Sunday, January 28, 2007

A brief hiatus

No Drumlins will be going dark for a few days. Don't fret...we'll be back on line next weekend.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

T&G Readers are off their meds again

It's been quite a while since the crazy old readers of the Worcester T&G took over the Letters page, but today they are back with a vengeance.

This guy just can't figure out who's going to win before the teams play the game. Guess he better lose the bookie's phone number in a hurry:
It's difficult to pick a winner. I followed sports for years like the Boston Braves and the Boston Red Sox. ...

Some of these teams become the favorites but lose. Also, when USC played UCLA, USC was the favorite but lost to UCLA. The Patriots were favored over the Miami Dolphins but they lost. It's like politics, it's hard to pick them. The Patriots played the San Diego Chargers and the Chargers were favored. The Patriots won. It was a good game.
This ornery old chap has had it with the Heisman Trophy and the clowns who vote for it:
To me, the Heisman Trophy is overrated. The people who vote for the selection, one player out of 2,500 candidates, are jokers. Most of the voters never saw their choice play in person. It’s a publicity thing from the word go....

The 2006 winner was a dud while his team got trampled by Florida. He had received the trophy with the most votes in years. The winner is not supposed to lose.
At least these two codgers have it easy, considering that all they have to complain about is sports. One of their neighbors is having trouble in bed, and wants everyone to know about it:
[A] trip to the furniture store recently opened my eyes while shopping for a mattress. Hopping into bed is not as easy as it used to be. Today, some of these new mattresses are so high one almost needs a foot stool to say good night....

Your sheets no longer fit on such big, fat mattresses. I cannot help but wonder if these great geniuses ever think of getting the point of view of the lady of the house before implementing these super changes.

Previous T&G Letters to the Editor:
"I like Jasmine Guy"
BREAKING: Election fraud in Auburn
"The sting of unboozed Democrats"
"Why is Mitt Romney ashamed of Massachusetts?"
"hot condiments cause them to be...interested in sex"
Disgust with that nasty Francona grows
It's that dirty Francona's fault
T&G reader takes on terrorism
Worcester: the San Diego of the East
Is State Senator Barrios a Bush Crony
Rem-Dawg Debate Rages in Worcester
Jerry Remy has "lost all touch with reality"


Friday, January 26, 2007

Blame me for the Schilling stories


So, three-and-a-half months after I started the whole Curt Schilling for Senate thing by explaining exactly why Schilling would make a great candidate, the story finally has some legs. Sure, it took a talk-show caller to get the ball rolling. But I didn't really expect a whole lot to come of it in the first place.

I kind of thought it was going to take off back in November when I first wrote the article here and cross-posted it at Blue Mass Group. Universal Hub linked to the post and the Hub Blog pooh poohed the idea, but after a couple of days of traffic, things settled down.

But not completely. Out of the blue about a month later, I received an email from the political editor at an in-state TV news organization, wanting to do an on-air piece about my post:

From: TV Personality [mailto:TV Personality@WXXX-TV]
Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006 2:34 PM
Subject: schilling gop

I saw your posting about Schilling saving the GOP and wondered if you got any feedback. I'm the political editor at XXXXXX and might do something funny about it. Let me know. Write back or call at XXX-XXX-XXXX.
I was a little wary, I got the impression that he thought the post was a joke. Or at least he thought the idea was a joke. After replying, I received another email which confirmed my suspicions:
From: TV Personality [mailto:TV Personality@WXXX-TV]
Sent: Tuesday, December 05, 2006 3:59 PM
To: nodrumlins
Subject: RE: schilling gop

did you post it just as a joke or do you think schilling might actually be interested someday? Would like to talk to you on phone about it. you can call me if you want at XXX-XXX-XXXX
I tried to convince the editor that there was a real story here:
From: nodrumlins []
Sent: Tue 12/5/2006 4:59 PM
To: TV Personality
Subject: RE: schilling gop

No, I was serious. I don’t know if he’d be interested or not, but with all the stories after the election about how the Republican party had essentially lost viability in the state, I was trying to think of a Republican who might be able to compete in a state-wide election. I’d bet if you polled voters today about their preferences, Schilling would lead any other Republicans in a potential primary match-up, and would lead at least a couple of potential Dems in a general election.

For instance, I listed Kerry Healey, Paul Cellucci, Wayne Budd, and Ralph Martin as other potential Republicans, and the more savvy readers at Blue Mass Group mentioned Charlie Baker. If you were to poll those six names among likely Republican primary voters, I’ll bet Schilling would have a double-digit lead.

Among potential Dems, if you match him Schilling up against Jim McGovern, Marty Meehan, Ed Markey, or Stephen Lynch, I’ll bet he’d be even or ahead. He would probably trail Barney Frank or John Kerry, but Kerry’s negatives are so high even that might be close.

In the end, I don’t know that he would win, but I imagine he could energize the campaign and turn Mass. into a top-tier Senate race for ’08.
Essentially, I gave this editor the story six weeks before WRKO found it. I declined to go on camera--both because I wished to remain somewhat anonymous and because I feared he would be making fun of me more than taking me seriously--and apparently that was reason enough not to run with the story.

And now, the story has taken off on its own. WRKO started a petition drive to draft Schilling. Channel 7 included it in their 6 o'clock news. The Herald fronted the story in this morning's paper, and made more news when Schilling wouldn't rule it out:
“I couldn’t rule it out because it’s not something I ever thought about in a serious capacity,” Schilling told the Herald.

“I envision that I will probably be pretty busy in 2008,” he said. “But I’m flattered as hell to even make this phone call.”
And I'm flattered as hell that someone is running with the story.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Target practice continues in Leominster

For the second time in a little more than a week, there has been an unsolved shooting up the street. Last week, a drive-by shooter fired on a woman and her 10-month-old child while they were parked in their SUV. Yesterday morning, a young man trying to break into a condo complex fired upon a maintenance man:
LEOMINSTER -- Police are searching for a young Hispanic male who allegedly fired two gunshots Tuesday morning near a Central Village maintenance worker who witnessed him kicking at a door.

