Many, many months have passed since I last posted herein. My dismay about the direction, or lack thereof, that my entries had been taking was a source of frustration that eventually led to a bad case of Blog Block. I was waxing biographical about the post-academic travels of my early 20′s but to what dead end? Blog Block quickly became Blog Neglect but just when I was about to attempt to have a go at it again something wholly unexpected and horrific happened…the Boston Marathon bombings. Ultimately, for the sake of sanity, the result for me was total Blog Abandonment. Not that I didn’t try to write about the bombings and their aftermath; I did, profusely but with increasing difficulty. Over a month after the blasts, I had re-written and re-edited the following collection of paragraphs countless times until finally I just walked away; at a loss for words, you might say.
So, here it is, half-completed, with one more polish, The Abandoned Post:
As the world now knows, on April 15th, 2013 at 2:49pm EDT, two incendiary devices exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Five weeks have passed since then and the story has been pushed from the headlines by other gruesome events and major catastrophes. But I’ve continued to work on this little Blog off and on because the Boston saga kept changing and evolving. Being something of a skeptic by nature, I kept questioning things that everyone else seemed to accept at face value. I discovered that there are a lot of skeptics out there and most of them reside on what can only be described as the lunatic fringe. But this is very serious stuff. People died. Many of the survivors are still in the hospital or at Spaulding Rehab learning to walk again on prosthetic limbs. I don’t know any of them nor have I personally spoken to them but some facts you just have to believe to be true…otherwise you’d be crazy. There are a lot of crazy people out there.
Although I’ve tried to keep myself otherwise occupied I really have not been able to think about much else, because the Boston bombings hit so close to home. This was especially true during the first two weeks when every day brought some new edge-of-your-seat development or poignant public event. I’ve probably got too much free time on my hands but I have spent countless hours on my computer reading and viewing any new bit of info I could access. You could say my interest became obsessive-compulsive. When I got tired of my MacBook, I would switch over to the TV. My mood would fluctuate between being depressingly disturbed to joyously uplifted, often on the same afternoon. It has been one multimedia roller coaster ride of confusing, conflicting information and emotion. For proper perspective, it was helpful to keep in mind the victims instead of the suspects. Three people were killed when the bombs went off: Lu Lingzi, a 23 year old BU graduate student from China, Krystle Campbell, a 29 year old restaurant manager from Medford MA and Martin Richard, an 8 year old Little Leaguer from nearby Dorchester MA. Several of Martin’s family members were also severely injured. The final tally of victims reached 264 after growing exponentially each day. Although some of injured lost limbs, a great many people suffered shrapnel wounds from the nails and BBs contained in the bombs. I imagine that a lot of bystanders were treated for psychological shock and punctured eardrums were reported. Later in the week an MIT police officer, Sean Collier, was assassinated point blank as he sat in his cruiser.
I was born and raised in Boston. The Marathon runs right through Brighton along Commonwealth Avenue, my part of town. I worked for years at Tower Records just mere blocks away from the finish line. Watertown, the scene of two very intense nighttime shootouts and a precedent setting all-day manhunt, is less than a 5-minute walk from my family home, on the other side of the Charles River. So, all these ongoing episodes unfolded with a deeply personal resonance for me. The immediate familiarity of every location added an aura of the surreal to the continuous drama. I have seen Fenway Park on national TV but not an army of SWAT police assembled at the Arsenal Mall where I go to shop at Marshall’s. Often it was hard to figure out what was really going on. I realize now that I have been digging far too deep online for my own peace of mind. Too many YouTube videos have opened up a parallel universe that is in sharp contrast to the mainstream media or MSM as it’s called on the ‘alternative news websites’. Many times I had to get up and away from the computer and go for a long walk in lovely Gloucester where I live now. I discovered a kind of bizarro world of conspiracy theorists who I suppose have always been around except now they have HD photography and video footage to upload and analyze. In an age of the iPhone anyone and everyone can make a Zapruder film. Unfortunately, no one did, at least from what I have seen so far.
