First Disappointment

It shows that I haven’t added anything to this column since the end of May.  I must admit I’ve been a bit of a recluse as of late.  Maintaining a house with a large (12,000 gallon) above ground swimming pool coupled with my natural tendency towards ennui, my increased depression over the state of our once great, now widely disparaged, nation, my preoccupation with my wonderfully loveable, extremely handsome, funny, doggie-dog Blaze, plus my growing disconcertion with social media as a rule, among other matters, I just haven’t had the will to express my thoughts; notwithstanding, I continually wish to do so.

It’s interesting; I haven’t had to mow a lawn since my high school days back in Pitman, NJ.  Then there’s the pool:  skimming, vacuuming, treating the water, backwashing, it’s been a bit of an effort but one well worth it; on a hot day (yes, we do get them up here in New England) there’s nothing like diving into that pool.  I still “pinch myself” realising that I own the bloody thing.

Then there’s Blaze.  What can I say.  He’s not only one of the most beautiful dogs (I’m almost embarrassed by the number of time people tell how pretty he is) I’ve seen, but he’s a total baby.  He has the most even temperament, loving disposition anybody would ever imagine.  When Rosemary comes home from work he’s so excited he wags his tail AND his head!  He has the physique of a runner, and he proves it.  He is the fastest dog I’ve seen and it is (to coin a cliché) poetry in motion to seen him run.  There is a very large dog park in Hingham, MA (about 15 minutes away); it’s the size of any other state park (they call them reservations up here), but it’s primarily an off-lease park for doggies.  I can’t tell you how much Blaze loves this place.  First, it’s on Weymouth Bay so dogs get to swim if they so desire, it’s big with lots of open space to play and run, which are two of Blaze’s favourite things to do (the others are sleep and eat — surprise, surprise).  One of the traits I love about Blaze is he so, so friendly.  He thinks every other dog he meets is his new BFF — big, medium, tiny it doesn’t matter; all he wants to do is play.  As to his speed, he has yet to encounter a dog that’s as fast (much less faster) than him.  He is truly amazing to watch.  And LOVES to run.  So yeah, I spoil Blaze something terrible; but, what am I supposed to do?  He’s such a loveable baby.  And he behaves (for the most part).

Okay, so what’t the problem?  Well, two things:  First is me, I must admit I’ve been having difficulty with motivation:  more importantly prioritisation.  I can’t get my butt in gear until later in the day.  Unfortunately, it’s usually the time I need to think about getting dinner together.  If I could get my “chores” (including walking Blaze) done before noon I’d have at least four hours to what I used to think was important to me — music and art. ADD and low level depression (what used be call Dysthymia) have been, I must admit, an hinderance to my focus.  The problem is I know that I still have much to offer (not that anyone would take me seriously, since I don’t have s PhD or am not an internationally recognised performer).

Then there’s the organ/church thing.  I approached a nearby Congregational church (about two blocks away) about permission to practise on their organ.  It’s not much, a two manual Allen from probably the 80’s; but, it was something on which I felt I could start playing the organ again.  I even offered my services as a substitute — gratis — for the privilege of practising.  So, here were the church’s criteria:

Notwithstanding my resume, etc. they don’t give out keys to the church, so I could only practise there when some one else or other activity was at the church:  in this case it the Boy Scouts, who met in the basement on Monday night (right about our dinner time, but, eh, I figured): i.e., once a week for about 1½ -2 hrs.

If that wasn’t restrictive enough, since I was compelled to only be there (mind you I was up in the sanctuary, the scouts were down in the basement; i.e., I had no [nor did I want any] contact with them; but, since I was in the same building as them, even though they had more than enough adult supervision, they requested that I fill a CORI (Criminal Offence Record Investigation) form!!

Just so I could have access to lousy electronic organ on which to practise at a most inconvenient time for me.  I wanted nothing to do with those kids — or anybody — all I wanted to do was practise the organ; in exchange, I was willing to offer my services as a substitute organ (and as a scripture reader) for free.  Needless to say, after being gratuitously insulted, I’m on the prowl for another organ on which to practise.

Why is it that my first major disappointment with my new home involves a church?  What is it about suburban churches, especially non-liturgical protestant churches, that often manifest those paranoic tendencies which are so contradictory to their so called “Christian Message” of openness and love?  Those signs of “All Are Welcome” outside the doors are such a prevarication of who they really are It’s such a sham.  I’m sick of it.  It’s come to the point I wish, I really do wish at times, that I never, NEVER, became an organist, almost to the point of despising the instrument.

Thank God for ragtime.


Where Have I Been? 2016 “Summary”

Not that it matters much, but I thought that some my friends might be curious as to where I’ve been.  It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything at all, though it’s not for lack of intent. Mostly, so much time has passed and so much has happened this year (2016) that I find myself stumped as to where to begin.  I guess a general approach might be good: sort of an overview of things.  Actually, it’s more a matter of the past three-and-a-half years.

Back on 15 April 2013, two events happened; one is still etched into our collective memory as both a city and a nation, the other considerably less significant; i.e., I and my wife of less than a year moved to Boston that day.  However, we were more than impressed with how the city and region pulled together and quite literally became Boston Strong.  We moved into a lovely second-floor apartment of a quintessential “triple decker” building in the equally charming neighbourhood of Jamaica Plain (JP colloquially).  Of course, since we were renting that made us vulnerable to the caprice of the landlord who chose to sell the building out from underneath us after one just over a year.  So, here it is in August 2014 and we have to find another place to live (that we can afford) at the worst possible time to look since by this time all the college kids (and God knows who else), have already signed leases or moved in.  Thereupon we were somewhat compelled to move to Chelsea into what at first seemed to be a nice, two-floor apartment in one of the few half decent parts of town.  However, shortly after our first year, we realised that (for reasons too extensive to enumerate) we were in a most untenable situation.  It was at that point we realised our imperative was to not only move again but, to buy; not only to buy but, to get the heck out of the unwashed armpit of Massachusetts known as Chelsea.  Ultimately, after a little searching, and with the help of a great agent, we found what can only be considered a little piece of heaven on earth in the delightfully idyllic community-by-the-bay of Houghs Neck (those of you who familiar with the Boston area know what I mean).  We found a perfectly sized cape cod just a few blocks away from Quincy Bay and Rock Island Cove, yet we’re high enough not to need flood insurance.  We have a lovely fenced in backyard with a tool shed and a 10,000 gallon, above ground swimming pool.  The finished basement is now my study which, unfortunately, I haven’t fully utilised.

The problem, especially for me, has been — adjustment.  For someone who has had issues with low-level depression (what used to be called dysthymia) moving three times within four years has taken its toll, particularly as a sixty-eight-year-old man who has watched his dreams gradually fade to barely a vapour of what they were.  My main predicament is personal organisation.  It seems every time I try to establish something akin to a regular routine so many exigencies seem to interfere that I can’t seem to get a handle on anything.  I’m generally a creature, maybe not of habit per se, but of consistency; and, for the past three-plus years I haven’t had that.  Moreover, as a musician — a composer especially — my despondency has grown exponentially: not that it was all that great in Philadelphia.  Up here in New England, I don’t know anybody; the only caveat being: having acquaintances in Philly didn’t help any more than if I knew one as up here in the Boston area.

As to the organ:  I have summarily abandoned any hope of ever playing again.  I haven’t been able to find a decent organ on which to practise, much less find a worthwhile church.  Churches up here are no better (probably worse) about allowing access to their organs than Phila.  I miss practising at St. Stephen’s at 10th and Market Sts. more than you can imagine. Moreover, not unlike the Philadelphia chapter, the local (Boston) chapter of the AGO is, by its cliquish nature, unwilling to be of any assistance; hence my decision to terminate my membership

My melancholy has had a stifling effect on my feelings toward music in general.  Music was always my first love… now I can barely listen to it.  I haven’t touched my piano or written a note in months. On those occasions in which I do listen to music all I think about is why am I not writing something?  Why am I not practising?  And then I think:  why bother?  Who is ever going to hear my music?  Why work up a programme when I have no singer with whom to collaborate?  Having absolutely no standing anywhere in the musical world, who’s going to take me seriously about anything I have to say or offer?

I suppose much of this is coming to terms with who, where and what I am and developing a routine that I know what I’m supposed to do and when.  Having undiagnosed ADD I’m sure has a lot to do with why and where I am at this late stage in my life.  It’s a bit ironic, sufferers of ADD have a tendency to become very self-absorbed worrying about priorities; i.e., the result being jumping from one thing to another trying to decide which to do first, which is more important; ultimately nothing gets done.  Then the depression sets in because you’ve just spent another day achieving nothing.  Yet, mutatis mundatis, when I do become focused on something, say practising the organ, I completely shut the world out to the point that I don’t eat or even sleep.  I short I become obsessed.  I just wish that happened more often.  Presently, I’m currently in a quandary.  Do I waste my time composing knowing that I’ll never hear any of my music performed, or do I waste my time practising the piano knowing that I’ll never find a singer to do the programme I want or just play in public in general?

I suppose, also, that I’ve become too complacent.  For the first time in my life, I feel as if I have stability.  I finally have a permanent home consisting of a perfectly sized house with a substantial 10,000 gallon, above ground swimming pool, in a truly idyllic community, the perfect mate, an absolutely wonderful dog, and a steady income. Perhaps it’s too good, in so far as not having a burning need or compulsion to prove anything to anybody.  The farther away I’ve moved from the organ world the more I’ve realised, notwithstanding my ingenerate love of the instrument, how toxic an environment it is.

I guess with all of this change I still a little more time to figure out where to go from here. I have a number of ideas, most of them have little or no direct connection to music; I suppose now it’s more a matter now of motivation. I realise I can’t sit on my butt all day watching re-runs of “Star Trek Voyager” (I never got the chance to watch it originally) or MSNBC (which has become more and more conciliatory to Trump and his henchmen).

Of course, it being New England in February (it’s currently [the 12th] snowing like crazy with a lot more to come) there is a tendency to just hole up and wait til Spring.  However, I know that’s not good.  There’s much more in life; I just need to feel as if I can actually contribute something and make some kind of difference not only in my life but for others.

So, we’ll see what happens.  I just hope this ennui ends and I figure out a routine in my daily life that grants me the chance to do all the things I wish to accomplish — no matter that they aren’t my dreams anymore — before I die.





Why the Liturgy?

Throughout most of the history of the Christian Church the bedrock to the worship service has been the liturgy.  It has been the liturgy that has set Christianity apart from other religions, particularly other monotheist religions.  Even those Protestant churches to which we refer as non-liturgical are liturgical in some fashion, just in a more simplistic way devoid of any mystery or ontologism.

And that is why I find so many non-liturgical churches wanting.  Whereas, such churches as the Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Baptist and other less ceremonial mainstream churches (leaving out wacko fundamentalists and cults like Mormons and Christian Scientists, etc.), the focus is on the sermon.  The problem with sermon oriented service is the congregation is mostly passive, sitting there for 20 minutes to over an hour* listening to someone blather on about what they are supposed to believe from what was read earlier in scripture. Moreover, there is very little congregational participation outside of the singing of (usually 2-3) hymns (which occurs less and less nowadays) and the occasional responsive reading of a psalm, reciting the Apostle’s Creed (because it’s shorter and easier than the Nicean Creed), and the Lord’s Prayer.  Presently, in unfortunately more and more cases, the what now passes for congregational participation is nothing more than clapping to some, mediocre at best,  commercial style praise band.  The result is there is no introspection, no penitence, or spirituality, no existential perception of a greater phenomenon:  just entertainment.

So, what’s so special about the liturgy?  Well, for pretty much the opposite reasons of the sermon based service.  First, and most importantly, the focus of the liturgy is the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper to the non-liturgical), not a sermon.  Although there is a spoken lesson or, homily, by the priest, that’s all it is.  Although the dictionary defines an homily as a type of sermon, it is usually of a nondoctrinal nature, and is usually only 10 to 20 minutes in length (of course, there are always going to be anecdotal exceptions).  What is important to remember about the homily, is that its not the focus or even the summit of the service; rather, it is merely a part of the liturgy, one of its numerous aspects, which ultimately climaxes in the taking of the elements; i.e., communion.   

The other aspect of the liturgy, and perhaps most significantly, is music.  One of the saving, and ultimately civilising, graces of most major religions (with the glaring exception of one — hence its continued barbaric nature) is the incorporation of music into their various worship services, or liturgies.   In Christianity music to the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Benedictus) acts as the catalyst for the metaphysically, spiritually and overwhelmingly mystical experience of liturgy.  This usually occurs in what we commonly refer to as “high church.”  What defines high church (to me) is not only the highly ritualised format of the liturgy (colloquially known as “smells and bells” because of the extensive use of incense and the ringing of bells at critical points of the eucharist), but that it is primarily or almost entirely (except for the homily) sung.  The singing can consist of intoning (i.e., speaking on primarily one musical note) by the priest and occasionally the congregation, the singing by the choir and/or soloists, and of course, the congregational singing of hymns. 

As you can see, participation by the congregation is and has been (even in the old pre-Vatican II days) an integral part of the liturgy.  That’s how it is, and that’s how it should be.   But, this depends upon the congregation’s ability to participate naturally, so as to fully descry the essential and ultimate beauty of the liturgy.  Here’s why: 

The mystical experience that only the liturgy can give depends on many factors not easily, or phlegmatically, achieved:   a polished flow from Prelude, Introit, Kyrie, Credo, etc. to Benedictus and Postlude is paramount, and monumentally difficult to achieve.  Too many churches are all too willing to settle for the substandard, even clumsy execution of the liturgy; the result is a congregation feeling, not so much that they may have wasted an hour of their time (though many do, hence the low attendance) but, of wanting more — more metaphysically, spiritually.  On the other hand, when the liturgy is right — i.e., when the combination of superior organ playing, singing and intoning by all involved flows seamlessly from Prelude to Postlude, particularly during the eucharist — the spiritual transcendence simply cannot be described.  The problem, of course, is:   will that church be willing commit to the one thing that seems anathema to the mystical or otherworldly experience?  I’m referring to that most mundane of tasks… rehearsal.

Achieving the ultimate meaning of the liturgy — which requires us to travel mentally, or spiritually beyond our empirical, material, circadian lives — is a delicate, gossamer phenomenon.  It, like so many other worthwhile things in our lives, such as learning a language, practising music, writing poetry, painting, cooking good food, etc. demands from those leading the liturgy — the pros, so to speak — to make it work.  It’s not up to the congregation to make it work (they are the recipients not the purveyors); rather, it is the serious collaboration between musicians and clergy that “makes it work;”  and that, quite simply, requires rehearsal.  I’m not referring to a simple, slip-shod run-through like most wedding rehearsals, rather, a serious detailed rehearsal.  As they say, timing is everything; that couldn’t be more true when trying to achieve a smooth, fluid liturgy.  Even the most experienced participants, including those who have worked together for years, need to have an occasional in depth rehearsal of the service/mass so as to maintain continuity and thus ensuring the transcendent experience for the congregation.  Because, let’s face it, it is for them, those who have come to church to find, within that brief hour away from their daily struggle with the empirical world, a chance to commune with and connect to something far greater.  It’s an empyrean experience; and that comes only if the machine is well oiled and in excellent working order.

Now, there are going to be those who are uncomfortable with the liturgy of the Mass.  It all just seems so complicated and “involved.”   You are right!  Getting the hang of the mass:  figuring out where you are: the standing, the kneeling, the sitting, the kneeling some more, the standing again, etc.  When, or do or should you genuflect (which way does it go?), am I allowed to take the elements, should I take the elements, do I have to take the elements?  Yes, there is a lot involved for the congregation to do.  But, that is part of the beauty of the liturgy.  The congregant is not just a spectator.  The congregant is a participant.  What needs to be understood is that the liturgy is the great equaliser; Clergy, musicians and congregation all have their part, each substantial, each vital, to arriving to the transcendent and ineffable moment in which all become one through the unifying transcendence in that consummate mystery of communion in which all partake of and become part of the “Body of Christ.”  Whether you believe in that aspect of the theology or not is really quite incidental:  It’s the experience!  It’s what happens to you as a person and the spirituality, the metaphysical sensation — the peace — that you experience that counts.  A beautifully conceived, performed liturgy will do that, no matter what your theology or spiritual tenets. 

To those of you who find dealing with “high church” too cumbersome, or too complicated, or too “Catholic (Ugh! I hate that),”  or don’t think that Christianity is, should be, deeply metaphysical, or preternatural, then you are more than welcome to take the easy way out and worship at a church where you just sit most of the time and watch as the praise band, or whatever singers and the preacher basically do it all for you. Go ahead.  All I can say is that you are missing out on a truly resplendent, and wondrously enigmatic experience.  To bad for you.

* Curiously enough, I’ve found that the length of the sermon is often inversely proportional to the intellectual level of the theology of the clergy.

A Merry Christmas Indeed

This Christmas was more special for me:  it’s the first Christmas I can remember in a very, very long time in which I can safely say I’ve enjoyed and fully appreciated the season.  You see, for the past 30 plus years I’ve worked in what is probably the most Scrooge-like, coldblooded, mean spirited business in which a person could work at this time of the year — retailing.   Actually, I’m insulting the Dickens’ character because he, at least, became repentant toward the end.  Retailing on the other hand, especially what are referred to as the “big box” stores, primarily (but not exclusively) department stores has no such scruples.  Moreover, the American consumer has become equally coldblooded in encouraging major retailers’ (and many small ones’) behaviour by gorging themselves in spending and debiting themselves to borderline insolvency in order to slake a need to be accepted by others through a superficial act of materialism.

The problem lies in that this act of buying “things” in voracious quantities has been so conditioned into the American psyche that those who don’t (and even a few that do) work as retail sales clerks — oh, excuse me:  “associates” (as if that reflected that they aren’t considered the low life scum that they are considered) —  don’t even give it a second thought that these stores have to be manned by people during those wee hours of the morning in which these stores insist upon being open.  When stores like Kohl’s are open 24 hours during the week before Christmas I’m sure the people who shop at 3:00 a.m. are so incredibly selfish, or absolutely stupid/clueless to understand that just because they can’t sleep at night, it doesn’t mean that that sales person, who is doing everything he or she can to stay awake, doesn’t want to be at home sleeping next to a partner or spouse.  The thoughtlessness of the American consumer is one of the most telltale examples of our material obsession over life affirming values.  It is significantly indicative of how petty and shoal American society continues to devolve.

We could give a s— about those essentially indentured servants to our beck-and-call to which they must respond (at 4:00 a.m.), and who must deal with the most petty of enquires about those things that are no longer in stock and for which there is no longer a supply and the irate self-entitled behaviour such circumstances engender.  Hey Ms/Mr. shopper, do you think that:  1) what you ask is reasonable? 2) That the person of whom you are demanding your petty concerns actually gives a damn?  Moreover, even if you don’t acknowledge what kind of loathsome creature you are, do you think making some one else’s life miserable just so that you can buy a few trinkets for somebody you wish to impress with your “thoughtfulness” justifies your incorrigible behaviour?

Nevertheless, I still blame retailers for taking Christmas and making it into something so less than the religious and (dare I say?) spiritual holiday that it is supposed to be.  It is simply a reflection, a byproduct, of the materialism as generated by the avarice defined by the nature of Capitalism.  Greed has not only become the dominant force behind this holiday, it has become the expedient tool by which the avaricious have asphyxiated the original concept of Christmas by quite literally eviscerating it.  A recent Wall Street Journal article shows how the season has been co-opted by businesses appealing to recent societal trends by capitalising on trashing Christmas for the politically correct and the monetarily fruitful vomit of “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings.”

I, for one, am sick of it.

The lust for profit has driven retailers to take these extraordinary and ultimately unprofitable extremes with little or no consideration for the fiduciary responsibilities to their employees welfare.  The amount of business they do in additional sales relative to the cost of good will and additional expense to their employees (I’m sure there are egregious anecdotal exceptions) much less operating overhead, simply goes against any rational business sense.  But, that’s what we’ve come to expect from these big stores:  desperation over rationality.

Anyway, I’m glad I’m out of it and am in a position to say “no” to working weekends and late nights.  This year I was able to do what little shopping I needed to do with ease and no stress or pressure.  I was able to simply spend quiet evenings listening to REAL Christmas music, watch “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown,” have a simple yet elegant meal by candlelight, and just overall simply relax and absorb the the wonders (again through the true music of the season) and mystery of Christmas with my beloved.  Whether or not one  adheres to precepts of the theology associated with Christmas Day is irrelevant.  There is something much more — a metaphysics if you will — that, if you’re simply willing to give yourself the time and honesty, transcends all the commerce, and avarice that have become such an unfortunate aspect of Christmastide.  Hey folks, there are twelve days in Christmastide, not one; do something more than just buy a present or two for someone.  Find yourself.

Don’t celebrate yet.

Contrary to what some of you might have been led to believe, I will still continue to compose and make my comments here. I wrote the previous column because I needed to say this. This has been something that has been eating at me for a long time; and, I felt that if I didn’t finally express my thoughts and feelings I simply wasn’t going to move forward.
Ergo, for those of you who do think I have something to contribute to this world, I’m sorry to say that you will see my comments from time to time here.


Welp, the “procedure” was done yesterday, and I must say, 9 hours prior to and for about 5 and a half hours after were some of worst hours of my physical existence. Since they found and snipped three polyps they want me to do it all over again in 3 years. I suppose it’s better than dying of cancer — at least until some of my music is performed and I finish the Piano Quintet.

Trying to Sort It Out

I’m in a bit of a quandary.  I want to start writing again bit I’m not sure where to start.  It’s not that I’m concerned that nobody  — or anybody for that matter — will notice, or even remotely care about that of which I express my thoughts.  And, I guess that’s a good thing; since; as result, it grants me a level of freedom to characterise my notions, suppositions, ratiocinations, et al, with little consternation as to the consequences.  In short, I’m doing this for me.  This is, after all, a blog.  And in case any of you have forgotten, or in the case of those under forty, blog is short for web log; i.e., something not unlike a diary or a journal.

That’s what I simply plan to do with this “blog.”  These are the thoughts and maybe asseverations that I guess are things I feel the need to articulate, for my own edification, and maybe get a better grasp of the vicissitudes through which I am currently contending.

So, I guess that logically leads to my transition to life in Boston after 60+ plus years of living in Philadelphia and its surrounding area.  However, that doesn’t preclude me from switching off to something else if or when I feel the need.  Much of this “blog” will probably be in the form of a rant (there’s a lot to piss and moan about); but, hopefully, not always.  There will be plenty of my thoughts (dare I say insights) on music and the arts.

Anyway, my plan (if I so chose to do so {paraphrase from….?} is to try and do something daily.  My only concern is that, like everything else I do, I will become overly OCD (overly?), or Flaubertian about this and spend hours trying to find the right word(s) to say the most banal things.  The language is too important to me to use frivolously; a matter I find unfortunately all too common.  But, I digress.  I shall, perhaps return to that topic in one of my many blog entries to come.

Let’s see what happens.  First up Boston.

The Bane of Easy Access Technology

Technology can be a wonderful thing.  We think of all the marvels in space exploration, manufacturing (particularly nano-mechanics), medicine, data storage and a host of all kinds of advancements which reflect the human impulse to expand knowledge.  I love my Macbook.  It gives me access to libraries, museums, literature, music and countless other ways of editing my life in ways I could only dream in my youth.  I’m grateful to technology for the myriad of things it affords me.

My problem is not with technological advancement, but with the irresponsible commercialisation of it; i. e., the easy accessibility of it to people who don’t understand the consequences of its imprudent use.  Now, this is not a new phenomenon, every generation has this problem.  A new technology is developed and sooner or later (usually sooner) greed takes over and some corporation finds whatever way it can to mass market this new and wondrous technology to a general public of which a substantial portion are intellectually and culturally preliterate.  Granted this has been the case throughout history.  However, prior to the twentieth century, new technologies were much more slowly absorbed into the society.  In a sense, there was a learning curve; the one exception being the easy accessibility of firearms, particularly in the United States, where virtually anybody and everybody can get their hands on guns: and, well, we’ve seen the results of that.

Notwithstanding, as advances in technology increased, their speed of entry into the general society correspondingly accelerated.  Up to this point in recent history the general public almost managed to keep apace with the newest technologies released.  That was largely do, in part, to an extensive and well funded (generally) public school system.  During the post-war period up through the 60’s US society was gradually becoming more and more technologically sophisticated.  Conversely, thanks to the anti-government movement, during the past three decades public education has continued to decline, particularly in poor urban and rural areas, where the decline has been precipitous.  Meanwhile, technology zooms along at a more an more accelerated pace.

Couple this with the manifest deterioration of cultural norms of etiquette and civilised behaviour (the result of a general decline in parenting skills, for which, of course, everyone else is to blame, we are now plagued with more than one generation of loud, obnoxious, ignorant and gratuitously selfish neanderthals blathering on their cellphones or listening to the cacophonies of pop culture in public.  It’s not that these “people” (for lack of a better term) weren’t already ill-mannered and boorish, it’s just that these technologies have made it easier for them to be so.  Corporate investment in dumbing down these technological devices has been so extensive I’m sometimes amazed to see that people who can’t even articulate a simple sentence or write their names, much less know the basics of polite behaviour, are able to master the fundamentals of most mobile devices.   And it’s only going to get worse.  To paraphrase Bette Davis: “Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy tomorrow.”


I and my wife recently moved to Boston (April 2013) from what is often referred to as our sister city Philadelphia, and we LOVE it here.  Boston is a glorious town.  I don’t need to go into details since anyone who has been here for two weeks knows that.  Notwithstanding, there is a serious, a VERY serious shortcoming, and I dare say, an obvious one — MBTA, specifically the T trains, more specifically the Green line — and most specifically the E line, and its accompanying #39 bus.

What is going on here?  So much of Boston works so well and is so well maintained (again for space considerations specifics need not be elucidated here), yet, the transit system here is… hmm, how should I say this… ah — deplorable!

As I mentioned I come from Philadelphia where things, generally, in spite of the city’s Public Relations Department output, are not very good.  One of those glaring inadequacies is the SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) system which is a sprawling conglomeration of buses, trackless trolleys, an amazingly simplistic subway (a simple criss-cross north/south/east/west only), various subway-surface trolleys, light rail and regional rail systems which is divided three ways:  city transit (buses, subways, subway-surface, trackless trolleys), suburban (buses, light rail) and regional rail (commuter trains).  Since Philly is bigger than Boston, one can only imagine how monumentally difficult hodgepodge SEPTA is to manage.  Yet, somehow they do it.  Don’t get me wrong, Philly’s SEPTA system has Herculean problems, and its executive structure still needs an overhaul so that the board realistically reflects how the system is actually used and represented.  Notwithstanding, rather in spite of its disjointed nature and problematic executive board structure SEPTA happened to be managed well enough to win the “Outstanding Transit System 2012” award.

Why am I saying all of this?  Because the MBTA simply by its design and configuration should be so much easier and more efficaciously managed than SEPTA’s sprawling, much larger system.  But in simple fact, it isn’t.  Not even close, a fact of Boston, in light of how so much of this town I find so much more desirable, I find most distressing.  I love this town.  Ever since my wife and I moved here in April (yes, during Marathon Week), we have simply enjoyed it for way too many reasons to cite here — except for one — the MBTA and its disastrous Green Line E-Train and its sister the #39 bus.  Allow me to concentrate on those two lines, since they probably exemplify what is so wrong with the MBTA system.

The concept of schedule is a joke; and, as I far as I can see, the reasons are twofold:

1) the lack of common sense planning and experiencing reality.  How many MBTA board members, state or local politicians have used the system — again those two lines in particular — if at all?  None of these people have any real idea of the difficulties the E-train has once it is above ground.  The #39 Bus has similar difficulties primarily because of the parking and traffic nightmare known as Mission Hill.

2) At this point (much of it is caused by the above) the operators of the T and 39 bus don’t feel as if they can even come close to being on schedule.  Nevertheless, that should not be an issue with the other bus lines; however, there is obviously no, I repeat — NO — enforcement of the bus schedules.  But, then again,why should the drivers care?  Since they get no support from the MBTA or respect from the public who use the system, the natural reaction, understandably, is not to give a damn.  They are frustrated and, as a result the ridership becomes immensely frustrated.

OK, enough of the complaints. Solutions. Solutions to the MBTA are ridiculously simple, and (God forbid!) cost effective:

1) The E-Train, after Brigham’s Circle, loses its designated line, and on the street parking is suddenly allowed causing traffic to bottleneck constantly every day.  This makes positively no sense.  Therefore, the designated line should be extended, at least, until after the turn onto South Huntington Ave. (Riverway).

2) Of course, in order to accomplish this that would mean extending the ban on parking on Huntington Ave. past Brighams’s Circle as well.   Moreover, opening up that lane would then allow for the 39 bus to travel more fluidly and even follow the schedule (What?!).  This would restrict auto and truck traffic.  Now, for you car drivers who will piss and moan over such a  restriction, I say (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) so what!  Park your car and use either the transit system or ride a bike.  Get your confounded car off the street!  It simply does not make sense to allow on the street parking on Huntington Ave. at any point; it is a major thoroughfare all the way into (and including) Brookline.  I’m sure that these two proposals are new.  But then maybe that’s the point: that some one such as myself and my wife, who are still relatively new to the city can see such obviously simple solutions to such a niggling problem, then it is pretty evident that they need to be addressed.

So far I have not heard any of the mayoral candidates address this issue (or the issue of reestablishing the extension of the E line past Heath Street, whether it’s up to Hyde Square or all the way back up to Forest Hills/Arborway).  In fact, from what I’ve seen  the needs of JP despite it burgeoning population diversity and economic growth in recent years seems to have been largely ignored by the mayoral candidates.

Anyway, transit is not a trivial issue; the quality of public transit in Boston — like any major metropolis — affects the vitality and quality of life for all of its citizens.  It goes beyond maters concerning fossil fuel consumption.  An efficiently managed and operated transit system attracts investment and invites the people who come with that investment to park, or even sell, their cars, since there would be no need to have one.  Nevertheless, that is only contingent upon the MBTA and the new mayor waking up and doing something about the pathetic state of public transit in this region.  Fixing the E-line would go a long way to getting there.