Thursday, November 09, 2006

Roofs 3

Posterized version:

Roofs Posterized

Clearly this image it today's obsession—halftone this time:

Roofs Halftone

Roofs 2

Roofs 2

Here's the digitized version of my original analog graphic—part of my Bright and Sassy group.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Salt Lake City, Utah

Winter's snow from another urban place worthy of preservation: my now-former abode in Salt Lake City. These also are too dark, so I'll be off to the iMac to lighten up ;)

Next day: I'm leaving both darker and lighter versions.

snowy tree snowy tree
East Millcreek
East Millcreek

Dorchester Images 2

As the blog title says, this is another group of pics I took in Dorchester during summer 2000—also tweaked with Photoshop filters (of course); these views are from the Wellesley Park side of Nick's house. Post script: now that I'm tweaking this blog from my home PC, they're clearly too dark, just like my original group of stewardship poster on desert spirits fire.

Wednesday morning: I did a bunch of adjustments on these images; some are better even on the iMac, some too light, but I trust the balance is okay.

Garden Gate Wellesley Park Side View
5 Wellesley Park Wellesley Park Sunflower

Dorchester Images 1

I love this group of pictures—tweaked this morning with a Photoshop filter. Like Dorchester Images 1, these are too dark on my home PC though they were almost perfect on the classroom iMac; next time in lab I'll save out lighter versions. BTW, the gradient skies in both groups are so fun!

Wednesday morning: I'm leaving both versions—new ones are a little light on the iMac, but I trust they're still presentable. Looks as if I definitely cannot compensate for different monitor sizes, etc. so I'm leaving them ligned up a little funky but refined.

Malibu EastFlower Rock Water

Yellow Flowers
Field Flowers

Malibu EastFlower Rock Water

Yellow Flowers
Field Flowers

Monday, November 06, 2006

Welcome to the City!

On a couple of my other blogs I've posted some old material; the following paragraphs are from a short-lived site I hosted during summer 2000 and so fun to remember and think about. I'm blogging the introduction here, and then posts on the three topics we actually developed, in topical order rather than jumbled according to date. In what used to be my almost usual social-scientist identity (whatever happened? It got outpaced by the theologian, I guess), I initiated the subjects we discussed.
Welcome to The City!

Welcome to The City! Whether you've always been a city person, whether you live in a suburb or rural area and wouldn't have it any other way, whether you come to the city mainly for fun – to see the sights, hear the sounds, shop the stores, enjoy the restaurants, have an out-of-the-ordinary experience – you'd probably like to join our virtual city! We'd love to have you, and you probably have lots and lots of ideas and opinions to contribute. Welcome!

The City and Distributive Justice

From: Leah (Original Message) Sent: 8/23/2000 12:27 PM

Who gets what, why, when, how and where in terms of goods and services long has been and continues to remain the central focus of life in the city for many people. This has always been so in any geopolitical area with a distinct income disparity between different groups and different individuals. Globally, of course, but also in the "First World." In the United States we see it in striking terms, striking because there exists such splendid wealth back-to-back with such indescribable poverty. "Why" probably is the first question. Individual income combined with the inefficient and short reach of governmental and private not-for-profit agencies first come to mind as primary factors. But there are people living in the inner city with adequate incomes who have known only a culture of poverty and who therefore choose either consciously or unconsciously to continue that lifestyle.

From: Aisha in response to Message 1 Sent: 8/29/2000 11:14 PM

America's foundation is built on the many backs that we step on or stab to get to where we are today. It's definitely survival to the fittest. This is not a democratic country. There is no such thing. Democracy would only be successful if everyone wanted the same thing for everyone else...Pure equality. That will never be. Because there's always someone that wants you to kiss their ass. On the other spectrum, there are so many spineless jellyfish out there that are willing to do it. Fighting for beliefs or rights has become about as faddish as bell-bottoms. The rich will be the "haves" while the poor will be the "have nots." When the "have nots" finally get tired of pressing their noses against the windows of the "haves" lives, that's when the division will stop. Knowledge is power. If everyone could empower themselves and their children with the will that you can be successful no matter where you're from, then we can ALL receive equal justice.

The Arts in Inner City Boston

From: Leah (Original Message) Sent: 8/26/2000 1:38 PM

Living in Boston this summer, I've experienced an incredibly rich diversity in what might be called the "popular arts." The music takes two basic forms: live and impromptu (Gospel, soul, hip-hop, steel drums, rap, and probably some forms I don't recognize) and recorded CDs. Some of the CDs blast forth from houses, cars, or boomboxes on foot, some of them are simply background to whatever activity is in progress, for all ages, any age. And the CDs are quite likely to contain what's generally called "objectionable lyrics," as well as evoking very definitely objectionable images.

I'll comment just briefly on the visual arts. To me, they're far more exciting than the music. Colorful, representational paintings on the sides of buildings, on trash cans, on sidewalks. And of course, the large paintings the local daycamps and preschools turn out—some of them are very well done! In contrast to the Inner City Arts are the Downtown Arts. Some more sophisticated, professional versions of what we have here in the inner city, but downtown one also can find classical concerts, free and not, as well as museums, most of which charge an admission price way out of the range of most of the people around where I live. However, there are a few cost-free times at some of the museums, but unfortunately it's still a hefty price to get into the special exhibits.

Metro Area Population

From: Leah (Original Message) Sent: 8/19/2000 6:46 AM

I'm concerned that the high price of good housing in most cities will be sending people out of the Metro/Central City area to less expensive, but also less desirable and attractive neighborhood and housing. Part of my concern includes the very real possibility of more affluent people and families moving into the vacated housing, rehabbing it, and increasing the value not only of their own housing, but also of the housing stock in the surrounding neighborhoods.

From: Aisha in response to Message 1 Sent: 8/20/2000 8:57 PM

I live in Georgia. Suburban "sprawl" has affected every area of our state. No community is really safe. Even though there is more money being brought into the less desirable communities, the prices have been skyrocketing. Whoever has the gold holds the key...

