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I like public transit. I grew up in a car-based world, where the only way to communicate with other travelers was turn signals and flashing high beams, and those were dangerous. [1] I'm one of those people who smiles at strangers and says "good morning." When somebody asks the world at large, "why are we stopping?" or "when is the bus coming?" I answer. Even when that means talking with a child I don't know.

I try to be polite. I listen to many many fascinating conversations without saying anything at all. I don't want to be an intrusive creep. And when I hear an angry person with bad boundaries, I know I shouldn't get involved in their conversation.

Except last Wednesday, when I met Mr. Emphatic.

Wednesday afternoon I settled onto the bus home from Cambridge. I had one of the sideways seats I prefer, and Mr. Emphatic sat down next to me and started telling me how dangerous my phone was. At first I thought he meant kids-these-day-get-off-my-lawn, because people using their phones aren't doing whatever imaginary wholesome things he imagines, but he was talking about the mind control rays coming through the back. He told me I needed to get an insulating cover, to protect myself. See? SHE has an insulating cover on HER phone. (He pointed to the very young and very distracted preschool teacher on his other side. Her phone had a pink plastic cover, but she had no time to discuss how well it protected her brain from being taken over by mind control rays hackers sent up her arm, as she was busy herding a class of 3 year olds onto the bus.[2]) I thanked Mr. Emphatic for his concern and read "Cold Comfort Farm" with my head down. It's an ebook, and I was reading it on my phone with no cover.

Mr. Emphatic turned his attention to one of the little kids sitting across from us. "Is that a tattoo on your arm?" The kid presumably nodded, and he started talking about how tattoos were ugly. And how they got uglier as the woman's body under it got older. Ugly, ugly, ugly. I was trying to think of what to say[3], if I should say anything, when the whole conversation wound down to silence. Peeking out from under the brim of my hat, I couldn't tell if the three children on the opposite seats were feeling hurt or frightened or what. Or if they were ignoring him. Or if they just believed him quietly, without any fuss.

A little while later, he started telling one of the little girls how terrible it was that he could look up her skirt. I don't remember his exact words, but the first thing he said wasn't that awful...if a woman had said it to another grown woman, it could have been useful information, not an attack. (A whisper about a wardrobe malfunction can be a courtesy.) But it feels different when a man is talking to a little girl so emphatically. He didn't just give her the bit of information, for her to use or not. He escalated quickly from "Here is useful information," to "This is a terrible mistake," to "How dare you make this mistake?" The child's legs were short enough to make it difficult to sit modestly on that bench, in that skirt. And as he scolded her about how wrong it was for her to sit with her legs out, she scooted back and drew her knees up to her chin. This, of course, exposed even more of her legs. He kept badgering her, going on about how terrible it was that he could see all the way up.

I finally told him to leave the kid alone. He argued with me. He didn't slink off, ashamed at being called out for bullying a 3-year-old. He argued with me, saying she wasn't listening to him, and it was really important that he teach her to sit properly and keep her legs covered. Somebody a few rows away turned around and told him he shouldn't be looking up a little girl's dress no matter what she was wearing. (I was very relieved to have an ally.) I tried to explain that he was being intrusive and inappropriate. She's just a little kid, you can't talk to her like that. Children are supposed to learn some things from their parents and teachers, not from strangers yelling at them. She'll learn to manage skirts when she's ready, and it wasn't really any of his business. No, being able to see her legs did not make it his business. No, she wasn't my daughter. No, my children weren't on the bus at all [4]. No, I would not appreciate his "help" at all, if he ever saw a daughter of mine with her skirt up like that--I would want him to leave my children alone.

The woman a few rows away was getting angrier, telling him he should just move where he wasn't looking up the skirt of somebody who was practically a baby. The little girl was chewing on the end of her hair solemnly. I couldn't tell if she was listening to us. In between arguing with the other person about it being the child's fault he was looking between her legs, he argued with me about his moral obligation to teach the child to behave modestly. And that I had no right to stop him, especially because the child was not mine, and I was not taking on the responsibility of teaching her to sit modestly.[5] It was horribly uncomfortable. I wanted to interfere. (I WAS interfering. I mean, I wanted to feel confident that it was right for me to interfere.) And yet my whole argument was that he should not be interfering with this child. That a decent person, even a halfway decent person, would stop intruding on this child even if the intrusion was intended to teach her something useful.

I'm glad I said something. The preschool teacher thanked me, after Mr. Emphatic flounced off. I don't know why she didn't say anything to him. Or to the child when he was there. Or even to the child after he left. I'm glad I said something, but I keep thinking I should have handled it better. I should have spoken up sooner. I should have stood up and gotten between them, so he wasn't looking up her dress for the whole argument. I shouldn't have kept telling him, "Don't say that to her because she's just a little kid." I don't want him thinking the bodies of teenage girls are fair game. Worse, I don't want the preschoolers growing up to think that.



1. When I learned to drive, I heard a lot of conflicting information about what it meant to flash high beams. Warning, there's a police car ahead; Warning, there's a moose ahead; You forgot to turn on your headlights; Pull over at the next intersection or my accomplice will kill you; Pull over at the next intersection AND my accomplice will kill you...

