Oct 31, 2007
These days, my schedule doesn’t give me much time for dog-walks here in Keene. On Fridays through Mondays, Reggie and I walk in Newton, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I teach all day at Keene State. So Wednesday has become my default Walking Day, my one weekly chance to take a leisurely look at Keene on foot.
Inspired by Leslee’s Halloween post, today I set out to snap something appropriately seasonal. The homes in Newton have been decked with skeletons, mock tombstones, and witches for weeks, but for some reason I haven’t taken any pictures; it must be my lingering reticence to take pictures of other people’s lives.
This morning here in Keene, I didn’t find much that struck me as photo-worthy. Yes, there’s a funny Red-Sox-loving scarecrow on Water Street, and yes, downtown merchants have the usual pumpkins and black-hatted mannequins in their windows. But Halloween in Keene has always felt anticlimactic compared to the annual Pumpkin Festival that happens a week earlier; how can an occasional pumpkin or black cat compare with more than 20,000 lit jack-o’-lanterns? This year, for the first time since 2003, I missed the Pumpkin Festival by going to a Bruins game, so I’ve been feeling photographically deprived, my usually brimming October photo-archive feeling thin instead.
This morning as Reggie and I took our Wednesday walkabout, nothing jumped up and grabbed me; nothing screamed “photograph me, I’m worthy!” And then I saw the first of the morning’s alien eyes.
I suppose it’s appropriate I’d see on Halloween several examples of the gleaming, X-shaped window reflections I call “alien eyes.” If aliens have indeed descended to shine their intelligent eyes on earthlings, what better day to start one’s extraterrestrial investigation than a day devoted to the odd and unusual?
Whereas in the past, I’ve seen alien eyes only on the sides of commercial buildings, this morning I saw examples on a handful of residential homes on Marlboro Street: a pretty plain Jane destination to travel across the universe for.
Of course, the whole message of alien eyes–if said aliens came to this galaxy to impart a lesson–is that the supernatural nests in the natural just as the extraordinary imbues the ordinary. After seeing the first of this morning’s alien eyes downtown, I was on the lookout for them closer to home; after seeing the first one on a plain-sided house, I quickly spotted another across the street, then another next door.
This afternoon on the way from the laundromat to the post office and then gas station–this afternoon, in other words, on my way from one chore to another–I saw two witches, a wizard, a bride, and a couple of cats-in-the-hat strolling downtown streets. Wednesday is my one day for walking Keene streets, and Halloween is our one day for walking with the weird. The lesson of alien eyes, like that of Halloween, is that there is magic among us if only we have eyes to see.
Oct 28, 2007
You might remember me mentioning that Red Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek lives in Waban, the village of Newton, Massachusetts where I spend my long weekends. Although the fan-edited sign that re-named Varick Street “Varitek Street” is now gone, Varitek’s fans and neighbors here in Waban have transformed the Beacon Street bridge over the T tracks into a sort of shrine covered with encouraging signs. Whether or not the Sox sweep the Rockies in tonight’s World Series game, we know that Tek will be in his usual place behind the plate earning his stripes as the captain, and his fans here in Newton (yours truly included) will scream ourselves hoarse in the meantime.
Elsewhere in Waban, Red Sox Mania is reflected in the breakfast specials at Barry’s Village Deli, where this morning I did my loyal duty by ordering an optimistically named “World Series Winner Special”: two eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, and two slices of challah French toast.
Call me superstitious, but I’m a big believer in Wishful Eating, especially in a deli where the walls are covered with Red Sox and Patriots memorabilia, and one of our regular waitresses was wearing (of course) a Jason Varitek T-shirt. With signs and omens like these, things are looking good for our beloved Sox…fingers crossed.
Click here for a photo set of the Jason Varitek/Boston Red Sox fan signs on the Beacon Street bridge.
Oct 26, 2007
Even a bustling college campus has its quiet moments. This one is my contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, Silence. Enjoy!
Oct 23, 2007
This past weekend was sunny, so the trees glowed as if someone had turned them on with a switch.
Leslee has blogged the TVs of others, and Maria has blogged others’ dreams. On a weekend when many New Englanders headed to New Hampshire to peep northern leaves, I was considering the leaves of others in Massachusetts: the neon flashes of foliage seen during my routine weekend morning dog-walks in Newton.
