Archive for the ‘Mattapan’ Category

Fair Fairmount Fare

July 19th, 2013

fairfairmount tstubI adore trains. How many times and ways have I said and written that?

Today was a splendid return from the big southern swing back into metro Boston. Foremost, I trotted down the hill to the Fairmount stop on the MBTA and took it into town.

That turns out to be a big deal in numerous ways:

  • They have increased the weekday sked (still not Sat/Sun trains…double boo)
  • They responded to grumbles, growls and snarls by reducing the fee to zone 1A (subway fare of $2) instead of zone 1 ($6), after all, we are in the city of Boston, dagnabbit
  • The walk is about 12 minutes and the ride to South Station in the intestines of downtown is 23 minutes
  • My new geezer card reduces the fare by half, so a round-trip was 2 (count ‘em, the same number as feet I have) dollars.

Now I truly, truly want everyone I know who has avoided the purple line to take the train, enough to ensure it thrives and enough to inspire the overlords at the MBTA to add night return trains and for crying out loud weekend trains. I”ll spread the word, here and elsewhere.

The experience was fine, albeit with the nervousness of seeing only a half dozen passengers on the 12:03 into town and maybe 20 on the 3:45 south.

This is pretty much the way the MBTA should be operating and charging for this in-town line.

Oddly enough, from what I heard and read at the national rail conference, Rail-volution, this Indigo Line is a model for everyone. We in Boston were largely unaware of two decades of Strum und Drang by by the neighborhoods from lower Hyde Park north into town. Fundamentally, the poorer, darker folk saw the wealthier, lighter folks’ trains speed by without any stops (as in zero) in their neighborhoods. They raised hell at city, commonwealth and federal level to get stops in their areas, transit-oriented development as the urban-planning cliché goes. They won and it was from the most local level up. They won, I write again.

So, it’s sweet on many levels to ride a quick, cool, clean efficient train into town at a fair fare from Fairmount.

 

Dot’s New Chocolate Bridge

January 28th, 2012

bakerbridge1Even simple infrastructure building is often a big deal. I didn’t take it lightly to be the first cyclist over the newly opened pedestrian bridge over the Neponset by Dorchester’s Central Avenue.

Ribbon snipping was at 1:30 PM today, replete with DCR’s Commissioner Ed Lambert, the district Councilor Frank Baker, state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, and like that. They sliced the red cordon to make public the 202-foot Walter Baker Pedestrian Bridge. I didn’t stick around a half hour for that (we have a weekend guest and I was abusing host duty already by riding), but did chat up the DCR folk.

Truth be told, I was not aware this was the day and just happened to be cycling by on the adjacent path. I’ve been seeing work on this for well over a year and figured it would be like so much of the Neponset and cycling projects — always under construction.

Yet as a Boston Cyclists Union member who has been to numerous public hearings on related projects, I need to drop my cynicism. These bits are happening all the time. The city, commonwealth and DCR are still trying to find funding to finish the big piece to and around Mattapan and beyond for the connection to Brush Hill/Truman, but they seem determined.

The flyer they were handing out noted:

  • This bridge replaced the rotten, impassable railway spur that used to go to the chocolate factory
  • It cost $843,303 and is part of the $3 billion MA Accelerated Bridge Program to repair foot and car bridges
  • It meant repairing the steel structure of the 92-year-old crossing, replacing ties with 10 feet of timber, extending paved paths on both sides of the river, and reconstructing Milton’s eroded banks

This joins the Dot and Milton sides, with the Neponset Trail on the Milton one. Pedestrians and cyclists can pass safely over it. This should encourage picnickers and walkers. It includes a bike rack on the Milton end.

I was the first over and back, but it won’t be my last trip.

What Milton Showed Me Today

September 5th, 2011

When my digital camera died a week and change ago, I ordered a new one. Taking it for a spin today, I looked for varied lighting and color to see what it could do. Here’s what I found in Milton on a walk.

