Archive for August, 2011

Greenway within Grasp

August 31st, 2011

Hail to the many who have worked for the better part of two decades for a Neponset River Greenway! Within two years, the biggest missing piece will be complete. Citizens, engineering sorts and bureaucrats alike have ‘er done.

I joined what looked like a little over a hundred in the Foley Senior Center on River St. in Mattapan last evening for another quenching trip to the well. You can grab the straight coverage and a link to the presentation at the Dorchester Reporter. You can also search at that site for excellent past coverage on this trail.

The short of it is that after many meetings and laborious compiling of complaints, suggestions and comments of Milton, Mattapan and Dorchester abutters (and numerous whiners, loudmouths and cheerleaders), the final plan looks like a winner. A large majority apparently love it. It moves from conceptual drawings to engineer docs that can aid in getting the federal money for the project as well as giving the nitpickers and Myers-Briggs S types something to hold and come to terms with happening. They are now figuring that completion of a link from Central Avenue into Mattapan Square for a ped/bike path will happen by the fall of 2013.greenplan

Click the pic for a closer view or go to the presentation for it and the earlier schemes. Key aspects are that it starts at the existing path at Central Avenue, runs between the trolley path and river, crossing from Milton to Mattapan on a new bridge by the Ryan Playground, then curves on the north of the river to a new ped/bike bridge over and around the trolley terminus and into Mattapan Square.

This came after five previous plans. After the public meetings and private comments, which the presentation recaps in concepts and numbers, the latest plan seemed to placate nearly everyone.

I came for the details, but left with a felt sense of the democratic skills involved, particularly the the DCR folk in managing a prickly, often nasty process. While he was quick and frequent to spread credit and praise, the diplomat in chief seems to be Jack Murray.

The DCR Deputy Commissioner for Park Operations is unfazed by the hostile, NIMBY and unfair-to-me types. Even at this largely jovial celebration, several dissatisfied folk spoke out and up, without rattling Murray. He’s been though a couple years of rough democracy on this and kept his cool and his smile.

In fact, several of the pols who attended and chimed in their praises (Sen. Brian Joyce and Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry and Russell Holmes) called the process out for its amazing transparency, flexibility, and outreach. There was passing mention of the contention involved from the beginning, and nothing but kudos for a thoroughly open process — perhaps an inspiration for the larger government, ask I?

Murray was also charmingly coy about the MBTA. It refused to allow an at-grade crossing for the trail, leading to among other expensive problems, a ped/bike bridge at Mattpan station. Murray just smiled and said “We love our sister agencies.”

So it’s worth nothing the residual complaints that bring up what the DCR and the many others involved overcame. Last evening lacked the whiffs of racism and classism noted in articles about earlier public meetings. A few of those seemed to mirror the fears that kept Weston from allowing an extension of the Minuteman path. There was only one of those last night, and of course Murray handled that well.

Despite the round praise for the proposal, one resident still wanted her say, there and in some private meeting. It was a wonder to hear. She said the trolley runs behind her house and the bike path will. Her concern was that cyclists would jump the fence and do something nefarious on her property – to her possessions or daughter. Hearing that it doesn’t happen, not in Boston or Lexington, and that bike paths add light and witnesses, making areas safer was not enough. She didn’t seem to notice that she undercut her argument by saying she feared the same of the nearby trolley. The fact that this has never been a problem did not deter her. She wanted some kind of meeting with state officials and not a public one. Meh.

Toward the end of the question-and-comment period another resident tried the it’s-only-a-start ploy. He’s surely sadly mistaken if he supposes something with this much pubic input and accommodation awaits his brilliant revisions and a restart.

Otherwise, the niggles were indeed niggling. People were pleased at the result and particularly at having been listened to. They could see their suggestions, complaints and fine-tuning before them. The Neponset River Tail Phase II is rolling right along.

Plain People Parade

August 29th, 2011

queensPlump girls on horses and scrawny ones on ponies. One tractor after another. Fire trucks from every wee burgh in Hampshire County. Teen beauties in sparkly gowns. Wrapped candies tossed from every vehicle.

Until I saw the 14-minute video of this year’s county fair parade in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, I had forgotten.

These are my people.

They may not claim me. I moved away, first to Manhattan and then to Boston, so I’m not from Romney as far as they’re concerned. Yet, I spent my summers and holidays there with family. These are the folk I sat with at the Mountain Top, Pioneer and Green Palm. These are the distant relatives I learned to swim with in the Potomac. These are the lads I stupidly jumped from the tall bridge into the river with. These are the girls I learned kissing with. These are the plain folk who find simple pleasures in such as parades.


There’d be a parade for the fair. Of course, they’d be one for the Fourth of July. There’d be one for Heritage Days (after all this is the oldest town in the state, the one where George Washington as a young surveyor slept in the barn in the still standing house behind my grandparents, and the one that happened to be on a major train line, so it changed hands something  like 56 times in the Civil War).

I remember what seemed like onerous duty at the time, rather times, of parades. My grandparents lived on South Marsham Street, a block off Main Street (a.k.a. Route 50). One of my chores was to bring a backyard picnic table bench to the sidewalk in front of the A&P. I would set it in the place my grandmother designated, close enough to the curb to reserve the room. Then my sister and I would take turns sitting there and refusing to let anyone else, so that a few minutes before noon, parade time, my grandmother and any neighbors she’d invited would walk down to take their throne on the parade route. I was out of luck and only served to wait until after the parade to lug the wooden bench back.


I’m a boomer and never questioned the inequality and arbitrary abuse of power. I respected my elders and did what they told me.

Even now, I can recall the crude thrills of the parades. It certainly was what passed for theater in Romney. It surely was superior to any school or church play.

In my late 20, married and running a grocery magazine, I returned to Romney for the Fourth parade. My newish wife came and we did enjoy it. A long-time family friend, nearly 90 if she wasn’t already, had stayed up all night baking pies for church. Then she rode on a float, and walked back to the start to march with her women’s group. If I can find the issue of the magazine I published the story about it in, I’ll do another post.

Everybody knew this, that and the other person. All the marchers, musicians, baton twirlers, drivers and candy tossers got cheers. Pretentiously we could say that bonhomie reigned. In plain terms, people flat out enjoyed every moment.

Deacons Who Deviled

August 28th, 2011

Churches are scary places with scary people. Having observed or been involved in the polity and politics of them from childhood into membership and onto chairing committees and boards, I have long outgrown the idealized world of Godly sorts doing good.


None of my direct experiences equals the wanton assault on Canton, Massachusetts’ first minister, Joseph Mors (a.k.a Morse).

Biking South of Boston, I passed the main Canton cemetery many times. I toured once, finding the really old stuff on the far Southwestern corner next to the UU church. The more recent focused trip included enjoying the 18th and 19th Century New England iconography. One that caught me was Mors’ three-skulled stone.

It turns out that with good reason there’s considerable history available on the late minister. His is a tale of caution for even modern clerics.

Consider his epitaph, including:

Within this silent grave here now doth ly,
Him that is gone unto Eternity.
Who when he liv’d was by good men respected,
Although by others was perhaps rejected;
Yet that done hinder his Triumphing Joy,
With saints above where nought can him away.

I couldn’t leave that. Thanks to long-dead local historians and Google’s digital books project, I didn’t have to.

As background, what is now Canton was in terms of religious governance part of the colonial town of Dorchester, a.k.a. New Grant or Dorchester Village. Mors was the first minister there, for a decade from 1707. Subsequently, this became part of Stoughton, which seemed promiscuously to hand it pieces of itself to neighboring towns. The area where the town of Canton, including its main cemetery are, broke off in 1797, with what seems like whimsical name, suggested by macher Elijah Dunbar, on the approximate belief that it was exactly half way around the globe from the Chinese province of that name.

What Could Go Wrong?

Ministerial careers were much less linear in the colony than today or for that matter in England at the time. While Mors, born 1671 graduated from Unitarian founded Harvard, he started as his education suited, as a teacher. In Providence, he and another teacher, Amity Harris, wed. They moved to Watertown, MA, where he gathered a congregation as well as taught. The locals built a meeting house, but never got the church organized. Then in 1707, he got an offer from the future Canton, then New Village, to settle and preach.

All started out swell, and in fact, from other sources, it turns out that The Morses were both die-hard teachers and pretty open minded. The local Natives, the Ponkapoags, welcomed both of them.  They “were well loved by the Ponkapoag Indians, who appreciated the couple’s efforts to educate them and bring them spiritual comfort.”

