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

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dr. Mandell

Physician builds young connections

It was not the kind of note a Children's Hospital pediatrician normally gets. But, then again, Dr. Fred Mandell is no ordinary pediatrician.

And so, at 3 a.m., Mandell climbed into a rental car and pulled out of his Billings, Mont., motel. Arriving at the Native American reservation at dawn, just as the note said to do, Mandell found Austin Two Moons's cabin and knocked on the door.

''There was a voice that said come in," Mandell remembered. ''I see this elderly gentleman sitting on this long chair. He has white hair and a ponytail and a plaid shirt on. He says, 'Who are you, white man?' It wasn't, like, 'What's your name?' It was the deeper question: 'Who are you?' "

''I said, 'I am the same as you, Indian. I am a human being,' " Mandell said, '' 'and I am here because your children aren't growing up to be tall trees. If we can speak as one human being to another, I'll stay. If not, I'll leave.' "

He was told to stay.

To understand who Mandell is you could read his 21-page resume, filled with hundreds of professional accomplishments, from his work with Mother Teresa, to his lifetime community service award from Harvard Medical School, to his once being named one of the city's best pediatricians by Boston Magazine.

You could speak with his co-workers and family, who tell how Mandell has a ''sixth sense" with his patients, often knowing what's wrong before reaching for his stethoscope. How he uses his ''signature" funny faces -- like putting his hands behind his ears -- and litany of magic tricks to make even the saddest patient smile. (That he resembles comic actor Gene Wilder only helps.) And how, in the middle of the night, Mandell can often be found in a lonely hospital ward, just keeping a patient company.

You could read his first novel, ''The One-Foot Waterfall," filled with anecdotes from Mandell's experiences as a young doctor in Japan, his work with leukemia patients, and his honorary induction into the Oglala Sioux tribe last summer.

Or you could simply ask Mandell why he has dedicated 35 years of his career to educating parents about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, not only in Massachusetts, but also on Native American reservations across the West, including Austin Two Moons's.

''When I was an intern at Bellevue Hospital [in New York] a woman came into the emergency room carrying her baby. And her baby had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome," Mandell explained. ''We tried to resuscitate the baby and we couldn't. I remember the woman sitting in an examining room crying all by herself. We in the emergency room were going back and forth, doing all kinds of busy things. And she was there crying. And the cleaning woman put down her mop, and walked in there, and put her arms around that baby. Right around that mother."

''To me," he said, ''she was the doctor. She did what I should have done."

He learned his lesson well. Mandell now puts children at ease not only with his calm demeanor and slow, calculated motions, but also by getting to know them: It's not unusual for him to take phone calls from teenagers about life's problems, or for him to spend coffee breaks in his own waiting room, bouncing a baby on his lap.

He puts parents at ease by being, as Joan Lynch of Wayland put it, ''a bellwether. You knew if he was worried about something, it was important. He wouldn't sweat the small things."

Mandell's father, a tailor, once told him that he belonged to a family of menders. With that in his heart, helping thousands of children lead healthier lives hasn't been a labor at all, he said.

''When we touch the lives of other people we leave footprints," he said. ''When we touch the lives of children, the footprints are very deep."

FACT SHEET

Hometown: Brookline.

Family: Wife, Eileen, and three adult children: Aaron, Jennifer, and Josh.

Hobbies: ''I spend a lot of time writing. I spend a lot of time with my kids. I think if I had to choose something it would be with my children. I think that's what I've done over the years."

His humor: At a Celtics game he was mistaken for Gene Wilder and asked by a fan for his autograph. Mandell played along and gave him one.

Secret ambition: To meet the Dalai Lama's physician. ''Because of the way he thinks about medicine. The way they look at the body -- and the way the winds are passing through the body. It's just a whole different way at looking at medicine. I feel that I want to know that."

