Massachusetts & Me: Two Decades Together


20 years ago today I drove a rental truck down the narrow streets of Winter Hill in Somerville and officially became a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Nine years later almost to the day, I moved to Boston proper in my present home in Jamaica Plain.  20 years is by far the most time I’ve resided in any state (compared with 15 years in Connecticut, 7 years in Virginia, and 2 years in New Jersey), and close to half of my life.

Living in Massachusetts this long means making many friends, some of whom have moved on to other states, and then meeting new, interesting people.  I’ve developed annual traditions, found favorite restaurants (sadly, many of which have closed), gone to tons of concerts and sporting events, visited museums and historic sites, participated in protests and celebrations, and settled into comfortable routines.  And yet there’s so much more to see and do and explore.

It’s all gone by so quickly, so let’s look back at some of the highlights of my 20 years in the Bay State:

1998-2000 – I work sundry temp jobs at GTE, Genzyme, and MIT, and also spend some time unemployed. FUN!

1999-present – began commuting around Boston & environs by bicycle, and while I don’t ride nearly as much as I used to, it’s still a great way to get around the city.

1999 & 2000 – Participated in the Boston –> New York AIDSRide

1999-2006 – Not really in Massachusetts, but living in day trip distance of New Hampshire’s White Mountains meant I could do a lot of hikes of 4000 foot peaks.

2000 – Started working at a library, where I’m still working 3 job changes, 7 offices, and 12 supervisors later.

2000 – Begin leading historical walking tours as a guide for Boston By Foot.

2001-2013 – Participate in a wonderful church community at the Paulist Center in downtown Boston.

2002-2004 – Studied for my Masters in Library and Information Science at the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

2004 – Witnessed the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years.

2005 – Married Susan!

2007 – Saw the Red Sox win the World Series again.

2007 – Peter Born!

2008 – Spend a couple of weeks suffering from crippling sciatica and missing work. :(

2009 – I performed in the annual Christmas Revels show.  I even sang a solo!

2010-2011 – I write and lead a new tour for Boston By Foot for the Avenue of the Arts.

2011 – Kay Born!

2011-2012 – I create and lead another Boston By Foot Tour in Somerville’s Davis Square.

2012 – 2013 – Sang in a family chorus in JP.

2012-present – Our kids attend a wonderful Boston Public School and we get to meet lots of cool teachers, kids, and parents (and become public education activists).

2013 – sang as part of a 50-voice choir in Somerville Theatre bringing the music of Beck to life with burlesque dancers.

2013 – Horrified by the Boston Marathon bombing but touched by the many people who helped save lives and the spirit of the community in the ensuing days.

2013-present – Our kids play in the wonderful Regan Youth League

2013-present – become active in another fantastic church community closer to home, Hope Central.

2013 – Watched the Red Sox win yet another World Series, this time with a 5-year-old superfan

2014-2015 – I write and lead yet another new tour for Boston By Foot of Cambridge Common

2015 – Four consecutive blizzards in a matter of weeks bury Boston in a 108″ of snow.

2017-2018 – Yet again, I’m involved in creating a new tour for Boston By Foot, this time of the SoWa District.

Advertisements

Performing Arts Review: Pippin


Show: Pippin
Venue: Footlight Club
Date: September 21, 2018

Taking a Friday night date night performance of Pippin at the Footlight Club in Jamaica Plain fulfilled two long-term goals.  First, after eleven years living in Jamaica Plain, we finally made it to a show at the Footlight Club, a lovely and historic playhouse.  Second, I’ve liked the music from Pippin – especially the song “Corner of the Sky” – for a long time, but I’d never seen it performed.

I had a vague understanding that this musical was about Pippin, the son of King Charlemagne, and his involvement with a troop of players.  Vague is more accurate than I realized. Pippin, Charlemagne, and the other characters share the names with historical figures, but otherwise have no historical parallels.  In fact, the show is designed to remind the audience that what we’re seeing is an artifice, a performance but on by a troop of players (who are performed by our real live actors).

The basic plot is young Pippin’s yearning to find meaning to his existence.  In the first act he joins his father’s army, experiments with meaningless sexual encounters, and plots a revolution to overthrow is father’s tyranny.  In the second act, he falls into despair and is restored to health by the widow Catherine, who owns a large farm.  While Pippin does not enjoy the daily routine of manual labor, he falls in love with Catherine and grows fond of her son, Theo.  The finale features Pippin deciding between the temptation of the Leading Player’s “perfect” but self-destructive act, or a quiet life with Catherine and Theo. It’s a much darker play than I imagined, and the music and the humor balances a sometimes cynical, sometimes sarcastic critique of the human condition.

The Footlight Club cast is absolutely wonderful. Andrea Giangreco needs to be singled-out for her performance as the Leading Player which she filled with exuberance and joy, cleverly uncovering the character’s manipulative and cruel side over the course of the play.  Mary O’Donnell’s performance as Pippin’s grandmother Berthe provided the standout musical number of “No Time at All.” Not only was O’Donnell’s singing humorous and heartwarming, but the ensemble helped the audience participate by displaying the lyrics to the chorus through a remarkable trick of opening trunks and suitcases.  I can’t imagine how long they rehearsed that!  The Bob Fosse choreography screams FOSSE, but it’s still awe-inspiring.

If you’re in or near JP, make your way to the Footlight Club to see Pippin before it closes on September 29th.

2018 Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon #BAT2018


On Sunday, June 10th, my daughter Kay (a.k.a. “The Toothless Wonder”) and I rode in the Bikes Not Bombs 31st Annual Bike-A-Thon.  The ride helps raise funds for Bikes Not Bombs’ social justice programs in Boston and abroad.

