June 2007


Bindweed on chain-link

Initially, I’d complained about the chain-link fence they erected around my favorite abandoned factory, seeing how it cut off one of my favorite short cuts into town. But it seems this field bindweed is rather fond of the fence I’ve never fancied.

Quietly listening

Here is another view of the little listener standing with her tin-can phone outside Turn It Up! used CD shop in downtown Keene: a splash of color to enliven an otherwise gray stairwell.

Listening

In theory, I’m not opposed to graffiti: in some cases, a decorated wall is more attractive than a bare one. I don’t know if Turn It Up! officially sanctioned the wall art that appears in the stairwell to their used CD shop, but I like the looks of this line-drawn girl listening through a tin-can phone to the music emanating from within. If graffiti looks like this, spray on.

Cigars

Other specimens of downtown graffiti are more questionable. Yes, it might help business to have the word “Cigars” on the side of a shop that sells cigarettes, magazines, and the like…but surely the spray-can artist who scrawled this calling card could have made a more attractive pitch for her or his favorite carcinogen.

Whether or not I agree with what it says, at least the graffiti on the Beech Hill water tower is both colorful and interesting to look at; similarly, I have a certain fondness for the art in a can that is found on some funky cars and at least one dam here in southwest New Hampshire. In my opinion, a colorfully spray-painted car is more interesting than a monochromatic one, and I don’t see how a little paint is going to damage an otherwise monotonous-looking, purely functional expanse of concrete. Someone who devotes the time and effort to decorate an otherwise decrepit old vehicle is improving that vehicle, in my opinion, and although tagging something like a dam is technically illegal, I don’t personally see how some rebellious spray-paint is actually hurting anyone.

Defaced factory

But despite my normally lenient attitude toward graffiti, I do draw a line when it comes to defacing private property. The long-abandoned factory on Water Street here in Keene is among the latest buildings to sport an “ECC BK” sign, and I see this as part of a disturbing trend. This particular factory has been abandoned (and crumbling) ever since I moved to Keene in 2002, so it’s not like I bridle at the presumed “damage” caused by spray-paint vandals. This building has already had nearly all of its windows smashed, and its roof has already caved to the elements. If someone were to try to save this building, they’d have their work cut out for them, so an ever-changing selection of graffiti flowering on its facade doesn’t come as a surprise. Abandoned factories gather graffiti as naturally as stationary stones gather moss.

What disturbs me about this “ECC BK” tag is that I’ve seen it elsewhere in places I consider inappropriate. Although some might argue that well-placed graffiti can bear a political message, I fail to see the value of tagging a private home…

Defaced house

…or downtown mural.

Defaced mural

I don’t know who or what “ECC BK” refers to, but whatever message he, she, or it is trying to communicate via spray-paint, I’d argue there has to be a better method, means, and manner of expressing oneself than the defacement of private property. It seems at least one downtown business owner agrees with me, as the “ECC BK” tag next door to Athens Pizza on Main Street has been painted over.

Patched-over graffiti

Whatever message you’re trying to express, ECC BK, it seems some of us here in Keene are making a point not to listen.

Construction webbing

Between the heat and omnipresent road construction in Keene this summer, it’s hard out here for a pedestrian. On Monday morning, simply walking to campus to teach the the first of my summer school classes was a navigational challenge.

I live five minutes from campus, but my accustomed walk goes right past the rotary (de)construction that is clogging Keene with detoured traffic right now. I thought I’d be able to take one of my favorite shortcuts around the affected Main and Winchester/Marlboro Street intersection, but I was wrong: that shortcut through the parking lot of the local historical society landed me on the wrong side of a tangle of caution tape and construction webbing. I ended up cutting through a handful of yards that had been mauled and muddied by construction equipment: apologies, citizens of Keene, for the continued inconvenience.

Rotaries can be tricky to navigate on foot, so I’m curious to see what my pedestrian commute is like once construction is complete. In the meantime, it’s difficult to stroll Main Street sidewalks or traipse local curbs when both sidewalks and curbstones have been unearthed and piled like firewood, an ambiguous sign of “progress.”

Unearthed curbstones

Monadnock Fine Art Gallery

It’s been over two weeks since I’ve taken a proper walk in downtown Keene, so imagine my surprise when I returned from my travels to find new stores in the place of old. The storefront that was smashed, repaired, then emptied now houses an art gallery…and the former site of Bookland will soon be home to Fritz Belgian Fries, their new sign covering the ghostly remnants of the old.

Fritz Belgian Fries

Although Fritz is a long-standing landmark here in Keene, consistently topping the Best of New Hampshire list for their hand-cut, blanched-then-fried potatoes, I’ve never tasted their wares. The strip-mall where Fritz is currently located is one I don’t frequent, lying as it does just beyond my usual walking territory. Driving to eat fries has always seemed too decadent, but now that Fritz will be frying within walking distance of my apartment, I might have to see what the “Best of New Hampshire” fuss is about.

Of course, the very notion of “walking distance” is relative, as the latest bit of wisdom spotted while I was stuck in construction traffic suggests.

Words of wisdom from Chabott Oil

Loyal fan

What baseball-loving kid (or baseball-loving kid-at-heart) doesn’t dream of attending a real live ballgame, catching an errant foul ball, or at least catching the eye of your favorite player with a home-made sign? (Before you comment that this kid has his sign pointing the wrong way, note that it’s double-sided, with “We love you, Big Papi” on one side and a word to Manny Ramirez on the other.)

