Massachusetts & Me: Two Decades Together


20 years ago today I drove a rental truck down the narrow streets of Winter Hill in Somerville and officially became a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Nine years later almost to the day, I moved to Boston proper in my present home in Jamaica Plain.  20 years is by far the most time I’ve resided in any state (compared with 15 years in Connecticut, 7 years in Virginia, and 2 years in New Jersey), and close to half of my life.

Living in Massachusetts this long means making many friends, some of whom have moved on to other states, and then meeting new, interesting people.  I’ve developed annual traditions, found favorite restaurants (sadly, many of which have closed), gone to tons of concerts and sporting events, visited museums and historic sites, participated in protests and celebrations, and settled into comfortable routines.  And yet there’s so much more to see and do and explore.

It’s all gone by so quickly, so let’s look back at some of the highlights of my 20 years in the Bay State:

1998-2000 – I work sundry temp jobs at GTE, Genzyme, and MIT, and also spend some time unemployed. FUN!

1999-present – began commuting around Boston & environs by bicycle, and while I don’t ride nearly as much as I used to, it’s still a great way to get around the city.

1999 & 2000 – Participated in the Boston –> New York AIDSRide

1999-2006 – Not really in Massachusetts, but living in day trip distance of New Hampshire’s White Mountains meant I could do a lot of hikes of 4000 foot peaks.

2000 – Started working at a library, where I’m still working 3 job changes, 7 offices, and 12 supervisors later.

2000 – Begin leading historical walking tours as a guide for Boston By Foot.

2001-2013 – Participate in a wonderful church community at the Paulist Center in downtown Boston.

2002-2004 – Studied for my Masters in Library and Information Science at the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

2004 – Witnessed the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years.

2005 – Married Susan!

2007 – Saw the Red Sox win the World Series again.

2007 – Peter Born!

2008 – Spend a couple of weeks suffering from crippling sciatica and missing work. :(

2009 – I performed in the annual Christmas Revels show.  I even sang a solo!

2010-2011 – I write and lead a new tour for Boston By Foot for the Avenue of the Arts.

2011 – Kay Born!

2011-2012 – I create and lead another Boston By Foot Tour in Somerville’s Davis Square.

2012 – 2013 – Sang in a family chorus in JP.

2012-present – Our kids attend a wonderful Boston Public School and we get to meet lots of cool teachers, kids, and parents (and become public education activists).

2013 – sang as part of a 50-voice choir in Somerville Theatre bringing the music of Beck to life with burlesque dancers.

2013 – Horrified by the Boston Marathon bombing but touched by the many people who helped save lives and the spirit of the community in the ensuing days.

2013-present – Our kids play in the wonderful Regan Youth League

2013-present – become active in another fantastic church community closer to home, Hope Central.

2013 – Watched the Red Sox win yet another World Series, this time with a 5-year-old superfan

2014-2015 – I write and lead yet another new tour for Boston By Foot of Cambridge Common

2015 – Four consecutive blizzards in a matter of weeks bury Boston in a 108″ of snow.

2017-2018 – Yet again, I’m involved in creating a new tour for Boston By Foot, this time of the SoWa District.

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Double Dose of Walking Tours: Boston’s South End and SoWa District


Are you interested in exploring two different parts of Boston’s historic South End neighborhood?  If yes, come out and take two Boston By Foot walking tours I will be leading.

First, tomorrow night, Thursday, September 20, 6 pm-7:30 pm, the South End tour leaves from the plaza opposite the Back Bay MBTA Station on Dartmouth Street.

Next, there are two opportunities to explore SoWa: South of Washington on Sunday, September 23, 2018 (a members preview tour – you can become member online or in person) and Sunday, September 30, 2018. Both tours start at 2 pm from Broadway Station on the Red Line.

Tickets are $15/person ($5 for BBF members) and can be purchased online or in person before the tour begins on Sunday.

