Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What is with Arkansawyer politicians?

There MUST be something in the water in Arkansas. At least in the well some prominent Republicans must be drinking from. How else to explain their infatuation with the AR-15 rifle? And shooting people?
Republican State Representative Nate Bell took advantage of the recent fear in Boston neighborhoods, as police hunted down the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, to push his agenda supporting ownership of  high capacity semi-automatic rifles. The AR-15 he mentions has been compared to the M-16 issued by the U.S. Army. Bell thinks we should all have one. Instead of a chicken in every pot, he wants a rifle in every home. A fast shooting rifle. With high capacity magazines, meaning lots of bullets.
Using Twitter (his tweet has since been deleted), he had this to say:
I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?
Nate Bell (@NateBell4AR)
Well, Nate, with all due respect, most people don’t want those kinds of weapons in their homes. People in Boston neighborhoods and nearby towns were fearful enough without worrying about some nervous Nellie neighbor with an itchy trigger finger blowing off fifty rounds of ammo every time he thinks he hears or sees something in his yard. Especially when, given the situation, that sound is probably a law enforcement officer slinking around the corner of his shed as he searches for the surviving suspect. And Bell should be more worried about his own safety as a Republican state legislator in Arkansas. One of his fellow Arkies thinks legislators that don’t toe the Republican line should be shot. That’s right. Shoot them. Shoot ‘em all. Or just shoot one and the others will get the message and fall in line. Yeah. That’ll teach ‘em.
Chris Nogy, whose wife is an Arkansas Republican Party official, took issue with Republican state legislators after some of them supported a measure for Arkansas to expand its Medicaid program. The state wants to use the money the federal government provides for medical coverage for the poor to buy private insurance coverage for them instead of participating in Medicaid. Nogy doesn’t agree with that and he’s not happy that some Republicans voted to allow it. Nogy published his proposal in an Arkansas Republican Party newsletter.
Here’s what Chris Nagy wrote in a piece called “Scathing:”
The 2nd amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives. It seems that we are unable to muster that belief in any of our representatives on a state or federal level, but we have to have something, something costly, something that they will fear that we will use if they step out of line. If we can’t shoot them, we have to at least be firm in our threat to take immediate action against them politically, socially, and civically if they screw up on something this big. Personally, I think a gun is quicker and more merciful, but hey, we can't.”
No, Chris, we can’t. We can’t just shoot people who don’t agree with us. We all have free speech, and legislators are free to vote their conscience even when it may cost them a few votes. And that’s what they worry about, votes. Not their lives. They don’t support or oppose bills thinking about whether not toeing “the party line” will get them shot. And legislators with the courage to vote for what’s best and just rather than what fits an agenda should be celebrated, not violently attacked.
Seriously. I can’t even imagine what goes through these people’s minds. Bell, who deleted his tweet, at least did that, though it will forever be floating through the internet waiting for an opponent to snatch it and use it against him in a political campaign. And at least his tweet, though insensitive and offensive, was not threatening. But Nogy? Nogy put his idea into print where any other nut job (and yes, I’m insinuating Nogy is a nut job) might take his suggestion to heart and the next thing you know we have another Gabby Giffords situation. We don’t need that. We don’t want that!
Some responsible Arkansas Republicans denounced Nogy’s statements and one even suggested he was one of “the crazies.” Nogy then issued this lame “apology,” which didn’t exactly help his case:
And in this age of death threats from nameless, faceless thugs, we need these folks to know that while we most likely won't try to kill them or harm their families, they should be much more certain of our response than fearful of the actions of those who will not identify themselves.
I believe that in a world of nameless, faceless thugs influencing our people every day, it is imperative that we become thugs with names and faces just as scary even if in a different way. If we don't, then we lose."
Well, that should put people at ease. “We most likely won’t try to kill them” but if we do, you’ll know who we are. Wait, what?  
While Nogy’s suggestion is vile it is, at the same time, ridiculous. And for more ridiculousness from Arkansas, there’s this suggestion, based on the Bible and reminiscent of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal:
The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21:
That’s what former Arkansas legislator Charlie Fuqua wrote in his book, God’s Law. He advocates that parents turn their “rebellious children” over to the state and the state can then administer the death penalty. No, you cannot make this shit up. Again, he not only thinks it, he put it in writing.
There are other politicians who make what can only be considered stupid statements, and that includes Democrats as well. But these three take the cake. And the icing. And the ice cream that goes on top.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


A Heartfelt Thank You to the Great American Sports Community

Thank you for showing your support for and solidarity with the people of Boston. Thank you for the recognition of our first responders, the police and firefighters, the medical workers and soldiers, and especially the civilians. They were all "Boston's Finest" that day, risking their lives without hesitation, literally hopping barricades and jumping into the bomb sites to give aid and comfort to the victims. Law enforcement agencies worked together, tirelessly for four days, in pursuit of the cowards who perpetrated this unthinkable act of violence and terror. We all honor the men and women of the Boston Police Dept., the Massachusetts State police, other local agencies, the FBI and the Dept. of Homeland Security. We honor Officer Sean Casey, who gave his life while alerting others to the whereabouts of the bombers. We honor the officers injured in the pursuit to apprehend them. And we honor the victims and the survivors of the blasts. We appreciate you, players and fans around the country, for helping us to honor all these fine Bostonians. 

The past week has been a challenging time for Bostonians, all Bostonians. For those who live in town, those who live on the shores both north and south, in the suburbs to the west, on the Cape extending into the ocean to the east. And those of us who once lived there but because life happens we have moved away. Though we may now live in Ohio or California, or even overseas, we are Bostonians forever. We will always call Boston our hometown. You can't shake it. You couldn't deny it even if you wanted to. Boston is in our hearts. Boston is in our blood. Boston is in our souls.

Yes, this week was trying. A time of constant fear, anger, frustration. But it was also a time to remember we are not alone. A time to remember we are a part of the greatest community in the world. We are Bostonians. We are New Englanders. WE ARE AMERICANS. We are all in this together. And nowhere was that so evident as it was this week on the green diamonds, the shiny hardwood floors, and the sparkling ice rinks of America's great sports teams. Players and fans alike showed their support. Fans waving signs with messages of hope and love. Teams observing a moment of silence before tip-off, playing the Red Sox anthem Sweet Caroline over the loudspeakers, players raising hockey sticks and parading around the ice in salute to the fans and the people of Boston. 

To say Boston is a sports town is understating the obvious. While most sports fans are supportive, passionate, even exuberant about their favorite teams, Boston fans leave those characterizations behind, in the dust. Boston fans put the fan in fanatical. We are loyal and passionate and all that sports fans around the world are. But we are more than that. We live and die with our teams. We cheer. We swear. You think our drivers are crazy? Well, you haven't seen "Boston crazy" until you've experienced a game surrounded by Boston sports fans. We are the penultimate of devoted. We may not wear it well but we have the patience of Job. We wait, perhaps not so calmly (cough, cough), with great anticipation through heartbreak after heartbreak for eighty-six years to win the World Series. Yet every year, after each heartbreak, we say next year. Next year will be our time.

Well, next year, on the third Monday of April, Massachusetts will once again celebrate Patriots Day. We will once again honor those who fought in the Battles at Lexington and Concord. And we will honor those who fought back in the attack on Boylston Street, the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. We will honor the first responders. We will recognize the first-aid teams and the civilians who overcame witnessing the unthinkable and helped their fellow Bostonians. We will hold a moment of silence and reflection for those killed. Perhaps there will be prayers. And then we will cheer, raucously, as Boston fans do, 
for the survivors. We will cheer for their strength, their will to survive, their success at 
overcoming the adversity and the challenges none ever expected to experience on that 
bright, beautiful Monday afternoon of Patriots Day, Marathon Day, of 2013. 

Next year, things will be different. Will feel different. Along with the assurance and comfort of visible and hidden signs of beefed-up security, there will be an undercurrent of fear, of uncertainty. But despite all that there will be the runners and volunteers. And there will be the fans. Hundreds of thousands of fans. Because we are Boston sports fans. 

We endure. 
We overcome. 
We are strong. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Marathon Finish!

It's over! It's finally over! Well, until we get to the Order part of this real life episode of Law and Order. But the law enforcement team has finished the first half of the episode. They have turned the suspect over. Now a brief intermission and the order team will step up to the plate. The prosecution will revel in its work. Bringing justice to the city of Boston. But never have they been asked to do so after so much tragedy, so much angst, and so much fear has swept the city. Boston has seen its share of high profile trials but, in these days of 24hour tv and 24 hour news cycles, instant access to goings on through social media, an era of transparency, the city is about to embark on what may become the trial of the century.  The men -creatures?- who flew four planes into oblivion and infamy on September 11, 2001 did not survive to face trial. Timothy McVeigh did, and lost his trial, lost his life. But while his act of domestic violence resulted in more deaths than the Boston Marathon bombings, his was directed at the government. The people were, and I don't intend callousness or disrespect, they were collateral damage. They were not a part of his message but just a means to deliver it.

The people in Boston were intentional targets. There's no question about that. These two young men, the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlin at 26 and Dzhokar, known here in America as Jahar, at 19, intentionally planted their weapons of destruction in areas that were crowded by true Americans, regular Americans, there to cheer on and celebrate those who had endured hardships to gain entry in one of the greatest marathons in the world, the 117th running of the Boston marathon. They are patriots who were there to celebrate Massachusetts' Patriots Day.

The runners, only a few of them slightly injured in the blast, had trained hard to qualify for this fateful run. Elated at being accepted to participate, they ascended on Boston with family and friends, many of whom awaited them at the finish line. Groups of runners were running to raise funds for charities. Many different charities that use some of Boston's greatest medical, science, and technology assets to develop treatment and cures for people afflicted with the conditions and diseases for which those charities were created. Another group was running in honor of the victims and survivors of Americas's most recent mass shooting, the killing of 20 children and six adults in neighboring Connecticut. Individuals running for their own causes, for personal reasons or in memory of loved ones. Or just to see if they could conquer one of the world's most famous and most difficult marathons. But those running in groups, raising money or awareness or both, are a special kind of people. Running not for personal best times but for others is a noble thing to do. It's an American thing to do, to selflessly give up indinidual goals for the common good. It's a New England thing to do. It's a Boston thing to do.

But the runners themselves were not the actual targets. It was the cheering section. People of all ages from all walks of life. Some family and friends of runners, waiting excitedly to see them run through the finish zone. Some were supporters and beneficiaries of charities funded by runners. Some didn't personally know any runners but cheered them anyway, lending their own kind of support. That's how Boston celebrates Patriots Day. But on Monday, April 15th, four days before the actual anniversary of "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" came the bombastic blasts heard 'round the world.

Back in my cycling days I participated in several charity rides. They were 80 miles long. Up hills and down, through small towns and farmlands. With breaks along the way, rest stops manned by volunteers who could not ride but were enthusiastic in their support, it is hard to descibe the feelings you have. But the most important one you take away from each stop, after the Gatorade and the banana, the potty break, the bike check, is that you must go on. You must finish. For the people. The people you're raising money for. The people who have worked so hard to set up and present the event. The people who have devoted a weekend to make sure you are well fed, well hydrated, blisterless. And at the end, the cheers. The noise! Oh, the noise! The hugs and kisses from people you've never met and whom you'll never see again. Young people, middle-aged and old people. Healthy people and victims of the insidious disease you are trying to help fund a cure for, Multiple Sclerosis. Though they did not ride The Pedal to the Point, they got the Point. Not Cedar Point, the amusement park destination, but The Point of the Ride. And amidst all the cheers and hugs of happiness, there was gratitude.

So I know what was happening throughout the day as the runners proceeded from water station to water station, and finally reached the finish line, bone and muscle weary, exhausted to the all-I-wanna-do-is-sleep-for-three-days point. Hungry, thirsty, jubilant and exultant. But first the search to hook up with friends and family, at the finish line or designated spots nearby.

The elite runners were long gone, having finished hours before. Now it was the
 people's race. The guy down the street who once borrowed your lawn mower. The woman your sister-in-law works with. The groups with little in common but a common charitable cause. They were running to the shouts, the cheers, the waving flags and signs of the spectators near the finish line. The kid who plays hockey, sometimes with your kid, sometimes against. The grandparents, the best friends, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. All waiting to deliver their own huzzahs, their own hugs and kisses, their own excited congratulations! And then, BOOM! A fireball enveloped a part of the crowd. Bits and pieces of metal and plastic flying through the air, shearing and shredding limbs, destroying ear drums, impaling soft human tissue with BBs and nails. A cloud of smoke that soon dissipated, revealing what was often described as carnage. Terror ensued. Yes terror, because that is what was the intention of the act. An act of terrorism. Then, nearly fifteen beats of a heart later, two football fields away,  BOOM, another blast! More injuries, more confusion, more fear.

Immediately came the trained response from nearby police, firefighters, and servicemen. Running towards the carnage were doctors, nurses, trained medical staff.  Coming to the aid of the victims. Coming to take over for the average citizen who maybe learned CPR in a classroom but had never put his skills to use...until today when he dropped to his knees to help the spectator who just seconds ago had been standing next to him with a big grin on her face. A stranger caught up with him in the excitement of the day, a stranger who know depended on him for her life. Average citizens who knew if you didn't put a tournequet on that leg the victim would bleed out. Maybe they learned that on tv, but in the face of gruesome injuries,images they'd never before seen but that would forever be etched in their minds, they acted instinctively and lives were saved because of it.

Some civilians literally gave the shirts off their backs. Some gave words of comfort. But all gave what they could, running selflessly and spontaneously into what has repeatedly been likened to a war zone. Not knowing if this was it, two quick blasts in succession, or if there was more to come. They came, each finding a job, tearing down barriers, giving aid and comfort, getting the victims to help anyway they could, on gurneys and stretchers, in wheelchairs, literally carrying strangers in their arms as they ran towards waiting ambulances.

Some runners understandably reacted with shock, searching desperately for their support teams. Some returned to their hotels to try and process what had happened. And some continued running, straight to designated blood donation areas, hospitals where the wounded were taken. The injured would need life giving blood to replenish what was lost on the scene. Some would need life saving blood as they underwent surgery to remove severely damaged limbs or repair the effects of crude amputations caused by flying shrapnel and bomb parts.

It was a sick and gory scene. Stomach wrenching. So nauseating one prominent newspaper doctored its front page photo to lessen its impact.

But immediately that terror was replaced by acts of kindness, of bravery. Law enforcement immediately got to work, cordoning off what a few minutes earlier was the cheering section of a major international sporting event and was now a crime scene. Local Boston Police and Boston Firefighters were soon joined by first responders from neighboring towns, neighboring states, the federal government. Police and fire investigators were joined by The ATF, The FBI, the Dept. of Homeland Security. All with the same purpose. Find out who caused this. Who committed this heinous act of cowardice. Yes, cowardice. Because that's what terrorists are, cowards.

And so the manhunt began. Security camera footage was gathered. Ordinary people dropped off or emailed cell phone  and camera photos of the crowds. Interviews, questions, searches. Tips poured in to hot lines. Tips by the thousands, all had to be evaluated, many checked further. suddenly, after just three days of searching through unknown bits and pieces of information, clear and grainy film and photos of crowded scenes, somebody, somehow, picked out two men as possible suspects. And the search, the tangible search, was on. Narrowed down to two men. And shared with the public to help find them. 

Clarified pictures were shared through every outlet possible. Law enforcement took to social media to get the photos out across the country and to international agencies like Interpol. By then the two could have been anywhere in the world. But they weren't; they were right in our backyards. At the end, literally in somebody's back yard.

But before that ending, the search. We don't know where these two brothers, Cambridge residents who immigrated from Kyrgyzstan as youths and who were granted asylum because their country was at war, one eventually becoming a US citizen, spent the first two days after the bombings. We don't know if others were involved, a possible terrorist cell hiding them until they could safely return to normal lives. Or if they acted alone and had gone underground to hide until the pressure eased. But then the photos were released.  The public knew what they looked like even if we were yet to learn their names. Soon the names were known, identifications were confirmed. If there was a terrorist cell, they could no longer risk themselves by being associated with the Tsarnaevs. If they acted alone, the brothers likely knew their chances of evading law enforcement were none. So on Thursday they took to the streets. They carried with them another pressure cooker bomb, pipe bombs, home made grenades. And at least one gun. They made their way to the campus of MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The school where some of the brightest young minds in the world gather to learn to do great things, to find answers for the world's problems, to develop medical technologies, to engineer solutions. Given that they had more IEDs with them, it is assumed they were there to plant them around the campus. Why MIT? Who knows. There doesn't seem to be any connection between them and the school.

There was an MIT police officer on duty that night. One of thousands of officers in the region keeping an eye out for the two brothers, their brothers' faces committed to memory, the officers on heightened alert. What happened on that campus, at that intersection, we'll probably never know. The only real information we have is that a young police officer, only a year on the job, was executed as he sat in his cruiser. Executed by one of the brothers, likely Tamerlan, the older brother. Tamerlan had described himself as an outcast, unable to make friends in his new home country. He was not happy here. Unlike his younger brother, his request for citizenship had been denied because of a charge of domestic violence against his girlfriend, the mother of his child. Yes, this terrorist was a father. He returned to Eastern Europe for a period of time. There is speculation he trained with a terrorist or militia group while there. Certainly he had seen war as a Chechen teen in Kyrgyzstan before emigrating to the United States with his family. So with the loss of Officer Sean Collier, the city mourns another senseless death. Another family grieves over their loved one. And the hunters become more determined to catch their prey. Because if there's anything that comes close to an attack on the public in setting law enforcement on a mission, it's the loss of one of their own, a brother.

As cruisers raced to the scene at MIT in response to the calls of an officer down, the suspects' vehicle is spotted and a chase ensues through the streets of Cambridge, heading to nearby Watertown. Along the way many gunshots ring out, cars are hit. People, too. Good guys and bad guys. A few explosives are tossed out the window in failing attempts to deter the chasing officers. At one point the suspects stop their car. The driver gets out. Shots ring out and he drops to the ground. We don't know if he was dead or alive at that point, but then the younger brother made his way to the driver's seat and somehow managed to back over his brother's body, possibly delivering the fatal injury.

The younger brother drove away, and the chase continued. Events that happened up to this point and beyond are not quite clear. During the chase, Officer Richard Donahue was shot and wounded, listed in critical condition at the hospital. Fifteen other officers were injured in the chase. Did the boys rob the 7-Eleven where they stopped? Yes. No. We're looking into it. At some point they switched cars, hijacking a Honda, holding the driver hostage for thirty minutes, admitting to being the bombers, forcing the man to withdraw money from his ATM to fund their escape. Then they stopped the car and Tamerlan exited, getting himself shot and run over by the vehicle now being driven by his brother. Somehow, with details still muddled, Jahar, the younger of the two, survived. He made his way to Watertown. He abandoned the car and escaped on foot. The city of Boston was already locked down, streets blocked off, people urged to stay home. Then the suburbs were locked down. Residents ordered to remain in their homes, away from windows. Don't answer your door until you have positively identified the person as a law enforcement officer. Please open your house to a search. We don't care about anything we find except this kid.

Bostonians complied. The people of Watertown and some surrounding areas were under seige, hidng their children, glued to the radio or tv and computer screens, following the stories on their phones. Texting, Facebook, Twitter. All the lines were burning up much as they had on Monday after the horrific acts took place. As if in a prison, they were in lock-down mode.

And then, they found him. A citizen noticed blood on the white plastic covering his boat in his backyard. He should have called the cops. That's what I would reasonably have done, or you. For days we'd been told to NOT approach the suspects, who were armed and dangerous. But bravely or foolishly he decided to check it out himself. What he found was a bleeding young man lying at the bottom of his boat. He then did what he should have done in the first place. He called the police. The police surrounded the house. Negotiations began. A stand-off ensued as the kid refused to come out of hiding. Whether he was injured to the point he couldn't come out on his own, the police didn't know at the time. But eventually, after suffering the effects of concussive blasts and gas grenades, he emerged from under the thin layer of plastic. It was an unlikely hiding place for someone fearing for his life. It offered little protection. It was easily discoverable. and there was little he could do for himself as he lay there. No food, no water. And with the entire neighborhood alert and vigilant, no hope for an undetected escape. After several hours he surrendered. After being handcuffed he was given medical aid. Because that's what Americans do. On the battlefields and in our backyards, we give medical aid to our enemies. To do any less would be unconscionable, barbaric, something terrorists would do. But not in Boston. In Boston they take you to the number one trauma center. They do everything humanly possible to save you. Even knowing what you did, that you will likely spend the rest of your life behind bars.

So now the physical danger is over. The emotional issues, not so much. There will be steps to go through. Steps similar to those normally thought of when grieving the loss of a loved one. But I have a feeling the anger will live on, way past the point where one should move to the next step. Anger will live on through Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev's trial, unless he takes mercy on his victims and pleads guilty. He may do so in exchange for his own life. While Massachusetts does not support the death penalty, the crimes allegedly committed by the Tsarnaev brothers  meet the guidelines of federal crimes that call for the death penalty. The surviving brother, Dzhokhar, will likely be bound over to federal court, where federal charges will be brought. Except for trips back and forth to a courtroom and views through a small slit of a cell window, he will likely never again see the light of day. He will likely spend time in a solitary cell in maximum security, his only human contact being meetings with his legal team, brief contact with guards escorting him to the exercise or shower rooms, maybe, for the first few months, visits from some loyal friends.

The thing is, Jahar DOES have loyal friends. While his brother bemoaned his inability to establish friendships in the United States, feeling like he didn't fit in, focusing on training for the individual sport of boxing, Jahar was assimilating as an American. Only eight when he arrived in the country (Tamerlan was 15), Jahar quickly made friends. He was a gifted athlete and a likeable kid. He maintained close friendships with classmates and teammates, right up until the time he was captured. Some of his friends recognized his photo as a suspect but, in the words of one, they were joking about it and didn't report it because "No, we didn't want to throw somebody under the bus....it was too much to bring to the FBI's attention for my group of friends." He later added, "you don't want to implicate anybody that you know..." Had these young men had the decency to do the right thing, the grown up thing, the MANLY thing, despite being friends with the suspect, perhaps Sean Collier would still be alive, and sixteen other officers, including the critically wounded Officer Donahue, might never have been injured and might be home with their families today. 

Perhaps in the time between Tsarnaev's arraignment and his trial, if there is to be one, his friends will reconsider their ties to him. Some have already said they will testify on his behalf, that he never would have acted except for an overwhelming desire to be like his brother, his ability to be influenced by his brother, his desire to be accepted by his brother. Always the brother. They will say it's all Tamerlan's fault. But at nineteen years old, a young man has to take responsibility for his own actions. And hopefully these young men, loyal to a friend who is now accused of committing an act of terrorism against his own country, against all Americans, against them as Bostonians, perhaps they will reconsider. Perhaps they will recall something that was off, some conversation, some reference to his brother, his beliefs. But they are young. Perhaps they can be excused for their unabashed loyalty to a young man they have called friend. But that loyalty may be called into question when it's learned when they knew Jahar Tsarnaev was the suspect police were searching for and whether they could have prevented the carnage of Thursday night by coming forward with their knowledge.

Their friend will be provided good legal representation. Better than he could ever hope to afford. He will be defended at the taxpayers' expense. The very same taxpayers he tried to kill. The very same taxpayers who, through generous donations, will help the victims of his actions, and their families. The same taxpayers who will pay for his medical care for the injuries he suffered in the commission of his crimes. And he will get a fair trial. Because what he did, he did to America. 

I'd like to give credit for the photo but don't know the original source. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hey, I found this draft on my blog.

I wonder why I didn't finish it! Oh, well. Something must have made me stop. But I DO remember the rest of the weekend! Somehow I must have sucked it up and finished the drive. It was the end of July. '09 and I was headed for a big weekend in the Plymouth, MA area. Friday we were celebrating my sister's 50th birthday. She knew we were celebrating it, but not what the big activity was. A chartered boat around Plymouth Harbor out to Provincetown! Maybe see a whale or two on the way! I knew a couple of people would be seeing pink elephants! Anyway, the weather asea was too rough for the charter to motor from Boston to Plymouth. Fortunately my younger sister (who herself will be the recipient of a wild and wacky fiftieth birthday celebration this July in Vegas!) was able to arrange a party bus to drive us to Boston where we would board the party boat. Awesome ride, awesome sail, awesome ride back. To the party hotel. The one that doesn't like parties and wouldn't let us use, well, the party room. Not after ten on a Friday night! No problem, we just turned my corner room into a party room. We're flexible like that! A couple of hours later, after many rounds of Mafia and an unsuccessful attempt to turn the cornhole board into a beer pong table, we all crawled into our beds to catch a few ZZZs before heading, on Saturday, to the extended family reunion at a party area in the nearby state forest. It's technically a picnic area but we don't picnic so much as party. I do remember a good time was had by all. There's plenty of photographic evidence. I've seen the photos. Online, anyway. Because nowadays nobody ever prints out their photos. And nobody ever edits them. There's, like, a thousand and two photos from that weekend floating in cyberspace, on google and picasa and shutterfish or snap fish or some kind of fish photo place. So I know we had a great time. And for the record, I was NEVER in the Mafia. So there.

Here's the draft I found.
Well, I survived my harrowing drive to MA. Well, harrowing may not be the right word but...it was certainly miserable. Tried to leave on Tuesday. Couldn't make it. Went to Dr.s office, now I have a problem with my "good" foot. Yes, a painful problem. Get referral to podiatrist. Go home to get ready to leave on trip, and while going through old photos of previous reunions, I fell on my ass when my rolling office chair rolled right out from under me. Now my back hurts. Now I can't drive tonight, so I cancel Wednesday's plans. Try to leave early Wednesday. Spend an hour looking for my camera. Spend a half hour packing car, after unloading three bags of cement, two of which had holes in them. Clean up (most of) the mess. Get the stuff I forgot to pack. Finish packing the car. Check my list, everything's a-okay. Stop at Credit Union ATM, can't get any cash. Withdrawal from savings, transaction declined. Withdrawal from checking, transaction denied. Geeze. Gotta get outta the car and go inside. No problem, just have a $200 daily withdrawal limit and I requested $300. Get back in car and head towards PA. Stop for gas in Erie and realize I don't have my license. Unpack my bag to check pockets of shorts I wore last time I had my license. Not there. Nowhere. Check other bags. No license.

Of course, most of you would just continue on your way, realizing you aren't likely to need your license anyway and knowing if you get stopped without it you likely won't have a problem. I, on the other hand, know better. In my lifetime I have thrice been stopped for a traffic violation and not had my license on me. Two out of those three times I got a free tour of the local police station. The third time I was moving a car full of crap from MA to OH and the cop decided he didn't want to stand by the side of the road on a hot summer night while I unpacked my car to find my wallet. So yeah, knowing my luck and not wanting to spend the weekend in beautiful downtown Buffalo while my entire family partied the night away on Friday in Plymnouth, I drove back to OH and got my license. Drive back to PA and stop for gas. Now my "good" knee is cramping up. The one on the right. The driving leg. Cramping. So my left ankle is at about a seven on the pain scale, my right foot is at about a six, and now that tendon or muscle or whatever behind the right knee is all tied up on knots. While I'm driving on the New York Thruway. Gotta keep stopping to uncramp it. Call and cancel Thursday's plans because now I'm not going to complete the drive.

Yeah, I'm hurtin'. And stressed. And can't take any meds cuz I gotta drive another four hundred miles.Right about now I hate my life. So I keep on pushhin'. Gotta see how far I can get tonight. Turns out, not far. End up staying in Rochester. Thought I'd check out the Microtel Inn. I've never stayed there and there was a $20 coupon in the hotel mag at the turnpike plaza. How bad could it be?

Let's just say I have an active imagination and was able to pretend I was travelling through a third world country and was staying at a five star hotel. I figured that was the easiest way to make it through the night. At the Microtel. In Ny. In the USA. Here's a piece of advice for you. If the name of the place starts with the word Micro? Trust me, it's gonna be small. That's what micro means. Small. I know the prison in Attica's not that far from Rochester but who would have thought the same guys that built Attica would have built a nearby hotel? Seriously. A bathroom, a bed, a phone, a 15" TV up on the wall. This place was smaller than the hospital rooms I've stayed in. No lamps on the night stands. Well, not nightstands, exactly. A shelf mounted between the bed and the wall on each side. Yes, the room was that small.

It was secure though. Not the motel itself, but my room. Standard motel security with double door locks. But lucky me. The elderly couple staying in the room next door, the adjoining room, had their dog with them. I think it was a German Shepherd. It sounded like a German Shepherd when it barked. And it barked a lot. Oh lordy, between the dog and the conversation I could hear through the single door there wasn't a whole lotta sleep to be had.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Aftermath

Earlier today my "little" sister posted on her Facebook page how she's feeling after yesterday's bombing in Boston. Fortunately she was not in the vicinity of the bombing but at work many blocks away. She and her coworkers experienced the tragedy by watching helicopters hovering over the bomb sites, listening to screaming ambulances speeding to rescue the injured. Helpless. Worried. Curious. They spent half the afternoon on the phones reassuring family and friends of their safety. As one of those family members, let me tell you, there were a lot of sighs of relief, a lot of "thank God" utterances throughout the country. Boston is a small city. It's no New York in size or global reach. But it's clear from the nationwide response that everybody LOVES Boston. There was an immediate and continuing outpouring of support. Americans once again coming together in the face of tragedy.

Today those feelings are turning into anger. As my sister said, she's mad. Spitting mad. In the street vernacular of Bostonians that translates into "I'm pissed. Wicked pissed." I don't blame them. I'm wicked pissed myself.

I'm 600 miles away from my hometown but thanks to my cellphone and Facebook I was able to connect to my family in Boston. And thanks to CNN I was able to keep up with what was happening. But still, there were feelings of helplessness and anguish. You know this is a huge event, you know the impact on the city, you can imagine the physical pain and fear the victims are experiencing, more fear and uncertainy from bystanders. And yet you can do nothing.

But you also feel pride. The first responders immediately ran towards the bombing site. Into the smoke and debris and the blood. Always the blood. Literally the lifeblood of a small city that is more family than citizenry. And it wasn't just the well-trained police and fighter fighters that ran towards the site. There were medically trained volunteers who were there to help runners. The nurse who lives across the street who expected to spend the day wrapping people in foil blankets, offering words of encouragement and sips of oxygen to replenish depleted lungs. The doctor who treats your kid's earaches who runs to stay healthy and loves volunteering at the finish line, knowing he will be treating exhausted runners, some with blisters, one or two who may have cardiac issues. Suddenly, unexpectedly, they found themselves in what many have described as "a war zone." They were prepared. They were joined by civilians with no special traing who just wanted to do something, anything, to help. Pro footballer Joe Andruzzi, who has previously been honored for his courage and community service, was photographed in the midst of the commotion, carrying a stranger to safety. Joe used to play professional football for the New England Patriots. He doesn't play football anymore, but he's still a patriot. There were other patriots there as well. Soldiers, some of whom had just returned from deployment, rushing in wearing camouflage uniforms, clearing debris, making way for the medics to get to the wounded.

The volunteers at the finish line were prepared for runners limping into the aid station for low to medium level first aid problems. What they didn't expect to be doing was running towards a bombing site. What they didn't expect to be treating were the effects of a concussive blast, people who lost limbs, victims in shock full of shrapnel and shards of glass. But respond they did. Their selfless acts likely saved a few lives today. Lives that will be forever changed but lives that will recover. People who will one day tell their grandchildren that their scars came from That Day. The day war came back to Boston, the town-cum-city where war gave birth to a nation.

What comes from this act, we don't yet know. Who caused it, we don't know. But one thing is sure. A country will avenge but a city will heal. It will be hard. Damn hard. There will be a lot of hurt, pain, frustration. But the healing will come. It will come.

First, though, there's anger. People are mad. Spitting mad. You could say that's one of the steps of grief, but right now it is what it is. People...are...pissed.

 The people responsible for this heinous act will regret messing with the people of Boston because when we're driven to the point of "spitting mad" the bad guys better beware. We are Bostonians. We are New Englanders. We are AMERICANS and we don't put up with this shit.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bombings at the Boston Marathon!

It's Patriots' Day which is huge in Massachusetts, especially in the Boston and Concord/Lexington areas. You know, because of the American Revolution. Always a tradition for the greater Boston area. Nearly half a million marathon spectators, always a Sox game at Fenway and either the Bruins or the Celtics at The Gahden. So there's a huge influx of people into Boston. Fortunately that's coupled with many workers having the day off, so the numbers of people in town probably don't fluctuate that much, but there's a greater concentration in the Fenway and Copley Square areas.

These people who WERE in town for special events were gathered in predictable areas. One of the toughest places to get to is the Finish Line for the Boston Marathon. And I don't mean for runners, but for spectators. Today, though, that was not the lucky ticket.

Terror struck Boston today as there was an explosion near the finish line, with a smaller, second explosion within seconds, about a block away, also along the course.

It's too soon to know how many people were victims. Reports at this time are three deaths and more than a hundred injured. 

I watched the events of 9/11 on tv. In fact I was on the phone with my nephew when the second plane hit and I remember saying "This is not an accident." I watched the developments on CNN and MSNBC, flipping between channels, but I was a little detached. I was a spectator. I didn't have family working in or near The World Trade Center.  Everybody knows somebody who was affected, but I wasn't personally. I was a student at UMass at the time and some of my classmates were from the New York metropolitan area, so I saw what they were dealing with. It was tough. As it is whenever you watch a tragedy unfold live on tv. Or even watching replays on the news. But today it really hit home.

Today my hometown was hit. It's not just the place where I was born. It's the city I returned to again and again as I moved from one part of the country to another. It's a beautiful city. A city full of sports nuts and crazy drivers. And my family members. But it's also not just a city full of proud Americans; it's where America was born (despite what Philadelphians might claim. ) A big part of that birth was an event known as "The Battle of Lexington and Concord." The start of the Revolution. A huge day in American history. For some reason it's only truly celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine. But celebrated it is, especially in Boston. 

On the green in Lexington, they reenact the battle. With realistic-looking but pretend weapons. British soldiers in uniform, Massachusetts farmers in rags, charging each other, the mini-explosions of simulated musket fire and smoke fill the air. People falling to the ground in mock injury and death. I haven't experienced it first hand, I've only seen it on the small screen. But I hear it's an incredibly realistic experience. A lot of spectators attend.

But there was also a huge number of spectators at the marathon finish line in Boston. It's the end of the historic run from the small New England town of Hopkinton to one of Boston's busy office, shopping, and tourist areas on Boylston Street near Copley Square, not far from The Boston Common.  It's where the runners celebrate the end of a grueling run, fighting through hordes of other runners and conquering the infamous Heartbreak Hill. It's where they collapse in first aid tents, sucking in oxygen, downing sports drinks and water while wrapped in foil blankets.

 A lot of those runners never reached the finish line. They were stopped in their tracks, literally, as two bombs exploded nearby. The first aid workers, waiting to assist the runners, instead BECAME the runners, rushing to the site of the explosion. So while the Revolutionary reenactment actors were busy pretending to shoot it out, the marathon spectators experienced the real drama. They were victims of and witnesses to what appears to be a horrific act. First one bomb exploded. Runners fell or were blown off course from the concussion. There was a huge flash and a loud noise, glass and shrapnel flying all around. Seconds later and about a block down the street, there was a smaller explosion, assumed to be related to the first. The police have turned up other packages that may or may not have been bombs but were, in any case, destroyed by the bomb squad.

The injuries being reported are those one would associate with a bombing. I won't go in to the gory details. Many lives were changed in an instant. A few lives ended. And many more will be touched by the experiences of loved ones and friends.

But for the first few minutes after tragedy struck, as news stations were scrambling to get reports and images on the air, for minutes that seemed like hours, millions of us grabbed our cell phones and took to social media to check on family and friends. Fortunately, for most of us, family and friends responded. All were, ARE, safe. Physically, at least. As grateful as I am for that news, I know it's going to be hard for many folks to return to work tomorrow. 

Going into Boston, there will probably be a lot of security, traffic will probably be heavy. That seems like a small price to pay for safety, but it also means time sitting in your car waiting, with plenty of time to think about WHY you're waiting. To help prevent another attack. To keep you safe from people who don't know you but want to harm you anyway. I can't imagine what the next few days will feel like to people entering Beantown from all directions, walking from parking garages to office buildings, pouring out of the train and subway stations, stepping off buses and hoping they'll make it safely to their destinations. My hometown will never be the same. But the people are tough, hardened New Englanders. They were strong enough to defeat the British, they'll overcome this. Things will soon return to normal. But they'll never forget this Patriots' Day. Another April day that will help define America's history. I couldn't be prouder to be from Boston. 

And. I am so grateful my family is safe. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Wonderful Family. An Insider's Look

The other day I was involved in a discussion on voting and the tendencies of certain groups to vote in blocs. Specifically someone was making repeated references to a statistic claiming that 90% of blacks voted Democratic, in his words "blindly," "devotedly," and "lovingly." I know, right? Just a tad racist. He's otherwise a reasonably intelligent guy from what I know from our posting history.

So we started talking about kinds of blocs and why you can't assume all or most members of that bloc act in tandem, especially at the voting booth.

I decided to challenge his theory. I offered to provide information about my family to see if he could determine how, or if, we would vote "as a bloc." He declined the challenge, which kind of  showed his inability to believably defend his statistics and assumptions.

But, anyway, I have an incredible family! With vast and varied experiences, which we share with each other! We try our best to stay connected -thank you Facebook- and get together regularly, in celebrations with now four generations of family! Amazing, right?

So though he declined the challenge, I realized I wanted to share the incredibleness of my family! So I'm doing it here. The info is not all encompassing, just the usual stuff considered by political organizations when determining their campaign strategies targeted toward certain voters. We were, after all, talking politics when this little project came to mind. Here's the info I came up with, just from memory. I'm sure there are inaccuracies, but I suck at math and with so many people, especially young adults whose lives are in flux, I hope I've gotten it right. My apologies if I didn't. If anybody has corrections, feel free to let me know. And dammit! Get those changes in for the directory! Yes, for those of you readers who aren't familiar with us, the family is close enough and large enough to justify publishing an actual directory of contact information!

I come from a large extended family on my mother's side. Her mother's ancestry was full Irish and her father's was full English.  My father's side was mixed from the UK and Ireland, so I'll focus on just the maternal side.

My mom's family had seven kids. They married and produced our generation of thirty-five kids. We have multiplied and brought forth another sixty-nine, say fifty of whom are old enough to vote. They in turn have added two old enough to vote and twelve more who are toddlers. So, if my math is correct, that is a total of 125 people.  Subtracting the deceased because, even though we are predominantly Boston area based Irish Catholic, our dead don't vote, and given that we really do only vote once each, and subtracting minors, that means that we have a voting bloc of eighty-eight people. There are a few that might not vote but I think nearly all do. So let's be conservative and say it's an eighty person bloc, all of whom are white with an English/Irish Roman Catholic background passed on from the couple who started this incredible group!

So, the make-up of this voting bloc is thus, according to my maybe-not-so-accurate but well intended attempt to describe it:

My Episcopalian grandfather converted to Catholicism to marry my grandmother. My generation is predominantly Catholic with a few Episcopalians and agnostics. The next generation is fairly mixed and adds a couple of atheists and a Jew, also a marriage-related conversion. So let's take out religion, except to leave in Christian-like values.

 All but seven are college educated, a few with two-year degrees, eleven with at least one advanced degree. So, well educated. 

Economic- with such a varied range of ages and careers, predominantly somewhere in what is considered a broad range of working middle class, with exceptions.

One has spent his entire career in the military, another served during Vietnam, one served in Iraq and two returned home from deployments within the last year and intend to continue their military careers, both in Army Special Forces. 

There are firefighters and police officers, teachers, artists,  doctors, lawyers, construction workers, a cook, and for some reason a humanities major like I am can't fathom, a goodly number of MBAs in finance and insurance. I don't do the numbers game. Correction, I CAN'T do the numbers game. So, heavy on the sciences and maths, and white collars,  light on the arts and blue collars. 

All white Americans except two adopted from different countries, so not American by birth, but at 12 (Vietnam) and 14 (Russia), they don't vote anyway.