2. You've probably seen outings like this. All the kids in bright matching shirts over their clothes, with the name and phone number of the preschool to make it easy to find and return strays.

3. Leave her alone? He wasn't talking directly to any of the kids. People can do what they want with their own bodies--it's not their job to look exactly the way you prefer for their whole lives? Do 3 year olds even understand that? Stop that, you're scaring them? Was he scaring them enough to break the "none of my business" barrier? They looked unsettled, but none of them were crying, and their teacher didn't seem to think they needed rescue.

4. As most of you know, I have no children of my own. This didn't seem the time to say so. Nor to say that if I ever did have a 3-year-old daughter, I would put pants on her.

5. I am not responsible for this child, or no more responsible for her than for anybody (given that we are all of us responsible for each other.) But I don't care whether or not she learns to sit like a proper and modest young lady with her knees together. I care whether or not she learns to be ashamed of her body. I care whether or not she learns her body belongs to her, instead of whoever might like to look at her.
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The most remarkable part of this conversation is that she kept feeding me the setup lines, one after the other.

K: Why were they playing the bagpipes outside your apartment last night?
A: Because they must have known I wouldn't let them practice inside my apartment.

K: Why were they playing bagpipes in the middle of the night at ALL?
A: It was only about 8. All the times after dinner are "night".
K: Why were they playing bagpipes at 8pm?
A: So they wouldn't disturb people by playing in the middle of the night.

K: Why would a bunch of people get together and play bagpipes like that?
A: There was only one bagpipe (one bagpipes? one set of bagpipes?) I was using singular "they," as is polite for a person whose gender I don't know. I mean there was only one person playing. I think one is enough, for practicing bagpipes in this neighborhood, don't you?

K: More than enough! What...why practice the bagpipes at all?
A:This person really needed the practice.
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Last month, my neighborhood was digging out after a snowstorm. Sometimes it takes me a while to think things through. It might have been the last snowstorm, or the one before that--I lose track. I don't have a car, so I have the privilege of not digging out. On the other hand, I need to spend a lot of time standing around in the snow waiting for buses.

The bus stop nearest my apartment is on a medium-sized street that had been fairly well plowed. The tiny residential street directly across that street was less well plowed, and the car parked nearest the corner was having trouble getting out. One person was struggling through the snow to put a little more kitty litter behind a wheel, then motioning to the driver (a child?), who rocked the car forwards a bit before it slipped back.

The guy next to me at the bus stop pointed and laughed. "She's doing everything wrong. Some people have no clue how to deal with snow." He had his phone out, and I couldn't reach mine without unzipping my coat and taking off my mittens, so I asked him when the next bus would be. 4 minutes. He had been waiting more than 40 minutes, with two buses simply not showing up. He told me about "watching that idiot across the street all that time," spinning the wheels and digging the car deeper, making the problem worse by trying to drive before clearing enough snow from the appropriate places, putting dirt under the wrong wheel.

As I said above, sometimes it takes me a while to think things through. I can't shovel or push without doing myself an injury. I didn't know what I could yell (over the wind, across the street, over the engine noise) that would be heard as useful information rather than hostile or mocking. With 10 minutes, I could go over and explain...but 2 minutes wasn't enough time to cross the road and get back. I was still trying to figure out what to do when I saw the bus coming over the hill, and thus failed to do anything.

There are clues to dealing with winter storms. The most important is that we help each other. (Even more important than things like "wear a hat and good boots" and "stay hydrated.")
http://commodorified.livejournal.com/465640.html#t4384232
Knowing which corner of the car to push on is secondary. Tertiary.
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It's kind of shocking to realize the ten years in this apartment is more time than I've ever lived in one place. I don't think of myself as moving around all that much. But here I am.

Or not. My landlord is raising the rent in April, and it's really not feasible for me to stay here. (It would have been financially prudent for me to leave last year, but I was afraid to give up the class tokens then.) Now I live in a familiar neighborhood, right next to a supermarket and a drugstore and a library and a reliable* bus. My apartment has thin walls, no A/C, and a dishwasher that doesn't work...but I have privacy. In addition to my books and clothes and desk, I have room for my living room furniture and enough kitchen stuff to have half a dozen people for dinner.

Obviously, I'd like to keep all my stuff. And live near the T. And still have laundry in the building. And not pay more than $1000/month. If you know of such an unlikely place, please do let me know. But I think my plausible options are:

1) A studio apartment near a red line stop. I don't like the idea of giving up so much stuff. It feels like a loss of possibilities, or acknowledging that the possibilities are lost. But it might be the way to get affordable access to groceries, laundry, transit, community...which are more important than furnishings.

2) A smaller 1 bedroom apartment than I have now, in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Any advice on what neighborhood is likely to be good? (Medford Square? Malden Center? Union Square?) I want to be near a supermarket and a library. Coffee shops fit my lifestyle better than bars. If I'm not near a subway stop, I want buses that run well into the evening. Beyond that, I'm afraid of being isolated, without the social energy to make new connections in a new neighborhood.

