That Guy

The off-and-on snow we’ve been having lately reminded me of something that happened to me four years ago.

I was driving up my road on a weeknight, around 7 in the evening, and I noticed that the SUV in front of me had stopped.  There was a man in the middle of the road; he was crouched down, as if he were looking for something he’d dropped.  The driver of the SUV had opened his door, shut it quickly, and drove off.

I drove a bit closer, turned off my ignition, but kept my headlights on.

As I got within a few feet of the guy, to see what I could do to help, I suddenly realized who it was.

It was That Guy.

I imagine a lot of neighborhoods have someone like That Guy.  Here’s what our Guy is like:

He lives in a cute but rundown Craftsman-style house.  There’s an elderly man who lives in the house with him.  It’s unclear whether the older man is the father of the younger, or if they’re just friends.  It’s also unclear how old That Guy is, or even what ethnicity he is, because years of alcohol abuse have left him with the perpetual yellowish tan of a liver that can no longer do all of its job, and because those years have also left him with an inability to walk in a straight line, or to keep his head from trembling, sober or not.

I don’t know how the two men can afford to live in that house, because they are some of the most conscientious alcoholics I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet.  Every morning, around the time I commute to work, they walk to the bus stop; by the time I return home in the evening, I see them ambling crookedly up our hill, considerably more tipsy than they were at eight in the morning, stopping every once in a while to catch their breath.

I’m not sure whether That Guy had stopped to catch his breath that night, or if he’d had a bit more to drink than he usually does.  But there he was, in the middle of the road, drunk, in and out of consciousness, unable to move.

I talked to him for a bit, simultaneously trying to keep him awake and wondering how I was going to drag him to my car and — more importantly — lift him into the car.

A lady coming in the other direction saw me and stopped.

She got out of the car and started walking towards us.  For a few seconds, I thought I could induce her to drag him to my car with me, because That Guy was heavy for someone who seemed pretty skinny looking every time I saw him stumbling up the road.

“He’s drunk,” she said, the scorn directed as equally at me as it was at him.  I’m not sure if she thought I couldn’t smell alcohol on a guy I was holding by the armpits, or if she thought I’d poured him full of liquor and was just finishing up my nefarious plot to leave him in the middle of the road.

I mumbled something about trying to get him out of the road so that he wouldn’t get hit and die.  She obviously wasn’t keen on that plan, so she walked back to her car.

He tried to grab the car keys out of my hand.  Between that and not having anyone to help lift him into my car, I figured driving him myself wasn’t going to be an option.

So I told him I was going to drag him to the snowbank on the side of the road, and that I’d get someone to drive him home.

He made me promise not to call the cops.  I promised.

I got home and waited for my husband to come home.  After ten minutes, with no idea when he was going to come home, I called the police non-emergency line.  I described where the Guy was located, and that he didn’t need to be arrested or brought to a shelter, just dropped off at his house a quarter mile up the road.

I don’t know how the police responded to the call, but when my husband came home a half hour later, he said he hadn’t seen That Guy by the side of the road.

I still see That Guy almost every day of the week.  One day, when I was very pregnant with our second son, I saw him sprawled out in front of his house.  I told my husband to walk down the street and bring him in, but, by the time he got there, someone else had already helped him.  So perhaps the kindness of another stranger helped him on that night four years ago.

I didn’t have a snappy comeback for the woman who stopped to comment then, but if I saw her today, this is what I would say:

Where there’s life, there’s hope.  Who am I to say that someone isn’t going to turn around tomorrow and make a real change in his life?  Who am I to decide that someone’s last chance already happened?  Who am I to deprive him of one more chance to get it right?

We all have our guardian angels, and That Guy likely has more than most.  When I see him, I’m reminded of the second chances I’ve gotten, and how grateful indeed I should be for them.

What I Learned from Blogs This Week

Administrative Stuff
I’ll be putting up a few items on the Virtual Assignment Desk for next week.  If you register at the WorcesterActivist site, you can update this as well. 

If you don’t have a blog but want to report on something, let me know and I’ll post it here.  Also, please feel free to send in nominations for “What I Learned from Blogs This Week.”  I tend to collect news-ish items during the week, but please let me know if I’ve missed anything of note.

