Archive for the ‘Somerville’ Category

It’s a buck, Jack

March 14th, 2014

What the hell is it with Spare Change News? or maybe their vendors? and Bostonians, Cantabrigians? and Somervillains?

For crying out loud in a bucket, as my mother used to say when she was disgusted. Buy the damned rag. Enjoy the unique content. Feel a wee twinge of compassion and humanity.

First for urbanites, if you have any sense of hipness, you’ll want to get every issue. They are rife with poetry and social-action news nobody else has or bothers to cover.

Second, it’s low output, small beer for the reward. The vendors pay 35¢ per copy out of pocket. They sell them for $1 each and keep the 65¢ per. They are working, earning money honestly. Give ’em a break.

There is no shame in honest labor.

I seek out the vendors. In case you are fastidious or a self-righteous type, you can check a vendor’s bona fides without dirtying yourself. They have ID tags they wear on their shirt, blouse, dress or jacket. You’re doing a good thing by buying and nobody’s scamming anybody.

Third, the vendors are to a man and woman sincere and jolly. Have a few words, connect with a human you didn’t know before and be human and humane yourself.

I see folk in Downtown Crossing, Harvard Square and elsewhere scurrying like Esplanade picnickers who have just noticed a rat crawling behind the Fiedler’s head sculpture. Honest to God, Spare Change vendors won’t transfer vermin to you. Instead, you might have the most genuine interaction of the day by buying a copy.

Do it.



Squeeze Your Honker, Somerville

October 13th, 2013

OK, kiddies, the annual, multi-day Honk! fest in Somerville MA is pretty damned good. It’s not the Lowell Folk Festival, but it’s intense, different and just as fun. Plus, we can go by bike or subway from Boston.

We did the biggest, longest day, Saturday this year. Even with intermittent mist, we didn’t regret it. In fact, the dampness led us to two visits to Five Horses, where I’d been numerous times, but Cindy never. Our youngest works in the South End, Boston, version.

We can be as provincial as New Yorkers, but really, really Boston, this free fest is mandatory. Also is chipping in $5 or more into the donation buckets. Get real. Get grateful.

Some of What We Saw

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.

Band links: The Honk! list routes to all the bands.

Minor Mishap(Austin) all flashed my favorite color.


balaansinger Drummer/vocalist from Brass Balagan (Burlington, VT).
Big heads from Bread & Puppet Circus Band (Glover VT) await skulls and shoulders. breadpuppet
allseeingtuba Tuba bulb from Gora Gora Orkestar (Boulder) sees all, shows all.
Gora Gora was rife with horns. goeralips
forwardblades I see your pathetic glockenspiel and the Forward! Marching Band (Madison) raises you saw blades.
Minor Mishap had lots of brass. minorhorns
goradance Introversion was not the order of the day and many, most women danced to any and every band.
Many kids saw adults at their freest and joined in. balagansway
dja DJA-Rara (Brooklyn) did amazing things with modified found objects.
The amazing drummer for Brass Balagan had everyone hopping, stomping and clapping.  balagansticks
 chesterbubbles  An extra was gigantic bubbles seemingly in time to the music.
Balagan’s flag lady worked harder than the musicians.  balaganflag
 2ndbone A bone player for the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society (local)
The nomadic belly dancer did her thing with several bands and seemed to befuddle kids.  howtoenvy
 minordrum The longer Minor Mishap played, the more enthusiastic they got.








Young, youngish, still too young corpses

September 5th, 2013

Noticing the box with half my mother’s ashes, I thought again of three good folk I knew who died unnaturally young — or maybe naturally if you consider invidious, insidious disease to be our shared fate. Certainly going before 60 doesn’t seem right to me.

Today would have been my mother’s 89th birthday. She was outside the too-young range. She died 9 years ago.

nycchumsAt 33, Paula Delancey went first. We went to high school together, dated, and in our early 20s ended up becoming really close friends. She went to the CIA (as in chef’s school up the Hudson) and spent weekends in my West Village apartment. Hyde Park NY was not theater central nor where her friends lived and played.

“Her ambition is to be happy,” was beside her HS-yearbook pic.She was terrifically bright and well read. I couldn’t believe what a vapid, inane thing to write. Now of course, the older I get, the wiser that aim is.

