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Super Sunday? Scary Sunday!

3 Feb


It’s Super Bowl weekend in Boston. Let me say that again. It’s Super Bowl weekend. In Boston.

I’m going to admit this publicly–wait, let me pull the shades first so no one can see me typing this: I am not a Patriots fan.

I’m not a fan of most Boston teams, to be honest. Bruins excepted. I don’t really care about basketball, so I am neither here nor there on the Celtics. I’m not a Red Sox fan because I don’t believe in the American League, and I don’t like the Patriots, because–and let me completely date myself here–Super Bowl XX, da Bears 46, the Patriots 10. Never mind that the Bears today are playing more like the Chicago Chipmunks and that the Pats are clearly one of the best teams in the game.

But I just can’t like them. Much like my philosophy on baseball, I am not a fan of the AFC, although, unlike baseball, there’s no good reason except the fact that I grew up near an NFC team. Still, loyalty runs deep, and I’m not prone to root for

The other big reason I don’t like the Pats is because Boston fans can get violent really quickly, no matter what the sport. Last year, the Boy and I took his Pistons-loving mom to the Celtics-Pistons game and happened to be sitting in front of a bunch of Pistons fans (good deal for us). A couple of Celtics fans about seven rows down started getting into it with these Detroit fans, yelling back at us throughout the game. When the Pistons won, one of them actually wanted to fight these guys. Are you kidding me?! Fighting someone because “your” team lost?!

The Pats fans are even scarier because of the cult of personality surrounding Tom Brady, quarterback, ball deflator, Mr. Giselle Bundchen, nightshade avoider, or GOAT, depending on what you think. To fans, he’s “Tommy.”

The Boy and I went to our favorite bar for dinner one Sunday last year, and we stumbled into the end of the Pats-Giants game. The Patriots were still undefeated at this point, and New York was ahead. The bar was packed, and people were going crazy yelling for Brady. Think your classic blue-collar Boston accent begging, “C’mon Tommy!” One man in his twenties was close to tears at the concept of a loss. The Pats pulled it out at the end, and we avoided being stuck in a crowd of disappointed Pats fans. That experience was eye-opening to us, and one reason we don’t like being out when the Pats are playing.

It’s not just the guys though. Pats fans are equal-opportunity scary. I recently joined a curling club, and one of the other new members is a big Pats fan. When I wore a Pitt sweatshirt the week before the playoff game against the Steelers, she warily asked if I was a fan. I quickly realized my mistake in wardrobe choices.

As the Pats secured their place in the Super Bowl, we got to see her Pats designer purse, her special Patriots manicure–and the shirts that she wouldn’t wear when they were actually playing (no one in her family does) because if she did, they would lose.

Oh, I get it. Every team has crazy fans–I mean, even Chicago has funky super fans, and fans of every team have odd superstitions that they follow to a T so their team will win–but I’ve never felt the dangerous edge to that fandom that I feel here.

I finally realized my fear yesterday when I was on the phone with a client in Atlanta. When we started talking about the football game, I found myself hunching over my phone so no one would hear me talk. I work alone. In a home office. There’s likely no chance that even anyone walking by would hear me (notice how I say “likely no chance”).

But I can’t live my life in fear, so I’m speaking out now. I won’t cheer for the home team on Sunday. Instead, I’ll lock myself inside on Sunday with some good football snacks and silently root for Atlanta, because even if da Bears can’t be there, the NFC should win.

Postcard from Boston

27 Jan

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When, during the week, the email updates said the numbers of registered marchers grew from 44,000 to more than 90,000, it didn’t sink in. When the commuter rail train only stopped to let people off and not let anyone on because the train was so full that they had to add another train to come and get us, it didn’t sink in. When we were finally on the train, looking at the sister protest marches in Europe, it didn’t sink in. When we walked into Boston Common and couldn’t get close enough to the dais to even hear anything, it didn’t sink in (I couldn’t even tell you where in the park the speakers were, to be honest).

But when we walked up the hill and out of the park to line up on Beacon Street to march and got a clearer view across the Common, that’s when I saw just how massive the Boston Women’s March for America was, and I’ve got to be honest, I was a little overwhelmed at the outpouring of voices who are tired of being marginalized–and not just women. We were all tired–tired of being told that we’re not good enough, that human rights were not fit for us–and we’re done being tired and are ready to speak out and make change.

