Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RIP, Dr. Joseph D. Warren

Gentle, kind, bright, thoughtful: Dr. Joseph D. Warren was the best kind of "good citizen". He will be most sorely missed but fortunately, through his work, he's left behind a little bit of heaven.

From Northeastern University: "Funeral services for Dr. Warren will be taking place at 10am at Sacred Heart Parish, located at 1321 Centre St., Newton, MA, 02459 on Monday, April 5. More information will be forthcoming".

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This Is What Sunshine Looks Like: Dudley's New Police Station Under Construction

Taken early on a Saturday morning a month ago, this is Dudley Square's new police station under construction. Local 7 has made their mark on a steel girder. Unlike the big gravel pit in the middle of Dudley, this building gives us reason to hope.

Where to Hide Your Swiss Army Knife Outside City Hall

I had an appointment at City Hall and was running late. Dashed into the building and threw all my bags on the xray machine conveyor belt. Walked through the metal detector. Almost there.

"Ma’am, do you have a Swiss Army knife in your bag?"

Shit. Shit!

I always have a Swiss Army knife in my bag and if I don’t have a Swiss Army knife, I have a Leatherman. How do people make it through the day without pocket tools? The last time one of my pocket knives was confiscated by airport security and I bought a new, more expensive model, I promised myself I’d have it forever.


"Ma’am, you can’t enter the building with the pocket knife."

"Can I leave it here with you and grab it on my way out?" Worth a try to ask.

"No, ma’am blah, blah blah." I was thinking of where I could go or who I knew in the area who wouldn’t mind babysitting my pocket knife for an hour or so.

Across from City Hall lies a Quizway or Subnos – one of those national fast "food" sandwich shops. I ran into the just opened store.

"Good morning," I said. "How are you?"

Bianca, the young woman behind the counter was very pleasant.

"Listen," I said. "I have kind of a bizarre request…" I proffered the Swiss Army knife. "Any chance at all you could hold on to this for just an hour while I duck into City Hall." I turned on my most winning smile. She remained pleasant, obviously used to crazy people.

"Sorry," she said. "The manager has strictly forbidden that we hold anything for anyone. It's store policy."

"So this happens a lot? People come in and ask you to hold onto stuff for them?"

"Oh yeah," she said. "All the time. All the time. Sorry, I would do it but…"

"How often? How often do people ask you to hold onto things?"

"Oh, everyday."

"And what kind of stuff?"

She giggled. "Oh, everything! One guy came in with a suitcase full of ‘razor blades’ and wanted us to hold on to them for him."

"A suitcase full of razor blades? And he told you that?"

"Yeah." She was still giggling. "I’m really sorry," she said again. "I would but the manager is really strict…"

I thanked her and ran outside, scanning the plaza. I was considering burying the knife in the soil of one of the huge brick planters until I could retrieve it when I saw the solution: the perfect Swiss Army knife hiding spot. The plaza has all kinds of smallish, unsealed electrical boxes (the wires are taped, if not capped) so I slid the knife into one of those and went back into City Hall.

When finished with my business, there was a part of me assuming the knife would be gone but lo and behold! it was still there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Deposed of, Disposed of

Deposed last week for the very first time in my life and in that five grueling hours, I learned a lot.

I learned why lawyers have generally earned the reputation of being smarmy sub-humans.

I learned that intimidation, browbeating, manipulation, and bullying is understood to be an important part of “questioning” in legal proceedings.

I learned that, five days later, though I may still be smarting from what felt like emotional molestation, it’s just all in a day’s work for counsel.

I learned that it’s hard not to be contemptuous of a legal system in which bullying witnesses is ordinary part of establishing the “truth”.

I learned you don’t have to be particularly brainy to be a lawyer, just driven and at least mildly sadistic.

I learned that our legal system could probably do with some reform.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What Does Your Garden Grow?

City, city, often pretty, how does your garden grow?
With empty bottles of rum and not empty condoms
And tomatoes lined up in a row.

In my personal almanac, Spring begins at the Winter Solstice, when daylight begins outstripping darkness. As a gardener, unfrozen earth is the first hint that I can start planting those cool weather crops like peas and kale. And as an urban gardener, I never know what treasures or surprises I’ll find in my garden plot. There can be errant tomato plants, unidentified flowers, and even a little non-organic matter.

When I gardened in the Fens, I found used condoms, men’s underwear and a belt. More used condoms and beer bottles sprouted regularly in the Symphony Road plot. Oscar Parker garden in Mission Hill has its share of bottles and sundry junk food wrappers and is also the site of the best dump I’ve ever received: a five foot tall metal sculpture. Buried in the Spring snow a few years ago, at first I thought it was just an iron pipe but unearthed it revealed itself to be so much more. Given the weight of this thing and the fact that it would take at least two very fit people to hurl it over the fence, I believe it was intended as a gift as much as a dump.

So thank you, anonymous MassArt or Museum School student. I assume you finished this piece and had nowhere to put it so you made an unsolicited nocturnal submission – and one so much more pleasant than the others I’ve received.