She was a lot of fun, constantly laughing and joking, even ridiculing her own blunders and shortcomings.She looked forward to being a fabulous old lady.

The pic is, right to left, Paula, Isabel Wolfe (now Frischman) and I in Isabel’s NYC apartment.

She never got there. After being the first woman ever to graduate at the head of her class at the CIA, she worked in several NYC restaurants and then was head chef at a couple of others. She ended up making great money, taking her mother on an extended luxury trip to Paris and heading toward those two goals of being a grande dame and staying happy. Then she got cancer of the spine.

Apparently there’s little to do. She gave NYU Medical its best shot at chemo, radiation and surgery. She faded, continuing to sicken, go bald and suffer. She died in 1981. That was my first eulogy, delivered to a chapel in Brick Township NJ filled with a few of her friends and many of her aged parents’.


At 40 , Neil Passariello was also far too young and far too vital to have died. This month he will have been dead 23 years.

He was the long-term partner of my friend from college, Jasper Lawson. He died of effects related to AIDS. He was finishing his doctorate in clinical psychology (Jasper already that one).  There is a regular colloquium in his honor.

I like to think I gave him a last bit of earthly pleasure. When he was in the bed where he died, I bought a bouquet of coriander I picked from my garden. He loved the herb and would say every meal needed a dish with cilantro and of course a pasta course. He no longer opened his eyes when we visited that last time, but he definitely smiled as I held the coriander close to him.

Surely all of his family and friends remember him as funny, dramatic, loud and passionate. An Italian-American, he referred to his heritage as he spoke intensely of food, of sex, of music. He could and did literally break out into song, generally an aria from an Italian opera.

His death did not seem right or timely or fair. He made others’ lives better and more fun, both personally and professionally.

Jasper and I have laughed more than once about how Neil made Jasper seem so WASPy, mannered and tame in contrast.

Jasper’s husband, Jay Landers, is remarkably patient when friends accidentally refer to him as Neil. On occasion, I make that faux pas. Supposedly that is expected with first “spouses,” although Neil died before same-sex marriage was legal. His intensity brings him to mind, quite understandably.

rehfieldAt 57.  John Rehfield still fits in the too-young category. He was remarkable in many ways. I can say for certain he was one of my two favorite managers (I married the other one).

John was a trade-magazine anomaly in being a civil engineer who was a good, no, a superb writer. He won every possible award in construction and trade journalism. He hired me to write for Construction Equipment knowing my only building experience was on carpentry crews during college summers. The day he hired me he said he could teach me anything I needed to know about construction but he couldn’t teach his engineers how to write.

He was very tall and light bulb shaped (his head at the screw end) and even laughed at his odd physique. He was an incessant punster. He came to work at dawn and completed his own before the rest of us arrived. He spent his day dealing with company matters and forever being there to help his writers, editors and art director. Oh, and he always wore a Mickey Mouse watch; he explained that he bought his children Disney stock when they were born, largely for the cartoon characters around the border of the certificates. They became surprisingly wealthy as the stock split repeatedly. He figured the watch was the least loyalty he could show.

He did wonderful motivational deeds too. Every so often and not related to the scheduled reviews, he’d come around to mention he was giving me a raise, just because I was doing a good job and writing good articles. I overheard him yelling at the publisher, telling him to keep his sales reps away from me; I ran the national directory of equipment and they all wanted favors for their customers.

Alas, Conover-Mast, across from the Daily News building in the literally heart of Manhattan, fell prey to Boston-based Cahners. The new parent sent the kids to Boston or Chicago. Moving to lower-tier towns was too much for those of us young and single. Most of us didn’t go.

Within 7 years, John died of cancer. Even though my sister and her kids were in Chicago, I would have felt stranded had I followed him there. I prefer to recall him as healthy and funny.

In fact, I remember each of these three for their virtue and joy they took in life.

Big Box Bourbon

August 14th, 2013


Oh my, late to the game again. I discovered that Costo private brands a small-batch bourbon. Today I was in the Avon, MA, store, which has a company liquor department and vot!

Turns out that everyone, his brother, cousin and niece already bought and tasted it. A net search gets lots of hits. For both flip and savvy comments, I point to a few:

I’m not a bourbon snob, but I do like like it. I started drinking in the South, where the choice was bourbon or beer. Also a mixed drink meant with ice cubes or maybe if you really had to a splash of ginger ale.

