Neighborly

There is something to be said about living in an unpopular neighborhood.  While the rest of the city is arguing over the mayor’s controversial decision to remove all parking placeholders that people use during snowy weather* during regular trash pickups, this week my trash man greeted me with a smile and warned me to be careful of the icy patches.  He ignored my space saver and all the others on my street.

Last month, during one of the snowstorms, my neighbor Sal (who, no matter what the weather, enthusiastically proclaims that it is beautiful out and would be a perfect day for me to run) dug a trench around my car with his snow blower, saving me an hour or more of shoveling.  A week ago, when another neighbor who I don’t know thought I had forgotten to put my orange cone in my parking spot to save it, he ran down the street to replace it so no one would park in my spot.  Then he apologized for doing it when I returned a few minutes later, mystified about the reappearance of the cone.  On Monday, I woke up extra early knowing I would have to clean 3 or so inches of snow off my car, but ended up running late getting out the door after a spilled coffee incident.  When I walked outside, I found my car cleared of all snow, with the windshield wipers up so they wouldn’t freeze.

In a city this big and cold, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you have neighbors at all.  You never run into anyone you know, and you spend a lot of time wandering around by yourself.  Sometimes you default to yelling in your car at people driving like idiots, or to getting cranky when the grocery store is too crowded.  Sometimes all it takes is over 100 inches of snow to remind you that after all the whining about long commutes and lack of parking and being stuck indoors, your neighbors will be there with a friendly smile and a helping hand, and Mr. Rogers will be benevolently smiling down on them.

1-28-15

*If you’re not familiar with this practice, city laws say that you can claim a parking spot that you shoveled out for 48 hours after a snow storm.  People will use anything and everything to claim their spots, running the gamut from construction cones to milk crates to television sets.  This year, the mayor proclaimed after the first blizzard that residents could hold onto their spots indefinitely, until he decided when it was appropriate to ban the space savers.

Advertisements

Canada

Many moons ago, back in November, Greg and I went on a week-long trip to Montreal and Quebec City.  It was the first real vacation we’ve taken together, and the first time we’d had consecutive days off together in a year and a half.  Life had been getting stressful, we felt like there was no time to get anything done (much less do anything fun), and I was still limping around from my running injury.  The weather was getting colder and I was worried about getting lost, not speaking French, and coordinating plans with Murray’s dog-sitters.  Suddenly Canada seemed like a ridiculous place to want to go.  Turns out it was just the break we needed.  The weather cooperated, with sunshine nearly every day, and even when temperatures fell below 20 degrees, everything felt magical.  We slept in every day (til 8:30!), drank delicious beer, ate tons of poutine and maple syrup, and did a ridiculous amount of walking.

The vacation started with a night spent at Daphne’s brother’s house in York, Maine, and cruising around Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the next morning to cheer her on at the half marathon.  Then it was off to Montreal!  We arrived in the city after an hour of idling in line at customs, where the puffy-faced customs officer took his job too seriously and peppered us with snippy questions.  (“Are you going to be doing work of any kind while in Canada?  No?  I’m gonna ask you again, are you doing work of any kind here?  What’s in your trunk?  You have all this luggage in your backseat, what do you have in your trunk?”)

We had decided to try out Airbnb for places to stay and had reserved a room in an apartment close to downtown, with our host Alessandro.  (A quick plug for Aibnb:  it is the best.  It’s cheap and you get to meet lovely people and stay in an actual house.)  When we arrived, Alessandro immediately offered us a beer and a map and sat us down at his kitchen table to chat.  He is from a small town in Italy, lived a few years in Paris, and is working on his doctorate in computer science.  Throughout the week, he talked with us about music, food, and politics and told us all the good places to go.  One morning, we woke up to croissants for us in the kitchen.  On our last night there, Greg and I were cooking dinner right as Alessandro got home from work.  We insisted that he join us, and he eventually agreed.  Afterward, he said, “I’m going to run and get us some ice cream!” and came back with a pint of gelato.  We each got a spoon and sat around eating it straight out of the carton.  Basically, Alessandro was one of the best parts of Montreal.  Here’s the rest of Montreal, in pictures:

After five days of city activities, we were ready for a more rustic experience in Quebec City.  Let me just note that there is a lot to be said for vacationing in the off-season.  It was obvious that Quebec City was the kind of place that is jam-packed with tourists during the summer and in January (for their annual winter festival), but it was quiet and peaceful when we arrived.  Our host this time was Guillaume, and although he was not as present or chatty as Alessandro, he was very nice and had a beautiful apartment.  Guillaume is a wood-worker and had clearly made almost every piece of furniture in his apartment, adding to the overall quaint feel Quebec gave off.

