Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pine Street Inn Wins; Neighborhood Yuppies Crestfallen....

I was very pleased to learn that the Pine Street Inn has finally acquired the Upton Street property presently known as Hope House and has not given in any further to the baseless demands of the Union Park Neighborhood Association.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the controversy, the Pine Street Inn had been planning to purchase the property for quite some time for use as low-income housing for people who were previously homeless. Stringent guidelines for acceptance into this program have been in place and acceptees into the program have shown a track record of successfully integrating from homelessness back into homeful society, at least in 26 other similar Pine Street Inn housing locations. On-site supervisors are part of the plan as well.

When the Pine Street Inn formally announced its intention to purchase the property, neighbors on Upton Street (hereinafter, "Uppity Street") wouldn't hear of it. After a series of meetings with the Union Park Neighborhood Association, which includes Uppity Street, Pine Street Inn agreed to cut down the number of residents from 45 to 37 and finally to 30. This despite the fact that Hope House, the current occupant, houses 60 people in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse. Of note is the fact that those 60 or so Hope House residents are transient in nature, whereas the Pine Street residents are looking to put down roots in the community.

Additionally, Hope House has been on Uppity Street for more than 25 years. Presumably, the Upton Street residents so outraged by the Pine Street Inn have not. As one astute South Ender pointed out in a letter to the editor of the South End News, purchase prices on Uppity Street properties in the last 25 years have assuredly reflected the presence of a single room occupancy building complex in a discount to the buyer. That's why Uppity Street properties generally don't cost as much as Union Park properties (well, that and the fact that one-half the street overlooks a particularly unattractive back of the West Dedham Street post office, there's no garden and/or fountain in the middle, etc.).

One would think that the Uppity Street residents would be thrilled at the prospect of having one-half the number of occupants living in the subject property, complete with supervisors and a population that wasn't nearly as transient as the present population, not to mention the fact that drug or alcohol abuse would result in not being accepted into the program.

However, according to last week's South End News, the president of the Union Park Neighborhood Association stated that the Uppity Street neighbors have a "preference for ownership....When you have ownership, the people who own those apartments care about crime and they care about trash and they care about the schools. When you have a neighborhood filled with renters,...the neighborhoods tend to deteriorate fairly quickly."

Translation: When you have people who look like you and act like you and earn like you and spend like you, its much better. As one high-up Uppity Street resident was quoted in a Boston Globe article several months ago, "unlike you and me, its difficult to tell who these people are."

I'd like to know where these owners are who care so much about trash and schools. Certainly not in the pages of the South End News where one South End yuppie, a couple months ago, explained that she sends her darling daughter to kindergarten outside the city as there are "no good schools in the South End." What about the trash scattered all over Waltham Street on every trash pick up day? I doubt its all just renters who lazily toss their trash outside of proper trash tossing hours.

And what about the lazy empty-nester couple in my building who couldn't be bothered to put their trash in the proper place and repeatedly just threw it down, untied and unsecured on the floor in the trash room? Owners!!

The noisy trust fund brat beneath me (see entry entitled "I own here") who thought nothing of blaring her stereo speakers out in the courtyard at 3am on a weeknight? Sorry, not a renter.

The other trust fund babes who lived across the hall and thought it was funny to play fetch with their dog up and down the hall also at 3am on a weeknights? You guessed it, owners (well, at least their parents were owners).

The creepy older guy in my friend's luxury condo building who always reeks of alcohol and has troublingly young prostitutes coming in and out at all hours? Owner!! Bet he really cares about crime, trash and schools.

The dog owners who think nothing of letting their dogs pee in the doorway of my friend's store time and time again, despite having been asked not to? Owners, not renters!!

The person who threw a beer bottle out of his luxury loft window which landed on the head of an innocent passer-by? Owner!!

Although generally speaking, I agree with the sentiment that owners care more about their neighborhoods than do renters (take a walk around Commonwealth Ave. in Brighton/Allston sometime). However, that generalization fails to apply in the South End of recent years. Which has become, in effect, Brighton/Allston East. To put it another way, you get pretty much the same element, only in nicer cars and in nicer condos, which are paid for primarily by mommy and daddy. And in Brighton/Allston, there aren't as many heirloom tomatoes or over hyped and overpriced restaurants. Also, in Brighton/Allston, you can still buy toilet paper - the regular kind. I think you might still be able to find toilet paper in the South End, but only of the hand-woven, organic, fair-trade, hand-painted-to-match-my-guest-bathroom variety.

But getting back to the Uppity street issue, as I've stated before, I only wish that I had been given the opportunity to pick and choose my South End neighbors as the Uppity Street Ass-sociation thinks it has the right to do. If you live in a city, you do not get to choose your neighbors, especially when your neighbor had previously been a home to 60 former alcohol and substance abusers in recovery, thereby removing the surprise element from the argument (What? That charming townhouse next door with the elderly couple is being turned into a house for recovering substance abusers?!??).

I wish there had been a community meeting to discuss whether or not it was appropriate to allow my neighboring (but apparently high functioning) alcoholic, binge-drinking, late-night partying frat boys and sorority sisters and creepy old pimps to purchase their luxury condos near mine. And I wish that my building and ones like it had the availability of an on-site supervisor to help my high-income neighbors with their addiction problems. I also wish that there had been a community meeting to discuss the propriety of the disgusting and offensive anti-Pine Street Inn posters that popped up in windows all over Uppity Street this summer.

Those options are not available, however, in a city. I think that the Uppity Street folk so up in arms about the prospect of, well let's just say it, poor people moving in next door belong in a suburban gated community. Their suburban mentality, whereby they believe in a homogeneous, white-washed and polar-fleeced neighborhood population, does nothing to add value to the South End. In my opinion, it has made the "neighborhood deteriorate fairly quickly," to put it into their own words. Apparently, if you have no maple and granite counter tops (the mark of the nouveau South Ender), cannot drop $100 on two pieces of sushi or a meal involving pan-seared pea shoots, heirloom tomatoes and whatever else was trendy in most other cities about 5 years ago, and can't bring South End real estate prices into every conversation, then you are not welcome here.

I've always been somewhat fascinated by the oval garden in the middle of Union Park and how the residents of that street have taken such pride in maintaining such a beautiful, yet exclusive (to them) public urban space. Perhaps the Upton Street residents could make an appeal to move the iron fence over one block so that they could gate themselves in, far from the poor people and minorities who are so different from themselves.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mini Posting....

Last week, there was a stabbing at "uber-hip" Stella on Washington Street. Restaurant-goers, including many residents of Chestnut Hill, witnessed a patron stab another patron with a butter knife. No joke. The funny thing is that every person to whom I mentioned this news item responded the same: You mean outside, in that park? Or, You mean across the street? Why was I the only one not surprised to hear that the perp was a patron and that the stabbing took place within or near the confines of the restaurant? Classy people, classy place!!

It's All Marc Jacobs' Fault....

According to this week’s Boston Globe, Provincetown is “no longer mainly for gays.” Nowadays, P-Town is “courting a broader population.” And from the looks of things, that population is wearing a lot of pleated Dockers. And I don’t mean the Lesbians!

Now, I know this blog generally deals with the yuppification of Boston’s South End, however, it seems that Provincetown is going through the same changes that the South End has already had to endure and I think its interesting to compare and contrast the two. What got me pondering was a quote from a young dad visiting P-Town, stroller and infant in tow. He said, “I remember coming here and it was all about alternative lifestyles. Now its calmer….the restaurants are very kid welcoming.” How South End of him.

Provincetown was a summer vacation destination for my family back from the mid 1960’s through the mid 1970’s. Don’t laugh, but we stayed at the Boatslip and I didn’t have two daddies (then). This was before there were tea-dances and DJ Mary Alice and flag-twirlers and D&G sunglasses and cosmopolitans (Blogger’s Note: That’s me, above, jumping into the Boatslip Pool, circa sometime in the mid-70’s [My flags and my cosmopolitan have been cropped out of the photo to save space]. Look how much fabric they used on bathing suits back then!! Also, the water in the pool had a much thinner consistency as hair product had not yet been invented).

My parents dragged me to P-Town not because it was “child-friendly” but because it was an artist’s colony and they thought it was intellectually stimulating. They were artists and they enjoyed being around other like-minded people. To them, the diversity and creative atmosphere in Provincetown was more important than whether there were changing tables, children’s menus and sippee cups. If the reverse were true, we would have stayed in Hyannis or Falmouth. As far as I was concerned, I was happy to swim in the Boatslip pool all day and go hunting for snails (that’s escargot to my South End audience) on the wooden posts under the deck of the Boatslip, bringing them back to our room, much to the horror of my mother. Apparently, people still hunt for snails there, too, late at night.

I get the feeling, however, that the young parents visiting Provincetown, who are being “actively courted” by the P-Town tourism boards, are into the diversity of the creative community not so much. I don’t really see any of them at the P-Town Film Festival or at any of the few remaining galleries. They’re more about trolley tours, whale-watching, ice cream and shopping. Which is fine. But, just like in the South End, there needs to be a little realization and respect for the community that was there before them.

One long-time P-Town vacationer quoted in the Globe article said that it “used to be that you could walk down the street holding hands with a man and you felt safe. Now you feel gawked at.” He hit the nail on the head with that statement. Regular readers of this blog might recall that I had experienced something similar a couple of years ago in the South End, when a bunch of my gay male friends kissed each other goodbye, quite innocently, on the corner of Waltham Street and Tremont, right in front of the Butcher Shop. Patrons of that mega-yuppified establishment looked on in horror and possibly even disgust, which made me want to hurl rotten heirloom tomatoes at them (See post entitled The Long Kiss Goodnight).

