Archive for the ‘Roslindale’ Category

Urban critters

August 20th, 2014

We see coyotes, raccoon, opossums and such in our part of Boston. I scouted out a few more today at Forest Hills Cemetery and the in-town Audubon nature center.

In Lake Hibiscus in the middle of the graveyard, I was surprised to see a pretty big snapping turtle (surely undocumented immigrant). It was pretty creepy. It came from maybe 30 feet off-shore and surfaced just below me by the tiny rocky beach. As I moved about 100 feet along the shore, it tracked me. I began to feel like it was viewing me as a two-legged fish…a snack.

The lake has regular turtles, cormorants, and of course the usual ducks and geese.

A short distance down Walk Hill, I trotted the fox trail (el sendero del zorro on the sign). The hen turkeys did the turkey trot faster. They did not want to chat or play.

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.

 

Cormorants in the cemetery lake were chowing down on little fish. corm1
corm5 Several cormorants used the boulders as bases to flap and dry off.
The snapping turtle seemed to find me fascinating…maybe edible.

Less spookily, was he used to someone on land tossing bread?

snap3
smallerturtle The shiny to-scale turtles like the warming rocks in the cemetery lake.
The wild turkey hens were not happy with my being on their trail. They quickly repaired elsewhere. turkeyleave
snap2 [Jaws theme here] The snapper followed me along the shore and several times stuck its anaconda neck out to get closer.

Train to Gorillas

November 29th, 2013

femalelook

 

The quasi-suburban parts of Boston can have their own simple pleasures. Mine today came from an excursion, train time, zoo time!

Here in Hyde Park, as in Roslindale and West Roxbury, we all seem proud of being part of the city, yet very aware we can’t reasonably walk across the central fist of it as you can from Beason Hill or the South or West Ends. Standout successes like the recent new stations and skeds of the Indigo (Fairmount) Line are big deals down here.

For 10 years, we lived right downtown and then for 21, we were in JP, right below Forest Hills. Now in lower Hyde Park, it’s a trek and rigmarole to get places. I and one of my sons bike frequently (it’s quicker to get to Porter Square on two wheels than by T or God forfend by four). We have to plan. Until recently too the infrequent commuter rail just down the hill from us was also $5.50 a trip and only went as far as South Station.

I’ve been taking the zap, pow, wow improved Fairmount line regularly and grokking it. They dropped the fare to subway prices ($2 a trip) and roughly doubled the frequency. There is also a subtext. This is Thomas Michael Menino’s turf also and part of the idea was to pay attention to the Mayor and District Councilor Rob Consalvo in fostering development in Logan Square, a few hundred yards from the Fairmount stop. Moreover, personally, I got my geezer card from the MBTA, so one way is half price — a buck.

Freebie Road Trip

Today was a trial run for many who had not caught the T fever and fervor. Touted in the local weekly, in flyers at the Y and such, the notice was that today at 11:45 AM, we could gather at the Fairmount Grille and head for the 12:03 PM train. We’d get free round-trip fare.

Every station had its attraction. In particular, New Market was the big honking blue-collar South Bay shopping center with anything your little heart desires. Honestly, as much as I bike and sometimes drive around there, I reeled at the mentions of Four Corners and a short walk to the Franklin Park Zoo. I had never gotten off the Fairmount line at that stop and in my rigid mind thought it must not practical…too far.

Wrong-o.

thallcosgrove

I decided to do the zoo stop, assured a lackey would appear to lead me. Turns out, I was the only fool headed to the animals in the cold. When we gathered at the Fairmount Grille before heading to the stop, people were talking about shopping, either at South Bay or downtown. Joe Cosgrove (right), the MBTA’s director of planning and development, and Mat Thall, the interim executive director of the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation, spoke, but did not pitch Franklin Park. We heard that the $2 fare was an experiment, for both Fairmount and as a test for other Boston neighborhood commuter lines shackled to absurdly high fares despite being in Boston city limits. We heard that the Fairmount traffic had spiked 47% since the fare change, and mostly we heard that we had to talk it up.

