Monday, April 27, 2015

If I were you…Advice to the intemperate commentariat

One of my addictions – an admittedly harmless one, unless you consider that deliberately doing things that make your head explode is, in fact, harmful – is reading comments online.

There is nothing – nothing, absolutely nothing – to be gained from checking out vox populi on  any article that even vaguely touches on race, politics, sexuality, religion, sports… Pox populi is more like it. Comments tend to be especially rancid when they’re anonymous. But not always. As was the case with a couple of comments I saw in a recent Boston Herald article on the current contretemps over Ben Affleck’s request that host Henry Louis Gates expunge Affleck’s slave-owning ancestry from a recent episode of Finding My Roots.

Affleck’s request was weak and embarrassing; so was Gates’ for giving in to it.

How much more interesting and instructive the show might have been if they’d let the voyage of ancestral discovery actually discover something that mattered in the telling of the Great American Story?

Anyway, I read the article and then, since I am an addict, I I couldn’t help twirling through a few of the comments.

Although I am an addict, my addiction did not get in the way of my realizing that Boston Herald + Henry Louis Gates (well-known African American scholar) + Ben Affleck (well-known liberal super star) will inevitably = racist and/or liberal-bashing commentary.

Two comments in particular caught my eye, because not only were they signed with a real person’s name, they were also associated with a real person’s employer.

Would a local accounting firm really want someone out there using their company’s name to go on a rant about how all liberals are liars?

Maybe they’d be fine with it. Maybe it’s a deeply held belief on the part of the firm’s partners. Maybe they don’t want the business of lying liberals claiming all sorts of fake deductions and hiding all sorts of income.

But I doubt it.

Certainly in liberal-ish Massachusetts it would be unwise to cut yourself off from a goodly proportion of your potential clientele.

So my guess is, no, the firm would not want M spouting off ridiculous nonsense about lying liberals anymore than they’d want M spouting off ridiculous nonsense about lying conservatives.

Now if M wanted to point out that Ben Affleck is a liberal, and make a claim she could back up that he is a liar, well, have at it.

Just keep all liberals out of it. And keep your company’s name out of it while you’re at it.

And would a respected local educational institution want one of its employees making a crack that 9 out of 10 people would interpret as racist? 

Maybe they’d be fine with it. Maybe they’re sitting around snickering about the dearth of African-American intellectuals out there. Maybe they think that white folks – maybe even just Irish Catholic white folks – are the only ones who can live up to this esteemed institution’s motto, “Ever to Excel.”

But I doubt it.

Certainly at a time when diversity in the academic environment is so prized, it would be unwise to have employees associated with your institution making silly, racially-tinged remarks.

So my guess is, no, the college on the hill would not want S making a snide comment that might be funny if you didn’t actually think about what it was saying. Which was racist to the core, even if this was unintentional on S’s part. Maybe he just thought he was putting Gates down. Fair game! Gates is a prominent academic, a public figure with a show on PBS. Attack away! No need to paint the entire African-American intellectual community with the same brush.

Personally, I don’t think employees should be fired for saying stupid things that have nothing to do with their jobs – unless the stupid things have a direct bearing on their work. (E.g., a police officer spewing racial venom on FB.) On the other hand, people need to be really careful about what they’re saying out there in the public forum, especially if they’re tagging their company’s name onto their own.

I’m all for free speech. But free speech doesn’t mean there are no consequences.

It would be quite easy for someone who was really pissed off by a comment to report the commenter to his or her employer. Or for someone, say, who knew a partner in an accounting firm or a university dean to say, ‘do you know what your folks are out there saying?’

Could get you into some kind of trouble ain’t nobody want.

I give both M &S credit for using their own names and not hiding behind Anonymous (or some scurrilous nom de web like “Obongo”). But when you’re using your own name, not to mention the name of the place you work, you really have to think twice before hitting the “publish comment” button.

Just a bit of Pink Slip advice to the intemperate commentariat.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

They don’t call it a junk drawer for nothing

A couple of weeks back, I sorted through my main junk drawer.

