It will not be okay just because you say so

This election was not normal, in so many ways.

The elevation to president-elect of a demagogue who clearly has no idea what America is even supposed to be about is disturbing to those of us who love our First Amendment. And, by the way, before you call me a “libtard” or a “POS liberal” or a “sheeple,” I’ll tell you right here: I love our Second Amendment rights, too. I think our Bill of Rights is extraordinary and important. Donald Trump clearly does not. He’s a fourth grader subject to temper tantrums who now holds the highest office in the world: A fourth grader who skipped civics.

The rabid Trump supporters will have none of it, of course. That’s okay. He’s their guy. Time to call me a liar…forgot that one. They can just move along. I’m not here to try to convince them of anything.

The lukewarm Trump supporters, though, crack me up. They really do. They voted for him for a variety of reasons: They hated Hillary, they wanted to send a big FU to DC, the president has no power anyway. I love that one. Everything was Obama’s fault for the last eight years, but now that your guy is a nutcase, you say the office has no power.

One of those 30-something’s who voted against Hillary (she would not say she voted FOR Trump), very glibly and patronizingly just looked at me sideways and said, “It’ll be fine.”


And you know this how?

You, who have lived your entire life with abortion as a right, not having any clue how many women died before it was legal, not having any idea at all how much work and time and danger millions of women and activists put in working for that right, you are telling ME it will be “fine”?

You, who saw same sex marriage just happen, as if by magic, not having any clue how it took decades and decades of work in state legislatures, in the courts, and people getting their heads bashed in, you are telling ME it will be “fine”? (Google “Stonewall riots”). You cannot even imagine that a woman could have her child taken away because she was a lesbian. You cannot even imagine that you could get kicked out of your apartment or fired from your job if your boss decided you were too mannish for a woman or two effeminate for a man. You cannot even imagine how putrid the Acushnet River was like before those pesky environmentalists started getting all those regulations passed. There wouldn’t be a tree left on many a mountain in this country if not for the tree huggers.

Do you even know that women have been able to vote for LESS than 100 years? Do you even know that it was an amendment to the constitution, an amendment that happened more than 140 years after the country was formed? And it got passed because women literally put their bodies on the line to march and protest; and they got thrown in jail for it.

The freedoms you enjoy, you young 30-something, did not happen by magic. They happened by hard work, over a long time, by a lot of people.

And all of you Trumpers basically said that none of it mattered to you.

Do I think you’re all racists and bigots and sexist misogynists? No, of course not. That would be ridiculous. What I do know is that racism, bigotry, sexism and misogyny were not deal breakers for you. You were willing to risk all of that for whatever other reasons made you vote for a vile, hateful, thin-skinned bully: My president, thanks to you.

So, will it be okay? I hope so. But if it is, it will not be by magic. It will not be because we are Americans or because of our precious exceptionalism. It will be because people of good conscience will continue to work tirelessly to make it okay. The activists and agitators and elitist liberal talking heads that you despise so much will not be silent.

If it is okay, it will be because of the ACLU, The New York Times, Washington Post,  The First Amendment CoalitionThe Center for Investigative Reporting, the Sierra Club, The Southern Poverty Law Center, GLAAD and all organizations that fight bigotry and refuse to be silent. It will be okay because of all the individuals and organizations that have the smarts to recognize fascism, and have the courage to fight it, and that refuse to stay silent.

This Thanksgiving, as disheartened as I am by all those who threw me and so many others under the bus, I am thankful for my fellow Americans who did not let the vague promise of a little more in your pockets allow you to vote for a bloviating bamboozler who has no idea what this great country is even supposed to be about. And I note that there were about 1.7 million more of us who saw through his chicanery, than those who allowed themselves to be hoodwinked.

And I am hopeful when I look at the map of how young people voted. God bless ’em, the whole “woman thing” did not get in their way at all. They are stunned that someone so qualified got beat out by someone so uniquely unqualified. I’ve never been so happy to see the generation gap in action.