And just several weeks ago, when my party of 8 gay men was called by the hostess at Rocca, I turned to notice a Lindsay Lohan/Paris Hilton wannabe at the bar with her greasy-looking boyfriend pointing and laughing at us. I’m a pretty good lip-reader, and I am fairly certain I saw her say the word “fags” as they stared. I, too, feel “gawked at,” both in P-Town and in the South End.

As I am always careful to point out, there are plenty of straight people in P-Town and the South End who do not fall into this category. I have numerous straight friends who live in the South End or vacation in P-Town who have gay friends in their immediate social circles, attend gay weddings, and for whom one’s sexuality is not an issue in the least. They don’t gawk and make us feel as if we were on display at the zoo (“Please do not feed the muscleboys”). They don’t sit on a trolley and look shocked when they see two men holding hands.

All of this leads me to the following questions: Why does Provincetown (or to a certain extent, the South End) need to be “child-friendly”? When did “child-friendly” and “kid-welcoming” become the paradigm to which we should all aspire? Shouldn’t we still keep a few “adult-friendly” venues, if just for nostalgia’s sake? Are we gentrifying these places into blandness?

The United States is about 3200 miles long, from the easternmost part of Cape Cod to the western shores of Oregon, much of it child-friendly. Can’t we just claim one or two miles at the eastern end of it all for ourselves? P-Town should be all about shell shops, fudge stores, restaurants with never-changing “specials” and short-shorts for “boys.” Not a Marc Jacobs store. That stuff should stay on Newbury Street where it belongs. It introduces an unnecessary element to a seaside town (and believe me, I have no problem with high-end designer boutiques whatsoever, in the right context). The way things are going, I’m sure that a Baby Gap will make its way onto both Commercial Street and Tremont Street within the next 5 years.

In the meantime, if this yuppification/gentrification continues, we’re going to see some changes in Provincetown: A-House will become A-B-C House Day Care Center. Body Body? How ‘bout Baby Baby. Then there’s All American Toddler. Don’t forget Clean White Girl. The Pied Pacifier. And Toys of Eros will, of course, switch fro dildos to Dockers.

If children happen to come along to P-Town, then that’s fine, but I’d argue that they don’t need any special provisions or accommodations. I was there as a child and there were very few amenities for those with children back then, but the parents who brought children there did just fine left to their own devices. And no one imploded when they saw two men holding hands (which I remember seeing a lot of , and I turned out just…..well…, y’know).

Don’t get me wrong – unlike dogs, I love kids (it’s the parents I could live without). There are just certain areas in which kids should romp freely and have the rule of the manor. If I were to go (hypothetically speaking!!) to McDonald’s, or Chuckie Cheese, I expect to see and hear sticky children. When I am dining in the newest South End hotspot at 10 o’clock on a Friday night, I should be seeing adults from Chestnut Hill and other bridge and tunnel flotsam and jetsam, not 6-year-olds who should be in bed. This, no matter how many layers of Prada in which their ultra-cool hipster parents are draped. I think its cruel to keep children up that late in that type of environment, and I do not blame them for crying or whining in the least (these are the same parents who argue that they must have nannies and an SUV to transport their only child, when, believe it or not, I know of some parents who with two small children make due with a two-door coupe and no help). Sometimes when you have kids you have to make – gulp – sacrifices for their well-being and you might even – gasp – have to stay in on a Friday night!!

If children are being wheeled down Commercial Street in P-Town, then they are going to get an eyeful and perhaps an education. Our lives should not have to be put on a back burner, or worse, sanitized, because some whiny and entitled parents brought little Madison to Provincetown or the South End and she saw two men kissing. Life ain’t Burger King and you don’t get to have everything your way. There are enough places in this world where the rights and entitlements of new parents are paramount. Let’s just have one or two places where they aren’t.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

All The Way To The Bank....

"It's more than just a bone or collar, . .The master really cares."

I have no idea what that quote from the owner of the South End's newest "high-end" doggie boutique and spa means, but I am certain that such a phrase had a very different connotation in the South End of the 80's and 90's.

Espeso, described in the Boston Globe as a full-service destination for retail therapy (plus a grooming spa) for dogs, is located on Washington Street in the South End (where else?) across from the Peter's Park/Joe Wex dog recreation center. Espeso offers Ralph Lauren-inspired dog pillows ("chocolate bones" is a personal favorite of the Globe writer)(insert lame comment about mid-90's South End sexual preferences here). Also available are Swarovski crystal-studded collars (presumably for evening), all-natural dog treats (wheat and corn-free for those pooches with digestive difficulties). Finally, there's a spa area, offering such necessities as "calming aromatherapy spritzers." Which I needed for myself at about this point in the article.
As readers of this blog might already be aware, I am a huge proponent of supporting local businesses. Moreover, I know people who know two out of the three owners of Espeso and I have heard the nicest things about them. As they are genuinely nice people who have taken a risk in starting a local business, I want them to do well and I wish them the greatest success in their venture. Its just the nature of the products and the services they offer that I can't seem to wrap my head around.

