Archive for October, 2008

Kerry’s Movable Minion

October 30th, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on My Beloved Haymarket

October 27th, 2008

Even after college time here and 29 adult years living in Boston, I can be casual or cynical about my town. Yet in a foray into Rochester, New York, I was crushed to find a local institution outdone.

They haapples.jpgve a better Haymarket thingummy there. I am happy for my son, who started college there, but I hate it, hate it.

The apples to the right were in the Rochester market. Multiple varieties from a local orchard were there for the choosing.

Twenty-nine years ago, in a Snugli on my chest, my first born son started my weekly trips to Blackstone Street with me. Over many years, my other two sons and sometimes my wife have gone. I always have.

Starting when we lived on the Hill, I have been an early-morning spirit floating among the stalls. While I have come in a few afternoons for absurd bargains, like a flat of 24 pints of cherry tomatoes for $2, which I use as a pasta sauce base, skimmed for seeds and stem, I’m a morning guy. I come before the non-locals clog the slippery sidewalk and when the choice is best, even if the bargains not as precipitous.

I have given tours to many, generally free, but also as a prize in a church auction. I know who specializes in what, whose summer help will slip you bad produce, and under what conditions it makes sense to buy the fish. I have seen vendors become enfeebled and retire, I’ve known guys who’ve died, and I’ve made mental maps of stalls altered with no vendors. I took my boys to many breakfasts at Mike’s when Anna ran the morning show. It’s now just another vest-pocket Dunkin’ and a sorry subtraction.gourds.jpg

So, I lose my detachment when it comes to the Haymarket. I know too much about the white-bull riding, apple planting priest William Blaxton/Blackstone and what was there before the market. I take people by the Boston Stone and point out where the clipper ships docked. I am embued with Haymarket lore.

Even so, the farmers in Rochester charm with local fruits, vegetables, grouds and more.

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Oh, and I have no patience with those who have never been or were there once 19 years ago. My out-of-New England guests always go to Haymarket and a diner breakfast. They are invariably overwhelmed by noises, sights, smells and the treasures we gather…and then prepare and consume together.

onions.jpgThere I go again and as usual. Now I confess that the Public Market in Rochester is bigger and better and more diverse and just as cheap. The bags of onions to the left were $3.

As we are wont to hope in Boston, our market is nearly a century older (1830 to their 1905). Knowing they’ve outdone us in that cultural hole in Western New York won’t make me stop shopping at and loving my Haymaket. Yet, I admit that I am miffed that the Public Market is so good.

The differences are several and obvious, including:

  • With a lot more area farmers there, Rochester’s has many times the number and selection of in season fruit and produce.
  • Theirs is about three times bigger.
  • They have some things we just don’t — think Amish baked goods, local wines and large potted herbs
  • They have both indoor and outdoor stalls, providing several times the options of warm and cold noshes as the oyster stall and pizza bar here.
  • They have better hours than the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning to afternoon. They go Tuesday and Thursdays,  6:00 a.m.  to 1 :00 p.m., and Saturdays, 5:00 a.m. to 3 p.m.

cflower.jpgThey have the same level of inexpensive and ripe to the eye, nose and tongue wholesaler’s produce as the Haymarket. You can take $10 to $20 and feed a family from findings. Like the Haymarket and unlike grocers, this stuff is ready to eat as well as inexpensive. You’ll never get a white-pink tomato-like permanent object. The cauliflower to the right were from a local farm and nestled among baskets of fresh-cut broccoli.

So, Rochester’s Public Market pisses me off a little. My Boston pride was damaged. I’m trying to think this is a gift for my son and something to look forward to after a nearly seven-hour drive to see him.

pies.jpgRochester’s market is harder to get to. It’s below downtown, but on narrow North Union street with very limited parking. They don’t have a subway, although several bus routes bump and grind to the area.

