Monday, August 31, 2009

Mission Church | Rox . 4

The Mission Church, the twin spires seen in the distance looking downhill through the trees and triple deckers just below the summit of Mission Hill. The Mission hosted Teddy Kennedy's memorial service this past rainy Saturday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 26 | Garden . 1

Spent the day in the Roofscape's garden in the Fenway getting ready for - although I'm in denial about this - the fall. Fall! Where did the summer go? Well it was here today, the temperature grazing 90° in the heat of the day.

Cloudless with just some high thin overcast, haze hovering over the river, fitful westerly breezes. Crickets in a high, fast chorus with ranks of lower, slower singers; cicadas rising, swelling and fading away against this steady soundscape. A horn heard in the distance across the water practicing in Mother's Rest. A tune I couldn't place, but for once it wasn't Ride of the Valkyries. Bees and wasps buzzing in the flowering mint. Dragonflies the size of your hand beating their impossibly gossamer wings. Birds calling as they glean the grapes newly ripened, many gone straight to raisins, on the vines. Reeds bowing and raising back up in waves. A slight sound of surf. The city far away.

Grooming the garden. Pulling out the summer stuff as it fades and planting the cool weather crops. Often these are the same, but after a summer of production the collards, for example, need renewal. And there's always new lettuce to plant. Most of these will go until they disappear under the snow. The frost brings out their sweetness. Spinach, collards and kale kissed by the frost are utterly different animals, well plants; sweet, round and rich. Something no supermarket will ever supply. You have to grow your own to taste something that good.

The fern brake is weary too, looking sunburned and droopy. I cut them back to the ground and they soon return looking fresh and rested, a bright vernal green that lasts through the more moderate late summer weather. The other reason this year is to finally dig out the rampant multiflora rose which has ressurected in their midst. Maybe. I could feel the shovel about to snap going up against those though roots. The canes bit and lashed against me in protest. We left it at a draw, both wounded, but I was the one retired from the field of battle.

Indeed many weeds. Everywhere but thin air. The three composters are piled high, bulging and groaning. With more to come. I'll shovel out the finished compost from the bottom, then jump on their tops and water them down. Some people don't compost weeds - but if they don't, what then do they compost? A weed being just another word for a very successful plant. Off with their heads and onto the pile.

A quiet day - Peter and Charles the only neighbors, late in the afternoon. Charles said that there were over 40 recent break-ins. A squad car was parked in the middle of the field behind the reeds along the river - all day (unprecedented), relieved later by an unmarked Crown Vic. He thinks that this is retaliation. The reeds were cut down right to the water (apparently by mistake), almost eliminating the open air sex and drug rooms that they harbored. And their denizens are not happy campers.

My wonderful day ended on that note. Had a pad thai and pedaled back home as the shadows fell.

Image ... Geese flying over the Fens.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Old Blake House | Dot . 9

Dorchester was settled in May 1630, one month before the founding of Boston. Over 200 years later Boston would come to annex it as the railroads began to link the city to the still largely rural farming town creating one of America's first commuter suburbs. The original settlement was in Allen's Plain near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Columbia Road. Today, the oldest house in Boston still stands there, the Old Blake House built in 1648, 361 years old.

The second oldest Boston house is also in Dorchester, the Pierce House on Oakton Avenue, dating from 1683 and recently (2003, very recently given its age of 326 years) carefully restored. The Blake and Pierce are also two of the five oldest houses extant in New England and Dot (as Dorchester is known) also lovingly preserves more than a dozen other pre-Revolutionary residenses.

Image ... The Old Blake House. From a postcard, circa 1905.

Thunder | Go Figure! . 1

Last night I awoke to the sound of thunder. How far off I sat and wondered? ... Night Moves, by Bob Seger.

The question as posed by Mr. Seger is an idle late night musing about time and memory, but sometimes the answer to how far off? can be an immediate matter of life or death. Lightning can be lethal and we need to know how close it is and/or if it's moving our way. The answer involves counting and a calculation.

You'll recall that we first see the lightning and then - sooner or later - hear the thunder. That time difference - shorter or longer - tells us the distance of the storm - closer or further away - from us.

