Three Junk Yard Cats

Between Fort Point Channel
And the train tracks there is
a junk yard that opens every
morning about the time I walk by.

The owner rattles the lock and chain
against the fence as he turns the key
in the padlock, and out come three cats,
blinking in the sun if it’s shining,

sniffing the air with wiggling noses
to take in the smell of the ocean
and the tang of fish in the air.
They look around, hardened

in varying degrees according to their
ages, a little like the people getting off
the trains from the west and south;
the younger, spotted one eager for

adventure, the two elders—its parents?—
sitting back and taking it all in.  There must
be wharf rats aplenty, they must think, no
need to hustle after the first one you see.

Mayor Demands Recount as Boston Ranked #5 in Rudeness

BOSTON.  Mayor Thomas Menino lashed out angrily today at a magazine article that ranked Boston the fifth rudest city in America, saying “We take a back seat to no one when it comes to discourtesyness.”

Menino:  “You sayin’ we ain’t rude?  Blow it out your shorts, pal.”

“That’s gotta be wrong,” Menino said in a freewheeling press conference in which he mispronounced several one-syllable words. “People come here for the culture, but they stay for the uncouthability.”

Walk for Rudeness

The Travel + Leisure magazine article ranked Boston behind New York, Miami, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles on a twenty-point incivility index that measured variables such as random acts of unkindness, line-cutting and unprovoked cursing to achieve a raw rudeness score, which was then divided by residents per square inch.  “Boston is a smorgasbord of rudeness that runs the gamut from snobbish indifference on Beacon Hill to intentional acts of  hostility by reckless drivers on dangerously quaint traffic ‘rotaries,'” the magazine noted in praising the city’s atmosphere of condescension and general pissyness.  “The upraised middle finger is the state bird of Massachusetts, and residents will often playfully invoke it when greeting tourists who say ‘milk shake’ instead of ‘frappe.'”

The often tongue-tied Menino was first elected in 1993, and has served longer than any mayor in Boston’s history.  He is known as “Mayor Pothole” and “The Urban Mechanic” for his focus on mundane quality-of-life issues, and is expected to remain in office as long as he wants unless offered a position as Professor of Linguistics at Harvard.

“We been savin’ some of our best insults for you!”

Menino pointed to Allston-Brighton, Boston’s “student ghetto” whose youthful population uses loud music and drunken parties to endear themselves to permanent residents.  “Of course I’m rude,” said Tweeze, bassist for Maggot Puke, a local band that is one of the leading practitioners of the “Deliberately Annoying” sound.  “Major record labels won’t even talk to you unless you’re at least chronically cranky.”

Rage is all the rage.

Menino is notoriously thin-skinned and often uses his political power to retaliate against those who have crossed him.  “You gonna write sumpin’ nice, right?” he asks as this reporter took notes at the press conference. “You bettah, cause I know where youse pahked your cah.” 

Protestors Complain of Nausea as Profs Descend on OWS Boston

BOSTON.  America’s pre-eminent college town has a new campus this fall that has sprouted up virtually overnight; a narrow strip of grass and foliage known as the Rose Kennedy Greenway where the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken root in solidarity with protestors in New York and elsewhere around the country.

“There’ll be a mid-term and a paper, and participation will not count towards your final grade.”

But the long-term viability of the group is in jeopardy as professors from local institutions of higher learning have descended on the site hard by the Atlantic Ocean to do what they do best; lecture the young from a position of superior learning, and in the process bore them to tears.

“They’re worse than the winos,” says a woman who calls herself “Tanya” but, like many camped here, refuses to give her real name.  “At least with the bums if you give them some money they’ll go away.  With the professors, they says a handout is just a deposit to hold a place in their winter semester courses.”

“‘History repeats itself, the first time tragedy, the second time’–somebody?  Anybody?”

The ratio of academics to normal humans is high here, approximately one for every fourteen residents.  “We have a quiet car on the T,” says local rapid transit rider Olf Vander Velde, “but so far we haven’t been able to get a no-pontificating zone.”

