Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This has been a bizarre week. Flooding in southern New Hampshire has been extreme. I knew something was wrong when I tried to call Fritz yesterday morning and for half an hour got that rapid busy signal that means jammed circuits or a disruption of service. In Raymond, the town where Fritz lives, the Verizon substation is submerged. Early yesterday afternoon Fritz called on his office manager's cell phone to say he'd seen the Town Manager on local access TV announce that Verizon said phone service could not be restored for three weeks.
Because the Center's office is still on dial-up, that means no phone AND no internet.

Like any business, Fritz's depends on communication. We worked out a plan whereby I will monitor his email, printing out important messages and attachments to deliver to him a couple of times a week. I also told him that he finally has to get a cell phone (something I've wanted him to have for a long time as he drives around a couple of states giving workshops). Once he has a wireless phone he can call Verizon, have the business's calls forwarded to the cell's number and they can run the office that way during the black-out.

New England weather is always chancy but this last week has been above and beyond. The major nor'easter is still hanging on here with strong winds, flood tides along the coast, and temperatures just on the cusp of freezing. We may have more snow tonight and there isn't going to be any real improvement until late Thursday. The trees all remain dormant; by now their buds should have swollen and begun to open. Every day is--or seems--gloomier, colder and more hostile than the last.


The other situation that remains hostile is the local real estate scene. Not to belabor you with my house selling woes yet again, I'll just mention that the asking price has again been reduced due to market pressures pulling all asking prices in the area downward. I'm winning, but I've been battling depression and discouragement over this whole mess.


At MIT everyone's reviewing security and quick response procedures in the face of the Virginia Tech horror. In my time at the Institute there hasn't been any incident of that kind except for one grad student many years ago who committed suicide by turning on the gas in the oven of his apartment, and taking his wife and child with him. I love this country, I really do. For all its faults it still has enormous potential, into which I hope we can tap once the Bush nightmare is over on January 20, 2009.

But we are a violent nation. We're puritanical about a healthy enjoyment of sex, and the population at large fears the arts, intellectuals and liberals (frequently all the same thing). But we positively rush into war, we settle arguments by fighting, and we pick up guns to settle a score or act out our inner torment at the drop of a hat. It's incredibly sad. I wonder if any enlightened leader could, or would even have the strength to try, to turn the situation around. Such a huge percentage of the population is so deeply invested in the cult of violence I doubt he or she would have a chance.


If any good can come out of the Don Imus business, it may be that at long last influential leaders in the African-American community are beginning to ask questions of their own, particularly in the music business where misogynistic and racist lyrics are the norm. Barak Obama and commentator Nancy Giles are just two of the many who have admitted publicly that rap lyrics are much worse than anything Imus said (Giles, who has a fine sense of humor, said concerning one of Imuss remarks, "trust me on this, commenting on a black woman’s hair is something you don't want to do. Just don't go there. Not good.")

But I noticed that while there's a new willingness to question those degrading rap lyrics vis-à-vis race and women, there hasn't been any mention, at least from the prominent figures I've heard, of the rampant homophobia in rap, statements by some black athletes and entertainers, and the pronouncements of black clergy. That issue needs to be addressed urgently, and ASAP.

So sad to hear about the flooding, real estate doldrums, and other things. The Virginia Tech massacre just sucked the air out of country. Loved the comment about the arts, intellectuals and liberals.

I've been meaning to ask you, what kind of student at a school like MIT, known mostly for it's science and technology programs spends $25,000 a year to major in music, the arts, or theater?
You're right about the weather being nutty. I've found all sorts of interesting ways to get to work - not by choice - now that most roads are under water. They say it should be sunny and close to 70 soon. *fingers crossed*
Sorry to hear about all of the troubles that the storm caused for you. I was delayed, though not badly, returning from Boston to Chicago on Monday. I did go down to the beach at the height of the storm on Monday morning. It was really impressive.
Excellent post. I don't have much to add, except that I hope for quick positive turns for Fritz's business and your house selling efforts!
I agree with your assessment of our cult of violence. I think that stricter gun control is part of the answer, but until we can somehow change this easy acceptance of and reliance on violence that seems to be a part of American culture, I don't think we have any hope of avoiding tragedies like this.
I feel your pain regarding real estate. Keep in mind my dreaded house in Texas was on the market for almost a year and a half.
The Cardinal's bedroom...

I immediately thought of your story of meeting Cardinal O'Malley in the hospital elevator when I walked into the Cardinal's bedroom in the former Residence (capital R!) on Comm Ave. yesterday. Boston college now owns it and is considering turning it into a sort of an Inn - similar to the Harvard Faculty Club. I was touring with a BC Trustee who has been a client for years and is pushing them in that direction. The Residence is large, with high ceilings and large rooms, in a sort of austere classical style with no warmth or cheer, dating from the 1920's. The outside has lots of limestone moldings, and a brick that matches the limestone - quite unusual and looking almost like concrete. The Cardinal's bedroom is a large sunny room, with an attached dressing area including a private chapel - just a small square unadorned room. Was that where Cardinal Cushing said the daily rosary that was broadcast on the radio? There is also a 2nd bedroom in the suite, which made me wonder about the sleeping arrangements. There about 10 additional bedrooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors, and at least 6 large reception/living rooms on the first and 2nd floor, and a large kitchen and laundry for vestments in the basement. I suppose with the right furnishings and paintings it could be quite oppulent, but I suspect it wasn't even very comfortable.

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