So, if you are of a mind to help it be fine, give to the organizations I’m going to list below or others of their ilk; volunteer at the ones that have offices close to you; write letters to the editor. The most dangerous thing right now is for good people to do nothing or to go silent. Remember, more people voted against Trump than voted for him. He and his cronies have the power, but it is not absolute.

ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union, fighting for individual rights. “The ACLU works tirelessly in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the Constitution’s promise of liberty for everyone in our country.”

New York Times: The country’s defacto Newspaper of Record, and the only one that stood up to the bully. Buy a subscription to show your support. The NYT has won more Pulitzer Prizes than any other newspaper. It’s one of the largest in the country.

Washington Post:  One of the most decorated newspapers in the world, and the one that investigated the Watergate scandal. One of the largest in the country.

Wall Street Journal: One of the largest newspapers in the country, with a business focus.

The First Amendment Coalition: Dedicated to advancing free speech, more open and accountable government, and public participation in civic affairs.

GLAAD: The world’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization

Center for Reproductive Rights: Working to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.

Immigrant Assistance Center: Helping immigrants overcome language, cultural and economic barriers. In Greater New Bedford, Mass.

AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science: If you don’t believe that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese, as our new president believes.

The Center for Investigative Reporting: Working to engage and empower the public through investigative journalism and groundbreaking storytelling in order to spark action, improve lives and protect our democracy.

Human Rights Campaign: America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve LGBTQ equality.

International Refugee Assistance Project: Organizing law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons.

Lambda: National organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV.

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund: The nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization.

MIRA, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition: The largest organization in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund: America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice.

NARAL: Working to protect and expand reproductive freedom, including abortion rights, birth control, sex education and healthy pregnancies.

Natural Resources Defense Council:  Working to safeguard the earth, its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

NPR, National Public Radio: A mission-driven, multimedia news organization and radio program producer focusing on in-depth, quality news. Relies heavily on support from audiences at member stations throughout the country.

Planned Parenthood: Founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams — no ceilings, no limits.

ProPublica: An independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

RespectAbility: On the front lines in the battle to reduce stigmas, failed government policies, and other obstacles that deny people with disabilities the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

The Sierra Club:  The nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.

The Southern Poverty Law Center: Dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.

The Trevor Project: The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren. Senate page:
Campaign page:

US Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders. Senate page:
Campaign page:

Charles M. Blow, NYT columnist, a man who will not be silenced. Read this one from 11/23/16.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it is not meant to be. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments section.

The voters have spoken….no, really, they have

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a lefty liberal and proud of it. I am not a Democrat. I never work for individual politicians. They all end up making me mad at them. Now that we’ve cleared that up…

I think it’s a very exciting time to be an American. Yes, I was bummed, mortified actually, that Trump got elected. But what we saw on election day was American democracy in action.

People were unhappy with the direction of the country, so they stopped it. It is very empowering for them. Now the other side is supposed to organize to move things back along the trajectory that they want, using the midterm elections as one vehicle; pressuring their legislators as another. Everyone has some power. They push and they pull. And it’s all done at the ballot box, with the almighty vote.

I have been kind of chuckling all day at the irony of it. Trump has a Republican House and Senate. He has his chance to do a lot. He should get to it right away, and let people see what that “it” is. While that’s happening, all these kids who are protesting in the streets need to get back to school or jobs or whatever and start organizing for the midterm elections. Then, maybe you can stop him.

See how exciting this is? It’s the way democracy is supposed to work: One side pushes too far and gets stopped; the other side pushes, and back and forth and back and forth. Through it all, we manage to move forward, together, as a country.

What’s been lost in this country, though, is the ability to compromise. The word “compromise” has become a bad word. It is not. It is how the system works best. Maybe we can reclaim it? Maybe I’m expecting too much.

In any case, I think it’s great that all those old guys got out and stopped the direction the country was going in. They hated it. They felt that they were being pushed around. Social issues they did not care about were getting shoved down their throats. They said “enough.” They found their power at the ballot box. Would you rather have them find it another way? I find it refreshing and hopeful for our democracy. I feel sad that they felt that way, though. But, that’s another topic. I’ll not argue the merits of the various issues here.