The demonstrators have their own website which lists daily events beginning with morning yoga sessions, but it has become crowded with presentations by academics seeking the limelight to make up for poor self-esteem induced by low pay and to promote slow-selling textbooks.  “I’m more Marxist than she is,” shouts Mark Tostig of Brandeis University as he tries to drown out Felicia Stadd of Northeastern, as the two compete for lagging attention in the 1 to 2 p.m. time slot where they have both been scheduled due to an oversight.

“Let’s go outside for a smoke break.  Wait–we already are outside.”

“It’s my turn to discuss my monograph ‘Teleological Hermeneutics of Oppression,'” Stadd screams at the top of her lungs because bullhorns are not permitted.  “Don’t listen to him.”

“Don’t worry, we’re not,” laments Tyler Girardin, who thought about leaving last night but stayed when the weather remained clear.  “I’ll vote for you if you can spare some Thorazine, or at least chewable Tynlenol.” 

In Difficult Times, Some Charities Define Donors Down

BOSTON.  Tonight is the annual fund-raising gala of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and this year’s event will be unique for two reasons; first, it is the sesquicentennial of the group, which has been in continuous existence since 1860, and second, for the first time in its history the board of trustees expects to raise less than it did the year before.

“Can our table have another roll?”

“Even though the market’s up, many people we depend on are still hurting,” says Endicott Walrath, chairman of the board.  “They say old-line Yankees throw nickels around like they’re manhole covers, but this year they’re complaining of back pain when we ask for a penny.”

“We brought our own celery sticks!”

So the BPO is going down-market, seeking to attract more small-dollar donors to bridge the gap left by the six-figure check writers of past years.  “We’ve had to create a few new categories of support,” says Walrath.  “So far we haven’t had to dip down to the level of the valet parking and washroom attendants, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

“Go ahead–drop a nickel in the slot!”

In the past the BPO listed six levels of donors in the programs that are handed out to the audience before each performance, and which are scrutinized as a “Who’s Who” of Boston society.  “We have Benefactors, Patrons, Sponsors, Sustaining Members, Associates, and Friends,” notes Walrath.  “Since the bottom rung of the ladder starts at $500, many domestics and tradesman have been unable to enjoy the beauty of our orchestra’s music until now.”

“Get your hand off my butt!”

Beneath the “Friend” level there will now be a “Friend of a Friend” classification, available for $250, which includes two tickets to a rehearsal, a colorful t-shirt emblazoned with the orchestra’s logo and the legend “My Friend Went to the Symphony and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt!”, and a temporary BPO tattoo.  “Our marketing department says this should be a hit with Massachusetts motorcycle mavens,” notes Walrath.

“I love a man with thick, luscious nose hairs!”

Beneath the Friend of a Friend strata will be the “Acquaintance” designation, which for $125 entitles donors to use an Express Urinal line during intermissions, a BPO-print “doo-rag”, and first dibs on wads of chewing gum stuck to the underside of seat arms by more affluent audience members.

BPO “Doo Rag”:  “Letitia!  Wut up wif yo bad self?”

And the lowest level of the new support designations?

“Do I know you?” Walrath asks, one eyebrow arched upwards in disdain.

Confused, this reporter re-introduces himself to the silver-haired WASP scion.

“No, that’s what we call it,” he replies.  “For $50 ‘Do I Know You?’ donors are entitled to finish drinks left at the Lodge-Cabot Room bar when the lights begin to flash to signal the end of intermission.”

For One Window Dresser, Fashionable Street is Lonely Avenue

BOSTON.  Ted Reed is a window dresser on Newbury Street, the fashionable shopping district in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.   “It’s what I wanted to do ever since I was a little boy and saw my first mannequin,” he says, recalling long hours spent in the basement of the women’s clothing store his father owned, rummaging through spare plastic body parts.


