Sponsor Us for the 2016 Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon


On Sunday, June 5,  I will be riding with my 8-year-old son Peter in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon!   The Bike-A-Thon is always a fun event and it raise money for a terrific cause. This will be our fourth time participating.

Peter with his 2015 Bike-A-Thon finisher’s medal.

Based in Boston not far from where we live, Bikes Not Bombs serves two great purposes. First they collect and renovate bicycles to ship to developing communities in Central America, the Carribean and Africa. These bicycles help people meet crucial transportation needs with an easily maintained and environmentally friendly vehicle. Secondly, they help youth right here in Boston learn skills such as urban bike riding and bicycle repair that contributes to building their confidence and leadership skills. Please help us in our efforts by making a generous donation!

Here’s how you can help:

Read about our previous Bike-A-Thons in 2011, 2013, and 2015.

Scenes from the Wake Up the Earth Parade


It’s gray, cold, and misty out, but Spring arrived in Jamaica Plain with the Wake Up the Earth parade and festival.

 

Photopost: Jane Jacobs in Boston Tour


In honor of Jane Jacobs’ 100th birthday yesterday, I took a tour of the North End lead by Max Grinnell, the Urbanologist, an urban studies expert who divides his time between Boston and Chicago.  While I’ve been leading tours in the North End for more than 15 years, I learned some new things and visited places I’d not been before.  We talked about what Jacobs found successful in the North End in 1960 and what has changed in the intervening years as the neighborhood has gone remarkably upscale.  The highlight of the tour was a stop at Polcari’s Coffee where the shop owner gave a personal history of the business and the neighborhood.

If only the weather had been better, but it was worth getting soaked to the bone to celebrate Jane Jacobs and urbanism.

Patriots Day Weekend 2016


Patriots Day is my absolute favorite holiday and it’s too bad it’s not celebrated nationwide.  On Sunday we went to Fenway Park for the first time this season. Since Kay is now 4 we got a package for the whole family. She was excited and cheered a lot holding a banner from the Kid Nation booth. Kay didn’t make it past the 7th on a sunny day in the bleachers. From our perch we got to watch Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista constantly stretching, perhaps Bautista Power Yoga? We also got to see the MLB debut of Marco Hernandez at 2nd base. In his first  game with the Red Sox, Marco had a walk, a hit, a stolen base, and scored a run. Unfortunately, his more experienced teammates weren’t hitting at all with only 4 hits in the game, half of those in the 9th inning. Travis Shaw’s home run fell in the bullpen right in front of us, which was exciting, but too little too late and the Red Sox lost 5-3.

On Monday I took Peter & Kay downtown for the festivities. We were heading to a playground but passing the Public Garden the kids asked to go on the Swan Boats. It was an absolutely perfect day for getting pedaled across the lagoon. After a visit with the Ducklings, the kids went wild climbing, swinging, and spinning on the Esplanade.

They were having so much fun we missed the elite runners arriving in Back Bay (and the kids chewed me out for making them miss them). But we found a spot on Boyslton Street and joined the cheering masses. It was so loud, and inspiring!  After a lunch and another long stint of rooting for the runners, we made our long circuitous way home on the T.

Related Posts:

2016 Boston By Foot Tours


Spring is here, and it’s time to get out and explore the great city of Boston!

One of the best ways to see Boston is on a Boston By Foot walking tour.  The non-profit, educational organization is celebrating 40 years of sharing the history, architecture, and stories of Boston with tourists and locals alike.  This will be my 17th season as one of around 200 volunteer guides leading tours for Boston By Foot.

Below is the list of tours I’ve signed up to lead this season, but I encourage you to check out all our tours and an architecture cruise lead by our many brilliant guides.  If you live in the Boston area, or plan to to visit and take multiple tours, membership is the best deal!  Membership gets you free admission on all regular tours, discounts on tours of the month, and special members-only events!

April 15: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

April 29: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

May 20:  Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

May 20:  Road to Revolution – 1pm

May 20:  The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

June 3:  Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

June 3:  Road to Revolution – 1pm

June 3:  The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

June 19: Roxbury Highlands (members preview) – 2pm

June 26:  Roxbury Highlands – 2pm

July 7: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

July 14: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

July 15:  Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

July 15:  Road to Revolution – 1pm

July 21: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

July 28: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 4: The Dark Side of Boston  – 6pm

August 11: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 18: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 25: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 26:  Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

August 26:  Road to Revolution – 1pm

See you out on the streets of Boston!

