Archive for June, 2011

Recycle Psych

June 14th, 2011

MA Rep. Marty Walz got me this morning. She posted on FB that she was heading to Casella, the company that does the single-stream recycling around here. She wants to see how it works.

Who doesn’t, I immediately thought. My quasi-intellectual self suddenly flashed mild shame that I had never bothered to do the same, even remotely.

I confess though, I’ve enjoyed the romance of rubbish here. Conflicting ideas include:

  1. They haul away the content of the big blue bins…only to end up dumping it into landfills anyway.
  2. There’s a rough sorting that extracts a little of the stuff they can actually resell.
  3. Something magic happens somewhere.

We had our own family history. In the way back, my paternal grandfather in Denver created a tin can crusher during WWII. Back then toddlers couldn’t squeeze and ball up a can, before those became thin aluminum. He was considered patriotic and tin went back into the war effort in easy to handle form.

When we moved to JP may years ago, the city began its pilot program for multi-bin and very limited recycling. A few things,  like newspapers wrapped and tied, or certain types of clean cans could go on the curb in separate BOSTON RECYCLES plastic boxes. It was a bit of a pain, which I accepted and my wife refused. Moreover, the pick-up crew seemed to delight in tossing the boxes as far and hard as they could. The street had many slivered and patched survivors on the curb.

tommytrashNext, the city liked the results and trialed single-stream recycling. Those came with boxes nearly as big as our mayor. Our area was a pilot. Here, many folk including my wife said, “Allllll right!” because it was easy to toss the many types of stuff into a big box.

So, the joke and question came whether the recycling elves really separated and used this diverse bunch of stuff.

Rep. Walz inspired me today. I headed over to the company site. There’s an overblown and self-serving set of talking heads in a five minute video. In snatches behind them, there’s a recap of the sorting process. If you stick through it, you see how the process works. There’s one minute of video behind the fluff (not sorted, eh?).

Another page has stills of the machinery in sorting and preparing. This could use a caption with each pic, but between the vid and these, I believe they honestly do recycle our materials. We aren’t wasting our time. There is money to be made, meaning it is worth everyone’s trouble.

I already like Walz. She is one of our few MA legislative bicycle champions. Now she made me debunk my elf fantasies about recycling.

Passing of a Daily Acquaintance

June 13th, 2011

Charming, scrawny, engaged John Abany is dead. It’s not a death in the family, but not that far off. He was our letter carrier for our two year here on Fairmount Hill. His obituary says he was a letter carrier for 38 years. Today’s notice from the HP post office said he’d been on our route for 28 years.

I knew John from regular conversations on the doorstep and in the polling place. He had that rare in-the-moment presence that delights us all. He paid attention to others.

John never missed an election — preliminary, primary, special or general. As a clerk or warden down at the Roosevelt School, I recognize and appreciate the regulars, those who say voting is a privilege. Moreover, he always sought me out and we’d chat there too.

He’d tell the poll workers that ours was the last house on his route. He’d often get there late and see through an open window by the mail box that we’d be setting the table or preparing a meal together or even having an early dinner. He said not too many families he knew ate together and he liked that we did.

When I didn’t see him for a couple of weeks, I figured he was on an early vacation. Eventually, I walked up to a substitute carrier’s truck to ask about him. She said he got a sudden diagnosis of a serious disease and retired immediately.

He never too me up on my invitation to eat with us.

What a Drying Shame

June 13th, 2011

todry

In this era of home-owners associations and other not-in-your-own-backyard types, it has come to this. A MA legislator sponsored a bill to ensure people can dry their laundry on clotheslines.

Third-term Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) filed S01014. That would let common areas in condos have their own rules, but forbid cities and towns from banning, clotheslines and racks and or other solar clothes-drying device on private property.

For us boomers and older, the responses are 1) of course, and 2) wow, it has come to this?  Moreover, when we are all allegedly savvy to energy waste, using sun and wind instead of gas and electricity to try laundry is obvious…to most.

While privileged types like the Herald’s Michele McPhee write, “And we don’t want to look at them,” to me, clotheslines are about as organic and honest as you get. Growing up with them, I only had one problem and in my teens. My grandmother dried trousers of all types, including my blue jeans, on frames, one per leg. That put a firm crease front and back. Oh no!

I’d wash and dry my own. She never understood that, but unlike her daughter, my mother, she also ironed all underpants and even permanent press sheets. Mable was a laundry factory herself.

Another childhood clothesline memory involved a neighbor older than my grandmother. When I was 8, we moved to Danville, Virginia, next to Mrs. Kidd, whose property abutted that of the YWCA. There, hanging clothes scandalized her, and she complained to little effect to the Y.

Even though the side porches of the Y were visible only to Mrs. Kidd and not from the street, she told us all how dreadful and shameful it was that the young women would “display their unmentionables for everyone to see.”

The Widow Kidd was not concerned with property values or class issues. She simply found underwear visible in public, even without a body, lewd.

Put me in Downing’s camp. Forbidding visible clotheslines seems like requiring people to hide their grocery shopping and banning eating at backyard or deck tables. People cook and eat. People dress in and wash…and dry…their clothes.

