Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Joy and Reality in Red Sox Nation

I take great joy in the Red Sox.

I've even joined the ranks of those silly and superstitious men refusing to shave their facial hair until the season reaches it's final conclusion.

Watching this team of bearded and bombastic baseball brethren make their way from last to first place in the span of a year has been a real thrill.

And now the World Series.

And the endless allusions to the Marathon Bombing, Boston Strong, and the healing of a city.

The city is not healed; economic disparity and despair, street violence, resource-poor schools, and lack of faith in government institutions to arrive at solutions continue to plague our "city on a hill."

I'm not saying we should stop reveling in the accomplishments of Fenway's finest or crediting the team for the way it has paid tribute to the severely wounded survivors of the April 15th devastation. But at times it seems that collectively we forget all the people, youth and mature, who face at best uncertainty and at worst terror every day of the year.

According to various reports, the homicide rate in Boston over the last two years is declining. In 2013, we're on pace to average slightly more than three murders a month; down from nearly five per month last year. That's three too many! But a very good trend nonetheless, if it holds.

Unfortunately, the contributing factors that help improve safety and build peace: summer jobs and afterschool programs for young people and community policing, are dependent upon tenuous and insecure funding streams that could be cut or altogether eliminated. Economic prosperity (or lack thereof) of course, evolves in direct proportion to perceptions and reality of neighborhood safety and security.

To keep funding priorities focused on these types of urban issues, however, public pressure has to be applied consistently over time to elected officials, and NGO and business leaders; something that is enormously difficult in an environment saturated with on-demand entertainment choices and lowest common denominator politics.

Tina Chery, Executive Director of the Dorchester-based Louis D. Brown Peace Institute for years has been trying to awaken Boston's citizens to the notion that preventable violence happens in our city in-between the horrific episodes of mass terror such as the Marathon bombing. In an essay on the organization's website, Chery, along with Jamie Bissonette Lewey of the American Friends Service Committee and Valeri Batts of Visions, Inc., note that "Many of our children have grown up enveloped by violence. Over 90% of the boys and girls in Dorchester and Roxbury report witnessing violence with their own eyes. They are a generation of trauma survivors - the kind of trauma associated with burying a father, mother, sister, brother or other loved one lost to violence.

The time to invest in healing these children is right now. And all of us must engage in the crucial conversation about the value of life - all life, including, most poignantly, the children and families who live in challenged urban communities. This conversation must be a central and enduring one for our policymakers, from the president, to the governor, to those competing next year to lead our city; from top law enforcement officials to our faith leaders; all of us."

In order to have these conversations, say Chery, Lewey, and Batts - agreeing with the sentiments expressed by Boston Globe writer Joan Vennochi in a June column - people need to "... explore why we are mesmerized by the Bulger trial yet have trouble focusing on the 17 homicides and 108 plus reported shootings in the city this year."

And so back to the Red Sox and the accompanying exuberance and celebration surrounding the team's ascension: enjoy it while it lasts. This success, after all, is fleeting.

 Something also that can be said of the relative nature of peace and well-being in our beloved city.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In The Grip Of Baseball Fever - 2013 Version

It's been a while since any of our writers used this blog space. Personally, I haven't been extraordinarily inspired to put my thoughts down on paper (or screen bits) during the past year. But if there's one thing that can shake me from my malaise, it's Major League Baseball.

So, if you've read this far, stay a moment and share a few observations I've had.

Watching Baltimore Manager Buck Showalter in the dugout during Red Sox/Orioles games is better than reading Moby Dick. Showalter plays Captain Ahab to the Sox' white whale. If the manager's expressions could generate iron-tipped spears, there'd be many beards hanging as trophies on his mantle at home.

Buck hates the Sox (and Yankees, so we give him credit for that) and as relayed by the Bergen (NJ) Record Newspaper told an interviewer from Men's Journal in 2011 that he likes "whipping their butt."

Showalter says it's a payroll thing, but I suspect the ubiquitous "Let's Go Red Sox" cheers that eminate from the large numbers of Boston fans who visit Baltimore's Camden Yards infuriate him just as much.

After last night's 3-2 Baltimore win, the Red Sox have five more games with the O's this season. While the Sox could clinch the American League's Eastern division by the end of the week, Baltimore may need the remainder of the season to claw their way into the playoffs. These two teams should generate quite a bit of excitement over the next 2 weeks.

