Archive for April, 2011

Hair Today…

April 5th, 2011

Among the benefits from moving from the jammed, comfortable cigar box, arts-and-crafts house in JP to the big yellow place on the hill in HP are leaping surprises. Photos, letters and other artifacts of us, our kids, friends, places and relatives jump out like squealing toddlers who have mastered, “Boo!”

oldmeHere’s a new old one, drawn by my new wife on a piece of my free-lance writer letterhead from 468 Sixth Avenue in NYC.

I’ve been balding since early 20s and had a bit more on the top at 27 than now. I can’t quite seem to finish the job and wear this yellow cotton candy stuff that bends like dandelion fluff in the breeze, without blowing off.

To the essence though, I had facial hair — of lip and chin — back then. The mustache was blond and the beard curly and very red. My father’s mother’s father had the red hair which seems to have snuck in my gene bundle.

When I saw this sketch, I had to wonder where a balancing photo is, of Cindy and me at the beach on Fire Island. I was hugging her from behind, with a Western gambler-style hat covering my already present bald spot. With sunglasses and all that facial hair, I might be unrecognizable to most who know me now. I wore a mustache from 19 to 39, but had long before shaved the beard.

We enjoyed that photo for several reasons. First, Fire Island was always a grand place to spend a long weekend. Next, we knew that particular weekend was the one where our parenthood sparked. Finally, after we moved to Boston and our pre-school son, our only child at the time, discovered that pic in an unsorted box of such.

He held the image for the longest time, saying nothing. I was curious why that particular one interested him. We were, in fact, static and the background was only just another beach. Finally, he said in his best demanding tone, “Who is that man with Mommy?!”

Abounding Building Delights

April 4th, 2011

Sorry, Hub-ophile, this has nothing to do with Boston…except perhaps to praise our town for maintaining far more of its history and architecture than NYC or other big U.S. burgs. On that recent trip to Manhattan with two chums, I did find small delights amid the rain/sleet/snow/hail at some of the detail remaining there.

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Along old (long old) stamping grounds in the West Village’s Morton Street, many of the walk-ups keep their nobly beautiful doors and imposing stone guards.
From Art Deco and earlier periods, throughout Manhattan, many window and door ornaments as well as finials and friezes speak to a detail we no longer demand. mortonclose
winterpots Around Washington Square Park, mundane detail such as planters speak well of both the resident’s intentions, their attention to detail and their comfort in leaving such small treasures in public.
The grandly detailed, triangular  Flatiron (Fuller) Building at Madison Square displays multiple levels of changing architectural interest. Even from the ground, the fourth floor of the 1902 gem shows an art gallery of scupture. flatiron
flatironclose There’s an odd animistic delight in having a building stare back at you.
Manhattan building art and artifacts are not all historic or stone. On Greenwich Avenue, for example, the apparently year-round whimsy of a lighted African Santa on a street-facing gets nods and grin even from Village locals. gvsanta
esb Many years ago, I worked next door to the Chrysler Building, overlooking its upper gargoyles. Since then, I have kept an eye to such cartoonish guardians. The Empire State Building abounds with them.

The only point here is in Boston, Manhattan or anywhere, don’t forget to look up as you tour or commute.

Cloud Badges

April 3rd, 2011

Surely, teachers continue to hand out silver and gold stars, as well as fancier stickers. I recall the pride and simple-minded joy I felt in first and second grades seeing my line of the reading chart at the front of the room chockablock with silent metallic praise.

In the first grade, taught by the splendid Mrs. Speck, who wore specs, a girl in the class was also a big reader. She and I skunked the other kids and competed, but not really. The real joy was in the reading, not having the most stars. We swapped books as well.

I had a private advantage or two at home though. My older sister used me as a pupil. She loved teaching and had me reading with her at three. We shared a bedroom for our younger years, one jammed with books from the earliest readers to chapter ones. Our mother was also an addicted bibliophile.

