Saturday, September 12, 2015


She's asleep now. She works so hard, and does so much.

Today I got up with the dogs. She doesn't get to sleep in often.

When we happened on that website, talking hockey ... of course, we couldn't know so much was ahead.

A spirited chat became an email exchange became phone numbers became hey what's going on here became ... everything.

Ten years ago today, the rest of the world had to acknowledge it.


If I've learned anything this past year, I've learned you have to kind of grab your own destiny as best you can, then hang on while life and reality buffets you about. Honey Badger don't care. Dad's gone. Mom is still here.

So are we. It hasn't always been easy. But it's always been worth fighting for.

Happy anniversary, M.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Meathead Moment

Heading west on Summer Street, the street becomes one-way at Kingston, so you've got to turn left there.

In the mornings — actually, almost all the time — that intersection is clogged with pedestrians. Cars turning left must hope there are limited jaywalkers, because this is Boston, and fuck you, and so they go when they want.

Today I began to wedge through. A meathead mashed his beefy hook against my car.

I've had it with this shit from these people. Crammed on the brakes. As I got out, Meat was there to greet me. I think he may have been a little surprised that I was at least 8 inches taller than he was.

Our "discussion"consisted of him telling me he had the right-of-way. (From the state's RMV handbook: "Pedestrians must obey white and orange DON’T WALK and WALK signals.")

He cocked his right arm as if he was going to punch me. I hope it unnerved him I didn't flinch. Plus, he was so close to me and the car, he couldn't have gotten much behind it. My argument consisted of "Dude, you know you're wrong."

Which, he seemed to be stupid, so he probably DIDN'T know, but, he continued to maintain that he had the right-of-way. After 20-30 seconds of this, I lifted my left hand to push him back a bit. He grabbed my Boston Marathon hat off my head (team spirit!) and hurled it into Summer Street, then hied his ass east.

I sent him on his way with the words "Boston Strong, asshole!" and that was the end of the story. Since I was blocking an intersection, I didn't go fetch the hat. A shame; I liked that hat.

This is a highly representative example, in my experience, of the Boston meathead. This place is thickly settled with them.

Also: As with so many other things in this enlightened state, the fine for jaywalking is laughably stupid. It's ... one dollar. Two, after a fourth offense in a year. Hell, they don't even take away your walker's license.

Anyway, this may have been a "straw" moment. I've set a deadline of end of summer 2017 to leave this place. Life's too short to be surrounded by these cretins.

Friday, June 26, 2015


The only person who ever called my dad "Charles" was his mother.

She's been dead for more than 40 years, but if there's an afterlife, I imagine he's being called "Charles" again today.

Dad's probably also playing golf, drinking beer, singing country songs and telling bad jokes.

And laughing. The man liked to laugh.


So when someone's heading for death, you accept it, but when it happens it's still hard.

I went to Lubbock last month to say goodbye. I told him I'd be back to watch Texas Tech play Arkansas in September, but I had my doubts about whether I'd actually be making that trip.

When my brother called yesterday, I felt it.

I know this is hokey, but it happened. I woke up at 5 a.m. yesterday morning after dreaming a weird dream about my dad. Dad did some ... idiosyncratic things. So this dream, while a bit bizarre, was also somewhat plausible.

It was set somewhere out west, maybe in Texas, but someplace flat and open. He did like his plains.

I will always think of him driving an ugly-ass van, like an Aerostar, although I think it was actually a Chevy. In the dream he was in an ugly-ass SUV, like OJ's Bronco.

The back end was open and he was handing me brown paper bags of random things. Like... useless things. I remember one seeming to have moldy celery stalks. I kind of shook my head in the dream, like "Really, dad?" But he handed 'em to me and I put them in my car.

The sky looked wide open to the west. We were in a parking lot by a highway.

Have at it, interpreters. It seems pretty obvious.

When I woke up, I thought "Oh man, this isn't one of those 'omen' dreams, is it?"


Driving to work on the Pike after I got the news, there was a semi truck headed west with big green letters on white siding: MIDLAND.



When Curtis told me, I had a shiver run through my body. It wasn't a literal shivering sensation, and it wasn't cold. But it was ... something. I felt it.


I took the news pretty well, and the only time I really got shook was when I told Bailey.

Me and my dad had some issues, and I've feared similar connectedness issues developing with her. Without getting into too much detail about the troubled, estranged relationships divorced dads can have with their children, I'll just say I wanted to be more present in Bailey's life.

Which was made difficult by moving away, twice. The first time, I was chasing something unidentified. I think I was kind of running away. Fortunately I figured out that was not the best idea, but the second time I had to move away.