Clearly, I”m self-interested, but I think it’s worth it. Sure to the rail geeks, Boston has a reputation far beyond our boundaries for how hard the CDCs pushed for the Indigo Line work that has produced the improvements after almost two decades. Honestly, I can attest that we are a model for the hemisphere for the accomplishments. More personally, I want to see weekend service and trains that leave downtown for my neighborhood after the current latest, 9:40 PM. I want to be able to go to the Haymarket on Saturday, thank you very much. Let’s be a real city.

Gorillas, No Giraffes

My hick mindset had the zoo out of range. Despite my frequent bike rides down Columbia, up Blue Hill, through Franklin Park, past Forest Hills, the length of Mass Ave and all of the convoluted Washington Street in various neighborhoods, I fell into the Geneva Ave/Four Corners is distant gang turf. I was ignorant.

Sure enough, I ended up being the only bozo getting off the train at Four Corners. At Fairmount, the conductor was amused and amusing. He was the veritable gang of us, highly unusual for 12:03 PM on a weekday and did a great double take as he greeted us. I was literally the only Four Corners stop requester and the only one who exited for the zoo instead of consumer/Black Friday choices.

fairmounttoot

As promised, a pleasant young man, Hanad, was there to shepherd me. Turns out, as I was the only one, he didn’t even bother putting me through the half-priced-day gate. I got in for free. So there, shoppers.

Sure, a cold November day is not primo. Many animals are not the slightest bit interested in playing the game below 65F. Even my favorite beasts of all, giraffes, were bunked or huddling inside. No tigers, a single lion, no roos, maybe a third of the areas and cages said exhibit not open. Harrumph, as the expression goes.

Yet there was plenty to see. The parents with kids in strollers and racing ahead of them squealing about dark jungles, warthogs, gorillas and such had a great time. So did I.

(I’ll post some pix on Flickr and update with a link here.)

For the logistics minded, the walk from the Four Corners stop to the zoo entrance is eight minutes. It’s exit the station to the South onto Washington, go four short blocks, then seven short blocks up Columbia to the zoo. It’s a devil of a lot easier and closer than by Orange line or some wacky bus combo.If you want to start from South Station or Hyde Park, this is it. It’s in my mental maps.

We can be as provincial as Manhattanites and a question I heard in the Fairmoumt Grille and on the platform was what can you see in late November at a zoo? Lots, sports fans. The Tropical Forest was fully stocked; the great apes, warthogs, pygmy hippo, wacky carrion birds and more are crowd pleasers.  Nearby in Bird’s World, ibises and lurid finches and parakeets play, while the huge green keas wail and shriek.

A male lion showed off endlessly and on and on and on.

I earned bragging rights for going to the cold-weather zoo, doubled by taking the commuter rail.

Grooming Corridor

July 1st, 2012

The mini-kingdom of tonsorial parlors in Hyde Park is undoubtedly Logan Square. Salons and barber shops specializing for black women, white men, black men, Latinos and Latinas, plus nails and braiding abound in a tiny stretch at the start of Fairmount Avenue.

River Street goes south and turns right to head west at the HP municipal building, with Fairmount heading east. It’s that stretch of a few blocks that starts with the Logan Square Barber Shop and sees all those related but different places on both sides of the street.

Yesterday, I got a haircut with folklore and barber lore, then I chatted with a barber specializing in African-American hair. No one seems to know quite how the hair center arrived, but everyone with an opinion seems to think there’s plenty of business for all.

As a sidelight, I recall a lecture a couple of months ago by Anthony Sammarco in the nearby library. His Hyde Park (Then and Now) is harmless enough, basically a photo collection with a little commentary in a series you likely have seen. One aspect that stuck with me was that even before Hyde Park became part of Boston (1912), it had a shopping shtick. Close by Clearly Square (a few blocks west and within sight of Logan Square) was a clothing and haberdashery conglomerate. Two large department stores and fitting shops were where many, particularly area men came for suits and shirts and such.

Now for some inexplicable reason, Logan Square is where hair comes to be snipped and styled.