The march itself was a long day–as we stood around waiting to march, we’d heard that the Chicago protest was so large that they couldn’t march anymore. Looking around, we wondered if that would happen to us too, but it did happen. Two hours after the speeches ended, we stepped off, and it took us an hour to get through the one-mile march. We weren’t even anywhere near the end of the masses either–it just kept going.

As we marched, people chanted all around us. A brave female Trump supporter stood on a stoop and waved to the crowd. People stood on balconies and rooftops, posted signs in windows. Busloads of people who came in for the event were stuck parked there–high schoolers hung out the window of one bus to lead us in chants. A busload of women in their 70s lined up next to their bus, watching us with tears and gratitude in their eyes.

The best moment, however, may have been walking by the Arlington Street Church. ASC has a set of hand-rung steeple bells, and people were up in the steeple ringing them. We first noticed when we heard “Happy Birthday” peal out across the street (no fooling–we had no idea why they’d play “Happy Birthday”), but then they launched into “The Star Spangled Banner.” Those of us walking by the church sang along, cheering as it ended and we rounded the corner to the home stretch.

Overall, it was a good day, a peaceful day. An estimated 175,000 people showed up and created millions of moments that we’ll all remember, but those millions of moments need to come together to continue this work and bring about more equality in our nation. I hope we’re all ready for an interesting ride through history.

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I, Influencer (or, How Did I Get on this List?)

2 Dec

Yesterday started out with a round a questioning from the Boy:

“Where are you going again tonight?”

“I’m going to CambridgeSide to an Influencers’ holiday party.”

“How are you an ‘Influencer’ again?”

How am I an Influencer?! What kind of question is that? Is this not the face of an Influencer?

International woman of awesomeness!

This person makes you want certain stuff and things.

 

 

 

 

No? Well, how about this?

Yeah! This girl is on. Point!

Want to be me, or else!

 

 

 

 

 

Still no? One more try:

No, seriously, I'm looking at something so amazing. You should want that something.

There are no words for this level of influence.

 

Needless to say, the folks at CambridgeSide thought I was an Influencer, bless them, and put me on the list for this holiday shindig. Since there’s a party involved, I’m going, and I’m going to roll with the ambiguity of why I’m actually invited or who even found me. This time, I’m going to do it right. Admittedly, last time I didn’t do it completely wrong, but I certainly knew that I could’ve worked it a lot better.

See, the last time I found myself invited to a place I know I didn’t belong, was several years ago when I lived in Chicago and Chicago was bidding to host the 2016 Olympics. One of the big Chicago business councils–the kind where all of the bigwigs get together and promote business within the city–held a luncheon with Mayor Daley and then-International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge. A bunch of former Olympic stars came out to support the event, and it was a big deal, particularly since a lot of companies had a big interest in helping the Olympics come to Chicago.

A bunch of higher ups in my office decided to go, and since I love the Olympics, I jumped at the chance. The Boy also decided to come along and check out the scene. We left work kind of late so that we’d hit the end of the mingling portion and be there for the lunch part. But that turned out to be a mistake.

When we checked in at the registration table, they found the Boy’s name, they found my co-workers’ names, but they couldn’t find mine. We slid down a few people to a different registration list, where the check-in lady found my name and said, “You’re supposed to be down in the VIP room.”

Wait, what?! VIP list? How did I…?

But there was no time for questions because another person was whisking me away to a downstairs room where some of the city’s heavy hitters were hanging out and waiting to say a little private hello to Jacques. And then there was me.

Thankfully I had ironed my cheap chinos and button-down shirt that morning. And maybe my makeup hadn’t worn off. The sad thing is that I knew I didn’t fit in, and I let that thought take center stage in my brain. I latched onto some wine and talked to a couple of people–one of whom was one of the more influential priests in the city and took pity on me enough to sit next to me at lunch, as VIPs also got prominent seating in the middle of the room.

I learned a few things that day:

  • Being a VIP means you’re likely turning down dessert in order to maintain your VIP figure.
  • If the mayor repeatedly mispronounces the guest of honor’s name, it might not bode well on your future chances of winning the Olympics.
  • If you find yourself in a place where you have no idea how you got put on “the list,” say yes to it and fake belonging as best you can, because maybe you actually do belong there and you owe yourself the courtesy of actually believing in yourself for a change.