Life was rough for all and this was a period of various epidemics as well. The Morses gave religious and school instruction, and Joseph ministered to the Ponkapoag families.

Yet, it was the demon deacons, and not the Wake Forest ones, that undid Mors.

As the astonishingly and fastidiously detailed Huntoon history of the town put it, “In those days the office of deacon was regarded with very great respect…” The ones at First Parish were maybe worse than others, it turns out, bringing charges of “false doctrine” against the new minister. “The deacons considered themselves as umpires on matters of doctrine, and, letting the greater part of the sermon slip by without interest, were on the alert to detect and remember the slightest dogmatical inaccuracy or unguarded expression which in the hurry of composition might have escaped from the pen of the minister.”

Whole Town Watching

Snidely I must note that had the locals and deacons lived in our days of sports teams and cable TV, they might have had more if not better concerns and distractions. As it happened, when the deacons were charging Mors, it was a big deal.

“This charge, preferred by one of such high standing and authority in the church, was a cause of much alarm and difficulty. Meetings and fasts were held concerning it, and the communion was suspected for more than six months. Finally, the church voted that they were not dissatisfied with the pastor on account of the allegations brought against him.”

The deacon then backed down. The minister was cleared. From our distance of three centuries, we’d suppose Mors won and was untouchable. Ha!

“The disaffected only awaited an opportunity for a fresh attack; nor was it long before an occasion offered itself.” Upon the request of local Elhanan Lyon “who seems to have been a thorn in the flesh both th Mr. Morse and his successor” was on a committee of the General Court (legislature) and called Mors before that committee with accusations.

This in turn was like a Bill Clinton thing. If you have the interest, read all of the pages of this section of Huntoon for the nasty details. The short of it is that Mors was tripped up on alleged lies. Lying being flat out for ministers, at least at the time.

The underlying issue is that some unnamed person claimed that Mors got tipsy at a dinner party in Canton. Then, when grilled about it, he said he did not overindulge. Hence, those after his scalp, and likely still angry about being rebuffed in the earlier vote of confidence, said he was lying about it.

So the minister was twice tainted, alleged to be a sot and liar. The Dorchester Village council met on the issue a few times. When it came to a vote, by a single one, he was judged unworthy of continuing his ministry.

To little effect, another council meeting of nine churches censured everyone, “requiring them to acknowledge their faults to each other.” By this time, Mors was dead in the pulpit, figuratively. The lasting stain on his was that, like Clinton, he was permanently known as a liar, or as one in the council wrote later “guilty of designed false speaking.”

Again from 304 years distance, it’s impossible to know whether in the mind of the locals it was worse that Mors might have had a glass too many or that he refused to admit it.

He lived out his remain few years in the town, but not as a minister. He had an offer to preach elsewhere, but did not accept it.

Church Traps

I know a lot of  clerics, all of whom have political tales. They tend to note there’re folk in every congregation looking for trouble. They also say congregants and sometimes staff members can be willing to seduce them. Both perils could get a cleric shipped away.

I can recall the first church feud I was aware of when I was 8 or 9. In a large Methodist church in the South, the minister’s wife ran the church in many ways. She disliked the excellent organist/choir director, perhaps because he was very popular among adults and kids alike. She was determined to oust him, which came with time constraints in those days. Methodists were in a given church for only three years before reassignment, in the tradition of the circuit riding John Wesley.

She tried to stir up animosity and got only a little traction in accusing him of this or that. Eventually though, he got real tired of her sniping and attitude. He got an offer to tour Europe as an organist and snapped it up, going on to relative fame.

In other churches, I’ve seen worse. Consider the downtown Boston UU one where I revivified the personnel committee and then ran the board for a couple of years. Two key staff members, each with her own constituency went head to head and rumor to rumor in competition for resources and congregant affection. Staff meetings got so contentious, replete with shouting and tears, that the senior minister stopped holding them and met with one member at a time.

Neither would give a millimeter and each said she was the primary reason congregants came…and pledged. The implication was if they left, the church would collapse. It was ugly, but at least no one was trying to ruin the career of the senior minister.

