A Mish-Mash of All Things Boston

By Phineas J. Stone

It’s not too often we think of the ground under our feet, or for that matter, on the side of the street gutters, but this is the kind of stuff that really impresses out-of-towners.

As Bostonians, it blends into the landscape.

Who really cares what our curbs are made of?

I don’t usually, but I was talking with a friend who flew in from out of town last month. On one of the few nice days we were walking down Boylston Street and came upon a sidewalk construction project. We watched as the workers hoisted the huge upright granite curbs into place, framing the sidewalk just right.

“It’s nice they put those beautiful curbs in the historic district,” my friend commented.

I told him it wasn’t an historic district really, and they put those granite curbs everywhere, even in most of the suburbs too. It’s just the way sidewalks are made.

He was dumbfounded.

That must be thousands of miles of granite curbing, he commented.

Probably is, I responded.

That’s not the first time I’ve run into that. Most municipalities around the country use no curbing at all, or they use a poured concrete berm or asphalt riser. I had never thought of it until 20 years ago when someone pointed out that in Boston we have beautiful curbing.

I had them repeat it about 10 times.

Then it dawned on me that, right down to the curbs on our sidewalks, we are unique. In years past, I’ve come to appreciate it when I travel and look at the way sidewalks and thoroughfares are put together – noticing that grey, Quincy or New Hampshire granite is missing from the picture in those other locales.

Like most things Boston, there is a functional purpose.

We don’t do these kinds of things to be cute or quaint.

While it ends up being a cozy little novelty, the truth is Boston was not conceived, nor did it function as a cozy or quaint locale, until much more recent times; try within the last 20 years.

The reason for the curbing is that it holds up to the hard winters we have in New England. The ice, salt and snow can’t really permeate granite, and as many kitchen counter renovation specialists would say, “Granite is forever.” Imagine if they used poured concrete for every curbing? It would be cracked and falling apart every two or three years. Plus, the way people park in this City, the curb is often just an extension of the roadway and prime parking space for those who own a vehicle with more than three inches clearance.

So it is that I pointed out to my friend last month as we walked down Boylston Street that the curbing being used had been thoroughly cleaned, and then reset. It’s re-used and rarely thrown out.

Like Bostonians, our curbing is hard boiled and stands up to the elements and the tests of time. It gives the appearance that we care to outsiders, but in reality it’s simply the best tool for the job.

Dirty water and granite curbing stretching off into the sunset…

  • •           •         •

There’s such an interesting culture of weathermen and weatherwomen in Boston – and again because we crave information about the weather and, in the bitter storms of the winter and occasional summer hurricane threats, we spend a lot of time with them.

Just like pizza toppings, every Bostonian has their favorite weather personality. And we have had enough good ones here that, like the difference between sausage or pepperoni pizza, one cannot really find fault in another’s taste.

This week, Weatherman Harvey Leonard celebrated 40 years on air.

That won’t happen again.

People in TV weather move around, go national, or just find another job.

The go-to weatherman in years past was Channel 4’s Don Kent, who was one of the first to introduce the kind of pseudo-science of weather studies into the broadcast – something you see so often now. He passed away in 2010, but his legacy lives on in the way that our personalities now try to teach us, rather than just inform us. Many will never forget him guiding us through the Blizzard of ’78.

For years, I liked Todd Gross, whose abrupt firing became the talk of conspiracy theorists all over the internet. It’s been more than 10 years ago since he got sacked without warning, and those of us who liked him were left to wonder as the station acted like he’d never been there.

Had he been a spy masquerading as a weatherman? Was he wanted for murder in one of the places he worked before coming to Boston? Had he concocted his own disappearing act?

There were many theories online, but truth be told, he simply got replaced – which is the new way in the TV weather world. I read somewhere that he still dabbles in weather, but has found unbelievable success as an Internet marketer.

No one guessed that.

Loyalty is a lost art in Boston – whether in politics, the workplace or even simple promises about taking out the garbage on trash day. It goes right down to weather personalities.

No one cares much anymore who they are, and they are so ‘here today, gone tomorrow.’ The Internet’s many weather sources has pretty much reduced the role and power of the local meteorologist.

The one exception I’ll note is Eric Fisher. There’s a guy who was born too late. He would have fit right in to the 1970s and 1980s weather scene around here. He’s a North Ender, and he likes Boston and knows a lot about the places he’s talking about.

Far too many times we’ve had to endure someone from God knows where talking about the daytime high in “Wooo-Ster” when we all know it’s “wuh-stah.”

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