We around here hopped for yet more restaurants. Alas, several promising ones have open and closed in the past few years. Most recently, first TC’s Coffee couldn’t make a go of the pastry biz and the mother eatery Townsends closed with a whiff of scandal. For those, I loved her baked goods, as did so many, but she apparently did not have the traffic of the likes of the close-by Dunkin’. The restaurant with its full bar (including a remarkable collection of ales mated to the meals), was the political and social club meeting place as well as a virtual home to Council President Steve Murphy. I sat with many pols and others by happenstance, at events, for interviews at one or the other. Lackaday.

However, a few healthy restaurants remain, notably The Hyde (disclaimer, a son works there). 

We have several particularistic churches in the same stretch, but mostly it’s hair and nails. For a bit of humor, the most popular woman’s salon, big, busy and rich went south. Salon Capri was between the two squares and where my wife went. They uber-suburbanized themselves though, planting in Dedham’s Legacy Place, making themselves difficult for former customers to get to as well as more expensive.  That might have been a harbinger of doom for the hair biz here, but certainly was not.

Perhaps symbolic of the vitality of this genre was that Qadosh (oriented toward black women) just took over TC’s Coffee. It had been next to one of those odd little churches. TC’s space is airy, has big windows and benefits from the rehab the restaurant owners had performed on what used to be the preeminent hotel on the Neponset River before it decayed. After a month with not even a hand-written sign of the salon name, Qadosh has painted its door and taken the old TC’s Coffee sign out of its frame, surely in preparation for its own lighted one.

Next is Los Magicos Barber Shop (fairly new), seeming to specialize in Latinos. Across the street is Hair by Changes, a full-service place, doing nails on hands and feet, waxing, tanning, facials and such. Heading west, there’s Mona Lisa Beauty Salon, then Luu & Nails.  Close at hand is Finesse, which claims to service men, women and children, but notes shaves and fades, suggesting more of an emphasis on black men.

Up at the River Street bend, on one side is the Logan Square Barber Shop. Opposite are a braiding salon and women’s salon that notes both they speak Spanish and can relax hair.

On my haircut day, I was in the chair with Al, who is widely called Elvis for his appearance. He spoke of his background as the Wahlberg boys’ barber from his Dorchester days. He is never short of opinions. He could not explain how so many hair joints migrated to Logan Square. However, he was plain that he had been surprised to find his shop the only one left in Hyde Park oriented to white men.

Hyde Park covers a lot of streets, but he may be right. I can’t recall another. When we live in Jamaica Plain, we ended up in Roslindale Square for haircuts and begrudgingly, finally tried Logan Square BS. We like the guys, haircuts and prices.

In several towns, I’ve had black barbers tell me they’d take a chance on my thin, Nordic type hair, but they didn’t know how to cut it right. Here, I’ve cut the hair of two of my sons. One has my kind of hair and the other has the thick, dark hair from my wife’s side of the family. Those require very different skills and electric razor guides.

I stopped by Finesse on the way from my haircut to speak with a barber out front for a smoke. He too couldn’t figure out how so many salons and barber shops concentrated in three blocks. Yet, he said everyone seemed busy and thriving.

Now I can’t stop myself from thinking that if the barber shops and salons do so well, they’ll need to invest their profits. Might they finance restaurants?

 

Matriarca Rivelato

April 1st, 2012

Bless or blame Google Translate and I hope the heading is not wacky. I had a little thrill this morning to see the matriarch revealed.

For many years, I have seen the grand dame’s statue in shade. This morning the light was finally right and the trees were not at all in leaf. The life-sized representation of Maddalena Caporale, died in 1939 at age 66, was in its glory.

This columned work is in Roslindale’s St. Michael Cemetery. That is across the street from JP’s Forest Hills. As FH is WASPy dignified and largely eschews personal images, at least from the 20th Century on, SM revels in them. As FH is a garden with grand sculpture and splendid runs of grass and plantings, SM is a necropolis. Sure, it has borders of mausolea, where caskets are stacked four high and lovingly furnished with frequently visited internal altars, but SM is in the European mold — close packed graves and many, many busts of the grieved young, the esteemed old, and of course the Catholic ideals of St. Christopher, Jesus, and Mary everywhere.