We really enjoyed a miniature Amish baked pecan pie ($2.75) on our visit. We also returned home with a magnificant rosemary plant — a foot tall with multiple stalks ($5). I grow rosemary and know how tough it is to propogate and make flourish. This sits in our kitchen, perfumes our life, and was the basis for an impressive lamb dinner we had for guests this weekend.

The Amish couple from nearby Seneca Falls brought their inexpensive home baked breads and pastries.

I think I’ll adapt to knowing the the Public Market is out there, but there’s a bit of resentment. Maybe this is like a crush on a movie star.

Black Womanhood Show Worth Extended Visit

October 26th, 2008

Go West. young aesthete — at least as far as Wellesley.  I’ve been to their past several main exhibits at the Davis Museum and heartily recommend the current Black Womanhood: Images, Icons and Ideologies of the African Body. Getting there and particularly hitting their sked is a bit of a pain, but worth it.

Factoids:

  • It runs another seven weeks, through December 14th.
  • Davis has idle homemaker’s hours —  Sunday, noon to 4; Monday, closed; Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday evening until 8 p.m.
  • It’s tucked West of the town center, requires a quick eye to locate, but does have some free parking.
  • The museum is free.
  • The show came from Dartmouth, whose museum offers a flier on it here and here.
  • It is suitable for families. There are National Geographic level bare breasts, but nothing violent or lewd.

Don’t get too distracted by the little joke of a school for rich, white, American women hosting such a show. Like Davis’ other shows, this one is solid and worth the trip.

Its defects are few and forgivable. First, the organizers were cautious, overly so, in avoiding political commentary or even stating the obvious racism in many of the artifacts from colonial and later 20th Century periods. They seem to assume and probably accurately so that visitors can easily make those connections and draw those conclusions.

Second is something to take into account when you go. This is a scholarly show as well as highly visual. Whether it is a bride’s skirt she made to forecast her own life or posed stereotypes of erotic, exotic black women, the descriptive placards by nearly all objects are long, detailed and demanding.

I was glad to have read each description. They provided a perspective I did not have. For example, a number of the postcards and stills were an odd blend of dress, furniture, lighting and posing. The placards point how how the unelectrified sites required creating an outside studio, how the intended audiences needed to see Western couches and other furniture that the subjects did not possess or use, how various mixes of European and native costume served different marketing purposes, and how some women were posed in unnatural eroticism for the time as the other.

As I slogged down in the demands of the exhibit, I realized a good way to learn and enjoy. I suggest:

  • Start in the narrow room with the tribal artifacts and photos.
  • Pore over  the initiation objects, decorated vessels and then the images.
  • Read each description but do not spend too much time viewing the objects. The next description will drag you down.
  • Then do the same in the larger, well-lit room with the modern objects.
  • Loaded with the information, take a healthy break, like at the adjacent Collins Café (weekdays, until 2 p.m.)
  • Return to the exhibit to immerse yourself in the objects and images. Loaded with the contextual information, you can really enjoy those without interruption.

This is no oh-those-poor-ignorant-slave-women show. Instead, it provides art-based insight into the lives of African women in the 19th and 20th Centuries. It sets out examples of how they and their cultural groups viewed, dealt with and respected the women as powerful figures, brides and mothers. The respect for (or lack of it) for the African women’s bodies and beings  pervades the exhibit. It gently corrects numerous Western stereotypes.

Lola La-Di-Dah

October 25th, 2008

swanla.jpg

Lackaday,  I have not been faithful to Lola.  After looking through — it is so LITE that reading is not a word to use with it — the first two issues, I didn’t even open the street box door to get the next eight.

Today though at the Haymarket, I noticed the new cover, the new promise on the 11th issue. The October low-low-Lola fairly shouts that this is THE AUTHENTICITY ISSUE (in seasonal pumpkin orange). Oh, in our jaded age, who amongst us should reject authenticity?

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The humor here (to all but the Globe and owner NYT managements) is that Lola is thick and full of advertising. At the same time, the feeble local parent is combining sections, trimming its dimensions and throwing staff out of the troika into the dangerous economic night.