Some of those old guys said they had never voted in their whole lives. They were feeling powerless and left behind. C’mon now, all you lefty liberals, you know the feeling. GAWD do you know the feeling! The old white guys learned that they really do have the power. They learned that their vote is important, the most powerful thing in the world. It makes me downright emotional, and I’m not being sarcastic.

This is also good news for those of you who are afraid of those old white guys. They did not resort to violence, they used their vote, and it worked. Will they stay engaged? Will they just turn smugly away after flexing their muscles and go back to the shadows? Who knows? No one does.

It’s an exciting time to be an American.

I was never afraid of those guys in a real sense. I know too many Trumpers, of all ages. It kept me from calling names, although I was called everything in the book (and a few new ones).

What it did, having these right-wingers around, was make me wonder why they were supporting him in the first place. They all had so many reasons why they disliked him. Those reasons were deal breakers for me, but not for them.

I was heartened to see an article by a millennial who is a Republican. She says she’s prochoice. Good. That’s my biggest deal breaker. I hope she has read the Republican Party platform, which calls for making abortion illegal. I hope you can keep your guy from doing that. I’m delighted that you grew up taking for granted that you could have a safe and legal abortion. You may also assume that right is safe. It is not. You need to keep an eye on your guy. You don’t want to get rid of welfare, you want to fix it? Great, me too. You need to keep your guy from going too far. He’s not going to listen to lefty-liberal ole me. He’ll listen to you, though, maybe.

See how it works?

It’s an exciting time to be an American.

I know you may not believe me when I say this, but I am delighted that you have found a political leaning that fits in with your world view. Do I wish you were a lefty liberal? You betcha! But, that’s just me. What’s important is that you stay true to yourself and your beliefs, that you are not afraid to change as you learn more about the world, and that you are, indeed, making choices based on those beliefs, not just a knee-jerk reaction to something or against something, or (heaven forbid) because of another person. Don’t roll your eyes, I’m old enough to be your mother, I’ve seen this happen again and again.

My philosophical disagreements with Trump will not change, I’m pretty sure. It is my own experiences that make it impossible for me to buy into his various and many isms. I hate that he will be representing me on the world stage. But that is the will of the electorate. So be it.

Can we at least agree that it’s an exciting time to be an American?

Now let’s get out there and organize.

It ran great in the driveway…Part II

So, next day, Sunday, I woke up bright and early, checked ML’s Southpoint weather gadget  for the wind speed (before actually getting OUT of bed…no need to ruin a chance at turning over and going back to sleep). Saw that the wind was nice and low, got up and dressed to head out, and saw that it was super foggy. Heavy sigh.

So, I took a ride to Hoppy’s Landing and confirmed that it was pea-soup thick. Talked with Captain Sakwa for a bit, then headed to Mackatan General Store for a coffee (and a donut…I have the willpower of an ant). Saw a neighbor, talked some politics, and we went our separate ways.

And, lo and behold! By the time I finished my impromptu visiting, the fog had lifted and the wind was still low.

So, I decided to head out on the water.

I grabbed the plastic tub that has all my emergency gear in it, the crate with the life jackets, dropped it all into the boat. Then I threw a black door mat and a black indoor-outdoor carpet over all those signs and goop. My little boat looked like luxury, almost.

I checked that shift lever, too. It was still stiff, but moving. It was late by the time I got out, just a few minutes before 11 a.m., usually the time I’m coming back. But, all I needed to do today was get the thing in the water and make sure everything was working okay.

I launched….no drama. Phew. Even got some help from Todd the Harbormaster deputy.

I pulled out. Had a little trouble with the lever, but not much. I figured it was just something I needed to get used to.

Slowly me and my Little Water Buggy jugged out heading south past Hoppy’s Landing. The wind and surf were picking up a bit, but not much. I really just wanted to give the motor a little workout. But, oh, it was glorious. My little motor chugged along, pushing that old patched-up boat just as if we both knew what we were doing.

