Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's 9/11, and I remember

It’s 9/11 and, more than anything, I remember two friends – Dennis Mulligan and Mike Lynch.

Dennis and Mike were two firefighters among the 343 who died this day six years ago.
They were two among the 2,974 who died as a result of the attacks. They were two friends.

It feels strange now to call them friends, especially when so many knew them so much more than I did and since they’ve been profiled on CNN, in the New York Times and beyond. I Googled them one year on the anniversary and some random guy with a blog carries around a scrap of paper with Dennis Mulligan’s name on it. He never knew him, never met him. But Dennis personifies the brave firefighters and cops who ran into the buildings when everyone else was running out. Pretty amazing.

But to me, Dennis and Mike were pals, guys I played soccer with in high school, had a few too many beers with beyond and who I saw too infrequently – like so many others – once I moved to Boston and left the Bronx behind.

Dennis was 32 that day, assigned to Ladder 2. He had the day off but he jumped on the ladder truck anyway. Mike Lynch was 30 that day, assigned to a rotation on Engine 40. He was due to marry his longtime girlfriend two months later.

So many of my friends are cops and firefighters in New York that I had a nagging feeling one or more of them might have died on 9/11. It took a few days for me to get word about Mike and Dennis. And I’ve thought of them and their families many, many days since.

Today is their day. It’s a cliché but, as so often, clichés are clichés because they are truisms repeated too many times. 9/11 is about remembering them and the thousands of others like them.

It’s 9/11 and I remember.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Good luck, Sully

Good luck.

It was always what I remember Paul Sullivan saying at the end of a conversation - light or heavy or in between: “Good luck.”

It’s what he said after we first met him for what I later figured out was a job interview back in 1998. It’s what he said when he finally hired me. It’s what he said when he offered up any of thousands of news tips when he was political editor and I was State House Bureau Chief of The Sun (“Lowell’s great newspaper, 15 Kearney Square.”)

It always seemed a strange way to end a conversation. Luck? How much of this dance we call life is really about luck, anyway? But for Paul Sullivan, you had to believe in luck.

He would hide behind luck as one of his many masks. It wasn’t hard work and good reporting that got him this great news tip, it was luck. It couldn’t have been hard work and performance that landed him his dream job at WBZ radio, it was luck. It couldn’t have been his magnetic personality, quick wit or charm that gave him a great family and friends, it was luck.

I always liked to be in the room when someone “important” met Sully for the first time. It was kind of a blast watching them try to figure this guy out. He wasn’t your typical pol and he wasn’t your typical media blowhard. As he said in a clip I heard replayed today, when he hit, he tried to hit with a pillow, not a nail. That’s rare, in media and in politics.

I met Paul Cellucci with him, met John McCain with him, even George W. Bush with Sully. All were immediately wooed by Paul’s sense of Everyman. They felt like they had an ally in Paul, even if they didn’t (and would soon learn in print). For Sully, sort of like luck, charm usually won out.

We shared many meals, typically breakfast up in Lowell or on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. Sometimes dinner, once even with wives – of course, the wives loved him more than even we did (he and Heidi had some bizarre connection over Three Stooges episodes).

As when anyone dies who you know and love, I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days of the last time I saw Paul Sullivan. It was in July, on Charles Street in Boston. He had a scar from the top of his head to his neck and a smile still plastered on his face. He was full of cheer, eager to hear what was up at the State House and in Massachusetts politics – probably looking for a story.

He told me what he told everyone. He was doing great, he had the easy part compared to doctors and family. He said it wasn’t fatal but couldn’t be cured. I think he, and we, all knew better. But this was Sully, after all, anything was possible. And he was lucky.

“Good luck,” he said, walking down Charles Street toward MGH as I walked up toward the State House.

Sully, it was good knowing you and I’m lucky to have had the friendship, the mentorship and, more than anything, the laughs.

You are on your own path now, entertaining those in the great beyond and, finally, feeling no more pain. Thank God for that.

Those of us whose lives you touched are thankful, and will eternally be thankful. I’m certain I speak for his friends, family, listeners and admirers when I say, good luck, Paul Sullivan.

Good luck.

Friday, June 8, 2007

My Day with The Left-Turn Loonies

At the risk of flooding Guarino-Blog with a wave of hate mail and some Patricia Cornwall-esque cyber stalking, I need to say this: I have now been to my first, and last Nascar event.

I think my brother-in-law said it best walking out of the Charlotte speedway, “That was a once in a lifetime experience – truly.”

This is not to say we didn’t have fun, it was a hoot. It was a slice of Americana that I’d always been vaguely fascinated and perplexed about but always wanted to see. I saw it. I’m done.

The experience started before race day. We flew to Charlotte on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend for a visit with the wife’s sister, who moved there two years ago. Charlotte , by the way, is a beautiful place and I truly can see why so many northerners are moving there (that’s a post for another time, though).

So we left the kids with their grandparents for the night and headed out to what was, no surprise, called “Speed Street” – an all-night street fair in downtown … no, wait, Uptown Charlotte. Cheap Trick was playing at one end, some country band at the other and in between was a mass of drunk southerners downing Buds and eating massive turkey legs … literally just holding on to the bone. Good times.

I downed a few beers myself and must say I truly enjoyed the fried Twinkie and fried Three Musketeers the wife and I shared. It was like nothing you’d see up here, and that’s a shame. Once you got past the shock of it, it was a rousing good time.

Race day had us tailgating by like 1 in the afternoon, which wasn’t early enough for me or my brother-in-law but we made up for lost time by enjoying some tasty beers and truly fantastic grilling by Jeff and his buddy Josh. It was so hot that me and Josh’s wife, Jodi, and their friend, Maura, huddled under the one sun umbrella and finally broke out their actual rain umbrellas to use as parasols. Yes, there’s a picture out there somewhere of me with the umbrella parasol and a beer in my hand. Truly, that’s as un-Nascar moment as the
y come.

The race started at 5:30 I think but we got in early enough to find our seats in the massive stadium (170,000, I was told). We of course were right smack in the sun so I grabbed massive lemonade and settled in. There was a military tribute – complete with fighter jets and attack helicopters that were damn cool. LeAnn Rimes performed the national anthem and the entire cast of the Fantastic Four was there (yes, I saw Jessica Alba but Michael Chiklis wasn’t dressed as The Thing).

Then it was time for “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

The race was cool, at first. The cars went flying by and were so loud I actually did pop in the earplugs Jeff had brought. But while the pole allowed you to know which numbered car was in which place, once the lead cars lapped the losers in the back, the race was pretty much impossible to follow without a TV in front of you (which, yes, some people had).

The thing that convinced me not to go back, though, was the crowd – pretty much everything you’d imagine and worse. The women behind us – yes, women – had brought in about 40 plastic containers filled with little jello shots. By the second hour of racing, the guys around us were doing the shots off the women’s chests. And let’s just say that even a single guy there really shouldn’t have been glad to see these "women" in bikinis. I'd compare it to the scene in Return of the Jedi with Lea and Jabba the Hut, but this time Jabba was in the bikini. It burned my eyes.

One of them decided to join the guys behind them in tossing water on the crowd, which felt nice at first and then Jeff rightly remarked, "I hope that isn’t urine," and I suddenly hated it. Thankfully, someone else in the crowd did too and, within minutes, about four different law enforcement/security entities converged and the chicks were gone … one was apparently hauled off in cuffs. That was followed by two batches of guy fighting with their shirts off … nice and sweaty.

At about three hours into the race, we all looked at each other and wondered why they were only half-way through the 400 laps. We stuck around for another 50 or so laps and then called it quits – and we were exhausted.

For me, it’s not so much a cultural thing, it’s an annoyance thing. I’ll admit it, I don’t like to watch Sox/Yankees games from the Fenway bleachers, it was truly not a good experience to sit in the blue seats atop Madison Square Garden for a Rangers game, and I don’t like the crowd at Nascar.

Not to worry Nascar fans, it’s not you, it’s me. I must be crazy not to think un-showered guys with mangy beards and mullets are sexy, that fat women in bikinis truly get the motor running and that six hours of watching cars take left turns is major league excitement.

My bad.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

3:30 of rock genius

So I was driving in to work this morning and, as I often do when extreme measures need to be taken in my life, I turn to raw, loud music for a brief escape. I had the window down along the ocean and up onto my iPod mix came "Porch" by Pearl Jam.

It was 3 minutes, 30 seconds of pure joy ... pure rock genius, really.

If you are a fan of the rock and the roll and don't know Porch, I do recommend checking it out. It is a modern classic, Pearl Jam at their very best. And, unlike many, it's actually the reason I started liking and then loving Pearl Jam.

It was watching MTV's great old show "Unplugged" that did it. I had heard of these guys Pearl Jam, liked "Alive" enough (until I found out what it was about, that is) and saw enough of "Jeremy" on MTV to make me think they might be legit. So, this being the late college days of 1992, I had nothing better to do ... so I tuned in when they played "Unplugged."

