Archive for the 'Boston' Category

25
Jan
09

Lace-curtain Striving

This is the word that I have come to believe epitomizes my family‘s working-class ethos.  Though we’re firmly middle-class, the lot of us, in fact some quite well off (in the top 10% of wage earners), the reality is that we’ll never shed this sense of wanting to do better.  Better than what, at this point, you ask?  I’m not sure.  Most of my cousins are better off than their parents, I think.  Most of us could probably keep up with the proverbial Jones, whoever they are.

But there’s this feeling, best summed up by my godfather once talking about his daughter getting a promotion at work because “she was looking to do more” and her higher-ups noticed.  This is a good example of how the intangible becomes tangible.  How trying to prove oneself pays off.

Yet, striving includes determination fueled in part by insecurity – am I cut out for MIT?  How did I get here?  Will people find out I don’t really belong?  That I’m faking it?  There’s also how we measure success: for some of my cousins, it’s the size of the house or the paycheck or even the clothing brands they bring home.  Some of those matter to me too, but clearly I’ve chosen to prove myself through education, by going where no one in my family has gone before.

In choosing an adulthood of more or less continuous graduate school, my income has fluctuated dramatically over the years, and I often find myself filled with self-recrimination because money is tight and the future’s uncertain and I am definitely not financially secure like a responsible adult in my family should be.  This post is spurred by the fact that I had to put plastic up over my living room windows tonight to keep out the draft, leaving me feeling ashamed that I am worrying about my heating bill and embarrassed that I’ve had resort to crude and unattractive measures when my parents clearly would not want their only child to be worrying about her utility costs like they did long ago.  I should be beyond this, I scold myself silently.

Seriously, somebody call me a wahhhh-bulance, I know.  But my family’s version of making it is always having enough disposable income for shopping or dining out, and then talking about our purchases (look at us! We can buy what we want!).  And here I am wondering how I’m going to pay my household bills come June.  (Any other debt payments have already been slashed to the bone.)

I’ve started to resign myself to that reality that I will probably not outearn my parents in my lifetime.  In exchange I am trying to figure out the bourgie trappings of academia, to demonstrate a different version of, a slight twist on “making it.” I am a quick study, at least.  I only need to get around my own working-class chip to embrace the intelligentsia lifestyle.  We’ll see.  Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to learn a whole new language out here.  And I need some (lace-) curtains stat, so no one can see my plastic window.

16
Jan
09

Please help Kori!

kori I’m shamelessly using this blog in the hopes that you can help my family:

My 7yo cousin Kori, whose family is very low-income and lives in public housing in South Boston, has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  She has been in treatment for some time, and her short-term prognosis is good.  Long-term, her disease is pretty deadly.  Her family is acting strong but they are definitely struggling.

If you can spare even a dime, please consider making a small donation to help with Kori’s treatment. You can learn more about Kori here, and help with her treatment here.  (There is also the option to contribute instead to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for those not comfortable with donating directly to an unknown family.)

The power of the internet to raise awareness and funds is powerful.  I cannot thank you enough for keeping my family in your thoughts and for any help you can provide for Kori.

I am collecting funds through Friday, January 23.

17
Dec
08

Oy Vey

As soon as I heard about the Madoff fraud case, I thought, how will this affect Brandeis and the American Jewish community that supports it?  As I expected: POORLY.

The Palm Beach Jewish community is an epicenter of Brandeis philanthropic support.  Every spring my Brandeis quarterly journal arrives with photos of our Israeli president, Jehuda Reinharz, sporting a tan and beaming at the camera with his arms around elderly, multi-millionaire Jewish couples who have just gifted another round of millions for a new science center, student center, endowed chair, etc.

Just as I felt distantly personally involved in the 2000 Florida recount mess, this latest turmoil to roll through Palm Beach, FL leaves me cringing and worrying about my indirect benefactors.  And I need not envision only sunny skies and beautiful beaches as I fret: Boston’s non-profit organizations and institutions are also taking a substantial hit.

15
Nov
08

My Next Political Project

That would be finding myself.

Hee.

Seriously – I am an honorary M.O.T., and am being mentored by and working with (in New Orleans, for instance) a scholar of black politics.  At some point I need to know my own history.

The man – an urban history scholar and fellow ethno-phile (yes, I just made that up) – is very excited about this new commitment of mine.  He has already outlined a program of study for me.  I thought maybe you all might have some suggestions or insight too.

Basically, I’m looking for readings or sites focusing on Irish-Catholics in America, Boston Irish-Catholics, Irish American history, Irish history or ethnography or memoirs, and anything else you think might be interesting.  I’m at least fourth generation Boston Irish, from a family of tradesmen and nurses and teachers and Vets.  My paternal great-grandfathers were a painter and a bartender – one was born in Ireland, the other in Jersey City (random!).  So maybe tales of the Irish and the unions might be interesting too.

