Category Archives: Boston

Book review: The Girl in the Boston Box by Chuck Latovich

I just finished reading local author, Chuck Latovich, debut novel, The Girl in the Boston Box. The 400+ page book published in Cambridge by Way We Live Publishers tells the story of two people living in Boston and Cambridge. One is a down-and-out gay man (Mark) who is estranged from his family and wallowing in self-pity after a break up and the other is a young woman (Caitlyn) studying architecture history at Harvard, who is intrigued by a rumor that some nineteenth century Boston architects may have built hidden rooms in homes of wealthy Bostonians called a “Boston Box”. Initially thinking these were part of the Underground Railroad, her research points to a far more salacious and disturbing reason for these hidden spaces. Mark and Caitlyn’s path ultimately cross as the result of a murder and an unexpected connection between the two and the victim.

This is an enjoayble read filled with short, punchy chapters that kept me reading late into the night. Murder mystery and detective literature fans will enjoy the twists and turns of this well written story. I loved how Latovich used Boston and Cambridge as the backdrop with much of the story taking place in the South End, Fenway and Harvard Square neighborhoods.

This book can be purchased online at Amazon but you can also check with your local bookstore to see if they will order you a copy.

New England’s first LGBTQ-friendly housing facility for seniors gets green light

Rendering by DIMELLA SHAFFER/MIKYOUNG KIM DESIGN

In 1902 The William Barton Rogers school in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood opened its doors to admit students. Initially a high school that later had boarding space for students, it was most recently a middle school before closing its doors in 2015. This August the Boston Planning and Development Agency approved plans to convert this building into a 74-unit LGBTQ-friendly apartment building for seniors (62+ years old) and earlier this week the Zoning Board of Appeal gave their approval.

The developer plans to preserve the entirety of the school and the architecturally significant interior and exterior elements, including the gymnasium and auditorium as well as a few classrooms that will be repurposed for community use. The developer is planning to create 27 studios, 39 one-bedroom apartments and 9 two-bedroom apartments. with 50 of the units to be rented to people making no more than 60% of the the Boston area-median income.

This development will be the first building in New England designed for LGBTQ seniors, but I do hope it is not the last and am curious to follow the progress of this development. There was no word on a completion date.

Boston ranked one of the best US cities by Conde Nast readers

Boston Public Garden

Earlier this week, Boston was named among the three best large cities in America by Conde Nast Traveler readers. The publication’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards ranked Boston No. 3 with Washington, D.C. taking second and Chicago ranked as the best.

More than 750,000 of their readers participated in the online survey between April 1 and June 30, 2020. The publication was very complimentary about my hometown writing, “For one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston sure has aged with style. To get a quick refresher on our nation’s history, walk the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile route along a string of historic sites that takes you through the country’s founding. Other activities worth adding to your itinerary include slurping up oysters at Neptune, visiting the eclectic salon-style art display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and catching a ball game at Fenway Park. Just be sure to learn the words to ‘Sweet Caroline’ before you go.

Rounding out the Top 10 list of best large cities are:

4. New Orleans, LA

5. San Antonio, TX

6. New York, NY

7. San Diego, CA

8. Nashville, TN

9. Tucson, AZ

10. St. Petersburg, FL

While I can understand how a few of these cities made the list, I’m left wondering how is New Orleans still considered a large city with a population of less than 400,000 people, and how could cities like Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle be omitted?

Conde Nast Traveler readers also ranked their favorite small cities (places with populations less than 250,000), which you can check out here.

The Charles River Esplanade

Better known as “The Esplanade”, this state-owned park in the Back Bay is probably best known today for hosting the city’s annual July 4th celebration with the Boston Pops. However, this 17-mile stretch of parkland that snakes alongside the Charle River offers so much more and is one of my favorite parks.

The birth of “The Esplanade”
The park was created in 1910 when the Charles River Dam Bridge was created and was called the Boston Embankment. In the late 20s and early 30s this parkland saw major expansion, widening the narrow strip of land and extending the park. This incluced adding the first of what would be several lagoons, boat landings, playgrounds and more including a temporary bandshell. In the summer of 1929 Arthur Fiedler performed for the first time with the Boston Pops.

