Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

HBO, John Adams and the Meaning of Evacuation Day

March 17, 2008

John and Abigail Adams

Amid the stir of Guinness sponsoring a nationwide effort to make St. Patrick’s Day a holiday is the recognition that Bostonians already get March 17 off. In one of those happy coincidences, March 17 in Boston is also Evacuation Day, which marks the day George Washington and Colonial troops drove the British out of the city.

The day is typically ridiculed as a “hack holiday” but anyone who caught a glimpse of last night’s magnificent HBO mini-series John Adams got to see the power and meaning behind it. Abigail Adams hears a man cry out and the sound of marching. Frightened, she readies a musket and exits her Quincy home. She looks out to find a procession of Colonials. They are hauling two massive cannon captured from the British at Fort Ticonderga. General Knox tells her the Americans have dubbed them “Liberty” and “Independence.” (Incidentally, I’m not sure if she could have seen the ships departing from her home on Adams Street — I passed it yesterday — but certainly from the top of the vantage point now known as “Presidents Hill” for her husband and son.)

They don’t get into it in the movie, which is by far the most gripping depiction of America’s revolution I have ever seen on television, but the Colonials took the artillery to Dorchester Heights. Dorchester Heights is not in nearby Dorchester, but the highest point in South Boston, the epicenter of Irish America. With the cannon in place, the British, who had occupied Boston for several years, finally departed.

While there is, of course, a political element to Boston’s celebration of Evacuation Day, it’s nice to be reminded that there is great significance behind it as well. Here’s a website that explains what Bostonians are doing to celebrate Evacuation Day as well.

Dave McLaughlin’s “On Broadway” Opens in Boston

March 14, 2008

Thirteen years ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop outside the courthouse in Jamaica, Queens, and picked up one of the New York tabloids. Probably Breslin, but it could have been Steve Dunleavy or Michael Day. It was long enough ago that it’s impossible for me to find the exact clip. The column I remember told of a young filmmaker, the son of a New York City police detective, who was capturing the buzz at Sundance with a quiet film about life in the outer boroughs. The movie was the Brothers McMullen, and the young director was Ed Burns.

That was a long time ago when Burns was still hauling cameras and equipment for Entertainment Tonight. Now he’s married to Supermodel Christy Turlington. But I’ve been thinking about that story in connection with another quiet, people-oriented film, that’s opening tonight in Boston, “On Broadway.” I really enjoyed On Broadway when I saw it, a film filled with magnificent character actors, funny moments and heart.

The film maker in this case is Dave McLaughlin. I know Dave from when I worked for the City. He’s a great Boston story. A graduate of Catholic Memorial, well-known in West Roxbury, McLaughlin has the soul and the talent of a classic Irish playwright.

Sadly, the film business has changed since the Brothers McMullen caused a sensation at Sundance. The festivals have divulged into esoterica, while the only Boston movies that seem to capture the interest of distributors involve Irish guys shooting, stabbing or strangling each other.

Going to see “On Broadway,” which refers to the main street in South Boston, is a terrific way to celebrate the real Irish family spirit you find everywhere in our city’s neighborhoods, but usually not onscreeen.

Israel’s Livni in Boston

March 12, 2008

Israel's Foreign Minister

Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, made the rounds in Boston today. A rising star, she was the subject of a memorable profile in The New York Times Magazine. I caught most of her remarks to a gathering at the Park Plaza organized by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. She later appeared at the State House and will speak at the Kennedy School later today.

Her speech timed to coincide with Israel’s 60th anniversary, the tone of Livni’s remarks was subdued. Israel faces uncertain borders on at least two fronts — Lebanon to the north and Gaza to the south. “Israel is still fighting for its existence,” she said.

Much, if not most, of Livni’s speech focused on the renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, at least the portion of the PA’s Fatah faction that controls the West Bank. Gaza, Livni acknowledged, is run by Hamas, which showers missiles down upon the Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashkelon.

Livni’s central point that the negotiations are necessary for Israel’s survival. “Time is of the essence,” she warned, adding that “more and more changes in the conflict” are coming. Some of the forces that dictate attempting to make a deal now, she said, include anti-Israel sentiment in Europe, Arab League diplomatic action, and potential United Nations resolutions. She went so far as to allude to “international forces” being inserted into the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. I took that to mean that she fears the international community will attempt to place some kind of international peace-keeping body on Israel’s borders. “Time is not working for us,” she said.

Livni also offered a slightly different take on events which followed the failed conclusion of the Oslo discussions between Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak at Camp David. “Frustration can lead to violence,” Livni said. “We faced an intifada after Camp David.” The general pro-Israeli view has been that Arafat and his cronies launched the violence or allowed it to start to distract from their refusal to make peace with Israel. It was, for example, not frustration that prompted Nabil Shaath, a key Arafat ally, to say as early as 1996, according to a story in the Jerusalem Post, that when negotiations eventually deadlocked, the Palestinians would return to the armed struggle and “all acts of violence” would return.

