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

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tasting flakes

The Inside Scoop: I don't have a story today, but I had to post the first snowflakes of the year. Laura and I were costume shopping in Davis Square - that's right, it's not even Halloween - and the snow was falling. In fact, it's still falling, and while it's not amounting to a whole lot, it's sticking to rooftops. We've got at least a half inch of huge flakes. Good thing it's a Saturday, or else I wonder if we'd have to start up a sander for a few accounts. Though I think customers would scream if they saw a bill from October. Let it pass, I say. (That way, I also don't have to worry about my plans for an Inman Square date tonight, with horror improv show!)
Postscript: It hit 72 degrees on Sunday, Oct. 30, a 44-degree swing in like 16 hours!! Like Twain said: If you don't like the weather in New England, wait a minute.

2 days to Halloween, and
snowing in the square

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Happy Halloween

The Inside Scoop: It's Halloween, so you know I've got to write a Halloween story. This one fell in my lap - I live three blocks from the store - though I wouldn't have known about it if not for Simon Ritt of Disc Diggers. Shout out to you, Simon. Was bummed I couldn't sneak in more details about how Bear paints. He actually does it backwards, painting the top layer on the window first and the background stuff afterwards. I also wish I could have included his description of his work: "A big ass window of monsters." I used the word mural, which technically isn't right because a mural is a wall painting and he painted his creatures on glass. But I think it applies still. I think.

Actually, you can't see Drac's fangs.

Published 10-30-05, City Weekly

A store whose windows, not prices, are most frightening
By Peter DeMarco
Globe Correspondent

There, in the dark light of Wayne Viens's (cq) storefront, My Size Barbies have been become mummies. Cute baby doll heads are severed and stacked atop each other in macabre totem poles. Surrounding them are creepy mannequin arms, fiendish-looking toy animals, and, dangling on a string with a foot protruding from its neck, the mutated toy known as "Kicked to the Curb."

"I mean, I was not in a good place when I did that," says Viens, smiling sheepishly while describing his creation. "I've had people say to me, 'Oh, you should get some help.' But I feel lucky I have an outlet."

You won't find Boston's oddest Halloween display at an art gallery, a fancy Newbury Street store or even a costume shop. It's at, of all places, Goodwill Industries (cq) in Davis Square, where Viens, the store's manager, plays Dr. Frankenstein (cq) with toy dolls and Cambridge painter Boby Bear (cq) has re-created Hollywood horror movie mainstays in a frightfully alluring storefront glass mural..

The giant monster montage, with Dracula, The Werewolf, The Mummy, The Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein's monster staring onto Elm Street, immediately jumps out.

"That vampire painting here -- that looks like him. Bela Lugosi," (cq) said Albert Donati, (cq) 76, of Somerville, standing on the sidewalk about eye-level to Dracula's fangs. "He's quite an artist."

But Viens's half of the storefront, with its disfigured dolls and eclectic collection of funereal artifacts, from a black raven to an Elvis sun god to a copy of "Funeral Customs All over the World", is far more bizarre.

"Some of it's kind of dark, but I like to think it's dark and humorous," says Viens, who has transformed his storefront into a strange art gallery the past five Halloweens. "This year I softened it up a bit. I put more cute stuff in there. Last year, I think I went a little too dark. I had this tribute to Salvador Dali (cq) -- it was this crazy dog. He was just a little too scary."

The Somerville Arts Council's long-running Windows Art Project, (cq) in which businesses provide show space for artisans, inspired Viens to assemble his first display. The idea for a macabre shrine, as Viens calls it, emerged from both a love for horror movies ("Evil Dead 2 is one of my favorites") and a trip he and his wife, Linda, (cq) once took to Mexico during that country's traditional Day of the Dead celebration.

A lifelong artist and photographer who once lived in Fort Point, Viens, now of Somerville, began looking around his store for materials to create his display. The discarded dolls and stuffed animals, albeit different, seemed ideal, he said.

"Part of this is to inspire other people. I'm subtly trying to send a message about Goodwill -- you can find something creative here," Viens said. "Halloween is our busiest time. This is our Christmas at Goodwill, and as a manager I've got to hit my (sales quotas). Saturday I'm having a brass band in here."

To further promote the store, Viens last year commissioned Bear, a Cambridge musician and part-time artist, to cover the shop's remaining windows with 6-foot tall monsters.

A veteran of several Cambridge storefront windows -- his hand-brushed hamburgers and Coca-Cola bottles can be seen at Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage (cq) and Leo's Place (cq) in Harvard Square -- Bear had never done a Halloween display. Still, he felt right at home with the subject matter.

Kicked to the Curb!

"Wayne and I, being the age we are, we grew up when monsters were king," said Bear, 50, who painted his second Goodwill Halloween mural this fall. "Whether it was Aurora monster model kits (cq) of Dracula or Frankenstein or the "Famous Monsters of Filmland" (cq) magazine ... it was a whole monster age for guys who grew up in the 60s. There's a real comfort zone there for me."

Reactions to Goodwill's storefront have, for the most part, been exactly what Viens was hoping for.

"I was looking for a Halloween costume, and I saw the window and I literally thought, 'I should shop here for it,'" said Cindy Liebman, (cq) 27, a Somerville lawyer, emerging from the store with her purchase in hand. "I'm going to be Snow White, and I needed the yellow skirt. I couldn't find it anywhere else."

Arlington resident Deb Bermudes (cq), shopping for a costume for her 11-year-old daughter Maya's (cq) school play, peered into the doll-filled shrine.

"Oh fun," she said.

"In the Cambridge-Davis Square area, you do find creative people,” she added. “I'm glad they want to share."

Stephen Mackey, (cq) president of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce, said as creative as the city’s residents are, nothing quite measures up to Goodwill's spooky storefront this Halloween.

"But the totem poles -- " he said, hesitating. "Maybe we should have a sign that says they might be too much for anyone under 8."

- 30

Actual spread in the paper. But no photo of the mural. Boo!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Professor Theresa Perry

The Inside Scoop: A true measure of how far removed I am from hard news reporting is the fact that it's Oct. 23 and I'm writing my very first Hurricane Katrina story. That puts me about 6 weeks behind every other reporter in the United States, but who's counting. This one was a Q &A for the Education section, which is slated to be eliminated on Nov. 6 as part of cost-cutting measures I believe. The professor was very nice, though not adept at providing short, to-the-point responses. I spoke with her for an hour as opposed to 20 minutes, but that's OK. I'm just printing the intro to the story here, as well as my first audio post. It's a snippet from our interview about an emotionally charged detail thatI hadn't thought of regarding the hurricane.

10-23-05, Education section
Education section Q &A: Theresa Perry
By Peter DeMarco

Simmons College professor Theresa Perry (cq) was already working on two books when she sat down to watch CNN’s nonstop coverage of Hurricane Katrina the day of the storm. By the time she switched off the set at 1 a.m., she had decided to write a third.

Best known for her in-depth analysis of the achievement gap between black and white students, Perry, who is African American, realized early on that Katrina would serve as one of our nation’s most powerful case studies in race relations. News images of thousands of African Americans stranded without food at the Superdome days after the storm reinforced that conviction.

“My working title is, ‘Race and Katrina: Testimony and Interpretation,’” Perry said of her book. “I want to have both first person narratives and analysis by different academics. But I want it to be written in a way that people can use – for it to be accessible, so that people can use it at the local level for [starting] conversation.”

Above all, Perry hopes to ignite conversation in the classroom. In the aftermath of the hurricane, she has been campaigning for educators at every level, elementary through college, to use Katrina as a “teachable moment” about race in the United States.

“We almost never get a chance to talk about race in a deep or substantive enough fashion,” she said. “But [with Katrina], we have a text and topics - the political economy of reconstruction, the role of personal responsibility and the role of government in taking care of its citizens, the role of the media in both reporting reality and creating reality… Some of these lessons are going to be hard. We’re going to find things out that are going to be unsettling.”