There can be a soothing beauty in billowing clothes on a line. Plus, a sun dried towel feels ever so much better.

Cross-post: This seems both political and personal. I’ll put in also on Marry in Massachusetts.

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My Glasses Are Yellower Than Yours

June 11th, 2011

YesYellow
I thought I had yellow glasses before (see here). I did not, but do now.

My aesthetic contribution to my son’s recent wedding was springing my new specs. They were obvious to all, as I solemnized the event and stood before the assembled 70.

Several of the groomsmen, bridesmaids and guest commented, typically, “Nice glasses!” As the occasion was in the arboretum, perhaps I fit with the flowering trees.

I consider myself relatively clothing and accessory conservative…short of glasses. For previous jobs requiring neckties, I was wont to reps and such, the dull stripes of the timid. It has been my wife who bought me the well received Tobasco-themed, red with black Chinese characters and such.

Yet, getting glasses in the third grade led me to despair over the dreadful sameness of boys and men’s eyewear. Back to us boomers, but still through today, by what they are offered and what they choose, males tend to boring spectacles. Behold the men with tortoise shell, black, brown, wire rim and similar yawn-producing and nondescript frames, all about us.

Not I.

Particularly for the past three decades of lucking into a similarly eye-adventurous optician in Boston, I’ve had fun with glasses. More men should.

Eyes of the Beholder

I think of a big meeting of the Society for Technical Communication. I had my previous pair of yellow frames and got lots of compliments from women. My group was the people who write computer manuals and such, not famous for artistic statements and appreciation. Two men commented separately that they too were daring with eyewear. Each had wire rims, one with a gray frame instead of black, silver or gold, and the other with a frame where the wire did not cover the bottom third or so around the lens. I can’t say I was overwhelmed by their daring.

Let’s be plain. Particularly on the East Coast and more generally in the U.S., men don’t get a lot of glasses choices. You can verify that by walking into an optician and comparing the racks of women’s and men’s sample frames. Even if you ask for catalogs, there’s not much beyond earth tones and a bit of metal.

My guy Len Shwom though understands. On  the advice of my NYC insurance agent, when he visited us after we moved here, I tried Gopen Optical three decades ago when he and his father Sydney were in Chinatown. It turned into a family affair with my wife and three sons getting fitted.

Sydney is gone and Len moved the business to Dedham Square, but he remains far more flexible and innovative than any of the chains. Len is kind of a Clark Kent of opticians, with superpowers and surprises all the time.

Same Old, Same Old

Len appreciates my eagerness for a flash of excitement in the necessary. Indeed, isn’t that appetite what keeps us from leading the same tedious day over and over again?

He has confirmed what I heard from chain opticians — colorful and innovative man’s frames are available widely in Europe and a little on the West Coast. The manufacturers and vendors determine who will and therefore who can buy what and where.

Len has long been a frame magician or elf though. I’d come in for a new pair of glasses and he’d beam. He’d squirreled away several frames he’d picked up at shows and conventions or stumbled on in catalogs. He’d also help me track down new colors and materials. We’ve had me in red plastic or metal, green metal, and truly funky black metal sunglasses frames.

In fact, that may be the key to a guy who wants to kick off the mundane. Think sunglasses.

Foster Grant, Ray Ban and others made both sunglasses and prescription frames. Pop out the darkened lenses and voila, prescription specs!

He also tells me first that his father was very customer oriented and would say, “If a second customer asks for something you don’t have, you’d better get it.” Second, just having frames like mine on the rack inspires men, if not that far, at least to avoid the most clichéd choices.

My garish yellow frames are surely outre for many. You needn’t go from milquetoast wires or dull plastics to mine though. There are lots of interim steps. Visit any site that specializes in frames or the manufacturers’ sites. Don’t limit yourself to the prescription pages.

A decent optician or my great one can set you up. If you’re thinking mid-life crisis, a few hundred dollars for some funky eyeglasses are a lot cheaper than a sports car or lover. They also come with out parking charges or jewelry bills. Plus, you can put them in their case whenever you want.

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No-Campaign Zone

June 9th, 2011

A pol dropped by my son’s wedding reception…and didn’t campaign, even though this is a re-election period. Posting this on Marry in Massachusetts, I realized it was as likely a topic here on the personal blog. To wit:

