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Boston Pastorale

Boston, on a Sunday afternoon. We are off to see the Rembrandt, a self-portrait at the Isabella Stewart Museum. This means, for you, a city girl, walking, lots and lots of walking, and, of course, there are subways.

George’s Island

This is how we did it. You conned the yacht club launch driver to ferry us out to the island. I want my son to see this tiny world, you said, meaning the ancient stone walls and the bleak Civil War ghosts that haunt the dim and dusty catacombs. Inside the powder magazine, where gunpowder for battles never fought was once stockpiled, he stuck a flashlight in his face, like the Blair Witch frighteners. I had never noticed how brown his eyes were. His mother’s eyes. My eyes. We’re the brown eye club. We wander back out in the day, blinking in the dense heatwave. What do you want to see next?

Hole in the wall, prison cell.  The ancient residue of lime whitewash, the chill desolation of jailhouse stone. Touch the wall. You can almost hear them weeping.

Ascending a dark stone spiral to the gunnery pallisades, the ghost  of you that’s been a prisoner decides to show her legs.

Tunnel of Love. Mother and son return to the light. The boat will return soon, back to the land of the living, salt spray, fish and chips, a flying trip to the bus station. Goodbye island. Goodbye ghosts.

To Hull and Back

Mother and child.  Where are they going? One thing is certain. At the other end of the young girl’s gaze, the boardwalk take-out shack. Sugar and grease. Ambrosia nectar.  Soft spirals of liquid heaven, sizzling sow, cookie frisbees and fried dough.

The Boston Starbucks teapot, beneath a hazy, delft heaven.

Saturday. I am driving into Boston today to brng home your work things.  Your last day on the job. Your last window view of the golden domed statehouse cross the commons. Your last late night typing down the posturing pontifications of portly politicos. Your last dive into the desk candy drawer. The last time copy paper pilfering. I park in a subterrainian garage, slowly wend my way to your office on Winter St. capturing urban images. At the Park Sq. T stop I pause at the pedestrian-clogged gateway to the Commons, hand the ubiquitous black crazy lady a five spot. She blesses me, her eyes scanning the emerging riders blinking back the sunlight for the next buck. A Freedom Trail Ben Franklin wannabe is warming up a brood of rapt history buffs. I punch in your number, peer up towards the fifth floor, your office above Finagle a Bagle. “Hey,” you say, expecting me. “Where are you?” “Down here.” I call back. “Look out your window.” I watch the glass, the flutter of movement, you leaning forward to peer out. You are smiling.  Click.  

I inherited a love of fire apparatus from my father. Pausing at a red light, the corner of Nantasket Ave and A Street in our adopted Hull hometown, I turned just in time to snap this picture before the traffic slithered onward. A dusk shot, the soft glow of the red fire orbs, patriotic bunting, the gleam of polished chrome. Muscled chariots waiting for fire. Norman Rockwell at his easel. I almost want to torch an abandoned building just to hear them sing.

Boston street kids, hopped up on cell phone mojo, watching the world river flow by.

Ocean sunset. On the highspeed ferry, making the evening crossing to you on a Friday night, tourists crowd the western rail, snapping off sundown shots. A fiery star kissing the waters. We are just passengers on God’s leaky ark, and for this divine moment, true believers again.

The Vietnamese grocery in Quincy always smells of decaying chickens, and everything has way too much sugar and Red Dye #6 in it, but I am always drawn to the iced fish in the back. Skinny kids in aprons and high rubber gloves, brandishing filleting knives like Viet Cong freedom fighters with machetes carving up forest paths to victory.

Only in a city. A high tech lemonade stand, trolleying home to watch the Red Sox game.

Living statues, heading to work in the Boston Commons.

Everywhere you go, the weirdly wonderful bald blue pates of the Blue Man Group are eyeballing passersby from lifesize posters. Will the last child who hasn’t paid $75 to see them spritz paint on kettle drums please stand up.

Old North Church, and highrise leering down.

The mute playlist of a million Ipods, a million street crossers, smothered in silent stereo obsessions, startled by shuffle disguised as random improv, earbuds strapped to auditory nerves like insectile antennae.

Praying to the God of Retail. Borders courtyard. Starving indians, in bronze tableaux, eternally fucked by the British Invasion: John, Paul, George and Ringo.  

 All sisters hate their brothers sometime. Especially older sisters, out for a stroll in their summer dress. “Brat,” she whispers, breathes soft life into her abject misery. “Life was soooooooo…….much better before you came along.”

Decisions. Nantasket boardwalk. He’s starving. She’s exhausted. The light is fading, like an old man about to fall into a dream.

La mia bella boglie….My beautiful wife:

Pippin Ross goes wherever it takes to get a story. Experience has taught her that what looks mellow and easy often isn’t—when you dig. This young, lovely couple on a pristine beach in Aruba told her a dark and ugly story about how Arubans, the people who live on and care for the island, are becoming outcasts of the booming tourism trade.