We met our goal for fundraising (including for my son Peter who was not able to participate), but Bikes Not Bombs is still accepting donations if you wish to contribute.

It was a beautiful day to ride, and except for the steep uphills right at the beginning, it was a terrific ride.

 

Read about our previous Bike-A-Thons in 2011, 201320152016, and 2017.

Sponsor Us for the 2018 Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon #BAT2018


It’s once again time to get back in the saddle for one of my favorite events of the year, the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon.

Bikes Not Bombs is a social justice organization based in Jamaica Plain, MA not far from where I live. Their goal is to use the bicycle as a vehicle for social change.  The accomplish this mission by:

  • collecting and renovating bicycles to ship to developing communities in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa. These bicycles help people meet crucial transportation needs with an easily maintained and environmentally friendly vehicle.
  • help Boston youth develop confidence and leadership skills through programs focusing on urban bicycle riding and bicycle repair.

I routinely get my bike repaired and by bicycle supplies at the Bikes Not Bombs shop in Jamaica Plain, and I’m always impressed by the positive impact they have in the community.  Especially when I see young people out on their Boston By Foot group rides.

Here’s how you can help:

This is our sixth time participating.  Read about our previous Bike-A-Thons in 2011, 201320152016, and 2017.

Podcasts of the Week for Two Weeks Ending May 19


I’m not doing well at getting these podcast recommendations up every week, but here’s a good crop of podcast for your listening pleasure.

HUB History :: The Battle of Jamaica Plain

There was a gang shootout right here in my own neighborhood over a 100 years ago that had international implications and ended up involving Winston Churchill, and I’d never heard of it?!?

Hidden Brain :: Baby Talk: Decoding the Secret Language of Babies

It’s been a long while since I’ve had a nice chat with a baby.

Planet Money :: The Land of Duty Free

The mass quantities of liquor, cigarettes, chocolate, and perfume sold in airports has always fascinated/perplexed me.  Here’s the story of how the duty free shop got started at Shannon Airport in Ireland.  It also confirms my suspicions that duty free shop purchases aren’t really bargains.

LeVar Burton Reads :: “As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders

A live performance of LeVar Burton reading a hillarious/poignant story about a worldwide apocalypse, a genie in a bottle, theater criticism,  and the nature of wishes, complete with an interview with the author

BackStory :: Shock of the New

The history of World’s Fairs fascinates me and this episode commemorates the 125th anniversary of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, with special focus on women’s and African American perspectives on the fair.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Cherokee Story Slam

The stories and life of the talented Robert Lewis.

More or Less: Behind the Stats :: Tulipmania mythology

The Dutch tulip bubble always makes a good story about economics and finance, but the truth of the story is not as dramatic as the myths, albeit more interesting in many ways.

 

Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon 2017 #BAT2017


Once again I enjoyed riding the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon with my kids, Kay and Peter. We rode the family-friendly 10 mile route through Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Brookline.  It felt like the hills were steeper this year, but more likely I’m out of practice, and I borrowed a trailer to carry Kay so that was some extra weight.

Riders, volunteers, and sponsors raised $176,253 for all the good things Bikes Not Bombs does in Boston and international programs in  Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.  You can still contribute by sponsoring us!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Previous Bike-A-Thon’s: 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Sponsor Us for the 2017 Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon


On Sunday, June 4,  I will be riding with my kids Kay and 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 fifth time participating.

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, 20132015, and 2016.

 

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: I is for Instructions #atozchallenge


I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge through all of April 2017. Every day (except Sundays), I will be posting a new, original photograph (or photographs) related to the letter of the alphabet.

The letter “I” is for “Instructions:”

 

I did.

How does this photo make you feel? Does it tell a story? What technical suggestions would you offer for improving the photograph?

Let me know in the comments!

Boston By Foot Jamaica Plain Walking Tour 7/21 @ 6 PM


Next week, Thursday July 21 at 6 pm, I will be one of the guides leading the Boston By Foot walking tour of Jamaica Plain. Yes, two of my favorite things – historic walking tours of Boston and my home neighborhood – will come together for ONE NIGHT ONLY!

Regular readers of this blog will remember the Jamaica Plain A to Z experiment, and many sites mentioned in the A to Z will be on the tour.  Here is the full description of the tour.

Jamaica Plain is one of the smaller neighborhoods of Boston, with an unusually big history. JP (as it usually called by locals) encompasses only 3.07 square miles but offers a tremendously rich and varied narrative.

Settled by Puritans in the 1630s and attracting wealthy Bostonians to build summer estates on the Jamaica Pond in the 18th century, JP was transformed in the 19th century by transportation. It became a “streetcar suburb” and earned the nickname “The Eden of America.”

Come along to see one of the oldest houses in Jamaica Plain used as a military hospital at the start of the American Revolution, a selection of very impressive Victorian houses, and part of the Emerald Necklace park system.

On this walking tour you will discover why Jamaica Plain is so well-loved by its residents.

Here is the remainder of my 2016 schedule.  I don’t expect to be adding any other tours this year, so if you want to see me, make sure to come out for one of these tours!

July 14: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

July 15:  Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

July 15:  Road to Revolution – 1pm

July 21:  Jamaica Plain – 6pm

July 28: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 4: The Dark Side of Boston  – 6pm

August 5: Boston by Little Feet – 10 am

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

September 9: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

September 26: Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

September 27: Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

September 28: Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

September 30: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

October 14: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

October 28:  The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

November 11: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm