Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Moving To A New Location

To My Valued Readers and Subscribers:

As part of my professional evolution, I've left my full-time position at W.B. Mason to head out into untraveled regions as an independent advertising consultant. Pursuant to that, I've created a new website (at my old address of PaulStevenStone.com) in which I've embedded my blog and renamed it "A Stone's Throw." Many of you may recall that that was the name of my old newspaper column for over 25 years.

Your subscription to this blog will unfortunately lapse as I begin posting new commentaries at the new site. I invite you to to sign up as a subscriber at http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=AStonesThrow-DamnGoodBlog&loc=en_US or just go to PaulStonesThrow.com and fill in your email address.

All that's left to say is…thank you. Thank you for sticking with me. And thank you for caring.


Paul Steven Stone

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Housing, Yes—Towers, No!

When the Cambridge Square Advisory Committee (CSAC) was first convened to make recommendations for the future of Central Square, its members were enjoined to be bold. Now that we've seen the recommendations coming out of their year-long study, it's clear they chose instead to be reckless. Their recommendations would bring truly Bold and perhaps Dangerous changes in zoning that would upset both the rhythm of life in our neighborhood and the unique personality of Central Square. If accepted by the Planning Board and City Council they would bring 14- to 18-story towers to the Central Square area on streets now populated by mostly two- and three-story buildings.

Forgive me if I get some of this wrong, but the recommendations are highly complex; easily obfuscating the bare facts.
The Cambridge Square Advisory Committee (CSAC), whose 21-person membership featured 9 non-Cambridge residents, is recommending a new overlay district for the Central Square area that would dramatically raise height restrictions to 140 feet and 160 feet. Ordinarily that could result in 14- and 16-story buildings, but the CSAC and CDD added a little more gravy to the developer's pot by facilitating transferable development rights. This little twist confuses me, I admit, but essentially it allows developers to add an additional 20 feet to their 140- or 160-foot tower if they own property elsewhere. Simple math says we are now looking at the potential for 16- and 18-story towers, each of which would have 15-20-foot structures on top to accommodate heating, cooling and elevator systems.
If you look at the photo above you can see what two 18-story towers look like. Suffice it to say these look a lot different than the watercolor smudges the CDD added to their Cambridge cityscapes when they first began selling the idea of replacing our city-owned parking lots and garage with new developments.
As a member of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, I reiterate our concern about the pending Tsunami of mindless and planning-less citywide development even though there have been efforts to discredit our integrity. Understandably, especially in light of the CDD-led abandonment of zoning protections in Central Square, we renew and hopefully reinvigorate our call for a one-year citywide moratorium on all up zoning.
Not a moratorium on development, but on up zoning. On developer giveaways. One year for the city to take a hard look at its future and start planning for it.
We also invite anyone who cares about the future of our city and the quality of life it affords us to join the CRA in resisting the lure of easy money and the CDD's flawed arguments about inclusionary zoning offsetting the loss of families and low-income households that are driven out by the rising rents these Towers For The Affluent historically breed. The Alliance of Cambridge Tenants (ACT) has joined us in this effort precisely because it knows this kind of towering development is detrimental to low- and middle-income tenants and families, and has seen no future for those parties in the recommendations the CSAC and CDD are making.
To those with eyes to see, there is little in those recommendations that brings anything but congestion and long shadows to the future of Central Square and Cambridge.
I conclude with what should be an anthem for the citizens who value the texture and quality of life in our city…

Interested parties can get more information at CambridgeResidentsAlliance.org.



