Offtheshelf's blog

Octopi Boston

Octopi Boston:
A journal of revolution by the people ... and grilled octopus for the people!

Movement Afoot

I could sit idly by no longer, along the sidelines, remaining silent, unmoved while there is a movement afoot.

So, I went to Boston this past weekend to join in the protests against tyrannical rule and to raise my voice up against an oppressive regime which aims to tax its citizenry to death.  I marched, with other likeminded folks, along the red bricked sidewalks, stopping here and there along our trek to show support for such a just and noble cause.

Oh, no, no, I wasn't part of the Occupy Boston rally. Is that what you were thinking? Oh, heavens no, I'm much too old and decrepit - I have bad knees, and a sore shoulder that aches on chilly evenings. Besides, camping out without proper bathroom facilities is not my thing. After all, my hair needs conditioning each morning.

No, no, by "protests against tyrannical rule" and "against an oppressive regime" I meant against King George III back in the time of the American Revolutionary War.

This past weekend I walked the Freedom Trail, from Boston Common down to the North End, my periodic patriotic pilgrimage. To revisit my beloved birth city. To remember the great Boston Patriots - John Hancock, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, James Otis, etc - that fought for the liberty we now enjoy. To stop at the Granary Burying Ground, and the Old State House, and the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old North Church.

Well, that and to stop by a favorite tavern along Union Street for a pint.

Tavern Debate

There is no better place than an old, historic, brick tavern for healthy debate and discussion of the day's top issues. Especially along the trodden Union Street, just steps from the Old State House and the scene of the Boston Massacre, in a tavern where 18th century Patriots raised pints as they raised their revolutionary voices against the Crown.

This weekend, around a wobbly, wooden tavern table, the debate and discussion was intense and uninterrupted. Arguments abounded for and against this and that agenda. Argument, rebuttal, further argument, further rebuttal. Until finally a conclusion was reached.

I ordered the open face Reuben, with fries and a pint of Guinness to wash it down.

Octopi Boston

The march continued, through Quincy Market, battling the crowds every step of the way, stopping only briefly to order pastry.

Then back out on the street, crossing against the light, and onward toward the waterfront. A guitarist was playing there in Christopher Columbus Park, causing me to linger awhile, distracting me from my ultimate goal. It was getting late, and the dog's bladder back home was calling out across the long miles. A North End Italian restaurant, and a grilled octopus appetizer, would not be achieved. Another time. Retreat! Retreat! Live to fight, and to eat octopi, another day!

Until next time, don't tread on me,

Jack Sheedy

PS: Visit your local library to get your hands on a copy of my latest book, Cape Odd, with co-author Jim Coogan.

PPS: Hear our NPR radio interview on "The Point" by clicking below:

http://www.wgbh.org/programs/The-Point-298/episodes/Cape-Odd-25072

Pompeii Destroyed - And now, the weather

Channel VII Evening News, August 24, 79 A.D.

{Intro: Exciting graphics of a spiraling Roman numeral VII along with images of Roman Empire scenes - Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman Forum, etc - and with energetic, heart thumping music ... Da Da Da Du-u-u-m!}

Voice over: Channel VII news. Your Number One news source for the Roman Empire.  


The last days of Pompeii filmed by Ch. VII brave crews.

Male News Anchor: Good evening. Our top story - The city of Pompeii was destroyed today when Mount Vesuvius erupted in a violent fit of sulfur and ash, suffocating the surrounding population with poisonous gas and covering the buildings under several meters of volcanic debris. {Turns to cue female news anchor}

Female News Anchor: But first, let's check out the evening commute. Hank, how's it looking out there?

Hank the Traffic Guy (yelling above the drone of the helicopter): Traffic is heavy. We have a chariot breakdown, which is causing some delays. And further up, a large chunk of volcanic rock or something has come crashing down on a donkey cart carrying olive oil, which is causing a curiosity delay. Once passed that it's smooth sailing all the way back to Naples. That's all from the Sky VII Copter. Back to you in the studio.

Female News Anchor: Thanks, Hank. {Turns to male news anchor} Olive oil all over the highway at rush hour - That must be some slippery mess.

Male News Anchor {shaking his head}: I hope they have enough bread on hand to sop it up. {He chuckles, she laughs mechanically on cue} Before we get to our top story, let's have a look at the weather.

{Banter is exchanged with the female meteorologist, with the male news anchor providing woeful unfunny commentary, causing the female news anchor to smile nervously at her colleague's attempts to appear humorous and charming in front of the young meteorologist. While all this is going on, how about if I provide more from my Italian travel journal. In past entries, we've visited Rome, the Vatican, Naples, the Isle of Capri, and the port city of Pozzuoli. In this entry we will take a quick tour of Pompeii.}

***

Of course, we all know the story of Pompeii - a thriving Roman city snuffed out upon one disastrous day when pyroclastic forces set in motion a reign of destruction that blanketed her inhabitants beneath meters of volcanic ash, hidden from sight for nearly two millennia. Today, Pompeii exists as a time capsule of an ancient time with streets and buildings and temples and statues depicting her as she appeared at the very moment of her destruction.

 

From my travel journal:

Walking the ancient streets of Pompeii is truly a surreal experience. One could just as well be walking along the streets of some long-ago extinct Martian city. To think that people lived here two thousand years ago doing many of the same things we do today, only to see their world ended upon one day in catastrophic fashion caused me to ponder what our own plight might be.

Homes, shops, eateries, businesses, temples, baths, a  brothel, an entertainment district, an entire way of life made extinct by the power of Mount Vesuvius - a god mightier than their own gods of Apollo and Jupiter.