“Thank you, Jimmy,” I thought, remembering  my old friend who gave me the motor.

I only went south for about 5 or 6 minutes, then headed back. I just wanted to be able to crank the engine for a bit, make sure it had some power. Put it through its paces, so to speak.

But it’s the other direction I like puttering around in best, especially with mom. She likes buzzing around the mooring field and Bella Vista Island. So, I turned around and headed to the other side of the causeway. Because mom really wants to go.

I got through the causeway and noted that I didn’t get that shaky feeling at all this time around. Although I was nervous, it was the good kind of nervous, the kind that makes you pay attention better, not the kind that makes you mess up (I hope).

I buzzed around the mooring field, at no-wake speed. Got to the near side (south) of Bella Vista and felt the engine do a kooky little jump. A first I thought I’d hit a rock, but I was in the middle of the mooring field. No rocks there.

Then it happened again. Then it started spitting and coughing and pushing me forward and then almost dying out; the way an adolescent might try to dump you off the boat (or Hoppy).

I made a B-line for the causeway. By the time I got there, I thought it would stall for sure.

I got through, now with a very worried look on my face, waved to the same guy fishing.

The dock was full. Boats all around and one launching. I saw a small spot on the dock and decided to try for it. I figured when I got close enough, I’d just tell them I was having trouble and they’d help me. Then I reached back to put the motor in neutral and couldn’t move the lever. Shit.

Pulled back around and figured I could just shut if off if I had to. But then I was able to get it in neutral, but I kept cutting out too soon (oh, the incompetence!). Next thing I knew, the dock was full again. Then the motor conked out, for good this time.

I was near the rocks and close to the dock, so I was bummed, but not really stressed about it. The wind was still very light and the current was gentle, too, so I just kind of floated towards the rocks on the causeway. I used my pole to keep from hitting them. No damage to me, no damage to the boat, no damage to the rocks.

I knew that I was in a spot where I could just jump out and walk it to the shore or dock if I had to, so I was okay. No need to call my pals at TowBoatUs New Bedford (this time).

A couple walking on the causeway stopped and gave me some ideas on starting the motor, but it just wouldn’t take. He did notice, though, that the prop was not moving when I thought I had it in gear.

Then Todd showed up, with Tim the Harbormaster. Todd climbed down the rocks and into the boat. He managed to get the motor running, but it wouldn’t behave well enough to motor it onto the trailer. Tim stopped people from launching and cleared a spot on the dock for us, and we got close enough to tie up.

Then the two of them used the lines to pull it along the dock. Now, that’s a bit more complicated than it may sound. Hoppy’s Landing is a commercial dock, so you can’t just walk along with the line. There are two huge poles in the way, holding up the winch that pulls up the gangway, so, it’s a little tricky. But, I got the impression that these guys have done that before.

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We got the boat on the trailer, I got home, rinsed it off, took a shower, and decided it was still a really good day on the water.

Honest, I’m not just saying that. I was a bit surprised myself. Looked in the mirror and thought, “Gee why was that so satisfying? That was still fun.”

I guess the twenty minutes of a working motor beat out the rest of it.

It reminded me of that bumper sticker that says something like a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.

Then, my old pal ML Baron posted it all on Facebook, saying, I “ran up against the rocks,” causing all kinds of visuals that made it much more dramatic than it was.

My sibs and mom thought I had motored head on into the rocks. Geesh.

No damage to me, do damage to the boat, no damage to the rocks. It was the gentlest of landings, truly.

We’ll get it fixed and I’ll get out there again, eventually. The question is: Will anyone go with me? I used to go alone because I liked to, now, I suspect I’ll be going alone because no one’s crazy enough to go with me: Except ML, of course.

Motor Guy has been working on, figured out which parts need replacing, and he’ll get it up and running in no time. And, at least i know the damned thing always runs great in the driveway.