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Alford St. Bridge story

This was actually a better story than the Southie one. Practically the same topic.


By Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent
Date: 08/11/2002 Page: 9 Section: Globe North

EVERETT - Walk into Pete Santini's bait and tackle shop on Main Street and you will find some strange looking lures, from neon pink doll hair on a bob to slithery, half-frozen American eels. But the strangest lure of all for local fishermen isn't something that can be stuck on a hook - not unless you can hook a drawbridge.

Rickety and rusty, the Alford Street Bridge on Route 99 connects Everett to Charlestown about a mile from Santini's shop. Pieces of muffler pipe and fenders litter its concrete sidewalks. Overweight dump trucks bounce the old bridge while traffic fumes choke the air. The Mystic Station power plant, with its mile-high smokestacks, looms just feet away. Scrap yards, gas tanks, and cargo loading docks along the Mystic River round out the view.

Yet, pick the hour, and there are people fishing here.

With nowhere else to park, they pull over on the bridge, pop on their hazard lights, unload their poles and folding chairs, and find a spot along the peeled railing. Some, on their way home from work, stay and relax for an hour. Others, not up for the journey to Gloucester or Castle Island in South Boston, make a night of it, camping out three or four hours on the bridge until they nab a striped bass or maybe a bluefish.

Seventeen-year drawbridge operator Gary Akin said he has at times seen 30 to 40 people fishing off the bridge, and, occasionally, entire families. Diehards have been known to brave the bridge in January and February, while Ken Wisniewski, an Everett postal worker, remembers fishing off it as a kid in 1980, when Boston Harbor was polluted beyond compare.

"I've seen guys lean back to cast their line - and catch a trailer truck," said Santini, proprietor of Fishing Finatics in Everett. "It's called urban fishing."

City dwellers, of course, have fished off bridges for ages. Locally, the Chelsea Creek bridge, the Charlestown Bridge leading to the North End and Winthrop, and East Boston's Belle Isle Bridge attract regular crowds. But arguably no fishing hole is as inhospitable - or downright ugly - as Alford Street's.

Why then, be it rush hour or 2 a.m., do people flock there? As bridge veteran Steve Lawson of Revere puts it, there isn't a whole lot to understand.

"You see what's out there? Water," he said, leaning forward in a canvas chair, pole in one hand, iced coffee in the other, one recent evening on the bridge. "You know what's in the water? Fish. And where's there's fish, you'll find fishermen."

Indeed, if nothing else, the drawbridge boasts plenty of bass, bluefish, even flounder, regulars attest, with stories abound of 36-inch catches and even a spectacular 49-inch haul. Some say the power plant's hot-water discharges attract smaller fish such as alewifes, which, in turn, attract schools of bigger predators. Or that fish are plentiful because they spawn just north at the Amelia Earhart Dam.

"I think they tend to swim around the pilings. They like bridge pilings," said Pauline Antonino of Boston as she hooked a small herring onto her line for bait.

Jack Hughes, a project manager for Sithe Mystic Energies, which purchased the former Boston Edison plant, doubted that warmer, oxygenated water from the plant has any bearing on the bridge because the station's discharge pipes are located several hundred yards south toward the harbor.

"I really think fish are attracted [to the bridge] because that side of the channel has not been dredged," said Hughes, himself a fisherman. "They feed on the critters in the mud flats."

Whatever the reason, Santini said he believes there are more fish than ever in the Mystic River because of efforts to clean the harbor and conserve fish stocks. Though the power plant and the harbor's polluted past might scare away many an appetite, the Mystic's saltwater fish are safe to eat, said Mike Armstrong, a senior fisheries biologist from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

"They spend so little time in the river, they don't accumulate much in toxins," he said. "They come in and cruise around. A week later, they may be in Salem Harbor."