Yet, Signorina Caporale sits alone. She is imposing.

Assuming the unlisted sculptor worked from a formal portrait, we can’t learn much of her personality from the work. Nor is there an epitaph or mini-bio as so many monuments have. She appears neither grinning or scowling.

We can infer she was worth a lot of trouble and expense. With the light finally on her face, I am left to wonder whether she was feared, loved, or respected.

A Home Where the Hens Roam

July 12th, 2011

I am sure there must be a heavily labored pun involved in a young Turk becoming a champion of chickens. I won’t try, but I do predict that Boston City Councilor Rob Consalvo will handle this in a moderately anal retentive, bureaucratically acceptable way. Given that live chickens are for some unfathomable reason a zoning issue controlled by the Board of Appeals, that’s the best possible outcome.

bwak

Sorry for the 2 to 3 hour delay from this morning/afternoon’s hearing. Fortunately Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin was there, along with at least one newspaper reporter. The former’s filing is here.

While the news would appear to be that Roslindale’s chicken ladies lost. They didn’t really, but they did have to continue to play the Boston Political Game. They are likely to prevail…with assistance from Consalvo.

The tale is worthy of a The Daily Show skit, including:

  • Boston regs read you can raise chickens if you get a health department permit
  • Pay your $50 for the permit application, wait, wait, get denied
  • Find that your neighborhood zoning (arbitrary with the effect of law) forbids Accessory keeping of animals other than laboratory animals (page 39)
  • Loud, smelly, feces heaping dogs and other pets are OK, but all farm animals are secretly excluded from the alleged permit system
  • Endorsements by all abutters are meaningless
  • You need to play the game of a Board of Appeals hearing to get a denial to advance

Consalvo is Councilor for the district that includes Hyde Park and a bit of Roslindale, the bit including Audra Karp and her wife, and formerly three hens. The chicken trio are in the Ashland yard of her father, who she says gets to keep the eggs although her family drops by for omelets.

You can read the detailed experience at Legalize Chickens in Boston.

At this point, I see that Consalvo (disclaimer: my district Councilor, whom I know) is going to fix it. He said he was working on doing that after the hearing today denying the couple’s zoning variance to bring the exiled hens back to Firth Road. Glum as I can be, I asked whether we were two or three years out for a solution. He figures one or less.

Of course, with machinations that would outrage a libertarian or small-government type, the underlying issues may not go away even then. First, consider what Consalvo IDs as the underlying problem — a health/animal control issue has been put under the control of the rules-are-rules types at zoning. While the board told the Globe that of course they were reasonable and that the decision on this case would occur at the hearing, the fix was in and that was so much Karp crap.

Even sympathetic Consalvo opposed the women’s appeal, as did the Mayor’s office. Both used the bureaucratic, impotent excuse that the city zoning policy put chickens in a forbidden class for that neighborhood. That’s the big duh in government.

The real solution is what Consalvo hinted at in his opposition comments. He followed Karp, who noted that she had contacted all of her neighbors within 300 feet, had letters of support from 42 of them, hundreds of petition signatures, and zero objections of anyone. Consalvo said that he had a folder with over 200 letters of support as well.

This is not some form of simple democracy.

To help understand the issue more clearly from the peculiar Boston perspective a member of Consalvo’s staff presented a sliver of Roslindale history. I searched the Globe archives (a half dozen for-fee articles; search rats, Roslindale and Samuel Wood) when I returned today to get the time frame as well. It was the early to mid-1980s. Back then, Roslindale was one of many Boston areas overrun with rats, rats and more rats.