Oh, I go to this particular junk drawer all the time since I shrewdly decided to always keep a comb there.  But I seldom go through it. Apparently, I keep a lot of things that I’m always looking for there, as well. As in:

  • A couple of small pocketbook-sized hairbrushes
  • More combs than I thought were in there
  • A couple of pairs of nail clippers
  • Several tubes of lip goop/lip balm/Chapstick/whatever. Included in the bunch was a tube of Napoleon Dynamite lip balm which, given that the movie was out 10 years ago, must be ossified by now. I didn’t check; for that one, I just chucked. There was also an extremely cute little travel jar of Vaseline. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have perpetually dry lips.)
  • Three glass cases
  • Three pens
  • Two notebooks
  • Two thumbdrives
  • Two sheathes for long-gone umbrellas
  • Four packets of Kleenex
  • Two padlocks for the gym, which I no longer need because they’ve replaced BYOL with a terrible system that pretty much guarantees you’ll never be able to leave your pocketbook in a locker that locks.

And that’s just the jumble of stuff I’m always looking for. In addition to all those goodies, I found:

  • A gift receipt for a book my cousin gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago
  • A pair of black shoelaces
  • A diagnostic fuse kit, I think for a car. (What was I doing with that?)
  • A quarter-roll of painter’s blue tape
  • A knee brace and an ankle brace
  • Iron cleaner
  • A key chain
  • A police whistle
  • Hand warmers
  • A Wash ‘n Dri
  • Two wallets
  • A roll of “traveler’s toilet paper”, which I will never need because I always have a Kleenex packet
  • A pocket protector with a picture of an armadillo on it
  • My niece Caroline’s birth certificate
  • Twelve train schedules dating back to 2009 for a whole bunch of different lines
  • Two bottles of bed bug protector
  • Instructions for long-gone clocks and other small appliances, some of which I don’t even remember having
  • Two hair rollers (sometimes I throw a curler in the back of my hair when it’s drying so that it will flip down; the days – make that nights - when I’d actually sleep with curlers in my hair are decades in the past)

But my favorite find in the junk drawer was a bunch of holy cards, including one from the May 17, 1953 Our Lady of the Angles Holy Name Society Communion Breakfast. Since I wasn’t there, I must have gotten this one from my father. Wonder if this was the Communion Breakfast that JFK spoke at…

All I can say is, they don’t call it a junk drawer for nothing.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

You’re driving me crazy, work edition

The biggest thing I miss about working full-time is having colleagues around.

I don’t lack for contact with my clients, but it’s not the same as being there. You don’t have impromptu conversations, coffee breaks, lunches out, or walks around the parking lot.

On the other hand, you don’t have to put up with those annoying little co-worker habits, as I was reminded the other day when I saw a piece on the topic on iMedia.

First on the list was whistling.

This, of course, reminds me of a sales guy I once worked with who used to whistle the theme from Gilligan’s Island. Constantly.

Not that I don’t find myself channeling my mother plenty these days, which means I’m occasionally whistling under my breath. (My mother went back and forth between no-tune whistling and La Vie en Rose. Edith Piaf and Liz Rogers? Talk about the odd couple!) But mostly when I’m whistling, since there are no co-workers around, I’m just annoying myself. At least so far…

The whistle while you work annoyance item was followed by emails that end up cc’ing everyone under the sun.

This one is as much a productivity hit as an annoyance, but there is a problem of how to respond to an e-mail where a lot of people are copied directly or cc’d.

Say Joe Blow shoots off an informational e-mail, and someone shoots back a quick “thanks”, including everyone on the list.

You’re then faced with the dilemma of whether to a) send Joe and Joe alone an e-mail thanking him; b) “reply to all” so that everyone can see that you are grateful to Joe and aren’t an impolite ingrate – especially after someone has already made sure that everyone knows that he/she appreciates Joe’s efforts; or c) ignore it: the last thing Joe needs is 50 e-mails thanking him for sending out the new corporate sales deck. I tend to use option a) or c). But I’m still suckered into reading the e-mails from those who go with b). What if they actually have something to add to the conversation that goes beyond “thanks”? You never know…

Apparently the use of the word “like” is, like, an annoyance to some. Never bothered me that much. I just edit it out.

