For Boston’s Irish, Reparations Are Long Overdue

DORCHESTER, Mass.  Mike Doyle’s Kinvarra Pub in this gritty Boston neighborhood is the sort of “third space” that sociologists say is essential to bringing community and a sense of belonging to urban residents.  “You can tell them sociologists they got that one on the nosey,” said pub regular Ernie Sullivan with a laugh.

The Kinvarra: Apologies on three wide-screen TVs!


The parochial character of this particular watering hole doesn’t mean its customers aren’t up on world affairs, however.  “Oh yeah, we watch the news every so often,” says Sullivan.  “Sometimes when we’re changing the channel from the Bruins to the Red Sox in the spring Mike will hit the wrong number and we’ll get CNN.”

It was just such a fortuitous slip of the remote control that alerted the Kinvarra’s patrons, who are overwhelmingly Irish-American, to rising calls for reparations for past misdeeds around the world, from slavery in America, to Korean and Chinese “comfort women” pressed into sexual service of Japanese soldiers during World War II, to Armenian victims of the Ottoman Empire.

“That’s the right thing to do,” says Sean “Butchie” McGrath.  “But what about me?  When do I get my reparations?” he asks, and his friends chime in that they’d like some as well.

Why, this reporter asks, does a crowd of men drinking $2 Bud Light drafts think that they’re entitled to a monetary payments–apart from self-pity–and from whom?

Oliver Freakin’ Cromwell


“Oliver Freakin’ Cromwell, from the English, in that order,” Butchie McGrath replies without hesitation.  “Cromwell invaded Ireland in the 17th century, and killed me great-great-great-great-great grandfather Liam,” he says as his eyes grow misty with tears.  “I lost the paperwork on it,” he adds, “so they’d have to take my word on it.”

“If that Cromwell guy ever shows his face in here, I’m going to pop him one!”


McGrath and his friends suffer from what pathologists have come to refer to as “Irish Alzheimer’s,” a variant of the degenerative disease characterized by loss of memory.  “They forget everything–car keys, social security numbers, children’s birthdays–except the grudges,” says Dr. Philip Mainwaring of Massachusetts General Hospital.  “It’s hereditary, and there is no known cure.”

“As long as you’re handin’ em out, I’ll have some reparations.”


While historians have validated just about every call for reparations heard to date the Cash-for-Cromwell Campaign, as it is informally known, has thus far attracted no academic support, and some say ethnic and religious prejudice is the reason.  “It’s them English professors,” says Tony Doerr, an expert on Boston Red Sox batting averages and obscene limericks, an Irish poetic form.  “If they apologize for Cromwell, they’ll have to apologize for the Potato Famine,” he says, referring to a 19th century catastrophe in which more than a million Irish died from hunger while absentee English landlords exported food from their plantations in Ireland.  “There aren’t enough Andy Capp Pub Fries in Boston to pay off that debt.”


On the Proper Disposal of a Catholic Poet

          Catholic poet Robert Southwell was tortured by Queen Elizabeth’s executioner, hauled by horse on a wooden panel to the gallows, hanged and cut down alive. His bowels were then burned before his face and his head stricken off, and his body quartered and “disposed of at Her Majesty’s pleasure.”

               Ben Jonson: A Life, Ian Donaldson

“So–I guess you didn’t like it, huh?”


If you’ve got a Catholic poet you need to get rid of
just one form of killing won’t do.
Like a cat with a field mouse, have a bit of
fun first—after all, it’s diversion for you.

If he’s been a problem, a really bad actor,
a recusant from the Anglican church,
I’d suggest you start with a home trash compactor,
then whip him a bit with a birch.

“Here, hit me with this.”


If he refuses to renounce his beliefs
unlike his weaker fellows,
barbecue him like a side of beef
with a fire made hot by the bellows.

Hanging’s too good for creeps of this sort
although for most it’s a start.
You might drown him next, for additional sport,
then dine on his liver and heart.

To make sure that he’s dead, drop the guy from a roof
then crush him with a new steamroller.
Get personally involved—don’t remain aloof–
ram him with your baby stroller.

“Whoa–you scared the crap outta me!”


A lawnmower’s nice, for chopping and shredding,
although you should be humane;
leave his skull on, for future beheading,
but don’t let him plead he’s insane.