Unlike 9/11, this horrific occurrence happened at street level. Horrors like this go down every day in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Europe has suffered through two World Wars. But until now bombings in America have been a rare occurrence. Seeing this take place in your own neighborhood is something else again. So I admit to being riveted from the moment I heard my neighbor Carmela scream “Oh My GOD” and I hurried to the TV to watch the blast footage repeated and repeated. There is no dismissing the bravery of Boston Police, the EMTs and a handful of citizens who rushed towards the explosions to help the injured. The most vivid pictures of these first few minutes were captured for history by a videographer for the Boston Globe. This is the clip shown over and over again on every news outlet in the world. Still, it was difficult to discern exactly what kind of carnage had taken place on the sidewalk beyond the silver crowd barrier. I think, out of a sense of decency for the maimed, the cameraman chose not to shoot too close. The cops did a good job of clearing the area quickly. Of course most people wanted to get right the hell out of there fast, so that helped. Boston’s biggest crime scene ever, encompassing a huge swath of Boylston St., a major indoor shopping mall, hotels, restaurants, a huge supermarket, residential apartment buildings, and office towers, was suddenly sealed up tight. But what actually happened, who did it and why?
With nothing much more to show but the same exploding clip, the news stations started in on the talking heads speculation game. Where you an eyewitness? Who could have done this? What’s the connection? Marathon Monday (the third Monday in April) is also the holiday called Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts. It commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord (which actually took place on April 19, 1775) that sparked the American Revolution with the ‘shot heard ’round the world’. The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma happened on April 19th. The Waco complex of the Branch Davidions went up in flames on April 19, 1993. This year the third Monday in April fell on the 15th, tax return day. The race for ratings, to be first with the facts, any facts, was underway. I must say that at this point the MSM gave the conspiracy crowd a run for their money. With no concrete information to go on, Cable and Network experts spun their own scenarios about who might be behind the atrocity; right -wing extremists, angry Tea Partiers, disgruntled tax payers, Islamic terrorists, escaped mental patients? Surprisingly no one mentioned that the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. Meanwhile the tally of victims continued to increase.
I am not a frequent TV viewer. I don’t even own one. Forensic police dramas and idiotic sitcoms hold no appeal for me. ‘Reality TV’ seems to me to be anything but. I’m told there are some really good shows on cable now but I don’t feel like I’m missing much. As for news, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX all come across as slick sound bite machines whose real purpose is to shill beer, cars, insurance, crap and above all, pharmaceuticals. Some networks favor a slant towards one political viewpoint or the other but at the end of each 24-hour cycle it’s all the same clips and vacant commentary. Worse yet is the local news, which hovers just above buffoonery with its bogus banter and coifed cardboard personalities. Maybe that’s too harsh; I’m sure they work hard driving around in those hi-tech vans all day. To be sure, now they were working in overdrive. I admit, in moments of crisis, it has been the TV that I turn to try to understand what’s going on. I used to prefer to read the news but the newspaper industry is now a thin skeleton of the former empire it once was. Boston is still a two newspaper town with the Globe being liberal and the Herald right wing. And that’s a good thing but who know how long those dinosaurs will last? Now, the internet has irrevocably changed all that, but I have been late to adapt to that.
But this time, for the first time, I also sought out the internet as a source of updates and information. One thing I discovered right away was the very latest report was always online before it reached the television, which I continued to keep an eye on. Fresh factoids were furiously popping up on Facebook and Twitter. And there were all my ‘friends’ sharing and forwarding the info along with me. There was an interactive thrill to feeling intimately connected to the instant, the very now, surfing sites and Googling phrases. More often than not I found myself on a MSM webpage but unless they had some new unseen footage I’d just scan their report and hurry along. I hate commercials. Also, without the on-air personalities, the news seemed less phony. Online, I was a media participant, no longer a docile viewer. Finally I got a sense of why the younger generation takes so avidly to social media. Being a whisker away from 60 I can’t say I’m really adept at it. I’m very slow at texting. But this was exciting because it was so urgent and important to know more. Unfortunately, along with the sudden abundance of information comes an equally complex lack of clarity.