The maintenance worker saw the suspect kicking an exterior door at the Central Street housing complex at about 9:35 a.m., Det. Scott A. Wolferseder said.

When the maintenance worker -- who had been riding a golf cart -- attempted to question the man, the suspect pulled out a handgun, Wolferseder said.

"The maintenance guy dove off the golf cart, and then he heard two shots," Wolferseder said.
Thank God our local thugs haven't yet mastered the art of actually hitting their targets. But it's just a matter of time before a stray or not-so-stray bullet kills someone.

Two shootings in 10 days in our part of town...has anyone heard from our city councilor? Where is the call for more police in the area? What is it going to take for someone to get control of the violence in the neighborhood?

It seems like we're just waiting for someone to end up in the hospital or worse before confronting the problem.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lancaster welcomes Wal-mart, development

After months of bluster and mounds of letters to the editors, lawn signs, and sniping at town officials, the Leominster-based "Our Lancaster First" lost it's bid to slow the development of the route 2 corridor in Lancaster.

It would be easy to have been surprised that the motions to put a six-month moratorium on retail development and to redefine a "shopping center" in a way to block big-box stores failed. Nearly all of the opinion on the subject has been in favor of slowing retail development. But knowing Lancaster as I do, it's not a surprise at all. The ubiquitous John Schumacher-Hardy summed up the opinions of many residents:
"I love Lancaster so this might seem a little strange to some of my friends who are on the other side of the fence," said Schumacher-Hardy, who pointed out that his family has resided in the town for 361 years. "We've had 28 to 29 years of discussion of this issue. Now we have an enterprise that has come along and proposed a development that would bring revenue to our town and bring jobs. It’s on the fringe of our town ...It just makes sense. I am more afraid of these cookie-cutter condo developments coming in and dumping 200 homes in a community and 300 new students in the school system and really impacting our infrastructure. [The proposed Wal-Mart] is in an area that will impact us in the very least."
The fact is, most Lancastrians realize that the development proposed for North Lancaster is in the only place it can succeed without significantly affecting the quality of life. It's along the highway, tucked away on the Leominster town line, near few homes of other Lancastrians. Further, the usual (and valid) argument that stores liek Wal-mart put local entrepreneurs out of business carried little weight in Lancaster because there are no significant retail businesses in town. Sure, the presence of a big box store could put more pressure on businessmen in Leominster or surrounding towns, but Lancastrians aren't really worried about them.

I think many Lancaster residents also resent the presence of so many Leominster residents at the top of the "Our Lancaster First" organization. I'll bet there was a strong feeling that out-of-towners shouldn't be telling them what to do.

In some respects, it is also good news for Wal-mart foes in Leominster, because it could mean that the Wal-mart just recently proposed for the route 117 site just three miles south may be off the table again.

Generally speaking, I'm against the proposal because I don't think we need another Wal-mart or Target or K-mart in town. But I'm also against those of us in Leominster telling the good people of Lancaster what to do with their land. Time will tell whether or not they've made a good decision.


The state of the union is...sleepy

You're looking live, Washington, DC, for tonight's State of the Union address. We're watching Katie Couric and the CBS Evening News only because CBS has the best HD for football, and I'm assuming the pictures will be the best. Nothing says great TV like Ted Kennedy and Mean Jean Schmidt in HD.

Condi looks like she's going to a funeral. Hank Paulson to a Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Who is the old woman just to the right of the aisle wearing that awful red white and blue feather boa? Wow. I'll bet she didn't wear that when she was running for her seat.

Dennis Kucinich has a prime spot right on the aisle. That's as close to the presidency as he'll ever get. Maybe he'll kiss the President Joe Lieberman-style.

Some Republican rep. just told the president he'd say a prayer for him. I'll bet he's not the only one.

Bush wants to get this over with. He just told Pelosi to get the show on the road.

And Nancy is going to cry. Nice moment.

Enunciate. Thomassss Dellasssandro.

Decisions are hard. I'm the decider, working hard. He's a living SNL skit. he can't help it.

And there he goes with the "Democrat" majority. It's the Democratic majority, sir. Stop speaking the language of Rush Limbaugh and start talking to all Americans.

Nice to see the president wants to balance the budget now. Where has that been the last six years? He will eliminate the deficit in five years. I believe, the budget had been balanced before president Bush came on board.

I agree with him on cutting earmarks. Huh. I wonder if John McCain knows how shifty he looks when he winks at a colleague.

Nancy isn't wearing a flag pin. Wonder if she'll get criticized for that tomorrow...

Michelle asked me to rewind...says it looks like the VP is leaning over to fart. certainly does! Look at that. Oh, I guess he's just fishing for a mint.

The health insurance proposal is a scam, by the way, for anyone who gets their insurance through their employer. It will encourage employers to offer less comprehensive services or charge more for the ones they do offer. And Health Savings Accounts are also a scam. Just a way to get the government to launder money to hospitals at retail prices instead of negotiated rates.

Who was the corpse standing next to John Kerry?

Offering a path to citizenship for immigrants here in the country: good idea. Temporary worker program: not so good. "Without animosity, and without amnesty." Good line. Give that speech writer a star.

Something ironic about the president disrupting the word "disruption."

CBS would do well to replace their "CBS NEWS SPECIAL REPORT" banner at the bottom of the page with the names of the people they show on close up. It would be nice to know who people are.

Michelle: The way he claps, Charles Grassley looks like a jack in the box.

Funny to watch the GOP decide when to applause. They begrudgingly stand up whenever the Dems stand up, since the need to look like the support the president, even when he's talking about more progressive stances like global warming.