Sailing and other popular activities at the Hatch Shell
Approximately 30 years after the park was opened the Hatch Memorial Shell was constructed in 1941. This was possible because of a generous posthumous donation from Maria Hatch in memory of her brother. Boating and sailing on the Charles River started in the 1930s and due to its popularity in 1946 Community Boating was created as the country’s first public boating program. Where for a modest fee, thousands of people each year can learn to sail on the Charles River.

Storrow Drive and the Esplanade expansion
The next major change to the Esplanade began in 1949. The construction of Storrow Drive significantly reduced the size of the park. To make up for the lost land additional islands with crisscrossing paths were created. In the 1960s the park was linked to adjoining parkland and bike paths were added. These paths remain popular for biking and running and this free Esplanade map is used by many to calculate distances between bridges.

Gay cruising along the Esplanade
For decades Beacon Hill was the neighborhood of choice for Boston’s gay community. Its proximity to the seedy Scollay Square which is no more and access to public land like the Boston Common and Esplanade provided men an opportunity to meet under the cover of night to cruise for sex. By the 1980s most of Boston’s gay community had moved out of Beacon Hill and the park became less popular for casual sex.

The Esplanade park remains a favorite for Bostonians and tourists alike. The park is regularly used for concerts, outdoor movies, hosting exercise classes and large gatherings for charities. Each day thousands run, bike and walk along the parks’ paths and many come to relax, reflect and enjoy time with friends or someone special.

Southie power plant plan is scaled back

The massive development in Southie known as the L Street Station, which will replace the old Edison Power Plant (shown above), has been updated according to an article published by the Boston Business Journal earlier this week.

The 15 acre property which aims to convert the Edison Turbine Hall in South Boston into a mixed use development has been scaled back and will now include 630+ residential units, a 231-room hotel, more than 520,000 square feet of office space, approximately 335,000 square feet of R&D space, and nearly 85,000 square feet of retail space. The property will also include nearly 6 acres of open space as well as a commitment to give a $10 million (or $670,000 annual for 15 years) operating subsidy to the MBTA to help with additional service on the Route 7 and Route 9 buses.

Initially the project proposal also included nearly 1,400 parking spaces but I was not able to see if that has changed. The project still needs final approval from city and state in addition to Massport lifting its restriction that prevents residential development on the site.

Boston’s Nubian Square

Nubian Square (formerly Dudley Square) is the commercial center of the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston and is located at the intersection of Dudley Street and Washington Street. The heart of this newly renamed neighborhood is less than 1.5 miles from the center of the South End (Tremont and Clarendon).

The neighborhood is still very much in transition, and I like the urban vibe.  While new residences continue to be built, there is a community that calls this home that I hope will always be welcome there and not be pushed out as investment continues to bring more housing and commercial space.

Photo credit: Black Market Nubian Square

Nubian Square has been the center of African American culture in Boston since the end of WWII. Previously, it was better known as a Jewish neighborhood but it would become home to some of the 20th century’s most influential African Americans. In the early 1940s Malcolm Little (better known as Malcolm X) moved into his family home at 72 Dale Street as a teenager and lived there for 12 years. Martin Luther King Jr. met and fell in love with Coretta Scott King when they were both students in Boston in the early 1950s and lived a short walk from Dudley Square (the former name of Nubian Square).

In the decades that followed many more influential African Americans would call this neighborhood home, or when visiting Boston this is where they would go out. In the early part of the 21st Century as Boston’s wealth grew, greater investment in surrouding neighborhoods helped breathe new life into this culturally and racially diverse neighborhood. It is now a vibrant neighborhood that reminds me of the South End 20+ years ago. A wide variety of small businesses dominate the streetscape with very few exceptions.

As the photos above show, the area has beautiful architecture and public art like the Crisscross Signal Spire shown just above. This is an interactive work of light art designed by Höweler + Yoon Architecture. The spire visualizes social media content with its integrated LED lighting system in real-time, more information about the sculpture here.

As you might expect, the neighborhood is also home to some great (and affordable) restaurants. EaterBoston shared a list of some of their reader’s favorite destinations last August which I encourage you to read here. Dining options range from West African flavors of Bintimani Restaurant and Suya Joint to East African cuisine of Fasika (a favorite of BosGuy reader, Giuseppe Di Capiro) to soul food of Maxine’s.

The neighborhood also has several interesting cafes like Dudley Cafe and Haley House Bakery and Cafe which relocated from the South End as well as grocery shops like Tropical Foods, but my favorite is the nonprofit community grocer, the Daily Table.

