17 July 2016

Geography and Convenience

We've been going to Trader Joe's since the store on Memorial Drive opened in... 1999? I'm not exactly sure when it opened, but it was quite a while ago. I even worked there for the better part of a year. There are now 18 stores in Massachusetts (plus two in southern New Hampshire and one in Rhode Island), but we've never managed to get a store closer to where we live. Sometimes we go to the TJ's on route 1 in Saugus, not because it's closer or more convenient but because it's an easier drive from our house, compared to driving through Somerville and Cambridge's always-terrible traffic.

But then a couple of months ago, it was announced that Trader Joe's would be opening a store next year in the Assembly Row complex in Somerville that is roughly two miles from our house. (Our previous residence in Somerville was technically within walking distance of Assembly Square/Row, but it was a bit treacherous to get there.) The newer buildings that were constructed a few years ago were set up for smaller retail and don't have the amount of floor space required for a grocery store, even one like TJ's that's quite a bit smaller than a modern supermarket.

But the older part of the complex, which at one time was a traditional enclosed mall and, long before that, a Ford auto assembly plant (hence the name), is composed of medium-size floor plates and currently occupied by stores like Staples, TJ Maxx/Home Goods, AC Moore, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Christmas Tree Shops. A vacancy came about due to the demise of the Sports Authority chain. I have no idea how Trader Joe's secured the space, but someone must have had someone else on speed dial because it seemed to fall into place pretty quickly after the Sports Authority liquidation and closings were announced.

We've been going to the movies at Assembly Row since the AMC theater opened there, and the popularity of the complex has brought plenty of traffic. It's all right on the surrounding roads, but within the complex itself things can get chaotic. I imagine this will only get worse when the Trader Joe's opens, but I am hoping that Somerville will allow this store to be open until 10 pm like the ones in Brookline and Cambridge (most close at 9). That would give us some flexibility in when we shop and might help us avoid some congestion.

There's also a grocery-related development happening here in Medford. The Wegmans chain, based in Rochester, NY, has been growing quite a bit over the past decade and currently has four stores in MA. They distinguish themselves from competitors by building enormous stores (100,000 square feet is not unusual) with huge prepared-food sections, a response to our culture's desire for greater convenience. Wegmans has agreed to open a store at the site of the Meadow Glen Mall on route 16, about a mile from our house (and closer than the nearest Whole Foods).

The mall was awful, mostly empty with a few tired, sad stores kept afloat by a Kohl's on one end and a Marshalls on the other. (It was used by some seniors for indoor walking, and I don't know where they will go now for their exercise.) The property owners arrived at an interesting solution: the anchor stores have remained and are open while the middle section of the mall building has been demolished, and the Wegmans is going to be built in its place. We have heard that the store will open next year, but the Wegmans website lists it as TBD.

Meanwhile we have made a couple of visits to the closest open store, in Burlington, to sample the offerings. While not life-changing, they were certainly tasty, no more expensive than comparable items one might purchase elsewhere, and the staff were uniformly very pleasant and helpful. (The chocolate-chunk cookies with pecans are worth a repeat visit.)

Again it will be interesting to see how traffic is affected; there is also a proposal for an almost 500-unit apartment complex to be built on land directly across the street from the mall property (ironically, there used to be a Shaw's supermarket there). Neighbors have protested that the housing development would be too dense for the size of the property, and the Wegmans is likely to add significantly to traffic in and out of the area.

The Wegmans was announced first, but the Trader Joe's seems more likely to open first. Either way, upon hearing of the latter the Mrs. responded, "I guess we can never move." That remains to be seen...

02 July 2016


Some events have occurred in our lives in recent months that I did not specifically discuss here, mainly because I find it difficult to devote time to blogging on my current schedule. So I'm going to take advantage of the long weekend and the brief pause in my regular activity to do a little catching up.

In February we had to say goodbye to our beloved greyhound London. She was 14 and a half, a ripe old age for a dog, and as would be expected that age brought with it a general decline in her health. For most of 2015 we were able to manage her needs, but by January nearly every aspect of her everyday life had grown very difficult. She had a hard time getting up from her bed, she needed to go out every couple of hours, she needed to be supported when squatting outside and when going up and down the ramp.

While she still enjoyed going outside and still had a good appetite for the food that the Mrs. cooked for her, she was on a lot of painkilling medication and had reached a point where she could no longer stand up by herself long enough to finish eating a meal. She was not suffering, but she was definitely struggling, and after some soul-searching and an objective assessment of the situation, we came to the conclusion that propping her up with higher doses of medication for another couple of months, or however much longer she remained with us, was not worth pursuing. We did not want her life to end in suffering, so we made a humane choice to have her euthanized.

Be assured this was a very difficult decision, one we had hoped we would not have to make. Every day I quietly wished that she might go to sleep and simply not wake up, in order to be spared any further decline, but that didn't happen. It is an inevitable part of the cycle of being a pet owner, or pet parent, or pet caretaker, and it's incredibly hard but it must be done. We have never doubted that we made the right decision, and beyond that I feel more human for having had this experience. We miss her every day.

At the beginning of June we marked ten years living in this apartment. We lived in our previous home for nearly 11 years, and I did not think we would remain here this long, but I have no regrets about it. My lengthy period of unemployment certainly got in the way of any thoughts of moving, and with the housing situation in greater Boston being what it is, living elsewhere would certainly be costing us a lot more; in the time we have been here, our rent has not increased, an extremely fortunate circumstance.

We are starting to feel that it would be nice to have a bit more space, like one more room that could be used as a dedicated office, so that we could then have a dedicated dining room. But I don't feel like my situation is stable enough yet to consider trying to find another place to live, so we will be remaining here for another year, at least. We really like our community, which is a definite asset, and if we do end up moving, we hope we can remain in this city.