The success is not surprising under the tweaking palms of editor Kara Baskin. She has been hitting Boston FOXnews and the circuit promoting her book Size Matters.  For a trifling $14, you can “(clear) up mysteries about male anatomy, orgasm, masturbation, STDs, testosterone, impotence, sexual response, and much more.” This may not be all fluff, as the lead author is a urologist, Harry Fisch.

What is biz news is that in the print-is-dead era, a narrow, yuppie book, as the trade is wont to call a magazine, would float. A look at the box locations may clarify here. There are 125 boxes in Boston. They are where the slick and sleek sleep — Beacon Hill, Back Bay and South End primarily. There are also smaller clumps in money pouches — 43 in Newton, 32 in Cambridge, 30 in Brookline and 34 in Wellesley. Check the ads and reach for your AMEX Platinum cards, kiddies.

It’s smart marketing and positioning. The heft and ad volume look pretty good. They don’t seem to have captured the Neiman Marcus-level stores or the $45-entrée restaurants…yet.

Another savvy Lolaism is counterintuitive. Most of us are used to getting news and views online. Even for papers and magazines we get delivered, we like to read these online. Not with Lola.  The site has no content related to the maggy. Somebody smart realized the value of telling advertisers that readers have to hold it, open it and be exposed to the actual sales pitches. That doesn’t work for news, but for women’s service magazine content, it’s heap clever and workable.

So, take Lola at its word. Oops, the Baskin refers to the maggy as she. Let’s see how authentic the contents of the authenticity issue is.

The  genuineness level is about the same as a socialite’s welcome or good wishes.

Perhaps the most risible feature is the Good Deeds one. Its title is broken by an asterisk — acts of kindness* *that are easy to do. Let that roll around in your mind a bit.

On the surface, this is about helping others, but the two points for Lolaoids are 1) You don’t have to put yourself out much and 2) You can feel good, even self-righteous. So there. This is about the reader/consumer and not hoi polloi.

As a UU, I have to qualify that though. Our associati0n’s churches are full of checkbook liberals. Many of our pledge units don’t do squat for others directly, but their money keeps the church operating and goes to good causes. They are doing good stuff, even if at arm’s length. The walk for this or that and the chip in for special collections types are essential and positive, in their way.

The five authenticity choices this month were:

  • Donate books or read to kids waiting for pediatric checkups in a clinic.
  • A walk-for fund-raiser, this one for blood cancers.
  • Join an anti-puppy mill/pet shop group, and maybe even leaflet for it.
  • Spend a couple of hours in a big group cleaning up a park in Allston.
  • Volunteer for a suburban humane society at a cat shelter.

Those are all good things. They also don’t inconvenience anyone or risk a long-term commitment. Feel good and walk away.

 Lola is at her best though in getting the privileged readers to write the copy. Consider the cover teaser promising Readers on Ditching Phoniness. Wowzers, lassies…enlightenment on a single page (12).

Keeping with its me-first attitude, Lola  rewards her authorettes. The favorite tip won a Lola handbag and Starbucks gift pack (with a $20 gift card, iced coffee bumbler, and bag of beans). This is a monthly shtick.

So in October, How Do You Avoid Being Fake? according to Lola readers?

  1. Live the cliché. “…if I try to be the superhero that my dog believes me to be, then my values are aligned and the superficial wants and desires of day-to-day life don’t seem so important.”
  2. Guilt trip relatives. One tipster emailed (cold, I say!) family not to send anything solid for her birthday. Instead they are supposed to figure out some unexpected good deed they could do for another. Ah, the self-righteousness  is contagious, as well as passive-aggressive.
  3. Mingle with the other.  “Extend yourself to people who are different from you in terms of age, occupation, economic strata.” How egalitarian, no?
  4. Goof on the blind. Volunteer at the Perkins School for the Blind. They literally won’t notice “your bad hair day…overdue mani-pedi, or…less than fabulous outfit.”
  5. The winner:  Be superficial but mean it. Like a parody of a Southern Belle, Annette from Milton states, “Superficiality becomes a problem when we are lazy and apply the mechanics of social graces, but not the spirit to situations (and people) that deserve something more.”

