May 31, 2009

MBTA pt. 2

Once again my faithfulness to the MBTA pays off. I don't ride the train as often as I used to so I don't see the rampant nonsense that takes place in it s cars. Tonight was an exception.

I spent most of yesterday at my friend’s house, working on Banner stories and the major project that she and I are spearheading. At 11:45 p.m. I dragged myself out of her apartment and over to the green line to catch one of the last trains home.

Normally, I drive to my friend's place but today I decided to give the car a rest and use public transportation. I'm glad I did.

At the Kenmore Square stop the train was filled with rowdy, loud, drunk people, many of whom were coming from the Dave Matthews Concert in Fenway Park. One gentleman, Jon "with no 'h'." boarded the train with a wooden stool painted green, surrounded by friends and fellow concert goers.

Jon was about 5'10, with the ruddy complexion of a long -time drinker. He wore faded blue jeans, a Red Sox cap, turned backwards, and had tattoo running along his right arm.

Upon boarding the train, he set the stool down in front of the train door across from me and proceeded to hold court. Topics ranged from how awesome the concert was to how a girl on t he previous train vomited on her boyfriend.

Once the train pulled out of the station Jon began to sing, entertaining those around him and enticing the m to sing with him. The first song, "ride it" by the Quad City DJs, was a natural choice since we were all on a train.

By Hynes Convention Center, Jo n was leading the crowd in "Rapper's Delight" prompting two girls from West Virginia to offer to take him back to WV with them.

At Arlington Jon was conducting a stirring rendition of "Living on a prayer." The two WV girls were enthralled. So much so that they both fell over as the train lurched. This prompted Jon to give up his stool to one of them.

By Park Street the songs had died down in favor of general yelling and commotion. As I exited the train, the WV girls were extolling the virtues of Jon's mother, by claiming her to be "the shit!"

Finally off the train, I turned back as I heard Jon s tart up "Bust a Move" by Young MC. The WV girls were dancing again. I just shook my head.

I love riding the MBTA.

May 23, 2009

feed burner test

this is to see if the the new email blog post feature is working...!

May 17, 2009

Circus Circus!

Blue cotton candy dissolves in my mouth as my friend, sitting next to me, giggles and pats my cheek, leaving powered sugar from her fried dough. In the ring, two jugglers, twins by their look, do cartwheels while keeping six juggling pins airborne. I’m at the circus and I’m loving it.

The Big Apple Circus was in town from April through Mother’s Day. I went twice, the second time with my sister and two friends. It was a single tent set up on City Hall Plaza, but it had all the fixings you would want from a circus. The circus brought clowns to amuse, a tightrope walker, twin jugglers, performing dogs and even a trapeze family, the “Flying Corteses.” The food selection was just as robust. Popcorn, blue and pink cotton candy, hotdogs, soft drinks in souvenir cups, churros, and fried dough. All over-priced as expected.

The highlight of the evening was watching Adam, a friend of my sister, get picked to take part in a dance contest against a clown. When we first sat down, in our ringside seats, my sister turned to Adam and told him that if there was an opportunity for an audience member to be a part of the act he would be our choice. Adam said he would make my sister do it, but, in the second half of the show, when the ringmistress began looking for someone in the audience, Adam was chosen.

He represented us well, performing admirably.

At the end of the show, the audience was informed of the major accident that happened on the green line between Park Street and Government Center. As we were ushered out the side entrance, the journalist in me sparked to life. I had my camera and my friend had pens and paper. There was no reason for us not to cover the story that was breaking around us. However, BU doesn’t give its journalism students press passes, though, that would be a great idea. We were relegated to flitting about around the edges of the police blockade.

The rest of the night was spent matching drinks with my friends at different watering holes around Boston. We stopped by one of my favorite places in downtown but they wouldn’t let Adam in with an out of state ID. We ended up at a spot near BU’s campus, An Tua Nua. It’s a good place; they even offered me a job. I’ll keep you posted.

May 16, 2009

Bill Russell Banner Extra

Last weekend I got the chance to talk to Bill Russell about his lasts book, Red and Me: My Coach, My Friend. The book came out last Tuesday and Russell has been doing promotion for it since last Friday. I got a chance to speak with him on Saturday, but it almost didn’t happen.

When I received the email from my editor about covering the event, I was excited. Bill Russell is a Celtic icon, a basketball icon. Winner of 11 championships, all with one team, his legacy is apparent. I jumped at the chance to speak with him. Of course, I’ve come to realize that a good story is never that easy to get. On Friday, I emailed the publishing company that sent out the press release informing people of Russell’s stop in Waltham at the Costco Wholesale where he would be signing copies of his book. I received an out of office auto-reply from the main contact. But his email told me to contact some his colleagues for upcoming events.

A woman called me back, explaining to me that she was helping to cover weekend events that the publishing company was hosting. I explained who I was and that I would like to speak with Mr. Russell either before or after the event to ask him about the book. The woman was polite; she listened and even seemed sympathetic to my task.

Then she told me that the publishing company was not doing any more PR for the event, before or after. I was a bit taken aback by her outright denial of my request. I stammered a bit on the phone with her, not very professional on my part.