Even though it turned out according to rat czar of the time, Sam Wood, that the pests came, played and stayed because a huge percentage of the public as well as restaurants left trash out, not in bags and in uncovered containers, the public was understandably freaked. In what might be a good ad for Scientology, many older residents are still engrammed, figuring it must have been farm animals, not themselves causing the problem. Hence, let’s oppose chickens, even if, as Karp says, she keeps the food in pest-proof containers and only sows small amounts of seed at a time.

robbwakHonestly, the folk objections to chickens — noise, food poisoning, smell and such are hooey. Reason is not the dominating factor here however. There’s the possibility of doing what Karp and her wife suggest, considering small numbers of chickens (no roosters, thank you very much) as pets.

For his part, Consalvo has applied his usual intense energy to this. He’s met with the chicken women, and with GreenRozzie and other advocates for them, as well as fielding anti-chicken types’ calls.

Had I been the chicken ladies, I would have been angry. Instead, they said they’d work the system to do what was necessary to get their hens back in town. Even after several of their neighbors praised the pair, said everyone loved seeing hens, applauded the self-sufficiency, and noting there was neither noise nor stink, Board member Michael Monahan expressed the preset tone of the body with a comment about theirs being “not the right house…not the right area.” That sounds like chicken shit to me.

Then again, Consalvo is a very reasonable guy, still energetic enough to pull on the levers of power as many times as it takes to get a prize. I’m not sure he’s going to be able to get chickens taken away from zoning, where they have absolutely no business, but I bet he’ll broker a good deal.

Already, they have been examining the rules at places like New York City that allow and regulate fowl. Apparently, Vancouver’s system is a good model for us. You’d suppose it would be simpler, but let’s recall that somehow we let regulation of agrarian remnants of New England culture come under the BRA satraps. Rules are rules. They don’t really have to think. This is only one more piece of civic silliness.

In the end, the City Council is likely to chat up other, more rational cities’ chicken procedures, pick one or parts of several we can call our own, and pass an ordinance. I’ll bet on Consalvo to get it done.

Postprandial Update: The Globe has similar coverage to UH.

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.

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Clean Streets and Small Favors

April 23rd, 2011

milletgleanersBusiness-card shame was the order of the afternoon in a midtown NYC bar among us trade journalists. Most of us who had worked for the huge Conover-Mast chain of magazines did not want to leave the city for either Chicago or Boston. We scattered to local jobs when the Boston-based acquirer Cahners Publishing moved our books, as we were wont to call the magazines.

As we swapped our new cards, one poor fellow was slow to flip his on the table. He would be well paid, but he had not adjusted to the shift from Purchasing to Solid Waste Management.

Well, way back then and today, trash is big business and not just in the romance-novel and porn industries. He did just fine, but I don’t think he ever did adjust to the name.

Street flotsam

My Boston City Councilor, Rob Consalvo is learning that. He is figuratively hip deep in trash.

Among the numerous tedious problems very important to some constituents is trash-day trash leavings. Residents in his Hyde Park and Roslindale neighborhoods, and abutting areas, are disgusted, irate and want some fixes.

Paper and garbage clogging or blowing around sidewalks and streets are not the stuff of movies or important novels. They certainly aren’t what pols claim as their legacies. Yet, trash is unpleasant to look at or smell, it brings squirrels, dogs, cats, raccoons, opossums and crows, and no one sane longs to pick up other folk’s rubbish.

This week’s Hyde Park Bulletin has the messy story. (You have to pay $12 a year to read the articles and can only see an image of the lastest week’s front page otherwise.)

It’s complex and Consalvo is forced into a multi-phasic set of problems and solutions. It’ll likely lead to public hearings. Issues include:

  • Trash on the curb in boxes, paper bags, and plastic bags, often not in trash cans or barrels.
  • People looking for deposit cans and bottles opening up those before the garbage trucks get there, scattering trash about or leaving the bags open for animals.
  • Garbage crews spilling partial loads through inattention or because of poor packaging — and leaving the stuff on the sidewalk or road.
  • Trash put on the curb up to 24 or more hours before pickup day, which exacerbates the likelihood of its ending up loose.

Already, Consalvo sees a couple of partial solutions. One would be to copy the requirement in higher-density areas with restaurants, like the North End, for all trash to go into lidded barrels. That was largely a reaction to the rodent problems there. However, we in more suburban, single family Boston neighborhoods know the destructive capabilities of hungry ‘possums and dogs.

