Wake Up The Earth Parade


This morning we attended the parade for Jamaica Plain’s annual Wake Up The Earth Festival.   The fun started at Ferris Wheels bike shop where I brought my bike for a tune-up and while there a woman dressed as a chicken came in to get air for her bike tires.  Only in JP.

The parade was great fun.  We saw puppets, stilt-walkers, cute kids in strollers, dancers, marching bands, political activists, cute kids in costumes, and yes, chickens on bicycles.  Peter picked up some good loot: a water bottle from the Mosaic School and a handmade magic wand (made from a pipette).

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One can’t get the true sense of the Wake Up The Earth Festival without sounds and action, so here are a few short videos too.

Dancing Kids:

Dancing Man on Stilts:

Marching band:

It was fun Waking Up The Earth, and we didn’t even have to give her a Box of Joe from Dunkin’ Donuts.  Now it’s time for a good nap.

PreviouslyWake Up The Earth 2009

Scary Frosty Wants You!


In Central Square,  Cambridge an angry snowman demands that you keep your sidewalks clear of snow.

I’ve actually noticed that the sidewalks in Central Square & Cambridgeport tend to be better maintained than other places in and around Boston. So this vindictive anthropomorphic mass of crystallized precipitation is doing his job. Respect his authority!

Cities with Mountains


I’m a man of extremes.  I love urban living, but when I want to get out of the city I want to get way out of the city, skipping over all those suburbs.  Ideally my best vacation spot is on a remote trail hiking up a mountain.  Too bad that the best of both worlds is hard to find – cities with mountains.  Most cities are built on a plain by a river, not mountainsides.  Boston has some nice steep hills – and once had a three-peak hill the English called Trimountain (which was later torn down) – but nothing really mountainous.  So on this hot summer day in the city I’m going to write a tribute to four cities I’ve visited that have mountains within their environs.

First up is Eugene, which technically doesn’t have a mountain but a butte, but a butte is close enough.  I hiked up the trails of Spencer Butte on a visit in 1997 and it was a lovely escape from the city with a lot of typical public park ammenities with some added elevation.  Spencer Butte tops out at 2055 feet (626 m) although oddly it felt the least “mountainous” of the four urban mountains I’ve climbed.

Here’s a view in all its black & white beauty:

To be honest I'm not sure if this photo is of Spencer Butte or from Spencer Butte, but you get the gist
To be honest I'm not sure if this photo is of Spencer Butte or from Spencer Butte, but you get the gist

The following year I visited Edinburgh, Scotland which I wrote about on the tenth anniversary of the visit.  I was awed by Arthur’s Seat which may be the most urban of mountains with the city streets and buildings going right up to its foothills.  Arthur’s Seat is only  823.5 ft (251 m) but I’m certain its elevation rises most dramatically around the surrounding territory of any of the mountains in cities I’ve seen.

Im almost fell to my death trying to make this self-portrait.
I'm almost fell to my death trying to make this self-portrait.

Montreal, Quebec is actually named for its mountain Mont Royal.  I climbed the mountain with Susan & Camille in May 1999 and a few days later rode my bike to the summit.  Mont Royal gets bonus points for being in a park landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted and a spiff cross near the summit. Mont Royal stands at 764 ft (233 m) and is the lowest of the four “mountains.”

Taking in the view of Montreal in my bright yellow bicycling jacket.
Taking in the view of Montreal in my bright yellow bicycling jacket.

Finally there is the city of Salzburg, Austria which Susan & I visited in 2003.  Located in the Alps, Salzburg is surrounded by mountains but the closest to center city is Mönchsberg.  This mountain is fortified with the ancient Hohensalzburg Fortress looming over the city but also felt the most wild, as if we may wander off into some primeval forest of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  Mönchsberg may also be the steepest of the urban mountains I’ve visited including one section of sheer rockface with monk’s cells carved in the side.   Mönchsberg is 1,771 feet (540 meters) high.

The monks' cells carved in the side of Mönchsberg.
The monks' cells carved in the side of Mönchsberg.

So have you been to a good urban mountain? Does your city have a mountain of it’s very own? Share your stories below, I need some cool thoughts for these hot days!