The ancient relics and ruins of Pompeii are astonishing - too overwhelming to recount here (see link below) - from grand temples built to honor their gods, to an amphitheatre for showcasing gladiatorial contests, to artistic and erotic frescos in chambers of some of the richer dwellings, to the simple rock walls that formed the homes of the average citizens.

This frozen snapshot of Pompeii proves that life has changed little for Homo sapiens over the past two thousand years. Then as now, there were those who possessed wealth and those who did not, and there were those who existed somewhere in between. Yet, against the wrath of Vesuvius, they were all powerless, they were all mortal, and even their stone gods were useless against such forces.

*

Arriving back in Pozzuoli, later that evening we walked to a family residence for a wonderful Italian feast of various cheeses, zucchini, pasta, bread, vegetables, and wine. At one point, while asking for bread in Italian - the word I was searching for was "pàne" - apparently my mispronunciation sounded as if I was referring to male anatomy, which drew quite a laugh from the dozen folks around the table, and which caused a bit of embarrassment for me when I realized my mistake.

After dinner the men of the group visited a nearby apartment to watch a soccer game on television. Unfortunately, the Napoli team lost the contest 3-1, drawing cries of "Mamma Mia" from those seated around me.

The next day being a travel day for Rome, goodbyes were exchanged with family members and then we made the short walk along the shore road back to our apartment.

*** 

 

Interestingly, Pompeii began to crumble shortly after my visit as mentioned in an article entitled "While Pompeii Crumbles" by Francis X. Roca in the January 12, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal: "The scandal over conditions at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii has yet to die down since a structure known as the ‘School of the Gladiators' collapsed there in early November. At least three other major collapses occurred in the past two months...experts and activists say that the city's perilous current state is just one dramatic example of a widespread national emergency. "

I swear - it wasn't my fault! I didn't touch a single stone while I was there!!

Jack Sheedy

 

PS: Check out the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei website for information on Pompeii:

http://www.pompeiisites.org/index.jsp?idProgetto=5&idLinguaSito=2

 

PPS: For something closer to home, pick up my book Cape Odd (with Jim Coogan) at your nearest CLAMS or OCLN library. It is full of strange and unusual anecdotes and sketches about this narrow land, including stories of earthquakes and tornadoes witnessed by Cape Codders years ago, oddities that residents of our state have experienced in recent months. 

Naples, Capri, and IRS Pub. 463

In an attempt to show a recent trip to Italy as a business expense on my tax return, my accountant has suggested that I publish more of my travel journal here on the pages of this website in order to give the impression that the trip was planned entirely as a business trip. If you recall, I earlier published four entries in April during Holy Week, recounting my visits to churches in Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and Pozzuoli (in accordance with the stipulations of IRS Publication 463: Travel Expenses).

In this entry, my journal will take us for a drive and stroll about the cobblestone streets of Naples, and then on a daytrip to the Isle of Capri and her amazing Blue Grotto.

 

Naples: Beneath the Mediterranean Moon

I have become convinced that Italian drivers are either the worst drivers on the planet...or else they are among the best.

There appear to be no "rules of the road." Anything goes. Maneuvers which would cause us at home to beep and curse and gesture at the other driver are commonplace here. Cars approach each other like metallic medieval knights in some jousting battle, nearly hitting each other as one driver swerves one way and the other swerves the other way at seemingly the very last moment.

Turns that would seem impossible to accomplish at home are no problem here. Roads that seem to come to an abrupt end, usually at the front of a neighborhood church, offer some escape route that looks as if only a baby carriage could fit through - yet it is somehow more than enough room for a Fiat or some similar size automobile.

And yet, with all the close calls and near misses, the Italian cars show almost no sign of bumps or bruises. As I said earlier, the Italian drivers are either the worst drivers or else the best drivers on the planet.

A note about the roads here: They are made of cobblestone - large blocks black in color and cut into roughly rectangular shapes that run from a foot and a half long to about a foot wide. Driving the streets is a bumpy experience that must make happy those who sell and install shock absorbers.

Walking can be an experience as well. You must be mindful of where you step as your foot may miss a block and your ankle become twisted in between the cobblestones. When walking, one tends to step from stone to stone like crossing a brook.

The buildings of Napoli are worn and tired, as if the residents have left them that way on purpose in order to add to the charm of the place ... as if to emphasize that a façade is merely a façade, and it's what's inside which truly matters.

And inside are people full of passion for life - from the foods they eat to the robust way in which they converse with one another. A typical conversation witnessed on the streets of Napoli may be likened to two people involved in an auto accident arguing over who is to blame. Yet, there is no accident, and these two friends are merely discussing some of the finer points of life here along the narrow streets of this Mediterranean coastal city.

In general, the women of Napoli, and of neighboring Pozzuoli where I was staying, are beautiful and the men who court them are handsome. At night, they perform the "ballo di amore" out upon the streets as couples walk hand-in-hand, or drink espresso and cappuccino at outdoor cafes, or embrace as if depicting some ancient statue beneath the Mediterranean moon, or beneath the glow of a street light, or seated atop a stone wall overlooking the sea below.

Life and love, they exist hand-in-hand here in Napoli - a situation that one imagines has existed for millennia.

 

Capri: Into the Blue Grotto

The next morning I awoke refreshed - with three cups of espresso - ready to face the new day.

On this particular morning we boarded a ferry bound for the Isle of Capri, a bit more than an hour's sojourn from the port of Napoli. As the city disappeared behind us, I realized I was on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea! Imagine me on the Mediterranean, upon waters I had only read about in books, where Italians - perhaps even my ancestors - fished for their livelihood centuries ago.

