I didn’t expect to cry when I saw Ms Loretta step on stage

LynnLast month on my birthday weekend, I had the opportunity to see Ms. Loretta Lynn live. In concert.

It still takes my breath away to think of the moment she stepped onto stage. This woman who has been such a part of the soundtrack of my life — my entire life. She’s always been there. And to be in the same room with her? I broke into tears.

I wasn’t expecting that. I should have though — because of Claudine.

I spent the summers of my childhood riding up and down the gravel roads of Kentucky in a faded blue VW Bug. Four of us kids and Claudine would pile into her car and try to outrun the heat trapped in her doublewide.

It was the same miserable route every day. Sweaty legs sticking to the seat and to each other, we’d ride down to the lake and past the Dairy Dip. We’d head along the river, then out over to the old abandoned Coke Plant where no one went but everyone knew about. A cloud of dust would trail out behind us and come into the car to plaster itself on our faces. We’d circle around at the dead end where the bridge had washed out way before I was even thought of.

We kept the windows rolled down and we’d drink our 16-ounce bottles of Coke and Claudine would sing to us.

Claudine was my mom’s age and lived next door to us. My dad always called her “ma’am” and would take off his work cap when he stepped into her place to pick us up. Claudine once told me he was the most polite man she’d ever met. My dad would tell us that we should be extra careful to not be a bother to Claudine on account of that husband and two kids of hers. We’d listen because we always listened to my dad and we’d listen to Claudine.

Because Claudine could sing.

She could sing “Coal Miner’s Daughter” better than Loretta could. She’d sing Patsy Cline so hard it’d make me cry for reasons I couldn’t figure out.

We’d go up and down every back road we could reach and we’d roll down the windows, throw our arms out to catch the wind and Claudine would sing.

Daddy loved and raised eight kids on a miner’s pay
Mommy scrubbed our clothes on a washboard every day
Well, I seen her fingers bleed, to complain there was no need,
She’d smile in mommy’s understanding way

Sometimes when the press of humanity is too much, when the emails keep coming and I’m tired of banging my head against too many questions without enough answers. When it gets too much, I find myself repeating over and over, “I want to go home. I want go home.”

I want to go home Ms Loretta. I want to hear Claudine singing across those gravel roads in her VW Bug. I want to feel the green heat of those humid summer days on the dusty backroads of a world hidden in Kentucky when we threw our arms out of the window of a VW Bug and we caught the wind.

For just a moment.

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There was a live band on my porch this weekend.

11881659_380656785464894_1373915908_nThis weekend we hosted two live bands on our porch as part of Roslindale Porch Fest. Our neighbor a couple of houses down, Ramona Silver, gathered up a few other Roslindale folks including Jonathan Ulman and they jammed for about an hour or so. Right on my porch!

The music was absolutely infectious.

People walking by stopped and brought along chairs to sit and listen. Neighbors wandered over. The band giggled when a train went by and played louder. A gentleman I’ve gotten to know through our Keep Roslindale Quirky FB group brought me a watermelon.


Afterward, Tim Obetz and his lovely wife sang a number of songs, including some classic Willie Nelson.

You know I love that Willie.

And we all sat outside in what felt like the last of the summer sun. And ate peanuts and chocolate chip cookies and stared up at that beautiful blue mid-September sky and tapped our feet.

There’s something magical that happens when neighbors come together.


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Yes Kim. There is a Red Sox Truck Day.


A dear, out-of-town friend recently asked me what the Red Sox’ “Truck Day” was. I answered her on Facebook, but with the snow and commuting gridlock fraying nerves across the city, I thought I’d the information a bit more widely.

Truck Day is the most magical day in all of New England.


This is a land where it’s been snowing since Halloween. We’ve barely seen the sun since Wellfleet Oyster Festival and that was a cold, cold day indeed. Our parkas, our secondary parkas and our for-shoveling-only blizzard day parkas are coated in road salt, sweat and tears.

It’s mid-February and the end of all of this foolishness known as winter is nowhere in sight.

March is more of the same and we have the still too-recent memory of the April Fools Day Blizzard when people cross-country skied in the South End to remind us that not even April will bring true respite.

We are a people that warmth has forgotten.

But then comes truck day. TRUCK DAY!

On truck day, the Red Sox load up a tractor trailer in the Fenway area with bats and baseballs and Wally the mascot costumes. And a very special driver, tasked with the goal of getting this equipment to our boys in Fort Myers Florida for spring training… takes the seat.

