Monday, December 13, 2010

Urban Christmas

One of the things I love about living in a city is the sidewalks. I can actually walk places. I come from the suburbs of Virginia, where there are no sidewalks, crosswalks, or bike lanes. Here, I understand when people say they "ran into someone on the street". I actually see people I know on the sidewalk. Because we're not inside cars.

In a city, it's worthwhile to have shop windows that will make people stop and look. These are some of my favorites from Harvard and Porter squares.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


In December, Jeff and I observe both Advent and Chanukah. In short, we set things on fire a lot. On the windowsill, there's the menorah. On the coffee table, there's the Advent wreath.

What strikes me about both of these is how process-oriented they are. When you see a picture of a menorah, it's always the eighth night will all the candles blazing. But it spends most of the week partially lit, building up to the finale. An Advent wreath, likewise, is in a perpetually lopsided state. On the first Sunday of Advent, you burn one candle. Next Sunday, two, until it's Christmas Eve and all four (or five, depending on how you do it*) are lit. At any time, some of the candles have been burnt more than others. They are different heights, even when they're all lit.

Now, we say, I want it now. But both of these seasons are not about instant gratification. They're about duration.

*Yes, I know my candles aren't pink and purple, nor are they properly in a wreath. But this is how my Danish host mother did it, and it sure is easier to find white candles.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bits and pieces

Small giving annoys me. I don't mean the widow's mite - I mean the person who has 83 charities and gives $4 to all of them. So I was suspicious of Betsy Londergan's What Gives 365 project. She's giving away her inheritance, $100 a day, to a different cause each day. Not the model of efficiency.

But reading about the causes she chose made me really . . . happy. It was delightful to see someone try to do it all. I don't actually think NPR needs my money in the same way Zanmi Lasante does. But her project is a great educator. (As is NPR, to be fair).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Bus talk

Bus etiquette is different from etiquette on other kinds of transit. Buses are cheaper than faster, more convenient forms of transit (rail, cars, planes), so you get a poorer clientele. Maybe the etiquette difference is cultural, but I think it also has to do with the correlation between poverty and mental illness.

In any case, there's this woman who rides my Tuesday evening bus. She's always trying to get other passengers to go to church with her, and I once heard her propose marriage to a stranger. She also doesn't know how to regulate the volume of her voice. This week when I got on the bus she was talking loudly on her phone.

After a while, a man behind me began shouting back. "Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah! Shaddap!" Talking Woman did not appear to notice.

Once Angry Man voiced this complaint, other passengers apparently began to see Talking Woman as an actual problem (though Angry Man was far more annoying). A well-dressed woman who looked like she normally would not speak to anyone on a bus approached the driver. "Excuse me, there's a woman who's been talking nonstop on her cell phone." The driver grunted that there was nothing he could do.

But now Angry Man turned against Bourgeois Woman. "Nobody can stop her from talking! She's got a constitutional right! What is it, third amendment? Freedom of the press!"

This doesn't happen on the commuter rail.