Archive for the ‘Woodbourne’ Category

Tomb Raiders Strike!

August 15th, 2008

Low life…what kind of low life steals from graves?

Over at my neighborhood sanctuary/park/treasure chest, someone or someones has stolen two sculptures, plus urns from a mausoleum. Horror movie threats and jokes aside, taking anything from a grave is immoral as well as illegal.

Wednesday, tooling back on my bike from a patio philosophy session at the downtown Boston Beer Works, I found something amiss. As an abutter to the Forest Hills Cemetery, I walk there, picnic there, and enjoy biking my last leg home in the garden that it is.

Doing so also is considerably safer than taking Hyde Park Avenue south and crossing three lanes of traffic for the left turn at Walk Hill, where the Doughboy no longer is. Besides, a cruise by Lake Hibiscus is ever so much more pleasant.

Alas though, I arrived at the inside of the Walk Hill gate to find it chained tightly and double locked.

In the evenings, it has long been locked. Like good parents leaving a door unlatched for their kids, FH locks a chain with enough play for the strollers and dog walkers (and bicyclists) to squeeze in and out and enjoy the cemetery as the park it has been since it opened as the nation’s second garden cemetery in 1848.

This week though, there was a forbidding sign. With no explanation or time cited, the gate is temporarily closed, all day.

Like a good little busybody, I went to the main gate and the office. Staff there looked at each other like they were in a sit-com. Yes, the gate was closed and would be for maybe several weeks. No, they wouldn’t say why.

Well, the why is disturbing. They have shut the barn door after the horses have left. Two urns from a grave site are gone, as are two sculptures  from their magnificent public art display.

Apparently their reasoning for the closure is that 1) the thief or thieves avoided the main exit and left through Walk Hill and 2) that they somehow would have noticed and stopped any such attempt at the main gate.

Seated Ceres statueI doubt both. Anyone brazen and lawless enough to steal from a tomb and take public art would not be deterred by an unguarded gate. Moreover, the pieces — two stone urns, the smallish Seated Ceres and smaller Garden’s Edge were fairly portable.

Pix Tricks: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. This opens in the same window, so if you want to return, use your brower’s back button.

I’d bet they’d all fit in my large trunk of my Volvo sedan.  I’m sure they would in a Crown Vic. The low lives probably didn’t even need a pickup or van. (Although looking at their image of Kahlil Gibran’s harvest goddess, maybe the base plate would have required a van.  The casting itself is only 28 inches tall. However, even with that, I doubt art thieves would have feared detection at the front.)

Another sculpture was a crowd favorite, the arrogant and indolent rabbit formally known as Garden’s Edge. Tim Cherry’s piece is 41×21-inches according to his site.

You’d suppose trying to fence two very distinctive and well-known public sculptures will end up tripping up the thieves. I hope so and I bet the cemetery (and likely its insurance company) are working that angle too…although they aren’t telling me.

I suppose they’re being discreet about this, perhaps befitting a cemetery. Even museums have tried to retrieve stolen art quietly, at least at first. I’m sure a portion of this is not wanting to suggest anything to folk who haven’t considered stealing from cemeteries.

We have four other big ones handy — St. Michael, the city-owned Mt. Hope and both old and new Calvary. There must be a special place in hell for those who would steal from them or Forest Hills.

Morning Update:  Just before I published this, the Globe arrived, carrying an article on the thefts. They have stored several other bronzes for safe keeping. They have also offered a $2,000 reward for info leading to the recovery of any of the sculpture. Also, another oh, no, is that near the front gate, they stole Carol Spack’s Bark Balls, which I love. The FH folk figure the thieves may sell the art for scrap value.

Second Update:  The Globe may have mangled some details. Word from FH is that the bark balls are in storage to prevent them from being stolen.

Third Update: Oh, recurring sadness. A more definitive report is that the thieves visited at least two days in a row. They took all listed, including the bark balls. Unfortunately, that part of the newspaper piece is true.