She listens and watches. She never goes into a story with a pre-arranged plot. She knows the only way to get the real story is to ask: Who/What/When/Where/Why and always—how?

A good example? Interviewing the tribal chief of Massachusetts’ Wampanoag tribe, she finally got him to say, “Casino Gaming profits truly go to the super rich who own and run the casinos. Gambling has helped Native americans on a level equal to the ways it has hurt us.’ How did she get him to say that? Listening and asking two simple questions: Why? and—-Really?

Again, the question is why? Why are so many people suffering from addiction and poverty being put into prison when it would be a whole lot cheaper to simply help them get clean? That’s the question she asks yet another state representative. The answer she keeps receiving? We need people like you to do more stories about what’s really going down, that’s the answer!

She always finds the source. Being ‘Green’ may be the ‘in’ thing to claim that you are as a business. But this man, Ewald Beimans, built a very swank, completely environmentally hotel resort 30 years ago. “People thought I was completely out of my mind to spend money on being completely solar and sustainable. Now? The last laugh is on me because oh boy, do I save a lot of money on the energy they pay for that’s ruining the places people pay to visit!’

She’s a great reporter. She always has been.

The carnies set up their magical machinary on a deserted two acre island of desicated, thatchy grass, the steady river of townbound traffic to its rear, the gray marching surf of the New England Atlantic to its front. Kids know when the carnies are in town. Stapled onto every telephone pole, taped inside every store window, the ubitquitous CARNIVAL!! posters, a printer’s dream on six color card stock. Driving home one evening, to northward, towards the Boston skyline, the hulking, ferris wheel emerged, a sudden exhuberance of neon and incandescence, a tech rehearsal before opening night. Where do they come from, these weary road pirates? I passed a backstage row of campers, pickups, and massive RVs. A carnie sat in a doorway behind his booth, fingers to lips,  droop lids lazily hounddogging the traffic, smoking a sunset butt.  Guys on the lam from life get hired easy here in carnyland. Guys running on empty, looking for a cash economy. Guys and their girlfriends, and carny kids, slouched still as owls in folding chairs. The blinking neon and the steel gyrations of whirligigs doing their mad fandangos amidst the mock death shreiks of  village children is a perfect cloak of invisibility for society’s runaways.

Chatchki World

I share my life with mermaids and turtles, flowerpots and sunglass bowls, bird feeders in the window and shoes on the floor. Bored, add a camera, and voila, art walks in. Here, a gallery of your artful, anthropomorphic inventions, miniature toasters, Bendy Man daring a daylight rescue, our absentee butterfly landlady rescuing flashlight fish, the ubiquious fridge magnetos, herb canister shadowboxes,  prism orbs, the Ricardos in happier times. I love your boredom as much as I love mine.  Great, and small, things emerge, my quirky, quizzical queen of chachki world .

Remember flying cow, of our wedding ring fame? Here, he does double duty playing horsy with green crystal ball.

Bendy Man rescues psycho bear and twisty lion from a burning candlestick factory. Our hero, Bendy.

Our butterfly benefactor, Ms. Condie Min. E. Um, carries fishlight to safety. The candlestick factory was a total loss, but no loss of chachki life.

Black Boob Betty, the mafia mermaid. She doesn’t shave her pits, but keeps her scales clean.

Green Stone Sophia, waiting for the boomerang toss to begin, at the annual Chatchki Special Olympics.

Honey I shrank the kitchen…and painted bobbin.

Spice can shadowbox. Beware of plastic crawly things.

Glitter Beantown skyline. Reefer magnet.

Momma love, prison style; fried egg and Hopper lighthouse.

“LUCYYYYYY?? Char you home?” I wanted to trade my doughty, artist, non-beatnik parents in for the king and queen of biracial schtick. They remind me of us, in a distantly dysfunctional way.

Dechimed wind chime, like a cat without claws, it can never keep (tinkle) you (tinkle tinkle) awake (tinkle tinkle tinkle) ever ever again.

I’ve never asked you, nor probably never will ask you: “What the fuck does this mean???”

Shiny, pretty ball that hangs over the stove. A totemic expression of god love every bit as poignantly melancholy as a windswept Easter Island.

A workweek on Nantucket. Priscilla, in the dawn bathroom, while my poop gently weeps.

The corporate bodega. While you shop. Doing the hubby wait, illegal in the fire lane, I watched this clubfoot Oreo Man schlepp up and down the Stop and Shop sidewalk, probably high on rainbow jimmies and Cool Whip.

Hull tee shirt emporium-‘Go to Hull! A Hulluva place to visit!! When Hull freezes over!!!’-and a storefull of pirate chatchkis, this one in the window: “If a man is out at sea and there isn’t a woman around, is he still wrong?’

Juggling conjugals