Photopost: Lion Brothers Birthday


On Saturday we went to the Franklin Park Zoo to celebrate lion brothers Dinari and Kamaia’s seventh birthday. We missed the cake, but we saw the lions lounging in the sun. We also saw the newborn Nigerian Dwarf Goat, Chewbacca, and the dramatic flapping wings of a flying condor.

BPS Student Walkout


25 years ago the students, teachers, families, and alumni of my high school – a small Catholic school in Greenwich, CT – were informed that as of June 1991, the school would no longer exist. The decision was made by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport as a cost-cutting measure due to declining enrollment. In the weeks prior to the announcement the Diocese floated the idea of consolidating my high school with another school in the diocese, thus pitting one school against the other as to which one would get to stay open, as well as making other claims that made many question the Diocese’s commitment to education.

I was graduating that spring and disappointed that I effectively would have no alma mater.  The stakes were higher for students in the lower grades, especially the Juniors who would have to attend another school for their final year.  And so, these students organized a walk-out.  I don’t know how much effect this protest had on the Diocese, but I do know that a sympathetic reporter from the local newspaper covered the walk out and it was given top billing in the newspaper, above news of the Gulf War.

All this is preamble to a sense of déjà vu, I’m getting as today students from across Boston Public Schools will walk out of class today and march on the Massachusetts State House to protest the state and city government’s continued cutting of school budgets. Like the protest at my school 25 years ago, this originates completely from those effected most, the students, originating with students at Snowden International School at Copley.  And in this case the stakes are much higher:

  • This is not 1 school, but 120 schools that will be affected
  • This is not a private organization paring back their commitment to education, but the moral and legal obligation of the government to provide equitable funds and resources towards public education for every child
  • Schools are losing teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors, and other staff.
  • Classes and programs such Advance Placement courses, foreign language instruction, and physical education
  • Life-changing programs like Diploma Plus at Charlestown High School are being cut completely
  • Extra-curricular programs, sports, and enrichment programs are being slashed
  • A complete list of what will be cut is available from Krissy Cabbage: http://krissycabbage.blogspot.com/2016/03/why-bpswalkout.html

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I’m proud of the students at our high schools for taking direct action and stepping out in protest today.  Among other ways of showing support I’ve signed this online petition and encourage other Boston adults to do so as well.  I hope that our children’s voices will be heard today, and like the local newspaper did at my high school 25 years ago, the local Boston media will cover this event.

Unfortunately, there is considerable bias in the Boston media when it comes to public education as they news generally sides with the politicians and corporate “philanthropists” pushing education reforms that lead to underfunded schools and pitting schools against one another for resources.  If the media acknowledges opposition to what’s happening to our schools at all, it is to say that the Massachusetts Teachers Association is fighting for their union members. A recent Boston Globe column declared that teachers are vastly overpaid with generous time off and should considering voluntarily slashing their pay to save the school budget. Columns of this ilk are published with regularity, but the voices of teachers – real human beings with jobs include working nights, weekends & summers not faceless unions – parents, and students are rarely represented in the media.

In meetings and protests I’ve attended for Boston Public Schools in recent years, it is always the students who’ve impressed me the most.  They are eloquent in portraying the real effects of budget cuts and corporate education reform on their lives and education.  They are activists not by choice but by necessity.  They are the leaders of our movement and I hope and pray that their voices will be acknowledged before it is too late.


Update (3/8/16)

News coverage of the 3500 heroes who participated in the walkout:

Walk-In and Rally for Boston Public Schools


Yesterday morning, I was one of hundreds of Bostonians who gathered together to rally against cuts at Boston Public Schools and deliver a message to Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker to support our public schools. The Walk-In and Rally was organized by the Boston Education Justice Alliance and coincided with a national movement to oppose budget cuts and privatization efforts for public education.  You can sign the petition to stop budget cuts at MoveOn.

At Boston City Hall we heard parents, grandparents, teachers, school nurses, religious leaders, concerned citizens, and students speak about the effects of slashed budgets on our schools. As always, the students are the most inspiring and the real leaders of this cause. About half the group “walked-in” to City Hall to deliver a petition to the Mayor’s office (sadly, Walsh did not make team to speak with them). Then we marched down the streets to Massachusetts State House. I didn’t have time to join the action at the State House, but there was another rally within and presentation of a petition to the governor. Like Walsh, Baker declined to meet with his constituents. As student K’Damse McGee was quoted in the Boston Globe article, maybe he’s scared?

Below is some news coverage and then some photos I took of the event.

If there’s any coverage I missed, post a link in the comments.

Jan. 19th: Protest Cuts to Boston Public Schools


Passing word along again about the ongoing effort to protect public education in Boston by making sure that all schools are equitably provided the funding and resources to carry out the mission of educating children that underlies our democracy.

Students, parents, families, educators, and other concerned members of the community (which really could and should be everyone who lives or works in the city) are gathering to protest the most recent cuts to the budgets of Boston Public Schools at Mayor Marty Walsh’s State of the City Address at Symphony Hall.

Here are the details for meeting up:

DATE: Tuesday, January 19, 2016
TIME: 4:30pm
LOCATION:  Intersection of Westland Ave and Mass Ave Under BSO sign

Additional information about getting involved and supporting equitable public education in Boston at BPS Education Odyssey and Public School Mama.

Dress warm, bring signs, and come prepared to make the mayor and the media hear our voices.

 

Boston By Foot Walking Tour: Benjamin Franklin’s 310th Birthday


Sunday is the birthday of early American leader Benjamin Franklin,  born in Boston on January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705].  Come learn more about this Son of Boston on a Boston By Foot tour lead by knowledgeable Boston By Foot guides (including yours truly).  The tour visits sites associated with Ben Franklin’s life in Boston from his birth in a house on Milk Street until the age of 17 when he ran away from his home town after a falling-out with his older brother.  This tour is unique in that since Franklin spent much of his long life elsewhere – Philadelphia, London, and Paris for starters – the sites often offer a launch point for talking about Franklin’s varied careers in printing, science, invention, postal services, public service and as a founder of our nation.

The tour meets in the public park at the corner of Washington and School Streets by the Irish Famine Memorial and Borders Book Store.  The cost is $15 per person ($5 for Boston By Foot members) and the 90-minute walking tour departs at 2 pm on Sunday, January 17th, 2016.  Buy tickets online or pay cash in person.

Click photo to see more images of sites visited on this tour.

Official tour description:

Celebrate and learn the life of Benjamin Franklin by walking among the sites of his homes and haunts in Colonial Boston. In his day, Benjamin Franklin was America’s greatest scientist, inventor, diplomat, humorist, statesman, and entrepreneur. Ben was born in Boston, came of age in Philadelphia, and was the darling of Paris. From his many inventions, creation of civic, philanthropic, and educational institutions, to his his roles in the founding of America, his legacy is immeasurable.

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part five


On another solo visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I completed touring the Art of Europe galleries, traveling through 17th-century Dutch and Flemish, gaudy 18th-century French decorative art, 19th-century art deemed worthy by the Academy, and finally Impressionism and post-Impressionism.

Then I took the guided tour of the Art of the Americas wing, learning more about old favorites and some new surprises. I’ll probably work my way more methodically through those galleries on my next visit. Before departing I stopped in the Made in the Americas exhibition which was mostly decorative arts and textiles and seemed less interesting than similar exhibits at the Peabody Essex Museum. And I finished with the delightful Musical Instruments collection. I wish I could hear a concert on those instruments.

Previous visits:

Photopost: Giving Thanks for Nature and the Senses at Drumlin Farm


We spent the day after Thanksgiving at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary.  There were a number of art and music activities for the day to engage the senses, but the kids were content to make their usual round of visits to the farm animals, taking a hay ride, and then a hike up the Drumlin.

It was a perfect day for it!

Related Posts:

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part four


To celebrate my birthday on Wednesday, I played hooky from work and paid another visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  This time I was accompanied by my lovely wife Susan!

