The Kids Are All Right. Actually They Are Great.

Every summer, my job switches around.  During the year, I work in a couple of different universities, but for the past two summers, I’ve worked at an exceedingly pleasant job in the woods of Brookline.  No, I’m not kidding.  We’re literally in a forrest.

But no matter.  I got the job last summer and it was kind of a turning point for me.  I was having some very serious doubts if I wanted to continue working as a teacher.  When I took the job, I would get there an hour earlier than I needed to and sit and make lessons for the class.  It was back to basics fun teaching again.

My students in the summer were some of the most pleasant people I have ever taught in my entire career.  Most of them were teenagers, but teenagers who were cooler than I could ever hope to be.  One of them showed me an Instagram with all dog posts, really funny dog posts.  I learned a lot about their world.

This summer I returned to the extremely pleasant Brookline forrest to teach an equally interesting group of people.  This crowd, I have to prepare for.  They get all of my references.  Their number one request in the class is to watch The Daily Show.  Really impressive.

While teaching both of these groups, it struck me that the kids are all right.  Actually they are really good.  The young people, they get a bad rap now.  Oh they just love their smart phones and their avocados and their lattes.  They don’t think.  They aren’t going to contribute anything.

I think this kind of thinking is just wrong.  Last year I saw a video by a singer called Shawn Mendes, who was a baby when I was in my last years of college.  LOL.  He wrote a wonderful song called “Youth” about the incredible things young people are doing now.  He included in his video Jack Andraka, who won the Intel Science Prize a few years back for coming up with a test for pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers out there.  He did his work in a lab that his mom drove him to every day because he wasn’t old enough to drive.  He’s not a typical science geek.  His reaction to winning the Intel award was so exuberant that it actually went viral.  Next to him in the video was Morgan Hurd, the 2017 all around world champion in gymnastics and a person who was more poised at 16 than I am at my age.  These kids are really doing amazing things and its about time we stop writing them off as just people who stare at their phones.  If Jack Andraka and Morgan Hurd are to inherit the earth, I think we’re in good hands.

Here are some pics I snapped of my most recent class enjoying some food at a deli.  We had a thoroughly good time as well.  Kids, you are all right.  Actually you are very good:

Back to Big Boston

I’ve taken to referring to Philadelphia as big Boston, because that’s what it reminds me of.  Boston, but bigger with more boulevards.

When I visited the great city of Philadelphia recently we walked down this gorgeous thoroughfare called the Franklin Parkway.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted this art deco looking fountain.  I knew I wanted to take pictures of it.  But I also know the Riot Mom and she’s not much for just wandering around a fountain.  To my surprise, she indulged me with the fountain admiration.

I got to run around and take pictures of the fountain, to my great delight.  I had already framed everything in my mind, so I was all set when I got there.  It was full of people too, so that made it that much better.

A little fountain action for this evening:

Moving While Standing Still

After moving to Boston a decade ago, something interesting happened.  I stopped moving around.  I mean no, rigor mortis did not set in.  I’m obviously still a live person, but I stopped seeking things that were far from where I lived.  Before my life seemed to always involve going far far away to see the things I actually liked.  By the time I moved here in 2009, I was sick and tired of that.  I counted that in my 32 years of existence up until that point I had had 29 home addresses.  In the past ten years, I’ve lived in three places, all in Boston and really its just been two places because one was a temporary residence.

A couple of years ago, my focus really narrowed.  It narrowed to an area called Coolidge Corner, a picturesque part of Brookline where my friends live, my gym is, where my church is and where I generally hang out.  I went there one day and decided that this will be my place.

One day I was watching a documentary about Lee Atwater.  Atwater was a 1980s Republican political operator who got George Bush elected by saying some pretty horrible things about Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.  Atwater derided Dukakis as a Brookline snob, besmirching Brookline in the process.  Atwater had obviously never been to Brookline because it is not a snobby area, at least in my estimation.  I also saw Dukakis on the green line a few days ago.  For what its worth, Dukakis isn’t too much of a Brookline snob to take the green line.  Life got even with Atwater in the end, but that’s another entry for another day.

Yesterday I ventured all the way up to Brookline Village for an event called Porch Fest, where friendly bands play on different neighborhood porches.

The whole thing really showed what happens when you make an area yours.

I took the 66 bus to Porch fest.  While on the bus, I ran into a guy I sorta know from the Boston teaching scene.  We exchanged pleasantries.  Then I got off the bus at Harris street, two stops earlier than where I usually get off.

I walked over to where my friends were playing.  I saw a huge crowd gathered, including my friends from my church community group and a big group from my church.  We were all there to support the H&J quintet, a musical outfit headed by my two dear friends Hanna Kim and Joseph Seo, master musicians from the Berklee College of Music.  They play a style of music called Choro, influenced by jazz and bossa nova.

