Monday, November 30, 2009

Eastie company helps with energy decisions

Today's Boston Herald gives some ink to a small local business that is "getting national attention for its youthful take on clean energy," according to the story. Emergent Energy Group began with a few college students in 2007. They're still a small operation -- located at 61 Maverick Street -- but the company will bring in around a quarter-million dollars this year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finding Unity in Maine has an interesting story about several Amish families moving into the small Maine town of Unity, which is 90 miles or so northeast of Portland. Central Maine is beautiful, rugged, generally undeveloped and often struggling economically. The Amish have been able to find some relatively inexpensive land and neighbors that admire their lifestyle.

I've been to Unity to attend the Common Ground Country Fair, an annual event that celebrates organic farming and rural living in general. It's an interesting event, with music and food and cool exhibits.

I'm also intrigued by the Amish. I'm not down with their hardcore religious beliefs and the strict patriarchy they usually observe, but there is a great deal to be said for living more simply and closer to the earth. (Disclaimer in advance of sneers: Yes, I own a car, PC, laptop, cell phone, etc.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tweeting locally

If you use Twitter you might want to add East_Boston to the list of those you follow (check it out at There's also the good folks at on Twitter at EBDotCom (

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Santarpio's North?

Until now, the legendary Santarpio's name has been safeguarded: no other locations and no retail products. It seems, however, that the family has purchased the site of the former Bennigan's on Route 1 in Peabody and they intend to call the new place Santarpio's. After renovations, the eatery is scheduled to open in March. It's unclear so far how similar the menu will be to the landmark East Boston restaurant.

'so that we might...rejoice together'

From A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimoth in New England (commonly known as Mourt's Relation) by Edward Winslow, published in London in 1622:
...our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The origin of Origin

Charles Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species, was published 150 years ago today and it has been a hugely important work ever since. Some news sites -- still under the impression that being fair means giving equal time to those whose viewpoints have no basis in fact -- are saying that the debate still rages on; however, there is no debate. Darwin was wrong about some things, but his theory of natural selection is still accepted and has become, according to Wikipedia, "the unifying theory of the life sciences."

Darwin, who was born 200 years ago this year, was a brilliant and courageous scientist. The small-minded among us who try to push evolution out of the classroom are stuck in the Middle Ages. Ye muste taketh the truthe & accepteth it.

That sinking feeling

Another model shows that East Boston -- at least the residential parts of the neighborhood -- will be underwater by the middle of this century due to global climate change. (Logan Airport looks like it'll be in decent shape.) Other parts of Boston, including much of the downtown area, will also be inundated, with the overall loss in assets worth nearly a half trillion dollars.

While I try to take several steps to be a more judicious consumer of energy and I support big steps the government should take, I fully expect that human beings will be unable to gather the will to stop the planet's warming. Even as the effects of our actions become more visible and more calamitous, people will still put profit and convenience ahead of our common interests and our species' long-term survival, like the dying smoker who keeps puffing away even while carrying around an oxygen tank. We're doomed.

On the other hand, East Boston was created by connecting islands with landfill, and soon enough she will return to the sea. The hands of man can only hold off the hand of nature for so long.

Map from

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Obama needs to rise to challenge

I know that Barack Obama is working on numerous fronts to bring forth policies that I believe in, but the ride is slow, bumpy and not at all guaranteed to succeed -- and it seems that the president hasn't been fighting enough to make these important changes come to fruition. I cannot help but pine for a leader like Franklin Roosevelt.

Now, Obama does not have FDR's disposition and the economic mess he inherited, while serious, is not the Great Depression (and therefore, drastic action is harder to implement). More than that, however, times have changed since the 1930s and 1940s, and maybe there's no bigger example than the breadth and scrutiny of the media, evidenced by disproved lies, like Obama not being a citizen, getting significant play while an actual fact, that FDR was confined to a wheelchair, was hushed by the press of his day.

Those who have grumbled about Obama being socialist and the most radical occupant ever of the White House are ignoring that the current president is nowhere near as far to the left as Roosevelt, who quickly and forcefully empowered the government to help the "third of the nation" that was "ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished," actions which had him labeled "a traitor to his class."