Pix clix: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. If it opens in the same window, use your browser’s back button or command to return.

License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

Just South of Mattapan Square on Rte. 138, I’ve been biking by a big new sign. Today walking, I read it all and took this shot. What was a Jewish temple and what looks for all the world like a middle school will apparently become (ta da) a worship edifice. Oddly enough, I know the outside of the Concord Baptist Church in the South End. To most of us, that grand old building that used to be a Presbyterian church would seem much more like an edifice. I find it hard to believe that the CBC people could spend all that money for Milton real estate and immediately tear down the low brick thingummy, but stranger things have happened in religious history. TBD. edifice
temples In contrast to the aspirations and pretension of the CBC sign, the old one from Temple Shalom remains for the moment. It is much more in keeping with the stereotypical Jewish lack of ostentation in things religious.
The camo worked. The only reason I noticed this huge katydid was because I had bent to photograph the flowers. miltonkatydid
birchshadows Pope’s Pond is a small, hidden Milton treasure. This particular birch is in the wonderful canopied path beside the pond.
Not all in Milton is jolly. At least one person also doesn’t seem to get the hang of threats. This sign by the entrance to a fancy home is reminiscent of the French invaders in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy GrailNow go away or I shall taunt you a second time! welcometomilton
loomingsumac The sumac by Pope’s Pond is prolific. This one could be in Dune as a sandworm.
Along Brush Hill Road are numerous delightful weeds, this one like a yellow waterfall. weedwaterfall
pokeweed Pokeberries also abound. Birds love the sweet fruit, which are moderately toxic to mammals. Supposedly the juice cooked and without any seeds is edible.
I’m not sure what this little gem beside Pine Tree Brook. It seemed to sing. pathdiva
nocharlotte Here is a house on Cheever Street in serious need of the spider Charlotte. The house number sign has gone and the spiders were left to spin on the frame, but have not gotten to numbers.
I’ll be thumbing through my hort books to find these berries. yberries


Greenway within Grasp

August 31st, 2011

Hail to the many who have worked for the better part of two decades for a Neponset River Greenway! Within two years, the biggest missing piece will be complete. Citizens, engineering sorts and bureaucrats alike have ‘er done.

I joined what looked like a little over a hundred in the Foley Senior Center on River St. in Mattapan last evening for another quenching trip to the well. You can grab the straight coverage and a link to the presentation at the Dorchester Reporter. You can also search at that site for excellent past coverage on this trail.

The short of it is that after many meetings and laborious compiling of complaints, suggestions and comments of Milton, Mattapan and Dorchester abutters (and numerous whiners, loudmouths and cheerleaders), the final plan looks like a winner. A large majority apparently love it. It moves from conceptual drawings to engineer docs that can aid in getting the federal money for the project as well as giving the nitpickers and Myers-Briggs S types something to hold and come to terms with happening. They are now figuring that completion of a link from Central Avenue into Mattapan Square for a ped/bike path will happen by the fall of 2013.greenplan

Click the pic for a closer view or go to the presentation for it and the earlier schemes. Key aspects are that it starts at the existing path at Central Avenue, runs between the trolley path and river, crossing from Milton to Mattapan on a new bridge by the Ryan Playground, then curves on the north of the river to a new ped/bike bridge over and around the trolley terminus and into Mattapan Square.

This came after five previous plans. After the public meetings and private comments, which the presentation recaps in concepts and numbers, the latest plan seemed to placate nearly everyone.

I came for the details, but left with a felt sense of the democratic skills involved, particularly the the DCR folk in managing a prickly, often nasty process. While he was quick and frequent to spread credit and praise, the diplomat in chief seems to be Jack Murray.

The DCR Deputy Commissioner for Park Operations is unfazed by the hostile, NIMBY and unfair-to-me types. Even at this largely jovial celebration, several dissatisfied folk spoke out and up, without rattling Murray. He’s been though a couple years of rough democracy on this and kept his cool and his smile.

