Posts Tagged ‘cambridge’

Photo: David L Ryan/ Globe Staff.
Homeowner Paul E. Fallon hopes to inspire others to bequeath their homes to an affordable-housing nonprofit that will help moderate-income families in Cambridge, Mass., to build wealth through homeownership.

As much as I believe that lack of homeownership is a major cause of inequality, keeping many lower-income families from passing on their nest egg to another generation, I could never bring myself to do what Paul E. Fallon recently committed himself to doing. He’s really putting his money where his mouth is. And his children are amazingly supportive.

As Jon Gorey reported for the Boston Globe, “When Paul E. Fallon purchased a Victorian four-family in Cambridge nearly 30 years ago, he wasn’t angling to become a minor real estate tycoon. But he wanted to raise his children in the city, and a single-family home was, even then, more than he could afford. ‘I bought it when a four-family house in Cambridge was a pariah because it was under rent control,’ Fallon said. ‘There was no crystal ball in 1992 that told me this house was going to make me rich.’

“But it did. Fallon lived in one unit and rented out the others, first under rent control, then at fair market rents. Now a single man in his mid-60s, the writer and retired architect owns his property outright. … In just one generation, his home in what had long been a middle-class neighborhood of plumbers and electricians has become a multimillion-dollar asset.

“That makes Fallon uncomfortable as he sees young families, especially people of color, unable to plant the kind of roots in Cambridge he did. His own children, despite being well-launched in good careers, he said, could never afford to buy the house they grew up in now. ‘Cambridge’s vanishing middle class makes my city a less diverse, less dynamic place to live’ he said.

“So when he turned 65 last year, … Fallon realized he wanted to do something very different with his property. He decided to leave his house to a local nonprofit when he dies. The goal is to create not just affordable housing, but long-term generational homeownership opportunities for four Cambridge households. …

‘I don’t just want to give people a secure place to live; I want to give the opportunity for people to be in the middle class, to accrue equity, to be able to pass the house down to their own children if they want to … to really build wealth.’

” ‘The difference between the haves and have-nots in the United States is largely a matter of who owns their house,’ Fallon added. … ‘I feel like if we’re going to be serious about creating a more equitable world, then those of us who have more than we need have to spread our wealth. We can’t just talk about it.’ …

“Fallon first wanted to make sure his two adult children were on board with his idea, even though it meant they would be losing out on a significant portion of their inheritance. But that, too, was part of his plan. ‘My house is worth so much money that, if my children inherited it, they would be living on Easy Street. And I’ve never met anyone who inherited wealth that wasn’t changed for the worse as a result,’ Fallon said. Gratefully, his kids understood where he was coming from. ‘They’ve spent their whole lives around me — they were not surprised,’ he said.

“He then sent letters to eight Cambridge nonprofits explaining his still-nebulous idea in vague terms — big on concept, short on logistics. After interviewing a handful of them, Fallon landed on Just-A-Start, a 53-year-old Cambridge organization that develops and manages affordable housing and offers youth programs, job training, and other economic advancement services.

“ ‘Just-A-Start really got it,’ Fallon said. Their goals aligned with his, and he felt confident they would still be around when the time comes to implement his vision. ‘They understood that what I’m trying to do is to help Cambridge be a more diverse place, a more equitable place,’ he said. …

“When Just-A-Start executive director Carl Nagy-Koechlin received the inquiry, he recognized Fallon’s name; they had worked together on an affordable housing development in Somerville a few years prior. He also realized that Fallon’s explicit instructions — that the house be used for homeownership opportunities — would help fill a key gap in the city’s affordable housing stock. ‘Most of the housing we’ve developed is rental housing, and that’s because it’s needed — but also because the financing sources for affordable housing are skewed in that direction,’ he said. …

“Fallon and Nagy-Koechlin spent a few months hammering out the details into a memorandum of understanding, which Fallon then brought to [Gregory Pearce, the Cambridge lawyer who assisted Fallon with his estate plan] to review. ‘All the heavy lifting was done before it got to me,’ Pearce said. ‘All I really had to do was to make sure that the plan is actually going to happen upon Paul’s death.’ That meant establishing an estate plan and selecting a reliable trustee to make sure Fallon’s wishes are faithfully carried out.”

