Sunday, September 20, 2009

Modern Romance

I was sitting on the stand, half asleep, when the rear door suddenly opened and someone threw themself onto the back seat. The noise made me nearly jump out of my skin.

"You're available, aren't you?" the woman asked. She was twenty-something.

"Yeah, yeah, sure," I answered, grumbling to myself that I should lock the doors in the future. I mean, what if she was some crazed robber or something? I could have been be whacked over the head or stuck up, who knows? I mean...

"You okay?" she asks.

"I'm fine," I answer, composing myself. "You just startled me. Where to?"

She gives me the address. I punch the meter and we're off.

"Workin' late?" I ask.

"No, I was just having a couple drinks with friends after work. It's been a loooong day."

"Really?"

"Like I've never had."

"Whadayamean?"

"Do you do Face Book?"

"No," I answer. "But I've heard of it."

"Anyway, I get an e-mail from a friend telling me to check out my boyfriend's Face Book page. So I do. And he's changed his status from 'attached' to 'single'. In other words, I've been dumped."

"Wha?... You mean he didn't actually tell you this?"

"No, nothing. No discussion. No phone call. No message. Not even an e-mail. Not only that, all my friends found out before I did. I had to learn about it from them."

"Have you tried tried to call him?"

"Not yet, I've just been in shock. I don't even know what I'd say to him."

"When did you see him last?"

"Two days ago. We spent the weekend together."

"And there was no fight, no hint that anything was up?"

"No, nothing. I thought we had a wonderful weekend."

"How do you know it's not, like, a mistake?"

"Because he put up a picture of his new girlfriend! Some twit he met last week. I recognized her from a party we went to. I asked him who he was he was talking to and he said some girl from Vermont. She had tatoos, like he does, and likes motorcycles and the same kind of music he does. He thought she was cool."

"Wow."

"Yeah, he dumps me because I don't like heavy metal music and have tatoos! Well, I'm sorry, but I know I'm going to be old some day and don't want to look like some crumpled piece of newspaper with these faded, gross tatoos."

"And how long have you been going out?"

"About three months. He had just gotten out of a really bad relationship, he said, so I was trying to be extra gentle with him, give all the space he needed, not to pressure him or nag him about spending time with me... AND FOR WHAT!? Couldn't he have just called?"

"Unbelievable. I've heard of jerks breaking up with girlfriends by leaving messages on their phone machines, but this is a whole different level of contemptible. You don't cancel a magazine subscription that way. It's despicable, almost psychotic."

"He's too chicken to do it in person?"

"It's probably lucky it happened sooner than later, because just think of if you had spent some serious time with this butthole. You deserve better. Lot's better."

"You think so?"

"Definitely. And you will. In the meantime, I'd start thinking of some medieval-style revenge on him."

"You know, he's not worth the time and effort. I think I'll just hang out with my friends."

"There ya go."

"I feel better just venting about it. Thanks."

She handed me a twenty to cover the $13 fare. I started to make change.

"No, keep it. Thanks."

"Thank you."

Friday, September 4, 2009

End of an Era

The true measure of a man's importance I discovered this past week is not what he leaves in life, but the traffic snarl-ups he causes in death. Senator Ted Kennedy and mobster Gennaro "Jerry" Anguilo--two titans of Boston's power elite--were buried this past week, and I got stuck in the resulting traffic jams for both. First for Kennedy's procession, which tied up traffic for several hours downtown as it toured various sites in the city last Saturday. According to the radio, the crowds in places were eight deep to get a glimps of the flag-draped coffin and the surviving members of the ever-dwindling Kennedy clan. The second for Anguilo's wake in the North End on Wednesday, which practically shut down Commercial Street as a potpourri of old timers, thick-necked brutes in fancy Italian suits, bikers in Hell's Angels colors, and mothers with small children lined up outside Langone's Funeral Home to pay their last respects to one of the last old-school Italian mafiosa in the city.


I assume that Kennedy being Kennedy and Anguilo, having spent most of the past 20 years in jail, never personally met most of the throngs gathered in their honor. No doubt, some wanted to be there because they felt the deceased had somehow touched their lives. Others because they simply wanted be a part of the spectacle. But most, I suppose, were there to acknowledge the end of an era.


With Kennedy's and Angiulo's go the last vestiges of a time when Boston was run by powerful families and clans. Back then, who you knew and the neighborhood you lived in meant more than how much you earned or where you worked. Boston has always been a city of neighborhoods, more so then than today, but back then it meant something totally different if you said you lived in Southie or Charlestown or the South End or Brighton. It's still a city of neighborhoods, but it's much harder to tell them apart. Back then, the people you saw on TV representing Boston were guys who were part of those neighborhoods. Guys like Tip O'Neill, Mel King, Kevin White, Ray Flynn, Dap O'Neill. Mayor Menino is among them, but he is in dwindling company.

It was different, not necessarily better, but different. In a lot of ways, Boston is a better place today. It's cleaner, it's safer. There's more to do. It's easier to get around. But something's missing.

I had the same feeling when legendary rock radio station WBCN went off the air a couple months ago. The station had changed program formats so many times that I quit listening to it ages ago, but I remember when it was part of regular day: Charles Laquidara and Duane Glasscock, the Big Mattress, the Cosmic Muffin. Now it's gone, and in its place we have what? Twenty-four-hour sports talk?

What's missing I guess is character. Like every other place, Boston is becoming more like, well, every other place.