The devilish duo were so intractable that I finally accepted that they had to go. I convinced one that she wasn’t ever going to find what she wanted there and to look for a larger, better paying church. The other had included me on her hit list and tried to get me removed from both committees.Instead. my personnel report on the problems convinced her that she too was not going to have her way. She and her rich hubby left in a huff, moving from Boston, and prophecizing doom for the church without her talents and his money. Nothing like that occurred and she was easily replaced with a rational and pleasant person.

My minister chums note that many who work at or attend churches are both emotionally needy and feel that being there gives them righteousness points. Regardless of the motives, the Godly places can be ungodly nasty.

Bitter Unfairness of Baseball

August 23rd, 2011


Perhaps Uncle Scar speaks for the Red Sox Nation in The Lion King, with his “Life’s not fair.”

Consider last night. The Boston team was in Arlington, but not the one near the Alewife stop. The Texas Rangers beat ’em again, 4 to zip this time, for the fourth consecutive time this season, as in all of the games the teams have played.

While I am no longer a huge baseball fan (I was as a kid, but I got better), I recall that no team ends a season with a 1.000 record. Verily, they all have losing streaks of 1, 2, up to a dozen games and occasionally more. Even teams with far more wins seem to flail against allegedly inferior ones from time to time.

So far this season the Sox are very good, clear contenders for the division and league and quite possibly for the World Series. In the long view too, they have done well. Specifically, only three teams have won more World Series than the Sox (that would be 7 for them). Those would be the Athletics, Cardinals, and one other…wait, wait, it’ll come to me…

georgeSo since the Sox brought it all home in 2004 and 2007, the local media, sports bloggers, bar pundits and T riders all have buffed up the facade. What with the Patriots, Bruins and so forth doing well, the loser/also-ran persona supposedly went away like that piano George Herman Ruth supposedly tossed into Willis Pond. (HT to for the image.)

Well, I don’t think so.

The Sox team and fans had long whined before their recent WS victories that any team that won had simply bought the pennant as they had rented the best pitchers and sluggers. Surely the Yankees would not win without a bloated payroll. Yet, when the new Sox owners more than matched other teams in headhunting players, and ended up with the most expensive tickets in MLB in the process, suddenly that gripe stopped. The other guys may have been checkbook cheating, but we were doing what we had to for fairness’ sake.

What got me started on this whole thing was this morning’s Globe sports-page whine fest. Under a temperature alibi heading — Degree of difficulty, let the excuses tumble down. The subhead was With temperature at 102, Red Sox are stifled by Wilson and Rangers. Above the huge pic of pitcher Erik Bedard daubing face sweat, it was Star-struck The Red Sox opened their series with the Rangers last night with three of the four All-Stars in teheir starging lineup out with injuries. Their replacements went a  combined 1 for 10.

How pathetic was Peter Abraham’s report?

I suppose it was only hot in the highly localized spots where the Sox stood. Of course, our players never experience heat and humidity on the Boston tundra.

Plus, it was woulda, coulda, shoulda. If only our last year’s All-Star team players were batting, boy, we woulda showed ’em.

To his credit, the Sox manager was not so blinded by boosterism. Though buried in the jump, Tony Francona’s quote about Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson was that even when the team was healthy, he mowed them down. “When we’ve had our full lineup, he’s gone through it.”

So it comes down to what’s the working attitude here? Has the Red Sox nation really crawled out of the loser’s mausoleum into the sun of contention and competence? Have the many decades of no WS rings been forgotten or at least relegated to history? To the real point, are they ready to join the teams that say, “We weren’t good enough,” when the other team wins.

These excuses really stink.

Rock Doves and Hammers

August 22nd, 2011

European diners are fond of squab and the Brits call them rock doves, but Americans seem to dislike pigeons almost as much as Canada geese. None were as hostile as my Grandmother Mabel.

While Romney was the county seat and the largest town around that part of West Virginia, it had under 2,000 folk. So, pigeons like we see befouling benches and picking lunch leavings from trashcans weren’t a serious problem. Yet, to Mabel they were monsters.

My grandfather literally built their compact three-bedroom house. The backyard had a guard of a gigantic maple that was host every seven years to cicadas who’d leave spectral, fragile molted shells on the bark. The magnificent tree oversaw more regularly the swarm of neighbor and relative women who arrived when Granddad brought bushels of Lima beans, tomatoes, string peas and such, that required processing and sharing both of the goods and the gossip.