Now living in Yankeeland — a decade in Manhattan and three in Boston — I’m delighted that bourbon has come into its own. There are fascinating bars, like the 5 Horses (Somerville and soon the South End), and Beacon Hill’s Tip Tap Room for example, that have a good selection and knowledgeable barkeeps. Liquor stores too have a wide selection at many price points and even the most ignorant bartender doesn’t think Jack Daniel’s is bourbon.

I figured I’d try it. Costco’s bourbon also fit another criterion my chums and I often use, is it a good value? We like to find superior wines for $9 that blow away $39 ones, for example.

Turns out that I paid $19.99 for a full liter of the 103-proof stuff. (There’s no state tax on booze here.) Some of the net comments carped that for only $3 or $4 or $6 more, they could buy Knob Creek or some other familiar bourbon, but they don’t think that that is a third less booze for the price, making the Kirkland bottle that much more of a bargain.

A few things I did learn from the mash heads and blowhards commenting (sometimes without tasting the distillate in question) was that this definitely comes from Jim Beam. Also it is aged for 7 years instead of Beam’s Knob Creek version, which is 9 years in barrel. It is also that 103 proof (51.5% alcohol) instead of the more common small-batch bourbon release of 90 or 100 proof, or Wild Turkey’s 101 variety.

Some went though serious research, badgering Costco employees for all our benefit. The best finding was that this is not an open item. That suggests that for whatever reason, Jim Beam did a one-off for Costco, who like Job Lots or Building 19, bought something the distiller didn’t want to sell itself. Likely when this batch is sold out, it’s gone. Following this evening’s tasting, I’ll likely go back to Avon and buy a couple more bottles.

costcotasteHere, three of us tried it two ways. I set out six bourbon low ball glasses (actually made for Woodford Reserve, a fine sipping bourbon), three nude and neat, with three holding a single ice cube. Each glass got a half ounce or so. Who knows what the demons did to me in pouring?

Uxorial Unit, Son #2 (great to have children of drinking age), and I went at it. We certainly did not keep pace with the florid, hyperbolic, pretentious posts pointed to above. Yet, we tried to judge.

The punchline is that this is good stuff, worth more in market terms than competitors. There are other bourbons I like more, but this is a fair entry.

If you extrapolate the local price for Knob Creek ($26.99 for 750ml) and weigh it against Costco’s very own bargain bourbon ($19.99 for 1000ml), the differential is 1.8. That is Kirkland small-batch bourbon is 1.8 times cheaper per liter. So you ask, is KC worth almost two times more? Of course, in the larger scheme, Knob Creek at effectively $35.99 per liter is a relative small differential over Kirkland. As we learned many years ago, a $200 retail bottle of Chablis is not 20 times better than a $10 bottle. It’s a judgment call.

So, this evening, without hyperbole or poetry, we found the neat glass pleasant, powerful, a little too alcohol nosed. That was no surprise for over half alcohol. Certainly there was the predictable vanilla scent, but we didn’t the myriad herbs, spices and fruits the other online commenters strained to ID. We liked the look, smell and taste of the neat bourbon.

I like to sit with a snifter of great Scotch or bourbon neat and dwell on it. None of us thought this was worthy of that. However, with a single ice cube, it was a fine, fine drink. My wife thought it would be good with ginger ale, but to me that means heading to a lower grade of bourbon, like the serviceable JB Black or Evan Williams. Yet, we all liked it cut with a single ice cube, which I suppose would mean two for a full shot or three for a pony.

I already confess to being late to this party. We found Costco’s bourbon to be good but not great stuff. I’ll lay in a couple more bottles.


Bike Rental Killjoy or Cassandra?

July 13th, 2011

Gloomy prediction time…I’ll say Boston’s new bike-rental program fails. There it is and I would sincerely like to think I’d be wrong. My neck is on the block, particularly as a velophile (word?)

I’ll plug this on Harrumph! and Marry in Massachusetts, as it has both personal and political angles. I’ll admit if I’m wrong and folk can feel gleeful in calling me on it.

hublogoUnder the urging of Mayor Tom Menino and the excellent dealing and managing from Nicole Freedman, the city’s director of bicycle programs, The Hubway rental system is not only zooming into reality, it’s still on its original schedule, likely this month. With the outside deals, bureaucracy, and finances, that’s close to a miracle (which we have come to expect from Freedman).