I stood there and couldn’t get over what a beautiful scene it was.  The entire neighborhood was outside, listening to this music while the sun set.

At one point, I wanted to get a better picture of the band, so I went over to a neighboring porch.  I thought it might cause some kind of a problem, but it didn’t.  The two people who owned that house saw my t-shirt that said “Killington” on it and immediately we got into a huge conversation about skiing up there, how the FIS race was returning and how Superstar still had snow on it last weekend.  It was a normal conversation but also pretty remarkable at the same time.  Just three random people at a house in Brookline united to talk about their shared love of strapping waxed boards to some uncomfortable boots and sliding down a hill at a fast pace.  Heaven.

Eventually another great friend showed up with her kids to take it all in.  We sat and caught up on life, as she’s been away with her family for bit.  The kids played while the sun set.

You might have to travel many miles to find your community.  You may find your community in an unexpected place but you will eventually find it.

Performances and Views:

The cutest kids in the entire world:

One Quarter of a Century

Memorial Day just passed and that only means one thing.  I ventured to Pennsylvania to see my favorite riotous clan.  The riot kids are growing up fast.  More on them a bit later.

During every visit I consider the friendship between me and the riot mom.  Next year it will be 25 years since Riot Mom and I met.  Its almost a miracle that the friendship has survived as long as it has.

Riot Mom and I met a couple of days after our freshman year in college.  We were teenagers when we met.  We lived in a “suite,” more like three black doors facing a kind of empty area.  There were seven girls crowded into these three rooms.

Riot Mom walked by on the first day and we started talking.  It wasn’t exactly friendship at first sight.  We’re actually very different.  Riot Mom is more of a traditional sort.  She was the first person I met who actually talked about marriage and children as a thing she was going to do, instead of something distant that only old people did, like what I thought of it as.

Riot Mom had a boyfriend at the time, a fellow who was a devotee of a style of music called hardcore.  I don’t exactly know how to describe it.  Imagine a very small room with very loud music and a young man wearing pants that are much too big for him, screaming into a microphone.  SCREAMING.  Not singing.  Screaming.  That’s hard core music.  I know I sound like a 2,000 year old codger but even then, I did not understand it.

Riot Mom would attend these “shows” and wanted me to come along so she wouldn’t be alone.  Her boyfriend would be socializing with the hard core kids around these shows.  The hardcore kids would have these discussions for hours about how some band has their video on MTV at midnight and therefore they had sold out.  Riot Mom and I really found this funny and rolled our eyes at this.

One day Riot Mom and I left the show to go to a newsstand down the street.  The lead singer of the hardcore band we were to see that night had said “this song is dedicated to my girlfriend” and then screamed — MEAT IS MURDER into the microphone.  It was time to go.  At the newsstand, I saw a bunch of paperbacks with the covers ripped off that the guy was selling.  I picked up a magazine and started flipping through the pages.  The owner of this place came up to me and said — this is not a library.  The library is up the street.

This is obviously when you’d need a friend.

The friendship with Riot Mom, as I have mentioned in previous entries had some pretty rocky times.  We butted heads a lot over the years, especially about our different approaches to life.  The best way to encapsulate the friendship was something my mother said recently.  The person who used to call you weird in college is now your best friend.

I don’t even think best friend describes our friendship.  I think we’re more like sisters.

This past visit really captured that.  Three out of the four riot kids are still in school, with the mini riot kinda just getting the hang of walking and talking.  So, we went to have coffee in a lovely place in an even lovelier place in called Doylestown.  I ordered a breakfast bowl with avocado and a hard boiled egg, just to annoy Riot Mom, who despises both of those things.  There was also bacon in my bowl.  We sat and sipped coffee really slowly.

I realized that Riot Mom had done this to catch up with me on my current concerns, personal and professional.  Riot Mom had lots of good advice about the things I’m going through.  The visit to Doylestown was also quite fun because she brought Mini Riot with her and he had the best breakfast ever — chocolate milk and bacon.

I think about the friendship a lot when I go there and how it evolved over the years as we evolved as people.  We’ll never see eye to eye on a lot of things but we’re there for each other when things get difficult.

The Riot kids are growing up fast too.  Riot 15 still rolls his eyes at me a lot but is a super considerate kid who loves his brothers and is good to his mom.  I tried to convince her to let him have Instagram and we reviewed youth slang, like snack and spilling the tea.  Riot Mom rolled her eyes at me when I asked Riot 15 if they still say “on fleek.”  Riot 8 is rapidly evolving into a copy of his mother, complete with crazy food issues.  Riot 7 listened very intently to the audio tour at the prison we visited.  Mini Riot seemed to learn a new vocabulary word every hour.