Contests & Other Publicity
If case you know someone who could benefit from this…
My friend Emily at River Valley Acupuncture will be holding the first Veterans Acupuncture Care (VAC) clinic in Worcester at Dodge Park Rest Home on March 10 from 5:30pm-7:30pm.  We’ll get up more detailed information before the event.

What I Learned This Week

CSX just received $98mil in stimulus money and more commentary on the proposed C S X Expansion.

Anyone itching to edit WoMag?

Liveblog of the City Council Meeting.

Bill on blanket code sweeps.

Tracy: Board of Ed meeting, and School Committee (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Activists at Israeli Ballet; Sean on number of protesters.

Victor went to Meanwhile…and Bret posted photos and commentary.

Lance provides the week’s best Tiger Woods media commentary.

There are plants, and then there are plants.

Who’s more subversive: Sarah Palin or Johnny Rotten?  (I vote neither…)

Honey Farms, Honey Dew, whatever.

Kelley Square, misdirected anger, As Seen on TV, I am forced to show that I have a sense of humor, dummy copselectronic waste gets a new life.

Saturday the 20th was the anniversary of the day in 1872 when the city of Worcester put up the home of Stephen and Abby Kelley Foster for auction.  (Seriously, those of you who love Albert Southwick should really follow MassMoments on Facebook.)

Telegram.comment of the week
I have to confess that I really liked this comment to the Rick Rushton/parking column:
To all,
Boy did I mess up on this one. Going forward I am going to pay these parking tickets as I get them.
The only part of this story Clive misunderstood is for a stretch I did not receive tickets because I was able to finish my work before the meters ran out. Pumping in 50 cents for 2 hours is usually cheaper than paying the 10 dollars, but I’ve learned paying the tickets without late fees saves me alot of headaches and money. That being said by not paying them on time opens me up to fair criticism. I will continue to use the meters downtown, but if I do get tickets, which I invariably will because as you can see I receive no special treatment, I will pay them promptly and not let them build up. I am also bummed for my wife being mentioned as she is a great wife, and mother, and a much better parker.
Rick Rushton

The Week in Southwick
I am going to remember Southwick’s misspelling of Lord Jeffery Amherst’s name (Southwick uses “Jeffrey”, which isn’t incorrect, but isn’t how Amherst spelled his own name) for every time someone takes me to task for my spelling.  It’s always nice to see our heroes can be human.

Narcan, for Mike & Brendan

Seriously, guys, send me a note before your show, and I’ll do your research for you.

Barbara Haller had an op-ed in the T&G almost two years ago, noting that she and Billy Breault joined Worcester’s Opioid Coalition.

Before that op-ed, both Robert Z. Nemeth and Dianne Williamson took Breault and Haller to task for their anti-Narcan stance.  There was also a regular article in May 2008 about receiving a grant to combat drug overdoses (details of the grant can be found here), and another article in June 2008 about the opposition to Narcan.  (Here’s a document from the state about opioid-related events from 2002-2006.)

Also, Worcester Mag editorialized about this in 2008.

Brendan wrote about this here and here.

Also of interest: in 2001, EMTs were not administering Narcan, and a report of the opioid overdoses, from July 2008.

And the Council requested a month ago that they receive statistics regarding overdoses over the past 10 years, drug related arrests for the past 5 years, and whether there’s been an uptick in substance abuse treatment levels over the past 5 years.

(The Worcester CARES Opioid Overdose Prevention Coalition doesn’t have a big web presence.)

Library Book of the Week

(This isn’t going to seem like a book review, but it’ll get there.)

For one of the birthdays in my early twenties — I know it wasn’t when I turned 21, so perhaps 20 or 22 or 23 — my future husband took me for a morning in the museum and then presented me with lots of little presents: a bottle of my favorite moisturizer, treats from one of my favorite places, and a videotape.

The videotape was of Bob Guccione‘s production of Caligula.

(Yes, that sucking sound you heard was the remaining decency of this blog fleeing for its life.)

Throughout my high school years, I was a voracious reader of anything and (almost) everything of Gore Vidal’s.  I haven’t read anything from him in more than ten years, and I keep meaning to, because I thought he was a pretty good stylist and I want to see if my taste at age sixteen (I thought Myra Breckinridge was hilarious) matches my current taste (I think Mark Helprin and Nicholson Baker are the two best living American writers).