Even before the particulars, I was pessimistic on this program. It has worked in other European, Canadian and a few U.S. cities already though. Here though, I don’t see it getting enough ridership, nor making the vendor happy with income levels, nor adding substantially to the cycles on the streets, nor getting citizen respect for the property.

To the latter point, we brag about our huge college-student population, while paying for it culturally too often. The tales of disturbances and destruction abound. Far more than other cities, we see that bottles seem meant for peeing in to leave on streets and stoops, or to smash on roads or sidewalks. I recall that lesson when I commuted daily from JP to Southie by bike. I had to learn to avoid Columbus near Northeastern, particularly by the campus cop station, where broken, tire-ruining beer-bottle shards were the norm.

Prove me wrong, Boston, but I can easily see drunken, drugged or just nasty college students and other youth trashing the bikes in rental stations. What fun, eh?

Today, looking at the announced pricing structure, I think it is too similar to parking garages. In between only a few initial stations and the pricing reality, the system is not all that attractive. Fundamentally, it works only if you will start and finish in those limited locales and can get where you want to go in under 30 minutes.

hubbikeThe stations will be in what most of us think of as the larger downtown area, out to one here and there also in Back Bay, South End, Seaport, Fenway, Longwood, and Brighton/Allston. I don’t see the actual spots on the site yet, but it’s pretty sure they’ll be kind of like Zipcars and only sort of convenient. Yet, this is not Athena emerging from Zeus’ head fully grown. It’ll take many months to figure out the right station locations.

The nut starts out reasonably enough, with an annual $85 fee (introductory $60). Then the nickels and dimes add up very quickly.

Again, 30 minutes is the magic period (set your carriage-to-pumpkin clock). If you have an annual membership or are an ad hoc renter (Casual member in Hubway lingo), you can theoretically have thousands of 30-minute maximum rides a year for no charge. In fact, if the station locations and timing worked for you, it would make the most sense to go up to a kiosk and use a credit card to reserve a bike every time, so long as you kept to the half hour. Annual memberships come with the convenience of a key that lets you grab a bike, as it maps to your data.

In the real world, if you don’t end up in the midway of your trip at a station, you pay by the hour. Here the fees leap up to and then far beyond parking garages. They really, really don’t want you having a bike out for more than 30 or 60 minutes. The whole pricing card is here. A taste of the acceleration is:

Time Annual Casual
<30 0 0
30-<60 $1.50 $2
60-<90 $4.50 $6
90-<2 hours $10.50 $14
2-<3 hours $16.50 $22

And so it climbs by about $8 an hour for casual and $6 per for annual renters. It tops at 6 and one-half to 7 hours at $94 and $70.50 and then from 7 to 24 hours at $100 and $75.  Lord help you if you keep the bike over a day. Hubway will consider it stolen and truly put a parking garage’s rates to shame — $1,000 on your credit card.

If you think Nexflix’ 60% just announced gouging rates are absurd, this gives some perspective.

On the other hand, for a limited number of potential users, $85 for a year of bike use, zero maintenance, and practically unlimited 30-minute trips is such a deal. Truly.

I remain to be convinced that we’re collectively mature enough for the Hubway. I simply don’t have the faith in Bostonians that Menino and Freedman have exhibited here. In fact, announcing this program at City Hall plaza in April, the Mayor committed to the three Italians, adding U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, to taking the first trio of Hubway bikes out of the racks.

Here’s hoping they prove me wrong.

Brookline: Just Go Away!

November 30th, 2010

goawayProbably all of us as adolescents had our cranky periods. Brookline never outgrew its.

Unless you live there, they are too good for you anyway. They don’t even want you parking there. They don’t need your damned tourist dollars. If you are from a neighboring town, why don’t you just stay there?

Speak to someone from Brookline and you are likely to hear how friendly they are. After all in schools, income, personal achievement and every other way, they are superior and have a lot of reason to be happy.

Brookline as a town makes its attitude plain on every street and road coming it. I think of it particularly as I bicycle around Eastern Massachusetts. (Fortunately for lesser mortals such as me, Brookline does not put up toll roads at its borders…yet.)