It ran great in the driveway…Part I

So, it’s time for a boat blog (okay, way past the time). Of course, if you’re connected to me on Facebook, you’ve already gotten the snapshot version of Sunday’s adventure, courtesy of ML Baron.

My Little Water Buggy had a whole set of different issues this year.

Let’s start with last year. I had to get towed (again), because the motor died. After all the speculation about the ethanol gas and every other such thing, it turned out to be a much bigger problem. The stator needed to be replaced. That’s the thing that charges the battery (I think). It’s a conglomeration of magnets and other junkyard stuff, arranged just so, to spin and create a magnetic field or something. My Motor Guy explained it all to me, but that was last year. Anyway, it took weeks for the parts to get here, and then my Motor Guy had to practically assemble the whole thing inside the motor in the driveway anyway.

I watched him do that. I kept thinking, “Part? It looks like pieces.”

Then some other piece of something that cost a fortune had to be replaced, too. The powerpack, maybe? I just paid for it. I’ll be damned if I can remember it. Yeah, it was the powerpack. Would just get fried from all that super-duper power that would now be coming from the stator.

The upshot is: It cost me a fortune to get that 1985 motor working and then it was cold out, so I just wrapped it up for the winter, covered the boat, and dreamed about next year (which is now).

So, I uncovered the thing, rinsed it down and discovered that the patch we’d put in last year was not doing its job. The soft spot had gotten bigger. Turns out my friend used Bondo, which is bad because it has powder in it and absorbs water. Live and learn.

So, I called my carpenter guy (remember the floors?). I told him just to dig out the soft spot and patch it with plywood, then fiberglass it, and I’d paint it.

He started digging, and digging, and made a nice big hole in the deck. (This is the spot where I would normally post a picture, but, it appears that I did not take one….go figure.)

Then he stopped, and went home.

When I got him by phone he said that he reached his hand underneath and it was all wet under there and the whole deck needed to be replaced and that was beyond his ability to do and he sounded absolutely panicked that I would fall in or out or over or under or into a shark or something.

So, I started asking around. All I wanted was a patch, I told people. I just don’t want my foot to go through it. I don’t care what it looks like. This ain’t no billionaire’s yacht.

A couple of neighbors had a guy…or two. Everyone agreed that going pro was stupid. It would cost way more than the boat was worth. No problem, there. I don’t HAVE way more than the boat is worth. Really, at that point I wished I had just thrown tackle box over it and pretended it didn’t exist.

One neighbor did say he had a really good guy for that kind of work. I’d have to pick him up, though, he doesn’t drive (read: Probably lost his license because of DUI). And, don’t offer him a beer or anything alcoholic to drink until the work was done. AND, get a price for the job, not an hourly rate, or he’ll milk it.

But he’s a really good guy for that kind of work.

Welcome to my little island.

My brother had a guy. “He can do anything,” said my brother.

Okay, does he do boats?

“He can do anything.”

Okay, I’ll call him, but first…let me ask around a little more. (Read: I need to ask Hoppy.)

So, I saw Hoppy, explained the situation, and he said emphatically not to replace the whole deck. That’s crazy at this time of year. It’s a big job and expensive.

I just don’t want my foot to go through it, I said.

Y’know what you do, he said. Get an old street sign, a stop sign or something, and just screw it in. Then throw a big carpet over it.

“Ah, shit,” he said. “I’ll do it. Won’t cost ya nothin’.” (Except a 30-pack, or two, of course.)

Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

Of course, it took him awhile to get around to it. Also, my carpenter had removed some supports, so the window and seats and all that got all twisted up. We needed to fix that, too.

Hoppy, God bless him, did it. Before my vacation was completely over, too. I was sooooo excited that I’d be able to use the boat during my two-week publication break.

Of course, he didn’t use a street sign, he used a realtor’s sign (hoping they don’t read the blog).

So, I got in there to goop up around the edges and discovered…wait for it….another soft spot.

Geesh. Hoppy and I had stomped all over that boat and it seemed fine (mostly….that’s another story).