You’ll find in a while, that you’re starting to smile
because torture can be quite addictive;
but don’t worry if you start to taste of bile
if he gripes that you’re being vindictive.

Study: Mimes Add $300 Trillion to Local Economy

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.  A newly-released study is lending stature to a group of artists long dismissed as either inscrutable or merely annoying: mimes, who according to a white paper funded by the International Brother-and-Sisterhood of Mimes, contribute $300 trillion to the economy of this college town.

“What if I told you . . . never mind.”


“Count me skeptical,” said Professor Aaron Bevilaqua-Stearns of the University of New England School of Business.  “You see these crazy reports about how the arts are such a big engine of economic growth and you’ve got to take them with a grain of salt, but it would take all the NaCl in Utah to make that one go down.”

“No seriously, we’re all BIG contributors.”


When asked to defend the research that led to the report’s startling conclusion, a panel of white-faced mimes shrugged their shoulders and pretended to be trapped in a box, from which they escaped with expressions of enlightenment, causing this reporter to ask a custodian at the union’s hiring hall what they were trying to convey.  “That means ‘out of the box thinking,'” said Gus Tornquist.  “They were in there to get out of an imaginary hurricane, I think.”

“Do you think I need more make-up?”


One in five Cambridge residents has a personal mime character, and the proliferation of the silent artists here means that violence sometimes breaks out at wine-and-cheese parties over which mime can perform first before the sole non-mime person at the affair.  “It was uncomfortable, let me tell you,” says Con Chapman, a suburbanite who was caught in a dangerous cross-fire between “Fifi,” a female mime, and “St. Germain,” a white-faced male at the grand closing of a local used bookstore.  “I lived on the South Side of Chicago, and the gang wars between the 57th Street Disciples and the Blackstone Rangers were tame by comparison.”

Objective measures of the value that mimes add to the gross domestic product of a region are few and far from robust, but mimes themselves say that they produce intangible benefits both to those who watch their performances, and those who don’t.  “If you like what I do, you will smile,” says St. Germain, affecting a bogus French accent.  “If you don’t like it, you will be made much happier when I go away.”


Viva Veggie Viagra

Celery contains androsterone, a hormone naturally produced in males that stimulates sexual arousal in females. Whether or not this hormone found in celery actually affects the body is still unclear. But hey, the vegetable has it so it’s a plus.

Fully-erect celery


It had been a tough spring for me. TomiSue, my bodacious long-time live-in girlfriend, had delivered the ultimatum after a Jabba the Hut figurine had fallen on her head during a night of wild ear lobe nibbling; either get rid of all my Star Wars collectibles, which lined the walls of my bedroom, den and screened-in porch, or she was gone.

TomiSue and Jabba the Hut: The choice was easy.


I had always loved TomiSue’s hair, which reminded me of Carrie Fisher’s bagel-based pageboy, but the choice for me was clear; any woman who wanted me to give up a healthy outlet for my imagination, one that had carried me through a lot of lonely nights and weekends, was asking too much.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia: “Sesame bagel toasted with cream cheese–got it.”


Our separation was amicable, and the division of jointly-held property uneventful; she got the souvenirs from our fun-filled day trips to Lake George, New York and Niagra Falls, and I kept the Star Wars collectible plastic drink cups we purchased on the road. Thank God for my palimony pre-nup!

Actual un-retouched photo of Lake George souvenirs


But now I’m at loose ends. Years of dusting my Star Wars collection had left me with atrophied interpersonal skills, and the mattress-rattling sex life that I shared with TomiSue had taken me out of circulation. Then I stumbled on one night while doing an innocent web search involving the terms “VEGETABLE” + “CHEERLEADER” + “SEX.”

Niagra Falls: Now available in a wide selection of designer colors.


It was that unlocked for me the secret to success with women–celery! Who knew? Just a few stalks will have a round-shouldered, introverted schlump like me oozing androsterone out of every pore! In addition to the fumes that seem to linger after my nightly large pepperoni from Gino’s Pizza (518-742-GINO).

For the first day of my new regime I have chosen a vertically-striped shirt to emphasize my muscular upper-body, with the top two buttons undone so as not to block the flow of “andro,” as street-smart would-be gigolos refer to the potent aphrodisiac.