*****     *****     *****

Is there a neighborhood you think I should visit? I love exploring neighborhoods, villages and towns and would like to hear what you love about where you live.

Machine / Ramrod in Fenway to be demolished

This past Thursday applications were filed with the city to demolish the commercial buildings in the Fenway at 1252-1268 & 1270 Boylston Street. Some may recognize the address which is the home of Boston’s gay bar Machine / Ramrod  in Fenway. The series of small buildings that currently comprise this block will be demolished to make way for a 15-story,  225,000 square foot mixed-use project that will include 451 rental units above a ground-floor retail podium designed for a broad range of neighborhood-oriented culinary, lifestyle, and experiential tenants. The rental units will range in size from studios through 3 bedrooms. 15% of units, 68 in total will be affordable.

In recognition of the site’s important heritage and affiliation with the LGBTQ community, the building will also include the Boylston Black Box, a 10,000-square-foot LGBTQ-centric venue for the performing arts. The Boylston Black Box will be anchored by a 156-seat theater and will also include dedicated flex and community areas to serve as safe spaces. The Boylston Black Box will be delivered and operated on a not-for-profit basis.

Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission opens in Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco

Late last month the city of Boston announced it would form a “Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission” to review racial inequities, police violence and misconduct in the legal system.

Boston becomes one of just three cities to convene and pilot such a commission with the hope that more shall follow. District attorneys in Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco have all pledged to create the commissions with a goal of starting work as early as this fall.

Inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation commissions formed when apartheid ended in South Africa in the 1990s, these groups will be overseen by district attorneys who could decide to prosecute

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No. It's functioning exactly the way those who designed and built it intended it to function. It was not built to give us justice. It was built to oppress us. So today, we begin tearing it down, and replacing it with something imaginative and new, something redemptive. ⁣ ⁣ 25 years ago, in the shadows of Apartheid in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed to properly address generations of racial injustice that had been all but ignored. ⁣ ⁣ It’s TIME for the United States to do the same. ⁣ ⁣ Today we are announcing the formation of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission. ⁣ ⁣ In spite of all of our movements for change, the thing we call the justice system in the United States has never been a reliable, competent, compassionate, professional, respectful tool for justice for tens of millions of Americans. ⁣ ⁣ Instead, it has often been a cruel and oppressive force of injustice for African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, immigrants, members of the LGBTQIA community, and all marginalized communities. Consequently, when marginalized people have needed to finally rely on this system for justice, it has routinely failed them in the worst ways imaginable. This isn't a bug in the system, but a feature. It's operating exactly the way it was designed and built to function. That’s why we’re imagining and building something new.⁣ ⁣ Today, in partnership with the District Attorneys of San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Boston – Chesa Boudin, Larry Krasner, and Rachael Rollins, we are announcing the formation of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission to actually process and address the injustices of the past that simply were not given the time, attention, and dignity that they deserved. We expect the formation process to last at least until this fall when the local commissions will then announce the next steps for impacted individuals and families to formally submit cases to be considered.⁣ ⁣ Follow us today. ⁣ ⁣ Join us and support the work @ TJRC.org or by clicking the link in our bio.

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Wicked Queer Festival will be streamed starting July 24

Boston’s 36th annual Wicked Queer festival, had been scheduled to open in early April, but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus. Fortunately, the organizers were able to reimagine the festival so fans of queer film (no matter where you live) can access and watch this year’s fantastic festival on Xerb TV, from Friday, July 24 – Sunday, August 2.

This year’s festival can be viewed by anyone who loves queer film 

To participate in this year’s festival you can register to watch individual films for $10 or a variety of packages starting at $30.00. This easy-to-follow video shares how to attend this year’s Wicked Queer Film Festival on Xerb TV.

Boston’s Wicked Queer Festival
Friday, July 24 – Sunday, August 2
Xerb TV calendar (includes date & time for each film)

For updates, visit wickedqueer.org.

Boston Pops July 4th celebration

Photo Credit: Kelly Automotive

The Boston Pops annual fireworks show was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Pops will still offer patriotic music and fireworks during “A Boston Pops Salute to Our Heroes,” a pre-recorded performance airing July 4th.

This year’s program will pay tribute to the front line workers and those who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 public health crisis and will air on Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg Radio, and Boston’s WHDH-TV, on Saturday, July 4, starting at 8 p.m.