The entire maggy is what the industry calls toilet reading. Those are the short, simple-minded snippets that take under two minutes to read and do not require analysis. It’s a formula that has been successful for many newsstand and supermarket pubs, most aimed at women.

Lola has found its audience it would seem, as well as enough advertisers.  It will probably thrive even as the Globe suffers. If your brain is crying out to be entertained but not made to work, you know where to head.

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Tufts Enough

October 23rd, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boston Arriving, One Bike Lane at a Time

October 15th, 2008

alhi.jpg As is my wont, I went to the annual Moving Together Conference. I’ll post some lore learned and some observations.

The first useful snippet came from Boston’s director of bicycle programs, Nicole Freedman, a.k.a. bike czar. She shared a session with Cara Seiderman, her Cambridge counterpart. There will be more on their show later, but the first thing to note is that Seiderman is the pro and we are the farm team. Freedman is working to change that.

Cambridge in an order of magnitude ahead of Boston in bike accommodation. We are still largely in the hatin’-them-Spandex-dudes cliché class. This is despite Mayor Tom Menino’s relatively new rotary joy.

Cambridge has bike lanes seemingly everywhere. They treat cyclists with respect and responsibility. Hell, they even ticket bike guys who run stop signs.

Freedman, the former Olympic and world champion biker, is, if nothing else, competitive. She wants us up and out quickly, chasing Seiderman’s rear wheel.

The former failed, fired bike czar, Doug Mink, was there as usual too. Freedman notes with affection and respect that he developed the major cycling plan she uses. Through circumstances and personalities downtown, he just didn’t get a chance to implement it. His office was dissolved; he was robbed.

She can point to many quick successes, maybe because we started from zero. That was zero bike lanes, almost no public bike racks and on and on. It’s facilities that encourage cycling and we didn’t have any.

nicolef.jpgFreedman is a perky and jolly sort. She notes with glee that she can and does plagiarize freely. Cities like Cambridge, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have done what we need to. She’ll take the best and avoid their stumbles.

Here, I’ll point to bike lanes. They make cycling more desirable. Cyclists ride the direct routes, which generally means the main thoroughfares and not the buckled and often slow and few paths. She’s trying to use efficiency, common sense, and cheapness, while obeying the laws.

As noted in some of the earlier years’ postings on this conference, when a road gets rehabbed or even re-striped, it has to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists unless that is wildly impractical (like stone walls in the country). That’s required to get the state and federal highway funds. Freeeman is doing her damnedest to make sure that really happens and cycling considerations don’t get waivered out.

An example of her what’s-possible and low-hanging fruit is bike paths. A few major avenues, primarily around the central fist of the city and near universities, have already gotten them. Another is in the shot above, American Legion Highway in Roslindale.

This two-plus-mile stretch of the pretty straight thoroughfare is known as a death highway in my parts of JP. There are quite a few pathetic carnival-class plush animals in colors that have never appeared in nature. Tied to phone or light posts, these memorial artifacts mark where some late night or early morning drunken or drugged up driver raced down the road before careering into a tree or median.

It has four broad lanes with trees in the middle and on each curb. Now it suddenly has a bike lane next to each curb running from Walk Hill to Blue Hill. In typical Bostons fashion, if you bike to Walk Hill Street, you’re on your own from there, but let us praise two miles of relative safety.