Capri appeared before us, sheer cliffs of volcanic rock soaring over purple-hued waters, with buildings climbing up the more subtle sloping hillsides - each building overlooking the Mediterranean. Upon docking, we immediately obtained tickets for a smaller boat, which took us to the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) -- a natural wonder somehow carved into the volcanic rock at sea level, into which, in an even smaller dory, we entered.

Once inside we marveled at the florescent blue nature of the interior waters, as rowers from a half dozen similar boats sang Italian songs ... and who then, upon exiting, held out their hand for tips. It was a satisfying experience - something to be checked off the list of lifetime accomplishments as we headed back to the harbor and our next adventure, a trip up the Funicular to the top of Capri.

High aloft we were afforded a commanding view of the island, and of the harbor and the brilliant sea below. Also at the top were the typically narrow Italian streets, lined with elegant shops designed to capture the tourists' Euro dollar. I found it strangely satisfying to know that capitalism existed atop the beautiful Isle of Capri, beneath brilliant sunlight that has long attracted artists to capture upon canvas its eternal and perhaps elusive essence.

 

Publication 463, Section 1: Travel Expenses; Subsection -- Part of Trip

"To figure the deductible amount of your round-trip travel expenses, use the following fraction. The numerator (top number) is the total number of business days outside the United States. The denominator (bottom number) is the total number of business and non-business days of travel."

Let's see ... Zero divided by ten equals zero.

Hmmm...that couldn't be right. Let me try that again.

Zero divided by ten equals ... damn!

Jack Sheedy

 

PS: Ballo di amore (dance of love)

PPS: Be sure to look for my latest book, Cape Odd (written with Jim Coogan), at a library near you - available thru the CLAMS and OCLN systems. And while you're at it, check out our earlier book, Cape Cod Harvest. Take them to the beach for an afternoon of Cape Cod stories ... just be sure to shake the sand out before you return them.

What is "Cape Cod"?

Early this morning, over coffee, eyes at half mast, trying to shake off the cobwebs of the previous evening, I tuned to the television news to start my day.

Great Cape Cod stretches both west to New Bedford as it stretches credulity

Mainly, I was interested in the weather forecast ... and the latest on the debt crisis (what the heck, I love a good drama). Yet, something else caught my ear, and caused me to open wide my ocular orbs.

Breaking story: Cape Cod inn burns.

Wow, I had better wait through the commercial break to see which Cape Cod inn they're talking about, said I to my dog, Willie, who just kind of sat there with eyes that said, "Don't you realize I don't understand your idiotic English language, you big dope!"

Suffering through a series of ads for automobiles and furniture and deli meat and auto insurance the news finally returned with the promised story on the "Cape Cod" inn that burned the previous evening. I said, again to the dog, "Please don't let it be this historic Cape Cod inn" or "Please don't let it be that historic Cape Cod inn" as my tired mind raced to think of my favorite local places. Meanwhile, the dog, disinterested in my pondering, raced to the back door to see if any favorite local squirrels were scampering about.

My mind turned back to the news story, with video of flames leaping from a building, firefighters battling the inferno. Hmmm...the inn doesn't look familiar, said I to the dog, who gave me an over the shoulder look as if to say, "Are you kidding? You're still talking? I'm busy over here looking for squirrels!"

Then, the reporter mentioned the inn's location: Onset.

Onset? My fractured gray matter considered: Where exactly on Cape Cod is this place called Onset? "Wait a minute," said I to the pup, "Onset is in Wareham." And Wareham is not part of Cape Cod. Sure, it's sad about the inn and all, but Wareham is not part of Cape Cod. The dog just shook his head and took a sip of coffee.

The "Gateway to the Gateway to the Gateway of Cape Cod"?


Back before I-195 and I-495, we all traveled on Route 6  and passed "The Gateway to Cape Cod" in Wareham.

For some reason, for those who don't know better, Wareham is thought to be part of Cape Cod. I don't know why this is so. Perhaps it's because the Wareham Gatemen are part of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Or perhaps it's because Wareham is referred to as the "Gateway to Cape Cod." In which case, the neighboring town of Marion could market itself as the "Gateway to the Gateway to Cape Cod." And then, what about the next town over, Mattapoisett? The "Gateway to the Gateway to the Gateway"? In this type of wacky infinite regression, Cleveland, Ohio could claim a connection to Cape Cod.

This all got me thinking, what exactly is "Cape Cod." Oh sure, we all know the Cape consists of 15 towns, from Bourne and Sandwich all the way up to Truro and Provincetown. But to the layperson out there who doesn't know the lay of the land, what exactly is "Cape Cod." Heck, even the TV news thinks Wareham is part of Cape Cod. And if it's on the news it must be true.

So, if Wareham is part of Cape Cod, then perhaps Marion and Mattapoisett should be considered part as well. If you're going to include Mattapoisett, it only makes sense to include Fairhaven. And if you're going to include Fairhaven, you have to include New Bedford. After all, it was such an important whaling port. It's where the novel Moby Dick begins, for Pete's sake. And we all know Melville spent some time on Cape Cod, so it makes perfect logical sense. In fact, since we're going to include Wareham and Marion and Mattapoisett and Fairhaven and New Bedford, we may as well include towns that border on Buzzards Bay, so welcome aboard Dartmouth and Westport!

I didn't have the heart to tell them they weren't actually
on Cape Cod.

Meanwhile, in Boston recently, strolling about Faneuil Hall, I happened to make conversation with some folks visiting the Bay State from some southern state. They were part of a tour group that was visiting historic locations and this particular week they were in Massachusetts. I mentioned I was from Cape Cod, and one of them said, "We were at Cape Cod yesterday." I asked where, and one of them replied, "Plymouth!"

I didn't have the heart to tell them they weren't actually on Cape Cod.