I hit the door of my favorite lunch place–”Soup ‘n Salad”–and hesitate for a moment as I contemplate the air of mystery that hangs over the place. Why, I ask myself, if you’re going to abbreviate “and” as “n” don’t you use two apostrophes–’n’–instead of one? You got rid of two letters, an “a” and a “d”–one before and one after the “n.” Perhaps, as my fourth-grade nun used to say when I’d stump her with a question about the Holy Trinity or the Communion of Saints, these things will be answered in heaven.

“Yoo-hoo! Mr. Single Salad Lover! Over here”


I make my move to the salad bar, where a veritable bevy of slim, girlish beauties awaits me. I pick a svelte brunette as my first target, and make my move past a pot-bellied desk jockey who’d obviously prefer to be at Wendy’s. Wouldn’t do you any good, I say to myself; they cancelled the Taco Salad several years ago.

“How do the pickled beets look today?” I say with a leer.

“Disgusting, as always,” she replies. She’s taken the bait.

“Perhaps you should try some celery,” I say, picking a jagged cross-cut section of apium graveolens out of the aluminum bin in which it rests. I dangle it out of the corner of my mouth and she looks at me with what I think is barely-suppressed lust.

“You’re supposed to use the tongs,” Mr. Roly-Poly to my right says, ruining the mood.

“Buzz off,” I mutter under my breath. He’s taken aback at my brusqueness, but if I judge him right, he’s not man enough to report me to the Soup ‘n Salad Sneeze Shield Police.

My quarry has escaped down to the far end of the bar, where the extensive selection of regular and low-cal dressings awaits to adorn the vegetable delights that patrons will pile high in two sizes of plastic containers, either large or small. These, I remind myself with patriotic pride, are the plentiful fruits of the US of A–the greatest agricultural power the world has ever known!

My love interest is about to glop a dollop of the fat-free Thousand Island on her salad, when I make my move. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” I ask as I put my hand on her wrist, my chest heaving with passion.

She looks up into my eyes, and I can tell I’ve broken through the thin door of reserve that civilized men and women must erect every day to contain the inner fires of the basement furnaces of their lust.

“You’re right,” she says, her eyes downcast as if she’s looking for something.

“I thought so.”

“I forgot the crispy rice noodles I always sprinkle on top.”

“Not that, the . . .”

“They add texture and make a tasty complement to any salad, and they’re a delicious snack by themselves.”

I gulp, not knowing what to say, or where this is going.

“Thanks,” she says finally. “Thanks a lot.”

And then she’s gone, racing off to join the rest of her secretarial pool–or maybe they’re just “word processing pools” these days.

“Excuse me,” a voice says, interrupting my reverie as I watch her go. It’s the little fat man.

“What do you want?” I snap at him.

“Some of the pickled beets,” he says, stretching his big hairy arms in front of me, a shot across my shattered bow. “And some celery.”


Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Vegetables Say the Darndest Things.”


A Day on the Campaign Trail With the Fruit-in-Bra Candidate

          A Cambridge, Mass. man who has appeared on local cable access TV wearing a white brassiere filled with fruit is running for office.

                                                  The Boston Globe

Just eight months until election day.  It sounds like a long time, but when you’re out on the hustings–whatever they are–every day goes by in a blur. As the advance man for the only candidate in the race with the guts, the intestinal fortitude, and the produce to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people who wear fruit-filled bras, I’ve never felt so inspired in my life.

“Look at these polls,” said Angela Marconi, the candidate’s chief of staff as she burst into the “war room.”  We’re using “micro-targeting” to identify other Massachusetts residents who may have stuffed fruit or vegetables into their undergarments. Our job is to find them, mind them, and drive them to the polls. With a little luck and a few endorsements, we think we’ve got a shot at winning the whole rutabaga.



“Whadda ya got,” I say to her.

“These swing districts out in the western part of the state,” she says as spreads a brightly-colored map out on the conference room table, “They’re right in our sweet spot.”

“How so?”

“You’ve got precincts with high concentrations of elderly voters who keep lemons under their armpits.”


“They double as deodorant and as an alternative to salt on salads. Keeps their blood pressure down.”

“I see.” Angela was an angel. She was the glue that held the campaign together, the straw that stirred the drink. If I had any more metaphors to mix, I’d throw them all in the blender with her.

“How about the pink districts?” I ask, pointing to areas around the state’s many college campuses.