Another would be to make sure that street sweeping schedules follow trash pickup the next day.

Consider the gleaners

Among his messages was also the awareness that bottle pickers can open bags in their quest for deposit money. There’s a chance for an education/cultural solution here.

In a town that fancies itself as Catholic and otherwise religious, the modest consideration for such gleaners should be an easy sell. It goes back to the Torah and Old Testament, and is well covered in the Book of Ruth. The law in agarian communities was to allow the less fortunate to pick the leavings in the fields after harvest.

Likewise, we have weekly (or three times a week in places like Beacon Hill) harvest in a sense. Most people don’t bother with nickel deposits on soda and beer cans and bottles. Even in such hard times, there are plenty of pickings on the curb as well as in downtown public trash cans.

All we need to do in front of our houses is to put out a separate container with the deposit containers. We have that single-stream monster recycling bin, but we use the old, small rectangular blue one for deposit bottles and cans.

Modern gleaners come around a few hours before the garbage and recycling trucks. Where they see separate containers with the deposit containers, they don’t mess with trash cans or the big bin.

It’s better for us and for them. Consalvo is likely right on this aspect too. We don’t see damaged bags or papers pulled out of the big bin.

The old texts commanded that gleanings be left for the poor, orphans, widows and strangers. The principle remains much the same. What is a small thing for most of us can be substantial to another.

Plus, it makes for spiffier neighborhoods.

Tags: harrumphharrumphergarbagerecyclinggleanerbottle depositConsalvo

Barbers’ Retirement Scheme

March 4th, 2011

Is it profession, class or culture that links tonsorial parlor operators and gambling? Yesterday I saw it again twice and had to wonder.

Way back before state governments scammed citizens with lotteries, I’d grown up noticing that barbers were often also the numbers folk. Alternately there was one barber shop in a Southern state capital a couple of blocks from the capitol with a non-shoeshiner. A middle-aged man in a well pressed suit with tie sat in the tall shine chair all the time. He was not there to pick up small bucks buffing brogans and bluchers. Instead, he had a huge roll of cash. He’s take numbers bets or make usurious loans.

In a more modern Boston, my barbers have tended toward 1) scratch tickets and 2) trips to nearby casinos. For many years, my sons and I have gone to Sebastian’s in Roslindale Square. There, the main row of barbers frequently chat up their last and their next trip to a casino. Just yesterday, the main conversation was one-way from the barber going on about his and other folk’s scratch winnings. He would plow his $40 back into more scratch tickets. He knew of a friend in Winthrop who got a $1,000,000 winning tickets, but found only a little over $300,000 net. Was that fair?

I didn’t interrupt the flow of the man with scissors by my ear how much he invested between his last hit and the $40 winner.

Later yesterday, walking East on River as it turns into Fairmount, I strode past Elvis. That would be the barber from the Logan Square shop. I haven’t had my hair cut there, but should. None of us on the hill knows his name, but we discovered recently that we all call him Elvis, from his appearance.

Just as a Pat Boone or a Cyndi Lauper has an unmistakable look, this barber is shtick. With his pompadour wig, open necked shirts, tight pants and gold chains, he’s lounge ready. In decent weather, he spends between-clipping times standing where River turns to River in Logan Square. I’ve never heard him sing though — another reason for a visit to the shop.

Regardless, yesterday as I passed, he shuffled, his chain dangling toward his busy hands worrying the scratch ticket. I didn’t hear whoops of triumph. I suspect his retirement was postponed yet again.

Pity the Feeble Racist

July 30th, 2010

groceryweaponMy still quick reflexes for an old fart kept my legs from mangling by a cart in the Roslindale Stop & Shop a short time ago. It was not propelled idly by an inattentive shopper or even a helpful, but too short, kid. Instead a hostile, angry and racist older black woman came right at me.