It was the right play in the big picture, but hard on us. I could have handled it better, and I wish I'd had more support, but I didn't. Since I was the adult, I have to bear that.

But today, our relationship has been improving for some time, and I'm thrilled about that.

In a way, it got stronger today. I didn't know how to talk to her about this. Her and my dad weren't super close, but still...

Anyway, I got choked up, she got choked up... the elephant in the room is that people move out of the earthly plane, and some day she'll be the one making the calls.

I don't want that to happen, obviously, for a very long time.


My mom and dad split when I was five. I barely remember their life together.

Now, his history as I know it...

He was born in BFOklahoma on Dec. 20, 1933. The first child of Beulah and some guy named Castleberry. (Yeah, it's complicated. Bear with... ) Beulah was a simple woman, from what I'm told she was something of an "old maid" when she got married. I remember she went to Church of Christ and was apparently a zealot, believing that worshipers at other churches were doomed to Hell.

She liked to watch pro wrestling on TV. She baked delicious homemade bread and apple butter. She was a sweet old woman who seemed to have no life outside of church and family.

My dad would go on to have two brothers and two sisters. The youngest was Ronnie. And he was the first to go. When Ronnie died, the family went to Cordell, Okla., to bury him. It was the first time I had been there in almost 30 years, since we buried Beulah around Thanksgiving in 1973.

Dad and his sibs wanted to reminisce. Cordell is frozen in time; nothing changes. We drove to an area that was sparsely occupied and walked down a road in an almost empty field. We passed a dilapidated old barn. My dad revealed that to the best of his knowledge ... he was born there.

Born. In. A. Barn.

In the Depression. In Oklahoma.

I don't know much about his childhood other than to know it can't have been all rosy. Shortly before he turned 8 came the Day of Infamy.

As the story was told to me, sometime in 1946 or 1947, his father told Beulah he was going to Oklahoma City to look for work. She never saw him again.


So my dad was 13 with four younger siblings and a mother who likely had only been a housewife. Women in those days were sometimes teachers, but in a town like Cordell there wasn't much economic activity. It must have been incredibly hard. Not to mention embarrassing. Hey, that's the poor family whose dad ran out on them! There are no secrets in a town that small.

I cannot imagine how difficult that must have been. I believe it shaped my father's emotional character in a way he could never fully overcome.

I wish I had better details and knowledge of his life then. Dad just never would open up very much about it. It's one of the things I never got to understand and enjoy. I would have loved to know more about him. But he was pretty emotionally closed off. When I went to see him last month, I'd hoped he would give me something real, but he didn't. The last night I spent with him, I waited for him to go there. I knew if I tried, he'd hem and haw. So I had to let him take the lead.

He watched stupid TV shows instead. So it remains in darkness.


An enduring legend of Chuck came from his senior year in high school, which would have been 1951 or '52. He and two friends had been in a horrible car accident prior to the start of the school year. Riding three abreast and returning home from Oklahoma City, the car rear-ended a big truck that was cloaked in night. Dad was on the right. The boy in the middle was killed instantly. Dad had severe injuries; he bore a foot-long scar in his thigh the rest of his life and was in a body cast for many months.

So basically, screwed again. A time that theoretically could have given him some respite from the difficult path handed to him by his shitty father was instead full of hardship.

Dad played baseball, but his season was effectively over. Although he delighted in telling a story about how he finally regained some mobility in time to dress for the last game of the season. In his only at-bat, he got a hold of one and it flew over the outfielder's head. There were no fences in those days so it just kept rolling, and so did he. By the time the ball got back in he gimpily beat the throw and had a home run.

Joy. He was mobbed, and a friend named Max Deutschendorf bear-hugged him as he scored. Max told me this story to confirm it when we were in Cordell for Ronnie's funeral. Max' nephew John changed his last name to Denver and became a pretty big pop star in the '70s.


Dad served in the Army but dodged trouble as Korea had wound down.

He was stationed at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. That was the place that eventually was most known for being where Elvis had his hair cut.

There he met a dark-haired civilian girl working in the secretarial pool.

Mom says their first date was to see a Doris Day movie, "Calamity Jane." Insert punchline here. The movie was released Nov. 4, 1953.

They were married Jan. 30, 1954. Whirlwind romance!

Knowing my grandfather, I somehow doubt he was thrilled by all of this.


My parents lived in Fort Smith, Ark. They were due to have a baby in 1955.

Dad loved the flat, arid plains. After getting out of the Army he took a job as a postal carrier in some wide expanse of road called Midland, Texas.

I came along in 1959, and Curtis joined the party in early 1962.