Read the details about how this is going to work, here.

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
El Jefe’s Taqueria is among the restaurants Cambridge is paying to serve hot and cold meals to homeless shelters.

One of the many interesting aspects of the Situation has been the way leaders in states and municipalities have taken matters into their own hands.

We know that individuals and both for-profit and nonprofit organizations are stepping up, but some government entities are, too. Across-the-board federal efforts would be better, especially if we don’t want to see New York suing Rhode Island and other such anomalies, but we’ll take what we can get.

Here’s a story about Cambridge, Mass., a city that some have called Moscow on the Charles mainly because it tries to help the poor.

Erin Kuschner, writes at the Globe‘s Boston.com, “With restaurants facing a sudden loss of revenue due to Gov. Baker’s mandated dine-in ban, and homeless shelters seeing a drop in volunteers helping to deliver and prepare food, the City of Cambridge came up with a solution to benefit both parties: Paying restaurants to make and deliver food to homeless shelters.

“The program launched Monday after the city reached out to both the Harvard Square Business Association and the Central Square Business Improvement District to help organize the initiative, with a goal of distributing roughly 1,800 to 2,000 meals to various shelters by the end of the week. …

“Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that it has already brought roughly 15 restaurants on board to make meals for local shelters like the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and Y2Y, a youth homeless shelter that has seen many of its student volunteers leave following Harvard’s closure.

“ ‘It just made so much sense,’ Jillson said. ‘We were on board immediately.’ …

“Among the restaurants serving Harvard Square’s homeless shelters are Black Sheep Bagel, Cardullo’s, El Jefe’s Taqueria, Orinoco, Subway, and Veggie Grill. Jillson said that they have tried to provide a range of healthy meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“The Central Square Business Improvement District partnered with PAGU to deliver meals to Bay Cove Human Services and the Cambridge YMCA.

‘We made our first delivery [Monday],’ said Michael Monestime, executive director at the Central Square Business Improvement District. ‘It was pretty humbling and sad at the same time. It’s hard enough being homeless on any given day, and then under these circumstances it’s even more difficult.’ …

“In addition to providing hot and cold meals to those experiencing homelessness, the city has set up a Cambridge Community Food Line, available to any resident who is a high risk for food insecurity.

“The delivery service provides a weekly bag of produce and shelf-stable food items to individuals and families who have experienced the following: The food pantry or meal program you used has closed until further notice; you have lost your job or part of your income and cannot afford groceries at this time; you are homebound due to illness, disability, or quarantine and do not have friends or family that can bring you food; you are at high risk for COVID-19 (coronavirus) and do not have access to a regular food source.”

More at the Boston Globe, here. Local readers, try to remember these restaurants and thank them with your business when we come out of the tunnel to the other side of this plague.

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Spring sunshine and blooms provide opportunities to take the kinds of photographs I like best. Here I share blossoms that I believe are quince, things I saw in the woods (baby oak leaves in mud, foam flowers, ferns, Sessile Bellwort, and a garter snake), murals in Cambridge, Mass., and a random indoor shot from the past month.

The carpet of cherry petals was shot in Providence.































































































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Photo: Amy Sterling
Amy Sterling’s guerrilla-gardening campaign means tulips will be blooming in unexpected places come spring. You could do this in your neighborhood.

Boston Globe reporter Steve Annear gets all the fun stories. Here is one that John knew at once was made for this blog. I do love public-spirited projects that people organize just for the heck of it.

“Amy Sterling had tulips on the brain,” writes Annear. “After returning from a recent trip to Amsterdam, where she served on a panel about artificial intelligence, the Cambridge resident went to a home improvement store and picked up a bag of bulbs so she could plant the spring-blooming flowers in her yard.

“When she was finished gardening, Sterling and her husband, Will, realized they had about 50 bulbs left over. In a moment of spontaneity, they decided to bury them in random places around their neighborhood near Inman Square.

