An Honorable Decision, and an Old Rowboat

High school graduations have come and gone over the last few weeks, and students all over Boston have moved into a new season in their lives.

This year, my neighbor graduated, and it was quite a wake-up call for us.

Not only because of the passage of time, but also because she has decided to continue her JROTC track and join the military. She will undoubtedly at some point serve in combat overseas given the state of our perpetual war machine.

It is an honorable decision she has made.

For me, it’s hard to believe.

When she and her family showed up next door so many years ago, she was a bit of a pest – a fresh mouth, but curious.

Over the years, I taught her how to plant a tomato in the patio garden. Kids are always amazed when the bright, red tomatoes they helped plant actually produce food. That was fun to watch.

Then there were the many Saturdays when she and my nieces played with dolls on the stoop.

I also kept close watch in later years when her parents clamped down on a no-good boyfriend who was likely headed for a hail of bullets – and seemed to want to take her along. I kept my eyes peeled, and her parents appreciated it – and that boyfriend slipped into the mist somewhere never to be seen again. (wink).

It’s funny to watch kids grow up.

It’s sobering when they move into the role of being the one to protect my – and your – freedoms. The very thing that we celebrated on Independence Day – the fireworks, the patriotic songs, the flags everywhere – is being preserved by that little girl playing dolls on the stoop with my relatives, the kid looking wide-eyed at a tomato.

In a time when we reward youth for calling the mayor names, for embarrassing corporations, for kicking the police in the crotch, I’m heartened by this youth – my neighbor – headed potentially for harm’s way to make sure I can kick around this neighborhood without being hassled by forces of oppression.

That’s an honorable thing, to me.

  • •                       •

About three months ago, I was playing poker over in Hyde Park at an old friend’s house. His family had fled the City in the 1970s when stores, homes and neighborhoods were burning – and people’s prejudices worked some awful negative magic on their decision-making. They took up stock in Hyde Park, which at that time was the ‘burbs. Many of us stayed in town.

But the distance didn’t end the friendship, and we get together for cards time and again.

Anyhow, last time we played, I won the last hand and he was out of poke.

The light went on in his head.

He said he had an old rowboat he could give me instead.

We went out back and looked at it. Seemed seaworthy. It had oars, but no oarlocks.

I figured, why not? So I took it for the debt.

After some elbow grease and some of that rubber seal spray the guy uses on TV (you know, the whack-job that cuts a boat in half and then seals it together again), it was looking good.

Last weekend at high tide, on a calm morning before the heat settled in, I loaded it up and took it to Southie. Splashing it down into the water, I rowed around the inner bay for 90 minutes. Summer mornings in Boston is a treasure to be held tight because so quickly does it slip away.

And what great peace a boat on water brings.

We should all do more such things, particularly since we live half-mile from the ocean.

Why’d I do that?

Because I can. That’s freedom too.

And worth more than the Finner my buddy owned me in poker.

  • •                       •

Old Mr. Boston’s going to take a bow here. Last November, we smelled something in the works about Supt. Tommy Chang’s future. And there it was two weeks ago, he was gone.


Old Mr. Boston has a mind that former mayoral candidate John Connolly might be in line for the job. He was a big schools advocate, his kids went to school in BPS and he was a teacher. Time will tell on that one.

The bottom line is you can’t trust a highly educated Californian to take a big job in Boston.

They’ll never last. They can’t take the snow and the 10 to 20 days a year we have to live and work below zero. When you have that kind of education, you have options.

A Cali guy ain’t gonna sit and freeze his rear end in Boston when he can make the big bucks basking in warm, winter sunshine.

After all, we only stick around because God put us here. Am I wrong?

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