Sure enough, we forget or at least compartmentalize when we don’t have to deal with obvious racists regularly. After 21 years in Jamaica Plain and one here in Hyde Park — both very racially and culturally diverse Boston neighborhoods —I don’t experience or witness much of that.

There was no question this woman wanted to hurt me and why. I was a couple of feet from the front of my cart, ready to load in some greens. The cart was against a veggy display. She cut across about six feet of tile, veering hard left directly toward me, leaving me no exit and no way to avoid her.

First she glared and sneered as she aimed at my legs. I dipped into my t’ai chi background to touch the front of her cart as it came into contact with me and divert it just enough to keep it from smashing my legs.

That further enraged her and her racism became obvious. She swore about white people and said they were always pushing around black folk. She remained furious.

The three women with her, ranging from perhaps 50 to 17 were likely a daughter and granddaughters. They sort of looked down, but it was quickly obvious that this was not new behavior by the matron of the family.

Trying to give granny an out, I said pleasantly, “God bless you.” In return, she literally spit back, “No, God bless you!” as a clear curse. They left and I could hear her continuing to defame white people.

I did get an odd chuckle of recognition though. A black friend from way back had warned me of angry, elderly black women. The stockier they are, he’d say, the more evil their evil eye and the more likely they’d be willing to have at someone verbally and physically. This crazed shopping lady was exactly what he’d warned me to avoid.

Of course, like the good UU I am, I look for the lessons here. I not only ask my three lads what they can learn from an unpleasant experience or error, I ask myself.

First, I’m glad I could retain my equanimity. She was spoiling for a physical and verbal confrontation and literally bruises and blood. She picked the wrong white guy for that.

Next, I do recognize home-turf advantage. The American Legion Highway store is patronized and staffed almost entirely by African Americans. It’s much more comfortable for racists to act out when they perceive they are the norm. I rather doubt she would have pulled the same antics in the Dedham S&S.

Moreover, I felt for the trio with her. It has to be tough to regularly accompany a bigot, kind of watch out for her and be associated with her acting out.

What I didn’t feel was an empathy or even a sympathy for the racist. I don’t know wat she may have seen or heard at home or in pubic life. I do that that each of us gets our share of unfair knocks and slaps. None of that excuses smearing whole sets of fellow people, much less attacking individuals who differ from us.

Regionally, I regret how the allegedly liberal and open Boston area still has its onerous share of racists, of all races themselves. When I moved from the South first to New Jersey for high school, some time in Cambridge in college, a decade in Manhattan and the past three decades here, I was initially surprised at the racial tensions and negativity in Yankee lands. Yet in all those places, the locals were quick to scold me for my Southern roots, contrasting them to the enlightened Northern places. They seemed truly oblivious.

I found again and again that this was naive or disingenuous or both. Boston as a whole has never gotten over its own sordid history and racism and largely segregated sub-neighborhoods.

Here today I found that old brick back in my bag. It wasn’t the classic North End teen slurring passing black Bostonians. It wasn’t even snooty Brahman remnants running down others on race, class or schooling. It was an old bigot with absolute no reason to dislike me, feel threatened by me or certainly feel justified in physically and verbally assaulting me.

I would wish her peace and freedom from hate. However, she’s likely rounding off her life and may simply be who she is for the rest of it.
Well, God bless her, regardless.


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Boston Bone Quest

May 5th, 2010

In what I’ve come to view as my mini-safaris, I got another chance to go on a Boston search over the past few days. This time, it ties into the too much that I know about the grocery biz.

In the years I was a grocery trade magazine editor I saw again and again why stores lose regular customers. We can and do often overlook rude and incompetent clerks; I suspect many of us treat such experiences as free theater while we are on a line. We also are pretty tolerate of high prices; we can justify modest ripoffs as stocking exactly what we want or being nearby.

What we won’t tolerate and consider cause for not returning are OOS — out of stock.

Where’s My Stuff?

It can be something you use regularly and expect to be there. It can be an advertised special. Customers going into a store with reasonable expectations leave steamed and may not come back if what they want isn’t there.

