Month: November 2009

from the archive – social/vegetable art

dear diary, may 26, 2009. Today I started an experiment/art project/good deed/vegetable-gospel-spreading activity. I’ve potted a bunch of baby tomato seedlings and put them in front of my house with a “free” sign, and I’m watching how long it takes for people to take them. New Englanders are notorious sidewalk scavengers, and I’m wondering if I can get this habit to extend to plants, and try to get more people growing their own! . dear diary, may 27, 2009. So, after about 18 hours all of my plants (aside from two that didn’t survive the transplant) have been taken. And I couldn’t be happier! Except…that someone seems to have felt that anything was up for grabs that wasn’t in a real pot, and took my brand-new, incredible looking Cuban oregano that I had just purchased from Gilson’s Herb Lyceum. This was an unexpected twist in my social experiment…maybe a comment on trust and the tendency of human nature to take more than they are given when faced with generosity. I have to admit I felt …

thank you, roger cohen.

My heart went pitter pat this week, when my boyfriend passed along “What Makes Cities Live,” an article about New York city by Roger Cohen of the NYT. It’s rare to read such an empassioned discussion of zoning that is not written by an urban planning wonk, and Cohen’s subject is at the heart of my goals for this blog. I could say a million things about this column (the least of which being my one unfortunate experiment with Chinese duck tongues), but I want to focus on one issue that is at the heart of his discussion.  This is the 21st century conflict between authenticity and cultural tourism.  In other words, how do cities create environments that are authentically local without making them into an amusement-park version of themselves?  He introduces this quandary with very precise, searing language, calling Times Square “a once seedy part of town re-imagined as the tourist-filled set for a movie called “New York.”  The idea of a movie set suggests the appearance of Times Square as a performance, an …

the best urban happenings have to do with food.

Tonight I went to Cuisine en Locale’s second Meat Meet.  Basically, there was a woman from Stillman’s Farm selling frozen meats out of coolers loaded into a truck flatbed.  Parked in a public parking lot.  There was a line about thirty people deep, with people even picking up their Thanksgiving turkeys.  JJ Gonson, the dame de Cuisine en Locale, flitted about the parking lot handing out homemade candied local ginger and welcoming old friends.  Her adorable daughter Ruby similarly worked the crowd, carrying around a little purse-like bag.  When asked what she was carrying, she exclaimed “Profiteroles!”  If there’s one thing I love, it’s little foodies, and there’s something wonderful about an event that has kids running around…so I was totally charmed. Not to mention that I walked away with a big ol’ chicken, tons of lamb chops, and osso bucco. But it wasn’t just the convivial atmosphere in line that made me such a fan of the Meat Meet.  I’ve already talked about how much I like informal economies (and I’m sure I will …

from the archives – rome, 2005.

Four and a half years ago I had just graduated from college and was heading off on two great adventures — the rest of my life, and a stint as a researcher-writer for Let’s Go: Italy in Rome.  While the jury is still out on the rest of my life, Rome was incredible.  Well, it was the kind of wild ride you can only have when you’re 21: meeting boys and new best friends by chatting with strangers on the street or in a hostel, breaking up with my college boyfriend, racking up a massive cell phone bill by calling my family to discuss the aforementioned, staying up partying all night and missing a once-a-day bus the next day, and still managing to write beautiful copy.  But Rome itself…incredible.  And it was that summer of 2005 that I developed my flâneuserie habit: wandering city streets and taking in the unique, humble moments at the same time as I wrote about the long history and culture of the great city of Rome. These photos are a …

my city. expect the unexpected.

I thought this photo would be the perfect introduction to this blog.  Here is a man selling colorful Sunday hats in a public space at Central Square, Cambridge, MA.  There are so many reasons why I had to snap this photo.  First, I am fascinated by informal economies and enjoyed seeing this unique example.  Second, this small plaza on Central Square is always host to interesting happenings: last week some folks were dishing out free food and giving away organic veggies, and often people congregate in this area to chat and pass the time.  But what I love most is the visual juxtaposition of the bright hats and the drab brick plaza, which is often dirty and littered.  To me, a city is about all three of these aspects of the photo: it is a place of informal economies and casual relationships that cannot be quantified; it is a place of unexpected gathering and a constantly changing fabric of uses and happenings; it is a colorful, surprising, world of opposites.  In a word, what I …