Thoughts?  What’s been your education, if any, on the Irish in America?  We’re kind of a big ethnic group, so you might know one or more of us.  Heh.  One of my favorite stories about being Irish is drinking with a Korean-American friend years ago in NY and him telling me that Koreans were “the Irish of the Orient.”  Cuz we’re hated and drunk.  Ack, look at me trading in stereotypes already!  Clearly I need some enlightening.

Whattya got for me?

PS: Nothing boring.  Thanks.

04
Nov
08

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

It’s Xmas and the Super Bowl all rolled into one today!!!!!

I will be heading to the polls in about an hour.  Reports are that lines are already long, which is rare in my neighborhood – a student enclave with a tradition of low voter turnout.  Apparently there are many, many first time voters.  Nice!

I regret not signing up to work at the polls.  I would have enjoyed that, and I have the time.

What an exciting day!  I hope my Hillary t-shirt is clean – I’d like to sport it today, in support of the Democratic Party – with its warts and all.   Instead, I might end up with a Red Sox t-shirt on (seriously); need to show my pride somehow!!

I’ve been registered to vote in NY and MA, and my polling places have always been schools.  I’ve been amazed to read some about some of the different polling places that exist around the U.S., and my partner just showed me a Flickr photo of people voting at a Church of God in OK.  Where do you vote???

I’m thinking of Obama and the loss of his grandmother.  My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.  I lost my Nannie less than two years ago, and miss her a lot.

I’m optimistic and nervous today, and really excited.  How do you feel???

01
Nov
08

Obama’s Aunt is My Cousins’ Neighbor

And apparently works with my uncle.

For some reason, I find this priceless.

I’m looking at the attached photo, thinking, I know that place!

Maybe I should drive her to the polls on Tuesday!  Or from the sound of it, to Logan.

I wonder if her refugee application will be reconsidered now.  Sounds like everyone’s in a bit of a pickle over this one!

31
Oct
08

Layover Links: Final Election Week (!!) in Review

I’m headed to Memphis for the weekend for work.  The conference is at an airport hotel, but I’m hoping to get downtown on Saturday night. I traveled to Memphis for work a lot back in 2001-3, and loved it.  I’d like to see the place again – check out the downtown development that was underway 5 years ago.

Speaking of development, urban change, etc. etc., I finally tried to estimate if I was one of the 7.5M homeowners “underwater,” meaning my mortgage costs more than the value of my home.  The data suggests that I am; according to Mass. RE research firm The Warren Group, average condos prices in my boston neighborhood have fallen 5% in the last three years.  My income as a grad student-consultant fluctuates wildly, so I have not yet done the math to see if I might qualify to renegotiate my payments should I need to, should any of the various homeowner assistance programs out there darken my door.

At least I’m not post-disaster dependent on FEMA.  “Insensitive” and “foot-dragging”?  Bush’s FEMA? NO!  Surely you jest!!

In other news, like 20% or so of Americans, I watched the Obama mega-mercial the other night.  Quality and boring were my impressions (as someone so saturated in political coverage, I can’t believe that people still don’t know his major promises.  I’m getting to the point that I feel like I could recite them.)  Also, I was struck by the calm, soothing nature of the whole thing, designed to make those folks out there who need some getting used to the idea of a black President.  Though the log cabin Oval Office to me looked like the place where a professor hides out to finally finish her overdue book.  I said that night at dinner to an ardent Obama voter and volunteer who was worried about whether the commercial was “presumptuous” that as a former Clinton supporter, by now I absolutely trust the Obama’s campaign strategy.  Clearly they know what they are doing, whether or not we like it, agree with it, or respect it.  YMMV.

Certainly, preferences for Obama vary widely.  Most national polls put his lead at ~6%.  Turns out he squeaked out a victory among kids, winning Nickelodeon’s kids vote by 2%.  Why the right and left blogs are not deconstructing this outcome six ways to Sunday surprises me.  I know it’s only 2.2M kids (!!), but still…though what do we know about families who watch Nickelodeon?  Why hasn’t FiveThirtyEight crunched these numbers for us??  I demand answers!!

The world, on the other hand, supports Obama in a LANDSLIDE.  Landslide.  Like a gazillion to 300 or something.  Not even Iraq is “strong McCain” anymore.   Other McCain leaning nations?  Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They’re splitting the Sudanese vote so far.

US kids split; world consumed by Obama-mania.  What does this tell us about Obama’s governing mandate?  Digby warns against centrist leadership, pointing out Obama’s bipartisan bookends.

Maybe these folks have some advice for Obama.  Congrats to brownfemipower!  I also have done some work with one of the people named here, so I’m feeling totally cool by association.

Happy Halloween everyone!  I’m not a fan of the holiday, so I’m happy to be traveling.  Enjoy & stay safe!