Archive for the ‘Milton’ Category

Out-Irish and Out-Boston Each Other

June 23rd, 2016

Provincialism and parochialism at their best were on display at Boston Police Academy and had nothing to do with cops. They simply let locals use their auditorium for public meetings like the monthly Fairmount Hill Neighborhood Association

The feature last evening was Boston/Milton developer Denis Keohane. We got to hear the Irish born (himself), even-more-(artificially)-Irish Bostonians, and the overlapping nativists. Oh, with a good dose of NIMBY to boot completing the theater.

The gist is that Keohane (originally from Kinsale in Cork for those who care about such) thought he was there as a courtesy to the residents. That’s not how many in the room figured it.

He presented an early-stage plan for eight houses on a large (91K square feet) derelict lot one long block from my house. His plan starts with meeting requirement in square footage per house (8K) and setbacks all around. The road is 40 feet wide and all in Boston, so the city will plow it in winter. One third of one of the houses sits in Milton, so that one has complicated realty taxes but the building authority and regulations are all Boston.

keohanevilleExpectation differences ruled the meeting. It quickly became obvious that Keohane was a wildly successful residential and commercial developer who came to make nice to the locals. He seemed at first quite giddy that this would be his first project as-of-right and without having to file and fight for variances. He thought he was being gracious.

Legally he didn’t have to ask the neighbors for anything or inform them of anything. His plan includes building a road up the middle of the land and plugging a row of four houses on each side. He was getting the permits to do that. So there.

Well now, not so simple to the many who wanted more than intel. They demand obeisance.

The brogues thickened as Denis sweated his hour on the stage. It made me think of Southerners I know who suddenly develop the strongest accents away from home.

Let’s be aware that Keohane is not quite 50 and has been in the U.S. for 28 years. His first 21 were in Ireland, which he left for economic opportunity. He married here, they have three daughters in their 20s, he has completed numerous successful projects mostly in Boston and some in abutting Milton, and has won town-level elections in Milton.

Shame of a key detail…

Two older men whose Irish accents got stronger as the evening progressed found a chink when Keohane freely confessed that he was not aware that there had been a reservoir on and above the property in question.

My attitude is that ignorance is almost always (baring some scientific and very specific subjects) quick and easy to fix. Give the info and get to the important stuff, I say.

In contrast, many parochial types are like puppies with a swock and just can’t put it down. Thus at the meeting, a couple of alter kakers returned repeatedly with oh-so-you-really-didn’t-know-about-the-reservoir!? The theme seemed to be that if Keohane didn’t know that, anything he said relating to ground water was untrustworthy. Pigeon poop on that.

Keohane presented salient info, specifically that he has an engineer drilling 20 holes to find out when they hit water. The 8 basements are to be 10 feet underground. He said if they find water at 2 feet, that’s a likely reason to walk away from the development. Otherwise, they’d work with pros to mitigate the water and get it to the street pipes and drains.

The old guys kept saying if he didn’t now about the reservoir, his other info was suspect. One even repeated that the water had been their for centuries and would always be there. On the other hand, I wonder whether the water guys can mitigate the water in ways that would in fact lower the water table and make basements drier for all us neighbors. (I’ll attend the water-drilling followup to ask about that possibility.)

The usual suspects…

Several area folk at this meeting come to all local hearings and info sessions. Their aim seems to be to show they can make presenters squirm or badger them. From their comments and questions, they likely would say, “I’m only trying to get to the truth.” That’s the way of jerks who enjoy acting out their control-freak nature.

At numerous such meeting and hearings I’ve attended I see:

  • Gotcha questions indicating “I know this and you didn’t.”
  • Efforts to squeeze some minor concession out of the speaker (to show personal power?)
  • Claims they support positive change when in fact they oppose all change
  • Requests or demands for more information, future meetings, and more trips to regulators

Looking for trouble…

Some folk asked where the coyotes and other furry varmints would go. One couple recalled when a large house went up above this parcel, they for the first time got rats, which the developer had to get rid of for them.

Keohane said he had pest control for development and afterward in the specs, which he detailed.

Yet water was the big issue. One resident recalled ice skating in there as a child. Charming for recreation, but not as much for basement owners.

Keohane had lots of water answers, from percolation (perc) testing to having rights to drain water-table and storm runoff into city systems. Not good enough for the toughs.

Several ended up asking him to look for trouble. Specifically even though the area is not listed as environmentally sensitive or protected, why not go out and see if anyone might just reconsider adding it to wetland shields?

Of course, Keohane noted that his folk has checked the lists and found nothing. I ask why would he create problems?

Not from here…

Bostonians at their worst can be no different than provincial types elsewhere. I was comfortable with Keohane’s Boston cred, professional and personal.

Not so some others, three mentioned his, to them, tenuous connections. When one said it was their neighborhood, he reminded her it was his as well. She went on several levels deep, trying to trump him. She alleged to feel strongly because she’d grown up there. He came back with his nearly three decades in the immediate area, a long-term wife and three kids, arriving here to make his way when he was only 21, and so forth.

