Archive for June, 2007

Hatched-Toothed, Goggle-Eyed Roadside Rodent

June 26th, 2007

An affront to the eye and artistic sensibility, the gigantic beaver-like-object gets your attention. You can tool along between Becket and exit two of the Mass Pike enjoying the fairly rural scenery. There’s the occasional hippie-dippy herb stand and a high-end gift shop…

…and then…

Beaver Storage close-up of beaverI suppose it could be more hideous, but maybe not.

This is all the advertising sign Beaver Self-Storage in Lee has. People won’t forget it.

This teratological work, this statue, this handmade Americana squats perhaps 12 feet on its own. It is larger to the eye, as you can see below, on its wagon perch.

I confess that it must do its job. I cannot recall the name or any particulars of any other self-storage facility. I’ll remember Beaver Self-Storage.

No one has been in evidence when we have passed, perhaps a dozen times. If I see someone, I’ll surely stop.

  • I want to know what it’s made of — concrete?
  • What sort of drug fueled or otherwise inspired frenzy led to the idea and execution?
  • Is there a single person to blame?
  • How much material did this take? What did it cost? Does it require repairs?
  • Why is the beaver wall-eyed?
  • Is the gigantic spread tail necessary for balance or did they artist(s) get carried away?

I suspect the same creator with the same skill level designed the company’s website. It is certainly not the only minimalist lame site, but it is remarkable for its lack of attention to this overwhelming object.

The image below is from the site. I have added a red circle. Otherwise, you might not even notice our rodent buddy.

Beaver website image

As remarkably, the site makes no mention of the genesis or symbolism or any aspect of the big ole brown thing. Nope, not a word of who, how, why, when or even WTF.

From the side, the beaver is particularly grotesque. Maybe it’s the tail or just the disproportions.

Beaver on wagon

Maybe I saw too many 1950s and 1960s sci-fi and horror movies. Well, there is that. I figure that I screened at least 300. There were mole people, giant ants, giant mantises, giant killer shrews, a big old buzzard – the giant claw, and various awakened or revivified dinosaurs or ghouls.

This beaver is less threatening, but still in the same proportion and spirit.

Ironically, I don’t think the largest of their self-storage units would let the beaver in, at least with its wagon.

There’s no evidence it would animate and retaliate if it were left outside. In fact, it appears that this rodent will suffer the fate of other unique roadside art objects. It will lose paint, get new paint, lose chunks, get patched, and eventually occupy its place in the landfill.

Until that day, head to Lee. You can pop down after a day at Mass MOCA. You surely need to plan an evening at the Dream Away Lodge in neighboring Becket. Regardless, once you are on Route 20, you are in beaver territory.

Don’t be shocked. Appreciate this grotesquery for what it is.

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Horses, Men and Women

June 26th, 2007

A lot of years ago, I kept company with a Southern woman — Charleston, South Carolina, family and Sweet Briar education. She was a lot more out there than her genteel grandmother.

She told of spending a summer in the oppressively humid Charleston and telling her grandmother of her distress. “Grandma, I’m sweaty,” she said, only to hear a classic Southernism. “Sallie, horses sweat. Men perspire. Women glow.”

Less delicately, adult Sally confided, “I sweat bullets!”

Sweating Guy Well, so do I.

Nice of You to Notice

The old vignette came to mind yesterday at 7 a.m. when I came into the building and saw a co-worker who commented loudly and seemingly with surprise that I was sweaty.

We can set aside that her remarks were an exercise in parading the obvious around the room on a stick. It was already hot and sunny. I had just biked – with vigor – the eight plus miles from home through Boston traffic.

I sweat freely. Rather than feeling guilty, I wonder and worry about those who don’t.

I didn’t note that she has a big butt and flabby arms. Nor did she stress that I’m bald. Yet, I know that sweaty is fair exclamation material.

Don’t Do It!

Yet, I wasn’t always so casual about the proper functioning of my body’s largest organ, my skin. As a teen in the 1960, like every other boomer, I knew that sweating was nasty and shameful. The ads and the word from most elders and peers was don’t do it. Magazines and newspapers had scads of ads for new, improved antiperspirants. Many featured the disgrace of shirts or dresses visibly wet in the axillae.

I actually asked a doctor, no, two doctors, about sweating freely. They both had the same set of responses. First they laughed and then said not only was that normal response to exertion, but that they were concerned when people did not sweat freely in heat or effort. Their bodies weren’t reacting to cool them and were holding in toxins.

There actually are diseases and chemical imbalances that cause both excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) and the inability to sweat (hypohidrosis). Dripping sweat after running or biking doesn’t fall in the too-much class.

Society didn’t change though. Sweat is bad. Women buy little perspiration-absorbing pads for blouses and dresses. Many folk also seem to take peculiar, even fetishized, fascination with their un-moist skin. Others move very, very slowly and eliminate caffeine to minimize sweating.

It brings to mind the puffy Bostonian in M.A.S.H., Charles Emerson Winchester III. In various episodes he claimed such as his family did not sweat, that he had “small pores.” Also, when Hawkeye asked, “Charles, how come you never sweat?,” his response was “In the first place, I do not sweat; I perspire. In the second place, I never perspire.”

Other People’s Sweat

I do confess though that at 15, sweat prompted me to become a swimmer after lettering as a wrestler. It’s one thing to be awash in your own sweat and quite another to grapple for hours, swapping sweat with one or four other guys.

Plus in my high school, the wrestling team practice room had windows up high that looked into the pool. There, seemingly indolent boys sat around the tiled edges watching others swim. I figured that was a lot better than the dankness of wrestling. I did not realize until I joined the swimming team the next year, that those who seemed to be resting were gasping for air and about to hop back in on their turn. As numerous other sports team members who joined found, it had the hardest practices with the least rest. Then again, if you were sweating, no one could know.