I remember Curtis coming home for the first time. It's my earliest memory. Then I remember ridiculous car trips from Midland to Fort Smith in the back of an ugly lime green Oldsmobile station wagon. That's almost 600 miles. My parents would leave after work on Friday and drive it, then turn around Sunday afternoon for the return.

The other main memory I have of my dad was a family vacation to Colorado. I remember him scaring me at Mesa Verde. And I remember getting a flat tire on Pike's Peak, and as he changed the tire, our little dog Toto got out and ran off. My dad chased to catch him but he never came back.

I just remembered them taking me to see "Bambi." That's the first movie I remember seeing, and the re-release was in 1966. So I guess they were split or almost split.


Dad began a long stretch of living in mobile homes. I guess that's an apt metaphor -- the ability to move on always there. He got married again, and again, and again, and again. The last one took, though -- he and Jo were married almost 40 years.

I don't even remember No. 2.

No. 3 was Ruth, and she was a sweetheart, great sense of humor, fun. Dad moved to Dallas in 66 or 67, and mom's job moved her there as well. So we at least had some interaction in his life, but for a long time, our visits to see dad were not memorable.

I wish I knew what he was going through in those days. Pop psychology time: I feel pretty sure that all of this was a result of his abandonment as a child. Some people feel abandoned; he WAS abandoned. Those issues manifest in some people with a chronic inability to develop deep connections. Sad to say I think this is what hurt our relationship and some of those issues hit me in life.

I don't know why dad and Ruth didn't last. I suppose I could ask her.

No. 4 was crazy. Her daughter was murdered with someone else and their bodies were dumped into a lake. That was weird but I never really knew much about that or her. They weren't together long. Dad met Jo and that was that.


I only remember seeing dad sad a couple of times. Once was at Beulah's funeral. The other time I was 12 or 13. We were in the car on Woodall Rogers, and I remember him telling me he didn't have any money to get me a birthday present. He cried.

I also only remember seeing him mad only a couple of times, and both of them wound up unintentionally hilarious.

The first time was when he lived in Howe, Texas. The community had an activity center with a pool and a gameroom with a pool table. Dad could shoot a little pool.

My brother and I were outside. Being jerks to each other. Somehow he splashed me with cold water and I started to chase him. He ran into the clubhouse and I pursued. When we got in he yelled "You boys stop that fighting!" He came after us with a pool cue then hit a wet spot on the floor and did the splits.

Everyone roared with laughter. The Russian judge gave him a 7.

The second time he got mad was on a golf course. He hated woods, so used a 1-iron. Off the tee he butchered the shot, and was not pleased. He chunked the 1, yelled "Fuck!" and it whirly-birded down the fairway. Not quite as far as his drive.

My brother and I wanted to laugh but we also decided to stifle. But I still laugh now when I think about it.


I remember scattered things we did when I was young. A Dallas Chaparrals game at Moody. A Black Hawks game or two. A Rangers game.

Dad became an insurance claims adjuster, and whenever there was a disaster somewhere, he'd be off to work in some remote location. It suited him. I guess he was something of a loner.

He loved to golf, and he was pretty good at it. He liked his Coors, and he was pretty good at that, too.

But as I got older, we didn't get closer. I guess in some ways I wrote him off, but I had to. He just didn't want to invest much in me.

It used to bother me a lot. Sometime in the 90s Curtis and I were driving out to Lubbock for a visit. Halfway there I told him I was going to confront dad about his distance. Curtis talked me out of it.

I would have loved for him to have been more interested in me. But I think he didn't know how to really commit to something so scary as deep emotion, even with his oldest son.


I was the same way for a long time. I got into relationships then kept them a little at arm's length. I never was all-in. Sometimes I was more committed than other times, but ever letting someone completely in? That didn't really happen. Even when it seemed at the time I was giving 100 percent, I actually didn't.

Because that IS scary. It is difficult to feel safe. That was the greatest sadness in dad's life. He was with Jo a long time, so maybe he was all-in there. I don't think he was. I think she might agree.

He never was all-in with me. But Jo got him to try harder, and in the last 10-15 years, he did. He'd call and chat usually once a week or two, which was more than he'd ever done before. But most of the time that convo didn't last very long, and never got too deep.

It was the best he could do. He tried, and I had to learn that that was enough. I lost my anger, though not my sadness, but appreciated that he at least knew that the effort was worth something. At least, it was to me.


I saved a handful of voice messages from dad. It will give me a chance to hear his voice again sometimes.

It's a shame he didn't have a happier life. Knowing a little bit about how people sabotage themselves, I think that some of the bad behavior he engaged in contributed to the heart attacks/bypasses/strokes he weathered.