In fact, several of the pols who attended and chimed in their praises (Sen. Brian Joyce and Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry and Russell Holmes) called the process out for its amazing transparency, flexibility, and outreach. There was passing mention of the contention involved from the beginning, and nothing but kudos for a thoroughly open process — perhaps an inspiration for the larger government, ask I?

Murray was also charmingly coy about the MBTA. It refused to allow an at-grade crossing for the trail, leading to among other expensive problems, a ped/bike bridge at Mattpan station. Murray just smiled and said “We love our sister agencies.”

So it’s worth nothing the residual complaints that bring up what the DCR and the many others involved overcame. Last evening lacked the whiffs of racism and classism noted in articles about earlier public meetings. A few of those seemed to mirror the fears that kept Weston from allowing an extension of the Minuteman path. There was only one of those last night, and of course Murray handled that well.

Despite the round praise for the proposal, one resident still wanted her say, there and in some private meeting. It was a wonder to hear. She said the trolley runs behind her house and the bike path will. Her concern was that cyclists would jump the fence and do something nefarious on her property – to her possessions or daughter. Hearing that it doesn’t happen, not in Boston or Lexington, and that bike paths add light and witnesses, making areas safer was not enough. She didn’t seem to notice that she undercut her argument by saying she feared the same of the nearby trolley. The fact that this has never been a problem did not deter her. She wanted some kind of meeting with state officials and not a public one. Meh.

Toward the end of the question-and-comment period another resident tried the it’s-only-a-start ploy. He’s surely sadly mistaken if he supposes something with this much pubic input and accommodation awaits his brilliant revisions and a restart.

Otherwise, the niggles were indeed niggling. People were pleased at the result and particularly at having been listened to. They could see their suggestions, complaints and fine-tuning before them. The Neponset River Tail Phase II is rolling right along.

Where Robots Arise

July 19th, 2011

With the power of POTS and the net, and the grace of human users, I found out about the new mural on the bike/ped path next to the Mattapan trolley. It’s not my style, but for this case, I’m running the bulk of an earlier post with the new info.

I tracked down the woman who is apparently the sole source of mural information in DCR parks (Janice Tenzin). She put me in touch with a couple of people at Boston Natural Area Network, who in turn directed me to the sole expert there (Candice Cook).

The answer to my who, who funded and where’s the plaque questions are:

  • The mural was a project of teachers and students at the Milton Academy (and who’s saying Miltonians all hate and fear hoi polloi on the bike path?)
  • The city and state did not have to chip in for funding
  • The project completed as the school term ended, so the signage will come at some unspecified day (I hope it credits the students and advisers by name)

The original, still ignorant and curious post included:

I suspect I’ve cycled by a few times without noticing the robot and cellphones. When I roll on the DCR path beside the Mattapan trolley, I’m watching for unattended toddlers, unleashed dogs, and adult humanoids blissed out with earbuds. Today I noticed.

robotmuralNext to the grand mural depicting Native Americans, corn, canoes and such is a new and delightfully garish one. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s bold, and I bet it was done by high-school students.

I called the DCR when I got home. Allegedly the flack in charge of that area is at an event and no one else has any idea of the provenance. I’ve left a message and shall follow through if she does not get back with me. As soon as I learn, I’ll update this.

Pic Click Trick: Click on any image for a larger view. If your browser brings it up in the same window, use the back button or key to return.

This new one is contemporary, with modern electronics, retro tug of war, skater and even the Apple logo.  It makes an amusing visual counterpoint to the historic neighbor.

This stretch between the Milton and Butler trolley stops is vying for mural overlord. Up the line into Dorchester are a series of DCR and city supported wall pieces. They tend to be pretty crude and not too visually exciting.

Already just beyond the robot to history pair is a series of stylized nature pieces — ladybird, fireflies, cricket and day lilies. I’m figuring there’s more to come. I and likely hundreds of daily strollers and runners likely are eager for more secret gems in this hidden gallery.

