Cash in a time of Covid

Well, this used to be the start of the Christmas shopping season, and with Coronavirus I’m assuming that our Thanksgiving gatherings are smaller than usual. (Anyone sitting down to a turkey TV dinner rather than a family gathering?)

Traditionally, today is a day when we’re supposed to think about what we’re grateful for during the past year, but we’re more likely reflecting on what we really miss.

Those face-to-face times when we’re altogether, especially. (Including those casual opportunities to pass along treasures to others, too … as I’ve pondered while culling my bookshelves.)

It’s even having me admit how little cash I’ve used since March, instead putting most of my small purchases “on plastic,” the way, say, most kids have long been doing. For just a cup of coffee?

I’m wondering what else, besides cash, has been a victim of this pandemic.

High on my list would be communal worship, singing together, dancing, concerts and plays, swimming and similar exercise as well as sporting events with live crowds, study groups, parties.

For the record, I’m grateful nobody among my family or friends has come down with Covid and that none of us has been evicted. Also, for one in particular, being furloughed opened the door to an even better position. So the list of positives begins to emerge.

How about you?

It’s surprising to see how much early morning commuter traffic there is here

As a line in one of my poems goes, New Hampshire is for the most part a daytime state. The thought arose in downtown Portsmouth around six o’clock on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening around  this time of the year nearly three decades ago, and it still holds.

For added perspective, let me add that Portsmouth was – and until Covid – continued to be the place with the most nightlife in the Granite State, yet the center felt deserted that evening, save for a few furtive figures dashing from doorways and down the sidewalks.

Well, tourist season had long passed and the weather was definitely frigid. I imagined that everybody was already huddled inside somewhere.

Lately, I’ve been thinking there’s a good reason for that daytime state observation. The bulk of the populace in the state has a long daily commute to and from the workplace.

~*~

When I lived in Manchester, my apartment was only a few miles from the office. I had backways to zip from home to work and back.

In moving to Dover, things changed. My hour-long daily commute over Manchester involved part of the afternoon rush hour, which blessedly was headed mostly in the opposite direction. For the late-night return, the roads were nearly empty.

Working the vampire shift or weekends definitely gives you a different view of a certain subculture of society. You can shop or run other errands when so many others are locked away on their jobs.

One thing I learned to avoid in my free time was trying to head south, meaning toward Boston, any earlier than 9 a.m., when the bottleneck at the Great Bay bridge would finally clear out. (After years of construction, that problem’s finally been alleviated. Hooray!)

Other than that, I haven’t thought much about rush hours, but recently, given repeated opportunities to dash across the state in the morning on behalf of my elder daughter’s business, I’ve been retracing my former daily commute plus a little more, just at a much different hour.

Hoping to avoid the morning rush hour, I’ve set forth as early as 5:30 but been surprised by the amount of traffic already on the road, significantly more than I’ve been seeing at 8 or 9 in the evening. By 6:30 a.m., the headlights streaming out of seemingly rural locales (what we call towns or others might consider townships) is quite steady – in one direction. Many of them, I’m guessing, are headed toward jobs in Massachusetts, ones that might start at 8 or 9.

As I ponder the flow, I’m wondering how much heavier it was before Covid and all of the work-at-home shift that’s followed. Did the drivers I’m seeing previously have to leave that much earlier to accommodate the heavier traffic volume?

Still, if you’re among those who have to rise at 4 or 5 to commute four to six hours a day, that leaves little time for evening activities. It strikes me as a high price to pay, but then so is the cost of housing in the Bay State, where most of the good-paying jobs are.

Living into the Kingdom

It really is a revolutionary concept, presented toward the end of the Lord’s Prayer taught by Jesus of Nazareth.

To invoke God’s kingdom on earth as well as in heavenly spiritual expanses takes us way beyond nationalities, social status, even economics. It transcends our experience in everyday relationships. It’s a call for justice and peace, especially.

The idea of kingdom is, of course, unfathomable for Americans, as is a dictatorship or any other form of authoritarian rule. We can try to translate it as commonwealth, dominion, realm, or sphere, each with its own limitations. The Blessed Community comes closest for me.

Some of us take this seriously. What steps can we take to bring this closer? How do we honor the creation we’ve been given? How does governing by love rather than fear really appear?

It’s something we can take baby steps toward in our families and local congregations. It’s not always easy, but we need practice.

I find it a more engaging approach to following Jesus than the question, “Are you saved?”

Especially with the kicker, “as your personal lord and savior.”

I believe the concept of Living into the Kingdom is more essential than the Resurrection.

Yes, that is startling, even as I write it.

But it is also of the here-and-now.

How are you Living into the Kingdom?

