The World Famous Dorchester

Standard

The city of Boston, with it’s 650,000 people tucked into 48 square miles, is a network of neighborhoods & villages.  Some of these are named after the geography (like Bunker Hill or Back Bay) but others are names of the annexed towns Boston kinda sucked up.  I live in the later, and probably the most famous of the later.

I live in World Famous ‘Dorchester’.  (Pronounced DAH-chest-Ta .. I’m not making fun the accent, that’s really how I’m supposed to say it … seriously … they tell me the short name is ‘the Dah’).  It is one of the largest neighborhoods in Boston, and currently the largest populated neighborhood as well.  It’s big enough, the neighborhood is broken down to smaller neighborhoods, like I am in the Upham Corner/Savin Hill area of Dorchester.

Dorchester was annexed by Boston in 1870, which seems a long time ago, but even up to this date, Dorchester stood as an independent city than an annex neighborhood.  Dorchester was founded in 1630 by Anglicans from Dorset.   They held a town meeting in 1633 & opened an elementary school in 1639, the first of each on American Soil.  They began building the city near the intersection of modern day Mass Ave, Columbia Road, and Boston Street; including the James Blake House built in 1677 which still stands today (the oldest home in Boston still standing).  As it turns out … these places are all within 3 blocks of my home, including the big intersection when my Dunkin Donuts (a modern Boston requirement) stands.

The list of people who are from or have lived in Dorchester is surprising to say the least.  Donna Summer,. Norb Crosby, and the New Kids on the Block are all from here.  The Kennedy’s have their start from Dorchester, and suspiciously the owner of Nevada’s Mustang Ranch.  Dennis Lehane, author of Shutter Island & Mystic River, is from here.  Martin Luther King, Jr lived here while attending Boston University.  Dorchester is well known for one actor, Mark Wahlberg (aka Marky Mark aka Dirk Diggler aka that actor with the Boston accent that doesn’t hang out with Ben Afflack), who hasn’t stopped showing of his history here; but it’s also home of an equally famous actor Leonard Nimoy.

All this aside, there is a pretty dark side to Dorchester.  In the 1800s, most of the immigrants coming to Boston found themselves in South Boston or Dorchester.  Boston’s historically strong public transport, even back when it was horse drawn rail carts, meant the money of financial districts can be separated from the labor to the south.  Through most of the 1900s, organized crime ruled much of neighborhood and became the home of famous mobsters like Whitey Bulger.  The last three or four decades, Dorchester had a reputation where it was generally safe to live there but trouble wasn’t far away especially if you were coming into the area and making trouble.  The “tough” Boston image has Dorchester to thank for most of it’s existence.  In recent years, change has started to come to the neighborhood.  Sometime in the future, I’ll go into that, once I can really think I can say for sure if I see it.  But rest asured, my door isn’t getting busted down by gangsters.  Dorchester’s fame continues to grow in part to the aforementioned Mark Wahlberg who with his family started a burger joint called Wahlburgers – and a reality show filmed in the restaurant plays on their Dorchesterisms (strangely though – the joint is in Hingham, about two towns away).

Say what you want about Dorchester, if you have anything to say at all that is, but it’s a place steeped in history, and there is something about the place that suggests that it will continue to be a melting pot of uniqueness that will keep it creating things to add to its fame.

Recharging

Standard

I’ve had a running joke since November … people ask me if I like living in Boston, and my answer is: “I’ll tell you once I have been in town long enough to live there.”  As much as I joke, the fact is there is a fair bit of truth to it.

My job is theoretically a ‘work-from-home’ role, where I will travel to different plants in my company a few times a month but … again theoretically … can settle into the day-to-day activities for about half my work schedule out of my house.  Yet in November, we became aware of two issues that left me with no choice but to split most my time either in New Hampshire or in Connecticut.  Now before some of you start saying “that’s got to be a quick drive cause all those states are so close” well hold your horses kiddies.   Both of them are nearly 2 hours from my place, and not in the same direction.  The distance is just long enough that if I plan to visit one of those plant more than once in a week these days I just plan on booking a hotel for that time (and am getting to know the Auggie friendly hotels).  Of course, if I am going to do that, I might as well beat Monday morning or Friday night traffic and just get the room for one more day.