The pigeon trouble came about half way up the maple. They would spend the night either in the adjacent limbs or directly on the roof. Then come dawn or even before, they’d coo and COO outside her bedroom window. Mabel was deeply insulted and took this as a personal affront. She spoke of pigeons with the disdain and anger country preachers reserve for the Devil and his minions.

So it came to pass in those days when I was a gentle, curious and naive lad of perhaps six that I had both pigeon shame and triumph.

For the shame, unlike many children, I loved hearing adults such as the six sets of great-aunts and great-uncles spinning their webs of memories and stretched truths. One of those recurring tales was metaphorical, but I took literally. I didn’t understand the science, but I heard many times that if you sprinkled salt on a bird’s tale, you could pick it up, catch it.

Well, to the ridiculing delight of the family, I very stealthily came behind a pigeon on the picnic table and dumped a fair amount of table salt on its tale. For a long moment, it looked curiously and then took off. My mother explained there was no science, that if you were close enough to salt the feathers, you could grab the bird. Ha ha, you literal-minded child.

That did not cause me to hide in my room for the rest of the summer. Instead, I plotted other ways to capture a bird. Lo, these many years later, I’m not sure why I wanted to do so, but it must simply have been the challenge, plus the plethora of robins and pigeons in the yard.

Eventually, I succeeded. I stalked and walked a youngish pigeon into thick ivy on the building beyond the goldfish pond. It tried to fly away from me and was caught in the vines. I sprung and had it in my hands. I was proud.

My grandmother was ready. She had observed this from the kitchen. As so many of us, she loved to see others fail at small tasks, but seemed to have gotten over this disappointment quickly. She likewise sprang, from the house to the tool locker on the back porch. She loped toward me with a ball peen hammer. She exclaimed that she would finally have some revenge and would crush the pigeon skull in small retribution for the many too-early awakenings.

I immediately opened my hands and tossed the bird up, where it beat away. Mabel was both angry and confused. When she told the tale at dinner, my grandfather was not at all surprised. He had a son and other grandsons who loved shooting deer, rabbits and birds, but knew I was not interested. Nature might well be as the cliché goes red of tooth and claw, but I was not.

License note: The pic is, of course, Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with it. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

Skulls to Wheat in West Roxbury

August 21st, 2011

If Forest Hills is a palace among cemeteries, Westerly is a studio apartment, one with a terrible view, but well furnished nonetheless. Today I wandered a bit in the wee West Roxbury burying ground. It has treasurers.

In particularly, Westerly’s existence reflects WR’s then and current attitude. As part of Roxbury and founded about the same time as Boston, near 1630, what became West Roxbury had to have their own, as they do now. The locals buried their bodies in Eliot Street ground, at what became Dudley Square. In 1683, the gentry in western Roxbury decided it was too much of a bother and set up their own cemetery, with the first burial in 1691.

hannahFor us cemetery and iconography freaks, the keen feature is that the ground with only a few hundred burials (many currently who knows where and without stones remaining), Westerly has examples of three centuries of New England stones.

While the MFA filched one as an good example of the slate stone, none of the iconography is unique or even spectacular. However, this little ground is a fine place to see a wide range in a single location.

That spot by the bye is now the backyard of the gigantic Walgreen’s on Centre Street. The unlocked entrance is behind a bus stop at LaGrange. It’s right there, but even many locals don’t notice it or stroll through. It’s on the historic register and comes with the standard restrictions, like no dog walking, no booze, and no gravestone rubbing.