Light, the visible part of lightning bolts, zips by at a brisk 186,000 miles per second. But sound, the thunder from lightning, pokes along at a mere mile or so every 5 seconds. Given that speed difference, a factor of almost a million, we can assume for our purposes that the speed of light is instantaneous.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Warren Avenue | South End . 2

The palette of the South End is brick, iron, stone, wood and the shifting shadows cast over everything by the thousands of trees lining the streets, flanking the secret alleyways and privately surrounding backyards like watchful sentinels.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Stars | Oh Snap! . 7

These are ... well they must have a name, but I don't know what it is. They're used in conjunction with iron reinforcing rods to hold brick buildings together when the walls begin to bulge outward. Joanne is collecting them for their decorative rather than practical value is my guess. But you never know.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Martha's Gallery | The Hill . 1

Don and Martha Bailey had a lush Italian-style rooftop garden overlooking Cedar Lane Way on Beacon Hill in Boston. It was filled with flowers, shrubs and bamboo groves, bordered with tangles of grape and ivy vines, and showcased their extensive collection of sculpture, fountains and other objects d'arte / trouve from their extensive travels in Italy. We had many happy times out there in that most pleasant of places. Martha later converted the roofhouse into a gallery for her indoor stuff, primarily paintings and prints. This photograph was taken just after it was finished but before the art was installed. Then it was just a museum for shadows.

Banned in Boston . 2 | Boston News-Letter . 4

... continued from August 10.

If Mr. Clemens cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses, he had better stop writing for them.

Louisa May Alcott on Huckleberry Finn. Twain quipped that her comment would boost his sales by 25,000 copies.

Watch and Ward was anachronistically named after the old English quasi-police forces mandated with maintaining law and order, but such groups were neither new to the city nor unique to Boston. Vigilance committees - unofficial groups of citizens concerned with monitoring and controlling certain aspects of public behavior and welfare - were a tradition stretching back to the first settlers.

In the works ...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Circles | Oh snap! . 6

Circles. Back Bay, Boston.

Diana | Twitpic . 9

Diana Cardona, Miami.
Comment: WOW ii l00k GR0WN iN DiZ PiK lol.

Twitpic is our current favorite picked from the public timeline of Twitpic, the new site hosting images for Twitter.

Malcolm's Aunt Ella | Beans About Boston . 5

Then play on! | Thought . 3

... it appears probable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm.

The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin, 1871.

Wind Chimes | On the Cover . 5

Wind Chimes. The South End, Boston. On the cover: August 15, 2009.

This is a view into a backyard garden in Boston's South End. It's along the alleyway that paralells the East Berkeley Street Community Gardens, just off Shawmut Avenue.

Part of the garden still exists but not this. The giant phallus, which was topped with a swinging bell sounded by pulling on a cord, and the wind chimes suspended from the surrounding willow trees are now all gone. What music they must have made together. Absent also is a very well-endowed David who held court below to ranked choirs of angels, saints, cherubs, skunks and songbirds. Some of their much-thinned and expurgated ranks still soldier on announcing the good news that god's in his heaven and all's still very strange with the world.

The story I heard when I first saw this minor masterpiece in the 70's with Sasha, who taught art at the South End Children's Art Center, is that this was the work of a blind sculptor. If so, I see. The front of the house, which is also vibrantly decorated and still mostly intact, is also well worth a visit.

Fortune Teller's Shop | South End . 1

View into a fortune teller's shop on Tremont Street.

Jupiter | Starscape . 1

Jupiter unmistakably rules the nightime skies in August. This gas giant - composed mainly of hydrogen but with a mass 2-1/2 times that of all the other planets combined - makes its closest approach to earth and burns its brightest on the 14th. It reaches its highest ascent in the heavens around midnight, glowing large and slightly orangish almost due south with little competition from the waning moon which will be new on the 20th.

Sky chart courtesy of Stellarium. South and the line of the horizon is at the bottom of the chart. Photo of Jupiter, to the left, is an EOS infrared telescopic image.