“You can’t throw a canteloupe without hitting a vegan in them!” she squealed. I think we were both getting giddy at the prospect that we could literally change the face of American politics. No more of the same tired, old left-right divisions. We were on the verge of introducing a new paradigm; Fruititarians and Vegetabilists were our base, and we’d use them to triangulate the ever-diminishing number of Massachusetts residents who ate red meat. Peel off a couple of fish and chicken types, and we’d both have high five-figure staff jobs come January!

“You know,” I said to her, my voice dropping a few decibels and my eyes narrowing to hard-boiled little slits, “this whole thing is just crazy enough that it might actually work!”

She gave me a sweet little smile, filled with a pregnant sense of the possibilities that lay ahead. Me and her, living the political life we loved, loving the life we lived, maybe even–

“I need somebody to do a palm card drop in Ward 5.”


My reverie was interrupted by none other than the candidate himself, who strode into the room chomping on a cigar as he adjusted two Golden Delicious apples in the D-cups of his bra.

“If you two can stop flapping your gums about demographics and wedge issues for a minute I’ve got some old school politics to talk to you about.”

We both sat up straight and gave him our undivided attention.

“Politics is about people,” he began, “not computers and the internet and stuff like that. It’s about getting me out to every freakin’ nursing home and factory gate in the state between now and election day, you understand?”

“Actually,” I said, taking a big chance that he’d hear me out. He came up the hard way and doesn’t like to listen to what he calls “political scientology.”

“What?” he asked, a skeptical tone in his voice.

“We were thinking . . .”

“Who’s this we?”

“Me and Angela–that maybe it would be a good idea if we limited your public appearances and focused on radio talk shows, phone-banks and . . .”

“Why in the hell would I do that?” he asked, incredulous. “I’m a people person–I gotta get out and meet the voters.” He hesitated for a moment while he looked the two of us over like we were goldfish he was thinking of flushing down the toilet because he was tired of cleaning our aquarium. “Are you saying I should hide who I really am?” He sounded hurt–vulnerable.

“How come you won’t go on TV in your bra?”


“No, no,” Angela interjects, anxious to let him know we’re with him 110%–maybe even 115%. “It’s just that we’re looking at groups with a lot of likely voters, and as you know, the elderly are . . . “

“Don’t go there,” he says. “Sure, it’s easy to think how tolerant we all are today, and to assume that the hidebound prejudices of the past were uniformly shared by all. But I know better. My mom and dad used to reach out to men and women that society marginalized because they accessorized with fruits. Carmen Miranda–Banana Man on Captain Kangaroo.” He was getting emotional.

“Look,” I said. “We’re not saying you should conceal anything from the voters, it’s just that–well–a lot of people still have trouble accepting a man who keeps . . . bananas in his bra.”

He fixed me with a stare that would have frozen a boiled vegetable. “You know something,” he said, drawing in his breath to fuel the outburst I knew was coming. “They’re . . . just . . . plain . . . wrong. The proper way to store bananas isn’t out in some Martha Stewart designer bowl.”

“It isn’t?” Angela asked, incredulous.

“No. No way. You store them in a closed paper bag–the dark, understand?” he snapped.

The Haymarket, Boston


“I guess,” I said. I edged a little closer to Angela–it was our first big screw-up of the campaign.

“When the bananas get ripe–when they’re yellow with a few brown speckles–you put them in the refrigerator. Again, in the dark. Got it?”

Angela was on the verge of tears. She’d worked for some tough candidates, but I don’t think she’d ever received a tongue-lashing like we were getting now.  I had to come to her defense.

“Look,” I said firmly, “we’re doing the best we can here. The mainstream candidates belong to Harry and David, they get gift baskets delivered to their door. We have to go down to the Haymarket and scrounge around for bruised oranges in the dark.”

“You make do with what you got,” The Candidate said, his voice as forceful as I’d ever heard it.

I was beating my head against the wall and I knew it, but I had to admire the guy for sticking to his guns. “Look, would it kill you the next time we go to a senior center to just wear a pair of grey slacks and a blazer?”

“The other candidate brought us fresh fruit.”


“But why?” he asked, genuinely puzzled. “If I get elected, I don’t want anybody saying I misled him.”

How do you explain water to a fish, I thought.  He’s so committed to the fruit-and-underwear dynamic, he just doesn’t get it.

“Look,” I said as calmly as I could given the heat of the argument. “There’s a lot of people who think that it’s . . . undignified . . . to walk around in a bra with fruit in it.”

