What happened to Boston?

Our president was in Boston today, giving a pep talk. He was here for the remembering. Something happened here and it wasn’t a small thing.

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Massachusetts invented America,” Governor Deval Patrick said at Thursday morning’s interfaith service honoring the victims of the Marathon bombing. President Obama in the speech that followed, noted that all Americans were thinking about the city. “Every one of us has been touched by this attack on your beloved city,” he said. “Every one of us stands with you.” The marathon attacks were personal, he said.

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There are voices to which we should listen. We need to pay attention to positive voices so the psychopaths and sociopaths, terrorists and bad guys with guns, bombs and a determination to reduce us to shivering in our locked houses don’t get to do a victory lap.

We really must not allow that.

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From Stephen Colbert watch, smile and ponder (video).

What happened to Boston could (and has) happened in other places here and overseas. Open societies are inherently vulnerable. To terror, to deluded groups and individuals who murder people to make a point. No matter how news-weary we are, pep talks are important.

They remind us to not let the bad guys win. We all need to remember bad stuff can happen anywhere and sometimes it happens to us or those we love. There’s nowhere far enough off the grid that those people can’t find us.

Read “To Boston With Love,” a particularly apt and touching op-ed piece from the Washington Post by former local writer E.J. Dionne. It’s especially meaningful if you’ve ever lived in or near Boston.

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A couple of hours ago, it was all over the news. The FBI has pictures of two out of who-knows-how-many people involved in the bombings at the Marathon on Patriot’s Day. I’m waiting to hear what the point of the bombing was supposed to be. Did the voices in someone’s head tell them to do it? Or what? Why?

What if there was no reason at all? What if this horror was perpetrated by a bunch of local sociopaths having their version of a good time? That would be the weirdest, creepiest answer of all.

One way or the other, I would like to know what happened, if there is a semblance of a reason. I hope answers are coming.

Sensible Violence

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We were up in Worcester, the capital of our middle-of-nowhere part of the world. Taking pictures, happily unaware that something awful was happening 60 miles away in Boston. When we got home and the phone and email lit up, we knew something was up,

Garry and I lived in Boston for a long time. Garry was a reporter. If he were still working, as many of his friends are, he would have been exactly where the bombs went off. I would have been one of the terrified wives waiting to hear if my husband was alive and/or in multiple pieces. Maybe I would have been one of the unlucky ones. I’m glad to have missed the experience.

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A lot of people needed reassurance, wanted to be sure Garry wasn’t working (retired since 2001, but not everyone believes it) and we hadn’t gone to see the Marathon. We had merely taken a drive up to Worcester, looping back via the grocery store and the pond where the swans live. A normal pleasant spring day. For us, anyhow.

I had been laughing earlier in the day about how seriously New Englanders take their holidays. I had tried to get in touch with my doctor only to discover the office was closed for Patriot’s Day. If you live in Boston, there’s also Evacuation Day, another Revolutionary War remembrance, but affecting only the city. I can’t imagine New York closing down to celebrate a battle that took place more than 200 years ago. New York’s all about getting on with business, but Boston is into remembering and celebrating traditions.

Boston State House - Night
Boston State House – Night

Patriot’s Day and the Boston Marathon are part of what makes the Commonwealth and the city special. Unique. Boston is a big city, but it’s accessible. Even with awful parking, potholes and traffic, you can drive in Boston. You may not enjoy the experience but the city is not in constant gridlock. It’s a great walking city too. There are lots of street festivals, free concerts, and events that are open to everyone and their families. Is that going to change?

Are people going to be too afraid to enjoy the city? Lock themselves up behind steel doors? If terrorists can’t kill us all, they sure can take the joy out of life … if we let them.

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I can’t in good conscience tell anyone not to be afraid. But I lived in Jerusalem. I did lose friends to terrorists. It was black humor indeed to call Thursday at the marketplace “Bomb day.” Yet we went on living because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate and because if you close down your world, the bastards have won.

Yesterday, as we watched and listened to the news, we worried about people we knew until we finally heard they were safe.

I don’t “get” the terrorist gestalt, murdering civilians to make a political statement. What statement can you make based on murder? That you are willing to slaughter people because your cause is more important than life itself? Nothing is more important than life.

I have a feeling we aren’t dealing with an international conspiracy. No one has claimed responsibility for this atrocity. The bombs were built to inflict maximum harm, ugly bombs intended to tear flesh, rip and rend. Any bomb can kill you, but these were explicitly created to maim as well as murder.

If it’s discovered this is the work of a homegrown psychopath, will this make us feel better? I don’t find the idea comforting. Quite the opposite. The perpetrator could be a neighbor … or anyone. That’s creepy, not comforting.

Old South Church from Boston Commons

Garry always laughs at the expression “senseless violence.” As if there’s some other kind. The sensible kind.