So, Vidal wrote the screenplay for the Caligula movie, and I was a little bit obsessed with the whole idea.  Why did Gore Vidal ever agree to do a movie with Guccione?  Why did Helen Mirren (!!) and Sir John Gielgud (!!!) agree to be in this movie?  (To be honest, I never wondered why Malcolm McDowell or Peter O’Toole agreed to be in the movie.)  On an abstract level, I wanted to know how bad the movie was.

On an abstract level.

But, of course, there I was with the videotape, probably purchased because my future husband was tired of hearing me talk about some movie I’d never seen, and (as I recall) he forced me to watch it without any breaks, though I think he may have relented at a point or two to allow me to cover my eyes.  Needless to say, the movie is everything I thought it would be and more: bad writing, bad acting, scenes with great actors having a dialogue spliced together with some Penthouse Pets doing things I really didn’t ever want to know about.

I do recommend this review, if only for the following quotes: “Personally, the only real problem I have with the movie is that it doesn’t really build any character development” and “It’s a wonderful film with a great message, and people just don’t take the time to understand it.”

I’d also like to add the following quote, of my own, which I believe I say every time I have a story about my husband: “Yes, I still agreed to marry him.”

Anyway, the only reason I ever saw that movie is because of Gore Vidal.  Which is perhaps why I haven’t read a book of his in over a decade.

But I also have Gore Vidal to thank for introducing me to Louis Auchincloss.  I always had that vague “Isn’t Auchincloss some distant cousin-by-marriage to Vidal” impression, and I kept putting off reading Auchincloss because I felt I should read some more Edith Wharton before I read him.  But then he died, and there was a whole display of his books in the library, and I couldn’t very well say no to him, so I took the shortest book in the pile, and it was this one.

Last of the Old Guard is a short novel, narrated by a partner in a law firm, telling the story of how he and his (much more talented) law partner founded their firm in the late 1800s, managed work and family with varying degrees of success, and fought against a tide of change at the end of their lives and careers.  Is it the best book I’ve ever read?  No.  Was it hard to put down?  Yes!

Let’s put it this way: if you’d like a much-easier-to-read Henry James, except with characters inhabiting the world of Edith Wharton and not Americans in exile, then Auchincloss is the writer for you.  Did you read Cheerful Money or The Big House and feel that there weren’t enough Wasps?  Me too!  Join me as I raid the closed stacks for everything Auchincloss ever wrote!  (Trust me, none of that is sarcastic.  I could watch movies like The Winslow Boy all day long.)

Indians Object to State Seal

The state Commission on Indian Affairs has voted unanimously to support legislation that would remove the “sword-of-Damocles-held-by-a-disembodied-arm” on the seal of the Commonwealth. 

The argument for removing the sword is that it’s pointed down, towards the Indian.  (The sword was originally put there as a reminder that we won our independence through the American Revolution.  I think it looks a bit creepy.)

(You can find more about the history of the great seal at the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website.)

I didn’t see this in the Telegram.  In one way, that’s disappointing: I’m sure there are plenty of us who feel one way or the other and would want to contact our state legislators about this.  But, in another way, at least it’s one less opportunity for wacky comments on the T&G website…

Finally, It All Makes Sense

The real reason Rick Rushton ran for mayor: he needed a free parking spot.

On a more serious note, I recommend this interview with the philosopher of law Ronald Dworkin.  Owen Bennett-Jones asks him (around the 25 minute mark) if he’s ever broken the law.  Dworkin racks his brain; he doesn’t even speed when he drives, and so he says he says he has not broken the law “to his knowledge”, and further says he’s ashamed to admit that.

Then, around the 25.40 mark, he says, “I have to say: I have gotten parking tickets. … There is a long discussion, started by the great Oliver Wendell Holmes, as to whether you break the law when you get a parking ticket, or you simply pay for the privilege of parking there.  I take the latter view.”

And — finally — another quote for Rick, courtesy of Bill Vaughan: “A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.”

Library Tip: Requesting Materials Online

I request items online all the time.  Many of the books/audio materials I want are not always available at the Worcester Public Library, so I request the materials and pick them up at my leisure.  I also tend to request books because it’s much easier to pick up materials at the desk than to drag two children all over the adult section.

Once you’ve identified the book you want in the online catalog,

click on the Request button on the left of the top menu:

You’ll be prompted to log in using your library card number and PIN.  If you don’t have a PIN, leave it blank and you’ll be prompted to create one.  If you’ve forgotten it, you need to go to the library with your library card to have the old PIN deleted and a new one created.