3) Sharing a house or large apartment. With the right person, and the right space, this could work out really well, but I have no idea how to find that right person. It seems like most of my friends are no longer interested in house sharing on this scale, thinking of it as something to do when you're starting out and haven't established a family or career yet. It's scary to consider moving in with a stranger. And even thinking about what I want** in a house-sharing situation makes me feel like an unreasonable fussbudget that nobody would want to live with.


*Every 10 or 20 minutes, depending on time of day. Runs from a little before 5am until a little after 1am. This is painfully different from places where the last bus comes at 6:45pm, even if it comes exactly at 6:45 on schedule.

**I want to actually share the common space, not just take turns walking through it to our bedrooms. I want somebody who is ok with that, and also ok with me taking big chunks of alone-time. I don't want to live with a dog, a cat, a smoker, or a drinker. I don't want tv in common space. I want people who can be careful about when and where they apply perfume and nail polish. In short: aaargh.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/10769.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
It's kind of shocking to realize the ten years in this apartment is more time than I've ever lived in one place. I don't think of myself as moving around all that much. But here I am.

Or not. My landlord is raising the rent in April, and it's really not feasible for me to stay here. (It would have been financially prudent for me to leave last year, but I was afraid to give up the class tokens then.) Now I live in a familiar neighborhood, right next to a supermarket and a drugstore and a library and a reliable* bus. My apartment has thin walls, no A/C, and a dishwasher that doesn't work...but I have privacy. In addition to my books and clothes and desk, I have room for my living room furniture and enough kitchen stuff to have half a dozen people for dinner.

Obviously, I'd like to keep all my stuff. And live near the T. And still have laundry in the building. And not pay more than $1000/month. If you know of such an unlikely place, please do let me know. But I think my plausible options are:

1) A studio apartment near a red line stop. I don't like the idea of giving up so much stuff. It feels like a loss of possibilities, or acknowledging that the possibilities are lost. But it might be the way to get affordable access to groceries, laundry, transit, community...which are more important than furnishings.

2) A smaller 1 bedroom apartment than I have now, in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Any advice on what neighborhood is likely to be good? (Medford Square? Malden Center? Union Square?) I want to be near a supermarket and a library. Coffee shops fit my lifestyle better than bars. If I'm not near a subway stop, I want buses that run well into the evening. Beyond that, I'm afraid of being isolated, without the social energy to make new connections in a new neighborhood.

3) Sharing a house or large apartment. With the right person, and the right space, this could work out really well, but I have no idea how to find that right person. It seems like most of my friends are no longer interested in house sharing on this scale, thinking of it as something to do when you're starting out and haven't established a family or career yet. It's scary to consider moving in with a stranger. And even thinking about what I want** in a house-sharing situation makes me feel like an unreasonable fussbudget that nobody would want to live with.


*Every 10 or 20 minutes, depending on time of day. Runs from a little before 5am until a little after 1am. This is painfully different from places where the last bus comes at 6:45pm, even if it comes exactly at 6:45 on schedule.

**I want to actually share the common space, not just take turns walking through it to our bedrooms. I want somebody who is ok with that, and also ok with me taking big chunks of alone-time. I don't want to live with a dog, a cat, a smoker, or a drinker. I don't want tv in common space. I want people who can be careful about when and where they apply perfume and nail polish. In short: aaargh.
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Last week, I saw somebody wearing a yellow t-shirt with the text "every kiss begins with consent." I saw it in passing, and didn't have time to parse the graphic, but there was one. Cambridge usually has a pretty high density of idealistic t-shirts (from "world peace" to "you can't tell me what to do"), but this seemed new. I like it.

After the young woman wearing it got off the bus, I thought it was an impressive bit of social progress for her to wear it. Some women my age have daughters within a few years of 20. I recall being close to that age and knowing women who organized Take Back The Night rallies and were very emphatic about no meaning no...but I don't think any of us would have worn a shirt like that in public. It would have been a joke.

Then I thought it would indicate even more social progress if I'd seen the t-shirt on a young man, alongside the emblem of a fraternity or sponsor suggesting lots of guys were wearing them. Probably not. Fraternities have such a horrible reputation for advocating rape culture that I'd suspect some kind of nasty joke ("every kiss begins with consent" on the front, and something like "don't stop 'til I get enough," on the back.) Or even simple hypocrisy, the way such organizations officially oppose alcohol abuse.
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As you've probably heard, Sarah Palin visited Boston recently, and said something silly about Paul Revere. That's not very surprising. Lots of people visit Boston*, and most of them say silly things at some point. The remarkable thing is that so many people seemed to take her seriously.

Dichroic made an insightful post about different kinds of mistakes:
http://dichroic.dreamwidth.org/196242.html
I think it was partly inspired by Palin's mistake, and partly by the responses to it among ideologues who really want to be on Palin's side.
(ETA: I meant to link to this post. http://dichroic.dreamwidth.org/196469.html Not the poem. It's hard to discuss mistakes without making more.)