On the other hand, leaving a messy kitchen was something that always made me crazy. As did those who left their leftovers and long-expired yogurts in the fridge. I was pretty much a fridge Nazi, and spent plenty of Saturdays tossing science experiments out.

As bad as the kitchen mess, of course, is the leaving of the coffee cups on the conference room table. Always drove me nuts – especially because people invariably walked by a wastebasket on their way out of the meeting.

Listening to music sans headphone is a peeve that really didn’t exist when I worked. For one thing, I mostly worked in a private office. For another – more important – people weren’t as hooked on having music on 24/7. I did work with one programmer who kept a TV on pretty much all the time, but she was a coding genius/speed demon, so she could do whatever she wanted as far as I was concerned.

I can see where it would be a big deal in an open environment.

I suspect that most people who listen to music have headphones. The problem is more likely those who occasionally click on a video without having their speakers off or a headset plugged in.

Unneeded conference calls is another annoyance. Interesting that this one is about conference calls, not meetings.

I guess this speaks to the workplace becoming more virtual.

But conference call or meeting, there’s nothing worse than working in a super-meeting culture.

When I worked at Genuity, you could be in non-stop meetings from 8 a.m. (or earlier) up until 6 p.m. (or later). You barely got a bio-break as you sped from one meeting to the next. No wonder Genuity went out of business.

People missing deadlines made the annoyance list, but, to me, this one goes beyond annoyance.

Yes, we all miss deadlines on occasion. Sometimes things come up. Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew. Sometimes you really thought you’d make it but don’t quite get there.

Still, a head’s up is always a good idea.

And speaking of deadlines, one of my favorite (least favorite?) corporate annoyances was the deadline bogusly imposed by a nonsense fire drill.

At Genuity, some of my friends worked for a VP who was past master of the fire drill. No wonder Genuity went out of business.

The use of corporate clichés and of “too much internal [buzzzword] lingo are, admittedly, annoying. And yet, they can be so deliciously amusing, especially when you got to play buzzword bingo.

It wasn’t exactly buzzwordy, and it wasn’t a cliché – given that I suspect no one ever used it before or after I heard it – but one of my favorite corporate whatevers was at a sales kick-off, when the president of our division said that we were going to go through the market “with all the momentum of an entrenched juggernaut.”

I was sitting with my boss, and, as I was mulling over why someone would choose to liken us to a death wagon, he leaned over and whispered, ‘just how much momentum does something entrenched have’?

Bingo!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Britty Woman. (Lose some attitude, baby girl.)

I have been casually following the travails of one Britt McHenry, the ESPN reporter caught on candid security camera berating a towing lot attendant.

McHenry left her car overnight in a restaurant parking lot, and when she went to retrieve it (post-tow) ended up in quite the heated call-and-response with the woman she had to get through to get her car back.  Actually, what we see and hear on the widely available video of the incident is mostly the response. It appears that some of the call may have been edited out.

But whether McHenry was baited into her appallingly snotty comments by the tow-yard gal, Gina Michelle, or not, she said some pretty darned mean girl things – things that, frankly, seem more ingrained attitude than heat of the moment.

Here’s McHenry’s side of the repartee:

“I’m in the news, sweetheart.”
- “I will fucking sue this place.”
- “That’s why I have a degree and you don’t.”
- “I wouldn’t work in a scumbag place like this.”
- “Makes my skin crawl even being here.”
- “Yep, that’s all you care about is just taking people’s money. With no education, no skill set, just wanted to clarify that.”
- “Do you feel good about your job?
- “So I can be a college dropout and do the same thing?”
- “Why? Because I have a brain? And you don’t?”
- “Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me, huh?”
- “‘Cause they [the employee’s teeth] look so stunning … ‘Cause I’m on television and you’re in a fucking trailer, honey.”
- “Lose some weight, baby girl.” (Source: Huffington Post)

What’s so shocking is not that someone would get into a pissing match with the person at the tow-yard.