While Montreal was grungy and hip, QC was old-fashioned and charming.  It is a hilly city built on multiple levels, so if we were walking around on an upper level, we were able to see views of the city below us.  It’s also located near the mountains and the St. Lawrence river, so beautiful vistas surrounded us.  In QC, we mainly did a lot of walking, browsing in stores, and eating traditional Quebecois meals.  We also toured the historic Citadelle, an active fort that was built in the 17th century.  On our last day there (and the coldest yet), we went hiking in Jacques-Cartier National Park, and were rewarded with views of mountains and lakes, with hardly any other people in sight.

Born to Run

Last week I injured my back…big time.  I’m not really sure what happened, except that one day I was fine, the next day I woke up and it hurt a little, and the next day I could barely walk.  Apparently it has to do with my sacroiliac joint being hypo-mobile…or something.  I hobbled into work in tears and immediately made an appointment to see a chiropractor, who then put me on a program for fixing it.  Now I can walk, sort of, but can’t do much else.  It’s turned into quite a challenge working with children who enjoy throwing themselves floppy noodle-style on the floor.  My main concern, though, is getting healthy in time for my half marathon a week from Sunday, and our subsequent vacation to Montreal and Quebec City.  It’s not looking too good on the racing front, though.

Looking back at the months I’ve been training, I thought of how many times I woke up in the morning and thought, “I don’t feel like running today.  I’m just not into it.”  I usually forced myself to go anyway, but sometimes I’d let myself drift back to sleep.  Of course, now that I can’t run, it’s the only thing I can think about.  It’s been 5 days since my last run, and over that period of time I was scheduled to cover 33 miles.  That’s 33 miles of catching up on my favorite podcasts and audiobooks, 33 miles of people-watching commuters and park-goers, 33 miles of Murray being so elated he’s running with me that he grabs the leash in his mouth and yanks it around mid-run.  That’s 5 days of being so happy that I decided to lace up my shoes, even though it was dark and early and I was tired.  That’s 5 special post-run pumpkin pie flavored oatmeal and quinoa bowls (which, frankly, might have been my biggest motivation to run to begin with).  I wish I could go back to all the times I thought I wasn’t into running that day and remind myself why I wanted to become a runner.  It’s my Garmin watch exclaiming “New Record!” afterward, the feeling that I accomplished something before many people got out of bed that morning, that I’ll stay productive throughout the day, and the feeling of camaraderie with other runners and walkers that I pass.

The feeling of camaraderie will stay regardless of whether I’m able to race, of course.  It’s Daphne’s first big race and if I can’t run, I’ll be on the side of the road cheering her on.  And while I might shed a few tears wishing I wasn’t sitting on the sidelines, I’ll also remind myself to be thankful.  I’m thankful that I’ll still be able to run again; for my friends in the medical field who took time out of their day to advise and care for me; for everyone who listened to me whine about what is, in the end, a minor setback; for the chance to gain perspective as a spectator and giver of encouragement.  This is neither the last nor the most important race, and right now is just my time to play a different role.

