Archive for the ‘West Roxbury’ Category


March 21st, 2009

Nothing profound here about inconveniences and impossibilities of the physically disabled. Reporters and editors seem to like an annual piece on the likes of how hard it is for those with non-motive or non-functioning legs to get around Boston and the environs. It shows sensitivity, don’t ya know.

I have a couple more months of keener understanding of the frustrations and the resulting compensations and planning that go into navigation. I have folded the walker and use crutches. I can’t fully put weight on the broken/rodded leg and I have to take it slow and rest, but I can see being ambulatory.

My wife has been relishing the idea of picking up my spirits. There’s no way I could safely career through Blackstone Street on a Haymarket day. That’s been my walk almost weekly for nearly 30 years. I am tired of looking at tomato-like-objects and other never-ripe-and-never-ripening things in the groceries. Yet, as chief cook, I am saddened and ill at ease not having chosen, touched and mentally inventoried my food stock.

So as a stopgap, we headed out to stores recently, ones we figured would have motorized carts or wheelchairs. Not only can I not carry things while on crutches, I thump very slowly and make my leg sore or worse.

Dedham Super Stop & Shop

We had seen motorized carts at the big S&S just south of West Roxbury. I called and confirmed that they had them — two said the lady on the phone. So last week, we went there for groceries (and to placate me).

We chose this and then two stores this weekend partially because they had wide aisles.

This S&S was the type a local newspaper might sensationally cite as a scandal for this. As it turned out, I hobbled my way into the store and we did indeed see one cart by one entrance. It required a store key, so we then walked and thumped to the service area.

They gave us the key and we were on our own. We returned and figured out what we thought was the obvious procedure. There weren’t any instructions on the cart or nearby. However, we unplugged it from the wall socket and inserted and turned the key. The little light on the steering bar can on, but it would not go forward. Trying to put it in reverse started the back up alarm beeping, but it did not move.

My wife returned to the service area and saw the other cart. It was inoperative, in a storage room and its basket was full of sundry cleaning supplies.

Some self-important fellow said he’d show her how to use the cart. He blundered full to it and had the same experiences and lack of success. He gave up too.

I lost there and by then my leg was sore. My wife and youngest did the shopping while I sat like an invalid, which I am, in the small, dirty coffee room in the front. Someone had left a Boston Herald. I had thought I’d be shopping, so I didn’t bring a bag with the pens. I ended up doing the three comics page puzzles mentally. It was not exactly the thrill of a lifetime.

BJs and Shaws

Since my injury and operation, we have not restocked things I normally acquire. It was past time for a BJ’s run for the likes of smoked turkey slices for the adults, turkey hot dogs for cost center three, and their big old bags of French roast beans.

It’s a pity that BJ’s produce is so expensive. That necessitated a run to a green grocer or supermarket. As the Dedham BJ’s is across Route 1 from a Shaw’s, we were primed for a second barely suburban shopping trip. Our subtext with availability of wheelchair or a motorized cart, ideally a working one.

BJ’s was a pleasant surprise. We immediately saw two motorized carts by the front entrance. The checkout woman who punches your receipt on the way out reached into the cabinet beside her and handed us a key.

The cart had a sturdy seat and was long with a pretty large basket on front. The controls were simple and plainly marked with clear arrows and drawings for forward and backward. The steering yoke was sensitive. Releasing the forward stick stopped the cart in only a few feet. The speed was a good walking clip, maybe four miles per hour.

We shopped easily with it, except for those pesky humans. It was the same as when you walk in BJ’s but a little more restricted, when shoppers space out and stop suddenly in an aisle, there’s no way to get around them with the cart. We waited. Similarly, at any pinch point, like near the fish counter or by the huge cases of cow parts, I cut a rectangle to the next area to avoid the congestion of huge red shopping carts.

The normal red cart is too big for our typical BJ’s run. We don’t buy those comical boxes of food or household supplies. The motorized cart’s basket held plenty for us.