The stripes went down in a recent resurfacing. As you regular readers know, I can quibble, as in:

  • There are no markings or signs of any type indicating what the bike lanes are.
  • Drivers don’t get it and many encroach into the lanes.
  • Neither side has NO PARKING signs, and many cars use the Blue Hill end by Franklin Park as a parking lane, endangering both cars and bikes.
  • The newish 30 MPH limit is, shall we say, not fully in the public consciousness. Biking the route today, I estimate that the average speed was 45, with many going faster.
  • Cyclists don’t yet know it is there.
  • It’s not the best example of where people live to where they want to travel.
  • The bike lanes are broad, as in the picture at Walk Hill (click for a larger view) where they piggyback on a bus zone, but narrow in the Northern region to perhaps 3 or 3.5 feet, not really adequate.
  • The travel lanes are quite broad and should have each given another foot to the bike lane to make it safe.

All those listed, I’m delighted to see it and shall use it more. It whets the cycling appetite for accommodation.

Tom Sawyer on Wheels

October 15th, 2008

family.jpgWalking Blue Hill Avenue to snap some pix of particularistic churches (I have quite a few and shall post some from there and Washington Street), I have been struck by paint boy.

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The Family Hardware just north of the police station claims to be the finest hardware store in Boston. It may or may not be, but it definitely has the finest artifact.

The promotional statue of a boy painter floods me with images. Don’t think lawn jockey. Even though the lad has an upraised arm and is half adult height, he does not parody stereotypical black facial features or dress in a servant’s costume.

paintboy.jpg

Rather, this fellow is barefoot, but golden. He raises his roller to the task. His expression seems to combine both mindlessness and aspiration. Perhaps those are akin.

He also reminds me of my time on the NYC block of East Third Street, the Hells Angels block. A few doors to the east of the Angels’ building was a butcher shop, with a huge plate glass window. Rumors were that the butcher was the local numbers guy and that’s why the window remained intact. On the other hand, it was a noisy block when they spent an hour blowing out and cranking up their bikes to ride every night. The Stones’ Wild Horses careered off the buildings while they were at it. The big point was that for our tolerance of the noise, we had safety. Punks looking to mug or burgle went elsewhere. No one messed with the Angels block.

Mike, the butcher, was a good Italian-American guy. He was a giant with a tiny, aged dad. Every sunny day, he’d literally and lovingly carry the old man out to the South facing front of his store and place him in a chair in the sun.

I saw that paint boy is on wheels. Apparently the Family folk roll him out every day too. He stand in perpetual readiness to roll it on.

Ixnay on Fat Talk

October 13th, 2008

ftf_logo.gifOne of my favorite bosses of all time was a master of her external life. She is over a decade younger than I, but I learned a lot watching her handle and manhandle distant big shots in a company that took over ours. That would be Compaq and she got us what we needed while making them grateful.

Lynne was wickedly witty. She was a jock (volleyball). She was one of the brightest folk I’ve known. Her recurring flaw was not immediately obvious.

Her biggest insult, almost entirely held for women, was, “She’s fat!”

Oddly, she was in a fair position to run down almost anyone’s reasoning ability or judgment or performance. She honestly could and did much, much better. Yet, when it came to cutting, it was emotional and likely from childhood. She’s fat was damning.

This is not the week to fall back into such pop babble. Do-gooder sorority Delta Delta Delta (TriDelta) has declared the Fat Talk Free Week.  That’s not some idle Greek Society game. They are thinking about the 10 million U.S. women who have eating disorders. (Check their video.)bones.jpg

The idea is awareness of how frequent and easy it is to slip in self-depreciation and insults — I have thunder thighs. God, I’m so fat. You can’t wear that dress; it makes shows your muffin top. — and the cascade of clichés and conversation fillers that reinforce the negative.

So, for a week, they are asking people, particularly women, not to trash talk themselves or others about fat and weight. At the same time and beyond, they’re pushing their Reflections body-image program. It focuses on colleges, where and when young women typically pick up or refine the destructive talk and thinking.

The forces leading to eating disorders are insidious. They are tough. They fill the media and entertainment. Perhaps worst of all, they are a lingua franca for us all, and again particularly for women.