New England Summer

This might be the first time in my life I’ve been dreading fall. Last winter was a doozy, and is not (and probably never will be) enough of a distant memory for me. Plus, besides this weekend, the summer here has been almost autumnal, warm and sunny but with a cool breeze and even chillier evenings. Without the prospect of a mid-March Florida vacation, the months ahead are already seeming gloomy. Luckily I have things to look forward to this fall and winter as well: a trip home and to Indiana for a wedding next weekend, half marathon training, a Thanksgiving feast with our ex-roommates, and hopefully many trips around the northeastern U.S. and Canada. I’ve also got many wonderful summer memories to tide me over while I drift into the snowy abyss. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Call to Action

Hey all! As you may have seen on my Facebook, there have been some really devastating changes made by Medicaid and Medicare to policies regarding communication devices for those who are unable to verbally speak. These changes are upsetting not only if you are an SLP, but also if you are a decent human being, concerned citizen, and/or frugal taxpayer. See the photo below for the short explanation:

SGD

Everyone has been dumping ice water on their heads left and right, and while that has done some great things to raise awareness and encourage/pressure others into donating money, there is a really pressing issue at hand that you can devote your time and energy to.  I promise it will take no longer than videotaping your ice bucket challenge.  I’ve drafted a letter to my representative and Senators and will be emailing them tonight.  I have read different information on when these elected officials must receive the request by – it is either Monday, August 25, or Wednesday, August 27.  It may even be later than that, as CMS changed its deadline for the changes from September 1 to December 1.  So, regardless of when you read this, please please please contact your representative and Senators!  Below, you will find my letter.  I have put a strikethrough on the areas that you may want to omit or change, depending on your job or relationship to this issue.  Other than that, the core information is all in there.  Let’s celebrate the fact that we live in a democratic society and are able to talk to our public servants about our concerns!  And if you know anyone who might be interested in sending this letter (i.e., anyone who has a soul), please pass it along!

Here are the links you need to find your elected officials:  Representatives and Senators.  Simply copy and paste the below letter, edit out or change the information that has been crossed out, and hit send.  Easier than an ice bucket challenge and you don’t even have to leave your couch to do it!


Dear Mr./Ms _______,

I am writing to you as a speech-language pathologist and concerned citizen about upcoming changes to policies regarding funding of speech generating devices.  As you may know, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently came out with upsetting policy changes have significantly limited a Medicare beneficiary’s access to speech generating devices (SGDs) and SGD accessories.

Speech-generating devices, also known as voice output communication aids, are electronic augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems used to supplement or replace speech or writing for individuals with severe communication impairments, enabling them to verbally communicate their needs. Only speech-language pathologists may recommend SGD devices for Medicare beneficiaries based upon a formal evaluation.  People who benefit from SGDs include individuals who have autism, ALS, genetic disorders, stroke, and many other diagnoses.  CMS has delayed implementation of the coverage determination until December 1, but Medicare and Medicaid may no longer cover the cost of many SGDs after this date.  The changes can be broken down into two basic components:

Audible Speech Limitations

One change that will be enacted after December 1 is the elimination of devices that do nothing but produce audible speech.  This means that if an individual has capabilities on his or her device such as access to the internet, this device will no longer be covered by Medicare/Medicaid.  Access to the internet via an SGD is important for several reasons.  First, it is how most SGDs are now manufactured; the device uses a platform such as Android or iOS and has many features (e.g., touch screen) already “baked in” to the device.  The SGD software is updated over the internet, much like a smart phone is.  With the new changes, SGD manufacturers would have to completely change the software, hardware, and functions of their products, meaning that the changes will do nothing to ensure that SGDs are less expensive for taxpayers.

The other reason this change matters is that much of our communication is now done online or over the phone.  If an SGD user holds a job at which communicating via email or phone is essential, and devices that allow him or her to do this are no longer funded, he or she will no longer be able to function on the job.  Under these new rules, any device that is capable of doing anything other than producing audible speech is no longer allowed.  Even if that other functionality is disabled or hidden, the device will not be funded.  The SGD user will not even be allowed to purchase these capabilities with his or her own money.  With these changes, SGD users would have to trade in their current devices for a brand new device that is dumbed-down and, incredibly, more expensive to build.  This is both a quality of life issue for SGD users, as well as a financial issue for taxpayers and SGD manufacturers.