She played her final trump card. She had not only lived her 50 years, but had been born here, while he had not.

That was too much for Keohane. He said, “We’re done here.” He allowed as that was not fit argument. He was understandably insulted. She muttered a faint, “I apologize.” In fact, he was out of there.

I call an unfair-fighting foul on her.

Civic theater

As petty and annoying as some of these folk were, there are worse ways to spend an evening than attending neighborhood hearings. You can learn more about your local folk than you want to know.

Disease of the month

June 7th, 2015

When I was a tot and lad (I’m a Boomer), Reader’s Digest terrorized the nation. Within a week of the delivery of the latest monthly issue, GPs knew their regular patients would complain of identical symptoms.

The RDs had predictable ToC’s. There’d be an inspirational tale of overcoming seemingly insurmountable cirumstances. There’s be a damning example of government waste and overreach. There’d be that disease. There’d likely be a terrifying research snippet as well.

We’d learn from our grannies that virtually everything was fatal and caused cancer. I remember green beans and cranberries in the 50s. If you tunneled down into the findings, you found that you’d need to consume bushels of this or that to have the same effect as what the lab animals got, but never mind. The point was that string beans and cranberries each caused cancer.

We are so fortunate that the internet now delivers terror so much quicker and more efficiently.

greendragon1Today I walked about six miles from home down to the Fowl Meadow in neighboring Canton. There I braved the fatality of ticks and more on the overgrown nature trail.

Sure enough, I returned from a couple of hours of hiking and wading through the underbrush to play paranoid. I did go to the backyard to water the beds and pots to check, check, check.

I removed my shoes, socks and trousers. While I had left the house with both sunscreen and bug juice, I looked for ticks. Then, I put my clothes in the wash. Then I showered and scrubbed my body with the soapy brush. Finally, I washed my clothes.

Yes, it was silly. I did not see any ticks or other bugs, but as we simple-minded and literal sorts are prone to drone, “Better safe than sorry.”

Is it?


Pope’s Pond Action

January 28th, 2014



In retro, and even rural, play, teen guys were out of Pope’s Pond in Milton this afternoon. With their pucks and sticks, plus a snow shovel to sort of clear the very rough ice (no Zamboni),

I started out at the other end, where Pine Tree Brook was running fast, as in unfrozen water. The lads reported they’d been on the ice for 40 minutes or so and it was very solid. They admitted the surface was quite rough, but they were happy just to be out there. The temp was between 10 to 15, with a wind chill of maybe 0, so no thaw was in the works.

Around the bend, my personal version of the great white whale briefly appeared. It is the great blue heron instead and my obsession is in getting a decent photograph of it, not murdering it for revenge.


I’ve seen him a couple of times previously and I didn’t have a camera at all. Today, I had one…in a jeans pocket…but he still got the better of me. This distant, fuzzy snap was the best I could do in pulling out the camera, pushing the on button, waiting for the lens and pointing. He seemed to have seen me at the same time and less than a second after this rushed, unfocused shot, he was gone between the trees.

He’s a big one and I really want a good shot. This is the third time I saw him there out of maybe 30 hikes.

I’ll be back. He fooled me today; he only has been by the brook fishing in warm weather.  The water can’t have been much above 32F.

From now on, not only will have a camera just in case, but I’ll have it out. Maybe I’ll waste some battery by activating the camera before I start the Pine Tree Brook Trail. If he’s ready, the least I can do is show the same respect.

Alas, Neponset Giants

July 20th, 2013

Since I last walked the banks of the Neponset from Boston’s Hyde Park into Milton, the parks maintenance folk have visited. Several huge as well as numerous smaller tries, evergreens and deciduous alike, have been removed or had surgery.


Two in particular were striking in their feebleness or injury, as well as size. They are huge in circumference and height. They are old. They looked hale, virtually immortal.

These are effects of aging and illness that leads us (OK, me) to strained metaphors of human life.

The American beech, here left, had clearly been rotting from the inside for a long time, perhaps a century. I have a fondness for these magnificent trees. Our previous house in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood shared the yard with a specimen at least 250 years old. It was coming to the end of its time and with sadness, we had arborists crown perhaps 30 feet off to prolong its life.

These sturdy gems are the stuff of carved lovers’ hearts, climbing, swings and treehouses. The only drawback I know is that when they produce nuts ever few years, those are multitudinous and damned hard on bare feet. They also would take forever to compost.

Here’s the big metaphor. It is often the largest, strongest looking of us who are rotting away inside, by cancer or other disease. Either through obvious symptoms or accidental discovery, the seemingly invulnerable are enfeebled or felled.

We could worry this trope to death with comparisons of dealing with found illness, carrying on, giving up, blah blah. It’s enticing, but let’s not.

Around the corner, a huge evergreen apparently suffered from our huge winds. If you can apply intelligence to a tree, you’d have to wonder what it was doing putting out such a huge limb and so low. The injured limb had to go.


There’s a simpler metaphor for the amputation. Moreover, this obviously was not the first such operation for this tree.