It reminded me of a local mistake about Paul Revere. Near the border of Lexington, there's a mural of Revere's ride on a brick wall, between Mass Ave and the Minuteman Bikeway. (I think the wall belongs to the MBTA, but I'm not sure.) It's not a brilliant mural, but it's lively and colorful, and horse and rider have plausible numbers and arrangements of limbs. They both look tired yet excited, running hard. Revere is shouting--I think he's waving his hat. I walked past that mural hundreds of times before it occurred to me that it faces the wrong way.

I don't know how many murals there are of Paul Revere's ride, where the orientation doesn't matter. This one is along the path he actually rode, and it shows him riding towards Boston. For many years, I was so thoroughly non-visual, it didn't occur to me to think about it. Last year, I started reading chemistry textbooks out loud and describing the diagrams...that pushed me to think about how visual information might be useful and important, and made me start noticing misleading visual information.



*The city encourages it. So do I! All you nice people from away should come visit!
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The sunshine is so bright today the police strobes don't bother me when I look out the window at the parade. This means I can watch the Patriots' Day parade.

After the marines went marching by, when the band was still going on about the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli, the Jedi and the storm troopers came through. I was looking down on their heads, which isn't a great way to gauge a costume, but I was impressed anyhow. I liked the storm trooper breaking formation to touch fists with the little storm trooper by the roadside. And the Jedi knight twirling two lightsabers like batons.

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder...
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I live in an apartment building with really terrible sound insulation. Street noise bothers me, though I'm really pretty high above the street. Sometimes I wish I couldn't hear so much of what the next-door neighbor was watching on tv, or the neighbor across the hall pleading tearfully with her boyfriend. I don't know how much of my feeling about the matter is generally being averse to conflict, and how much is a sense that addressing these particular noise problems would be too much of an imposition...the next-door neighbor shouldn't need to find another way to deal with hearing problems, not for my sake. And however much I think the neighbor across the hall should be in a more peaceful romantic relationship, it would be icky for her to be thinking about MY happiness while negotiating it. Overhearing neighbors can be uncomfortable, but the advantages of cheap apartment living are worth it to me.

My new neighbor downstairs is distressed by how much noise I make. It's not music or conversation that bothers her. It's that I "walk so heavily." I don't wear shoes in the apartment, nor do I run or dance here. It's just that every time I put a foot down on my floor (thinking about going across the room, or mindlessly pacing while talking on the phone) it comes through to her ceiling as if I were stomping.

She seems very averse to conflict, herself. I could tell it was hard for her to bring herself to talk to me about the problem--she could only do it when she found the situation completely intolerable.* She spent a lot of time defending against the idea that it was inappropriate for her to talk to me about being disturbed by noise.** She also checked with other people, to make sure her distress was not unreasonable.*** Visitors to her apartment have been shocked by the impact of my footfalls, and wondered how anyone could live that way. She asked my neighbor across the hall, who hears me thumping around and agreed that it's incredibly loud.

The neighbor is so distressed that she says she will break her lease if I won't walk more quietly. I apologized for disturbing her, and said that I truly did not want to do so in the future, but I wasn't sure how to avoid it. I told her I already don't wear shoes in the apartment, which would be the most obvious remedy. I asked what she would suggest. She said it was simply a matter of putting my feet down more gently, and that a person with any consideration would do so. I know carpeting muffles downwards transfer of sound, but I don't want to get it because vacuuming is such a strain for my hand and shoulder.

Her next step is to notify the landlord--actually, the management company that owns the building. She expects they will order me to stop disturbing her, because her lease gives her the right to the quiet enjoyment of her apartment. The way I walk back and forth over her bedroom at 8am, or over her kitchen at 7:30pm, is making that untenable. I have no idea if the management will value her lease more than mine.

My first step will have to wait until I can overcome my anxiety enough to get out of my chair. (This is not any more fun than being too depressed to move. Maybe less, in some ways.) While I was writing this, I was thirsty, and didn't get up for a drink because it would be too noisy. I wanted to call S, but I didn't think I could talk to him without pacing, so I didn't.



*She first brought the subject up a week ago. Redbird answered the door, and handled most of the conversation. At the time, I got the impression that the neighbor was distressed because we were talking in the kitchen and clattering dishes so early that particular morning (she said 5, but we had been up at 7.)

**Last week, I tried to reassure the neighbor that it was OK to talk to me if she had a problem with something I was doing, that I wanted to know if there was something I could fix. Meanwhile, Redbird was defensive about the accusation that we had been making noise at 5am (when we'd both been sound asleep), and the neighbor was reacting to that defensiveness. At the same confused time, the neighbor was trying to make a comprehensive defense of the idea that it wasn't unreasonable or mean to talk to me about horribly disruptive noise I was making...so defensive she couldn't hear, "Yes, of course, thank you for telling me. We really do have to go now, we need to get to South Station," as anything but dismissive.