The unwelcome gate at Walk Hill, now tightly padlocked unwelcome.jpg
notgoddess.jpg The block where Seated Ceres formerly rested. The four holes are clean and wresting it out must not been too much of a challenge.
The Hanley mausoleum until recently had a pair of large bronze urns on each side of the steps. There is a pre-theft (a bit dark) image of the front with the urns at Mr. Ducke’s photo feed here. unurned.jpg
pried.jpg The urns apparently were pried off from their metal retainers.
No longer the site of a bronze bark ball. Kind of like the Boston Common duckling, this set intrigued little children, who loved to poke inside them as well as straddle them. notball.jpg
notrabbit.jpg The very comfortable looking rabbit, Garden’s Edge, used to sit on this block on the opposite side of Lake Hibiscus from Ceres.

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Where Did All the Lanterns Go?

August 9th, 2008


Mid-July in JP requires attendance at the Japanese lantern festival.  Yet, I’m sure if you are as anal retentive naturally curious as I, you wonder as you marvel at the hundreds upon hundreds of lit and floating rice-paper and wood treasures who has to clean up this mess?

Pic Trick: Click a thumbnail for a larger view.  That opens in the same window. Use your back button to return.

Don’t let that worry your pretty little head anymore. I managed to buttonhole my neighbor two doors down to find out.

When you attend, you can rent a lantern platform, with four upright dowels in a raft-like base. Beside the little lake, two large carts have loads of hundreds of these platforms each. The festival folk provide a four-sided paper form to decorate. Calligraphers are there to paint on characters. Abundant craft supplies at nearby tables let you create your own or augment what they do for you.

As it gets dark, many dozens of families and individuals have their gems ready to launch. They provide lighters and matches for the votive candle on the lantern base. Then in ones, twos and tens, participants squat by the shore of Lake Hibiscus and nudge their lanterns into play. There is almost always an east-to-west breeze. The paper becomes a feeble sail and the aided coast is on.

The silent, flickering display is calming. The festival has its roots in Japanese ones to honor the dead. Locally, most of the lanterns seem to follow that tradition, blessing recently or long deceased loved ones in words and pictures.lanternold.jpg

So you’d suppose the related cultural groups or Forest Hills Educational Trust would be overwhelmed after the event. I can hear by grandmother calling out, “Who’s going to clean up all this mess?”

Well, it turns out from an employee’s wife to me to you, that the cemetery staff does the scut work. They had already spent a couple of days doing extra chores, like parking signs and tapes. Then that evening and mostly the next morning, they manhandle the lanterns.

There’s collecting the platforms, removing the paper and burnt out votive candles, and stacking them back on the wagons. Those carts, by the bye, normally are in service hauling decorative plants to various cemetery locations. Oh, yeah. FH Cemetery stores the platforms between festivals.

For the few stragglers and the lost, there is a boat that is used only to collect those and on occasion mount or unmount art in the lake.

The process seems a bit more glamorous but in the same line as following behind the elephants in the circus parade, being the guy with shovel.

Another Boston July Evening Well Spent

July 18th, 2008

We are Forest Hills Cemetery abutters (tell Dave Barry we have another name for a rock band). The annual stroll for the lantern festival is one of our rituals. We missed one when we were far away.

The recap follows in a few images. The sights and sounds make are lush and non-stop for three hours. If you’ve never done it, keep it in your mind or Blackberry for the third week of July next year.

Pic Trick: Click an image thumbnail for a little larger view.  It opens in the same window or tab, so use your back button to return.

