Saturday, April 26, 2014

Boston Herald Today

I was pleasantly surprised to find my writing in today's Boston Herald.

Today's Boston Herald

I had somewhat given up on this piece being published. I submitted it a couple of weeks back, figured it was dead, and actually published it in this space (more-or-less; a few edits were made by my tremendous editor at the Herald, improving it overall. I've really come to appreciate the value of a good editor, and she is one.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Kind words, letters to the editor, your decisions to not send me anthrax in the mail - these are all appreciated.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Helpers

Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers Neighborhood fame, told of advice given him by his mother. He had been witness to a traumatic event. His mother, seeing him shaken, told him that one should always look for “the helpers”. In any dire situation, there will be people willing to help, to give aid, to their fellow humans. She said that one might gain solace from knowing that they are always around, ready to act selflessly. She was right.

In 1994, a truck drove into the Fort Point Channel in South Boston. My friend John, out for an early morning jog, saw this happen. With no consideration for his own safety, John dove into the water from the bridge he was on to make a rescue.

On another occasion, I was a part of John's rescue effort. We had attended mass with our wives. We were strolling back to our cars, in the parking lot adjacent to the church, when we saw smoke pouring from under the hood of a pick-up truck. A man in the driver's seat was unaware of the fire. John ran to the truck. I followed. John alerted the driver and then threw open the hood. Luckily, it was winter, so John and I piled snow onto the engine until the fire was out.

(I hasten to add John was much more the hero than I. Had I been alone, I don't know if I would have rushed toward an imminent explosion. I was sort of sucked into John's wake.)

You may recall, some years back, a plane going down in a river near Washington, DC. People dove into the water, swam out to the wreckage, and pulled passengers to safety. Not too long ago, there was the story of a man falling onto subway tracks in New York City. A complete stranger jumped into the pit as a train bore down on both men. The stranger pulled the man into a groove between the tracks and shielded his body with his own as the train passed over them safely.

We need only look to last year's bombing of the Boston Marathon to see one of the greatest instances of “the helpers” doing what they do. The most famous may be Carlos Arredondo, easily discernible in his cowboy hat while rescuing Jeff Bauman, but there were many others who rushed toward danger rather than away from it. They are always around, someplace, seemingly just waiting for a call to action.

Fred Rogers' mother suggested that solace may be taken from their presence. That's a good idea, but I think we can do better. I'd like to suggest that anyone who feels inconvenienced today by a random search, or perhaps a delay in getting to a destination, consider that the person conducting the search, or delaying them slightly, may have been one of “the helpers” last year, or may in fact be one in waiting. Instead of focusing on the inconvenience, it might be nice to say thank you in advance. And then to say a prayer of thanks if it turns out – as is hoped - that “the helpers” aren't needed this time around.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

One Year After

The 15th of this month was the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Jeff Bauman (survivor) & Carlos Aredondo (in cowboy hat - rescuer)

Today, the 19th, was when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the remaining living suspect, was captured in Watertown.

My piece in the Boston Herald today looks back on that time. As always, your kind comments at the website (or in a letter to the editor) are warmly appreciated.

The first marathon since that cowardly act of terror will take place on Monday.
The second will take place next year, the third will be the year after, and so on.
Cowardly terrorists took lives.
Cowardly terrorists destroyed limbs.
They were no match for Boston.
Boston was stronger.
Always will be.

Cowardly terrorists were no match for these guys.

Cowardly terrorists were no match for Watertown.
This was Mount Auburn Street after the capture.
We let those who made the capture know that we appreciated it.

Lives were lost.
Lives were fucked up in ways most of us can't even imagine.
Please say a prayer for all affected, and please enjoy the Boston Marathon.
This year it is a memorial, but it is also a celebration of life going on despite what some miserable excuses for human beings did last year.
Thank you for stopping by. Once again, my piece is at the Herald website. God bless.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Time (Wasted & Otherwise)

She's 80. Her husband is 89. He travels slowly these days. That's because he uses either a cane or a walker, depending upon the situation. She, not as encumbered, does a lot of waiting for him. She's OK with that. They're in love and there isn't a doubt in the world that he'd do the same if the situation was reversed. The other day, they traveled to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Jamaica Plain. The husband, Bill - a Bronze Star World War II vet - was having a procedure done on his eye. His appointment was at 10:30.

They live on the South Shore. Bill, with infirmities of leg and eye, isn't able to drive himself these days. There isn't any easy public transportation option. Bill's daughter sometimes does the driving; other times, Connie - Bill's wife - handles it. It's a somewhat long drive, through both expressway and city traffic. She doesn't enjoy the drive, but she does what's needed. As I say, they're in love.

Connie is my mom. Bill is my stepfather. Since I was otherwise unengaged, I volunteered to take the driving off of my mother's hands. I used to drive cab in Boston. City driving doesn't bother me.

We arrived on-schedule, but then we waited. Apparently, this is standard procedure. Get there when they tell you, then park it in a waiting room. When they call your name, travel to another waiting room down the hall. Wait there until you're called again.

Around noon, Bill was seen by a doctor. After that, we went back to the second waiting room. We sat until another doctor came and took care of Bill. Then we drove back to the South Shore. I'd estimate time spent with medical personnel at 45 minutes, tops; maybe an additional 15 minutes doing paperwork, so call it a productive hour. With his walker, Bill travels slowly. I'll be generous and say it took him a half-hour overall to get from place to place. Waiting time? At least two hours. We didn't hit the road again until 2:00pm.

Let me be clear. The people at the VA were great. Everybody had a smile and a kind word. The doctors were patient, answered questions thoroughly, and appeared to be doing everything in their power to keep it moving expeditiously. Other staff members were cheerful and accommodating. So, nothing personal, but why in hell did we cool our heels for so long? Why schedule some poor soul for 10:30 when he won't actually see a doctor until noon?

Putting that aside for now, I can truthfully say my own time wasn't wasted. I got to see something worth the wait. Everywhere I looked, there were veterans with physical problems. You'd expect to see that at the VA. But what touched me, and made my visit very worthwhile, were the healthy people with them. Obviously family members, they were guiding the blind; pushing the wheelchairs of those without capability to walk; filling out paperwork for those with crippled hands; and otherwise doing whatever else was needed, even if it was just waiting patiently. It's never a waste of time to see love in action, especially when given to those who, in many instances, made severe sacrifices on our behalf.

So, I'm glad I did the driving and my own time wasn't wasted. But, on behalf of the vets, I've got to ask again: If a person isn't going to see a doctor until noon, why is he scheduled at 10:30? If you have the answer, you're one up on me.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Taking Time to Pay Respect

Note for those who need to know: I submitted this to the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe, but neither could place it. It's just one of those things; pages are planned a day or so in advance, it wasn't something that could be inserted on the fly, and using it later wouldn't have the impact it has now. This concerns the deaths of Ed Walsh and Michael Kennedy, Boston Firefighters. Walsh's funeral was taking place in Watertown, where I live. I think that's all the background you need, but  if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Taking Time to Pay Respect

I was giving MY WIFE a ride to Harvard Square, where she catches the Red Line to work. Nothing unusual. Then traffic backed up on Mount Auburn Street. I hadn't remembered that we'd pass the funeral home. There, parked on the street, were Ladder 15 and Engine 33, draped in black bunting. It was a sobering sight and it put things into perspective. No matter how long the ride took today, it would be fast enough.

Maybe 15 minutes more than normal, I dropped off MY WIFE. Heading home, I spotted two firefighters in dress uniform, standing at a bus stop. I pulled over and asked if they needed a ride to Watertown. They accepted.

I asked them their names and where they were from. They were Mike and Zach, members of the Bridgeport Fire Department in Connecticut. They traveled via AMTRAK early in the morning, then took the T to Harvard, and had been waiting for the 71 bus when I spotted them. They were, of course, trying to get to Saint Patrick's for Ed Walsh's funeral.

We exchanged small talk. They told me how nice the Boston guys were who had come to attend a service in their area a while back. I told them about friends on the BFD with whom I play softball. I asked about their accommodations for the night. They said they had none; they were taking the train back that evening. And they planned to repeat the trip tomorrow, for Michael Kennedy.

We made good time until Watertown. Traffic was being directed away from Mount Auburn to another road. Fine for me, but not so much for getting these guys to Saint Patrick's. I tried to see if we might be allowed through. I pointed to the two firefighters in my car, but the traffic cop shook his head no and sent us on the detour.

Mike and Zach apologized, concerned about me getting home, losing my time. I told them not to worry.

I used some of my local knowledge to skirt traffic, but avoiding it completely was impossible. My two passengers offered to hoof it to the church, but they didn't realize how far they still had to go. I again reassured them I didn't mind.

We finally got within a block of Watertown Square. I asked a traffic cop how close I could get these firemen to the church. He suggested I pull through a nearby alley, closed to traffic. I thanked him, but as I was turning into it, I saw a parked car blocking it. I now agreed with Mike and Zach that it was probably best if they walk the remaining quarter-mile. They thanked me, got out, and started walking.

It was thirty minutes more before I reached Watertown Square. Once I was able to drive past Main Street, I saw the sea of blue uniforms. Firefighters lined the street six and seven deep, as far as the eye could see. Mike and Zach were in there somewhere. They'll travel home, then travel back to West Roxbury for Michael Kennedy.

I'm usually able to give MY WIFE a ride, and then get home, in twenty minutes. Today it took an hour-and-a-half. It was fast enough.


So, I'm sorry I couldn't get this published, but I'm happy to have someplace to put it where folks can read it and enjoy it.

Soon, with more better stuff.