Perpetual Care | Dot . 6

The maintenance house of the Upham's Corner burying ground.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tony - Shanghaied with the Blues | Soundscape . 1

Got an email from my buddy Tony Curtis Hall this morning - from Shanghai! I'd been wondering where he was at. I usually run into him off and on over by Berklee (College of Music), an area that seems to be our common stomping ground, but I hadn't seen him in months. That's Tony, above, seriously addressing his drums during a live gig at Lucky's Lounge in Boston a few years ago.

Turns out that he and the Greg Luttrell Band have been playing a summer-long residency as the house band at the House of Blues and Jazz in Shanghai, China from May to September, 6 days a week. Now I know Tony from his tenure with Greg in Blacksnake, a kick-ass band that played the entire spectrum of music, covers and originals, all expertly. For the HOB gig they've focused on the blues - from different eras and styles - a wild ride through Delta, Chicago, Jump and Modern blues. Below is a video sampler from their Shanghai shows.

The delta that they're rocking now is at the mouth of the Yangtze River, in one of the world's most populous metropolitan areas (20 million). Hopefully they'll return to rock the delta of the Charles once more in our provincial capitol (4.5 M). When they do - either as Blacksnake of the Greg Luttrell Band - be there. I can't imagine how fierce they must be after playing on stage every night in one place for three months. It should be like the Beatles returning from Hamburg. Tony's a soulful singer too, check him out at Radio Roofscape singing Teach Me live.

Big Brother is Watching You | Rox , 3

Big Brother is Watching You. Roxbury, Mass.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Banned in Boston . 1 | Boston News-Letter . 3

There is a city in our world upon which the light of the sun of righteousness has risen. There is a sun which beams in its full meridian splendour upon it. Its influences are quickening and invigorating the souls which dwell within it. It is the same from which every pure stream of thought and purpose and performance emanates. It is the city that is set on high. "It cannot be hid." It is Boston. The morality of Boston is more pure than that of any other city in America. Bronson Alcott, 1828.

Banned in Boston sounds like a quaint phrase from the distant past. Today it's hard to imagine anything being banned in Boston, or almost anywhere else in America for that matter. But that past is none too distant and still alive in the memories of many older residents in the Puritan city on a hill.

For nearly a century - roughly from Walt Whitman to William Burroughs - the morality of Boston, the purest in America according to Bronson Alcott, was closely monitored and censorship imposed by a private society known as the Watch and Ward. The name was adopted from an English institution rooted in the Middle Ages, that of citizen police forces charged to watch for and ward off miscreants.

Image ... Bullseye Glass, the North End.

Continues on August 22 ...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rewarding Bad Actors | New York Times . 3

Cheeck out the current article in today's (August 3) Times by Paul Krugman. And read some of the (current) 350 responses. The outrage he speaks of is certainly out there.

Americans are angry at Wall Street, and rightly so. First the financial industry plunged us into economic crisis, then it was bailed out at taxpayer expense. And now, with the economy still deeply depressed, the industry is paying itself gigantic bonuses. If you aren’t outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.

But crashing the economy and fleecing the taxpayer aren’t Wall Street’s only sins. Even before the crisis and the bailouts, many financial-industry high-fliers made fortunes through activities that were worthless if not destructive from a social point of view.

Curiously he doesn't seem to really cut to the chase, but the readers don't beat around the bush or mince words.

Continues here ...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cityscape . 2

Rooftop Farms.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Kiwis | Oh snap! . 5

Kiwis, a self-portrait by KS, edited by SB. Boston.

Raccoons | Wild Lives . 1

The raccoons are back. And not scrawny, skimpy specimens like the one above captured from Wikipedia. Big, fat, lumbering coons.

I knew they were around and was just waiting to see a bandit mask in my window around 3 AM. Raccoons are nocturnal of course and the one's in our neighborhood, being city slickers, seem to favor particularly late night hours for visiting. After all the trash cans close perhaps.

Anyway, I knew they were around because raccoons sing, although that may be a kind assessment of their vocal abilities. In any case, they vocalize, as the shriek of hawks is described in bird books. They speak, and often they seem to have lots to say. They say a lot anyway.

