Commentaries

Downtown View: Tired of “Pond”

Many Bostonians at this time of year are tired of cold and darkness.

I don’t share that affliction. I like winter’s atmosphere, albeit with a nice fire to keep me cozy.

But because it is cold and dark we read, listen to the radio and watch television more than in the summer, and sometimes the assault of news and commentary is too much to bear. The public is tired of the same old obsessions, opinions and lack of imagination.

Take Whitey Bulger. We can’t handle any more news about that creature. He is not a romantic villain; he’s just a villain. Tell us when he has been convicted and sent away. But let’s ignore the trial and its hoopla.

“Pond” as in “The Brits across the pond,” is also ready for oblivion. It now takes only six hours to cross the Atlantic instead of the 101 days the Pilgrims endured. But the metaphor that Europe and America are no longer far apart is hackneyed and exaggerated. On that six-hour flight, you look down at Europe with its tidy patterns of green. Then, after a feast of icebergs, you finally come upon the North American continent, with its forests as dense and primeval as they must have seemed to the first European explorers. The topography symbolizes the differences between us. As much as North Americans might feel comfortable in European countries, those forests, with their sense of place, signify home for those of us on this side of the Atlantic.

Guns. Please go away. No more shootings. No more gun advocates. What kinds of friends do these guys have that they feel obliged to carry? What kinds of places do they live in that they believe they must protect themselves with weaponry? Who would want to spend time with a person whose leisure activity is fondling an AK-47? Downtown Boston residents don’t appear to need weapons. We feel safe on the streets—except for our fear of being run over by a bicycle. Even so, I don’t think any of us believes we should shoot the bicyclist bearing down on us. Why is it outraged, white guys who want guns? What makes them so scared?

Enthusiasm for high-capacity magazines makes advocates seem as if they’re trapped in a tough-guy fantasy. There’s a place for actual tough guys. It’s called the Army. They should volunteer for Afghanistan where they could lug around an assault rifle all day.

The ironic thing about the gun lobby is that their delusions might actually result in more funding and services for the mentally ill.

CVS stores are another fatigue-inducer. You can’t find the aspirin because it lurks behind several aisles of food-like items in heavy packaging. Let’s also hear no more about high-priced players striking against wealthy sports team owners, when all they achieve is to deprive fans of enjoyment and restaurant owners of business. Stop speculating about whether Menino will run again. Let’s forget Lance Armstrong.

No more talk of steakhouses, either. Apparently a new one is coming to the Seaport District. How could you tell it is new? It’s the same over-priced, under-imagined food in a chain restaurant. Try Oleana instead.

Fact-challenged Tea Party members of Congress are another group making the nation weary. They seem more interested in stopping presidential appointments—he won, remember—than in improving the country. Trying to deny women contraception is so 19th century. Why can’t they leave women alone? It might be due to the same reasons they like guns.

“Rocket science” was a phrase that seemed hackneyed until a few years ago when the U.S. shot off a rocket in the Pacific that missed its target. The general in charge said, “Well, you know, it is rocket science.” Now whenever you hear someone say, “It’s not rocket science,” think of when it is.

Here are some antidotes to tiresome topics: The determination and effectiveness of Len and Cherylann Gengel. Five years ago, that couple would never have imagined that in 2013 they’d be opening an orphanage in Haiti. But they just did in memory of their daughter Britney, who died in the 2010 earthquake. They turned grief into action. We wish them the best as they figure out how to run the place.

Deval Patrick’s transportation plan is a fresh idea. It’s the first effort to solve an intractable people-moving problem since Fred Salvucci got us the Big Dig. We’ll pay more taxes, but the alternative is living in a dump with bad services and cracks in the road. Bring it on.

The 20-, 30- and 40-somethings recently working on some civic committees ought to bolster our spirits too. Smart, imaginative, and with a good sense of strategy, they’re trying to help Boston and its neighborhoods move forward on several fronts. Our city will be in good hands in the future.

Then there is The Esplanade Association’s Ugly Sweater Party on January 31. Finally, something that isn’t a gala.

And don’t be tired of winter. Zero-degree days kill rats and bad southern bugs. Here’s hoping for a nice blizzard, a good wind-chill factor and a sunny, but bracing winter day when you can snap on your skis and glide along the Esplanade or a trail through a woods. There’s nothing banal about that at all.

Downtown View is a regular column by Karen Cord Taylor who founded The Beacon Hill Times weekly newspaper in 1995 and served as its editor and publisher until late 2007. She also founded and served as editor and publisher of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and The Back Bay Sun weeklies. Her column appears in those newspapers as well as the Regional Review, which serves Boston’s North End. These weeklies are now owned by the Independent Newspaper Group. She is the author of “Blue Laws, Brahmins and Breakdown Lanes: An Alphabetic Guide to Boston and Bostonians” and the co-author of “The Lady Architects,” a book about three women who practiced architecture in New England and elsewhere in the early 20th century. She lives in downtown Boston and blogs at BostonColumn.com.

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