Japanese dancers First comes the lantern preparation. Then in order, several styles of dancers, the drumming and the lantern ceremony. Every moment of the three-hour evening is part of an event.
After dancing comes the elaborate drumming. small drum
drum Grand Master Eleventh Generation Soku Grand Master Tsuji trains and leads the dummers.Here he honors the gigantic drum before the ceremony.
The drummers are in the martial arts tradition and train in Quincy at the Academy of Kobudo. They grunt and sweat. Many are Occidentals. Everyone seems to be having way too much fun at this. drummers
lantern frames Many hundreds of frames, in effect the hulls of the lantern boats, arrive by wagon. In effect, people rent these for a few dollars for the ceremony. Someone has to retrieve these for the next year.
People can decorate their own paper for the lantern. Most get one of the young women at tables to write their messages in Japanese characters. Many combine the calligraphy on one or two panels with their own messages or drawings. Blessings for the dead are common, such as young children sending messages to a recently deceased grandparent. lantern preparation
lanternpair.jpg When the paper with art and messages is ready, people slip them over the wooden frame. They light the votive candle and about the same time, the crowd approaches the shores and sets the lanterns afloat. The paper can act as a sails.
I’ve never gotten a really good shot of the lanterns floating. This one if from the Forest Hills Trust. See it here and check the rest of the site. lit lanterns

Wild Indoors

July 13th, 2008

Weasels are less cute on their backs with a tire tread pressing them to the asphalt than whizzing through the brush. I biked around a flat one on Neponset Valley Parkway this morning.

Back home in the wilds of JP, we have outdoors in or nearly so frequently. Today it was spiders and birds. Our yard frequently gets skunks, opossums, raccoons and other furries. I wish the squirrels and crows would have their own Ragnarök, leaving us beset by just one devilish species.

Pic Trick: Click on small images to see larger versions.

Today, it was eight legs and two legs though. For the latter, our adopted always-a-housecat Chi wants birds. She has never eaten one or even gotten one in paw and claw. Yet, she’s ready.

Chi huntingOur window with the bird feeder outside is kind of her television. Perhaps a peep show booth would be more accurate. In cold weather, she watches the birds — one to six at a time on the feeder and sometimes dozen in the rhodies below — through a glass storm window. Most of year, she is tantalizing inches away, separated by a screen.

It didn’t take the birds long to realize she was no threat because of the barriers. We get lots of bite-sized visitors, wrens, sparrows, tits, chickadees and such. The feeder does not let big birds or squirrels get to the seed, but a few colorful types, like cardinals and migrating fancies, such as red-wing blackbirds and orioles drop in for a meal.

birds feedingIn general, Chi is sensible. She’ll rest her chin on the sill as in this accompanying image, looking through the gauzy screen view of the feeder. She’s not cool though. Her ears and back twitch in excitement. Sometimes, she makes guttural hunting noises reserved to the locale.

Alas she can’t fully accept the feeder as entertainment. A few times a month, she leaps and lunges. In the winter, it must be a shock, slamming forehead first into the storm window in full flight herself. Then the birds leave, to return within a minutes. I am convinced cats know no humiliation.

kitchen spiderIf it’s the screen, she generally ends up plucking her claws out of the mesh and goes back to her post. Once or twice a month though, she blows it. In her blood lust, she’ll spring with fully open claws, getting one or both front paws caught. The inner and next claw of a paw will simultaneously catch on the screen and Chi is stuck. She doesn’t have the geometric savvy to open her paw more and push up to release the paw(s), even after watching with great concern as I undo her.

crab-like spiderA room away, we seldom get insect or arachnid beasties. However, a crab-like spider (see bottom pic) apparently wanted to lay claim to our new electric skillet. We’re about to get new cabinets, which means a month or so with no access to our stove or the rest of the kitchen. The skillet is part of our minimalist cuisine for that period. I’m aiming to use cold foods, and cook with the grill, microwave and toaster.

Is there a new-skillet smell? What attracted a good sized spider?

My uxorial unit is no fonder of spiders than mice. Fortunately, as with our recent rodent episode, she was not the one to discover the critter.

The spider had managed to hang its web over great distances from each breakfast-nook wall to the handle of the skillet lid and to the other wall. Unfortunately, we had plans for the spaces and removed the old web artist to the outside.

Weasel, birds, cat and spider…what shall the morrow deliver?

