Menino, Street Harrassment

1)

Once Mayor Tom Menino of Boston came to speak at my high school.  He was a terrible speaker, had a bad speech impediment.  He said that when he was a kid he told his teacher, a nun, that he wanted to be an engineer when he grew up, so he could build bridges.  The nun told him he wasn’t smart enough to be an engineer.  So, he said, he became the mayor to build bridges between communities.

(photo by Jim Rogash, Getty Images, swiped from here)

2) This video is all over my Facebook.  I have a tale of New York City street harassment.

One day in 2009 I was walking around looking for apartments with a real estate broker.  The broker was an extremely attractive woman, the girlfriend of a friend.  It was a really hot day, she was wearing like a bare-armed shirt thing under a jacket and she took the jacket off.

The catcalls and stuff yelled at her was INSANE.  Like, at least ten dudes said something, most of it muttered after she walked past.

Now, being a self-absorbed dude, my reaction to this was fascination but also like “am I supposed to do something about this?”  Like, “I’m walking with this woman, and presumably it could be my girlfriend or my sister or something, am I supposed to like beat up all these dudes? Because that would take a long time and also would by no means be a guaranteed victory.”  She rolled with it as though it was no more significant than the squawk of pigeons but man.

Anyway, now I have successfully made this story about me.

Contra Joyce Carol Oates:

this was in Union Square and literally Washington Square Park and the heart of the West Village, also mostly white dudes.

I defer to Mero on this one:

 


Obama

James Fallows calls my attention to this article, from Chicago Magazine in 2007, about then-Senatorial candidate Obama’s Democratic convention speech.

The best bits, for the busy executive:

Obama composed the first draft in longhand on a yellow legal pad, mostly in Springfield, where the state senate was in overtime over a budget impasse. Wary of missing important votes, Obama stayed close to the Capitol, which wasn’t exactly conducive to writing. “There were times that he would go into the men’s room at the Capitol because he wanted some quiet,” says Axelrod. Once, state senator Jeff Schoenberg walked into the men’s lounge and found Obama sitting on a stool along the marble countertop near the sinks, reworking the speech. “It was a classic Lifemagazine moment,” says Schoenberg, who snapped a picture of Obama with his cell-phone camera.

(Photo not included, regrettably.)  Kerry’s folks made Obama take out a line:

After the rehearsal ended, Obama was furious. “That fucker is trying to steal a line from my speech,” he griped to Axelrod in the car on the way back to their hotel, according to another campaign aide who was there but asked to remain anonymous. Axelrod says he does not recollect exactly what Obama said to him. “He was unhappy about it, yeah,” he says, but adds that Obama soon cooled down. “Ultimately, his feeling was: They had given him this great opportunity; who was he to quibble over one line?”

And:

On Tuesday, the day of his speech, Obama was up before 6 a.m. He gobbled down a vegetable omelet en route to the FleetCenter for back-to-back-to-back live interviews with the network morning shows. Next, he rushed off to speak at the Illinois delegation breakfast and then to a rally sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters. Afterwards, he returned to the arena for another hour of TV interviews. There was barely time for lunch, a turkey sandwich that he ate in the SUV while being interviewed by a group of reporters.

Always, always tell me what everyone ate.

(both photos from Chicago Magazine, uncredited.  Michelle’s skeptical face in that first photo!)


Joke about Boston, from Van Wyck Brooks

From The Flowering of New England:

One of [Boston publisher James T.] Fields’s jokes was about the Boston man who read Shakespeare late in life but found him far beyond his expectation.  “There are not twenty men in Boston who could have written those plays,” he said.

VWB also tells us about John Bartlett, who was just a guy in Cambridge you went to when you needed to know who said something, until he finally went ahead and published his Familiar Quotations.


Van Wyck Brooks on: Emerson

More excellence from The Flowering of New England

…generations later, when people spoke of Emerson’s “education,” they put the word in quotation-marks – it was not that he did not know his Greek and Latin, but that he was never systematic.  He had read, both then and later, for “lustres” mainly.  He had drifted first to Florida and then to Europe, and finally settled at Concord…As for the lectures that Emerson was giving in Boston, on great men, history, the present age, the famous lawyer, Jeremiah Mason, when he was asked if he could understand them, replied, “No, but my daughters can.”

To the outer eye, at least, Emerson’s life was an aimless jumble.  He had ignored all the obvious chances, rejected the palpable prizes, followed none of the rules of common sense.  Was he pursuing some star of his own?  No one else could see it.  In later years, looking back, Emerson’s friends, remembering him, thought of those quiet brown colts, unrecognized even by the trainers, that outstrip all the others on the race-course.  He had had few doubts himself.  He had edged along sideways towards everything that was good in his life, but he felt that he was born for victory…


Scott Prior

This guy is good at painting, right?  Am I crazy?

His “Nanny and Rose” used to hang in the lobby of the MFA and whenever I saw it as a kid I was like, oh that guy must be the best painter in the world.

But nobody ever talks about him.

Images from his website.


Van Wyck Brooks on: Elizabeth Peabody.

Van Wyck Brooks clearly has a little crush on Miss Elizabeth Peabody, “the founder of the American kindergarten.”  More from The Flowering of New England.

As for Miss Peabody’s future, one could see it already.  One pictured her, forty years hence, drowsing in her chair on the lecture-platform or plodding through the slush of a Boston winter, her bonnet askew, her white hair falling loose, bearing still, amid the snow and ice, the banner of education.  If, perchance, you lifted her out of a snowdrift, into which she had stumbled absent-mindedly, she would exclaim, between her gasps, “I am glad to see you!  Can you tell me which is the best Chinese gramar?”  Or she would give you the news about Sarah Winnemucka.  “Now Sarah Winnemucka” – this was the maligned Indian princess who was collecting money to educate her tribe.  Or she would ask if you had read your Stallo.  She took down every lecture she heard, although she seldom wrote what people said: most of her reports were “impressions.”  *

* “I saw it,” Miss Peabody said, when she walked into a tree and bruised her nose.  “I saw it, but did not realize it.”