License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

Westerly has many examples of the N.E. classic icon of a winged skull. These are symbols of transformation — to the afterlife. Mehetabel Newel (d. 1739) is a fine example of the early 18th Century work, replete with side scrolling. MehetabelNewel
Newelskull The top in slate is finely carved and has survived well.
Robert Seaver’s (died 1770) already shows the personalization. The original Puritans allegedly saw no chance of communication with the Almighty, yet the skull ornamentation continued to evolve from stylized bones to faces. I’d bet that this resembled Seaver. robertseaver
EBacon1 An older stone, Elizabeth Bacon (died 1713) showed what happened when you gave license to the carver, who expanded the acceptable symbolism. These works are unsigned, although some carvers were prolific enough to be known.
Some of the starkest examples of the skull remain the most straightforward. Here the stone of Benjamin Lyon (died 1752) were Puritan in providing just his death and age, although with modest scroll work lyonfull
WillieHunting In some cemeteries, stones of infants and small children have wee lambs and such. Here, Little Willie (Hunting, died 1860), under two years, had no decoration.
More typically for a child, four year old Abby Harper (died 1845) had a stone with simple wording, but flowers in bud and blossom. Of course, those represented a young life. These are among the most poignant in some cemeteries when there are several blossom or lamb stones together for youngsters who fell to an epidemic. childflowers
guildclose Westerly has a common icon that appears in many N.E. cemeteries. The gathered sheaf of wheat represents God harvesting the people in their time.
Wheat often appeared in whole family plots. Here, the (died 1877 and 1878) stones of Abner and Mary Guild show the symbol, clearly done by the same carver. guilds
draperclose A variation in the same period was a sheaf on top of the stone. This might appear on a single grave, or as here in the mid-to-late 18th Century family stone of the Drapers.
Despite the elaborate carving, these wheat bundles survive amazingly well. Here the 1840 stone topping still shows detail. sheaftop
urncherub Westerly has several other common symbols done well, particularly the urn and willow. Here, an early version on the stone of William Lyon (died 1714) shows cherubs bearing a urn. The container symbolizes the soul within the body, with the transformation winged skull above, as the little angels carry the urn off. We presume there were headed upward.
More typically, stones came to include willows. These trees symbolized eternal life. Here a particularly fine specimen appears on an 1877 stone. willow1877
willowurn As in the previous from the same period, the willow appears next to an urn, with its body/soul symbolism.

Resident directory: The 280 known burials have gotten history buffs excited. The Find-a-Grave site lets you search them, many with images and some with transcriptions of the text. No one hugely famous is here, but there are many from pre-Revolutionary through the Civil War.

The Great (probably late) White Squirrel

August 21st, 2011


The punchline is there at least was one, maybe two, albino squirrels around Jamaica Pond. Despite a recent Globe article that referred to “The white-furred, red-eyed, and rarely seen rodent, which organizers say is a semi-mythical creature around these parts – sort of like the Jamaica Pond’s Loch Ness Monster,” many of us have seen and photographed it.

This critter was the inspiration for the logo of the JP Music Fest (held yesterday). Here’s a scan of one of the t-shirts.

I confess that among the many (take that festival organizers) times I saw the squirrel, it never once wore a cap.


I’ll include a snap from my January 2009 Flickr photostream. After seeing this, video god Steve Garfield (a JP resident) brought his video camera and caught a scampering rodent himself.

Moreover, there’s a new FB page, likely inspired by the music festival hooha.

Alas a comment on the Youtube video included:

this little guy was actually a girl and she passed away last year, the spring of 2009. no worries though, she wasn’t eaten by a hawk or anything, she was found dead lying on a rock, probably fell out of her tree

License note: I’m sure the organizers own the tee image and I claim fair use for this time, but my snap is Creative Commons-Attribution (do what you want, just credit it once to Mike Ball).

Angry, Who Me?

August 20th, 2011

Multiple mentions of physically dark folk not wanting to appear emotionally dark caught me this week. The perceived political wisdom that black or Latino men should not turn off voters is at once obvious and befuddling.

I recall Black Panthers and others who seriously expressed anger. Speeches included calls to kill whitey, plain folk as well as cops. There’s some threatening anger.

For two examples this week, consider:

  • Very savvy image consultant Dorie Clark was on WGBH’s Callie Crossley show again. She noted in a segment asking whether Barack Obama could win a second term that the POTUS was caught in the vise. Angry black men can freak constituents.
  • This morning’s Financial Times had a similar treatment in their generally LITE Lunch with… series, this time with San Antonia Mayor Julián Castro. He spoke of the immigration backlash against Hispanics and its racist aspects. Yet, as Richard McGregor wrote, “He admits he is conscious not to sound angry. Obama has exercised a similar discipline. It seems to be a rule of American politics that an angry black or Hispanic man does not play well with the broader electorate.”

angryYet all but those in comas here are aware of angry white folk. Many in Congress, the Tea Party and winger spokesmen (screams-men?) and lobbying and interest groups are mad as hell about this, that and the other. They yell, they defame, they lie at high volume and with repetition, and some even threaten violence.