Plymouth is perhaps the non-Cape town most confused with "being on Cape Cod." Maybe this has something to do with the Pilgrims and their arrival at Provincetown first. Or perhaps it has something to do with the popularity of Plymouth in American culture. Regardless, if we're going to include Plymouth on our new map of Cape Cod, then we should include Carver as well, after all the place is loaded with cranberries and we all know cranberry cultivation began on the Cape in the early 19th century. And if we're going to include Plymouth and Carver, then we should include Plympton (because it sounds kind of like Plymouth) and Kingston, and maybe even Middleborough.  But that's it. That's as far as we go. No more towns beyond Kingston and Middleborough.

Well, maybe Duxbury...

Jack Sheedy

No atheists in bathtubs

Let's revisit the Rapture with some further commentary to my earlier blog entry...

B.C., just after lunch

End of the world predictions have been around since our ancestors first crawled out of the oceans, and then climbed down from the trees, and then eventually walked erect. One of the earliest such predictions is a cave drawing in Lascoux, France that has a circle, representing the earth, with a big "X" through it, and next to that the date "Septembre 4, 17105 B.C., apres le dejeuner" (Translation: "just after lunch").

A.D., around 2:00 P.M. EST

I'll make a bold end of the world prediction: Our sun formed about 4.5 billion years ago; our earth shortly after that. The sun is about halfway through its life cycle, which will come to a conclusion about 4.5 billion years from now when it expands to become a red giant star, incinerating the earth and everything on it, before it sheds its outer layers and becomes a dead white dwarf star. So, I'll go with July 17, 4.5 billion A.D., around 2:00 P.M. EST, so bring an apple or a banana or something else to snack on 'cause who knows when the Lord will be serving supper...and let's face it, he's known for serving only bread and wine.

Jesus ... by a nose

Well, the Rapture didn't occur as predicted by radio evangelist Harold Camping. Damn, I guess that means I'll have to make my mortgage payment for the month.

I think Camping simply got the message from God wrong. The message wasn't that the Jesus was coming to call us home to Heaven on May 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm. Instead, the message was to put your money on the horse Shackleford at the Preakness Stakes on May 21, 2011 at 6:18 pm at 12-1 odds ... ridden by jockey Jesus Castanon!

July 4th  sparkler (of doom)

Not to add credence to Camping's continued claim that the end of the world is coming in October 2011, but since Rapture Saturday (May 21) we've had tornadoes in the Midwest (and here in Massachusetts) and volcanic activity in Iceland. It was also announced that the hurricane season is to be quite active. And the doomsday super-volcano under Yellowstone National Park is much larger than first predicted, making Mount St. Helens look like a July 4th sparkler. Sounds like the end of the world to me.

No atheists in bathtubs

Seriously, though, I lived in Indiana for a time, and when that tornado siren goes off at night, and there is no safe place to shelter your kids, it's a sobering moment indeed. Makes you believe in the Almighty mighty quickly. As they say, there are no atheists all huddled in a bathtub ... which, apparently, is the safest place if you don't have a cellar.

NEWS FLASH:::::::::::::::WORLD ENDS!

This just in ... the world ended at 5:05 am EST today while most people were still in bed asleep. According to eyewitness reports, angels appeared for the Rapture, and seeing no one around, returned to Heaven empty-handed.

The end of the world came without the fanfare and trumpets foretold in the Bible, but rather just sort of fizzled out. One witness, an early morning garbage man who saw the end, had this to say:

"First of all, I'm a Sanitation Engineer. Yeah, the end was sorta anti-climatic. It just sorta happened. One minute I was emptying this here barrel into the truck and the next moment, poof! I really expected more...I mean, with everything they tell ya at weekly Mass and back in CCD when you was a kid. I feel kinda ripped-off. Oh well, what the hell else is new. You put a buck in the collection plate every Sunday and this is the best they can come up with?!"

Parlez-moi du fromage

We'll finish with this little ditty we used to sing along the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) as the artists painted and as the poets scribbled and as we sat at a sidewalk cafe and talked and drank wine and ate cheese and ... and ... I'm sorry, I was having a past life regression for a moment there.

(Loosely based on the song Parlez-moi de l'amour. Translation: Speak to me of love)

Parlez-moi du fromage,

parlez-moi du fromage,

sur un petit biscuit,

parlez-moi du fromage.

 

Parlez-moi du fromage,

parlez-moi du fromage,

avec une bouteille de vin,

mais pas tres cher,

pasce que j'ai deux enfants dans l'universite,

parlez-moi du fromage!

Translation:

Speak to me of cheese, speak to me of cheese, upon a small cracker, speak to me of cheese.

Speak to me of cheese, speak to me of cheese, with a bottle of wine,  but not too expensive, ‘cause I've got two kids in college,  speak to me of cheese!

Jack Sheedy

Lacing Up

"Bobby Orr ... behind the net to Sanderson ... to Orr ... Bobby Orr, scores!"

                                                    - Stanley Cup winning goal call by TV announcer Don Earle, May 10, 1970

 

I admit it. I jumped aboard the Bruins Bandwagon. Well ... back in the winter of 1968, that is, when I first laced up a pair of skates at the age of six (with help from Dad, no doubt) and took those first magical strides along a small puddle of ice in the woods behind my childhood home in Braintree, Mass. I was immediately and forever hooked on Boston Bruins hockey.

Watching the B's and rooting for the Black & Gold has formed the backdrop to my life every since...

1970: I clearly remember May 10, 1970. It was a warm Mother's Day afternoon, so warm, in fact, that I took a few runs through the neighbor's lawn sprinkler between the end of the third period and the beginning of overtime, arriving back in my neighbor's living room just in time to see Orr put the puck past legendary St. Louis goalie Glenn Hall, and then fly through the air into Stanley Cup history.

