I’m bummed about the chimney.


Morning Picture

A series of intense storms came through the area Saturday evening. Lightning caused significant damage to a landmark mill chimney next to the Lowell train station.

20140908 chimney

The writing says, “Hood’s and only Hood’s” and “Hood’s Sarsaparilla“. C. I. Hood & Company was a 19th Century patent medicine manufacturer, no relation to me or to the big northeast dairy company. The building is due to be renovated in the coming year, probably without its distinctive and beautiful chimney.

Update Sept 10: The city’s Historic Commission has recommended that the chimney be taken down because it is structurally unsound.

Evening Picture

The train home tonight didn’t leave North Station on time. This train was mysteriously  taken out of service:

20140908 train

Not nearly as bad or sad as the chimney, but heck.

That is a wicked long time.


In September 1969:

  • Jackie Gleason, Jim Nabors, Dean Martin, Red Skelton, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Durante, Lawrence Welk, Dan Rowan & Dick Martin, Andy Williams, and Ed Sullivan had variety shows on TV. (They’re all dead.)
  • People in the Merrimack Valley shopped at Grant’s, Bradlee’s, Thom McAn, Stuart’s, King’s, Child World, Zayre, Bon Marche, Jordan Marsh, and Alexander’s. (They’re all closed.)
  • Most telephones had rotary dials. Touch tone dialing, with buttons instead of a dial, was invented just six years earlier. (They’re all obsolete.)

My sister and her husband got married in September 1969. They are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary today, outlasting TV stars, chain stores, and rotary phones.

We had anniversary cake for them yesterday:
Marie and Dick and Cake

Congratulations and love.

Mine is an innie.


Lint is to textile machinery as sawdust is to woodworking tools.

Combine high-speed textile machinery, fiber dust, and greased fittings and you end up with some seriously furry places with an other-worldly beauty.

20140906 lint1 450x450

 

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20140906 athmlogo 50x57All images captured at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell Massachusetts, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
“Telling America’s story through the art, history, and science of textiles”

I am a troll under a bridge.


The Green Line Viaduct over the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston is a landmark known across New England by every kid who’s ever visited the Museum of Science across the street. From the O’Brien Highway, it’s old-looking — a tall dirty-tan multi-arch bridge that partially blocks the downstream view of the Charles River while carrying an elevated portion of the MBTA Green Line.

I think it’s a great example of early Twentieth Century urban public works design.

This is what it looks like in Google Maps Street View; Cambridge is on the left:

Google Street View

 

Although on foot, you can get a much better look. Its underbody is a second series of arches, not visible from the street, but accessible to curious pedestrians. (Both photos are looking south toward Boston.)

Under the Viaduct 1

 

The stone wall on the right is a part of the Charles River Dam:

Under the Viaduct 2

 

It frames some terrific views. Here’s North Point Park in Cambridge with the Leonard Zakim Bridge in the background:

View of the Zakim Bridge

 

And one end of Nashua Street Park in Boston, the land of skateboarders, birds, runners, and cyclists:

Nashua Street Park

 

You should know that I’m an ass.


Just outside my office, there’s three bicycles that have been locked to a bike rack for over five years. The school apparently has a policy that prohibits it from cutting bike locks; they’ll be there forever.

Last summer I thought it’d be funny to turn the three perma-bikes into an Art Installation.

The Duck Tape Bike

My artistic vision for the premier bike could be summed up in three words: bright, cheap, and circuseriffic. Naturally, I would achieve my vision in Duck Tape.

Last summer was its unveiling. This spring, shiny tinsel was added to reflect the sun and to confuse onlookers. Today, some additional tinsel was added to the handlebars, and some tape was replaced.

Duck Tape Bike

 

The Fringe Bike

I artistically pictured a bike covered with crocheted or knitted yarn, evoking the natural world of spider webs and comfy sweaters. It was gonna look like a freakin’ Vermont ski lodge as decorated by your grandmother.

Slight problem: I can’t crochet or knit. I tried to learn, Denise did her best to teach me, but I’m inept. On the other hand, I can use scissors and I can tie simple knots. The fringe bike was born!

Fringe Bike

 

The Ivy Bike

I was hoping to juxtapose the storied ivy-covered walls of this esteemed ivy-covered college with the hard realities of the rusted bike rack. Art critics would talk about the cycle of life. Snarky art critics would refer to it as the bi-cycle of life.

Juxtaposing is hard, so work didn’t begin on The Ivy Bike until this spring. Because the dollar store charges less for plastic flowers than for plastic ivy, the project was reshaped, but only in an artistic way of course.