That’s what happened this past week.  I kicked off my work week at 6PM on Sunday night to head tor Berlin, CT spending my nights in a Hartford suburb of Manchester.  My goal the whole week was to knock out enough work that I could leave midday on Friday to make it home for the whole weekend.  Between the snows and .. things not going to plan … I chose to spend one last night, to be exact last night, in Manchester.  Sleeping in and taking my time, the pup and I finally ended a work week when we got home about 1PM today.

The house I came home to was much how I left it.  Which since I am still in some state of furnishing was quite barren.  My living room has a single recliner (which the pup thinks he has every right to fill up as I do) and lots of open floor space.  The dining room has a 20 year old card table we used to use for Sunday night burnt chicken.  My ‘home office’ is three quarters boxes on the floor.  I should be working on this, I should be doing something about all of this, but instead I what I am doing tonight is recharging.  I am running the laundry, throwing out the rotten bananas, cleaning up the car, maybe heading to the Banshee to watch some football, but basically not doing anything much more than taking time away from work — because come tomorrow, it starts again. Okay, I might do it all commuting this week, but not the point.

The point is, my home, that was at first to be my base of operation, is now more of my recharging station.  The place where I go to just relax, cool off, and shake the cobwebs loose.  Today is a break, and let tomorrow be what it is.

The Legend that is Edmund

Standard

My Friend Edmund is a Legend!

McGinley’s Irish Pub was surprisingly empty that nice June night.  Surprising because it was a Friday, a night when you would expect Anchorage’s only downtown Irish Pub to be filled with students wanting to perpetuate the Irish stereotype.  Also surprising because it was the summer solstice, and if anything was a night to be out on the town it was then.  It was my first summer in town, and if I was going anywhere on the weekend it was McGinley’s.  I bellied up to the bar, and I broke into a conversation with a couple of gents sitting there as well.  One turned out to be a guy up temporarily to help work on a local hostel; but the other worked for the Alaskan Railroad that I learned was Edmund.  Edmund was as regular at McGinleys as you can get.  He was treated there not like a ‘good customer’ but one of those that are a fixture to the place as important as anyone to keep the bar alive.  After a bit, he made me the offer that he clearly had made many times over — to help get a good rate for anyone taking the railroad.  We exchanged phone numbers, e-mails, etc.

Then – mostly due to me living on the other side of town – I didn’t get back to McGinley for nearly 6 months.  While I talked to him a little a month later by e-mail to get a good price for my family’s vacation, by not going into McGinleys I basically didn’t talk to Edmund for that whole time.  Every so often, though, I would get a text checking in on me.  When I did start stopping in again just before my departure from Alaska, there he was – not treating me like someone who never shows up to see him, but someone who he considered a friend.

Mind you there are people like that that can make you feel uneasy, but for anyone who met Edmund you would find him to be a very genuine guy.  I say all the time that the best part about Alaska is the people — well, to be honest, the worst part was people too but not really.  Alaska, especially Anchorage and especially tied to my line of work, had a whole demographic of people who were focused on perception, image, and ego – where it was more important to make others think you are something you aren’t.  What was great about Alaska was those who didn’t fit that demographic were genuine in a way that was so easy to love.  Edmund was like that – whether it was when he talked about work or talked about faith he seemed to tell me what he felt, truly felt, and that I’ll take any day.  But of course genuine people in a society of those who aren’t are destine to run into frustration.  I was inspired in part to write this today because he is facing those kind of frustrations today – and I am sure there are loads of people out there that would rather there be more Edmunds in the world.  It’s like the old Dr. Seuss quote goes:
“Be who you are and say what you feel; because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Of course, there are a lot of people who are genuine in the world.  So what makes Edmund a legend?  Well .. it’s because he is Edmund.