1971: The Bruins broke every scoring record in the NHL record book ... until they ran into Montreal goalie Ken Dryden in the first round of the playoffs.

1972: I fondly recall Game Six of the 1972 finals, when the Bruins and Gerry Cheevers shut out the NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden to win the Cup. I was sitting on the floor in our playroom thinking this is the way it will always be for us Bruins fans going forward - winning the Stanley Cup every other year or so.

1973-2010: Then came the l-o-n-g drought. I actually find it therapeutic to look at each year in succession:

1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

I remember all the heartbreak along that long road - including a couple of Stanley Cup games I attended at the Garden against the Flyers in '74 - four decades of coming up short. But I've enjoyed (nearly) every moment along the way.

2011: Which brings us to June 15, 2011. Game 7. Bruins 4 - Vancouver 0. Personally, I would have been fine if the Bruins never won another Cup in my lifetime. The Cup wins of 1970 and '72 have sustained me thus far. All the playoff loses since never made me love the B's any less. I simply enjoy the noble pursuit each season. I get a genuine thrill every time I see that spoked "B" on my TV screen. Yet I'm glad my Dad got to see another Bruins Stanley Cup victory, and I'm thrilled my son finally got to experience the Black & Gold hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup aloft.

Replay: Over the past few years, readers of my blog have perhaps noticed my hockey-related comments from time-to-time. This Father's Day, just for fun, I've gone back through my past postings and assembled some of those comments here.

So, I leave you with this until the first week of October rolls around, when our boys in Black & Gold lace up their skates for another season ...

 

02/06/07

I just handed down to my son my old goalie catching glove (looks like something Gump Worsley once used). Over the years I lost the "waffle" (nowadays called a "blocker") so I bought a new one for him a couple of weeks ago at Building 19 for just $19.95 - talk about "good stuff cheap." I'm told there's a big game today at the local kettle pond after school.

 

1/15/08

"Sense & Sensibility" and "Jane Eyre" are fine, and I enjoy such writers as Austen and Bronte and Bronte ("Wuthering Heights") and Chopin ("The Awakening"), but sometimes, as a guy, there's nothing like kicking back and watching a good, old hockey game on TV with a brew or two and a bag of roasted peanuts! Go Bruins!!

 

5/2/08

Actually, I'm currently working on a musical based on the life of Trotsky, it's entitled "Trotsky - The Man, The Myth, The Goatee." As for Nevsky, I always thought his victory over the Livonians in the famed "Battle of the Ice" in 1242 had something to do with the Stanley Cup hockey finals -- my mistake.

 

3/26/10

Speaking of Canada, it's my second favorite country after the USA. And besides, Toronto has the Hockey Hall of Fame, which is like a religious shrine to me. I swear, as I stood there before the Stanley Cup amid the old Hall, I got all choked up (and it wasn't the Caesar salad wrap I had for lunch). I'm getting all teary-eyed just thinking about it. Some people have religion. I have hockey.

Oh, I'm sure Jerusalem is something to see - it is the birthplace of three religions, after all - but give me Toronto any day. Sitting at a bar downtown, sipping a pint, watching the Maple Leafs on TV, can you get any closer to the Creator than that? Well, there I go again in another pub.

So to conclude, as Red Green would say, "Keep your stick on the ice." Go B's! Onward to Lord Stanley's Cup! Amen

 

3/26/10

My earlier comment reminded me of the Joni Mitchell song, "Raised on Robbery":
"He was sitting in the lounge of the Empire Hotel,
He was drinking for diversion, he was thinking for himself,
A little money riding on the Maple Leafs..."

Which makes me wonder, shouldn't it be Maple "Leaves"? Then again, shouldn't it be Red Socks instead of Sox? And shouldn't the Boston Celtics be pronounced "Keltics"? And I ponder, were bruins native to the Boston area? Were early settlers of Shawmut (Boston) frequently mauled to death by roaming bears?

 By the way, "Raised on Robbery" continues with:
"It's a shame, it's a crying shame,
Look at those jokers glued to that damn hockey game...
"

Hey, what can you say, hockey rules!

(Next time: I will present my treatise on hockey's relationship to Lent, and how the Stanley Cup playoffs symbolize Christ's ascension to Heaven.)

 

10/28/10

I could do without TV, although I watch the Bruins. Hockey, what a sport. Went to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto last year and will admit that I got all choked up viewing the Stanley Cup. Years ago I got choked up at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and at Gettysburg. I expected to get choked up at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, but it didn't happen. I did get a little choked up in a catacomb, though (perhaps it was claustrophobia).

 

10/28/10

I just got choked up again -- watching Milt Schmidt's #15 being raised to the rafters before tonight's Bruins game.

 

1/16/11

It's funny how things change as you go through life. For instance, in the past I would have been all excited about today's Patriot's game. Oh sure, I want them to win. Who doesn't within the six-state New England region? But these days, football exists somewhere around the peripheral edge of my sphere. The same is true of baseball. I haven't followed the Red Sox in three years.

But hockey...ah, hockey, that's a whole different subject. It's my religion. Always has been. Go Bruins! Onward toward Lord Stanley's Cup!

 

2/2/11

To paraphrase the author Henry Beston, who wrote "The Outermost House":
(From the chapter, "The Headlong Wave")
"The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of the rain, the sound of the wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of a hockey puck ringing off the post."

PS: Beston felt the third great elemental sound was "the sound of the outer ocean on a beach," but I'll still go with a clangor off the post. Go Bruins!

 

3/28/11

(Trading comments with my son, a student at Bridgewater State U)

Thanks for the late-night hockey comment, but ... hmmmm ... don't you have classes in the morning?
Thomas is looking more and more like this year's Vezina winner. GA = 2.00, SAV%=.939. 32 W, 8 SO

 

Happy Father's Day to all the dads who ever laced up!

Jack Sheedy

One ring if by land...

"Listen, my children, and you shall hear,

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five,

Hardly a man is now alive,

Who remembers that famous day and year."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Over Memorial Day weekend I visited Boston for a couple of days, and had a chance to revisit the Freedom Trail, paying my respects at the various historical spots, including Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, the scene of the Boston Massacre, and the Granary Burying Ground (where a number of Patriots are buried, including John Hancock of my hometown of Braintree and James Otis of West Barnstable). Also buried there are Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Paine, and Paul Revere. Further on I visited Revere's house and the Old North Church in the North End before having dinner at a local Italian restaurant.

I grew up in Braintree, where besides Hancock, presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were born, so I was immersed in Revolutionary War history at an early age. But there are some folks out there, perhaps from a non-contiguous state, perhaps attempting to align themselves with American history toward a potential presidential run, who may be visiting our beautiful capital city and are not well versed in ... say ... the midnight ride of Paul Revere, for instance ... thinking that perhaps he was, say, warning the British instead of the local militia, by ringing bells or firing warning shots, no less. I know it sounds farfetched, I mean every schoolchild knows the story of Paul Revere ... One if by land, two if by sea ... The British are Coming! The British are Coming! ... but you never know.

Anyway, as a handy primer to that historic event, I provide here a rerun of something I wrote in this blog back in 2008 that visitors can print out and carry with them as they follow the Freedom Trail.

First, here are two quick Revolutionary War facts to help out:

  • Patriots = the good guys
  • British = the bad guys

 

***

{From my blog entry of 11/09/2008} 

Sometimes becoming part of the annals of American history is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

For instance, in April 1860, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow toured many of the historic spots around Boston, including the old North Church. Since it was April, his poetic mind considered the battles of Lexington and Concord and the now famous ride of Paul Revere.

In his diary for April 5, Longfellow wrote: "We climb the tower to the chime of the bells, now the home of innumerable pigeons. From the tower were hung the lanterns as a signal that the British troops had left Boston for Concord."

Later that month, Longfellow began work on the poem "Paul Revere's Ride," which would later appear in his book Tales of a Wayside Inn. This poem formed the basis for what generations of schoolchildren would learn of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, forever making the Boston silversmith a legendary Patriot. Never mind that some of what Longfellow wrote was not entirely historically accurate -- an American folk legend was born!

Of course, Revere did not ride alone. He and fellow Patriot William Dawes were sent from Boston to carry word to John Hancock and Samuel Adams at Lexington that the British were planning to arrest the two that night. After rowing from Boston to Charlestown, Revere then rode on horseback to Lexington, arriving there at about midnight. Dawes took a different route from Boston, arriving at Lexington around 12:30. There, the two were successful in warning Hancock and Adams in time, and at 1:00 set off for Concord to alert the militia of the British troop movement.

Before leaving Lexington, Revere and Dawes met up with Samuel Prescott, who was heading home after spending the evening with his fiancé. They enlisted Prescott to ride with them. The three got as far as the town of Lincoln, where they encountered British troops. The British detained Revere. Dawes was thrown from his horse as he made his escape. Prescott, alone, dodged the British and made his way to Concord. There, after spreading the word that "the British were coming," he enlisted his 15-year old brother, Abel, to ride for Sudbury and Framingham while he rode on to Acton. Along the way other riders joined the cause. In fact, there were perhaps as many as 40 riders that night alerting the local communities of the British troop movement.

Yet, it was Revere who would become forever immortalized by Longfellow's pen, his persona serving as a conglomerate of the Patriotic spirit inherent in all the riders on that memorable night.

 

***

Next time, we will dispel rumors that the Confederacy won the Civil War.

Jack Sheedy

 

PS: June 17th is the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, which by the way was not an episode of "All in the Family."

PPS: And despite rumors to the contrary, the famous battle cry at Bunker Hill was not "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eggs!"

The Rapture...with Coleslaw

First, a shameless plug for my book before the Rapture occurs.

(Hey, somebody's gotta pay for the afterlife!)

 

What the media has been saying about Cape Odd, my latest book with Jim Coogan:

  •  "Two of Cape Cod's most entertaining historians are back with a collection that takes readers off the beaten path." (Cape Cod Times)
  • "...a wonderful collection of odd, quirky, peculiar and downright weird people, places and stories from Cape Cod's past..." (Cape Codder & Register)
  • "It's a delightful book, full of Cape Cod history -- the trivial and the significant -- all presented in a voice that is playful but not silly, informative but never pedantic..." (Barnstable Patriot)

 

And what was said about our previous book, Cape Cod Harvest:

  • "Reading Cape Cod Harvest is like rummaging through an old steamer trunk discovered in the dark corner of a dusty attic ... every page is packed with facts and fancy ... required reading for every washashore and anyone else with a love for this narrow land." (Cape Codder)
  • "Eclectic collection of stories spices Cape Cod Harvest ... lively and entertaining." (Cape Cod Chronicle)

 

And now, on with the Rapture!!!!!!!

 

Interview

Transcript from a recent local TV interview...

Interviewer (in plaid sports jacket, white shoes, no socks):  "Hello. Today I am talking with local writer, Jack Sheedy, who dreams of winning a Pulitzer someday, but who, at age 48, doesn't have the drive or the ambition or the gumption to actually pursue his dream with any real sense of vigor so he scribbles away at nonsensical stuff in blogs and essays and articles and short stories to create the illusion that he is actually pursuing his dream."

Jack (smiling nervously at the camera):  "Thank you ... for that wonderful introduction."

 

Proofread

Whenever you write,

don't forget to proofread,

for errors are like sharks,

upon laziness they feed,

they swim and they wait,

for that first hint of blood,

they can turn an epistle,

from a winner into a dud,

so check all "its" and "it's,"

and every "there," "their," and "they're,"

when I see errors such as these,

I want to pull out my hair,

and whenever you write,

for God's sake, please spell check,

a misspelling is so ugly,

like a horrible train wreck,

and last but not least,

pay attention to your tense,

he either "is" or he "was,"

a writer should have more sense.

 

Scripture

"When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved (i.e. John, the beloved) he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home...and was immediately scolded by her to clean his room and make his bed or he wasn't going to be getting any supper!" (John 19:26-27)

 

Rapture

"Oh joy, rapture! I've got a brain!"

(spoken by the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz)

 

The Rapture, also known as the End of Days when Jesus calls us home to Heaven, comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which reads as follows (think, standing at an airport gate waiting for your flight to be called):

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trump of God : and the dead in Christ shall rise first (let's consider these folks first class passengers)"

"Then we which are alive and remain (aka economy class) shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

Forever flying around with the Lord! Well, it may not be first class, but just think of the frequent flyer miles we'll be earning!

 

Coleslaw

The morning news reported that a fish truck rolled over on Route 84 at Hartford, CT. Fortunately there were no injuries, but there are fish all over the road. So if you're traveling that route, allow extra time ... and be sure to bring along tartar sauce and coleslaw.

Jack Sheedy

 

Next time: I will present a travelogue of my recent tour of Pompeii ... which, by the way, has been falling down since my visit --I swear to God, I didn't touch a thing!!

 

My books, written with Jim Coogan, can be found through your local CLAMS or OCLN library: Cape Odd (2010) and Cape Cod Harvest (2007), as well as Cape Cod Voyage (2001) and Cape Cod Companion (1999), now both out of print. Or visit www.harvesthomebooks.com

 

Listen to our interview on WCAI's "The Point" (NPR Radio) hosted by Mindy Todd:

www.wgbh.org/wcai/programDetail.cfm?programid=298

Under "Audio" scroll down a ways and click on "The Point: Cape Odd."

Pozzuoli: A Sincere Amen

Easter morning, Jerusalem, 33 A.D. : "And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away : for it was very great. And they exclaimed, ‘Phew...Thank God!'" (Mark 16:2-4)

 

As a finale to my Holy Week tour of Italian churches, in this entry I return to where the tour began, in Pozzuoli, and make a daytrip to Pompeii. I'll allow my travel journal to tell the story...

"At the station in Rome we boarded the train for Napoli - a little more than an hour's sojourn southward through a countryside that at times reminded me of the hills and mountains of New Hampshire. It was a pleasant afternoon as the sun shone upon the uplands and the valleys off in the distance. At other times the vista reminded me of the Midwest, yet with vineyards of grapes instead of fields of corn.

"Arriving at the station in Napoli, we were whisked away by automobile along a trek through the small, narrow streets toward the port city of Pozzuoli, just northwest of Napoli. Smaller and narrower became the roads as the Mediterranean Sea made its appearance to our left and west, narrower until finally we appeared to simply run out of drivable space. We had arrived at our destination.

"Within an hour we were all seated around a table eating our first authentic Italian family meal -- appetizers, followed by a pasta dish, followed by a meat and vegetable dish, followed by fruit and rum cake and gelato. And, of course, wine ... and Italian beer for me."

 

FYI: I covered much about my visit to Pozzuoli

 and its church, Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie,

 in my first entry of this series, Pozzuoli: Chimes at Midnight.

In case you missed it just scroll back. 

 

***

One glorious September day was spent touring Pompeii's ancient ruins, but I'll save the details of that trip for a future blog. Afterwards though, before heading back to Pozzuoli, we toured Our Lady of Pompeii church in the modern city of Pompeii.

"Leaving ancient Pompeii, we stopped at a cathedral in the modern city, a magnificent house of God, staggering in its size, overwhelming in its scope, ornate beyond belief, an overload for the eyes as there was too much to take in all around me and above me upon the ceiling with murals that depict, among other things, various popes down through the ages of the church."

***

"Back in Pozzuoli later that evening, we strolled along the shore road to a family household for a wonderful Italian feast of various cheeses, zucchini, bread, vegetables, and wine. "

On my final morning in Pozzuoli, as I stood outside on the balcony overlooking the street below, and with Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie and her noisy bells off to my right, I opened my travel journal and began to write:

"I wish to conclude here with a little bit about the church at the end of the street -- a key persona in the life of this neighborhood. Although outside her doors is a carnival atmosphere, with shops and espresso bars and drinking establishments and eateries, the church is the neighborhood's spiritual anchor. Its bells toll every quarter hour, reminding everyone within earshot of its presence. You cannot escape her watchful gaze.

 "The church, as I wrote earlier, has a bell tower on its left side which seems to lean slightly toward the center of the church, while the cross at the top of the tower leans a bit toward the opposite direction. I am sure I will see much more magnificent churches and cathedrals in Rome, just as I have already visited more magnificent churches in Napoli, and in Pompeii, yet there is something about this church that will hold a special place for me.

"My first night here I cursed her bells at 2:00 am ... 3:00 am ... 4:00 am ... But now I will miss her nocturnal disturbances. A sincere amen to Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie. And a sincere amen to the neighborhood she watches over."

Happy Easter!

Jack Sheedy

Rome: Search for Inspiration

"And when Joseph (of Arimathaea) had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth.

 And lain it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock :

 and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed."

(Matthew 27:59-60)

 

Our Holy Week tour of Italian churches continues, in Rome.