Most famous patient: The 28-inch-tall Katie Lynch, who gained fame for ''running" the first 26.2 feet of the 2001 Boston Marathon. Mandell was Lynch's doctor from birth, until her death at age 27. After Lynch's mother, Joan, delivered a second -- perfectly healthy -- child, Wyeth, at 8 pounds, 9 ounces, she showed him to Mandell with a look of concern. ''I wasn't used to a [normal-size baby], so I said to Dr. Mandell, 'He just doesn't look right,' " Lynch said. ''He told me, 'It's just, well, Mrs. Lynch, you go to extremes.' "

The Inside Scoop: Once again, as my editor Karen Weintraub pointed out, I "overreported" a story. Dr. Mandell was a truly great guy. But when I called him to set up our interview he told me I had to read his book before I showed up. Now, that's a lot to ask, considering how little I read and how much time it was going to add to my assignment (4 hours or so, plus the hour it took to find the book at a bookstore.) But I did it anyway. In truth, I'm very glad I read his book because it shed so much light on his life. It wasn't autobiographical, but there was plenty of him in it. And it made it tremendously easier when I met him at his Newton office. I could have written 2,000 words about him - I skipped just about all of the book, his Eagle feather ceremony, his kids' tales, etc. - but my dictate was for a measly 650. I turned in 740, which to me was a personal victory. Karen made it work, as usual. Mandell's a pediatrician, and he got me thinking about my pediatrician, Dr. Glines, who had an office just outside Melrose-Wakefield hospital. Everything in his office was old, including the doctor, who was bald with white side hair as far back as I could remember him. And I remember him vividly. I wonder if that's the norm. Anyway, he was gentle and moved slowly. He wasn't at all funny like Mandell, but I felt safe around him. The photo, by the way, is of Mandell and Katie Lynch at her college graduation. The story says he was her doctor "since birth," but that's an editing mistake. I think she was a few years old when she first saw him. No biggie. Mandell's touched a lot of lives, I should add. His story got e-mailed 22 times today, which is significant considering it's placement inside a section. It even tied the story about the a fake penis being microwaved as a gas mart, which says, well, I don't know what that says. But I'll take it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Remembering my first A1

Hard to believe it was four years ago today that I got on Page 1 for the first time, just two months into my freelancing career for the Globe. I remember seeing the story on the rack in a Maplewood Square convenience story and doing a double take because it was above the fold. Boy, I was walking on air that day.

The story was about how health insurance companies were passing along a portion of ambulance bills to patients. Exciting, huh? Neil Swidey was my editor and he did a helluva job boiling down the story from a feature to hard news. This was my first lesson in how, at a major newspaper, the top editors do whatever they want to page 1 stories. I was told to write it as a feature, and at the last minute the bosses decided to put in on page 1, which meant it had to be written as a hard news story. I think have it one shot before Neil just reworked it. I'm a lot wiser now, but I'll probably never see page 1 again. For a long time I had a copy hanging on the wall, but it's since been put away. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted -- and plenty stressful. That part, I haven't forgotten.


A quick archive search shows that I've been part of 61 page 1 (A1) stories in four years, but the archive system is really spotty, so I'm going to go with 50 stories. My last was Dec. 8, 2004. (The molasass road salt story, which became a pawn in a battle between editors. But I'm not up for telling the tale.) I grabbed about 10 solo bylines, but some of my best work came working with Jenna Russell on the collapse of the Old Man in the Mountain and a Fall River boat drowning. There were also the Molly Bish stories, Red Sox World Series victory stories - my quote from 93-year-old Leonard Iannaronne of Winthrop made the historical front page - and The Station fire in West Warwick. In a parallel universe, some of my feature stories would have made the cover, too. Like "Dairy of a Death," "Mommy, take me to my chiropractor," "Tear-downs on the rise," the Marliave Sisters, and Molly Bish's funeral.

Four years. Seems like a lifetime. At this moment I feel like a shell of the former writer I was. How did I do all that? Where has my motivation gone? My part-time job plowing snow has really become my full-time occupation. Yet, I haven't given up on writing entirely. Though deep inside, I'm yearning more and more for a sabbatical from reporting. I don't know if that will help me recharge or refocus, or whether I'll ever really take it. But I'm thinking of it more and more. More to come.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sneak peek - Sushi!