Newbury Street

Ted has come a long way from humble beginnings setting up Christmas displays in hardware stores, advancing to men’s shoes, then finally hitting the big-time.  Still, he can’t help scanning the street with a nervous glance as he takes a position on the sidewalk to get the full effect of his latest display, which promotes an after-Christmas clearance sale at Offendi, a hip boutique popular with Euro-trash college students.


Ted, with anorexic mannequin:  “All she eats is plastic celery stalks.”

From out of nowhere, Ted’s fears are realized as two men rush at him and fling condiments from a take-out Chinese restaurant–duck sauce, soy sauce, and hot Asian mustard–hitting both him and the freshly-cleaned windows that reveal his work. 

Lethal weapon

“Breeder!” one of the men shouts before the two duck down a passageway that allows them to exit into an alley, making pursuit or a 911 call pointless.  “They got me again,” Ted says, as he wipes the gooey, orange duck sauce off his white oxford cloth shirt.  “Excuse me–I’ve got to run some water in my eyes,” he says, and it is clear from the wince on Ted’s face that the mustard is just as hot on other body parts as it is on the tongue.


Ted is a distinct minority of one, the only openly heterosexual practitioner in the small but fiercely-competitive community of Boston’s high fashion window dressers.  “I’m just trying to make a living,” he says as tears run down his cheek.  “Is that too much to ask?”

window dresser

The term “window dresser” or “window trimmer” came into the English language in the mid-nineteenth century, as department stores came to recognize the marketing value of an attractive display of their wares to passers-by.  The profession has historically been dominated by gay men, a fact that the leading trade association, the National Association of Window Dressers, says it is trying to address through community outreach.  “We hold training sessions for diverse groups of kids,” says Miller Tuttle, the group’s executive director.  “We show them how if they like to play with G.I. Joe they can translate that passion into a career in window dressing.”


A boy’s first mannequin

There was no such support group for Ted when he was growing up, and as a result his work differs from a typical high-fashion window display, which invariably features mannequins with blase expressions arranged in provocative positions.


Same old same old shocking stuff.

“Call me old-fashioned,” Ted says, “but if I’m working for a shoe store, I try to make the display about shoes, not bondage and discipline.”


Ted’s cutting-edge approach

Competitors criticize Ted’s displays as hum-drum Ozzie and Harriet throwbacks to a time when they weren’t allowed to express themselves with creative flourishes such as mannequins holding chain saws to symbolize a store’s price-cutting policies.


Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky

“I know he’s got a family to support,” says a competitor who gives only his first name–Brian–when asked, “but I’ve got two Pomeranians to feed.”

America’s Most Wanted Fails to Find Missing Boston Rembrandt

BOSTON.  Nineteen years after the largest property theft in American history, Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has joined forces with FOX-TV’s popular “America’s Most Wanted” to try and retrieve over $500 million in stolen art, including Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”

“So–nobody made a copy?”

The initiative has brought “AMW” host John Walsh to Quincy Market, a popular tourist destination, to view the results of a strategy law enforcement officials call “crowdsourcing”–broadcasting an investigation to a wide audience by print, TV and the internet in order to crack cases gone cold.

John Walsh, looking serious

First up is Madeline “Maddy” Conagh, from Braintree, Mass., who retrieved a suspicious-looking painting from a rental locker at her health club.

Suspicious-looking painting

“The styles are very similar–wouldn’t you say?” Walsh asks Claude Weiss-Baron, an art expert engaged to assist the AMW team in its quest.

“This work shares Rembrandt’s bold themes, muted colors and sense of drama,” Weiss-Baron replies, “and yet something isn’t quite right.”

“What is it, precisely?” Walsh asks.

“It’s the cow in the upper-left corner,” he says decisively.  “There were no cows in Storm on the Sea of Galilee.

Walsh turns to Conagh and says “I’m sorry Maddy–you don’t get the $5 million reward.”

“I was countin’ on that money to go to the Cape this summer,” the woman says, obviously disappointed.  “Now it’s just gonna be me and Joe, going on day trips to Nantasket,” a popular but crowded beach on Boston’s South Shore.