Oh, here we go with 9/11 again. A couple of minutes of this, to soften us up for the Iraq stuff. I don't think it works much anymore.

BREAKING NEWS: Apparently a pack of coyotes have killed something in the woods behind our house, because we can hear them yelping and howling outside our back door. Sounds like four of five of them. Michelle has been telling me for months that she has heard them out there, and I've told her she's crazy. Guess not.

Still going on about 9/11 and the "war on terror."

Hillary looks like she's falling asleep. She should just rest her head on Bob Casey's shoulder. I'm sure no one would notice. Condi too. Are there Carbon Monoxide monitors in the chamber? I'm worried about these guys. McCain is also falling asleep.

Senator Bob Menendez came this close to picking his nose.

"Let us find our resolve..." I resolve to oppose the war. There it is. Found it.

He talks about "the enemy" as though there is a simple enemy, but he just talked about Iran, al-Qaeda, the Shiites, and the Sunnis, each of them who have their own agenda. Which one is "the enemy"? I'd say that three out of four weren't at war with us four years ago.

Including Joe Lieberman doesn't make your commission "bipartisan," unless your parties are Republican and Connecticut for Lieberman.

Members of the quartet are joining the EU, etc. in diplomacy? Did we send the Statler Brothers over to broker a deal?

There is absolutely no life in the house chamber at all tonight. Everyone seems depressed.

Dikembe Mutumbo? Good Lord. 300 million Americans and the president invited Dikembe Mutumbo. And now he's introducing the creator of the Baby Einstein videos. Give it up for super rich people.

CBS caption: Wesley Autrey, New York City Subway Hero. Biggest applause of the night.

It almost seems like the president is introducing these guests as a way of getting viewers to forget that he just escalated the war 15 minutes ago.

"...the state of the union is strong..." Meh.

Michelle wants to know why John Kerry just bolted from the chamber. I'd guess either he's going to be on TV, he's going to check in on his focus groups, or he needs to pee. At least that's why I'm about to bolt the room.


Monday, January 22, 2007

The Red Sox continue to sicken me

Like that insecure aunt who has to speak up if it gets too quiet around the dinner table, the Red Sox had to do something today to fill the void left by the Patriots. But instead of announcing a trade, or the signing of a player, they unveiled their latest scheme to cause real fans to flee the team in horror: a Red Sox-themed reality dating show.
"Sox Appeal" follows a series of three, two-inning long blind dates that take place over the course of 8 televised Red Sox games. The cameras will follow one hero as they meet three romantic hopefuls (one every two innings). The hero will decide in the 7th inning who they will sit with for the end of the game.
As I've noted before, the Sox seem bound and determined to turn off all of their die hard fans, replacing them instead with pink-hatted members of "Red Sox Nation." Or at least they assume that those of us who love baseball will tolerate all of this tangential garbage that they feel is necessary to keep the Nation interested.

Watching a game on NESN has been a chore for a couple of years now, with the constant drumbeat of promos for upcoming NESN shows occasionally giving way to baseball. Now we're going to be subjected to crowd shots of loving couples narrated by Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy plugging the show...I'm getting sick just thinking about it.

I'm not sure I can take it.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

The difference between CIinton and Boston is...

The petty criminals from Clinton are too honest:
This morning around 2:46am, officers from District 3 participating in Operation safe Neighborhood, arrested suspect, Daniel Jones, 34, of Clinton charging him with Possession of Class D.

Officers were on patrol in the area of 786 Blue Hill Ave. in Dorchester when they observed an idling car in the rear of the Mobil Gas Station. Officers approached this motor vehicle and there observed the suspect rolling a marijuana "blunt" cigarette. The suspect, consumed with rolling his "blunt" did not become aware of the officers' presence until they knocked on his window. Officers asked the suspect what he was doing and he responded "Just smoking a blunt!" The suspect was then placed under arrest and the marijuana seized.

(via Universal Hub).


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Time to hit the road

We are moving. By the end of next month, we will have packed up, filled the moving trucks, and headed across the border to Sterling.

We've been planning on going anyway, but this weekend's news that a mother and her 10-month old baby were victims of a drive-by shooting just up the road makes it easy to leave without looking back:

LEOMINSTER -- A woman and her 10-month old son escaped a drive-by shooting unharmed late Friday night, Police Lt. Raymond A. Booth said Saturday....

The woman told police she had just pulled into a parking space at the Litchfield Terrace apartment complex when she saw a dark-colored Ford Explorer or Expedition approaching, Booth said.

"She reported seeing three men wearing hoods and masks in the motor vehicle," he said. "She reported the vehicle slowing down in front of her...."

"She heard what sounded like five or six shots being fired," he said. "She heard shots hitting the motor vehicle and she ducked down."

The baby was in the back seat of the car during the incident.

I wish it were an isolated incident, but I fear that the city is becoming a little rougher than I'd like. The gas station on the corner near the site of the shooting has been held up more ore than once in the last few months, and there have been other incidents in this part of town. Maybe the city has always had it's share of shootings and violent crime--and because of our new family or other factors I'm just more aware of it now--but it just seems like things have worsened in the last year or so.

I'm not afraid to drive down the street, but I'd just as soon know that if I have to go out to get milk, I'm not going to get shot or robbed.

We were going to move out of town at some point...we've been talking about it since we moved back to Leominster five years ago. It's not that we don't like Leominster-- frankly, it's a pretty good place to live as small cities go--but we had hoped to be able to buy a house in Lancaster or Sterling on a quiet street with a big yard and a dog (not included in the sale) and all of the other little things that you think of when you think of a place to raise a family.

Our plan was to move at some point before Jackson is old enough to go to school. We didn't figure it would happen this quickly, but it did and we're excited about our new place.

And while I grew up in Leominster and consider it home, it's time to move on.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cute AND Tasty!