Old MacDonald’s Farm


I often find myself idly surfing the net and making discoveries of something from my past. Recently, I became reacquainted with Old Macdonald’s Farm, a place in Norwalk, CT that I loved to visit when I was very young.  Before being closed and replaced by a corporate office park, Old Macdonald’s Farm had:

  • an old-fashioned country-style restaurant that looked like it was in a barn with the booths decorated as stables (complete with the names of horses on plaques over the booths)
  • a candy store with lots of different types of penny-candy including every imaginable flavor of candy sticks.
  • a petting zoo with goats, sheep, cows and other farm animals.
  • a small amusement park with a train ride and other rides that appealed to small children

When it closed, I was heart-broken, especially since a covered wooden bridge was preserved to connect the very modern office park to its parking lot.  My younger self cursed the corporate suits who destroyed this little bit of Americana every time I passed and saw that bridge.  Okay, maybe not, but it was some similar emotion.

There’s not about Old Macdonald’s Farm on the web, but I found a couple of photos.  I was awestruck by how the photos look just as I remember.  The first picture is of the restaurant from a website called Cardcow which collects old postcards.

Vintage Postcards from Cardcow.com
Wow! The pot-belly stove, the rafters, the farm implements, the barrels, the checkered table cloths -- all just as I remember!


Cardcow.com

The next picture is from a photo blog called Serendipitous by a woman named Kathy Chiapetta.  The photos appear to be scanned from a 2005 Darien Times article which is not available online.  The one thing I don’t see in any of the photos is a big waterwheel that impressed me as a child.

This picture looks like it was taken well before I was born, but otherwise it's pretty much how I remembered it. I was convinced that these stalls were actually once used by horses.

Thanks for indulging me. If you have memories and pictures of Old Macdonald’s Farm please let me know.
Previous Trips Down Memory Lane:

Meme: iTunes/mp3 library


Via Wordishness

Number of Songs: 12,267
Number of Albums: 1223
Most Recently Played Song: “Run Run Away” – Slade
Most Played Song: “Wind and Rain” – Crooked Still
Most Recently Added Album: Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music – Ray Charles

First Song Alphabetically: “A-Punk” – Vampire Weekend
Last Song Alphabetically: “Zooropa” – U2
Smallest Song Numerically: “1-2-3”- Len Barry
Biggest Song Numerically: “1999″ – Prince & The Revolution

Shortest Song: “Kangaroo-SFX”- Carl Stalling (0:03)
Longest Song: “Comes A Time”- Grateful Dead (36:29)

First Album Alphabetically: Abbey Road, The Beatles
Last Album Alphabetically: Zooropa, U2
First Album Numerically: 1-2-3-4 Die, The Ramones
Last Album Numerically: 1964 Rock ‘n’ Roll Era

First Five Songs That Pop Up On Shuffle:

  1. “Low Down Man” – Squirrel Nut Zippers
  2. “You Don’t Know” – Erin McKeown
  3. “Achin’ To Be” – The Replacements
  4. “Bought For A Song” – Fountains of Wayne
  5. “When Your Heart Is Weak”– Cock Robin

Walk for Hunger 2009


It’s time again for one of my favorite events of the year, Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger. I’ll be walking with my wife Susan and son Peter.  At least one of us has participated every year since 2004.  This year will be the first time all three of us will walk together as family.  It is important to us to remember the many people who are suffering from the lack of food including families like our own with young children.

Having a child makes us realize how
important good nutrition is for the development of children like Peter. With the cost of food rising, it is getting harder and harder for low-income parents to buy good food for the kids.  Hunger affects children’s physical and mental development and perpetuates the cycle of poverty.  We believe that no child or adult deserves to go hungry.

As a result of the global economic crisis more and more people are unable to make ends meet. They are forced to go without food in order to pay their rent, utility, and medical bills. The demand for emergency food has never been greater with pantries and meal programs supported by Project Bread serving 43.4 million meals last year alone.