Legend has it they taped the show at midnight one night at a studio in Queens. That's cool. Anyway, they put on a great set and Porch was toward the end, as it was then and always should be.

I didn't know the song before so was a bit shocked at the bleep Eddie Vedder got at the first lyric....

"What the fuck is this world, running to ..."

I thought, boy, I could like this song. And it went from there. With each, "oh," as the song built, it just gets better. There is a long instrumental break in the middle and this was the show Eddie, standing on the little stool they'd given him, grabbed a sharpie and decided to write on his arm in huge letters "PRO CHOICE." Cool moment, but nothing for what came after ... the crescendo kicks in,

"Hear my name, take a good look/This could be the day/Hold my hand, lie beside me/I just need to say/I could not take a-just one day/I know when I would not ever touch you/hold you/feel you/in my arms...never again...Yeah...

Great, great rock and roll.

Perhaps surpassed a few short years later. April 10, 1994. They'd found Kurt Cobain's body two days before and this was only the second show Pearl Jam had played since then. They skipped the memorial service to play the show, almost cancelled. And Ed said a couple times he thought they shouldn't play. But they did, and they blew the doors off the old barn.

Again, Porch was the climax ... and Eddie was slamming the microphone stand down so hard at one point (I think it was Porch), that he smashed a hole in stage floor - and then jumped through it to end the song. Wow.

Shame they fell down in subsequent years. If they could have bottled this, I'd still be hooked. Now, it's left to the random song like this that I remember the once-greatness. Sad, but still great. Thanks boys.

Oh, and if you want to watch it, here's a couple things you need to see. First is the video of the Unplugged set. I can't find just Porch, but this is the whole show. And then this is a great live video of Porch that shows Eddie at his best at the famed Pink Pop festival in 92. Very nice stage diving.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Living Large at Casa Guarino

So the Guarinos have treated themselves pretty well lately, and, right about now, it feels nice.

Thanks to a sweet offer, we dumped the hard lines and got wifi, allowing me to sit in my overstuffed chair, in the flannel, blogging with my feet on the ottoman. Nice indeed.

The bigger reason for my joy is that Heidi is just a great wife. See, we decided last year to change the nature of our wedding anniversaries a bit - opting to change the gift for him and gift for her stuff to a gift for us. We figured birthdays, xmas, Mother's/Father's Day gave us enough alone gifts - we wanted treats we could both enjoy.

Last year, for anniversary four, we bought a big ole bed. No comments, please. This year, Heidi somehow let me talk her into a 37-inch HD for our fifth anniversary (by the way, it's noted that you didn't send a card, I'm keeping a list).

But, oh the glory of it. Now I sit, on said chair, with said ottoman, blogging on the wifi, watching the Sox/Yanks in HD beauty from The Stadium. I don't even really care that the Sox are losing.

My question is this - what have they been doing wrong all these years with the TVs? I mean, HD just takes things to a level that I, for one, couldn't quite imagine before. Just how cheap and poorly made were those old screens and tubes? The answer is obvious, but still a bit troubling considering how much we all sank into TVs, VCRs, DVDs, etc.

But the past is where it belongs. My future involves some ice cream and the DVR'd two-hour finale of "24" we still haven't watched as soon as the wife finishes up a phone call. Time to ditch the computer. Wifi doesn't come with ice cream cleanup yet.


Good times, good times.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Early Ouchies Hurt Too

All this talk about the early, early presidential campaign has clearly gotten to John McCain.

He must be laughing at the pundits who say the mere fact that the campaign started a year too early meant it would be a bit more tempered, a bit more sedate through these 'tween months leading up to the fireworks late this year in advance of the January primary fiesta. Today, McCain put the hard in hard-chargin'.

This courtesy of ABC's "The Note," now providing an early look at tomorrow's news with a "Sneak Peek" feature.

In a phone conference with conservative bloggers, McCain all but unloaded on former Gov. Mitt Romney. No, strike that, he unloaded. The topic, of all things, immigration ... that long-predicted third rail of the 08 cycle. McCain was asked about Romney's new ads criticizing the immigration reform bill McCain is championing in the Senate, ABC reported.

"Maybe I should wait a couple weeks and see if it changes," McCain said of Romney’s position on immigration. "Maybe he can get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his yard."

Wowchie, that's an ouchie.

Will early ouchies hurt? Yes, yes they will. I think the problem with conventional wisdom on this stuff right now is that people - not all of them, but the ones who vote in primaries - are paying attention. And this kind of critique does a great job not just of cutely reminding folks that Romney is a phoney hunter and that Romney had illegal immigrants mowing his lawn but it does a phenominal job of reinforcing the growing national consensus that Romney is completely full of crap.

So, for those of us who love a little bare-knuckled politics with their heaping portions of policy, I say bring it on.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Spidey's Lemon?

Ok, file this one under: This is why I’m glad and kinda freaked out by what I get in my Google alerts.

So I’m looking through my guilty-pleasure U2 alert and find a reference to U2 (or Bono and The Edge, anyway) working on a soundtrack for a Spider Man musical in New York .

Check it out, here at something hysterically called superherohype.com.

This could mean one or all of three things.

1. U2 are about to get involved with something totally cool that will only expand their base.

2. U2 are about to get involved with something totally lame that will be this year’s version of the “Pop” album and tour (remember the 40-foot lemon?)

3. My wife will be very, very excited.

See, as much as I love U2, Heidi loves Spidey. She makes me watch every damn trailer that comes on for Spider Man 3 (which, I dare say, looks pretty lame). We own the first two movies (two was far better than one, end of discussion) and apparently she loved the comic book as a kid. How this turned into the woman I love and mother of my children, I don’t know and what she did with the dork who read the comics, I’m not going to ask.

But it’s apparently the real deal for the musical, they’re casting for Peter Parker, MJ and even a “Geek Chorus” starting in July.

The boys in U2 have shown interest in both movies and superheroes in the past – doing “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” for the Batman Forever soundtrack. And they did the Passengers album for a movie that didn’t exist but which spawned the great track, “Miss Sarajevo.”

And, way back in 1986, Edge did the soundtrack for a putrid little movie called “Heroine” – the title song marking the premiere of a beautiful young Irish singer named Sinead O’Connor.

Could this be U2’s “Tommy”?

One can only dream. But, I admit it, I’m starting to hear distant refrains of “lemmmmmon” and I’m scared.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Governor Seatbelt

My good friend Bruce wrote well about the New Jersey highway experience when he sang about riding through mansions of glory in suicide machines. Of course, that was before the Turnpike, when Highway 9 was the road of choice. But that's besides the point.

The point is, New Jersey's governor almost put the suicide back in the machine the other day.

Maybe it's that I was in Jersey when it happened and in Pennsylvania for the few days afterward but why is this story not bigger news 'round here?

You've got Governor Jon Corzine, a gazillionaire who is already interesting just because he's spent millions to buy a Senate seat and a Governor's mansion. But on Friday, Corzine was being driven by a Jersey Statie on the way to the mansion. He was on his way to help host the oh-so-newsworthy meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women's hoop team Imus made the focus of his latest racial tirade.

A pickup cut off one car that knocked into the Gov's SUV, sending it careening into the guardrail. Governor's in critical with no less than half his ribs broken, his sternum cracked, a collarbone broken and his femur - the biggest bone in the body, cracked ... twice. Yeesh.

But the topper here is the Gov wasn't wearing his seatbelt. Why is this such a tantilizing fact? Because Jersey was the second state to require seatbelt use by law (next to my home state, the ever-ahead-of-the-curve New York, I believe) and one of the first to allow coppers to pull you over just for failing to belt up.

For now, the story is rightly about the Gov's health and recovery. Tonight's reports say he's still not out of the woods yet, is still on a ventilator and might need more surgery.

But, already, questions are being asked about why the Gov wasn't belted up. As they should. Corzine's chief of staff joked, sorta, that people don't usually tell the Governor what to do. But what about the state trooper driving his car - isn't it his duty to protect the Governor? Yes, and not just by driving carefully, by making sure he isn't the target of an assassin's bullet or whatever. He's supposed to keep the Govenror safe, even if it means safe from himself. That same chief of staff joked, again sorta, that the trooper perhaps should have ticketed the Governor. Funny, real funny.

The truth is, there probably isn't much a trooper could do if Governor Seatbelt wants to throw his own life away. Same as the morons who don't wear helmets on motorcycles. I usually chalk something like that up to natural selection. And I guess that kind of behavior extends to Governors too. Sad but true.

Friday, April 6, 2007

For Edwards, Cancer = Cash?

I didn’t think much would make me question the Edwards family these days. I was definitely among those who turned against Katie Couric for her berating of Elizabeth Edwards on “60 Minutes” and of the hyperventilating media that wondered how on earth the candidate could choose to campaign when his wife had cancer. To me, the answer is simple: He and she said so. End of discussion.

But now, I hedge.

The New York Post (I know, I know, but keep reading) has the Edwards camp confirming that they have been collecting email addresses from supporters who have sent Elizabeth get-well notes and using them for fundraising requests.