But back to my being an Influencer. Yes, that’s right. Me. Jill. Influencer. With a party to attend.

I got to the mall way before the party started, so I walked around every level to kill time…and kill a little more of my Christmas shopping list. I played the “one for you, one for me” game, buying a gift for someone and then a glittery polka dot sweater for me, since I realized I have to go to a fun party this weekend and had nothing appropriate to wear. TJMaxx to the rescue–I found it, tried it on and was out the door in 10 minutes or less!

The party itself was a nice way to start December–we got to see holiday fashions, test MAC lipstick if we wanted, have snacks courtesy of some of the mall’s restaurants, get a swag bag and participate in a Yankee swap grab bag. And we got to take pictures with this guy:

I *have* been good this year, Santa!

Big Influencer hero, Mr. S. Claus.

Which isn’t really even a fancy Influencer-type perk, since the mall’s giving away pictures with Santa this year.

So did I belong there? Sure!

I think.

I was a first-timer, so I had that insecurity that you have whenever you’re someplace for the first time and don’t know people like everyone else seems to know people. I don’t vlog, so I wasn’t one of those who were instantly Snapchatting or whatever it was that they were doing with video.

But I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong, so that’s something. And that’s at least influential to me.

Two Women I Want to Be

11 Nov

On Election Day, I work the polls because I love being a part of the process, and I love watching people exercise their right to vote. [this year my polling place had a voter who came straight from his naturalization ceremony. Talk about a tearjerker!]

This year, I worked in Newton, MA, which is a pretty wealthy and liberal town and was a warden at a polling place in a community center. The warden is the manager in charge of the precinct, makes sure things go smoothly and takes care of all of the unusual situations, such as provisional and inactive voters.

An aside: Hey, guess what! If you don’t fill out your city census, the city doesn’t know that you still live there and will list you as an inactive voter, which means you’re flagged for being taken off of the rolls soon. Don’t complain about your lack of carelessness in forgetting to return the city census; don’t assume they’re going to take the time and taxpayer money to knock on your door and make sure you still live there; just fill out this little confusing form that makes you repeat your address and city a few times, and it’s gonna be all good!

Anyway, during the day, I got to interact with a couple of women who are the type of woman I want to be when I grow up: Ageless.

The first came in to vote, and she’s friends with the clerk (the #2 at the precinct). Dressed super-nattily*, glistening white hair. I look on as they chat:

Clerk: Are you going to aqua zumba?

Heroine #1: Not today. I’ve got cancer, so I’ve got to go to a treatment. [shrugs]

Shrugs!

They make a little more small talk, and after H1 leaves, the clerk turns to me and says, “Guess how old she is.”

“I don’t know…..70s?”

“She’s 90.”

Ninety. Looks in her 70s only because her hair is so white. Otherwise, I would’ve said 60s. Still driving, still doing her thing. Oh, and the cancer? Second time she’s had it, and her attitude is basically that you get the treatments, you get through it and move on.

But wait! There’s more!

One of the inspectors in my crew is a true gem. She’s been doing elections for decades (since the polling place was over at the Jewish school, but when they went kosher, they didn’t want the precinct to be there anymore because they didn’t want the food contamination–see, the history you learn, even if no one remembers when exactly that was), and was sometimes quick to remind me that she’s been doing this a long time.

Patriotic spirit? Whoa! Heroine #2 dresses for every election–this time it was navy pants, white blouse, navy sweater vest. Red necklace and earrings, American flag scarf, navy beret. Boy, I was envious of how she was able to pull off that beret!

Stamina? Most of the people I work with (old or young) start flagging at the end of the day. Not H2! She was still sharp and feisty at 9:00 — maybe a little crankier, but then so was I.

Age? Ninety-four. Also still drives. Sure, in the middle of the day, she put her cane–which she needs mostly for stairs–on the top of the car and drove off, losing it, but who hasn’t done something like that? I seriously think that if I went into this precinct in a decade, she’d still be sitting at the check-in table, checking people in with lightning speed.