There may be times when killing is unavoidable to prevent a greater evil but it’s never a good thing, only sometimes justifiable to protect yourself or others. Killing is never good. Sane people know this. Civilian, military and law enforcement personnel don’t casually take lives. That so many people seem comfortable with murder is deeply disturbing. What is wrong with them … and with us that we glorify killers and turn them into heroes?

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Yesterday in Boston, someone showed his/her/their inhumanity and cowardice. Religious fanatics? Non-denominational crazies? Foreign sociopaths? Homegrown psychopaths? Some other previously unknown lunatic fringe group … or a deranged individual?

Does it matter?

Whoever or whatever … I hope we catch them and make sure they never do it again to anyone anywhere.

From Garry:

I covered the Boston Marathon and other Patriot’s Day events for 31 years until my retirement. They are some of the most wonderful memories in my entire TV/radio news career covering more than 40 years. Patriot’s Day is special in New England, in Massachusetts, in greater Boston. The Revolutionary War re-enactments at dawn in Lexington and Concord were among my favorite assignments.

You could see children getting their first real look at history. Normally stoic or cynical adults looked on with pride and awe. I still see their faces in my sense memory. The Marathon weekend was always a period when the bad things going on in the world were put on hold for a brief time.

You met people from all around the world. Instant friendships were formed. Politics were set aside. Laughter and smiles were the common language. It is hard not to see this attack — even in this post 9/11 world — as anything but a horrible loss of innocence. It is so very sad.

American Roads In Worcester

This was our first time shooting in Worcester. It is just “down the road” from us, less than half an hour. It’s the capital of Worcester county. I was pleased to see how many new restaurants have opened since we last visited. We are culinarily-challenged in this region. I’ve worked in Worcester and everyone in the Valley has done business there. It’s our nearest city. Not quite a throbbing metropolis, but it has aspirations.

Worcester is an old city. It’s relatively small by urban standards, but sprawling. Like most cities in this region, it consists of distinctive areas and neighborhoods and a highly diverse population.

You can find parking in Worcester. Free. It’s accessible and architecturally interesting. Located at the top of the Blackstone River, it marks the northern end of the Valley and was the head of the Blackstone Canal, much of which is now buried under Worcester’s streets.

During the 1800s, in the heyday of the mills and factories on the Blackstone River, Worcester was bigger and much more prosperous. When the mills and factories closed and moved south, Worcester (pronounced Wour-ster) saw hard times, with a shrinking population and a sadly diminished tax base.

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Although it has improved a lot from its worst days, it still has a long way to go. Economic times are rough, but the city of Worcester has new hospitals, convention center and an updated downtown. It has come a long way. We all harbor high hopes for a better future. This region could use a little prosperity. It’s been a long dry spell.

Now, if only we wouldn’t get quite so much snow!

That Rosy Glow

With the big day coming up — the 50th high school reunion to which I am not going — I’m getting deluged with emails from The Reunion Group. I no longer read all of them, but every once in a while, I open one up and I’m always sorry I did. The primary area of discussion has moved on from each person telling the story of his or her way better-than-mine life to reminiscing about the school song, almost the definition of “from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

We never sang that song. Not at assemblies, not in chorus, not at all. Almost no one knew the words. I knew the words because they were so funny to me, given the real school and who we were, that I memorized the words for kicks and was usually the only kid who knew all three verses.

Here’s to her the school we love,

Jamaica, tried and true – oo,

Source of all our dearest aims,

Dear School of Red and Blue.

Red and Blue

Red and Blue

School of Red and Blue!

In love our hearts go out to her,

Dear school of Red and Blue!

If that doesn’t make you cry, you have no soul. It makes me laugh, so what does that make me?

What compels otherwise sane folks to transform a mixed experience rich with the good, the bad and a big dollop of indifferent, into “the best years of our lives?” It wasn’t. Not for anyone.  They cancelled the Senior Prom due to lack of interest. I know because I actually had a date for the prom, but he and I were the only two people to sign up, so they cancelled it. What does that say about reality versus memory?

A few people go way back. We didn’t merely attend high school together. We also went to elementary school and junior high school in one big batch. We got to know each other a lot better than we wanted, a huge dose of too much information. By junior high, I was too miserable to remember much of anything and was being actively bullied by the same mean girls I swear are still hanging around hallways and school yards today. Maybe they are clones of the same girls.

Thank God for the special program that got me through three years of junior high in two years. At least the misery was shortened by a year. Pity about never learning fractions and all. It certainly didn’t improve my shaky math skills.

So all of these people are singing (literally in some cases) the praises of the school and the school system. It was a better than average school academically, but fantastic? It was huge, crowded and if you didn’t measure up and get yourself into the “brainiac college-bound” group, you got nothing from the school except a place to sit in class. The school was academically better than most, but otherwise was no better than every other overcrowded New York city high school. I had some interesting teachers. I had a few really good teachers, and at least one that seriously influenced my future. There were also one or two memorable ones, though not always in a good way.