From: Leah in response to Aisha

You said it perfectly: "Whoever has the gold, holds the key..." Community organizing is the only answer that has any chance at all. People may think it's behind the times, but if bunches of people would get out there, they'd find it works!

From: Torrie in response to Message 1 Sent: 8/25/2000 4:30 AM

It seems that here, in Ohio, the cost of housing is less expensive within the city. There are a few exceptions—German Village, Victorian Village, Italian Village. The cost of housing in the suburbs is skyrocketing—along with increased property taxes. Property taxes alone consume 30% of my monthly mortgage.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

New Mood Downtown

A really really old one, spunoff some from our very first assignment when I decided to begin a second bachelor's degree. The course was introductory sociology; we got to go to the university library and choose an article from journals the professor had on reserve. Of course I had to choose something very urban: Society, v. 16 no. 6 pp. 4,6-7, September-October 1979

New Mood Downtown: internet link


  • Wolf Von Eckardt, New Mood Downtown
  • Society: v. 16 no. 6 pages 4, 6-7 September-October 1979
This article is extremely concentrated and quite conclusive about the positive aspects of the current migration back into the cities as a place to live. Von Eckardt shows a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for city living. Reflecting on contemporary trends, he cites everything now [1979 for the article's date, though I wrote this during 1980] happening in a most positive light, taking negatives exclusively from the 30 to 40 years preceding the back-to-city-living trend. Although the article is only three pages long and therefore limited in scope and depth, the author seems almost obsessively intent on proving his point and extending his own enthusiasm to the reader.

The essential thesis appears to be that use – or misuse – of architectural space is the prime humanizing or dehumanizing factor. Beginning with the fact of the physical return of people from suburbia to cities, and ending with the observation that it is people who are beginning to make their environment livable and workable, the writer lists a series of factors that contribute to the neglect and decay of the city:
  • residential exodus/flight to suburbs
  • suburban shopping centers
  • freeways
  • exit of industry
  • poorer people remaining in the city
  • suburbs receiving a lot of tax money
  • "urban renewal" attacking the apparent, visible problem of substandard housing rather than the real problem of limited employment skills and opportunities
Von Eckardt sees the extensive implementation of housing modeled after Le Corbusier's Ville Radieuse as the worst mistake, observing that the concept of stark concrete slabs surrounded by air and light in reality was unable to provide the casual, routine social interaction needed for development of a healthy community. Again, in negative terms, he indicates that unique architectural style not so much reinforced and perpetuated whatever sense of alienation already may have been present, but was a major contributory factor in its emergence, as the style allowed for no functional neighborhoods.

Among positive forces now at work – presented both as a response or reaction to Corbu's style of architecture and as an awareness that possibly we were in danger of losing the "good old" things about the city – the author mentions particularly the rediscovery of the neighborhood as a social setting and the multitude of creatively revived downtown shopping centers. His only possible reservation seems to be the suggestion of a need to find a solution for the problem of gentrification of lower-class housing and the subsequent displacement of people already living there.

The limitations of a short article better serve the purpose of either a general, broad overview or of a concise unilateral view as presented in this article than that of a thorough presentation of multiple aspects of a situation. Although Von Eckardt's bias comes through forcefully, he also succeeds well in portraying the renewed cities as most attractive and as definitely the place to live.

Because of the relative terseness of Von Eckardt's exposition of the urban revival phenomenon, and because it is well documented by specific examples of decay, demolition, revival and rebuilding, the article is both informative and convincing. Written in easily readable non-technical language, it incorporates virtually all of the observations I've read in popular literature over the past two or three years.

Though never stated overtly, overlaying the focus on architecture as the apparent major factor in the city's crisis/rebirth is an implied awareness that life happens and can be lived only in community. The architectural accidentals that at first seem to be Von Eckardt's central concern thereby can be seen as enabling and facilitating community.

© Leah Chang

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Main Street for Preservation Project

In ages past I've posted versions of Main Street on two of my other blogs: this far by faith and suntreeriver. Although in the wake of yesterday's graduation from Design School I'll seriously be getting back to my theologian identity, I also want to write some new blogs for this site and revitalize some of my old blogs and other articles. Here's Main Street for suntreeriver verbatim:

Main Street experiences?! I love this topic and the Main Street/Church Street sign that was on the United Church of Christ homepage a while ago was wonderful! First, I'll confess I've never read Lewis'Main Street, so I'll run with some images and impressions. BTW, many years ago I spent an interesting citified summer on West Main Street.

That particular urban locale aside, for me the name "Main Street" kindles a generic picture and a general metaphor. My picture is from New England or somewhere in the American Midwest; it's a single central street lined with shops: hardware store, drugstore with soda fountain, flower shop, curio shop, bookstore, coffee/sandwich shop and maybe a down-home-cookin' restaurant. Ages ago a poem I wrote included the phrase, "The Colonial's a restaurant on Main Street" Hudson, Ohio. This Main Street sports one or two branch banks, the town offices and - at one end of the commercial strip - the absolutely requisite iconic white-steepled church building, most likely UCC or Congregational, possibly PC(USA) Presbyterian or ELCA Lutheran, but you'd better believe it's big "P" Protestant!

My Main Street picture has featureless people, but my Main Street metaphor is primarily a lifestyle that includes a describable type of person. Here's a start: this Main Street Person [MSP] wants to belong: to be homogenous yet stereotypically distinctive and noticeable; trendy and up-to-date about ideas, politics and general styles of everything like attire and apparel, vehicles, home furnishings, recreation pursuits and vacation venues without being on the cutting edge of much of anything; spiritual, but without real commitment to institutional religion or to the radical way of Jesus ... this MSP is anything but counter-cultural and not remotely willing to disengage from whatever society's mainstream conventions have become for the moment, the particular moment that's (very) close at hand. Do you remember Charles Schulz's Lucy as psychiatrist with her, "The Doctor is in ... The Doctor is Real in?" Well this MSP is real, real "in!"

