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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another Attempt at Verse

Psoriasis; Healing

Glaring sun,

Cloudless sky,

Crackled tar-

Crackled skin.

Streaming sweat,

Cooling breeze.

Healing rays for skin,

soothing zephyr for soul.

Intuitive, primal.

Dank armpits...

& below,

masculine remembrance.

Chest & leg hair softly vibrating

Animal sensations.

Shamanistic healing.

The primeval,

on a reclusive metropolitan rooftop- July day.

                                                                             written summer '11,
                                                                   A.S. Merrimac

                                                                                                                       copyright A.S.M. July. 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Urban Impressions

I recently began volunteering in the office of a social group I've   joined in the South End (of Boston). The South End has come a long, long way over the past quarter century! I remember a South End of muggings, drug dealing, iron bars on windows and those Fox/Magic Eye police locks on doors (remember those?) 

Now the neighborhood, what I've seen of it, is a scene of  beautiful tree-lined streets of brick, brownstone and hunter green trim, alive with a new urban lifestyle, Children in playgrounds, people walking dogs, bicyclists, joggers, little crowds at sidewalk cafes; shot through with a refreshing linear park: the Southwest Corridor Park. Sections of the SWCP are worthy of Thoreau. It's almost as if the dreams of the original South End developers & speculators have finally come true; with a few twenty-first century adjustments. I'm not claiming it's an Eden on Earth; the South End has multiple problems just like everywhere else, but the populace seems to have found direction, an ideal they are working towards. I live in wonderful South Boston, a neighborhood of mostly wood-frame homes, exterior-wise, the gentrification of South Boston hasn't been as gentle as the latest wave has been in the South End with its solid brick & brownstone.
  While it's nice to see a visual (at least) revival ; I find it so very disappointing to see so many newer residents of South Boston taking little interest in the community. While many are getting involved: becoming real neighbors, their are still too many who choose to do little else but throw noisy roof deck parties & sleep here. There's a touch of a strange sort of snobbery to a lot of these "twenty & thirty-somethings" which I find distressing; I can't say with any certainty whether or not something similar is going on in the South End. I certainly hope it passes before it reaches some sort of critical mass. Without interaction, without solidarity, without compassion there is no neighborhood. Whether or not the "new neighborhood" suits me or any individual is not nearly as important as the fact that it exists (of course I certainly hope it suits me & the other old-timers.). Every time I hear the laughter & squeals of my neighbors' children in their back-yards I take heart. 
  Again, I can't say for certain what neighborhood bonds in the South End are truly like, however the level of municipal flourishes leads me to believe they do have strong sense of community there. I can't help but wonder if the sense I get of real community in the South End is simply a case of "the grass is always greener-itus" or if it is created in part by the superior visual harmony of the South End streetscape today? Our visual perceptions play a huge part in our overall assessment of an area. As I mentioned above, the contemporaneous wave of gentrification in the South End has been gentler than that in South Boston. The brick bow-fronts & scattered blocks of brownstones lend themselves to far less bastardization than the wood-frame homes in South Boston. The wood-frame buildings in South Boston had already been subjected to previous attacks: wood, asphalt & asbestos shingles, "Colorado Brick", aluminum & vinyl siding et al. While most of these assaults only covered-over a majority of the exteriors; today all is stripped off, right down to the sheathing. Almost no effort is put into any actual design; there is no attempt to replicate or proportionally adapt original design elements, e.g. a large Greek Revival structure lost its massive-& beautifully intact acanthus leaf consoles supporting an entablature-like hood over the entry.
                                                                                                     similar to these only bigger!:

                                                                                                              - in their place....nothing.