I can imagine plenty of folks saying something along the lines of “I will fucking sue this place.” Or “Yep, that’s all you care about is just asking people’s money.” Maybe even “Makes my skin crawl even being here.” And, of course, playing the ‘I’m important’ card with that “I’m in the news, sweetheart” non-zinger.

But then there are the jibes about education, intelligence, skillset, weight, teeth, and working “in a fucking trailer, honey.”

This is just so mean-spirited, insulting and class-ist.

I suspect that a lot more kids grow up dreaming about being “in the news” than dream of working in a dead-end job in a tow-yard. But somewhere along their way there may be plenty of bad luck, and maybe a few bad choices and missed opportunities, that end you up there.

You’d think that someone who’s had more than her share of middle-class advantages along the way, including getting a decent education – McHenry has a master’s in journalism from Northwestern -  and likely some dental work along the way might be a bit more sympathetic to somewhere so obviously lower down on the socio-economic totem pole.

Anyway, Michelle – who herself may have a bit of the mean girl in her; or at least a bit of the pay-back’s-a-bitch, baby girl – made sure that the security video went public.

As a result, McHenry finds herself in the center of media storm, with petitioners and tweeters demanding that she be fired by ESPN, and others (“Camp Britt”) demanding that everyone just leave her alone.

ESPN – those paragons of morality and decency – are trying to make sure that no harm comes to its “brand image”. So they have (as of Sunday, April 19) suspended McHenry for a week.

More could follow.

After all, Bill Simmons, who’s certainly a more important play-ah at ESPN (and someone I enjoy reading, given that he’s a homer for all the Boston teams), was dinged for three weeks last fall for shooting off a couple of tweets criticizing NFL poo-bah Roger Goodell, who is not exactly the executive whose name comes to mind when someone says “competent.”

And the insults that McHenry hurled were pretty awful. Not to mention that there are probably plenty of ESPN couch potatoes who are husky college drop outs with bad teeth.

McHenry has, of course, issued the requisite mea culpa:

In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and regrettable things. As frustrated as I was, I should always choose to be respectful and take the high road. I am so sorry for my actions and will learn from this mistake.

Well, McHenry is young – in her twenties – so there’s plenty of time for her to learn from her mistakes.

For Britt McHenry’s sake, I hope that this translates into more than just keeping her mouth shut when the security cameras are rolling. Maybe, while she’s at it, she needs to start thinking about just why she feels entitled to treat someone else the way she did Gina Michelle.

Surely, someone with a degree from Northwestern is smart enough to realize that were it not for her pretty-ish looks, she might not be “in the news.” And once those pretty-ish looks have faded a bit….

No, McHenry is never going to end up taking payments in the tow-yard trailer, but she won’t be interviewing athletes for ESPN forever, either. The males with the mike might be well along in years, but the females? No way.

Good luck, Britt.

Maybe ESPN has no right firing someone for an “infraction” that has nothing to do with their job, and which “the boss” only found out about because it was caught on camera. But I wouldn’t be surprised either way. I’m sure that as I write this they’re sitting around deciding whether to give in to the rabid masses calling for her head or the Camp Britt campers who’ll forgive anything a pretty-ish blonde does, especially if there’s an even tow company involve. (And, let’s face it, how many defenders is a towing company going to have?)

Whether she goes or stays, I’ve got some advice for Britt McHenry.

“Lose some attitude, baby girl.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top of the World, Ma! (Yes, there are jobs that are worse than yours.)

There was a fascinating – and horrifying – article by ultra-intrepid journalist William Finnegan in last week’s New Yorker on the Peruvian gold-mining town of La Rinconada, and on the gold miners who labor there.

La Rinconada is no one’s idea of a tourist getaway, even for travelers who pride themselves as getting off the beaten track.

First off:

The town is seventeen thousand feet above sea level—the highest-elevation human settlement in the world.  (Source: The New Yorker – may need subscription to access the full article.)