Last summer we talked online about "evangelism in the vernacular," in a twist on Luther's insisting on "worship in the vernacular" as a mark of the true church. Peculiar people as we're supposed to be, we also need to be appear enough like everyone else that they can identify with us and therefore with the reasons we're in Christ (aside from God's calling and election of us, but that's a different subject for another day).

Recently I've been reading again Walter Brueggemann's Biblical Perspectives in Evangelism (I originally read it a couple years before the UCC E-Forum became so active, and I wanted to see how my perspective had been changing). In that book he talks a lot about living "gospeled" lives, which include keeping covenant, keeping the Sabbath and keeping the tithe. During Lent 2004 I participated in a live(!) discussion of Lauren Winner's book, mudhouse sabbath. And some time ago I read Marva Dawn's, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting (Eerdmans, September 1989). So I'll conclude by saying one of the distinctions and contrasts between the MSP and what my lifestyle as a Christian needs to be involved the way I keep Sabbath! And I'm planning to continue this topic some other time.

© Leah Chang

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Culture Bound

Originally I blogged this on sun country living, which lately has become my main design blog, though I'm still posting my biblical art on this far by faith. Culture Bound as a concept is so relevant for this city site!
Culture, identity, home, belonging, etc.

As those cultural anthropologists insist, each of us inhabits a range of cultures; more than a single culture encumbers each of us. We see, hear and feel; we remember, dream and hope through the senses our cultures have given to us and we've inadvertently received; and to some extent, our cultural identities constrain and limit us.

Wednesday evening, August 18, 2004, I watched The Reunion, on our local ABC affiliate, KGTV Channel 10. The subject struck me extremely: present-day interviews and retrospective reminiscences of the experience of some Shaker Heights, Ohio residents who'd been part of an intentional racial integration project beginning with their kindergarten class and continuing through high school in the Shaker Heights public schools. Those were the identical years I spent experiencing blockbusting, white flight and redlining in Boston; those same years some of the neighborhoods around me blazed with anger and rage at the same time Watts, Detroit, Atlanta and too, too many U.S. inner cities became furious conflagrations and locales of supercharged and globally publicized citizen/police interactions.

But that's almost a digression, since lately I've been thinking I need to go home, and although there's no way I can return (or would return) to Big Tree Place or any of those other physical dwellings, no way could I return to First Mariner's Church (especially since it disbanded a while ago), I can return to my *home* culture, the culture that's my Muttersprach, my cultura franca - to invent an idiom - and I need occasionally to do so! Besides, in the same way you never step into the same river more than once, because both of you and the river have changed, the home you return to cannot be the home you left, so even if I had a physical option to go back there, I still wouldn't be able to relive something that's no longer there, a location that even in terms of my heart's identity I've rationalized, streamlined and simplified.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Dublin House in Seaport Square

dublin house design
It feels like a very long time, but just 15 months ago I blogged this review of another (this time it's real, not imaginary) urban restaurant on this far by faith. Anticipating lots to do but with my days less structured, I hope to begin writing more reviews of eating establishments.
Another one! This takes us back to the same section of town in an earlier, simpler guise rather than in its later, increasingly sophisticated one:
Old-Fashioned Setting, Real Food: The Dublin House in Seaport Square

On a recent weekday afternoon we had lunch around two o'clock at Dublin House, a restaurant and bar at 9 Stanton Street in Seaport Square. With its vintage mahogany walls, Dublin House exhibits a solid, stable air. It has survived population shifts, retail business exodus, and the rest of the crises of the central cities. It is so much a survivor from another era that one gets the impression it will stay that way, even as another change - gentrification - arrives at Seaport Square.

The atmosphere of Dublin House is Irish, although the clientele – judging by the limited sample of four other diners we saw while we were there – reflected the diverse population of the area. Irish origins show in the faded country scenes of the wallpaper above the mahogany wainscoting, in the waitstaff’s lively conversations with the regular customers, in the traditional Irish melodies found amidst the top forty and country-western jukebox selections. Bing Crosby crooned the Irish songs, we might add.

With the same menu for both lunch and supper, Dublin House stays open and serves food from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.. Consequently, the plates we ordered, although a bit high for a workday lunch, would be reasonably priced if ordered in the evening. Three of us were together this time, so we sampled a variety of selections. We ordered Fish and Chips on the regular menu at $5.75, and two of the several daily specials: Chopped Sirloin Steak and Hot Open Turkey Sandwich, at $5.25 each. The fish part of the Fish and Chips was fried haddock, and it was outstanding in both appearance and flavor. The portion was very generous; the filet had been dipped in a light batter and browned perfectly—we can hear someone on TV saying "fried to golden perfection!" The chips were steak fries, and they were greaseless, well-browned and well-cooked on the inside. Along with these went good cole slow made without too much mayonnaise or too much vinegar and a generous helping of classic Tartar Sauce.

Both the Hot Turkey and the Chopped Sirloin came with a choice of mashed potatoes or fries and string beans or cole slaw. The Hot Turkey came from an actual turkey or turkey breast and was not the synthetic-tasting pressed stuff called turkey roll. It was real! The Chopped Sirloin, looking like a large hamburger (definitely more than ¼ lb.) was greaseless and well-flavored. They served both meats with gravy, and (believe it or not!) the two gravies were different. That with the turkey was light and suitable for poultry; the Sirloin gravy was definitely beef. Despite the green string beans coming out of a can, they were hot and did not detract from the meal. Like the turkey, our potatoes were real, and not packaged reconstitutes. We should add that before the actual plates arrived they served us ice water without our requesting it, a basket filled with six slices of good packaged wheat bread, plus a small plate of butter.

To us as eagerly hungry diners, the hallmarks of Dublin House fare are the "realness" of the food and the ample portions. Consequently, although we had to wait a longish twenty minutes before getting our food, we would like to think this related to its authentic quality. Perhaps they actually were mashing the potatoes! A more likely explanation, however, is that we came at a slow time when the kitchen was not prepared for quick service. We assume food delivery during real lunch hours is faster.