Monday, January 7, 2013

Pretty White Gloves

He sits on a folded-over cardboard box, slightly off-balance and without any visible sign of support other than the granite wall of the bank behind him and the few coins in the paper cup he occasionally shakes at passersby.     
Does he realize it’s 4 degrees above zero, or minus 25 degrees if you factor in the wind that blows through the city and his bones with little concern for statistics? Does he notice the thick cumulous lifeforms that escape from his mouth in shapes that shift and evanesce like the opportunities that once populated his life?
Can he even distinguish the usual numbing effect of the cheap alcohol from the cruel and indifferent caress of this biting alien chill?
Too many questions, he would tell you, if he cared to say anything. But his tongue sits in silence behind crusted chapped lips and chattering teeth while half-shut eyes follow pedestrians fleeing from the bitter cold and his outstretched cup.
His gaze falls upon the hand holding the cup as if it were some foreign element in his personal inventory. Surprised at first to find it uncovered and exposed, especially in weather this frigid, he now recalls that someone at the shelter had stolen his gloves and left in their place the only option he still has in much abundance.
Examining the hand, and the exposed fingers encircling the Seven-Eleven coffee cup, he smiles in amused perplexity, murmuring to himself, "White gloves."
Lifting his hand for closer inspection, he adds, "Pretty white gloves."
An image of his daughter . . . Elissa, he thinks her name was . Yes, Elissa!, he recalls. An image of Elissa rises up in his mind, from a photograph taken when she was ten and beautifully adorned in a new Easter outfit: black shoes, frilly lavender dress and hat and, yes, pretty white gloves. The photo once sat on a table in his living room, but he couldn't tell you what happened to it, nor to the table or the living room, for that matter. They were just gone. Swept away in the same tide that pulled out all the moorings from his life, and everything else that had been tethered to them.
The last time he'd seen Elissa she was crying, though he no longer remembers why. Must have been something he'd done or said; that much he knows.
"Pretty white gloves," he repeats, staring at his hand.
He recalls the white gloves from his Marine dress uniform. At most he wore them five times: at his graduation from officer's training school, at an armed services ball in Trenton, New Jersey, and for three military funerals. There was never a need for dress gloves in Viet Nam. They would have never stayed white anyway; not with all the blood that stained his hands.
Out of the corner of his eye he can see a policeman walking towards him and instinctively hides his cup, some vestige of half-remembered pride causing him to avert his gaze from the man's eyes at the same time.
"We need to get you inside, buddy," the officer says. "You'll die of cold, you stay out here."
Moments later, a second police officer, this one a woman, steps up to join them.
"That's the Major," she tells her colleague. To the seated figure she offers a smile.
"You coming with us, Major?"
"Go away," he answers, looking up as he leans further against the cold granite wall. "Don't need you. Don't need no one."
"Can't leave you out here," the first officer says. "We've got orders to bring you and everyone else in."
"Leave me alone!" the seated man shouts, gesturing with his hands as if he could push them both away.
"Oh shit," the female officer says under her billowing breath. To her partner she whispers, "His hands. Look at his hands."
Quickly recognizing the waxy whiteness for what it is, the officer shrugs, "Guess we're a little late."
To the man on the sidewalk, he offers, "That's frost bite, buddy."
"No," the seated man protests. He holds up both hands, numb and strange as they now feel and offers a knowing smile of explanation.
Just like the marine officer he once was, just like the sweet innocent daughter he once knew, just like the young man grown suddenly old on a frozen sidewalk, his hands are beautiful and special in a way these strangers will never understand.
"White gloves," he insists proudly.
"Pretty white gloves."

"Pretty White Gloves" is a story I wrote years ago, and published in my book "How To Train A Rock". I thought of it again last week when it was five degrees outside; no weather in which to be homeless. The Major was based on a man I once met, a military man, who was just beginning the slide into alcoholism and homelessness. Heaven only knows where he is today.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Who says our national leaders won’t act on global warming!

The Republican Party, still stinging from its major national rebuke way back in 2012, has announced a nationwide initiative to combat the economic impact of global warming. Unlike leaders from industrial nations that have created laws regulating the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the Republican Party has decided to attack the side effects of climate change head-on.

That’s why they’re asking the youth of America, and anyone whose job might be threatened by environmental disaster, to answer these three critical questions:

Are you ready for a ground-floor career in the world’s next major growth industry?

Are you fed up with gloomy scientists predicting climate change, melting ice caps, rising seas and sunken coastal cities while nobody seems to do anything about it?

More to the point, are you ready to do something about it yourself?

If you are, then the career specialists at the Grand Old Party can show you how to turn the planet’s continuing series of cataclysms to your profitable advantage.

No longer deniers of reality, we Republicans  now see there is much to be gained by reaping the winds of Climate Change, so to speak. Sign up with us today, by tomorrow you’ll be preparing for a rewarding job in one of the world’s hottest emerging employment specialties—Global Warming Cleanup.

As the polar ice caps melt, sending oceans to new heights and water temperatures soaring—spawning catastrophic hurricanes and tornadoes—you’ll be sitting pretty. While others scramble to survive, you’ll be enjoying the high paying rewards that come with providing disaster services everybody is screaming for.

Even as you read this, thousands of new careers are being fostered by America’s steadfast refusal to reduce its rampant and filthy consumption of the world’s finite energy resources.

Let America’s intransigence be your greatest opportunity. No other civilized nation can match the Good Old USA in creating the rising need for these hot emerging specialties:

• Flood Rescue
• Skyscraper Salvage and Demolition
• Underwater Funeral and Cremation Services
• Missing Persons Investigations
• Corpse Identification and Shipment Services
• Rooftop Residential Construction
• Extinct Species Cataloguing
• Displaced Persons Management and Control

In the Republican Party we believe Global Warming is a tragic occurrence of the highest order, but we also believe every depleted ozone layer has it silver lining. Take Rooftop Residential Construction, for example. Only developed after the City of Boston washed away in last year’s Great Storm, the Republican Party Career Institute is trying to inject a little more sanity and predictability into the work marketplace, even during time of Global Warning. One of the most promising technologies to come out of all the catastrophic storms—Katrina, Rita, Irene Sandy and The Great Storm, of course—Rooftop Residential Construction by itself has been responsible for creating thousands of new jobs in storm-ravaged communities.

Out Of Destruction,” our Republican motto says, “Comes Construction!”

Developed in joint participation with the Paul Steven Stone Career Institute, under the watchful eye of political appointees and the usual party hacks, our new GOP Global Warming Career Center just might be the fresh start you, and the rest of the country, has been waiting for.