“Now Sterling wants others to do likewise and participate in this act of so-called ‘guerrilla gardening.’ …

“ ‘It’s just a way to cheer people up,’ Sterling said. ‘Get outside, it’s super nice out, go plant some stuff, and then sit back and relax — and when spring comes, you can enjoy the spoils.’ …

“After burying bulbs beneath public trees in Cambridge Sunday, she posted a picture of herself, shovel in hand, to the Boston Reddit page, as a way to spread some happiness, [and] others quickly latched on to the concept. …

“Sterling started calling around to Home Depot stores in the area, asking if they’d be willing to donate to the cause. In the days since sharing her impromptu project with others online, Sterling has collected hundreds of additional bulbs, she said. …

“Sterling said she chose tulips because they’re ‘a signifier of the death throes of winter’ and require very little maintenance. You dig a hole, plop the bulb in the ground, cover it up, and then just wait, she said. …

“She has also started a Google signup sheet for the ‘Boston Tulip Takeover,’ where people can get a free bag of tulips to plant around their neighborhood.

“ ‘We need some actions to bring us together,’ she said, noting that the news has been particularly hard to swallow lately. ‘And remind us that people are generally pretty nice and want to do well for their neighbors.’ ”

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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My childhood friend Caroline, now living in Colorado, writes, “As a person who has spent her life designing and building housing, I am pretty convinced that we need to figure out how to house more people closer to downtown areas rather than contributing to endless low density sprawl and destruction of open spaces.

“To this end Tom and I attended the first ever YIMBY (yes in my backyard) conference that was held here in Boulder in June. It is a movement driven primarily by millennials and I am forwarding this invitation to a lecture in Cambridge in case it piques your interest.”

It does pique my interest.

As anyone who has read the incredibly moving Evicted (by MacArthur award winner Matthew Desmond) knows, housing is one of the most critical issues, if not the most critical, for domestic policy today. Housing ties to everything else.

So here’s the opportunity for people in the Greater Boston area: Jesse Kanson-Benanav (chairman of A Better Cambridge) is giving a talk September 14 at 6:30 p.m. for the Cambridge Historical Society on the Yimby movement.

Click this EventBrite link to sign up.

This month we’re asking ‘What is a YIMBY?,’ with the help of Jesse Kanson-Benanav, Chair of A Better Cambridge.

What’s our goal?

The Cambridge Historical Society wants to facilitate dynamic conversations about the housing issues facing Cambridge residents today with a historical perspective.

Where and why?

We are heading out to meet you in the city. The historic Hong Kong in Harvard Square is the perfect setting to bring your friends (or make new ones), grab a drink, and settle in for some engaging conversation about our 2016 theme, “Are We Home?”


$5 members/ $10 non-members


Email us at rprevite@cambridgehistory.org

or call 617-547-4252

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So much anxiety about “the others” these days, anxiety that is seldom based on knowing even one of those others!

That is why I found this story by Steve Annear in the Boston Globe so charming and important.

He wrote, “Mona Haydar knew that when she set up two signs outside a Cambridge library [in December] with the words ”Ask a Muslim’ and ‘Talk to a Muslim,’ she had to be prepared for strong opinions about her faith.

“But the Duxbury resident said the impromptu experiment led to a meaningful series of conversations about religion, politics, history, and sports. It was an experience that, even in a time of prejudice against Muslims, showed Haydar that ‘the community is loving.’

“ ‘We just wanted to talk to people and we didn’t see any harm in doing that,’ said Haydar. ‘We are just normal people. There is definitely fear [in America], and I want to talk about it, because it’s actually misplaced and misguided — I am really nice!’

“Holding a box of doughnuts and cartons of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, and wearing a traditional hijab, Haydar last Friday and Saturday planted herself alongside her husband, Sebastian Robins, outside the library for several hours each day.

“Haydar said that over the two days they spoke with more than 100 strangers. The initiative, she said, was inspired by a similar act, called Talk to an Iraqi, that was featured on ‘This American Life’ in 2008.” More here.