Almost as an afterthought

Designed somewhat in the appearance of a 19th century mill, a second multiuse tower has been rising on the north bank of the Cocheco River downtown. What has popped up rather expectedly, or so it would seem, is the two small buildings at the water’s edge.

At first I thought they might be boathouses, like those along the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, many of them for university crew teams. It would make sense here and be a charming touch.

But I was wrong. These two structures, almost dollhouses next to the larger development, are being touted as “the Cottages at Rivers Mark.” Five apartments for rent, in all. I suppose you could fish from your tiny porch.

Down by the riverside.
Next to the Chestnut Street bridge.

Some perspective on four years of upholding a difficult decision

After the last presidential election, I made the hard decision to refrain from posting on White House politics for the duration. Admittedly, it’s been a trial when it comes to biting my tongue.

For one thing, my degree’s in political science, with a strong dose of the Federalist Papers and the foundation of American political theory. For another, I spent most of my career in the newsroom and watched with dread as these developments gathered momentum.

What I sensed with Trump was that I could add nothing from the sidelines. The storm had to play itself out, and vital criticism would ultimately have to come from the so-called conservative side of the spectrum.

What I didn’t anticipate was how appalling the daily affronts would be, each one washing over the previous one before the impact could sink in. No blogger watching the news from afar could react in time to remain current. Well, maybe by taking a longer term view, like once a week, but it would have been a full-time job.

As you can see, I had enough else to post on, trying to maintain a life-is-normal focus, even amid the current Covid culture.

Still, drafting this confession is painful. I long to see decency and intelligence return to leadership and society in general. At this stage, it won’t happen overnight. But we can hope the tide will turn.

A troubling cry

X-ing out Community.

This splash of graffiti, defacing another’s work hailing the Dover Community Trail, offends me on several counts. One is its very hostility to any greater good. Community Trail means public, open to all, yet this anonymous voice seemingly opposes that. I doubt they’d want it to be posted No Trespassing, either. As for the “us”? How about standing up and identifying yourself? You sound pretty alienated, lonely, and ultimately selfish to me.

Here’s the companion mural on the adjacent bridge pillar along the Cocheco River.

Now, for some balconies

As construction continues on the renovation of the former Fosters Daily Democrat building downtown, fresh details appear. Here we can see actual balconies added to some of the units. They stand in contrast to the recessed balconies in the adjacent units or the flat wall further on.

 

Adding two floors to what had been the back of the former newspaper building, much of it windowless concrete block around the printing press, offered several challenges. The first was to open up the existing building to entry from busy Henry Law Avenue and the park and river just beyond. The other was to avoid creating a monotonous expanse while keeping to the tradition brick appearance of the downtown. The design tries to look like a series of independent neighboring buildings, as often happened in New England.

What would your dream home have?

My, have things changed from the time I first proposed this as a Tendrils topic and the time I actually sat down to draft the text. I thought I’d be living in Dover for the rest of my life, but now we’re actually looking to relocate to somewhere, well, for us more dreamy. I’ll leave it at that for the time being, and besides, that prospect just may turn out to be a very pleasant pipe dream.

What I am sensing that much of the dream has to do with location, beyond the house itself. This week I’ll focus on the locale. Next week, the walls, floor, and roof.

~*~

  1. Walkability: Pedestrian-friendly, with suitable restaurants, stores, parks, medical facilities within an easy stroll. What we like to call civility.
  2. A Quaker Meeting: Kindred spirits and spiritual friendship.
  3. Natural wonder: At the moment, that includes a view of the ocean. Nearby trails a plus.
  4. Cultural amenities: Classical music, live theater, classic film series, that sort of thing. A good choir to join, poetry readings, especially. Plus a decent library.
  5. Medical facilities: At my age, having qualified doctors and a hospital or well-equipped clinic at hand has become an important consideration.
  6. Good neighbors: We’ve been quite lucky in Dover that way.
  7. Community spirit: A sense of common good makes a huge difference. I’ll include local and state taxes here, with an eye to what’s provided for the buck. (In Dover, for example, my indoor swimming pool activity would fit into the equation.)
  8. Public utilities: Hard to think that in our times, the reliability of the electrical system or broadband access has to be questioned. Water and sewage become considerations, too.
  9. Visual balance: This includes houses, gardens, and retail areas that are well maintained and have personal expression. That rules out most suburbs.
  10. Safe and secure: Low crime rate, as well as fast fire and ambulance response, are definite considerations.

~*~

What would be on your list?

 

With a few distinctive touches

The transformation of the former newspaper plant downtown continues. What had been an essentially blank wall against the children’s museum and park is opening up to take advantage of its views that include the bend in the river.

The crown, common to the late 1800s buildings up the street, came as an unexpected but traditional touch.

 

I happen to love big windows with a corner view, as I imagine these have.