I’ve spend spending my weekends in Newton for several months now, and I’m still not comfortable taking photos of the residential neighborhoods there. In Keene, I’ve been snapping impertinent pictures for over three years, so my neighbors have grown accustomed to that crazy woman who walks her dog with a camera. In Keene, I have no qualms about walking into the middle of a quiet residential street, crouching on my hams, and shooting whatever strikes my fancy; if someone were to question my odd behavior, I’d simply respond that I live here. For good or ill, I haven’t attained that level of comfort in Newton. Although these days I spend more time in Newton than I do in Keene, I still don’t feel like I live there. My mailing address remains in Keene, as do most of my belongings, and Keene is where I pay my own rent, utilities, and other necessities of “Real Life.”
In Newton, I still feel like an interloper, as if at any moment the Propriety Police will come upon me unannounced and escort me from the place: “I’m sorry, but your kind isn’t welcome here.” I’m not sure where or why I’ve gotten this impression: it’s not as if anyone in Newton or elsewhere in Massachusetts has ever treated me like an unwelcome outsider. Perhaps my unease stems from my earliest days in New England, when I was a fresh-faced graduate student at Boston College and couldn’t afford to live in Chestnut Hill, the tony Newton neighborhood near campus. I still can’t afford to live in Newton, even more than a decade (and a completed PhD) later. Profs and professionals abound in Newton, which boasts an inordinate concentration of people with PhDs…and yet when I walk the streets there, I’m acutely aware that my adjunct instructor’s paycheck does not reflect my academic credentials. Although I really am a doctor, I typically feel like I only play one in academe. In a lush and leafy neighborhood where people drive nice cars, live in even nicer homes, and enjoy other accoutrements of financial success, at times I feel like I’m only playing house.
When I first began teaching as a graduate student at Boston College, back when I lived a long subway-ride away in relatively affordable, working-class Malden, my grad student colleagues and I used to discuss our lingering sense of fraudulence. Standing in front of a classroom of freshmen, we felt we were faking it, our knowledge only diploma-deep. Surely if the Real Professors in our midst could detect phoniness like a stench in the breeze, they’d sniff us out for sure. When would our freshmen, we wondered amongst ourselves, figure out that we were clueless students just like they were, only a couple years’ older?
More than a decade (and a completed PhD) later, I still feel like a fraudulent faker: I somehow feel it’s only a matter of time before some intrepid Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals my show as sham. Walking the streets of a lush suburb populated by the Settled and Successful, I feel more like the clueless graduate student I was than the presumed professional I’ve become. At what point, I wonder, will someone figure out I don’t belong in Newton but am simply faking it?
Newton, like other surrounding suburbs, is a bedroom community for Boston, and I’m mindful that most folks don’t like strangers snapping pictures in their bedrooms. On Sunday when I snapped these shots of the turning leaves and neighboring houses I regularly see when I walk Reggie there, I did so semi-surreptitiously. It felt weird to be ogling other people’s leaves, as if leaf-peeping and window-peeping share more than a common gerund. Would people mind if I shot images of “their” houses even if I did so from the public space of a city sidewalk? Would homeowners be rightfully protective of “their” trees? Emerson claimed that poets are the only ones who own the landscape, for “There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts.” But still, the citizens of Newton pay a pretty penny for the privacy their abundantly leafy trees afford; isn’t it somehow criminal–or at least morally suspect–to intrude?
Faced with the ethical question to shoot or not to shoot, I chose the former. Given the number of visiting Massachusetts leaf-peepers I’ve shared New Hampshire roads with over the years, it seemed fitting to return the compliment. There’s plenty of landscape, I think, to satisfy poets, profs, and professionals alike, at least from the suburban safety of Newton’s streets and sidewalks. If we can share the road, presumably we can share the gleaming autumn leaves that right now are screening our sky.
Click here for a photo-set of images from Sunday’s dog-walk. Enjoy!
Oct 22, 2007
Here’s hoping the kids at the John W. McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, MA have reason to update their playground billboards. (They could do us all a favor by painting over Johnny Damon with a portrait of Dustin Pedroia, for starters.)
I think NH blogger Amy Kane summed up the morning-after mood in Red Sox nation nicely in her post “Papi ate my homework“:
So we won and here we go again. Red Sox Nation (dark green, on this map, plus Japan) will effectively secede from the union for the next week and a half, all because of some guys who play a sport in their pajamas, have weird hair, and spit a lot.