Toward the end as his health deteriorated Jo said he had some hard looks on his face at times. I fear that may have been some regret, but when he had a few chances to cut some of that down, he passed on it. I am just speculating.

But I forgive you dad. I know you had a bad hand.

I hope I've learned some lessons. I don't want to regret anything. It's partly why I went back to school, to kill those 26 hours unfinished since 1983. Dad saw me walk, even though he hadn't really contributed anything other than motivation.


It's taken me days to get this down and I've tried not to leave anything out. I surely have forgotten things, maybe I'll add later. Few people will be terribly interested, but I had to do this now while the wound is still fresh.

I hated going out there last month knowing it was goodbye. I really hoped he'd open up a little, but he was true to himself to the end.

And now we go on without him.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shelter in Place

April 19, 2013, was one of the oddest days ever.

It started with a robocall from the police. The town of Belmont -- and surrounding communities Watertown, Cambridge and eventually every other one -- were advised to "Shelter in Place." I don't think I'd ever heard the term before.

The manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers was in full swing. A metro area of 4.5 million basically shut down.

The military presence on the streets of Watertown -- about 120 yards down the street -- looked like an occupation.

A florist caught terrorist Dylann Roof.


The chase for Bowlcut Boy (no more references to this murderer's actual name) began about 25 hours ago, after this redneck calmly mowed down nine worshipers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

There was no shutdown of Charleston. No heavy-handed show of force. And when he was taken, his body wasn't riddled with bullets in a "shoot-first, ask-questions-later" cowboy up.

Curiously, few in the media are calling this guy a terrorist. But he is. To be called a terrorist or a thug, you pretty much have to be Muslim or black or worse, both.

Yet there are plenty of white terrorists, especially in this town. 

So the usual SOS went around today. We don't really even flinch any more when this happens. We've got a serious gun problem in this country -- it's too easy to get them, and the firepower is designed to mass murder. Hunters don't use automatic weapons.

Well, maybe shitty hunters do.

NB: It doesn't appear the shooter had an automatic. Nevertheless, mass shootings are way too common.

Along the Pike near Fenway is an electronic counter that tallies the American shooting deaths since Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. A day or two ago it was already well past 78,000. After Charleston, 80,000 is coming up fast with a bullet.

The NRA terrorists have won. Nothing will change after this.


Off the top of my head, here is a list of places that are not safe:

A grade school. Or a high school. Or a college or a university. Or an Amish school. Or a university.
A church. Pick a religion.
A religious compound.
Private property.
A restaurant. Or a McDonald's
A movie theater.
A political function.
An Army base.
A Navy base.
A post office.
A community center.
A street.
A business.
police HQ. Way to go, Dallas!

Even a police HQ can get shot up. Think about that a second.

Want more gun violence? Clicky.

Of course, other places have proven to be unsafe, like:

An airplane.

An office tower.
A federal building.
A marathon.


Shelter in Place. Is even that safe any more?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Live, from New York...

In TV terms, Saturday Night Live — which ended its 40th season Saturday — is well beyond mid-life. Outside of news programs, soap operas and The Tonight Show, it's essentially the longest-running show out there.

But like a lot of 40-year-olds, SNL has gone through a bit of a mid-life crisis. Men who turn 40 sometimes buy a sports car and try to date women half their age. 

In SNL's case, staying virile and relevant now is staffing its most diverse cast ever, giving its writing staff room to take creative chances, and having guest hosts and musical acts bring an edge.

As with much of the show's history, that has yielded some home runs, and perhaps as many strikeouts. Both happened Saturday.

Millions of words, thousands of articles and dozens of books have been written about SNL. Few of those are from the perspective of a fan. Partly that may be because barely 250 people get tickets to see a show in Studio 8H.

To get a pair of the free tickets, NBC doesn't want to be lobbied in any way. People who want to go must email NBC in August of each year with a name, address and phone number.

I've done this for years, at first setting calendar reminders but the last several years knowing the process.

NBC doesn't acknowledge receipt of a request, and apparently draws as the season unfolds. On April 16, a notification was sent for the season finale then exactly one month distant.

At that point, get there as best you can, because the tickets are non-transferable. If you show up, you're in. If not, tickets are distributed to people on a waiting list.

It's possible to go into the city for the show only, but most likely, the best scenario will be to stay overnight. There are countless options to stay in NYC, and we looked at several: VRBO has been a reliable, affordable outlet, but most of those renters want more than a prime Saturday-only stayover.