The Inside Scoop: I owe Laura for introducing me to sushi, which I grew to like by the end of my sushi-eating marathon. Seven restaurants in one week is a lot of sushi. Too much sushi. But I got a real feel for what's good and what's average, both in terms of taste and presentation. Brookline has 13 sushi restaurants, which is nuts, and maybe a seperate story on its own. Tsumani was pretty great, though crowded. We waited about an hour on a Friday night, and that was even after we'd called ahead. Super Fusion was maybe the coolest because the head guy Sam was so confident that he was the shit. And he was. His stuff was even better than Tsunami's. (I blew it by leaving my camera in the car.) Though I also liked the shino express setup. In & out, very casual - almost like a taqueria. Cool music, too. And not once did I get sick! Though that eel wasn't my thing. I can't believe people eat that!


City Weekly (comes out Sunday, 2-12-06)
Table Hopping: Rookie sushi

By Peter DeMarco

As hip as sushi is, the thought of eating raw fish always made my stomach queasy. Turns out all I needed was a good coach. With my girlfriend Laura’s encouragement, I mixed my first wasabi-and-soy-sauce dip and dunked my first fatty tuna roll. And that was just the beginning. So here’s this week’s Table Hopping: Sushi through a beginner’s taste buds.


1. Blue Fin (cq)
1815 Massachusetts Ave.
Porter Square, Cambridge
617-497-8022

No fewer than eight Japanese, Korean and Chinese eateries inhabit Porter Square’s old Sears building, but none are as popular as Blue Fin, my coach’s favorite local sushi joint. “It’s the only place here that has a lot of ambiance,” she says. We grabbed a wooden table alongside a few other young couples and ordered the basics: a couple pieces (called nigiri) of tuna, fatty tuna and yellowtail. Closing my eyes as I took my first bite, I was surprised by how mild and even flavorful the fish was. The fatty tuna, colored like red beets, was even savory. Blue Fin is known for combining moderate prices with good quality, and such was the case for my first visit. Business has been so good, the restaurant expanded this month, adding another 20 seats.


2. Yoshi’s Japanese Cuisine (cq)
132 College Ave.
Somerville
617-623-9263

I had jogged past Yoshi’s probably a hundred times since moving to Somerville. At long last, I have stepped inside. Sanggi “James” Na (cq) and his wife, Sunmi, (cq) run a simple but neat restaurant featuring traditional dishes from their Korean homeland, as well as plenty of sushi. At Laura’s suggestion we sidled up to the sushi bar, where I watched with childlike curiosity as our chef pressed, rolled and chopped our order of Boston maki, a zesty 6-piece entrée made with salmon, lettuce, cucumber, avocado and mayonnaise. Neighboring Tufts University students also eat up Yoshi’s Lobster maki ($10.95), made with deep-fried lobster, and naruto, a cucumber roll with salmon, crab, avocado, and tobiko on the inside. ($5.95)


3. Village Sushi and Grill (cq)
14 Corinth St.
Roslindale
617-363-7874

James Paik’s (cq) bright and tranquil establishment is Roslindale’s lone sushi option in a neighborhood dominated by Italian and Greek restaurants. As a result, barely a day goes by when a sushi rookie like me doesn’t walk in. “Usually we recommend salmon or tuna,” to a beginner, he says. “For the adventurer, saba, or mackerel, which is very flavorful.” Unfortunately Paik’s sushi chef was fresh out – leaving me no choice but to try the cooked eel. (Not my favorite, but I’m told it’s an acquired taste.) Paik left the popular J.P. Seafood Cafe, which his brother Phil runs, to open his own place four years ago. His prices are reasonable ($5-$6 for standard maki rolls), and on warmer days, customers can nibble sushi outside on a small veranda.

