Archive for April, 2012

Sponge Bob to the Rescue

April 18th, 2012

Heading to what turned out to be a large theater filled with gray hairs and baldies, we stopped nearby the Loews Boston Common for a nosh and drink. Before For the Love of the Music, we headed to Temple Place, a Boston home to the proverbial watering holes.

We’d never been to 49 Social, which had a couple of pluses. First, it was just opening for drinks/dinner and not crowded. Also, it looked comfortable and well designed.

We didn’t have time to try of their long list of $28 wines. Instead from a very pleasant bartender, we got drinks and the charcuterie plate. Chat. Eat. Sip. Chat. Sip.

All was well until it wasn’t. Blue strobe lights and eardrum stabbing siren waves queered the mood.

The bar keep emerged from the basement kitchen saying a pipe had burst and she was soaked. At least she was all in black.

We had to head out with the help. Turns out that only the fire department can turn off such alarms.

Sure enough, in maybe six or seven minutes a truck arrived. Then in another five or so, a ladder truck pulled in. The boys had their toys.

Even before they parked, the Sponge Bob Square Pants plush in the truck window was obvious (pic via my wife’s phone).

Sensibly, the firefighters climbed down and brought their hooks and axes, their gas masks and helmets, their heavy slickers and on and on. I thought of the one time we called them many years ago in JP for a creosote fire in our chimney. It was a quick whoosh, a fat tongue of flame up the top, and anticlimax. The fire was long out before the two trucks came from half a mile away. Several of our other boys in blue were terrifically disappointed. They brought in big axes and kept feeling the walls, obviously hoping for the slightest excuse to break through the plaster and brick. Surely, it had been a boring day and we offered no real excitement. They left looking unfulfilled.

Here too at the 49, the first crew waved off the second one. Nonetheless, a couple of the ladder guys just had to go down the stairs. Axes abounded….you never know, eh?

While waiting for them, we had nice, if abstemious, chatter with the bartender and waiter (no drinks allowed outside). We learned that the owner was Lebanese and that two evenings a week offered Middle-Eastern food, music and belly dancing there. The place has been open not quite a year. The owner appeared as we waited for the fire department. He was calm, as befitting the event,  which happened with plenty of time to rejigger the kitchen before the dinner and party crowds. He said there’d be no tab for us and apologized for the inconvenience. He didn’t exhibit the worst of Boston restaurant attitude, the opposite.

As the sirens and lights stopped and the crews left, we went back in to get our stuff and head to the flick. Of course, I at least left a healthy tip and also took away a good vibe. We’ll be back for a longer session and a meal.


Running on Purpose

April 17th, 2012

Yeah, yeah. New Englanders enjoy weather talk at least as much as anyone else. For heat though, we’re not so remarkable.

Take yesterday, Patriots Day celebrated and to much of the world Boston Marathon running. For all the pre-race noise about record-breaking temps and certainly for post-race recaps looking for agony, Southern-style heat/humidity combos are extremely rare up here. Yesterday wasn’t, if you pardon, in the running.

I wanted to take a long bike ride. To me, 80’s with a humidity in the low 20’s is comfortable. Of course, I wouldn’t have put myself out for the self-brutality of the 26-plus mile set. However, my legs were a bit sore from previous cycling, so it was a six-mile hike instead. I did take a water bottle though.

Along the way, I passed a Latino heading in the opposite direction at about equal, rapid pace. He was happy and from his accent and appearance, he seemed to be reflecting on his Central American upbringing. He called out cheerfully, “Hola!” and added in English “Summer!” He was a happy guy.

My youngest though, at 18, considers sweating grotesque and an affront to all humanity. He called yesterday “Damned hot.”

For the Marathon though, the Globe reported that thousands of registered runners punked out. The Boston Athletic Association said 3,863 did not pick up their numbers (c. 14%). Then 22,426 did but 427 took the option of deferring entry until 2013. Yet, after all that, the BAA also said that 96% finished the race…eventually, compared to 98% in a typical running of this race. There was a wide range of estimates of how many needed any sort of medical assistance and none differentiation for heat-related troubles.

So, in the main, the slightly higher temps was much harder on the runners’ fragile self-confidence than their bodies.

I don’t do marathons. However, it seems that set has a fair number who are Goldilocks. They want things just right…not too cold, certainly not too hot. I may question their wisdom in trying to run 26.2 miles, but never their perseverance.

Then again, for weather, having lived throughout the continental U.S., I find the reactions to air are themselves remarkable. We didn’t hear the African runners complaining of the heat, nor runners from the Southern half of the nation. Yet, visiting here or there, we see those differences. Southerners are apt to put on a sweater at 70 degrees, while Yankees may be in shorts and t-shirts in the 40s. Bostonians are wont to complain of the heat at 78 degrees, while down South that point of comment is in the 90s.