These two ladies gave me some hope on Tuesday, and right now, that’s some hope in times where it seems that hopelessness might take over for a while.

*Note: Super-natty dressing might be a hard thing for someone who wears a lot of jeans and t-shirts, but I can learn. Thank goodness I started that subscription to Vogue.

A Little Buble Goes a Long Way

1 Apr

Over the last couple of weeks my laptop’s power cord has been on the fritz. Getting the connection between the wall socket and the computer to flip on took a lot of bending, finessing and cajoling the wires inside to please do their thing. They were compliant for a little while, but yesterday, it had had enough. No matter where I plugged in, no matter how I bent the cord, it wasn’t going to charge my laptop. And then like any person who has to get some work done right away, I drained the battery.

This meant I had to go to the Apple store to get a new cord. I live outside of Boston, just on the edge of convenient public transportation, so getting to an Apple store, my options of which were Cambridge or downtown Boston–and more importantly, home again–involves planning around train and bus schedules.

So I took the train downtown and got my errand done in all of a half hour. Since I had time to kill before my train home and I rarely have a weekday afternoon where I can hang around the city, I thought it was as good a time as any to play hooky and do something fun. Like see the ladies short program at the World Figure Skating Championships.

One balcony ticket later and I was sitting pretty, catching the last couple of skaters in Group 2. The afternoon session consisted of seven groups of five to six skaters each. Each skater has up to 2:50 to complete her short program, and it has to contain certain technical elements. Go over that time limit, and you get a deduction for up to every five seconds you’re over. Figure skating don’t play–it’s got a schedule to keep!

In Group 3, Aleksandra Golovkina from Lithuania kicked things off with a short program set to Michael Buble’s version of “Feeling Good.” Aleksandra didn’t have a great outing–she ended up in 33rd place, which put her well out of qualifying for the long program (the top 24 skaters get to skate in the finals, which, for the rest of the group, makes it an awfully long journey for two minutes and 50 seconds of competition).

Three skaters later, Germany’s Nathalie Weinzierl took the ice. The music started, and I heard an oddly familiar “Sun in the skyyyyy.” I’d been focused on keeping track of score (like you do) and was starting to track season best times as well, so I was kind of engrossed in my paperwork. Still, I thought, Didn’t I just hear this?

Then I heard someone groan behind me, “This is the third time we’ve heard this song.”

I instantly thought, Man, am I glad I missed the first group. Turns out that not only did France’s Mae Berenice Meite use it, but Great Britain’s Kristen Spours kicked off the competition with a different singer’s version of the same song. [Note: None of these skaters qualified for the long program. Guess the judges weren’t feeling good about their performances–Ba dump bump – ching!]

Luckily for us and the judges (as a fellow sports official, I generally have some sympathy for what officials in any sport have to go through, and repeatedly listening to the skating hit of the moment has to be one of the tougher aspects of judging ice skating), no one else Bubled it up the rest of the afternoon. I kept track of that too.

The rest of the afternoon was hits and misses when it came to music. When you’re watching about three dozen skaters, music becomes an important element–at least for the skater to differentiate and endear herself to the crowd. All the classical music I heard was lovely, but I don’t necessarily remember it. In looking at skaters who qualified, there were many who I thought did very well at the time, but I don’t remember them. Zijun Li from China smashed her season best score by five points and is sitting in 11th place, but I can’t place her and perhaps that’s because her music, while fitting, was some classical music that sounded a lot like some of the other classical music that other skaters used.

Who stood out to me? Those who used something different, preferably upbeat, that wasn’t the same style that we heard all afternoon long. Hearing Michael Buble-esque stuff gets old. I also don’t mean making you remember it because you’ve tied it in to who you are. How many Anastasias get conned into skating to music from the cartoon “Anastasia” (much like poor Anastasia Galustyan)?

No. The skaters I got jazzed about had interesting, generally uptempo music–or partway through, their music changed and picked up (I kind of love good music shifts in ice skating music. When you’re around fans who really know a skater’s routine and start to cheer when they get to a particular music, it’s exciting). Amy Lin‘s “Slumdog Millionaire” routine was one of my favorites because it picked up tempo at the right spot. Elizabet Tursynbaeva’s “I Got Rhythm” routine used a fun version of the song, and she interpreted it fantastically (I’d say watch for these two to get even better in the coming years–they killed it yesterday).