After checking out, we transferred our treasures to the free boxes and put those in a regular cart to push to the van. I drove the motorized cart back to its station, climbed upright on my crutches and thumped back over to the front to return the key.

BJ’s did it right. Pay attention Stop & Shop.

Shaw’s was next and was in between. There were supposed to be two motorized carts, but one was nowhere to be found and the other didn’t work. However, they did have one wheelchair with a small, very small basket attached.

My wife enjoyed plunging through the store pushing and pulling me this way and that. It must be what a toddler gets in the stroller. I remember cost center one giggling and saying, “Faster! Faster!” I’m not quite there yet, but my wife is ready.

We barely jammed our two-liter seltzers, laundry detergent and dead animal parts into the basket. Had we a larger container, we surely would have gotten more.

Checkout was much the same as BJ’s. The groceries ended up in bags instead, but we transferred those into a regular cart, parked the wheelchair and I was up on crutches again.

No Country for Lame Men

Overall, in our tiny sampling, this area is not set up for the unusual. There must be quite a few people who do not travel with their own wheelchairs or carts. Probably many of those learn who gives a damn and shop at those stores.

I can’t believe with all the myriad details these big stores incorporate into their routines that maintaining a couple of motorized carts is a stretch. Shame on Stop & Shop and on Shaw’s for not doing so. If they can check their restrooms and maintain their sanitation records, they can schedule cart health. I used to cover the grocery business and know how integral record keeping and equipment maintenance is to them, at least until it comes to accommodating the disabled.

Leave it to BJ’s, the most pedestrian and blue-collar of the bunch to do it right. I’m sure to them, it’s just another part of the store and seeing that there are working motorized carts for the disabled is someone’s assignment.

That really shouldn’t be all hard for the store. Not doing it makes it hard on a few customers though.

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Grocery Has No Place for the Weak

March 16th, 2009

A wave of maturity washed over me yesterday. It will surely pass, but I’ll enjoy the accompanying equanimity for the moment.

In my pathetic but relentless expansion of leg use, I push what I can do with my comminuted fibula and titanium-rod filled tibia. The symbol of feebleness, my walker, is folded and hidden. I go as I can on crutches until fatigue and discomfort park me on a chair or bench.

Yesterday, I was back at the gym using the one aerobic machine I can, the SciFit Pro1000 upper body exerciser. It’s sort of a hand cranked bicycle, with no wheels. I sit and operate the hand levers. While I could set it to a weight-lifting mode, I am using some of the hill programs, which elevate my heart rate, take a lot of power to use, and even make me sweat.

crutchesAs the company so graciously puts it, this series of products is “for complete workouts by elite athletes or severely deconditioned users.” So, I’m not a gimp trying to walk, I’m deconditioned. There may be a time in a month or so when I can get in the pool and at the least drag some laps. Right now my fibular shards and the two-piece tibia don’t allow a push off and besides, I could not get into and out of the pool yet. Meanwhile, it’s a minor thrill to be using my body a bit.

As part of my lowered but not extinguished aspirations, I push a little here and there. I still can’t tool around the neighborhood, but I am not immobile. Yesterday after the gym, my uxorial unit and I went a grocery on the way home. I did not accept sitting in the van and thumped in. While she shopped for a wee cart of things, I tried to feign that I too could look for comestibles. I had no way to carry them, but I walked with my head high anyway.

We went to the West Roxbury Roche Brothers. It is locally famous for its regular coverage on Universal Hub. Moreover, videoblogger Steve Garfield hyperlocalizes this particular store. It is somewhere between a large green grocer and a giant supermarket. If some of the clerks were any more Irish, they couldn’t even understand each other. Shoppers call out to each other and employees.