Mickey Doesn’t Live Here

June 30th, 2008

mouse in trapMickey was dead: to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.

(If you are squeamish, do not click to enlarge the pic of our very dead rodent. )

I must confess that most mice are pretty cute.  I did grow up during the Mickey Mouse Club era, both feeling the good vibes and keeping an eye on Annette’s sweater — third-grade pig that I was.

Yet we had no ceremonies or burial rituals for this hapless fellow. He played in a minor horror drama, The Creatures from the Stove. After months of setting a trap and wandering away slowly, whistling, I managed to win a mechanical victory and feel no shame in my pleasure.

Our large feather duster, Chi, is the stereotypical slayer of vermin, a house cat. However, she was adopted in young adulthood. The previous mistress said, “She not a hunter. She’s a pointer.”

That seems true enough and now that our mice are seemingly a tiny tribe, we see Chi in action…rather inertia. A few years ago, there were more mice. Actually, they appeared to be voles from the back yard, small and dark grey. When we found cereal boxes nibbled through and bread not in a metal box already sampled, I did the chores. That was steel wool in any visible hole, bread always in a tin box, cereals in plastic boxes and so forth.

Chi, the pointing cat

Now we seem to have a couple of mice, whom Chi is happy to point to but never catches. They seem to move around the back of the stove. On occasion, one climbs in the back and we have seen a tail drop down on the air vent over the burners.

Chi does her best meatloaf imitation on the floor in front of the stove. She apparently hears a mouse scurrying. She spreads out and waits…and waits. If a mouse would come from beside the stove and approach her, would she do anything at all?

Perhaps it falls to me to be the executioner if she won’t be the hunter. This vaguely recalls my days when I chaired the personnel committee of a large church. I had to set about getting rid of quite a few dysfunctional employees. There were no human-sized traps and I believe our laws disallow such dismissal anyway.

My uxorial unit can be a snoopy sort (she prefers curious) and just had to pick up the double plastic grocery bag containing the very deceased rodent and trap. She also just had to ask what it was. She then did a classic shriek-and-drop maneuver.

She was then pleased a little to find that she had gotten to the kitchen first and poured her first mug of coffee from right beside the burner without noticing Mickey Le Mort. I suppose we all secretly want others to do some dirty tasks. I, for one, would appreciate Chi doing the cat thing.

Not Paranoid Enough?

April 22nd, 2008

There’s a lot of JP, both in length and diversity. Maybe I misdirected my comfort yesterday.

I walked with a newly met woman about 10:30 a.m., assuring her that the Lallement bikepath on the Southwest corridor — tracking the Orange Line — was safe. At the Forest Hills end, she asked whether it was okay to walk then. I told her that yes, in the daytime, but maybe not at night.

She had eyed the seedy sitters and I recalled the late-night bike bandits who’d knock riders down and take their wheels.

I tend, not surprisingly, to bike on that bikepath. When I do walk it, I like to follow the stick figure signs, keeping the bike side for cyclists, even though they are few. I recall the many oblivious strollers often blocking the whole bike side while risking their infants or looking and listening to phones. Don’t be that guy, Mike.

Oddly enough, I was on foot because of my road bike. I finally admitted that those scraping sounds meant I could no longer pretend my brake pads would last forever or regenerate. The Shimano 105/Ultegra pads are hard to come by. International over in Newton had sold me the wrong type already. I was delighted to call at 10 a.m. on Patriots Day and find that Community Bicycle Supply at the far reach of the South End would be open.

I headed up, both to get the right pads and to do a cardio session. That’s about five miles. We live at the very bottom of JP, kind of the pendant on the chain of the long, narrow neighborhood. We’re a mile below Forest Hills in the last couple of blocks of JP.

The woman walker, Wanda, and I headed north. She had dropped her car off in Dedham for repairs, taken a bus to Forest Hills and figured to get a warm-up for her workout at Mike’s gym, a mile or so up the corridor. She is bookkeeper for the Mass Public Health folk and works in JP. She was just not used to walking over to Mike’s.