The most memorable performance for me though wasn’t Gracie Gold’s winning short program. Maybe my endurance was flagging by the time she came on. She was great, yes, but I don’t really remember how well she did. Instead, I’m stuck on Ashley Wagner’s performance, set to “Hip Hip Chin Chin.” Not only did she nail it, topping her season best by nearly three points, she had such great choreography and had so much fun skating and interpreting that music, and that was completely infectious–even up in the balcony. It’s a song that I currently have on repeat–and for the introduction to that song and group, I’m feeling good right now.

It’s certainly better than feeling Bubled.

 

Will Run for High Fives

4 Jan

While I was out doing a New Year’s Day 5K last Friday, I came up with my running challenge for 2016. Now, I don’t consider myself a runner runner, but I like to do several 5Ks a year, mostly because a 5K is a way to get a half-hour (or so) of cardio in and you go someplace (even if it’s a big circle). Doing a bunch of 5K runs gives you something to work toward, and the races are good points of progress throughout the year. And maybe more importantly, if you do enough races, you build up an extensive wardrobe of t-shirts and other gear.

Now, I’m sure some of you might not think “doing it for the t-shirt,” is a really great reason to spend a lot of money on fancy running shoes and insoles and pound the pavement regularly, but I don’t always do it for the t-shirt. Sometimes I do it for the post-race snack or beer.

Oh wait, did you think I would say that I run for the health benefits and for some sort of inner peace that I get from escaping my desk chair and running all over the world? Fat chance. I’m also the person who spent five figures on grad school for equal parts getting to wear the master’s robe at graduation and getting to move to Chicago….oh, and yeah, because I was somewhat interested in library science as a way to earn a living. Of course I run for the benefits–all of them–and “health benefits” are as far down my list as library science was.

Anyway, I’ve noticed at 5Ks that you’ll sometimes get little groups of spectators. Some of these people are stuck in traffic (and are angry because they had no idea a 5K was happening that morning), but some of them are there to watch the race. Sometimes they’re friends of the runner out to support them, but sometimes, they’re just watching to watch. And that’s what puzzles me. Why watch a 5K? There are a million of them every week–it’s not a huge deal like a marathon. Why do random spectators watch a run-of-the-mill road race?

I’m not sure, but I’ve decided that my new running challenge will be to make people happy that they decided to be along the side of the road when I run by: I’m going to high five as many spectators as possible.

I’ll have rules for this of course–I’m not going to get in other runners’ way by beelining from the center of the road to the gutter. I’m also not going to weave back and forth trying to slap every hand that’s there.  My personal time is somewhat important to me, but let’s face it — I’m not winning anything, not even my age group until I’m in the 80-89 category, if I’m lucky. When you live in Massachusetts, you quickly find out how many real runners are around these parts. A couple of years ago I was excited to move up an age group because it meant I might place better. NOPE. Folks are serious about their long distance runs here. Heck, there was a guy who could’ve been in his late 60s–or he could’ve been a well-preserved late 70-something–running without a shirt on New Year’s Day in 40-degree weather. That’s no chump.

Anyway, if I’m out there pounding the pavement, stuck in the back of the pack, watching the people with their baby strollers race past me like it’s no big deal, I might as well have some fun with it. I consciously made an effort to do this during this New Year’s Day run the Boy and I did (free socks!), and while I think some of the kids were a little perplexed that a stranger wanted to high five them, I have to say that the energy they gave me put a little pep in my next few steps and kept me going. I certainly appreciated that too–when you spend good chunks of the race thinking, “Where in the heck is mile 1?” and, “No, seriously, we’re only at mile 2? I’ve still got a good ten more minutes of this crap?” and, “Wait. Are we going uphill again?” mixed in with whatever one fast-paced song that’s running a continuous loop in your head for 30 whole minutes (usually my brain mashes up most of the “Run Lola Run” soundtrack. This race I only had T. Swizzle’s sick beat in my head. For the entire three-point-one miles), you appreciate the good will that a cheering spectator brings–even if they don’t think they’re really there to cheer for you.

So if you happen to be at a race I’m running in the near future (I’ll definitely be doing the Cambridge 5K series this year), look for me and hold out your hand like a fun spectator–I’ll be sure to slap you some appreciation.

