Could be, should be, won’t be

New Yorker: Making the Hopewell Baptist Church great again. I love this piece. Partly I love it because it provides the punchline to a story that I had briefly heard about and then lost track of: the destruction by arson of a predominantly black church in Mississippi, accompanied by graffiti reading “Vote Trump.” The good news: a GoFundMe page with a goal of $10,000 raised over $250,000 for the church.

But partly I love it because it expresses in very clear terms what we expect of a president in these times, and by implication highlights how far we’re going to have to go to get there. Yes, Trump should get credit for giving a speech after the election calling for reconciliation, guidance and help. But he should also go and send a clear message that actions like the arson at Hopewell Baptist are not OK. I don’t think it’ll happen, but I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised.

What to do for the next four years

I feel oddly lucky this morning, in a very specific way. I feel lucky that, this year, I didn’t let myself get totally consumed by the election, as I did in 2004 and 2008, or this morning, in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as our 45th president, would feel even worse than it does. 

I also feel lucky to have lived through eight years of George W. Bush, and before him, eight years of Ronald Reagan. Because I know I can live through the next four. (Punk rock should help; it did before.)

But not the way I lived through the last eight. If last night taught me anything, it’s that we will never survive as a nation if we continue to allow ourselves to be divided. To that end, the first thing I intend to do differently, and suggest you consider, is:

Listen. You know those people you unfriended on Facebook because of their political leanings? You might want to start talking to them again. And it might be a good idea to find a media site that’s not slanted toward your biases and read that too. 

And, by the way, you can’t listen if you dehumanize, or demonize, the other side. Now is probably a good time to de-install Detrumpify. 

But I don’t mean just listen to what people on the other side of the aisle say; listen for why they’re saying it. Both sides have been saying some hateful things this election (some more than others), but that doesn’t mean they’re hateful people. They have real concerns too, though they may not always express them in ways we are ready to hear. And not all of their concerns are racist and bigoted. Some of them just want to feed their families.

That doesn’t mean you don’t call out bad behavior, which is why my second thing is:

Speak up. There are going to be a lot of actions and words that are going to anger us in the next few years. I don’t counsel silence. I do counsel raising our voices in protest—against behaviors, not people. If the blatant racism that we saw in the last twelve months continues, silence is not the right response. 


Get active. There will be a lot of people who get hurt in the next four years, but there are also a lot of people who are hurting already. Volunteering is a good way to make a difference.  Volunteering for a campaign, say for Congress, is a good path too. And for God’s sake, vote. 

Crosby Forrest Seafood Restaurant

We live in an odd time in which the transient leaves lasting traces. Photos linger for years online that would have moldered in shoe boxes thirty years ago. And even the smallest of businesses leaves traces—in reviews, websites, photos. But businesses and restaurants that closed before the dawn of the Web linger in obscurity, with no digital record of their existence.

I was reminded of this last night when I told my son the story of my first seafood dinner. “Grandma and Grandpa liked to go to a seafood restaurant in Poquoson, at the edge of the wetlands,” I told him, and then had to explain about what that meant. “It sat at the edge of a dock and was run by a man named Crosby Forrest. And it had a huge swordfish on the wall, and the biggest oyster shell I’ve ever seen.” I held my arms out as wide as I could to show him how big it was. “Anyway, I was probably about two or three, and they brought me to Crosby Forrest’s restaurant.”

“What kind of food did they have?” he asked.

“Oh, they had clam chowder.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a soup with clams in it.”


“No, you’d like it. There are different kinds; here in Massachusetts they make it with milk—”


“—and in New York they make it with tomatoes, but in Poquoson they make it with broth. They call it ‘Bull Island clam chowder.’ And then they ordered some fish for me. It was flounder, and I ate the whole thing.”

“Did it have eyes?”

“Well, flounder have both eyes on the top of their head. But they took all the meat off the bone for me. They had to, because they didn’t want me to swallow a bone by mistake.”

“Was it good?”

“Yes, and I ate the whole thing.”


“And then I got cranky, and Crosby told Grandma and Grandpa that I could sleep on the sofa in his office. And I remember waking up and seeing him and then Grandma and Grandpa came and took me home.”

“I wanna go to Crosby Forrest!”

“I wish we could. Crosby died many years ago, and his wife died about eight years ago. But I think the family runs a seafood store now. Maybe we’ll go there one day.”

“Yeah! I want flounder.”

I wish I had pictures of the restaurant. But apparently it met its demise before the earliest date of the digital archives of the Daily Press. And Google Image Search only turns up pictures of Bill Forrest Seafood, which is a distribution business. Still, the exterior of that business looks awfully familiar; I wonder if he took over the location of the original restaurant. I guess I’ll have to go back home and figure it out.

Friday bootleg time

An assortment of selections from Doom and Gloom from the Tomb that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. In reverse chronological order (of posting, not of recording).

Sonic Youth, Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, North Carolina, August 5, 2000 – falling neatly in between the first show I saw of theirs and the next two, squarely in the middle of their NYC Ghosts and Flowers period. Be ready for beat poetry.

Pharoah Sanders – Festival de Jazz de Nice, Nice, France, July 18, 1971  – Live Pharoah? Yes please.

Bill Evans Trio – Pescara Festival, Italy, July 18, 1969 / Vara Studio, Hilversum, Holland; March 26, 1969 – two live Bill Evans dates that sound worth checking out.

Yo La Tengo Does Dylan  – of course they do. Curious about the cover of “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” which is on the short list of Dylan songs that I’d consider singing in public.

Leonard Cohen – The Paris Theatre, London, March 20, 1968 – OMG.

The poppy appeal


Traveling on the Great Western Railway along Brunel’s line from Bristol to Paddington, my trip was bookended by brass bands. My Uber driver dropped me off near the front entrance of Bristol Temple Meads, and I noted the red-coated soldiers near the door at about the same time I realized they were holding brass instruments. They began playing a soft ballad as I walked inside to sort out my ticket.

A few minutes later, as the trumpet’s line climbed up to a surprising apex, it became clear: this was no ballad. This was Bowie’s “Life on Mars?”

As I stepped back to the door of the station to listen I realized that the band was surrounded by blue-coated men and women holding poppies and donation boxes. And the context clicked into place for me.

In America, the reason for the association between veterans and the cheap paper poppies on Veterans Day is not top of mind for most. Here, where so many young men died in Flanders Fields almost 100 years ago, it’s never been forgotten. This was the way the British veterans kept the memory of that awful sacrifice alive.

At the other end of the Great Western Railway line in Paddington Station was another brass band in red coats, these wearing the bearskin hats of the Queen’s Guard. They were playing a theme from a TV western. The music lacked the yearning of “Life on Mars?” but it didn’t matter; travelers were donating anyway.

Travel day


Today was a travel day. I flew from Boston to Halifax to London on Tuesday night and spent much of Wednesday in trains, finishing in Bristol. That’s a stretch of countryside between Reading and Bristol above.

The Bristol Temple Meads railway station is the end of the Great Western Railway line and was my destination for the trip. When I exited, I was struck by the plaque of dedication (below) referencing the founding genius of British railways, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I was also struck by the immense stone façade of the station, looking for all the world as though someone had dropped a passenger terminal into an old church.

As for Bristol itself—I won’t have much chance to explore, which is unfortunate. It feels a little like Boston: the same unplanned maze of streets, the same interesting mix of university, industry and technology. Looking forward to speaking at Bristech.


I guess the FBI isn’t with her

Talking Points Memo: Odd Timing: FBI Releases Closed Case Files on Bill Clinton Pardon of Marc Rich. In addition to the Clinton Foundation investigation, the full set of documents dumped also includes a set of videos from aerial surveillance footage of protests in Maryland from April 29 to May 3, 2015; the report on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state; J. Edgar Hoover era records on Nikolai Tesla; and an inquiry into Fred Trump.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, the other records posted to the contrary, the combination of the two Clinton disclosures strongly suggests that someone at the FBI has decided they aren’t going to take any chances that Hillary might be democratically elected President.