Perhaps its because I am not a dog-lover. In fact, I'm not even a dog-liker. I would never have come out as "anti-dog" until I read another Globe article this week, entitled "I hate your dog," by the always dapper Wesley Morris. In his controversial article, Morris berates the current vogue dog "yuppification" whereby dogs are treated better than children, with "doggie spa days, mani-pedi's, pashminas, feathered french daybeds, tiaras and gourmet ice cream." Doggie massage and doggie yoga are also becoming popular amongst the yuppie crowd.
I guess when you have that much disposable income, you feel the need to dispose of it any way you can. And as long as there's a market for it, you might as well take advantage of the situation and profit from the penchant for over-indulgence displayed by some South End yuppies. In fact, I wish I had the foresight to have opened the first South End dog bakery or dog boutique/dog spa. Of course that would force me to mingle with a crowd that I have pretty much managed to avoid for the last decade and a half - the South End Dog Owner. That breed is not only known for its tendency to purchase ridiculous (and laughably-priced) dog services and accoutrements, but also by its ability to break into other people's important sidewalk conversations to make insipid comments and ask annoying questions about dog breeds/behavior/bathroom habits.
I cannot tell you how many important conversations I've had with normal dog owners on Tremont Street that have been interrupted by freakshow dog owners just at the point in the conversation where I am about to find out who slept with whom, how much someone paid for her new condo, what kind of granite they chose for their kitchen, what shade of taupe Dennis Duffy is using in their living room, or which realtor jumped ship and now works for (or no longer works for) the Hammond-Gibson-Keller-Sotheby's-Domain-Domain-Domain empire.
By way of example:

Normal Dog Owner: Anyways, she walks into her kitchen and there's the realtor doing it on her brand-new granite countertops with a client after the open house!

Me: Really? Who was the realtor? What office are they in? What kind of granite? Was it Smokey Taupe, Plymouth Rock or Gargoyle?

Normal Dog Owner: You're not going to believe this, but it was...

Freakshow Dog Owner: Oh my god!! That dog is SO cute!! What is it? My friend had a labradoodle/pit bull/greyhound/terrier mix and it looked just like this! What's his name? Ohhhh, cute dog. Can I pet it? That's a good boy. What does he like to eat? My dog gets diarrhea when he eats celery. Where'd you get his collar? I know I know you from the dog park. I'm Snowball's mommy....
Me: Step off, freak!! We're talkin' here!!
By the time the freakshow dogowner leaves, we have both forgotten what we were saying, and the conversation resumes like this:
Normal Dog Owner: Ok, what were we saying?*
Me: I have no idea. I like your shoes.
In any event, I'm a bit put off not only by this entitled behavior, but also by the whole dog bakery-spa-treatment thing. I find it hard to believe that South Enders can spend money on Swarovski crystal dog chews or whatever and that over $300,000 was donated for a dog park (ok, a dog recreational space) in the South End when other South Enders are having trouble putting food on their tables, buying clothes for their kids, or putting gas in their cars. Believe it or not, there are some South Enders for whom these issues take precedence over dog massages, yoga and imported pheasant dog treats. In fact, many of these people cannot even afford people massages, let alone doggie ones. And we wonder as the entries in the Police Beat section of the South End News grow longer and the chasm between the haves and the have-nots grows wider.
* In case you were wondering, the answers are: Someone who used to be at Gibson, highly polished midnight black (not good for fingerprints, incidentally), and Gargoyle.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Step Away From Restaurant Row!!