4. Tsunami Japanese Cuisine (cq)

10 Pleasant St.

Brookline

617-277-8008

“Look at the boat! Look at the boat!” Laura exclaims as a vessel-shaped wooden tray sails by us, sushi and maki rolls piled high aboard its top deck. Presentation is taken seriously at Tsunami, one of Brookline’s hippest sushi hangouts, as are, of all things, tropical fruits. “Banana and eel is a very weird one, but lots of people love that dish,” says owner and Brookline native Yen-Hsien “John” Wu (cq). “We have one dish with pineapple and salmon; one with cantaloupe and salmon. They catch people off guard.” Following a friend’s advice we ordered the very fun pineapple maki (smoked salmon, pineapple and cream cheese) and the sensational torched spicy tuna maki ($14.95), a crunchy fried tempura roll that our chef heated with, yes, a blowtorch. Tsunami’s prices are a bit high, but the quality, particularly the Alaskan king salmon, is tops.

5. Super Fusion Cuisine (cq)
690A Washington St.
Brookline
617-277-8221

To judge Super Fusion by its diminutive size – a small counter and four, 2-seat tables – would be a grave mistake. Co-owner Kevin Zheng (cq) studied under Masaharu Morimoto, (cq) the famed Japanese “Iron Chef,” and the dishes he and partner Sam Huang (cq) whip up are at times electrifying. We liked the black widow maki, made with fried sweet potato, cucumber and avocado. But we absolutely loved the exquisite sake papaya maki ($10), a roll of fried papaya and cream cheese topped with a layer of smoked salmon, lemon sauce and wasabi tobiko. More than any dish, it spoke to what I’d been missing out on all these years.

6. Shino Express Sushi (cq)
144 Newbury St
Boston
617-262-4530

I barely had time before the Super Bowl for my last review, so Shino fit the bill perfectly. A tiny but cool basement hideout a block from Copley Square, it serves up some of the cheapest sushi around - $1 nigiri, $2 and $3 rolls – despite its posh locale. Like a pro, I ordered a piece of tuna, salmon, a fried tofu wrapper and a roll of natto - fermented soy bean. Though if I’d had a bigger appetite, I might have tried some of Shino’s offbeat offerings, such as the beef and onion roll or portabella and basil roll. ($6.50 each) Next time, for sure.

- 30

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dr. Hawk

A cut-to-the-chase animal doctor
By Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent
Health/Science, Feb. 6, 2006

When Dr. Larry Hawk became president of Boston's largest animal hospital and animal welfare agency three years ago, he could have picked any number of things to fix -- CAT scan machines were outdated, exam rooms were overbooked, and aesthetically, the animal shelter looked a bit like a bomb shelter. But in Hawk's mind, there was an even higher priority: changing the organization's 88-year-old name.

''We were called the MSPCA/AHES -- The American Humane Education Society. The business cards had little books on them. What was that?" said Hawk, who in 2003 became president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and its sister nonprofit organization, then called Angell Memorial Animal Hospital.

Within weeks of taking over, Hawk led the charge to change the hospital's familiar but somewhat confusing name. Some people thought it sounded more like a cemetery than a health clinic -- to its more straightforward present name: Angell Animal Medical Center. He also branded every clinic, shelter, and branch hospital within the network as an Angell property under a simple-to-remember, ''MSPCA-Angell" umbrella.

''At the end of the day, what do I want people to know Angell as? Just Angell," Hawk says, answering his own question. ''I take my dog to the Angell. I take my cat to the Angell. When you want the best care, you go to the Angell."

If Hawk sounds more like a marketing guru than a veterinarian, that's because he used to be one. Yes, he's an animal doctor. In fact, he was a prodigy of sorts, graduating with a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Michigan State University at the age of 21.

But the business side of caring for animals was more appealing to him than dog and cat appointments. Leaving behind a successful private practice in 1985, Hawk became a traveling pet food salesman for Palmolive/Hill's pet nutrition. It was hardly a glamorous job, but Hawk saw it as a vital learning experience. One particular sales call, to a veterinarian in Florida, changed his entire approach to business, he says.

''The veterinarian wanted to know something specific about one of the diets that solved bladder stones. So we went through all that. That was about the first five minutes of the call," Hawks says. ''He wanted to know more about me and what I was doing, and he had the time, so I kept talking. At the end of the hour he said, 'Now, take me through that again,' " referring to the pet food. An hour of conversation, and still no sale.