Hotels in New York are expensive. More affordable options are either sketchy or too far from the Midtown HQ of NBCUniversal. If you're going to make this day trip, the closer the better.

We found a great option, the Mansfield Hotel in 44th street, just five blocks and an easy walk to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Built in the early 1900s, the boutique hotel offers packages to entice. We chose one that included brunch at 30 Rock. The hotel has valet parking, a nice nightspot, the M Bar, 24-hour room service, and a great location. It was easy to access and near attractions such as Bryant Park, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and Times Square. And by NYC standards, room prices for a Saturday ($359) were competitive.

Showgoers have to be in line by 10:15 p.m. An audience is seated for a rehearsal show that ends around 10 p.m. The admission process is surprisingly lo-fi: Check in with your invitation letter and ID, at which point you get two tickets (which you won't end up being able to keep as mementos), wait in line, empty your pockets before entering a TSA-style metal detector.

If you're particularly fetching, a pert production assistant plucks you from the line and puts you in a special line. These people wind up with coveted floor seating.

The rest are soon whisked into elevators and sent to the 9th floor. At that point, final bathroom breaks are possible, a show-specific wristband is applied, and by about 45 minutes before airtime, you're seated in the C-shaped stands overlooking the set. Before getting this far, however, cellphones must be powered off. NBC doesn't want a ringtone sounding during "Weekend Update."

While waiting, Pamela Adlon — host Louis C.K.'s longtime collaborator and the voice of Bobby Hill — was ushered past the waiting crowd.

The hallway to 8H includes photos from all eras of the show, and near the studio entrance, glass cases with the outfits of a Conehead, the Church Lady and Gilly.

Once in the studio, the level of activity is impressive. 8H is actually incredibly compact — the entirety of it is about 10,000 square feet. Dozens of set workers, camera operators, staff and pages swarm about the studio floor just below the feet of the audience. Sets border the perimeter, and SNL commercial breaks are like watching Indy 500 pit stops for their changing speed and intensity as sketch sets are deconstructed, removed then replaced.

About half an hour before air, the SNL band plays a couple of songs — a hot version of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" got the audience up. "Weekend Update" co-anchor Michael Che then came up for a few minutes to spike the warmup, sharing a few jokes well-executed about racism and crowd behavior. As soon as he left, long-standing cast member Kenan Thompson came on and sang "Gimme Some Lovin'" with Vanessa Bayer, Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong as backup singers. It was a pretty good rendition, made even better by last week's announcement that rumors of Thompson's impending departure from the show are apparently false.

By then, showtime was four minutes away. Impresario and SNL creator Lorne Michaels, in his usual dapper suit and looking none the worse at 70, strolled around the set and suddenly cast members assembled for the show's traditional cold open, this time a takedown of the relentless campaign pandering of Hillary Clinton, complete with a guest groping (of Sasheer Zamata) by potential "First Dude" Bill Clinton.

Of course, the cold open ends with some of the most iconic (and anticipated, from an audience standpoint) words in television history: "Live, from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

Louis C.K. — who spent his teen years in Newton and launched his comedy career in the Hub — did a nine-minute monologue that set social media aflame with controversial takes on racism, the Middle East and pedophilia. The opening sketch with C.K. also had a sexual bent, maybe an awkward topic given some accusations against C.K. making the rounds just last week.

Those wouldn't be the only moments of iffy subject matter: a sketch about what some wags would call "Ebonics" had a black stereotypes at its heart, and Rihanna's second song "American Oxygen" was powerful, but filmed background images included harsh moments in U.S. history, including footage of the burning Twin Towers. "Too Soon," perhaps, especially for 21-year-old cast member Pete Davidson, whose late firefighter father perished in the attacks.

As the skits end, production assistants grabbed C.K. and rushed him offstage and into his wardrobe and makeup for the next bit, as the crews whirled through a set change. After 40 years, they've got this down.

The 90 minutes go by fast, and before the band has finished the show's signature sign-off song, the crowd is being dispersed.

August 1 is less than 2 1/2 months away. I'll be trying to get tickets again. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Specials, Pt. III

Typical snow path width.
Note Asshat-neighbor's vehicle blocking said path.
Welcome back to the show. We're talking about The Specials -- those lovely Massholes for whom the rules do not apply.

Because it's Boston, and FUCK YOU!


Since we have three dogs, shit detail is a way of life. Of course it's not fun ... we have a small yard and if you go more than a few days without picking it up ... well, you can figure that out.

But The Specials have special dogs, too. Picking up poop is for the plebes.

I don't really need to go into detail on this one. You know what happens.