As someone without the politician’s gene and somewhat shy, I have long admired and envied the extroversion and confidence of many around me. Yet this weekend, I admired the decision of a pol not to campaign when he had a chance.
Steve Murphy came by the reception for one of my sons’ wedding Sunday. He came as a neighbor who knows me and not as Boston City Council President seeking reelection to an at-large seat. Under the tent and milling around were numerous Bostonians, potential votes come November. No glad-handing occurred.
He visited from a couple of short blocks away with his girlfriend Bridget. They had already made a day of it campaigning, including the long, slow Dorchester Day parade, but were just there socially. When I asked whether he wanted to meet people, he said he was just there socially. Imagine that.
Coincidentally, one of the guests is a sales type, at least as out there as a politician. As of Sunday, I have solemnized three weddings and his was the first as he married a long-term friend of mine. He had long loved her and when he discovered she had divorced, he literally moved to Boston from the South to make the big sale, of himself to her. It took a few years, but he closed the deal.
He had experience. He was Bill Clinton’s original campaign head in the gubernatorial race in Arkansas. He sold Clinton to the voters. He’s done other things, like advertising, but all to his mind were sales. While in Boston, he sold me a Volvo when he worked at a dealership, as well. That prompted me to ask how he could deal with such diverse commodities, like politicians and sedans. He grinned and simply said, “Michael, I can sell anything.”
That’s not my personality. I recognize it and admire it in others, but I can’t do it. I’m not always on and making a pitch to someone is tough for me. Now I can add a wrinkle for Steve Murphy, for being able to do it but choosing when to do so.

As someone without the politician’s gene and somewhat shy, I have long admired and envied the extroversion and confidence of many around me. Yet this weekend, I admired the decision of a pol not to campaign when he had a chance.

Steve Murphy came by the reception for one of my sons’ wedding Sunday. He came as a neighbor who knows me and not as Boston City Council President seeking reelection to an at-large seat. Under the tent and milling around were numerous Bostonians, potential votes come November. No glad-handing occurred.

He visited from a couple of short blocks away with his girlfriend Bridget. They had already made a day of it campaigning, including the long, slow Dorchester Day parade, but were just there socially. When I asked whether he wanted to meet people, he said he was just there socially. Imagine that.

Coincidentally, one of the guests is a sales type, at least as out there as a politician. As of Sunday, I have solemnized three weddings and his was the first as he married a long-term friend of mine. He had long loved her and when he discovered she had divorced, he literally moved to Boston from the South to make the big sale, of himself to her. It took a few years, but he closed the deal.

He had experience. He was Bill Clinton’s original campaign head in the gubernatorial race in Arkansas. He sold Clinton to the voters. He’s done other things, like advertising, but all to his mind were sales. While in Boston, he sold me a Volvo when he worked at a dealership, as well. That prompted me to ask how he could deal with such diverse commodities, like politicians and sedans. He grinned and simply said, “Michael, I can sell anything.”

That’s not my personality. I recognize it and admire it in others, but I can’t do it. I’m not always on and making a pitch to someone is tough for me. Now I can add a wrinkle for Steve Murphy, for being able to do it but choosing when to do so.

Coincidentally, Steve Murphy joins the Left Ahead podcast today, where we decidedly will talk politics.

Ripping van Winkle

June 2nd, 2011

We on Fairmount Hill in Hyde Park in Boston in Massachusetts seemed to have gotten off lightly yesterday. Tornadoes blew themselves out West and big storm cells passed North and South. Our version was pelting rain, interrupted repeatedly with deafening thunder and blinding lightning.

At one short period, I counted five sets of lightning and outrageous thunder claps in quick succession. I ended up dressing and opening an umbrella. I had to confirm that the noises and flashes in fact were not on the roof, in the attic, shattering the chimney, and igniting the roof. Suffice it to not that the cat was not resting nor pleased.

I’ll have to swim back in my own continuum to recall how many years it has been since I relished every moment of both thunder and lightning. I must have been seven or eight, so were back over four decades. I was summering with my grandparents in Romney, West Virginia. I delighted in the frequent summer storms, with their Disney-level displays.

Romney is high in the Eastern panhandle, the Potomac Highlands as the travel brochures like to have it now. Back then, the key geographic features included in the mountains, surrounded by higher mountains, on a plateau, and cut by the Potomac River. All in all, it was a meteorological case study. We could sit on the Marsham Street front porch, as we often did, and look to the mountain ridge miles away, quilted with apple and peach orchards. Rain storms swept West to East down the ridge toward town. We watched the gray and black clouds carrying the certain curtains of rain several times a week.

Then thunder.

The tiny bedroom where I slept and read faced the ridge of mountains. The thunder most often arrived at night, and like a drunken uncle stayed hours too long, repeating himself.

9pinBy second and third grade, I was heavily into short stories and novels, including the stock of Washington Irving. In particular and in relation to Romney, I pinned Rip Van Winkle to the town. In fact, pin was a key word. As Irving wrote, the “odd-looking personages playing at nine-pins” (see hoary illustration from the 1921 version of the tale here).

As in the Catskills, the storm fronts frequently — and generally in the dark — rolled around the mountains that circled Romney. Bowling had the wordplay of Irving’s mountain critters drinking and sporting at their English game, in the bowl of crests and peaks that surrounded Romney. Each thunder sound turned into a careering series of 5, 10 or up to 30 seconds.

As I cite it, I can recall the long, throaty roll of thunder as it echoed, amplified and faded around the bowl. Irving had it just right.

Here and now in Hyde Park last evening, it was quite different. The soothing basso of thunder that lulled my third-grade boy self was sudden, immediate and imposing. The lightning threatened in proximity and intensity. The thunder claps seemed as intense as a car wreck.

I’ll go with my childhood idealized storms.