Archive for the 'Jamaica Plain' Category

Tuning My Violin from 60 Miles Away

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

If you are an amateur violinist like me, it is sometimes difficult to learn how to tune your violin. It’s especially hard when the weather is very changeable because the strings react to big temperature swings, like we are experiencing now in Boston. Last night I was trying to get my strings tuned so I could practice and I was having a helluva time. I tried for about a half-hour to make it work, and still no dice. I was frustrated. I didn’t want to bother my teacher, but I thought, I will just text her. She usually says, “Come on over and I will help you,” since she lives just a block or two away in our neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.

My phone rang. She had received my desperate text. She was in Rhode Island rehearsing with an orchestra for a performance and had just a few minutes, but wanted to help me. I idly plucked my A string, which was the most difficult one to tune. She immediately said, “That’s a C.” I have an electronic tuner and I watched as it registered “C.” She was right! Then she listened as she told me to loosen the string, tighten the fine tune, etc., etc. “That’s a B.” “You are very close.” She gave me more instruction. “There, that’s A.” She did it all by phone. She’s a genius. I was blown away. She suggested that this scenario of tuning-by-phone could make a great commercial for AT&T, and I agreed. Then I happily got off the phone and proceeded to massacre Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto 1.

I Had My First Violin Recital (at Age 52)

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

As many readers of The Boomer Chronicles know, I started violin lessons a year and a half ago. I had always loved the sound of the violin but never pursued lessons. Finally, around the age of 49, I had the time, money and motivation. As I began to seek out a teacher, I had a few false starts. For instance, I was all set to sign up for an adult education class but realized the schedule would not work out. Then I searched for a teacher in my neighborhood by reading flyers at the local library and other places. Again, nothing worked out. Then I learned of a professional string orchestra that had formed in my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, Mass. It was called A Far Cry, and the interesting thing is, they had a storefront. So on my neighborhood’s monthly First Thursday art openings, I visited the storefront, met some of the young, enthusiastic orchestra members and got the names of four possible violin teachers. I emailed them, and settled on one.

I went to my first lesson and I knew I had found the right person.

Sure, I wish that string instruments had been available to me as a schoolkid, but it’s better late than never. I love learning the violin.

As for my recital last weekend, a great crowd of about 30 friends attended it. It was nothing fancy. It was me and my teacher playing for a few minutes. I made some mistakes, for sure, but it went well.

I want to send a special shout-out to my former housemate Cat, who with her kind indulgence, tolerated and even supported my practice sessions early on. And my current roommate, Blair, who does not object to the practice sessions, either.

And, of course, my incredible violin teacher, Liza, who is a world-class musician, yet is willing (and enthusiastic) to teach kids and me. How lucky I am!

Weird Wednesday: True Ghost Stories

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Do you believe in ghosts? I do. I’ve seen one myself and I know folks in my neighborhood whose homes have ghosts.

My ghost story took place about 10 years ago. I was in an old house in my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain playing a board game on a coffeetable with my hosts. I felt a cat slink by my leg and then scoot under the table. It never saw it re-emerge on the other side. I asked my hosts if they had a cat and they said no. Here’ s what I saw: a moving smudge. It was dark but had no distinct shape. But it definitely did that unmistakable cat-slinky thing on my leg.

Anyway, here are some true ghost stories from my region of the world — New England. And, if you are so moved, you can even join the New England Paranormal group and help hunt down ghosts.

Four Random Thoughts for Summer

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Last summer my housemate and I created a drink: vodka with raspberry seltzer and lime. We thought it was original (although it probably wasn’t) and called it the JP Express (after our neighborhood, Jamaica Plain). This summer, we are making ice cream. We haven’t named it yet, but I’m sure that will happen soon. Next week, we are debuting our creations by inviting friends over for ice cream and a movie.

I will be biking the East Bay Providence Bike Trail. It’s about 28 miles round trip and takes you through wetlands and nice natural areas. It is one of my goals this summer to do a lot of long bike rides. So far, so good.

Yesterday, I heard cannon shots outside my office. I’m not kidding. I work across the street from Boston Common and another obscure Massachusetts holiday (we’ve got a lot of them) called June Day was being celebrated. Guys in colonial outfits complete with muskets and other military accessories marched down the street along with companies in slightly more up-to-date outfits. They all entered the park and then shot off a cannon for what seemed like hours. They’ve been doing this 1638.

Been thinking about going on a storm-chasing expedition sometime. Don’t know if it will happen this summer. They are pricey.

Three Books I Just Read

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Here are brief descriptions of three books I just finished reading:

Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment. This is a little slice of life about an older married couple who live in New York City when their pet dachshund ends up in a veterinary hospital. Well done.

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout. Strout is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction for her stunning novel-told-in-stories Olive Kitteridge. Strout also wrote Amy and Isabelle (another gem) and Abide with Me, which I don’t feel is nearly as strong as her other work. This novel tells the story of a very kind (bordering on ’spineless’) minister in a small New England town who recently lost his wife and struggles to bring up his kids.