The robot a little closer, replete with cellphone eyes. robottug
lilies Whole day lily mural.
Adjacent fireflies. firefly
ladyclover Ladybird detail.
Cricket detail. cricket

Crowing in Hyde Park

June 23rd, 2011

With a wholesome sort of boosterism, Hyde Park (and a wee bit of Roslindale) City Councilor Rob Consalvo got to brag. To hear him tell it this morning, his district is sucking up far more than its share of development projects and business expansions.

Oddly enough for a pol, he didn’t take credit for most of it. He was quick to point out that corporate and government deals tend to be in five-year terms. A few years of talking and planning have similar period of funding and implementation. That goes for massive sidewalk and street reconstruction underway, the two huge rehab and expansion plazas anchored by Stop & Shop on American Legion Highway and Truman Parkway, and a lot more.

Another Go at Coffee

The scene for his bragging on his district but not much on himself was a soft opening of the Bean & Cream coffeehouse/ice cream parlor on Truman off Faimount. The actual open-for-business starts Monday.

I was bribed with both a free coffee (super dark roast, not diner stuff) and biscotti made by the owner Tom Papadopolous’ mom. (She was right when she let slip that they were better than the commercial Nana’s. These had nuts and dates and were fresh.) (Brother Peter is in the biz as well, but was not there this morning.)

Nevertheless, I think I’m not too tainted to report that Bean & Cream is promising. I’d need to taste the ice cream as well, but there’s lots to recommend it. Of course, it’ll have WiFi and Tom says he’s encouraging loiterers. There are about 10 tables (catchy name for somebody) in a spacious and light room. Even the johns are remarkable in that they are roomy and what you’d like to but never do find in a service station.

Locals have bemoaned the shutting of Townsend’s coffee shop, T.C.’s, run by the restaurant owner’s wife Rosaleen Tallon. As well as co-owner of the big place, she’s an excellent baker and still does the desserts there. Apparently they didn’t get the business they hoped on the coffee/pastry side, although regulars were very loyal.

Mild disclaimer: Michael Tallon is always chatty and cheerful, but we’re not real friends. We do live a couple of houses apart and my wife and I eat in Townsend’s. I’m prejudiced in favor, plus I can attest that Rosaleen does grand things with lemon in her pastries. Moreover, Michael has a great nose and mouth for ales and beers that they offer.

I have been attending the HP zoning and redevelopment meetings. I suspect that when they finally expand parking at the Fairmount commuter-rail stop and drop the fare to subway level instead of $4.25, the Logan Square area will get more daytime oomph for such businesses. Meanwhile, the new shop may do well for several reasons:

  • Cappy’s Pizza in the same block, owned by the Papadopolouses for about a decade, draws lots of lunch as well as dinner business.
  • While Ron’s ice cream/bowling is half mile away in Cleary Square, Bostonians love their ice cream, maybe even more than donuts.
  • The write-a-novel or just gossip coffee shops are in West Roxbury and JP, but not HP. There may well be a need.
  • Tom P. seems to be building a little empire, which short of alcohol, would give people what they want from breakfast through evening snack.

Whining Muffled

By coincidence, I had just griped to Consalvo by email about the dreadful crosswalk at the HP Y (where his wife Lisa works). There’s a combo of terrible design and Boston driver/parker behavior. People park there massive SUVs and F-150s next to and often on the crosswalk. Drivers on River Street race to the stop signs a short distance away. The effect is that kids, seniors and everybody in effect is darting out between parked vehicles, blind to the street and drivers to use the crosswalk. I went on and on.

That’s taken care of, it turns out. As part of the River Street Road work (Mattapan Square to Reservation), that and other crosswalks will get an upgrade. The pedestrian zones will make it obvious you can’t park there and provide line of sight to all. So there to me!

Money on the Table

This morning’s meeting was the neighborhood business networking. Consalvo described commercial boons that should become booms.

