October 2007


Washington Cemetery

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.

Sox-lovin' scarecrow

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.

Alien Eyes alley

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?

X marks the spot

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.

Residential alien eyes

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.

Alien eyes in the shadows

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.

One runner loves V-Tek!

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.

Wishful eating

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.

A quiet moment

Even a bustling college campus has its quiet moments. This one is my contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, Silence. Enjoy!

Autumn

This past weekend was sunny, so the trees glowed as if someone had turned them on with a switch.

Brilliant

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.”

Crowning

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.

Towering

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?

Golden glow

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?

Gleaming

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!

Let's update this for 2007, okay?

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“:

Boston Red Sox billboards

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.)

Painted Red Sox players

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.

Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaal!

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!

Parallel parking, Masshole-style

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.

Gangsta chic?

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.

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