I should have gone over the product ''in the first five minutes," he said. ''I should have repeated it over the second five minutes, and then I should have left," Hawk says. ''It's called focus. Deliver your message. Deliver the need. Make sure they understand it. Have them repeat it to you. And leave."

Hawk's ability to focus is perhaps his defining trait. And it's more than just rebranding MSCPA-Angell, or waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. to start his day's work when he's too jazzed to sleep. Hawk's older sister, Kathy Nicosia, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to strike the World Trade Center during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Putting his own need to grieve aside, Hawk, who at the time was president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York, spent the next few weeks helping people retrieve their pets from homes near Ground Zero.

''He grieved at home and certainly showed those emotions," said Hawk's wife, Patti. ''For his staff, he was very focused. . . . He did what he needed to do to get things done, to get those animals out." Hawk's dedication to animal welfare was one reason MSCPA-Angell's board of trustees picked him to lead the organization. His knowledge of veterinary medicine was another. But his business acumen and track record as a change agent were equally, if not more, important.

''He's definitely a cut-to-the-chase guy," says Dr. Peter Theran, a former Angell vice president. ''He's not particularly warm and fuzzy, but he does listen, and he does like to get down to the basics and get decisions made and move forward." Hawk's serious nature hardly stops him from being an effective salesman, though.

Leading a reporter on a tour of Angell's new $16 million addition -- under Hawk's leadership, the backside of the hospital is being transformed into a more user-friendly entrance -- Hawk turns showman, pointing out a dozen new improvements that will finally bring the aged facility into the 21st century.

With another $2 million to go in fund-raising, he doesn't waste any opportunities. ''With the Globe's help," he says, motioning to an empty corner, ''this will all be turned into a physical therapy operation. We'll name it after the Globe. The Globe Animal Treatment Center." Adjusting his hard hat, Hawk laughs and walks on. But if my bosses are reading, he meant it.

FACT SHEET

Age: 50

Home: Millis

Family: Wife, Patti Hawk. Children: Carl, 21, and Jennifer, 20, from a previous marriage.

He'd rather be . . . : Flying his single-engine Cessna 182. ''That's what I do on weekends. I fly out of Mansfield. I use it to visit our facilities on the Vineyard and Nantucket. A little bit of business, but mostly I do it for fun."

Latest challenge: Earning his MBA from Northeastern. He's been going to school part time and expects to graduate this summer. ''When you've been doing something for a long time, you need something to rock you off your center. It's done that."

Pets: Tucker, a 9-year-old yellow lab who often joined Hawk at work, died of lymphoma two weeks ago.

The Inside Scoop: We had to cut some stuff because I ran long, again, on a meeting the minds piece. (Next one, one Dr. Fred Mandell, will be 750 words or I'll shoot myself.) The stuff we cut had to do with Hawk's firing of some long-time employees, as related to my by Diane. I feel badly that stuff wasn't in here, though her view of Hawk, which was fairly negative, wasn't exactly what I encountered. Not to say he doesn't have his bad side, but he seems to know what he's doing in regards to building and marketing the place. I am curious to see whether Diane will be right: that he's gutted his development office, a move that will come back to bite him. This was a tough one for sure. Plus, his pooch had to be put to sleep just hours after our photographer, Susanne, shot him. Still, Hawk said it was Ok to run the picture, which we did. (The dog above is just one up for adoption. Easy, Laura. Easy!)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

One slammin-to-the-ground story

Slick and sick: Custom bikes rule this weekend's Motorcycle Expo

Conventional wisdom says that if you build it, they will come.

But if you build it with an obscenely powerful monster tri-engine, fenders inspired by a 1935 Bugatti race car, handlebars so high you have to do a pull-up just to reach them, a kickin’ paint job, and 100 pounds or so of various aluminum bling, not only will they come, but they’ll also gawk slack-jawed at how cool you are.

This is the theory, at least, behind this weekend’s fourth annual Northeast Motorcycle Expo at South Boston’s World Trade Center, where some of the world’s best custom bike builders will be on hand to show off what $100,000 or so can buy on two wheels.