Today I watched a PBS documentary on the federal government program that sent photographers out to chronicle rural poor during the Depression, an undertaking that resulted in 160,000 images (the most famous of which, Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" is to the right) that are housed in the Library of Congress and considered a national treasure. The project was conceived by a member of FDR's inner circle, and the president not only gave the go-ahead, but fought battles with Congress, which sought to defund the program because members felt the realistic and sad images reflected badly on the US.

Today, most historians consider FDR in the company of Lincoln and Washington as America's greatest presidents, and back in 2000 Time magazine chose Roosevelt as runner-up (to Albert Einstein) as the most important person of the 20th century. Despite the consequences of his paralytic illness, FDR stood up against fascism abroad and economic injustice at home. He fought the good fight like few presidents before or since. Now, in the midst again of war and economic uncertainty, I'd like to see President Obama stand tall and forcefully against the short-sighted, narrow-minded and self-serving opponents to his agenda of change.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hubster praises Times -- with one complaint

First off, for those who say that I never have anything good to say about the East Boston Times, there's a photo on Page 11 of this week's paper that is shot from a low angle and shows some veterans from behind with the flag above them. There's some creativity to the shot, and I like it.

Also, on Page 10, there is a photo of two people talking at the opening of an artists' building -- a rare instance of people not posed in a Times photo. On Page 3 the photos at the Salesian Boys and Girls Club Spaghetti Supper don't include any of the usual suspects, which is nice to see.

I only have one criticism this week, but it's a serious factual error. The story of the Spaghetti Supper begins:
It’s no secret there was some animosity towards the Salesians after the religious order evicted Savio Prep High School from its property on Byron Street two years ago.
The Salesians did not, in fact, evict Savio Prep High School, and it is misleading to say so. The school's board of directors voted to shut down Savio in January or February of 2007. I know because I was on the faculty at the time. There was, I believe, one more year left on the school's lease.

Now, I'm not saying that there weren't issues between the Salesians and the school, but the reality is that Savio should not have even opened up for that last year. As it was, the place went bankrupt before it finished paying all of the salary obligations to employees (despite assurances I was personally given when I returned that fall that the school would be open for at least two years, I and others were screwed thousands of dollars) and the building was not in good shape.

Anyway, while it's true that there was animosity, it is incorrect to say that Savio was evicted.

Marking time in style

Local artists Ejay Khan and Chris Murray have put together a calendar featuring photographs taken all over East Boston, and many of the images are striking.

The calendar, along with many other cool items is available at their shop Images by Khan and Murray at 6 Bremen Street, just around the corner from Maverick Square.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Say no to popcorn

Next time you visit the cinema, you may want to pass on the giant barrel of popcorn. Even before you add the fake butter, a medium-size movie theater popcorn and a soda have as much fat and calories as three quarter-pounders. Great Caesar's ghost!

This story comes from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which releases reports a few times a year to tell us what we should pretty much have known anyway: the mall cinnamon rolls, the supermarket processed foods and the movie theater snacks -- among other things that Americans are consuming vast quantities of -- are all horrifically bad for us.

As food expert Michael Pollan says, "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rogue watching

Atlantic Monthly blogger Andrew Sullivan is following closely the moves and machinations of Sarah Palin, who is now on tour pushing her book. Like many on either side of the political divide, Sullivan was outraged that John McCain created this monster.

McCain, writes Sullivan, "perpetrated this nonsense and even now refuses to take an ounce of responsibility" for "the fact that a person of no credentials and no transparency and no knowledge came that close to being president of this country ...I want the truth about this farce fully exposed so it never, ever happens again."

Between the publication of her book, Going Rogue (cover, above, from Wikipedia) and appearances (Oprah and elsewhere) to support the book, Palin has worked herself again into the center of a media storm. Meanwhile, former future son-in-law Levi Johnston -- the father of Bristol Palin's child -- is posing for Playgirl magazine.