How would you describe it? Well the first time I heard them I was absolutely nonplussed and had no idea what I was hearing. It sounded like an unleashed symphony of jungle fauna, from monkeys to macaws with a blues-like call and response thing happening back and forth across the yard. Later that night they were sitting and chattering in the grape vine that runs up the side of the building, stuffing their fat faces as fast as they could and I figured it out.

Coons, first described by Christopher Columbus, are now successful urban strivers much like Canada Geese and Red-tailed Hawks. They are co-dependants of our ecological niche and one of the most versatile animals in their food tastes and shopping habits. Although reportedly fastidious in washing food stuffs, essentially they'll eat anything that moves - or doesn't. The dictionary definition of omniverous has a raccoon face next to it - or surely should.

My favorite raccoon story goes as follows. I got a call from a client - back when I was a designer and builder - about a foul liquid pouring in through and collapsing their kitchen ceiling. Inspection below the roof deck above revealed that a coon had made the spot his bathroom and, being a careful creature as mentioned, tried to bury the poop by scraping his sharp claws through the rubber roof.

... To be continued.

Launch | Roofscape Reflections . 1

Today is our official launch. But there will be no big party, fanfare or champagne breaking over the bow. In fact, I feel it's a time for some quiet reflection. Which I'd like to share, if you'll indulge me. To look back on where we've come from and and perhaps see where we might be headed.

Our soft launch, or rather re-launch as I'll explain, was on June 1. To me that feels like years ago, so much has happened so fast. At last.

I began working on Roofscape roughly ten years ago in 1999. This is also the time, I'd like to note, that Shoestring Magazine got its start, so I don't feel like such a total loser for taking so long to get things together. We've been through every imaginable up and down - and a lot of it down.

Our first launch was on New Years Eve, December 31, 1999 at 12:00 mindnight at Boston's First Night celebrations, the culmination of about a year of work. Here's how it happened.

Through the grace of a wonderful client, Ronni Casty, I had a little rooftop office on Beacon Hill overlooking the Fiedler Footbridge (spanning Storrow Drive to the Hatch Shell) and up the Charles River. It was probably about 36 square feet, but the roof must have been about 2,000 square feet, over part of which I built a deck.

I used to sit out there staring over all the rooftops and think ... there's a whole other city up above the city and it's mostly empty. As a designer and builder, one of my favorite projects had always been roof decks and gardens, so I decided to write a book about developing and settling this demanding environment to be called Roofscape. Except the Web intervened and I immediately knew that's where I wanted to be.

The original concept was Roofscape - the magazine of rooftop living. But I was pitching the project to Ronni one day over coffee at Panificio and she said, I like it, but it's kind of limited. See if you can open up the idea. Great advice, thanks girl!

Anyway, we got taken down in the great Web wipeout early in the century, came back and got slammed again, this time by being diverted from our main mission and getting involved with music - as if I shouldn't have known better. Thanks Brian!

Meanwhile, I moved to Dorchester, started a new business - designing and building again, this time in the South End - and got a life beyond sleeping on friends' floors to get this thing going. And that consumed two years of doing nothing but thinking. Which wasn't all bad, but way too long. And here we are ... again. Which is where?

Well, an absolutely gorgeous first day of August on a Saturday in the city on a hill for starters. That alone is reason to rejoice. Plus the raccoons visited late last night, someone's moving the lawn with the push mover (probably Freddie), dogs are barking and church bells ringing. But tommorow?

... To be continued.

Image ... Snowhill Street. The North End, Boston.

Sox, Skip, Songs | Boston News-Letter . 2

Somehow the news out of Boston just keeps getting worse. At this rate we may all get invited to the White House for beers and Kumbaya.

The Sox, sure it's disappointing. But did you think Big Papi got that big by showering in Miracle Gro? They've all been juicing. And no doubt still are. Drugs in sports is like slime on fishes, it will never go away and always be slippery. Money talks and BS walks the bases.

Now that B.U. physics student who has to pay $675,000 for downloading what ... Nirvana and Beck? Please, the poor kid should have gotten paid. Naturally this will be tossed out on appeal. For better or worse the nature of the Web is that it's for free and the greatest exposure that artists (using that term loosely) have ever had. Go play out and stop whining - or for the bands cited above just get up on stage and start whining some more.