Thursday, February 18, 2010

Copley BPL: Turn Down the Bleepin' Thermostat

Unfortunate that the city is planning library cuts.

I visited the Copley branch today to see the wonderful Man on the Street photo exhibit (free!) and another on Poe (free!) which I couldn't peruse as carefully as I would have liked because I thought I would pass out it was so bleeping hot in there.  Seriously, it was ridiculously hot - which in a public building is fiscally irresponsible.

The library could save millions if it simply turned down the thermostat several notches.   Even then, the environment would be warm but if they were uncomfortable with cooler than tropical conditions, librarians might be willing to don a sweater, or even a scarf and some fingerless gloves if it meant saving a colleague's job.

I'd be willing, as neighbor Mary Ann Nelson suggested, to pay ten bucks for a library card but only once I'm sure they're not going to squander it on improvident heating expenditures.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

T Door Stoppers

There are only three reasons why anyone should stand in front of the door on the T.

The first is that the car is packed and there is absolutely no other place to stand.

The second is that you know that the door in front of which you stand will NOT be opening at the next stop so you will not be getting in anyone’s way.

The third and final reason for standing in front of the door on the T is that you will be exiting at the next stop and are in front of the door to expedite not impede the process of getting off and on the train.

Oh, wait, there is another reason that someone would stand in front of the door on the T. Hmmm. What’s the best way for me to articulate it? That reason would be that the person standing in the doorway is really stoopid and/or really rude.

The people who ride the T: another reason to avoid using it whenever possible.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Common Word Cafe Open to the Public

The Common Word Cafe in the mosque has been open to the public for about a month now.  All are welcome.  They offer coffee, tea, panini, pastries, and wifi.  To get to it through the front entrance of the mosque, go though the lobby and it is on your right.  From the parking lot in back of the mosque it is in the door on your left.  It's a really comfortable and lovely space to hang out.

Hours are Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

neighborhood vision this saturday at the mosque

Highland Park
Community Vision

Join us, to continue crafting
the vision and strategy for our
neighborhood's future.

8am to 11am
Sat, 20 Feb 2010
Common Word Cafe
100 Malcolm X Boulevard

call/email Simon Hare

Organized by
|Your Neighbors

Monday, February 8, 2010

Highland Park Settles. We Hope.

Never doubt that one negative person can frustrate an otherwise productive and fruitful neighborhood conversation.  It happened last night when about 30 of us at a community meeting (open to anyone in the community who cared to attend) talked with Darryl Settles and his architect about his (yay!) plans for 85 Centre Street, Legends on the Hill.

Like the "conversation" on national health care, so much of what has informed the conversation on Settles' proposal has been a "keep your government hands off my Medicare"  kind of misinformation.

So, to the facts. Settles is in the process of buying the lots and hopes to close on the property by mid-March.  The building on the site is structurally unsound and will need to be razed. What he rebuilds is dependent on whether or not he gets a liquor license but will be mixed use (yay!!).  The options are ground level commercial space with 6 one-bedroom lofts above or ground level commercial space with 2 two-story lofts above or an open work space concept which would be available during the day to members and in the evening become a restaurant/cafe.  This venue will not be a nightclub.

With a capacity of 125, the restaurant/bar will be reasonably priced, family friendly,  and would be open 'til midnight or one on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.  It would close earlier on the other nights of the week.  As far as the 2 a.m. liquor license, Settles said he is "only guilty of asking for everything but not expecting to get it all".  In a perfect world he would love to keep the place open til 2 (making for a healthy and viable business) but he always realized that those late hours were unlikely in our neighborhood. He is undertaking this project on his own and without partners.

The reasonable concerns articulated repeatedly in the neighborhood and in the ether:  increased noise, traffic, and shifting plans for the space.   Those can and will be addressed.  Even without Settles bringing a business here, parking is a problem for some and that problem is being discussed and solutions are in the works. Living spaces above the commercial space insure state of the art soundproofing. Plans for the space are a process and will morph over time as the neighborhood voices concerns and Settles hits the inevitable snags inherent in any project. 

The unreasonable concerns articulated in the neighborhood and in the ether:  bringing in a restaurant/bar will bring in Sodom and Gomorrah.  (Yeah, like they're not already here).  But to say that a Settles business will bring mayhem to the area is like saying bringing in the Newport Jazz Festival is going to attract a Woodstock '99 crowd.  It isn't logical and it isn't true. It's a red herring diverting attention from productive conversation and negotiation.

Which brings me to the It Won't Work Here person.  Everytime that person's mouth opened, Armageddon flew out.  "This never worked and that never worked and this won't work and that won't work and this isn't fair and that isn't fair".    Still, though that person worked really, really, really hard to drive us all to thoughts of suicide, the group voted by an overwhelming majority to support Settles in his pursuit of a liquor license contingent upon his attendance at a meeting, "facilitated by Chuck Turner, with immediate abutters to discuss his detailed proposal,  and all options for 85 Centre Street".

That Settles will be developing the property is reason to rejoice.  As one neighbor pointed out last night, a new building on the site rids the neighborhood of that piece of urban blight and heat trap that is asphalt.  The final project will have its opportunity costs as does every decision we make in life.  It won't be perfect.  But neither is what we have now.  It's time to progress to a different type of imperfection.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bye Bye (sob), Sleep No More

The Punchdrunk contingent left the country in mid-November after entrusting their work to competent American performers and managers. Now, after a month long extension, SNM is staging its final Boston area performances this weekend. For those of you who missed it, you truly missed a once in a lifetime experience. (Performances have been sold out for weeks now and good luck getting in standby. Last weekend, people started queuing at one o’clock in the afternoon to try to get in). Their work is venue dependent so even if SNM is performed in another place at another time, it’ll never be the same. Like sex and really good food, maybe the best art is ephemeral, several intense exquisite moments and then, aah, aah, ahh! it’s over. Just an exquisite memory.