Of course, a cliché of Southerners with some truth is that they don’t run if they can walk and don’t walk if they can sit.

Dye, dye, dye

April 10th, 2012

To us non-Catholics (Roman or Eastern Orthodox), the fixation on Christ’s blood, wounds and suffering may well seem bizarre. While raised as a devote little Christian,  I was a Protestant and without all the figurative and literal gear.

Yet, many years ago, I picked up a dye envelope in a Greek grocery and reveled in the true blood color it produced on eggshells. In contrast, the silly pastels in my childhood Easter baskets were insipid and unmemorable.

This year, I swung by the West Roxbury’s Greek International Food Market (great place). Selecting a basket of cheeses, olives, taramasalata, retsina and bread, I was pleased to see dye packets by the register.

Alas, with my eggs handy, I was stunned to find the offering was pink, pink I say, in the water. Even had I used a small portion of the water it called for it would not at all resemble blood.

I ended up with eggs that had a color that likely never appears in nature. I have to admit though, the pink is so garish we all liked it.

Next year, I’ll shop around a bit and make sure to get the blood version.

Cold, Lonely New England Nights

April 8th, 2012

The old cliché of chilly Northern nights was of a Mainer or Vermonter bored in the long, cold winters, making friends with a bottle of booze. Sure enough, like another cold clime, Russia, up here folk, particularly menfolk, are prone to alcoholism.

I got a new one tonight as I shopped the dowdy, plaid-favoring Vermont Country Store. We’d been there. My late mother-in-law, herself an Indiana hick, really enjoyed it and fell into nostalgic paroxysms there. Among the old timey treasures we bought and used regularly was its seemingly unique over-the-headboard lamp. We consider that the best in-bed reading choice and have been dismayed that after many years, its plastic shade lining is shedding chunks of off-white.

Well, they still have them and I ordered a replacement.

While I was at it, I checked the sale items (yawn). Then I looked at their left menu and top tabs. Nothing much there, but I checked Health & Beauty to see if there are country cures of amusement. On that pull-down is — What?! — Sexual Wellness.

Well, topple my stone fence. That’s a page of dildos.

Actually, it’s a page of almost entirely powered vibrators. There’s a yeast-infection soap and quite literally a douche bag. The page features 10 highly colorful sex toys for women.

Here’s one example. This is a WordPress blog. I hesitated for a moment before clicking on the Upload choice to Insert Into Post. Insert, indeed.

The various aids include the tiny and brown BonBon Massager (“Better than chocolate…Petite and Discreet…”), the one shown promising “Pinpoint Accuracy,” another “Serves Two Pleasure Points at Once,” and another anatomically realistic except for the lavender color “Feels Lifelike for Greater Pleasure.”

This clearly is my problem. Sudden images of villages of country women thrashing in pastel joy doesn’t jibe with butter churns and flannel nightgowns.

Of course, there’s no reason the Vermont Country Store shouldn’t include sex aids along with its home furnishings and horehound drops. I had just never run across this page. I had a pretty staid image of the store’s inventory.

Have at it. Nights are long, dark and cold up there.

Yes, Too Late

April 6th, 2012

We can wait too long. That should surprise none of us.

This week in New York, I got that lesson, in the mortal version, yet again. Going to, going to, intentions, intentions…yet when I actually called and tried to visit an old chum from our previous lives, he was dead.

Tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of Reginald Charles Obrecht’s death. I won’t be talking to Reggie, unless it’s like a Bluetooth fool ranting solo.

A woman with whom, as we Southerners are wont to say, I kept company for several years and I lived a few floors above Reggie, his son, and second wife on East Ninth Street on the Lower East Side.

I was on the iPad trying to figure out why his long-time phone number was “NOT IN SERVICE” when I found only vestiges of his musical life. When I returned to Boston and hit up the Social Security Death Index, I got confirmation. Then I was a bit disappointed seeing no Obrecht obit. It seems like the Times or somebody should have been aware that a lesser figure in early rock and R&B died.

Setting aside for the moment his delightful personality and wonderful stories, consider that he gave us boomers earworms and love songs. He wrote, arranged, and played the music for the likes of The Coasters, The Bobettes, LaVern Baker, and Ruth Brown. His Reggie Obrecht Band was on many of the late fifties tunes. He sometimes got credits too under a stage name, Reggie Chase.