- - - - -
I'm not trying to give the Sox a "kinehora" (Yiddish for the evil eye) but I can't stop thinking about them in the World Series. Who would I like to see them play? The money match-up seems to be Boston vs. LA. But I'd rather see the Pirates than the Dodgers. What a storyline: "worst to best Sox face off against first Pittsburgh team in 21 years to have winning season." In the past two years the movie version of these teams could have been called "From Here to Futility." Now it's more like "Great Expectations."

- - - - -
The Sox have won games in dramatic fashion all season: from clutch last-at-bat doubles to walk-off home runs. From a fan's perspective, it's been a highly enjoyable 6 months so far. But the conversation often turns on the question of why more people aren't excited about the team - evidenced in part by non-sellouts at Fenway Park. Well, I wouldn't cry over the team's financial bottom-line just yet; think of all those hot dogs and beers that get sold through the later innings because no one wants to leave the park - even when the Sox are down more than a few runs. And the radio and television revenue potential when a three hour game means people actually are listening and watching for the entire three hours!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Alert from City Life / Vida Urbana

Jamaica Plain-based housing advocacy organization City Life / Vida Urbana, issued an "alert" this morning at approximately 11:50 am. According to the group, Heather Gordon, a resident of 3 Mendell Way, Egleston Square, Jamaica Plain, is being forcibly removed from her home.

Here is the text of the alert: "We need more people! Come out to block Heather Gordon's eviction... Come now. Police are here!" 617.524.3541

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Last Stand Of The 50

Like the 300 Spartans who bravely fought at Thermopylae centuries ago, fifty intrepid souls voted against censorship in Middleborough, MA this week.

OK, that IS a bit melodramatic.

But come on, a $20 fine for saying "sh*t?" Are the elders of our villages, towns, and cities really worried about a few salty words?

Rising municipal health insurance costs, suburban sprawl, home foreclosures and unemployment are scary to deal with; I get that. So, the logic goes, let's forget those issues and turn our gendarmes into language police.

Maybe if the would-be linguistic criminals are lucky, the police will be too busy turning foreign born traffic violators over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to write profanity tickets.

Now if this is simply about raising a little extra spending money - and avoid all the hassles of building a casino - the folks in Middleborough may have a point. My teenage daughter and her cohort could erase any need for a Prop 2 override within about an hour.

It seems to me, this is about values not money. You remember, those dreaded "family values" from the Reagan/Bush1 years. Vice President Dan Quayle vs. Murphy Brown/Candace Bergen values. In relation to the words coming from the mouths of babes, a convenience store worker told a Globe reporter, "you're horrified listening to them."

Really? You want horror? Spend a few days in Homs, Syria.

[Miriam Makeba sang a wonderful song in the 1960's called "Four Letter Words," i.e. "kill," "maim," and "harm." I recommend it highly. dg]

You can count on Americans to have weird takes on perspective. But I see this vote against the seven words you can't say on television (unless you're watching cable) as another attempt to turn back the clock to an earlier, supposed civil era in our history.

A time when women and minorities knew their place and only jazz musicians would dare use such language. And play improvised music. Which is so uncontrollable. And thus so un-American.

[OK, now how did I get on this? Oh right, I took a sarcasm pill took today.]

Here's a suggestion: Middleborough is approximately 40 miles due south of Boston. On the count of three let's have everyone stand outside, turn towards the cape, and in unison shout, "This vote is "F*CKED UP!!"

One... two... three!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Alert from City Life / Vida Urbana

Jamaica Plain-based housing advocacy organization City Life / Vida Urbana, issued an "alert" this morning at approximately 9:50 am. According to the group, a resident at 11 Weld Avenue, in Egleston Square, is being forcibly removed from his home. According to City Life, police are removing furniture. "No prior notice was given," according to the alert message received by Open Media Boston this morning by text message. 617.524.3541

Friday, April 20, 2012

Now I Know...

Wednesday night I was the victim of an attempted mugging.

I was walking the dog just after 11:00pm and a man jumped in front of me pointing what looked like a gun.

Now I know what I would do in a “situation like that.”

I screamed.

Like my life depended on it.

I started with “WHAT THE F*%&K!” and finished with “HELP! POLICE!” I must have scared him as much as he scared me because he took off down the street like a bolt. I stood there for what felt like a few minutes in fear and disbelief.

I was standing a block from my house.

Now I know what I would do.

I brought the dog home and after a few minutes of hyperventilating I called the police. After giving the 911 operator the details I waited for officers to arrive.
My building must be hard to locate because the operator called back and asked me to stand outside.