At first, I tried to erect it in my plot since it would’ve made a kick-ass trellis for my sweet peas. Unable to secure it well enough on the uneven, muddy garden soil, I conferred with garden managers and someone fastened it to the concrete in a common area.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You Say Toe May Toe, I Say Roxbury

Just as the Sober Homes a couple of years ago stoked some neighborhood heat and activity, so too had the recent exciting prospect of a nice neighborhood restaurant. What began as a polite online listserv conversation about what amenities mean to us, degenerated after a week or so into name calling: Fort Hill! Highland Park! Fort Hill! Highland Park!

Triggered innocently enough by a neighbor taking initiative, the Fort Hill! Highland Park! debate simmers on the back of the stove. On the front burner: to vision or not to vision. What do we want here? What are we willing to tolerate, what will we embrace, and what will we disdain? And what will we call ourselves? This last is not a new question.

As Francis S. Drake wrote in 1878 in his preface to The Town of Roxbury, Its Memorable Persons and Places, Its History and Antiquities, with Numerous Illustrations of Its Old landmarks and Noted Personages:

“Roxbury was appropriately so named from its most prominent natural characteristic; and no one who venerates its founders or who cherishes a proper regard for the preservation of its historical or ancestral memories, should ever consent to substitute for it a name no more applicable to it than to many other localities now included within the city limits. To do so is no less a blunder in taste than in fact. The great city of London, while gradually absorbing adjoining localities, religiously preserves their ancient names. Are ours less dear to us? Let us, then, while a single “rock” remains above its surface, cling to the good old name of ROXBURY, ‘scotched, not killed,’ by the temporary substitution for it of the unacceptable misnomer of ‘Boston Highlands’.”

Unlike Drake, I kinda like Boston Highlands for this section of Roxbury. But I agree, too, with the neighbor who fairly growled on the listserv, call this nook what you like but its name is Roxbury.

Monday, March 22, 2010


When you dial 911 from a cell phone in Massachusetts, you get the State Police.

“911. This call is being recorded. What is your emergency?”

“No emergency. May I have the Boston Police, please?”

Here’s where it gets annoying and maybe even a little dangerous. Most dispatchers will plug you right through to whatever police department it is you’ve asked for. Others want to hear your story.

“What’s the problem, ma’am?”

I fell for this the first time it happened, prattled on with location and concerns and descriptions and caveats. Then the dude put me through to the Boston Police.

“Boston Police. This call is being recorded. What is the address of your emergency?”

And I had to repeat it all again.

Think about this: if it is an emergency and I’ve got a bullet riddled body on the floor of my kitchen, or an assailant lunging at me with a knife or someone in the vicinity who’s just had a stroke or heart attack, does it really make sense for me to be relaying the details twice, taking up twice the time during which the stroke/heart attack/gunshot/knife victim oozes her life force?

Maybe I didn’t have a time sensitive, life threatening emergency but it’s still a waste of effort and time to have to relate information to an agency or person who will then do NOTHING with that information. It’s not like it’s even a satisfying rant to complain to a Statie on the phone.

Still, this morning I did what Skip Gates and Peter Watts, and hundreds of drunken college students nation-wide obviously have no problem doing. I mouthed back to a cop. Ok, so it was from the relative safety of my anonymous cellphone and I left everyone’s mother out of it.

“Umm, do you really have to know this? I mean it’s a waste of time. The State police won’t be responding to this. Could you just put me through?”

I don’t even remember what he replied but I stood my ground and prattled on about wasting time and not relevant and having to repeat it all ‘til I wore him down. Then I told my story to the Boston dispatcher. I don’t know for sure but I hope they didn’t do nothing with it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lines of Information

Overheard on the morning commute:  "...cause when it's real cocaine you don't see that shit".  What shit?!  What shit?  I'm still wondering what shit but thought it more provident to roll on by rather than stop and ask.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

From the Women's Room

Photographic irony not intended.  Or is it?

This was a nice thing to find inside the stall door.  Graffitti used to amuse me as I relieved myself but stainless steel deters it.  And of course I had to check out operation beautiful

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Where's Your Cart?

From Boston Recycling:

"Where's Your Cart?  We noticed that you did not have your new recycling cart out and would like to encourage you to join the thousands of residents already participating in the 'Recycle More' program.  You can fill your cart with the following items:...."

This is the little note that the Boston Recycling  people have bothered to leave two weeks running (this week in full color) in my mailbox.  The cart in question is a huge monstrosity of a trash can which I believe is intended to promote single stream recycling.  Why can't I just single stream recycle in my small easy-to-carry-up-and-down-three-flights-of-stairs-even-when-full portable blue bins?  Which is what I will continue to do.

The big cart does have two advantages:  wheels and a lid.  The wheels though don't make it any easier to maneuver up and down that last flight of steep granite steps and I don't really have the space for it alongside the house.  The lid is great for those windy days when most of the recycling in my small bins gets blown around the street.  Still, a lid does not a recycling bin make.

Many of my neighbors have resorted to the big carts but I'll stick with the smaller bins.  They're more manageable.  And it's rare that I have so much to recycle that even a quarter of the big cart would be full making it just that much more inconvenient to haul such a small load in such a big container up and down the steps.

It will take more than big carts to promote recycling among those who don't do it.  On trash days I am appalled at the volume of perfectly useable, clean stuff (children's toys and furniture, mostly) that gets kicked to the curb and not the recycling bin.

Maybe recycling only reinforces or pardons the mindless consumerism that got us into this trashy mess.   Remember, it's reduce what you buy and re-use all you can,  first.  Then, finally, recycle.