Which means that you’ll be gasping for air when you at all exert yourself. So if you’re planning on heading there, don’t forget to pack your portable iron lung.

Dining options in town would have you howling for an Applebee’s, where at least you wouldn’t have to see alpaca-tripe soup on the menu.

And please forget any images you have as hell being a hot place.

Hell is La Rinconada, and baby, it’s cold outside. Inside, too, for that matter. (Finnegan’s hotel was unheated, so it almost goes without saying that the hovels where the miners live are unheated as well.)

And even with all the cold, the area is warming up, reminding us that things are gang agley in our fragile world: the glaciers that surround La Rinconada are melting.

All things considered, warming up is a mixed blessing, as Finnegan found out when he hit a relatively balmy day:

The sunshine—and a temperature now well above freezing—was rousing a mighty stench from the mud. I tried holding Inca Kola in my mouth to neutralize visions of bacterial apocalypse. Even its disinfectant flavor was no help. Until that afternoon, I had found it funny that La Rinconada residents (male) often seemed to make a point of urinating where someone dared to post a sign forbidding it. The same thing happened with garbage. A warning spray-painted on a building near my hotel threatened rubbish-dumpers with “massacre,” and the trash heap rising beneath it was at least ten feet high. I thought these rude communal gestures expressed the anarchic solidarity of the town. But none of it seemed amusing now.

There’s little in town by way of infrastructure.

Electricity exists in La Rinconada – which is not to say that most folks have it. But the citizens are:

…still waiting for clean water, a sewage system, garbage collection, a hospital.

On the other hand, the citizens – most of them come from somewhere else – don’t pay any taxes.

Most of the workers in La Rinconada are gold miners, and they’re not working for massive mines like those run by Rio Tinto

The mines, whatever you call them, are small, numerous, unregulated, and, as a rule, grossly unsafe. Most don’t pay salaries, let alone benefits, but run on an ancient labor system called cachorreo. This system is usually described as thirty days of unpaid work followed by a single frantic day in which workers get to keep whatever gold they can haul out for themselves. I found so many variants of the scheme, however—and so many miners passionately attached to their variant—that the traditional description of cachorreo seems to me inadequate. It’s a lottery, but, because of pilfering, it runs every day, not once a month.

Finnegan actually goes into a mine with Josmil Ilasaca, a young miner he befriends.

Actually, most miners are young. This is no country for old men, that’s for sure.

Not only are the mines themselves dangerous, but mercury, which is used in gold processing, pollutes the entire place.

Mercury poisoning can affect the central nervous system, causing tremors, excitability, insomnia, and a grim range of psychotic reactions.

Ilasaca, by the way, uses the term “artisanal miner” to describe his profession.

The word “artisanal” gives off all sorts of foodie vibes, doesn’t it? At least to those of us who know folks who make artisanal cheese, and who see the word on menus (sometimes as “artesian”) to describe everything from lovingly hand-crafted loaves of goodness to bagged bread.

I suspect it has a different meaning to someone like Josmil Ilasaca.

I can only imagine what someone like Ilasaca would make of the “gourmet kitchens” in which our friends and neighbors craft their artisanal cheese, yogurt, and bread.

People, of course, put up with the conditions of a town like La Rinconada and the brutal conditions in the mines because they a) have few choices – Peru is poor, and mineral extraction is one of the only games in town. But b) they also become artisanal miners – which, with the cachorreo system, gives them a shot at riches – for the same reason that the Forty-Niners rushed to California when they heard that there’s gold in them thar hills. You could get lucky. You could get rich.

Of course, most of them don’t, just like most high school ballers don’t make the NBA. (Or most bloggers don’t end up big, important writers. Sigh…)

Anyway, it’s always good to be reminded that those of us who live and work in safe places with heat and electricity, where we’re (for the most part) not being poisoned by mercury, and who have dining out options beyond alpaca tripe soup, are – most of us at least – pretty darned lucky.

Some of us, of course, are luckier than others.

