Because it's a pain in the butt to find me on the Boston Globe website.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Yee-Haw!

Ropin 'n' riding, bulls 'n' broncs in Vermont's Green Mountains

CASTLETON, Vt. -- Handmade road signs for the day's big event greeted us as we turned off Route 4: ``Hubbardton Battlefield -- 7 miles," they read.

It was what you might expect to find in a small New England town: rich Colonial history in the form of a Revolutionary War re enactment. But we hadn't driven four hours to watch muskets being fired in mock anger.

Heck no -- we were going to the rodeo!

Specifically, the Pond Hill Pro Rodeo, the only weekly rodeo in New England, complete with bucking broncos, bull riding, calf roping, barrel races, and plenty of cowboys crying ``Yee-haw !"

At least that's what I imagined they would yell .

In truth, we didn't know what to expect from a Vermont rodeo. It's not as if you hear about fall foliage tours in Oklahoma, after all.

And we had our doubts. ``Does anyone go to this thing?" my companion, Laura, asked as we snaked up a long, desolate, dirt road just beyond Castleton center on our way to Pond Hill Ranch. ``I guess we'll find out," I shrugged.

But Pond Hill, a 2,000-acre working ranch surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest in west central Vermont, did not disappoint us. Harry and Josephine O'Rourke started hosting Saturday night rodeos during the summer 35 years ago at the suggestion of a friend. Today, their five children -- Harry, Colleen, Judy, Debbie, and Dickie -- run the show, a 2-hour extravaganza with lots of cowboys, nearly 100 riders, prize money, rodeo clowns, cotton candy, and colorful calls by announcer Don Martin as bull riders get tossed with great regularity.

``The sport of bull riding -- I call it eight seconds of sheer terror!" Martin exclaimed over the loudspeaker system as a 1,500-pound bull raced out of the gate, his rider flailing atop him, briefly. ``One point eight. One point eight seconds for that cowboy! Let's give him a nice hand anyway!"

Pickup trucks start pouring into the parking lot around 6:30 each Saturday night from July through Labor Day. Lights perched on scrawny poles blink on, and by the 8 p.m. starting time, anywhere from 500 to 1,500 spectators, mostly blue-collar locals, take their seats on metal bleachers alongside the rectangular dirt ring.

The scene is reminiscent of a high school football field on a Friday night, except for the country music blaring from the speakers, the omnipresent smell of manure, and the fact that just about everyone is dressed in sequined, Western-style shirts, leather boots, and/or cowboy hats.

I looked at Laura's summer dress while she glanced at my cargo shorts and sneakers. We sure didn't look like we belonged.

But New England cowboys are an inviting crowd. Harry O'Rourke explained the seven traditional rodeo events on the program; Pond Hill's rodeo is sanctioned by both the American Professional Rodeo Association and the International Professional Rodeo Association and is one of the oldest weekly events in the country. Then he walked us over to the bull holding pen.

``Bulls are judged on their bucking ability," he said, looking over the herd. ``You may have a bull that may be the orneriest or the meanest one in the pen, but if he don't perform as a bucking bull, he don't score that well. The harder they are to ride, the more valuable they are to us."

Martin, a former rodeo rider who turned to announcing 17 years ago, asked if I knew where the first unionized professional rodeo was held. He surprised me with the answer: Boston Garden, 1936. He talked about just how hard the life of a rodeo cowboy can be. They spend months traveling a circuit, often stopping in a town for a single night before traveling hundreds of miles to their next competition. The top finishers in each event at Pond Hill share a few hundred dollars in prize money, while the rest get nothing but bumps and bruises.

It's a low-pay, physically grinding, and, sometimes glorious profession, said bull rider Robby Shriver, of Georgia, an old man in the sport at 29.

``If you've got the wrong bull, it's like flying in an airplane and someone shoving a ton of bricks out the plane, with a 40-foot cord attached to you. When it [pulls] that cord, you're out the plane, too," Shriver said. ``But when you've got the right bull and the right timing, there's no better feeling than having little babies to grandmothers just laughing. That's how I get high. And it don't cost nothing, other than my body."

It wasn't long before we got to see what Shriver was talking about. As a glowing peach moon began setting over the panoramic Adirondacks to the west -- and I wondered whether we were closer to Montpelier or Montana -- Martin took his spot in the announcer's booth and called forth the traditional ``Grand Entry."

As twangy music played, a cavalcade of nearly 90 riders on horseback emerged from an open gate. Led by Harry and Dickie O'Rourke, the finely dressed men and women (you could see the ironed creases on their shirts) circled the dirt ring in various patterns, tipping their hats to the crowd. The last to emerge was Judy O'Rourke, a Miss America on a horse, with a sparkling red, white, and blue outfit and a staff with a giant American flag in her hand.

The opening event was bull riding, with Shriver leading off. Having drawn bull No. 60 -- bulls are assigned to contestants at random, and if you get a bad one, yep, you've drawn a bum steer -- Shriver climbed into Gate 2 at the end of the ring. His goal? Stay on top of the beast for eight seconds, the length of an official qualifying ride.

The gate burst open and out leaped big No. 60, thrashing up, down, back and forth, his massive head jerking about as Shriver held on with a single hand. One second passed. Two seconds. The crowd began to roar. Three seconds. Four. The bull ricocheted left, then right, then left again, with Shriver somehow staying on. Five. Six. ``Come on , Robby! Come on!" I yelled. Seven! Eight! Buzzer!

Shriver slid off as fast as he could and scampered away as Harry O'Rourke and a pair of clowns stepped in to corral the raging bull.

``I tell you what, ladies and gentlemen. That was a double hard bull to ride," called Martin. ``That bull made more moves than I've ever seen one make. I don't know how a man can keep his composure and stay on. But Robby Shriver did that."

Over the course of the next few hours, we were hooked. We cheered with the crowd, soaked in the smell of fried dough , and joked about how much money it would take for us to climb aboard a raging bull. Shriver's ride seemed all the more impressive as a succession of other bull riders were thrown after just two or three seconds. One bull rammed his rider into the chain link fence as he bucked him off. Holding his arm as if it were broken, the cowboy jogged to the ambulance parked outside the gate as we nervously applauded his effort.

Another bull was so wild it leaped up while still in the pen, its front hooves pushing on the gate as if it were dog pushing a door. The cowboys inside appeared to get out safely.

With nearly 100 contestants to fit in, there were few breaks in the action. Calf roping came next, followed by steer wrestling, women's barrel racing, women's break away roping, team roping, and bareback bronc riding.

At half time, a synchronized riding drill team took the ring. By the end of the night, we had watched so many riders that, even from our city slicker perspective, we could tell a good ride from a bad one.

Unlike many of the fans in the stands, we didn't know the rodeo was a BYOB event. But that was just as well. The ride up and the length of the rodeo (it ended at 10:45 p.m.) made for a long, but entertaining, day.

``We get just about more bull riders here on a Saturday night than just about anywhere in the country," Martin told the crowd as another unlucky contestant was sent flying. ``This cowboy came all the way out of Mississippi, and all he's going to take back is a little bit of this Castleton sand."

Contact Peter DeMarco at demarco@globe.com.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Red right arrows


Who taught YOU to drive?
The red arrow blues
By Peter DeMarco

Reader Cynthia Finney (cq) of Brookline wrote to us last week with this plea: “Can you please inform the reading public that a red arrow does not mean that you can turn on red.”

“When one is stopped on Commonwealth Avenue outbound turning right onto the B.U. Bridge, there is a red arrow indicating a stop. Drivers behind me honk and curse because I wait for the green arrow,” she wrote.

“This also happens on the other side of Commonwealth (inbound) where one turns to loop over the Pike to cross the B.U. Bridge into Cambridge as well,” read her letter. “In both cases there are pedestrians to be considered, and in the first case, other traffic that has the right of way. Isn’t a red arrow another way of saying no turn on red?”

Well, that’s what I would have said, Cynthia. Whether I stop at those lights, or another red arrow traffic light, I wait it out. But it’s my job to interview the traffic experts, not necessarily to be one. And so I called Sgt. Larry Fitzgerald, (cq) traffic supervisor for the Brookline Police Department, for the definitive answer.

THE LAW SAYS …

Surprise, Cynthia: we’re both wrong.

“The bottom line answer is that unless there’s a sign prohibiting a turn, it’s just another red light,” Fitzgerald said. “We have one on Brookline Ave. There’s a lot of people who think they have to stay stopped. They don’t proceed because they don’t realize it’s no different from a regular right on red.”

The Registry of Motor Vehicle’s driver’s handbook says as much.

“A steady red arrow means the same as a steady red, circular signal,” the manual says. “The same rules for ‘turning on red’ apply.”

Fitzgerald said red arrows are often found at intersections that see heavy pedestrian traffic, such as those near the B.U. Bridge. Pedestrians still have the right of way at those intersections, but turns are allowed when the roadway is clear.

Red arrows became prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s after state officials gave up on the old “steady red and yellow” traffic light combination, which also required drivers to stop for pedestrians before making a right-hand turn.

“People didn’t stop for red and yellow because they weren’t afraid of pedestrians,” Fitzgerald said.

The red arrow, by contrast, has been so effective that it often results in the other extreme: drivers refuse to turn at all, even when being honked at.

As straight-forward as the red arrow rules are (now that we know them!), two caveats still apply.

You can’t turn right if a sign is posted forbidding you to do so. When I drove through the intersections Cynthia mentioned in her letter, I noticed a “No turn on red” sign where Commonwealth Avenue meets the B.U. Bridge. (To be fair, I can see how she might have missed it, as the sign appears on just one of the two traffic signals at that intersection.)

The other caveat? “The law says drivers may turn. It doesn’t say shall. It says may,” Fitzgerald says. So if you don’t feel it’s prudent to turn right at a red arrow, just wait until you see green.

- 30

The Moon, the stars, but no electricity


Inside Scoop: For the first time in about a year I had some real errors in a story. They weren't huge ones but put together, all four of them sure make me feel like I had egg on my face. Two of them were the result of a bad phone connection during an interview. I thought the guy said fox tail, not "box turtle", and baby trail, not "Bay View" trail. But I still should have doubled checked these things with the sanctuary. The errors in mileage are still baffling to me, as I did a Mapquest for Alexandria and I was just there in April. Just careless reporting. A reader sent me a pretty nasty e-mail, asking me for proof of this exotic "fox tail turtle" species. He had every right to blast me, but he was really condescending in his letter. Live and learn - and pay closer attention.

(Correction: Because of reporting errors, a story about camping on Cape Cod in Sunday's Explore New England section gave incorrect distances from North Truro to East Falmouth and Alexandria, Va. The distances are 60 miles and approximately 520 miles, respectively. Also, a quotation about Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary by Rick Longley should have read that box turtles inhabit the sanctuary and that the Bay View trail is less used.)

TRURO -- The entrance road to North of Highland campground is rutty, barren , and very, very dark at night. Were you to pull over in your car and shut off every light, the stars in the sky are all you would see.

Which is just what Jacqueline and John Ford do when they arrive.

The Fords carve out a week each summer to go camping on Cape Cod with their teenage sons, Matthew and Michael. Leisurely hours spent reading under a favorite pine, jogs along dune-strewn beaches, and foosball showdowns in the camp recreation room fill their days. But the moments spent sitting in silence watching the stars are the most peaceful, by far.

``It's incredibly dark. Darker than anywhere else you would see in New England," said Jacqueline, a Milford native who now lives in Virginia. ``If we're coming in late at night, we just sit there and say, `Let's see how dark it gets.' "

Crowded clam shacks, even more crowded beaches, and endless traffic delays are the norm for multitudes of Cape Cod vacationers who accept that scenery and sun come with a price. But for others, escaping to the Cape truly does mean escaping it all -- electricity included.

From Sandwich to Wellfleet, thousands of campers pitch their tents on sandy bluffs and forested grounds each summer. Are there mosquitoes? Sure. Rain? Always a chance. But the flip side, campers say, is grand: less hassle, less hustle, and all at a cost far less than what hotel and motel dwellers pay .

Giant Nickerson State Park, with 420 sites, is perhaps the best-known campground on the Cape. (Badly damaged by a fierce wind storm in December, it reopened May 22.) But look further and you'll find campsites in wildlife sanctuaries, on islands, and, while not directly on beaches, just steps away from them.

Alexandra Lancaster and her husband have kayaked to Washburn Island off East Falmouth for some 20 years, setting up camp in one of a dozen sites maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation that are accessible only by boat.

Some of them are so secluded you can't see anyone else , Lancaster says. Most of them sit up on bluffs overlooking the shore, with private paths to the beach.

``No matter what site you're at, the moon comes up just for you," said Lancaster, who digs clams from the island's beach for dinner stews. ``One summer we went in early June and there was not a soul out there. The sun came up in the morning and it was shining right in our tent. We looked out and the water was as flat as can be. You're like, `Man, people pay a lot of money to do this.' "

How much do the Lancasters actually pay to camp on Washburn? Eight dollars a night.

Rick Longley's camping heaven is located about 10 miles farther out on the Cape, where deer, foxtail turtles, and fiddler crabs roam inside the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Longley's father, an avid bird -watcher, began taking the family camping there in the early 1960s. They returned almost annually for the next 30 years .

``It's a sanctuary in every sense of the word," Longley said. ``When you go down the trails you go through three or four coastal environments -- ponds, a hardwood forest, traditional beachfront. They're very careful about keeping it wild. If the public does come in, they tend to use one set of trails. Even now, the one new trail, the baby trail, you almost never see anyone on it. "


Nickerson and North of Highland campgrounds can't match Washburn or Wellfleet's tranquillity. But they are homey, rustic, relaxing places nonetheless, with fresh water ponds, hiking trails, bicycle paths, and hundreds of campsites .

``I'm a medical intensive -care nurse and educator at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Nickerson State Park has always been a place I go to kind of fill my cup," said Barbara Grady, who hangs a hammock at her campsite overlooking Flax Pond .

Grady's family embraced Cape camping decades ago. Her mother, Barbara MacLeod, 83, still camps with her every summer; Grady's granddaughter, Meghan Grady, now works in Nickerson's front office.

``There's a group of campers who go every year. You get to know each other. It becomes your summer home," Grady said. ``A lot of people use the park as the starting point to go to Monomoy Island, the Audubon sanctuary, Provincetown. I get a sticker so I can drive out in the dunes in Orleans."

North of Highland was built by owner Steve Currier's parents, Malcolm and Evelyn, who were regular tent campers at Nickerson before opening their own park just a half mile from Head of the Meadow Beach in 1954. Seven years later, President Kennedy established the 43,608-acre Cape Cod National Seashore, which surrounds the campground.

``You can't actually tell where they begin and where we end, which is beautiful," said Currier, pointing to brown picnic tables scattered among pine trees, some of which are his, others, the federal government's. ``You'd be surprised at how many campers tell me, `Don't asphalt the roads.' They like an old dirt road so they can play boccie or whatever on it."

The Fords drive about 1,500 miles from their home in Alexandria, Va., to camp at the park, but even that doesn't quite explain their passion for the place.

Jacqueline, a country and western singer, is so enamored by Currier's campground she's written a song about being there. (``The children awake, and the place is abuzz / And the rain disappears, as the sun comes up / And the bikes are rolling, down a sandy path / On the playground, you can hear the children laugh / On a campground in Truro, Cape Cod.")

Once inside the park, John hates to leave.

``There are days there when I don't want to venture out of the park. I know we need food, but gosh, I don't want to do it," he said. ``It really is that peaceful."

Contact Peter DeMarco, a freelance writer in Somerville, at demarco@globe.com.

Brace yourself for a toothsome treat

Inside Scoop: I had tons of fun with this one, except for the ribs,
which I just don't like no matter
who makes them. Laura helped
me out there. I'm still craving another Bukowski burger. How can

that not have been written about before?
Next hop: another healthy one - French Fries!


Table Hopping, City Weekly

For 15 months , I'd been one of those adults with braces (I had a bad grinding problem ). But now that they're off, I can sink my teeth into any food I want -- the stickier and chewier, the better. No more cutting my pizza with a knife and fork; no more passing on the salt water taffy; no more forsaking a thick sub for the soup de jour. And so, this week we turn to foods that give your pearly whites a workout. If only caramel apples were in season.

Bukowski's Tavern
1281 Cambridge St.
Inman Square, Cambridge
617-497-7077
and
50 Dalton St., Boston
617-437-9999

Bukowski's peanut butter burger sounds like something Homer Simpson might dream of, but it's a real menu item -- and shockingly good. ``We sell about a dozen a week. It's very, very rich," says bar manager Max Toste. ``We have a few diehards that add bacon. It's kind of like an Elvis burger then." Bukowski's chefs lather up a 6-ounce burger with chunky peanut butter just before taking it off the grill, so the peanut butter is gooey, not runny. Lettuce, tomato, and onion go on top. I was a bit afraid taking my first bite -- a normal reaction, Toste assured me -- but the reward was instant, as the peanut butter's creaminess melded wonderfully with the juicy beef. I might even try one on the grill at home. ($8)

Big Moe's BBQ Ribs
200 Geneva Ave.,
Dorchester
617-306-0788

When I asked my orthodontist what food I should now tear into, he shot back, ``Ribs, of course," as if there could be no other answer. So I made my way to Big Moe's rib truck, a Columbia Avenue institution for 23 years. Big Moe Maurice Hill now parks his silver kitchen-on-wheels in a vacant lot on Geneva Avenue. His wife, Marian, has also retired from the business, handing over her duties to their daughter, Leona, and grandson, Giovanni. But they turn out the same juicy, not-quite-lean pork and beef ribs, served in aluminum containers with Big Moe's own special, tangy sauce. The collard greens, candied yams , and sweet potato pies are all homemade too.