We will be overexcited and overtired. We will get less done. We will pay little attention to national and local news. We will ignore politics. We will be poor citizens. Meetings will end early. Term papers and newspaper articles will be turned in late. Test scores will drop. There will be less charity and volunteering. On sidelines and in auditoriums parents will be tuned into small high tech devices rather than the strivings of their kids.
Production will be down! Emotions will be up! And oceans of cheap beer will be quaffed! (With fistfuls of Halloween candy.)
Amen to that second paragraph particularly! In the middle of an overloaded semester, I already feel “overexcited and overtired”; I’ve already been ignoring politics along with national and local news. Now that the Red Sox have clambered their way out of the almost-eliminated hole they’d allowed the Cleveland Indians to dig for them, I have an excuse for my grading backlog. How can I keep up with grading, for heaven’s sake, when the Red Sox are heading to the World Series?
In Newton, I watch baseball games on an enormous HDTV; in Keene, I have a tiny TV that doesn’t get any channels other than E! Although I’ll miss Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday, I’ll be in Newton for Games 2, 3, and 4…and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to catch the remaining games should they be necessary, even if that means getting up at the crack of dawn on the morning after a game to drive back to Keene for my 8am class.
A girl has to have priorities, after all, and I for one find weird-haired men in pajamas particularly persuasive.
Oct 20, 2007
Today’s Boston Bruins’ match-up with the New York Rangers came down to a single goal as Phil Kessel scored during the game-ending shoot-out. As I type this, I’m home from the Bruins game and watching the Red Sox trying to avoid ALCS elimination during a do-or-die match-up with the Cleveland Indians. If you’re a Boston sports fan this weekend, you’re going to be stub-nailed by Monday from the ulcer-inducing suspense of it all. Go Sox!
UPDATE: Click here for more pictures from Saturday’s Bruins game. Enjoy!
Oct 19, 2007
Posted by Lorianne under Boston
, Car & driver
, Photo Friday
| Tags: Boston
, Photo Friday
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Boston isn’t known for vehicular kindness. The streets here are narrow, crowded, and poorly marked, and drivers act accordingly. I notice myself driving differently on my long weekends in Newton compared to my short workweeks in Keene. In Keene, I drive slowly and defer to other drivers; in Newton, I run yellow lights and heed the dictum of “every driver for herself.” When in Rome, act like the Romans; when in Massachusetts, drive like a Masshole.
Today J and I went to lunch in Waltham, and on the way we witnessed a hit-and-run accident. The car in front of us swerved, sideswiped a parked car, and kept going while pedestrians stood slack-jawed on nearby sidewalks. “We’ll get his plate number,” J shouted through his open window to several shocked passersby as we continued after the culprit. But because it was lunchtime on a Friday in Waltham, we were quickly cut off by another car and never got close enough to the Anonymous Masshole to read his or her license plate.
Hit-and-run accidents are not unique to Boston. But somehow the notion of “keep moving, and perhaps no one will notice” seems particularly urban, as if the sheer number of people sharing our streets and sidewalks makes it easier to pass the buck. Today after enjoying a thank-God-it’s-Friday lunch, some poor soul returned to his or her parallel-parked car to find its driver’s-side mirror torn from its now-dented side. Shit happens, and so do hit-and-run accidents. It’s part of what living in the city is about.
This is my submission for today’s Photo Friday theme, The City. In defense of the oft-maligned motorists of Boston, I shot both of today’s pictures in Cambridge, MA.
Oct 17, 2007
It’s been three years since I went apple picking in Hollis, NH with my friend A (not her real initial), and I haven’t picked any apples since then. The academic year is a busy time, and fall semester is my busy season, time for me to teach extra classes to replenish the savings I spent over an under-employed summer. Just as the agricultural year follows its own ebb and flow, so does the academic one: fall is harvest time for farmers and paper-grading time for professors. If you’re a farmer, professor, or friend of a farmer or professor, you quickly learn to beware the busy season.
While I was at the Providence Zen Center on Saturday, I took a quick stroll through their apple orchard. It’s been years since anyone’s tended the trees there, and nobody picks them come October. Instead, the apples are worm-eaten and grow increasingly wizened and frost-bitten as they hang and then drop in benign neglect.