In this case, it was my bone drugs, or really minerals. Since my broken leg and surgery, I’ve supplemented my diet with calcium capsules. My wife is of course a person of the female persuasion and takes them for her own internal purposes.

As we got into our last jug of them, I could have ordered some, but the local groceries have all advertised that their house brands or some major brands were two for one. A quick calculation put that below the unit cost of stuff ordered, including the shipping.

So, it was off to Stop and Shop, which has their house brand, Care One, on twofer this week. Easy, eh?

Not so fast, Calcium Kid!

I amused myself when I had other tasks by careering from one S&S to another to another. I didn’t get my hopes up for any one and that was wise.

First came the rebuilt gem on American Legion Highway in Rozzie. It’s new, has big aisles, and looks efficient. Well, I already knew they were too dumb to put in a fresh-fish counter.

Having lived in lower JP for many years, shopped at the Purity Supreme long before it became a Grossman’s Outlet, I knew that the locals like their fish. Particularly those from the Caribbean are pretty demanding, loved PS’ selections, and still support free-standing fish stores in that same strip mall, in Eggleston Square, Dudley Square and many more places. Why S&S wouldn’t accommodate that speaks volumes on corporate mentality.

That new supermarket has numerous other shortcomings. For example, we buy quarts of non-fat plain yogurt weekly. They badly understock those. They invariably have low-fat plain, vanilla and other variations, but they clearly get as many non-fat plain quarts as the other types. They run out first and I often find none or one there.

This is not hard to predict. I can go on at considerable length about the innovations of the grocery industry in materials handling and inventory control. For the purpose of the yogurt example, the key factor is that the secret is in the cash register. As well as plugging in the unit price for an item, scanning the bar code adjusts the inventory level for the store. They know when they are getting low and can easily run reports on items consistently OOS.

Back to bone capsules:

S&S American Legion — a whole health-and-beauty-aid aisle, but heavy on baby butt products, moderate on makeup and extremely low on vitamins and minerals. They didn’t have squat and there were no places for what I wanted anyway.

S&S Truman Highway — just as masochistic amusement and because it’s a vigorous mile and change walk each way down and up the mysteriously named Summit/Washington/Wakefield street, I checked. This sad little store allegedly will get a larger replacement but is now like a double convenience store. I suspect any New Ager’s medicine cabinet has more minerals and vitamins. No dice.

S&S Dedham — I allowed myself to hope for success at this very large store. They can also run out of my yogurt, but they almost always stock enough advertised specials. They had labels for the big calcium bottles on the shelf, but alas, some other questing sorts had beaten me. A couple of sizes were OOS and there was one bottle of one variety remaining. A twofer doesn’t work with one, which must be why it was there.

I checked a few other where I don’t usually shop, but had reason to be nearby. Harvard Ave. in Brookline isn’t much of a store and didn’t have it. The northern JP one near Jackson has few vitamins or minerals.

S&S South Bay (Allstate Road) — the mother lode is here! I don’t know that I’ve bought any minerals here ever. I’ll keep it in memory. They had several times the shelf-space devoted to their food supplements as any of the others in the chain. I had a choice of numerous capsules per bottle, various milligrams per capsule, and with or without vitamin D.

I came by bike and my selection pretty much filled the spare space in my shoulder bag. It was two 500-capsule jugs. I’m not only set for awhile, I also know where to go next year.

Inventory by Caprice

You would think that Stop and Shop, or any major grocery chain would be more consistent. You’d think that they’d have similar stock store to store.

Of course not and part of that is reasonable. They expect their local managers to understand their customers enough to tailor the stock to their tastes.

You also have to wonder what would make managers in Roslindale figure their customes don’t want a real fish counter instead of shrink-wrapped, maybe long dead, stuff. It’s probably the same attitude that figures their customers don’t want a selection of vitamins and minerals.

At the least, I expect them to read their own weekly fliers. If they advertise food supplements at two-for-one, it’s essential to have a full stock for customers who walk in the store expecting that. If customers get their two of this or that, they are almost certain to pile a cart with all that other stuff. If they don’t, they’re likely to exit with only car keys in hand.

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