Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Driving in Boston and all that Jazz

It's been a while since I've last posted. It seems like lots and little have gone by since. In late September I went to the Beantown Jazz Festival. The free festival is an all day street celebration of jazz. There were both big name performers and local talent that played on stages set up along a three block or so area in the Roxbury section of Boston. If you like jazz, it was the place to be on a saturday afternoon in Boston. I even have the long-sleeved t-shirt to commenorate the event.

Last week I went to traffic court for a moving violation ticket. Had I just paid the fine, my insurance company would have been notified and my insurance rates would have gone up. In Maryland, you get three occurrances before the insurance company takes any action; up here, well, it's very different.

In Massachusetts, pedestrian right of way is taken very seriously. It's very easy to get ticketed for not stopping for a pedestrian to cross the street in a crosswalk. Many drivers are almost paranoid about this and will stop anytime/anywhere for a pedestrian to cross the street, regardless of whether the person is actually in a crosswalk.

In Baltimore, it's common practice that if a car in front of you stops in the street for whatever reason, you'll quickly whip around them. Up here in Boston, if you did that, you'd probably kill someone.

What happened to me was that I had stopped for a redlight on a street that dead ends into a cross street. I was also talking on my cell phone. I needed to make a left onto the cross street and then make a quick right onto another street to continue on my regular route to work. (It's typical in Boston for streets at intersections to not line up; for intersections to have five or more streets converge. Believe me, it can get very confusing.)

The light changed, I turned left and noticed that a person on a bicycle was on my right, shadowing me (this morning, as I made that same set of turns, a car was shadowing me. Instead of it turning right from the right lane, me having turned left from the left lane, it had also turned left - but that's another story about Boston drivers). As I started to make the right turn, paying attention to the bicyclist, I noticed a pedestrian with a stroller on the sidewalk at the crosswalk. I figured I had the right of way and so kept going.

All of a sudden there's a cop behind me, signaling me to stop. He gave me a ticket for not letting the pedestrian walk across the street. He told me that the "cell phone was probably a distraction" for me and that if it had just been a guy wanting to cross the street and not a guy with a stroller, he wouldn't have given me the ticket. I said I was more concerned about the bicycle and the traffic behind me (this being about 8:40 a.m.) and since the guy with the stroller was on the sidewalk I believed I was okay. He just looked at me.

You don't argue with a cop; I thanked him for the ticket and went to work. That same day I checked the box for a hearing and sent it off.

At the hearing I found that there's a cop who represents all cops, so you can't get off by virtue of the ticket-issuing cop not showing up in court. Also, you're not before a judge but rather in front of a hearings official. You go up and sit in front of the cop and the official who reads what the ticket says and then asks you for your story. You have the right to appeal the official's decision to a real judge and almost everyone who was found responsible did.

When it was my turn I went up there and gave my story. The official asked me where the guy with the stroller was standing, on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk. On the sidewalk, I said. "Not responsible," he said, rolling his eyes. That was my day in court and another day in Beantown.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Colorado Vacation Cont'd.

I went through my photos of my vacation in Colorado earlier this evening. We went to Denver, up into the mountains to the Red Rocks ampitheater, to Leadville, Nederland, Frisco, Castle Rock, and also Fort Collins, plus passing through others. We stopped briefly in Boulder but didn't walk around much there. We rented a car and drove 941 miles in eleven days.

Denver is a pretty cool city. It's a mixture of old and new and while the new is rapidly replacing the old, the old is being preserved nicely as the new takes over. Downtown Denver boasts a free, environmentally correct shuttle bus that will run you from one side of the downtown area to the other side.

The city has created a mile or so long shopping area called the 16th Street mall but it's really just a downtown street that's been dressed up and is car-free. It basically runs east and west across the downtown area, roughly from the library (which is in the same area is the museum of art and the state capitol) to what's called uptown, near the light rail station you get off of to get to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies Baseball team.

Julie's son, who now lives in Denver, her brother-in-law and all the other residents are hoping the Rockies make it to the World Series. I hope the Red Sox do too, and put a hurt on the Rockies, but that's getting into the future.

Anyway, back to Denver. We walked around Larimer Square, which is a restored part of town in which Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickcock, Doc Holliday, and others used to hang out in back in the 19th century. Now the street is all shops and bars but the buildings have been preserved so you can sort of get a little nostalgia going, even with the cars parked on the side, instead of horses.

I was really impressed by all the public art that's on display. Some of the art projects are huge. Looking into the Convention Center is a 30 foot high blue bear. There's a sculpture of two figures running that must be 50 feet tall. All over downtown there's art.

My favorite part of downtown, actually two places, was the Tattered Cover Book Store and the Mercury Cafe. The book store is an independently owned place that, while a retail book store, is replete with old sofas and wooden tables and chairs. They have coffee and light food, too. It is such a neat store, though, that you want to just hang out there. Read. Drink coffee. Talk. Hang out.

The Mercury Cafe is a vegetarian restaurant that is a throw-back to the 60's, except that back in the day hardly anyone had piercings and/or tattoos. Now, of course.... Upstairs there's a dance floor and stage. We went on Swing dance night, took the lesson and stayed to dance for a while. I would recommend anyone going to Denver, unless you're real straight and conservative, to stop in to the Mercury Cafe for lunch or dinner. It's definitely a place to go to. Eat. Talk. Hang out. Dance. Some weekday evenings they show films, host benefits, of the kind you'll never see in mainstream America.

Leadville was very cool. Red Rocks, the ampitheater, is very cool, too, and is located in what's called the Front Range. You come across the Plains, flat as a pancake and as hot as one just off the grill, and hit the mountains. That's why Denver's such a big city; people came across the Plains, saw the Platte River, looked at the Front Range, said "I think I'll just stop here," and so Denver came to be. Leadville, however, is in the mountains. Up in the mountains. It took the cry "gold is in them thar hills" to get folk out of Denver and up to Leadville.

Leadville, a small town, was almost the capital of Colorado. Had the gold and silver mines held out a few years longer, it may have been. As it is, Leadville is in an upswing. Almost all of the downtown area of Leadville has been preserved and restored; there's a bunch of micro-breweries/restaurants, and Leadville boasts of having more museums than any other city in the state. Nine of them. We didn't get a chance to visit any, even though there was interest in going to the National Mining Hall of Fame. I guess you can't do it all. I did get a shirt from Melanzana, a cottage industry in Leadville that makes and sells really nice clothing for people who go outdoors.

The homes the residents live in, the houses, these little rectangular two story structures that are no bigger than a Fells Point row home, are all painted up in brilliant colors. They reminded me of Bradenton, Florida, the way the owners have dressed them up. In the dead of winter, the town under 20 feet of snow, there will be this panoply of colors reflecting in the whiteness in sub-zero temperatures. Got to be hardy to live up in the mountains. Maybe that's why there's so many micro-breweries in Colorado.

As we swung over the mountains and thru the passes, we saw Vail, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, and a couple other ski resorts. As there wasn't any snow yet, there wasn't any skiing, either. We did stop in a chocolate store though, and bought some awesome chocolate made on the premises.

More later.