Fornax Bread Company27 Corinth St., Roslindale617-325-8852My grandmother chewed crusty Italian bread to keep her teeth strong (she still has them at 94), so fresh bakery bread was high on my hit list. Fornax didn't disappoint. I took home a thin, crusty white bread called sfilatino, which was shaped like a baguette but, to my pleasure, was so tough I had to flex muscles to rip it apart. Fornax's sandwiches looked so good I also ordered a roasted veggie on multigrain bread. Brimming with caramelized onions, bell peppers, roasted eggplant, and hummus, it was as chewy and flavorful as I'd hoped. ($7)

Café Nicholas
1632 Beacon St.
Washington Square, Brookline
617-739-1114

Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is no longer listed on the menu at Café Nicholas. It's all about thin crusts these days, says owner Nick Chicos , but you can still ask for it. However, you'd better be hungry. For the café's version, the cooks top a layer of dough with sauce, cheese, and toppings, such as mushrooms or shaved sirloin steak. Then they add another layer of dough, another layer of sauce, and another layer of cheese. ``It's really almost like eating a pizza sandwich," says Chicos, who runs his homey pizzeria with his mother, Christina. I ordered the smallest size, a 8-inch personal pie with a golden-brown crust, and still took half of it home. But oh, was it good. ($5.50, with topping )

Dairy Fresh Candies
57 Salem St., North End
800-336-5536

With hundreds of hand-packed half-pound bags of candy and nuts at your fingertips -- from peanut brittle to pine nuts to Mary Jane s -- Dairy Fresh Candies is the place to go if you're craving something sticky and sweet. Like I wasn't going to eat a chocolate-covered pecan caramel turtle the minute I got my braces off. ``It's probably our most popular item," says owner Danny DiMare, who's worked at the store since he was 11 years old. A true North End shop, Dairy Fresh caters to local tastes, stocking chewy Italian ``torrone" nougat squares, imported black licorice, and dried, crunchy chickpeas.

Jasper White's Summer Shack
50 Dalton St.
Boston
617-867-9955
and
149 Alewife Brook Parkway
Cambridge
617-520-9500

I saved the best for last -- that ultimate summer treat, corn on the cob. Trouble is, this early in the season, it's next to impossible to find an ear. Enter Jasper's, which serves steamed corn with its traditional clambake dinners even on the coldest January day. Florida and California growers meet the demand in the winter, but starting this month , Jasp er's corn will be local again, with Verrill Farm in Concord sending over more than 100 ears a day. Last summer, with my braces on, I had to trim the kernels off with a knife. Settling into a seat at Jasp er's bar last week, I suffered no such indignity, gobbling a lightly buttered ear, type writer style, with unrestrained joy. ($3)

PETER DeMARCO

If you have a tip about a restaurant, bakery, or other eatery, contact us at tablehopping@globe.com

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Driving Col. No. 3

Who taught YOU to drive?

“Tailgating”

By Peter DeMarco

If the person in front of you is driving too slowly, well, God help them.

That’s the punch line, more or less, for every joke about Boston drivers who tailgate. And the jokes are endless.

“’The Push’ is a simple maneuver that kindly tells the snail in front of you: "Hey, get out of the way,” reads the driving humor website www.Masshole.net. “To utilize The Push, drive up behind the offending vehicle and apply pressure. Your distance should be such that you can hear what radio station they are listening to. The Push can be accompanied by flashing headlights during night driving to increase effectiveness.”

Statistics on tailgating are hard to come by. But Charles McGowan, (cq) a former hearings officer for the Registry of Motor Vehicles who’s spent the past 20 years as an attorney specializing in motor-vehicle related law, says tailgating-related accidents are commonplace. “It’s a Boston sport,” he says. “I think most people do it subconsciously.”

But what, exactly, constitutes tailgating? Is it enough to stay a full car length behind someone? Two car lengths? What if you’re in heavy traffic? And what’s the punishment if you’re caught?

THE LAW SAYS …

Tailgating is both unsafe and illegal, says Officer Michael McCarthy, (cq) a Boston Police Department spokesman. But it’s also highly subjective.

“There’s not an exact definition. Like, here’s the law that says you have to be X amount of feet behind someone,” he says. “It depends on the road conditions, speed. If you’re bumper to bumper in traffic, you’re going to be up close to someone. The general rule of thumb in the city is that you should be able to see the bottom of the tires of the car in front of you. Even in traffic.”

The AARP tells members to abide by the “Three-Second Rule.” Pick a landmark – a building, street sign or telephone pole. When the car in front of you passes the landmark, start counting. If you reach the landmark in your car before counting to three, you’re driving too closely.

Another guideline says you should allow a car length’s distance for every 10 miles of speed. For example, if you’re driving 50 M.P.H., the gap between you and the next car should be five car lengths long.

The experienced Boston driver, no doubt, will find flaws with such guidelines. People tailgate to prevent other drivers from pulling in front of them. By staying back, what’s to stop others from filling the gap and slowing you down?

The answer, McGowan says, is nothing. But the consequences of tailgating are serious – especially road rage - and if you rear-end someone, you are almost always at fault. The police, meanwhile, can charge you with a number of violations, from the rather innocuous “Following too Closely”, which carries a $35 fine, to criminal charges of driving to endanger.

- 30

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Banging a U-ie

The Inside Scoop: Well, you learn something every day. Like, I break the law just about every time I turn the ignition key. U-turns are more illegal than I ever dreamed. At least my shortcut through the Korner Konvenience parking lot (got to love the use of the "K") is legal. Though I do feel guilty about never, ever buying anything from there.


Who taught YOU to drive?

U-Turns

By Peter DeMarco

Like a lot of Boston drivers I don’t think twice about making a U-turn. Whether I’ve missed my street, or I’m stuck in traffic with a clear escape route in sight, I just bang a U-ie and all is well again.

Even on Massachusetts Avenue, where signs clearly state that U-turns are not allowed, I’ve figured out a way. Spotting my favorite convenience store, I put on my left turning signal and pull into the parking lot. But instead of continuing into a parking space, I make a semi-circle and scoot out the parking lot’s second curb cut, putting my car back on Mass Ave. in the direction I want to be.

The best part about my little convenience store U-turn? It’s totally legal.

Well, I think it is.

In truth, I always check to see whether a police cruiser is parked in the church across the street before I make my move. If I’m feeling particularly paranoid, I might even pull into a parking spot for 10 seconds, then back out, as if I’ve thought better about buying a Herald.

Which leads us to this week’s topic: Just when is a U-turn legal? The law is pretty clear when “No U-Turn” signs are posted, but does that mean they’re legal at all other times? Can you cross a double yellow line while making a U-turn? Can you use a convenience store parking lot as an accessory?

And if you’re hopelessly stuck in traffic – gee, when does that ever happen? - do the same rules apply?

THE LAW SAYS …

For answers I headed straight to the Registry of Motor Vehicles’ driver’s handbook, where the section on U-turns contains the following sentence:

“Unless a NO U-TURN sign is posted, you are allowed to make a U-turn as long as your path is clear and it is safe to do so.” (cq)

Case closed, right? Not exactly, I soon found out.

Unfortunately, the RMV driver’s handbook isn’t accurate, said Lieutentant Jack Albert, (cq) traffic commander for the Cambridge Police Department.

According to Massachusetts General Law, regardless of the situation, you CAN NOT make a U-turn over a single or double yellow line. The thinking is that it’s often dangerous to do so. And while a U-turn saves you time, other drivers may have to slow down or stop to allow you to turn, which isn’t fair to them.

Albert couldn’t explain why the RMV handbook doesn’t say this. “It’s bizarre,” he said. But confusion is pretty much a given when it comes to U-turns, he added.

“When you stop people (for making a U-turn) they definitely have that look on their face – ‘What did I do?’” he said. “They say, ‘I wasn’t aware of it. I thought it was only illegal when it a sign was posted.’ So I would say a lot of people aren’t aware of the law.”

Amie O’Hearn, (cq) director of public relations for the Registry of Motor Vehicles, said that the driver’s handbook is an evolving document and agreed that the section on U-turns might need to be rewritten to make the rules more clear.

“That’s interesting that you bring this up,” she said. “The U-turn is something that drivers are always worried about. You’re out there driving – should I do it? Should I not? It is something that leaves a doubt in your mind. I will definitely mention this to the driver’s manual committee.”

The fine for an illegal U-turn, Albert says, depends upon what offense the officer decides to charge you with. Failure to yield to oncoming traffic carries a $35 fine; a U-turn violation on a state highway such as Mass. Ave, which is also Route 2A, is a $20 penalty; making a U-turn in a business district in Cambridge violates a city bylaw and will cost you $50.

As for my convenience store U-turn - “The Boston Driver’s Handbook: Wild in the Streets,” by Ira Gershkoff (cq) and Richard Trachtman, (cq) says my maneuver works just as well at gas stations – Albert just shrugged.

“You’re not impeding the flow of traffic,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is going to fault you for that.”