So, sign up today, because…who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Please note, according to Republican preferences, these Global Warming career opportunities are not available to undocumented immigrants unless nobody else wants them.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On This Island In Space

I believe we have much to be hopeful about as we enter 2013, though on the surface of things it may appear otherwise.

I believe more and more of us are learning to look beyond the surface of things, however, and what we see is more meaningful to the life of our global community than today’s news, tonight’s sports scores or tomorrow’s weather.

I believe we have been brought here—to this lifetime, this moment in time, this island in space—to accomplish something. Each of us on our own separate mission that somehow relates, through the unfathomable meshing of the Universe’s gears, to the greater purposes of life.

I believe we are singers in a chorus whose combined song has the power to lift darkness from the face of the land, if we would only awaken to the true song within each of us.

I believe we are all journeying on the same road, leading up the same mountain, to the same summit. The only difference is some of us have been traveling longer and have learned to avoid obstacles that delay and ensnare travelers with less experience.

I believe suffering and pain have purpose in our lives, often forcing us to grow into stronger, better human beings and to explore horizons that would never have called to us otherwise. I have seen parents who have lost children find meaning in their lives by dedicating themselves to protecting and enriching the lives of other people’s children. I have seen victims use their victimhood to alert and save others from the same tragedies. Such is the serendipitous alchemy of disaster and despair.

I believe the greatest obstacles to happiness are those inner demons that keep us isolated from each other, whether they be hunger or avarice, fear of our neighbors, envy or rank malice. Once we allow ourselves to separate from the rest of mankind, we act like creatures deafened by the volume of own petty desires. No longer able to hear the cries of others. No longer affected by the tides of calamity or misery that uproot those around us.

I believe we live in a world where noise and movement too easily overwhelm thoughtfulness and purpose. From the earliest age we are taught to fill the spaces in our lives with sound, activity or moving images, as if a quiet home or a quiet mind were unwelcome oddities. As we progress on our life’s journey, I believe we will learn to welcome these spaces rather than fill them, to drink from them rather than run from them, to make room for them in our lives as we would any healing or sustaining nourishment.

I believe we are learning to overcome superficial differences between ourselves and others, no longer allowing diversity to automatically breed fear and distrust. I can’t say if we’ve become more tolerant because the global media web has shrunken our planet, or because fear, lies and ignorance inevitably shrivel under the constant glare of media attention. Whatever the reason, the veils and superstitions that have fueled intolerance across millennia, sending countless soldiers off to countless wars, are now being lifted. The arc of the universe, I believe, is bending towards justice and brotherhood as more and more travelers make their way up the mountain.

I believe we have been brought here—to this lifetime, this moment in time, this island in space—to accomplish something. Each of us on our own separate mission that somehow relates, through the unfathomable meshing of the Universe’s gears, to the greater purposes of life.

I believe one of the reasons I am here—in this lifetime, on this island in space—is to open my heart and reveal what I find there through my writing.

And I believe this was written for you.

I came across this essay written seven years ago and felt it’s message was not only timeless but somehow impeccably timed for today, given recent events. It’s message of hope, I felt, was no less strident or believable in light of those events, but perhaps more urgently needed. And so, after a few minor edits, I decided to share it with you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Tragedy comes in all sizes and weights. We who count ourselves lucky when we hear of someone else’s misfortune pretend the distance between their world and ours is far enough to keep us safe. But we are fooling ourselves. We can’t cut our boat adrift so easily. We can ignore the smaller ripples, but there are some of such magnitude we occasionally find ourselves holding onto the gunwales with feverish intensity.

Such a tragedy occurred days ago in a Connecticut town that could have easily been any of dozens here in Massachusetts. It was a tragedy that knocked on every door, and louder on those behind which a child could be found. A child thankfully alive, aware perhaps of the looming presence of the holidays but of little else. Behind those same doors you would also find parents stricken by their own form of grief; a grief ironically tied to treasures they still possessed, which now seemed so at risk. Parents now painfully attuned to the vagaries of Fate that could so cruelly—and so quickly—take precious children from their lives.

All of us share the grief of the families, witnesses and survivors, and of the broken lives left behind in the wreckage of one young man’s unfathomable expression of rage. And if there was anything we could do to lighten their burden, we would do it in a flash.

The Newtown shootings was a tragedy of boat rocking proportions. It reminded us—as Sandy did in a much less personal way—how vulnerable we are, and how dependent we are on one another to make this world a better place in which to live and raise our children. But ripples travel both ways on the surface of the pond. Who can say, but perhaps this tragedy might have been averted, had one human being scaled the shooter’s walls, touching his life with ripples of love and healing vibrations. Offering him a better role model than the kill-crazy heroes in video games. Offering him love and kindness to offset the hate.

All that we do—all that we are—send out ripples in the pond. Tragedies send out their own ripples; and there is no way we can avoid being touched by them, nor should we want to.  All we can do is steer a true course, and keep our eyes focused on those who rightfully share the waters in which we live. 

And, yes, keep sending out ripples of love and kindness.