Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Buy Now! Going Fast!

I think I'll auction naming rights to this blog on e-bay. It seems only slight less idiotic than the current Fleet Center naming rights gambit.

The once-clever idea hit a snag when the gag purchase of the right to put Derek Jeter's name on the place backfired somewhat, proving again that there is such a thing as bad publicity when corporate morons are in charge of it.

The whole faux pas shows the folly of putting corporate names on municipal landmarks at a time when corporations change names (or change hands) more often than some of the rural neighbours of my childhood changed clothes.

What say we move to geographical names that won't shift so easily? The corporation could easily get an identifying subhead that the public would forget as soon as it forgets most other advertising messages. Then we could have, say, Boston Garden and Foxboro Stadium, just like we have Fenway Park.

What a concept. Maybe I'll sell that.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Cross Country II

The die is cast. These days, one doesn't make firm decisions by crossing Rubicons, but by purchasing airline tickets. We have the outbound itinerary set. Next, we decide which car to take, after Nissan's finest give us the diagnostic results. Emily, and our insurance carrier, lean toward bringing her purple '95 to California. I found out from the latter that we could make my '98 the "Out-of-State garaged" car for a $209 per year surcharge. When I pointed out that the shift would be for three months, after which I'd reverse the arrangement and claim my refund, the phone call grew much chillier.

After getting insider tips from a pilot friend, we threw over half his advice and will probably pay for it. It turns out Em's destination is home to one of LA's feeder airports, and my wife opted to fly from there.

"Fly one of these," he said. At least we chose an airline from his list.

"Try to get a non-stop. If not, get a one stop." Ahem, we have a two-stop, and unfortunately the two stops are LAX and ORD. I figure with a Friday departure we ought to make Boston the next Tuesday.

What's nearly as interesting is my first insight into Em's thoughts on returning, which make me envious. Whichever of a number of competing plans winds out, she expects to spend a couple of weeks on the trip. After initial qualms, I had one of those letting go moments. You can't enfold a 23-year-old the way you could a 3-year old, and you shouldn't.

It's helpful to recall what you were doing at that age. I was in the Navy. My wife was living alone in a third-floor walkup in the Fenway. There were the stoned to walk over going to work, the muggers to dodge, and a building super who strangely resembled Charles Manson. A cross-country trip looks like a fairly stable venture by comparison.

It's a venture I'd rather aid than control.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


The hand-wringing has begun, following a jury's $2.1 million libel award to Judge Ernest B. Murphy against the Boston Herald. Ah me, woe is me, does this prove the public doesn't trust the media? (Excuse me, that's news?) Will it have a dampening effect on America's tradition of squeaky-clean investigative journalism? Nope.

There is a remote chance that it might send some journalists back to their textbooks to re-learn the definition of "reckless disregard for the truth."

This aging writer has no particular information on the Murphy case. What he does have is the memory of being a front-row spectator to another Dave Wedge story a few years ago.

In that case, it would be hard to say that Wedge exhibited reckless disregard for the truth. As far as I could tell, he showed no regard for the truth at all. He based his series in large part on quotes from a highly prejudiced source, quotes that even that source has since tried to disavow. When that didn't add enough colour to the narrative, Wedge evidently resorted to his imagination. I was a participant in events he described in that series. What I experienced, and what he described, apparently happened in parallel universes.

Both stories had the juice the Herald likes having to boost circulation. The only thing missing is that Wedge didn't trumpet this earlier story with Bill O'Reilly.

We'll see what the appeal has to offer. Seems to me that, for once, Wedge got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The Herald is wasting its money backing this pr---err, reporter.

Uncommon Valour

We have reached, incredibly, the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. This most ferocious of World War Two battles touches me closely. I had an uncle, and a father-in-law, who both fought at Iwo Jima. Somehow, they both survived. Both have been dead for many years.

It was rather an abstraction until my sister-in-law gave me James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers for Christmas a couple of years ago. My wife, a professional reader who will read food labels if there isn't better printed matter around, has not been able to read this vivid history of the battle that changed her father's life.

Conservatives locked into their ideology can't understand how a radical veteran can comprehend what happened there. My view is different, that's all. Valour draws me, irresistibly, for that is the act of individuals for each other, not the grinding of a state military machine. In any battle, much of the death is of the latter variety. Death on that filthy pile of ground lava was redeemed chiefly by what men caught in it did for one another, for squad, platoon, or company, and for the aviators' lives later saved by possessing that pile and its airfield.

It also comes as a surprise to some people that all Vietnam veterans aren't entirely happy with the "greatest generation" label. Many of us were treated very shabbily by World War Two veterans.