With current planning involving all these aging nerds and geeks singing the school song, I cannot begin to imagine myself standing around (probably sitting since my arthritis is pretty bad) howling a school song no one ever sang while we were going to school. I think I’d collapse from laughter, genuine ROFLMAO stuff.

What urge makes people cast a rosy glow over a time that wasn’t rosy for them?  So many of my classmates seem intent on reliving a past that didn’t happen at all. Is it because we are getting old and want our youth to have been much happier than it was?

Life was what it was. I am not a fan of revisionist history. I occasionally get an email from someone who has found my blog or my Facebook page. They want to renew our friendship. But we weren’t friends. Ever. Some of them are from that group of “mean girls” who turned my life in elementary school and junior high into a small personal hell. Now they want to be my pal? Really? Why? Have they actually forgotten the way it was? Why does no one ever talk about the one really cool thing we had: a gorgeous Olympic-sized swimming pool. Maybe I was the only one who always chose swimming instead of gym. I didn’t mind getting my hair wet, but apparently I was unique that way.

Is this whole collective stumble down memory lane a bizarre form of self-hypnosis whereby we erase real memories and replace them with stuff that never happened? Are we that old and out of touch?

I remember. Many of us suffered from, as did I, difficult home lives. We did a lot of acting out, each in our own way. I buried myself in books and didn’t emerge until college. Fortunately, that turned out to be a lot less destructive than other possible coping mechanisms. I’m watching my granddaughter do her own version of self-destruction for reasons painfully similar to mine, minus the abusive parents, but adding in social ostracism impossible until computers and cell phones. I have serious doubts about the human race and supposed social progress.

But here I go waxing philosophical again. Hell, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what point God was making when he took Job, beat him to a pulp, then told him he had no right to question why it was happening to him. That’s my very  favorite Bible story. Life in a  nutshell. Shut up Marilyn. Apparently everyone but me has been highly successful and had insanely perfect lives. It’s just possible that I didn’t live the past half century on the same planet as they did. It doesn’t sound like my planet. Does it sound like yours?

This is far too weird for me though it makes good fodder for writing. And inserting lots of question marks in my tired old brain.

Concrete Flowers

I am haunted by these images. Even more haunted by the spectre of finding that I am one of the people in the picture. Times are hard and likely to get worse … much worse … before they get better.

LUST & RUM

While the eyes of America are diverted by the need for media flavored chewing gum, faux celebrity and egocentric politicians who dance and posture like drunken lemmings on the edge of a fiscal cliff, the lost and the broken take root on the sidewalks of New York like unwanted urban weeds that force themselves through the cracks in the concrete.

Tonight in New York City, more than 50,000 people will sleep on the streets or in emergency shelters.  Below are five of them.

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Passages

Gettysburg Passage

This old part of town has odd little back streets where cars can’t travel, strange tunnels that go between buildings, alleyways that cut across between Main Street and back streets.

Tunnel

Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood — Roxbury in Boston

I carry a small point and shoot with me all the time and most of my pictures end up being taken with this camera — the Canon PowerShot S100 — rather than my larger, more complicated and expensive system camera. I guess it’s ironic. My little Canon cost less than a single lens in the larger system. It weighs almost nothing and takes up no more room than a cell phone.

We lived in Roxbury for more than a decade, only leaving when the construction of The Big Dig made living there untenable. I still think of it as home, along with the entire city of Boston. Between Roxbury, Beacon Hill, and Charles River Park, we lived in Boston neighborhoods for a very long time and I always enjoy going back again whenever we have an excuse. These were all taken a few weeks ago when we returned to the old neighborhood for a memorial  event for an old friend who recently passed away. The neighborhood is looking better than it did when we lived there. It’s one of those neighborhoods that is improving. I would stop short of calling it gentrifying. I don’t think the folks who live there want it gentrified. They don’t consider themselves gentry and neither do we.

This is a bit of Roxbury. It was, once upon a time, a city in its own right, but years ago it was absorbed and became a neighborhood within greater Boston. It is almost entirely Black and when I lived there, I was often the only white face in the crowd. Despite that, it was by far the friendliest neighborhood in which I’ve ever lived. We had great neighbors, wonderful block parties, and a sense of community we have never had anywhere else. People in general don’t understand how wonderful these ethnic neighborhoods  can be, how warm and supportive the community is when they consider you one of their own. I still miss it, though I love the country. Each place has its own charms, but Roxbury was a wonderful — and eye-opening — experience.

I do not shoot with my cell phone.  I cannot afford the data package that it would make it practical to use mobile apps for anything other than emergencies and our cell phones are for emergency use. Life is not always a matter of preference. More often than not, you don’t get to decide how you will live. Life hands itself to you and it’s your job to figure out how to make it work.