Although our meals cost more than one would care to spend on lunch every day, the menu did contain less expensive items. Sandwiches prices ranged from $2.95 for a Grilled Cheese to $3.95 for a Bacon Burger. So one in quest of a $4 lunch could be well satisfied.

A few final words about the physical atmosphere of Dublin House: the bar is well separated from the restaurant section, a wall with only one small opening between them. The women's rest room, although not well-scrubbed and gleaming enough for a TV commercial, is clean and well-supplied. The restaurant is dimly lit, which we found restful. The absence of air conditioning might prove a problem on the hottest days, but with low eighties outside we stayed comfortable.

All things considered, if you’re in the area of Seaport Square, you can't go wrong by ducking into Dublin House for lunch or dinner, just as we did!

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Search for Breakfast

Originally and literally part of this far by faith and cited exactly:

This is not among my most sparkling literary achievements, but it portrays the neighborhood’s social location fairly well, though without any seriously sociological or anthropological commentary (no theological insights, either—after all, the weekly publication was not remotely church-related). With more protective changes of faces and places, in this review I’m still hiding the burden of guilt!
Pete’s Eats and Sam’s II
The Search for Breakfast


What makes a restaurant a good place to have breakfast on the way to work? We recently looked for the answer in two local eating places.

You might wonder how people who used to rely on the Lockout Diner for breakfast on the way to work have been managing to last on the job until lunch. Well, one possibility is that by now they have found Pete’s Eats at 468 Southfield Avenue, down the street from where the landmark diner used to be.

Pete’s opens at 5:30 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays, thus making it a good place for those who begin their day early. The service is friendly, efficient, and most important, fast. The food is cleanly-prepared, not greasy, and the portions more than adequate. A cup of fresh drip coffee is 95¢ ordered separately, with a free refill if you have breakfast; otherwise a second cup is 80¢. The menu lists the expected standard breakfast items at reasonable prices, with six combinations. They range from the Number 6: $1.99 for one egg, homefries, toast and coffee, to the No. 1, called “Super Beat the House”: $5.49 for three eggs, choice of bacon, sausage or ham; three pancakes, toast, homefries, juice, coffee.

For our breakfasts at Pete’s we chose the No. 3: two eggs, homefries, toast and coffee, with three sausages. This combination was $3.79, and grapefruit juice added an additional 85¢. We also had a single order of three pieces of French toast ($2.75), coffee, and a medium orange juice (85¢). The three sausages were well-browned and drained, and the eggs had the right degree of doneness. The homefries also were crisp, although for our taste they could have been browner. Also well-cooked and greaseless was the French toast, which was prepared with an adequate amount of egg to give it the appropriate golden color. Our only quibble would be that it might have been browned a bit more on the outside.

The service was fast and pleasant. The server brought our coffee while we decided on what else to order and it was only a few minutes from order to service. This was a little after 8:30, so the place wasn’t crowded, and we would expect it to take a little longer during peak hours, but the efficiency we found leads us to expect fast service at all times, an important factor when having breakfast on the way to work. All things considered, Pete’s Eats is a good addition to the Southfield/Patton Square area.

In the Naugatuck area, we tried another breakfast place that opens at 6 a.m., early enough for most folks on their way to work. Sam’s II, within sniffing distance of Willow Bay, offers a quiet atmosphere, good food and competitive prices. Its location in the Pilgrim Mall complex on Mohegan Boulevard means more than ample parking at breakfast time.

The bill of fare at Sam’s also includes classic American breakfast items; à la carte and complete meals are available. We were offered strong, flavorful coffee as soon as we arrived and chose the same breakfasts as we had had at Pete’s, but at Sam’s the coffee and bacon were included on a combination with the French toast. The homefries were cooked with onion and diced rather than sliced. Otherwise, the food was comparable to Pete’s, as was the service.

In general, the offerings were similar to those at Pete’s, although the combinations varied, and the prices, although there were some differences, were close.

The greatest difference is in the atmosphere of the two eating places. Pete’s is pocket-sized and well-lit; the three tables and seven counter stools seat a total of nineteen people. Sam’s is fairly sizeable and not brightly illuminated. The booths provide sufficient privacy to allow for comfortable chatting with friends or spreading out the newspaper while eating breakfast. Since the place is large, one would not feel compelled to move on quickly after eating.

To partially answer the question we asked in beginning this review, most would agree that convenience, fast service, good food at reasonable prices and cleanliness are most important. We found all of these at both Pete’s Eats and Sam’s II and hope you will too!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive

Another one quoted exactly from this far by faith; the names are imaginary but the experiences were real.
Okay, all of you readers—since writing restaurant reviews for the local radical rag was probably my all-time favorite job anywhere at any time, I've decided to post a few more. These reviews are a indispensable part of my journeying this far by faith, but judiciously I've changed names, places, and some other specifics to continue protecting the guilty. As I chose my revisionist designations, I noticed how constantly I'm pulled back and forth between seacoast and desert. No surprise! But this time I stuck with the coast...
Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive: Bright Spot in Seaport Square

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive was sunlit and inviting as we stopped by a little after one o'clock for Sunday brunch. Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive? On the southwest corner of Waterfront and Seaport Street, it's Seaport Square's newest dining establishment, and it's decidedly taking a bow toward gentrification. It has an air of class-consciousness: its name; its décor—highlighted by single fresh daffodils in depression-glass bud vases; creamy-colored linen tablecloths and beige cloth napkins; its somewhat eclectic though traditionally American bill of fare.

First impressions: a very clean, well-contained room with a seating capacity around 70, a lot of natural light, an abundance of large, healthy plants and about a dozen framed prints by local artists. White walls, a single brick wall, an unobtrusive dark Dhurrie-type rug, black ceiling and dark brown molded chairs add up to an aura of self-assured warmth and soft edges. Unfortunately, too-loud music and talk from a commercial radio station also was part of the initial impression.