Let me start with a funny little conversation I had with my friend Laura sometime last summer.  We were talking about things to do and we played with the idea of taking the Alaskan Railroad somewhere.  That’s when I spouted up:
“We can get a good price on the railroad too — I know this great guy who works for the Railroad always loves to help people out get a friends and family deal.”
She came replied: “I know this guy who will do it.  He’s really easy to find too.”
“Did you find him at McGinley’s?”
“Yeah?”
“Was it Edmund?”
“Yeah!!”

Then there was some random guy I was chatting with.  I mentioned I liked McGinley’s and he said “Yeah, that’s fun place.  There’s folk down there that are great to talk to.  One of them works for the railroad.”
“Edmund?”
“YEAH!”

The Anchorage bar scene seemed like an extended family, but you check with some of the bartenders Edmund was part of that family too – even if he didn’t stray too far from McGinleys.

The thing about certain people … they leave an impression.  These are the people who aren’t just genuine, but genuinely good hearted and genuinely friendly.  My guess if any of you who never been to Alaska visits Anchorage, visits McGinleys – you may run across Edmund and find that he is all and a bag of chips. My hope if you ever visit Alaska you either meet Edmund or meet someone as good – because that’s the kind of impression I hope you leave with of the people of Alaska.  But that’s going to be hard … I mean … there are a lot of great people in Alaska …

But Edmund is a Legend.

Con – Wait For It – Necticut

Standard

Let me just get this out here … just because the Bear Feed has to be different, that doesn’t mean everything will be different.  Precisely, the weather.  You can’t get me to stop complaining about the weather.  Today … it’s Connecticut weather.

This new job was always suggested to be a requiring considerable time heading out to different plants where the attention was needed – in the first months the attention was needed just here in New England.   In the first month, when I was still trying to find these plants, I joked that you could tell when I would be on the road as it is the only day during the week that it is raining.  After the first month, it stopped being funny.  About a third of my time since I started this job I spent at a plant outside of Hartford, CT.  The longest portion was a week in early December, where I hunkered down without a car or the dog putting in 10-12 hour days before just crashing at the hotel overnight.  That week, made it down to that plant from Boston by train; with a return trip on that Saturday morning.

As I was riding in an Uber car (taxi-ish ride share) to the train station on that crisp cold Saturday morning, I realized that for the first time since I started going to that plant … it wasn’t raining.  I mean, it had stopped raining here and there while I was in the plant, but unlike the rest of the time I have been on the roads there, the sun was out and I could see more than a 100ft in front of me.

What I saw took me by surprise.  There were hills, high hills, nearly mountains spread out around the area.  To the south, there appeared to be drumlines, the smooth sloping narrow hills against a flat plain typical of glacial formations — but it sounds like they were glacial.  To the west there is a mountain range, not Alaska-ish mountains, but high green covered rolling things.  Sure, the landscape was granted a bonus from the daybreak sun turning all the colors up a few notches by the golden hour, but what was mostly drab urban suburbia brightened up into a true green landscapes.

Since that time, my trips to Connecticut (aka .. The CT cause spelling Connecticut is hard) during the daylight hours opened up some wonderful views.  I roll into the state from up north and find my way across the Appalachia foothills and thru deep green valleys.  Evergreens line the highway suggesting the pine-smelling potential of the summer.  For the most part, it’s just hints of beauty.  So much of this state so far for what I have seen is constantly interrupted by strip malls, mini-malls, and just plain malls; but when you travel for work you are stuck on a specific corridor dictated by a GPS.  Yet, the hints of something more are what makes visiting this area more interesting.

If the CT has proven something to me, if anything, it is that I need to patient with this part of the country.  I’m used to beauty smacking me in the face.  Alaska had a tendency to punch you with awesome, but it wasn’t just there.  I saw the great Kansas skies the day I first moved there, traveling the world usually meant the cool stuff was right where you you looked, and even when I visited Los Angeles even the hills & ocean broke through the smog.  Heck – I was spoiled by having the Mississippi River rolling only 2 blocks from the house I grew up in.  What I have seen of CT, not just now, the few times I came here over my lifetime previously hasn’t been all that pretty.  Yet looking back, I haven’t really seen much that you can’t see from the interstate.

