Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rage Against the Umbrella

Coming in at number 7 in the Marquis De Sade's list of favorite torture instruments, the umbrella was invented by the ancient Egyptians and has continued to impale countless, already wet and miserable, pedestrians to this day. Just yesterday morning, while standing in a 35 degree, 15 knot downpour I was assaulted by an umbrella-wielding sadists. They speared me in the shoulder and practically poked my eye out! These criminals continue to roam the streets, even as the Marquis was imprisoned several times for his cruelties.

And for what purpose? Really? Does anyone really believe a flimsy fabric covering of a metal frame keeps them drier than a half decent rain coat can? Even in these wonderful days of Goretex? The coverage an umbrella provides is extremely limited. Even if, as rarely happens, the rain is falling straight down, only a small area can remain dry. In the wind, the protected zone becomes tiny. (Even as the risky of drawing blood increases)

And what about the long term ramifications of the Umbrella? According to the Association of Parasol Reclamation, broken umbrella's account for 3% of all landfill waste. And how many even make it there? Broken umbrellas line the streets, and hide in the closets of America.

Now, however, is the time for all good people to stop the madness. Save your fellow man from injury, give up the illusion, help clear out the landfills - Get a raincoat.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Annual Celebration of the Vicarious Life

Real life has been so full this winter that I almost passed through the Season of Vicarious living without - living vicariously.  Riding the T every morning I've glared jealousy at the other commuters tucked into fluffy little paperbacks. Life may be good, but still, there is something about late winter that makes me want to live someone else's life for a little while. I guess that impulse is what drives some to reality tv, but for me it's what drives me to the Library.

And so it was during the gray snowy day that was last Wednesday I finally picked up some good winter-reading books and started making up for lost time. First off was Jack Keroucs' Satori in Paris, a 'vacation' as driven and chaotic as the best of them. On the historical side there was Remaking Boston: An Environmental History of the City and Its Surroundings (Pittsburgh Hist Urban Environ). A great collection of articles on the interaction of man, technology and geography. Did you know Boston used to have hills? and was practically an island? But the hills were leveled, the bays filled and Boston has grown.

Now I'm reading The Bad Book Affair: A Mobile Library Mystery (Mobile Library Mysteries), the semi-mystery about a mobile librarian in Northern Ireland who would rather be reading but finds himself accused of lending a 'bad book', American Pastoral, to a minor who subsequently disappears. Perhaps that will make up the lost time -  living vicariously through a book about a librarian who wishes he was living vicariously.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

(Don't) Well Blow Me Away - the Powder House in American History

It took two weeks but today we finally climbed up the hill behind the new digs to see our street's namesake - the Powder House of Powder House Hill Road. Local history (and the large plaque on the House's side) has it that the square brick structure was built in 1810 in light of growing hostilities with the British. The town militia needed a place to store their gunpowder "far enough from habitation to avoid injury and excessive damage in case of explosion" and so they chose the hill behind town.

Apparently there were a lot of Powder Houses all over the northeast coast, some of which still remain.  Marblehead's round Powder House was built in 1755. Wiscasset's is of 1813 vintage. Fairfield, CT's was built after the War of 1812, in preperation for the next war that never came. Local lore holds that Exter, NH's house held powder that was used at the battle of Bunker Hill.

But Manchester appears to be the only one with what I imagine to be a sense of defiance - while the House is indeed away from town it is also located so at to be extremely viewable from the water, as the plaque its self notes "this hilltop site was long a landmark for mariners" and is also the prefect place to taunt the British who might happen to be sailing by.

It's gratifying also to see the many historic minded people who have worked to preserve these great little structures.

Boston Globe Article