Another thing some people don't comprehend is the concept of personal space. It's forgivable on the T; at rush hours, there's just not enough room to comfortably have enough elbow room between you and your 1.3 million daily friends.

But elsewhere, when standing in a line somewhere, BTFU. Arm's length is a good standard.

This does lead to a brief (I promise) treatise on T etiquette. Here are some simple rules:
1) When the train stops, let the people on the train off FIRST. Then, and only then, you can get on.
2) Telling women (or men) on the train that they're "pretty" etc. isn't going to get you a phone number, a conversation, or laid. It just makes people uncomfortable. Don't be a creep.
3) If an elderly person, someone with walking challenges (a cane is a helpful clue), someone with an infant or young child, gets on the train? Get up and offer them your seat. And don't think because you've got headphones on that we don't know you know. Stop being a selfish dick.
4) Don't jump the turnstiles, cheap-ass. The T is in financial straits. Do your part.
5) Don't leave your trash on the T. And slyly dropping trash from your pocket doesn't mean we don't see you.
6) Can the cellphone conversations. It can wait. (Fun trick: Carry on the other half of the person's conversation. "Yeah, I'm going to Larry's now." "I hate Larry. He has hygiene issues." "Yeah, we're going to party." "If by party, you mean circle jerk, yeah, it's a party."
WARNING: Not everyone appreciates this humor. But it does interrupt their cellphone call.
7) Bathe.
8) The buskers and what have you: Tolerate. At least they're brave enough to try.
9) To groups of people standing in the middle of stations at the T or otherwise blocking ingress and egress on the street: Move your ass. People got shit to do.


And now let's circle back to the epic snows. After a couple more inches between the start of this novel and today, we're officially over 100 inches for the season (most of that in February) and into the record books as the No. 2 all-time Boston snowfall. Yay! Yay?

Some broad thoughts on this:

1) Blowing snow into the streets is illegal; so is blowing it into the neighbors' spaces. I've called the cops on a trolling neighbor this season. M talked me off the ledge a couple of times, but if I could say what I want, it would be: Bitch, if you blow that snow over here one more time, I will go all Boston on your ass. She absolutely could not pull that in some parts of Boston without her head already being on a platter.

Truth be told, I'm a pacifist, so I'm never going to act out on stuff. But Jesus, what a jerk.

2) Help your (nice) neighbors out. (I'm looking at you, third floor.) Don't shovel into their areas, in fact, help them clear out. Work together. Take turns. Most of us learned this in grade school. If one person does the walk a couple of times, on the third snowfall, maybe you put down your gluten-free muffin, shelve your home-brewed beer, put on your Alpaca toque and pitch in.

3) Other general propriety is recommended. In Harvard Square several days ago the following happened...

The walks are a mess. A single path is carved between snow piles so that only one person can pass through at a time. As I approached a corner the other day, a woman came from the other direction. She was first, so I stood at the other side of the five- or six-foot long path and waited for her to pass. As she entered, a guy jumped out of a door and got in behind her. Hmmm. OK. Now two people crossing. Before the second person got through, a woman coming from the other side sped up and now SHE got into the path.

I wasn't happy, but I was too shocked by the sheer shittiness of it to react. The concept of "community" was trumped by the "Community of The Special." I dearly wish I had jumped into her path before she got through. I could have. "Huh. Impasse. Guess you're either going to have to back up or find a way through someone a foot taller and twice your weight. Well, maybe not twice -- might wanna try my hipster neighbor's organic muffins."

What kind of thought process creates this mindset? That people outrank someone else? That some people have to wait, and some don't? It's brazen.

I kind of am hating the people here because of this stuff.

This sort of thing somewhat explains the box-blocking and the cars passing on snowy streets that have been reduced to single lanes. (I heard that fistfights have broken out in Southie from people unwilling to cede to oncoming cars.) But in cars, people feel emboldened because they have a 3,000-pound shield around them. This woman had some balls. Some day she should get kicked in them.


Also witnessed in the PRC (People's Republic of Cambridge) ...

I've never seen city streets where someone could just annex a parking spot.

The first blizzard hit the last week of January. We've driven past vehicles barely visible, or entirely invisible, buried in snow.

In the PRC, you obviously can cop a squat and never leave.

I guess this is doable in other cities, although I've never seen it. Most large cities require people to move at least once a week for "street cleaning" or what have you.

The idea that you can do this is interesting to me. In Cambridge, resident parking is a thing. But how would anyone know if a buried vehicle belongs to a resident? Theoretically someone could have cold-camped in these vehicles. Hell, someone could be lying dead in one of them, preserved like a Wooly Mammoth from the Ice Age.