John McCain unleashed this plague upon us, and Andrew Sullivan is right to insist that he be held accountable.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creative juices

The latest incarnation of The Eastie Jolt is up and it includes poetry from a local wordsmith, photographs of some of East Boston's natural beauty and an essay on turning to each other during difficult economic times.

In recent weeks The Jolt has published a story on the neighborhood's turn-of-the-century Jewish community and a piece on a local hip-hop record label, as well as fiction, art and more poetry, photographs and essays. All of it can be found on the site.

Submissions of writing and photography are accepted from any East Boston resident, as well as those who used to live in the neighborhood or work here. Send material or questions to

Comments policy changed

An infusion of "junk mail"-type comments, as well as a number of silly and inappropriate comments, has necessitated that readers must register in order to post from here on. The shift was delayed repeatedly, but it has become too time consuming to do otherwise.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dinner time

***The Salesian Boys & Girls Club is holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser tonight in the cafeteria of its current location, the old Savio Hall. The proceeds will help sustain the club's programming for young people from East Boston.

***State rep. Carlo Basile is again sponsoring a Thanksgiving Day dinner at the Sacred Heart Church. Transportation can be arranged by calling 617.913.3332. This community has a long tradition of such events, which speaks to the notion that we are each responsible for helping out our neighbors when we can.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Local business needs your help

Local entrepreneur Rob Pyles and his Audissey Guides are one of the finalists in Forbes Magazine's Boost Your Business Contest. Audissey offers downloadable podcasts of walking tours of cities, historic sites and more. Check out their web site here.

A group of 1,500 businesses has been whittled down to just five in the competition, with $100,000 going to the winner. The contest is partially decided by Internet voting, which can be done here. You can watch a video of Rob in New York City to pitch the idea to a panel of judges here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hyperbolic bollocks

I've never read an editorial quite like the screed in last week's East Boston Times. There's almost no attempt to make a logical case for the position that casino gambling should be brought to Suffolk Downs; instead there's a collection of ridiculous hyperbole and a bunch of straw-man arguments.

According to the Nov. 4 editorial, "Negative vibes," those against bringing a casino to East Boston:

-- "stand against progress in this litigious world" and "prefer economic inertia to sound development and job creation"
-- believe a casino at Suffolk Downs would be an "immoral Tower of Babel"
-- believe a casino would be "ruinous in every measure."
-- believe a casino would require "twin eight lane highways costing $500 million" and that traffic will be "so bad that life is going to stop"
-- believe that "East Boston ...will be ruined if Suffolk Downs is developed"
-- believe that "East Boston ... will be obliterated, the fabric of the community torn, the civil society shredded, tattered beyond recognition with East Boston itself taking on the persona of a homicide victim brutally stabbed to death and left to bleed."
-- believe that, "Small business will be ruined. Housing values will tumble. Prostitution will take over. Drugs will flow."
-- believe that "East Boston becomes Sodom and Gomorrah and people looking back at the neighborhood will run the risk of turning themselves into pillars of salt."

Are they serious? Was this supposed to be an actual attempt to say something intelligent on an important matter? Bringing casino gambling to Massachusetts and, specifically, to East Boston is an issue that has legitimate arguments on both sides. Reasonable people can discuss the subject and reach different conclusions. With this ridiculous polemic, the Times completely ignores rational discussion.

Meanwhile, the Times' front-page story about a State House hearing on casino gambling reads like a transcript of comments by an official from Suffolk Downs. The article is completely one-sided for two reasons: first, the remarks aren't evaluated, investigated, fact-checked, scrutinized or analyzed; and second, no one else is quoted in the story. You mean to tell me that nobody showed up who was on the other side of the issue? Or did those who write the Times' editorials instruct their reporter to ignore anyone at the hearing who is against casino gambling?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Potential buyers to look at Savio

Word is that representatives from North Cambridge Catholic High School will be looking at the former location of Savio High School in East Boston as a possible future site. NCC, currently located just off Mass. Ave. about a mile northwest of Porter Square, apparently needs to move and has been negotiating with the Archdiocese of Boston for a building that housed another school near Savin Hill in Dorchester. After eight months the two sides still seem far apart with regard to price, so the school's board wants to look elsewhere.