So what would you do with the cute bunnies pictured here? Pet them? Adopt one, perhaps? Well, if you're a crazed dictator like Kim Jong Il, you eat them.

Or more specifically, you order dozens of them so you can set up a bunny farm to feed your impoverished nation:

An east German pensioner who breeds rabbits the size of dogs has been asked by North Korea to help set up a big bunny farm to alleviate food shortages in the communist country....

Each of his rabbits produces around seven kilograms of meat, says [Karl] Szmolinsky, who was so keen to help alleviate hunger in the impoverished country that he made the North Koreans a special price -- 80 [Euros] per rabbit instead of the usual 200 to 250.

"They'll be used to help feed the population," Szmolinsky told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "I've sent them 12 rabbits so far, they're in a petting zoo for now. I'll be travelling to North Korea in April to advise them on how to set up a breeding farm..."

"One rabbit provides a filling meal for eight people. There are a variety of recipes such as rabbit leg or rabbit roulade. No one buys rabbit fur anymore though, I just throw that in the bin," says Szmolinsky with chilling dispassion.


Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. Honestly...

In the last couple of days, a video has surfaced on YouTube with excerpts of Mitt Romney's debate in 1994 against Ted Kennedy in which he supports abortion rights, equal rights for gays and lesbians, and a form of affirmative action among other progressive positions.

Then this afternoon, Romney posted a response where he has videotaped himself disavowing his previous positions while talking with a blogger over the phone. If there is a more effective way to portray one's self as a slimy, weaselly, patronizing, self-absorbed Guy Smiley, I'd like to see it. Here it is (via Hub Politics):


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Please run, John Kerry

A couple of articles today regarding Senator John Kerry's presidential prospects. The Globe says he's not likely to run, the Washington Post says he's just about ready to jump in.

If it would help, I'm more than willing to give the Senator some advice:

Please please please please please please please please PLEEEEEEEASE run for president again, Senator Kerry. I beg of you.

No, I don't actually want you to be president in 2009, but if you'd just run and do well enough to decide against running for Senate...well, that would be fantastic. Then we'd have a real live Senate election in 2008 with some interesting candidates, and we wouldn't have you.

Not that you'd make the worst president...I mean, I voted for you last time and would probably vote for you again if you won the nomination. But I'd prefer you to put up a spirited fight, announce that you will not run for reelection, then lose to Bill Richardson or John Edwards in the primaries.

Then Jim McGovern or Marty Meehan or Barney Frank would be our next Senator from Massachusetts. And you would not.

Think about it, Senator.


Friday, January 5, 2007

Doing pennants


Reading the UniWatch blog this evening and I came across this note regarding old pennants with photos:
Cool note from Byron Wages, who writes: "I was going through some of my dad's old stuff, and I came across a 1969 Atlanta Braves pennant with an actual team photo in it. My dad, being seven years old at the time, wrote out some of the players' names, as you can see. I've never seen a pennant like this before." Neither have I -- anyone else? (And for good measure, Wages sent this photo too.) …

pennant2Why in fact I have seen one like it. In fact I have one in my basement. I found this pennant about 20 years ago at a flea market in Newfane, Vt. and bought it for $10. As you can see, instead of hermetically sealing it somewhere to protect it's value--I assume it's fairly rare--I have it tacked on the wall along with my other '70s era pennants (and a Patriots Super Bowl pennant from 2002). What's the point in hiding it?

After a little work, I determined that the photo was of the 1972 Stanley Cup Champions (as opposed to the 1970 victors). As if the front of the pennant weren't cool enough, the back of the photo is marked "Twins Enterprises" with the address and phone number of the famous souvenir store across the street from Fenway Park.


Thursday, January 4, 2007

Top 10 of 2006: #1 A terrible day

Over the last 10 days of the year, I will be looking back at my top 10 posts of 2007. Some are included because of my interest in the subject, some because of their popularity with readers, some because I just thought they were well written.

Early on the afternoon of January 20, I received a phone call from my mother with the news that there had been an auto accident in Sterling involving students from South Lancaster Academy, my alma mater and the school at which I was coaching girls basketball at the time. That night, I wrote the following post recounting the afternoon.

January 20, 2006
January 20, 2006

There's something about hearing Jack Williams announce it on the 11 o'clock news that made it seem more real.

I'm sure it's just that he was the anchor my parents watched and that's where I got my news as a kid, and that someone whose parents watched channel 5 or who grew up in St. Louis or L.A. wouldn't have the same reaction.

But I already knew that Ian and Victor were dead. I'd been at the hospital and then the school for most of the afternoon and I don't think it seemed to be real to me until I watched it on the news.

Seeing my school, my colleagues, my kids, one of my best friends, grieving and sharing and explaining and eulogizing on my TV screen at home was somehow more real than experiencing it. Or maybe it wasn't, and it just happened that I was finally unwinding from the day at the same time the news was coming on.


Mom called me at work around 1:30. It's not unusual for her to call me at work on a Friday since we go over to their place for supper Friday nights and she wants to know what we want to eat. It's essentially a Friday ritual: Mom calls, asks what we want to eat, I tell her anything will be fine, and it usually is.

But this was her second call. She told me that there had been a car accident and four SLA kids were in the car and that she thought one of them was on the basketball team. She said they had received a call at the insurance office from the kid whose parents owned the car asking about what coverage they had, if there was a death benefit on the policy, etc.

I assumed the kid was just a little freaked out and that he was probably just covering his bases. I didn't know he was calling from the police station.

I tried to call the Sterling police to get some more information--how many were hurt, what hospital were they taken to--and got nothing except that they were investigating an accident. A coworker overheard my conversation, and called someone she knew in a neighboring town. The reports from that town were that one was dead on the scene...maybe two, and another was critically injured.

I called Mom back and found out who the four students were. Three of them were Crusaders.