According to the Post, the link to Edwards’ campaign website invites people to “send a note to Elizabeth and John” and features what The Post calls a “sad letter from the former senator penned just after the couple found out her breast cancer had spread and is now incurable.”

Turns out those people have then been hit up for cash by Team Edwards and, if they provide it, their email is added to the campaign’s online database.

The campaign, contacted by reporters, said they would add an option to allow well-wishers to decline getting future emails.

All together now: Ewwww

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Chinese Zax

Today in China , the disputes aren’t quite what they were in 1989 in Tiananmen Square – when a student protester boldly stood in front of tanks rushing in to break up anti-government protests.

We all know now, the students won that round. But the images today are no less telling, and inspiring.

Today’s tale is brought to us courtesy of The Washington Post. Wu Ping and Yang Wu live(d) in the outpost of Chongqing , 900 miles outside of Bejing. Ping and Wu owned a small house among 300 in an area that developers wanted torn down to make way for the latest, massive bit of sprawl popping up in that land.

All the other owners sold out and moved. Ping and Wu held out. Eventually, all the other houses were raised. Wu and Ping held out. Their story became the stuff of legend around China , where they stood up to the government and the developers who refused to meet their demands – whatever those were - for three years.

It was shades of my good friends the Zax. Yes, the Dr. Seuss Zax. The north-going Zax ran into the south-going zax out on the Prairie of Prax one way and neither would budge. All around them, society rumbled on. And they kept standing, toe to toe, those Zaxes did, until the highway was built right around them.

But back in China , Ping and Wu caved – or their price was met, we’ll never know. And, under cover of night, the house was bulldozed over and the shopping plaza will now get built.
The picture of the house standing on its own tells the whole story. Was it stubbornness, fairness or just Nimbyism on a grand scale? I’m not sure and I don’t want to know.

But it is impressive – particularly in a place like China – to see the power of one or two people, committed and resolute, is still an immovable force.

Smoking Keith Richards

Now, it all makes sense.

For years, Keith Richards topped our annual dead pool – he still does. The guy is a walking corpse. Every year, as we toss names out, people nod knowingly when Richards’ name comes up. I mean, look at him:

Given the life he’s lead and, the theory goes, the drugs he’s taken, it’s only a matter of time, right? Wrong. This has been going on for years and the guy keeps on tickin’.

Well now we know why.
In an interview published by NME, a British music magazine roughly equivalent to Rolling Stone here in the states, Richards is quoted as saying:

“The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared, he didn't give a shit. It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."

Of course, now that it was published, Richards is saying it was all a joke – that he would never take cocaine now and that he truly planted his father’s ashes with a “sturdy English Oak.”


The halarious part of this is that Denis Leary called this exact scenario, years ago. Well, ok, sort of.

Back on his funniest comedy album, “No Cure for Cancer,” Leary actually joked about smoking Richards’ ashes for a high after the guitarist had died.

“I was reading an interview with Keith Richards in a magazine and in the interview Keith Richards intimated that kids should not do drugs. Keith Richards! Says that kids should not do drugs! Keith, we can't do any more drugs because you already fucking did them all, alright?There's none left! We have to wait 'till you die and smoke your ashes! Jesus Christ! Talk about the pot and the fuckin' kettle.”

Irony, oh, sweet irony.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

President Bush's Spilt Milk Theory

Thanks, Mr. President, thanks for today's near-admission you’d been wrong … and I stress the word “near.”

But this is George W. Bush. Wrong is wrong and he isn’t wrong. He’s the decider. Deciders can’t be wrong – even when he’s smacked down by the highest court in the land and even when that highest court in the land tilts in his direction. Nope, no wrong here.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Bush administration was wrong in not enforcing the key provisions of the Clean Air Act. It was the first true global warming argument brought to the high court and, boy, did it pack a punch.

Bush got dunked by the court and now he’s saying, well, nothing new really. He admits the court’s ruling is “the new law of the land” but doesn’t quite bring himself to admitting the administration had it wrong all along.

He argued that "anything that happens cannot hurt economic growth. I care about the working people of the country but also because in order to solve the greenhouse gas issue over a longer period of time, it's going to require new technologies, which tend to be expensive."

And he continued to push the theory that nothing the US does matters unless China and India get in line on global warming.

Bush said that "whatever we do, it must be in concert with what happens internationally. Because we could pass any number of measures that are now being discussed in the Congress, but unless there is an accord with China, China will produce greenhouse gases that will offset anything we do in a brief period of time.”

To me, this sounds like an argument my 3-year-old might make when he and his buddies are spilling their milk all over the floor. He may look at me and say he won’t stop spilling his milk until the other kids do too. Sure, we have to stop the other kids from spilling milk but, for God’s sake, stop spilling yours first - not just because it'll mean there is less milk on the floor but maybe, just maybe, the other 3-year-olds will stop spilling their milk too.

And how does that jive with the Bush administration's immigration policy, by the way? This is the team that wants to put a fence on the border to cut off the flow of immigrants. Well if it makes sense to turn off the spigot there to stop the flood, why wouldn’t it here, too?

But that brings us back to the 3-year-olds and milk. You can't try to inject logic into a completely illogical mind.

Minute 13 of 15, I hope

There isn't much out there these days that tops this photo on the weird-o-meter.

Obama is Christ. Perfect message for the holy weeks we are in, perfect.
I can see the bumper-stickers now: "Don't Blame Me, I Prayed For Obama."

Here's hoping this "artist's" 15 minutes are at 13.

The Globe Plot Thickens

The plot thickens this morning on the Globe's Metro page. Where Brian McGrory's column usually is, there is nothing today. Often, the editors will put notes at the bottom of the page if a columnist is on vacation or just not writing. Today, nothing.

This, of course, only heightens my interst.

Presumably now we will see McGrory's typical Tuesday column tomorrow, in the Wednesday/Sunday slot previously reserved for the now bought-out Eileen McNamara. And then Adrian Walker back in his normal slot Thursday and then what Friday - another no-column day?

Why would the Globe make a change of this seeming magnitude but not tell anybody? It makes some sense to me that they wouldn't announce a new hire or that the post wasn't being filled this early in the process - but why not at least announce that McGrory was switching days and that, during the search, no column will run in McGrory's old Tuesday/Friday slot?

So far, I haven't heard back on my official query to Globe spokesman Al Larkin and my unofficial queries to others at the paper. I'll let you know if that changes. The website page at boston.com that lists the Metro columnist schedules hasn't changed either - still listing McNamara as Sunday/Wednesday, Walker Monday/Thursday, McGrory Tuesday/Friday.

Odd, very odd.

UPDATE: So it turns out part of the mystery wasn’t really a mystery at all – just an undersold announcement. Thanks to a reader, I’ve now seen the italicized note at the end of Brian McGrory’s Sunday column that I clearly missed on Sunday: “Brian McGrory's column will appear on Wednesday and Sunday.” I stand corrected.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Signal from the Globe?

From the update department, as usual, readers of Guarino-Blog are paying more attention than Guarino.

"Jason" wrote this afternoon in a post to my McGrory item from the other day - "did we get our answer in today's paper?"

It took me a second but I realized that the Brian McGrory column I'd read not 20 minutes before had, indeed, been in the Sunday paper. McGrory writes on Tuesdays and Fridays - or, at least he did.

So does this answer part of the question, anyway? Is McGrory the new marquee writer, scoring McNamara's treasured Sunday Metro column? The Globe officially hasn't said anything that I've seen and the city's media critics haven't posted anything on their blogs. I'll ask around.

Guess in hindsight, we should have picked this up a day earlier when McNamara wrote (perhaps her Swan Song?) on Saturday - which is usually a day without a Metro column.

Of course, all this could mean nothing. McGrory might have just had an extra column sitting around and offered it up.

Could be I'm the only one in town who cares about these tea leaves. But I don't know why - this is the marquee journalism job in the city and, for my money, the biggest single soap box now available in New England.

We'll be watching. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

McGrory's Latest

Keeping on the theme of Globe columnists ... Anyone who knows me or has read this blog probably figured out by now that I'm an unapologetic fan of Brian McGrory, the Boston Globe's Metro columnist.

For me, it's as simple as this: He's the only writer in town - from either paper - that I will read start to finish no matter what the subject.

There are several others who come close, "Downtown" columnist Steve Bailey and my former boss Joe Sciacca (when he had his column). But it's McGrory who, I think, truly carries the pulse of Boston. It wasn't always that way. I think he has truly hit his stride in the last two years - wonderfully skewering pols (yes, including ones I have/do work for), telling stories of woe and triumph no one else will and truly covering the city from the columnist's chair.

So it wasn't much of a surprise to me that I picked up his first novel a couple years back, "The Incumbent." It was the story of a grizzled reporter from The Boston Record named Jack Flynn (not much of a cover, I thought, but I read on). And I was glad I did. It was a well-written, compelling story - based mostly in Washington - about a president, a reporter and another grand attempt at the perfect crime. Pick it up, it's good.

