The last week or so have been a set of downright pleasant days. Shall we count the ways:
Baseball’s position players reported to spring training yesterday
I exchanged awesome emails with the wife of the late jazz great Charles Mingus
We caught my friend Walter‘s really excellent show at the Armory Cafe in Somerville
We hung out with friends at Toad a couple nights later
My wife gave me an early birthday present of a high-priced Invictus wristwatch bought for a preposterously low price
And I wasn’t immediately shot down when I floated the idea of going to Chicago on the Center for Future Civic Media’s dime to present projects to high schoolers who happen to be students of one of my best friends
It’s like I’m Gatsby and life is a squirrel, and we’re just waiting for the right moment to attack and/or spoon each other.
It’s a lot better than the week or two prior, which was capped off by a scream from the bathroom as my wife accidentally discharged a loaded heart-shaped Valentine’s liquid soap:
My three local Hyatt hotels laid off every housekeeper on August 31st. Citing tough economics, Hyatt said it was financially necessary to lay off the workers and replace them with temporary employees who will be paid half as much and will be offered no benefits.
I’m a capitalist. And I understand the necessity of lowering operating costs, even when it means layoffs.
But Hyatt in this case deserves a boycott because they lied to their workers. Hyatt told its workers it would be bringing in temporary staff to help cover shifts holidays and vacations. Hyatt had its $15/hr workers train these new $8/hr workers—and when the training was done, Hyatt fired the old housekeeping staff.
So I ask my family, most of whom are business people or travel for work, to insist that their companies not patronize Hyatt. Because it’s one thing to cut costs; it’s something else—it’s sadism—to lie to their employees, fire them with no warning, and help create hundreds of uninsured, both the temps and the newly unemployed:
Williams, a single mother of a 13-year-old with asthma, stocked up on medication before her insurance runs out at the end of the month. Last week, the former Hyatt Regency Boston housekeeper also had to cancel an airline ticket she’d bought the day before she was laid off to go see her father in Barbados. She hasn’t seen him since 2005, and isn’t sure when she’ll see him again.
It’s spring break at MIT, so my bosses suggested this would be a good time to take a few days off. I’m making the most of this “staycation” so far—getting up with Lindsay at our regular time, and after driving her to work, heading back to Simon’s Coffeehouse for a couple hours of reading (finally) The Good Soldier Švejk.
Yesterday, following Simon’s, I headed downtown for lunch with my friend/fmr Houghton Mifflin coworker Walter at an old favorite haunt, Flash’s. After getting all the necessary dirt on my old industry, I then went to catch up with friends at Emerson College. All-in-all, a great time—except for when my old writing center boss at Emerson, who happens to be my Orthodox godfather, asked in front of strangers “How ya feeling? In remission?” First, he and others need to understand that with Hodgkin’s, you actually get to use the word “cured,” which I am. Second, why ask that in front of the Emerson undergrad you’re in the middle of counseling? Meh, anyway…
Today I followed up reading at Simon’s by taking Gatsby to Fresh Pond. Lately she had been a little aggressive with other dogs, and we’re not sure why. I think it has to do with the confines of sidewalks, because at obedience class and in houses/apartments, she’s fine. And Fresh Pond today was no different. She sniffed butts or ignored dogs altogether—not an ounce of aggression or nerves to be found. She also walked 99% with a loose leash, while in our neighborhood—especially on Mass. Ave.—it’s 50/50 that she’ll start pulling ahead, particularly when other dogs are approaching.
Happy to say that the walk around Fresh Pond left her exhausted, which is good prep for obedience class tonight: she’ll be focused on treats and not excited enough to care about the other dogs.
And lord, has there ever been a dog with whom it’s so easy to illustrate exhaustion?
Tomorrow, day three of days off, Lindsay is taking a well-deserved day off too. We’re planning on lunch at a small, amazing Polish restaurant in South Boston—I took Lindsay there years ago after her GRE and we never forgot how great it was. And after that we’ll head over to check out the Boston Art Deco Show at the Cyclorama.
“We had to treat this coffee like fine wine,” he said, describing the taste as “mouth-bursting” with an extreme heavy body rich with notes of floral, jasmine and cocoa flavor.
If allowed in Cambridge, Bourbon Rwanda would be the first coffee shop of its kind in the country.
Karuletwa was born in Uganda and grew up as a refugee, fleeing to Kenya and then to Rwanda in 1994 after the war subsided. He moved to California in 1996 on a basketball scholarship, went back to work in Rwanda for six years, before ending up in Cambridge where he now lives.
Karuletwa said he wants to be sure people know where his coffee comes from. The café would include tracing technology that allows customer to get a virtual tour of how their beverage went from “crop to cup” with testimony from farmers, map locations and delivery facts.
According to the Cambridge Chronicle, the Cambridge Licensing Board will meet January 20th to decide whether to transfer the building’s license to Karuletwa.