Foremost are the grocery-plazas — the two S&S ones and the relatively new Price-Rite on River Street. All three are multiphasic deals, with more to come. Each has created a plaza with itself as an anchor store and will expand with more building and more stores. He figures each represents about $30 million invested. To Consalvo, these deals prove his contention that these large corporations have done their market research and believe the district will expand and provide profits.

I did get a brief flashback to the South when he spoke of S&S’ putting stores within a mile of each other. Actually, it’s a bit farther but they are still oddly close. This is similar to the successful strategy of Memphis-based Piggly Wiggly. As a child and young man, I noted the obvious proximity of its stores in many Southern cities and towns.

Locals set me straight when I was eight. They referred to the white Pig and the black Pig. The then separate cultures (despite nearly identical foods) dictated racially solid customer bases, thus parallel grocery tracks and support for close stores.

Hyde Park is not that separate, but there is considerably similarity. The Price-Rite for one example seems to have a few white customers, some Latino, but very heavily black shopper base. The American Legion S&S is similar. The Truman Parkway S&S has largely white customers, although neighboring Hyde Park areas are highly diverse. Once the new Truman store opens in larger format, perhaps it will attract a more mixed set of customers, particularly if they add a fresh fish counter, which either of the other stores has.

Back to Consalvo, he also ticked off $10 million to the Y and $4 million to the public Wright golf course/club house. Even though he minimizes the credit due him for his relentless boosterism, everyone else in the room was quick to say much was and is and will be his doing.

Amusingly, I lost count of his most frequently used phrase today. That was tough fiscal times. He’d use it and follow up with the development underway. He’d use it and point to 130 new cops and 50 new firefighters on or about to be on the job. He said pols in nearby towns ask how Boston can do all this. His answer, he said, was that the mayor and council have prioritized.

Tags: 

Twice Favored by the MBTA

March 25th, 2011

Harrumphing aside, and despite what my sons might say, I am capable of praise as well. On this week’s zoom in and out of NYC, the Boston T met its skeds and delivered me on time to and from the farthest reaches of this city.

Cynicism would note that I have been reduced to cheering this lumbering, sputtering, bureaucratic service for doing its job. Indeed, there are many reasons why I prefer going by bicycle in the great wheel and on its spokes from Winchester to Wellesley to Stoughton. It takes less time for me to bike from the bottom of Hyde Park to Davis Square for example than to drive or depend on bus/trolley/subway combos. Of course, as a skinflint, I delight in it being far cheaper.

Ah, though on pre-dawn Wednesday, the scant and silly Fairmount commuter rail options worked perfectly and on Thursday night, the equally spare and precise hourly buses from Ashmont to home dovetailed exactly with the Red Line from South Station. Perfecto.

The grousing on Universal Hub of late for delayed, cancelled, vomit-splattered trains, and those with surly staff is understandable. We have a fair mass transit permeation here. So many of us are carless or choose not to pay for commuting, shopping and hitting shows and shops in parking, time and space seeking that we are virtually captive to the T.

Regular readers here and at Marry in Massachusetts know I eagerly await the Purple Line. We can skip or slide the half mile from the top of Fairmount Hill in the bottom left of Boston to the often dilator commuter rail. Its sked is plain silly, with only a few morning runs into town, no weekend service, and a mere two evening returns from South Station — 7:30 and 9:40 — totally in the wrong times to see a show or have a decent meal.

The new sked supposedly within a year will give some choices to the tens of thousands of largely middle class and poor, many of color, who are far from the Orange and Red Lines and who have heard and seen the rare commuter trains roll over and through their neighborhoods with no stations and no service. Also, there’s a fair chance the fare will finally drop from $4.25 to a subway $1.70/$2. That’s fair fare for areas in Boston when many farther stops North and West have long been the subway cost.