As aficionados of Dutch Golden Age art, we made our way first to the special exhibit Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer. The name is misleading as there is only one work by Vermeer and a handful by Rembrandt.  This is not a bad thing as a number of their contemporaries painted some excellent scenes of of 17th-century Dutch life.  Jan Steen stood out as a favorite of mine.   Art was unusually popular among all income levels in the Netherlands of that era, although not usually art as fine as that on exhibit.  The exhibit is arranged to show art depicting the upper, middle, and lower classes each within their own gallery, with a fourth gallery collecting works that show the different classes interacting. Sebastian Smee has a great review of the exhibit in today’s Boston Globe that focuses on the social effect of the exhibit.

Photography was not allowed in the exhibit, so below is a list of my favorite works in the exhibit:

If you look at these paintings on your computer, make sure to zoom in on all the tiny details. The curators on the audio guide were particularly ecstatic about the brushwork.

After finishing that exhibit, Susan picked out a small but spiffy exhibit of American ceramics from the 20th century and then we wondered among the Art of the Americas gallery where we stumbled on a few surprises.

 

Previous visits:

Photopost: Casey Overpass Demolition


The Casey Overpass is over and past. The elevated highway structure that darkened the skies over Forest Hills and divided a neighborhood (literally and figuratively) for more than 60 years is gone. I wrote several times about the multi-year process that went into the plan to remove the highway and replace it with an at-grade city street, improvements for walking, biking, and transit, and public space, but had doubts that it would ever really happen.  So when the big machinery arrived this spring and began dismantling the overpass, it was a delight to watch them in action.  Even more so was the dramatic change that occurred in the Forest Hills area as the sunlight was able to shine on the area and views of the Boston skyline and nearby wooded parkscapes opened up.

There’s a lot more work to be done to complete the Casey Arborway Project, and I expect the construction period won’t always be fun, but I look forward to the continuing transformation of Forest Hills from a place where cars just drive through, to a place where people live, work, shop, dine, and play.

Here are some photos I took over the course of the year showing the demolition.

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part three


I made my third visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to slowly explore the art collections, gallery by gallery, piece by piece. You can see my first and second trips on this blog.  On this visit I decided to focus on the Art of Europe galleries. I started out on level 1, which turned out not to always be European, nor even “art,” but the was fine. In fact I saw several wonderful exhibitions. The Kunstkammer Gallery honors the “cabinets of curiosity” that flourished in 17th century Europe and were the root of modern museums. The collections included hand-crafted automatons with videos that showed them working! Pastoral to Pop shows the rapid change in British prints and drawings over the course of the 20th century. And my favorite of all, Unfinished Stories is an absolutely delightful collection of found photographs grouped together by themes.  You’ll never look at your family snapshots the same way.

On the second level, I explored the Italian Renaissance art gallery and learned about Maiolica, the brightly colored Italian tin-glazed pottery.  I then joined a highlights tour of the Art of Europe which took us from a 12th-century Catalan chapel through the works of the Impressionists.  It was an informative hour.  I was able to return to the medieval and Renaissance galleries on my own for a more in-depth exploration, but then my time ran out, so the rest of the Art of Europe galleries on the second level await my return.

Photopost: College Football


I’m not someone you will often find at a college football game, but I got free tickets from work (full disclosure: my employer has a football team) and my son enjoys going to sporting events of any kind.  So on September 26, Peter & I made our way to Harvard Stadium to see the Crimson take on Brown.  A few years back, we saw Harvard run up the score in a torrential downpour against Holy Cross.  For this game, the weather was crisp and clear, a perfect autumn night, but Harvard still ran up the score.

I may not be a big fan of football, but I love historic sporting venues and seeing a game in Harvard Stadium is a treat (when it’s not raining).  It was also nice to be there when a lot of other fans were present for the atmosphere, including a large number of students who we first saw having a rowdy tailgate in the parking area.  Unfortunately, with the score 37-0 at halftime, most of the other spectators departed, making it feel very lonely in the cavernous stadium.  After the game, kids were invited on the field and Peter got autographs from a couple of Harvard players which was pretty cool.

Maybe I’ll do this again in another three years.