NCC is one of 24 schools that are part of the Cristo Rey Network, which educates urban teens using "a unique program that requires students to work one day a week with a corporate sponsor in order to subsidize their tuition," according to Time magazine, which called the program "an island of success in the Catholic ocean."

Savio shut down in June of 2007 due to financial difficulties. The school, run by the Salesian order of the Catholic Church, opened its doors in 1958 as St. Domenic Savio High School. After several decades of success (I graduated in 1981), the Salesians announced that they needed to close down the school, but the community expressed outrage and a number of accomplished alumni stepped forward and negotiated a deal. The doors opened in the fall of 1993 as Savio Preparatory High School, and though the institution wasn't shut for any school days, a significant number of faculty members and students had moved on. By the mid-2000s the school was in trouble again and nothing would save it.

While the gym building has been utilized as the Salesian Boys & Girls Club, the classroom building -- a brick structure at the corner of Horace and Byron streets (see photo) -- is older and needs quite a bit of work. Plaster is falling inside rooms and offices, tiles are chipped and broken, there's been some water damage and there's a musty smell throughout. It's been said that the building needs "hundreds of thousands of dollars" worth of work. The visit by NCC is only an initial step, and it remains to be seen whether this is simply a tactic by the school to spur on the negotiations with the archdiocese for the Dorchester site.

The irony here is that Savio was one of the places that Cristo Rey initially considered back when the program first came to scout sites in Boston at some point just as the organization was forming about a decade ago. I was on the faculty at the time, and Savio's leadership quickly squashed the idea. Cristo Rey kept looking and discovered that NCC was an ailing Catholic high school willing to embrace the innovative approach.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Remembering slain officer

Richard Halloran, a Boston Police sergeant who was shot and killed in the line of duty at the corner of Bremen Street and Neptune Road 34 years ago today, was honored this morning. With the mayor and others on hand and bagpipes playing, a bronze and granite memorial was unveiled.

Image from

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

The polls are open and the race for mayor will be decided today after the most contentious campaign for City Hall in years. The Boston City Council will also see some new faces, as well as some old familiars.

Any comments or observations? How does turnout look so far? What's the word on the street? This thread will be open all day for comments on the election (but let's keep it factual and civil, not biased and inflammatory).

Here is a look at the names on today's ballot. Here is where to find the location of your polling place. Here is the Globe's election coverage.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Whose cider you on?

We are deep into apple season and, as I've mentioned before, I am a cider guy -- an unpasteurized cider guy, to be specific. Each autumn I drive out to orchards that sell the delectable unprocessed libation, and yesterday I went to one of the best cider towns in the state: Stow.

I'd been out there Columbus Day weekend and picked up a couple gallons of cider at Honeypot Hill, which was packed with visitors looking at farm animals, navigating a maze, sampling cider donuts and purchasing farm products. Their cider is good -- I'd had some of it for the past few years -- and if I remember they're charging $5.50 a gallon.

In mid-October I went up to Russell Orchards in Ipswich, which is a nice place, but the cider -- at $6.25 a jug -- was just mediocre (unlike last year). They do sell a nice assortment of fruit wines, and on fall weekends Russell often has a bluegrass band playing and a fireplace going.

Yesterday I hit up a pair of places across the street from each other on Great Road (Route 117) in Stow. Derby Orchards, which I often frequent because their farm store is usually open late in the season, was selling cider for $4.25 a gallon! (Only Market Basket, at $4, sells cider less expensively, but it's pasteurized, which changes the flavor.) It's good stuff, but even better is One Stack Farm.

I'd never been to One Stack before, and it's almost hidden at the corner of Great Road and Packard Road. I purchased the cider for $5 a gallon from an older gentleman inside an open garage. The beverage is sweet and smooth. I've often found that the smaller the operation -- at Phil's Apples off I-495 in Harvard you'll find Phil pressing the apples in front of you -- the better the cider.