He looked as if I’d hit him with a ball peen hammer, but I gave him credit; he recovered right away.

“So that’s what people think,” he said, shaking his head. “Well let me ask you something–what the hell’s dignity got to do with politics?”


Available in print and Kindle format on as part of the collection “Boston Baroques.”


The Rats of Beacon Hill

One afternoon while trying to nap
I was awakened by a troupe of Krishnas, Hari.
I raised upwards my window sash
and swore that I would make them sorry.

Beacon Hill

I was just about to let them have it
When I a wondrous site did see;
A Beacon Hill rat waddling towards them–
There was no need for further involvement by me.

The Beacon Hill rats are sleek and fine,
they eat quite well, their coats do shine.
They’re the envy of rats in other ‘hoods
‘Cause nowhere else is the food so good.

Another time, quite late one night,
I heard two yuppies drunkenly laughing.
I went to steps of my Beacon Street pad
to give them a stern if good-natured chaffing.


But when I reached the top of my stoop
I saw the cause of their merriment;
A Beacon Hill rat scurrying downhill
His little paws clattering on the brick pavement.

The Beacon Hill rats have the run of the place,
they were here first, so they’re in your face.
They don’t give a hoot ‘bout your snooty forbears
and for hidebound conventions, they don’t really care.

There once was a restaurant known as Rebecca’s
for Beacon Hill yuppies, a new world Mecca.
With précieux entrees of nouvelle cuisine–
If you didn’t go there, you missed out on the scene.

One night as I dined there, a date to impress,
A scream from the kitchen cried out for redress.
A rat was skulking along the exposed brick wall,
His physique blown up like a basketball.

Beacon 2

He’d apparently ingested a dishwasher soap pill,
And the resulting suds his stomach did fill.
A potwasher took a broom by the handle–
I started to wonder, was the game worth the candle?

The plongeur took his stance, and swung like a batsman–
I thought it much neater to just get some cats, man.
‘Cause when he made contact the inflated rat splattered
While well-heeled patricians did hurriedly scatter.

The Beacon Hill rats will be there long after
You’ve left for the suburbs, and the peal of kids’ laughter.
They’re remarkably durable, they live there rent-free,
And they don’t give a rat’s ass about you or me.


At the Harvard Monkey Lab

In a room lined with monkey cages, country music softly twangs beneath the chirps of excitable cotton-top tamarins.  Nearby, a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon plays to a room full of rhesus macaques.

Boston Globe article on corrective steps taken by Harvard’s primate lab after it was cited for animal welfare violations.



It’s about freaking time we got some music you can listen to without going totally apeshit around here.  Indie rock, Karlheinz Stockhausen, emo–it was driving me crazy!  I mean, why is it so hard to grasp the concept–we don’t like your taste, eggheads!

There’s one of you at every goddamn Cambridge party.  “You just have to hear the latest Nasal Tweezers CD!  I know the guy who plays bass!”  Then the dink proceeds to suck all the life out of the room by putting on some crap that sounds like you stuck a sandpaper Q-Tip in your ear.

“Your music sucks!”


Country is easy to listen to, you stupid higher-order primates.  If you want to put some James Taylor on to recall the dear old folkie days in Harvard Square, that’s okay.  But don’t pretend you actually like the highbrow and hardcore stuff you listen to.  You’re just trying to impress the one woman in the lab, but in case you haven’t noticed–she doesn’t care.  She’ll be getting the big grant bucks while you guys are still scuffling along in post-doc hell.

Karlheinz Stockhausen


Hey–don’t touch that dial!  I like Tom and Jerry.  What are you changing it to?  PBS?  Oh for the love of Charles Darwin.  Don’t make me fling crap at you.  Yeah, you in the lab coat. Ai-eeee!  Another Ken Burns documentary?  Gag me with a spoon.  What’s it on this time–Prohibition?  Another stupid human experiment, just like the ones we’re subjected to, day in and day out.

Maybe if I can grab this guy’s cell phone out of his pocket.  S-t-r-e-t-c-h . . . there we go.  Where’s the browser–good, good.  Now–what’s the number for the National Science Foundation?  Hmm–main number, Human Resources, Join the NSF, Rent Our Facility For a Grant Writing is Fun! party.  Geez, everything but what I need.  Oh wait, here it is.

Lab Animal Abuse Whistleblowers Hotline.