We don’t work in Tyson chicken factories. We can shop at stores that carry fresh produce. We can jack up the thermostat – probably from our smartphone, while lounging a room away – if we’re cold.

But compared to the world’s true hell-holes, most Americans have it pretty good, materially-wise.

Just something to think about next time we’re feeling bad about how crappy our job is, or how ridiculous it is for that restaurant to have “artesian” pies on the menu.

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Aside to my sister Kath on this story: If you haven’t read this article, you should know that, to propitiate the gods, people in La Rinconada offer up nip bottles. (To explain this aside: for whatever reason, the town of Wellfleet on Cape Cod is littered with nip bottles, at least along the paths where Kath takes her daily walks.)

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Twenty years ago Patriots’ Day. (Oklahoma Strong.)

Today, Massachusetts celebrates Patriots’ Day. The official observance is on the third Monday in April, but “real” Patriots’ day is April 19th.

Yesterday we observed the twentieth anniversary of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, a horrific incident that killed 168 people, including a number of very young children who were in the building’s day care center. Over 700 people were injured.

On the day of that bombing, I was on a business trip in Illinois.

My colleague George and I had spent April 18th and 19th in Bloomington, Illinois, with calls on a prospect and a client.

The prospect call, at Caterpillar HQ in nearby Peoria, was god-awful. We were there to give a product demo, but we knew going in that they had already made their decision, and that our call was just part of some fake due diligence on their part. It was hard to blame them. Our product cost an order of magnitude more than the one they went with. Sure, you could do a lot more with our product, but unless you were a PhD in computer science who wanted to build a staircase to the moon with it, there were few out there who could begin to take advantage of it. (Cheap and easy to use will generally trump  expensive and brutal.)

After the rotten call on Caterpillar  - where, among other things, the demo failed in a couple of places; because the product was so hard to navigate to begin with, no one noticed that there were points where it just plain didn’t work – George and I took ourselves to a rather ridiculous hotel called Jumer’s Chateau. There, I recall, it was almost impossible to convince that waitress that we really didn’t want our fish smothered in cheese or drenched in cream.

Although cheap and easy to use will generally trump  expensive and brutal, this is not always the case.

We did have some clients, and one of them was State Farm.

The visit there was a success. State Farm loved us; we loved them. They served several different kinds of Jell-o mold in their cafeteria, so as a daughter of a daughter of the Midwest, I was right at home.

Buoyed after our excellent client meeting and Jello-mold lunch, we headed off to Chicago, where we had some sort of meeting the following day.

While driving through the soy-bean fields on what was a long (3-4 hours) and boring (c.f., soy-bean fields) trip, we turned on the radio. On a string of low-watt AM stations we started to get snatches of what sounded like some pretty terrible news.

Bombing.

The station would fade away.

Oklahoma City.

The next station would die out.

Day care center.

My God, who would bomb a day care center?

As we tried to piece together the story, we immediately thought Muslim terrorists. This was, after all, just a couple of years after the first World Trade Center bombing. What else was there to think?

As we got closer to Chicago, we were able to get a stable signal and hear the bigger picture filled in.

We had dinner in a hotel lobby bar so we could watch the news while we ate.

CNN was around, but we were years away from the fully immersive 24/7 news culture.

The Internet existed – and my company may or may not have had some basic informational web page up by then – but anytime/anywhere access to anything and everything was years away, too.

I don’t even think that I had a cell phone at that point.

George was actually the first person I knew who owned one. When he traded in his brick – which was almost the size of an old walky-talky – for something more sleek and modern a few years later, he gave me the brick. For a couple of years, that was my cell phone, kept in the car and used only for an emergency that never came.

When I think of all the explosion of news, the media coverage, the intensity of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I can only imagine what the world would have made of the far more horrific Oklahoma attack.

Around here, they’re still talking about “Boston Strong,” but I have a hunch that the folks in Oklahoma City were pretty darned strong, too.

Oh, they may not have expressed themselves in quite the same way that the pugnacious inner-Irishmen of Boston did. Remember this one?

