Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boston You're Our Home

"In Boston, they ask how much does he know. In New York, how much is he worth. In Philadelphia, who were his parents."
-Mark Twain

My own version of the quote above is "You know how old you are in Boston by whether people ask you 'where do you go to school' or 'where do you teach,'" a reference to all the colleges in the Greater Boston Area.

The events of the last week have brought back my own special relationship with Boston.

Growing up, English was my favorite subject, and Brother Louis (Marist Brothers) of Mt. St. Michael Academy was one of my favorite teachers. He was from Boston, with the accent to prove it, and a huge Red Sox fan. The year after Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown, he proudly played a 45RPM record (yeah, I'm THAT old) in tribute to him.

Here it is:

Sorry about that, but, hey, a little history.

I made my dad take one of his two vacation weeks on a inauspicious trip to Boston. On the way there, we got lost in the endless series of rotaries. We had tickets for a Red Sox game, and it happened to be a game that Vida Blue was going to pitch for the Oakland As.

It was 1971, and Vida Blue was the hot pitcher, on track to possibly win 30 games (he wound up with 24). His games were a big deal in every city, and Boston was no exception. The problem - there were hurricane warnings. On our way to the park, we saw people boarding up the windows.

They were not going to rain the game out; and we waited for about 2 hours in the rain. They finally got the game off, Blue was very human, and I don't remember who won. I loved Fenway.

Years later, I'm stage managing for a theater company made up of mostly soap actors who wanted to do real, serious work. They were called The Actors' Collective (and, later, changed the name because a more famous theater company had the same name - we were not that company). The only performer not in a soap was a young actress named Mercedes Ruehl, who later won an Oscar for The Fisher King.

I remember a performance of Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone by Terrence McNally. Mercedes played Nedda Lemon. In a scene with Tommy, they are meant to almost kiss, but then not. That night, the way the play was going, the only logical thing was for them to kiss. Mercedes was incredibly in tune at all times, and they did.

She was always wonderful to watch.

The company had a summer place in Martha's Vineyard, a place I fell in love with almost immediately. Among the odd things I remember from that trip was sitting in a beautiful restaurant, right by the water, having dinner. A few tables over were Tip O'Neill, then Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. and Senator Ted Kennedy. We had the same waitress, who seemed unimpressed with the two of them, but very impressed that she had the cast of one of her favorite soaps as customers. We got the preferred treatment. It was a reminder of the power of television, which brings characters into our living rooms; something I would be reminded of years later when my family, for all the movies I have done, were most impressed by my involvement on Taxicab Confessions.

In subsequent years, I would vacation every summer in Martha's Vineyard, and eventually got involved with an avant guarde theater company where I acted and stage managed. Because of the cheap air fares (I think People Express, then New York Air, would do RT NY-Boston for about $19 off-peak) I would spend part of the week in Boston, living near Kenmore Square, a truly great place to party.

When I got married, I dragged my poor ex-wife to Martha's Vineyard and Boston for our honeymoon.

I remember 1986, when my Mets famously beat the Red Sox after the miraculous comeback in Game 6 of the World Series, I spent time razzing friends from Boston on the phone for days.

One of my most interesting times as an AD was on a film called Floating, with Norman Reedus, filmed in Massachusetts with a mostly Boston crew.

Those years have made Boston a second city for years. My love of the Mets goes hand-in-hand with my dislike for the Yankees, so my AL team has been the BoSox for some years.

So, as I watched and read, along with the rest of the world, as Boston became something else this week, a city under siege. It started with scenes of blood and mayhem early, and SWAT teams and military rolling through suburban neighborhoods late.

Additionally, the bombs at the end of the Marathon resulted in many amputations, something I am sensitive to as a bi-lateral amputee below knee. My operation came at the end of a long illness, so it was not traumatic, To think of the emotional pain on top of the physical challenges to athletes participating for nothing more than personal improvement is difficult for me.

In the days and weeks and months to come, there will be a lot of hyperbole, and I will leave that to others. I can only relate what Boston has meant to me, and that what I will carry forward is not their pain, but the resilience I know they will show, just as we went forward after 9/11 in NYC.

If anything, I hope it brings people together. One of my few reservations about my time in Boston was an underlying tension between races. This was years ago, and I hope that tension has eased over time. I truly hope that the positive that comes of genuine pride in country is not used by the meanest among us to shift hate from one group of "others" to another.

If you want to help:

I would rather remember a united Boston this way.

* The title of this post comes from the old Standells' song "Dirty Water," but, beyond the refrain "Boston You're My Home," the lyrics didn't work for me.

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