Enough carping. Let me note that the T did me right:

  • The 5:51 a.m. arrived at 5:51 at Fairmount and hummed me into South Station in plenty of time to bolt on Bolt for Manhattan.
  • As a bonus, three of us guys got driver Dan who looked and sounded like an off-season Santa, who named our ride the Ship of Good Cheer, who took pictures of us, and who was highly skilled even in the narrow chute of the Midtown tunnel.
  • On the return, traffic in the Bronx into Connecticut had us running behind. Many fretting teens with texting thumb tics whined into their iPhones as did the inane middle-aged guys, constantly updating their families at length about nothing of action — their exit or whether they had the right cell number to call in four hours when they arrived in Boston. Blah, blah, drone. These folk must also need nightlights.
  • We arrived at South Station at 8:33 p.m. and the hourly bus from Ashmont left for my house in 27 minutes. Miss it and the half-hour ride to within 100 feet of my front door would turn into three times that, either with a Red to Orange Line, then a 32 bus to Cleary Square and a 15 minute, mile-plus walk, or waiting for the Mattapan trolley and likely walking the two plus miles in the dark up the wet road. Worse can happen, but those are not what I would seek. The option would be the kill an hour in or near South Station and take the last Fairmount train.
  • Instead, I hustled like squirrel in front of a feral cat. I galumphed the many station stairs, skirted the Atlantic Avenue side, and careered three floors down to the outbound Red Line. Within three minutes, the Ashmont train arrived and made good time to its terminus.
  • Both the South Station platform and the bus shelter on the other end were full of passengers. My trip was fully orchestrated as though all awaited me.
  • The 24/27 bus was nearly full. It is an hourly show after all. I arrived at figurative curtain time, took a seat and enjoyed the brief play. Even the passengers getting on covered with huge snowflakes seemed cast in a musical about Boston in winter.

Praise to the T…and to fortuitous timing. I appreciated jolly Dan on the ride down as well. Mass transit and cheap buses worked wonderfully. May all of my and all of your commutes and special trips be so blessed.

Tags: 

Curiously Pleasant Subway Trip

February 14th, 2011

Something New Yorkers and Bostonians share is a dread of dirty-smellies, particularly on the subways. I got a chuckle a few days ago from a variation on that theme.

I slid over undulating sheets of iced waves that should have been sidewalks to Mattapan Square. It seems Milton has three very strict snow-emergency rules — Chapter 6, Section 10 forbids sliding or coasting on a public way without a permit from Selectmen or the Chief of Police, Section 13 bans throwing snowballs, again on any public way, and Section 3 reads you can’t move any snow from your property into a public way. The bylaws don’t bother with the silliness of clearing your sidewalks of ice and snow. Harrumph, surely anyone foolish enough to walk in winter deserves the worst.

From there, the Mattapan high-speed rail, a.k.a. the trolley, is frequent and quick to Ashmont. Ah, there where the subway begins, the vicissitudes of urban transit are in charge of your body and timing. The trains arrive when they arrive and leave when they leave. Moreover, many passengers are in for the long haul. They are likely to be headed to Downtown Crossing and many to Harvard, Davis and Alewife.

mints

This inspires you to look carefully as you enter a car. You likely know which end of the train you’ll want to be on for the right exit strategy. You’ll almost certainly have your choice of seats at Ashmont. You’ll really want to be careful about your proximity to cellphone yammerers and screamers, those dirty-smellies, and the obviously demented. You might be elbow to elbow for 20 to 40 minutes.

On my last right north, I smelled him from 12 or more feet away. To my amusement, it was not the scent I might have feared.

I checked him out. He was deep into his tin and not noticing me or anyone. He had on old clothes, but they were clearly clean and well taken care of. I could surmise that he was not homeless, but not quite all the way in the present. Perhaps he lived in a group home.

What he was noticing and into, and what permeated half the car, was the curiously strong Altoids scent. It was the red-trimmed peppermint variety. The oils filled the air between us, aggressively and agreeably. He carefully and with apparent pleasure plucked three or four at a time to place into his mouth. There was a man who enjoyed his mints. He rolled back when they were in his mouth and grinned his satisfaction.