And once that amazing, special man reaches the warmth of Florida… pitchers and catchers report and spring training officially begins.

Spring training. SPRING training. And we here in New England know for CERTAIN. That there will be an Opening Day. There will be Sam Adams spilled again on Fenway Park and eventually. Eventually. There will be Hoodsie ice cream cups sold by vendors in short sleeves up and down the steps at our beloved cathedral of all that is Boston and holy — Fenway Park.

That Kim. Is the magic of Truck Day.

It is the first glimmer for New England that our dark days of winter are over and the boys of summer will once again have us singing “Sweet Caroline” in drunken harmony.


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Electric Cars in New England


I pretty unexpectedly became an electric car person at the end of December. It surprised me too. I’m not really known for being a gung-ho environmentalist. But it turns out I am a gadget person, a I-want-a-new-car person and a person who was seriously hating the 12 miles to the gallon my last car got.

The bug hit hard when the wife got a new Mini Cooper and I happened to see the BMW i3 on the showroom. The thing was just so stupid cool. With this awesome stylized interior and tons of lights and bells and whistles.

But ultimately just a bit too quirky for me. I’m always someone who likes to ride that line between new/odd and traditional. That’s when I found the Mercedes Benz B-class — an all-electric. Has all of the styling of a Benz, but zero emissions. And by that I mean… there’s not even a tailpipe.

Charging hasn’t proven to be an issue — mostly because my employer has two chargers in the garage where I usually park during the day. When I need a boost on the weekend, I can plug into a regular outlet at home. Takes awhile longer, but gets the job done. There are also nearby public chargers at Forest Hills T Stop and at the JP Whole Foods.

I’ve had the car less than a month, but range hasn’t been a problem for me yet either. The B Class gets at tops, an 80 mile range. That’s all dependent on your driving style — and even the temperature. Both of those mean that driving in Boston’s winter (it was 2F the other day) — with our city’s well-known stop/start/jack-rabbit starts — drastically lower the range. Getting out on the highway though — with a more consistent pace — helps a ton. I used about a quarter of my full mileage range the day that I took it out on I-93 for a 20 mile drive from downtown Boston to Dedham. That was equivalent to the nearly quarter charge I use up during my 7-mile daily morning commute.

Most of the driving resources I see online are on the West Coast. California has tons of incentives for EVs, which has really driven the trend there. While there are a number of drivers on the East Coast — it seems we’re a bit of a rare breed out here in New England. I was only the second EV my dealer had sold.

There are though, some great incentives here in Massachusetts (below). And as I learn of others, I’ll be sure to share them here as a resource as well.

  • Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Cars (MOR-EV) — Massachusetts residents can get a $2500 rebate check for buying an EV. Great deal with a limited pool of money. So when you get your car, be sure to sign up immediately for the rebate.
  • Plug My Ride — Northeast Utilities have a few offers depending on which state you’re in and who your electric provider is. NStar is currently offering a pilot program to install a home car chargers. I’ll note that the chargers are about a $100-$200 more than you could get on your own — but they’re designed to eventually take advantage of off-peak electric rates that NStar is considering. They seem to be launching the pilot as a way for them to understand how EV owners charge up, so they can design the future off-peak pricing model.
  • IRS/US Tax Credit — The IRS offers up to a $7,500 tax credit for EVs. Again, this is limited to a certain cap. When they hit the cap, the credit goes away.



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I Like it When the News Hits My Porch


The Economist is launching a daily digital email and/or app (Economist Espresso) that is meant to help you keep ahead of the news in really bite-size chunks. 5 stories each with just 150 words.

“We’re trying to give you a sense of being out ahead of the news. To tell you what’s going to happen and tell you what to think about it.” ~ Tom Standage, The Economist’s digital editor.

It’s clever. The Economist can be a lot to read. It’s a beautiful read, but it’s a lot.

Chopping up all of that content they already have created and repackaging and reselling it in another format is not wholly unlike how our friends in retail get that selling me “100 calorie” packets of Oreos is going to be an easier sell than selling a Costco-size package of cookies.

I read the other day that 30% of the US gets their news from Facebook. A fifth get it from YouTube. I have to think you’re missing out on something by letting the news get curated for you by your social feeds. Do we realize what echo chambers of thoughts those sites can create through personalized feeds?

I recognize that I’m a bit old-school in this, but I do still prefer to get my news delivered to my door step each morning. We get the weekly Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal. And then get the weekend New York Times.