These pine-family plants do not have the longevity or to me the beauty of the beech. Still the metaphors of blood and tears flow with the fluids. The running, hanging sap does in fact look like what a human might produce in such adversity.

No one knows now whether the pine will heal as well from this injury as the previous one. This will be a rough season for it, rife with nasty insects, viruses and bacteria that can invade an open wound much more easily than a sealed bark.

It will take a year or two to see how well the tree’s defenses worked.

It surely is sensible and safe for the park crews to cut and remove damaged limbs and living hazard trees. Yet it’s tough for us ambulatory tourists to take too. We can foresee the decline and demise of these grand lifeforms.

Caught at a weak moment, we can also fall into the poetic and even religious traps of comparing cellulose lifeforms to our own…particularly when they are weeping.

The Never-Ending Wreath

March 2nd, 2013

OK, kiddies, it’s March. When do the Christmas decorations come down. Here are just a few in Hyde Park and Milton I noticed on a walk. I do confess that we kept our tree in the living room through January. It was still good and not shedding much when we took it out.


marchxmas6 marchxmas5
marchxmas4 marchxmas3
marchxmas1 marchxmas2

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

Dot’s New Chocolate Bridge

January 28th, 2012

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

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

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

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

The flyer they were handing out noted:

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

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

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

Unwelcome Hitchhiker

January 14th, 2012

Monday afternoon, I was tromping around Hemenway Pond in Milton. Thursday, my wife was tweezing out a tick — rather most of one — from pectoral skin and muscle.

As boomer kids, we grew up cowering under school desks, which was supposed to somehow protect us from a nuclear explosion’s effects. We still get palpitations when we hear a test of a civil alert siren, which we knew as a possible warning of Russian missiles or bombers. We took our polio shots or sugar cubes, lest we spend our shortened and painful lives in iron lungs or leg braces. Our parents vacillated from telling us how good we had it and trying to terrify us into orthodox, prophylactic behaviors.

Yet, we didn’t have AIDS. We didn’t have daily fears of strangers and child molesters OUT THERE. We also knew nothing of Lyme disease.

Now an embedded tick immediately brings to mind that horrible, chronic, debilitating and likely incurable set of nasty conditions and symptoms. And sure enough, when I found an inflamed sore on my left pec near my armpit, my wife was both quick and unhappy to point out that it had a big red circle around it, it was a tick, and it looked like a bull’s eye to her. The bull’s eye, of course, is the classic indicator of a deer tick carrying Lyme.

Now, there’s an alert-making way to start the day!

My wife has many virtues, not the least of which is considerable musical ability of which I have none. However, she is squeamish about blood, wounds and such. In contrast, I grew up with a mother, aunt and other family members who were nurses, first aid instructors, home nursing teachers and the like. Anything short of compound-complex fractures and massive bleeding were usually handled on the spot with gauze, scalpels, tweezers, slings, disinfectants, adhesive compresses (BAND-AID® bandages to you), ice or heat packs and such. As an active, outdoors type, I don’t know how many injuries were patched before I headed out for more.

My wife could sort of look at the tick and kind of get most of it with the tweezers. However, she convinced me it looked bad and that there were visible parts left in the skin. It was an awkward spot or I would have hacked at it myself. I could only see it in a mirror and could not get both hands to the area because of its location next to my armpit.

So, I made an appointment with our doctor-like folk. In this case, it would be a nurse practitioner, Patricia, in the urgent care part of internal medicine. From my own background of being the instruction dummy and then first-aid instructor, I link urgent care to stopped hearts, shock, and uncontrolled bleeding. Instead, there I arrived with a purplish/reddish mound with tick parts in the center. Meh.

Patricia gave it her shot. She rooted around in the muscle and skin for around 20 minutes with various stainless steel gear. She retrieved parts, but admitted defeat and the immutable tenacity of a tick leg or two in the wound. It was painful and mostly tiresome, for both of us, but geewillikers, for all the flaying elbow action, I wanted her to say smugly, “Got it!” She didn’t.

She said that so far, the wound did not fall into the bull’s eye category. It didn’t have a pale ring separating the main mound…at least not yet. I’m supposed to watch for that.

She didn’t want to have the tick pieces I brought in on a cotton pad tested. She did give me doxycycline, a single dose of two tablets, as a precaution. I see that it may or may not be effective in preventing Lyme post-exposure.

Of course, the big joke is that ticks carry many diseases other than that one. The incubation period for Lyme and a few of those can be months or years. I think I’ll pass on the worry.

Oddly enough, a few months ago, we went hiking in the Blue Hills as a family, and two of our sons ended up with ticks. They each got a medical pro to pull out the parasite and then got doxycycline as a precaution. It seems to be a family shtick.

I can’t see this inconvenient experience changing my behavior (sorry Scientologists, no engramming here). I’ve been an outdoorsy active guy since I was a wee bairn.

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What Milton Showed Me Today

September 5th, 2011

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

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

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

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

Greenway within Grasp

August 31st, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Robots Arise

July 19th, 2011

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

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

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

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

The original, still ignorant and curious post included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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