Other burgs in the area, such as Boston, Newton, Somerville and Cambridge, are different. Signs on streets entering those have this curious term that seems unknown in Brookline — WELCOME. Driving, cycling or walking into those ordinary places read WELCOME TO…

The Brookline version appears here. You are not welcome. You will not park anywhere in town for more than two hours, and there will be places that permit less time or none at all for non-residents. You will not park on the street anywhere overnight.

Go home. You don’t belong there.

It doesn’t work the other way, of course. Many from Brookline work in the financial district, medical facilities, corporations and universities of Boston and Cambridge.

thumbYou get a sense of the long standing of the Brookline attitude from its geography and governance. Brookline is a self-selected island of Norfolk County. As you can see from the map, it appears to be a thumb protruding into Boston’s bottom.

The rest of Norfolk County is to the South. Brookline refused to join Boston on several occasions, the last in 1873 when the town of West Roxbury agreed to annexation. Now Brookline is an exclave (not coincidentally sharing the first four letters with exclusive).

Back to bicycling, for all its snootiness, Brookline as a town is OK by riders. They don’t have nearly enough bike racks (goes with the car-parking attitude surely), but the cops there expect drivers to play nice with riders.

It has one nice, large park, plus the Olmsted site. We attend an old UU church there. The Brookline Village and Coolidge Corner areas have numerous OK, some good, but no great restaurants. (Note: Be very careful in the Village in the evening. Predatory towing services constantly monitor all off-street parking lots of closed businesses. They will get your car within 10 minutes.) It also has a concentration of kosher restaurants and bakeries.

Brookline never joined Boston, never formed its own county and apparently never got lonely for the rest of it body and buddies. It is content to float solo.

If you want to visit, bring quarters for the meters and for God’s sake, get out within two hours!

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Swimmers’ Toes

July 2nd, 2009

toes.jpgOther former team athletes must recognize their own as swimmers do.  I don’t know what the telltale signs are, even for another previous sport, wrestling.

Swimmers exhibit frequent acquired idiosyncrasies. Even when we have no intention of hitting the water, we stretch by folding one arm over the head, with the biceps on the ear and pushing on the elbow with the other hand.

Among the more subtle indicators are developed shoulders, particularly for women. I think of a new bartender at Redbones in Somerville last year.  The usual small gang of old farts was on the stools like crows on a fence when she took our draft orders. She wore a typical summer tank top. When she returned I asked whether she had been a swimmer, specifically fly. She smiled, said yes and we talked our teams. She knew why I had pegged her from her build and said she could recognize swimmers sometimes too.

Another swimmer connection came several years ago at work. At a conference table with a dozen or so of us around, I ended up across from Nancy, whom I knew but not well. She was in charge of version control (ClearCase) and was a serious software geek. As documentation manager, I had a stake in her business because that product was the only one with a native recognition of the binary files for my department’s major development tool, Framemaker.

We went on about the products we were developing, test schedules and on and on. I moved slightly back from the table to cross one leg over another when I saw a swimmer tic. Nancy was alternately moving her big toes over the second toes and reversing that.

Swimmers are almost prehensile with our toes. It may be the strokes or the years of gripping the starting block edges. It may also have to do with naked feet. Nearly every other team athlete practices and competes with socks and shoes.

Swimmers generally can pick up objects from the floor and move them to a trash can or into a hand…very chimp like.

On the way out of the meeting, I asked about swimming and we too talked teams and strokes. Amusingly enough, her best friend in the company, a guy I worked closely with was irritated when I mentioned that I was pleased to discover a swimmer among all the runners around. I was not aware that he had a great pride in knowing Nancy better than the rest of us. He had no idea about her wet background.

Of course, he had no reason to know or notice. When he saw her gesticulating with her toes, he probably thought nothing of it. It takes one to know one.

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Kerry’s Movable Minion

October 30th, 2008

I truly appreciated the precise, anal retentive assistant who set up the stage for Sen. John Kerry at his Tufts Fletcher School address. In his well dimpled tie and understated sports jacket, he looked for all the world like a grad student, maybe a student-government VP.