I fell off the bandwagon through two books - mostly owing, I guess, to the fact that I hadn't really read any books through the first couple years of my kids' lives since sleeping was a rarity and, when quiet time found me, sleeping was a priority.

A couple weeks ago, I stumpled on "Strangled," his latest, at Borders and figured I'd give it a shot. I just finished it the other day and it was great. It's the same reporter, a little older, a little more grizzled and now in Boston as the "Record's" top dog reporter, who gets drawn into a murder investigation which appears to shade the infamous Boston Strangler case.

Once again, a tight, well-written, compelling story. Mostly, I like the reporter-turned-action hero storyline (what current or former reporter wouldn't?). And I love the writing on Boston. It proves my point about no one knowing our capital city better. The story just has the feel, the sights and even the smells of Boston's diverse neighborhoods.

I'll admit, the writing around Jack Flynn's fellow reporter, Vinny Mongillo, annoyed me. Not just that Mongillo was fat but that McGrory had him eating like a pig in every single scene he was in. When Steven Soderbergh had Brad Pitt eating in every scene of "Ocean's Eleven," it was charming and funny - mostly since Pitt is eye-candy for most of the audience. But the image of a big, fat, sweaty guy eating all the time is pretty distracting.

That flaw aside, "Strangled" is a great read and one I'd highly recommend. Now I've gone on Amazon and, through private used book sellers, picked up the previous two books, "The Nominee" and "Deadline" (for I think $8 total). I'll let you know what I think - though I'm reading the "U2 by U2" coffeetable book and "Bringing Down the House" at the moment.

Oh, and a memo to McGrory - have one of the minions update your website, www.brianmcgrory.com. It's way out of date, doesn't have the new book featured and, unlike the columns or the books, needs some umph.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Who is the Next Globe Marquee Writer?

The Boston Globe buyouts this week had my world of politics, media and government all abuzz. For the most part, I actually thought it was a non-event. A couple major losses for the Globe are Steve Kurkjian, a true investigative bulldog, and restaurant critic Alison Arnett. I wasn’t surprised to see Eileen McNamara take the buyout but her departure opens up the most serious question for Globe editor Marty Baron.

Will he replace McNamara? If not, what does that mean to Brian McGrory and Adrian Walker? And, if so, does it have to be a woman? And, if so, with woman?

[Another, slightly smaller question than 'who' is 'when'? Do you give the newbie the marquee Sunday/Wednesday slot that McNamara has or switch around McGrory, who currently has Tuesday and Friday, and Walker, who has Monday and Thursday]

I think the answers are pretty easy on a number of fronts. Yes, he should replace her. McGrory and Walker do good work but the Globe needs another face on its Metro page.

And, yes, it has to be a woman.

That may rub some people the wrong way but get over it. This isn’t a woman’s slot, per say. But, in this day and age, for the Globe to have more than one Metro columnist and not have one of them be a woman would be wrong. I don’t think McNamara or even Patricia Smith got their jobs just because they were women but, after Bella English, I think they had to reserve at least one slot for a non-man, it’s just life, it’s just right and it's just about the best way to truly give your paper some diversity.

Now, the question comes, who?

I happen to be of the belief that the job of Metro columnist, arguably the most high-profile at the paper, must be promoted from within.

You can’t draw a good person from out of town for that slot because learning the oddities, quirks and craziness of this small town while in that kind of slot would be just painful.

And I don’t think they should pull somebody from the cross-town Herald, even though I love them all dearly, because there isn’t truly a voice there strong enough to pull it off and bring in new readers (which, remember, is the goal here).

One oddball thought I'd consider if I were Baron is a TV personality, if any of them can truly write, which I suspect some can. Consider the sorry state of newspaper circulation. Not that TV is doing a heck of a lot better at drawing in young news viewers, but news writing needs to change with the times and there's a chance - longshot, I admit - that a TV journalist could do something special with a column. Think Emily Rooney, Maria Stephanos or Lisa Hughes. Again, if they can write well.

I think really you have to look first within the Globe. And, from the reporters/editors I know, there are some pretty good choices. Now I’ll admit bias on some fronts because these are people I have worked with and like. But here are some nominations:

· Carolyn Ryan. A name few outside the business know right now but who currently wields enormous influence at the Globe. I believe her title is now Assistant Managing Editor but she’s basically Metro editor and her hands are in everything of any consequence at the Globe for good reason – she’s very good. She hasn’t had much of a chance to write since she left the Herald but, at the Herald and, before that, at the Patriot Ledger, she was one of the best reporters I’ve seen. Neither of those slots allowed her to do much of the true writing she’d have to do as a columnist but I have no reason to think she couldn’t pull it off credibly. She has impeccable sources, is very well connected around town and, one of the most important aspects of the job, she knows the city and state. It might be seen as a demotion of sorts because she could be editor someday. But I think this might be a chance of a lifetime for her and the Globe.

· Yvonne Abraham. A great writer and reporter. I first ran into her on the Straight Talk Express with Sen. John McCain in the 2000 campaign and, though I was a lowly competitor, she was nice, fun and actually helpful. She is a great source reporter because everyone genuinely likes her. She was good in the State House but, I think, underutilized. Now she’s doing immigration stories and has been breaking news and writing true enterprise pieces on the single biggest topic facing the nation these days. She’s an Aussie with the accent but, at heart, a great Bostonian.

· Beth Healy. A good reporter and writer on the Business desk, she’s now working on the Spotlight team and played a key role in the “Debtors Hell” series that, while I didn’t think it was all that, has at least caught the attention of the Pulitzer committee so that shows what I know.

· Other longer-shots could be: Stephanie Ebbert (great reporter I competed against in City Hall Bureau and would be a new, young face for an ever-changing Boston); Bev Beckham, formerly of the Herald and currently a once-a-weeker for the Sunday regional sections; And Haley Kaufman from the Living page.

Ok, now let the complaints flood in. But if you think I’m way off – tell me, who do you think deserves the job?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fellas, beer, football and, above all else, friends

So I took a brief hiatus. Sorry. I’m back. I know you missed me.

Oddly, site traffic didn’t really slow. Maybe less really is more or, as Owen’s good friend Lightning McQueen says, you have to turn left to go right sometimes.

Anyway, the reason for my departure is why I write tonight. See, I should have said this before, but I was away this past weekend participating in the single coolest example of friendship I – or pretty much anyone I know – has ever heard about. I’ll leave out all the details to protect the semi-innocent.

But for one weekend a year, a group of buddies and I get away for a weekend on the Cape. Yes, they are all guys. Yes, we go to the Cape in the dead of winter. And, yes, this has been going on now for 12 years. Yup, a dirty dozen. Fantastic.

It started when me and my roommate at the time were chatting one boring day as fall turned to winter in 1995. We were young, single and bored. We had plenty of places to drink and hang in the summer but wanted a winter getaway – basically, a change of scenery.

So off we went that early winter of 1996. We drank too much, played (gulp) tackle football, played (double gulp) The Century Club and generally just beat ourselves silly. Details, again, are being closely guarded. We didn’t think much of it when we did it the following year, and the year after, and the year after.

Pretty soon, somebody got married, then another, then someone got divorced, then someone else, a baby or two showed up, we bought houses, a few guys lost their dads, someone had to move away for work, etc., etc. We still drink a bit too much, play football (though we’ve downgraded to flag football after two guys broke bones), have moved to 3-Man or play some cards, have a first class meal, pull out the guitars and, of course, do a lot of laughing. This is typically how we learn about major changes in employment, job misery, spousal problems and, as with this weekend, the pending arrival of another child.

Over time, the weekend changed – not so much in substance, but in meaning. We were no longer just looking for a change of scenery for our debauchery. Now this was our weekend to reconnect, to rebond and to let loose the chains of the working stiff for 72-hours of, well, youthful indiscretions (the legal kind, thank you).

So that’s where I was Friday through Sunday. Of course, I was welcomed back with several late nights and long days at work – check the headlines, they’ll do a better job explaining than I will.

Anyway, it’s a fabulous tradition that we are sure to keep up. We’re already making big plans for year 20 (I’m suggesting Vegas, baby). Every year we mention in passing that we should invite a Cape Cod Times reporter along or something and tell people about our little tradition. Every year the wives/girlfriends complain a bit but admit after that they are not-so-secretly jealous of our tradition and our friendships.

Along the way this year, that friend I mentioned who dreamed this all up with me told us to check out this story on CBS the other night.

It’s a bunch of 70-somethings who have been getting together regularly to play cards for 50-odd years. Fifty years. Holy good God. One of them remarked that the cards were irrelevant, they were there for the friendship. They had the marriages, kids, houses. Now they are going through the loss of spouses and one of them has Alzheimer’s. So what do they do? One of them sits out every hand to help Charlie play.

Katie Couric remarked that not many people can claim friendships so long-lasting. She’s right.