Removal of SGDs from Users

Another change that will go into effect on December 1 is removal of SGDs from patients when they are admitted to hospitals, nursing facilities, and hospice care…just when they need their voice the most.  The argument for this change is that, like walkers and feeding pumps, SGDs are Durable Medical Equipment and should be provided by the facility.  However, unlike walkers and other durable medical equipment, SGDs have been specifically programmed to fit the individual’s needs.  This individual and his or her speech-language pathologist, family, and others involved in his or her care have configured and modified the device so that the individual can best communicate his or her wants, needs, opinions, and questions.  The SGD user has been taught, over the course of many hours and with much trial and error, to use this specific device to communicate with others, and it is unique to his or her needs and preferences.  To place a different, non-specific SGD in the individual’s hands at a time when it is crucial that he or she be able to communicate basic needs and wants is simply cruel.

As a speech-language pathologist, this news alarmed me.  I cannot even begin to imagine what would happen if one of my patients or loved ones were admitted to the hospital and essentially had their voice stripped away.  How would they communicate their basic needs and levels of pain, ask important questions to their doctor, or visit with their family members? This issue not only affects SGD users who are currently funded by Medicaid/Medicare – it has the potential to affect each and every one of us. 

Therefore, I am requesting that, as my elected official, you sign on to a bicameral letter addressed to CMS as prepared by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers that would request an explanation for recent policy changes that have significantly limited a Medicare beneficiary’s access to SGDs and SGD accessories.  The letter is titled “Ensure ALS Patients Retain Access to Critical Communication Tools; Join letter to CMS urging clarification of recent Speech Generating Device policies.”

Despite multiple meetings with CMS and contractor staff, as well as nearly 200 comments opposing the new regulations, there have been no changes in CMS policy.  Members of the House and Senate are writing to CMS to ask for their rationale on these issues.  I ask that you contact Nick Magallanes at nick.magallanes@mail.house.gov or (202) 225-5107 in Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office to sign on to this bicameral letter.

Thank you for your support, and thank you in advance for helping to give a voice to those who need it the most!

Sincerely,

________________

 

 

Friday Dancing

It’s been a loooooong workweek, you guys.  My coworker Katie and I were enthusiastic stupid enough to volunteer ourselves to plan and implement a week-long preschool language summer camp.  You know those weeks when you’re so busy that time just flies and before you know it, it’s Friday and you’re enjoying a glass of wine and thinking about how productive you were?  This was not on of those weeks.  This was one of those weeks when you’re so busy you don’t get a lunch break until 5:00 (known as dinnertime to some people) and you have to pop an Advil every four hours and you have nightmares recapping your horrible day and you still manage to accomplish virtually nothing.

Woof.

Preschool camp lasted from 12:30-3 every day this week and took place in the waiting room of the clinic, so every day we had to dismantle the waiting room and set it up for camp at exactly 12:25, and then we had to have the room back in order for our regular patients at 3:02.  12:30-3 also happens to be the exact time of day many preschoolers take a nap.  You might know, if you’ve ever interacted with a small child, that they get very cranky and rude when they haven’t napped.  You also might know that some small children, especially those who are developmentally delayed, do not do particularly well if you decide to let them have outdoor time in a parking lot with no fence around it.  And even if these things aren’t an issue, the plans for the day can still get ruined by different factors, such as clients showing up at the wrong time, rain, or a behavioral child who refuses to participate in anything and instead attempts to punch and kick everyone and escape when no one is ready to catch him.

So today?  I’m working from home writing and proofreading reports, but I have a cookie in one hand and coffee in the other, and I plan on dancing it out to some new Jenny Lewis tunes when I’m done.  Tomorrow:  a quick, (hopefully) less insane workday and a camping trip to the White Mountains.  No children allowed.

 

Tidbits

It’s 8:45 and Greg has now been on an island with his coworkers for approximately 12 hours.  The excursion was described as some sort of team-building event, but I haven’t heard from him since 4 pm, when he told me he had no idea what time they were leaving the island.  In my head, what’s taking place looks something like this:

And for all I know, he’s floating in a lake wearing a sumo wrestling suit, Andy Bernard style. At least he probably got a lot of free beer?

We are thisclose to having a roommate, and I either helped or hindered our efforts when I called the management company and sassed them for not approving her application yet, even though we have FIVE DAYS until our new lease starts. Of course the phone went straight to voice mail and they haven’t returned the call yet. In conclusion: if you work for a management company, you might as well have sold your soul to the devil.

