More of these, please.
After conferring with the organizers of Guiding Lights Weekend, we now present the five winning ideas prompted by the Citizen Stranger essay contest. Each writer gets a free pass to the conference and the opportunity to have their idea picked cleaned by Slog commenters!

The first one of the bunch comes from the awesomely named Maxx Brown, and it involves pianos outdoors:


Broaching the subject of depression incites an almost scripted response, “Ah shit man, I feel you. Have you tried vitamin D3?” And then, “Fish oil too, it helps you absorb the vitamins.” My girlfriend recently coerced me to take a nondescript trip to the local grocer. Between aisles she casually snuck a bottle of multi-vitamins into my basket. I’ve been taking them religiously, noting little change in overall mood. Cheap whiskey boasts relief, but alcohol, though tempting, has a funny way of compounding self-loathing.

I recently phoned my sister to gripe. We started jiving about music and came upon the notion that music is the only non-medicated phenomenon capable of breaching depression. I, in turn, reflected on the irony of Ray Charles; modernity’s shepherd, blind as a bat.

Beyond resurrecting a musical deity, let me suggest a more feasible proposal. Old neglected pianos are everywhere (unused in school basements, perpetually posted for free on Craig’s List). It would require minimal effort to disperse these pianos throughout public parks. The winter months might demand simple shelters to keep the instruments from burning out too quickly, but this could be easily accomplished. You'd be surprised how many homeless folk (incapable of finishing a coherent sentence) can tickle the ivories with precision; how obnoxious children can be pacified while rhythmically pounding the keys. I suggest we bring music to our parks. I guarantee, given enough time, some unnoticed senior will sit down and pull radiant notes from memory out into the rain.

Four more ideas are after the jump.

Dick Dorsett's idea is to inspire 1 out of every 100 people currently reading this sentence to run for political office:

If only one out of every hundred readers were to seize this moment, we could upset the political establishment. We might upset everybody. To this day we have political offices that remain unchallenged at filing day. We coronate our gubernatorial candidates!

File for office. It’s cheap. It’s easy. And for a few hundred bucks, you will learn more than you would from a $30,000 graduate degree in politics. Make this be the year! That’s what the founders had in mind when they created our Republic.

From port commission, to city council, to the legislature and Congress, it has never been easier to engage. Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee? They both need opponents from their respective parties. Jim McDermott and Dave Reichert? Ditto. And if there is a legislative race without opposition, well, the founders would be ashamed of us.

The pundits make much out of the demise of our civic political discussion. My view? It has never been a better time for you to jump into the fray. Perplex the political class with your energy. Use social media to confound the system. Let the one percent filing fee frighten the one percent you hear so much about.

Pick the position you want. Let your family know what you are doing. And then file for office. Sure, there is work involved. But being a candidate is priceless. Or you can leave it to those other folks to do what you can do so much better. Are you ready?

Carl Goodman's idea is "Promoting Community in Condos," condos being a place where "community" usually goes to die:

Go ahead and laugh. Condos signal gentrification. They destroy neighborhoods. But not so fast. Lots of you lumpenproletariat may someday join me as condo owners.

When we lived in our dilapidated Manhattan studio, we never aspired to homeownership. But moving to Seattle changed that. Suddenly, we lived among 62 other homeowners with a set of self-imposed rules guiding our lives.

Typical of big city living, many of my new neighbors suffered from anomie. An insular homeowners’ board ran things, foiling attempts at nurturing a sense of community. Attending my first annual homeowners’ meeting, a motion to censure me was made because, evidently, I asked too many questions. The motion carried.

My New York chutzpah was unperturbed.

It was clear that my condo faced the challenge of volunteerism. Like in the larger society, our vertical village relies on volunteers to get many things done. Today, so many of us are quick to criticize, but so few labor at implementing solutions. Who’s going to oversee maintenance projects? Plan the budget? Organize socials? The few who do can turn cynical and insular.

Learning to navigate the shoals of condo living requires active listening, empathy, patience, lending a hand, cheerleadership, and good humor. Eight years into it, I’m still mastering these skills. But, today, my condo boasts a much more caring and cohesive community. It remains a struggle to recruit enough volunteers, but now there’s more transparency – and it’s virtuous to ask questions. Most satisfyingly, healthy condo living by definition thwarts “bowling alone.”

Elliot Helmbrecht wants to fix a dangerous intersection:

I live near a busy, three-way intersection that requires no drivers to stop and offers low visibility because of the parked cars. This convergence is dangerous to pedestrians, cyclists, automobiles, and dogs. I worry that as the large condominium complex being constructed nearby is completed, this intersection will become more troublesome. This would be the ideal site for a roundabout with plants in the middle that forced drivers to slow down and smell the roses. But with city finances being what they are, I am not holding out hope that they will come to my neighbors’ rescue. That is why I am proposing that we take control of the safety of our intersection and create our own roundabout. I used to live in the Wallingford neighborhood and I walked down a street with a giant ladybug painted in the middle the intersection. I imagined all the neighbors getting their paint out each summer and fixing the chips that had come off because it always looked good. I want to recreate that at our intersection. Everyone could bring a color of paint. Our first year might be very literal. It could be a giant circle that we paint with a garden in the middle. Maybe even some arrows around it so everyone gets the idea that they are not supposed to drive over it. The next year we could either add in some flowers or paint something completely different. Afterwards, we could have a neighborhood block party and watch paint dry.

And Seth Geiser and Kirk Hovenkotter want to reclaim dead space on city streets and make something cool out of it, starting with "that dumb little stub of Summit Ave at Denny and Olive":

Seattle has a lot of street space, a full third of our land, and it’s not used very well. Partially because cars are made of metal and our bodies are squishy and soft, but also because the legal use of street space for everyday activity is made complicated, costly, and tedious by permit processes.

Rather than wait for an appropriation of street space after rounds of neighborhood plan updates and mind-numbing council meetings, folks should get together and start reshaping their streets.

It wouldn’t take much to claim street space for people. Throw down planters and some dirt, now you’ve got a community garden. Put out some benches and a swing, now you’ve got a pocket park. Sure, safety and access need to be considered, but the truth is that most of our streets are overdesigned for their current auto use, and neighborhood residents should be allowed to find daily enjoyment in that underutilized space.

And seriously, the city budget isn’t getting better anytime soon. So if we want more places to play with our kids, to relax after work, to enjoy being outside, it’d be a hell of a lot cheaper and faster if we build those places ourselves.

We could even do it as a pilot program to show naggy nimbys how it works. I’d propose that dumb, little stub of Summit Ave at Denny and Olive as a start. It’s basically a 5-car parking lot now, but it could be so much more.

Thanks for playing, everyone... and have fun taking over the world. Everything you ever wanted to know about Guiding Lights Weekend is right here.

On an unrelated note, winners Elliot Helmbrecht and Kirk Hovenkotter should start a band (or a firm) called Helmbrecht and Hovenkotter.