Honk. I was wrong on that. This week, at the other half of those policy addresses, Kerry had his stage in Lynn’s North Shore Community College prepared by the same precision team of one. I realized that this guy was on the Senator’s staff.

Moreover, so were the plants. Both stages has the same five waist-high plants in woven baskets. As befitting Halloween, the plants followed Kerry week to week, college to college, stage to stage.

I was at the Tufts foreign-policy address with my wife, who also noticed the amusing ballet of flag, sound baffle and mic fine-tuning. All three of us from Left Ahead! showed up this week for the economics version. Then we got a few minutes with the master afterward.

We three kings of Orient…no, that’s we lowly blogger/podcaster scum queued up for Kerry behind the local Salem rag in Lynn. To my delight, I got to meet the flag fine-tuner himself.

Jason is on the communications staff in Kerry’s D.C. headquarters. I told him sincerely how much I admired his attention to detail in turning each canton of each of the five flags in Somerville precisely the same. He ‘fessed up that there were a lot of small details related to sound, photography and vision that he paid attention to for each appearance.

It turns out that those were the same plants. Kerry’s folk rent them for aesthetics for speeches. I honestly had never thought that there were rental plants other then for offices and movies. Now I know and knowing is half the battle.

Tufts Enough

October 23rd, 2008

My uxorial unit and I went to farthest Somerville yesterday to bathe in liberals gone, if not wild, at least demonstrative. A certain junior U.S. senator, a John Forbes Kerry, was up for a foreign-policy/national-security address.

The Cohen auditorium was bit inadequate for the interest level. Its 616 seats were overbooked. Kerry is bright enough, accomplished enough and important enough, but he’s no telegenic movie star or sex god. Yet Tufties are politically savvy and eager to hear a major player in D.C. put down the word.

The wonderful people on Kerry’s staff and Netroots Nation invited this pathetic blogger (not for Harrumph!, rather for the Left Ahead! podcast and Marry in Massachusetts blog).  Terri and Karen saved me two spots, or so I thought, and so I had on my invitation printout.

We arrived at about a quarter to 6 for the 6 p.m. speech. The foyer was chockablock with well-mannered young scragglies. It was like a scene from Blazing Saddles with lots of harrumphing.

The funnel overspill was the result of two petty bureaucrats disguised as campus cops feeling their transient authority. They’d call out that if you were not on the reservation list, you couldn’t get in, go back to your dorm. Then, there was a cry to have your ID ready.

I’m bigger than my wife, so I ran interference between the woe-begotten unreserved masses. However, let us never underestimate the ephemeral power of the foolishly consistent.

The vocal cop-like personage would have none of it. List is a list is a list. The 20-something woman had my name, but neither Terri nor Karen had provided my wife’s. She was thus persona non grata. She, her unworthy self, was not listed on the sacred clipboard sheets. I presented my confirming emails for two invites to the address and following reception. No cigar.

I recognized the blank expression on the cop from my military-family upbringing and my time as a newspaper reporter by Parris Island and the airbase. I’d bet this guy has been a staff sergeant, someone who knew how to take orders, someone who knew rules were rules, someone who’d take charge in lieu of a commissioned officer, and someone who thought only off-duty.

Towering over the petty tyrant and speaking to the ears of the two event organizers behind him, I won. A middle-aged woman with pearls stepped forward and said, “You are your wife are welcome. Come this way.”

She led us down to the fifth row reserved seats and God again was in his heaven.

The students were seemingly all busy with their electronics. Those who were not dicking around with their $600 video cameras were testing the acuity of their cell phone cameras from 25 feet to the podium. It appeared as though we were the only non-students in the hall.

The preparations were wonders of ant-hood before us. Four or five well-dressed students, the modern equivalent of the 1960s A/V squad, scurried here, then there, and back here again. They reminded us strongly of a busybody at our UU church who rushes about in the 15 minutes before the service. Liz turns the altar flowers the tiniest angle and steps back to the first pew to look before repeating the cycle. She then does the same with the chalice. Who knows what would befall the congregation if she did not?

