One day it was brown, dull, dormant at best, killed off at worst, by the most brutal winter in memory, and the next day, out of the blue, the grass flashed a lopsided green grin from its long winter slumber. The change was sudden, a welcome hallelujah.
Not only grass was sprouting. So too was my attitude, crushed to slush by week after week, month after month, of freezing weather and more snow than on the caps of the Sierra Madres. Grass? Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t seen the actual ground since about January 23.
If you live around here, I don’t have to tell you this. The signs of spring and the evaporation of winter’s icy shackles have been all anyone in my neighborhood talks about when we see each other outside.
Just being outside, without hat, mittens, snow shovel, shoulders scrunched up to retain warmth as the marrow congealing blasts of wind make fun of my layers of clothing, feels like a transformative event.
How our ancestors in northern climes survived winters like this without central heating is beyond me. Not beyond me is why they invented holidays, festivals, and embraced merrymaking to mark the renewal.
In the coming weeks, all this profusion of green will become old hat, a ho-hum part of nature’s wallpaper.
Today, just the sight of it makes me smile.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
"Ooh,Ooh, Ooh, What a little green grass can do to you..." sung to the tune of Billie Holiday's "Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, What a little moonlight can do to you..."
“When you dry off, do you rub the towel over yourself or pat yourself dry?” the Bloomingdale’s sales associate named C.J. asks me.
“Well then, I’m a rubber!”
Thus began my brief tutorial in Bath Towel Purchasing 101.
Bloomingdale's Bed and Bath department has about a million towels on display. Visually, it looks like someone detonated a soft cotton rainbow and crammed the colorful fragments into cubbies along the walls and piled others on tables spread across the retail space. It turns out you need a guiding philosophy to end up with a towel that not only matches your bathroom décor but your technique for drying off.
“Towels may be made with the same kind of cotton, long staple Pima or Supima or other kinds of cotton, but the weave and loops are different,” says C.J.
“How do I know whether it’s a towel for a patter or a rubber?” Now I'm really confused.
C. J. holds out his hands. “Sometimes you can tell by looking at the weave but mostly it’s by touch,” he says, and shows me a towel with each kind of weave.
Show time. I walk around feeling up about a dozen towels, with C.J. as my sidekick and scorekeeper, declaring “Rubber” or “Patter” after each visual and tactile inspection. I graduate with distinction.
I’d always wondered why the soft fluffy towels at my late mother’s house never seemed to absorb water but kept it on the surface when I dried off after showering.
One aspect of being a fervent believer in any religion is thinking that your path has an edge on all the others. The God Box explores what happens when that aspect is challenged.
To become captivated by a story, especially one rich with imagery, imagination, humor and a dollop of heartbreak, is in our DNA. The God Box, presented by the New Rep’s Black Box Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, has all of that and then some.
This is theater at its most compelling. Ingredients: a small stage, simple lighting, audience close to the action, and a spare set in which every element in the narrative is eventually connected. Oh, and one actor telling a story with relish as if you were the only person sitting at her kitchen table.
Any story that makes you think about religion without taking sides or getting into a shouting match is so welcome…and so rare. Playwright and actor Antonia Lassar mines her experience of growing up then questions her own Jewish identity. The result is a one-hour piece of theater that provokes and satisfies.
Gloria Andelman (Antonia Lassar) is in her young daughter Rebecca’s apartment going through her possessions, now her effects, since she was just killed in an auto accident. Gloria is singularly and proudly Jewish. As she makes abundantly clear, Judaism may not be the only religion but it’s certainly a notch above all the others. It feels like catechism with a hint of condescension when Gloria explains what it means to sit shiva to all the goyim (non-Jews) in the audience.
Gloria has just discovered a box that her daughter labeled The God Box.
One of the first items in the box is a book - a traditional folktale about Schlemiel from Chelm, which Gloria pronounces with a phlegm inducing “Chhh” and asks us to try saying it. The story about a mythical village populated, according to Jewish folklore, by fools, It was one of Rebecca’s favorite stories, Gloria tells it with gusto by heart. The lesson of the story is a clever scaffold that holds the rest of the play in place
The rest of the contents of the God Box shake Gloria’s self-satisfied attitude that her chicken-soup nurturing had prepared Rebecca for a life that embraced Judaism. Who knows, maybe she would have even married a doctor.