I doubt that all of us were uplifted by Anheuser-Busch's "applause" spot during the Super Bowl, aimed at returning Iraq War veterans. Yes,it's jealousy: we do not know what it is to have the applause of our country. However, I don't begrudge the Iwo Jima veterans one iota of their greatness. It doesn't seem that the rising generation does, either.

On today's news, I saw coverage of the 60th anniversary ceremonies at Quantico. A paraplegic Marine veteran of the current war was present as a speaker. He insisted on standing, unsteady, assisted on one side, gripping the podium with his left hand, to salute the men who earned the phrase, "uncommon valour was a common virtue." I think that valour is not quite dead.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Cross-Country I

My daughter has a summer clinical affiliation in California. As a result, my wife and I are driving cross-country for the first time.

Let's back up a bit. The daughter in question is in a Physical Therapy program that was supposed to conclude with an MS after five years. At the start of the fifth year, the Powers announced that students could opt into a Doctorate in Physical Therapy track and only add one additional trimester to the program. The demands of medicine being what they are, most of the students so opted.

They have since discovered that it's one additional trimester plus as much extra work as the faculty can cram into an already crowded program. As a result, students whose affiliations are more than a day's drive from the campus aren't left with time to reach their affils unless they fly.

Next discovery. Yes, you can rent a car for three months in California, for fairly short money, even if you are under 25. The catch is that a Massachusetts insurer won't cover a three month rental in California, and the rental company's insurance more than doubles the tally. End of that idea, and we always wanted a cross-country trip anyway.

The trouble is, this is not what we had in mind. It's a four and a half day interstate highway marathon. In my usual anal-retentive approach to travel, I'm deep in planning now. Already, this is an edifying experience.

We're good as far as Buffalo, all familiar ground. The plan is to move booty across Ohio as fast as possible. Even before the last election, I thought of Ohio as a rather second-rate place, and nothing in my homework has changed my view.

I'd give Indiana the same treatment but my wife is good for 12 hours a day max on the road, and that takes some cajoling. She isn't fond of highway speed, and has only lately got used to 65 mph speed limits. It's been amusing explaining to her that she can kiss the 65 limit goodbye at the Mississippi, and that by New Mexico the idea of "speed limit" is as abstract as the concept of the speed of light...and about as fast.

Mapquesting this route is fun. It's always a pain if you have the pointer a bit off when you magnify and get a few blocks off. If you do that in certain areas of this route, there is nothing in the frame. It takes a couple of these errors before one realises there is nothing in the frame because there is nothing there.

I was just reading a Texan's uncomplimentary look at Oklahoma toll roads. The road surfaces are rough, she writes. Toilet facilities are rare and primitive. You can drive hundreds of miles without seeing police, unless you're speeding ( In that case they arrive like sharks attracted to a drop of blood). As a New England native, my response to all this is "so?"

After the 20th warning to carry water in the desert, I feel like screaming "I'll carry the effing water! Now will you shut up?" True, we of the Atlantic coast don't traverse hundreds of miles of baked rock and sand as a rule. A few of us do sail, and what we sail on is salt: we don't leave harbour without water.

It promises to be interesting. We have blossoming construction barriers in Ohio, tornados in Oklahoma, drunken Indians walking the Interstate in New Mexico, snakes in Arizona rest stops, and something called "Roy's Garage, Diner and Motel" smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert: it appears there may be few dull moments.

There should be compensations. True, the likely digs in Oklahoma City will be at a Motel 6. It just happens to be within a few blocks of a half dozen steak houses and quality rib joints. A family recollection puts us in Albuquerque instead of Santa Fe for the only deep breath on the route. I've located a restaurant in Old Town where one can enjoy huevos rancheros and very dark coffee for breakfast on the patio of an 18th century adobe. After all, I'm not busting ass for 3000 miles just to eat at Shoney's.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Random Irritations

Daily vexations, in no particular order:

  • People who don't shovel sidewalks. Umm, Boston just had four kids injured for lack of a sidewalk. Do we really need to shed blood to do the right thing?

  • Snowshoers' apparent inability to share trails with cross-country skiers. Last week, at Maudsley State Park, I found myself tracking a herd of these bipeds. I think herd is accurate, for in wandering over the trail they managed to obliterate every trace of a painstakingly set ski track.Eventually I saw them. There were six or eight and they were indeed traipsing like a herd of cows. When they were out of sight at the bottom of a fairly steep hill I waited until their ambling should clear them out, and started down. But no! Here they were. Grouped at the bottom of the hill, oblivious to downhill traffic. One had his back to the downhill trail taking a picture. having been taught very young that if the choice was collision or fall, you fall, I cut out for a fall. This of course did not work in the snowshoe-shredded ruins of the trail, and my well-planned sideways slide turned into a half gainer and face plant. By the time I got to the bridge, the village had evidently reclaimed its idiots, for they were nowhere in sight.