WBUR did a story yesterday morning about the “greening” of the new MFA addition and an MFA curator said “art preservation is a race against time”. Is it still art once it’s been preserved? I mean the art that serves a greater function than adorning an empty space on a wall: the art that gets people talking (about more than how much a piece has sold for) and arguing and engaged; the art that inspires a multitude of emotions, not all of them pleasant. Uncertainty, awkwardness, and fear as well as euphoria, curiosity, and a dreamlike whimsy were all part of the SNM experience.

SNM was not just a theatrical experience it was that kind of art: engaging and inspiring. Every dressed room at the Old Lincoln School in its degraded 5 month old form continues to be a morphing, living art installation, an art installation that can be smelled and heard and touched and swallowed. But the experience doesn’t end when you exit the building. There is so much to discuss: what you saw, what was done with you, where you went, who was that character?

Diane Paulus, ART Artistic Director, deserves kudos for bringing this show to town. She has said that she was working in London when she first heard of Punchdrunk. She’d go into Tesco and the store clerks were talking about Punchdrunk and the professional theatre people she was working with were talking about Punchdrunk: everybody was talking about Punchdrunk. You can’t help but want to talk about the performance after you’ve visited one. And you can’t help but want to go back.

A rather buttoned-down work colleague went with his wife and 15-year-old daughter who doesn’t usually talk much to them. The daughter spent the ride home, and time in the kitchen when they got home and more time the following day talking to her parents about SNM. The work colleague was delighted to have some (rare) rapport with his teenage daughter. I gave birthday tix to a friend who became obsessed (like me) and attended four performances. Many people donated their time for free to steward performances several evenings a week. It’s that kind of inspirational and I feel honored that I got to be a tiny little part of it.

I know my hometown can be a bigoted backwater but for this past Fall, at least, we were host to something magical and transcendent: the thrill that participation in grown-up make-believe can create and the vivid memories it leaves behind.

Thanks, Punchdrunk. Please come again!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thank You, CUJP!

Walking home last night I passed the Cambridge United for Justice with Peace, Area Four Neighborhood Coalition, and Veteran's For Peace people in Central Square.  They're out there on the corner of Mass. Ave.  and Putnam every Wednesday, bless 'em.

They were distributing  leaflets with a quote from Howard Zinn from You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train  And here's that quote:

"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.  It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.  What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.  If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.  If we remember those times and places - and there are so many - where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future.  The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


The thing about the old school Encyclopedia Britannica,  as unwieldy, monolithic, exclusionary, and “biased” as it was, is that is was (is?) stable, erudite, abiding, and consistent. Which is a good thing –until it isn’t. If I looked up Roxbury, MA in my imaginary old school EB a year ago and then looked it up again today (assuming that the EB contained an entry for Roxbury, MA which it may not have done but that’s another rant) the entry would have remained the same. Even an updated edition would have most likely have included a nominally edited entry.

Not so in the ever-shifting, dependent on who's-taking-the time-to-write-it-today world of The Web, or, more specifically, Wikipedia. A year ago, the entry in Wikipedia under Roxbury, MA included the casual observation of "generally acknowledged to be the most dangerous part of Boston" - which statement made me so mad I almost opened a Wiki account so I could edit the stupid piece. "Generally acknowledged"??! By whom? And on what shoddy believe-everything-you-read-in-the-papers basis?!

Today, however, the entry is shiny, happy and gleaming with lots of good history but no mention of danger, just the dewy-eyed promise of (ugh!) gentrification in the Fort Hill section of Roxbury, which statement I find just as offensive as the one of the other extreme. Here's a direct quote:

"The Fort Hill section experienced significant gentrification when college students (many from Northeastern University and Wentworth Institute of Technology), artists, and young professionals moved into the area in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the present day, there is much commercial and residential redevelopment."

Since when do college students and artists qualify as gentry? Artists live in areas that are not gentrified or upscale, because as the lowest income earning group of all educated people, they can't afford to live in gentrified areas. And neither, might I suggest, can most students.

Commercial development? Some of us are begging for it and others prefer to keep this nook sleepy but the only commercial development here are the airy sandcastles in the Wikipedia writer's dreams.

(No, I don't want to open a Wiki account and edit it. I'd rather use it as fodder).

And so here we run into the biggest problem of The Web: any nincompoop can write any unsubstantiated drivel she likes and many people will not only read it. They'll believe it without investigation, without corroboration, without thinking. Oh, wait. That's not The Web: that's people.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

85 Centre St. Beehive Collapse

This is 85 Centre Street, the site of what many in the neighborhood still hope is a possible Darryl Settles development project.  It's not made of cinder block, but brick.   Columbus Ave. brings up the rear of the parcel.

The plan was to raze this building and, using the two adjacent empty lots, build a lounge/restaurant with 6 condos above it.  Mixed used development:  urban sustainable living at its best.

The listserv hummed for a week with people stating reasons (mostly)  for and (some) against the proposal. But what was initially a high quality debate on quality of life issues precipitated by development, gradually degenerated into a tussle over whether we should call the district Fort Hill or Highland Park. Sigh.

Many are disappointed that they're forced to spend their disposable income in other areas and would love the opportunity to drop it here, at a righteous Darryl Settles jazz club. I'm particularly disappointed because I've watched as slimeballs buy and ooze their way into the neighborhood while the legitimate ones, like Settles, are shown the door before they step on the curb.   I'd gladly trade the very quiet but illegal and way overcrowded boarding house across the street from me for a mixed use condo/jazz club development, in a finger-snap.