Tag Archives: Boston

Love That Dirty Water

When I first set foot on the algae slimed, goose-poop covered banks of the Charles River in the summer of 1983, it was love at first sight. For the first time in my life I felt truly at home. I never left, and while I still love Boston, I can sometimes take it for granted or forget how much I love it. 
Last week good weather and a decent work load combined to propel me outside at lunch to take a walk along those very same banks. It’s much cleaner now, although most people prefer to enjoy it from a sail boat or a kayak. I walked along the bank, lost in thought, until I realized it was time to head back. When I turned and saw the view, I fell in love all over again. 

Exhibit A

That’s a view of the Longfellow Bridge, better known as the salt and pepper bridge because of the shape of the 4 central towers. The state has been renovating the bridge and they took each “shaker” down to restore it and this was the first time in 3 or 4 years that I have seen all 4 back again. Add the sail boats from Community Boating, and you have the quintessential Boston/Charles River picture.

Here’s a close up of the salt and pepper shakers. 

So there I was, giddy and gushing over my city, on my walk, when I came upon city workers posting these signs.

No matter that I had just seen a dog standing in the water and lapping it up, and a while later saw a man sitting in it, communing with nature. We still love that dirty water. Boston you’re my home. 

I’m a Delicate Flowah

Many years ago, while walking down the street in Boston, I overheard a woman say loudly, in a distinct Boston accent to her companion in answer to some unheard comment, “I’m a delicate flowah.” It’s been one of my catch phrases ever since. Because, yes, even a chain-smoking, whiskey-drinking, grizzled Bostonian can be delicate sometimes. I don’t know if she was all those those things, but let’s face it, that’s why people like that accent, because it sounds like those things, and that is way more interesting than someone speaking so blandly, you don’t care if they are delicate of not.

So while I like to fancy myself a tough Bostonian, I do have my delicate flowah moments, and a few of them have occurred at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). I do like aht. I like aht a lot, and I learned just enough aht history in college to be obnoxious at the Museum of Fine Ahts (MFA), which is full of all the good oldies. But this contemporary aht stuff is different. Oh, sure, I saw Mapplethorpe back in the late 80s when people had their panties in a twist about his naked photography, but that’s different. Photography has at least something I can relate to in that it was created by a camera. No, I’m talking about my past few visits to the ICA, trying to be a good cultural citizen. But it’s not easy — what with contemporary aht’s lack of reference points and odd materials (is that plastic? Dried blood? Sawdust with metal shavings glued on bricks?). Sometimes an “installation” takes up whole room, and there are random pointy things and sandy things and crap hanging from the ceiling. When I enter such a room, I’m a total delicate flowah: I find it very disorienting and disturbing. I look to the little white card to throw me a bone, to tell me something, anything, grounding about this piece. But it says the installation was created in some studio in New York, or Los Angeles, or New Mexico (art never seems to get made anywhere else) and put together by the museum’s curator. Then I go from delicate flowah to indignant working class girl: What?! The ahtist couldn’t even get his lazy ass down here to put together this scary, weird thing himself? How is that aht? More power to you if you can make a living creating weird-ass installations in a studio and just ship it out around the country, but I sure as hell don’t need to see it.

On another visit, I remember just wandering around in the warren of small rooms with all kinds of visually incomprehensible things, and I was longing for something to ground me — anything — paint, clay, plaster, metal of any kind. I got so agitated that at one point I found a dark room and just curled up and sat on the floor, even though it was showing some random art film. At least I knew there was a video camera involved in its creation, and I breathed into my knees until I wasn’t so delicate. It maybe didn’t help that I was there with my unhappy life in tow — a less-than-delicate mother-in-law, a fraying marriage, and parental overwhelm. But I had all those things in the MFA, and I never had to resort to curling in a ball.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I accepted my friend’s invitation to see the 2016 Oscar nominated short films on Super Bowl Sunday, showing at, yes, the ICA. But I figured, what the heck. My Bostonian citizenship only requires me to care about the Super Bowl if the Patriots are in it, so thankfully I was off the hook this year. I liked the idea of doing something unrelated to football and I’m in a much better place in my life. We’d be seeing films, and I could bypass all the scary aht. I also can be delicate with intense films, but these were short, so I figured how bad could it be?