Written on a wall-mounted chalkboard, the brunch menu for that day included griddle cakes or French toast for $5.85, with specialty griddle cakes, ham, bacon, or sausage an unspecified extra amount; a choice of four different omelets for $6.95; $7.95 for steak and eggs; Turkey Wellington or ham and yams for $8.50; fresh-catch of local fish and a vegetable-of-the-day for $9.35. Fresh cantaloupe or grapefruit listed at $2.35; mimosa (a champagne and fruit drink), $2.75. The menu board cited a fairly extensive variety of wine and beer. By this neighborhood's standards these prices are about average, although possibly a little lower than you'd pay for comparable fare in some other sections of the city.

We began our meal with sweet, flavorful fresh cantaloupe served with a sprig of parsley and a slice of lime. For entrées, one of us opted for an omelet – The Waterfront Drive – the other, for French toast. The omelet was chock full of chopped onions sautéed until transparent, crumbled sweet sausage, and sliced mushrooms, browned until golden and eased onto the plate so it looked like a half-moon. Savory hash browns, diced and blended with onion and cilantro accompanied the omelet, as did a grilled English muffin and jelly. With a glass of white Chablis ($2.65), it added up to a satisfying blend of flavors and textures.

The French toast also deserves a sound commendation! Three hefty slices made from a substantial bread, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and spread across the plate arrived at the table. The outside was well-browned; the inside, the color of beaten egg; the edges, a trifle irregular from excess batter; this French toast was well-soaked in vanilla-flavored batter and a trace of an unidentified spice. Coffee and a selection of teas each were $1.45, each refillable.

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive currently is open Monday-Saturday from 7-10:30 for breakfast; Wednesday-Saturday 11-3 for lunch, 5-10 for dinner; Sunday, for brunch only, from 10-3.

The association of Seaport Square and Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive will be interesting to watch in the months to come, since the restaurant's existence may foreshadow the future of the area. What does Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive say about commercial and residential investments and opportunities in Seaport Square? Waterfront Drive and Seaport Street is enough of a crossroads location that the restaurant's patronage potentially could be quite varied, but Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive’s name and atmosphere probably would be likely to attract either those who already consider themselves "gentry" or those who are self-consciously upwardly mobile, rather than those from other groups who now make Seaport Square's surrounding area their home.

If Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive is a sign of things to come, does this mean additional shops and stores of the same general type? Does it thus signal the closing of still more businesses and the reopening of boarded storefronts? Does it mean a future Seaport Square whose stores and homes will not be available to many of the people who live there now? Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive is both a culinary bright-light and a place to watch in an area to watch; I encourage you to try its food and to keep an eye on its future and the future of Seaport Square!

Friday, August 25, 2006

CITYLIST

I like this citylist I created, too—blogged onto city delights almost two whole years ago:

Urban Oasis

Special Edition: Some Extras

Limited Edition: Lots of Extras

you can live in ours!!!!!

Sailing through the city: easy living

cloudbreak

...when the Winter's gone...

Urban Daydreams

cityblues...

the kitchen at dawn--takes you back

Cities are Beautiful: a world of real living

Sun Country House | HomeWorks 1, 2, 3

Look this way | It's Summer. | It's about time!

Starshine--Dawn--Sunshine

Summer Breakaway | easy living

Sun-Country Living

City Lights!!!!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wasatch School

Another phase of my sometime journalistic career included articles on a pair of elementary schools; here’s one I wrote for the Interfaith Peacemaking Resource Center of Utah’s newsletter.

Good things are happening in the Salt Lake City schools! This month’s feature is Wasatch Elementary.

Wasatch School
With their faces in the sunshine, students at Wasatch Elementary School in Salt Lake’s Avenues neighborhood are planting theme gardens. About half of the classes are involved in this year’s Outdoor Project! It’s an extension of their regular curriculum, as well as an activity in which they claim ownership and learn caretaking, sensitivity and environmental awareness. The gardens will become part of the neighborhood, and the project’s navy blue t-shirts will carry the endeavor even beyond the school and Avenues boundaries, as a reminder that Wasatch is preparing citizens to interface with the world around them and the world beyond them!

gardens unlimitedClose to downtown, close to the University of Utah, Wasatch is the school of choice for many parents seeking the very best, with students attending from all over the Salt Lake Valley. Abundant diversity included a 50/50 poverty/affluence ratio, many different races and ethnicities, single parent families, children of university professors, children of university students, kids from House Of Hope and from Ronald McDonald House...a vast range of students in every sense of the word.

"Kids Zone — Future Leaders being built — Enter with care & love" reads the poster greeting front door arrivals. Amy Wadsworth, Wasatch’s principal, speaks of the “global development” of the child. Advancement in academic and social skills is generally assumed in any learning environment, but this school goes much further and also pays careful attention to physical and emotional development, to awareness and growth in the fine and performing arts. The school is not traditional in the conventional sense of the word—the total approach is far more interactive, giving each one an opportunity to function at his or her optimal level.

How does a grade school administrator who never has taught on that level feel about her credibility as a principal?

Amy Wadsworth believes interest and expertise in teaching and education are easily interchangeable among the various levels. In her third year [1995] at Wasatch, her earlier experience included teaching English and French at Highland High School and serving as Assistant Principal at Clayton Intermediate School. Ms. Wadsworth impressed me as being readily available to the students, but also as someone who doesn’t fill or overwhelm the space that’s rightfully theirs. This is a students’ school!

Additional staff at the K-6 school total about 40. including teachers, aides, art and physical education specialists. There are “lots of good volunteers” (mainly parents), and an active corporate sponsor. Class size averages in the 20s. with three classes for each grade. There’s also a library, a playground, and a gymnasium. Although Wasatch was one of the very first schools in Salt Lake City to have computers, its computers now are among the oldest!