Purple Cow

He had his Gelett Burgess mixed blessing as well. While that art critic/author/editor was overshadowed by his throwaway poem The Purple Cow, Reggie had Mr. Lee, sung by The Bobettes. Unlike most of the rock and doo-wop songs of the era, this did not get everyone and his uncle throwing his name on to get possible revenue. Reggie had to take full blame for what he acknowledged was a really stupid song. Yet, we sang and hummed its stupid lyrics. I bet he continued to get residuals from it to the end.

Reg was young then and made what was for him a fair amount of money. He was in on the early days of Atlantic Records. Like most recording groups, bands, composers and such, he got screwed out of much of the revenue in a dirty business. Yet, he squirreled away enough cash to suit himself.

The way he told it, he fixated on chess. He grew up a poor black kid and chess was both intellectual and classy enough to please his new self. He devoted several years to becoming a good player. He spent a lot of time with Grandmaster Nicolas Rossolimo at the latter’s Greenwich Village chess studio. He says he memorized the requisite 2,000 games to be able to win most of the time.

When I met Reggie, he had married again. His first had become a junkie and produced their son Marcus, who was non-functioning autistic. She went away and died young. His second wife was Marjorie Saunders, adopted daughter of the long-time head of the Colgate-Rochester School of Divinity.

Reg said the Rev. Dr. Wilbour Saunders was none too pleased that his only daughter had taken up with a black many of uncertain prospects. Reg was never above laughing at himself and spoke of the first weekend the three of them spent at the regal homestead in Rochester. Like any period sitcom, there was another black person, the maid who clearly disdained Reg and Marcus. Reg was so concerned that Marcus would disgrace them with primitive eating, he sat beside him constantly ready to correct and help. When the servants brought roasted half chickens, Reg was in a near panic. Marcus meanwhile was mirroring the others around him and doing just fine. In his distraction, it was Reg, who knocked him bird into his lap.

Marj was a public-school teacher and a sort of precocious New Ager. Those became relevant as she turned to Marcus. She refused to believe he had to be institutionalized as all doctors and teachers pronounced. She put him (and them) the Feingold Diet (no artificial anything) and a regimen of vitamins, minerals, whole grains and such as barley stew with bones of a chicken or two boiled until they dissolved in it.

All those seemed to work. Marcus was a giant at 12 and had disconcerting self-absorbed traits like climbing on my shoulders and sitting when I sat. He was not what we call normal, but Marj made a huge improvement. He was at the point of low-functioning normal by the time he came of age and left.

Eventually, Marj and Reg separated and I think divorced. I heard she headed off to Denmark to teach English, but that was decades ago.

Last Chat

Reg called me years ago, perhaps six years. He sounded pretty good and we had our usual long, light chat. He called for a reason though. That woman who had been with me on East Ninth had lent him $50 many years before. He said he had heart trouble and wanted to repay her, just in case.

I had figured to see him again. When I got to the City, I intended to call him and get together.

Spending four days in Manhattan this week, I did call him. Anywho and other online directories list his number and address as the last time we spoke. Only this time, when I called that offensive tone was followed with “THAT NUMBER IS NOT IN SERVICE.”

I found out why and shouldn’t have been surprised. He did warn me he had a heart ailment. Yet, I deluded myself as we all are likely to do. On occasion, I’d see that he was still listed and think he was perking along. Only he wasn’t.

Draw your own inferences. I’ve been pretty good about tending to parents, friends and other relatives. I can’t say I did not come to peace with anyone I loved. Still, Reg is a good soul. I do regret not making the extra effort to visit him a few more times.

Matriarca Rivelato

April 1st, 2012

Bless or blame Google Translate and I hope the heading is not wacky. I had a little thrill this morning to see the matriarch revealed.

For many years, I have seen the grand dame’s statue in shade. This morning the light was finally right and the trees were not at all in leaf. The life-sized representation of Maddalena Caporale, died in 1939 at age 66, was in its glory.

This columned work is in Roslindale’s St. Michael Cemetery. That is across the street from JP’s Forest Hills. As FH is WASPy dignified and largely eschews personal images, at least from the 20th Century on, SM revels in them. As FH is a garden with grand sculpture and splendid runs of grass and plantings, SM is a necropolis. Sure, it has borders of mausolea, where caskets are stacked four high and lovingly furnished with frequently visited internal altars, but SM is in the European mold — close packed graves and many, many busts of the grieved young, the esteemed old, and of course the Catholic ideals of St. Christopher, Jesus, and Mary everywhere.

Yet, Signorina Caporale sits alone. She is imposing.

Assuming the unlisted sculptor worked from a formal portrait, we can’t learn much of her personality from the work. Nor is there an epitaph or mini-bio as so many monuments have. She appears neither grinning or scowling.

We can infer she was worth a lot of trouble and expense. With the light finally on her face, I am left to wonder whether she was feared, loved, or respected.