Except I know 15 or so guys who, in a few more years, will all be able to say they can claim friendships that long-lasting. And it’s a truly special thing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Horrible Press Work

Rule number one in flack school is, first, do no harm in what you say. Number two is some version of this: Stay the hell out of the shot.

I've had my ups and downs with number one in my two years on this side but I sure failed miserably at number two today outside the Governor's Office.

Excuses abound - mainly that I, like the troopers next to me and Transportation Secretary Cohen to my right, really did not have anywhere else to stand since it was a jam-packed press avail. But they are just excuses. I failed and now, I pay the price.

Thank you, Associated Press, thank you.

A Smarter No-Brainer

Salem, like many, is taking the first tentative steps toward installing cameras in traffic lights to catch scofflaws. Good for them.

Salem City Councilor Jean Pelletier was quoted in The Salem News saying, “This is pretty much a no-brainer.”

Agreed. So-called civil libertarians who think their “rights” are being infringed by government catching them in the act of, ahhh, breaking the law!

It’s illegal, folks. Just because there’s not a cop sitting there watching you do it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be caught. So that’s the same for speeding? For breaking and entering? Spousal abuse? All is well, beat thy wife, just not when Johnny Law is around. That’s a load of crap.

The one beef I have with the Salem discussion is that they are going to post signs at intersections that feature camera lights. I’m sorry, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose? We all know the rules of the road – or at least should know them. Do we put signs up when there’s a hidden speed trap up ahead? And, carrying forward the above analogy, let’s just put signs in homes – “Just Don’t Beat Your Wife Here But Over in the Next Room is Fine.”

Well, I guess it could be worse – I could live in Swampscott. There, the town rejected the idea of traffic light cameras. Why? Well, it seems the cameras would actually cause more rear-end collisions because drivers would stop abruptly at yellow lights. Sure, maybe a few more rear-ends might happen. But given how many of the much-more-dangerous side-swiping accidents won’t happen, it seems, again, a no-brainer.

Just check out the federal highway stats and success stories – proving my point. At one New York City intersection, accidents were cut down 60 to 70 percent. Not bad.

Like most folks, I wasn’t so militant about this until I had kids. Now, every idiot on the road is a potential killer of my little boys. If a ticket from a camera stops some moron from running a red and slamming into my Jetta while Owen is pointing out the birds in the sky and Jake is quietly trying to scratch his brain through his nose – more power to ‘em.

No brainer.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"The Joshua Tree" - A Masterpiece at 20

I remember it now like it was yesterday – really, I do. I was 16, driving with my high school buddies, excited beyond my young, teenage belief, about plopping down $11.99 for the new LP from a band called U2. Its name: The Joshua Tree.

I was driving with Joey Kimmel, Bobby Jackson and Dennis O’Brien from our high school in The Bronx up to our favorite mall in White Plains , New York . This was necessary, of course, because, let’s face it, most record stores in The Bronx didn’t carry U2 then – or now.

It was early March, 20 years ago. Twenty years. Wow.

We piled into my old, gray Chevette – which was my Mom’s, of course – and drove up to, I think, a Sam Goody in the Galleria Mall the day The Joshua Tree was released. I bought the LP for some reason, clinging to that theory of old-music and, more likely, wanting the big pictures and lyric sheets that surrounded an old record.

I know someone bought the tape because we popped it out to listen on the way home. I don’t think any of us bought those new-fangled Compact Disc versions. Hell, they weren’t gonna last, right?

So we get back in the Chevette and put in the tape. Organ creeps in and someone announces this song has a weird name, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I figured it was about New York . I was wrong, it was Belfast but that didn't matter at this point - my world was about to change. I was listening for the first time to a modern musical masterpiece.

The moment the band came roaring in on that song, I knew they had more than lived up to the advance billing and hopes following the critical and popular acclaim of “The Unforgettable Fire.”

For me, it was a love affair cemented. I first got into U2 the way I did most of my music in those days, when one of my brothers brought home a record and I borrowed it. In this case, it was “War” a full four years before. He drew me in with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Years Day” – I stuck around for “Two Hearts Beat as One,” “Like a Song” and “40.”

We watched the Red Rocks show live on MTV, with our Mom. She liked “Gloria” because it had religious overtones. Hey, whatever it takes to win over Mom, right?

After “Unforgettable Fire” came out, we tried to score tickets for the Radio City Music Hall show on that first mini-tour. But it sold out in something like 10 minutes. Crazy.

But we succeeded on the full tour the next spring, scoring great seats for their unbelievable premiere at Madison Square Garden on April 1. Someday I’ll write expansively on that amazing night but, suffice to say, between "Bad" (which literally made the woman next to me cry) and "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," they had me.

Anyway, I was a fan when the J-Tree came out. Afterward, I was a fanatic. The album was an instant classic and remains one of the greatest albums of all time – 20 years later. It’s just that simple.

It has such a wide, open sound – a yearning, hopeful sound that blew through the dark age it was born out of. It launched U2’s true love affair with America , with images as diametrically opposed as a scowling Reagan in “Bullet the Blue Sky” to the beautiful Southwestern images evoked throughout “In God’s Country.”

Several songs were hits – “With or Without You,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Streets.” Others, though less known, should have been – like my personal fav then and now, “ Red Hill Mining Town .” Why they never released that as a single and video is beyond me. "Running to Stand Still" - haunting, terrifying, a true story of suicide that came into its own only in later tours. "Mothers of the Disappeared" - underrated and rarely played but powerful in the way a mother can only love a son. "Exit" - the first in what would become a series of U2 songs that built a powerful rolling jam, where the lyrics were nice but the band really took charge over Bono. "One Tree Hill" - the eulogy for a friend. And "Trip Through Your Wires" - a Springsteen romp dressed up in an Irish bonnet.

I saw them 11 times on that tour – from a great starting point in Hartford where they came out with the lights still on and played “Stand By Me” to the first of many stadium blowouts at Giants and Foxboro. Driving to one show at the old Nassau Coliseum with Bobby, Joey and Jen Papp, I said aloud that I really wanted them to play “One Tree Hill” and Bobby said he wanted “Party Girl.” They played both. Great night. And, yes, I was there the night at MSG Bono had his arm in a sling and they played "Still Haven't Found" twice - the second time with a choir, and it ended up on "Rattle and Hum."

They came into their own on that tour, captured perfectly on “Rattle and Hum.” It was an age of promise for them and their music that just solidified a couple years later with the even-better-selling Achtung Baby!

The late 80s will always be a magical time for me – what time isn’t for someone in their late teens?

And the soundtrack to that magic was U2, usually “The Joshua Tree.” I’m glad to listen to it now, as I did driving home tonight. And I'm glad I can search You Tube for videos of these great songs recorded in concerts - as I did with the links above. All that brings back that flood of memories – so rich, as a good man once said, I have to swat them away like flies.

Congrats on the anniversary boys. A hell of an album.

The second time I met Bono I thanked him for writing “Out of Control.” He was shocked as hell.

Someday, maybe, I’ll get to add a thanks for The Joshua Tree – a modern masterpiece that day in the Chevette and 20 years down the road. Somehow, I don’t think he’d be quite as surprised.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Raving Mad Dad

What is it about fatherhood that makes you want to become Bernie Goetz?

I’m not sure I want to know but I can say that, for the past three-and-a-half years most any story that pops up about parents or others harming children makes me want to turn into a screaming mad vigilante.

There were two examples this week and they just about made my blood boil.

One was the father in Springfield who picked his kids up at daycare, drove them to the parking lot of his wife’s business and set the entire car on fire – killing himself and the two innocents. The mother had to be hauled away in an ambulance in a shock that will probably never wane.

One of my coworkers, also a father, said it best: “I wish I could have been there so I could pull him out of the car and then kill him myself.”

Same goes for the rocket scientist in Indiana who flew a plane into his mother-in-law's house – with his 8-year-old daughter in the co-pilot’s seat. His message to his ex-wife before the crash: “I’ve got her and you’re not going to get her.”

In the background, the mother heard little Emily saying, “Mommy, come get me, come get me.”

Add them to the sad roster of demented parents like Susan Smith, Andrea Yates, Kenneth Seguin and Jeffrey MacDonald. And don’t even get me started on relative strangers or caregivers who kill – like Louise Woodward.

I used to shake my head at these crimes. Now that I’m a father, I want blood. And, to be blunt, I’m not very apologetic about it.

I think it’s just plain healthy. I live in daily fear about what will happen to my kids that day. I drive safer, I eat safer, I play safer, I live safer. Having those four eyes look up at me every morning (particularly two little boys who look at me for protection, for safety and, gulp, as a role model), makes me want to live longer and better.

So if it’s a given that my hand clutches more tightly around theirs when a weird dude approaches in the parking lot or that I look at the lady in the grocery store like she’s crazy when she just reaches out and touches my baby without warning, it only stands to reason that I’d believe the willful act of a parent hurting – or killing – his own child is the living breathing example of evil.