Gold stars had not come to mind since my own children got them on charts and pasted to tests and homework later. Teachers don’t seem to do that for them now they are finishing high school and college.


Yet, Lose It! is in that business. They pasted another badge on my profile page this morning. They also sent a cheery email, worthy of Mrs. Speck. Headlined in shouting style, the message title was You have earned a new Lose It! badge! and the text started, “Congratulations, You have earned the Exercise King badge! You have exercised 3 times a week for at least 8 weeks.”

That’s the basketball with the crown badge.

So, as Garfield might think, big, fat, hairy deal. Except, as with my gold stars, it is kind of nice, in that unnecessary way.

The site is free and lets you track diet, exercise and weight in the cloud. It’s a motivation to keep it honest by plugging in every damned caloric thing that enters your mouth and to record every bike ride and gym machine or lifting period.

These badges are compliments or applause from strangers. Nearly all of us like those attaboy gimmicks. Gratuitous praise does not harm and may help.

I rather doubt that if you slack off they’ll erase your badges or that they have scolding badges of shame for anyone who gains weight or goes a week without working out.

The way I can keep at this is partially knowing that I intend to record it all. When I splurge at someone’s party or have a couple of alcoholically expensive meals, I’ll capture them and Lose It! will display the day’s total as well as the individual items. Surely anyone could cheat at this, but then what would be the point?

I’ve been getting badges for logging in daily, for losing weight, and for frequent workouts. Even if I’m the only one who sees these, it doesn’t hurt.

Personal Tricks, Cheap Thrills

April 2nd, 2011


Ah, we humans so like to be in, to have little advantages over our fellow humanoids. Sometimes it is so simple as knowing the localized slang and placename pronunciations. More satisfying is being so familiar with your turf that you can get from here to there by arcane shortcuts.

One of mine has long been esoteric parking spaces, particularly in downtown Boston. One I just lost grieves me.

Until the Imperial Storm Trooper-style, solar powered, credit-card accepting, programmable paring meters appeared, there was a small row of meters a couple of blocks from the Haymarket that had a magical 90-minute Saturday loophole. On New Chardon down from the State House and before Congress, these meters guarded parking spots that had to be rush-hour clear from 7 until 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, holidays excepted. The spirit of the regulation was to allow free passage during the work morning.

These red-capped meters were the older, stupid mechanical sorts. Reprogramming them to kick in on Saturday morning would have been a very big deal. Thus, from 8 a.m. when the rest of the meters in town, including the ones on Union Street directly next to the Haymarket kicked in, these old machines were hanging around waiting until 9:30.

trooperNow that we have moved to the very bottom of Boston, as far from the Haymarket as possible while still being in town, I almost always drive there. Many years ago when we lived on Beacon Hill, then Charles River Park, I walked, generally with a boy in a Snugli. Then below Forest Hills, I tried biking, but returning with a large bag with 30 or more pounds of produce was unstable.

It is possible to drive into the abutting garage, get a chit, have a vendor stamp it, and pay only $1 to park. You save so much from Haymarket buying that $1 is negligible…except for skinflints. I got my cheap thrill parking free before 9:30.

Now the new electronic parking troopers know too much. They understand there is no rush hour on Saturday and they display the time. They also kick in at 8 a.m. on Saturday and if you arrive before that, they read, “No Payment Needed Until Sat 08:00 AM” as well as the current time.

My cheap thrill loophole has closed.

Of course, I always could have gotten there as I do now, before 7:30, so that I have time to stock up and leave before I would have to put in 75¢ for 36 minutes — at the new, usurious rate. For some reason, having the extra 90 minutes of flexibility, particularly in late-dawning winter days seems important. Intellectually, I know I should deal with the $1 garage options or just be glad I know where there are low-cost options at meters where there are always free spaces on Saturday morning. It just does not fit the ideal of the advantage of knowing local esoterica.

As humans, our parochial pride in small distinctions is at once dull-witted and amusing.