Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood — Roxbury in Boston

I carry a small point and shoot with me all the time and most of my pictures end up being taken with this camera — the Canon PowerShot S100 — rather than my larger, more complicated and expensive system camera. I guess it’s ironic. My little Canon cost less than a single lens in the larger system. It weighs almost nothing and takes up no more room than a cell phone.

We lived in Roxbury for more than a decade, only leaving when the construction of The Big Dig made living there untenable. I still think of it as home, along with the entire city of Boston. Between Roxbury, Beacon Hill, and Charles River Park, we lived in Boston neighborhoods for a very long time and I always enjoy going back again whenever we have an excuse. These were all taken a few weeks ago when we returned to the old neighborhood for a memorial  event for an old friend who recently passed away. The neighborhood is looking better than it did when we lived there. It’s one of those neighborhoods that is improving. I would stop short of calling it gentrifying. I don’t think the folks who live there want it gentrified. They don’t consider themselves gentry and neither do we.

This is a bit of Roxbury. It was, once upon a time, a city in its own right, but years ago it was absorbed and became a neighborhood within greater Boston. It is almost entirely Black and when I lived there, I was often the only white face in the crowd. Despite that, it was by far the friendliest neighborhood in which I’ve ever lived. We had great neighbors, wonderful block parties, and a sense of community we have never had anywhere else. People in general don’t understand how wonderful these ethnic neighborhoods  can be, how warm and supportive the community is when they consider you one of their own. I still miss it, though I love the country. Each place has its own charms, but Roxbury was a wonderful — and eye-opening — experience.

I do not shoot with my cell phone.  I cannot afford the data package that it would make it practical to use mobile apps for anything other than emergencies and our cell phones are for emergency use. Life is not always a matter of preference. More often than not, you don’t get to decide how you will live. Life hands itself to you and it’s your job to figure out how to make it work.

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Back in the city again …

Before we became country mice, we were city rats. Garry lived in Boston, downtown in Government Center, for 20 years, then another 10 in Roxbury. I lived in Jerusalem for 9 years, Boston for 3, then Roxbury (which is really part of Boston) for 10 … and then we took our show on the road and moved out here.

It is a bigger different than mere geography. It’s a completely different ambiance, a different texture. Ironically, although the air is cleaner, almost completely free of industrial pollutants, it is thick with pollen and dust. My asthma is far worse out here in the country among the trees and grasses than it ever was in town with the car fumes and chimney soot and all. That, and of course all the dog hair we have in the air and everywhere.

It’s pretty out here. We’ve got the river and the canal, waterfalls everywhere you look. Autumn, when we don’t get rained out, is glorious and you can stop at farm stands and get fresh organic veggies and fruits any time they are in season. We’ve got cows and horses, goats and a dizzying array of wildlife.

Deer, raccoon, the cheekiest chipmunks you’ve ever met … and then there are bats, rats, an infinite number of field mice. A bobcat with glow-in-the-dark eyes and coyotes that look like big friendly dogs. Nasty fishers with coats like mink and when the bobcat hasn’t eaten them all, rabbits. Squirrels, but fewer than there used to be before the bobcats. They are small but mighty hunters.

Irony again: the biggest, nastiest raccoon I ever met was on Beacon Hill, in our back walled garden. He was big, fat, and he wasn’t taking any crap from me. He informed me that the back patio belonged to him and I was disinclined to argue the point.

I never went back there again. At least the raccoons around here stay in their own part of town, or woods.