Imagining the mugger coming back, I stayed just inside my doorway.

Now I know what I would do.

As I waited for the police I thought: “screaming? Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, and Angelina Jolie must be laughing in their rocking chairs.” OK, not Angelina, obviously. But karate chopping or otherwise punching the assailant never occurred to me. It wasn’t until much later that I browsed the web for “what to do when” suggestions.

The website notes eight strategies; seven of which involve striking the mugger. Finally, the writer advises “…scream at the top of your lungs, [and] try to attract as much attention as possible.”

The Boston Police recommend using a loud whistle to frighten off the attacker. In a pinch, a scream will do as well, they suggest.

“If threatened, use the whistle to signal residents for help. Yelling “Fire!” “Help!” or “Rape!” are ways of drawing attention and alerting people of your situation.”

Disappointingly, not a single person emerged from their homes to help or find out what was going on. My dog, a Bichon Frise, also was useless.

No one was harmed – me, the dog, or the mugger – during this incident, so I must count that as a blessing. Especially given how distrustful and aggressive and deadly, people have been behaving towards each other these days.

Now I know what I would do.

The police officers took my statement and were respectful and sympathetic. Using every ounce of intellect and experience gleaned from years of watching “Law and Order” on TV, I tried to describe the man as best as I could. Although it was nighttime and somewhat dark on this street, it still amazes me how much I didn’t see. “Any scars, tattoos; did he walk with a limp?” asked the police officer. “I don’t know,” I answered honestly.

One question does bother me. About an hour after the incident, a Sergeant stationed at the local precinct called to check the details of my story and give advice. He said I could apply easily for a permit to carry mace. I’ll admit, I’m giving that some thought.

But when he asked whether or not the “the assailant was homeless?” I considered the question for a millisecond and responded, “how am I supposed to know that? The “homeless” don’t all wear the same uniform and look alike.”

Unlike the police.

Now I know what I would do.

Since speaking to the Sergeant, I’ve been questioning my memory of the gun. It was dark and heavy and had a military style look to it. I remember the barrel touching my arm; that’s how close it was. But could it have been a fake? I think the officer assumed I had mistaken a prop for the real thing. I’ve decided it doesn’t really matter. My perception that I was in danger was accurate.

I’m not saying this incident initiates me into some club of people who have been attacked on the street. We have neighbors throughout the city who feel as though they and their children can’t leave the immediate vicinity of their homes.

So I’m trying to keep this in perspective.

And I won’t stop walking the dog along this particular street either. Years ago I adopted a philosophy I believe I read in the book “Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, namely that “fear of death is fear of life.”

But I’m not looking for trouble. When I walk at night, I’ll try and find a friend to join me.

Now I know what I will do.

Dave Goodman is Senior Staff Writer of Open Media Boston and an independent radio producer. He lives in Jamaica Plain, Boston

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Friday, December 9, 2011

I May Have Walked Into The Light

Regrettably, I couldn't make it down to Dewey Square in Boston Thursday night to experience Mayor Tom Menino's midnight deadline in person.

But while working overnight on deadline for an unrelated project, something happened.

I drank the social networking Kool-Aid.

The Occupy Boston's Media Team and their live web-streaming of first the suspenseful General Assembly and then the tension leading up to the deadline followed by the palpable relief (and skepticism of some) felt by the throng when Police Superintendent William Evans announced there would be no raid held me transfixed for more than six hours.

That's more time than I've spent on Myspace and Facebook, in total, since 2004.

Kudos especially to Occupy Boston's Phil Anderson who demonstrated the technique and professionalism and personality of a seasoned journalistic observer.

As my friends and colleagues will inform you, I've never bought the idea that technological innovation trumps good writing and effective storytelling. But the coupling of Thursday night's emotional anticipation and digital capability made me re-evaluate my skeptical attitude towards social media tools.

To convey meaning and pull off anything approaching profundity you still need a compelling storyline - a thousand people standing up to prove that "freedom of assembly" is more than just three words on a dusty old scroll, for example - and a knack for being in the right location at the right time.

But the immediacy and impact of digitally delivered and archived multimedia and the ability for many to connect with many, second by second, is one genie that isn't going back into the bottle.

For those of you who have heard me rail against the notion of technology as savior however, don't get your hopes up too high. Once this caffeine induced intoxication wears off I may revert to my curmudgeonly and analog ways.

And I'm still not signing up for Twitter.