Let’s just say I wasn’t the only delicate flowah in the group. Don’t get me wrong, they were all quality films. It’s just that three of the five were pretty intense. But it was nothing that two glasses of wine at dinner after and some general discussion about the intensity couldn’t fix.

It still doesn’t really help me understand contemporary aht any better, but at least I know I can go to the ICA without curling up in a ball, so maybe I’m not so delicate after all. But I am a wicked good flowah.

Photo: From 10 bizarre works of art from weirdworm.com, The Physical Impossibility of death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hurst



Top 9 Posts from 2015, Because Less Is More

Here we are at the end of the year when we run out of steam and cover it up with year-end top 10 lists. Because I want to leave you begging for more, there are only 9. If you want a 10th, send “10s and 20s” like Sally asked for in the Charlie Brown Christmas special. You think these posts grow on trees? Oh, wait some times they do. Sometimes they spring from the bushes of a Boston suburb, or an overheard conversation in a  coffee line, or from bras that look like snack bowls. Still, 10s and 20s couldn’t hurt.

Enjoy the 2015 top 9 posts, redux, and have a fantastic New Year’s! I will see you on the flip side of 2016, my friends, and thanks for reading this year!

9. Top Ways to Stay Warm Without Heat

The popularity of this one surprised me; I can only guess that people were looking for real tips, and I’m sure they were sorely disappointed, But they clicked on the link, so it’s all good from my end.

“You can’t prove that I tried to use the little flame from the candle lighter before realizing it would be spring before it worked or that I would set the hose on fire.”

8. A Girl, Her friend and Their Band U2

Best. Friend. Visit. And. Concert. Ever. EVAH!

“Seeing U2 with Sonia was like coming home. They are in a reflective mood with this new music and we are too. Yes, they forced it on everyone for free. Get over it.  I promise to hold my tongue when the new album from your favorite band I don’t give a hoot about shows up for free in my iTunes.”

7. The Girliness Adventures Go Underward

Victoria Secret never did retweet my post about this. I can’t imagine why.

“I was unprepared for the uniformity of what I can only describe as the matching snack bowl design of all the bras in the place. Seriously, rows and rows of hanging bowls.”

6. And the Repairman Sayeth, ‘Let There Be Heat.’

This was the third and final installment of my saga of being without heat for three weeks during THE snowiest month in Boston history. Makes me sound like a total badass, right? Well, it goes waaayyy deeper than that. There was some controversy about deflating and inflating certain things. You’ll have to read to find out more. I am grateful that folks hung in there to see how it ended.

“I would like to say, absolutely, I followed all the rules of blogging to the letter. I did not invent my lack of heat, nor did I inflate the length of time I went without heat merely for my own blogging use. Sometimes the environment can influence a topic, like lack of heat.”

5. Overheard, Secondhand

Why waste time thinking of topics yourself when perfect strangers will give you all the content you could ever want?

“She has chickens. Bubble hit: 3. Why are chickens a thing? Suburban chickens are the new black.”

4. Top 9 Reasons Why I Love the Gays

Clearly I like gays and the top 9 of various things. Deal with it.

“These reasons are particular to my friends; your results with your gay friends may vary.”

3. Birthdays: Top 5 Reasons 50 Is Better than 30

So sometimes I do 5 top reasons. It does confirm that people like lists of things, and who am I to deprive you?

“Reason 3: I finally can tell all the “experts” to go stick it in their pie hole.”

2. Jilted by My Hairdresser–Twice

True confessions. I wrote the original version of this piece of this many years ago and updated it for the blog. You’d never know. Oh, crap, except I just told you.

“It’s shameful I know, but I don’t remember her name.  I don’t remember any of their names, those who come after Eileen.  I made my way from Newbury Street to Supercuts and every place in between, shamelessly talking about her to them all.”