Not if the Alford Street Bridge's fishermen can help it.

"I've caught lots of stripers from the bridge," said Santini. "They taste great on the grill."

Gone fishing

The Inside Scoop: This was a toughy for two reasons. First, the idea came from my editor, who sort of had this vision for the story in his head. I really wasn't sure he was on the mark - I thought the fishing spots that he thought were dumpy were actually kind of nice, especially along the Sugar Bowl walkway, which seemed much closer to nature than the city. Second, I already wrote this story, two years ago, when profiling the Alford Street Bridge in Charlestown and Everett, which is an absolute dump. To me, that was really city fishing. Lastly, uber-copy editor Tom Sheehan pointed out that I neglected to find out the truth about the Bulger taps. He was right yet again, though it's a lot easier for him to call Shelley Murphy than for me. Tom must think I'm the lousiest reporter around, which is too bad, because I'm not. But I do make mistakes, and usually, in the copy he reads. PS - Bill Polo shot the photo.

‘Even here, a place so close to the city, there’s a certain serenity just sitting by the water’s edge.’
- Peter Shepardson, of South Boston

Published 10-23-05, City Weekly

In the Sugar Bowl, they find, life is sweet
To Castle Island, fishermen flock

By Peter DeMarco
Globe Correspondent

Massport’s Conley Container Terminal, with bells and whistles and diesel fumes from hundreds of trailer trucks, is just a long line cast from Castle Island’s best fishing pier.

Fishermen tell tales of the rats that scurry along South Boston’s beaches at night and curse the underwater utility cables near the shore, where fishing lines become snagged.

Though Boston Harbor’s water is vastly improved, boats still emerge from the water with hulls blackened from floating fuel, or other gunk.

And when jets soar above from the nearby airport, it’s hard to hear yourself talk.

“Whitey Bulger ... would come out here to discuss his business,” says Southie native George Lynch, 61, fishing at high tide last week on the windswept Sugar Bowl walkway that forms an arc around Pleasure Bay. “The FBI men were tapping him, but they couldn’t hear when the planes went overhead. It was too loud.”

(Actually, says the Globe’s Shelley Murphy, it was Boston police and agents for the Drug Enforcement Administration who planted the bug, only to hear jet noise and, of all things, WBZ radio.)

Fishing in South Boston is similarly tricky, but try baiting local anglers into com plaining about their favorite spot, and you won’t get a single bite.

The waters around Castle Island’s Lt. John J. McCorkle Fishing Pier are bountiful with flounder, cod, bluefish, and striped bass entering Boston Inner Harbor. Churning waters in the Sugar Bowl’s two narrow sluiceways confuse fish into thinking shiny plastic lures are meals.

Bag a few stripers, Southie fishermen say, and the imperfections fade away.

Asked whether Deer Island’s giant treatment tanks blotch the vista, Brighton native Jerry Clarke quips, “This water wouldn’t be this clean without them.”

The annoying jets coming and going every few minutes? “That’s progress,” shrugs Roy Spring, a Brockton angler.

But do they really eat the fish they catch in Boston Harbor?

“I’ve never known anyone who got sick from one,” says Donald Macrelli, 50, of Dorchester, who’s fished here his whole life.

There are other places in Boston where it’s feasible to cast a line. The Boston Har bor Association has set up fish cleaning stations for public use at locations such as the Charles River Dam and the cargo port near Black Falcon pier. Tudor Wharf in Charlestown, the Alford Street Bridge on the Charlestown-Everett line and Old Harbor Park in Dorchester also see their share of anglers.

But the fishing in Southie just seems better, locals say. Peter Santini, owner of Everett’s Fishing Finatics bait and tackle shop, remembers driving with his Uncle Nino from Medford to Castle Island all the time while growing up.

“I used to catch lot of flounder starting around St. Patrick’s Day,” he said. “It’s always a good place to pick up a good flounder.”