- 30

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dark chocolate - yeah, it's a tough job

The Inside Scoop: To set the record straight, I did work for this story. Though eating chocolate is pretty much the easiest work there is. Anyway, the Gelateria was awesome. Reminded me so much of Florence, when I was 20 and could eat gelato three times a day without ever thinking twice. (Ah, to be young again.) Cardullo's was really neat. I had no idea so many chocolate bars even existed. My buddy Mark, fresh back from Iraq, downed bakalava with me. Always good to share the sweets. But Laura made out by getting the chocolate lab, which to my knowledge she still hasn't eaten because it's too cute.


By Peter DeMarco

Globe Correspondent

Chocolate is the safest of standbys when it comes to Mother’s Day gifts. But what if, this year, you got Mom dark chocolate? More pure and bitter than milk chocolate, dark chocolate is soaring in popularity based on reports of its positive health effects. (A certain antioxidant in cocoa may help lower blood pressure, studies say.) Found in everything from ice cream to dark chocolate baklava (see below!), dark chocolate’s unique, rich taste stands out no matter where it’s found. But don’t just take our word for it – find out what Mom thinks.

Cardullo’s
6 Brattle St.
Harvard Square
617-491-8888

For a primer on the vast world of dark chocolate I headed to Cardullo’s, home to 1,000 different chocolate bars, the widest selection in the city. “It’s what we’re best known for,” says head buyer Jamie Kubik. I began with Chocolat Bonnat, (cq) an expensive ($7.49) French bar whose high percentage (75 percent) of cocoa yields a nice bitter taste. Next came a rich-smelling Dolfin brand Belgium chocolate bar infused with – surprise - Earl Grey tea. My favorite, however, was the “Black Pearl Bar,” a wild combination of ginger, wasabi, black sesame seed and dark chocolate made by Vosges of Belgium. For those who can’t decide, Kubik designs dark chocolate bar gift baskets with enough variety to suit any mother’s craving. ($50)

Gelateria
272 Hanover St
Boston
617-720-4243

Fashioned after a traditional Italian gelateria, Frank DePasquale’s hip gelato shop is breezy, bright and modern, with video screens on a wall showing clips of gelato being made. Glass counter cases are filled with a rainbow of varieties – 50 in all - including cioccolato, a pure dark-chocolate creation, and bacio, a yummy, slightly crunchy hazelnut and dark chocolate mixture. “Our gelatos have between 3 and 6 percent butterfat,” says head gelato maker Giovanni Gagliotta. “We make them without eggs. No heavy cream. No butter. They’re not like ice cream. They’re much lighter.” Try three flavors for $3.75, or, for an extra dollar, have your gelato served Sicilian style in a brioche bun.

Café Nation
380 Washington St.
Brighton
617-783-4514

I love watching crepes being made, so I hovered near the counter at Café Nation as my server ladled three scoops of Ghirardelli dark chocolate bits onto the batter and scattered sliced strawberries on top. “It’s very simple,” says co-owner Alvin Tsang about his popular dark chocolate and fresh strawberry crepe. “Just the two flavors melted together.” Café Nation serves a host of crepes for breakfast, lunch and snacking, with ingredients ranging from crab to California barbeque chicken to, of course, dark chocolate. Chocoholics on the run can also grab an iced mint chip latte, iced mocha or iced black and white mocha, all made with a Ghirardelli dark chocolate sauce.

Beacon Hill Chocolates
92 B Pinkney St.
Beacon Hill
617-725-1900

If chocolate makes you smile, wait until you see Beacon Hill Chocolates’ dark chocolate lab truffles. Shaped like tiny Labrador puppies, they have ears and tails made of almonds and miniature chocolate snouts and feet. They are, in my girlfriend’s estimation, “the cutest things ever.” Paula Barth opened her old-world-style chocolate shop on the corner of Charles Street just last month. She’s already built a following with her high-end imports, which include both fun shapes (dogs, cats, dominos, ice cream cones) and catchy flavors (chili pepper, champagne, peanut butter) from Belgium and Oregon chocolatiers. Individual pieces are $2.25 to $2.75, or by the pound for $49.95.


Athan's European Bakery
1621 Beacon St.
Brookline
617-734-7028

And

407 Washington St.
Brighton
617-783-0313

I almost can’t recall all of Athan’s dark chocolate offerings, from cookies to gelato to dark chocolate-covered candied figs to homemade Jamaica dark chocolate sponge cake layered with sweet dark cherries. But the bakery’s dark chocolate baklava had to be my favorite. Made the traditional way with buttered filo dough and syrup, each piece is rolled into a cigar-size tube with a strip of melted Belgium Callebaut dark chocolate in the center. Do I really need to tell you how good it is? No mother should have to settle for one heavenly vice when she can have two in every bite. ($9 a pound, or about 80 cents per piece.)

The Independent
75 Union Square
Somerville
617-440-6022

Head chef Paul Oberhauser keeps a bar of super fine dark chocolate in the kitchen just for himself, so his desserts are bound to be dark chocolate extravaganzas. “Dark chocolate adds more of a purity to the flavor,” says Oberhauser, an admitted addict. “When you start with a more pure chocolate, you have more control with your food.” His Callebaut dark chocolate pudding cup, topped with a spoonful of creamy dolce con leche and served with a butter cookie (his grandmother’s recipe) will arguably satisfy Mom’s most dire dark chocolate craving. She’ll be surprised at how sweet it tastes, too. Oberhauser’s flourless chocolate raspberry torte, meanwhile, makes a fine backup choice. ($7 each)

The Boston Left - Driving Col. No. 1

This week’s Traffic Stumper is the infamous “Boston Left.” Or should we say, the ambiguous Boston Left. Depending whom you ask, the Boston Left is one of two driving maneuvers.

According to “The Boston Driver’s Handbook: Wild in the Streets,” you’re making a Boston Left when you come to a T-intersection and you pull out into the right-bound side, thereby blocking traffic, while waiting for an opening in the traffic on the left-bound side. This move often involves crossing a yellow line of some sort as well as angering the drivers you’ve cut off.

Others say you’re making a Boston Left when you’re the first car in line at a red light and you gun the engine to turn left as soon as the light turns green. If you’re cutting off oncoming traffic in the process – or narrowly avoiding an accident - so be it.

No matter how you define it, you’re breaking the law, says Lt. Jack Albert, (cq) traffic commander for the Cambridge Police Department.

“The rule of thumb is you can’t block the free flow of traffic. You’re failing to yield to the oncoming vehicle, which has the right of way,” Albert says. “You should yield until you’re either signaled by the oncoming driver that he’s letting you go, or you wait until the intersection is clear.”

Albert says his officers routinely cite drivers for making Boston Lefts at the intersection of Prospect Street and Massachusetts Avenue. The fine? $35, according to state law.

Traffic column begins

The Inside Scoop: So I got recruited to write this traffic tips column. I wasn't quite sure it would work but, writing this post a few weeks after this story ran, I'm pleasantly surprised how many people are writing in with comments about their traffic hang-ups. The key is getting the police to talk, which as always takes about 10 phone calls, depending on which department you try. (Some are better than others, though with such as easy topic as this, I shouldn't have to jump through hoops.) Whatever. They're helping and it's working out.



It's a jungle on Boston's mean streets.

Care to play by the actual rules?

By Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent | May 14, 2006

The first rule of the road in Boston couldn't be more clear: Get there as fast as possible.

Rule two: Blow by as many people and cars as you can. Rule three: Ignore everything -- yield signs, bumbling pedestrians, cracks in the earth's crust releasing molten lava -- that gets in the way of rules one and two.

Which is -- all together now -- to get there as fast as possible.

OK, OK. Aggressive driving isn't an actual rule, but it does describe, with embarrassing accuracy, how Bostonians often act behind the wheel.

Which is precisely why City Weekly is herewith launching, for your amusement and possible edification, a weekly column exploring the age-old mysteries of driving in the Athens of America.

Have we forgotten the real rules, as found in the Registry of Motor Vehicles' driver's handbook or Chapter 89 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the ''Law of the Road"?

Did we know them in the first place?

''The rules of the road say who should do what in a given situation," says Mark Raisman, proprietor of Colonial Auto School in Jamaica Plain. ''The question is, who will follow them? You've got a population that thinks they've got the right of way all the time."

Count this writer among the masses. After 15 years of Boston driving, I've developed my own little mantra: Everyone else on the road is a jerk. Depending on just how badly I've been cut off while merging onto Storrow Drive, I've been known to replace the word jerk with a far more unpleasant term.

The sociologist in all of us might ask, ''Why have we become this way?" After all, we weren't born knowing how to drive a car, let alone drive one aggressively. The students who graduate from Raisman's school are courteous drivers. They respect the rules. Rumor has it, they even use their directionals.

Some blame the cows who wandered around Boston centuries ago, carving out the city's crooked and thus difficult-to-drive streets in the process.

Art Kinsman, spokesman for AAA Southern New England, says the problem is of more recent creation.

''Over the past 25 years, there has only been approximately a 5 percent increase in lane miles, where there has been probably a 125 percent increase in the number of autos on the road," he says. ''That's a national stat, but it can apply here. Even with the new Central Artery, for the most part, we're driving on a functionally obsolete road system that was built in the '50s or '60s and is trying to handle 2006 traffic."

Ira Gershkoff, coauthor of the humor book ''The Boston Driver's Handbook: Wild in the Streets," says that Boston drivers are so conditioned to witnessing bad driving that it becomes the norm.

''If something is illegal, or a bad practice, do we know it? Probably so," he says. ''One time in traffic I went to the breakdown lane, zoomed to the front, and sort of weaseled my way back into the front of the line. I said to the person sitting next to me, 'Don't you hate people who do this?' I think we do know it's wrong, but it becomes second nature after a while."

Of course, many drivers embrace the stereotype of the bad Boston driver, claiming no one in the country is crazier than we are at navigating cars from Point A to Point B. This column, and the ones that will succeed it each week, won't promote that belief. In fact, based on recent driving statistics, it's not at all clear that we're as bad on the roads as we're cracked up to be.

According to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the number of citations issued in Boston for failing to stop has dived from 27,000 in 2000 to 14,000 in 2005. Speeding violations dropped from 21,000 to about 6,000, though it's unclear whether that means fewer drivers were speeding, or whether police were de-emphasizing traffic enforcement.

Massachusetts leads the nation in car accidents per 100 drivers. The national average is 3.97 a year; we're at 7.33, according to 2003 data collected by the Insurance Research Council. But Chris Goetcheus, spokesman for the state's Division of Insurance, argues that a small number of drivers are to blame.

''In June of 2004 we found that 54.1 percent of Boston residents had no accidents or moving violations on their record in the previous six years," he says, citing his most recent figures. ''That's pretty good."

But pretty good isn't good enough. And it certainly isn't great. Which brings us back to the purpose of this column: a week-by-week review of the rules as they're actually written, explained to us by driving instructors, police officers, crossing guards, and the like.

Why review the rules now? Well, for the past few months, state legislators have been debating the merits of increasing the minimum driving age to 17 1/2, thinking that our youngest drivers may be too reckless.

Our own view: A lot of us drive too aggressively for our own good. Clarifying the rules couldn't hurt, right?

I'd be a hypocrite if I told you I obey all the rules we'll be covering in upcoming weeks, dealing with everything from U-turns to jaywalking to funeral procession etiquette.

In fact, I'm sure that on some of them, I'll be the first to be enlightened.

Now, if I can just remember to use my directionals.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dark chocolate madness



I can't publish my dark chocolate column here until Sunday, but it's a goodie. Three words to nibble on: dark chocolate baklava!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hitting the links

Like I said, the joggling stories made national and even international headlines. Here are a few links, mostly to copycat stories.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06113/684347-139.stm

Charleston Daily Mail (nice, original reporting): http://dailymail.com/news/News/2006042031/

NPR (Host Debbie Elliott says "Now I've heard one of you is the better runner and one of you is the better juggler." Gee, wonder where she heard that?) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5345156

Columbus Dispatch (they used my story. Does that mean I get a royalty?)
http://www.columbusdispatch.com/sports-story.php?story
=dispatch/2006/04/17/20060417-D2-01.html

Laura's blog
http://www.bostonist.com/archives/2006/04/18/
a_view_of_the_marathon.php

CNN (Kapral gave the Globe a shout-out)
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0604/20/lol.03.html

SI's Pete McEntegart, a buddy, linked my story to the 10 spot
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/pete_
mcentegart/04/13/ten.spot/index.html

Harvard Crimson, with some nice original reporting
http://www.marathonguide.com/news/newsviewer.cfm?src=
http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ethecrimson
%2Ecom%2Farticle%2Easpx%3Fref%3D512893

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I love history

The Inside Scoop: Like I said, I love these kinds of stories. Civil War diary discovered in the family attic. Written by a thoughtful, ex-slave-turned-soldier. Unfortunately, I had a tough time writing the piece, mainly because it could have been twice as long as it is. (A Globe South version I wrote was longer.) Also, I was spent after coming back from California and just didn't have the energy for this one. Still, the deadline didn't wait. It came out fine. The inside story on this one is that the Globe photo desk rejected the photo assignment to shoot the guy at the ceremony. It was the day after the marathon and apparently lots of photogs took the day off. That's understandable. What I still can't fathom is why they wouldn't accept the photos I took. I was kind of miffed they cancelled the assignment (how can you have a feature without a photo!) so I took my camera and shot photos like I did at Salem and Malden. Not boasting, but the photo here of Bill Gould is a lot better than the one the historical society took. But we had to use THEIR photo, because freelancers can't take photos. I dunno. It was just rotten journalism. Don't use the better photo. I'm still miffed, as you can tell.

Freedom and glory: The diary of an ex-slave
Descendant gives Union sailor's entries to historical society

The voice, clear and commanding, was Boston-born Bill Gould's. But the words he spoke were those of his great-grandfather, William Benjamin Gould, an escaped African-American slave who joined the Union Navy and kept a daily diary of his incredible passage to freedom.

''The next cruise that she makes will be for Uncle Samuel," Gould read aloud, intimating Petty Officer Gould's pride upon commandeering a Confederate vessel in 1864.

''Came to anchor at four bells," he continued, from an 1863 passage. ''Read the Articles of War. Also the Proclamation of Emancipation. Very good."

''This is a passage that I like in particular," Gould said before donating the 144-year-old diary, possibly the only one of its kind, to the Massachusetts Historical Society on Tuesday. The date was April 15, 1865. The war, and slavery, were about to end.

''On my return on board I heard the glad tidings," he read, ''that the Stars and Stripes had been planted over the capitol of the defeated confederacy by the invincible Grant. While we honor the living soldiers who have done so much, we must not forget to whisper for fear of disturbing the glorious sleep of the many who have fallen, martyrs to the cause of right and equality."

The diary, begun in 1862, was discovered in 1958, when Bill Gould's father, William B. Gould III, stumbled upon it while cleaning out the attic of the family's home in East Dedham, where William Benjamin Gould became a building contractor and community pillar after the Civil War.

Some chapters, unfortunately, were thrown out by accident. But the sections that remain -- hundreds of pages detailing Gould's wartime adventures to the day of his discharge at the Charlestown Navy Yard in 1865 -- provide an invaluable account of an African-American who joined the Union military months before Colonel Robert Gould Shaw recruited blacks for his fabled 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

The ex-slave's words are eloquent; his thoughts, considerate; his penmanship, extraordinary. On top of that, he had quite a life.

Bill Gould, a Stanford law professor who headed the National Labor Relations Board in the Clinton administration, has made researching the yellowed journal his life's passion. In 2002 he published a detailed book about the diary, ''Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor." Wanting to share the diary with even more readers, he contacted the historical society.

Gould, whose full name is William Benjamin Gould IV, returned to Boston to throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park during ''Jackie Robinson Day" last weekend. (Though Gould grew up in New Jersey he is a life-long Red Sox fan.) On Tuesday he officially gifted the diary to the society, which will have portions on public display throughout the summer.

''The diary has taught me that I really got a lucky chance in life," he said. ''He was able to persevere under the most adverse circumstances. Escaping from slavery, serving under difficult circumstances during the war at sea, facing real bullets, then forging his own way on the basis of a craft. Hero is an overused term these days, particularly since 2001. But it seems to me that he fits this word very well."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Zach rules!

THE JUGGLERS

Record-setter Warren had a ball with this one

Juggling three yellow balls each step of the way, Harvard Divinity School student Zach Warren shattered his world record in the obscure sport of joggling -- running while juggling -- with a sub-three-hour finish in yesterday's Boston Marathon.

Eliciting cheers of ''Jog-gler, Jog-gler," some laughter, and his share of quizzical looks as he ran, Warren crossed the finish line in 2 hours 58 minutes and 23 seconds. His time was nearly nine minutes faster than the record he set in November at the Philadelphia Marathon of 3:07:05.

Warren bested his only competition, Canadian Michal Kapral, who held the record in marathon joggling before Warren. Kapral set a personal best of 3:06:45 while juggling three red balls.

The jogglers ran side by side until Warren pulled ahead around Mile 15. He literally never looked back.

''I wanted to turn my head and look, but I couldn't," said Warren. ''I had to just focus on the balls."

Jim Brusstar, a representative of the International Sport Juggling Federation, said the jogglers appeared to run clean races, meaning they took no more than two steps at any time without juggling. Still, his group plans on reviewing race video to verify the results.

Warren finished 911th overall, and Kapral finished 1,761st.

It was the first marathon on record in which two jogglers competed head to head, according to sport officials.

''I was happy with my time, but Zach just took off at the hills," said the 33-year-old Kapral. ''That guy is incredible."

''Having Michal there with me was such a blessing," said Warren, 24. ''It made it so much more fun for those first few miles. Toward the end I got lonely, to be honest."

Warren and Kapral were running to raise money for children's charities (unicycle4kids.org and rememberliane.com). They plan on a rematch in September's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

The Inside Scoop: So, he did it. Kind of unbelievable, if you stop to think about it. And the best part is Zach smiled the entire way. Laura and I caught him around mile 17, where he was about 5 steps in front of Michal. Then we hopped the subway and literally raced Zach to the finish line. As we slogged on the Green Line, he ran 10 miles. We beat him by 3 minutes! He almost beat us while joggling! He cruised in faster than I couldn't get to the media viewing area, so Laura and I ran through the crowd to Copley to catch a glimpse of him along the sidelines. Good thing I saw those yellow balls in the air. Of course, we had no idea whether Kapral had finished. We hung around and he showed up about 9 minutes later. I met him right after the finish line (thanks to my media pass) and he jabbed away for like 20 minutes with me. This after running a marathon in almost 3 hours. Zach was in pretty good shape - not great, but pretty good - when he met us at the family waiting area, where Kapral's wife Dianne was hanging out. Zach had no one waiting for him -- no family or friends -- except for me. But at least they got to see him in the paper the next day. The sports editors apparently liked the first story because they gave "The Jugglers" a nice corner page. Again, very proud to get this kind of story in the paper. And this time, I got their charity websites, too. (Matthew J. Lee photo)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Joggling Breakthrough!

The Inside Scoop: This story came out great on so many levels. One, it put Zach on the national map. Appearing on the cover of the Sports section (my first section front there), it got picked up by more than 500 newspapers worldwide and probably hundreds of TV stations. CNN, NPR, CBS, ESPN and others interviewed Zach and Michal about their joggling showdown. It appears that this may be the first legitmate joggling story to appear in a major newspaper (that's what the joggling folks intimated, at least.) That, of course, makes me estatic. I love breaking new ground and shedding light on people/topics that never, never, never see the light of day in the mainstream media. I guess the only bummer is that I didn't get much credit. Amazingly, more than a dozen websites I've read quote my story verbatim and DON'T credit the Boston Globe, let alone me. Just how they have the scruples to do this, I don't know. Even when I worked for the Daily News Express in NYC, we credited our sources, even if it was just to say "wire reports." But we really did use wire reports! In this case, people - hundreds - just stole from the Globe. And me. Which wouldn't matter except that I don't get paid anything more. Is this what Limewire feels like to musicians? Anyway, the other bummer, which in the grand scheme is the greater bummer, is that few media outlets even mentioned the charities these guys are running for. I was so upset with myself for not getting in the websites for the charities. Had I, maybe more donations would have come in. I spoke with Kapral before the race: despite all the publicity, he'd only raised $1,000 for the race. That is so sad. PS - speaking of giving credit, it's Domenic Chavez's photo.













110TH BOSTON MARATHON

Juggling for 26.2 miles -- it 'joggles' the mind

Michal Kapral is the better runner. Pushing his 20-month-old daughter, Annika, in a stroller, he ran the Toronto marathon in 2 hours 49 minutes. With no baby in tow, his personal best is 2:32.

Zach Warren is the better juggler. Bowling pins, knives, and torches are all child's play to him. He can juggle while riding a unicycle; he can juggle while blindfolded.

On Marathon Monday, the two men will take their positions at the starting line in Hopkinton in what may prove to be one of the most curious showdowns in race history. Warren, a Harvard Divinity School student, is the current world record-holder in the obscure sport of marathon ''joggling," the official term for juggling while running. The man he stole the title from? That would be Kapral.

In the 20-odd-year history of joggling, two jogglers have never run the same marathon -- until now.

Warren, 24, and Kapral, 33, of Toronto, plan on running side by side, each juggling three bean-filled balls, for 20 or even 25 miles of the Boston race. From that point on, it'll be a sprint to the finish. May the best joggler win.

''It was a sort of a joke when I first started doing it," says Kapral, an editor for Westford-based Captivate Network, which operates electronic news boards found in elevators. ''But after doing it for hours and hours and miles and miles, I appreciate it as a truly beautiful sport. There's something poetic about it. When you get into a good groove and you see the balls flying in front of you, it really is poetry. You're a little moving circus."

''The way I figure," says Warren, a West Virginia native, ''if you're running a marathon, you're already in pain. Why not have a little fun while you're doing it? After all, laughter is an antidote."

Warren eclipsed Kapral's record by 41 seconds at the Philadelphia Marathon in November, finishing in 3:07:05. Competing head-to-head, the two hope to break three hours in Boston -- assuming Kapral doesn't lose a ball in the jostle at the starting line, or a bug doesn't fly into Warren's eye, as happened in his last race.

''It's not that people haven't joggled marathons before," says Bill Giduz, who helped coin the term ''joggling" in the early 1980s and is one of the sport's leading advocates. ''But these guys are the fastest yet. It would be wonderful if we have a photo finish. One could win by a ball."

The official story
According to joggling rules, Warren and Kapral can't take more than two steps without juggling. If someone drops a ball, he has to stop, go to the spot where he dropped it, and resume running from there.

About 800 runners in the United States identify themselves as jogglers, says Albert Lucas, co-founder of the Tampa-based International Sport Juggling Federation. Fewer than 100 of those runners are marathoners, Lucas says, making Monday's competition the most anticipated joggling event of the year.

''We'll have officials there," says Lucas, who himself holds the record for joggling the most marathons (12) without dropping a ball. ''Whoever crosses the finish line, we'll be able to certify them on the spot."

Jack Fleming, communications director for the Boston Athletic Association, says there are no rules against juggling during the race, just as there are no restrictions against running it backwards, in bare feet, wearing military gear, or dressed as Elvis.

''For some, the marathon is not enough," says Fleming. ''It needs to be more. 'How can we add a layer?' Some people might purely add that layer by trying to run as fast as possible. These guys are trying to add a layer by adding complexity."

While juggling and running may appear to have little in common, a juggler's arms sway back and forth almost exactly like a runner's. When throws are timed correctly, the motion is practically seamless, jogglers say.

''As long as you see where the ball peaks, you can usually position your hand to catch it; after a while it becomes natural," says Warren, who first tinkered with the sport in college, when he would relax before a big track meet by juggling on the sidelines.

Kapral, one of Canada's best marathoners, began joggling a little more than a year ago, after setting the Guinness world record for ''fastest marathon for pushing a baby in a stroller" in 2004.

''Everyone was asking me what I was going to do the next year," to top that," says Kapral. ''I'm not a juggler. I was dropping balls every three seconds at the beginning. Eventually, I could run an hour without dropping them. It's amazing what you can train yourself to do."

Kapral shattered the old world record by 13 minutes in the first marathon he ever joggled, the 2005 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Warren broke that record two months later while joggling his first marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon.

The challenge of Boston
The elements likely will play a large role in determining which man will take Boston. Kapral, the weaker juggler, says he struggled during the Toronto marathon because it was so humid.

''Toward the end of it, I was just covered in stickiness and was dropping the balls," he said ''Once I kicked it, too, by accident."

Kapral's juggling skills will also be tested while he fights his way through the sea of runners at the beginning of the race.

''When you're in a pack, you slow down because you're worried about dropping them," says Gil Pontius, 41, a Clark University professor who joggled the 1998 Boston Marathon in 4:35. ''I was in a close pack in the first 10 miles. I didn't want to lose a ball and have someone fall on it and trip and break an ankle."

But should Monday be a dry and windless day, the odds will favor the stronger runner, jogglers say. In this case, that is clearly Kapral, who won Toronto's marathon in 2002 and was the top Canadian finisher in the Boston Marathon that same year.

Warren, the local favorite, acknowledges that his competition will be stiff and that he is less prepared than he could be.

''I've been training for a unicycle record, not a running record," said the second-year graduate student, who two weeks ago attempted to ride the most miles on a unicycle in a single hour, only to fall short when a wheel bolt broke during his attempt in Fargo, N.D.

''We'll be running cooperatively for a certain period of time -- maybe 20 miles, maybe 25," Warren says. ''Then at some point, someone's going to turn on the fire. Mostly likely it's going to be him. So make sure you take your pictures before that point."

Kapral says it's anyone's race.

''Zach is incredibly talented, obviously," says Kapral. ''He broke my record. I'm certainly not going to brush him aside."

Beyond setting a world record, the two jogglers will be running to raise money for children's charities. Kapral is raising donations for the Toronto charity ''A Run For Liane," whose goal is to build a cancer research center, while Warren is trying to raise $10,000 for the Afghan Mobile Mini-Circus for Children, a Kabul-based group for which he volunteers as a juggling and unicycle instructor.

By sticking together most of the way, Kapral and Warren figure to attract twice as much attention to their causes.

They'll certainly turn twice as many heads.

''With joggling, I get a whole variety of reactions," says Warren. ''Complete laughter. Sometimes, like, absurd laughter. I hear people say, 'You know, if you drop one, you have to go back to the starting line.' Or 'Don't blink!' Some people say 'You're absurd,' or 'I wish I could do that.' And some say, 'Now, you're just showing off.' "

Sunday, April 09, 2006

What's up, doc? Carrot-centric dishes

The Inside Scoop: Keeping up with my tradition of picking the absolutely hardest foods on the planet to find, I picked carrots this week. The Indian dish was really, really good. But I had to go to two restaurants to find a good one, as the first restaurant's version tasted like shoe leather. The chocolate carrot cake was really a disappointment, though I didn't write that. The problem was you could barely even see the carrot shards, let alone taste them. But I really liked the baker and his tiny shop, so I kept it in there. Plus, it was different, albeit only in name. Common Ground was out there - something out of Lord of the Rings. I had no idea it was run by a religious group. Their pizza looked good. Alas, no carrot pizza.