In this case, it started with the mic height. Kerry is tallish, but not a giant. The young man with the closely cropped do and the drab New England suit jacket — looking for all the world like a member of Young Americans for Freedom — was the leading fussbudget. He adjusted and readjusted the mic for height and distance from the inside of the podium a half dozen times. He then turned each of the four American and one Massachusetts flags so they draped in matching patterns, with the canton of the flag facing frontward. Oddly enough, he ignored the five matching potted plants between the podium and stage front. Doing that could have consumed another 14 minutes to no noticeable effect. Finally, he visited and revisited the Plexiglas™ sound baffles on stands next to the mic.

He’ll be a real catch for a sloppy woman or man who needed an anal-retentive counterpoint.

We honestly had so much entertainment before Kerry appeared about 6:20 that the address was merely dessert.

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Ghost Building Two

September 26th, 2007

First it was Ashmont, which was far too overpriced to attract buyers, and now let us consider Cabot Farms, apparently locked in some mysterious post-mortem struggle.Cabot Farms marquee

Pix: Click on an image for a little larger version.

Those of us on the southern side of Boston — JP, HP and Rozzie, not Southie — have oldster moments ruing the closing of Ashmont. Not only was that nowhere near Ashmont, but it was a portmanteau of oddments. Sure, there were construction supplies in the back, but that’s not what people came for. There was no need to head to the ‘burbs for a vacuum-cleaner bag. No matter how outdated or unusual your little sucker was, Ashmont had that bag. Likewise, it still carried the glass door knob sets, and if you had lights that used the big clear screw-in bulbs usually available only during Christmas, Ashmont had those all year. Hardware, housewares, electronics…whatever.

That looks like it will become a Staples. Yawn.

Apparently the owners finally relented a bit on their outrageous price, enough for a rich chain to buy in. The entirely forgettable replacement brings Natick right into Beantown.

About 10 miles north-ish in Somerville on the Medford line, another long abandoned business on another busy main drag looks to remain empty, despite eager customers. The Cabot Farms/On Broadway/Garden thingummy has become the stuff of whispered tales in Powderhouse Square. The view from 880 Broadway is through dirty glass. The view into it is of barstools which haven’t felt the weight of relaxed drunks for decades.

Cabot Farms signThe skeletal marquee frame presages horrors that apparently have never happened there. The major Cabot Farms sign is replete with heavy undergrowth and its very own car door at the base.

The front is mostly what I insist on calling VFW brick — those glass blocks so popular at men’s clubs when the old guys gather to drink from the morning as heavily diffused light shields them from the world.

There is an abandoned function hall, The Garden at the other end, which apparently got a little use for wedding receptions and such a decade or so ago. The middle has a small, still used apartment set, which must generate enough income for building expenses. The northern side that was Cabot Farms catering and restaurant and then briefly in the 1980s, On Broadway nightclub, is the time capsule, apparently sealed for the past 20 years.

Cabot Farms  front door

The building front has large poster-style musicians, Satchmo and Sinatra, with the implications of nightlife and vitality far more intense the Tufts area reputation. On the outside of the inner door glass is a sign reading, “PRIVATE PARTY PLEASE NO SMOKING INSIDE THE PREMISES.” That very late 20th Century attitude belies the best legends about 880.

There are whispered tales of politicians, mobsters and celebrities. There’s one that says it hasn’t been used since John Kennedy was last there.

What you can see inside has a great Cheese it! look. The classic post-WWII red barstools and gear left around suggests a panicked exit, followed by locking up…forever.

Someone I know who casually knows the owners has a more plausible explanation. The property seems to be imprisoned in some probate hell. I couldn’t find any record through the county of 880 changing hands, at least since 1974 when the online records start. The probate court doesn’t do online, except for currently scheduled cases.

Cabot Farms at sunsetInstead, this property attacts many interested potential revivifers. It seems they all get turned away. The property is not for sale. The owners responsible for the apartments say that the trust is not interested in selling. Oooo, the trust.

I can’t prove it (let if know if you have solid info), but it smacks of a family dispute. I can see greedy relatives across two or three generations all sharing in the inheritance that includes 880. It would only take one who figured that this is worth a great fortune (fat chance!) and holding up any settlement or division in terror that he will somehow be swindled out of what is rightfully his.

I like that version.

Meanwhile on Broadway, there’s a thriving haute Mexican joint, Tu Y Yo, a few doors away, a popular bike shop and around the triangular intersection several hopping restaurants. The ghost restaurant gathers dust, bidders and folklore.

It’s always sunset at Cabot Farms.