I’d say she gave a gift to the Cambridge populace, which although considered open-minded, is not monolithic. And she seems to have received a gift in return: the satisfaction of initiating an important conversation and of confirming that the majority of people are kind.

Photo: Mona Haydar
Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, stood outside of a library in Cambridge.

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In case you’ve ever wondered why anyone would become a scholar and spend life mired in musty, dark library stacks, let me introduce you to an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“In an unassuming notebook held in an archive at the University of Cambridge,” writes Jennifer Schuessler an American scholar has found what he says is an important new clue to the earthly processes behind that masterpiece [the King James Bible]: the earliest known draft, and the only one definitively written in the hand of one of the roughly four dozen translators who worked on it.

“The notebook, which dates from 1604 to 1608, was discovered by Jeffrey Alan Miller, an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey, … last fall, when he was in the archives at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, researching an essay about Samuel Ward, one of the King James translators and, later, the college’s master. He was hoping to find an unknown letter, which he did.

“ ‘I thought that would be my great discovery,’ he recalled.

“But he also came across an unassuming notebook about the size of a modern paperback, wrapped in a stained piece of waste vellum and filled with some 70 pages of Ward’s nearly indecipherable handwriting.

“The notebook had been cataloged in the 1980s as a ‘verse-by-verse biblical commentary’ with ‘Greek word studies, and some Hebrew notes.’ But as Professor Miller tried to puzzle out which passages of the Bible it concerned, he realized what it was: a draft of parts of the King James Version of the Apocrypha, a disputed section of the Bible that is left out of many editions, particularly in the United States.

” ‘There was a kind of thunderstruck, leap-out-of-bathtub moment,’ Professor Miller said. ‘But then comes the more laborious process of making sure you are 100 percent correct.’ ” More here.

Photo: Maria Anna Rogers/Master and Fellows of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge
Pages from Samuel Ward’s translation for part of the King James Bible, the earliest known draft for the King James translation, which appeared in 1611.

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Cambridge knows how to make artists feel welcome, even cherished. Recently the city had a poetry contest, and the winners are getting their poems embedded in the sidewalk.

Steve Annear writes at the Boston Globe, “Cambridge officials received hundreds of submissions from residents hoping to make their mark as literary legends through the city’s first-ever ‘Sidewalk Poetry’ contest this spring. In the end, only five scribes emerged victorious.

“In March, the city put out a call for poets to participate in the project. Winners were promised a permanent display space for their musings — the poems would be imprinted in the freshly poured concrete as Department of Public Works crews replaced sidewalk slabs cracked or damaged during the winter.

“The response was great, said Molly Akin, the Cambridge Arts Council’s marketing director. More than 300 submissions flooded in from writers ranging in age from 4 to 95, according to organizers.

“A special committee that included workers from the [Department of Public Works], representatives from the local libraries, members of the Arts Council, and Cambridge’s former Poet Populists helped select the finalists. …

“Below are the names of the winners, and their poems:

Rose Breslin Blake
Children, look up
Cherish those clouds
Ride grey ponies over their hills
Feed the shiny fish
Boo the big bear
Chase the gloomy giant
Giggle with the geese
Sing with the lambs
Cherish those clouds; they cherish you
Rest on their pillows.

Benjamin Grimm
I could not forget you if I tried.
I have tried.

Ty Muto
Your blue-green glances
My heart skips double dutch beats
Caught in your rhythm

Carolyn Russell Stonewell
Sun takes a bite of
mango as it sets.
Its last rays
run down my cheek.

Elissa Warner
A Mother’s Wish
Little boys, little treasures
Shine like lights from above
My son, my only one
My wish for you is that you wake
One day when you are old
And feel raindrops on your cheek
Tears of joy from my heart
For you to keep

More here.

Photo: Cambridge Arts Council

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More and more cities are adding mini parklets, pocket vegetable gardens, food trucks, and tiny outdoor businesses to their parks and playground amenities.