I only trust in moments like this that there is a heaven, for the innocents, and a hell, for the guilty.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Barack Market Crash

And here comes the Clinton opposition research team. What took you so long kids?

Page one of The New York Times had a solid piece of reporting about some oddly-timed and just plain odd investments Barack Obama made shortly after getting elected to the Senate.

The bottom line is this: He bought some significant amount of stock in a few obscure companies that had ties to some of his biggest political donors. Probably not illegal, but certainly has a stench of shoulda known better. This comes after the previous mini-uproar about his ties to an indicted developer who help Obama with his personal, ummm, finances. Not helping with the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do problem, of course, is that Obama made ethics the hallmark of his early tenure in the Senate.

So what does all this mean? Chum in the water, I think.

Early oppo is like early money in the negative. Early money is like yeast, the saying goes, and brings more money. Early oppo like this, especially on PG1 of the Times, puts blood in the water. Reporters at the Chicago Trib, Washington Post, LA Times and, yes, even El Globo, are sitting around now wondering why they didn't have this, what other there might be there and where to take the story next.

And, no, paying off the parking tickets isn't going to help all that much.

Batten down the hatches, Team Hope, the sharks are coming.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Fair Vanity?

Bono as editor - As a writer, I shudder at the thought.

Given how much squabbling the boys in U2 do over their music to make it, in their eyes, as perfect as it could be, I can't imagine the guy sitting at a computer, watching the blinking cursor at the first line of my story. Even worse if that's a topic he cares about, like, say, Africa.

Well that's exactly what's happening now at the offices of Vanity Fair - where the world's biggest rock star is acting as guest editor for the July issue, a special African issue, of the venerable mag. The Times sat down with the man formerly known as Paul Hewson and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter - offering up a decent, if surface, behind-the-scenes take the other day.

It's a tough subject, Africa, especially since the most compelling stories out of that continent are the tragedies - of which there are many. Bono suggests he's determined to make Africa sexy - that shouldn't be much of a challenge. But, as someone who does care about what's happening there and who has donated a bit to help the cause, I want to know more than just the sob stories. It's good that Bono seems to know this already. "We are trying to deal with the Sally Struthers thing," he told the Times, a stack of story ideas in front of him.

But it's a difficult nut to crack given the Vanity Fair audience. I'm certainly not your typical VF reader. I was drawn in when my good friend Jonny Tap told me it was a great magazine for people who loved good writing - and he's right. I skip over Dominick Dunne and half the stuff that, as the Times call them, "the idle rich" care about. But very few mags do the kind of indepth feature, news and investigative writing at VF does - as well as VF does. So, speaking for one reader, I say give me that, Bono. Give me the good writing from Africa and I'll come along for the ride. But that isn't necessarily what makes them the big bucks at VF.

I'm intrigued when Bono talks about the emerging markets in Africa - that the bars are dotted with Chinese businessmen who know there is money to be made there. Tell me about life in the cities too, tell me about the middle class of Africa, tell me about the stars of Africa, the pop culture of Africa and tell me about the media of Africa. Those stories will be compelling to me, and even to some of the cocktail party circuit in Hollywood and New York. He won't convince the bosses to change the magazine's name to "Fair Vanity" for one issue, but he'll make a dent.

It's good to see Bono still pushing, though. He's got his work cut out for him and, as he notes, writing songs, holding charity concerts and walking the halls of Washington alone won't do it. Media can help and getting a mag like VF to dedicate an entire issue to the cause is something that could only be done if a rock start/movie star or someone of that ilk will give of himself. That's what Bono is doing, and, as an unabashed fan, I think that's pretty cool.

As he says, "I'd meet with Lucifer if I thought it would do any good." Journalists, politicians and rock stars ... Good thing he's met with the Pope, that might help too.

Monday, March 5, 2007


Romney update ...

The guy isn't measuring the drapes, yet, but he's already plotting where the summer White House will be. From The Politico:

Politico: What the White House reporters really want to know is whether your Crawford will be in Deer Valley, Utah, or Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H.? (He has homes both places.)
Romney: Well, that’s a hard choice. But without a question, it would have to be in Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H. We’ve actually chuckled about that, thinking about it the last couple of weeks and months. I wouldn’t want to impose the Secret Service and the press corps on our nice little community in New Hampshire. So maybe I’d get to visit once a year for a quick weekend and then get the heck out. Because I wouldn’t want to intrude on the beauty and the calm of that fabulous place.

Of course, he's already used that house to try to bolster his New Hampshire primary bona fides.

We know the neighbors have bristled over past Romney attempts to boost security on the lake and, in the process, make his beach private.

And who could forget the time Mitt and the boys actually saved some stranded boaters on the lake ... and then called up reporters to do a press conference there?

No, Mitt doesn't want to politicize his little town, does he?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Careful Candor, Mr. Mitt

It's always those unguarded moments that catch a presidential candidate and show a bit of the true person behind the massaged, messaged candidate creation.

As a reporter, I always found the 10 minutes before an interview truly started and the period after the recorder went off to be much more enlightening than anything a candidate could ever tell me on the record. It surely showed up with George W. in 2000 when he talked with me with such excitement about baseball - a glee that never really showed when he was talking policy or even politics. I think that mild disinterest has manifested itself throughout his presidency, mostly in the worst ways.

Now it's showing just a bit with the Talented Mr. Romney. It surely was a parlor game in the State House press corps to try to get any little snipet of real Mittism. Reporters breathlessly retold the story of how the only daliance Romney allowed himself was the rare Vanilla Coke. In truth, Mitt's peeps told us it was regular Coke, not Vanilla.

But with all of them, particularly Mitt, you have to look for those rare moments where the guard is down in interviews, appearances and debates. It speaks volumes.

Check out this one with Real Clear Politics.

Mitt opened up about his dreams of all things after the recorder came on, waxing about his dreamed fear of You Tube.

"ROMNEY: You've got to be really careful about what you say and do anywhere you are. I actually had a dream about being in parking garage and having somebody in front of me taking too long to get their change and honking the horn and then yelling back, and getting out and yelling at each other and then seeing it on YouTube the next day. So I said 'OK', I've got to really be careful, you know, in my personal life."

Wow, Mitt's dreams. I never really want to go there. Never.

But this, to me, shows a certain vanity that is rare even in presidential candidates. How much has he drilled it into his own head to avoid missteps on the trail that the behavior modifications are even entering his private dreamworld? Man, that's deep. Sorry.

Anyway, it's revealing - if, even, for a moment. And the Mitt had better be careful. If he keeps doing things like that, we might just get a sense of the real person behind the candidate ... before he gets elected.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

My 1K

Somewhere out in America last night, a complete stranger found his or her way onto this blog and officially logged as my 1,000th unique visitor. Ok, so it was someone in Brighton and probably someone I know. But still, I think 1,000 is pretty cool.

I started Guarino-Blog on a snowy, boring, unemployed morning - January 23. I wouldn't say it took off from there, but Seth Gitell, Adam Hurtubise, and Jason Lefferts helped draw in my first visitors. I followed my good pal Jack into the fray and helped draw the wife into the blogosphere - she's already better than I am, I know. I'm sure folks with Google alerts on presidential candidates and movie stars helped chug me along but certainly friends, family, work and casual acquaintences and total strangers have driven me to the, I think, impressive 1K mark in just a little more than two months.

I've praised Obama and Mitt and then turned around to hit them both. I've tossed around Pete Townsend, Oasis and, of course, the boys from Dublin. I've chatted up my kid's potty-training problems, my wife's smiling genius and pretty much every illness to enter the Guarino household.

My sitemeter tells me I've hit a ton of spots around the states. Of course many people in Massachusetts along with friends and family in North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and (freakin') Jersey. But also folks in Illinois, California, Oregon, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. Beyond our shores, I've been read in Japan, China, England, Portugal, Australia, France, Belgium, and Germany (thanks Brushy).

This is my 46th post and, hopefully, my least imaginative. But I just wanted to note the moment, give a slight self-pat on the back and say thanks for reading. And, more importantly, hope you come back and, if you do, say hi.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

An Inconvenient Doof

Now I've never exactly been one to defend Al Gore. Heck, I spent 36 days in Florida six years ago thanks to his campaign - still one of the most scarring experiences of my young life.

But knocking the guy for his environmentalism? That's just silly.

To bring the uninitiated up to date, The Tennessee Center for Policy Research hit the Oscar winner the day after his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" nailed the Academy Award for documentary. It was the height of political do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, they said. Gore preached but didn't practice in his home - emitting a huge carbon footprint on his sprawing Carthidge estate.

Turns out the group was basically right in their main fact - that the Gores use a lot of electricity in their home. But they took one fact and drew some pretty startling conclusions - which, of course, got them headlines.

“As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use,” said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.

They should be smart enough to realize that's only part of the story.

Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider told the Associated Press: "Sometimes when people don't like the message, in this case that global warming is real, it's convenient to attack the messenger."