I mean. I also subscribe to 115 blogs in my RSS reader, follow 1,120 Twitter feeds and have no problem reading my Kindle and watching Scandal on my iPad while on the treadmill.

But I love the papers.

I know it’s time to wake up when I hear the double whack of the papers against my front door. I love the little Christmas notes the delivery man leaves in then each holiday. My wife and I sit down over coffee in the mornings and pass sections of the paper back and forth to one another. We like to read particularly good obits out loud. We always make a point to read the Letters to the Editor in the Globe and applaud well-thought out, spiffy arguments.

The weekends have their own special rites. There’s more paper. There’s more coffee. I have a way I like to have the papers arranged with certain sections up front and certain sections (NYTimes Sports pages) go straight to recycling.

Many of the Sunday sections (Style and Book Review) lay on the dining table right up until recycling day to be enjoyed.

I think we miss something when we let so much of the world get curated for us.

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I’m Going Back to CDs


I remember when my wife and I first got together and combined our CDs. It was kind of magical to see where the overlaps were. Obviously we both had an Ani DiFranco thing, but also some Shelby Lynne, a ridiculous number of Marianne Faithful overlaps and Radney Foster for goodness sakes.

I kind of miss that.

I also miss listening to a full album and not “smart playlists” or a “collection” or what have you.

So I bought the Taylor Swift. Because my musical tastes for the most part hover around that of a 14-year-old girl.

Just to remain balanced. And also because I have a heart, I also bought The Rails’ “Fair Warning“.


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Buying Art Is an Act of Courage


This weekend was the 10th anniversary of Roslindale Open Studios.

It also snowed and rained and sleeted this weekend, so just going outside really was an act of courage. But also something that Bostonians of any moral standing know how to do. Because if you hunker down this early in the game, you’re not going to see your neighbors again until early May.

I saw a ton of neighbors this weekend.

I saw a lady dancing to live salsa music on the steps of the Roslindale Congregational Church with snow falling around here.

I saw dozens of people coming and going from the numerous home studios of artists in our neighborhood.

I bought a photograph of the exact skyline over the Charles River I saw when my wife asked me to spend my life with her. From a photographer who lives across the street from some of our best friends.

I bought an amazing print of a landscape of Race Point on Cape Cod from an artist around the corner from us.

I finally got to see inside the amazing art studio that sits just beyond my back fence. We have the good fortune to share a back fence with the Ulman family. There’s nothing more magical than the nights where they’re working in the studio and throw open all of the lights and play music out into the neighborhood. The picture at the top of the post is just a small snippet of the inside of that magical place and I feel blessed to have them as neighbors.

And. I got to meet Barry Margolin who was in his first Open Studios and I think he said it was only the second time that he’s exhibited at all. I was trying to pick out one of his pieces for the house because I just loved the technique he uses so much.

And sensing my indecision, Barry turned to me and said “Buying art is just such an act of courage. Because you’re making a statement and bringing something into your home and opening yourself up in some way. That’s courage.”

Thank you Barry.

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My FitBit is a Steps Pusher

10597448_818635444823753_1865454542_nI set a challenge for myself in October to walk 8,000 steps a day (Thanks, FitBit. You steps pusher, you.)

Like most people, I was averaging around 3-4,000 steps a day so figuring out how to double that count on a daily basis took some work. I had to figure out each day’s strategy based on what was happening with that day.

  • Is it raining outside?
  • Is it going to be super dark outside and do I want to walk in the super dark (as opposed to regular dark)
  • Do I have a number of meetings during the day that would require me to walk from building to building?
  • Do I have meetings at night that would interfere with my getting in my full steps?

In the end, what worked for me was a combination of setting incentives for myself and finding a way to weave walking into the natural course of my day. Here’s what worked for me:

  • I began using my membership to the YMCA to walk on their treadmills. I am an off-the-chart “E” on the Myer’s Briggs test (ENFJ) and being around people — even if I’m not talking to them — just naturally boosts my spirit.
  • I learned that if you want to take more steps, you have to walk more. I know. Seems obvious. It was a revelation to me. I have the amazing luck to work in a beautiful area in downtown Boston (see the image with this post… how beautiful is that? Good job, Boston), and realized that I could take an extra 10 min at lunch when running to get a sandwich to explore a few blocks. Exploring is code word for getting steps in.
  • I changed a little-used, very small, guest room in our house into a room for the treadmill that had been sitting in the garage. I’m also very inspired by how my surroundings look, so I took a long time in figuring out how to decorate the room. “Long time figuring out” is code for “hours walking around Ikea” which also got me more steps. Ikea is a great place to get in steps.
  • I became hooked on binge-watching Scandal on Netflix while walking on the treadmill. I only allow myself to watch Scandal if I’m also on the treadmill. For me, Scandal is code for “steps”. Scandal is also just amazing.
  • And. This is the biggest one for me… but I started walking while taking conference calls at night to APAC. For whatever reason in my job, I end up talking to colleagues in Asia quite a bit. And. You might not know this, but they are on a whooooole different time zone over there that frequently requires conversations to happen at around 8 or 9 or 10 pm. I got in nearly 6,000 steps one night while talking through a situation. And by moving while talking, I felt much more “on” in talking through everything even late at night following a long day of work.

It wasn’t easy. In the end, there were 3-4 days that I just did not get in the 8,000 steps. Mostly those were days I was especially stressed or tired and just could not push myself through.

There are going to be days like that.

But there are also days when you feel great. So I made up for the “lost” steps on the days that I felt great — clocking close to 12,000k steps on a few of those days to make up for the slow days.

So that was October. 8k steps a day. Because it turns out I respond to a challenge, my November challenge to myself is to do 8k steps a day AND to do four classes at the Y in four weeks. Four in four.

It won’t be easy. November is Thanksgiving which is never kind  to exercise. It’s also the month we lose an hour, it gets super dark (not just regular dark) and I’m scheduled to travel in the middle of the month.

But I’m going to figure it out.

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Boston Shines

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 7.47.03 PM

This is basically what 200 bottles of nips looks like.

Ok. 200 bottles of nips, a few dozen Dunkies cups, more than a two bottles of formula and at least one condom. Unused.

The dollar I found went right into my back pocket.

I took part in the annual Boston Shines today. It’s a day or two in spring, organized by the City of Boston, where volunteers across the city clean up everything that’s been collecting under the snow and leaves since last October. I’ve never taken part in it before, but we moved into a neighborhood back in December that tends to get covered in litter. Largely I think because it’s right across the street from the Amtrak/MBTA tracks and trash gets stuck in weeds and fences rather than in someone’s yard where they’re more likely to pick it up.

It was kind of an amazing time.

Not because I’m way into trash or litter. But because I’m just way into how amazing the people in this city are.

Our street had four people taking part in the clean-up. One of them was going to be away this weekend, so she pre-cleaned a good quarter mile of trash yesterday. Because. Sure.

Another lady got up super early and not only cleared her section of the street, but also began plotting out a community garden with the City’s help. And by “city’s help” I mean… I’m fairly certain she strong-armed the City into sending out a back-hoe and dump truck and clearing a spot.

In the middle of cleaning, a gentleman from an elder housing complex on the street came out on his cane to thank us and bring us bottled water.

The third guy? He started in the morning cleaning Roslindale Village, and then came by my house at around 1. Zipped up in his car with rakes and buckets and brooms and gloves and safety cones!

In the middle of picking up nips, wiping off sweat and generally just trying to keep up with Tom who is probably 25+ years my senior, he and I had a solid conversation about the urban sociologist William Whyte (because why not), the progressive policies of the new mayor of New York City and whether or not wildflowers would grow against the Amtrak fence.

I did a good solid two and half hours worth of work, but I’m fairly certain Tom was out there for close to five hours.

Cleaning up the city.

Happy spring, Boston.

You get more and more beautiful the more of you I get to meet.

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In Case of Emergency: Eat Biscuits

Our awesome neighbors brought over lock-down biscuits today. Celebrating with mine now.
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This whole week feels unreal. Like it was a movie. Or a haze. Or happened to someone else. I assume that’s the glories of the human mind allowing you to get through something difficult. I also assume it will hit me again and again and again at several points in the coming months that it was in fact very real.

Also a wonderful way the mind works I guess. Sharp edges of reality fitting themselves into a narrative of self.

I’m really really trying to hold on to how things are Right Now. When we all feel so relieved. And together as a community. And just determined to get back to ourselves.

I have no doubt that this will become “other” at some moment. We’ll figure out a way to make this a “story” to make those sharp edges of the reality of it all fit better into our memories.

We were all already practicing it Friday night even before it had all ended. Because of course we couldn’t know that it was going to end. Someone told me today that if the rose of memory were not clipped short, how pricked upon the thorns of reality we might all become.

Which is so true.