I left work and headed to Worcester. I'm not sure what I thought I could do, but I figured there must be something I could do to help. I always try to find something to do. I guess I cope better by occupying myself, trying to find a way to do something. Or maybe to not do nothing.

I wanted to get to Cameron's place to tell him in person. I didn't think he should have to find out by phone that one of his players was dead. No one could find him. I figured I might catch him at home, but as I got closer to town I called ahead and he wasn't home yet, but his mom said the phone at his place had been ringing off the hook.

So I went to the hospital.


I'm not sure what I thought I would accomplish there. If I'd thought about it at all, I probably would have realized that I probably wouldn't be much help. I'm not good at talking to grieving people. I was at Mrs. Schmidt's funeral last week and got stuck at the head of the receiving line and after I'd said “I'm sorry” and hugged the people who were there to hug I had no place to go. Just standing there smiling, but not too much, because there's not much to smile about. Awkward really.

How do I empathize with someone who's lost a parent or brother or best friend when I've been so lucky not to have faced that kind of pain?

When I got to the Emergency Room, there were a couple of teachers and a couple of students waiting. Martha asked me if I had an update, and I told her what little I knew. She said Ian and Jody were both in surgery and that it was touch and go for Ian. The rest of the people who were waiting for news were up on the third floor where Ian was in surgery. I went up to see what was going on.

When I got off the elevator, I realized I probably had no business being there. I have no idea who I expected to see--actually I do, I thought some of my girls might be up there--but in the hall outside the elevator were a handful of people crying. I knew they were there for Ian, but I didn't know them.

Except for Allyson. She told me Ian had died.

She then ran across the hall to the only place on the floor she had found cell service. I checked the waiting room briefly and found none of my kids there, and I didn't know what to do. There were people I didn't know grieving over their loss, the one person I did know, the principal, furiously trying to call teachers, pastors--anyone--to update them on the news.

And me. Standing in the hall. Not sure if I should hug someone I didn't know, or help someone I did know, or just go back downstairs.

I don't know how long I stood in the hall alone but not really alone. Probably not that long, but when Allyson got off her phone I asked her how she was and she said she was OK. I think she was just busy, but busy makes things better until there's nothing left to do. I wanted to be busy (and courteous), so I asked if there was anything I could do. Allyson asked me to go downstairs to get the Bible teacher and ask him to come upstairs with her and Ian's parents. And to try to find out what was going on with Jody and Nelson since no one on the third floor had heard any news.

I found Jeff and sent him upstairs, and then turned around to see that one of my girls had arrived.


Since I've been coaching again, one of things I've noticed that makes me a better coach now than ever before is the separation I have from my players. Where I'd always been closer to my players in age and by extension closer to them personally--especially when I coached at college--I'm now older enough and have a much fuller life outside of basketball and I haven't developed the same casual closeness I have developed with teams and players when I was a lot younger. And not being at the school everyday and seeing the kids every day is also an advantage in the sense that my role in their lives is clearly defined. I care about my kids, love them dearly, but I am their coach.

What works for basketball is suddenly inadequate when two kids die and one of my players is crying and I'm holding her and realizing that I don't know if she's crying because she's really close to the kids who are gone, or if she's not so close but just overwhelmed, or if she's remembering some specific experiences they shared...or for any reason really. I realize that I don't know her as well as I would if I were at the school every day.

And maybe that's just an excuse. Maybe I should have taken more time to know her anyway.

She tells me that another player is in the chapel where some of the friends have gathered and I go in and find her sitting trying to get news on what has happened, and how it happened. And I put my arm around her and she lays her head on my side and cries softly as I stand next to her as she sits.

I am sad for her. The first boy she ever kissed has died. I know that because she came to practice late one night completely nervous and worried and with a scarf pulled tight to her neck that she wouldn't take off as we practiced because...well you know. Everyone knew why she was acting that way and why she was dressed that way, but she was thrilled and nervous and scared because it was the first time and she'd lost track of time and that had never happened before and how would she face her parents.

Of course it all turned out all right and over time it became an inside joke. I wear a mock turtleneck to each game and every once in a while when the young man would walk by I'd pull my collar up tighter over my neck and wink and she'd roll her eyes and laugh...and I'll probably never do that again.

How does a 17-year-old deal with that?


A 34-year-old deals with it by staying busy. Cameron finally called me back shortly after I left the chapel. We needed to get a hold of the people at St. Mary's High School to cancel Saturday night's game. Cameron wasn't at school and didn't have all of his contact information with him at home so I volunteered to take care of that for him if he couldn't.

I waited at the hospital until he arrived. He seemed to be doing OK. He came in as Ian's parents were leaving and they shared a hug. After consoling a few of the other students that were still there, he told me he hadn't been able to reach St. Mary's. I volunteered to drive over to St. Mary's to see if someone was at the school or gym and try to get word out. Failing that, I'd go to his office when I stopped by SLA and get the contact info.

I went to St. Mary's and found their AD in the gym. I told him what had happened and he said he'd just found out from Cameron's wife. I felt a little weird being there since he'd already found out. He offered to pray for the school and I thanked him for that and headed back to Lancaster.

When I got to the school, most of the folks there had already cried themselves out. There was a lot of standing around, looking at each other, generally being awkward. Many of the rest of my players were there, and I got to talk with them for a couple of minutes, and hug them and listen to them tell a couple of stories.

One of them asked me about the game Saturday and I told her that it would be postponed. The question bothered me. I'm at the school, two of these kids' classmates have died, people are grieving and she asks me about basketball. Not because that's all that is on her mind, but because that's all she has to talk about with me. And I again feel like maybe I've missed something here.

Cameron calls as I am leaving and I tell him that St. Mary's knows and that all of the little items we had to take care of are done and that I'll see him Saturday morning at the school where everyone is meeting again.