Kreider said Gore purchases enough energy from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and methane gas to balance 100 percent of his electricity costs. The former Veep has reportedly said he leads a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." To balance out other carbon emissions, the Gores invest money in projects to reduce energy consumption, Kreider said.

Ok, ok, the guy's got a mansion and uses a ton of juice. Get in line. Even those of us in small homes probably use too much. But who among us can say they use a lot of solar, wind and methane gas and invests in projects that reduce consumption? Hmm, hmmmm?

I'm not naive enough to think Gore isn't a target on the environment, he surely is. But to knock a guy who does this with his free time for not being Green enough? Now that's just silliness.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Political Theater" At It's Best

Every now and then, I'm going to just shamelessly plug a writer who must, under most any circumstance, be read. These are people I like so much I've created Google alerts just to read their stuff.

Today, speak up about Dana Milbank of The Washington Post. In yesterday's Post, he delivers nothing short of a laugh-out-loud piece that slices and dices Rudy Giuliani. Read it here, now.

The premise is that Rudy used to charge $100,000 per speech but, now that he's running for prez, is giving them gratis, of course. So Milbank went to hear Rudy speak to the Hoover Institution and literally parsed out the 46-minute word by cost. Trust me, hilarity ensued.

"Had America's Mayor charged the going rate, the 46-minute, 34-second speech would have cost the conservative think tank $2,147.46 per minute, including:
* $5, 368.65 for jokes about the weather.
* $21,899.94 for his views on education.
* $9,019.32 for his thoughts on taxes.
"Instead, the Hoover folks got all this free, and more! Giuliani threw in bonus thoughts on foreign policy such as, 'We clearly won the Cold War' (that two-second snippet had a market value of $71.58), and "We've never been a perfect country, we're never going to be a perfect country, but we're a good country, so we don't like war" ($214.74 for this six-second gem)."

Biting, hard-hitting, funny. Perfect political journalism.

The Post's description of his column fits - "an observational column about political theater in the White House, Congress and elsewhere in the capital."

He's great at skewering people with their own words.

He enjoys tearing into staff which, in a place where staff holds so much sway and swagger like Washington, it's always a fun thing to watch.

And he's clearly a practishioner of the old maxim about afflicting the comfortable - regardless of party.

Anyway, check out his columns here - worth a look and a nice, long winter's night of reading.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Let My Blog Open the Door

First of all, who knew that Pete Townsend has a blog? I mean, what the f-? Good little world we have here. I came across Robert Reich's the other day (by the way, he predicted Gore would win the Oscar and announce right there that he was running for prez - oops).

But now I see the mighty Pete has his own blog. Pretty much set as a way to build hype about his memoirs, the blog did, however, give Mr. Townsend the vehicle to author a spirited defense and spiritual hope for none other than Ms. Britney Spears.

Check it out:

"Dedicated Man In A Purple Dress to Britney in Long Beach. I said, 'Let's not be too quick to judge'. Roger said 'Britney? Britney who?' Like, Roger! Pullease...... read the paper.Just heard she's gone back into rehab. Pray for the babe. This is a tough business when you have a down period - she sometimes has over one hundred cars following her, every one with a camera geek in it.Tonight's show? My feet hurt. I gashed my hand. My fingertips hurt (my guitar strings felt too heavy). I'm happy. I must like pain."

So this is Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend - two musical geniuses, talking about Britney, the tart of all tarts. And who says the blogosphere isn't productive?

I guess Pete has a point on Britney but, let's face it, this is the woman who drove around with her kid on her lap - when she was sober. So we're not dealing with a properly-stacked deck here, are we?

And, if I'm Britney, would I take advice from this guy? I mean, hell, "Who's Next?" is a definitive album, "Tommy" a masterpiece and "Baba O'Reilly" defined a generation. But talk about a train wreck waiting to happen?

Still, I'll come back to his blog - if only because his entire profile is simply: "I'm in a rock band." Well put.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Horseshoes, hand grenades and, apparently, the Oscars

I was close to perfect. I took my perfecto into the 9th but blew it on one category. Damn you Alan Arkin.

The wife, well, she was perfect. Kudos to her and, apparently to the proprietors of a local Thai restaurant and the makers of the next great chick flick. Heidi killed me again in the Oscar pool, taking seven of seven categories in a clean sweep. Bravo, I say, bravo.

Unfortunately for me, pools are one of those things where almost is close enough.

Of course, we were both sleeping through most of the awards, as predicted. What a ridiculous charade it is to keep that show going so long. I’d love to see the ratings numbers for midnight and after. A joke.

From what I saw, I’d disagree with the conventional wisdom that Ellen didn’t do a good job. I actually laughed out loud at her into monologue (a rarity when watching standup for me). I thought the in-the-crowd with Scorsese and Eastwood was a little lame but the insider jokes were great – this is the ultimate Hollywood insider event … that’s what we expect!

And I loved the Will Farrell, Jack Black, John C. Reilly song – hilarious.

Still, kill about two-thirds of the show, make it two hours and America would be much happier.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar night - My picks

Following a tradition begun by a good man, each year I try to get to every Best Picture nominee before Oscar night. Almost always a good time since, typically, there really aren't any bad movies nominated for Best Picture.

That goal was a lot easier before kids and, this year, I failed again. I made it to four of five - leaving 'Letters from Iwo Jima' at the alter. I had one more movie-going day in the week before I started the new job and two movies to go ... I picked 'Babel.'

Still, the wife and I have begun an annual Oscar pool and I see no reason not to show my cards here so I can be judged and hopefully judge whomever joins (so come on in, popcorn's on me). The bet in our house is choice of restaurant and movie for our next date night.

We take the big six and this year we're doing adapted screenplay as the tie-breaker (mostly since we've seen more of those movies than original screenplay nominees). Last year, she smoked me. I'm not feeling particularly strong this year, especially since she loved 'Dreamgirls' and it will probably do pretty well.

The sad thing is that we almost never know who wins before going to bed anymore. I'm sorry but midnight is just too late to sit up to here Martin Scorsese ramble. As Heidi said, one of the few times I wished I lived in California - the other, of course, being during baseball playoffs and, well, winter.

So here's my picks.

Picture - 'The Departed' should and will win. Sorry but 'Little Miss Sunshine' doesn't belong.

Director - Scorsese will finally pop his cherry (Goodfellas reference, not just being crude). Don't rule out Clint Eastwood, though, but I'm with Martin for good reason.

Actor - Forest Whitaker for Last King of Scotland. Didn't see it, but the Academy always likes to think of itself as worldly. Watch out for Peter O'Toole, though for one last nod from the insiders.

Actress - Going with my heart on this one, Helen Mirren. She was incredible in 'The Queen.'

Supporting Actor - Going with my head on this one - Eddie Murphy. I think Marky Mark was better but Murphy will get the nod for going semi-legit in 'Dreamgirls.'

Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson. Period. She was amazing.

And the tie-breaker - Surprise, 'The Departed' for adapted screenplay. Loved 'Children of Men' but as much as I like them, I don't think post-apocolyptic thrillers are the stuff of Academy Awards.

So tune in at 8:30 (of 9 if you're me and watching 'The Amazing Race All-Stars). And good luck staying up through the intolerable speeches from Best Foreign Film winners and lifetime tribute honorees - I'll be snoozing, remembering the best line of 'The Departed' ("I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy") and dreaming of victory in the house pool.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cash is Clinton

Maybe it’s just me, but don’t you just love ex-presidents? I love the allure, I love the lifestyle, I love the fact that they get Secret Service protection for life. I can’t get enough of what they are doing – or not doing – with their time.

It is the ultimate retirement, really. You’ve had the greatest job in the world for four or eight years so what to do? Nothing, really.

Sure, Carter is trying to atone for a mediocre presidency and win the Nobel. Nixon was trying to atone for, well, everything, and stayed largely out of sight. Ford set the gold standard, playing golf and hangin in Cali.

And then there’s Bill Clinton. A relative pauper most of his life in Arkansas, the guy has been out earning large, phat cash. And who could blame him? They did ring up more than $10 million in legal fees thanks to Whitewater and Monica. And they had to prepare for Hillary’s self-financed run this year.

So in comes the Washington Post with a fascinating story of the ex-president’s big, big travel. Over five years, a cool $40 million. Nice.

The details in the story are pretty good, though it certainly could have been written with a bit more pop. But I love, love, love the graphics online.

This is why we need real newspapers to survive and thrive on the web. The folks at Google or YahooNews wouldn’t come up with these kinds of cool graphics. It’s fun to go speech-by-speech on the map to see Bill bouncing around the globe. I also wasn’t aware before that he was in New Zealand on 9/10/01 … makes you wonder if he was stuck there on 9/11 or had trouble getting home.

And it’s neat to see how much he got paid for his local speeches. Salem State College, Tufts and Temple Beth Avodah shelled out $125,000 for the big guy in 2001 and 2002. Funny, I wondered how Salem State attracted such good speakers … now I know.

Anyway, check it out, good read and very entertaining.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Romney Downswing ... Already?