Or, as organizers say, why watch another ‘‘Biker Build-Off’’ repeat on television when you can don your West Coast Choppers T-shirt and meet the beasts in person?

‘‘Some of these bikes have never seen the East Coast,’’ says event organizer Kevin Clement, boasting how more than 100 machines — featuring everything from $35,000 paint jobs to built-in DVD players — will be on display. ‘‘I guarantee you, you’re going to look at something and say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before.’ I say that, and I see bikes all the time.’’

The Expo will also feature a custom motorcycle contest for local builders, nearly 2,000 motorcycles for sale by area dealerships, clothing and accessories vendors, food by ‘‘motorcycling chef’’ Biker Billy, and more.x

The big draw, though, will be the high-end custom-built bikes by nationally known builders such as Arlen and Cory Ness, Ron Finch, Eric Gorges, Alan Lee, and Bridgewater-based Dave ‘‘King of Flames’’ Perewitz. The Nesses’ over-the-top creations will include ‘‘Smooth-Ness,’’ a bike as slick and sexy as a black Bugatti, and ‘‘Ness-Talgia,’’ a yellow 1957 Chevy look-alike with an original car headlight.

Perewitz, arguably the best biker artist in the country, will bring his ‘‘Joe Pro’s Shaguar,’’ a slammed-on-the-ground, ’60s throwback bike that looks like something either Austin Powers or Sgt. Pepper might ride.

‘‘It’s bright orange with a dozen colors worked through,’’ explains Perewitz. ‘‘Everyone has the same comment when they see it — ‘How much acid were you doing when you made this?’’’

The answer is none, of course. The hell-raising biker may still exist, but rarely in the world of high-end custom bikes. Ness, the Bill Gates of the industry, was customizing bikes in his home garage even before the chopper classic ‘‘Easy Rider’’ was released in 1969; he now presides over a $20 million custom parts business based in Dublin, Calif.

Perewitz, who just opened a new showroom and workshop, sells his bikes to clients such as professional football players and high-powered executives.

In recent years, mainstream media have boosted the custom bike movement like nothing else, elevating Ness and other builders to celebrity status. The Discovery Channel’s ‘‘Biker Build-Off’’ series, in which rival builders try to outdo one another, as well as the ‘‘American Chopper’’ reality television series, have made motorcycle fans out of millions of Americans who don’t know the first thing about piloting such a machine down the street. T-shirts, video games, and other related merchandise abound. Biker Billy, the motorcycle-inspired chef, is working on his first Podcast.

Still, self-expression, not commercialism, remains the custom bike movement’s main appeal. Almost every motorcycle owner in the country does something — adding a seat, a flashy mirror, or a new paint job — to customize his bike, Clement says. High-end bikes like the ones created by master builders are more than just machines: the Guggenheim and Smithsonian have exhibited them as modern art.

‘‘The attraction is to build your dream,’’ says Clement. ‘‘You can sit there at your desk and doodle with your pencil — ‘If I ever got to build a bike, this would be it.’ Cory Ness has a bike with three motors on it. Who could ever dream that up?’’

The Inside Scoop: Scott Sutherland did a really nice job editing this one, taking a sidebox I'd written and weaving it in seamlessly. He also chopped my quotes from Biker Billy about his vegetarianism, which were cutable, of course. Also, Scott is really skilled at properly couching overarching statements. For instance, my lead was "If you build it, they will come." He added the part about conventional wisdom. Also, in the 3rd or 4th graph he inserted the clause that says event organizers think the expo is better than tv reruns. I'd just made the statement without the attribution. Actutally, I don't know if they really said that, but it works better and it's kosher. Now if Scott would only pay me more. He quoted me $200 for the piece, which is dirt for the cover story of the Calendar section. But the check in the mail was for $250, which is a bit better. When I meet him for coffee I've got to hold the line at $300 for a cover story. I'm poor! (PS - the photo is of Arlen Ness on his Top Banana bike. He was so nice on the phone.)