A sense of contentment fills the air at the residential R Street and South Temple location; the school actually feels calm and well organized. This "whole child" approach works well. With serious and usually successful attempts by the teachers and other staff to reach every area in each student’s life, they don’t often need to act out in frustration and violence in attempts to be heard and attended to. Because of this, the students get along well with each other and with the adults in their lives.

Ms. Wadsworth observes that blending students from more troubles areas into the lower-risk population helps a great deal to offset at-riskedness. Accepting of each other, the kids generally don’t isolate themselves into demographically defined groups. Once again, their needs are being met well enough there’s little need for a particular student or group to seek special attention.

Usually the kids are polite, respectful, and considerate of others. But despite the all-round success the Wasatch students and their principal are enjoying, sometimes there’s dissension. Classroom teachers try to process conflict in a problem-solving modality, and if the discord actually reaches the principal, she applies similar procedures.

Ms. Wadsworth feels that in the future these techniques will need to be taught more formally. She says the goal is for peaceable conflict resolution to become a day-to-day practice and not just something occasionally imposed from without.

As these students find peaceful solutions becoming natural to them, they’ll easily take the skills they’ve learned at school into their family setting and into the larger Salt Lake City and world communities. This will be a great and ongoing advantage to all of us!

"Keeping high expectations" in every area helps make sure outstanding results happen. Future leaders are being built at Wasatch Elementary, and they are being treated with care and respect. And as Amy Wadsworth says, they're "such a delight!"

Faces in the sun, Wasatch School students are busy planting gardens to enhance their own lives and as a gift to their community...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Restaurant Review: Urban Coastal Cuisine

Here’s a takeoff on what I did during my probably all-time favorite job—a volunteer job writing restaurant reviews for the local radical newsrag.
Madison Square’s Newest Temptation
"Lunches to Savor and Remember"
by Leah Chang
With all the yuppies, graduate students, young families and assorted others who've been moving into town, it's high time for the arrival of an establishment like Urban Coastal Cuisine!

Since we’d been wondering if the restaurant’s name was overstated, too trendy or aptly descriptive, last Tuesday a pair of us ventured into Urban Coastal’s luncheon buffet. UCC occupies a storefront on Jefferson Street in Madison Square vacated several months ago by a retail outlet of a recently defunct small grocery chain; current tenants on the surrounding blocks include several national retail outlets. In reviving and redesigning the site, Abigail Janssen and Rich Krone, the restaurant’s owners/managers, both recent graduates of Johnson & Wales, retained the original plate glass windows and one of the original entryways, blocking the 2rd door with a subtle, freeform graphic done in dense, textured acrylic with metallic accents by local artist and teacher Maya Gutierrez. The banner signage announces “local seafood and ethnic cuisine”; a quartet of Seats of Consciousness, commissioned from Mariela Santos of Community Fair Food’s associates and co-workers, offer inviting spots to rest, wait, or meet people. Inside the windows and peering out to greet passersby and potential diners, window boxes filled with floral plantings add a spot of bright color to an otherwise subtly sophisticated presentation mostly done in natural hues.

Once inside UCC, we discovered the atmosphere attempts to mimic what I’ve experienced in Cambridge’s Harvard and Central Squares but in a less in-your-face “this is the way to be ‘in’ these days” manner. Clearly there is “a way to be” if you’re well-educated and you’ve opted for inner-city rather than suburban living, and one of the requisite lifestyle accoutrements includes at least occasional dining at places that serve other than the more classic and traditional “Americana” fare.

Perusing the bill of fare, we noticed the prices were high for lunch in Madison Square. But sometimes the image is costly, right? So going for the expected splurge, one of us ordered grilled (unspecified) seafood fajitas with Caribbean chutney-style salsa and “Thai style” fruit compote. Yes. The other decided on non-coastal, choosing slightly blackened (that’s still current?) chicken breast au poivre, wild rice medley, (local!) and a garden-fresh tomato and mixed green salad with the obligatory house vinaigrette. Since the wine selection was too pricey for us, we decided to drink bottled water. Then on to dessert: this time a different ethnicity with Tiramisu and an American favorite: strawberry-rhubarb tart crowned with homemade vanilla ice cream. With dessert one of us had an herbal and black tea blend created by one of our J&W graduate hosts and served with honey from New Hampshire; the other chose a double latté from a plethora of specialty coffees. On a side note, while we were lunching folks at two nearby tables had come in for coffee and pastry, so that less-expensive option may help restaurant revenue.

The food? Yes, the food! Presentation of everything that came to our table was clean, fresh and appealing, served on natural-colored stoneware. All the flavors of everything were nicely married, with no particular accent overwhelming another one. However, none of the food we ordered had a particularly distinct or novel taste, either: it was more in keeping with the expected standard of this kind of cuisine, but that works well!

Ambience definitely is a big part of this restaurant’s draw (at least for Leah, who’s writing this review). With the interior walls painted a light sandy beige, pale wood tables and chairs, and newly-refinished wide-plank floors coupled with the natural stoneware dishes, silk flowers on the table and hanging on the walls a diversity of silk-screened city scenes, beach scenes and city beach scenes, including one of my local favorites, Malibu, the calming effect of it all took me back to a more tranquil era and will draw me back to Urban Coastal Cuisine. Recorded music definitely would enhance the entire mise-en-scéne or – ideally – live music, such as guitar or mandolin. But I can dream! Rich Krone, who together with Abigail Janssen is UCC’s owner/manager, told me a live music series s part of his vision, and acquiring an arts grant to provide the live music is another hope for the future.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Edison School

Originally blogged on City Safari | City Delights, this one works for this site, as well.
This article also published in the Interfaith Peacemaking Resource Center of Utah’s newsletter.
With these observations about Edison Elementary, we continue our series on Salt Lake City public schools that have a high proportion of “at-risk” students.
Edison Elementary School
“I believe in kids, I trust kids…if you expect great things, you get great things.” –Dale Harding, Edison Elementary Principal

Edison School in Glendale first impressed me as a Place to Be – it had a sense of great calm, and it was clean and orderly, without any of the confusion one often expects in an urban setting. Kids’ art covered the walls.