First, I just thought it was the Globe being nasty to the local guy with their headline about his new ad just outright saying he was "faltering." Now it really seems Mitt Romney's national star may be dimming a bit at just the wrong time.

The Hotline, the most respected of all the insider must-reads, dropped Mitt in its unofficial White House 2008 rankings.

They wrote this:

"Romney's campaign kick-off was overstaged and underwhelming. Somewhere beneath the cant, the real Mitt Romney is struggling to get out. Also, the decision to go on the air this early may be a mistake because now, instead of peaking in the fall, he needs to start moving up in the polls before the summer, or else the media will go into a "what's wrong?" frenzy much earlier than deserved."


I'm not sure I totally agree that going on the air early is a bad move. Yes, it's true the media will wonder aloud if he doesn't start moving in the polls now but the great truth about ads is that, in a vacuum, they almost always work. Obviously, in a national campaign and, particularly in these early primary/caucus states, Mitt is going to have to do a lot more than just be on the air. In fact, in Iowa and New Hampshire, it'll be much more important to be on the ground.

But now it's all about name rec and John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have it, Mitt doesn't ... yet. My assumption with the man from Belmont is he's got money to burn. So what better cause right now? And, by the way, the ad is good - watch it here.

I stand by my "don't underestimate this guy" mantra about Team Mitt. The thing I would worry about if I was in the North End HQ is the subtle Romney-fatigue creeping into press stories. The problem with this campaign starting so early is that the press is already looking for the second and third acts and we're not even in March. When the silly Obama/Hillary infighting passes, they'll wonder why the Republicans aren't doing the same.

And don't forget, the press always wants a two-person race - three is just too many when you have active races on both sides. So watch out Mitt and keep an eye on that second chair because, eventually, the music's gonna stop. This year, it might stop earlier than anybody expects.

A New Senate Nuclear Option

Could the Joe-Mentum in the Senate be moving toward the GOP? It’s truly the new nuclear option for Senator Joe Lieberman, who told Time and The Politico that he’d consider switching to the Republican Party if Democrats don’t get their act together on Iraq .

“I have no desire to change parties,” Lieberman told The Politico. “If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don’t feel comfortable with.”

Lieberman said the pending fight over funding for Iraq and President Bush’s surge could be a tipping point for him – and, thus, the Senate. “I hope we don’t get to that point,” he said.

Proving the move is pretty well orchestrated, Lieberman said the same stuff to Time in a piece appropriately titled “What Joe Lieberman Wants …” Time talks about Lieberman preferring Sen. John McCain in the presidential sweepstakes, that he’s working on a Social Security fix with South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham.

About leaving, Joe calls it a “very remote possibility.” But, as Time notes, even that “possibility” gives Lieberman all the cards with the Democrats – and the White House.

What a far cry from last year, when Democrats thought they had Lieberman over a barrel and had him knocked out in a primary, never to be heard from again.

The trick for Joe is to use his power once and be done with it. He surely knows well that you can’t be the senator threatening to flip forever.

But, for now, he could be exactly what the Senate and the country needs – a moderate voice to pull together both ends of the spectrum. Hmmm, sounds like the working definition of an independent.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Long Live The Beef

A friend of mine, who will go nameless because, well, you'll see, once won a great bet at the Hilltop Steakhouse.

He had just finished a tasty slab of prime rib - the king cut, I believe. Baked potato, all the fixings. Like a good man, he ate the meat but left the hunking piece of fat on his plate (as I recall, it was the only thing left on his plate).

So this other friend of ours says she'll pay for his meal if he eats the fat. And not just down it with a glass of water but chew it alone and eat it.

He pulled it off and, somehow, didn't throw up. And he got pie and a glass of milk for dessert. The story is the stuff of legend among the fellas and retold anytime any of us passes the Hilltop.

After today, that can only happen in Saugus now that the Braintree Hilltop has closed its doors. This picture tells the sorrowful story more than anything I could muster here. The plastic cows are gone. The placemats identifying each cut of beef on a map of a cow are history.

Where, on the South Shore anyway, will the fat-eaters of tomorrow craft their trade?

Where will the gluttonous masses go on a Saturday night to eat til they practically puke?

Where will guys who shouldn't be wearing cowboy boots and women who shouldn't be wearing Texas belt-buckles go for Sunday brunch?

The Outback? Puh-leaze, mate.

Bugaboo Creek? Sounds like a bad Robert Redford movie, not a steakhouse.

The 99? Might as well go to Unos and have a pizza, you wuss.

They, my friends, will go to Saugus where the Hilltop still lives, thrives and reigns. And then, for a brief time anyway, all will be right in the world.

Fly-over Follies

Sometimes, in the life of a political leader, there are stands that simply must be taken. They are votes of conscience, articles of faith, true profiles in courage.

And then there's Rep. Gil Herbel of North Dakota.

This week, the representative has taken up the cause of blocking a resolution honoring Bono, lead singer of U2 and repeated nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. The resolution paid tribute to Bono's work on human rights issues. Filed by Representative Scot Kelsh, the resolution credited Bono for his "humanitarian work in urging decision makers and religious leaders to set aside their philosophical differences to ease the burden of those who have the least among us."

Herbel blocked it because, well, Bono's issues allegedly have no bearing on the people of North Dakota. Really? Seriously?

Now don't get me wrong, the Legislature should certianly focus its attention on problems facing the residents of that state. And this resolution certainly shouldn't be the subject of much debate in the Legislature.

But c'mon Rep., is honoring a guy for humanitarian work all that bad? This is the legislative body that just last year passed resolutions urging the induction to the Hall of Fame of Roger Maris AND Maury Wills. I think they have some time on their hands.

Then again, they also passed a resolution urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment protecting all human life (read: ban abortions).

Now I see why Bono's causes may not be their cup of tea. Oh, and Herbel said he was confused because he thought they were honoring Cher's ex-husband.

File under: Fly-over-state.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Me and Jakey McGee

Sick day today. No, I'm feeling fine. Jake's sick. Coughing so hard he's throwing up - all the time. Hasn't had a real meal in something like 48 hours. Already been to doctor, to Children's for a chest x-ray (they think there might be someting "more" going on ... words from a doctor you never, ever want to hear).

And so now he's home with me. We probably could have shuffled him off to daycare but good Lord, how much can a 14-month-old take? And they have this rule about throwing up: If he does it there, he can't come back for at least 24 hours. Makes sense if you think it through.

But boy does it make it tough on parents who work. I can't quite recall the last time I had a "sick day" that was truly just a day when I was sick, home alone. When it's just me who's sick, it's usually time for "Rub some dirt on it son and get back in the game." Life of a Dad, I suppose. Heidi's certainly done more of these days than I have (covering all days during campaign and my first weeks in the new job). But she has a big conference today and my boss is out of town so, hopefully, the office will be quiet.

So Jake's night went something like this:
7 p.m. - bed
9:45 p.m. - up and crying (right at the end of '24' ... which we missed part of)
midnight - up and crying
4:45 a.m. - up and crying
530 a.m. - up for good.

Then his morning's been something like this:
545 am - dressed by dripping wet Mom, who cut short her shower to get the boy.
547 am - crying because he had to be put down so Owen could get dressed
6 am - first attempt at breakfast (failed)
615 am - a bottle of milk
618 am - coughing
618:30 am - coughing worse
619 am - puking all over Daddy in his nicely-pressed shirt
620 am - Daddy pulls the plug on the day, puts on a flannel
635 am - second attempt at breakfast (half a banana)
640 - 7 am - assorted play/crying/bullying with Owen
7 am - Owen and Mom leave
700:01 am - crying (see previous entry)
700:02 am - Daddy realizes he's in for a long day
704 am - third attempt at breakfast (about four bites of Daddy's oatmeal)
705 - 720 am - good, quiet playtime with blocks
720 - 745 am - The Chase-Me-Around-the-House-While-I-Get-Into-Bad-Things-Like-Garbage-Cans-Bathtubs-And-Laundry Game. A classic.
750 am - fourth attempt at breakfast (failed)
755 - 810 am - assorted play
810 am - attempt to find favored toy under Owen's train table goes horribly wrong when Jake tries to stand up (under the train table).
810 - present - attempt to put Jake down for morning nap

He's only interrupted me with tears three times while writing this item. Now, the only sound in the house is the two pairs of kids overalls with other assorted laundry (and said nice shirt) clinking in the dryer and "Me and Bobby McGee" echoing out of the "mellow" mix on the iPod.

Happy kid means happy parent and, on sick days, quiet kid means happy parent. I better go get the papers, get the papers.

UPDATE: 645 p.m. The wife has now taken Jake off to the doctor as his condition worsened throughout the day. I'm now on Owen detail - which is markedly easier. All in all, though, Jake was a champ. Sick as a dog but still managing to melt my cold, black heart about a dozen times throughout the day. And, somewhere in there, I was able to read the papers, take a couple press calls for work, listen to some chill tunes on the "mellow" mix and even read a bit of my book. Not bad for Dad duty.