I started last night to write a post about Nora’s birthday party on Saturday. But there are other things on mind at the moment. One thing, actually.

I was not born in Boston. I was not raised there. But for 10-plus years, Boston and its inner suburbs was home, and they were the best years of my life. I met too many friends, I had too many great experiences, for it to be otherwise. Above all, I met my wife there. This life I have in 2013 — this family, these children, all of it — is a direct result of my decision in the spring of 1998 to pack up everything I owned into a Penske van, hook my car up to the back, and make the trek from idyllic little Lemoyne, PA to Boston.

I was not unfamiliar with the city on my arrival. For just about every summer of my childhood, elementary school on up, summer included a trip to Boston. The genesis of these trips was always the Red Sox. Dad’s life as a sports fan begins and ends with those Sox. He was bit by the bug in the pennant-winning summer of 1946, and his sons stood no chance but to be bitten by that same bug. With so many annual trips under my belt, it seemed only natural in early 1998, as I was applying for admission to graduate school, that my eyes turned to Boston University, which offered a strong program in broadcasting. My admission being secured that spring, the next decision was an easy one, and in late August, I was off.

I was fortunate in two ways when I moved to Boston. First, while I was moving to an entirely new city, I was at least moving to a city where I had friends. Pat, Pete, and Pat, acquaintances from my days with Proteen Records* lived in Boston, and through them I was able to join a group of extended friends that I eventually came to regard as some of the best I’ve ever known. Secondly, as an incoming member of a new class of students, I was instantly immersed with a collection of friends who were as new to the city as I was. It was the best of both worlds, and very necessary to my well-being, as it became quickly apparent that my many previous visits to Boston left me with approximately zero understanding of the city beyond its many tourist attractions.

(*Proteen Records and its history will have to wait for another post.)

I’m not going to even attempt to wrap up 10 years and four months of my life in a blog post. I know this is going to wind up a bit of a disjointed mess when I click publish. But today’s tragedy leaves me feeling ill. I’m not even sure what I’m hoping to accomplish by writing about it, or about Boston. There’s no point in trying to make sense of it all when there is no sense to be made. Whether this turns out to be an act of international terrorism, or domestic terrorism, or the work of a singular and severely fucked up human being will alter nothing from where I sit.

To put it simply, I love that city. I love its people, its  little neighborhoods, its maze of one-way streets, the anarchy of its grid, the dilapidated nature of its mass transit system, its fundamentally quirky mix of Puritan aesthetics (no booze on Sundays!) and liberal progressive ideology. As I type, Carolyn reminds me of the time we had lunch at Atlantic Fish Market, which is practically today’s Ground Zero.

As I type, no fewer than 134 people are in various stages of critical care. A two-year old boy is in ICU with head trauma. An eight-year old child is dead. As I type, families grieve.

Last August, on a visit back to Boston, Carolyn and I stood together on the beach at Winthrop, talking about the future. It was the end of a lovely week visiting all of our lovely friends, and one thing became startlingly clear to both of us. We felt like we were home.

Someday, I hope to call it home again.


April is not my favorite month. Although in the four years since I moved to Virginia, it’s moving up the list.

For my first 37-some years, I lived in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts: states where April did not truly yield spring weather until it was practically May. In Massachusetts especially, April was just as likely to produce a day of 38-degree drizzle as it was 63-degree sunshine. That’s not the case in Virginia. Here, on only the first day of the month, we were treated to a lovely 65 degrees. I look forward to what the next few weeks will bring.

April is a metaphor. Springtime. New beginnings. Stuff like that. For baseball fans, it is the annual rite of unbridled optimism.

April is when I became a father. And while the occasion was unexpected (Ben and Nora weren’t due until June), and while the early arrivals of my children led to countless hours in the unpleasant environment of the NICU, and while all of this led inevitably to Ben’s death a scant 31 days later, I cannot keep from smiling at that initial memory. At that wave of emotion the first time I put eyes on my son, the first time my daughter opened her eyes.

April is planting seeds in the little starter pots purchased at Lowe’s, watching Nora try to fit the little trowel from her gardening kit into a seed pot that’s maybe one or two inches in diameter. April is tilling the garden, pulling winter’s overgrowth, shoveling compost, and transplanting the sprouts after they’ve germinated. That my tomato crop tends to feed the local deer more than it feeds my family is not a concern in April.  In April, in my head, we are just a few months away from a bountiful harvest, from Carolyn making and storing jar upon jar of roasted marinara, from fresh salsa (assuming the peppers and onions grow), from caprese salad appetizers two or three nights a week (assuming the basil doesn’t get dug up by the dog or some other critter). Oh, well. As Rick once told Ilsa: “We’ll always have cucumbers.”

April is the Independent Film Festival Boston, still going strong — stronger than ever — four years after my last direct involvement. Two of the last four Aprils, that has meant a return trip to Boston, to see movies and friends. We’re still up in the air over our ability to make the trip this year. But whether I’m there or not, the news of opening night and its annual success always reaches me, always leaves me feeling happy.

April is promising myself this year I’ll get back out on the golf course at some point this summer (last round of golf played: July 28, 2007). This year I’ll dig out those rotted landscaping timbers near the shed in the back yard. This year I’ll get the lawn re-seeded. This year, I’ll repair the cracks in the driveway.

No, no, no, and no. And besides, if I did all (or any) of those things, what would I have to promise myself next year? What would I have to look forward to? No, let me be content to simply make those promises, and leave the keeping of them for another April.