Rally for Transgender Equality #YesOn3


Today I’m attending the Rally for Transgender Equality at Copley Square. Hundreds of people are making it known that our transgender friends, family, children, coworkers, and neighbors deserve equal protection against discrimination in public places such as restaurants, hotels, and hospitals.

In reality, we shouldn’t have to be here as transgender people should not be discriminated against and their rights have been protected under Massachusetts law since 2016. But people acting on ignorance and prejudice have put forward a ballot referendum asking Massachusetts voters to repeal the laws that protect our transgender neighbors from discrimination. No ones human rights should ever be put to a vote, but since they’re bringing this fight to us, we’re here to show our love for transgender people and defend their rights and dignity.

Learn more about why you should vote Yes on 3 at the Freedom for All website.

VOTE on September 4th! Massachusetts Primary Elections


If you live in Massachusetts, you have a Primary Election one week from today on September 4, 2018.  Yes, that’s the day after Labor Day!  As general elections in Massachusetts are often uncontested or with minimal opposition to the incumbent, the primary election is YOUR opportunity to have YOUR voice heard.  This year there is an opportunity to vote for several progressive candidates to shake up the complacent Democratic Party establishment.  Despite a clear majority in the Commonwealth’s legislature, Democrats have been hesitant to challenge Republican governor Charlie Baker, and failed to pass popular legislation such as the Safe Communities Act to protect immigrants’ rights or reform the FBRC school funding formula.

If you are a registered member of the Democratic, Libertarian, or Republican parties, you may vote on your party’s ballot on the primary election day.  If you’re an independent – or, “Unenrolled” in official parlance – you may select the ballot of any ONE party to vote on.

Use this tool to find your ballot and where to vote: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx

You can also find a list of candidates for state primaries in Boston here: https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/2018_-_09-04-18_-_state_primary_candidates_all_parties.pdf

I am an independent and will be voting on the Democratic Party ballot. Here is who I will be voting for:

(NOTE: I’ve not included endorsements for Governor’s Council, Clerk of Supreme Judicial Court, Clerk of Superior Court (Civil Business), and Clerk of Superior Court (Criminal Business) because I have not been able to find enough information about the candidates)

Candidates who are not in my district, but have my support, include:

  • REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS (EIGHTH DISTRICT): Brianna Wu
  • REPRESENTATIVE IN GENERAL COURT (NINTH SUFFOLK DISTRICT): Jon Santiago
  • REPRESENTATIVE IN GENERAL COURT (FIFTEENTH SUFFOLK DISTRICT): Nika Elugardo

Photopost: Frosty Photos


Some recent photographs from Boston and Vermont of a land encased in snow and ice.  This time of year creates some interesting photo opportunities but with them the challenges of light and white balance.

Photopost: Battleship Cove


On a chilly day with light snow and battleship gray skies, my children and I kicked off the holiday break with a visit to Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA.  The museum his home to the World War II era US ships USS Massachusetts, USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., and the submarine USS Lionfish, as well as the Soviet/East German corvette Hiddensee, all afloat on the Taunton River.  Turns out that one child really enjoyed Battleship Cove and one adamantly did not so we did not get to explore it as thoroughly as we might have hoped.

 

 

 

Photopost: New England Aquarium


My daughter and I took advantage of the chilly holiday Friday to visit the New England Aquarium.  The Giant Ocean Tank is always awe-inspiring and we got to see divers film the animals up close and listen to them answer questions.  We also spent considerable time at the shark & ray touch pool, the tidepool touch tank, and with the penguins.  As a novice photographer, I found that adjusting for white balance and shutter speed in the Aquarium was challenging, so there’s not so many great photographs, but still a record of our fun visit.

Related post: Photopost: Whale Watch

Book Review: Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan


Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
TitleSaints for All Occasions
Narrator Susan Denaker
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2017
Previously read by same author: Maine 
Summary/Review:

The Irish-American family novel has a lot of familiar tropes – resentments, feuding, alcoholism, unexpected pregnancy, Catholicism, generation gaps, poverty to prosperity, et al.  Sullivan (no known relation to yours truly) employs them all, but her great gift in writing is characterization.  The novel is set over a few days in 2009 after the death of the eldest child in the Rafferty family, the 50-year-old bar owner Patrick, in a drunk driving crash.  The family comes together for the wake and funeral with the unexpected arrival of an elderly nun unknown to the children of the family.  In-between descriptions of the few days leading up to the funeral the novel flashes back to fill in the family history, starting with the sisters Nora and Theresa leaving their Irish village to emigrate to Boston, and how Nora takes the conventional course of marrying and raising four children, first in Dorchester, and later in Hull, Massachusetts, while Theresa becomes a cloistered nun. It also explains the falling out to the two sisters and why the children grew up unaware of Theresa’s existence.  Nora and Theresa alternate as point of view characters with wonderful insight into their complex characters.  The reader also gets to learn of the each of the surviving children, John the overachiever who found unexpected success as a political adviser to Republicans in deep blue Massachusetts (including a thinly-veiled Mitt Romney character), Bridget who is never quite sure that Nora has accepted her as lesbian but wishes to inform her mother of her and partner’s plan to have a baby, and Brian, the youngest who has moved back in with his mother and seems directionless after his baseball career flamed out in the minor leagues.  It’s a touching and heartbreaking novel, and not quite all that you’d expect.

Favorite Passages:

“She had long known that in this family, the truth got revealed belatedly, accidentally, drunkenly, or not at all. But still, she felt hurt.”

Recommended booksCharming Billy by Alice McDermott, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, and The Gathering by Anne Enright
Rating:

Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston


If you’re reading this and live in the city of Boston, I implore you to vote in the City of Boston Preliminary Election on September 26th, 2017.  Preliminary elections are notorious for low turnout meaning a handful of people get to decide who will represent our city, and they usually don’t reflect the full range of ideology within the city.  There are four candidates running for mayor of Boston, and the two who receive the most votes will advance to the general election in November.  If you live in Districts 1, 2, 7, & 9, you will also have a preliminary election for City Council, again with the top two vote recipients advancing to November’s general election.  Please commit yourself to voting on Tuesday and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to vote as well.  You can find your polling location online at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx.

Okay, if I’ve convinced you to vote, you may be wondering who you should vote for.  I’d like to encourage you to vote for Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston.  Tito is a lifelong resident of Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood and since 2011 he has served on the City Council as the representative of District 7 (all of Roxbury, parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway neighborhoods).  I’ve come to know him in recent years primarily through being active with Boston Public School parents and students to defend against three consecutive years of severe budget cuts from the Walsh administration and the threats of corporate education reform organizations, and advance a just and equitable model of public education.  As Chair of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Education, Tito frequently meets and works with parents and students of Boston Public Schools.  He recognizes the good work that BPS teachers and students are already doing, at a time when it is fashionable to attack public education as failing.  He understands that schools will get better only if every school and every student receive equitable resources and we address problems due to poverty, inequality, and physical and mental health.

As you might imagine, education is one of the key issues on Tito’s platform.  But he is also very concerned with housing.  If you’ve tried to rent or buy a home in Boston in the past couple of decades you know it’s an extremely competitive housing market where an increasing demand for a static supply of housing stock has forced rents and mortgages through the roof.  Members of Boston’s working and middle classes are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to live in the city.  And when new housing is built, developers inevitably target it to high-end buyers.  Tito is committed to making housing economically viable for all by increasing the number of truly affordable housing units.

