Category Archives: Somerville

Our New House

Yesterday, Rick and I closed on our new house in Somerville, just a 10-minute walk from where we live currently. Woohoo!

Video tour:

Photo tour:

From what I’ve heard about the homebuying process, I think we had it fairly easy. We bought a house within our budget, in our desired neighborhood, that was for sale by owner (friends of friends, actually, which means the house remains in the local geek family), and we did not encounter any nightmarish issues in the process.  Sounds pretty ideal to me. There’s a lot of work to be done, of course, but nothing we can’t handle.

Throughout this whole process, one of the things that has gotten me the most excited is the knowledge that we are putting down roots in a city that, in the nearly eight years we’ve lived here, has come to mean a lot to us.

The idea of “home” means a lot to me, in a broad sense. I can find home in people, and I can find home in special places (like the Consecration Dell at Mount Auburn Cemetery). Now, we get to create a home, in the city that we love, in a neighborhood that we know.

Somerville is a special place – artsy, nerdy, diverse, culturally vibrant, evolving, fun, multifaceted, urban. It’s kind of perfect. To know that we are locking ourselves in as members of this community fills me with a great sense of both pride and privilege.

Welcome home.

Introducing Your Winter Hill

I love Somerville, but I especially love my underappreciated corner of it, Winter Hill. We have little in the way of economic development, sandwiched here between burgeoning East Somerville and gateway-to-hipsterdom Magoun Square, but I think it’s a swell place to live.

So, blending my love of Winter Hill and the web, I decided to play with Tumblr and create http://winterhill.tumblr.com/, what I hope will become a community blog for people to share media, links, thoughts and other content about our neighborhood.

This is an experiment in many ways, but aren’t the best things? If you live in, visit or appreciate my neighborhood, I invite you to read and contribute!

SomerStreets Comes to East Somerville

After last month’s highly disappointing SomerStreets event in Ball Square, I was eagerly awaiting Sunday’s SomerStreets/FossFest event in East Somerville to see what lessons the city learned from that event. And they learned a lot.

There was no shortage of activities lining the blocked-off roadway. At Foss Park’s FossFest, there were several vendors, folks from the Open Air Circus giving stilt-walking lessons and live music. Festive flags were draped across the medians. State Police facilitated safe passage across McGrath Highway to main SomerStreets area, where many vendors and local businesses set out tables (highlights were the $5 pottery sale by Mudflat Studios, free Ethiopian food from Fasika and free Mexican food from Tapatio). Many stores had handmade signs proclaiming their support for SomerStreets. Dance exhibitions and lessons, face painting, a drum circle, party bike rides and hula hooping were all on the agenda. Families, bicyclists, even one acrobatic guy on roller skates all took to the streets. And who doesn’t love a parade?!

It was no ArtBeat, and the wide, mile-long expanse between Sullivan Station and Winter Hill is a challenging space to fill, but the community was definitely out in force, taking advantage of the closed roads and the activities on hand. Having East Somerville Main Streets as an organizing force that could better incorporate the surrounding community into the event was likely key to its success.

Somerville has reason to be optimistic about events like FossFest and SomerStreets. If there is one city that knows how to create great programming, it’s Somerville, and the growing pains from these relatively new events will surely get ironed out as the city keeps on doing what it does and the community becomes more aware and involved. And the fact that SomerStreets is non-Davis Square centric is fantastic. Davis is doing fine. Union Square is doing pretty good, too. Let’s celebrate all corners of this diverse city — there are wonderful things happening everywhere.

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Glee Comes to Somerville’s Artbeat

As I eagerly look forward to the East Somerville installment of Somerstreets tomorrow, I’m looking back fondly at last weekend’s Artbeat in Somerville. After taking last year off of Artbeat, I was happy to return this year and sample the performances, art vendors and tasty treats. Even though Artbeat is reliably on the hottest day of the year, it’s always a great opportunity to get together with friends (and often run into folks unexpectedly).

One of the highlights of this year’s Artbeat was the performance by the Somerville Sunsetters, a youth singing group. They brought a dash of “Glee” to Artbeat with their performances of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Here are some video excerpts from both songs, which had the crowd (including me, as is evident on the video) grooving and singing along.

Don’t Stop Believin’:

Bad Romance:

SomerStreets

This afternoon, my husband and I had a lovely day out, visiting the “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” exhibit at the Museum of National Heritage in Lexington (which you should most definitely check out before it ends next Sunday), grabbing baked goods in Arlington Heights, getting burgers for lunch at Joe Sent Me and ice cream at J.P. Licks. (Yes, it was a very tasty Saturday.)

We then planned on visiting SomerStreets on our way home, eager to get our dose of fun Somerville community programming after missing the farmer’s market this morning. We saw a bunch of families taking in the jazz concert in Powderhouse Park, and ways down Broadway we saw the annual Family Fun Day at Trum Field drawing a good crowd. But in between?

This was around 3:45. Granted, the event ran from noon until five (flier 1 | flier 2 [.pdf]). But at the time we were there, we saw an extremely small number of people out and about between Trum and Powderhouse. As we walked down the sidewalk and wondered out loud what the deal was, a guy walked past us and snarked, “Your tax dollars at work.” Apparently.