Needless to say, the visit was spectacular, as always.  I’m always amazed when I visit that Riot Mom and I managed to stick out the difficult times in the friendship and to get to a point where we’ve evolved into something that is closer to family than just simple friendship.  One day you are having a conversation with someone in a dorm hallway.  The next day you are making jokes with their 14 year old son.

Take it in because it will pass you by quickly.

10,000 Men of Fordham

I had a lot of alternate titles in my mind for this entry but this I think captures what I want to say in the best way possible.

Every year I am honored to receive a few invitations to commencements here in Boston and at locations nearby.  I’ve watched students graduate from quite a few great institutions here in the Boston area over the past few years.

This year I received an invitation to attend a commencement at Fordham University.  Despite having grown up around the university, I had never been there.

Going there meant going back to Westchester, a place I have a fraught relationship with.  Westchester I always say is a place best seen in the rear view of your car.  Or better yet — in the dark.  LOL.

This time I used AirBnB to get my accommodation.  I stayed at a house in White Plains, near where I went to high school.  I talked to the host.  I told her I had gone to high school in Valhalla, near White Plains.  Even saying that feels incredibly strange considering I left the area as soon as high school ended.  I almost added — I went to high school in Valhalla in another version of reality on another planet.

Per usual, since I almost nearly never leave the state of Massachusetts anymore, I got culture shock when I went to New York.  I tried to show the Metro North driver my Charlie card.  I thought White Plains was in a zone.  I couldn’t remember what the stops were before White Plains.  I automatically looked for a Dunkin’ Donuts to get my morning caffeine.  I’ll just say it.  I missed my pilgrim hats and my faux England.  New York.  That’s just not my life anymore.

The graduation at Fordham was the grandest affair I have ever attended.  I will describe the grandness of it below and makes slyly sarcastic jokes along the way.  If you aren’t a fan of my borderline socialist humor or references to the Romanov family, skip down to the part where I talk about why I even went to graduation or just to the photography.  Your choice.

Well, thanks for deciding to stay.  So the Fordham graduation.  First there was enough bunting on all the building to hold a political convention.  On this Ivy League looking building, there was a banner that at least two stories high.

It took an hour just to seat all the graduates of each of the constituent colleges of Fordham University.  There was a kind of red carpet runway in the middle of everything, where proud parents could photograph their graduate.  Like they photograph the movie stars at Cannes.

Then there was the entrance of all the university deans, presidents, rectors, chancellors, associate deans, assistant associate deans and associate associate deans.  All the colored robes, I got lost.  Again, I think there might be fewer people in robes present at a papal conclave.  I think one of them was holding a scepter, like you know you’d see your average monarch carrying.

There was also a procession of Fordham alums, outfitted in maroon sashes.  Add to the pageantry of the whole thing I guess.

Finally things got rolling.  We had to sing the anthem and pray.  I almost yelled “play ball” after the anthem.  Praying.  So much praying.  I guess because Fordham is a jesuit institution.  But I say fewer amens at my Sunday church service.  I thought of what Bishop Michael Curry of Royal Wedding fame said.  I could hear those quiet British amens when he did the reading at Prince Harry’s wedding a year ago.  We could have used some quiet British amens at that moment.  Subaru!!!!!!!!!

I was there alone, waiting for my “child” to graduate.  More on that a bit later.  I had a bit of time to soak in all the pageantry.  I nearly stood up during the introduction of every last dean at the papal conclave, I mean graduation ceremony and said — I object!!!!  The graduation ceremony can’t continue until you reveal how much you actually pay your adjuncts!!!!!!!  LOL!!!!!  Nah, I didn’t do that.  I’m socialist but I also don’t want to spoil people’s fun.

I thought with all of this pomp and circumstance and pageantry you should marry off a prince, crown a Russian emperor, nominate a political candidate and of course choose a pope.  It seemed a lot of big deal for just handing a person a paper that says “your diploma is in the mail once we actually figure out if you graduated.  Have a nice day.”

Oh and my “child” I was there to see graduate.  Well, of course not my actual child I birthed but as close as I have to a child.  On the way over to the graduation, a guy asked me what school my child was graduating from.  I didn’t have to time to explain that my child wasn’t graduating, so I said “oh, she’s an undergraduate.”  Funny that.

I was there to see Tami Tu graduate.  Tami was one of the first students I ever taught.  I taught her in 2011, when I was on the job for a year.  I wasn’t even sure at that point if I was going to continue.  Tami was in this funny class with a pregnant lady and a tremendously difficult group of people to teach.  Tami was so little when I taught her.  Just 14 and in the United States alone.  At that point I was still wearing a watch my parents had given for high school graduation.  My watch was 16 at that point and this human in front of me was 14.  I knew immediately she needed an adult in her life.