So, while Cindy was wheeling around snagging yogurt and such, I was exercising and trying a bit of confidence building on my own. That didn’t work out too well.

grocery cart

I am definitely less hurried than I was five weeks ago on the day of the big break. I was surprised to find that I mellowed a little, wet with that wave of (at least temporary) maturity. I found a series of folk, largely 30-something and 40-something women charging directly at or rushing inches in front of the big old guy on crutches.

I quickly saw that either:

  • They didn’t have good upbringing or
  • They weren’t in the moment (as Sherlock Holmes would have said, “You see, but you do not observe”) or
  • They didn’t have enough brain power to process other humanoids while they chase a particular food stuff

Two different husband units following these careering shoppers quietly apologized to me when their wives either caused me to rock back on my crutches or literally brushed into me. They apparently were used to seeing a focused grocery hunter in action.

I quickly realized that I normally would have thought evil of these women. Yet perhaps because of my relaxed and reduced pace, I found them amusing.

Very short people at the gym had already conditioned me a bit. Hobbling from the workout area to the main exit generally meant passing by lines (or more accurately line-like clumps) of five to nine-year-olds. Some haven’t learned to be aware of or considerate of others and some are just chatting away being little kids.

A parallel between those Roche shoppers and the Y kids is that they seem used to adults accommodating them. While I grew up in a time and in places where we held doors for each other and no child would ever think of pushing an adult aside to get to the door first, that is not here and now.

I do enjoy the simple, warming grace of consideration. Beyond being attentive to the elderly or disabled, making minor moves for even big guys laden with packages is just plain nice…and it’s nearly free, with only the cost of a few seconds lost.

The middle-aged women in Roche Brothers surely were not being malicious. Had they thought about it, they likely would not have threatened the guy on crutches. The point is that they didn’t think of it and likely won’t the next time or times.

These are the same folk who push their carts at other people, parking willy-nilly on any side or even in the the aisle middle. They are busy, not thinking about it and reflecting their family culture.

I hope I can retain my humor and calmness about such interactions. They are so common that moving them from annoyance to amusement could be a real stress reducer.

I think I’ll stay emotionally ready for my next grocery visit.

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Visiting My Councilor

December 9th, 2008

John Tobin CD symbolThis is a test of your Elected Official Effectiveness System. Will Boston City Councilor John Tobin (WR/JP) make my intersection safe? If so, how quickly? What’s a reasonable period for replacing a sheared stop-sign post — a season, a month, a week?

I didn’t really mean to put him on the spot. That came as a throwaway question at the end of a session with him at JP Licks. When I asked where in City Hall I’d go to ask for this, he said “We’ll do that.” In that case, joining him in the booth was Legislative Aide Anna Sylvester, to make a we.

Here, I say:

  • Tobin is high-energy, deep integrity. I expect him to do what he says.
  • If your city councilor (or equivalent where you vote) holds regular open office hours, go from time to time.
  • If your officials don’t, ask them why and point to folk like John Tobin as examples.

Almost every month, my guy has two open sessions. One is at his West Roxbury office and the other floats from coffee shop or ice-cream joint, generally in JP. That way, he is close to both neighborhoods in his district. He announces them in the local weeklies as well as on his personal website. By the bye, you can also trundle down to his City Hall office, nominally from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days, but call first because he may be doing Council biz elsewhere.

Pix Tricks: Click on a thumbnail for a larger view. If this opens in the same browser window, use the browser back button to return.

He may or may not get takers at a session, but he’s there.When you’re there, you’re the only person he sees in front of him. That’s the right kind of intense.

This morning, there were two of us, with an elderly woman as well as I. I would gladly have shared the booth with her, but she waited until I finished. Perhaps she came with a specific request she wanted to deliver privately.

One of these open meetings a year ago is where I chatted him up and got him to come onto our Left Ahead! podcast. The full one of that is here and the short version concentrating on his term-limits for Boston officials is here.

