November 2008


Pink eyes

This morning I was back on the beat in Cambridge, where as always there were new sights to see. By way of proof, compare the above shot to the same span of brick pictured here and here. My, how you’ve grown!

I love you

As befits Black Friday, yesterday’s Photo Friday theme was “Black.” J and I went to a daytime hockey game yesterday, so if you want to see what the Bruins look like in their new, mostly-black third jerseys, you can click here for that sort of blackness (including images of a few hockey fights, with the black and blue they induce).

Drink & gamble!

Instead of forcing more black and gold on those of my readers I know are neither hockey nor sports fans, I chose instead to share the above picture from a long walk down Beacon Street J and I took on Thanksgiving. As we did on last year’s Christmas walk down Newbury Street, we took both dogs and cameras with us, and while last year’s Christmas walk was bright, shiny, and filled with reflective mannequins, this year’s Thanksgiving walk was partly cloudy and less photogenic. J was shooting with his film camera, so when he spotted the above graffito on a black utility box, he remarked that it was too dark for him to shoot it, the sun already beginning to set in late afternoon. So I shot someone’s roughly scrawled love-letter to the world with my point-and-shoot digicam, making sure to center my reflected self in its black coat between two painted characters on the liquor-store window behind me, one of them sporty and the other snowy.

On the day after Black Friday, I guess this is my own love-letter to the world: roughly scrawled but reflective, early-falling darkness providing an apt b(l)ackground for warm greetings.

Snow-link fence

No, it didn’t snow in Newton over Thanksgiving: to the contrary, it was clear and cold. I revisited the above photo, which I took this past January, while reviewing my 2008 photos in order to choose the twelve I’ll include in next year’s photo calendar.

Courthouse

This is the third year I’ve made a photo calendar for family and selected friends at Christmas time. It’s an easy way for me to give a little something to family members with whom I don’t normally exchange Christmas gifts, and it also gives me a way to share a month-by-month glimpse of my life here in New England to family members who have never been here. I also enjoy the process of going back and reviewing the photos I’ve taken over the preceding twelve months and choosing the most “calendar-worthy” among them. The whole calendar-creation process is basically a good excuse to revisit photos I’ve blogged but haven’t otherwise looked at in months.

Waban wonderland

In revisiting this past year’s photos, I realize that my criteria for “blog-worthy” differs from my criteria for “calendar-worthy.” In 2008, I blogged (or at least posted to Flickr) a lot of photos I wouldn’t include in my calendar. First, I eliminate from consideration any photos shot in portrait rather than landscape orientation, and then I mentally cross off the list any photos that are just too odd or quirky. I have a lot of sports photos, for instance, that I know only my dad would appreciate, and as much as I like the various photos I’ve taken of the graffiti-covered walls of Cambridge’s Modica Way, I know my mom just wouldn’t “get” why I’d include graffiti in my annual calendar.

Solomon's seal

My mom, in other words, is the main audience I have in mind when I choose my calendar pictures, so I automatically discard any photos I think she wouldn’t like. Graffiti is out, as are images that are just plain weird. No pictures of shadows, reflections, or mannequins: they’re too “odd” and “arty.” Even picturesque New England scenes that wouldn’t make sense in Ohio are out. Among the photos from my first calendar, for instance, was an image of two sugar maple trees tapped to collect springtime sap. Because my mom in Ohio had never seen sugar maples tapped with tubes leading to plastic barrels to collect sap for syrup, she had no idea what the picture depicted and imagined the blue barrel and tubing were marking off some sort of construction zone. “Why would you show a picture of that?” she asked.

Clock

Because I give these calendars to family and friends, in other words, I get feedback as to which images were good and which were so-so. In my 2008 calendar, for instance, the crowd favorites featured animals: my dad particularly enjoyed my April turkey and March draft horses, and everyone oohed and ahhed over August’s frog. This year, all I have to offer in the animal department are a couple of butterflies…but there are plenty of flowers to please (I hope!) my mom.

The prime criteria for calendar-worthy photos seems to be “pretty,” so I had to do a little bit of cheating to find a full twelve months’ worth of photos. Because I created the calendar now in November, the December image comes from last year, and because I had two October images I particularly liked, I used one for November. I’m content to chalk both of these tweaks up to “artistic license” and move on. While I wait for my 2009 calendars to arrive in the mail, I’ll continue to snap photos that are odd, artsy, and occasionally pretty, trusting that next November, I’ll have another twelve to share.