It all makes me wonder that if the timorous and accommodating POTUS displayed real anger that really would be so bad. As a nation, we certainly have expected our top leaders to express outrage and anger befitting the situation. Is it really true that our first black President has a separate set of behaviors?

The recent, prolonged GOP debt, spending and tax disgrace just had to make him furious. Even many voters in that party expressed and continue to express fury at the continued insistence on transferring wealth to the super-rich from the middle and lower classes. Yet, the POTUS spoke of disappointment.

Disappointment?! That’s when the ice-cream shop is out of the flavor you drove 10 miles to taste.

Rage should come when confronting ideologues who would steal from tens of millions of oldsters to increase benefits for multi-millionaires and billionaires. If that doesn’t make even the most mild-mannered black man angry, something’s wrong here.

To turn this from political to personal, this has reminded me of way back in my single days. I was keeping company with a fairly volatile woman, who would blow up and yell sometimes, including at me.

A mutual friend, a psychologist, noted how even tempered I was and how I grew up in a home where people didn’t act out. He asked how I reacted when she was like that. I said I let her run through the course. He asked then what I thought would happen if I yelled back. I said I hadn’t thought about it and he went on to ask (with a smile) whether I figured that would destroy the relationship. I replied that I thought it would.

He had known her for a long time and said it would not. He advised yelling back. She did. I did. Not only did nothing bad happened, she was much less likely to flip out around me. Things got better. She acted more like I and I didn’t have to yell back again.a

That’s not to say that if Obama displays justifiable anger some people won’t diss him. Hell, they already do. Plus, he has the big bunch of progressives who are on him for not being strong enough to demand fair negotiation from the wingers.

Conciliation doesn’t seem to be the best approach here and now. It’s time for our President to yell back.

Party Like 1863

August 13th, 2011

I confess that I like the 54th (and the affiliated Colored Ladies Christian Relief Society). They were re-enacting again at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, as they did on Juneteenth in Franklin Park. Plus, I get to play history geek without wearing the wool uniform in summer.

The price of the Harbor Islands ferry has about tripled from when we first went about 30 years ago, but it’s still in the range of a movie ticket. For that, you get the round-trip boat ride as well as all the freebie activities on George’s Island (and a couple of nearby ones if you want to explore or beach it). We went from Quincy for the first time instead of heading downtown. That’s a little easier for us in HP, but we missed the longer boat ride from Long Wharf. I pity the fool who never does the islands trip, even though fares are around $14 after they became a federal park. Another big plus is a subset of Jasper White’s Summer Shack, replacing the terrible pink hot dogs and similar dreck from the old days, and at good prices. Huzzah.

Today was the annual Civil War encampment (last week a Native American festival). Some years have many re-enactors. Today was just the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Company A and a single Colored Ladies rep.  They are worth a trip though.

The troops have replicas of the muzzle-loading Enfield musket rifles used by the 54th 148 years ago.
54drill They have authentic clothes and hardwar, which they show and explain. They also set up several tents and the personal trappings of the period.
Benny White, acting as the regiment’s lieutenant drilled and inspected the soldiers, explained the uniforms and gear, and led them though preparing their weapons. 54looey
54prez 54th president and acting as sergeant, Emmett Bell-Sykes provided the history of the regiment and other African American troops in the war. Note here the haversack eagle medallion on his chest, which White said was nicknamed “the target,” as it seemed to serve no other purpose.
The symbols of the regiment were on the top of their caps. This is the group that proved that black soldiers were are smart and brave as any. It served as the model of the movie Glory and the huge bronze across from our state house. 54captop

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Tomato Fit for, Well, Me

August 9th, 2011


Up front, I’ll never have the acreage and variety of vegetables my grandfather grew (with me as his willing peon), but even in my tiny scale, I am aware of the sensual grandeur of fresh produce. The scent and sneaked taste of our tomatoes are a full flavored antidote to the permanent, rot-before-ripen tomato-like-objects in the groceries.

Sure, there are splendors as grander or grander — the pacific joy of your own baby collapsed in sleep on your chest immediately comes to memory. Yet right up there are the many senses delighted by truly ripe garden goodies gathered moments before preparing and consuming.