We had a free-ranging chat today because I didn’t come with any planned business. We touched on the status of his citywide Wi-Fi proposal (he’s still pushing and sees it as an equalizer for poor families and kids), arrested-for-corruption Councilor Chuck Turner (they got off to a bad start, but Turner ended up supporting his run for Council president later, and Tobin wants Turner to have his say/day in court), and why he seems to have a ton more ideas and proposals than the other councilors (he modestly claims most come directly from activist JP residents).

When I finally realized the woman had sneaked into the booth behind me and was waiting for her audience, I fired off the stop sign question to wrap up. He promised and Sylvester took the intersection info. I’ll update here.

As background, this must be like many requests councilors get. It is a simple matter, but one that affects pubic safety. The basics are:

  • The stop sign at Bourne and Walk Hill Streets is on the street-sign pole.
  • The stop-sign post had been sheared and some easy-way-out crew moved the sign.Misplaced stop sign
  • The octagon  is 14 shoe lengths (roughly 15 feet or a car length) north of where it should be and was. (The red arrow on the sign pic shows where the pole used to be.)
  • The adjacent property fence obscures the sign until a north-bound vehicle is nearly at Walk Hill.

Cars race up Bourne and with typical Boston manners, stop just past the sign. That puts the front several feet of the vehicle into Walk Hill.

Any vehicle, but particularly bicycles, turning left onto Bourne, often find themselves stranded in mid turn by a car or truck blocking the intersection. If the stop sign was where it belonged, the tendency for drivers to go beyond it to stop would put them a safe distance back.

typical non-stop at Walk HillThe car  in the image to the left is still moving. It is in the typical place at the intersection, with bumper into Walk Hill and blocking turning vehicles. The suddenness of the stops here are particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists simultaneously approaching the corner. Both Walk Hill and Bourne are very busy, so such coincidence is common.

More than once, I have almost been hit on my bike and stopped to point out the problem to the drivers. I know what to expect and am always cautious here, in car or on bike. Two of those times, homemaker types in newish SUVs have sworn at me in very coarse terms. The out-of-my-way-Jack and I’m-important-no-one-else-is types need their visual cues to act decently.

It will be far easier to install a new pole in the old place than to teach locals what their parents didn’t model or say. I’ll update this when the mini-drama plays out.

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Hidden Jewish Cemeteries

August 6th, 2008

hahmabel.jpgAn eye-opening walk means I’ll never think of Toys R Us and Super Stop & Shop the same. At the West Roxbury/Dedham line I strolled into an amazing maze of Jewish cemeteries.

I had an hour and nine minutes to fill on Spring Street in WR. The map showed Hand & Hand Cemetery. Burying grounds are an avocation, so I walked Spring to Baker to Centre. Wowsers, the entry at the Temple Mishkan Tefila Memorial Park was just the loose strand on the ball of yarn.

There were nearly two centuries of graves there. Some stones, like that sweet, floral one for the young girl Mabel could be in any goy graveyard in New England. Others were in Hebrew or had Jewish-specific symbols.

Oddly to me, accustomed to Forest Hills, St. Michael and Mt. Hope in my neighborhood, this turns out to be a grouping of 13 separate cemeteries. They largely belong to particular temples, each with its own area. As you pass from one to another, a subtle stone or a chain link fences easy to pass delineate the boundary of each.

The map with the 13 sections is here at the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts.  Boy, was I ignorant. I learned that there are 209 Jewish Cemeteries in the commonwealth, of which JCAM operates 101.

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

hahrose.jpgSome of the 20th Century stones use standard, old-fashioned iconography. For example, Rose Kowinski’s has a fairly traditional use of a broken tree. This, of course, symbolizes life cut short.

Rose was only 17 when she died in 1920.

This is not the usual tree used in such carving and probably indicates a European stone worker instead of the WASPy or Irish sort.

hahflow.jpgAn older stone is in Hebrew shows a rarer symbol, a vase or urn pouring liquid. This symbolizes life leaving the body. I know very little Hebrew and do not understand the age or name of the deceased. However, iconography conventions use this type of symbolism for someone who has lived a full live, and not a child or young adult.