Click here to see the twelve photos I chose for my 2009 photo calendar, and click here if you’re interested in buying a copy of your own. Enjoy!

Apologizing to "Chuck"

While flipping channels on Tuesday night, I happened upon the very end of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” (Yes, I shot these pictures straight from the television screen, probably breaking umpteen copyright laws in the process.)

It’s been years since I’ve seen any of the Charlie Brown holiday specials, but I watched them religiously when I was a child, and I confess to having in my car a copy of the soundtrack for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that I listen to every December. As a “weird kid,” I always related to Charlie Brown with his loser ways and “blockhead” inferiority. Couple those qualities with Linus’s soft-spoken nerdiness, Snoopy’s general goofiness, and Woodstock’s overall cuteness, and it all adds up to Peanuts being my favorite childhood cartoon.

Talking to grandma

Not having seen “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” in years, I had forgotten the basic gist of the story. I remembered Snoopy serving an impromptu Thanksgiving “dinner” of toast, popcorn, and pretzels to Charlie Brown’s guests–whenever my ex-husband and I found ourselves without a place to go for Thanksgiving, we’d sometimes joke that we’d cook a similar meal for ourselves. Typically, though, we’d decide to drive the 700-some miles back to either or both of our families in the Midwest for Thanksgiving, thereby saving ourselves the indignity of Thanksgiving popcorn, but that nontraditional menu was about all of the larger “Charlie Brown” story I really remembered.

Popcorn for Thanksgiving isn't so hot

Like all good children’s shows, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” makes its moral perfectly clear, even to blockheads. After Charlie Brown’s friends (in particular, a very vocal Peppermint Patty) start grumbling about the atrociously nontraditional meal Snoopy dishes out, Charlie Brown falls into his usual fit of self-deprecating depression while Marcie chides Patty for inviting herself and her friends to Charlie Brown’s house to begin with. On a roll, Marcie goes on to explain (again, in language even a blockhead can understand) the “real” meaning of Thanksgiving. It isn’t about what you eat, she explains. It’s about being grateful for who you’re with.

Everyone's invited to grandma's for dinner!

This year, J and I won’t be having a big turkey feast for Thanksgiving, but we won’t be moping over popcorn and toast, either. When I was married, my mother-in-law used to fret whenever she thought my then-husband and I weren’t going to have turkey on Turkey Day: in her mind, anything else just wasn’t the same. But the truth be told, I’ve never been a huge fan of turkey. Although I like it sliced in sandwiches, I’d really prefer just about anything else to a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings: it’s one of the ways I really am a “weird kid.” So in the spirit of Marcie’s message, J and I are having pasta, not turkey, for dinner tonight. It isn’t about what you eat, after all. It’s about being grateful for who you’re with.

Here’s hoping all of you have plenty to eat (turkey or otherwise), welcome companionship to share it with, and a grateful heart to receive it. In other words, happy Thanksgiving!

Three square meals

On the eve of America’s national holiday devoted to (over)eating, here’s a word in favor of moderation. Although we might, on Thanksgiving, skip breakfast and lunch in order to enjoy one really big meal, on all the other days of the year, it’s best to enjoy three square meals, even if all three of those squares are chocolate.

This divided chocolate bar, which I spotted at Borders while choosing a 2009 day-planner yesterday, reminds me of the one I spotted in Portsmouth, NH over a year ago. Whereas that chocolate bar was all about promoting marital happiness, this one is all about getting one’s own hungers fed: mine, mine, mine!

Love those Hanson glasses!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you’re a pretty woman, you’ll look good wearing a trash bag. That fact apparently applies to geeky glasses, too.

Puttin' on the foil

Friday night’s Bruins game was a tribute to the classic hockey movie Slap Shot, and to get into the spirit, local sportscasters Kathryn Tappen and Barry Pederson donned taped, geeky glasses in honor of the movie’s trio of hard-hitting hooligans: brothers Jeff, Steve, and Jack Hanson. To ensure Slap Shot silliness ruled at Friday night’s game, the first 10,000 fans in attendance received a free pair of taped black glasses, which meant the “girls (and guys) who wear glasses” motif was unavoidable. Whole families of fans–mom, dad, and kids alike–wore Hanson glasses. Ushers wore Hanson glasses. Concessions staff selling beer, chips, and hot-dogs wore Hanson glasses. Even the Bruins’ mascot, Blades, wore a bear-sized pair of Hanson glasses…and yes, I wore mine perched atop my Bruins ballcap for that “girls who wear two pairs of glasses” effect.