After a successful login, you’ll be brought to a menu to indicate the library where you’d like to pick up your materials:

The menu (at least, my menu) defaults to the main branch of the Worcester Public Library.  If I’m requesting materials from outside of Worcester, I request that the materials be sent to Frances Perkins Branch (so that I can see a friend of mine who works there).  If you request materials that are available at the main library and at other libraries, and request that the materials be sent to FPBL, they will not necessarily send the Main Branch materials — they might come from Westminster instead, which is a bit of a waste of gas — so keep that in mind when you’re requesting materials.

So, select the library you’d like and press Submit.

You’ll be brought to a confirmation page:

To check on the status of your hold(s), you can click on the Return To Your Record link at the top of the page:

You’ll be brought to a list of the materials you currently have checked out; click on the link that shows the number of holds you have (highlighted below):

You’ll be brought to a list of your holds and their statuses; “In Transit” means something is on its way, “Check Shelves” and (Blank) mean that the request hasn’t been filled yet.

When your materials are ready to be picked up, it will show up in the status, and you’ll also get an email:

You usually have about a week to pick up a request at the desk.


I’ve been doing a bit of reading on the Boston pit bull ordinance, which will be discussed a bit at tomorrow’s City Council meeting.

Discrepancy in the Boston Ordinance
On page 2, the Boston ordinance mentions that Winthrop, MA, banned pit bulls in 1988, and that Lynn also banned pit bulls but that the Supreme Judicial Court struck down Lynn’s ban.  In fact, the Winthrop ban was also struck down, though that is not mentioned in the ordinance.

Number of dogs
On page 5, section 16-1.9E.4, the Boston ordinance says that “[i]n no event, however, may more than two (2) Pit Bulls may [sic] be registered, licensed, stored, housed, sheltered, or in any way located at a single household.”  Compare this to section 11, Kennel License, of the current Worcester dog ordinance, which says that people can own a maximum of two dogs (or cats, or combination of dogs and cats).  So, how would a breed-specific ordinance be stricter than what is already on the books?

Do we really need ID and photos?
A quick comparison of the Boston ordinance, section 16-1.9E.4 (a), and the current Worcester ordinance, Chapter 10 (a), shows that both require information about the color, breed, gender, special markings, and vaccination records of the dog; and information about the owner.  The Boston ordinance asks for a picture of the dog and for a positive form of ID from the owner.  I’m not sure that this would really be necessary.

The Boston ordinance, section 16-1.9E.4 (g), states that the dog owner cannot be younger than 18.  So does the current Worcester ordinance.

Boston requires spay/neuter of pit bulls; Worcester’s registration fee is lowered for animals that are spayed/neutered.  Note that the Boston pit bull license, at $50, is far more expensive than the regular Worcester license ($10 altered/$15 unaltered).

Boston requires that pit bulls be muzzled in addition to being on a leash (section 16-1.9E.5; page 7) and that there be a sign advising that there is a pit bull on the premises (section 16-1.9E.6; page 7).  Worcester has a leash law that is, by and large, being followed and enforced, as I found when I attended a meeting on December 2.

But What About Dangerous Dogs?
In chapter 12 of Worcester’s dog ordinance (pp. 4 -5), “dangerous dog” is defined; the chief of police has powers to remove such dogs from the city.  I don’t think a breed-specific ordinance could get much stricter.

Read them for yourself
You should read both the Boston pit bull ordinance, and the Worcester dog ordinance.  The differences between the two are mostly in punishment for offenders (Boston is more specific and more severe) and in prevention (signage and muzzles in Boston).  Do you think the differences in the Boston ordinance warrant further investigation?


“Z” Optimism

I was waiting to see if anyone else was going to comment on Robert Z. Nemeth’s column this week, and it doesn’t look like it — so I’ll do a few riffs on that column.

First of all, I thought that the title (“Of progress and handcuffs”) was going to take us on a journey to some hitherto unexplored side of Nemeth, namely, the side that looks for S&M partners on the Craigslist personals.  Sadly, the only handcuffs discussed were those of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  Very disappointing.

Nemeth returned from his vacation (this is the point where most of us note that he wasn’t missed) with his usual Republican optimism:

One of the things one can count on in Worcester is that progress doesn’t come quickly.