Keep Calm

But I suspect that Sooners who are the descendants of those who drove Conestoga wagons to grab a few acres during the Oklahoma Land Rush and/or survived the Dust Bowl are pretty darned strong, too.

Natural disasters. World wars. Terrorist attacks.

There’s nothing special about our response to it.

People are tough. They rebuild. The move on. They survive.

Scars fade, wounds heal.

And unless you lost a loved one, or were injured, or witnessed the event, or helped the survivors survive, those scars fade and wounds heal sooner rather than later.

Most people don’t curl up in a fetal ball in the face of adversity. They get up and get going.

People are tough.

But it’s hard not to think of all those parents who lost their little ones on that terrible day in Oklahoma City.

Twenty years ago. Those little ones would be young adults.

Scars fade, wounds heal.

But I don’t imagine that anyone ever gets over the death of a child, especially one killed in such an ugly, senseless, sudden and violent way.

As we celebrate Patriots’ Day, thoughts are in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Strong!

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Friday, April 17, 2015

And where would we be without listicles?

No matter how completely far-fetched, how completely absurd they are, no matter how arbitrarily and/or weirdly pulled together, I am a complete and utter sucker for any list.

It pretty much doesn’t matter what of.

Ten Best Donut Shops. Best Places to Retire. Snobbiest Cities in the US. (Go, Naperville!)  One Hundred Greatest Rock and Roll Songs of All Time. Fifty Experiences Everyone Should Have by the Time They’re Fifty. The Books You Need to Have Read if You Want to Consider Yourself Literate. Most Important New Words of the Last Decade.

Etc.

Naturally, I prefer those list that reinforce any positive opinions I may hold of myself and the place where I live.

So I glommed right on to the silly Thrillest list: The 10 most Beautiful Neighborhoods in America, Ranked.

Now, having grown up in a neighborhood that would never have made anyone’s listicle  of most beautiful, I understand that some neighborhood faces are prettier than others.

But to pretend that there is actually a ranking of beautiful neighborhoods?

Even if, as it happens, my very neighborhood won the beauty contest.

Between the red brick sidewalks, the classic Georgian architecture, and the gaslights casting their amber glow down the narrow streets, this gorgeous colonial 'hood stands out from the rest of Beantown like a... well, like the most beautiful neighborhood in America. The row houses on Beacon Street overlook the fields of Boston Common (the oldest park in the country), and the whole neighborhood is equally beautiful in winter and summer. Hell, even the birdhouses are beautiful!

Beacon Hill's filled with little streets and avenues that lend the area a distinctly European atmosphere, and striding down the mossy cobblestones of Acorn Street feels like traveling back in time to the founding of the nation -- until you see someone taking as selfie with an iPad. And in that case, well, you can't totally hate; iPads are so convenient.

It is, of course, true that Beacon Hill is very pretty, very charming, very interesting in ways that, say, Main South Worcester just plain aren’t.

But is it the absolute most beautiful?

And “equally beautiful in winter and summer”????

Sure, if you’re gazing out at the Public Garden (winter or summer). But if you’re trying to walk down Charles Street when half the blocks are yellow-taped off to prevent you from getting hit in the head by a fifty-pound ice heave, and when the snow piles are black with exhaust and yellow with dog pee???

And I like that “striding down the mossy cobblestones of Acorn Street.”

Trust me: no one “strides” on Acorn Street.

Cobblestones just aren’t made for striding.

They’re made for creeping, mincing, crawling.

But never, ever striding. Unless you don’t mind cracking your skull on those cobblestones, and find yourself in the ER of Mass General Hospital (one of the the Best Hospitals in the World, by the way).

Anyway, however gratifying it is to live in the country’s most beautiful neighborhood, I do have the good sense to recognize that this designation is a total crock.

Beautiful? Without a doubt.

Most beautiful?  Really…

By the way, the first runner up – if Beacon Hill is unable to fulfill its duties for whatever reason, New York City’s Central Park West Historic District is first runner-up.

See the full list for yourself here.

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