A conscientious farmer would be saddened to see fruitful food going to waste, as Zen Master Soeng Hyang (aka Bobbie Rhodes) was when I ran into her after picking pictures, not apples, from these trees. Bobbie has been a nurse since 1969, the year I was born; she has more than a lifetime’s worth of lessons gleaned from her years as a hospice nurse tending souls facing their own bittersweet harvest. If you’ve spent a lifetime helping people at the end of theirs, you grow accustomed, I assume, to the sight of wasted promise. It’s never easy, I think, to see death, decay, and denied dreams. How many of the patients Bobbie has cared for over the years have felt too late the regret of their own neglected orchards?
In my three-years-ago post, I wrote of the weary, guilt-tinged sorrow voiced in “After Apple Picking,” one of my favorite Robert Frost poems. “Frost’s speaker describes apple picking as work, not leisure,” I noted, “and there’s more than a hint of guilt tinging his words as he describes the apples he’s failed to pick and bushels he’s failed to fill.” When Zen Master Soeng Hyang lamented the apples that are going to waste in the Providence Zen Center’s long-neglected orchard, she was echoing the sentiment of Frost’s speaker, as I was when I wrote about the poem three years ago. It’s a shame, I thought then, to leave things undone: surely if I or others were more in control of our lives, our schedules, or our days, we wouldn’t let a single apple, a single opportunity, or a single second go to waste. Given the abundance of nature and the seeming fecundity of time, we’d squeeze every drop of succulence from sweet-soaked days.
And yet… Can anything go to waste in a world where worms live, too? I’ve never seen deer nibbling apples from these human-neglected trees–perhaps the apples themselves are bitter, not sweet–but then again there aren’t years’ worth of apples piled beneath them. Some sentient creatures–not humans, for sure, but an invisible band of someones–are eating these apples, or perhaps they’re only contributing to the health of their parent trees through their own demise and decay. These apples aren’t, in a word, being wasted even if human hands aren’t picking, eating, or preserving them, savoring their sweetness in the form of pies, applesauce, or cider.
These days I’m considering the merit of letting an occasional apple drop. Worms are hungry, too, as are deer and other foragers; even microbes, mites, and other agents of decay deserve an occasional taste of tart. When you’re an overworked farmer or paper-plagued professor, you ultimately realize you can’t do everything. There are too many apples to pick, too many bushels to fill, too many papers to grade, and too many patients looking for patience. The secret to surviving an overloaded semester, I’m learning, is to give up on catching up. Once you realize there are more apples in the Universe than you have the hands and energy to pick, you concentrate all your attention on the apple in your hand.
Tonight, I have a half-dozen paper piles, all of them demanding attention, but the realist in me knows losing sleep over paper is the most wasteful choice of all. Instead of apple picking, these days I’m doing all I can to tend to classes, students, and my own fragile soul. What benefit are brimming bushels if you reach harvest’s end with a life that’s been wasted?
Oct 16, 2007
On Saturday I took a break from weight-lifting to go to the Kwan Um School of Zen’s Dharma teacher retreat at the Providence Zen Center. During a semester where my days are overloaded with the mundane details of college teaching–classes to prep, papers to grade, emails to answer–Zen teaching is a welcome respite, something that requires no preparation, only careful attention. On Saturday morning, my longtime Dharma friend Ji Hyang and I led a workshop on “Zen & the Arts,” which we planned about five minutes before the session began. In college teaching, flying by the seat of your pants is a neglectful thing. In Zen teaching, it’s all but expected.
Although I had to leave before my fellow Dharma teachers started telling jokes, the half-day I spent in the company of other long-time practitioners reminded me why any trip to PZC feels like tapping into a mighty power source. Being prepared is a good thing, but sometimes it’s necessary and proper to drop the reins and trust yourself to the wide open meadow of your own creative mind.
Oct 14, 2007
In real life, pranksters arm themselves with label-makers. It’s often difficult to find chalk in Keene State classrooms, which makes this label humorously apt. What makes it even funnier is the fact that there was a piece of chalk sitting exactly where you see it, a chance juxtaposition I couldn’t have asked for.
In real life, I’m deep in the throes of the semester right now, somehow managing to be behind in my grading for every one of the six classes I’m currently teaching. In real life, I have bills to pay, and grading papers is how I earn my keep; in real life, I know I’ll finish these present papers, eventually, but only in time to collect more papers. In real life, when work inevitably piles up, it’s a relief to encounter an occasional prankster with a label-maker and a sense of humor. I bring my own chalk when I teach, but I’m always happy to accept chalk-charity, bad grammar be damned.
This is my contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Real Life.
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