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Christmas Eve 2013DSCN1079

While I am upstairs reading a post from a friend whose dog just “discovered” the Christmas ham as it was  stored out on the porch, my own Dog is downstairs hovering over the remnants in the cat dish. Dinner has already been served, and yes, I am distracted, especially since it’s Christmas Eve and I don’t want to find in June, the stocking stuffers that I am dangerously close to forgetting about right now.

And there was something that desperately needed to go in the attic. And, in fact, something that wanted to come down, but I can’t remember what.

So when I finally return to the kitchen, Dog is still engaged in the waiting game. She stands over the cat  dish, her head hanging and her eyes somewhat glazed. Her eyebrows bob. This has nothing to do with any rules I am aware of. She will wait until I spoon the leftovers into her own dish, and then have at it like the scavenger that I know she is. This behavior has always bewildered me, but I happily go along with it.

I’ve had dogs before, and I’m reminded in particular of a dear Golden Retriever who would cozy up to a dumpster as soon as she would hop onto the couch. This dog of mine right now, Saint Dog, as I imagine her because of her unworldly display of “patience”, is a different sort.

It’s true that, I myself have been accused of having the “patience of a saint”. I have a long history with Catholicism, so I should know what that means. However, a moment of doubt (!) sends me to the dictionary. A quick search reveals only a reference to Job and his nagging wife. Well, screw that.

If I were to attempt to boil my observations down to something meaningful (in fact this is what I try do every day), today’s lesson would be that Patience = Faith in a Positive Outcome. As an alternative, Grab the Ham!

Have a Merry Christmas Everyone, wherever you are!

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Three things have engaged my attention this week. Granted: I am easily overwhelmed by the state of the world, and though I do my best to keep myself generally informed, I find that I function best when I am able to concentrate my energies and my attention on my community, my friends and loved ones, and my work.

This perhaps belies my past as an activist. While my stance on social change has not wavered, my personal approach has, in fact, changed.  Lest my intentions be deemed petty, or trite, I would challenge anyone to grasp the correlation between these 3 items of interest:

1. My city of Holyoke, MA opens a brand new skateboard park. Btw – Holyoke’s new skate park also happens to be situated in Pulaski Park, designed at the turn of the 20th century, by Frederick Olmstead :

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2. Residents and friends of Holyoke petition to save an historic building:

The Farr Mansion then:

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And now:

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3. I spend the better part of three months working on a 17th century fiddle:

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Clearly, this is not simply a pedantic interest in saving old stuff. I like old stuff. But more importantly, I see that an investment in the future is predicated by carrying the past forward. I am never more in touch with this truism than when I am at work. While my current patient was created while Monteverdi was still freshly in his grave, I am aware that, in its reincarnation, it will just as likely be called upon to perform Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No.1 .

And so, a skate park, in some odd way, makes good sense to me: an underutilized and yet historically significant park becomes a hot spot for serious play. Our kids. Our future.

As for the Farr Mansion, that is yet to be determined. My hope is that Holyoke with grasp it in its hands and bring it, too, into the future.

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Thanks:  Rob Deza Photographer

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So my triceps are aching and my hands tingled with “pins and needles” all last night.

Actually, I like shoveling snow. But I’ve had enough of it for the time being. Some young muscle-y young fellow showed up this afternoon and finished shoveling my driveway for the best $15 I’ve ever spent. “Where were you yesterday???”… I was thinking, while being ever grateful that he had spared me this last insult of having to clear a path just enough wider to squeeze the car out onto the street. The Car. Which I stupidly parked way back by the garage, about a mile and a half from the street, in the spot that I know is prone to drifting. By the way, my car is black.

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My first words, Saturday morning, were reiterated a few hours later, by my Puerto Rican neighbor, who, upon opening her front door to discover  snow nearly up to her waist, simply exclaimed, “Oh my God!”

The nice thing about this kind of weather event is that it brings people out. I have noticed, in my neighborhood, a spectacular showing of men and machines. In fact, being the newcomer in these parts, it still surprises me that they all seem to know one another, having attended school together apparently, some time before the middle aged paunch and grey whiskers happened. Then there is the other slice of neighborhood, the one that says all with a keyboard post and shout out (it could be from anywhere in the world, but it’s) from around the corner.

One is concerned about the elder woman that lives across the street. Another is grateful for the refuge offered by a neighbor during a CO scare. Another is trying to find the owner of a trash can gone AWOL. We watch out for each other, and I like this about this multi-layered community. I like getting the (albeit) recorded message from my beloved Mayor, stating the parking updates and a reminder to stay safe and check up on neighbors.

Someone decided to call this snowstorm Nemo, which I think is both preposterous and endearing. Preposterous because Nemo is a name that’s been appropriated by  Disney, and endearing because,… well…! I’ve neglected thus far to mention that my own twenty-five year old daughter hightailed it from Boston, hound dog riding shotgun, to arrive here in Holyoke just before the storm hit. And speaking of Disney, it was this same 25 year old, who at age 5 would not eat flounder unless we called it salmon. Whatever.

It’s been Weekend Interruptus by all accounts. One more day of school is cancelled and with the good graces of our stellar DPW, all should up to speed by Tuesday. With the driveway cleared (and why this seems to me a marker of some sort, I don’t know, since I really don’t go out much!) it will be business as usual. DSCN0218

Oh, and I promise, the next post will be more about serious violin restorer stuff. I may just get out that “Heap of Cello Bits”. I have one more snow day to think about it.

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Sometimes, the neighbor boy, who I think is now eleven, has his Star Wars gear out. He shoots at me across the driveway, from his upstairs den, while I am washing dishes in my kitchen. Colored lights flash in my direction through the mid-winter gloom.death-star-7

I wave back.

Such is life in a small city neighborhood of Holyoke, MA. Conversations happen on many levels. I thought we had bonded one day last summer as I watered my newly planted dogwood out by the street. W joined me, plastic weapon in hand. I can talk droids, clones and Siths and the familial entanglements that bring classic tales of good and evil into high relief. I thought I was pretty cool, having clearly bested his own mother who, regrettably, knew “nothing” about Star Wars. Two or three minutes into our conversation, I realized that, while I had obliviously turned into an adult, Star Wars had morphed into much more than the six? seven? blockbuster movies that I remember gleefully taking in over the years.

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Oh well, I deserve to be shot at, although I wish for the opportunity to parry with a light saber, and so measure my worth with a true exposé of art and intuition, things I’m good at.

I want to say, “Okay, W – how old were you when the first Star Wars movie came out?!” (1977) But that would be child abuse, so I keep that thought to myself. This kid is obsessed. With what, I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with making sense of the world, and I can’t argue with that. In lieu of a campfire and an ages- old tradition of oral story telling, I am willing to accept yet another installment of a good tale well told. Perhaps it will lead to a “moment” with my neighbor, and precipitate the inevitable conclusion that we are both, indeed, conduits of the Force.images-1

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Yesterday I delivered a bunch of home grown veggies to my neighbors. I was grateful for the short term loan of a dehydrator, with which I dried my first batch of Principe Borghese tomatoes. I look forward to committing these little red gems to olive oil and herbs, probably sometime in January or February, when a hit of summer will be ever so much more effective than the latest designer “pick-me-up.”

So my thanks to M and her partner T, with whom I remarked about how this summer seemed to be  unusually difficult for many of us. I say was, because we have just been kissed by our impetuous lover (if you live in New England), Autumn. Yes, the temperature dipped below 60〫F just the other night. In New England we love and hate the weather. It is unreliable – glorious and disappointing in turn.

For the better part of the summer we have been looking at this:
I did not mow the grass during the month of July. And while that would seem like a strange gift of time otherwise unallocated, the “brown out” has, overall, been a serious downer. I’ve been thinking about my first year in this house – only last spring/summer, really – in which I sweated through a dramatic late winter thaw that flooded the basement, a nearby spring tornado, an almost unheard of East Coast earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and a devastating late October snowstorm that downed trees still dressed in showy yellow, red  and orange foliage. The aftermath of that last storm inhibited mobility, left thousands without power for days and caused several deaths including the old lady up the street, who died wrapped in a blanket, in a comfortable chair, because she would not leave her 45 〫F house.

For me, the weather events of 2011 were all near misses. Still, I admit to becoming weather shy. Maybe it is a function of my age, or of circumstance. I am a newcomer to this community. In any case, as this dry, dry weather seems to take a needed turn, it is a joy to be sharing the bounty of a summer salvaged by care and diligence:

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If you are here because you’ve just visited my website, you might be wondering about Buggy.

Official entry name “Bugzilla” lost mightily in the 2012 Great Holyoke Brick Race. Not surprising given the level of ingenuity and enthusiasm gone into sending those bricks on (mostly) wheels careening down the ramp on Race St, in Holyoke, MA USA on June 9, 2012.

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See Buggy’s back end on the far right.

However, the fastest bricks were not necessarily the most notable (imho – ok, I ‘fess up – I lean toward the “be” end of the “be-do” spectrum). For instance, the rolling, bumping  brick in a ball of ice was a dark horse of epic proportion. It was and did, at least for a while. And the brick with loaf of bread – like a still life gone AWOL, well mostly it was, but kind of failed at the do part (ie it didn’t). “Cyclops” and “Grendel” made an appearance -be-ers or do-ers? Maybe you, and hopefully they, will have to show up next year to find out.

It was fairly predictable that Buggy would not get an award for speed. But Buggy gets my vote, because she’s made out of my kinda junk!

Okay, the brick came from the backyard and the wheels from an old pair of skates, but otherwise the wooden bits are all salvaged from the pile of crappy instrument parts that I can’t seem to ditch. I only had to kill one cello top that was lurking in the attic, three warped junky bows too short for tomato stakes, a violin scroll that the maker should have been ashamed of, and my own beautifully cut, but unfortunately no-longer-applicable violin bridge. I consider this experience a great success because Buggy:

1. survived two runs down the ramp
2. did not burn up upon reentry
3. inspired a $10 donation to Goodwill (skates)
4. incited a dopamine riot
5. remained intact to tell the story
6. made some friends
7. and proved, yet again, what a fun and funky place Holyoke is.

Buggy, btw, when not retrieving mail, spends her days lounging on the porch or lurking in the shadows as she likes. She is not allowed on the couch.

See you next year!

(Cyclops was a be-er, Grendel, definitely a do-er).

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