Archive for November, 2013

Train to Gorillas

November 29th, 2013

femalelook

 

The quasi-suburban parts of Boston can have their own simple pleasures. Mine today came from an excursion, train time, zoo time!

Here in Hyde Park, as in Roslindale and West Roxbury, we all seem proud of being part of the city, yet very aware we can’t reasonably walk across the central fist of it as you can from Beason Hill or the South or West Ends. Standout successes like the recent new stations and skeds of the Indigo (Fairmount) Line are big deals down here.

For 10 years, we lived right downtown and then for 21, we were in JP, right below Forest Hills. Now in lower Hyde Park, it’s a trek and rigmarole to get places. I and one of my sons bike frequently (it’s quicker to get to Porter Square on two wheels than by T or God forfend by four). We have to plan. Until recently too the infrequent commuter rail just down the hill from us was also $5.50 a trip and only went as far as South Station.

I’ve been taking the zap, pow, wow improved Fairmount line regularly and grokking it. They dropped the fare to subway prices ($2 a trip) and roughly doubled the frequency. There is also a subtext. This is Thomas Michael Menino’s turf also and part of the idea was to pay attention to the Mayor and District Councilor Rob Consalvo in fostering development in Logan Square, a few hundred yards from the Fairmount stop. Moreover, personally, I got my geezer card from the MBTA, so one way is half price — a buck.

Freebie Road Trip

Today was a trial run for many who had not caught the T fever and fervor. Touted in the local weekly, in flyers at the Y and such, the notice was that today at 11:45 AM, we could gather at the Fairmount Grille and head for the 12:03 PM train. We’d get free round-trip fare.

Every station had its attraction. In particular, New Market was the big honking blue-collar South Bay shopping center with anything your little heart desires. Honestly, as much as I bike and sometimes drive around there, I reeled at the mentions of Four Corners and a short walk to the Franklin Park Zoo. I had never gotten off the Fairmount line at that stop and in my rigid mind thought it must not practical…too far.

Wrong-o.

thallcosgrove

I decided to do the zoo stop, assured a lackey would appear to lead me. Turns out, I was the only fool headed to the animals in the cold. When we gathered at the Fairmount Grille before heading to the stop, people were talking about shopping, either at South Bay or downtown. Joe Cosgrove (right), the MBTA’s director of planning and development, and Mat Thall, the interim executive director of the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation, spoke, but did not pitch Franklin Park. We heard that the $2 fare was an experiment, for both Fairmount and as a test for other Boston neighborhood commuter lines shackled to absurdly high fares despite being in Boston city limits. We heard that the Fairmount traffic had spiked 47% since the fare change, and mostly we heard that we had to talk it up.

Clearly, I”m self-interested, but I think it’s worth it. Sure to the rail geeks, Boston has a reputation far beyond our boundaries for how hard the CDCs pushed for the Indigo Line work that has produced the improvements after almost two decades. Honestly, I can attest that we are a model for the hemisphere for the accomplishments. More personally, I want to see weekend service and trains that leave downtown for my neighborhood after the current latest, 9:40 PM. I want to be able to go to the Haymarket on Saturday, thank you very much. Let’s be a real city.

Gorillas, No Giraffes

My hick mindset had the zoo out of range. Despite my frequent bike rides down Columbia, up Blue Hill, through Franklin Park, past Forest Hills, the length of Mass Ave and all of the convoluted Washington Street in various neighborhoods, I fell into the Geneva Ave/Four Corners is distant gang turf. I was ignorant.

Sure enough, I ended up being the only bozo getting off the train at Four Corners. At Fairmount, the conductor was amused and amusing. He was the veritable gang of us, highly unusual for 12:03 PM on a weekday and did a great double take as he greeted us. I was literally the only Four Corners stop requester and the only one who exited for the zoo instead of consumer/Black Friday choices.

fairmounttoot

As promised, a pleasant young man, Hanad, was there to shepherd me. Turns out, as I was the only one, he didn’t even bother putting me through the half-priced-day gate. I got in for free. So there, shoppers.