Nemeth does believe, however, that progress will happen (though, one can only suppose, perhaps not in his lifetime, and perhaps not in ours, either).  He continues:

So I was happy to learn several months ago — strictly off the record — that Mr. Park was on his way out, to be replaced by an eminently reputable local business entity that has done a lot for Worcester already. I had an opportunity to get confirmation of the arrangement in December — still kept under wraps because takeover negotiations with Berkeley were in progress. I believe once the details are made public, confidence will be restored in that long-delayed project.

The lack of confidence, as Paulie notes in this post, is not due just to this project.  It’s due to the city not having put together any sort of cohesive plan for the downtown beyond a vague “let’s tear things down, put something else up, and see what happens.”  It’s due to a neighborhood being torn down to put in a mall; it’s due to the citizenry being told that CitySquare will move forward “any day now” for the past 1000 days.  We’ve been told that MedCity will save downtown; the convention center’s economic benefits were so strong that, according to then-City Manager Hoover, it was going to put Worcester on the “map nationally and maybe even internationally.”  Though I wasn’t alive when it was put in, the AT&T building was probably touted as being one of the foremost examples of brutalist architecture in the country, and would make the city a world-wide communications hub.

I don’t think I’m being pessimistic if I’m skeptical of the 50 jobs CSX is supposed to bring to this city, especially since that’s the same number of (heavily subsidized, not yet materialized) jobs Pharmasphere is supposed to be bringing to the city.  I don’t think I’m being pessimistic if I wonder if “clear[ing] the tracks for up to 25 daily commuter rail trips in and out of Worcester by September 2012” just means that the opportunity will be there, but that there won’t be trains, or availability at South Station, or that we won’t get more than promises, at least until the next election cycle.

Perhaps I could be more optimistic if the governmental public feedback consisted of more than some comments on Kate Toomey’s Facebook page. (As an aside, the Mayor really needs to do some tweetfeeding from his Facebook, because those of us who prefer twitter are only getting some of his news items.)  I’m all for government becoming involved in social media, but if I ask Kate Toomey, “How’s this going to affect traffic patterns?” or “How much is the government going to loan/gift/etc. CSX?”, does that mean I’ll get a response — official or otherwise — from the government?  Do they really want to hear any of my concerns, or do they just want to elicit some “rah-rah Worcester is a City on the Move [or whatever the slogan is this week]” responses?

I’m glad to see some individual councilors using social media, but I think we need a more coordinated, official effort if we’re serious about using social media to increase participatory government.  (Please stop snickering, you in the corner!)  For instance, there’s going to be an (un)conference called Gov 2.0 Camp New England — is anyone from the City of Worcester planning on attending?  Has anyone started looking at the Social Media Guidance and Best Practices page from MA ITD?

Jeremy, We Need to Talk

I’ve offered you rides after various council meetings, and you’ve always turned me down, saying you could just walk home.  So I kind of got the impression that you were a guy in his early twenties, living in an apartment near downtown, barely making ends meet at a weekly paper.

I had the feeling something was up when I parked in the Water Street municipal lot for the Worcester Mag on Tap event and saw a “Reserved for Jeremy Shulkin” sign where a meter should be.  Perhaps the Lexus in that spot should have told me all I needed to know.

I thought you were different.  I’ve never seen you wear a beret.  You don’t live in a former elementary school.  You don’t pontificate on urban architecture.

And then I read this.  You have a laminated card!  People know your first name! You look down on your dominion from the comfort of your large office, complete with leather-upholstered chair!

So I did what any rational woman would do.  I sent the members of my club (you may know them as the “snob mob”) to ransack your offices; hey, I needed some spare change and half a sandwich.  And — because this is how we kick it, Island-style — I asked them to take your boss’s laptop. And, you know, pack heat, because you never know what kind of yuppie riff-raff you’ll find at José Murphy’s.

Let this be a lesson to all of you would-be alt-weekly journalists, who think you can just rake in the millions while filing articles about education policy and fire victims without any consequences.  Just think of what me and my peeps are going to do the next time you write an earnest editorial about how welcoming people have been!

(Note: if you know what this is inspired by, you know what it’s inspired by.  I’m not linking to it.  And — to the person who wrote the original — why don’t you try being constructive for once, instead of tearing people down?)