So that puts the responsibility back on me.  I mean, I can’t easily break away from my interstate driving for the time being, not until the sun is out after I leave work at least.  Also, the amount of trees around here suggests that the spring, summer, and fall could be a fair bit awesome too.  Things in this state, and possibly what I will see for the months to come, may not smack me in the face when I first see it.  I’ll just need to wait for it.

 

** Administativenesstitude Note:  Bear Feed has gone Twit.  You can find your favorite Bear Feed on Twitter by following everyone’s favorite idiot:  @BearFeedMitch
Of course, that just means you’re more of a social nerd than I am.

It’s Different, It Has to Be

Standard

Welcome to 2015!

It’s a new year, a new flip of the calender, and a new opportunity to move on from the old.  Time to not just say you are going to do something different, but actually do it different.  It’s the time for resolutions, cleanses, and change.

At least until you get distracted by something … like a shiny object.

What is my resolution for 2015, you may be asking?  Well — you’re looking at it.  At least one of them.  See, it’s time for the Bear Feed to come out of hibernation.  In the last four months I have made a total of 8 posts – one of which was a bunny count and the other a copy/paste of a Christmas letter.  I pulled way back on my blogging for a number of reasons, some of which may someday actually make it on here, but it’s time to come back to it.

The Bear Feed always was something of a ‘fish out of water’ blog where an idiot tried to sound smart in hindsight of learning what a strange new world is like so the rest of y’all know what it IS like, and that will remain the same.  The more I get the hang of this new strange new world the more I realize that the Bear Feed will be different.  It has to be.  I’m obviously not living in Alaska anymore, in fact I live in a city that has a metro population five times that of all of the state of Alaska. It’s not just the change of scenery that changes the blog. Living in such a metropolitan place is a really big shift for me in general.  I lived 4 years in Milwaukee but never really felt like it was all that Metropolitan — not like it feels here.  If it stayed like the old Bear Feed I would go from saying: “I saw a moose on my street” to being “I saw a hooker on my street”.  So, while it is an exploration of what makes Boston so unique, but more about my place in it.  Not just ‘here’s what I see’, but ‘this is what I feel’.  What’s going to make it different too is that it has to be free to be something more than a ‘Boston’ blog.  While it’s not set in stone, I am likely going to be away from Boston at least a few days a week thru mid-February.  Not just around New England, but cross-country and even finding my way back to Wichita (my home for 11 years).  Put simply, that’s the biggest difference my world has gained since I moved here – and if that isn’t a part of this blog then it would be hard to make it anything else.

Yes shiny objects will come along, but you faithful Bear Feeders know that this is always an on-again-off-again kind of blog anyway.  That being said, there is a lot to blog about just to get y’all up to speed. Here’s a short list of topics (which I am capturing for my own purposes to remind myself anyway):
— Getting Around Boston — The T-Line, the Streets, the walking, the Uber
— Massively Huge New Hampshire (no seriously)
— The Condo in Dot
— Communities and Neighborhoods of Boston
— The history
— Lobsters (AKA sea rats)
— Taking the Train to places for a destination, not just the journey

Of course you can expect an awful lot of me regretting something and loading up on things about my dog.  Still, things will be different.  They have to be.  But that’s what starting a New year is for.

Christmas Letter 2014

Standard

Annually in our family, some of us share a Christmas Letter to update those on the things that have gone on over the past year.  Some of you may have received this already by mail (probably not though .. I only mailed them on Monday .. its been that kind of month).  Since the Bear Feed came along, I’ve made my letter open to all of you that put up with a rambling idiot’s meaningless words, just so I you know what I tell people that aren’t paying attention.

All kidding aside, thanks for keeping up with Bear Feed, and I promise to come out of hibernation in 2015 with more of the misadventures of an idiot out of place.  Now for the Christmas Letter:

Happy Holidays!!

