Sunday, July 30, 2006

Big Dig Boston Blog

James Taylor, Never Die Young

We were ring-around-the-rosy children
They were circles around the sun
Never give up, never slow down
Never grow old, never ever die young

Synchronized with the rising moon
Even with the evening star
They were true love written in stone
They were never alone, they were never that far apart

And we who couldn't bear to believe they might make it
We got to close our eyes
Cut up our losses into doable doses
Ration our tears and sighs ...

Oh, hold them up, hold them up
Never do let them fall
Prey to the dust and the rust and the ruin
That names us and claims us and shames us all
boston big dig panorama

It's about time—lots and lots of time plus lots and lots of $$$, making the now-notoriously legendary CA/T Central Artery/Tunnel project, a.k.a. Big Dig the most expensive public works project ever in the history of this realm of the Americas; the latest cost quote I could find cited $14.6 billion, spelled out as $14,600,000,000. But trust Boston to do things right—maybe especially when it comes to scale! After all, when the Red Sox finally won the World Series, they wowed the entire world by coming back from 0 for 3 in that series, and from an incalculable disadvantage for oh so many seasons prior to 2004.

The Big Dig operates under the aegis of the Turnpike Authority! "Mass Pike" evokes drives to Lenox and Stockbridge; I have memories of betting $2.00 on Mass Pike to place or show at Suffolk Downs.

Most expensive...what then are we to say about this? From scripture's standpoint of covenantal justice, what was happening and what's going on now? Lots of pork doled out for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' congressional delegation's constituency: that's a fact. Has The Big Dig generated a lot of jobs? At what wages? Employment for people who otherwise might not have been working? How about the multiplier effect TBG has had on companies and corporations that mine and manufacture inputs for physical infrastructure? Kickbacks? Must've been a lot of those, and not only because TBG is about Massachusetts, but simply because Tip O'Neill's aphorism about back room deals always obtains.

Of course you gotta consider cost-benefit ratio; whenever I use the word "even" I always feel like apologizing, but even within the closely linked temporal/spiritual sphere, you need to give up some thing to get a desired other thing. Therefore let's ask, "Who has benefited and how? Who will continue to benefit?" While I was living, or sojourning – or whatever you want to call it – in Boston during summer 2000, my friend and housemate (landlord, too) Nick frequently ventured out to artistic and musical venues (churches, too, but Nick and church is another story for another blog). One afternoon he returned home and told me about a building-to-building art exhibition he'd just experienced in the South End. Among the details he described a couple of guys living in a loft that amazingly was appointed exactly according to the early 1970s—"red candles melting down the sides of Chianti bottles and a paisley tablecloth, too." Meanwhile, Nick exclaimed, the entire world outside their windows was being disrupted for about the 345,567,678th time, but between their nirvana and their painterly endeavors they remained oblivious. Immediately outside their studio loft home, TBG kept noisily rolling along.

But I began asking about benefits, and for sure government of all sizes has learned it is no more politically correct than it is morally so to dislocate lives and families by destroying their habitats and disarticulating their physical environments which, after all, have become an integral aspect of their psychological and spiritual milieus. JT speaks of sighs and tears, and agonizingly I recall tearfully sighing at yet another fire-gutted building, yet another boarded-up house. During my high school years, live experiences of blockbusting, white flight, redlining, urban blight and inner-city decay made me learn to cut up my losses into doable doses...just the same as my current style of operating. I'm not sure, however, those concerns need to be part of a chronicle about TBG?! No more razing – and killing – communities to present the outside world another Lincoln Center in the wake of needless unredemptive death; no more demolished West Ends...the world learned what transpired in those and closely-related "cases" hardly amounted to resurrection! But nonetheless, we did study them seriously in my Urban Studies program courses—you know Case Studies in Urban Renewal.

boston big dig scene 18

In the Hebrew scriptures God refers to the city Shiloh – one of the shrines of the Tribal Confederacy – as the place God's Name first dwelt. The city! Not the apparently forsaken desert of wilderness wanderings that yet was the site of identity-formation and teeming with undetected life beneath the immediately observable, but the city: communications, infrastructure, cash transactions, middle-class and middle-person, near-infinite cultural and ethnic and educational diversity, where people imagine they know the source and time of their next meal and next pay envelope or paycheck, imagining themselves no longer dependent upon gracious gift, imagining their living actually secured—but by what means, and by whom? There's well-developed theology about the concept of God's Name/God's Presence in the Hebrew Bible, and centuries later, we have Martin Luther's theology of the ubiquity of the Risen and Ascended Christ. Ubiquity: the Crucified, Risen and Ascended One indwells The Big Dig and all its artifacts and excrescences! Yes!

With at least a half-dozen more blogs in mind and needing to be in class at 7:00 tomorrow morning, I'll sign off from this with a couple more song lyric quotes; just in case you even wondered, I'll tell you JT is one of my favorite songwriters and performers. Beyond the referenced song and album, I'm not familiar with Martin Page or much more so with Eddie Money, whom I heard at a pre-Winter Olympics campaign rally in Salt Lake City during the mid-1990's, and a few Faith Journeys back I quoted "Peace in Our Time." I'll try to retrieve a copy of that document and blog it onto this far by faith.

Martin Page, "In the House of Stone and Light":
O Mount Kailas, uncover me
Come my restoration; wash my body clean
I've been walking along a crooked path
Where the walls have fallen and broken me in half ...
I'm telling you I will not rest till I lay down my head
In the house of stone and light
I make my way; O gonna be such a beautiful day
In the house of stone and light
Eddie Money, Peace In Our Time, from The Sound Of Money
Never gonna break down the walls
And build the prison with the stone
Cause you and I know what love is worth
We're gonna build a heaven on earth
Running in the wheels of fortune turning water into wine
Gonna make love the bottom line gonna find peace in our time
We're gonna build a heaven here on earth
Turning water, water into wine making love the bottom line
Finding peace, peace in our time

public domain photographs from wikimedia commons

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