All posts tagged: why i love cambridge

2015

In 2015 I  became a mother. This is Orion Augustus.  He’s been out in the world with me for 14 weeks now.  I am filled with awe, impatience, and nostalgia at every moment.  He already moves his hands with purpose, laughs when I kiss his belly, and opens his eyes wide in front of books. The past year seems now like it was all devoted to bringing him into the world, but so much else happened. I finished reading and writing my doctorate qualifying exams: on landscape studies, and on craft and work. I was on the teaching team that developed a new Harvard course on Boston’s history and culture.  I lectured on my own work on Haymarket, psychogeography, and oral history (read it here: I live in three different Bostons).  I also oversaw a group of undergraduate research projects, some of the most fulfilling work I have done as a graduate student. I began a series of interviews with artists about their relationship to place and work.  The first two, with potter Judy Motzkin …

With Taste, Smell, and Imagination

This piece first appeared at History at the Table, as part of the NCPH Working Group on Public History and the Local Food Movement. * I’m standing in the basement of Bondir, the intimate, award-winning Cambridge restaurant, watching Chef Jason Bond dismantle a hindquarter of beef, removing fat from muscle and muscle from bone.  As he drops each chunk into its designated plastic tub, he explains to me what it will be used for.  Every bit of this 200 pounds of meat will be consumed.  The steaks will dry-age for some months; the fat, brightly yellow because the cow was grazing on bright green grass, will be rendered and used for daily cooking; the tough muscles will be stews, cooked with the stock made from the bones.  This one animal will feed hundreds of diners; it’s the only way for high-quality meat like this, Chef tells me, to be economic. But I don’t think it’s just economy that drives Bond’s pursuit of a “snout-to-tail” approach to beef, or his painstaking efforts to remove different kinds …

Adventures in neighborhood podcasting

This week I’ve been participating in MIT CoLab’s Storytelling for Planners course. I must admit that it’s felt since the first moment like it was where I’ve always belonged.  As you know, I’m committed to helping planners, neighbors, kids and grownups learn and get excited about the world in their own backyards, whether it’s history, personal relationships, architecture, or…local wildlife.  So when I started thinking about what the perfect story would be to embody that sense of noticing, of wonder, of finding mystery in the everyday, I naturally thought about my neighborhood turkeys. I’ve written before about these charismatic urbanfauna and how they can be understood by planners as an example of how surprising interventions can facilitate building social capital.  But here, I was thinking about them differently, as local “characters of interest,” subjects of community mythmaking. That’s all I’ll say.  Except: this is my first podcast.  And, I hope, it’s a preview of coming attractions.  Since so much of this blog is about walking, and pretty much all I do as I’m walking around …

Love that Dirty Old Boston

A new Facebook page has been blowing up my Newsfeed lately…Dirty Old Boston.  This community page, which features pictures and images of “Boston before the gentrification of the 1980s,” started just weeks ago on September 22 and has almost 4,000 likes and 8,000 comments.  Last week was its most popular week, with photos of the 1970s stripper Princess Cheyenne (who became a bit of a recurring theme for a moment there), the original Boston Garden, a hit list from WRKO, lots of arson and other historic urban fires…you get the idea.  Many of the images aren’t “dirty,” so much as they are retro: women in vintage swim suits, old nightclubs in Cambridge, dudes in bellbottoms, etc.  These images draw a sense of the city’s bohemian roots. Its rise in interest on Facebook has been rapid, and has been primarily among folks between 35 and 44.  Which means, probably not people who remember a lot of the things in the photos, except as kids and teens. Posted 10/18/12: “There was an arson ring that was burning …

what turkeys can tell us (about social capital)

I’ve been wanting to write for a long time about the turkeys in my neighborhood. Turkeys? In Cambridge, you say? Yes. Here they are, in the front yard of a neighboring apartment building, the first morning I saw them.  In the late morning, on my way to a meeting, about a week before Thanksgiving. Yes, a week before Thanksgiving. Temporal coincidences aside, the first time I noticed them, I snapped this photo, sent it to my husband (who was at work) via iPhone, and continued along my way, chuckling.  I noticed some hours later that the Cambridge Chronicle had shared a tweet with its followers about a resident who had also seen turkeys.  I wasn’t crazy, I now knew, wasn’t fostering some kind of weird pre-holiday illusion about festive charismatic fauna in my neighborhood. I tweeted back. So the next morning, when I saw a couple of people gathered around the front yard of a different neighbor’s house, I knew it had to be the turkeys.  They were talking animatedly to each other, curious about …

living in public.

Today I want to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about since I was in Rome last spring. It’s about the idea of “living in public.”  This is an important concept, one’s that distinct from “using public spaces” and “attending public events.”  Living in public implies that the quotidian happenings and activities of your life happen not within the home, but outside the home.  Like Indian communities where laundry is washed and dried communally, or Italian neighborhoods where much of the socializing occurs in the public sphere, or Latin American communities where Sunday socializing after church occurs at lakes and riverbanks, instead of the family dining table.  What does it mean for a culture when the public square, or riverfront, is as important a site of communal identity as the hearth, or the kitchen?  What conditions make this possible, and why do I value it? This idea crystallized for me this summer, as I walked past the Charles River everyday and saw dozens of people sunbathing, reading, working, and socializing.  This is living in …

drawing in public.

The Cambridge Arts Council did a fabulous exhibition at their gallery this past month.  It suggests an interesting alternate understanding of the term “public art,” and was very good looking to boot.  Here are some photos. *note* I am a member of the CAC, but have no affiliation with curating the exhibitions.  Maybe someday!