A totally different symbolism and one more generally seen in Christian cemeteries is on the stone of Rosa, who died at the end of the 19th Century. Originally, this suggested the passage from one form of life to another — typically with the implication of resurrection.


However, it also became popular in Germany, the rest of eastern Europe and elsewhere.  The stage-curtain tassels generally are included. The motif seems to have come to stand more for the end of the play. Also, in this case, it is easy to project that a woman then at 54 may well have been a grandmother and taken to wrapping herself in a shaw, replete with tassels. There’s much possible here.

A particularly Jewish stone with two hands would stand out at Forest Hills, and not just because it has Hebrew inscriptions. It seems to show the Vulcan salute from the Star Trek shows.


Old fans will recall that Spock (played by Leonard Nemoy) introduced the raised hand with pinkie and ring finger together, and middle and forefinger together. Vulcans and their kin used this in the TV shows and movie.

Nemoy, who was a Jew from Boston’s West End, created this salute to enhance  his character. As he tells it, he simply adapted it, adding the live-long-and-prosper greeting, from his own childhood religious memories. The kohanim, those priests descended from the first high priest, Aaron, use a two-handed version in their blessings.

In Hebrew the two hands in this position represent the first letter of the word for the Almighty. It is a powerful blessing indeed, and well suitable for a tombstone.

As I visited each of the 13 areas, I came over a small rise and down to a plain. It was only then that I realized I was behind the Dedham Racquet Club, Super Stop & Shop and Toys R Us. I have shopped on the other side of Hand & Hand for many years without realizing there is a necropolis there.

Doyle’s Infested with Bloggers

May 15th, 2008

Blogger neighborhoodsMore than a clown car load of bloggers showed last night. I pronounce our first (insert period here) Rossie/JP/West Roxbury blogger social meet a modest success.

The rush report on the event is over at Universal Hub. Adam over there and I blame each other for this event. I think it was his idea and he claims I made it happen.

As threatened, we met at Doyle’s and from the comments, enjoyed it enough to have more such blobs of bloggers. I suggest that you try that for your neighborhoods or town.

It was without agenda, other than putting faces with blogs/bloggers and talk about our widely diverse blogs. I think we had 17 attendants.

We depended on the curiosity of strangers (and friends) as online invitations. While UH lists seven West Roxbury blogs, none from his list showed. We don’t know whether wading all the way into JP would be too much of a culture shock, but we’ll try to entice or shame them into coming next time. Maybe we can hold it closer to their safety zone, a Centre Street pub or the Pleasant in Roslindale.

However, we ended up with quite a few from Roslindale and JP. We got our share of what passes for celebrities in our little bloggy world. That certainly includes videoblogger Steve Garfield and media critic/professor Dan Kennedy. Plus we got Globe correspondent and ubiquitous free-lance Justin Rice.

Unquestionably though, the best parts were meeting bloggers whose stuff we read and talking with those whose interests and posts are nothing like ours. To those of us who do political or personal blogging, or in my case both, there were fascinating excursions.

Boston Handmade, for one, is for a crafts collective; Jessica Burko showed her geek chops and brought a laptop to access her site

Drew Gilpin Faust Fan Club has real and surreal posts related to the Harvard prez; I have it on good authority that she doesn’t yet know it exists

Learning Strategies has reportage and musings on like its title reads; as proof we did not discriminate by ZIP, this is from Larry Davidson in Dot

Joseph Porcelli, the cops and coffee mugs guy, attended

My Dedham (Brian Keaney) represented the south-of-Boston contingent; actually he was that contingent and lives in the land of always bubbling politics

9Neighbors had Rick Burnes describing his concept of displaying the most active blogs

Involuntary Slacker Alyssa belied the blog’s name and already posted on the literal symposium

The Boomer Chronicles (a favorite) had Rhea standing up for it

Andy’s Blog blogger Andy (Miller) even appeared; he’s been in his cave to pass the Mass bar exam, which he recently did and surely will become a regular poster again

Roslindale Monogatari with Michael Kerpan on film; he and I share an interest in the Tollgate Cemetery and had corresponded

Disclaimer: I am favorably disposed to the Faust blog, which is the idea and output of my uxorial unit, Cindy Thames.

