Free Yoga Boston: On The Greenway

Happy Summer! Today is the first full day of summer and I am so here for it! Just in time for me to tell you about my second outdoor free yoga class. The class was to enjoy the light of the full moon.

It was this past Monday, the night of the full strawberry moon that Moonlight Yoga On The Greenway took place. There were maybe 50 or 60 people, so it was a nice sized crowd. But we all still had enough space to stretch out.

The class is part of an outdoor summer series collaboration between Peace in Boston, Black & Blonde (Marlene Boyette and Erin Kay Anderson), The Rose Fitzgerald Greenway, Athleta, with Meghan “Meg” Gaucher.

If you didn’t make it to this class, you have at least a couple of more chances this summer, July 16th and September 14th.

It was more than convenient for me to attend, so I had absolutely no excuse not to go. And it’s easy to talk myself out of going places. It was right after work and outside of South Station, where I would be going anyway to get the train home. Outside of the horror show that is the Red Line,which is another story, I had a very zen evening.

The class was more slow and sitting stretches than standing poses, but that was perfect after a day of work and calmed me down for my commute. I definitely recommend this class if you get a chance to go.

The only downside was that the sky was cloudy, so we couldn’t actually see the full moon, though I think most of us were looking for it. Hopefully the next class will be on a clear night, so you can look up and see that big beautiful bright full moon!

Subway Stories: These MBTA Days

MBTA Sign for JFK/UMass station.

Tuesday morning I got a text from a friend warning me about the Red Line because of a derailment. The T is always a mess and the Green Line had just derailed a few days before. Unfortunately, this has become a regular thing. So I figured more of the same.

Then I looked at Twitter and saw MBTA and Red Line trending, but not just locally in Boston. Nationally. That’s never good.

Because of the Wollaston Station renovation, for more than a year my commute is negatively impacted and each additional situation makes it that much worse. It’s so frustrating that the powers that be, who could change things, don’t seem to care at all.

Each time something happens, they talk about how things are improving and for us to be patient. But they are not taking the train. It’s also dangerous. Is it going to take a mass casualty situation with  multiple people killed and injured for something to really change? I really hope not.

It’s that much more of a slap in the face, when we are told to seek alternate transportation. If we had alternate transportation, we would use it! Now! If parking downtown were more affordable and the traffic were not so bad, I would drive. Every day!

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A Song Is Born

Anyway, yesterday morning I woke up and the theme from All in the Family was in my head for whatever strange reason and I kept humming it.

Then I started thinking about the horrible commute I would soon be facing and the words to the theme songThose Were The Days.

“Someone should switch the words to something about the T,” I thought. Then I started thinking about lyrics. Long story short. I am a writer. However I never thought of myself as a song writer.

But when words start swirling around in my head and I can’t get them out, the best way to stop the chatter is to write them down and do something with them.

So I wrote lyrics for a song called These MBTA Days to the tune of Those Were The Days for my own sanity and amusement. Hope you enjoy them too! 🎶

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Mixed signals you do send.
I hope we don’t have a tragic end.
You make me wait over and over again.
These MBTA days.

Me with an awful hangnail.
So of course you decide to derail.
We could use a leader like Elizabeth Warren who always has a good plan.

Remember the three days the T ran great?
Now I try to contain my rage.
When I get home, I’ll burn some sage.
To wipe away these MBTA days!

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Movie Set Takes Over Boston Street

Picture of a movie set in Boston.

Walking through the Financial District in Boston Friday night was the same as being on a movie set. Because it was being transformed into one.

There were big black and white poster board signs all over pointing to the direction of the set, the location for the extras to wait, and where the trucks were supposed to go.

A Ryan Reynolds movie has been filming in Massachusetts for a few weeks, but it was the first time that I had seen anything related to it.

According to IMDb, “Free Guy” is set to be released next summer. In the movie, according to Wikipedia, Reynolds plays a bank teller who realizes that he is a background character in an open world video game called Free City that will soon go offline.

The plot reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Stranger Than Fiction, where Will Ferrell plays an IRS auditor who realizes that he is a character in a novel. It’s a gem of a film with a killer cast. It’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it and one of a few movies that I can’t watch enough times. It just never gets old.

I took more pictures of the set, but they are too blurry to use. One was a close-up photo of the right side of the street pictured above. A store front had the word “Store” in big letters on top. There was a picture of a blue shark with a lot of teeth looking angry painted to the left, and the words “Loan Shark” to the right. The way the stores and signs were painted, it had the feel of a cartoon.

The set was right near South Station, so after I looked around a bit, I went down to the Red Line and continued on my way home.

Taste Of The South End

Recently I was invited to attend Taste of the South End, which is an annual fundraiser to benefit the AIDS Action Committee.

Founded in 1983, the organization was initially a committee of the Fenway Community Health Center, created to address the growing AIDS epidemic. In 2013, AIDS Action became part of Fenway Health.

AIDS Action remains the largest AIDS service organization in New England and leads the state’s Getting To Zero Coalition, which seeks to reduce the number of HIV infections to zero. It also operates a needle exchange that serves as an entry point to healthcare services for active substance users.

According to a press release for the event, the average client of AIDS Action has an annual income of less than $10,000. So the organization’s services are vital to keeping many people healthy, who might otherwise go without help.

This year was the 24th year that Taste of the South End has brought together food and wine lovers from Greater Boston for an unlimited sampling of more than 40 of the South End’s finest restaurants.