Restaurant Row has been on my mind a lot lately. It used to be located on Tremont Street. Then, for a while, it moved to Washington Street. Now, it probably means Harrison Avenue. I'm sure that in a few years it will have moved to Albany Street, and then maybe the Southeast Expressway, and then under water.
Seeing South End favorite Garden of Eden dark and empty at dinner time started me thinking about this topic. For the first couple of years, GOE (as we used to call it, affectionately, back in the day) was a fantastic place to get an inexpensive bite to eat. One could grab dinner (in my case, a GOE salad topped with a grilled chicken breast, and a half order of pasta) for under $15.00, including service, not including alcohol. Included, weather permitting, was perhaps the best people watching in all of Boston. It seemed like everybody walking by knew everybody dining, and vice versa. In those first couple of years, I logged in a lot of GOE time, with friends, with past relationships, and every Wednesday night, a "date" with one of my dearest friends. I'm quite sure that I ate there at least 4 times a week.
Sadly, I stopped eating at GOE when prices skyrocketed and it started looking like a Chuck E. Cheese (by day) and a geriatric center (by night) , circa 2003. Walking by the darkened windows at night now, I see the ghosts of past friendships laughing at that tilted and warped community table in the front, before it became a baby changing facility for local mommy groups at lunchtime.
With GOE in mind, I started thinking about how, unsurprisingly, the South End has lost so many affordable restaurants over the past few years. And by affordable, I mean affordable in the sense of normal citizenry being able to eat someplace 3 or 4 times in a week. Not in the sense of "The dining halls at BU are gross, so I hop in the Jag with my friends and head over to the South End every night on my parents' credit card."
An article last month in the South End News addressed the issue of affordable dining option in the South End. In the article, a couple of general managers of South End "hotspots" weighed in on the topic, stating that there are now "so many more affordable options," that successful restaurants in the area "keep their price points within human reach," and that "people want to dine out every night, not just a few nights." What? Where? The restaurants cited by these GM's charge in the low-to-mid $30 range for an appetizer and an entree. That's exclusive of service, alcohol, dessert, side dishes, etc. Add alcohol and service, and you're in the well over $50 per person. Do that every night and you've spent at least $350 in a week's time. Is that what passes for "affordable dining" these days?
Apparently, all that granite, maple and stainless steel is sitting there in the South End unused!! Why use your six-burner Viking stove when you could dine out for a fraction of the cost of, say, having a personal chef?
We seem to have lost all the affordable options while the yuppie options have increased 10 or 20 fold. Gone are Geoffrey's (I know, it moved around a bit, but its not here anymore), Rave (not for everyone, but it had some good dishes), On the Park, Purple Cactus on Shawmut (eye candy central back in its day), and Flux, just to name a few. Interestingly, all of the above had some connection to the gay community, through either ownership or explicitly catering to the gay community. Not surprisingly, they did not survive the recent "straightening" of the South End ("The Great Straightening of 'o1").
In their places popped up a bunch of yuppie "Emperor's New Clothes" restaurants. At one point, I was fairly certain that several of the new yupporiums could have switched their menus with each other and no one would have noticed. It was as if some consortium of South End chefs had found a New York Magazine from 1994, circled all the buzzwords from the restaurant review section, and vowed to include them all on their menus. Mmmm. Pea tendrils!! Heirloom tomatoes!
In that vein, I am including here the menu from a fictitious, pretentious restaurant ("Chez Louise") that could easily be located in the South of End if it were real. Truth be told, it is a yuppie menu generator of sorts, with all the current dining buzzwords - and wines. I have spent quite literally hours hitting the refresh button to come up with even more hilarious dishes. Twice-baked hand-picked brioche with a durian compote? You bet. Maple-glazed ramps with a dead-sea-salt sorbet? Mmm-mmm-mmm. South End restaurateurs, you've been found out. We know what you've been up to and where you came up with those menus.
Check it out - you'll be glad you did:
In the late 1990's, the award-winning food writer Alan Richman authored a scathing and controversial article about Boston restaurants in GQ Magazine. Among the barbs aimed at Boston chefs were comments about Boston not being the capital of haute cuisine, but rather "heap cuisine," whereby incongruous and non-sensical ingredients were heaped upon diners' plates, and portion size was more important than quality or finesse. I seem to remember that he (or was it another critic?) was also of the opinion that Bostonians generally were more interested in the drinks than food. Visiting the current South End hotspots, I'm not exactly sure we've come a long way since that article. Aside from nearly interchangeable menu's, I've been to all the hotspots and although they weren't necessarily bad, they weren't anything memorable. In fact, the best dining experiences I've had in the last several years have been in Somerville, Brookline, Cambridge and Jamaica Plain.
One new-ish Harrison Avenue eatery left me stunned when patrons there (some in acid washed denim jackets, I swear) at two very large and separate tables had dueling "Happy Birthday" songfests. As if that hadn't been enough of an assault on my senses, the bar area, on this Sunday night was filled with what I can only imagine was some sort of gathering of many young Asian women for rent and many older men looking to rent them. The food did not justify the horrific visuals.
At another Washington Street hotspot, heatseeking and fur-clad 60-something friends of my parents from Chestnut Hill cornered me, raving about the food, and their daughter who just got engaged to a surgeon. Having been dragged there by friends and acquaintances numerous times (not on my vote), I have never understood the fuss. The food was ok, kind of dull actually, and certainly nothing special. The drinks were good (of course), and it was quite a good place to see and be seen, which is really what its all about in the S.E. I don't think there was one neck that wasn't craned to scan the room, not one couple making eye contact with each other, an attention-deficit-disorder nightmare. If I could have read the thought balloons over each diner's head, they would have read: See me!! Notice me!! I'm here in this hotspot!! I've arrived!! Now I'm fabulous, too!!
I found the people-watching in the park just across the way to be much more interesting. I also made a mental note that if I ever wanted to go looting, Chestnut Hill apparently sits empty on a Saturday night.
Of course there are still some affordable places left that are quite good, but I'm not going to mention them for fear they'll be overrun and I won't be able to eat there anymore. Hint: None of them has valet parking! And not one of them looks like a Disney-fied version of a Parisian bistro or brasserie.
Truth be told, I want in on the action, so that I too can laugh all the way to the bank. I am currently looking for investors for my new french style bistro-brasserie tentatively called "L'Arriviste." The menu will be an Icelandic-inspired, French-Alsatian-Carribean-Asian Fusion noodle bar, with an extensive cocktail and bottled water list. The kitchen will be run by two Columbian sisters who can sometimes be quite argumentative and who happen to be conjoined at the hip. Each one creates a dish with ingredients they think the other one would have used with items stolen from the other sister's fridge. Both were named as "chefs to watch" in the 2007 year-end issue of Chefwatch: the magazine about Columbian conjoined sibling chefs.
There will be one communal table, situated in an old bank vault, but it will feel like wartime France. Reservations will only be accepted in French, and reservations will be required even for seats at the bar, which is actually a salvaged farmhouse sheep urinal, shipped over from a working organic farm in Reykjavic which has been in operation since 1371. Videos of the urinal's restoration and rebuilding will be shown on screens over the bar. Reservations will also be necessary for the restrooms. All food will be organically grown and from farms no further than five miles from the South End. Menus will be printed on organic heirloom tomato pulp with cruelty-free, organic squid ink. One percent of the profit from all amuse-bouches will go to an outreach and education program to stop local valet parking employees from smoking.
Children will, of course, be welcome and no diner shall be more than 3 seats away from a baby-changing station. Valet parking for strollers will be available and valet parking for automobiles will be mandatory. There will be a dog-walking service and free shuttle service to Atelier 450, Atelier 490, Atelier 560 and any other South End condominiums with a vaguely artistic or bohemian name. A 9-square-foot retail "space" next door will sell the chefs' favorite organic tap waters from around the world at extraordinarily-inflated prices, as well as hand-signed original discarded menus from the restaurant.
Anyone want to invest?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"You Can't Spit Without Hitting a Bugaboo?" Try Me....