   Over-sized recessed panels,  ill-scaled plastic dentil strips & plastic window pre-fab, one size fits all cornices among other abominations. All painted over with pedestrrian colors. To add insult to injury much of this is done quickly & cheaply. These days, they are usually condo-conversions so as far as the "developers" are concerned it only need hold together until all the units are sold off. All in an amalgam that is, I think, psychologically both unsettling & generic at the same time; even to a consciously indifferent eye. Mission lamps & Art Deco house numbers on colonial revival-esque trim all imposed on a humble Italianate row house. Everything sheet-rock, particleboard, fiberglass/plastic &  silicon caulking, PVC, MDF and the like. All contributing to an aura artificiality & insubstantiality  
   I can't help but feel there's an undefinable something tied to this atmosphere that hinders a sense of settled community. Each block its own sort of qualitative & economic roller-coaster. I know it sounds rather idiotic-I simply can't seem to find the right words to express what mean. I'm not trying to assert a primacy to the power of architectural design & quality of workmanship to affect the sense of community of a given locale, they are just two pieces of a complex puzzle; Two particular pieces I feel I have tuned into.
   After the nascent brutalization wave (the gentrification before most of us knew the word) of the properties of the South End in the in the '70s a cohesive community vision seems to have taken root. While the speculators and developers haven't been vanquished, there is a higher level of sympathy for historic & communal architectural, cityscaping & design ideals, as well as heightened municipal financial & artistic investment in public spaces visible in the South End compared to South Boston & many other sections of the city. I say this even while taking into account the superior physical/structural base that exists in the South End as well as the varying priorities of the divers populations of these neighborhoods. (I should make a  comparative thumbnail survey  of the marketing foci of the respective realtors' marketing schemes, for my initial sense is they too are very different.)
  Perhaps I'm basing my opinions partially on an over-broad or even inappropriate interpretation of Wilson & Kelling's Broken Window Theory, yet I can't help but think it plays a subliminal role. Conversely, I'm not advocating rigid community standards, just a consensus of some kind in some manner. Something that can foster the waxing of a vested interest in one's community/neighborhood.
   Today the South End projects that sense of interest & involvement that seems to be fading in South Boston (or at least is under attack). It's time we took our neighborhoods back from speculators & gilded transients. People must always come before money, community before profit. In the long run expanding the tax base at the expense of established residents & their concerns will do great harm to a city.

                                                                  A.S. Merrimac

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Review

  'Just finished Out of the Past: Gay & Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present by Neil Miller (The revised & updated volume). It's, loaded with facts & contemporaneous viewpoints, both pro & con. Mr. Miller brings so much of our varied history together in a concise, easy manner. He liberally sprinkles names & references throughout calling our attention to hundreds of distinct histories of interest & related books. My "wanted books" list grew with each new section of Out of the Past. This book fits perfectly in any collection of Gay & Lesbian history or sociology.
 I have but two complaints of sorts. While I understand with any book of this sort it's impossible to include everything there were one or two things from the era of my youth I was disappointed to see missing. MINOR! (like I said). The other is no fault of the author. The '06 copyrighted Alyson Books copy I bought was rife with typographical errors, to the point of distraction more than once. I can only hope Alyson Books has straightened out any problems in their proof reading dept. since the printing of this volume. Especially since I noticed a number of titles in their on-line catalogue I'm very interested in.
  A truly worthwhile read!

                                                            A.S. Merrimac     

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Lists &c.

Looking over my profile page today got me thinking about favorite books & movies. I really can't come up with  definitive list for either of these. There are hundreds I've read or watched & hundreds, no thousands more I want to read & watch. Next month or next year I'll find some next interest or fascination; something I may not have even heard of today. Any lists I try to compile will always be incomplete,  tomorrow I will most likely remember a book I've loved but momentarily forgotten; all  Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories along with the Thames Holmes movies starring the late Jeremy Brett and I will always love a couple of children's books from my youth. Every page, every flicker of the screen hold such potential if not actuality. Almost moment by moment one's perspective can be altered.
  For the past year of so I've been in the midst of a "reading frenzy" What philosophy I can make sense of, the Bible (Roman Catholic & St. James), ancient Greek writings & Greek mythology and most rabidly of all books on Homosexual history & persecution.( I should probably compile a listing to post at some future date.)
   I never was what we used to call a "cause queen",  my low profile and my ambivalence toward the aggressive tactics of Queer Nation & Act Up (a long time ago!) limited my options for activism. Over the past year and a half I've had, as I mentioned in an earlier post, a reawakening of sorts. Along with that awakening I've developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge of the long road we've traveled. I inhale these books, they are like a drug!
  This varied reading has forced me to abandon some old ideas, affirmed some others and presented some very different viewpoints & ways of thinking to me. As I read my list of wanted books gets ever longer & longer. I have great regret & not a little shame that I didn't arouse myself sooner, oh when I think back over my fears, my trepidation; I've been a fool, truly. I had glimpses here and there yet I never reached out for more. I remember being awed by the film Koyaanisqatsi when my first "lover" showed it to me in my teens; there was a whole "crazy life" & world out there. I touched it here & there but never grabbed it.
  Now I do grab life, an intellectual one, an intellectual dare-devil I. I feel a rush that must be similar in some way to the rush felt by these worldly adventurers, the mountain climbers, the parachutists, the tri-athletes; those who risk life & limb. My risks are very different & usually not life-threatening yet they nonetheless are risky in there way. These books & movies are my mental mountain ranges as well as the little humps of dirt we used to jump our bicycles over for fun.
  How can one catalogue & quantify such variety? How can one nail down, with certainty, the right bibliographic roads & maps? I read one book & absorb the outlook of the author only to find new interpretations, new facts even  in the next two books on the same subject. Knowledge is a shape-shifting hydra. The only understanding, the only answer is more always more 'til that last breath escapes!  

                                                                           A.S. Merrimac