  1. And the number one spot? Of course goes to the ever fabulous, ever rockin’ Rick Springfield: Rockin’ in the ‘Burbs: Top 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Rick Springfield

Yeah, so another top numbered list. I actually think it was the cool pic of him on my blog that got that post so many hits. I added it above, you know for comparison research purposes.

“Damn suburbanites. So I could have probably told you 10 things about Rick, but the crabby, unhip, “new money” people in Cohasset prevented me from learning any more.”


Top 5 Things that Make Me Crazier than I Need to Be

Besides my natural inclination for being crazy, I also have to wrangle with the hormonally-induced crazy thoughts of perimenopause. Like the time I had a random moment of intense hatred for a stranger because of the coat she was wearing. It was an odd geometric pattern, and it pissed me off. I just laughed it off with my friends, but honestly, what does that even mean?!? All I can say is you people are just lucky I’m a pacifist and that I never took karate.

So I really don’t need any encouragement to be crazier than I currently am.  And I do so try to mind my own business, but while I’m doing that, these things happen. Stupid annoying things that shouldn’t because my rules make sense. If everyone would just follow them, we’d all be better off. Well, I would be better off, and that’s all that matters, right? I’m the one having anger issues over patterned coats. Here are my current top 5 things that make me crazier than I need to be:

  1. Online recipe fiddlers. See, foodies, some of us actually need recipes. Our creativity has other outlets, so when we go to Epicurious.com we’re actually there to find and follow a recipe. When we read the comments and ratings, what we’re looking for is a confirmation that the recipe works and is tasty. That’s it. We don’t need this:

“This recipe is great! I substituted Marash chili (from Turkey) for the pepper and added carrots, onions, white wine, thyme, and simmered 30 to 35 minutes to meld the flavors. Then I added fresh Parmesan cheese before serving.”

OK, that’s great smarty-pants foodie, but that’s not the ‘effen “Fast White Bean Stew” recipe. If I had wanted white bean stew with fancy pants spices and lots of extra ingredients, I would have looked for that recipe. Oh, and thank you for telling me where your fancy pants spice comes from. Like I care. Your review is absolutely useless to me because I’m not getting Turkish spices or adding cheese or simmering an additional 30 to 35 minutes because that’s not fast, which, BTW, is in the title.

2. Cloves. Just, no. They smell disgusting. They are disgusting. You might as well substitute that gross incense the Catholics use. Why, why, why, must those weird little brown flower buds and stems desecrate a ham? You want to stick decorative things in a ham? How about toothpicks with those frilly ends? I still haven’t recovered from my childhood run-in with a salad. Mind you, the salad was meant to encourage kids to eat it. Half a pear for the body on the bed of lettuce and a cottage cheese tail. Cute, right?

But then guess what the eyes and mouth were? Yummy raisins? No. Peanuts? No. Disgusting cloves. Even when you pull them out, the flavor remains and infects the canned pear goodness.

God, I hate cloves.

3. People who walk in the road when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk to use. At first I thought this was a peculiarity of my town. This generally doesn’t happen in Boston proper. If it did, between the cars and bikers, you could clog all the ERs in Boston hospitals with pedestrian accidents. But I’ve seen it in other surrounding towns. What the hell is that about? Are these the same people who don’t wear seat belts because the “man” told them to? Do they think sidewalks are for chumps?

Attention, Roadwalkers. Do you not understand that we Masshole drivers have the worst driving reputation? We will hit you and it’s a 50-50 chance it’s intentional. OK 80% chance. Use. The. Damn. Sidewalk. Freaks.

4. Commercial du jour. That commercial for a big box electronics store that suggests when your kid’s science fair project, such as an anemic exploding volcano, isn’t quite exciting enough, go buy a big screen TV. Then it shows the family watching some other, more exciting exploding volcano on the new TV because that makes sense…um…how exactly? You still don’t seem to get out of doing the stupid science fair project, which should be the main goal. Unless they mean for you to get out of doing it by bribing the teacher by giving him/her the TV? I’m the first to admit I hate the school science fair projects–all that angst and frustration and misery. I think a better commercial would be for an iRobot: Science Fair Edition that could make the damn project for you. That is a much better electronic solution I would pay top dollar for.

