…and it is raining where I am. But the Winter Solstice has always inspired in me a warm, cossetting sense that we have learned to value and comprehend the light only because we have, through life, come to know darkness, in every sense. Robert Frost comes to mind — his poem “Stopping by Woods” in which his narrator has stopped by woods to watch them fill with snow “on the darkest evening of the year…”  That wold be December 21st. We are farthest from the sun, but nonetheless, “the woods are lovely, dark and deep…

Then there is Frost’s poem, “Aquainted with the Night.”

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right
I have been one acquainted with the night.

I, too have walked out in rain and back in rain. I shall look for that watchman. There must, somewhere, be a  watchman. But I, too, will be unwilling to explain.





I’m casting a cold eye, down here in warm Florida, on two highlighted (essentially, therefore, “front page”) items in the on-line edition of a recent Globe.

Some families are being challenged by the new requirement that their au pairs must be paid minimum wage. Who hires these imported “nannies” but the reasonably well-to-do? Or, in fairness, parents both of whom work — but, again, usually fairly high-end parents. Tell me if you disagree. Therefore, does this signal the upper class’s secret discontent with one of the Democrat’s signature policy items, i.e., the endless push to keep hiking the minimum wage? Albeit, in this case, is was a federal requirement that merely forces families to pay au pairs the state’s current minimum wage. Nonetheless, is this, then, a story to file under irony-of-ironies, or the hoisting of many residents of Newton and Wellesley by their own mostly liberal Democrat petards??

Then the other item:
I was unaware — why, I don’t know except that as a reporteer I was never assigned to cover it, thank God  — that in this new millennium, Boston now features a pre-Christmas “Speedo Run” in which scantily clad men and women charge down fashionable Newbury Street in defiance of seasonably cold temperatures wearing only very skimpy bikinis or, for the men, skimpy Speedo-manufactured variations of St. Nick’s red and white. It’s all for charity, of course. ( I’m constitutionally skeptical of any alleged Christmas event that could not be replicated in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, charity or no charity. If that doesn’t “suit” one’s secular sensibilities, then a Santa Clause look-alike Run could, I bet, raise as much money.)

Then I read that this Run actually originated under boozy circumstances at the old Sevens bar on Charles Street. I know the Sevens, and know it to be an innocuous, mostly serene place of dart-throwing, bibulous roustabouts; the kind of dim, cozy watering hole where boredom, once the booze has “lost its kick” (as it did in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Commeth), might give rise to a plot for various forms of public hijinks that, given some benevolent and charitable overtone, cold potentially meets with municipal approval.

So this, I guess, is a land-bound equivalent of a polar dip, but a little closer to a skinny dip. I guess the tide’s in on Newbury Street.

What nearly naked fools we mortals can be. But all for charity.


December 12, 1939 my parents had a wonderful surprise. In those days you just didn’t know — and so they didn’t know — that they were expecting not one, but two sons. Twins. Wonderful brothers, handsome teenagers popular with the girls, which had a bit of a coattail effect for me. Just a little. ( I figured out I needed to make my own way in that world.)

Wonderful husbands, fathers, brothers. I want them around forever so I can prove that their “little” brother can actually make something of himself.

Of course, we will always remember the day Ron got off the subway in downtown Boston to find Doug’s summertime girlfriend on the platform. “Doug!” she said, in shock and jubilation. “No….Ron,” said Ron. She was crestfallen.

Or, was it really Doug, just saying he was Ron. I’m vague on that part of the story.

At any rate, there was a good reason that sweet girl would be surprise to see Doug in Boston that day. He’d told her he was leaving town for astronaut training. Actually, he had to go back to the seminary.

Ron has some good stories, too. I’m sure we’ll hear them someday.

Happy birthday, guys.


South Boston writer and all-around good guy Brian Wallace recently made a Facebook post about the nicknames on characters that, over the course of his baby-boomer life span, populated Southie’s streets. The Irish are famous for their nicknames. In Dorchester, among us Irish-American Bostonians, we had “Pickles”, “Tarps”, “Sniffles” — the list goes on. Of Southie nicknames, Brian wrote….

You know you are from Southie when you know the last names of Injun, Emo, Tuffy, Snuffy, Snoopy, Weed, Peaches. Mocha, Tumac, Wacko, Libby, Ace, Bunzo, Hun Bun, Mucka Ducka Doo,Satch, Killer, Lep, Scoop, Wacky Jacky, Juggie, Puffy, Chicken Head, Chinky, Shoo Shoo, Shoes, Boob, Dada, Doodie, Todda,, Maury, Fingers, Hokey, Dudso, Hooker, Tiny, Brother, Champ, Burger, Pecker, Dodo, Porka, Bulky, Bull,Tinker, Yaka, Rardy, Bunka, Noonie, Duba, Jabber, Sleepy, Dukie Part 2 tomorrow.

I’m waiting for Part 2 — but I reminded Brian about a nicknamed soul I met during my initial year at Gate of Heaven High School on East 4th Street, back around ’61-’62. He was “Scratch” Scarcella. Yes, Italian rather than Irish. As it happens, I couldn’t tell you his real first name — not to this day. And I met him only once, when “Gatey” freshmen played “Gatey” 8th-graders in football. (Yeah, schools always have nicknames, too.) Scratch, a very tough kid and great athelete showing great promise early on, came crashing through the line and I, playing defense at that moment, grabbed him around the hips and proceeded to be dragged about ten yards. It probably took a couple of other guys to stop him. But beyond his early physical and athletic prowess, Scratch was notable for his quiet, humble decency. You saw that in him even when he was so young. He went on to have a high school career as a football player and boxer. He was not a bully at a time when Southie and Gatie were full of bullies. That’s what made a welcomed impression on me. The genuine tough guys are never bullies.

Brian, as it happens, said he did a story on Scratch recently for some publication. I hope to get a link. Scratch is still with us. He doesn’t know me from Adam but I’m happy to pay tribute to him here.