Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Grab Bag: Leland for Lt. Gov.; Central; Beer and Coffee; Trains, Cars, Feet

It's a Friday, which means that it's Grab Bag time again.

This week will bang the drum on some old themes, haphazardly, and some new ones too.

Leland for Lieutenant Gov.  Today I stopped by the campaign headquarters of my former Council colleague Leland Cheung who is running for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Leland will be a fabulous lieutenant governor and that is why he was getting my visit and that is why he is getting my support. The voters should support him too, both at the Convention upcoming in Worcester in June and out on the campaign trail.  He is the most experienced public servant of the lot, with loads of intelligence, capability and a real track record of success. Look for him to run an effective, aggressive campaign too, a good attribute in anyone seeking (higher) office. Go Leland.

H Mart in Central Square. From there, I visited the new H Mart, recently opened in Central Square.  Just walking in the store reminded me why I get so frustrated with the politics of Cambridge at times.  The clientele of that Korean-owned concern is so completely different than the folks that show up at a Cambridge Democratic City Committee meeting or an Area 4 gathering, it's striking.  Scanning the H Mart crowd is like looking through the keyhole into the future of this city, an experience in and of itself decidedly different than sitting in an angry room a half-a-block away grappling with old arguments from veteran residents who are doing their damnedest to determine the look, shape and feel of Central Square.

Parenthetically, walking into the H Mart reminds me of Dan Goldstein. Dan is from a prior iteration of Central Square, before the H Mart arrived. He came to the Square when he opened the Clear Conscience Cafe in the space now occupied by H Mart's bakery.  Dan was a man of energy and commitment and he was determined to do something good for Central.  Almost everything he did was good, including the clean-ups that got us all out in the streets on a Sunday morning in spring to sweep up cigarette butts.  I say "almost everything" because he did one thing which wasn't a good.  A few years ago, the English guerrilla artist Banksy came to Cambridge in the form of an authentic Banksy graphic on a brick wall in an alleyway around the corner from Dan's cafe.  Dan's attitude, good civic patron that he was, amounted to zero tolerance for graffiti, and with Dan, zero meant z-e-r-o.  He got the city's anti-graffiti squad dispatched and they wiped the slate clean.  What a shame.  A Banksy in Central Square would have been a bigger plus than no Banksy in Central Square.

Beer and Coffee.  I was reflecting on my recent trip to Atlanta and made the inevitable comparison between the two communities that one does when one travels.  It all boiled down to two things that are so important in Cambridge but don't seem to have the same resonance in Atlanta: beer and coffee.  Here are some comments I wrote to someone on the topic:
There doesn't seem to be a strong pride in local beers in Atlanta.  There are local beers -- I know, because I had some, but they weren't favored or promoted by restaurants.  Instead, the first choices were always Bud, Bud Light, etc.
Beer plays a big role in the local culture here in Cambridge, particularly among those all-important hipsters and millennials that everyone is seeking.  If you go into a bar/pub/restaurant either in Cambridge or in Somerville (two hipster hangouts), the local beers are always top on the list.  And when I say local, I don't mean Sam Adams, though that is a Boston-based brewery.  I mean Somerville's own Slumbrew or Cambridge's Cambridge Brewing Company.
Similarly, locally-owned independent coffee shops are a big thing here, and coffee itself is becoming a very specialized item.  I have to imagine that there are a few young Atlantans who are thinking of opening a little coffee shop, but my sense is that it really requires walking someone through the process and getting the building owners to buy into the broader program.  Also, the young, cool, hip person who is going to open this coffee shop probably has never negotiated a full-on lease before, with fit out, with all the added pieces -- additional water, electricity, plumbing demands.  Helping them and supporting them through that process is more likely to produce a longer-term success.  That's my guess at least.  
This weird thing about cities is that it comes down to some very small things sometimes.  

Further thoughts about Atlanta. Their subway system (MARTA) is underfunded, underutilized, under appreciated, but it dumps its passengers right out into the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in one of the most user-friendly transit/airport interfaces I have ever experienced. Well done Atlanta.

More Fun with Cars.  Switching gears, away from virtue (admiring public transit) to vice (enjoying automobiles), a source of great joy during my travels was the rental of big, bad, black Chevy Camaro.  It's a car that goes fast, handles steady, and has a bit of a rumble from the tailpipe that makes it sound even meaner than it really is.  I thoroughly enjoyed the burning of petrochemicals on fairly empty roadways north of Atlanta.  The car has what I termed "pull away speed", which simply means that you can pull away from most (really all) traffic with a simple push of the pedal. There's ample power there to go plenty fast when you want.  I couldn't get the car near its rev limit at all, could only blip it up to about 4,000 rpm with full throttle and I got into a nice little dance with a topless dusty gold BMW M4 all the way back into the city.  Cars are fun in their own way.

Walking Man (Redux), Massachusetts Style.  This is a walk around the Bay Circuit Trail coming up in June that looks like a lot of fun: