Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

The Mayor is Dead. Long Live the Mayor.

November 22nd, 2014

clearytreeIt’s the season or at least a season. The recently retired and more recently dead former Mayor Tom Menino clearly had a big saved spot in his big old heart for Christmas and its leading events. He went by Escalade from one Boston neighborhood to another, shameless in his enjoyment of the holiday trolleys and tree lightings. He seemed to be everyone’s dad or granddad.

I can only recall him once missing the lighting of the Anderson tree in our shared Hyde Park neighborhood. He was too feeble that year. His wife Angela stood on the platform for him and performed his greetings and wishes. That itself was remarkable.

For decades, she had preferred to have her people-loving hubby meet-and-greet. Even on the annual July 12th block party celebrating the city while celebrating Tom’s ascendancy to the mayoralty when Ray Flynn scurried off to the Vatican with delusions of legacy and maybe even closeness to God, Angela absented herself while Tom stood in the street glad-handling and chatting up us all.

Yet when needed, she did not let her husband down. She became the first lady of the city.

Now Martin J. (Marty) Walsh rolls into Menino-land in eight days to figuratively flip the switch and by so doing stake a local claim. I”ll be there to see how he carries himself.

So far, the new version of Da Mare has not been as visible in these parts and certainly has not brought the personable Menino character. I’ve observed him at several events and found him rather dour in contrast to the avuncular Menino.  There may be some jollity in him, but he doesn’t let it out much.

walsh1I admit that to Tom Menino I was a constituent. He treated me as such. I had many contracts with him, at political events, when he was a guest on my Left Ahead podcast, when I advocated for or thanked him for bicycle doings, at business openings, in random meetings, and of course at the annual tree lighting.

He remembered…my name, my precinct, that I was a poll warden, that I shared his love of cycling, that I’d  moved from JP to HP (the proper order of things in his judgment, that I had healed from a badly broken leg when he was having his own nether region problems, what my sons had been about. In other words, he was both an empathetic guy and a skilled pol.

I never saw the allegedly hard-boiled Mr. Mayor. I thought of that recently when a police officer who had been one of his union’s officials involved in contract negotiations fairly snorted at the lore of the late Mayor. He saw the thunderbolts and said there definitely were two distinct sides to him.

So hail Marty Walsh, the obscure state rep following the longest serving, fervently popular chief exec of Boston. He inherited the stereotypical urban ills of crime and unemployment, but primarily a city in very good shape. Now what?

Tom Menino always seems to have been Tom Menino. He was personable and above all else loved both his city and its residents. He seemed to recharge with every moment taking your hand or learning more about you — interests, problems, anything.

So far, Walsh has lacked the tiny, constant Menino touches. For one, as a long-time poll worker, I think of the preliminary, primary and general election days. A few pols, like Rep. Liz Malia, show up at polling places with coffee, doughnuts or sandwiches for those of us who spend 14 or 25 hours there. Menino’s people never missed an election or a polling place.

I thought too of the day of Menino’s sudden death announcement. Coincidentally, Walsh was scheduled to appear on River Street in Hyde Park to dedicate a pocket park, really a dreadful patch of paving stones next to a convenience store, badly in need of what my grandmother would have called a bum bench. Walsh didn’t show. The half dozen of us there in case he did were not surprised. On the other hand, Tom Menino would never have left constituents hanging. He either would have had an aide appear to announce a postponement or would have gotten a cop from the station across the street to do that.

I’ll be fascinated to see how the new Mayor handles hoi polloi.

 

Good Kid from Hyde Park

October 31st, 2014

meninoflower1He knew your name. Like the obverse of the Cheers theme, he knew everybody’s name. Mayor Tom Menino internalized the number one rule for successful populist politicians — he remembered you, your face and your name.

Like so many thousands of Bostonians, I was personal with Da Mare. He made it easy. The pic here is from one of the numerous neighborhood coffees I attended. He loved handing out pots of marigolds and salvia from the city greenhouses. Moreover in our shared Hyde Park, he seemed to know all and each of us. He’d ask specifically about spouses, children and grandchildren. He cared, enough to pay attention and remember.

He also was avuncular beyond his age…everybody’s uncle.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t HP specific, but I noticed a parallel pair of “kid” allusions in a short period. One involved then City Councilor Rob Consalvo, who was stepping down to run to replace Menino who had announced he would not go for a sixth term. The Mayor was Rob’s mentor and Rob took over the district seat Menino held when he was elevated to the top spot in 1993.

One evening during the campaign I got a call and was Surprised to hear a campaigner say she was Rob Consalvo’s mother and wanted me to vote for him in the preliminary. Yup, she was phone banking.

I reminded her that I was the warden at our shared polling place and that we knew each other casually. Then I told her I supported him and she went on to thank me and assure me that “He’s a good kid.” After a very brief pause, she added, “I shouldn’t say that. He’s a grown man now.”

Then one of the times I chatted with Menino at a local restaurant opening (he always did his bit for Boston businesses), I mentioned that I lived two houses from Dan Linskey on Fairmount Hill. I knew that the man who became face of Boston Police following the Marathon bombings had been the Mayor’s driver for years. He became the number one uniformed officer, number two in the department after the commissioner, with the impressive title Superintendent in Chief.

The Mayor smiled at Linskey’s name and said, “Yeah, Dan, he’s a good kid.”

Like Consalvo, Linskey is a grown man, replete with wife and kids, college age in his case. Menino might barely have been old enough, in the stereotypical hillbilly sense, to be Linskey’s father. Uncle was more apt. He loved that role and was great at it.

Tom Menino and the Ride Not Ridden

October 30th, 2014

nicoletomDefinitely on my to-do list and almost as surely not on his, I wanted that promised bike ride from Hyde Park to City Hall, maybe with Steve Murphy too. It would be the old guys cycling to town.

Like so many in Boston, I knew Thomas Michael Menino. He died this morning at only 71 from cancer. He must be the most loved person in town. Among the many things he did to earn that affection was meeting and knowing so many of us. I’ll surely post a few vignettes.

Today it’s a bicycling story. As a blogger and podcaster, I commented about him and to him. He allegedly was prickly and overly sensitive to criticism, but I never experienced that. He was a guest on my Left Ahead show several times, like here. I’d see and chat with him at political, cycling and similar events at City Hall, at restaurant openings and tree lightings in our Hyde Park neighborhood, and of course annually at his July 12th block party to celebrate his ascendancy to acting mayor in 1993 when Ray Flynn flew away to the Vatican.

It became a bit of a running joke with us when we talked about biking together from our neighborhood to his office. (The image here is one of him at a bike event in 2008 [I think] in his silly cycling outfit with Director of Boston Bikes Nicole Freedman.)

As it turned out, long-term City Council member and president from 2011 into 2014 Steve Murphy also lives in Hyde Park, jut a couple of blocks from me on Fairmount Hill. I asked him whether he biked. He said he had a mountain bike and would be up for riding to City Hall if I’d arrange it.

Menino too was passively accepting of the concept. Before he broke an ankle bone and had other health troubles, he had a two-wheel epiphany. Like so may locals, he had been hostile to bikes but got one as a gift from a City Councillor and thought about the pluses of cycling. He rode around HP and in the gym. He hired that bike czarina and actively championed her good road work. He is a hero to cyclists.

Inariably when we’d meet, I’d talk cycling too and began to ask about when the the old guys (in fairness to Steve, I”ll note that he’s about a decade younger than I) could spin into town. The first couple of times he’d say that I’d be too fast for him, but I said we’d all ride together and it was really only about 10 miles. He joked that Murphy would have a heart attack in the effort but that we’d do the trip as soon as he was healthy enough.

Well, I kept checking but he never got healthy enough. He had lung and gut problems and then a diagnosis of advanced cancer from some unknown source. I would have enjoyed that ride and suspect he would have too.

 

 

 

A Bigger Boston? Yes, Says Mayor Walsh

October 15th, 2014

At the less dewalsh1pressed and threatening Dudley Square, I elbowed into the jammed-to-sweating announcement this afternoon. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh opened the first of three outposts of his Office of Financial Empowerment. (Click the link to catch key details and the players.)

The big idea is that many of what our Sen. Elizabeth Warren would say are living on the ragged edge of the middle class (her fave expression and an apt one here) don’t have to be. They can learn smarter ways to manage money, particularly with:

  • financial education and coaching
  • credit counseling and “repair” of credit score
  • workforce development, education and training
  • job search support services
  • tax prep and earned-income tax credit guidance

Most of the funding for the effort comes from the United Way and LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation). Boston isn’t the first to get one of these. Locally Lynn, Lawrence and Chelsea already have the the program should open a total of 10 here. Cities in other states have theirs working.

What caught my attention most though was Walsh’s comments about growing our static burg. We’ve hovered around 600,000 for several decades, recently edging up to maybe 636.000. Note that 60 years ago, the population was above 800,000.

Walsh would like to see the actual city above 700.000. He said today that a big factor there would be providing more and more affordable housing. That would be 50,000 to 60.000 units to support the growth.

It’s no coincidence that a couple of candidates whom Walsh defeated in his mayoral run proposed similar goals and figures. The fascinating part of today’s gathering was that he has not backed away from the goal.

I’ll try to get him to come on Left Ahead again to detail his plans.

Living out 17-year-old’s words

September 13th, 2014

high school yearbook text and imageTruth be told, my high-school-yearbook description referred to ovines not congregants. We got to write our own and in my 17-year-old cleverness, I included “A future shepherd.”

This Saturday, I have performed my first marriage since my ordination. Those who follow my original marriage-equality and political blog, Marry in Massachusetts know I have already officiated at (solemnized in MA lingo) five weddings.

The others have all been under MA General Law Ch. 207 § 3 9,which lets any adult petition the governor’s office for the right to marry one couple in one town on a specific day, one such per year. Unless they discover in their cursory look at that you are trying to do something nefarious, like an immigration scam, you get approved.

I’ve enjoyed the formality, elegance and touch of theater in being a one-day solemnizer. Petitioning the governor, indeed.

This time an aunt of a family friend asked me to perform the ceremony. Not sure of the timing and a wee fatigued of the one-day process, I figured it was time for the online ordination. I could be ready to marry folk at will without waiting one to three weeks to get the solemnization certificate in hand. That has to go with the signed marriage license to remain on file at the issuing city or town hall.

Nominally, the Universal Life Church Monastery ordination is free. You don’t have to attend divinity school and don’t need to fellowship or intern. Practically though, depending on where you want to conduct marriages, funerals and such, you have a couple of tasks.

The first is getting the right materials. The ULC, known to itself as The Monastery, does ordain for free, but profits from its store. You’ll want proof of ordination and such. The various packages of range from $30 to $100 and include all manner of certificates, wallet cards and even parking placards. The shipping fee is $12 to $18 as well.

I got caught by not knowing that my state is one that requires a separate registration process to perform marriages. After any ordination in any recognized church (including the Monastery), you need to apply to the secretary of the commonwealth, and include a copy of the ordination certificate and an original letter of good standing from the church. Oops, all of a sudden there’s a wait of a week and another $30 for letter and shipping/handling.

The secretary’s office didn’t inform me I was set. However, I called a week after applying and learned I was on the approved list.

By the bye, in most states, you don’t need the additional registration. If you decided to go The Monastery way, you should check with your state, probably the secretary of state, before ordering your goods. You might suppose the ULC site would have a table with per-state requirements. I haven’t found that.

Part of me has long been cynical about online ordination. I knew of folk who did this mail order in days before the web as well. Yet over the years I’ve also noticed that many ministers are either self-ordained (called directly by God to ministry). Others are instant clerics by mutual agreement. I think of one megachurch here in Boston where the father self-ordained, then promoted himself to bishop and then named his son as a bishop as well. They’ve had decades of success, industrial level.

Certainly The Monastery at least offers a veneer of approval, control and record keeping. Also after all, performing marriage or funeral ceremonies is not exactly the more demanding counseling aspect. Moreover, while most ministers have one or two wedding they do repeatedly, I customize the ceremony and vows for each. I’ve had good reviews…satisfied customers.

The humor to me is that over the years several ministers, some UUs as I am, and others, have asked whether I am a minister, then whether I have considered becoming one. They tend to say I am suited to the profession. Future shepherd indeed.

Urban critters

August 20th, 2014

We see coyotes, raccoon, opossums and such in our part of Boston. I scouted out a few more today at Forest Hills Cemetery and the in-town Audubon nature center.

In Lake Hibiscus in the middle of the graveyard, I was surprised to see a pretty big snapping turtle (surely undocumented immigrant). It was pretty creepy. It came from maybe 30 feet off-shore and surfaced just below me by the tiny rocky beach. As I moved about 100 feet along the shore, it tracked me. I began to feel like it was viewing me as a two-legged fish…a snack.

The lake has regular turtles, cormorants, and of course the usual ducks and geese.

A short distance down Walk Hill, I trotted the fox trail (el sendero del zorro on the sign). The hen turkeys did the turkey trot faster. They did not want to chat or play.

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Cormorants in the cemetery lake were chowing down on little fish. corm1
corm5 Several cormorants used the boulders as bases to flap and dry off.
The snapping turtle seemed to find me fascinating…maybe edible.