If there was a wee lesson there, it would be to go with what is before you and be aware of it. I might well have seen a not-quite-together fellow and ignored him or worse thought ill of him. Instead even my low level of awareness let in the pungency of his mints and a glimmer of his pleasure in them.

Tags: 

Life in the Toilet

October 14th, 2010

One of my probably too often repeated shticks is how I want a super. When you pay mortgage instead of rent, you are the super.

I suppose the rich or indolent types call someone when the toilet stops working, the sink leaks or the light switch doesn’t switch. Having grown up moving every couple of years between small, medium or large towns, I liked the apartments with superintendents best. Where we had to fix things, that we was invariably I, as the alleged man of the house headed by a divorced mom.

Many little useful skills were part of the non-super life. They are at least as useful as camping and survival knowledge from Scouts and family. Yet, every time the house presents an awful or new repair challenge, I long to pick up the phone.

Toilet trek

Head down, face inches from the procelain bowl, I was not re-enacting the stereotype of penance for overdrinking. In fact, I was using all my weight and force to set the wax ring under the new toilet.

At that moment, even knowing that not even tap water had yet touched the bowl, I knew the cultural, hygienic bias against that receptacle for human waste. It took me back decades to a college course we j-school students all seemed to take — a vocabulary curriculum based on Havilah Babcock‘s I Want a Word. I don’t recall whether porcelain is in the book or the prof added it, but I do recall the etymology. While some dictionaries use the derivative basis of cowrie shell, that comes from its resemblance in color and shape to a sow’s vulva. Apparently farmers can tell you how the whiteness and folds bring hidden pig parts to mind. Thus, whether for waste handling or food display, porcelain ware is forever smirking.

When water dripping down from the first floor roused me in my basement office, I could have used a super. The toilet was gushing from its failed valve inside the tank.

The very old-style toilet still looked easy enough to retrofit with new works, but nooooooooooooo. I had replaced the parts in other tanks and figured this was a one-hour fix. Instead, the metal fittings inside were frozen to each other. No amount of tools and straining could loosen them for the fix.

In a final effort, I figured that if I got the tank off, I might be able to turn it to leverage the self-welded connection. Of course, the bolts and nuts holding the tank has been dripped on for decades and were also petrified beyond wrench power.

Pressing middle son Eli into service, we paired to remove one nut/bolt set. He then used a small hacksaw for a long time from underneath while I used the big screwdriver above. Eventually, we got the second bolt and the tank off. It was a wasted effort. The connection to the works was so fused, we could not budge it.

Well, simple enough, right? I’ll just replace tank and affix the new one to the bowl. After all, it’s an Eljer, a brand with lots of installations. Not so fast, handyman.

Neither Home Depot nor Lowe’s had anything comparable. after finding the gigantic supply place (Economy) in Mattapan closed on Columbus Day, I was there early Tuesday to find new disappointment. Regular readers know how I love to point out the provincialism of the Boston area, where even simple shopping often requires finding the one local spot that carries something. This case transcends that.

I ended up going to three plumbing suppliers to find that this or that did not carry Eljer. Finally, I got assurance that Ellsworth in Dorchester did. I was crushed again to learn 1) they do have some Eljer, but the company hadn’t sold my tank model for many years, 2) that tank’s holes for connection to the bowl are not a current standard, so other brands wouldn’t fit, 3) if they could get the exact replacement, they would need a special order, which would be both as expensive as a whole toilet and take a long time.

Learning experience

Happening to have the compendium of home repair from Reader’s Digest (a self-serving gift from my mom when I was her super), I saw that installing a new toilet was not a very big deal. In fact, it should be quicker and easier than the work Eli and I had already put into the failed repair.

Heading home with a van one-third filled with porcelain and related goodies, I recalled a second of our four toilets that needed replacement tank works. At least I still had those I had bought for the first-floor unit.