Boston sees smallest drop off in hiring in US

LGBT Boston, gay life bostonThe 20 biggest American cities saw significant drop in hiring in April according to LinkedIn. With one exception – Boston. Looking at regional trends, LinkedIn found that all but one of the 20 largest U.S. metropolitan areas showed an April drop of 20% to 40% in their hiring rates, as compared with the previous month. Boston by contrast, saw its hiring decline just 6.8% month-over-month in April.

The industries that have fared best thus far (health care, education and technology) comprise a significant, if not an out-sized, footprint in Boston’s economy and is credited for such a shallow dip in hiring in the region.

20.5 Million Americans lose jobs in April
US  unemployment rate soars to 14.7%

This may be of little comfort to those who have lost their jobs or seen their hours and income reduced, but it hopefully means that Boston remains more resilient and as a region we can emerge from this economic downturn more quickly. You can read the full article on LinkedIn here: April’s U.S. hiring plunged 23.9%, but a few vital sectors kept adding people.

Will Boston’s gay bars survive COVID

Boston, boston cityscapeRecently, Alex Reimer wrote an interesting article asking  the same question about gay bars in the US for Outsports where he is the deputy managing editor. Because he is a Massachusetts native the article references places we are all familiar with if you live in Boston and makes the read all the more personal.

Will gay bars survive the coronavirus shutdown? 

In addition to the lost revenue, in approximately 5 weeks Boston’s gay bars will take another hit when Boston’s Gay Pride Week was suppose to occur. Pride Week brings out people to celebrate and all of Boston’s gay bars see a bump; a bump this year they will not benefit from. I do worry about Boston’s few, remaining gay bars and Provincetown’s highly leveraged bars that make their money from popular theme weeks and summer travelers.

Give Alex’s article a read, because like Alex – these bars are important to me as well and I hope they can emerge from this pandemic. The few bars that remain enrich LGBTQ life here in Bostson and will need your support as well.

Boston Pride postponed to June 2021

Earlier today Boston Pride announced that the 50th annual Boston Pride celebration will be postponed to Saturday, June 12, 2021. For those of you who already registered for the 2020 Festival, Boston Pride organizers have shared the following options listed below.

+ You may transfer your 2020 registration fee to the 2021 festival.  Boston Pride will communicate with you about the new registration process for the 2021 festival that opens on November 15, 2020 and we will apply your payment towards that registration.

+ You may have the fee refunded (minus the processing fee if payment was made with a credit card) and the registration canceled.  If you paid by credit we will make the refund to the card on file unless you tell us otherwise. If you paid by check, please tell us who to make the check to and who to send it to.

+ You may convert all or part of your registration fee into a tax-deductible charitable donation to Boston Pride, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

For more details, visit bostonpride.org/festival.

Scenes from Boston & Provincetown’s Nightlife

“in love in provincetown, 1936” source: woolfandwilde.com

Boston’s History Project is hosting an interesting virtual event this Thursday at 7PM with a good friend of mine that you may find very interesting.

All are welcome to join local author and History Project board member Russ Lopez for a reading from his book The Hub of the Gay Universe: An LGBTQ History of Boston, Provincetown, and Beyond.  Russ will share fun stories about Provincetown and Boston nightlife through the years.

Thursday, April 2nd at 7:00PM
Register on Zoom

This is free but donations are always gratefully accepted. Click here to support The History Project’s mission to document, preserve, and share LGBTQ history.

Boston’s first marijuana dispensary (finally) opens on Monday

Marijuana was made legal after the question was put to voters at the ballot box in 2016. Statewide 53.7% of the vote was in favor of legalization with 46.3% voting against “Question 4” as it came to be known. In the city of Boston even more of the electorate (67%) voted in favor of legalizing marijuana.

The current Mayor of Boston and Governor of Massachusetts did everything they could to slowdown and complicate the process for paving the way for businesses to open. However, on Monday, Boston will FINALLY have its first recreational marijuana shop.

Pure Oasis pot shop is located at 430 Blue Hill Avenue between Jones Hill and Eglston Square. Their daily hours of operation are between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Pure Oasis happens to also be the first applicant under the economic empowerment equity programs created by the commissio, which gives priority to applicants from areas disenfranchised by the war on drugs.

You can read more about Boston’s first marijuana dispensary for recreational use, here.