Daphne and I are running a half marathon in November (brr!). It’s in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the route travels around the coast and through some old neighborhoods. By that time, it’ll have been two years since my last half marathon, which was an absolute failure. Although I usually set a time goal, I’m just going to make my goal involve not having flashbacks to the last race, during which I got lost in the woods, cried, and finished dead last after nearly 5 hours.

Greg didn’t get Memorial Day off, but he did get a floating holiday, and then was told he had only a few weeks’ gap during which to take it. So we rushed to figure out something to do. We’ve been missing the mountains a lot lately, so we headed to Stowe, Vermont, where we stayed in a cabin instead of a motel, like real adults. We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant called Prohibition Pig. I must confess, you guys, there were vegetarian items on the menu, but we split a meat dish. Partly because all the veggie items revolved around falafel, which I had literally just eaten for my last two meals, and partly because the meat smelled SO GOOD. And also because they source their meats from local, sustainable and humane farms. I Googled the farm before ordering, just to make myself feel better, and only feeling a tiny bit lot like I was the star of a Portlandia episode:

But when I looked up the farm (Vermont Family Farm), I found a quote from the farmer saying “happy pigs are healthy pigs” and this picture. Would you just look at that pig!

SO HAPPY.

SO HAPPY.

So we had to order the BBQ pulled pork. And the hush puppies. And the fried pimiento cheese balls. And the salad. And the blackened green beans. And the macaroni salad. Don’t judge, we didn’t eat ALL of it. We had at least three hush puppies left.

The next day, we drove about an hour to Camel’s Hump State Park for our hike. It was listed as strenuous, and it lived up to its name! It was mostly uphill for about 2.5 miles to the peak, but it was worth it. The weather gods were kind to us and the view from the top was incredible. Murray spent the majority of the hike off-leash, and I was so proud of him! The last time I attempted that during a hike, he chased after a deer and disappeared for an excruciating 20 minutes. This time, he had the time of his life frolicking around in the woods but always stopping to wait for us when he ran too far ahead. That’s my boy!

I was going to post pictures of the hike, but it’s getting late and I have a date with my running buddies bright and early, so that will have to wait for another day. On our plate this weekend is copious amounts of cleaning and moving upstairs, followed by mojitos on the back porch. After a year of dust, grime, snow salt, and dog hair, I’m ready for a clean slate!

My Other Full-Time Job

I should be menu planning and grocery shopping right now, but I just can’t work up the energy.  I did spend a good chunk of the day out in the sun at a bike-a-thon for local organization Bikes Not Bombs, so maybe that’s part of it.  Or maybe it’s because I’ve been spending nearly every waking and sleeping moment thinking about finding a roommate.  When Peter and Stacie first told us they were moving out (back in mid-March), I was sad but thought, “No big deal.  How hard can it be to rent out a huge room in a beautiful, cheap apartment?”  Apparently, as I alluded to in my last post, it’s on par with, say, learning Mandarin Chinese.  After many close calls in which we thought we had found someone but something fell through, we decided to nix our idea of renting out the large room and offer one of Greg’s and my rooms to Daphne’s close friend Leah, who is moving to Boston after a year in Puerto Rico.  Which means Greg and I are now moving up one floor, and we need to find someone to rent our current bedroom.  Surely, we thought, it would be easier to find a tenant for one room that is half the cost of the upstairs suite.  At first, it seemed to be going well.  We had more Craigslist responses than we knew what to do with, although some of them were questionable at best.  I laughed when we got those and insisted on reading them aloud to whoever was within earshot:

“Yo, me and my girl are lookin for somewhere to kick it.  Give me a call.” (Entertaining, but no.)

“Philosophical discussions are some of my favorite, especially if they are somewhat silly yet puzzling. In fact I consider myself very serious, yet always looking for an aspect of fun. Thats why I love gaming with people smarter than me. I learn from them and yet I don’t have to be crushed when I don’t win, because I just do it for the fun (and because I knew they were going to win anyway).” (This person sounds a bit too much like one of my clients, for whom I write social stories on flexibility when they can’t handle losing.)