5. Fellow drivers. You didn’t think I was going to get to number 5 without doing something driving related, did you? There are so many road violations around here, it’s really hard to pick one, and it can depend on the day. But this week, I’ll say that the one that annoys me the most is when I get beeped at for obeying the traffic rules, such as not running down those people who don’t use the sidewalk, but they will use the cross walk in front of my car even though I have a green turn arrow. Clever bastards. I should’ve hit them by “accident” when I had the chance driving alongside of them. Now if I hit them, I’m clearly “in the wrong” because the cowards are hiding behind the cross walk right-of-way rule.

But do my fellow drivers behind me feel my pain? No, they lay on the horn because I’m not turning on the green arrow. I’m fairly sure that even if I did go ahead and run the people over, the drivers would still beep at me because my small Toyota Corolla couldn’t properly flatten them, and they would have to drive over the bumps.

So there you have it. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for getting the list down to 5. I must really be growing and maturing. Just don’t wear a weird geometric coat near me or walk in the road while I’m driving. Freaks.

Happy Gay Pride from Boston

I’ve been going to the Gay Pride Parade for about 26 years since my friend and guide Mike first introduced it to me. This year was the 45th anniversary, so I feel privileged to have been to more than half of them.

You see, then and now, I never really wanted the things most straight people seemed to expect me to want. They tolerated my punk wannabe years in college and my post-college pursuit of low-paying, yet highly rewarding nonprofit jobs in the city. But the “you should get married, have kids, and move to the suburbs” track never seemed far from the collective mind, and sometimes it felt as if they were simply waiting for me to come to my senses. Meanwhile I was making friends with unconventional people and plotting how to never, ever make that kind of sense.

And then Mike took me to the Gay Pride Parade, where I saw thousands of people being unconventional and creating new families out of like-minded friends, and forging their own paths. They were forced to, of course, because society discounted them. In a much smaller way, society discounted me too, and I found strength and inspiration in their courage. I would merely get looked down on for my choices, while they lived with the very real risk of persecution or worse every day. How could I refuse that call to find my path and to support the cause of gay rights? And, how could I possibly resist the fabulous creativity of the drag queens?

So, I signed up, and have since met a great circle of friends and have been there every year since—to be an ally, to be a cheerleader, to be inspired, and to be reminded of the courage and strength it takes to live the life you need to live. I did end up falling in love, getting married, and I brought along my then husband. And when I had a kid, I brought him along too. If my son decides to have a kid someday, I’ll bring him or her too, and bore the poor kid to death with my grandma stories: “Back in my day, everyone was half-naked and covered in glitter and pasties. Nowadays, people just look normal. It’s a damn shame.”

It’s true that every year the parade seems to get bigger and more, well, conventional, with school groups, and churches, and big corporations all marching. It’s very cool, and I’ll also admit that I kind of miss the outrageousness, but being accepted is the point. As I watched with my friend Becky this year, she recalled the earlier years when the parade pointedly went by the state house as a protest and political statement. We are here. You can’t ignore us forever. And we were right. Gay marriage laws continue to pass, and the ultimate form of acceptance has also arrived—there are gay characters and gay relationships all over TV.

Or you could judge it from kid’s point of view. A friend of mind was a kid living in Boston where he witnessed the first Gay marches, and they scared him–they were angry protests in response to the raids on gays in the Stonewall Inn in NYC. Fast forward 40 plus years and my friend Gloria’s young daughter was with us and having a grand time gathering up all the candy and the beads and Pride swag being thrown out by happy, smiling people, some in drag, many in street clothes, and a few sporting strategically placed stickers. It reminded me of when my son was that age doing the same thing, perhaps about 10 years ago. She got twice as much stuff as he ever did, and she saw a lot more kids her age than my son ever did. And neither of them were scared by what they saw.

