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.