 

My Trusty Steed

19 Nov

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This year I’ve had to get back in the saddle–the bike saddle, that is. Back in the day, when I lived in Chicago, I was a somewhat dedicated bike commuter, and I had no problem riding my bike around the city.

Moving to Massachusetts changed some of that — true, I tended to ride less because the Boy doesn’t have a bike (it’s no fun to do long, leisurely rides on your own), but living in a place where the drivers are flat-out lousy really scared me out of riding much. But needing to live better scared me back into it.

I used to have access to our car during the weekday, and I tended to fit in most of our errands during the week so we could avoid weekend store crowds and traffic. The Boy commuted by train to his job and got a little bit of reading time.

Well, that changed this year when the Boy’s office shuttle service disappeared. The train station isn’t near the office, and to be honest, adding the price of a cab ride onto the cost of a train ticket wouldn’t be any cheaper than driving. So he took the car, and if I need to go anywhere during the workday, I have to figure out how to get there.

For a while, I walked to wherever I was going, and if it was really far, I hopped on a bus or commuter rail. This often took a lot of planning — a 30-minute physical therapy session often required a couple of hours round trip on the bus, because the bus schedule is a little more sporadic where I live. Even walking to the nearest grocery store meant budgeting a minimum of one hour–and that’s if I flew through the store. And I could only take home as much as I could carry, which meant “not much.”

“But Jill, why didn’t you just start doing your shopping at nights and on weekends, like everyone else?”

I’ve seen you people. I might slit my wrists if I had to battle everyone else on a Saturday. Even weeknight shopping can be a combination of many near-miss car accidents, long lines and irritable people who just want to get home. And I say this with a lot of experience doing grocery shopping during senior citizen hours, when a busload of seniors gets dropped off at the store for their weekly shop and then only know how to move slowly and have their carts take up entire aisles [the bonus of shopping during senior citizen hours is that it’s a reminder to go home and exercise so that I maintain some strength and mobility and hopefully age more slowly]. Plus, the Boy hates errands, so why burden his free time with them if I don’t really have to?

Anyway, this summer I got tired of how small my world had gotten due to the limitations of walking, so I pulled on my big girl pants and started riding my bike on the mean streets of Massachusetts, where if the potholes, garbage and debris in the roads aren’t going to get you, the Massholes might.

Even though it’s scary–and the Boy worries like crazy–my trusty steed and I go out on an almost daily basis. I still mainly do errands, but I’ve learned how to carry 100 empty bottles and cans to return them to a recycling redemption center. I’ve managed to tote a bunch of office supplies in my saddle bag and lug 22 pounds of groceries four miles–while a massive truck towing a bulldozer sped past me (honking furiously, like I could magically jump the curb)–all while managing to get the eggs home in quite decent shape. And I’ve learned how to rig up bungee cords to attach big boxes onto my back rack so I don’t have to awkwardly walk them to UPS.

All in all, since mid-August, I’ve put 150 miles on my bike (and that’s with me being out of town a lot), and gained about the same amount of confidence. Even though it’s getting colder and is a lot less fun to ride, the freedom the bike gives me is totally worth it. I try really hard not to be a cyclist Masshole who runs red lights and stop signs, and I still fear that some idiot is going to hit me some day. But I can’t not get out there and live the better life that the bike gives me.

 

#SuperBloodMoon – The Transcript

28 Sep

In doing a quick look at the all-important Twitter this morning, I noticed that no one seems to have live-tweeted the #SuperBloodMoon eclipse last night. This was a big opportunity missed–I’m sure that if I had posted just the right pithy or moving tweet, news reporters everywhere would’ve jumped on it and given me some good exposure.

That’s not to say that I can’t share my distinctly special take on the lunar eclipse with the handfuls of readers who tune in (or accidentally click on) this blog. Here’s how it went down outside of Boston, MA:

Jill (pausing the DVR on “Project Runway”): It’s 10:00! Time for Super Blood Lunar Eclipse!

The Boy: I don’t think that’s exactly what it’s called.

Jill dashes out front door.

Jill: You can see it!

The Boy comes outside and stands by Jill on the front walkway. The moon is about halfway covered up at this point.