An article on the front page of Saturday's Boston Globe by Sarah Schweitzer about the recent South End baby boom elicited several e-mails from friends as well as a feeling of nausea that still persists. According to the article, the "happening" South End is now experiencing an increase in new mommies and their offspring - well, let's just say rich white yuppie mommies carrying $320 Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bags (no relation to a "Petunia Pickle Bottom" who might have frequented the South End circa 1994).

Even worse: Garden of Eden has cordoned off a section for stroller parking and the Globe included a photo of four yuppie moms and their adorable babies sitting at the very same G.O.E. table at which I frequently dined with my closest friends and experienced some very romantic dates several years ago. (Note the absence of any minorities in any of the 12 Globe photos. Perhaps the "mommy and me" cafe groups don't actively seek out or even know any minorities, or, shockingly, perhaps the minority mommies in the South End actually have to work for a living and can't sit in a cafe all day nursing their babies and macchiato's). One mommy quoted in the article says that there are "so many people here now with children that just because you have a baby does not mean you have to move out of the South End." That's right - you can now freely put your creature comfort yuppie needs before the needs of your child.

And when its time for these kids to start school, I'd bet that none of them will enroll in a South End public school.

Another yummy mummy explained that now, "you can leave Cheerios under the table and the waitstaff never seems to mind." The hell they don't! An informal poll of a few friends who are servers in some South End restaurant/yupporiums has revealed that NONE of them agreed with that statement. Not long ago, I had the displeasure if sitting next to a table of about 3 toddlers at a normal adult dinner time at Picco. By the time the meal was finished, the table looked as if a some combination of fingerpainting class and drive-by shooting had taken place.

Baby food, tomato sauce, apple and other juices, Cheerio's, and god knows what were smeared all over the table and on the floor below. Not only had three adults taken over a table for six while at least a dozen people waited on a busy weeknight, but when they left, three servers had to spend a considerable amount of time wiping down the table and floor to get it presentable for the next party. None of them looked pleased; in fact all three of them looked disgusted. Of course the yuppies left the table without making any effort to clean any part of the mess they made, two of them even laughed about the situation as they walked away. The entire rhythm of the restaurant was disrupted as the entire waitstaff was forced to ignore the diners and clean the mess. The entitled parents were oblivious to the extra work they created for the serving class and also to the desires of the other patrons to dine in a peaceful manner. (Kudos to Flour Bakery and Cafe for not allowing strollers as they take up most of the customer space in the smallish customer area).

Making matters worse was my biggest yuppie mommy pet peeve: putting a diapered baby on a restaurant table. I should add here that I unequivocally love babies and children. Anyone who knows me well knows that I will make a beeline for any baby and that holding a baby is one of my favorite things to do in life. I do not, however, love entitled parents. And there is something about placing a diapered baby directly onto a table or a Starbuck's counter that makes me want to strangle the clueless parent.