Sara Feijo writes for the Cambridge Chronicle, “Parking spots have always been reserved for cars and motorcycles, but that’s no longer the case in Cambridge. The city is now leasing them to restaurants for pop-up cafes. Tasty Burger in Harvard Square was the first to apply for the permit. …

” ‘It’s a cool idea, David Dubois, owner of Tasty Burger, said. …

” ‘The pop-up cafes work in places where the sidewalks don’t facilitate outdoor dining,’ said Katherine Watkins, city engineer for DPW. “It enables us to expand the outdoor program. We’re really excited to see this one go in.’ …

“Unlike outdoor dining, food is not sold in the pop-up café. Folks have to order food inside and then bring it outside. According to Iram Farooq, acting deputy director for the Community Development Department, pop-up cafes must be placed in locations where there is plenty of parking and they must be adjacent to the permitted business.” Read more.

There really are a lot of wasted mini spaces in cities and towns. I myself would like to see something other than weeds growing around the parking meters on Thoreau St. (Anyone want to go with me under cover of darkness and plant tomatoes there?)

Photo: Wicked Local / Sam Goresh
Cambridge restaurants may now lease ‘pop-up cafes’, where diners are invited to eat their take-out orders.

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I took one look at the photo and I knew. This story is for me.

Michael B. Farrell writes at the Boston Globe, “Leave it to the tech set to tinker with something so perfect as the nap. Not a group to leave well enough alone, they are coming up with new gadgets — from high-tech masks to wearable pillows to portable pods — to improve on the daytime snooze, bring it from the couch at home to a quiet place in the office, and encourage more people to steal a few winks every afternoon.

“These new gadgets are coming out as the nap itself is enjoying a new appreciation by professionals and amateurs alike. Scientists who study sleep habits say napping makes people more alert and productive  …

“There is nap fashion, too. A British design firm sells a wearable, portable Ostrich Pillow — a space-age fashion accessory that lets users ‘take a comfortable power nap in the office, traveling, or wherever you want.’

“One of the newest entrants to the nap marketplace is Cambridge’s Napwell, which recently raised $51,000 on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to begin making high-tech sleeping masks. Inside the mask is a timer that triggers a built-in sunrise light, which gradually brightens to gently rouse someone from sleep so they do not wake up feeling so groggy.

“ ‘If you happen to wake up in dead sleep, you are going to feel really bad,’ said Napwell’s inventor, Justin Lee, a PhD student studying health technology at a joint MIT-Harvard program. ‘Napwell came out of that. It was the simplest thing to build that would solve that problem.’ ”

More here.

As a person who can sleep for 20 minutes and feel really refreshed, I really regret the loss our the office nap room to an expanded conference center. I would consider the Ostrich solution below but that my office has a a glass wall. Besides, it looks like it would hurt my neck.

Photo: Studio Banana Things

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Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Because the lecture was on walkable communities, I walked to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy today.

Julie Campoli was scheduled to talk about her book Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form.

From the Institute’s website: “In this era of high energy prices, economic uncertainty, and demographic change, an increasing number of Americans are showing an interest in urban living as an alternative to the traditional automobile-dependent suburb. Many people are also concerned about reducing their annual vehicle miles traveled as a way to lower greenhouse gas emissions affecting climate change. …

“Researchers delving into the question of how urban form affects travel behavior identify specific characteristics of place that boost walking and transit use while reducing [vehicle miles traveled]. In the 1990s some pinpointed diversity (of land uses), density, and design as the key elements  … After a decade of successive studies on the topic, these ‘three Ds’ were joined by two others deemed equally important—distance to transit and destination accessibility … Added to the list is another key player: parking.”

Campoli talked about all five elements, showed great pictures, and shared intriguing stories from successful communities. More.

By the way, if I had gone by car to the lecture instead of on foot, I would most assuredly have missed the possum, one of the more contemplative creatures in Cambridge today. He was still on his branch when I walked back after the presentation. But he had turned around.






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Photos from my wanderings in Boston and Cambridge are piling up.

Can you identify the flower from the Greenway’s demonstration garden? It seems to be blotting out the mural in Dewey Square.

