kunstler's thinking and for those of you that want to share JHK with others but may fear being embarrassed by the sometimes "salty" language he can use, this book is a great tool. The format is, by design, conversational. You can digest it in small bites or in large pieces. And the Kunstler world through Duncan's eyes is not necessarily sanitized, but it is communicated in a way that I think will reach a broader audience.
Plus, it is dirt cheap. You should really buy one for each member of your city council.
If you would like to know more about how to apply Strong Towns thinking to your community, join us at the Strong Towns Network, a social enterprise for those working to implement a Strong Towns approach.