Rome was certainly not built in a day (I'd say it took at least a fortnight). Yet, I do plan on covering my tour of Rome's churches and basilicas in this one blog entry ... in order to keep on track toward an Easter Sunday finale to this Holy Week series. Toward that end, the bulk of this entry will consist of direct pick-ups from my travel journal, which I wrote in my down time between tours of the city ... and between eating delicious meals ... and between visits to espresso bars.

I went to Rome in search of inspiration. I found it, but not in the place I expected... 

"Our first day touring Rome was a busy one and included visits to a number of the city's more famous places, including, in the morning: Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, Palazzo Madama, Piazzo Navona, St. Peter's Square, and St. Peter's Basilica. Perhaps the highlight of the tour was viewing Michelangelo's famous sculpture, La Pieta, in St. Peter's Basilica."


The Pantheon.

Church of St. Peter in Vincoli.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Pantheon -- Built by Roman statesman Marcus Agrippa in the 1st century B.C. to honor the ancient gods, centuries later it became a Catholic church. Its rotunda is not only circular, but spherical, with an oculus at the dome's zenith. The tomb of the painter Raphael is in the Pantheon.

St. Peter's Basilica -- Built in the latter years of the Renaissance, this basilica, with its magnificent dome, was built over the tomb of the apostle St. Peter, who served as the first Pope. Some of that era's greatest names in art and architecture had a hand in designing this church, including Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini. Its dome, at about 450 feet, is the tallest in the world.

"In the afternoon, we visited Piazza Venezia, the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, the Church of St. Peter in Vincoli (in Chains), and the Colosseum. The highlight of this tour was walking throughout the inside of the Colosseum - simply incredible, and colossal, hence its name. "

Church of St. Peter in Vincoli -- This basilica contains the tomb of Pope Julius II, Michelangelo's famous Moses statue, and a glass case containing the chains that held St. Peter after his arrest by King Herod. Peter later escaped, rescued according to scripture by an angel.

"Saturday. Today was a day of religion, with visits to some of the most sacred locations of Catholicism. In the morning we took a tour of the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. The museums were impressive and a bit overwhelming with artifacts from different ages competing for the attention of our eyes and our minds. It was a wall of people - inside and out - but it was well worth the lines and the shuffling about. Being in a guided tour, our line was a breeze compared with that of the people waiting outside for hundreds of yards and for perhaps hundreds of minutes to gain entrance."

My journal continues: "Of course, the highlight of the Vatican tour was the Sistine Chapel and the artwork of Michelangelo. As for the chapel itself, I found it to be larger than I expected, and darker than I expected. Of the artwork, what can one say? It's Michelangelo - the Creation, the Creation of Adam, Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden, and of course, the Last Judgment. Being so close to such masterpieces was a bit surreal."

Yet, my impression of the Vatican was not all positive: "Sadly, gift shops throughout the Vatican as you make your way about leave you with the impression that it's more about the almighty Euro dollar and less about the Almighty. Instead of feeling inspired, I left feeling a bit like I just visited an amusement park. The gift shops, and the plugs that the tour guides are encouraged to make for this item or that item, whether for a Vatican book or for a Peace Cross designed by Pope John Paul II, left me with an artificial taste in my mouth, and confirmed my doubts and suspicions. I was hoping to find inspiration. Instead, I left somewhat unfulfilled."

The afternoon saw us visit a couple of basilicas, and the catacombs: "Prior to our afternoon tour we stopped at an espresso bar for a pick-me-up. Just a quick shot of caffeine before boarding the bus for a tour of two basilicas - The Basilica of St. John in Lateran and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore."

Basilica of St. John in Lateran - Was the seat of the Papacy before the Vatican. Contains large statues of all twelve apostles (including Paul) in niches located along both sides of the main section of the church.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore - Like the Basilica of St. John in Lateran, this basilica also holds the tombs of past popes. Amazing mosaics and other works of art can be found here, as well as at least one work by Bernini, who is also entombed here.

"Yet, the highlight of today's visits - and perhaps of all the visits thus far in the city of Rome - is to the Catacombs of Santa Domitilla. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Some four stories of catacombs, some 32 meters beneath the ground, something like eleven miles of labyrinth, all beneath a subterranean chapel - like something out of Indiana Jones. Here are buried 3,000 or so early Christians, dating back to about the 4th century A.D. The burial chambers we saw were all empty, earlier pillaged by grave robbers. But in those recesses were buried early Christians in chambers here and there, carved into the rock, with tunnels connecting the various chambers.

"One 4th century burial site contained a beautiful fresco of Saints Paul and Peter above, as well as another fresco hidden below - a depiction of the 11 apostles (less Judas), along with St. Paul, and with Jesus in the center. This early painting does not depict the long-haired, bearded Jesus of later Renaissance paintings, but a Jesus with short hair and without a beard. It is perhaps a closer-to-the-truth rendition of Jesus, painted just a few hundred years after his death.

"Climbing back up to ground level, I realized I had found my source of inspiration. The grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica, and the grandeur of the other magnificent basilicas and cathedrals, presents an image of the church as overstuffed and overwhelming, with soaring ceilings, out of reach for the average person. Yet here, underground, within simple crevices carved into the rock here and there by early Christians, where they buried their dead protected from the Romans within the sanctuary of this burial ground, here rests the true spirit of the church.

"Before all the statues and the marble columns and painted ceilings and golden chalices and all the other various trappings meant to honor God, before all these things were these simple holes in the rock along tunnel walls meters below the surface, wherein the flesh and bone of the early believers were lovingly placed to sleep until the final judgment, and their reward."

Jack Sheedy

PS: I will conclude this series on Easter Sunday with a return to the port city of Pozzuoli.

Pages