TABLE HOPPING, April 9, 2006

In honor of the Easter Bunny, this week's Table Hopping is all about -- you guessed it -- carrots. Sure, they make your eyesight better. But carrots are also an extremely versatile cooking ingredient, present in soups, sweets, salads, stir-frys, breads and many more dishes. Bushy tail or not, the following carrot-centric dishes should impress.

Gandhi Restaurant
704 Mass Ave., Cambridge
617-491-1104

Natives of India's Panjab region refer to gajaar ka halwa as carrot cake, but it's really more like a warm and moist carrot brownie. The dessert is hard to find in Boston, but Jarnel Singh, head cook at Gandhi in Central Square for more than 20 years, makes it just right. Pouring shredded carrots, spices, and milk into a saucepan, he adds in minced pistachios, almonds, cashews, and Indian pistachios (they're long and brown) for a nutty flavor. Sugar and ghee make the brownies sweet and almost creamy. I might have ordered seconds were it not so rich ($2.50).

Well, Well, Well . . .
23 Dartmouth St., Boston
617-945-3500

''An experiment that worked" is how Well, Well, Well . . . owner Cornelia Hoskin describes organic carrots marsala, one of a few dozen gourmet frozen meals available at her South End takeout store. Cooking up fresh carrots from Busa Farm in Lexington, she drenches them in marsala wine, adds fresh black pepper, kosher salt, and a bit of onion and sugar, then flash freezes them. ''It just sort of sprung from chicken marsala," she says about her sweet side dish. ''You're wondering, 'Hmm . . . what would marsala go well with?' " Regulars pair an order ($9.99) with lemon broccoli chicken, lime cilantro swordfish kebabs, or veggie Barcelona, another homemade, carrot-laden dish.

New England Soup Factory
2-4 Brookline Place, Brookline Village
617-739-1899

Marjorie Druker likes lots of foods, but she worships carrots. ''Some people may think of them as a mundane, everyday vegetable. But really, they're like royalty," says the Soup Factory's head chef and owner. Her carrot, honey, and ginger soup, introduced Friday, is simply regal. Made with crème fresh, ''the jaguar of sour cream," she says, the dish is zesty, almost like a yellow curry, but far smoother. Druker makes several carrot soups throughout the year, including carrot and roasted leek, but this one's her favorite. ''Carrots and honey together -- it's like saying peanut butter and jelly," she gushes ($5.50/pint).

Sweet Finnish
761 Centre St., Jamaica Plain
617-522-5200

Flecks of carrots add both color and taste to Sweet Finnish's ''porkkanaleipa," the tongue-twisting Finnish name for carrot bread. ''We're big on big words," jokes Ulla Monestime, a Finnish native who opened her Internet bakery café on bustling Centre Street two years ago. Made with oats and wheat flour, porkkanaleipa is a hardy but tasty bread, and, well, slightly unusual. Monestime credits her mother with the recipe, noting that carrot bread is common across Finland. Request it in one of Sweet Finnish's turkey or ham sandwiches, or, for $5, try a loaf.

Blue Frog Bakery
3 Green St., Jamaica Plain
617-983-3764

Brad Brown bakes a classic carrot cake in his tiny side-street bakery, but his chocolate carrot cake is what turns heads. ''We're the only people I know of who make it," says the Toronto native, who brought the recipe with him from Canada. ''People have been making chocolate cake with (a variety of) things for a long time. My mom made chocolate zucchini cake. Anything to make the cake more moist." Brown's triple-layer chocolate carrot cake is heavy on the chocolate and light on the carrots. Still, the little orange shreds leave a nice carrot aftertaste.

Common Ground
2243 Dorchester Ave.,Dorchester Lower Mills
617-298-1020

Vitamins practically coursed through my veins as I slurped a glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice from Common Ground's juice bar one afternoon last week. The yummy frosted carrot cake I had for dessert wasn't nearly as nutritious, but, seeing as how it was made with organic carrots, organic flour and honey instead of sugar, my guilt was kept to a minimum. ''We serve things that are wholesome," says manager Nezer Aldokhi. Even Common Ground's pizzas, made with easy-to-digest spelt crust, have a healthy flair to them.

PETER DEMARCO

A mighty sticky wicket

The Inside Scoop: Flashback to the summer of 2000. Me. In Bed-Sty. The coach looks down the bench and waves me in. But it's not a baseball game: it's cricket. And I am the only non-Jamaican on the field. I wrote about my cricket tryout for the New York Times' Weekend Warrior section, not my best work but a great lead. So when Thomasine Berg pitched this story to me, I knew the subject cold. The main character was very very talkative -- any other reporter wouldn't have been as patient. But I'm glad he took me seriously and this was his moment in the sun. So I listened. And transcribed. And transcribed. And transcribed...

A cricket player takes his place serving the Red Sox faithful

By Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent | April 9, 2006

On his first evening in Boston as a freshman at Boston University, Marty Ray looked out the window of his Warren Towers dormitory room and saw the light.

It came from across the Massachusetts Turnpike, and it glowed above the rooftops.

''Is that some sort of stadium?" he asked the resident assistant on his floor.

She told him it was Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play, of course.

Ray looked at her. ''Who are the Red Sox?" he asked.

Eight years later, as Ray tells the tale, he mindlessly fidgets with the giant gold and diamond-studded ring on his finger. It's one of those Red Sox World Series Championship rings that all the players and Sox staffers got after the 2004 season. His last name is engraved on it.

As meteoric rises go, this one is up there. When Amartya ''Marty" Ray, an ace cricket player from Calcutta, moved here in 1998 to attend college, he didn't even know what a home run was. Today, at age 26, he is coordinator of fan and neighborhood services for the Red Sox.

For the past week he's been on overdrive, attending to 100 or so details for Tuesday's home Opening Day ceremonies, from the jet flyover to the proper placement of flags to the proofreading of public address announcer Carl Beane's script.

In 2003, he manned the phones the day after the Red Sox fell to the Yankees, logging complaint after complaint. The following year he drove the World Series trophy to towns across the Commonwealth, strapped safely next to him in the passenger's seat.

He knows how late into the night general manager Theo Epstein works because Ray usually works 60, 70, or 80 hours a week, too.

''Growing up in India I knew baseball was a sport," he says. ''I knew the Yankees were 'the best team.' Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr. -- those were the players who were most famous. But I didn't even know what teams they played for. I didn't even know who the Red Sox were."

Like other boys in India, Ray grew up addicted to cricket, the British game in which batters hit bounced pitches with flat bats and run back and forth between two posts to tally runs.

In high school, Ray started for Calcutta's all-city junior team, one of 40 boys in a city of 8 million to make the squad. He had serious hopes of a professional career until a rotator cuff injury forced him to quit the sport his senior year. With cricket no longer an option, Ray opted for college in Boston, returning to America for the first time since he was a young child. (Ray's parents moved from Philadelphia to their native India when Ray was 4.)

That first night on campus, he wandered to Fenway Park, bought a standing-room-only ticket, and found a spot behind the third base grandstands. But he had no idea what he was watching.

''The natural tendency was to compare it to cricket," he says. ''My first thought was, 'This is odd. This is very odd.' The field has weird dimensions. The foul balls didn't make any sense to me. Then I thought, 'What's up with the gloves? They can't catch a ball with their bare hands?' "

But with Sox fans everywhere he turned, at school and in Kenmore Square, Ray couldn't help but start to pick up the sport.

He learned the rules, learned the lore -- by the time he attended his next game, Ray knew who Ted Williams was and ''that the Red Sox had sold Babe Ruth" -- and fell in love with baseball's strategies, which, though different from those of cricket, felt familiar.

His transformation from baseball foreigner to fan became complete in October 1999, when the Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians in a must-win playoff game.

''Pedro Martinez came out of the bullpen and pitched six innings of shutout ball. It was one of those life-changing games," he says. By 5 the next morning Ray was in line outside Fenway Park with hundreds more crazed fans desperate for tickets. ''I was hooked."

The next summer Ray spotted an advertisement looking for Red Sox ''Fan Ambassadors," and sent in his resume. He was one of 25 people, from a pool of 3,800 candidates, picked for the job.

Working nights and weekends, he did everything, from helping first-time fans find their way to the park to forwarding autograph requests to ushering fans through the park during Williams's memorial service.

By 2003 he was working full time at Fenway, assisting team president/CEO Larry Lucchino and other Sox brass when called upon. The following summer he was put in charge of writing the daily pregame script, the one that begins ''Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls . . ."

''I was talking to the Major League Baseball guys during the World Series and they were like, 'When has an Indian guy ever written a script for the World Series?' " Ray says with pride.

''It's the biggest stage of anything. It's like writing scripts for the Super Bowl. They were like 'Well, even if it has happened, it hasn't happened that much.' "

The Sox victory and parade -- which Ray helped plan -- were whirlwind experiences, he says.