The next few days, excepting a few highlights, are a blur now. On Tuesday, the police and the FBI descended on a condominium complex in Revere. The media hordes followed close behind. A young student, a Saudi national, injured in the blast, had been arrested or at least was under suspicion in his hospital bed. The local news crew got an ‘exclusive’ interview with his roommate who allowed the authorities to search their apartment without a warrant. Seeming befuddled and at times amused, the guy’s English was clearly not very good because he almost admitted his buddy was the bomber. That was enough to convince a lot of people they were guilty. Pictures started popping up of random people in the crowd and a few innocent bystanders were being fingered as likely suspects. I confess to being guilty of partaking in this guessing game until a friend on FB pointed out it was nothing less than immoral. I could see her point and cut it out, well, pretty much. At 2:49pm that day there was a universal minute of silence to honor the victims, which I observed. Then it was back to the net. The flow of information was slow but steady. Bits and pieces, pictures of a backpack or a pressure cooker blown apart, stories of people with multiple shrapnel wounds, amputations, biographical details of those who died and pleas from the Feds that anyone who took pictures or video at the bombs sites please turn them in post haste. A candlelight vigil was held for Martin Richard at his Little League ballpark. A photo of him holding up a sign in his classroom was went viral, it read: “no more hurting people…PEACE”; a sad and somber reminder that this was, above all, a tragedy, and one that was transforming the city.
The City of Boston began to bond as I had never experienced before. Not even when the Red Sox won the pennant, after like 100 years, was the feeling of being joined together with a singleness of purpose more visceral. Boston, where the tough can be tender too, was determined to show the world just how proud, caring and resilient a village can be. Boston Strong became the catchphrase. The OneFund was established to aid the victims and the money came pouring in. On Thursday President Obama came to town and gave a rousing speech at an Interfaith Service held at Holy Cross Cathedral. Leaders of all religious faiths were in attendance and even Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts Governor was there. Obama was on his game and his address summed up the common beliefs that were on the minds of multitudes listening. “You will run again” said the President and Boston agreed. Barrack is a hard act to follow and Governor Deval Patrick did his best, but the most eloquent and heartfelt words came from Boston’s much beloved, often maligned, longest serving Mayor, Tom Menino. He has had his detractors but on this day they were few and one thing is undeniably true, Menino is a man of the people who knows and loves Boston’s neighborhoods like no one else. Cruelly and comically, he’s often known as ‘Mumbles’ because he mangles his words due to a speech impediment. But his message was clear as a church bell this morning. He has been quite ill of late and will not run for an eleventh term. Just a week before, he broke his leg and he struggled in pain to make it to the podium. The seasoned pol chocked back a tear when he said “We are one Boston…I have never loved this city and its people more than I do today”. He echoed the sentiments of his constituents. It was a sincerely moving moment in time, a small but memorable bit of history in a city with more than its share of it. God bless old ‘Mumbles’ Menino and the great American City of Boston.