Also not long ago, on a Saturday night, I was dining at a very special pea-shoots-and-heirloom-truffle-oil Washington Street restaurant with friends. We heard some whining coming from the drowsy-eyed children at the next table, whom I would assume to be about 4 or 5 years old. The kids weren't screaming, and they probably could not be heard beyond our table. When I looked at my watch, I realized that it was about 5 minutes shy of 11 pm and that the parents, oblivious to their children's needs, were not even on their main courses yet. No wonder the kids were whiny and cranky. They needed to be sleeping at that hour. But the heat-seeking parents, in their trendy clothing (yes, the mom was wearing Uggs) obviously felt that their need to spend a Saturday evening out trendsetting outweighed the welfare of their children. Maybe they couldn't find a babysitter. "Why should we have to stay in?" I could hear them say. "We deserve to go out on a Saturday night!" I was tempted to call DSS but I refrained. Your kids deserve to sleep like normal children.

But I digress. My favorite part of the article was where a yuppie South End mom complained about a parking ticket she received one day when she left her one-year-old strapped into the car while she double-parked and ran her groceries into the house one winter's day. Upon receiving a $45 parking ticket, she exclaimed "that's not family-friendly."

You know what's not "family-friendly?" Leaving a one-year-old in a car alone in the South End. In fact, I think it is cause for DSS involvement. For how long was that mom dropping off her groceries if a meter maid, who presumably was not there when the mom pulled up, had the time to find the car double parked and write a ticket?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have over-protective tendencies stemming from my own childhood. Typically, as a child, I wore a snowsuit through July and was not allowed to swim within 24 hours of having eaten anything. Personally, I would be too afraid to leave a child unattended in a double-parked car in the South End for fear of, say, crime or a traffic accident or myriad other unfortunate possibilities. I think a reasonable parent would have brought the baby in first, put the baby in a crib, and then brought in the groceries. But that's just me. Of course I also do not feel entitled enough to double-park in violation of traffic codes and possibly endanger the lives of others should there be an emergency and then complain about the ticket I received because the entire world does not revolve around me.

Also, some of the mommies or yuppies or whatever in the article complained that in the "winter, when the parks and outdoor cafes are not an option, . . there are few large spaces where parents can gather and small urban homes can make large playgroup gatherings difficult." Imagine - all that granite, maple and stainless steel isn't child-friendly? Your pseudo-artist's loft doesn't provide enough child-friendly space? Maybe, just maybe your needs don't coincide with the best needs of your children.

I have a friend who has three young children and lives in a nearby suburb of Boston. Horrified, she e-mailed me the Globe article and explained that she could have lived in a $2 million South End condo. But when she had children, her priorities changed. She and her husband actually decided to put the well being of their children before their own needs. "I didn't want my kids playing in dog shit," she told me. "I wanted them to live in a place that was appropriate for children. It wasn't the South End. I don't feel like I'm missing anything by not being there and my kids can actually play safely both indoors and out." Presumably, her need to dine at the latest trendy hotspot or purchase heirloom tomatoes was outweighed by the interests of her children. What a concept. Too bad the yuppies profiled in the Boston Globe haven't figured it out. I wonder how many of them contributed oodles of money to the new dog park, where dogs have plenty of space to roam freely? Introducing the South End: Where people apparently care more about their dogs than their kids.

I'm Still Here....

Rumors of my demise (at least from the South End) that surfaced in last week's letters to the editor column of the South End News are untrue. One of the Uppity Street yups who is vehemently against the proposed Pine Street Inn Transitional Housing on Upton Street and was quoted in the Globe's big story a few weeks ago as saying, inter alia, that "unlike you and me, its difficult to tell who these people are" thinks that this Blog is divisive (to which I vehemently agree).
He also apparently felt the need to spread a rumor that I no longer reside in the South End - according to him, I am two (2) men who live in Dorchester. Adding insult to what he must have thought was injury, "we" moved there due to escalating real estate costs in the South End.

Let me get this matter straight, no chaser: I am one man who resides in the South End. This despite the rising cost of real estate. And if people think that I am two men, well than I had better get myself to the gym a bit more often.

I have, however, been spending alot of time away from the South End as it kind of repulses me nowadays. I have learned to ignore the emperor's new clothes-type restaurants here and I've realized that the suburbs of Boston offer alot more interesting and less pretentious options - for dining and most everything else (although besides dining, the South End really offers little else of interest, but for the BCA and two remaining non-pretentious stores: the Motley ones and Aunt Sadie's). Also, practically no one I know lives here anymore.

And if insinuating that I had "moved to Dorchester" was somehow meant as an insult, at this point, I prefer Dot to the S.E. It still has interesting people, diversity, and quite a few non-pretentious restaurants. You can't even buy heirloom tomatoes there (yet)....

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Be Ashamed....

An interesting article on the homeless and local gentrification by David Abel appeared in today's Boston Globe. As usual, some Nouvelle South End residents expressed their displeasure at having to come into contact (well, only visual contact) with, gasp, homeless people!! Can you imagine?! People who have had their parents pay good money so that they could live in a homogenized, white-bread, Pottery Barn inspired community are having to look at filthy homeless people - where they live, where they eat, even where they buy their heirloom tomatoes!! Of course, the Pine Street Inn (a homeless shelter located off of Harrison Avenue in the South End) is to blame for the hordes of homeless causing mayhem in our visual landscape. Check out the article here:

In recent months, a rumor has been spreading through the city that the Pine Street Inn "is on the cusp of closing." As a result, Lyndia Downie, the president of the Pine Street Inn, has been forced to debunk this rumor, adding that it has been persistently spread by people selling real estate in the area.