I’ve biked and walked that path for many years. Quickly she and I got past any thought of evil en route. We spoke of our teenagers, school, sports and gyms.

So that evening, my JP-ness got a jolt reading about Luis Troncoso, the 20-year-old gunned down on a basketball court on the corridor at about 4 p.m. yesterday. That would be the court next to where JP Wakes Up the Earth, the court one half block beyond where Wanda and I parted.

I don’t think I lied to her, not intentionally. I still know the bikepath is safe. It appears his murderer targeted him specifically, so the place and time of death have little implication for the rest of us. The young father is dead still.

I also know that, geographically, fancy folk Pond Side and even Brookline are closer to this violence than we live. Somehow though, as disparate as the various JPs are one from another, the neighborhood link is powerful. I might well have led Wanda right into a scene of death, had timing been slightly different. That’s not what any of us want in our neighborhoods.

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Boston Trash Elite

March 6th, 2008

Hoi polloi, bow before us! We are the big-cart recyclers.Menio and recycle bin

First, let us note that someone in the City of Boston Recycling Program has brass ‘nads and is not afraid of ridiculing his mayorality, The Thomas Menino. Our flyer today has the accompanying image (click for larger, more risible size). If Tony Soprano were advertising his waste-management companies, he might include such a picture with one of his lieutenants. Here Tommy Shoulder Pads makes you an offal you can’t refuse.

The flyer headline is THANK YOU, BIG-CART RECYCLERS. That would be we, in our case the elite Jamaica Plain newspaper sorters, jar rinsers, and cardboard box folders. Stand in awe, you wasteful wastrels.

Our 14-year-old rolls this grumbling omnivore to the curb from the back of the house every Wednesday evening. The big-cart is, well, big, many more cubic feet than he has and two-thirds as tall. You can see how high it is on Da Mare. If he had a bellybutton, it would be that high.

We can plug most non-organic stuff in it. Being UUs in JP, we, of course, have a compost bin in the back to turn plant matter into soil. So there.

We’ve gone from three cans of trash a week to one or fewer. We still have the supermarket packaging, like foam meat packaging that can’t go into the big cart.


That’s good. I’m pretty sure the big cart is not recyclable.

Anyway, they measured mid-May to mid-November —recycling up 52% from 2006 to 2007, and trash for the same period down 20%. Those figures are illogical, but what the heck? More important, of the 2,300 households in the big-cart elite, we recycled more, had less trash, found recycling easier, our streets cleaner and the cart was the right size.

It’s a miracle of modern trash…proven right here in JP. Plus, who’d argue with a tough guy mayor hiding behind his big cart? You’ll recycle and you’ll like it!

Voting without Mike

February 5th, 2008

Where’s Mike? That was the question of the day at the Woodbourne Apartments in JP.

Despite middling rain, we had a solid turnout, with lines to get our ballots. However, out front on Southbourne at Hyde Park, no campaigners were in sight much less shilling. Moreover, inside there was no Mike O’Connor.Mike O’Connor with William Macy

I don’t think any of us was upset. Yet isn’t it amusing how we grow attached to what we expect?

Come election time, primary, special or general Sgt. Michael O’Connor is there all day verifying voters on the way from the booth to the machine. That’s he with act0r William Macy in a Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe pic, from a piece on him as the BPD motion-picture liaison.

Pic Click Trick: Click the image for a larger version.

He’s our neighborhood cop, as in he lives in the neighborhood, not that he walks a beat here. He’s also highly involved, as in he and his wife have run the baseball and other kids’ teams for a long time.

In his place at the table was a young patrolman. He had to answer, “Where’s Mike?” repeatedly. He said again and again in the short time I was there that Mike had been reassigned in preparation for the Patriots’ parade that didn’t happen.

It didn’t seem to keep anyone from voting, but it was a small puzzlement.

Otherwise, he had a full house, with Democrats maybe six to one for Republicans. The two independents I overheard asked for Dem ballots.