I finally realized that making a big deal about the obvious was a rough measure of both IQ and manners. Blurting out that someone is sweating or tall or fat or short or thin or pock marked or whatever is what my kids would do in their toddler or kindergarten years, when they were just learning different and the same. I had to teach them not to draw attention to people’s bodies, particularly aspects they others did not control.

In the process of going from teen to adult, I also learned that sweating can be its own badge of honor and achievement. Maybe Tom Hambridge put it well enough in his song Rock Me Right, which Susan Tedeschi sings with passion. He writes:

Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you shout
Oh, your homemade lovin’ done knocked me out

Making each other sweat and shout is one devil of a lot better and more fun than staying fashionably dry.

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Forest Hills Erector Set

June 2nd, 2007

Imagine one-way traffic circumnavigating the Forest Hills T stop. People have and that could happen.

The Forest Hills Initiative is two thirds through with its public meetings, with the fourth this week at Boston English. A lot of information and a lot of public input rubs a blinding shine on the apple.

I’ll try not to be too cynical. With a pretty much self-interested DINO legislature and do-little or do-harm executive branch for nearly two decades, the commonwealth and city are in trouble. The jolly old pols watched out for themselves and brought home enough goodies to stay in office, while our schools, roads and other infrastructure grew sicker and weaker daily.

This initiative is one of several in the great sausage machine of progress to help correct the asthenia of our systems. It started before our new governor took office, under the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Of course, such well formulated and publicly accepted plans have a quail’s chance at a hunting ranch without support on Beacon Hill and City Hall Plaza. The money has to be there, but so too must the enabling legislation, zoning, and related support.

For example, Massachusetts has these keen laws that say you can only build or repave traffic arteries if they fully accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. That looks great, particularly when we want to reduce motor vehicle traffic, looks great until the exceptions and exemptions kick in.

Some of those are hard to disagree with in road planning. Think Wayland with colonial era stone walls abutting current narrow roads — too narrow for cycle lanes or sidewalks much less either, without huge expenses. These roads are lightly traveled and poof, get exempted.

Similarly with Forest Hills, there’s much on paper and in the air about mixed use and community services. When Senior Architect John Dalzell responded to the where’s the community centers for kids and the elderly, he fessed up. Send ’em to Boston English or Curtis Hall; we don’t have the money or space.

In the main though, he and the other BRA sorts offered pretty good strands of urban hope. Some were working ideas for three current parking areas, for Emerald Necklace connectors from Franklin Park to the Arnold Arboretum, and for three neglected and unused MBTA lots (parcels U, V and W). Others were vague promises of maybe one-way traffic around the station and maybe extending the Southwest Corridor bike path around the death defying routes below New Washington under the Casey Overpass.

As a cyclist, I’d love the one-way flow. The worst part of my commute to South Boston is that half mile from Walk Hill north to the start of the Pierre Lallement (SW Corridor) bike path. Turning left onto Ukraine Way around the station is an invitation to dismemberment. Straight up Hyde Park Avenue is through a gauntlet of cars, buses and pickups in four lanes of traffic on what should be a three-lane road. We’re all unhappy there, but cyclists are most at risk.

The utilty of the bike-path extension hinges of big-buck add-ons, crossovers from Washington Street on the western side of the station onto Hyde Park Avenue to the land of no-longer Doughboy, but Dunkin’. Not bloodly likely, mate.

The parcel and parking-lot schemes are as intriguing as one-way around the station. It could mean:

  • The big station parking lot becomes a combo commercial building facing Hyde Park Avenue with a multi-level garage, an open middle with access to the upper level, and a housing tower shorter than the clock tower on the northern end.
  • The Fitz lot across the street could be mixed-income housing.
  • The big T bus lot becomes housing and commercial.

MBTA parcels

Then there are those T lots U, V, and W.

The T has held onto these pretty awful, oddly shaped abutters of the commuter rail and Amtrak trains for many decades. They may have been smart in waiting until now to release them (declare them surplus). There’s a baby boomlet and tight realty here. What the heck?

Parcel U running from Ukraine Way south along the western side of Hyde Park Avenue is the best. It is pretty rectangular and big. The BRA sees mixed commercial and residential.

The trains rumble (but do not signal) by regularly and the triangle at the bottom is the ramshackle Tollgate Cemetery. Neither of those should be much of an issue. Consider Roslindale’s Dale Village, where residents can see, hear and almost touch the trains.

Plus, there’s the marketing possibility. Hell, people pay a lot extra to dine overlooking shipping lanes and smelling low tide at harbor side restaurants. Those of us who love trains might buy into the theater of it all, no?

Unfortunately, parcel V is a dog. The picture below is of the widest piece, which barely allows for a house next to the tracks. This tiny strip tapers to a pathetic point climbing to the tracks and Ukraine Way.

The BRA folk figure that parcel W is attractive and want to tie them. If you want to make a killing on W, you have to develop the ugly sibling simultaneously.

Realtors have made fortunes off much less workable patches of land.

MBTA parcel V

There are at least two more of these sessions coming up. Among the initiatives, the FH one is perhaps the most, as they euphemistically say, challenging.

JP is probably Boston’s most diverse neighborhood, culturally, racially and financially. It presently has these tremendous lots that are unused or poorly used, ripe for development, and equally ripe for failure. Being at the train and bus terminal is great and terrible, noisy and convenient. There are no real groceries. The only entertainment venues are a coffee shop and a pizza restaurant with acoustic music. There are no museums or other culture. Many only come to the immediate sub-neighborhood to fight criminal or traffic charges at the courthouse.

The potential is great. Yet, I don’t want John Dalzell‘s job.

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