It is no secret that I find most (not all, but most) South End realtors repugnant and dishonest. This, however, really takes the prize. Let's just whitewash the South End and make it look like Wellesley. I can hear them saying: Yes, it gets plenty of light and its right near the dog park. Don't worry about the homeless people out there, they'll all be gone when the Pine Street Inn closes down in a few months. I know, they really are a pain to look at, but they'll be gone soon!

The article continues to quote some local business (and in this part of town that generally means "restaurant" or "nail salon") owners who have taken certain measures, like raising prices, to keep the homeless away. And by "away", I don't necessarily mean away from the inside of their businesses, but rather away from the visual field of their yuppie customers. One restaurant owner profiled is quite satisfied with the fact that he's been able to reduce the number of homeless customers.

Apparently, its all about reducing the number of homeless customers, not reducing the number of homeless people. That would certainly be more of a challenge (and a whole lot more beneficial to society as a whole). I guess people in the South End have their priorities.

Another one of the article's subjects describes how she has heard the patrons of her yoga studio exclaim, "I don't want to go out to my car late at night. I don't want to go there," in reference to the throngs of homeless clogging the streets much like the zombies in the recent film "I am Legend."

My response? You don't GET to go there!! As I have mentioned on this blog before, like a mantra, get over yourselves! You live in a CITY, not a suburb! You don't get to choose your neighbors and keep in mind: they were there a long, long time before you and your yoga mat showed up. If you choose to live in a city, there is a trade-off. You GET to walk out your front door in the morning and walk to pick up your soy latte within 50 steps of your condo. You GET to buy your heirloom tomatoes without leaving the garage in your Chevy Suburban. You GET to go shopping at the finest shops and boutiques without having to sit in your Suburban stuck in mall traffic. You GET to go to restaurants that drizzle truffle oil on your pea tendrils without having to valet park the car (and, this being Boston, without having to step into a time machine set to 1991). You GET to meet for Sunday brunch without having to pass an Olive Garden on your way there. If you want to be able to walk to your car safely after your evening yoga class, you need to live in Wellesley or Needham. Cities, for the most part, have homeless people and crime. Upscale suburbs, for the most part, do not. If you go out at night to your car in the city, you need to be alert and aware of the fact that there will be homeless people. Its just a fact of life and it has been that way for a very long time. And this despite your yoga mat, heirloom tomatoes, nannies and Burberry scarf. You know you deserve better (the brochure for your condo even says "you've earned it!"), but that's just the way life goes.

Further into the article, a nouvelle South Ender (an accountant) whose nanny has been propositioned for SEX (I kid you not), bemoans his having to see homeless people every day in the vicinity of his Fay Street condo. "It does sort of grate on you," he adds. Clearly another victim of USS ("Upton Street Syndrome,") a condition affecting certain South Enders who feel that, despite the fact that they have moved onto a street with lower than typical condo prices, they can assert the same privileges as those living in the penthouse unit at the Ritz. (See previous posting entitled "Uppity Street," wherein Upton Street residents complained of a home for homeless in transition moving onto their street). It is well-known in the annals (that's two "n's," I'll do the jokes around here) of South End real estate that The Fay Street development was priced considerably lower than the other phases of that condo development. I guess "beggars can't be choosers," at least when it comes to whining about homeless people.

What grates on me is that such a suburban mindset has creeped into the South End in recent years. In the suburbs, you can create gated communities where you can associate and live with cookie-cutter people only, just like yourself. In the South End, it appears that there is a movement to get rid of (and certainly disparage) anyone not quite like the other luxury-condo inhabitants that have recently arrived. Its bad enough if your neighbor doesn't have a maple, granite and stainless steel kitchen. How offensive it must be when your neighbor has no kitchen at all....

Friday, December 07, 2007

Quick Posting....

Ok, technically this link for a new residential "lought" development has nothing to do with the South End, but it could happen here if we're not careful. Check out:

And do not skip the intro. This is every South End realtor's wet dream. Imagine: a relaxing oasis where like minded people can mingle without judgment.

Also: Restrained elegance combined with luxury that knows no restraint.

If you were somehow to take away the references to New York and add something about artists living or having lived there once, it could very well be in the South End.

Something like "Palette Knife 580: Velvet rope living in a faux-bohemian artists enclave, your "lought" can be customized by one of our top designers to reflect your status. . . . steps away from restaurant row. . . . granite, maple and stainless steel."

And because this is Boston, I should explain that the website is a complete hoax, developed by a bunch of creative advertising types in NY (damn - should have saved it for my April Fool's posting).

Go ahead, you've earned it!! (Perhaps my least favorite phrase in the English Language. Seldom has anyone at whom that phrase is directed actually earned anything of note).