Hanson wannabe takes a slap-shot

To say that Slap Shot enjoys cult status among hockey fans is a monumental understatement. Like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Slap Shot was a movie I’d heard endlessly quoted and reverently referenced long before I actually saw it. Slap Shot‘s popularity among hockey fans might stem from the fact that there aren’t many mainstream movies about hockey…but more likely, the movie enjoys perpetual popularity among diehard fans because it manages to capture the comedy in a sport that the uninitiated might think is simply brutal. Yes, hockey is rough, tough, and merciless, and hockey fights can get ugly. But hockey is also a game that’s played on ice, so it naturally involves a lot of silly slips. Bare-fisted (or even foil-fisted) fisticuffs might be pure drama, but a fight that’s doomed to end in an icy pratfall is pure comedy. Slap Shot manages to capture that zaniness.

Steve Carlson (aka Steve Hanson) shows off his foil

In a word, Slap Shot is pure slapstick, and hockey fans apparently have an endless appetite for humor. The gags in Slap Shot are purely physical, and like a vaudeville banana peel, they get laughs every time. The Bruins’ pre-game video, for instance, alludes to one classic scene where an organist gets beaned by an errant puck while playing “Lady of Spain.” Time and again, fans laugh at the gag with its boneheaded reminder to “Be aware that the puck can be propelled into the spectator area with enough force to cause serious injury. Please stay alert at all times.” Saying “watch out” would be simple enough, but what better way to drive the point home than with a goofy gag?

Perhaps because I’m a girl who really does wear glasses, I see a serious undercurrent even in Slap Shot‘s shtick. The minor league hockey team featured in the movie–the fictional Charlestown Chiefs–becomes wildly popular after adopting the brutally physical play of those aforementioned Hanson brothers, but only after the Hansons sign onto the team during dismal economic times. Based upon the real-life mill-town of Johnstown, PA, the fictional Charlestown is financially distressed in the aftermath of floods and departed industry. Only after the town becomes literally and fiscally washed-up does full-out hockey hooliganism provide unemployed and dispirited fans with something to cheer about.

Slap Shot fans all!

Johnstown is to Slap Shot, in other words, what Sheffield is to The Full Monty. In both movies, the male population, like the economy, is depressed by the closing of the local steel mill. Both Slap Shot and The Full Monty suggest that men can’t be men if they don’t have the monetary means of supporting themselves and their families. Economically emasculated, the men in both movies determine that over-the-top, testosterone-laced spectacle mixed with a touch of humor is one way to resuscitate male pride. Even a man without a job can bloody his fists, cheer for the local team, or take it all off to feel like a man again…and if you’ve seen the end of Slap Shot, you know that the climax of the movie incorporates all three of these strategies to comedic effect.

There are no steel-mills, closed or otherwise, in Boston, but times are tough everywhere these days. You don’t have to be a girl who wears glasses to see that both sports and movies about sports are one way that the economically depressed fight back, finding catharsis in a good game.

Click here for the entire set of photos from Friday’s night’s Boston Bruins game against the Florida Panthers, which the Bruins won 2-4. Woooo!

Autumn abundance

With all my recent talk of gloves and wind-chills, you’d think winter had definitively arrived in New England, but that’s not entirely true. The leaf bags and barrels lining Newton streets tell the story better than I can: still, even in the chill, there’s a whole lot of raking, blowing, bagging, and barrel-filling going on.

Vine-twined tree

But the time for leaf collection won’t last for long. Compared to this time last year, when the trees were still brilliant, most of this year’s leaves have already fallen. There are still some hold-out oaks clinging to copper like misers clutching coins, but November winds have scoured most branches bare. These days, the only reliable green you’ll see overhead comes from evergreens or ivy. Summer’s fecundity has given way at last to autumn austerity, the abundant fertility of yesterday’s leaves being gathered as tomorrow’s trash.

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