I had been calling Michelle periodically with updates through the afternoon. Every new update brought worse news, and I could hear her crying on the other end. It struck me that she seemed to be taking this news harder than I was. I think I just chalked it up to one of the ways we are different. But I realized once I got home that our different reactions might have been more basic than that.

I had found things to do. When I was at work and had the option of waiting for news or heading to town to busy myself, I made myself busy. Michelle didn't have the same option, so she took my calls and watched the news and could think and empathize and cry and react to what she was seeing and hearing instead of pushing it aside.


As the day wound down I sat on the couch and turned on the news. The news crews had found the academy and Judy Hodder and Bob Malin and Allyson were being interviewed on channels 4, 5 and 7 and they talked about how good the kids were, and how tragic the loss was, and how every 17-year-old kid makes bad decisions and some are unluckier than others.

Then I turned to New England Cable News and watched their report and I was surprised to see Cameron on the screen. He talked about his kids, and how he loved them. He said he talked to the team after each practice about priorities and placing God and Family and School ahead of the team. As he talked he cried.

And it struck me that this was probably the first time that he had been asked. That he had held it together all day because he had made himself busy. Doing things, consoling others, being useful. And it wasn't until some anonymous reporter stuck a microphone in his face and asked him to tell his story that he had a chance to deal with his grief.

I was sad and angry. I had left the office when I first heard the news with the express purpose of making sure someone was there for him and I got caught up in making myself busy and I forgot why I went in the first place. I was watching one of my best friends grieve and there was nothing I could do because instead of being there, I was at home watching on TV.

I tried all day to find something to do and I missed the one thing I actually could have done to make a difference.

I'll get over it because I'll see him tomorrow, or Sunday when the Seahawks play, or at the services next week.

But my kids won't get to see their classmates or their friends again. How do they get over that?

Patrick Inaugural: "'s lunchtime in the city of Boston"

Random thoughts on the inaugural. Or more specifically, Channel 5's web cast of the event...
  • Ed Harding must be awfully short. Shorter than Gov. Dukakis.

  • Discussion about the bible Governor Patrick will use at his swearing in. Harding: Presented by the Mendi men to John Quincy Adams, comfort during imprisonment, etc. etc. Heather Unruh: "Wasn't the Bible also on the Amistad? Was Patrick a descendant of slaves?"

  • Oops. Open mic during commercial. Janet Wu can't hear anything but singing. "I can't hear Ed's questions or anything he says. Can't we turn down the singing? All I can here is this singing."

  • Back from commercial, Heather throws it to...a children's choir singing God Bless America. Take that Janet Wu!

  • Aw shucks, at the next commercial, they switched to a web cam of the statehouse with annoying static. I was hoping to hear what Janet Wu had to say about being smacked down.

  • Whew, I feel better about things. Heather just said that it's appropriate that a man from Worcester was elected Lt. Gov. because "that part of the state" deserves to be represented. Harding agreed, "after all, it's the second largest city in New England." My existence has been validated.

  • (by the way, a quick Google search has shown that as of the 2000 census, Providence has surpassed Worcester as the second largest city in New England.)

  • They should have brought Rene Rencourt out to sing the national anthem.

  • Ed wants to talk about "Deval Patrick time." He seems pissed that he has to shut up so we can hear the invocation.

  • I've never been a fan of political speeches thinly veiled as "prayer," and I'm not a fan of this invocation. Maybe I'm a little Puritanical about these things, but I prefer a humble blessing to a rousing high and mighty speech.

  • Heather: "The crowds are can tell it's lunchtime in the city of Boston." Not quite "Morning in America," but it's something.

  • There is an older guy in the background mouthing the oath along with Governor Patrick. Does that mean he gets to be governor too?

  • I find it interesting that the clause of "Upholding the constitution of the United States" is almost an afterthought in the governor's oath.

  • Ed tells us that "Deval Patrick time" is four minutes ahead of schedule. I can understand why he's been trying to squeeze that nugget in. Probably the most important thought he's had all day.

  • Heather: "Is that a Red Sox bracelet on his wrist?" Ed: "It's a red bracelet." Heather: "It might have something to do with AIDS. I wish I knew..." The governor has AIDS? I wish I knew...

  • Ed just told us the bracelet is for Katrina relief. Forget Katrina relief, I'm just relieved the governor doesn't have AIDS.

  • I appreciate that Tim Murray refers to Jane Swift as "Governor Swift." Better than the Globe ever did.

  • I'm not going to lie, Tim Murray puts me to sleep. Seems like a good guy, and I appreciate that like me, he's from "that part of the state." But I just can't concentrate on what he's saying. He could be reciting the menu at Chopsticks for all I know.

  • Deval just implied that he is, in fact, a descendant of slaves.

  • "Let's rebuild this city on a's lunchtime in the city of Boston. God Bless the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." or something. I ended up spending most Governor Patrick's speech on the phone.

  • And finally, another song by the children's choir. Take that Janet Wu!


Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Top 10 of 2006: #2 Remembering Papa

Over the last 10 days of the year, I will be looking back at my top 10 posts of 2007. Some are included because of my interest in the subject, some because of their popularity with readers, some because I just thought they were well written.

On June 15, my grandfather passed away. This is what I wrote in rememberance.

June 15, 2006
Ronald Junior Harris, June 13, 1924 - June 15, 2006

Papa died this evening. He was a veteran of World War II, a truck driver, a husband of 61 years, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He was 82 years old.

He was a good man.

I was not really close to him, certainly not as close as most of the other grandchildren were. Growing up, my cousins, aunts and uncles all lived in and around the homestead in Jamaica, Vt., while my brother and I would only visit occasionally, perhaps go with my parents once a month or so for Sabbath dinner. And even then, he was gone as often as not, on the road somewhere between here and California, driving his truck on another cross-country run.