Sure, a cold November day is not primo. Many animals are not the slightest bit interested in playing the game below 65F. Even my favorite beasts of all, giraffes, were bunked or huddling inside. No tigers, a single lion, no roos, maybe a third of the areas and cages said exhibit not open. Harrumph, as the expression goes.

Yet there was plenty to see. The parents with kids in strollers and racing ahead of them squealing about dark jungles, warthogs, gorillas and such had a great time. So did I.

(I’ll post some pix on Flickr and update with a link here.)

For the logistics minded, the walk from the Four Corners stop to the zoo entrance is eight minutes. It’s exit the station to the South onto Washington, go four short blocks, then seven short blocks up Columbia to the zoo. It’s a devil of a lot easier and closer than by Orange line or some wacky bus combo.If you want to start from South Station or Hyde Park, this is it. It’s in my mental maps.

We can be as provincial as Manhattanites and a question I heard in the Fairmoumt Grille and on the platform was what can you see in late November at a zoo? Lots, sports fans. The Tropical Forest was fully stocked; the great apes, warthogs, pygmy hippo, wacky carrion birds and more are crowd pleasers.  Nearby in Bird’s World, ibises and lurid finches and parakeets play, while the huge green keas wail and shriek.

A male lion showed off endlessly and on and on and on.

I earned bragging rights for going to the cold-weather zoo, doubled by taking the commuter rail.

Passive-aggressive porch

November 23rd, 2013

redbagsAn amusement, an annoyance and a puzzlement in one, the passive-aggressive stance of many around here to free paper bundles continues.

Here’s one example on our hill. Six weeks of Globe Direct junk ad packets clutter the porch and its steps. It’s as though the homeowners expect the advertising elves to acknowledge their errors and remove the rubble. They’ll be waiting a long, long time.

We too are getting this junk. We subscribe to the Boston Globe, so we already get the grocery and other circulars bundled in the red bags. The stuffing in the G section, the daily maggy with comics and stuff includes all this drivel on Thursday.

We’ve called the number printed on the bags and asked for them to delete us from their delivery lists. Allegedly that will happen. However, f they goof up, we’re not inclined to let the bags heap up on our stoop. We put the papers in recycling and the bag in with bags to recycle at a supermarket. Honest to gourd, anything else says slob and arrogant.

We see the same craziness and hostility when the various annual white and yellow page books appear on front walks and porches. Some neighbors let them rot in situ. Nothing else is as good as saying, “I don’t give a crap about what my house looks like.”

On occasion, I get my own flicker of craziness about this. I’d like to knock on the various doors and ask:

  • Why don’t you call the number on the bag to get out of the delivery cycle?
  • Why don’t you recycle the papers and bags in the meanwhile?
  • How can you justify just leaving this junk lying on your stoop?
  • Do you honestly think that someone else is going to clean up your front porch?

That would be crazy. I have no reason to doubt this is some sort of self-righteousness.  Someone else littered on their property. Therefore, that someone should clean up. So there.

The real so there is you have a bunch of ugly crap out front. You need to deal with it. The elves are off duty.

Fiddles and such in JP church

November 23rd, 2013

Nothing like a coffeehouse, except there was coffee and tea in the back room, but as concerts in UU churches go, JP’s version worked well last night. We heard first Cat and the Moon, and then The Bombadils.

There’s more folk, bluegrass, acoustic, Celtic and such concert coming up. Some are listed at the notloB site. The next one at First Church JP is a kind of battle of four string quartets on Dec. 7th, Saturday.

Here’s a few snaps from yesterday. The lighting was grim. Only a few were usable. We had positive memories of the space though. Two of our sons attended Kids Arts there for years after school.

These concerts are enjoyable, easily accessible and inexpensive ($13 in this case) evenings.

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.