Garrison Keller once wrote: “It’s been cold, but then of course it’s Christmas.   Anyway, cold is a stimulant of sound thinking, we know that.  There’s nothing like cold to bring you back to reality.  And the reality is, we’re very lucky.”

I write this to you on a train, running south of Providence, RI on my way to New Haven, CT so I can head north to a suburb of Hartford.  As I sat on a beach last December in Hawaii sticking stamps on envelopes to many of you who are receiving this year’s the idea that I would be anywhere near New England at this time this year was probably as foreign as a White Christmas in a hula skirt.  Yet once again, I upset my life’s apple cart in somewhere between a planned and unplanned life change.  If there is an overarching story to my year it is simply that.

After two years in Alaska, I started a position this October that brought me back to the Lower 48.  I am now work for Bodycote, an international heat treating company with over 120 plants worldwide.  I work specifically for the North American Aerospace, Defense, & Energy Division where I am the Quality Manager over 20 of those plants.  The role eventually will have me running in and out of those plants in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, & Texas; but since starting I have strictly been at the plants in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and (like this train ride requires) Connecticut.  When I am not on the road, I’ll be working out of my home – which is in …Boston, MA.  Two years of living on the edge of the wilderness, and I threw myself right into the urban overload.  After two months in a temporary apartment in Downtown Boston, I closed on a condo in Dorchester (home of Marky Mark and all those great Boston gangster stories).  At the time of writing this, I have had all of 2 months in town – one quarter of which I spent unable to talk from a cold, and another half out of town, including the annual trip to Prairie du Chien for Thanksgiving.  So don’t ask me yet what it’s like living there.  In fact, currently the first 15 nights after I closed on the condo, I will spend 10 of those nights sleeping somewhere else.

I did get down and around the Lower 48 this year.  That one was a big one – a bucket list item – I attended the outdoor NHL Hockey Game between the NY Rangers & NJ Devils played at Yankee Stadium in January.  Let’s just say it was cold.  During a house hunting trip, I slipped into Fenway as well, meaning I knocked off two big baseball stadiums in a year.  I spent a great week of wine guzzling with old Kansas friends in Southern California.  I returned to do a little more band judging this year, with three weekends in Louisiana (making it the 11th state I’ve judged in), Nebraska, and Ohio.  Next year I should be able to bulk that up, not just because travel will be easier, but I am in the middle of a heavy circuit with some contacts here to help.

I did leave my Alaskan home behind.  Those who have known my life know that I am not a stranger to moving away from a home.  This has been the hardest place to leave behind.  Mostly because many things in my life were just settling in and accelerating in my Alaskan life.  Faithful followers of my blog – www.bearfeed.net – kept abreast of much of the nonsense I was getting involved in up there.  The first part of the year, I was heavy into curling – the lovely little game of rocks and ice.  Really, this was the genesis of the fun I was having.  Most of my friends in Alaska were curlers; while that means we met there that doesn’t mean that’s all we did.  It also isn’t even scraping the surface of what I did.

I made two trips to McCarthy, Alaska.  I place so far off the grid that after driving five hours from Anchorage and thirty miles off the main road, you start the sixty mile dirt road that only gets you to the footbridge a mile from the town itself.  Yet there, the cool air off the massive glaciers coming off the Wrangle Mountains give a little treasure of an old mining town filled with the people that smell of the old show Northern Exposure – not to mention the best high end restaurant I’ve been to in Alaska.  I also made a run to Valdez, multiple trips to the Kenai Peninsula, and a few trips up to see Mt McKinley / Denali.  To paraphrase a singer from Anchorage, I’ve seen a lot in my life but nothing takes my breath away like seeing Denali.