I had time too, because one of the poll guys slowed my precinct considerably. He had an Hispanic name, a name tag that included that he was a language interpreter, and a limited knowledge of English. Whether Boston or unaccented English, he needed at least two repetitions of the street and last name.

It’s good for the Latinos that a Spanish speaker was on hand to help them. It’s good for the others that the other guy was on hand to point out the name in the book and the box to check. That’s going to be a long day at that corner of the table.

Inner City Comes Visiting

January 29th, 2008

Have lunch downtown with your adult son…and what happens? I returned to my boring one-block street in JP’s Woodbourne to find every form of police vehicle, plus a guy in a garish FBI jacket.

FBI agent

Updates via Adam: Apparently the guy in the red cap that the FBI and city had to convince to come out was the (alleged) perp. There was a CVB cover here and a MassMostWanted one here. Thanks muchly, Adam.

I used to laugh at my grandmother in a small county seat in the eastern panhandle (apple country) of West Virginia. She was always at the windows and sent me to the volunteer fire house whenever the alarm went off. They wrote the emergency names and address on the chalk board and Mable had to be first to know who was in trouble and of what type.

Cuffed ladOur section is so quiet and crimeless, I had to wander out to chat with the cops. Unlike the TV dramas, we had no pistol duels or screaming. No one called, “You’ll never take me alive, copper!”

Pick Click Trick: Click on a thumbnail for a larger image.

Perhaps more interesting than those fellows who were in plastic cuffs were the many officers of various agencies. You could certainly see who had been a Marine and still had the buzz cut with gray hair. I must say that for others the effect of a silver mullet is not a good fashion statement.

Checking the trunkI’ll update when I discover the real story. Neither MSM daily nor the freebies was carrying anything. I share the frustration of Adam over at UniversalHub in getting a 509 — bandwidth exceeded, trying to get something from Boston Police Department News.

I figured it was drugs because of the FBI involvement. That would be quite the news in our staid little corner of town. The folk in that new house have had visits from cops a few times for being loud. They don’t seem to notice that this very quiet block has one of the city’s best known and respected cops on it, and that no one else has loud parties or yells obscenities at their kids…at least not so anyone can hear.

Selfishly of course, we hope that this helps reduce their youthful exuberance.

So far, the city cops outside my front door said that they think one or more recent guests were involved in bank robberies. (What does Adam write, innocent until proven guilty? In this case, that would have the caveat of and until we know the accusation.)

I know the fellow in the white sweatshirt. He was in cuffs, then free. The ectomorph with the Mohawk on the other hand is a stranger to the block. He went away with new companions to discuss the matter at hand.

It’s all too much for a tiny niche with no notable behavior. To be continued…

Minor and Major Update: The Boston Globe ran a slight amplification on the Woodbourne police flurry in Woodbourne yesterday. Angel Robles is a suspect in numerous bank robberies, but so far cops have charged him with one — BOA in Roxbury on 1/4. The BPD News is back up and has a lot more, including the likely identify of the handcuffed guy, who they say is held in investigation of other bank robberies.

Thursday Followup: The Boston Herald returned at least briefly to its old self with a nice feature on the robbery suspect. O’Ryan Johnson located the city detective, Steven Blair, who explained the police work behind the bust. He also said why we neighbors hadn’t noticed him or odd activity:

He said the crew was tough to track because they had no fixed address and slept wherever they laid their heads at night.

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Hot and Cold Elephants

January 14th, 2008

On my stoop, even the gods are subject to the elements.Ganesha before the stormGanesha after the storm

Pic Click Trick: Click on a thumbnail for a larger view.

On Sunday, sunny Sunday, my elephant-headed chum, Ganesha fairly glowed, as in the image at the left. During this morning’s storm, he made us cold to look at him, as at the right.

Traditionally, Hindus do not start any new project or endeavor without consulting and praying to Ganesha. He also is the protector of writers. I guess he should be the blogger’s guy, eh?