“I’m gonna need the other half of that sign,” I told him a day or so later. I said I could do it myself now that I saw what he did.

No, he said, you’ve got to use the right screws, and he said he really wanted to look at it himself.




Vacation almost over.

Then he did it. Used a “Slow Children” sign this time. On the bottom, someone wrote: “are easier to catch.”

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Then I gooped up the edges.

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I used that Boat Life Life Caulk. My boat is very familiar with that stuff. I love it. I used a tube and a half on the signs.

Then I needed to wash the boat. But, the remains of last winter’s wood were still piled behind the boat. That took three days to get rid of because it’s been super hot and humid and….great boat weather.

Then I washed the boat. it looked downright respectable.

Then I put that big old tub under the motor to start the engine. It started for about five seconds a couple of times, but just wouldn’t keep going.

7757 LittleWaterBuggy_Smaller

For some odd reason, the shift lever beckoned to me in an odd way. So I grabbed it and pulled, the pushed. I discovered that it wouldn’t move. I thought for sure that it was supposed to move even if the engine wasn’t running. That thing was stuck.

And the engine wouldn’t start.

And, the fuel line leaked.

So, I looked in the shed and discovered a fuel line that was clearly newer. That one leaked, too. When are we going to stop accepting this garbage that only works for two minutes? I would not have a problem with the global economy if we would just hunt around for the best stuff instead of the junkiest stuff.

So, I went and bought another fuel line: $39+ with tax.

Now, bear in mind this is all happening THIS July, last week, in 80-90 degree weather and super-oppressive humidity. So that means I’m working outside for 15 minutes and retreating to the air conditioning for 20.

Spoke to my Motor Guy and told him the story. This was Saturday afternoon. He said he’d swing by on Sunday if I didn’t call him to say I’d gotten it started.

I went back out to the driveway, hooked up the new fuel line, and got the motor started. YIPPEE! Right?

Then, for some odd reason, the shift lever beckoned to me, again.

The motor was running, the shift lever was in the “neutral” position, but it sure looked like the propeller was spinning. I do not remember that much oily water getting splashed all over the driveway…and me.

So, I called my Motor Guy, to fix the shift lever. He said he’d be by Sunday morning.

I went to my mother’s summer place and hung out with the relatives, ate dinner, watched the sun set. When I got home, a car was pulling out of my driveway. COOL! My Motor Guy decided to take a ride and he fixed the shift lever. It was kind of stiff, but that’s okay, it used to move so easily that I popped it in reverse sometimes when I was trying for neutral. (And you remember what it does when I pop it in neutral, right?)

So, now I’m ready to go. The idea of going out for the first time of the season on a Sunday in the middle of July is kind of scary. But I was ramped up and ready to go.

The good thing is, there’ll be lots of people around, right? So, how bad can it be?

Stay tuned for part II.

Visit for links to Beth David’s other writings; visit for this week’s Fairhaven Neighborhood News.

It’s the stories that live on

It’s the stories. The stories of long ago, the stories of yesterday, the stories we will tell of what’s happening as we tell the stories of long ago and of yesterday. Pictures aid us, prompt us, guide us to those stories; but it’s the stories themselves that get passed down, long after the person who starred in them is gone.

I come from good story tellers. Dad’s side had a few good tale-tellers who could turn a phrase rivaling the best of them: “This’ll put hair where you ain’t got none,” is one of my favorites, said about a strong cup of coffee; “Put it where the sun don’t shine,” and, “Who tole you?” Quite possibly one of the reasons I can play reporter with the required healthy does of skepticism.

My maternal grandfather was a master storyteller, even though his English was limited. Even as a youngster I was amazed at how he could hold my interest, even though I had trouble understanding his words.

My grandfather wove a story. He wove it the way a knitter creates a pattern into a sweater: word by word, stitch by stitch, sentence by sentence, row by row, each carefully chosen adjective adding to the mix, the way each carefully chosen color adds to the pattern. Few adjectives, because his English was so limited. That taught me that less can be more. His eyes would sparkle, he would look you in the eye, he would use his hands just enough. He would smile, and laugh just a little.