The Boy: Wow. It already started.

Someone across the street hacks up a lung.

The Boy: Let’s see if we can see this in the backyard.

They dash to the back of the house. The view from the back porch is perfect.

Jill: Wow, that’s amazing.

The Boy: Yeah. That’s amazing. Where are my binoculars?

Jill: I don’t know. They’re your binoculars. Maybe in the front closet.

The Boy goes back inside, quickly finds the binoculars and comes back outside.

The Boy (through the binoculars): It’s so cool. Want to see? You might need to adjust the focus.

Jill holds the binoculars up to her eyes.

Jill: That’s so cool. I think the shadow is starting to move past.

She fiddles around with the focus and hands the binoculars back to the Boy.

The Boy: What did you do to these?

Jill: Sorry.

The Boy fixes the focus again.

The Boy: No, it’s almost covered up.

He hands the binoculars back to her.

Jill: Oh, you’re right. Let’s go back in and watch some TV.

******

Repeat a few times. I won’t do that here, because really, time-lapse photography was a much better way to experience this event, rather than reading our lame conversation and my eventual bad attempts at jokes (you really don’t want to read those). Right now, I bet you’re looking around your shoulder for Robert Goulet.

I’m not saying that the eclipse wasn’t cool–it totally was, and I even succumbed to the lure of taking a picture on my phone, knowing that the massive 4.0X magnifying power of the lens wasn’t going to be anywhere near something like these gems. See?

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There’s a tiny red sliver around the center of this photo. SuperBloodMoon eclipse! Think I should enter NASA’s photo contest? Think I’m delusional enough to?

Still, sometimes you can’t beat the wonder of science. We got lucky and for once had clear skies to see this pretty amazing occurrence–which isn’t going to happen again for a VERY LONG TIME, even though it seems like we’re always having eclipses, each of which is very special and different and won’t happen again for a VERY LONG TIME–probably not in your lifetime–so you’d better hope for good weather, or else you are missing out on life.

Or at least something pretty spiffy to look at and not necessarily talk about.

Getting on the Right Side of the Law

25 Sep

Citizen Police Officer (in Training) Jaracz reporting for duty!

Wait — what? Jill, the closest you’ve ever really gotten to policing is talking about cop cars. Are you really training to be some sort of authoritative police person taking down criminals and busting jaywalkers in Massachusetts?

Well, as nice as it sounds to crack down on pedestrian crime (which is a topic for another post because pedestrian right of way is taken to a whole new level of crazy here in Massachusetts), no.

No, for the next twelve weeks I’ll be attending Citizen Police Academy, a program in the ‘Ham (what the Boy and I call our town) that teaches citizens about all the different things the police do in our community. It’s a pretty extensive way to do some educational outreach, but I imagine it goes a long way toward building rapport between citizens and the police officers (and hey, I get to see my tax dollars at work).

There are about 30 of us in Class 27, and we range from high schoolers who are interested in becoming cops to college students majoring in criminal justice to groups of neighbors who decided to take it together. One guy’s a repeat customer–took it ten years ago and wanted to see how things have changed. I’m here because one of my neighbors went through it and said it was really interesting.

How interesting? Well, during our first class we visited the training gun range, the intake area, the cell blocks, and the main on-duty/monitoring room. I learned that cops have gun training twice a year, and they’ll train for extreme weather conditions. The ‘Ham uses bean bag rifles for deescalation purposes. An officer hasn’t fired his weapon at someone in the line of duty for many years.

I also learned that if you want to drive after drinking, it’s good to make sure that you have $40 on you and that you’re wearing (or carrying) socks. The $40 will get you out of the cell block, and the socks will protect your feet while you’re in the cell block. They take your shoes away when they put you in a cell, and the floor is pretty nasty.

Actually, the cells are pretty nasty, especially the women’s. They each contain a cot (no blanket) and a toilet. There’s a phone where they can make collect calls (good story–they’ve had detainees call the station while they’re sitting in the cell block and just say, “You assholes!”). The men’s cell block is made out of plexiglass-covered bars–because you can’t have the bars exposed, since someone might try to kill themselves–but the women’s cells are solid walls with a solid door that has a small window at the top. And they smell. I’d imagine it’s pretty easy to go nuts in there (ladies, no matter how cute the shoes are and how small your purse is, carry socks!)