***Knowing that LOTS of people think my walk is intolerably bad is really disturbing. I mean, I understand why she checked with them. I might have done the same thing. But I still feel like people are ganging up on me.
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Last week, I saw a sign in the window of a dry cleaners: "We now use organic solvent!"
I knew what they meant, even though the words were precisely wrong. The whole idea of dry cleaning started with using organic solvents like benzene or kerosene, instead of water, to clean fabric that might be damaged by water. Unfortunately, those solvents are flammable, carcinogenic, and otherwise problematic. 70-80 years ago, the industry replaced them with less flammable organic solvents. When the environmental and cancer risks were recognized* in the 1970s, they started trapping and recycling the vapor, so workers would not be exposed to as much solvent and the stuff would not pollute as much air and water.

More recently, there has been research into methods of dry cleaning without organic solvents. Some use liquid carbon dioxide, some use silicones, and some use small amounts of steam and various tricks to prevent water from damaging the fabric. Carbon dioxide is not an organic compound, despite the presence of carbon. Silicones are considered mixed inorganic-organic compounds. And water is not organic, despite commonly being found in living things.

I think I know what happened. The dry cleaners were presumably going to some trouble to use a solvent that was safer and more environmentally friendly than what they had used before. They wanted to attract customers from neighborhood residents who prefer organic vegetables...


*I mean "recognized" by the industry. Researchers generally recognize risks before that awareness shows up in regulations or market pressure. I don't know what the time lag was in this case.
adrian_turtle: (Dracomir)
I was walking down Mass Ave when I saw a commotion in a gas station parking lot. I could tell a couple of people were shouting at each other, but they were on the other side of the pumps so I couldn't see them very clearly. It sounded like a fight starting to spiral out of control, and I wanted to run away. There were a handful of other people in the parking lot, but they seemed to be backing away as shouting escalated to slaps and pushing. I'm not sure what happened next, but I heard what sounded like a scream of serious pain.

Details may be triggery ) And I called 911. When the conflict started and other observers walked away, I don't know if one of them called 911. One thing about cell phones is that you can report a situation of interest to the police, quite close to other people who need not have any idea you're doing it.

I heard the boy screaming as the man pulled him behind a nearby house. He shouted, "Somebody please help me!" and "That's not my dad!" just it says to do in the "Stranger Danger" pamphlets the local little girls bring home from school. It was wrenching to know he believed I had backed down and didn't want to help him. (But of course my comfort is not the point.) I was a block away when the police car pulled up. I don't know what happened next.
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The Boston Globe has an editorial about the importance of what they call "fixing broken windows."
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2009/02/13/cleaning_up_crime_in_lowell/
They refer to statistics about how effective it is to use police in various ways that are hoped to prevent crime from escalating in a run-down neighborhood where minor crimes are common. 15-25 years ago, it seemed like I only heard about "broken windows" crime prevention policies in terms of intensive police efforts to arrest small-scale vandals and trespassers, impose youth curfews, and so forth.

The Globe editorial isn't really talking about that. Most of the editorial is about "the broken windows theory" and "crime and disorder hot spots" in Lowell, getting either routine police service or special attention, and the areas receiving special attention stopped calling the police so often. Well trained by the language patterns of the Detroit News of the 1980s (or even the Ann Arbor News, or the Ithaca Journal), I flinched a little. I thought they must be referring to arresting panhandlers, pot dealers, and those groups of obnoxious teenagers who get drunk and make too much noise late at night on streetcorners. They may be technically breaking laws, but it's hard for me to believe the police are reducing the risk of murder or grand larceny by arresting them. So I was pleasantly surprised to see them distinguish between cleaning up places and arresting people, and then say it was more helpful to clean up the places.

Something else I noticed was the study saying "cleaning and securing empty lots" and the Globe summarizing it as "cleanups." I know perfectly well why the Globe could not possibly use the headline, "Good fences make good neighbors." The line is too well-known as pointing the other way. (It would have been nice to put it in the body of the editorial. After almost 100 years, we finally have statistical evidence of repairing fences making better neighbors. North of Boston, even!)

I used to walk to work from the Lowell commuter rail station, last summer. It was pretty dismal-looking. There were hardly any pedestrians, and people at work and the train station said I was crazy for walking (not just in bad weather. Generally.) It's hard for me to think about crime in Lowell without remembering the morning I had envelopes to mail, having neglected to drop them at the post office as I ran for the train in the morning. So instead of just walking down the street as usual, I was walking with envelopes in my hand, looking for one of those familiar blue post-office boxes. When I didn't see one after half a mile, I started peering down side streets in search of them. When I didn't see one after a mile, I went into a store and asked. The clerk told me the post office had taken them out to protect them from vandals. Or maybe thieves, she wasn't sure. But they'd all been gone for a few years. It seemed like a symptom of a broken community.