Spring, 47, who grew up in Roxbury, said he used to take two buses and “walk miles” to the bait shop en route to the fishing pier at the foot of Fort Independence. While he usually fishes in Quincy these days, Spring and his older brother, “Sonny,” return to their favorite Southie spot at least once a year.

“When the fish are running, you’ll see people down here who’ve been here for 15, 20, 30 years,” he said while baiting a line with a clam on Tuesday. “I’ve been here spring, summer, fall, and winter, and I’ve fished at every spot on this pier. As far as fishing goes, this is it around here.”

And, yes, the harbor’s fish are safe to eat, says Mike Armstrong, a senior fisher ies biologist from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. That’s true even when sewage is accidentally dumped into Quincy Bay, as was the case last week at Deer Island.

“There’s no health advisory on any of our salt water fish that occur around Boston,” Armstrong says. “Most of them move in and out routinely. They don’t have time to accumulate a lot of bad stuff.”

Clarke, a Boston exterminator who’s fished the Sugar Bowl his whole life, pulls into the parking lot of Sullivan’s clam shack about 5 p.m. on a recent evening.

He and his longtime fishing buddy, Peter Shepardson, a security and storage data specialist who lives in South Boston, walk about a quarter of a mile into the bay before hopping a fence and dropping their tackle boxes on the rocks.

The sun sets, rain begins to fall, and their fishing spot grows cold and wet. Clarke and Shepardson aren’t catching a thing, save for a floppy skate they throw back. Yet, they don’t seem to mind. They jabber about their greatest catches, how the fish are surely coming down from Maine to find warmer waters, how Boston Harbor really is cleaner than ever.

Boston’s glowing skyscrapers rise in the mist behind them, as do the Conley shipping terminal’s giant cranes.

“Even here, a place so close to the city, there’s a certain serenity just sitting by the water’s edge,” says Shepardson, Clarke nodding in agreement. “And you never know. The biggest fish I ever caught could be next.”


Bonus: So I'm out on the walkway, which is like 1.5 miles long, and was built in 1959 - I wish I could have gotten those facts in the story. Anyway, I'm talking with the George Lynch character and he says to me "I think you're really brave to get braces." I'm stunned - no one's ever said this to me - and sheepishly thank him for the support, telling him I had to get them because my orthodonists warned me I'd grind away my front teeth if I didn't get them. "I sure wish I'd had them," says Lynch, who lifts up his upper lip to show that he has no front teeth. Ouch!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Halloween Treats

The Inside Scoop: I lucked out with finding the pizza and jack-o'-lantern focaccia. Really lucked out. The shot to the right here was taken by Abe Faber of Clear Flour Bread, my newest favorite bakery. Thank God for my waistline I don't live near the place. Why didn't I become a baker ...

(Published 10-23-05)

Table Hopping: Halloween treats for grown-ups

By Peter DeMarco

Nothing’s better than being a kid on Halloween, but why should they have all the fun? Here are our suggestions for some decidedly more grown-up treats lurking around town. Trick or eat!

Clear Flour Bread
178 Thorndike St.

Clear Flour’s shelves of fresh Venetian olive rolls, sourdough loaves and seven-grain bread are mesmerizing. But look a little closer – is that a doughy jack- o’-lantern among the focaccia? A crusty skull and crossbones above the buckwheat bread? Baked ghosts and ghouls hanging from hooks like wall decorations? “It’s really difficult to make a bread that’s well-balanced in terms of flavor, aroma and crust. But we can have fun, too,” says owner Abe Faber. His decorative focaccias, topped with confectionary sugar, are the perfect party centerpiece ($2-5, depending on size). For Halloween sandwiches, try the pain de mie - soft white bread - made with pumpkin puree. Orange in color, each loaf has a doughy stem and vine made with all-natural spirulina blue-green algae.

Crazy Dough’s Pizza
1124 Boylston St.