Here are the ways you can help:

  • Go to the Project Bread Walk for Hunger website and sponsor us for the Walk.  Donations in any amount small or large are welcome.  Together we can make a difference.
  • If you live in the Boston area, register to walk or volunteer.  If you’re already signed up, let us know as we’d love to see you on May 3rd.
  • We always welcome good thoughts, prayers, and moral support in addition to or in lieu of donations.

Project Bread helps by using the funds raised in the Walk for Hunger to support 400 emergency food programs across the state.  These include some of favorite places to volunteer like:

  • Haley House which provides meals daily to homeless men and the elderly as well as a bakery training program to promote self-sufficiency for underemployed people with barriers to employment.
  • Wednesday Night Supper Club where a hot and nutritious meal is served once a week to guests with respect anddignity.
  • Greater Boston Food Bank where food discarded by supermarkets is salvaged for stocking food pantries.

We hope you can support our fund raising and walking efforts in any way you can.
Previously:

Old South Meeting House: Behind the Scenes


This week Old South Meeting House opened it’s doors for an open house for people who work in the tourism industry to see behind the scenes in the historic church.  As a Boston By Foot guide, the offer was extended to me and a I jumped at the chance especially since it meant I’d be able to stand on the pulpit, walk around the balconies, and climb up the steeple – all off-limits to regular visitors.  That’s nirvana for the history geek.  I should note too that I’ve long found Old South to be one of Boston’s best history museums.

Behind the Scenes at Old South Meeting House photo album

The eagle atop the Simon Willard Gallery Clock has a great view of the pulpit.
The eagle atop the Simon Willard Gallery Clock has a great view of the pulpit.

Old South dates back to 1729 built on the site of a previous meetinghouse building and the congregation worshiped there until moving to Copley Square in 1872.  In addition to religious services it served as a space for large public meetings, most famously the meeting that launched the Boston Tea Party in 1773.  Old South survived abuse by British soldiers who stabled their horses inside during the Revolution and a close shave with the flames of the Great Fire of 1872.  In 1876 it become the first building in New England (and fourth in the nation) saved by a historic preservation effort.  In the past century it has continued to operate as a meeting space and a free speech zone where many dissenting opinions have been voiced over they years.

A beautiful, curving stairwell in Old South Meeting House
A beautiful, curving stairwell in Old South Meeting House

On Friday night I explored this building from bottom to top, starting with the unaffiliated bookstore in the basement.  Inside the hall of the meetinghouse, OSMH staff gathered together my fellow tourism industry folks and I and delivered a short lecture on the history and architecture of the building.  Then we were let loose to explore.  I started by going to the balcony and joining a tour of the steeple.  Inside the steeple it’s dark, dusty, and the stairways are crooked with low headway.  We went up one level to the site of the most significant library in colonial America, where Reverend Thomas Prince collected thousands of books.  Some were destroyed by the vindictive Redcoats but many still survive in the Rare Books collection at Boston Public Library.  Up a few more levels and we’re in the belfry although the bell itself long ago moved to Copley Square’s Old South Church.  Finally we reach the top.  For safety reasons we couldn’t go on the balcony but were able to peek out the door for a unique perspective on Washington Street and the surrounding skyscrapers.

Peeking through the steeple railing at Washington Street below
Peeking through the steeple railing at Washington Street below

Down below, I explored both balcony levels and the many elegant stairwells of Old South.  I also availed myself to the opportunity of taking the pulpit and pretending I am a Puritan minister preaching a 4 hour sermon from high above the congregation. All in all it was a great time and fulfilled all my history geek desires.  Thanks to Robin DeBlosi and the rest of the Old South staff for letting us come in and play.  Check out all of my pictures from last night’s event online.

Calling down fire & brimstone on the sinners in the hands of an angry God
Calling down fire & brimstone on the sinners in the hands of an angry God

If you haven’t been to Old South Meeting House or haven’t been in a long time, it’s worth checking out.  The musuem is opened daily throughout the year from 9:30-5 (April-October) and 10-4 (November-March).  Admission includes the history of the church and Tea Party, The Voices of Protest exhibit about free speech over the centuries, scavenger hunts and an audio program.  The new Patriot’s Pass offers combined admission to Old South and The Paul Revere House for just $8 adults, $2 children.