Another such symptom (possibly of the community, possibly of the narrators) turned up on one of the rare occasions when I was riding a local bus from the train station. (Lowell's local buses are...better than nothing. Some routes run every 70 minutes, others every 40 or every 80 minutes. They are of limited usefulness for connecting to the train which runs every half hour, and the last bus is at 5:30pm.) Somebody was talking about either the city or the state's plans to plant trees beside the main road that runs through Lowell. Not the expressway, but the biggest road with houses and schools and businesses next to it. I thought it was a great idea. Redbird had told me about a similar plan in NYC, already well started, intended to reduce air pollution as well as improving less measurable qualities. A couple of longtime Lowell residents, beside me on the bus, were complaining about what a stupid plan it was, what a monumental waste of money. They were sure as soon as the trees were planted they would be knocked down and it would all be for nothing. I asked if they meant knocked down by snowplows. They didn't expect saplings planted in the summer to last until snowfall, because vandals would smash them all.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
Similar businesses tend to congregate together. Zoning restrictions can keep shops away from houses and put them with other shops, or put factories with other factories, but I'm talking about something on a different scale. There are a lot of Armenian grocers in Watertown, a lot of finance offices downtown, a lot of kosher bakers in Brookline. Sometimes it's obvious when and how a neighborhood is changing. I was worried about Arlington having so many empty storefronts and places to rent. I was worried about so much of the good business space being used by banks. (What does a bank gain from having multiple branches of a bank in such a small town? What do they gain that makes it a good use of those storefronts that shut down at 4pm?) Now I'm growing less worried and more confused, as the town seems to have a lot of new businesses.

It was only when I paid attention from the sidewalk that I noticed how many of the new businesses along Mass Ave are massage therapists. Waterhouse Wellness, Innovative Bodywork, Common Sense Massage, and some of the signs with "chiropractic and massage" or "reiki and massage" look they're aiming for a therapeutic experience. Massage Envy and Body Tune look more like they advertise recreational massage, though for all I know the massage is the same and they just sell different ambiance. The unfortunately named Golden Water Massage only has a sign with their name, as do many other less memorable places. I thought about walking down Mass Ave with a notebook to collect all the names of new massage places, but I didn't have time today, and it's supposed to snow tomorrow.

Is this new, or did I just not notice before? Is Arlington a really good place for massage therapists to set up offices? ("Just steps from the bikeway! Limp over for some revitalizing sports massage!" Probably not that.) I know some places are hotspots for infectious diseases, or even for food poisoning, but is it remotely plausible for Arlington to have more musculoskeletal problems than other towns?
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The second time I ever bought a car, way back in the summer of 2000, the car dealer asked if I wanted the option package that included full power doors. Oh yes, that would be wonderful! How much extra does it cost? Hardly anything, if I combine it with the ice melting wires in the back window, and the automatic transmission, and the air conditioner.

The only disappointment was when the car arrived and I discovered how limited my car doors' powers were. They did not include the power to open and close the windows. Nor the power to close the doors (or even make them easier to reach when one swung all the way open.) Nor the power to unlock one of the back doors directly, without opening a front door first. The main power of the car doors is that the doors lock automatically, with an annoying loud *click*, when the car begins to move faster than 5mph. This is pretty close to worthless. But by the time I had the car, it would have cost me a couple of thousand dollars and 2-3 months to send it back and get another with power *windows* (and the doors would still not have behaved as I believe proper power doors ought to behave.) So I kept it.

A few days, I was walking down the sidewalk in Cambridge as a driver got into her car in front of me. She used exactly the same technique my occupational therapist had recommended to me, for protecting one's lower back. She sat on the edge of the seat, facing the sidewalk. She scooted back into the car, and then brought her feet in and turned to face the wheel. Then she had to close the door. I had just barely noticed her when I was further behind her car and she was getting in. (I probably wouldn't have paid any attention at all if I hadn't been specifically instructed on the technique, and feeling bad about myself for not being able to do it.) But as I passed the car, I could see how frustrated she was because she couldn't reach the door. She grabbed for it several times, and sometimes even tugged at the handle...but couldn't get enough leverage to actually close it. As I walked past the door, I pushed it gently, 10 or maybe 20 degrees. It came into her hand and she closed it solidly. I don't think she ever noticed me. She had been looking down at her hand on the door, the same way I do when it's not working. The driver of the next car ahead was standing beside his car with the door open, staring at me suspiciously.

Would that be power assist, like with the steering? Or just an advantage of driving in a pedestrian-rich environment?
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Two bus routes go down this street, using the same bus stops (whether they are sheltered benches or just signs by the side of the road.) Sometimes a person stands at the bus stop, and waves the bus on before it pulls over--the person is waiting for the other bus, no need to stop unless somebody wants to get off. This is all background for a conversation I overheard this morning.

A: You're only making it worse. If you weren't so inconsiderate, if you--
B: I'm really sorry. I didn't see--
A: Stop apologizing! If you would only pay more attention to the people around you, if you weren't so selfish and rude, you wouldn't--
B: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--
A: Apologizing only makes it worse. You waved that bus on like you were the only person at the stop, like you're the only person in the world who matters, and now you try to say "I'm sorry" like that's any help for me being late for work!
B: Ok, what do you want from me?
A: I want you to pay attention! Show some consideration!