Candy and chocolate sauce on a pizza? Crazy Dough owner Doug Ferriman’s “Trick-or-Treat” pizza may sound strange, but it’s surprisingly good. Using a par-baked pizza crust as a base, he spoons on a creamy mixture of ricotta cheese and sugar (think cannoli filling) instead of tomato sauce. Chocolate and whip cream from a can come next. Sliced strawberries and a smattering of candy corn complete the creation, which tastes more like a hot fudge sundae than a pizza. (Most people order a slice as dessert, Ferriman says.) Crazy Dough’s is also reviving last year’s Halloween special, pumpkin pizza, made with pumpkin, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers. Open until 2 a.m., Crazy Dough’s serves both pizzas well beyond the witching hour.

Boston Beer Works
61 Brookline Ave.

also 112 Canal St.

Babe Ruth’s ghost left the Red Sox alone in 2004, but he came back to haunt us again this October. So perform your own exorcism by tipping back a glass of Bambino Ale, a light beer brewed “with rice to give it a smooth, clean taste,” according to the Beer Works’ menu. Of course, the microbrewery’s popular Pumpkinhead Ale is also in season. Made with pumpkin mash, vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg, it has a mild pumpkin flavor, not quite as strong as some bottled beers we’ve tried but refreshingly good nonetheless. For us, no trip to the Beer Works is complete without an order of their gigantic nachos, one of our all-time favorite treats regardless of what holiday we’re celebrating.

Petsi Pies
285 Beacon St.

Sometimes there’s no better treat than 10 minutes of me time, so when you’ve had enough of trick-or-treating with the kids or Halloween parties stop by Renee “Petsi” McLeod’s pie shop for a cup of tea and a slice of pumpkin pie. Made with a rich filling and a crust that is neither too buttery nor too sweet, it soothed my every nerve. “It’s a nice, mellow piece of pie,” sums McLeod, who will also be baking pumpkin bars and pumpkin tea breads this week. Or you can always snack on one of McLeod’s famous chocolate “whoopee” cupcakes, filled with fresh whip cream. ($2)

Temper Chocolates
Commonwealth Hotel
500 Commonwealth Ave.
Kenmore Square

When it comes to trick-or-treat candy, kids will take quantity over quality any day. But adults are different, which is why Temper Chocolates is the place to indulge your Halloween candy craving. Owner Caroline Yeh culls chocolates from around the world, as well as several top East Coast chocolatiers. Try a bite-size pumpkin praline ($2), a honeycomb and vanilla chocolate bar from the Scottish maker Kshocolat or a mocha marble shortbread vampire bat cookie from Boston’s Dancing Deer Baking Co. Her decorative Halloween gift baskets ($16 and $30) are filled with fine goodies, too.

Cuchi Cuchi
795 Main St

How could we pass up a restaurant with its own tarot card reader and a mixed drink on the menu called “Candy from Strangers”? Part tapas restaurant, part martini bar, Cuchi Cuchi’s décor is a cross between the glamour of early Hollywood and a wild sultan’s lair, with ornate tapestries, drapes, mirrors, furniture and artwork at every turn. The waitstaff is always in costume – 1920s, 30s and 40s “glam” is the norm – while Harmony Dawn reads futures Monday and Tuesday nights, including this Halloween. We started with Candy with Strangers ($11), a pink-lemonade colored cocktail made with citrus vodka, peach schnapps and a splash of grenadine, then added a “blood orange” martini for good measure. Both were, well, devilishly good.

- 30

Bonus notes: Got some great ideas for future stories from this column. Abe Faber of Clear Flour has this Japanese chef who imports seaweeds and other grown stuff to add wild colors to matzo bread, challah, you name it. I've got to pitch the idea to the Food section. Crazy Dough's, meanwhile, is looking into expanding in - get this - India! The owner is my age (34) and he's looking to score big. He told me he didn't even know how to make pizza dough when he opened his first shop. But how the heck did he get financing then? I'll ask him when I write about his India franchises. I can almost taste the saag pizza now. Hey - I think I'm onto something.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

No reason I'm here, but Blogger needs me to post my photo in order to use it in my profile.