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"He’s a little crazy right now. He goes to Rhode Island School of Design, and his final project was to design a building. What architects take years to do, he has to do in a month." That’s what I like about other people's cell phones, if the talker isn’t driving or shouting. I get glimpses into the worlds of strangers.

The young man I’m overhearing at the moment is seated directly behind us in the train between Boston and New York.

"Morocco, yeah, it’s kind of been popping up…yeah, it sounds really good…, yeah…, yeah, huh! I guess India’s not much different. It sounds as if the cities are intense, and that’s where the tourism is… uh huh…."

India does not happen to be on my agenda. There too many places I want to return to, Taiwan, Israel, Mexico, rather than take on somewhere new. Maybe I’m getting too old, though Adolph’s sister, Merle, whom we just visited, is almost seven years older than I am and is going to Israel this month, next month to India, later on leading, with her husband, Marshall, a trip along the Silk Route.

"It’s good to talk to you again. I love you. Give my love to Grandpa…. I love you, too."

It’s night, we’re passing through Stamford, less than an hour to New York. That’s why I’m blogless, a Boston Barmitzvah’s to blame. But I’d better skip the blame game. The fact is busyness is the scourge of the 21st century, for those who are lucky. Lights suddenly go out, I’m writing in the dark, back on, an anticlimax. On or off, I haven’t seen the face of the man behind. I probably never will, just want to let his words simmer. Lights out again.

As I left the Shorewood Fitness Center last week, I overheard another cell phone conversation, a man walking to his car. "I’m about to go home now, call you when I get there," and a train of questions chugged through my head. How many people on earth can say I’m about to go home and actually have a home to go to, not a refugee camp, a shelter, a tin shack, a nook under a bridge? How many can say with confidence I’ll call you when I get there, knowing it’s safe to walk or ride, no shooting, no war, no drug dealers, forest fires,hurricanes, tsunamis?

Do we have any idea of what portion of the world has no home to go home to? Is afraid to walk the streets, if there are streets? And on the Amtrak train I think of revisiting Taiwan, Israel, or Mexico, while the young man behind us contemplates trips to India or Morocco. The man outside the Shorewood Fitness Center ambles to his car, talking on his cell, ready to drive home, sure of getting there.

And the millionaires and billionaires in Washington plot new ways to avoid paying taxes.


diversity, environment, Shorewood

When I got back from New York last week, I found a message in my inbox that made me muse on what qualities make a village a great place to live, at least for me. There’s location, of course: trees, flowers, gardens, parks, maybe even a lake or river, breathable air, livable homes, convenient shopping, nearby cultural events. Walkability. Bike-ability. Bus-ability.

Then there’s the people factor: diversity in every sense, ethnic, racial, economic, religious, age, a community of people who care about the arts, education, social justice, the environment, of people who are informed. I could continue, but I want to return to the inbox message, which concerned the possible development by Sunrise Senior Living of land along the river. So I googled Sunrise Senior Living and found articles in The New York Times, The Business Journal, and The Washington Post, just for starters.

After I wrote this, I saw that Dave Tatarowics had already posted the same message, from Tim Vargo, on December 17. But in case you haven’t read it, I’ll repost it so you can read it now and ask yourself: Is this really where we want to go? Will this improve the quality of life here? Will it help Shorewood become a prototype of a green community?

Dear Shorewood friends,
Some of you may have heard about a proposal to tear down the Riverbrook Restaurant and the Sherburn place apartments (where I live) to put in a senior living center.
As a resident of the apartments and a professional in the field of research and environmental education,  I find SO MANY problems with the development from just about every angle.
1) The developers are not considering any green design.  They are tearing down perfectly good buildings and bringing in all new materials.
2) The developer when asked about green building showed no interest and gave misinformation to the zoning committee. Specifically, she said LEED Certification, (the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability) meant nothing more than slapping a green roof on the building.
3) Green design is not only environmentally friendly, but it is functional and considers the use of the building and the residents that live there.
 4 ) The developer is advertising river views from the upper floors but assured me through some magic of landscaping that you won't see the building from the river
 5 ) It's a HUGE 4-story, cookie-cutter box  building from a national chain of senior living centers in which the owners are facing lawsuits for fraud and neglect  (Sunrise Senior Living) .   This is so against what I feel are the strengths of Shorewood - walkable neighborhoods with locally owned businesses.  If senior living is truly needed, it would be easier to swallow this change if this were the future of sustainable design in senior living, designed by Kubala-Washatko, something Shorewood could be proud of.  This is a valuable piece of real estate, and the change they create will be around for a long time.  (And I think the building is hideous)
6) We will lose one of the only pockets of diversity in Shorewood where there is relatively affordable living (Sherburn Apartments) and sit-down dining (Riverbrook).  I ate brunch at the Riverbrook on Saturday and was floored by how packed the place was and by the degree of diversity I observed.
7) There are currently 50 people at Sherburn apartments, including families, some elderly, and people that have lived there almost thirty years.  At any time these people could get 30 days notice to leave according to the owner who has had terrible communication (virtually none) with the residents or even the building manager.
The truth is, for me this will be an inconvenience - I've moved around a lot.  For others this will be a life upheaval.
The project is still in its preliminary stages, but if nothing is done, it will undoubtedly move forward.  Please forward this to friends or anyone else who you feel may have an interest in this project.  These are elected officials making this decision and it's up to us to make sure they represent their constituents over an outside developer.
Thank you for your support!
Tim Vargo


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