“I want to come and look at the room because I really want to rent it so I would want you to let me know your schedule for today and tomorrow… pls back to me at [email] because I am always busy at work.” (This was the only sentence in the email.  Sure, Celeste, come on over.)

“I am  very friendly person and I love animals, I do baby sit my boss dog here and there for 2-3 days, his name is Bentley and he is a yorkie terrier mixed with a chiwawa very quiet humble and fully trained.” (I do enjoy a nice humble dog, but I don’t tolerate misspellings and run-on sentences.  Also, yappy dogs are the absolute worst.)

“I’ve spent the greater part of these past few years cultivating physically, metaphysically, and spiritually. I am a rock enthusiast with a passion in growing from seeds and moments. I am an aspiring performance artist with skills and interests in printmaking, ceramics, whittling, and painting. I am also a dancer (intuitively and also formally in an Afro-Haitian ensemble and danza Azteca) and dabble with the donkey jaw.” (It’s crazy, on my checklist of qualities I’m looking for in a roommate, I have “Enjoys cultivating metaphysically” and “Plays an obscure musical instrument”!)

“Hello my name is Taylor and my boyfriend has been searching for place in the Boston area. I have been helping him send emails to different adds on craigslist and this unit seems to be the perfect fit for him. He works from 10-3 m-f. He also likes to skateboard he has been skating for about 10 years now so when he’s not working he is out skating.” (So with your boyfriend’s busy 25-hour-a-week job, he is unable to send out a few emails?  Also, 10-3 schedule and skateboarding…is he 16 years old?)

Anyway, you get it.  But we’ve also had emails from people who have seemed like real gems!  We’ve even extended offers to a few of them.  They have all said the same thing when they came over:  “This place is so nice!  This is the nicest apartment I’ve looked at!  Your dogs are adorable!”  And they have all said the same thing when we emailed them about moving in:  “No.”  And so the cycle has continued for the past 2 months:  I think I have a lovely relaxing day off, then someone wants to come see the place, so I spend all day cleaning and waiting around for them to show up, and I spend 30 minutes talking to them and gauging whether or not I could live with this stranger, and then I decide that I could, and then we have a roommate meeting to discuss everything, and then we invite them to live with us, and then we get rejected for various reasons.

The process has infiltrated my life, and now all my dreams too.  I dream about firing off emails to different people, about potential roommates responding, about cost breakdowns, and I dream that I’m the only person in the house who drinks coffee and for some reason everyone judges me for it.  There are three more weeks of this special circle of hell, and we’ll either end up with a happy, normal new roommate, or in the poorhouse.  Lord help us all.

Local.

Greg went home for a friend’s wedding last week, and I practically cried every time I talked to him on the phone.  “I just ate at Blues City Deli,” he’d tell me.  Or, “We went to the City Museum, and now we’re at Food Truck Friday.”  (Admittedly, most of the times I wanted to cry revolved around food.)  “I’m sitting in traffic and I have nothing to eat at home and I hate it here!” I’d wail.  (Because I’m a whiner.)  There are some things I don’t like here (the food, the cost of living, the traffic), but there’s plenty that I do like.  I love riding the bus or the train instead of driving.  I love the museums and the Public Garden and the duckling statues.  I love eating cheesy eggplant pasta and fresh-baked cannoli at my favorite restaurants in the North End.  I love watching the sunrise on Peters Hill, where I run.  I love driving over the Charles River.  I love looking at the brownstones downtown.  I love going to the mountains.  And I love my old blue house in my little Roslindale Village neighborhood.

Technically, Roslindale is a part of Boston, but no one actually knows where it is.  I always describe it as the armpit of Boston, because that’s how people perceive it.  True, it’s not close enough to a train stop and there is a total of one bar within walking distance.  But it’s also quiet and far away from traffic and, unlike my friends who live downtown, I have never had to circle around for 20 minutes looking for parking.  It’s also what allows me to pay dirt cheap rent for a huge house.  It’s full of a friendly and multicultural population.  I can walk to the post office, the library, several restaurants, and gift stores.   I can spend hours upon hours in the Arboretum and almost block out the sound of cars rushing by.