Scott and I called him Papa. I've never asked why that was--perhaps it was just an arbitrary way to identify one set of grandparents from another (as we are doing with Jackson)--but as I was growing up, I learned that all of the other cousins called him Gramp or Grampy. Since I was closer to my Grampy here in Lancaster, I assumed it kids always called the grandfather that they are closest to "Gramp" and the other "Papa," and I perceived that they had a closer relationship with him.

I wouldn't have traded the life my parents provided for me in Lancaster for the opportunity to grow up in and around the family, but I wish I had known him better.

Now that I am an adult, I regret that I never rode in the truck with him on a cross-country trip. Many of the other cousins my age would travel with him over the summer. When I was in high school, I toyed with the idea of traveling with him one summer, but the chance never came and I probably would have chickened out even if it had.

In some respects, there was an artificial wall built between us. Papa died of lung cancer, and he got it because he smoked. A lot. But I never saw him smoke as a kid. I must have been 16 or older the first time I ever saw him smoke, and even that was an accident--I had gone from my grandparents' place across the street to my aunt's house for some reason and Papa was there at the table with a cigarette. I think he kept it from Scott and I out of respect for my parents and the decisions they were making about how we would be raised. There were probably other things about him I never knew because they were kept from me out of respect for the way we were being reared.

I appreciate the respect Papa had for my parents and their choices. Yet I feel like I missed knowing the man. My cousins who grew up with him in their life had a love and devotion for him that I didn't. And I think I missed out.

Papa was a simple man. I mean that in the most admirable and respectful way. Life, as he described it, was not complicated. There was a right way and a wrong way, and no amount of discussion or argument would change that. Not that he wouldn't discuss and argue--I loved to listen to him and Uncle Curly argue politics after dinner on a Sabbath afternoon--but the discussion wouldn't change the truth.

As I think back on his life, I have some fond memories. As a young child, he used to bounce me on his knee and sing:

To Boston, to Boston to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

To Boston, to Boston to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, joggity jog.

I have no idea where that song came from, but I remember it vividly. In fact, when I hold my niece in my lap, that song is always the first that comes to my mind.

When Michelle and I were married, we had a dance at our reception where each of the married couples there were asked to come out onto the dance floor. As the song played, the DJ would ask those married for less than five years to sit down, then ten, then 20, and so on until the couple married the longest was the last one standing, then Michelle would give a bouquet to the winning couple. We knew that it would be Grandma and Papa. When it was over, the DJ asked Papa to say a couple of things. I remember that he was so proud of the fact that he and Gram had been married for 58 years. And he made sure everyone knew that he was my grandfather.

It was the first time that I realized that he was proud of me. He'd never said so. That wasn't his style.

The last time I saw him was last fall, when he and Gram and Aunt Darlene came down for my father's surprise 60th birthday party. Michelle and I had found out a month before that we were expecting a baby, but we had decided not to tell my grandparents until they came down for the party because we wanted to tell them in person, rather than over the phone.

Papa's health had been failing for some time and when he and Grandma arrived he was walking with a cane, having to stop every few steps to catch his breath. As Michelle and I greeted them we gave them the good news, and Papa swung his cane in the air, let out a holler and did a little jig. It was as happy as I'd ever seen him. For a moment, it was as though he was young again.

I'm glad that is my last memory of him. When Aunt Darlene called this morning to tell us Papa was failing, Michelle and I decided that we would drive to Vermont tomorrow, in hopes that Papa might be alert enough to meet Jackson. While I wish he'd been able to meet his great-grandson, I'm glad I didn't have to see him fail.

Across the room, Jackson is stirring. It's time for him to eat, then I'll head off to bed. I think I'll tell him about his great-grandfather--one of the men he is named after.

And I'll sing "To Boston" while he sits on my knee.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Happy Boo! Year

Apparently the first New Year's resolution for some Leominster residents is to find out once and for all what ghosts and goblins are roaming around town. According to the Sentinel and Enterprise, an A&E film crew will be in our fair city next week to examine a haunted condominium.

LEOMINSTER -- Shannon Sylvia said the first sign of paranormal activity in her condo was when her bedroom door flew open on a calm night in 1998.

"It was around 11:30 at night, and I was lying in bed, and the bedroom door just went 'bang!'" she said Friday. "It ripped open so hard that the doorknob put a hole in the wall, and it scared me to death. The windows were closed, there was no breeze and there was absolutely no one there. That's when I started to realize that something was up here."

Sylvia, 32, bought the condo at 593 Main St. about a decade ago. She since learned that her open, two-story loft had been a fourth-grade classroom of the Pierce Street School until the mid-1980s....

Her story and her house were compelling enough for the producers of "Paranormal U," a new series for the A&E television network, who will begin filming an episode there and around Leominster Jan. 11, co-executive producer Alan LaGarde said Friday.

"I think there was something just in her, and the way she told her story," he said. "We wanted to do something that has a little bit of history to it, so the old school house has a lot of appeal to us."

Hasn't the old haunted schoolhouse thing been done before? Didn't Haley Joel Osment see dead people in an old schoolhouse in the Sixth Sense? If we're going to be haunted, don't you think we should be haunted by someone or something unique to the city?


Top 10 of 2006: #3 Schilling for Senate

Over the last 10 days of the year, I will be looking back at my top 10 posts of 2007. Some are included because of my interest in the subject, some because of their popularity with readers, some because I just thought they were well written.

After the 2006 elections, I made the argument that the best Republican candidate for senate in 2008 would be the current Red Sox ace. It's the only post I've written that created a blog storm, mostly in response to a cross-posting at Blue Mass Group. The post got wide enough circulation that I even received an inquiry from the political editor at one of the big four Boston TV news organizations (I declined to go on camera and apparently the idea died).

November 9, 2006
First Look at '08: Schilling for Senate?

schillingThe state's Republican party is in such shambles it would be fair to ask: Can they find a viable candidate to run for Senate in two years?