The chain owner of the long-lifed Out-of-Town News has decided not to renew his $5000/month lease, says the Boston Globe.
The owner, now a chain vendor, has notified Cambridge officials that it does not plan to renew its lease Jan. 31, saying the public appetite for printed news has all but vanished.
While I’m mostly the heartless sort—one who believes in the law of supply and demand at least at the local level—this will all but eliminate access to foreign newspapers and magazines in Cambridge for those who don’t have internet. But that’s kind of the point: who passes through Harvard Square every day, reads a foreign language, and doesn’t have an internet connection? Cambridge and neighboring Somerville have working-class immigrant communities, but they’re not who I’ve seen browsing the two cramped aisles at Out-of-Town News.
Don’t misunderstand, this is a big loss to Harvard Square. But demand for information, like water, has its way of finding and exploiting cracks, changing the landscape in the process.
Added: A Harvard grad friend of mine says, “How will I tell people where to meet me in Harvard Square?”
On propositions, I voted to decriminalize marijuana, to keep the state income tax, and to outlaw dog racing. This last one was the toughest decision, as upwards of 3,000 people will have to find new jobs in a tough economy. What helped my decision was that the proposition calls for dog racing to be outlawed by 2010, not immediately.
How, in terms of method
My wife and I went together, saw lots of neighbors, marveled at how many people bring their dogs and babies to the polls. This was my sixth time voting in Cambridge—and the first time I ever had to wait in line. We waited for about half an hour, and while the wait didn’t frustrate us, the lack of a single poll worker walking the lines did: we saw dozens of people get to the front of the line only to be told they were in the wrong one.
We love our precinct’s methodology. You get a one-page ballot. It’s well-designed so there’s no confusion. You fill in a bubble alongside your choice, and it’s done with a black marker. Hence, our precinct uses optical scanners to tally votes. It’s damn simple and nearly idiot- and fraud-proof. Why any locale uses a touchscreen machine I’ll never know—it’s a lot cheaper and foolproof to buy extra paper ballots than it is to buy and maintain a touchscreen machine. And it leaves a voter-verifiable paper-trail.
After voting, we had coffee and bagels and walked to our bus and train.
Democracy is so much better with coffee and bagels.
Among the basic good things about my new job–decent pay, very good health care, challenging work–I keep having totally random connections to people around me. Today’s is that it turns out the woman who works in the office across the hall from mine lives in the same building as me (she teaches in the writing program, so she really only comes in when she has to meet with students). My neighborhood isn’t as tight-knit as my friend Nancy’s in the Bronx–you know, how she shares DNA with everyone on her block–so it’s really great to have a social connection to someone else in the building that I’d see in another context.
It always suprised me that one of the most popular Fungible Convictions posts in the last year was about Orthodox Holy Friday—our Good Friday. While other posts would get a spike in visitors, without fail every day someone found Fungible Convictions by searching for information on Good Friday and the passages used in the evening service.
It’s a year later, and tonight was our Holy Friday “Lamentations” service at my church, St. Mary’s in Cambridge, MA. I figured I’d use tonight as an opportunity for Orthodox P.R., since still not many folks know much about it.
The video above shows, grainily, our funeral procession down Massachusetts Ave. tonight. At the front is a flower-covered bier representing a coffin, and halfway through the video you’ll see that we meet up with our brothers and sisters from Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, also near Central Square, Cambridge. I tried my best to get a few shots of strangers’ reactions: last year we turned more people on to Orthodox Christianity in fifteen minutes than the church had in fifteen years; this year, we were a more familiar sight, which altogether is a good thing, even though we snarled traffic for half an hour.
My favorite part—I think you can hear it in the audio—is when a homeless man realizes he just hit the jackpot, what with a couple hundred moderately wealthy devoted Christians passing by.
Tomorrow I’ll try to post a video, and some pictures, of the Saturday morning service, widely regarded at the most beautiful service in Orthodoxy, more beautiful than any service I’ve ever seen, and that includes Jesuit Kairos Masses and a couple Moravian Lovefeasts.
But for now, like last year, I’ll leave off with some Holy Friday poetry, used in tonight’s service. . . .
From the first stasis, sung by all during Lamentations:
Who will give me water, for the tears I must weep. So the maiden wed to God cried with loud lament, that for my sweet Jesus I may rightly mourn.
Lo, how fair his beauty! Never man was so fair; but how strangely now has death changed that face we knew, though all nature all her beauty to him owes.
From the second stasis:
That I may renew man’s lost nature now from beauty fallen, gladly in my flesh I take death on me: wherefore, mother, slay me not with bitter tears.
Ah, those eyes so sweet and thy lips, O Word, how shall I close them? How shall I the dues of death to thee pay? So cried Joseph as he shook with holy fear.