If anything represents entitlement thinking, it's the idea that you can commandeer a space.


OK, and now, the main reason I had to write this set: Something called "space savers."

If anything speaks to the entitlement mindset of The Specials, it's "space-saving."

Boston's parking shortage is legendary. It's an irritation shared by anyone who's lived here. There simply isn't enough parking available. So people are territorial about parking.

Because the government here is corrupt and stupid, the response to a big snow is supremely inadequate. In Montreal, it's smart and civilized.

Here, it's Boston, so FUCK YOU!

The streets are plowed right down the middle. Cars in most places are allowed to just sit through a "snow emergency" and often get buried under snowpiles.

I've seen cars parked in Cambridge that have been under it since the first snow. So they've sat there for at least a month.

In some places, after a snow, when someone needs their car, they have to dig it out on their own. After a plow's work has added snow to the pile. So it's a total pain in the ass, and takes someone an hour or two to free their car.

At which point they put a lawn chair, or some other totem, to "save" the space.

The twisted thinking is that, they dug out the spot, so now it's theirs.

A public parking spot.

Watch out if your common sense tells you "Hey, if I remove that lawn chair, I have a place to park." People will trash your car. Keyed is the least of your worries. Most likely your windows will be smashed.

Apparently people here are OK with this. Or at least, too scared to stand up to the bullying and selfishness to do anything about it. Vandalism is OK!

This guy or girl, whoever, is my hero:

What shocks me the most is that these terrorists have cowed the authorities. If they did their job clearing the streets, this wouldn't happen. But they let these things be determined by The Specials.

And The Specials are a community of assholes.

And that's why, for as many great things there are here, Boston is nothing but a Ghost Town. It's not mentioned with the great cities of the U.S. New York, L.A., San Francisco, the list goes on. People don't respect Boston because Boston doesn't respect itself. It's a town filled with self-loathing, pretentious, selfish jerks. It's Buffalo with better history.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Specials, Pt. II

Cambridge parking meter. Guess they don't need the money.
I've railed on some of the issues that the antisocial types here -- I call them The Specials -- can't seem to fathom.

Here are some of the crimes committed by people here every day:

* Cutting in traffic -- Boston streets are stupid. They were laid out on top of horse trails and walking paths created almost 400 years ago. There are bottlenecks everywhere. And a decent percentage of dirtball drivers routinely jump in through lanes (usually on the right) and then stop traffic at the last second trying to force their way back in. Apparently they think they're above waiting like everyone else has to. Further, they don't give a crap about blocking an entire lane of through traffic. They suck. 

* Blocking the box -- People block intersections on the reg. You're not supposed to enter unless you can get all the way through. I don't understand why they do; if they're at the tail end of a line of cars, they're not getting anywhere faster. But they don't care about blocking cross traffic, because it's Boston and FUCK YOU! I have a fantasy of standing in an intersection with a hammer and smashing cars that do this. Because they won't be able to move away from it.

Of course, BPD or Staties could stop this, or at least inhibit it, if they'd stand watch at intersections and bottlenecks. But that would require their fat asses to actually do something.

What DO they do, anyway? Shockingly, BPD officers AVERAGE salaries top six figures.


I'm all for cops being paid well. But that means working every now and then.
* Fortunately, I saw a cop earn his money in a major way in Belmont. The crime that runs most rampant behind the wheel is double parking. It again speaks to the selfish nature of people here: They can't be bothered to share a community and wait for parking, plan ahead, work with a partner or generally not be dicks. So they double park, because it's Boston and FUCK YOU!

A few weeks ago I was in a great bakery in Belmont, Ohlin's. The street parking is precious, but there are spots, you might have to circle a bit to find one, or you just realize that your wish for buttery sweet donuts that day is going to go unfulfilled and you deal.

I found a space, that last one ahead of prohibited parking that would block a fire hydrant. (TWICE in the last several months, some ass has blocked a hydrant firefighters had to get to because a FREAKING HOUSE WAS BURNING DOWN! They bashed in the windows of both cars to run hoses through. Those owners' homes should be set on fire and told whenever they can break through their cars to get to the hydrant, they'll be put out.

Back to Belmont: I park, and before I can even get out of my car, a swarthy trog whips in in front of me, wedging into the hydrant access. He put on his flashers, got out and went into a store. I glared at him, got out and went to Ohlin's.

Minutes later, I come back to my car. Of course he's still there. But now, a new wrinkle: And older woman double parks blocking me AND hydrant trog. As I walk to my door, she looks at me and says "I'll just be about five minutes." She pauses a second, and says "Three minutes!"