Less spookily, was he used to someone on land tossing bread?

snap3
smallerturtle The shiny to-scale turtles like the warming rocks in the cemetery lake.
The wild turkey hens were not happy with my being on their trail. They quickly repaired elsewhere. turkeyleave
snap2 [Jaws theme here] The snapper followed me along the shore and several times stuck its anaconda neck out to get closer.

JP tries Porchfest

July 20th, 2014

Jamaica Plain did a fine job copying other such events in its first JP Porchfest yesterday. 50 or so groups performed at 35 venues, most of them quite literally porches.

I careered among many venues, playing a speed-listening version of the Odyssey. To my ear, there was a little terrible music, but most was good and some superb. With so much simultaneously in the works, no one was stuck anywhere. Here’s hoping this becomes annual.

As a disclaimer, several shots here are of a group where my wife sings and plays. I’m prejudiced. They jam weekly and perform as features on occasionally, largely bluegrass. Their road group has taken to call themselves Still Here.

Among some of the gems I found was Damn Tall Buildings, Rebecca Hope, and Outrageous fortune. As an indication of the event’s diversity, they play respectively bluegrass/blues, up tempo ballads, and swing. Click over to the event site for a list, many of which have videos.

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Avery ‘Montana’ Ballotta of Damn Tall Buildings dtb2
rhope1 Rebecca Hope
A couple of the Outrageous Fortune gang fortune3
stillh8 Still Here’s mando player, surely the best gurning of Porchfest
My uxorial unit for Still Here. She’s the primary family musician. stillh2
stillh6 Of course Still Here had the mandatory bluegrass components, including dobro…
…and a banjo stillh7

Tito’s Turkey Power

May 24th, 2014

If you’re running for office in Boston or statewide, you’re smart to show for City Councilor Tito Jackson’s annual turkey fry. Most gubernatorial contenders showed, among others, for this sixth version.

For you left-brain types and other quibblers, yes, there’s a lot more than turkey, like burgers, dogs, BBQ, a few non-meat offerings, sodas and water (no alcohol), ice cream and ta da, a snow-cone machine. Oh, and while Tito is a big guy, he had four loudspeakers in the street, each of which was bigger than he. The music kept people dancing, swaying, eating to the beat, and shouting to be heard. Sweet.

Mostly, this is a street party for the Roxbury neighborhood above Seaver Street. Plus the pols get to mingle while they and their minions pitch planks and promises.  There are surprisingly few events so casual and low-key where pols can have several easy hours chatting up black and Latino voters outside a dais/chair venue.

I tried to behave well, not dominating time with pols nor even taking pix of all of them. Many have been guests on my Left Ahead show. I’d already met nearly all of them and it was a chance to touch hands again. In some cases, we swapped cards and agreed the candidate should come on the show or come on again.

The following are a few images with comments. Among other pols there were Don Berwick and Joe Avellone (governor), Leland Cheung (looey) and Maura Healey (AG). I was there for nearly three hours and saw nothing of a certain Martha Coakley nor any of her lackeys. (Sunday update: I see on Tito’s FB feed that she did show late, after I left.)

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Long-term State Rep. Gloria Fox (since 1986) was a crowd please. She asked for support, noting, “I do not play. This is a diverse district (Suffolk 7) and I handle it well.'” GloriaFox
FDarroyo1 Another familiar face and voice was Felix D. Arroyo, former Councilor, father of a current councilor, and candidate for register of probate and family court. He’s always delightful and to us boomers sounds refreshingly like Ricky Ricardo. In fact, he noted that when he first ran for office many years ago, his accent was stronger.He asked one thing of the voters before him, on the Sept. 9th primary, his office will be down at the bottom of a long ballot, he wants to make sure people get all the way down there and finish the job.
Not everything was smiles and sandwiches. The Suffolk sheriff crew showed up with a police-dog demo. Adults a bit, but mostly the kids were impressed at the tenaciousness and training. Titodog
Falchuk Evan Falchuk (governor on the United Independent Party and sure to be on the November ballot) noted both in his remarks and to me that he considers it his job to discomfort the other candidates and raise key issues. In a deep nod to the Roxbury locale, he said that carried over, not so much to where the party was but to where he lives (Newton). He noted that his daughter and her classmates didn’t get the BPS-style warnings about how to behave when confronted by police. He said he regularly draws attention to the contradiction with urban communities of color.
Here’s a small subset of the several hundred at chez Jackson. (Right in the middle is Leland Cheung ([t. gov.] who didn’t want to give up his baby.) Titofront
Tolman Warren Tolman (lAG) pitched specific planks, like support for smart-gun technology.
 In a turnabout that borders on irony, gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman immediately went to the ice cream table — but to server rather than eat. He loves ice cream but is willing to share.By the bye, he said he wasn’t disturbed ty the recent poll that showed rival Coakley well ahead of all contenders. He noted his campaign had not spent a dime on ads and when it started, the field would level. Moreover, the thought the poll was an outlier. Grossmandip

 

AAA (kind of) helps cyclists

May 6th, 2014

triplemehTo this cyclist who is also a member of AAA, the new-to-Southern-New-England service should be welcome and praised. Not so fast.