By the time he finished the trophy tour, accompanying the hardware to 79 communities, Ray was a full-fledged member of Red Sox Nation. He now dreams of one day becoming the first Indian CEO of a baseball team.

So, after all Ray's seen and done, which would he choose: cricket or baseball?

Ray laughs when asked the question. Cricket will always be his first love, he says. But baseball, it turns out, is his life.

''I think I have to spend as many years in baseball as I did in cricket -- at least 18 years -- to really answer that," he says.

''Then we'll see what happens."

Sunday, April 02, 2006

As funny as his captions

The Inside Scoop: Bob Mancoff was terrific to talk to for the sidebar. I wish I could have snuck more of his quotes into the story, especially his quip about the one caption that always works no matter what the cartoon: "He's an asshole." Funny stuff

The road to victory comes with a twist

What separates a winning New Yorker cartoon caption from thousands of also-rans?

Originality is important, but great captions go beyond that, says Bob Mankoff, the magazine's cartoon editor for nearly a decade.

Diction, tone, quirkiness, and pacing all play their part; the ideal caption shouldn't be too wordy or make the reader work too hard to get the joke.

Above all, the caption has to surprise.

If you can cover the last few words of the caption with your hand and guess them anyway, the joke's commonplace, Mankoff says.

''The Far Side" nature of a number of the New Yorker's contest cartoons -- dogs speak, accountants fly like Superman, and monster-wheel trucks squash string orchestras -- requires a dash of twisted thinking as well.

''What's interesting is there are many, many smart people who look at these pictures which need captions. People who I'm sure scored, especially in the Boston area, high on their SATs, who for the life of them couldn't come up with something," Mankoff said. ''You really have to tap into some sort of fantasy -- not logical, but having its own logic -- to come up with the caption."

The New Yorker's cartoons, he says, are ''little artificial wind-up toys that create some tension that is resolved in the punch line or the caption. 'A secretary in a pool of her own blood.' It's just a play frame. We don't have to put a lot together to understand it."

As for who wins the weekly contests, however, Mankoff can't offer much.

Entrants submit only their names and hometowns along with their captions (''We do get complete criminal records on them," he joked.)

But in this age of blogs and reality television, where participation in the media is greater than ever before, Mankoff assumes they're from all walks of life.

''There's not that bright a line sometimes between people who choose, unfortunately, a career in medicine rather than cartooning," he quipped.

''Maybe we'll do something at some point with the winners," he said. ''My people could invite the winners and have them divide into teams and have a contest. The ultimate cartoon contest smackdown!"

For everyone else, look for the New Yorker cartoon caption contest board game in stores by Christmas.

PETER DEMARCO

New Yorker Toons

The Inside Scoop: I give kudos to some good editing on this one (esp. Tom Sheehan and Tom Coakley). A decent story-turned-centerpiece, which is always good for my wallet. I'm not sure it deserved that much play but what do I know? The people who won the cartoon contest were really great sports. I penned a three versions (Northwest and North ran the other two) but this was the best.

FRAME THAT 'TOON . . . CONTEST

Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent

April 2, 2006 Page: 1 Section: City Weekly

None of the three local winners is a comic. In Lou Rubino's case, his own adult sons don't even think he's that funny.

But at some point during the past year, while lounging on the couch, lying sick in bed, or perusing The New Yorker magazine's website, comedic inspiration of the highest order struck them all. They jotted down their pithiest punch lines and entered the magazine's weekly cartoon caption contest. And they won.

Now, music librarian Andrew Wilson has a standing offer to write for a greeting card company. Fifth-grade teacher Miriam Steinberg gets congratulated by her pupils' parents. Sarah Bell, a fund-raising assistant from Cambridge, has strangers recognize her name months after it appeared in the magazine.

"My friend's uncle was joking I should just go around captioning things in the house," said Bell, 23. "People who are diehard New Yorker readers thought it was really great. It was just fun to see someone they knew win. Like my grandmother. But people didn't look at me like I was any smarter. My friends probably know better."

Famous for its erudite and clever cartoons, The New Yorker let readers join in the fun by introducing the weekly caption contest a year ago. A cartoon depicting an odd or impossible scenario a business meeting aboard a subway train, a minotaur sipping martinis at a bar appears on the last page of the magazine. It's up to readers to come up with their wittiest take on the scene.

As many as 8,000 captions are sent in each week. The magazine's staff, including cartoon editor Bob Mankoff and editor-in-chief David Remnick, choose three finalists, and readers vote in the eventual winner. With 60,000 subscribers, Greater Boston is the New Yorker's fourth-largest market. New York and California readers have sent in the most cartoon captions, with Massachusetts a distant third, Mankoff says. But considering how large the other two states are, it's clear that Bostonians love the contest as much as anyone. Maybe more so.

And Boston has flexed its creative prowess, with three winners to date Bell, Steinberg and Wilson, all with Cambridge ties. (As if Nobel Prize winners, Harvard, and MIT weren't enough for the city.) Rubino, an executive recruiter from Burlington, was one of three finalists in an early-March contest.

In his contest, the cartoon featured a woman speaking with a partner in bed. The twist? He is a huge snow globe resembling Frosty the Snowman. To come up with a quirky enough caption, Rubino says, he had to create a quirky enough back story to explain the cartoon. The two weren't just lovers they were adulterers. Who was she cheating on? Another snow globe, of course.

His final caption: "I think the Manhattan skyline is getting suspicious."

Pitted against a pair of strong entries, Rubino came up short when the top vote-getter was announced Monday. He proved to be Carl Gable of Norcross, Ga. His caption: "Well, that was abominable."

Rubino, gracious in defeat, says he was shocked just to make the finals. Boston's other caption champions, likewise, never figured they would win. Bell, Wilson, and Steinberg had never submitted an entry before (or entered any comedic writing contest, for that matter). And while some New Yorker readers agonize hours or days over their entries, Boston's winners say they didn't exactly slave over theirs.

Steinberg, a teacher at Brighton's Conservatory Lab Charter School, was sick in bed in her Cambridge apartment when she came upon a captionless cartoon of a beaten man crawling toward an "Emergency Hotline" phone bank. A woman leans over to speak to him. Steinberg's entry: "Neither the time nor the place, Doug!"

"I thought, `That's it,' " she recalled. " `How could there possibly be another answer for this one?' "

The New Yorker's Mankoff agreed, calling her offering "really nicely phrased." "You understand the whole back story," he said. "And then, of course, there's the correct choice of `Doug.' You wanted a simple name, a one-syllable name. You definitely wouldn't want `Stephen,' you know? It sort of has that final little thing that ends that caption. `Doug.' "

Wilson, a string bass player who lives in Ayer and works at Harvard University's Loeb Music Library, said he'd forgotten about the contest by the time a New Yorker intern called him to let him know he was a finalist. "He actually had to remind me I had entered," he said.

Wilson won for a November cartoon in which a nebbish-looking businessman hails down a savage barbarian on a horse. A pair of villagers are in the background, whispering to each other. His caption: "Dibs on the briefcase."

Morbid humor? Sure. But Wilson says he was going for something a bit smarter like something co-workers from "The Office" might crack if their boss was about to get his comeuppance.

Mankoff said the caption, aside from being funny, was "elegant" in its diction and tone. "There were a lot of ones about the briefcase. `Dibs' was funny," he said. "Look how short that is. It's four words. That's sort of nice."

Bell was just trying to write something that would make her friend, a fellow New Yorker reader, laugh. "We live in different cities, so it was kind of fun to think of a caption and see what the other person comes up with," she said. Her cartoon was of a pair of businessmen one of them a wolf in a suit and tie walking down the street. The wolf appeared to be grumbling about something.

"Oh, sure, they find one secretary in a pool of her own blood and everybody wants to blame the werewolf," wrote Bell.

Mankoff said many entrants played with a werewolf theme in their submissions, but no one nailed the tone quite like Bell. "We thought it sort of had a bouncy line," he said. "I think it was strange and funny, which is usually a category we're looking for."

Readers love the contest because they get the chance to impress the magazine's editors with their wit, as opposed to the other way around, Mankoff said. But in the end, Mankoff stressed, it's still the readers who decide the winner. "Just like `American Idol'," he said. "And then, of course, they go on to fame and glory and no money at all."

Indeed, as Mankoff muses, the contest is really just for fun. And the winners clearly know that.

Bell says she's hung her prize an autographed print of the cartoon signed by artist Tom Cheney on her bedroom wall, "and hired someone to stand security." Wilson got an unsolicited invitation from a California company to write greeting card sentiments for $50 each. ("My ship has come in!" he joked.) Steinberg says it's just cool to get asked about the contest at parties once in a while by envious fellow Cantabrigians.

Perhaps Rubino has reaped the greatest reward for getting his name in print. Finally, no less a comedic authority than The New Yorker has determined that he really is funny.

"Both my sons always say to me, `Dad, you have no sense of humor,' " said Rubino. After his choice as a comedic finalist, he said, "I rubbed it in, in a nice way."