With 517 students in grades K-6, a preschool of 20, and a teaching staff of about 31—all in a building built for 380 students—Edison is bursting its boundaries, both physically and in the many ways it exceeds the limitations and expectations much of the larger society tends to place upon low income, high mobility persons.

Class size ranges from 24 in the lower grades to an outrageous 38 in the upper grades; nineteen classrooms of all kinds as well as two trailers house the classes. A gym, an auditorium and a gigantic playground accommodate sports, arts, cultural, social, and other enrichment activities. 3,000 donated books as well as other resources fill the new, light and airy library.

Volunteerism from the greater Salt Lake community runs extremely high: last year it amounted to 14,000 hours! Neighbors of all kinds, senior citizens, businesses (including the Bureau of Reclamation and The Salt Lake Tribune, which has an intense, ongoing involvement with the school), and University of Utah student nurses are only some of the volunteer categories.

Edison is a mini-world where fifteen languages are spoken, with 72% of the students being other-than-white. They include Pacific Islanders, African-Americans, Hispanics of many kinds, various ethnic Asians. To be a minority is to be in the majority!

Dr. Harding spoke of the poverty of moral values and the absence of hope that pervaded the school when he first arrived there. Most of the families—only 40% of which have two parents in the home—are struggling to survive in every dimension of their lives. But a sense of hope and optimism is beginning to take hold at Edison. Harding and the rest of the staff have been working energetically to make certain these kids will believe in themselves and in each other, that they will be open to a free and meaningful future.

“We have three rules: ‘Respect yourself; Respect other people; Respect property,’” explained Dr. Harding.

Dale Harding is in his fourth year [1995] as principal at Edison. He has had a long, wide-ranging and clearly impassioned career in education. Not only has he been teacher or administrator in Salt Lake City, coming to Edison after a term as principal at Uintah Elementary—he also has worked in Chile, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia and Wyoming. For six years he directed the experimental school at Utah State University.

Surprisingly, Harding is the only Edison staff member fluent in Spanish. Four years ago there was no PTA, no community council at Edison; now both organizations are active. Very significantly, Harding has visited every home in the area. And observing the success he and the kids are having, he says, “‘I can’ is more important than IQ.”

Although there’s apparently a large amount of alcohol and other drugs used in the families many of these kids hail from, very few Edison students are drug users themselves. “Just Say No” and D.A.R.E. Clubs help them resist the pressure to experiment. During 1993-94 there were thirteen gang members – now there’s only one.

As Harding said, although many had learned to use “I’m a minority” as a copout, most of them are learning not to use it as an excuse, but to take on responsibility for themselves and responsibility for others. There’s also a group of kids at Edison who live in stable settings in which they experience a relatively normal, supportive environments without having to contend with overwhelming social pathology; many of those will be at the school from Kindergarten through 6th grade. Dr. Harding is optimistic that about 80% of Edison’s current population will graduate from high school.

The fine arts and the cultural arts are major aspects of life at Edison. I was pleased to hear the violin program of 5th and 6th graders in action! Ririe Woodbury Dance Company works with all of the students; the Salt Lake Tribune offers writers’ workshops; celebrations such as Black History Month and Cinco de Mayo help the kids find meaning and excitement in their heritage. The arts and cultural assembly was one of the very first things Harding told me about! The assembly is a recurrent events featuring the diversity of expression that has helped make Edison a miniature extension of the world beyond its borders.

For fun, there’s reading the books from the library, computer games in the 30-computer lab (when the academic stuff has been finished), a donated arcade that serves as a reward system, and of course the playground and sports, many of the sports facilitated by an after-school physical education teacher. Open until 9 pm three days of the week, until 6 pm on the other days, the building also houses and hosts various adult classes such as parenting, GED preparation and ESL.

As the very low absentee rate absolutely bears out, during the school day the students at Edison Elementary live a good life. Prior to arriving at Edison, many of these kids had been caught in multi-generational layers of ignorance and violence; they’d become what they had seen. With love, affirmation and support, the cycle of ignorance and abuse is breaking down and their fear is beginning to leave. At Edison, not only do they see an alternative—the environment actually enables them to be that alternative, to become different from what they had been. They’re becoming the free, responsible and responsive persons they were created to be.

They also are learning to live in a world in which diversity and difference is seen as normative and as very good. For them, divergent styles mean learning to lives with dissimilarities, and that leads to acceptance of differences. As Dr. Harding mentioned, he will not tolerate violence and aggression, and the question to resolve first always is “What happened?”—not “why?” As they are learning from the staff and from each other how to live with diversity and to resolve conflict without fists or violence or any kind, hopefully the young peacemakers at Edison will grow up to become adult peacemakers.

At this point in time and space, Edison students are learning to live in a real community, with an authentic commonality. They’re in the process—just as all of us continue to be—of discovering the challenges and rewards of living together as friends, neighbors and citizens. But what of their futures? What of their lives beyond the Sixth Grade graduation day?

“So all of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other.” –Romans 12:5

These words have become commonplace to many of us: we need to read in them, to feel in them, a live calling to reach out and to be interresponsive to one another. Just as in great measure we have been created by each other, by one another, that creative process will continue to happen. The students at Edison will continue to need positive influences that will form and shape them into good citizens of their neighborhoods, of their cities, of their countries of this universe and of this galaxy—and even of unknown galaxies!

The students at Edison Elementary are ours, now and in the future. And we belong to them! Let us always remember that, and live our lives in response to it!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Big Dig Boston Blog

James Taylor, Never Die Young
We were ring-around-the-rosy children
They were circles around the sun
Never give up, never slow down
Never grow old, never ever die young

Synchronized with the rising moon
Even with the evening star
They were true love written in stone
They were never alone, they were never that far apart

And we who couldn't bear to believe they might make it
We got to close our eyes
Cut up our losses into doable doses
Ration our tears and sighs ...