The first Somerstreets event, last month in my neck of the woods in Winter Hill, was an apparent success. But while the programming bookending the SomerStreets area seemed to be going well, the vast, vacant boulevard separating the two hubs was a bit depressing. And the number of police on special details minding the road closures and directing traffic did make me think about how much it was costing to essentially have a giant, empty roadway. I wondered about the effect on area businesses, as well.

I actually like the idea behind SomerStreets a lot:

This program allows residents to explore the City by shutting various streets to promote safe walking, running, biking routes in various locations throughout the City.

But it seemed to both my husband and I that there needed to be more programming happening on the roadway itself, not just at Trum and Powderhouse. Maybe some historical exhibits or talks, representatives from civic and city organizations, biking demos/workshops or local bike shops showing off cool/vintage bikes, local eateries offering samples of their fare, musical performances, dance troupes, street chalking, fitness/health exhibits… the list goes on. Just walking from Powderhouse to Trum, we came up with at least a dozen viable ideas that would have drawn residents to the area and involved local businesses into the event. All we saw was a kiddie choo-choo listlessly ferrying people up and down the blocked-off stretch of road.

Don’t get me wrong. If there’s one thing that Somerville is not short on, it’s amazing civic programming that champions local business and the arts. I applaud the city for the SomerStreets initiative, and encouraging fitness and community pride. I just think this afternoon’s event fell a bit short. Perhaps the planning was rushed or the beautiful day drew people to less urban environs. I hope to see future SomerStreets events — the next one is said to be on July 25 — be great successes.

Worlds Within a City

This weekend, the high temperatutes broke 70 degrees, and I took to the streets.

On Saturday, I wandered the streets of Somerville, as I am wont to do. Living here for six and a half years, I’ve ventured down many of the city’s streets. I feel like I have a good handle on its secrets, its treasures, its special corners.

But on this day, while wandering down Beacon Street, I encountered something I hadn’t seen before: it was a pedestrian underpass that connected Beacon Street and Somerville Avenue, running below the railroad track. A new discovery, sure, but nothing special, right?

Wrong.

Continue reading

Why Would Anyone Move to the Suburbs?

35357278That’s what I said Saturday night when I was with a friend in Davis Square, watching Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band (left) playing HONK! Fest. I went to HONK! for the first time last year and was captivated not only by the eclectic collection of musicians that take residence in Somerville for the weekend but by the spirit of irreverence and celebration they bring to the city. Stiltwalkers mingle down Elm Street with college kids and hipsters. Bowler hats and band uniforms rival Sox caps and North Face fleeces. They take up residence on sidewalks and in plazas by day, crash on our couches by night. Walking around in Davis Square Saturday night was like wandering into a delicious blend of Carnevale and high school band practice. A flamboyantly geeky and political music explosion.

Sunday afternoon, my husband and I met up with a friend to take in the parade. (You can see my photos and videos here.) On the way, I mentioned my observation from the previous night. “Why would anyone move to the suburbs?” I had said to my friend. “You can’t get this in Natick.” While both Rick and I are hoping to raise our kids in a city like Somerville that is so unique, artistic, and dynamic, he came to the defense of suburban life — different strokes for different folks, after all. There’s nothing wrong with the suburbs — they have plenty of advantages. But we also talked about how maybe for some people — like his mom — the suburbs may present a refuge from things that are just “too weird.” (Admittedly, my standards of weirdness are probably much different than the average person’s. After all, I spent the better part of high school hanging out with supernerds, role players and the other weirdos that Dragon World cultivated.)

I know some people move to the suburbs because they want to be able to afford a nice home with a yard, or they want a quieter, safer place to raise a kid. But honestly? I don’t mind raising my kid with a little ruckus, in a smaller house, if it means being exposed to events like HONK!, What The Fluff?, Artbeat and Somerville’s many other offbeat cultural offerings. Not that there aren’t cool events and experiences in the suburbs, but I think I particularly value the weirdness of what Somerville offers. I also like the idea of raising my kid(s) with a healthy appreciation for the odd and off-kilter. A little street sense can’t hurt either.

The other day, The Spotted Duck posted about a last fling with her neighborhood of Coolidge Corner, which it seems she is moving away from in the near future.

Coolidge Corner is one of the most fun, lively neighborhoods in the Boston area, and it’s only as I’m leaving that I find myself really appreciating it…. But for us, it’s time to grow up and move on. Time to buy. Time to exchange location for space. Delicious space. Wonderful space. Still. I’m going to miss it.

I guess that as we get older, we all make calculations and trade-offs. Our priorities shift. Practical concerns may necessitate a change. So, for me? Space is great, but location and experience mean so much more. And I don’t want to become one of those people who gets all worked up about “coming into town.” Am I being naive? Idealistic? Maybe. But I also don’t want to settle for something less than satisfactory. This isn’t just my life I’m talking about.

If we can (and of course, the markets may conspire against us), we’d love to be able to stay in Somerville or somewhere nearby, start a family and raise a little weirdo or two. Maybe, Rick and I joked, one of them will march in some installment of HONK! 15 or so years down the road, hula-hooping while playing the trumpet and waving proudly to us as we stand along the route — just down the street from our house.