The Animal Girl by John Fulton. This is a book of novellas and short stories that blew me away. First, I must say, John happens to be a neighbor of mine, here in Jamaica Plain, Mass. But that fact did not influence my feelings about his work. John’s writing is flawless and his storytelling intense, amazing. The characters are truly unforgettable, especially Leah who is The Animal Girl, a disturbed 17-year-old who spends her summer caring for the lab animals and making all kinds of trouble.

Who Gets their Hair “Done” Anymore?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Who gets their hair “done”? Well, a lot of women, actually. In my Jamaica Plain neighborhood, for instance, I’ve gotten my hair cut at several different hair salons that cater largely to a clientele of older ladies who come in once a week or so to get their hair “done” (some people call the result a “helmet”). I think getting your hair done involves a process something like this: wash, cut, dry, style, tease, spray gallons of hair spray on. I remember my mother doing this each week. She never washed her own hair. I find that particular concept really odd. For one thing, doesn’t your hair get dirty?

Urban Dictionary says it best:

grandma hair DEFINITION: An older lady hair style that consists of hair that is white, grey, dark grey, or any mixture in between. Most likely cut short and in tight curls. The kind of hair that “Mrs. Jenkins” gets done everyday at 2 o’ clock. Most likely women with this style are known as the “regulars” at beauty salons.

As the old ladies age and pass on, a couple of these Jamaica Plain shops are on the cusp of turning over from the older-lady customers to a younger bunch. Right now, the clientele is divided between the two.  So the hair stylists must be as handy with a teasing comb as with titanium razor-edge cutting shears. One day, all of the older ladies will be gone, and then the art of “doing hair” may be forever lost.

10 Reasons I Support My Local Businesses

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I love local businesses. I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood of Boston — Jamaica Plain — that’s home to a whole lot of small businesses, where I can shop locally. Click on the link in the previous sentence to find out exactly why I love these stores.

Big-box stores like WalMart may be cheaper (and in some areas, they are the only place to shop for miles around), but one day the rising costs of using fossil fuel to ship all those cheap products from China will ultimately raise the prices and change the entire business model of these stores. And for that reason, I think corporations like WalMart are teetering on disaster. Small, local businesses are the way to go.

A lot of cities and towns are catching on to the “Buy Local” or “Think Local First” model. Here are 10 reasons why (a hat tip to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for this list, which I adapted):

Local Character
In a homogenized world, communities that preserve their distinctive, one-of-a-kind businesses have an economic advantage.

Community Well-Being
Locally owned businesses build strong communities because they make for vibrant town centers, link neighbors via social relationships, and often contribute to local causes.

Local Decision-Making
Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

Keeping Dollars in the Local Community
Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.

Jobs and Wages
Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

Small business fuels America and serves as a key means for people to move out of low-wage jobs.

Public Benefits and Costs
Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big-box stores and strip shopping malls.

Environmental Sustainability
Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers, which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, car use, and pollution.

A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long term.

Product Diversity
A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

Lots and lots of organizations are working on preserving or supporting locally owned businesses, but here are just a few places to get you started:  New Rules Institute, (Boston-specific), and Sprawlbusters.

Party Hopping and Other Holiday Thoughts

Monday, December 21st, 2009
  • I went to four parties on Saturday night. It was fun. I had two in Jamaica Plain and two in Brighton, so the geographics made the running around that much easier. I started out at 6 pm and ended at midnight, just as the snow began to fall in Boston. How did I pack in so many parties? I didn’t drink any alcohol and I spent 1 hour at three parties, and 2 hours at the best party. The rest was travel time.
  • A lot of people I know are traveling right now, so my holidays look a little quiet. One of my (new) friends is on Caribbean cruise, the lucky devil! But she doesn’t know that I hunted around online and found a webcam that shows me where her boat is docked at all times. Right now I’m vicariously enjoying the sunshine down south. Does this make me a stalker? Probably.
  • I’ve got 10 days off of work beginning Wednesday. My plans include: see the chiropractor or get a massage; work on a new screenplay; go to Newport, Rhode Island, to see the colonial houses; see my sister and niece, who will visit me next week; see friends; read some good books; and more.

A Holiday Pic of My Pooch

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

So my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, Mass., holds an annual doggy parade each December. My boy (right) joined a new beagle friend named Jude for the festivities last weekend.


The Only Reason I Like Being a Renter

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

I bought a house in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in 1994. I sold it in 1998, hoping to use the windfall to spend time writing my screenplays. Of course, the money goes faster than you’d ever imagine, so I decided to stash away a bunch of the money instead of using it to support my writing.

Since 1998, real estate prices have soared, and I’ve never been able to buy back in at a level I was happy with. So these days I devour real estate news every day and I try to keep up with price changes in my neighborhood. I’m trying to decide when to pounce. I believe that we have a very long way until the housing and jobs markets correct themselves, so waiting to buy a house is not a bad thing. But renting, for me, sucks. I crave the independence of house owning. But there’s one silver lining to being a renter: I’ve been fortunate in finding a string of amazing roommates, all of whom have become friends. I always remind myself of this happy fact whenever I grumble about the renter’s life.