I was Tami’s adult for the years.  We hung out and went shopping.  She could talk to me like an older sister.  I gave her advice like she needed to find a good mentor to guide her through the next few years.  I even put her in touch with my mentor to help her along the way.

So I was there yelling and cheering loudly and embarrassingly at Tami when she graduated.  Happily.  Because she needed me to be there.

And then one day you watch a person you taught when they were 14 graduate from college.  Just like that, the time passes by so quickly.

Commencement.  The beginning.

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I’m Pretty But Tough Like A Diamond Or Beef Jerky in a Ball Gown

Yes the title is interesting but we will get back to it eventually.

This whole entry is going to be about my love for a show called The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  I will fan girl.  Jon Hamm, aka Donald Draper, will make a cameo.  Mostly I will talk about about my love for Titus Burgess.  Scroll down if none of this appeals to you.

So in 2015, I was cruising through New York Magazine and there was a little post about the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which according to the magazine is the funniest show you are not watching.  So I decided to start watching it.

The show came along at the perfect time.  In case you haven’t seen it, it’s about a woman who escapes from an underground bunker she was trapped in by an insane reverend.  It’s HILARIOUS.  No really.

I watched the first episode, where Kimmy goes on TV after getting out of the bunker and when she meets Titus Andromedon, star on the rise.  She becomes Titus’s roommate and she basically lives in his closet.

What got to me about the show was Kimmy’s unshakeable optimism and positivity.  She stayed positive no matter what.  I needed that at the moment when I started watching the show, when things in my life were kind of difficult.

And then there’s Titus.  He’s full of dreams, disappointments and one liners.  He’s also incredibly talented, with a beautiful singing voice.  He’s the heart of the show too.  He’s very openly gay on the show.  My favorite episode is when he goes to a coach who is supposed to make him act less gay.  He sits at a bar wearing a sports jersey and just looks into the camera and says “sports.”


Anyway, I heard the cast was going to be in Harvard Square on May 9.  Of course I had to go and take 10000 pictures of everyone.  I thought I would just go and they would be paraded through Cambridge.

I get there and the cast is getting on a duck boat but they were kind of mingling with everyone.  I saw Titus and I thought — maybe I can go take a picture with him.  That would be kind of funny.

I went over to him and asked to take a picture with him.  Then I told him how he got me through graduate school.  And I told him I loved him.  And he said it back!!!!!!!!!  Then, in all of my excitement, I kind of backed in a guy …. who turned out to be Jon Hamm!!!!!!!!!!  Not your average day when you step on Don Draper’s feet.

Everyone was yelling “we love you Titus.”  Titus took a video and put it on his Instagram.  I’m on Titus’s Instagram!!!!!!

The cast gets on the duck boat and Jon Hamm is taunting all of us by yelling out that the Red Sox suck.  He yelled out some other pretty funny stuff and was making a lot of faces.  It was ridiculously funny.  And I got to meet Titus and tell him how I felt about him!!!!!!!

Anyway, below are some pics of my little adopted sitcom family!!!!!!



The World Is Coming To Boston

Warning.  There will be a story, then I’ll summarize today’s marathon and then pictures.  If you have no interest in the prose, scroll down now.

Hi, thanks for staying.  Well, here’s the story.  I’m kind of a cheese ball about sports and I remember the exact moment when they set in.  It started with the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.  For some reason, this was the first Olympics I watched.  To say I became obsessed with the Olympics after this is an understatement.

But 1984 has always had a special place in my heart.  We had been in America about three years at that point but I felt this tremendous swell of pride in the nation.  The Los Angeles games showed this at its best.

There’s a three hour documentary about the 1984 Olympics called 16 Days of Glory.  The colors are a bit 80s, the soundtrack is a bit old fashioned but the sentiment remains.  Here we watch the people at their athletic peak on the world’s largest stage.

The narrator at the beginning of 16 Days of Glory says “the world is coming to Los Angeles.”

Well, today the world came to Boston.  The Boston Marathon is the best day of the year here in the fair state of Massachusetts.  There were very dire predictions about the weather but they didn’t come true, thank god.  I might have gotten a bit of a sunburn today.

Even after all of these years I still get chills when I see the timing car coming, with the eventual winner of the marathon behind it.  It reminds me of the first shot in 16 Days of Glory when the torch bearer approaches the Olympic stadium.

This year the women’s winner, Worknesh Degefa had left the field far behind by the time she got to Kenmore Square, where I was.  The men’s side was a bit more of a horse race.  Lawrence Cherono out-sprinted Lelisa Desisa at the finish line.  I saw them when they were neck and neck.

I stick around after the winners run by.  I’m constantly amazed by the number of countries I see represented and how many different abilities I also see in front of me.

It’s always a great day.  It’s the day when the world comes to Boston.