These are important things to me, and it’s important for me to defend my little neighborhood, especially because we are looking for roommates.  Stacie and Peter are moving out at the end of June, and we are rushing to fill their spot.   Unfortunately, no one is actively doing a Craigslist search for houses in Roslindale, because unlike its neighbor Jamaica Plain, Rozzie is not yet an up-and-coming area to move to.  We got so, so close to having roommates, until our management company demanded a ridiculous amount of money from the people moving in called a broker fee, and they declined.  (The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.)  I keep reminding myself that I had nowhere to stay until literally a day before I moved to Boston last year, and everything worked out then, but it’s getting a little nerve-wracking.  We’ve only gotten three replies to our ad so far, after nearly two months of posting it.  Have I mentioned that no one wants to move to Roslindale?

In a way, the way Rozzie is perceived by Bostonians is the way St. Louis is perceived by the rest of the country.  St. Louis has bragging rights to the “most dangerous city” title and a failing economy.  But we’re also the city of cheapskates and have the most square footage of parks per capita than any other American city.  Roslindale is often described as having nothing going on or as being the “bad part of town” (laughable).  They’re both scrappy little fish in a big pond.  But I consider myself lucky to know them and see their worth.  I will continue to fight for them and tell people to move there (but only people who respect a good thing when they see it).  So if you know someone who wants to live in a hidden gem of a place, send them my way, will ya?

In keeping with my civic pride, I’ve been playing songs from St. Louis and Boston musicians all day.  Now playing:

The Sandlot Gang

I had forgotten how weird Roslindale is after holing myself in my apartment all winter.  There’s the homeless guy who rides my bus and yells loudly about being a veteran.  There are the drug dealers next door who were arrested in connection with a shooting.  There’s the Village Market, which we like to call the Village Idiot, where you can shop if you specifically need Sun Chips but not crackers, or bulk nuts that may or may not have maggots crawling around in them.  There’s Stanley the Corgi who frequents the park so that his owners can stage elaborate photo shoots with him (and who once got peed on by none other than Murray).

But by far the weirdest of all is a group of guys who I fondly refer to as the Sandlot Gang.  We have a baseball field right next to our house that serves as a sort of all-purpose community meeting place.  Most summer evenings, we’d walk down at night to watch club baseball games.  In the winter, families used a large hill leading to the field for sledding and snowman-making.  It’s also an informal dog park (hence the Stanley incident).  And when the weather is nice, you’ll see people out there playing catch or picnicking.

The most dedicated park-goers of all are the members of the Sandlot Gang.  They are three men who are, by my estimation, in their mid-40s.  I see them just about every afternoon and weekend that I take Murray to the park.  Their presence is notable because they play the most intense games of Wiffle ball I’ve ever seen.  And they like to pretend to be announcers for their own games.  And they keep score.  On my most recent trip to the park, I heard the catcher calling out the count, while the pitcher threw the ball to the batter, who was standing approximately 4 feet away from him.  “That’s a single to right field!  Did you feel the breeze on that pitch?  It was going at least 60!  We’ve got men on first and third, 2 outs.  Whoa, here comes some nasty wind!  This could be a total game-changer right here!”  The first time I saw them, I thought maybe it was a father-son trio who were re-living the olden days.  Or that one of them maybe had an intellectual or developmental disability.  But as I’ve gotten to know them (through careful stalking), I’ve come to the realization that they’re actually just three grown men who really, really enjoy playing Wiffle ball together.

While at first glance, this seems to be a slightly odd interest – there is not a lot of skill or exercise involved – it’s also strikingly sweet.  Instead of getting home from work and sitting in front of the TV, they hit the ballpark with the same dedication as a group of 12-year-olds hoping to make it to the big leagues.  Maybe they’re reliving the glory days, when they ran around with their neighborhood gang on hot summer nights, playing night games under the glow of July 4th fireworks.  Or maybe they’re just super weird.

“It’s such a beautiful day,” I commented to Murray as I left the park, watching the Sandlot Gang with both awe and judgment.  “Maybe we’ll be able to eat dinner on the porch.”  After I realized that I was talking to my dog again, I decided that we probably all have a little bit of weird in us.