My grandfather would start rolling a cigarette when he started telling a story, carefully putting just the right amount of tobacco in the Zig-Zag brand rolling paper, rolling it up, lighting it with his clunky, square silver lighter, stopping his story now and again as he did that to create suspense, anticipation. It gave me a chance to savor his words, to mull them over, to learn patience as he spoke in his own time, between puffs, all the while fiddling with the lighter. And all the while his eyes would sparkle.

I suspect he got a kick out of a grandchild being so enthralled with him. I know as I get older how much I delight in hearing from my sister’s children. They really want to talk to ME? My grandfather would’ve been in his late 80s. He must’ve gotten a kick out of it indeed.

He died when I was still a teenager; I only got a handful of those storytelling times with him, but I learned that I come from a line of good story tellers.

My aunts could always weave a story with the best of them. Mention a person, a place, or even a controversial subject, and you never got a long list of adjectives or banal rantings or mundane accounting of an opinion.

Nah. In my family, you got, “Who? One time, when we were…..” or “Let me tell you about the time…”

And so, as it is when people live, so it is when they die. We sit around and talk stories, about them, about ourselves with them, about others with them. Then we veer off and tell stories about ourselves, in any way tangentially connected, one little thread leading to another, connected by color or design, or scheme, or any such thing that causes the human brain to jump from one thought to the next.

My aunt Cil was a hairdresser; dare I say “the family hair cutter?” So, we talked hair stories when she died. Hair-got-cut-the-way-we-didn’t-like-it stories. Hair-got-cut-in-the-kitchen stories. Hair-got-cut-the-way-SHE-wanted-it-cut stories.

She was barely a shadow of her younger self before she died, at age 97, and after Alzheimer’s wreaked havoc in her brain for more than a decade. Her hands could no longer cut hair; her mind and speech could no longer ask for a decent hairdo.

But once, she could.

And we remembered that for her, her nieces and nephews and remaining sisters.

We remembered the time she cut off the waist long hair and curls of two nieces, to the absolute horror of their father, who had no idea until he got home from work that day. Many of us secretly suspected that their mother knew quite well what was coming and welcomed the end of long mornings untangling the hair of pre-schoolers every morning. But she, of course, played dumb, and Aunt Cil bore the blame.

We remembered the running away, up the stairs, slamming the door and putting feet up against it (no lock for kids’ bedrooms in the 1960s), waiting for her to leave, while, no doubt, she laughed with her sister till the tears fell.

We remembered how the ones who lived close by would walk to her shop and walk back with curlers in their hair, or the “big hair” of the day.

We remembered how all our haircuts looked the same, like barbershop cuts for girls and boys alike, until we reached a certain age. I suspect, perhaps naively, that she did it on purpose to make the job easier for our mothers, her sisters.

We remembered how she so loved her husband, Al, the quintessential regular guy, with a regular job, with a low key personality. They found each other late in life, to the dismay of many, and the delight of many as well.

She had her own salon in the 60s (maybe the 50s, even), right up through the 70s, maybe even the early 80s. No one seems to remember exactly when she retired.

She told me that she took the train to Boston for hairdressing school. That would’ve been in the 1950s, I guess. I remember looking at her with deep surprise, and a new-found respect. All the way to Boston? Every day? For how many weeks?


What I didn’t realize until I was much older, was how pioneering she was to have her own business, a woman, in the early 60’s (maybe even the 50s). She was “on her own,” done with the mill bosses of New Bedford’s textile era.

She had her own place. Any hairdresser of a certain age will remember Ivey’s Beauty Salon (or was it “Ivy’s”?), because there were so few, and even fewer owned by women.

We managed to find a census from back then 1940. It listed my grandfather as a mill worker making $800/year; one of my other aunts as making $392, and another making $450. Then it listed Cil as a “forelady,” making $728 that year, at 21 years old. Her father made $800.

There must be a story behind that.





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