The scolding went on and on. It had probably started a minute or two before they got on the bus, and showed every sign of continuing all the way to the end of the line. The participants did not look like people with a previous connection, though not all connections are evident. I'm not sure how much it matters whether or not there is any connection, for people who are just listening. For considering whether or not to intervene, it seems more appropriate for a stranger to step into a dispute between two people who just met than into a similar-sounding dispute that is one facet of a long and complicated relationship. It was very uncomfortable to listen to, regardless if they were neighbors with a long history of resentment or if they met this morning for the first time. (I really don't think they were lovers, siblings, parent and grown child, or friends.) A lot of people put headphones on. Some got off the bus. Nobody said anything to them. What is there to say?

edited for LJ-cut to protect vs obscure earworm )
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Last night, I was talking with [livejournal.com profile] ron_newman about, among other things, the problem of building community. He's trying to moderate the LJ "community" for Davis Square (it's a neighborhood about 3 miles from here). It's complicated by the fact that so many participants are just interested in straightforward information on the order of "What vegetarian restaurants are near Davis Square?" and don't want to get involved in discussion. A fair number of the others are easily sidetracked by distractions on the order of "Why would anyone in their right mind be a vegetarian?" which makes for lively discussion, but not what I think of as community.

I'm sure there are technical tools to help build useful online communities elsewhere, but this thing is on LJ. Are any of you involved in similar communities enough to know how they are moderated or otherwise managed? I'm aware of one for Montreal and one for Inwood, but there might be others.
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Last night, I went to Rosh Hashanah services at the Hav. When I lived in Troy, I was so uncomfortable at High Holiday services it was kind of embarrassing. I went to Friday night services a lot, so/because I knew and liked the service and that set of people. The Friday Night Regulars mostly showed up because they liked it and felt comfortable there...that kind of mood is contagious. (I suspect the people who came Saturday morning felt similarly, only being morning people.) But for High Holidays, more than half the overcrowded room was full of people who were dressed up and going someplace uncomfortable and unfamiliar, because they thought it was important to be seen there. That kind of mood is contagious, too.

When I was working, I usually felt conflicted about whether to take time off for the holiday. If I went to work, I could save the vacation time for a vacation I would actually enjoy, or for the luxury of staying home when I was sick. But working on the holiday set a precedent, made a statement of my priorities, I really did not want to make. I don't have the actual conflict this year, but I can still fret about it. Fretting is what I do.

Anyhow, the Hav service started out by being so deliberately welcoming, so thoroughly warm and inclusive that I actually felt welcome despite the context of it being Rosh Hashanah. I felt like a community I wanted to be part of. (I mean something much more local than feeling part of "the Jewish people" which is a scale that's hard for me to connect to emotionally.) Not all the attempts to make people feel welcome and included worked for everyone, but I thought there was a lot of value in just having so many of them. It felt like a recognition of how difficult it can be to "warm up" to pray, or to do anything emotionally substantial in a roomful of uncomfortable strangers.

Afterwards, I went to dinner at the home of someone I had met at a Hav event last month. She found a wonderful solution to the problem of being alone for holiday meals--she invites strangers, or people she's just met, over until her little apartment is full. Unlike all the people whose lives seem to connect with mine in lots of venues, I doubt I would ever meet her without the Hav, but I like her. A few years ago, I invited a handful of people over for lunch after Rosh Hashanah services (this was back when [livejournal.com profile] shirad lived in Somerville) and it was a lot of fun...but when people cancelled at the last minute, we just had lots of leftovers. I didn't go looking for more people who wanted a holiday dinner, as happened last night. I'll know for next time; this way of being more open and generous is also more fun, and not really any more trouble if a person starts by saying, "there's room for 2 more, who wants to come?" rather than opening the party to an unknown group of unknown size.

As we were walking between the Havurah and the apartment, I saw [livejournal.com profile] ron_newman, walking home from services on Winter Hill. I'm sure it looked like I was hailing any random stranger in a yarmulke to wish him l'shana tova and invite him to dinner, but I've known Ron since the net was flat. (And he does sometimes go to services at the Hav.) We all had a good time, and it turned out that Ron had just read _Farthing_, which skewed the dinner conversation. But in a good way. Jo, I'd like you to meet Ron. He cares about public transit and walkable neighborhoods, and is generally a decent human being.
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Monday, I went to the fabric store. I wasn't thinking of buying cloth. I don't sew more than minimal mending, and sometimes not even that. I was just going to the fabric store because a knife sharpener (who is also a scissor sharpener, presumably) picks up and delivers there, as a convenient service to customers. Wow. Sharp knives make life easier.

While I was there, I saw something that made me think "Ooo -- shiny!" Or whatever the equivalent is for fuzzy fleece stuff with dinosaurs, that only needs to be cut into strips to become scarves for chilly little dinosaurophiles. The clerk was kind enough to sell me 3/4 of a yard, 1/4 yard at a time. I washed the sizing off, and cut off the little bits at each end, the ragged white bits with no dinosaurs. They look like scarves already. The only question now is whether I should make them into *different* scarves. I could cut fringes into one, to keep them from being quite identical. I don't know if that would aggravate the problem of wanting whatever one's sister has, that I am trying to prevent by giving them two. (The third is mine.)