But what I did was just as great.  I learned to fly fish, I went dip netting, I took a cruise to see whales, and saw more moose than I will ever see the rest of my life.  I raised a glass at an Alaskan-German Oktoberfest.  I took selfies with a neon octopus.  I hung at the closest thing Alaska has to Woodstock, and may have bear sprayed the afterhours party hall empty.  I exchanged doggie fashion tips with a bartender, I learned the meaning of ‘driveway money’ & desert nachos, and found out that wedding ‘Alaska Formal’ should not include a shirt, tie, and a Carhartt coat.  Life in Alaska wasn’t always fun, and I faced some tribulations that will hang with me for years to come.  But sitting here now, I can’t help but to smile.  It was those things up there that can make a man happy. Alaska made me happy.

The one constant, the single constant, was my puppy dog.  Auggie the Doggie grows now to be in his ‘teenager’ phase of a 2 year old.  Nearly every place I went, I took him with.  From McCarthy to Boston.  From Denali to Connecticut.  As I said to him when I made the decision to move down, “You and Me, Buddy – We’re in this Together.”  It wasn’t always easy for him, but he was my inspiration, being a trooper to any new experience I threw at him.  So I keep looking to him to guide me through my tough times, and he looks to me for food.

That being said, it’s also been a very tough year, with challenges that will be like scars on my life.  That’s not the point of writing this letter, though.  The point is to look back and think of the things that make us happy – and share it with those you love.

As Garrison Keller Once Wrote:  “Thank you, dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough.”

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Mitch & Auggie

100 Happy Days Done

Standard

I can’t even remember who’s idea it was to start it – nor was I sure what I got myself into – but I was pretty sure I was anal enough to get it done.  There is this Facebook weirdness that was simply called “100 Happy Days”.  The concept was simple, every day you post something that makes you happy, preferably with a picture.  While I wasn’t always good with a picture, wasn’t always good with anything substantial, I was will good with the process.

Today is the 100th Day.

So you may be thinking that I am just some ball of happiness now, spreading frickin’ rainbows and flowers around everywhere I go.  Actually it’s quite the contrary.  Without bumming y’all out, of all the things I would do to describe these last 100 days – happy is not one of them.  In all honesty, these past 100 days have been the most emotionally difficult in my adult life.  Leaving Alaska hit me harder than I thought it would, and fight to not spend my days missing the last frontier.  During this time I also fought some physical issues, between bad knees, two bad colds, and the usual problems of an overweight overeater.  Slap on the stress of buying one home, selling another, moving half way across the planet, relegated to a shoebox apartment for two months, and still finding time to get scammed by a wire fraud con there has been a lot to be unhappy about.  As each day passes since I left Alaska, I find myself missing those people I left behind, including some of the closest friendships I formed in years.  This is just the things that I feel free to share with you – and believe me, there are other major issues that slammed back.  I wander around mostly feeling defeated, planning for how to get out of the next hole I expect to find myself in.

So why mention all that downside?  Well … simply put that’s the point of this “100 happy days”.

You see, this was all started by a Eastern European student, who was facing a load of troubles on his own.  So one day, he decided that he was going to look for something that made him happy every day – and capture that one thing.  The guy’s name was Dmitry Golubnichy and he said: “I will try to appreciate the life that I have and I will find at least one little thing each and every day that will make me feel happy and grateful.”  His point was that when you are in a spot where there seems to be a trap of sadness around you – you could be ignoring those things that truly make you happy.

So that’s where I began from.  The little things.  Looking back at the pictures and posts there were themes — Alaskan Mountains & skies, cartoons & football, nachos … but that’s football too probably.  And of course the pup played a large part in it.  Some of the things that made me happy were things I did to make myself happy — some were things that just happened – some were just things I noticed.  But not a day went by that I  missed .. not a day went by when I didn’t genuinely find something that made me happy.

And that my friends was the point!

I was able to do it with my “cuz-in-law” Missy Tietel, and a few others that tagged along here and there.  I proud of Missy for making it through it too as we celebrate our 100th day together – and in person on Day 97 & 98.

In all honesty, though, I am proud of myself.  This dumb little adventure on Facebook had a meaning, and had an intent.  While I been through some stuff over the last 100 days, I am proud that there was something I could appreciate every day that made me happy.