However, the Commonwealth mandates that officers check on people in the cell blocks every 30 minutes. The ‘Ham checks on them every 15. Perhaps that alleviates some of the stress.

When we toured the men’s block, there were a couple of prisoners in there, detained for whatever reason (no bail, no bail yet, have to wait until court’s open, etc.), and you could tell they weren’t too thrilled to see a big group of law-abiding citizens parading through, trying to avoid eye contact.

The other very important thing I learned was that if you jaywalk, you could be fined. One dollar. Multiple offenders? Those next offenses will also set you back $1 per offense. The only reason the sergeant who told us this knew about it because he writes the grants for pedestrian safety in the ‘Ham and had to look it up. No officer in their right mind would be ticketing pedestrians. What a waste of time.

If my citizen policery came with any actual powers though, I’d be spending my patrol time writing those tickets. “Crosswalk’s five feet away, ma’am. Let this one dollar ticket be a stern reminder to use it next time!”

So my twelve weeks of fun begin. On the schedule are visits to the 9-11 center, defensive tactics, field sobriety/breathalyzers, violence prevention, elder affairs, S.W.A.T. and more. We also get to shoot Glocks and go on a ride along. It’s going to be an exciting fall, my friends!

Weird Spontaneity

3 Jun

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Yesterday I was supposed to go to roller derby scrimmage. That’s my practice time–and I’d intended to use that time to get used to the new plates I had put on my roller skates.

Except that I needed a ride, and when I was asking around, one of the skaters said they weren’t going to scrimmage because they were going to see Weird Al at the Wilbur Theater. I mentioned this to the Boy, who said, “Weird Al’s in town? Oh, man!”

Quick, to the Interwebs! Al’s 7:00 show was sold out, but tickets were still available for the 10:00 show. I also had a Ticketmaster gift card burning a hole in my wallet, so after a little deliberation, I decided to skip practice, the Boy would hightail it home after a late conference call, we’d eat dinner quickly and head downtown. For a late concert. On a Tuesday.

We haven’t done something that spontaneous in a while, so it was a pretty awesome feeling, not to mention an awesome show. We’ve both seen Al a few times, and he really knows how to perform. Lots of new songs and parodies, several medleys, his latest polka, and a bunch of old parodies reworked (“Eat It” to the acoustic version of “Layla,” for example). Lots of costume changes, but that left room for a great video reel, including a trailer for “Weird,” the Al biopic that really needs to be produced (it was doubly funny to us because we just finished watching “Breaking Bad” and had been talking about how good Aaron Paul was as Jesse Pinkman. He also does a great Al).

After the show, I waited in line for merch, which isn’t something I normally do. I have a million t-shirts, so I don’t need another one, and the non-clothing items aren’t usually interesting to me. Except Al’s latest album “Mandatory Fun” was on vinyl, and even though I don’t currently own a record player, the second I saw it, I knew I had to buy it. Why? I had to see if he continued the tradition of putting a little message on the vinyl between the grooves and the label.

I discovered this back in junior high, when I was hanging out at my friend Tracee’s house and we were looking at an Al album. While flipping the vinyl around, Tracee noticed that it said, “Eat your broccoli!” in that little space. What?! On the other side it said, “An accordion is a terrible thing to waste.” We quickly looked at our other Al albums, and they all had a little message in that space. It was the best Easter egg discovery.

I couldn’t even wait until we got to the car before I slit the plastic wrapping and wrangled the album and liner notes out (oh, man, I forgot about liner notes! And it’s incredibly weird to see only 5-7 songs per side–it’s not one big playlist?), all with the Boy warning me to be careful and not break the record. Sadly, no such messages with this album. It’s kind of a bummer–though not a complete waste. I’ll find a way to listen to the vinyl and it came with a digital download. It’s honestly a nice souvenir too–I’d forgotten the fun of vinyl records, and I’m looking forward to listening to the scratch of the needle as it settles into the groove.

It was weird to take away a normal Tuesday and replace it with something fun, but I’m awfully glad we did it. Even though it made for a rough morning, it was a good kick in the pants to keep an eye out for those little opportunities to enjoy life a little more.

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