The auto folk brag on the front of their new monthly Members can get help with bicycle breakdowns. While the feature did not note this was not a Massachusetts idea. As the Boston Globe writes, AAA has done this is two more bicycle friendly areas, Oregon and Idaho, for the past two years. The New Jersey AAA has been doing it for a year.

Unlike the sparse coverage in the AAA regional maggy, the Globe reported that what it really means is that 30 AAA trucks will have attached bike racks — a limit sure to further delay help on a bike call.

What do we AAA members who cycle get? “Transportation for you and your bike will provided to your home, your vehicle or another location free of charge within a limited range,” writes AAA.

More limits? Sure, this is AAA, after all. Consider:

  • Annual total of two bike calls.
  • No promise of repairs or attempts to repair.
  • No service off-road or bike trails or paths.

This is in fact the very least AAA could do.

While the current maggy has scattered biking items. The upper left for one writes about the chance to win a bike. Even that has a catch though. You need to go to the Facebook page and answer questions about the program to prove you’ve absorbed the marketing info.  Hazing.

So at least you’d get a ride home with an inoperative bike, twice max. Meh.

Moreover, in the Boston area, our experience the few times we’ve called AAA over the decades was extremely slow response, often in the nature of two hours. In fairness, AAA’s strength is using garages near major highways in the sticks. We’ve never had to use that but chum claim that is their forte.

Honestly, AAA, if you want to claim multi-modal transportation, you have to do better. Your rescue trucks need the gear and knowledge to patch flats and pump up both types of valves. Being a biannual taxi service for someone with lots of time to wait is nothing to brag about.

 

 

Babies and veggies

March 31st, 2014

Come blizzards. Come scorchers. Boston’s Haymarket vendors sell vegetables, fruits, herbs and fish.

For our part, the tradition continued this weekend. I had visited during college days when I was living across the river in Cambridge, but only every month or so. It was 34 years ago when we moved to Boston with our six-month-old son that I went weekly…and still do. Back then, Aaron was in a Snugli carrier I had embroidered with his name and I walked from Beacon Hill.

34years

This Saturday, a considerably larger Aaron, well beyond carrier size, wore his own six-month-old son there. Continuity, generations and yes, traditions come into play.

Among obvious differences were that we drove in from the Hyde Park neighborhood, that Aaron and Alasdair are visiting from California and won’t be regular visitors there, and that the carrier is the new version, an Ergobaby. Still, the symmetry ruled.

As Alasdair does, baby Aaron really enjoyed being toted, face to face, chest to chest. I always liked doing it as well. The only (minor) shock to me this time was that both Aaron and I wanted to carry the baby. I deferred, in part because he is the father and in part for the elegance of dad with his son in the sling.

In the middle of the longest strip of vendor stalls was Pat (in the pic below from last year) with his huge stall, two or three times the average. There are vendors who specialize in only brown or green produce, some who favor greens and herbs, some who go for salad and cooking greens (and reds), and a couple with mostly citrus. Pat’s stall always includes various potatoes, a range of citrus (including the absolute best lemons in the market), and various other veggies and fruits. You generally can get a full trip’s worth from him.

balmy

He has known for calling every customer, “Cousin” or “Cuz.” He was long twinned in my memory with his father, a short, thin, ever-smiling gentleman. His father deflected the impatient, pushy and rude customers with a kind word and gracious attitude. He was a delight. He died not long ago, but I half expect to see him beside Pat.

Saturday when the three of us appeared, we chatted up Pat for a couple of minutes. I mentioned that 34 years ago, I brought my six-month-old baby to the Haymarket and bought veggies and fruit from him and his father. That day, my son was wearing his own six-month-old to do the same. Pat was appropriately impressed and reminiscent.

He said, “34 years,” several times. He even reckoned that he might have a vague memory of me with baby Aaron from back then, when he’d have been in his teen or early 20s. It’s not all that relevant whether he does nor does not remember. It’s enough that the connection is real and continuing.