This week, don’t fat talk. Don’t fat talk your friends. Don’t fat talk yourself. Don’t fat talk co-workers.

About that e.e. cummings Grave

October 8th, 2008

Looking for e.e. cummings grave, are we?

Well, it is in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. It almost certainly is the most visited grave there, above those many other notables. Almost as certainly, many have considerable trouble finding it. Some may even leave in frustration, map still in hand.

I know the drill and again yesterday led befuddled tourists to the location. Scampering up the little rises, the heavier of the couple said, “You’re trying to kill me.” When she arrived, she said sincerely, “We never would have found it.” They also had no idea that a nearby tree sculpture included seating and a book of his poetry.

What, you ask, can be so hard when you can get a map from the cemetery office, neatly marked with the celebs’ locations?

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eec.jpgClick on the map here for a larger view.  The E near the top of Lake Hibiscus is the poet’s spot. Trick number one is that the path is one of the few in the cemetery without a street sign.

The paved ways carry the names of trees (Maple Avenue) or geographical features (Blue Hill Avenue) or burial ideas (Consecration Avenue). The paths are unpaved ways between rows of graves. They get names of flowering plants. Nearly all have plain signs.

This poet’s though lacks a sign at either end of of Althea Path.  Even the merging Hibiscus Path has no markers.

This map has south at the top, with Walk Hill Street along the border.  I normally enter on foot through the Walk Hill gate. The other entrance is the main gate by the Morton Street rotary. Either way, head for the pond in the middle, grandiloquently known as Lake Hibiscus. Despite the folk pulling on their ears, you are close then.

From Walk Hill, walk or drive straight. Turn left on Larch Avenue at the top of the little hill. By car, park at the bottom of the hill where Fountain Avenue intersects.

eecclarke.jpgLarch has changed names to Hemlock. Walk up half a block to Tulip Path. The next opening in a dozen feet or so is the unmarked Althea Path.  Turn right and in a short distance, you’ll see a large stone bearing CLARKE.

From the main gate, you’ll see the bell tower ahead of you. Stay to the right of it on Mulberry Avenue. This curves to the left as you go downhill. At the bottom when you come to the pond, turn right onto Fountain Avenue. Park anywhere beyond the top of the pond (Lake Avenue). Althea path climbs up to the right like a continuation of Lake Avenue. After two tiny rises, look to the right to locate the CLARKE stone.

His grave is in that plot, just to the left of the upright CLARKE stone. The plot belongs to his mother’s family. She descended from John Jones Clarke, Roxbury’s first mayor. He proposed the idea of a burying ground there to the Roxbury City Council.

eecgrave.jpgTricks number two and three are that the poet does not have a vertical tombstone and that his name appears in full and capitalized — EDWARD ESTLIN CUMMINGS.  The stone is flush with the ground. You’ll see it quickly, as it almost always has decorations of stones, flowers, coins and poetry left by admirers.

On your next visit, you may well see confused tourists near the pond. You know what to do.

But, as they say in those late-night ads, you say you want more?

eectree2.jpgHead back down to Fountain Avenue. Across Fountain, in the middle of the block is an elvish structure in homage to the poet. It is the remains of a sugar maple with an opening cut through it, a copper roof replete with bird, and a sitting area bearing some e.e. cummings poetry. Moreover, it includes a book of his work in a heavy plastic bag in a niche.

This Opening work is by Mitch Ryerson and is part of the cemetery’s excellent sculpture path.

eectree1.jpgThis cemetery is one of my three neighborhood parks, along with the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park. I recommend doing an e.e. cummings picnic outing on foot. Forest Hills was build to also be a place of relaxation and contemplation.

If you see me, ask how to get to Eugene and Carlotta O’Neill’s digs a couple hundred yards away. That’s just as hidden, but the stones and flowers left for them suggest a literary few go through the trouble.

While you picnic, recall your favorite e.e. cummings phrases or whole poems. Be sure to include:

then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis