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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a towel is a massively useful thing for a hitchhiker to carry. However, one medium-sized towel cannot be all things to all mammals. Your traveling companion this evening was not a particularly hoopy frood, but rather a young kitten. Kittens cannot read, no matter how large and friendly the letters might be. Thus, the panic that might better have been contained by an actual cat carrier.

Cambridge

Aug. 5th, 2008 09:52 pm
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This afternoon, I saw another of those old bumper stickers that just say, "DRIVE NICELY" in large print, with "City of Cambridge" in smaller letters underneath. Somebody who gave me a ride home from Readercon had one of them, and told me the city had printed them a long time ago. I like to think they help, some. Maybe they just mark the old residents with good intentions, in case one wants to drive near them.

Last month, a librarian offered me a Cambridge Public Library Card when she noticed my Minuteman Library Card was cracked. Even though she knew perfectly well I'm not a Cambridge resident and never have been, she wanted to replace my library card for the network while we were standing at the desk talking about it. And she told me the Cambridge card was an art museum pass, as well as the library card all the Minuteman cards are. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling about the city, on top of my usual warm fuzzy feeling about the library.

And now...something I had thought of as a feature of Waltham...Lizzy's Ice Cream is in Cambridge! Right in Harvard Square, across the street from the Lowe's cinema. When I could digest dairy products, I was impressed by the great texture of Lizzy's ice cream, the smell of their fruit ice creams, and their scrupulous care in labeling. The big list of flavors they put up on the wall marks which ice creams have trace alcohol, for instance. And they have complete ingredient lists for ice creams and toppings. This evening, I had strawberry sorbet (I could smell the fruit from across the room), and a chocolate thing they called "tofutti," though it wasn't much like trademarked "Tofutti." Lizzy's has a creamier texture, and tasted more like mild milk chocolate with caramel overtones, and less like soybeans.
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My Summer Vacation, by Adrian Turtle, age 40.

Saturday: slept almost all day.

Sunday: I tried to scoot to Arlington Heights. This was not a good idea at all. People on the bikeway laughed at me for wearing my helmet, denim jacket, and wrist guard to go along at 6 or 7mph. Furthermore, it was much too hot for my denim jacket. And the helmet was too old to be useful (I never fell on this one, but the foam degrades over time.) I was on the bikeway most of the time, but went through the business district in Arlington Heights proper. The business district with brick pavement. Bricks may be easy to repair, but they make a rough surface for steering a scooter over.

The main reason I was in Arlington Heights was that I thought there would be a community bulletin board in the Trader Joe's. Or the convenience store by the Penzeys. Or the hardware store. Or the Panera. Nope. There's one at the Foodmaster, but when I didn't see anybody advertising carpentry/handyman/furniture-repair services there, I thought it would be a good idea to check other likely locations. When I'm not in the market for the kinds of things that get advertised, I walk right by such bulletin boards without even looking. ("Everybody's looking for the same thing/Same thing it's plain to see/It's an old chevy, a bass player/A country house on 3 acres, 3 bedrooms/Absolutely free.")

I took the bus home. I had thrown away the helmet in Arlington Heights, after the guy at the bike shop convinced me it was useless and I should buy a new one. And my jacket was in my backpack after the first couple of blocks. But it was still pretty awful. I put the scooter away and went out on foot to use the nearest available ATM. To my surprise, THERE was a community bulletin board. Right in the entryway of the bank, behind where people stand to use the ATM. Dozens of people put up cards and flyers advertising different things, including one advertising exactly what I was looking for. I can't quite name what this says about public space, but I feel like it says *something*. That space in the bank is only accessible to people with bankcards. You don't have to pay to use it, but it's not exactly public, either.

Monday: The repair guy came over to look at my couch this morning. He suggested a fix that would make it even sturdier than it was when it was new, and offered me a choice between that and the fix I had in mind. I am tentatively pleased, pending the actual repair work (to be done Wednesday.) He had put his card up in the bank more than a year ago, and forgotten about it, so he was surprised I'd seen it.
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I like my neighborhood grocery store. I'm not talking about the supermarket across the street, that sells milk and produce and standardized packaged goods, though that's very useful to have around. The store that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling about the neighborhood is the little grocery store with the imported marmalades and olives, run by a friendly man who makes huge batches of wonderful mujadeera and baba ganoush, who urges me to try the baklava when I come in to buy delicious Quebecois pita. Despite the high rent in this neighborhood, despite the high cost of importing exotic food (going up as transport becomes more expensive), the store has been fairly successful. Mostly because the guy running it puts in SO much work. Though I suppose the nearby high school, and students' appetites for meat pies and baklava, might have something to do with it.

Now the store is going out of business. I saw the sign about the close-out sale yesterday, and went in with the intention of buying lots of pita and putting it in the freezer. I came home with pita, lamajeun, falafel, a huge jar of pickles, and a story. The pita hasn't made it into the freezer...I keep eating it and thinking about the grocer's story. It bothers me.

Last year, there was a dispute between the grocer and his landlord. It wasn't a dispute over rent--the landlord raised the rent, and the grocer agreed to pay it. The dispute was about a ventilation system that was not up to code, a leaky roof, repairs that needed to be made. The landlord refused to make the repairs, years went by. There was water damage. The tenant made partial repairs, and demanded that the landlord do the job properly. They went to court, and ended up taking the case to arbitration. The landlord was ordered to make the repairs, and did so. Then he billed the grocer for the cost of the repairs. "He shoved the bill right in my face, told me I had to pay [however many tens of thousands of dollars], by the end of the month. Plus he was raising the rent." The grocer showed me what it had been like, and he seemed more affected by the insult than by the unfairness of the demand for money. Though it's also unfair, and he doesn't have that much money, and he doesn't think he can work with this landlord anyhow. The grocer thinks he has no legal recourse because they went to an arbiter instead of a judge...regardless of whether legal options might exist, a person who doesn't believe in them can't really use them.

So he's leaving. Maybe he'll start a new store someplace else. He said maybe Cambridge or Brookline, and I'm hoping it will be Cambridge, for entirely selfish reasons. I wish him well, but I know it's harder to establish a new store than to keep one going after it has a positive reputation. He'll be there until the end of the month, or until his stock runs out.
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There was a message on my answering machine this morning, supposedly from the police department of the next town over. The recording said they were looking for a lost child in my area, and needed my help finding her. This was particularly urgent as the child needs medical assistance. It went on to describe a 16-year-old girl, last seen at (address between my apartment building and the high school), dressed like the scruffier sort of teenager I'm accustomed to seeing this close to high schools. And it gave a phone number to call if I saw her or had any information.

I don't know if this is a new form of standard police practice, to call everyone in the neighborhood. With the recent information about the NSA tracking phone calls, it makes me feel vaguely stalked by the government, for all that my phone number and address are matters of public record.

I think I'd feel less uneasy about it if they were mobilizing in search of a lost child of six. Certainly there are 16-year-olds in need of help or rescue -- I've given lots of them directions or bus fare. But if a 16-year-old girl needs to be found and brought home, the problem does not seem to be that of a "lost child." Maybe it's disability, or some kind of abuse. I have no idea what's going on with this situation, if this girl needs help, or if whoever left the recorded message intends to help her. It just feels creepy.

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