This past summer, I went to an acupuncturist a few times. After a few treatments, he said my nerves were too hypersensitive for him to do any lasting good, and I should come back when my hands were under less physical strain, or when I was taking more effective medication for nerve damage. One of the things he tried, but was not able to do, was to bandage my hand in a way that put pressure where pressure actually helps. When I hold my bad hand in my good hand, I press on the side of the wrist in a spot that helps. (I do this reasonably often, when it gets bad.) But trying to bandage it that way just did not work. We tried gauze, tape, elastic bandages, cloth bandages, various things with lumps of stuff to try to press on the tendon. None of them work, at least not the way I can fasten them. I don't try very often, because it's such a hassle. But there are 6 strips of fleece on my desk, half printed with dinosaurs, half blank, all very soft and inviting me to fidget with them. I can tie one around my wrist with one hand and my teeth, and pull it tight up against the spot where pressure feels good. It relaxes in a few minutes, which is probably good for the safety of my fingers. But I can have that pressure against the tendon (which the acupuncturist called "supportive" and I just think feels good) provided by fuzzy dinosaurs while I do something strenuous like turn a pair of wet jeans right-side-out.
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There's a new convenience store in the town center, right next to my bus stop. I don't usually shop at convenience stores, but I really like the idea of having one there. It's much nicer for the neighborhood than a boarded up storefront (because no store could afford to rent the space) or Yet Another Bank Branch. Everyone banks online, and the town still has 4-6 bank branches/mile. Not ATMs, but branches with tellers. What's wrong with this picture?

So the depanneur is less than 2 weeks old, and I've been in there 4 times. I wished the storekeeper well and welcomed him to the neighborhood, bought overpriced bottles of iced tea, and got out of the cold wind while waiting for the bus. Between the bus stop and the catholic high school around the corner, I expect them to do pretty good business selling coffee and junk food in the mornings, but it's always been empty when I saw it. (Not quite empty. One girl was at the slush machine, getting what I think was frozen off-brand Red Bull. *shudder* Poor kid.)

I don't expect to see really passionate arguments at 7:15 in the morning. I know people operate on different schedules - I've done shift work myself - but it's still a surprise to stumble on the shouting and emphatic gesturing with fists when I've only been awake a little while. When one of the angry men stormed out, the storekeeper deflated and went behind the counter to sell me one of those bottles of tea. He explained the problem...I'm not sure he could have kept quiet about it, just at that moment.

He wants to sell bread. There's this empty space near the front of the store where he wanted to display loaves of bread, and he has customers *asking* him for bread. But the bread companies don't want to deliver to little stores. Even some of the local bakeries that used to deliver to little stores are trying to be more efficient now, only taking bread to big supermarkets. Some of them will deliver bread to large and medium-sized stores, then come back and retrieve the unsold stuff. The bakery would rather deal with the remainders than miss out on the sales of a big store, and the associated chance for brand loyalty.
But a tiny little store? A tiny little store so new everything about it is unpredictable? That's not profitable enough to pay for the delivery truck. Not even enough to pay for it to stop on the way to the big supermarket up the street.

So this frantic man is trying to juggle everything needed to make a new store functional. The operation is so marginal it's absurd to suggest he leave the place and go buy bread elsewhere, to bring back and sell. If he can't get it delivered, he can't sell it. The economics of cake seems to be different, somehow. That, and the fluorescent "frozen energy drink," swirling round and round in the machine.
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The town had an election today. I made it outside around midafternoon. It seemed bright enough that I thought the police lights would not be much of a problem, so I headed for the town center. There seemed to be dozens of candidates, lined up with their families along Mass Ave, waving signs at passers-by.

One woman stopped me and asked if I was going to vote, and I nodded. She asked me to vote for her as a write-in candidate for Town Meeting. She told me her name, and gave me a little sticker with her name and address printed on it. I looked at it (thinking it was a clever idea for write-in candidates to prevent misspellings), looked at her, and asked, "why?"

She gestured with the big sign she was holding, [her name] for Town Meeting. It was awkward for her to hold it and the sheet of stickers at the same time. She said, as if I was crazy, "Because I want to be on Town Meeting."

"I see that. But why should I vote for you? What do you want to do that's different from the current Town Meeting?"

She looked really indignant that I asked. "I have lots of ideas! I would really shake things up. The current Town Meeting is so divisive, always arguing about everything..." She trails off, shaking her head, and finally just says, "I'm not like that."

The person with her waved a sign, and encouraged me to vote for this woman. "She really cares. You should vote for her." I smiled at them and moved on. The candidate repeated that she really wanted to be on Town Meeting.

If I think in terms of her running for Town Meeting for its own sake, there's a detached zen beauty to it. She's so passionately enthusiastic about being on Town Meeting, but it's enthusiasm for the Town Meeting, or perhaps the campaign itself, not so much enthusiasm for the town being governed, that seems to inspire her. Of course, a town is a lot more complicated and untidy than a meeting. I'm not sure if she recognized that and was too busy campaigning to talk about the details, or if she'd be in for an unpleasant surprise if she wins.

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