My friend and I were lucky enough to partake in the food sampling and enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Walking through the rows and rows of tables giving out samples was a lot to take in at once. We were both a bit overwhelmed by it all. So much good food and where should we start?

Without a plan, we dove in and started exercising our taste buds! Many of the samples were very generous portions. Especially the jerk chicken, macaroni and cheese, and barbecued chicken from Haley House Bakery Cafe. That was basically a full meal!

By the time we were ready to leave, we were both quite full — and had some new ideas of places to try in the future. I want to go to FoMu and have some more ice cream.

One of my favorite food samples was from Barcelona Wine Bar. It was spring vegetables cooked with potato and I was so busy eating it that I didn’t take a picture. But it was scrumptious and warmed my soul.

Approximately $160,000.00 was raised at the event. And that warms my soul too.

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Disclosure: Thank you to Taste of the South End for the two complimentary tickets!

Boston’s Alexandra Hotel

*Updated 12/4/2020*

Scroll down for updates.

You know that specific period of time when lottery jackpots get higher and higher?

Frenzy reaches a fever pitch. Reporters ask random people in line buying lottery tickets what they would do if they win.  Most people mention that they would pay bills, buy a car, help their families, go on vacation, give to charity. Pretty normal stuff. Nothing too exciting or specific.

Maybe they have more detailed ideas in mind, but don’t want to share them. I would do all those too, but for about 30 years, I’ve had a very specific thing that I fantasized about doing.

I would buy the Alexandra Hotel on the corner of Washington Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. Then I would restore it. Live in it and run a Bed & Breakfast in it as well. My scones would be on the breakfast menu everyday!

I have never felt a more magnetic pull to a location than I did when I first noticed the old Alexandra Hotel building. Although, I did love the Wollaston Theatre too. But I never truly wanted to own it.

Since the 90s, I have failed to win the lottery, but I continued following the building and always thought something would be done. It’s a majestic presence that has been woefully neglected for such a long time.

When I learned that the Church of Scientology owned it, I thought that I would see construction. But it never happened. The blight remained. The church agreed to sell it eventually and there were several possible buyers. But the sales fell through.

Now there is a proposed renovation project and a possible buyer for the Alexandra Hotel. I read about this latest development just in time to attend a public meeting last night. It was a full house and the audience was lively, filled with many community members and city officials.

Andrew Wang of CBT Architects gave the presentation showing possible future plans for the hotel. Jas Bhogal of JB Ventures answered some questions on behalf of the investor group that currently has ownership of the proposed project.

Nina LaNegra and Bill Singleton of United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury, Faisa Sharif of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, Boston City Councilor Kim Janey, and her Community Relations Coordinator Saynab Maalin were also in attendance.

The project proposes to retain and restore the facade of the building, construct a new approximately 150 room, twelve story boutique hotel, with a restaurant and cafe on the ground floor, outdoor seating and a rooftop bar/restaurant.

The cost to restore the facade alone is 9 million dollars and right now the anticipated cost of the new building is 66 million dollars. Jas stated that the number of rooms is the minimum needed in order for the project to be “successful.” The rooms will be very small and they will need a variance from the zoning code for the proposed height.

Many issues were discussed and some key takeaways are below.

1) The project is not using historic tax credits, but there are still standards that need to be adhered to based on the historic nature of the building.

2) Ownership is currently private, but additional investors are anticipated to be added to the project. Right now ownership is not open to the public. Community members hope that they will have a chance to buy in and have ownership and participation when the project is complete.

3) Diversity in ownership is a concern and the community wants diversity for people hired to work on the project. Jas, who is Indian, mentioned that he is the diversity in ownership right now. Community members want to ensure that diversity includes Black people and includes women.

4) The Silver Line stop in front of the property may be moved slightly in order to allow for picking up and dropping off. There will be no designated parking area, but there will be valet service.

5) Right now no eminent domain is planned.

6) Neighbors are concerned that the height of the hotel could block the sun and cause shadows on their homes. There will be a shadow study.

7) Someone from the building and trades union was there and mentions that he hopes that the jobs offered will be good paying permanent union jobs. The sentiment was reiterated by Councilor Janey. There was discussion that the hotel union should be involved as well.

8) If everything goes according to plan, work will start this summer and will be finished by the spring of 2021.

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The comment period is open until January 23, 2019  February 13, 2019 and comments are encouraged.

It will be interesting to see if this will be the winning project to go forward and bring the Alexandra Hotel into the 21st century. I still love this building and have secretly believed that the reason none of the attempts to restore it worked were because I’m supposed to own it. Well, time will tell. I still have a lottery to win and it needs to be a big one.

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*Updated 12/14/2019*  When I first wrote this post, almost a year ago, construction was to have started this past summer. From what I know, it does not appear to have started. Things appear to be behind schedule. In October, The Boston Sun reported a “lawsuit has been filed by the Tenants Development Corporation (TDC) against the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) regarding their decision to approve the Hotel Alexandra rehabilitation project.”

As I mentioned before, this property is my obsession, so I will keep you updated!

*Updated 5/14/2020*  Since COVID-19 has brought most everything to a halt, including construction, I was curious what was happening with this project. The last I had read, there was ongoing litigation. According to a December 26, 2019 article in The Boston Sun, the parties reached a settlement. However, it’s unclear what’s happening with the project currently. The BPDA website has a question mark next to project phase.

*Updated 12/4/2020* It looks like the brakes are on this project and the property could be up for sale again, according to a September article in The Boston Sun.

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Photo Credit: Nina LaNegra