Of course it’s easy to make promise that look great on a webpage, but there’s something about Tito that sets him apart from other candidates: he is truly a representative of the people who listens to them and works to resolve their problems.  A couple of years ago, Boston was selected as a candidate to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.  I had mixed feelings on the issue myself.  On the one hand I enjoy the Olympics and it would be a treat to have it in our great city, but on the other hand I know that the cost of the Olympics can be economically devastating to the host city.  Although the supporters of the bid promised that no public funding would be used for the Olympics, many citizens were concerned about the lack of transparency around the contents of the actual bid documents.  Tito was initially supportive of Boston 2024 but listened to the growing concern of his constituents and filed a subpoena forcing the Boston 2024 organizers to release the full, unredacted bid.  As feared, the bid put Boston on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, and that was before any inevitable cost overruns.  This is just one instance of Tito listening to his constituents, acting on their concerns, and working toward greater transparency and equity in Boston government.

If you’re still not convinced to vote for Tito, perhaps you just really like Marty Walsh and see no reason to change mayors, I’m going to ask you to still go ahead and vote for Tito Jackson in the preliminary election on Tuesday.  I honestly think that Marty Walsh will be a better mayor if he faces a strong challenge from Tito, and has to defend his past decisions and plans for the future, and learns to be a better leader by listening to what Tito and his supporters have to say.  If after six weeks of intense campaigning and debates, you’re still not convinced that Tito would make a better mayor, go ahead and vote for Walsh in November.  But I think the more that people get to see and hear Tito Jackson and how he is speaking for the everyday people of Boston, the more you’re going to want to vote for him.

Upcoming Protests and Rallies in Boston Area


Spring is here and with it comes lots of opportunities to make your voice heard.

March 30th – Blessed are the Peacemakers: Faithful People Gather to Speak out for Peace – 7-8:30pm at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Cambridge

Join Massachusetts Peace Action’s Faith Community Network on March 30 to connect with other people of faith who are coming together to work toward a more peaceful world through reducing the threat of nuclear weapons and our warfare economy.  We will be joined by a number of honored speakers, including: Mayor Denise Simmons, Rev. Paul Ford, Senior Pastor, Union Baptist Church, and Jim Stewart, Director of First Church UCC shelter

March 31st – Our Revolution Boston Rally – 7-9pm at Orpheum Theater

Partnering with “Raise Up Massachusetts”, Our Revolution is taking the next step to organize an unprecedented grassroots effort in Massachusetts around issues such as $15 minimum wage, paid family medical leave, criminal justice reform, immigrants rights and wage inequality.  These issues and others will be highlighted at a the rally by local activists who will be joined by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

April 6 – DROP the MIC! Confronting Militarism In Our Communities – 7-9pm at First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain

Speakers: Maggie Martin and Matt Howard, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Karlene Griffiths Sekou, Black Lives Matter Boston,  and Mike Prokosch, Dorchester People for Peace

April 15 – Tax Day Protest  – 1-4pm at Cambridge Common Park

April 22 – March for Science – Boston – 1-4pm at Boston Common

This Rally for Science celebrates the discovery, understanding, and sharing of scientific knowledge as crucial to the success, health, and safety of the human race. We join together to champion not only science itself, but also publicly funded and publicly communicated scientific knowledge as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse and nonpartisan group to celebrate Boston as a space for scientists and scientific research and to support of five main goals: Communication, Funding, Policy, Literacy, and Improvement.

April 22 – Kids’ March for Science – 1-4pm at Boston Common

The Kid’s March for Science (Boston) celebrates the youngest members of our scientific community. We join together in support of dynamic and inclusive science education for all future scientists and supporters of science. We believe kids should have a voice in the decisions that shape the world they will inherit. Kids are scientists at heart, always observing and asking questions — science is fun and family friendly!

April 29 – March for Climate – 9am-4pm at Boston Common

A sister march to the People’s Climate Mobilization in Washington, DC.  With the 100 days of action and April march, this coalition will leverage their power once again, to resist the Trump administration and corporate leaders’ efforts to thwart or reverse progress towards a more just America.

 

I hope to participate in as many of these as possible.  If there are other events coming up not listed, please let me know in the comments and I will update.