Iran, which I heard so much about during my last reporting trip in Israel, merited very little attention in the organized portion of Livni’s comments. “It needs to be stopped when it comes to its aspiration to have a nuclear weapon,” she said.

The job of being both Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians and top diplomat with members of the often hostile world community is not an easy one. She tempered her remarks with realism, even pessimism, in parts. The substance of her comments reflects the indifference and anger Israel faces from the international community, which seems to be grinding Israel’s will down as it approaches its 60th birthday.

Bailey Leaves the Globe

March 10, 2008

My initial reaction to the news that Steve Bailey is leaving the Boston Globe is profound sadness. Bailey leaves the Boston Globe and takes his juice with him. As recently as last Friday, when Bailey broke news of Mayor Menino’s speech to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, he demonstrated his ability to be Morrissey Boulevard’s number one repository of scoops, inside information and insight.

I can’t fault Bailey and his charmnig French wife for wanting to move to Europe and taking a fascinating opportunity with Bloomberg. But I sympathize with Globe readers as well as those press secretaries, communications directors and overall big shots for whom Bailey was the first call.

Another note on Bailey: when I told my mother, a lifelong reader of the Globe of Bailey’s departure, she said “he was the last of the best.”

Along with the changes comes a promotion for Ellen Clegg, who will essentially fill Helen Donovan’s old slot from what I can tell.Clegg is one of the very tiny group — smaller than a handful — of individuals who ever gave me a shot in journalism: She let me get Boston Globe clips as the stringer from Harvard. I wish her the best of luck in her new role.

UPDATE: I’m now told that Clegg takes Michael Larkin’s position, and Caleb Solomon will fill the Helen Donovan slot.

Mayor Menino at the Municipal Research Bureau: Expand the Emerald Necklace to the Charles

March 7, 2008

Mayor Menino just finished his speech to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. While the mayor didn’t use the words “emerald necklace,” he sketched out a vision that will expand Frederick Law Olmstead’s historic plan for Boston system of parks to the Charles River.

Menino posited using the opportunity of the repair project of the Storrow Drive Tunnel as a chance to rework the city’s green space, a time to take, what he called, “a big picture view.”

“We can create a seamless connection of green space from the Public Garden to the Esplanade while improving transportation,” told attendees at the Seaport Hotel. “Think about this for a minute: we can reopen the riverfront to residents, connect the Charles River and the Public Garden, and create more green space in the heart of our downtown neighborhoods.”

The mayor’s idea is one that makes sense — why is it so hard to get to the Charles from downtown — and demonstrates his continued energy and vision.

Barack Obama Makes Final Pitch in Boston

February 5, 2008

Obama, appearing in Boston right now alongside Deval Patrick, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, is giving his standard stump speech. But he is so confident and relaxed, he is absolutely at his best. The total package, stylistically, is far superior to Hillary Clinton’s appearance earlier today in Worcester.

“They did not want a politics based on p.r. and spin,” Obama said of voters. “They wanted straight talk.””I am here to report to you my bet has paid off, because the American people are ready for change.”

The atmosphere — and the speech — are very similar to what I saw in the days immediately leading up to the New Hampshire primary. Then, as now, it’s difficult to translate energy and excitement into votes. In New Hampshire, like many members of the press, I was misled by what I saw in Lebanon and in Manchester.

I wonder how much a relatively stolid event, such as the one where Richard Neal, the congressman from Springfield, stressed the Clinton’s contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland, and Jim McGovern promoted Hillary Clinton’s health care plan, will help to get out traditional voters versus the tremendous energy of the hooting, hollering, chanting, clapping youthful crowd of tonight.

Menino at the Chamber of Commerce

December 11, 2007

Mayor Menino just completed his annual speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The talk highlighted one of his greatest strengths, persistence. Held at the Westin Boston Waterfront, a gorgeous hotel in a neighborhood that didn’t even exist a decade ago, the speech served as a reminder of Menino’s commitment to the South Boston Waterfront, an idea derided by commentators and pundits, including myself.

The mayor talked about two substantive policy areas which have the potential to bring growth to Boston in the future, energy and life sciences. While he hasn’t gotten the national credit that Mayor Bloomberg has received in New York, Menino has been ahead of the curve on green buildings and sustainability. He announced the formation of a new non-profit to maximize the city’s opportunities in this area, Clean Tech. He also stood by his backing of the bio-safety facility at Boston University as part of his commitment to life tech in Boston.

“We’re going to attract the best scientists in the world,” he said, vowing “the biolab will come forward.” I think it’s interesting how all the criticism of this proposed lab in the South End has focused on Menino with the other public officials who heralded its announcement, Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney, going MIA on the issue.

Finally, he also addressed the presidential race. Asked by WBUR’s Paul La Camera about the importance of urban issues in the national election, Menino said “this is one of the things we keep pressing presidential candidates to talk about.” While alluding to one candidate whom he said talks about urban issues, presumably Hillary Clinton whom he has endorsed, he said “there are some phoney issues they want to talk about forever.” He specifically mentioned housing and healthcare as issues which should be on the agenda.

I’m on the road this morning, so I’ll add links later.

The Police at Fenway

July 28, 2007

The Police

The Police bring their reunion show to Fenway Park tonight. The new tradition of bringing bands to Fenway annually is an exciting one. I’m confident The Police will meet the standard set by the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffett and the Dave Mathews Band. People who want a fix of the band can stop by the gallery at Newbury Fine Arts, 29 Newbury Street. The gallery is displaying photos taken by Andy Summers of the band during its 1980s hey day.

I’m a big fan of what special events like this mean for Boston. Seeing a historic concert at Fenway Park is the kindof unique cultural offering that a great city like Boston can provide.

This will be my first time attending a concert at Fenway. It will also be the first time I have seen the Police since my sister Deborah and I attended the show at the Providence Civic Center — little did we know that the band would break up less than a month later. Back in 1984, at the ages of 15 and 12, we scored back stage passes at the Providence Civic Center to see the Police on the Synchronicity Tour thanks to our uncle. (At that time, our uncle Alvan Fisher, was a Providence-based doctor toiling with the early onslaught of AIDS who also happened to be the concert doctor at the Civic Center.) I’ll never forget the thrill I had when Sting, clad in a Joseph of Many colors jacket, Stewart, shorts and a University of Hawaii t-shirt, and Andy, whisked by us on the way to the stage.

I’ll give my sister, who somehow found her way to the band at a very young age, a chance to post her review later tonight.

William “Bo” Holland, 1943 – 2007

June 22, 2007

Bo Holland

A person who knows as much about Boston politics as anyone, Bo Holland, died this week. Bo’s name wasn’t one you’d see much in the papers but he was part of the fabric of civic politics.

I got to know Bo when I was Mayor Menino’s press secretary. From that first time Bo sat me down in his office, I found him to be a font of political wisdom and insight. Having headed up Kevin White’s “Little City Hall” program, Bo had a comprehensive familiarity of the workings of the city’s neighborhoods. He explained to me the history of certain sections of Dorchester, the nature of parents in West Roxbury and Roslindale and myriad of other invaluable pieces of Boston lore you won’t find written down anywhere.

He was also a person who could provide the link between our modern era and the 1960s. He regalled me with stories of the White Administration. A veteran of so many political wars, he also helped me keep things in perspective when things were tough. But it would be wrong to suggest that he was merely a local politico. He was a keen observer of national politics and an expert on the Democratic primary process.

He enjoyed Nantasket Beach in Hull, where I grew up and his sister lives, and I always liked conversing with him there as well.

He worked with three significant Boston political figures, Kevin White, Tom Menino and Tom O’Neill, which is a tribute to him as well.

Bo leaves a college age son, Peter, whose mother also died several years ago. A golf tournament to raise money for a scholarship fund for Pete has been established. There will be what those in the know are calling “a real Irish wake” for Bo this Tuesday, June 26, at Doyle’s in Jamaica Plain, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at which donations can be made.

Boston’s Breakfast Scene

March 29, 2007

Good Mornin' To You

During my first month in full-time journalism, my boss, Seth Lipsky, now the founder and top editor of The New York Sun, gave me a simple but odd-sounding instruction: “I want you having breakfast with a source every morning”. Part of Lipsky’s thinking was that because I owned “adult-looking” clothes — suits and ties from my short-lived legal career — sources engaged in the Jewish philanthropic world, my first beat at the Forward, would take me seriously.

With that instruction in mind, I marched down Park Avenue from my tiny rent-controlled apartment on 83rd Street to the plush confines of the Regency Hotel. I got there early and was greeted by a hostess offering me a newspaper. The first breakfast was with Robert Rifkind, then the head of the American Jewish Committee and a partner at the white shoe law firm of Cravath, Swain & Moore. For somebody who less than two months earlier had been at best little more than a billing-mechanism and at worst a legal serf, sitting down with such a legendary figure was a bit daunting. But now I know that in public life — and bigtime charity is a form of public life — it’s important to have relationships with reporters.

Now, almost 12 years after that first breakfast, I write in the current issue of Boston Magazine about a unique facet of Boston’s political culture: it’s fanatical devotion to the power breakfast. Guided by the new sharp-eyed editor, James Burnett, this piece provides a glimpse into this city’s hot breakfast scenes — locations as diverse Mul’s in South Boston to Mike’s City Diner in the South End, where you can catch the mayor, to the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons to Henrietta’s Table in Harvard Square — as well as the do-gooder organized breakfast groups, most of whom feature a prominent guest. There is, for example, Kevin Phelan, who has run an influential breakfast group since the 1970s and spawned two imitators.

The issue also features a story by Red Sox expert Seth Mnookin, whom Lipsky hired in 1999 and promptly placed a fedora on his head.