Nantasket Beach

“We have a home version of America’s Most Wanted for you,” Walsh says, handing the woman a board game in a cardboard box.  “You can use it to turn in friends and relatives involved in check-kiting schemes.”

“Thanks,” she says.  “You mind if I leave the painting here?  We only have garbage pick-up once a week now with municipal budget cuts and all.”

“Sure,” Walsh replies.  “Thanks for being on the show.”

Next up is Sean Dailey, a plasterer’s apprentice from Framingham, Mass., who came upon a curious oil painting depicting thirteen men having dinner while he was renovating a house.  “I thought at first it was some kind of bachelor’s party,” he says with a leer.  “Then I did a little research and thought maybe it was a Friar’s Club roast of Don Rickles or sumpin’.”

Bachelor’s party or innocent “roast”–you make the call.

Weiss-Baron takes out an eyepiece similar to a jeweler’s loupe and examines the work closely, then takes a step back and snorts with derision.  “I’m sorry to disappoint you,” he says, “but this piece of meretricious frippery is just a sentimental piece of kitsch not unlike what you’d find in a religious trinket store.”

“Like Sheehan’s Church Goods behind the old Jordan Marsh?” Dailey asks.  “My mom used to take us there for all our holy card trading needs.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you are referring to,” Weiss-Baron sniffs, and Walsh spreads oil on the troubled waters of Dailey’s countenance with an America’s Most Wanted one-size-fits-all baseball cap.

“Thanks, man–this is cool!” Dailey says.  “Do you, uh, have a dumpster or sumpin’ out back where I can leave this thing?”

Pieta, or tchotke?

“Sure thing,” Walsh says.  “Just leave it here, I’ll have the janitors throw it out tonight.” 

The final hopeful to come forward is Sandra Grolnic, a volunteer at the Brookline, Mass. recycling facility who retrieved a unique-looking statue of a young man lying across the lap of a woman from the “take-it-or-leave-it” area where residents drop off household items that still have some life left in them.

“Well, what do we have here,” Weiss-Baron says, showing interest for the first time all night.

“Hold it right there–stop the cameras,” Walsh says, abandoning his characteristically professional demeanor for one that borders on irritation.  “Who let her in here?” he asks an associate producer in a testy voice.

“This is extremely valuable–as scrap metal.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Walsh,” a young man with a clipboard says apologetically.  “We needed somebody to fill out the half hour.”

“The Gardner Museum thieves took paintings–not sculpture!” he says irritably.  “She belongs on Antique Road Show!”

Mayor Demands Recount as Boston Left Off Most Miserable Cities List

BOSTON.  Thomas Menino lashed out angrily today at a BusinessWeek article that left Boston off its list of most miserable cities in America, saying he was proud of his record as mayor of the “Athens of America”.

Menino:  “You sayin’ we ain’t miserable?  Who are you, huh?  I didn’t think so.”

“That’s gottabe wrong,” Menino said in a freewheeling press conference in which he mispronounced several one-syllable words. “We got people come here for the specific point a bein’ miserable.”

Walk for Unhappiness

The often tongue-tied Menino was first elected in 1993, and has served longer than any mayor in Boston’s history.  He is known as “Mayor Pothole” and “The Urban Mechanic” for his focus on mundane quality-of-life issues, and is expected to run for re-election this year unless offered a position as Professor of Linguistics at a local institution of higher learning.

Depressed Boston punk rockers faking smiles.

Topping BusinessWeek’s list was Portland, Oregon, which vaulted into first place based on its high suicide, crime and unemployment rates, lack of sunny days, and hordes of joggers who make lazier residents feel guilty.  Menino pointed to Boston’s “student ghetto”, the Allston-Brighton neighborhood, whose youthful population wears its depression as a source of pride. 

Rage is all the rage.

“Of course I’m depressed,” said Tweeze, a bassist for Maggot Puke, a local band that is one of the leading practitioners of the Deliberately Annoying sound.  “No major record label will look at you unless you’re seriously into self-mutilation and generally cranky.”