That’s the kind of outrageousness I can get behind.

The Registry of Forgotten Statistics

The week I realized my ex and I were pretty much over each other was the week I had to get a copy of our marriage certificate. It’s required in order to get a divorce, which I find pretty funny. Is the state trying to prevent people from falsely filing for divorce? “You know, we never got legally married, but let’s put one over on the state and file for divorce. Those nice lawyers and mediators need our savings, the courts could use the fees, and I just love to have strangers comb through every single personal and financial document I have. What a great prank!”

I had just moved and culled my possessions, so I knew what I had and didn’t have, and I didn’t have the certificate. My ex didn’t either. But it was more than that. You know when you’re trying to find something important but rarely used, you can picture in your mind the three likely places you put such things. Or, you have a memory of putting it somewhere and thinking “It will be safe here,” and that starts your search. I stopped and thought. It should have been with the birth certificates and passports, but it wasn’t.  I thought and thought. Nothing. My mind was like a deserted Western town, with tumble weeds rolling by in the wind. It was weird. Now I know it’s been 20 years and maybe it’s my mid-life brain or maybe it was the universe playing a good joke, but either way, I couldn’t even conjure up a fake memory of what the hell happened to that thing. So I was off to the state website for the Registry of Vital Statistics to go about getting a replacement. I just hoped it’ wasn’t like when you get a replacement drivers license and all the bouncers look at it for a really long time before letting you in. (OK, it’s been 20 years since a bouncer did that, but still it’s embarrassing.) I imagine the judge will examine it closely, then pierce us with an over-the-half-glasses stare, “Are you sure this is real?” “Aw shucks, you got us! We’re just messin’ with ya!”

So the website tells me I can pay $75 to have it mailed, faxed, or emailed, or come in person and pay $20. This makes no sense in the business world, but apparently makes complete sense for civil service. Maybe our civilization would absolutely break down if we weren’t forced to wait in long lines to get government documents. I shudder at the thought. But for those of you who miss face-to-face customer service and don’t like it when a business encourages you to email or sort through a help forum before calling, I suggest you go right down to the Registry of Vital Statistics and order up all your certificates and have a great time. I prefer societal breakdown and email.

I resigned myself to going, but comforted myself with the fact that at least it must be in Boston proper, right? Maybe next to another registry, like the Registry of Motor Vehicles, or next to the courthouse. Ohhhhh nooooooo. That would never do. It’s actually in an out-of-the way place that is the farthest it can be from downtown and still be considered within Boston’s borders. A friend suggested the location protects the vital records in case Boston gets invaded. I think a black market identity selling scheme is more likely. After all, this is the place that has volumes of musty books recording the births, deaths, and marriages of Boston’s citizens since the 1600s—this is the identity mother load. Although I guess having a fake ID with the name Jedediah Cobbler would probably raise awkward questions sooner or later.

So, off I went to get a fake ID, I mean my vital statistic, and a mere two train rides and long walk later, I arrived. And my first task, of course, was to fill out a form. I wrote our names, place of marriage, and then got stuck on the date. Just like when I was trying to place the certificate at home, the tumble weeds were rolling again. The swinging door to the saloon banged in the wind. I had the date engraved in my wedding ring, but I stopped wearing it. I knew the month and year, but it took a full minute to conjure up the day, and I only managed that because I actually looked at that month on my phone and seeing the number triggered my memory.

I handed over the money, got my certificate, and secretly wondered if they could tell I needed it to get divorced. I headed back to work via a long walk and two train rides and was not at my desk for more than 10 minutes when my ex called. He was filling out some preliminary separation paperwork and couldn’t remember my birthday. Like me and the marriage certificate, he’d remembered the year and the month, but couldn’t place the day. I told him, and when I got off the phone, I just started to laugh. We were clearly both moving on, letting go of our now non-vital statistics. I should have charged him $75 for the phone call.

Photo Credit: Raging Fluff blog