Ivy and Flowers Bike

 

A Tri-Cacophony of Artsiness

When I’m outside working on these bikes, friends and coworkers come by, joke, and make suggestions. Most strangers, students, and other people try to ignore me and pretend they don’t see what I’m doing. But I talked with a couple today who’ve offered to be the first outside contributors to the Great Artsy Bicycle Installation. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to add.

The Bike Rack

 

The Great Artsy Bicycle Installation is an ongoing project. It is located on the grounds of a New England college campus in a small parking lot at the end of a nondescript alleyway next to a shrubbery. Admission is free, and it’s always open to the inquisitive public.

I talk to strangers.


Tonight after work I saw this guy taking a picture of a standpipe in Harvard Square. I stopped and walked back to him. “Why?” I asked.

He gave me a look that said either “fuck off” or “I am confused, startled, and weirded-out by a stranger who walked up to me and said ‘Why'”.

“I just was wondering why you took that picture.”

The Photographer Guy

He explained that he was taking a picture of the standpipe (“It looks like a face”) for a friend who’s developing an exhibition of artistically-modified standpipe photos.

20140903 notart 150x150Anyhow, we talked a bit and he introduced himself as the Not Art guy! People around Cambridge probably recognize his stenciled street art on boarded-up windows, the plain backs of signs, trash piles, utility boxes, and other surfaces that nobody cared about. It’s an irreverent and thought-provoking slogan that gets me to see the whitespace in the city, to pay attention to the edges of the street, and to consider the important role of design in our lives. [Or he could just be a guy with a wry sense of humor, a stencil, and a can of spray paint; It’s good either way.]

He gave me one of his Not Art stickers. I invited him to check out my bicycle “art”.

His work is on the streets of Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, and beyond.  His web page is at http://www.facebook.com/notart1. There’s a collection of photos of his work on flickr at http://www.flickr.com/groups/notartgraffiti/.

 

(Attribution: The NOT ART graphic shown above is the intellectual property of the Not Art guy reproduced with assumed permission from the sticker he gave me.)

His bumper sticker said, “MY OTHER CAR IS A DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE”


North Station, Boston. Tuesday evening, 5:35pm.
I was the first passenger on the 5:50pm MBTA train to Lowell.

Empty commuter rail car

Four years ago, we built a small raised vegetable garden in the back yard, in what used to be a sunny corner. It was 8 feet (2.4m) away from a smallish 10 foot (3m) tall wild mulberry bush.

Over the years, the mulberry bush grew into a 25 foot (7.6m) high, 30 foot (9m) wide tree with lovely flavorful, sweet fruit in mid-summer. But the vegetable garden was now in the shade for most of the morning and early afternoon. So a few weeks ago I manned-up, got out the chainsaw, and cut down about half the tree. The garden now gets a couple hours more sunlight every day.


These are zucchini plants.

There’s been a lot of flowers (very pretty, big yellow flowers), but so far no fruit. Y’know how you always hear that people plant too much zucchini? Lies. Zucchini do not come from gardens. (Or at least not from my garden.)

Zucchini-ettes

The cukes have finally started growing.

For most of the summer, the little cucumber plants have barely survived. A few weeks ago, all of a sudden, there were flowers! Then tiny little cuke-ettes. Now there’s about a dozen of these guys, ready to pick in a few days.

Cukes - Almost ready!

Anyone can grow tomatoes in New England.

Here’s proof. After a slow start, we got our first real tomatoes of the season last week. With the extra sun, there should be enough of them for a small salad.

Multicolored Tomatoes

 


Moral of the Story:

A mulberry bush doesn’t make a good neighbor to a vegetable garden.

Bubcia wedding colorized

My maternal grandparents got married in the 1920s after leaving Poland and settling here in Lowell Massachusetts. I never met my grandfather. My memories of my grandmother (Bubcia) are a bit hazy. She spoke no English, but always had a great big smile. She lived with two of my uncles in a very old-fashioned apartment in a building she owned on the banks of the Concord River. My mom brought me to visit Bubcia every Saturday afternoon. Alzheimers disease got the better of her; once my uncles could no longer take care of her, she moved to a nursing home.

The folks in the wedding party seem so young. They can’t have had much money, but check out their stylish Sunday Best for the wedding. I love the silent-movie-villian mustache!


This was the first big photograph I scanned and edited with Photoshop 3, almost twenty years ago, on an Apple Macintosh Performa 635 upgraded to 8MB RAM. The original photo is sepia-toned, mounted on card stock, and is in pretty rough shape. This colorized and stylized version is based on that original scan.