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.