Curt Schilling, pre-disabled

Boston Red Sox fans are a particularly loyal group…so it should come at no surprise that there were throngs of Sox fans at all three inter-league games at Atlanta’s Turner Field this week. How do I know, you might ask, how many Boston fans traveled all the way to Atlanta to watch their favorite team on the road? I know because I was one of the migrating throng that, motivated by the near impossibility of getting reasonable tickets at Fenway Park, flew to Atlanta, availed myself of the Southern hospitality of friends, and tried my very best not to be an Obnoxious Northerner who offends the locals.

It’s difficult, of course, not to offend the locals when your team ends up winning two out of three games…but on Monday night, before being placed on the Sox disabled list, Curt Schilling served up a loss, so there was a moment of joy in Atlanta before the Sox dominated on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Schilling at bat

To give credit where credit is due, Schilling (himself a blogger) didn’t humiliate himself at the plate, managing to get to first base during one of his Monday night at-bats. One of the delights of inter-league play–something loyal Sox fans who stay at home don’t get to see in person–is the sheer novelty of an American League pitcher batting according to National League rules.

Another part of the fun of a major-league ballgame is observing the crowd in attendance: the peanut-eating, beer-chugging folks sitting around you, after all, are one thing you don’t have when you watch a game on TV from home. On all three nights of our Atlanta Invasion, the resident Atlanta fans seemed completely flummoxed by the rabid Sox fans in attendance. “I was buying a beer and heard this huge cheer,” one Atlanta fan noted dejectedly during Wednesday night’s 11-0 thrashing, “so I assumed we had scored. But it turned out it was the visiting fans who were making so much noise.” On Tuesday night, under the liquid encouragement of seemingly omnipresent beer vendors, some Atlanta fans got fed up with the visiting contingent of Red Sox Nation. In response to the visitors’ loud and insistent cheers of “Let’s go, Red Sox,” several Braves fans countered with “Go home, Red Sox!”

Of course, regardless of your team loyalty, when you attend a major league ballgame, you quickly realize the best seats in the house aren’t seats at all, but the railing of either team’s dugout, where the game’s most attentive spectators turn out to be the players themselves.

The best seats in the house

At one level, baseball fandom is little more than glorified people-watching. Sure, we traveled to Atlanta to watch some actual ballgames, but we also traveled to Atlanta to see the players themselves in the flesh. Where else but six rows back from third base can you contemplate Manny Ramirez’ hair…

Manny Ramirez

Kevin Youkilis’ twisted kick…

Kevin Youkilis

or David Ortiz rounding the bases after knocking a homer out of the ballpark?

David Ortiz rounds the bases

On TV, you’d probably watch commercials while Big Papi and Youk (another blogger) swapped first-baseman’s stories…

First basemen's confab

…and if you watched Tuesday night’s ballgame on TV, you definitely didn’t get the chance to be mesmerized by the ant-like activity of the Turner Field grounds-crew raking and laying dry dirt on the field after a rain delay.

After the rain delay

For a loyal Red Sox fan, though, the most dreamy picture of all is this one of the Atlanta Braves’ drummer sitting dejectedly on his tom-tom. Who’s in the mood to beat a drum, do a politically incorrect tomahawk chop, or utter a war-whoop when your team is losing 11-0?

Dejected drummer

    This is my belated, somewhat off-topic contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Dream.

Three bloggers, one hammock

What better metaphor for the tangled web of interconnections created by this curious phenomenon of blogging than a picture of three bloggers–Jo(e), Rana, and Yours Truly–sharing a single hammock at last week’s ASLE conference in Spartanburg, SC. Apologies for the abundance of hair, lack of identifiable features, and confusion of limbs: both Jo(e) and Rana blog anonymously, and I’m not as comfortable as Jo(e) is about displaying my unclad form online, so semi-clothed and tangled on a hammock is as close to the traditional nude photo as I get. As prior precedent proves, however, I’m not complete averse to displaying an occasional bare belly or my dirty, unshod feet, so here is a flesh-baring shot of three tangled bloggers raising toes to trees.

Toes to trees

Jo(e) and Rana were two of the conference participants who presented along with me at the blogging panel I’d mentioned last week; Chas also presented but didn’t join us in our hammock. The blogosphere is a vast and varied place, and individual bloggers each follow their own protocols when it comes to disclosing personal information online. How much does a blogger which to reveal, and how much does she or he choose to hide?

Whereas Chas and I blog under our real names, both Jo(e) and Rana write pseudonymously; whereas I use first names, initials, or an occasional nom de blog to refer to friends and acquaintances, Jo(e) comes up with witty nicknames like Philadelphia Guy and Artist Friend to protect the innocent. I’ve blogged before about the problematic philosophical questions that arise when you share even a part of yourself online: perhaps it’s easier to untangle semi-clothed bodies in a hammock than it is to sort out the ethics of online self-disclosure.

As for Jo(e)’s account of our in-hammock blogger meet-up, I’m not sure I can identify (with) the High Energy Writer she mentions even though I have been known to talk about sex toys. Sometimes it’s more alluring to disguise a blogger’s real identity rather than showing her or him unmasked. When it comes to bloggish show-and-tell, sometimes you can protect the not-so-innocent by showing them as ghostly blurs or in the shadows. As in the nude photography that Jo(e) is so familiar with, discretion is sometimes as simple as the strategic shielding of significant bits, an eye-level railing going a long way to shroud the identity of three porch-rocking writers.

Faceless

And when it comes to protecting your friends and sources, sometimes you have to disguise the non-photographers who have been cajoled into recording your not-quite-anonymous mingling. The blogosphere is a tangled web where even a Philadelphia Guy can enjoy his fifteen minutes of faceless fame.

Anonymous paparazzo

    Thanks to Philadelphia Guy for juggling three cameras in order to take the first and third photos in today’s post. Perhaps the title of today’s entry should be “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

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