How about the approach to the Longfellow Bridge on the Kendall Square side of the Charles? Early in the morning, it looks like an ancient tomb.

I took the photo of City Hall for my only friend who thinks modernism is beautiful.

The Oyster House is a landmark.

And the Manichean clock is at Northeastern University. (You do, of course, remember the Manichean Heresy, which posited good and evil as equal forces?) Comments welcome.

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We had already bought tickets for the new version of Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater when Stephen Sondheim weighed in with an angry letter to the NY Times. He had not seen the show, but he apparently resented the tone of an article’s quotes from A.R.T. He may have thought director Diane Paulus and writer Suzan-Lori Parks were implying that they were better than the show’s original creators.

After the opening, Ben Brantley of the NY Times raved about Audra McDonald’s Bess while giving a mostly lukewarm review to everything else. Meanwhile, the student D.J. at Emerson College’s radio station kept reading promos for the show and pronouncing Porgy as “Porjy.” (He will always be Porjy to me now).

By the time our matinee rolled around, the day was almost too beautiful to be in a dark theater for three hours, and our initial anticipation had been reduced to mild curiosity.

So I’m happy to say we really liked A.R.T.’s Porgy — pretty much everything about it.

I admit that I am not intimate with the whole score and therefore was not always able to tell when new material had been inserted. (One line, about saving to send the baby to college, did come across with a loud, anachronistic clunk — but now a blog reader tells me it was in the original!) But the beauty of the songs, the dancing, the characters making the best of no-options, the love story! I cried pretty much the whole way through. And I’m still singing.

The only other Porgy and Bess I’d seen was directed by Bobby McFerrin in Minneapolis. It was long and kind of confusing, but I accepted that that’s the way opera often is. The A.R.T. may have presented a rejiggered story that was not true to the original, but it was a story that I could follow.

As I said to my husband on the way out, “Well, it worked for me.”

He said, “Sondheim should rethink his position.”

P.S. Audra McDonald was breathtaking.

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I have always liked reading poetry, but there is something extra delightful about actually knowing people who write good poetry.

Nancy Greenaway is a friend I see summers in Rhode Island. I learned last weekend that among other output, she recently published this poem at the Texas Observer site. It begins:


You write ghazals under shade of an acacia,

speak Farsi or Pashto,

eat qurmas, sabzi, lamb kebabs,

wear burqas and hijabs.

I write free verse under shade of a maple,

speak English,

eat pizza, cod, corn on the cob,

wear jeans and t-shirts. 

Read it here. 

Francesca Forrest has several online poetry outlets. In the tantalizing “Temptation,” an internal voice whispers,

Throw yourself down from here; try!

This is a dream, and you will fly.

Read “Temptation” here, published at the Linnet’s Wings. Two other poems by Francesca are “Songs Were Washing Up,” in the publication Scheherzade’s Bequest, and “Old Clothes Golem,”  at the site Stone Telling.

When Suzanne was getting ready to launch Luna & Stella, she came to the conclusion that a poet should write the descriptions of the birthstones, because only a poet would have the right artistic sensibility. As it happened, she knew a poet who also did copywriting, Providence-based poet Kate Colby. Here is what Kate wrote about the gems for Luna & Stella.

You might also like to read one of Kate’s poems, “A Body Drawn By Its Own Memory.” It begins :

Certain labels are impervious

to solvents, impermeable

as drawn bridges. …

I will post poems from time to time. Perhaps you will let me know what you like. Try the comments feature. Or e-mail me at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

Nancy writes: 
“Thought you might be one of the few who would appreciate our adventures in Boston/Cambridge on Sunday and Monday. Malcolm and I had a one-night vacation by driving to Cambridge on Sunday, staying at the Marlowe Hotel (with a view of the Charles) and hearing Naomi Shihab Nye read and then receive the Golden Rose Award from the Poetry Club of New England. She concluded with her poem about the Block Island ferry (which will appear in her new book of poems to be released by BOA Editions in September.) Before the reading, to the amazement of all in the audience, she rushed up the center aisle directly to me and gave me a wonderful hug.”

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