Yeah, lady. No problem. Take all the time you want. Of course I should wait for you three or five minutes, because you're more important than me. Who am I?

As she says this and walks away into another store, lo and behold, a Belmont cop drives the opposite direction down the street, slowing as the traffic does. We make eye contact and I kind of throw my arms up, hopeful that he grasps what's happening.

He does.

He flips on the lights and bangs a U. He pulls up behind double parking lady's car.

Hey lady, it's gonna be more than five minutes for you, I think.

Cop jumps out, ticket pad in hand. She's inside, but comes out pretty quickly. Swarthy comes out even faster. By this time he's blocked the hydrant at least 10 minutes.

He starts in on the cop. "I was only a few minutes." Cop's not having it. Then the guy starts mouthing off. Bad idea, dude. Cop barks at him.

Double park lady also tries to talk her way out of it. Cop tells her to move forward so I can get out. She has the audacity to turn toward me and whine "You're a real pal!"

"You double parked!" I say. Game over. The truth hurts.

Will it change their behavior? Probably not. But it changed their bank accounts, and maybe their insurance rates. Fuck them. And thank you, thank you, thank you, Belmont Police.

Every now and then, the bad guys lose.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Specials

Mass Pike tableau
Wait for it ...

Seeing a shooting star slashing across the night sky is kind of magical. But it signifies the end of the individual meteor as it breaks apart and leaves a trail of glittering light in its wake.

Ska was a shooting star; it emerged riding the tail of the musical course correction that brought punk and "new wave" to Britain and the U.S. in the late 70s and early 80s. Ska, much less overtly aggro than punk, is laced with reggae beats and blaring brass. Still carries a message sometimes, though. 

Like a lot of interesting music, ska was ripped off from black culture, in this case its post-war Jamaican originators. But it was Brit groups like The Specials who gave it a larger audience. Ska died down quickly but then came back again most famously with No Doubt. Sometime relatively soon, someone else will revive the style and it'll have another run. Shooting stars die, but there are always more on the way.

The Specials' two biggest hits were "A Message To You, Rudy," which is as fun a song as there can be. Their other smash was "Ghost Town," which had a meteoric (see what I did there) run to the top of the UK charts in 1981 and some success in the U.S. thanks to MTV and its irresistible beat.

"Ghost Town" is simple, but very dark. Written as a commentary on the devastating recession rolling through the U.K., the songwriters reported on the economic wasteland throughout the countryside they were touring -- shuttered shops, people scrambling to survive. There are always more "have-nots" than "haves."


I haven't written for a long time for a variety of reasons. The pace of life these days is breakneck. In August -- just a bit over six months ago -- we spent almost a week holed up in a Maine cabin on the water, and outside of some short sightseeing jaunts, basically just lazed about, listened to music, ate, read, and took it easy. It was glorious.

It seems like it happened two years ago.

In September, the rock of my family was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. She was in the Presbyterian Hospital ER the very same day as a Liberian man named Thomas Eric Duncan came in for the last time.

Panic and dread settled over my family, but happily, treatment has scored some victories and for now, things look positive. But I've been home twice, and I need to go some more. The stress of being so far away from my people is something I think about more now.

M's gone through a career upheaval. She's of course handled it well and has made that cut. (I call it "falling up.") But it was also mentally challenging, wondering if we'd have to rely on a sole income for a while. We've done that when I was out of work, so we know how to handle it. But these sorts of prospects lead to troubling nights.

Everybody has a busy schedule, but I feel like I'm always on the run. I work enough, although my work schedule isn't particularly overwhelming normally. However, there has been a little OT in the past couple of months.

Part of that has been due to record-setting snows here. Today is the first Monday in five weeks that hasn't been severely affected by monster snowfalls. Just four weeks ago, we had the first blizzard, a whopper that deposited more than two feet on us. Then the next two Mondays, more big ones, followed by one on Valentine's Day and into Feb. 15 (a Sunday) that made last Monday equally daunting.

Everyone's fed up with it.


In crisis situations you learn a lot about people. 

You frequently see this in work settings. Some people let that stress ratchet up and they become like those dancing wind-sock men you see outside retail stores, wobbling and crumbling all over the place incessantly.

Some internalize it, never say a word, lower their heads and power on. Those people worry me a bit. Are they gonna go all D-FENS some day?

Some may grouse about the BS, but at the same time, know that they've gotta fight through it. I think that's me. I want things to go smoothly and if warranted will point out ways to improve the problem(s) going forward. But I also know that freaking out won't help, we still have a job to do, so let's do it.

And some just say "Fuck it."

Welcome to Boston, where The Specials live.