The Lost Neighborhood of Boston

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The West End Museum had been on my birthday to-do list for a few years, and I finally made it there this year. All I knew about the West End before my visit was its general location in the city of Boston and that actor Leonard Nimoy had grown up there.

I was not expecting to learn a tragic story.

The West End was a bustling, crowded community of immigrants. The Irish started settling there in the 1850s. Then the Eastern Europeans came. Then the Italians came. Some African Americans also settled there. It was a community of the working poor. From what I read in the museum, all of the different ethnic groups lived together harmoniously. Apartments were small, so people hung out on their front stoops and street corners.

In the 1950s, the West End became a victim of “urban renewal.” The city of Boston started redeveloping neighborhoods with federal funds. The West End was in need of a makeover; buildings were run down and the narrow streets were a fire hazard. Residents were displaced but they were told that new affordable housing would be available, which would allow them to return.

See where this is going? Former residents couldn’t afford to return. And as it was, they were paying higher rents for substandard housing wherever they had been displaced.

This redevelopment plan was poorly implemented and affected thousands of people. Their community was ripped away from them and many were traumatized.

This tragedy happened 50–60 years ago and former residents still have a bond with their neighbors and with their neighborhood. The West Ender is a quarterly newsletter published by a former resident through which people share memories and search for long-lost neighbors and classmates.

But back to the museum itself. It consists of two large rooms. One room houses the permanent exhibit, which tells the whole story and includes many artifacts and photos. The other room houses rotating exhibits. The current exhibit when I visited highlighted the history of the West End’s schools. The Abiel Smith School was one of the first public schools for black students in the United States. The Wendell Phillips School was one of Boston’s first integrated schools. The Somerset Street School was the first public kindergarten in the United States. English High School was one of the first public high schools in the country. Impressive, no?

I’m glad that this museum exists, so the history of Boston’s lost neighborhood is not forgotten.

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Need a Vacation

I’ve often wondered which lucky employees at nail polish companies get to name the colors.

Essie’s are always fun:

Need a Vacation
Chinchilly
Power Clutch
Bikini So Teeny

And OPI:

Aphrodite’s Pink Nightie
Amazon…Amazoff
Desperately Seeking Sequins
I Eat Mainely Lobster

Nail polish is one of the few beauty products I use on a somewhat regular basis. Over the past few years, I’ve given my nails a break between polishes because I’ve become aware of how toxic cosmetics are since they aren’t regulated. I stopped dyeing my hair every other month for the same reason.

I recently discovered a few nail polish/cosmetics companies with nontoxic products: No Miss and Piggy Paint. I’m happy with the products so far.

Are you wondering where I’m going with this?

I made nail polish via my birthday list, natch.

Thanks to Brambleberry, I’ve made soap, candles, perfume, lotion, and now nail polish. This was by far the easiest project.

I have no idea how toxic its nail polish base is, but I’m pretending that it’s fairly nontoxic.

All I had to do was put some colored mica, argan oil, and a small metal ball in a nail polish bottle and then fill the bottle to the top with “nail polish base.” And shake it up.

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The shade is lighter than it appears in the bottle; it’s more pinky than purple-y. On the fly, here are so possible names for it:

Berry Late than Never
Fuchsia Funtime
Berry Be Good

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I’ll stop myself there.

 

 

The Little Things

My heart is heavy…three tragedies this week. I am in a state of disbelief. How do we fix this? I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is that white people need to step up and help change the future.

I’ve heard a few times over the past few days that “this [police brutality] has been happening forever; now we just have cell phone videos to document it.”

I used to walk around “not seeing color.” (I’m white.) I saw no difference between me and someone with different-colored skin. Over the years, I’ve realized that that’s all well and good, but I needed to start SEEING that these people with different-colored skin live with discrimination and bias ALL THE TIME. They are different from me because they have different experiences because of their skin color.

I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me in a book club and a light bulb went off. I got a glimpse of what it is like to feel unsafe in your body because of your skin color. As a black person in the club said, “I don’t have to read this; I’ve lived it.”

I don’t know how I will help right now, but I will find a way. Inaction is an action in itself, as Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently:

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

And one last quote:

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate can not drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I’m taking a short break from my swirling thoughts and feelings of anger and despair and reminding myself that life is precious and to cherish the little things.

Like brunch. I love brunch. So I’m not sure why it took me 17 years to check out a diner near me called Johnny’s Luncheonette.

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Allen and I went for Sunday brunch and it was superb. The food was great and I loved the diner decor. The waitress was nice and the menu was impressive. I’ll be back to try lunch or dinner sometime.

I’m getting to the end of my list = five more things to report!

The term “self-care” seems a little New Age-y to me, but I’m going to encourage you to partake in it this weekend. Attend a vigil or walk in a march if that’s what you feel you need to do. Thank local police officers for the work they do. Or go to brunch with a family member or friend.

Past-Life Regression

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Past lives—what do you think about it? Are they real?

I’d never given it much thought until my mother, one of the most logical, “black and white” people I know, had a few “visions” in England. I witnessed her experiencing one as we toured Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in the Lake District. It was pretty wild. She experienced a traumatic event; let’s just keep it at that.

So when I won a travel package to Salem, one of the items was a free past-life regression session with Susan DameGreene. I skimmed her website and watched a video interview with her before my session. I liked her! She seemed gentle and wise.

Her office is on the floor above Salem’s post office, which I totally love. A few rooms on the floor are rented out but most of them are empty. All of the doors are wooden with the old cracked glass panes and many still had gold lettering on the glass.

When I arrived, Susan greeted me warmly and offered me water. She asked me some questions about myself and explained what we were about to do. There would be three parts: first, I would recall a past life. Then, I would go to some “middle place” that had a cool name but it escapes me now. I would experience my own death and loved ones who have died would greet me. Lastly, I would have a conversation with someone who hurt me. I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t know what to expect. Would it work? Would I remember a traumatic event in a past life?

I sat down on the couch, head propped up on pillows. And Susan started guiding me through the hour-long experience.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it worked 100%. I struggled a bit at first and didn’t really “see” myself in a former life. But I did either access one or make one up. As Susan asked guiding questions, I told her that I was a baker in England’s Lake District and was married to a sensitive writer with a mustache.

BUT, let me interrupt myself and say this: I do believe that past-life regression can work if you have something in your life that you want to work on. As Susan said, in other countries, this is considered a type of therapy akin to talk therapy. I just happened not to have a trauma to work through at this time. Lucky me, right?

So back to the second part of the experience. Again, lucky me: I’ve only lost one loved one so far: my paternal grandmother. I never met my maternal grandmother, but I know we would have been best pals. So I talked my way through my death of old age (my husband preceded me in death) and was greeted by my two grandmothers. I don’t recall if we had a conversation or not…

The last part of the session was a catharsis. Susan told me to get mad at someone who has hurt me and encouraged me to whack a pillow that she was holding. I have trouble getting angry in general, so I did the best I could. I voiced my anger at an ex-boyfriend and quite enjoyed whacking the pillow as I did it.

Overall, it was an interesting experience. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a different way to work through an issue. My mother is interested in seeing Susan when she visits in a few months, and I can’t wait to see what transpires!

 

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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