Sure enough, replacing a toilet where there’s existing framing and pipe is not all that big a chore. I did make one mistake — a honking big wax ring goes under the bowl the seal the works to the flange in the floor. I scraped and rubbed the disgusting previous wax off and got the toilet ready to tighten to the floor, when I saw the plastic gasket that should be in the drain. It was clean and ready to use, but on the floor across the bathroom. Harrumph.

A trip to the hardware store for a new wax ring preceded lifting off the new bowl and scraping away the not-yet-disgusting wax. Then I found myself leaning, pressing, twisting and looking down into the bowl to flatten and spread the wax for many years of leak-free evacuations and flushings.

How does that line in Matthew 11 run? Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Of course the necessary, cynical corollary is that there is no rest for the weary.

Ecuadorean torture

If you pardon, flush with success on the ground floor, I looked at the leftover Korky toilet-valve kit and may have spoken aloud to myself, “This won’t take long.” That’s always the teaser in a sitcom.

Sure enough, the basement toilet I had shut off a month before for its water running slowly but non-stop into the bowl would torment me. I had replaced the flapper, but its troubles were in the valve instead. The period of ignoring it were over. Here came Toilet Man!

Well, this newer model must have been on sale when the previous owner paid for the half-bath across the basement from the office. As I bent to check the connections, I noticed MADE IN ECUADOR. Other than hippie hats knitted with alpaca wool, what’s made in Ecuador? Not good toilets, I soon learned.

I had no reason to check in or under that toilet, other than to replace the flapper. Doing that, I had noticed that the bolts connecting the tank and bowl were heavily rusted. I was willing to ignore that last month. Oh ho.

Feeling under the tank and looking against the wall, I saw that the bolt were not plumbing-standard brass, but some ferrous metal. They also had lousy washers and had dripped and leaked, like for years at a slow rate. Suddenly, I felt like a surgeon going in a patient for a simple operation and finding a questionable tumor.

The short of it is that:

  • I needed another trip to the hardware store for a decent set of bolts, nuts and washers. Those came in keen professional plumber toilet installation blister pack.
  • Removing the now corroded and frozen bolts and nuts was serious work but within 30 or 40 minutes, I had chipped away to rust in and under the tank, and used pliers, wrenches and screwdrivers to get them out.
  • The valve was also nasty, but once the tank was on its side, I was finally able to work my leverage scheme that failed upstairs.
  • I replaced the parts, reassembled all, and cleaned up the bowl, seat and floor from all the rust, grime and I-don’t-want-to-know that oozed, flowed or rubbed out.

My wife suggests that we celebrate, a potty party as it were. (Imagine getting Bostonians to differentiate between those words.)

Tags: 

Painter Putzes Patched

September 20th, 2010

A pair of good guys repaired a nifty mural done by teens on the ped/bike path beside the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley. Some self-centered jerks has tagged it with their sigs in pink paint, over the art.

I stopped biking to chat with Vincent and Steve doing their magic with pots of paint, blended to match the diverse colors of the original.

The sneaky schmucks covered much of the mural with pink paint. This is a sample of a section the guys had not finished fixing. damage
tools The elaborate mural is a Native American setting, replete with dugout, vegetable harvest, cooking and river. It has lots of colors, which the men replicated to replace the garish pink tagging.
Steve said Vincent was an actual artist and the leader of the restoration project. He was doing what Vincent said and showed. steve
vincent Vincent painstakingly restored the smallest and subtlest sections. He noted that he was glad the taggers didn’t have a ladder and more time.

The mural is just north of the MILTON stop on the trolley. Many hundreds of commuters, walkers and cyclists pass by and can enjoy it daily. (What were those jerks thinking?)

Steve and Vincent said they were working with Boston Natural Area Network (BNAN) in the restoration. They are double good news for all of us. They are volunteering for the effort; it costs nothing to the city or state.

Good on them.