I can only think of one really good option for them: Curt Schilling. What do we know about Schilling that would make him a viable candidate?

  1. He is a Republican. After helping the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004, he spent the week between the end of the Series and election day campaigning for President Bush in TV appearances and on the stump. Would his support of the president be a liability? Probably not...there were still a lot of people who supported the president in 2004.

  2. He will be available. His contract with the Red Sox ends at the end of the 2007 season. That would give him five months or so until the primary (it's early in 2008 because of the presidential race), and a little over a year to the general election. He wouldn't have to worry about the primary at all--the minute he announced his candidacy the decks would be clear--and he'd be left with plenty of time to run a general election campaign. In fact, he could get a head start since the Democratic primary could be hotly contested.

  3. 0621sockHe brings instant name recognition and popularity. Everyone in Massachusetts knows who Curt Schilling is, and they probably have a generally positive view of him. The old joke is that a member of the 2004 Red Sox will never have to buy a drink in Massachusetts. That level of built in support would go a long way. Instead of volunteers running around in orange jumpsuits, he'll have his supporters wearing "bloody socks." In a strange way, that would be endearing.

  4. He will have no problem raising money. See number 3. Not only does he have quite a bit of his own money if he needed to tap into it, but he would be able to raise lots of money in both Massachusetts and across the country based on his star power alone. And don't think that national Republicans will forget his support of Bush. He'd instantly have as much money to run as he needs.

  5. He can campaign as a true outsider. Because he won't have a voting record on issues, he will be able to define himself. If I had to guess, I'd imagine him as a strong-defense, low-tax, social libertarian...the only type of Republican that could be successful in Massachusetts. But even if he's not, he'll have the ability to let voters know who he is, and not have to worry about having a trail of votes that can be twisted and used against him.

  6. He can campaign as a local businessman. Just last week, the Boston Business Journal reported that Schilling had rented space in Maynard to house his start-up video game business. Schilling will be able to say that he has "created jobs in Massachusetts," that he "understands the needs of small business," etc. etc.

  7. He has a TV presence. Not every athlete is comfortable with the cameras, but Schilling certainly is. In fact, some of us who follow the Red Sox think he's too much of a publicity hog: always on TV, calls WEEI to vent about this or that issue, frequents internet message boards (I'm one of those who wishes he'd just shut up and pitch). In any event, he is a skilled commentator and would be a media darling.

  8. schilling 2There is no one else. Quick, name a Massachusetts Republican. Mitt Romney's running for president, so he's out. Kerry Healey? Her only chance would be if Deval Patrick failed miserably right out of the gate and people began wondering if she weren't so bad after all. Paul Cellucci might be a possibility I suppose, but his ties to President Bush are so strong that he might have difficulty here, not to mention that he saddled us with two years of Jane Swift (uh, no). Wayne Budd was Deval Patrick before Deval Patrick. Former Suffolk County DA Ralph Martin, perhaps? Do any of those names inspire you?
All of this speculation is based on one huge assumption: John Kerry will run for President and the seat will be an open seat. If Kerry stays on, I'd guess that he will not face any real opposition. But if he goes, there will be a huge fight for the first senate opening in 24 years. I wouldn't be surprised if Curt Schilling is part of the mix.


Monday, January 1, 2007

Top 10 of 2006: #4 Wal-Mart provides Christmas cheer

Over the last 10 days of the year, I will be looking back at my top 10 posts of 2007. Some are included because of my interest in the subject, some because of their popularity with readers, some because I just thought they were well written.

Perhaps the most popular post I wrote in 2006 was my story last month of the surreal experience which is the Wal-mart photo center. It didn't hurt that the baby is incredibly cute, too.

December 4, 2006
Wal-Mart Photo Center: "Bah Humbug!"

Now that we have a child, we decided to break down and get Christmas cards with the kid's picture to send to everyone this year. So we dressed Jackson up, set him in a little sleigh, propped him up on a TV tray table in front of the Christmas tree, took a bunch of pictures, and sent one to Wal-Mart to get some cards printed.

What an experience that was.

When I get to the photo counter Sunday evening, I give the kid with the floppy blond hair and the conspicuous tongue piercing my name, he searches for my photos, then he tells me that the manager has instructed that they not fulfill my order because the photos look too professional.

I told Slacker McSkaterdude that I was flattered that he thought my pictures looked that good, but that I'd just taken them in my living room the day before. The young man, who despite his appearance took his job very seriously, told me that if I could prove that I took the pictures, he'd let me have them.

I'm not sure exactly the look I gave him, but if the kid could read my face, it was saying "Prove that I took the pictures? You're kidding, right? And the lisp created by the tongue ring combined with your having to peer out at me from behind your bangs makes it hard to take you seriously." Showing admirable self-restraint, I asked Master Shaggy how he expected me to prove my photographic skills. He suggested I bring the camera in and show him the image, and he'd let me have the pictures.

I asked for a manager.

The kid started to get a little offended and I assured him that I wasn't angry at him (except for crimes against fashion) and that I realized that he was just doing his job, but that the whole thing was crazy. He said he understood, and that they've been told that they'll be fired if they let anyone get away with copyright infringement. Then he called Louise Jefferson over to answer my questions.

He explained what was happening and Weezie told me that she wasn't the manager who had flagged the photos, but that she'd be happy to take a look at them. After inspecting one of the cards for a moment, she agreed that I'd have to prove that they weren't professional and handed me one.

Weezie, Shaggy and I huddled around the photo like so many Florida election officials examining hanging chads. Luckily, I noticed that I hadn't cropped out the entire TV tray table, so I pointed it out. Either that was convincing enough, or Weezie was tired of dealing with me, so she finally released my Christmas cards.

You'd think Wal-Mart has more to worry about than keeping me from printing good looking pictures. Maybe I'll have to print blurry or off-center pics next Christmas to avoid the hassle.



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