The fiddlers were clearly the hits of the evening. Each band featured one. Here The Bombadils’ Sarah Frank blends strings and vocals. bombsara
catricky Cat and the Moon’s Ricky Mier on banjo.
The Cat of Cat and the Moon is Kathleen Parks. catcat
catcatbow
She’s a Berklee student who started with Irish music as a kid fiddler and does all and sundry now.
Sarah Bombsfrank
bombevan The Bomadils are from various parts of Canada. Here bassist Evan Stewart plays.
If I had to pick, I think Sarah was having the most fun. Bombsarahf

cateamon
I think this is Eamon Sefton, of Cat and the Moon. Another Berklee student, here he went from his acoustic guitar to an Irish drum.

Mike Bunyon, TV Star

November 19th, 2013

We had a very tall, very sad ash — double base with three trunks — next to and sometimes plunging limbs into our garage. No more.

The uxorial unit got estimates and located what turned out to be a relative celebrity arborist, Specialized Rigging & Tree Care.  They did their acrobatics today, left only stumps and hauled the rest away.

Turned out they were featured as one of four tree slayers in the National Geographic series Big Bad Wood. They were the one of the four services that sent their climbers straight up with tackle and chainsaws. As a bonus, the main climber shared my first name, Mike.

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.

We started with a lot of ash tree, in three pieces. treetriple
treeready Thick or thin stem seemed to make no difference. Up he went and attacked.
The ground crew was ready to retrieve each trunk piece or limb, pull as necessary and be available on command. treecrew
treecling Mike scampered up each trunk, strapped himself, hooked the part he’d cut, and brought up his chainsaw.
A Timber! moment, one of many. treefall
treeparts Tree parts staged in the drive ready for chipping or trucking.
All but the biggest pieced got the Morbark chipper treatment. treemorbark

treestump
Poof. Then it was gone…almost.

Plots Against Shyness

November 15th, 2013

Yes, I write this personal blog. Yes, I have a weekly audio podcast. Yes, I advocate for marriage equality. Yes, I’ve interviewed and written about many folk in politics, business and beyond over a long time.

I’m still shy, moderately introverted and far more comfortable when the attention is on someone else.

I got a double dash of public yesterday headed to and then in my fiction-writing workshop. I think such surprises can only be good for us shy sorts.

The class is in the main Copley public library, starting after dark. I was perking along, head down, when a TV reporter popped out of his van, leading with the innocuous, “Do you live in Boston.” It turns out that along Boylston Street close to last spring’s Marathon bombings, various crews were getting guy-on-the-street quotes about Bill Maher’s provocative attempts at humor on the subject.

Maher surely should have realized how lame he had been when Anthony Weiner, of all people, sitting beside him modulated the situation. When Weiner is the voice of reason, compassion and morality in the situation, Maher seriously goofed up.

I had little to say. I did manage to tell the BZ mic hand and cameraman something like Maher was being a fool. Normally he’s bright and insightful but not then. I was turning into myself in shyness and likely would not have added the Weiner judgment had it come to mind then and not 20 feet later as I headed to the library.

I very rarely watch any TV. I would not have been aware they used my ho-hum clip if chums had not let me know.

Inside, much more intense and prolonged was the psychodrama that was the last half of the class. An out-there writer who joined the class had us act out. She’d don’t corporate training and such. She said she had a useful exercise to help us commit to regular writing schedules. That sounded good but quickly stretched my comfort elastic.

The way it worked for the five of us, her included, was that one after another, we stood in a close circle. The person of the moment identified three obstacles to writing, actually writing. One person would take the role of each, such as the lure of social media drawing us away from creative work. One person would be the support. The subject heard simultaneous bombardment of reasons to procrastinate or doubt, while the lone support person and whatever messages the subject could play internally played. There was four or five very intense minutes.

Each of us came to a sort of denouement, believing that we had a handle on responses to the distractions. That was her intent and we’ll see how it plays out. We have pledged to bring in one to five pages of new work next week as proof…and then each week.

For extroverts, that kind of psychodrama without having to dress up must seem benign. It was about all I could handle. Of course, the hardest moments were when I was in the center of the circle, the focus.

I suspect both events last evening were good for me. I don’t know that I’m ready to seek more like those, but I survived.