And so it went. We met, we drank, we ate, and mostly we talked. I’ll put a few pix below. Click thumbnails for a larger view of what real bloggers look like.

Andy and Justin Steve Garfield
Andy and Justin (Rossie and the Globe Our famous videoblogger (JP)
Dan and Michael Rick, Cindy and Jessica
Dan Kennedy and Michael Kerpan Rick, Cindy and Jessica
Jessica, Alyssa and Adam
Jessica, Alyssa and Adam  

As an aside, reporter Justin asked me about blogger gatherings and whether this would grow into a BlogLeft type of activist group. I’m sure not. This was pure social and pure pleasure.

BlogLeft is a flapping loose set of political bloggers, pinko variety. We had a big gathering two years ago when Tim Murray was still mayor of Worcester and about to run for lieutenant governor. He was a guest there. We had breakout sessions and got real serious.

Likewise, we co-sponsored the lieutenant governor debate in Lowell and recently had a long, highly political gathering, also in Lowell. This is a serious and action-oriented group…not so with the south by southwest Boston bloggers.

The next time you see us plug an open, in-town blogger gathering, know it not serious, just seriously social.

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Peering at Peer Bloggers

May 7th, 2008

Blogger neighborhoodsSurely every blogger from Roslindale, JP or West Roxbury wants to put a face with some other particular bloggers from these parts. We can do that next week.

Our first area blogger social gathering — in a bunch, in a bunch — will be Wednesday, May 14th, at Doyle’s. We’ll gather in the big back room around 7 p.m.

Doyle’s location and a link to directions are here. I guess I’m co-host. Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub and I each consider this the other’s idea. At the very least, come buy Adam a beer for all the extra hits he’s given us when he cites one of our posts.

There’s no entry fee or other cost, except for whatever you order to eat or drink.

Apparently, WR only has a few bloggers. So, if you are one, you absolutely must come.

For some unknown reason, JP has a lot. Those from the two other neighborhoods have to be there next week to make sure we don’t dominate.

It also won’t be out of place to suggest that if this one is fun, we should have the next one at the Pleasant or wherever your favorite is that has a big room.

If you’ve never been to Doyle’s, feel free to gawk at the mayoral memorabilia, going way back. There’s murals of the many politically famous gents and ladies who have bent an elbow in the joint.

Food is fairly cheap. There’s quite a few drafts available. Doyle’s has the longest list of single malts I’ve ever seen. No one ridicules you if you want coffee or tea or club soda.

Stay as long as you find it amusing. Then feel free to post about it.

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Blob of Bloggers in Two Weeks

May 1st, 2008

laptop keysIt’s a beautiful evening in the neighborhood(s). Bloggers from Roslindale, Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury sections of Boston have their first (but not ice cream) social in two weeks.

Wednesday, May 14th, starting at 7 p.m., we’ll meet at Doyle’s to put faces and names to bloggers we read. Maybe we’ll brag and lie to each other too. There’ll be:

  • No test
  • No lectures
  • No entry fee (pay for what you consume)

Doyle’s is a bar and restaurant, famous for its many taps, its Irish pizza, and paintings and artifacts of the many Boston and Massachusetts pols who’ve warmed a bar stool here.

The idea is to meet and greet, to order some food and drink, and to indulge in talking about blogging with people who do it and who care about it.

Your blog or blogs may be about politics, history, nature, gardening, family, or whatever. You’re welcome.

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