Meanwhile, the hunt for the culprits continued. The FBI now claimed to have pinpointed their suspects after sorting through a mountain of digital evidence. First came a video clip that was maybe 5 seconds long showing two regular looking dudes walking one behind the other carrying backpacks. Then some grainy still photos emerged where the facial features were somewhat discernible. Then suddenly they were ubiquitous, the faces of the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, became as familiar as a the Golden Arches. The backstory of each young man filled in quickly. Dzhokhar, the younger one just 19, was a recent graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin, alma mater of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. No one who knew ‘Johar’ had a bad word to say about him. He was a popular kid, captain of the wrestling team who got a scholarship to UMass Dartmouth. Tamerlan, 26, was another matter; a Golden Gloves boxer but a loner, who once told a sports reporter “I don’t have a single American friend. I don’t understand them”. He had a pretty young wife who converted to Islam for him and an infant daughter. There was some domestic violence in his background too. Soon other members of the Tsarnaev family appeared. His father, in Russia, who decried that his boys had been “set up” and called Tzsokhar “an angel”. If you wanted a wicked witch out of central casting you couldn’t do better than Mama Tsarnaev. Alternately weeping and screaming she claimed that the bombings were all fake and the blood on the sidewalk was paint. She once lived with her boys in Cambridge but after a shoplifting arrest she hightailed it back to Russia. Uncle Rusian Tsami, from somewhere in Maryland, chimed in and said that his nephews were ‘losers’ who he warned his own children to stay away from. Aunt Maret, who lives in Toronto, insisted that she, as a lawyer, needed to see some evidence that her nephews were guilty and that the whole horrible affair hadn’t been staged. Suddenly, the FBI stated matter-of-fact that these were the one and only suspects and the MSM sheepishly followed suit. Not so on the internet though. I became familiar with the term ‘false flag’ – covert military or paramilitary operations designed to deceive in such a way that the operation appear as though they are being carried out by other entities, groups or nations than those who actually planned and executed them – thank you wikipedia.
Pretty heady stuff. Now the unfolding narrative switched from mourning the loss of the victims and/or inspiring tales of heroes and survivors to a killers-on-the-loose deadly manhunt. As Thursday came to a close, who could have predicted the absolutely incredible string of events that would commence in the very early morning hours of Friday? So amazing and unprecedented were these occurrences that I’m still trying to come to grips with their ramifications over a month later. Complicating my comprehension are the fact-seeking side trips I took into the unsubstantiated but certainly provocative realm of the self anointed conspiracy experts or ‘truthers’ as they are now being called. Heretofore I was somewhat blissfully unaware of their very existence but – once inside this online labyrinth it’s hard to escape its lingering influence. I wish it were simple for my enquiring mind to dismiss this counter intelligent confederacy out of hand but it has not been so easy. For every five outlandish hypotheses offered up there is at least one supposition that defies explanation, and has the ring of ‘truth’ as opposed to the spin of the MSM.
I dunno. This wouldn’t be the first time in history that there was more to the news than meets the eye. I’m just a guy sitting in a little sober house in Gloucester. I’d be much better off standing with the masses and accepting the MSM sanctioned storyline than being taken for a fool for even entertaining the notion that there might be something more sinister going on. Realistically, I am not ready to cast my lot with the same crowd that espouses alien invasions & UFOs, human-reptilian power struggles, the Illuminati or the New World Order but, y’know, time will tell. For me, for the moment, ignorance is bliss and for that reason I may not write a Part Two.
End of Part One.
So, there you have it. I never posted it and Part Two never got even got started. But enough time has past, and for various reasons, maybe now I should get Back to the Blog.
Somehow I forgot to mention, in my Cosmic Brain Trust blog entry, a very special moment that made for a fitting end to my stay in the Bay Area. It really was a milestone in my life, especially since up to that point the Grateful Dead meant everything to me. It has all the makings of a dream sequence but Reid was there with me and he confirms that it sure enough happened. Thanks to the internet I can pinpoint the date as Nov. 22, 1976. The location was the Keystone club in Berkeley and on the bill that night was Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia. We got there early because it was sure to sell out. Wishfully thinking, I brought my Cosmic Bear cartoons with me, hoping to show them to Jerry and believe it or not, that’s exactly what I got a chance to do.
Naturally I wouldn’t go to a Dead show without doing some acid so I was tripping my head off when I approached one of the roadies with my creations. He walked off and when he returned he had the one and only Jerry Garcia with him. I was flummoxed and tongue-tied but I managed to show him the cartoons. “I think you’ve got a good riff going with this Cosmic Bear”, he said. Then he looked me in the eye, sort of chuckled and with that he was gone. I must have been just one more of the thousands of tripping hippie boys he had seen in his life. But as Reid pointed out, it’s possible he was even higher than I was. The Keystone was a surprisingly small venue and the show was really loud and absolutely amazing. It was truly a night to remember and I can’t believe I forgot to mention it. Read More…
Let’s see…where was I? I believe I was leaving San Francisco and driving north to Seattle with Reid. It was sometime in late 1976, must have been close to Christmas.