Lassar’s Gloria starts as a stereotype and grows into a prototype. Gloria Andelman has it all going on – the Jewish mother thing, the mannerisms, inflections, roll of the eyes, knowing nods, timing, a Brooklyn-ese accent, intuitive sense of where to lean in and where to step back. She mesmerizes us with her warmth and storytelling bravura.
The items in the God Box show that Rebecca became a seeker who investigated every imaginable path from wacky cults to mainstream religions as a path to God. As she pulls books, letters, and icons from the box, Gloria considers each with humorous objectivity, as if dismissing items in Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibit.
To get insight into what her daughter was seeking, she decides to meet some of the people from the groups that Rebecca temporarily joined as she explored other paths to God. These include a priest, a Buddhist monk, and several cult leaders (including a couple of doozies). The cults are unconventional to say the least (they involve reptiles or the worship of a certain part of a woman’s anatomy). Nevertheless, the outlier cults believe in a divine spirit, and welcome new converts without proselytizing or demanding oaths of allegiance. Judgmental but curious, Gloria brings her signature cheesecakes when she visits as an offering. In her mind, food is a universal bridge to reach common ground.
The religion and background of the man to whom Rebecca had become engaged are as antithetic to Judaism as one can envision. Gloria's conversation with him is a revelation and harks back to the lesson in the "Schlemiel from Chelm" story.
Embracing an investigative spirit that her daughter would have loved, Gloria Andelman realizes the common bonds between religious beliefs and aspirations. Antonia Lassar’s God Box gives us the gift of a marvelously told story layered with the satisfying density and flavors of an heirloom recipe cheesecake.
BAM! Thunderous shudder as my poor car recovers from a tire suffering a direct hit from a pothole camouflaged in the rainy street. Again.
How many more of these assaults can my poor car take before a tie rod snaps, a rim gets bent or a tire gets flattened?
I feel like a soldier in enemy terrain. Eyes are peeled for potholes, some an annoyance, others large enough to damage tank treads. Thousands of these road zits have broken out in the last month, result of an historic and brutal winter, tons of road salt, water penetrating every little crack in the pavement, then freezing, expanding, breaking down the macadam into what looks like a street in downtown Tikrit. What’s worse - every time one of us ka-bams into one, we make it bigger.
Police must think the entire driving population has just left a Super Bowl celebration, swerving around like piña colada-loaded tourists doing a conga line on their first night of a Caribbean vacation. The car in front of me does a quick zig to the left, I maneuver my car into a quick swivel and follow the leader.
The city of Boston has a website dedicated exclusively to potholes. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) has a hotline for them. Virtually every town around Boston has a way to report them. Somerville mayor Joe Curtatone says that some 90 percent of the Commonwealth’s roads are the responsibility of individual municipalities, and that each one handles them differently. Proof? It takes 100 yards of road travel to discover you’ve entered a different municipality. The zig and zag quotient often rises or falls precipitously.
Repairs are attempted. Cold patches, hot patches… neither makes a difference. Filling the potholes with frozen jello might have the same long-term effect. They’ll get chewed up and return to menace us like chain saw killers in a couple of days.
The most treacherous are the ones that look like puddles. They could substitute for wading pools for small children. They could cost you a week’s pay in damages. Reaction time in heavy traffic is about two nanoseconds. You just hope the car in front of you is paying attention to the road. If it looks like it’s been hit with a rocket, you’ll ride over the same crater before you can react.
Remedies: develop the equivalent of muscle memory to avoid the most weapons-grade potholes, or drive at the speed of a tortoise and suffer the wrath of cars behind you (this is Boston, after all, where cautious driving habits are taken as a personal affront on one’s ability to get from here to there without delay).
Or take the T (a very distant last resort if you don't mind spending time waiting for Godot in order to save your car’s suspension).