So on Friday evening around the time the lock-down was being lifted and some guy in Watertown was wondering why his boat’s tarp was torn and we had all just about had it dealing with the anxiety in our own homes clicking/refreshing and making GIFs on Facebook about how strong we were because really we were frikken scared to death but we didn’t want anyone to KNOW that for crying out loud. So about the time that was all happening, we went to the Dogwood. Our pub.

And met some friends and started talking.

About where we were on Monday when this happened. And how we spent Friday on lock-down. And how nervous/not nervous we all were.

Friday for us was trash pick-up day. Usually it’s on a Thursday unless there’s a holiday. And Monday was a holiday so trash day was Friday. They picked up the regular trash before Boston was under lock-down. But the recycling was never picked up because they called lock-down before the recyclers came. The people who usually come to pick through our recycling for bottles and cans to redeem never showed up.

It was really windy Friday and I was too nervous to go outside to get the cans and drag them back to the house. And at one point the wind blew the trash can over and scared me to death.

Our neighbors across the street decided lock-down was a great time build a new porch. We all have our coping mechanisms I guess. Every time they hammered, I jumped. Friday also kept getting increasingly humid and muggy. It was almost 70F and probably 70% humidity. It felt stifling.

We kept the news on all day. What they were saying didn’t change from about 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. Over and over basically the same things. I kept trying to turn it off. At one point I watched The Office episode on Netflix streaming about “diversity day” because I had talked to someone earlier in the week about how funny that episode was.

I couldn’t really watch it so I put the news back on.

I remember being at one of my first jobs as a receptionist at a Nashville insurance company, when the Oklahoma City bombings occurred. And how absolutely frightened we were. We didn’t have twitter or the internet then, so we all called into the radio stations to talk about what we thought was maybe happening.

For this one, we clicked and refreshed.

I answered emails for work and kept some projects moving. I had a couple of meetings on the phone. I remember the last one of the day I had while leaning over my bed and staring out the open window while I was talking. Because it was really really hot. And because my neighbors had just brought over biscuits they had made because they were anxious too. And we’d all been up way too early and were scared.

And then we just all decided we had to go to the Dogwood because it was almost 6 pm and we’d all been watching this unfold since 6 am, and it was just way too much.

The lock down hadn’t been lifted, but we needed people.

The streets were empty. The buses across the street at Forest Hills T stop were just sitting there. Dark. We got a parking spot on the street. The Dogwood was awesome. We ran into tons of friends and hugged everyone. All of the tvs were on the breaking news. People were standing 3 rows deep at the bar to watch it. It looked. It looked just like the 2007 World Series. With people watching at the bar.

We ordered drinks and an appetizer. And as they were bringing the stuff out, they announced the lock down was lifted. And then we had another drink and some pizza. And the news erupted.

Shoot-outs. And pictures of a boat. And people got closer to the bar and the tvs. and the manager turned the sound way up. And everyone got quiet. We finished up. Had a really nice chat with our friends and other folks and drove home as fast as we could. And about the time we got home. Maybe? Like 15 minutes… they announced they had him in custody.

And I heard someone on our street shouting with joy.

And that’s what Friday really was.

Because in about one. Or maybe two days. This will all become something else. We’ll wrap slogans around our feelings. We’ll start talking about what we can all do to make sure this never happens again. We’ll start to get more answers about “why” or probably not. We’ll start having funerals. We’ll start arguing with one another about due process and rights and can’t we just remember the victims.

Life for a really really long time will feel like it’s been cut in two — before the marathon. And After.

I used to work in the World Trade Center. Two World Trade, 23rd floor. I had moved to Boston two months before 9/11. When I worked in the World Trade, it was just an office building. A really really cool office building that was on postcards that you could buy and send to your family back home and write, “I work here!” with an arrow pointing to the tallest buildings in Manhattan. And as a kid from Possum Trot, Kentucky, I could feel like I had made it. Because I worked in those office buildings.

But after 9/11, they became something else. And if you say, “I worked in the World Trade Center,” people get a momentary look of worry on their face. Instead of the excited/that’s cool face they used to get.

And the marathon will never ever ever be the same. There will never be that rush of joy about a Monday holiday that only Massachusetts seems to get. And a morning Red Sox game and walking down to Boylston to see the finish line. I mean. We’ll do that. But we’ll always think about it for a second. We’ll always have it in the back of our heads. Marathon Monday will always be something we’ll have to “take back” rather than just let it be.

But the thing is? Is that we’ll do it.

Because we will.

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