Before I left I remember seeing Running Fence, a land based art installation by Christo that stretched for miles across Sonoma and Marin counties. But according to Wikipedia that lasted only 14 days in September so I no longer know who drove me out to see it. Likewise, the exact date of my departure from Oakland and the Cosmic Brain Trust is unknown, at least to me. Reid might remember but I haven’t spoken with him in some time. Anyway, Reid and I road off together to a totally new adventure in the Pacific Northwest. I had no preconceived notions about Washington State because it had never occurred to me to move there. Into the great wide open. Read More…
Hey Hey …it’s my Birthday. Just another day to you but hey..hey..it’s my Birthday. Yes, I’m an Aquarian. 59 years old now, which gives me one more year to claim I am in my fifties. I honestly believed I would never live to see 30 so all the rest has been gravy. Lumpy gravy. Ah, the memories. That’s what this blog is supposedly about, my memories, and that’s the one thing that really starts to fail when you hit 60, I mean your fifties. It is difficult to remember what happened last week and here I am trying to dredge up 1976. So to fill in the fuzzy cracks I find I must embellish a bit. Read More…
Berkeley CA. Summer 1976. I was 22 years old and on my own now, almost three thousand miles from home. This was different from going away to college. The safety net of Mom and Dad was gone. I was more alone than I ever had been and I was OK with that. This was the start of the adventure I had been longing for all those dreadful days and nights back in Brighton MA, idly hanging out in Rogers Park with an endless six pack, going nowhere. Now here I was in California standing right on Telegraph Avenue, the historic section, the four blocks nearest the UC campus where there had been a riot in 1969. If I knew anything, I knew the lore of the Sixties counter-culture. I was truly a psychedelic soul, having by now taken dozens of acid/mushroom trips and attended so many Grateful Dead concerts I had lost count.
Berkeley was one of those buzz words that immediately conjured up the ultimate hippie zeitgeist. Only Haight-Ashbury meant more in my mind and that was just across the bay. To me, being in San Francisco meant being dead center in the Deadhead universe. There was considerable truth to that; Berkeley still had that vibe…but a lot of it was just in my head. Read More…
My crazy, dazed and confused, college days at UMass Amherst were covered in a very cursory manner in two previous blogs (Part 1, Part 2) which would serve as a good introduction to this entry. But if you don’t feel like reading that, suffice to say that I felt totally lost when I finally graduated from UMass. My degree in Fine Arts had not prepared me for much in the ‘real’ world. Unemployment in Boston was somewhere in the 15% range and Brighton, a lower income, working class, hardscrabble section of Boston, was a nowhere place to be. Friends were dying from heroin and I couldn’t face one more season of hanging out at the park or in the local dives. Boston was having big racial troubles because of forced busing to integrate the school system. It was ugly. My job – and my dad kept telling me I was lucky to have one – was literally driving me crazy. It was as an orderly in the psychiatric ward of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. I was saving up my money from this truly freaky experience and was hoping for some way, any way out of Brighton. Read More…
Outside an ever so light snow is blowing around rather than falling to the ground. At the same time the sun is shining and when the rays of light hit the snowflakes just right it looks like little sparks igniting. It is still bitter cold, 15*F, but it’s nice and cozy, if a teeny bit chilly, inside Moore’s Way. Feeling pretty good today, just had three cups of coffee and my Straterra so I’m very focused, you might say. Lots of activity in the house but then it is Saturday and there’s no reason to go out unless you have a reason.
I’m in the mood for a blog but I don’t know for sure about what, so here goes. Read More…