Oh, hold them up, hold them up
Never do let them fall
Prey to the dust and the rust and the ruin
That names us and claims us and shames us all
It's about time—lots and lots of time plus lots and lots of $$$, making the now-notoriously legendary CA/T Central Artery/Tunnel project, a.k.a. Big Dig the most expensive public works project ever in the history of this realm of the Americas; the latest cost quote I could find cited $14.6 billion, spelled out as $14,600,000,000. But trust Boston to do things right—maybe especially when it comes to scale! After all, when the Red Sox finally won the World Series, they wowed the entire world by coming back from 0 for 3 in that series, and from an incalculable disadvantage for oh so many seasons prior to 2004.

The Big Dig operates under the aegis of the Turnpike Authority! "Mass Pike" evokes drives to Lenox and Stockbridge; I have memories of betting $2.00 on Mass Pike to place or show at Suffolk Downs.

Most expensive...what then are we to say about this? From scripture's standpoint of covenantal justice, what was happening and what's going on now? Lots of pork doled out for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' congressional delegation's constituency: that's a fact. Has The Big Dig generated a lot of jobs? At what wages? Employment for people who otherwise might not have been working? How about the multiplier effect TBG has had on companies and corporations that mine and manufacture inputs for physical infrastructure? Kickbacks? Must've been a lot of those, and not only because TBG is about Massachusetts, but simply because Tip O'Neill's aphorism about back room deals always obtains.

Of course you gotta consider cost-benefit ratio; whenever I use the word "even" I always feel like apologizing, but even within the closely linked temporal/spiritual sphere, you need to give up some thing to get a desired other thing. Therefore let's ask, "Who has benefited and how? Who will continue to benefit?" While I was living, or sojourning - or whatever you want to call it - in Boston during summer 2000, my friend and roommate Nick frequently ventured out to artistic and musical venues (churches, too, but Nick and church is another story for another blog). One afternoon he returned home and told me about a building-to-building art exhibition he'd just experienced in the South End. Among the details he described a couple of guys living in a loft that amazingly was appointed exactly according to the early 1970s—"red candles melting down the sides of Chianti bottles and a paisley tablecloth, too." Meanwhile, Nick exclaimed, the entire world outside their windows was being disrupted for about the 345,567,678th time, but between their nirvana and their painterly endeavors they remained oblivious. Immediately outside their studio loft home, TBG kept noisily rolling along. But I began this paragraph asking about benefits, and for sure government of all sizes has learned it is no more politically correct than it is morally so to dislocate lives and families by destroying their habitats and disarticulating their physical environments which, after all, have become an integral aspect of their psychological and spiritual milieus. JT speaks of sighs and tears, and agonizingly I recall tearfully sighing at yet another fire-gutted building, yet another boarded-up house. During my high school years, live experiences of blockbusting, white flight, redlining, urban blight and inner-city decay made me learn to cut up my losses into doable doses...just the same as my current style of operating. I'm not sure, however, those concerns need to be part of a chronicle about TBG?! No more razing – and killing – communities to present the outside world another Lincoln Center in the wake of needless unredemptive death; no more demolished West Ends...the world learned what transpired in those and closely-related "cases" hardly amounted to resurrection! But nonetheless, we did study them seriously in my Urban Studies program courses—you know Case Studies in Urban Renewal.

Somewhere in the Hebrew scriptures God refers to the city Shiloh – one of the shrines of the Tribal Confederacy – as the place God's Name first dwelt. The city! Not the apparently forsaken desert of wilderness wanderings that yet was the site of identity-formation and teeming with undetected life beneath the immediately observable, but the city: communications, infrastructure, cash transactions, middle-class and middle-person, near-infinite cultural and ethnic and educational diversity, where people imagine they know the source and time of their next meal and next pay envelope or paycheck, imagining themselves no longer dependent upon gracious gift, imagining their living actually secured—but by what means, and by whom? There's well-developed theology about the concept of God's Name/God's Presence in the Hebrew Bible, and centuries later, we have Martin Luther's theology of the ubiquity of the Risen and Ascended Christ. Ubiquity: the Crucified, Risen and Ascended One indwells The Big Dig and all its artifacts and excrescences Yes!

With at least a half-dozen more blogs in mind and needing to be in class at 7:00 tomorrow morning, I'll sign off from this with a couple more song lyric quotes; just in case you even wondered, I'll tell you JT is one of my favorite songwriters and performers. Beyond the referenced song and album, I'm not familiar with Martin Page or much more so with Eddie Money, whom I heard at a pre-Winter Olympics campaign rally in Salt Lake City during the mid-1990's, and a few Faith Journeys back I quoted "Peace in Our Time." I'll try to retrieve a copy of that document and blog it onto this far by faith.

By Martin Page, "In the House of Stone and Light"

O Mount Kailas, uncover me
Come my restoration; wash my body clean
I've been walking along a crooked path
Where the walls have fallen and broken me in half ...
I'm telling you I will not rest till I lay down my head
In the house of stone and light
I make my way; O gonna be such a beautiful day
In the house of stone and light

Eddie Money, Peace In Our Time, from The Sound Of Money

Never gonna break down the walls
And build the prison with the stone
Cause you and I know what love is worth
We're gonna build a heaven on earth
Running in the wheels of fortune turning water into wine
Gonna make love the bottom line gonna find peace in our time
We're gonna build a heaven here on earth
Turning water, water into wine making love the bottom line
Finding peace, peace in our time

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bostonians

You might be a Bostonian if...

• You think of Philadelphia as the deep south.
• You think there are only 25 letters in the alphabet (no R).
• You think three straight days of 90+ degrees is a heat wave.
• All your pets are named after Celtics Hall-of-Famers.
• You refer to 6 inches of snow as a dusting.
• Just hearing the words New York puts you in an angry frenzy.
• You know the significance of 1918.
• Your favorite adjective is wicked.
• You think 63 degree ocean water is warm.
• You still can't bear to watch highlights from game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
• You believe using your turn signal is a sign of weakness.
• You don't realize that you talk twice as fast as everyone else.