She was, however, upbeat about the fact that I could still attend the event and have a book signed by Mr. Russell. I know I can do that. I really don’t need someone to tell me that. I was annoyed with her response, but I thanked her for her time and hung up. It was clear to me that the publishing company wouldn’t be my avenue to get in to talk with Bill Russell.

I wasn’t too concerned. I planned to arrive at the Costco early enough to talk with the Costco management and see if I could work my way towards Russell once I was on-site.

Waltham is an interesting place. I’ve been out there a few times in the last three months, each time in the same area, Winter Street, off of route 128. Out there, everything is off of “Totten Pond Road,” and “just over the bridge” according to the various Shell Gas station attendants I invariably end up asking for directions. The station is located at the intersection of Totten Pond Road and Winter Street.
Once at Costco, I spoke to Greg, one of the store managers. He was hovering around a table stacked high with Russell’s book talking into a walkie-talkie. After I explained who he was and listed off a few names of people at the publishing company he told me that Russell wasn’t at Costco yet, but his publicist was in the back and that I could speak with her.

Now I’m making some progress.

The publicist, a woman in her mid fifties with shoulder-length dirty-blond hair, named Flip was running around the back hallways of the store with two books in her possession, a cell phone earpiece blinking in her left ear, and stack of sticky notes and pen clutched in one hand. My conversation with her went well. She was quick to point out that Russell had a flight to catch and couldn’t spare any time after the event ended to speak with me. And, that because he had to sign books for the employees, he had little time to speak to me before the event. I suggested that he and I talk while walked from the back of the store to the book signing table. She thought that was fine.

I must explain that Bill Russell is a tall man. He’s 6’10, but he might as well be ten feet tall to me. His lanky build coupled with his height give off the impression of extra height. I believe I came up to his chest, but it could have been his waist for all I can tell. He walks slowly and smiles a lot. He speaks softly and in a measured tone, he has this ability to mix wit and gravitas.
He said to me about his relationship with Red Auerbach “He never told me how to play and I never told him how to coach.” It’s so simple you chuckle at it, but think about it and you realize the level of respect inherent in the statement. Auerbach trusted Russell enough to let him play his game.

The event itself went off without a hitch. Flip used the sticky notes to write down the names of the people Russell needed to sign. Russell’s daughter, Karen, who came with him, spoke with fans as they got their books signed and helped manage the crowds. Peter Toporzycki received the ultimate treatment. He had three books signed, spoke with Russell and got a picture with him and his daughter. He was beaming as he walked away.

I caught up with him after the picture to get his feelings on the event. He gave me a great quote, the kind you’re looking for to cap a story like this. As we talked he told me he was a student at Boston College. Naturally, I told I was a student at Boston University and the Comm Ave hockey/football jokes were tossed back and forth. I wish I had more time to speak with Toporzycki. He had recently completed a project that involved Russell and other black athletes and I wanted to hear more about it. Unfortunately, these kinds of assignments don’t allow for too much meandering off topic. Also, with the quick turnaround necessary to get the story in the Banner the week after event, I’ve found that it’s a bad idea to try to cram too much into the story.

The story came out to just under 550 words. I felt that was a good length. I think it came out well even though my attempts were stymied a bit in the beginning. The lasting effect is that the Banner got the story it wanted and got it on time. I can live with that.

May 14, 2009

New Banner Stories

Big day for me in the Banner. I covered a book siging by, Celtics great, Bill Russell. His book "Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend" came out recently and I was on hand in Waltham at Costco Wholesale to watch him sign copies and take photos. I'll have a more in depth review of the process up soon.

I aready talked about Missy Elumba and everything she's done. The story I wrote about her is also published. I like how it came out, I think it's one of my better stories.

The third story is about a barber in Hyde Park that cuts the hair of some current Celtics players. The piece goes more into the role of the barbershop in the black the community. It's a good "fun" read according to my editor. I'll take that.

May 5, 2009

Reasons Why

One of the reasons I like being a reporter is because I get to meet different types of people. It‘s a lot of fun hanging out and talking to people, covering events and just seeing how things happen. Between school and the Banner, I’ve been covering a ton of stories. Now that I’m done with finals, I have some time to update and talk about what I’ve been working on.

First, if you haven’t already, check out Boston’s Cool Spots. It’s my newest blog and I’m fairly proud of it. My professor seemed to like. She talked a lot about the pictures and writing being well done. However, she wasn’t a fan of all my multimedia pieces. She has a point, some of them are borrowed. Still, I like the blog because it can expand beyond its initial use. Sure, it was a final project for a class, but as I find new cool places, I can update the blog with them and I think that gives it a longevity that appeals to me.

Tae Kwon Do

Nick Davidson is a guy I work with at my tutoring job. He’s a student at Emerson and also happens to be a 4th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I did a “beat” story about him for one of my classes. He’s a funny guy because his outward demeanor is relaxed and very calm, but once he flips to Tae Kwon Do, he’s flash of speed and agility, the quick sly smile replaced by a look of cool focus as he kicks a “pork chop” pad, or even lays a side kick into someone’s ribs as he spars.

I spent some time at one of his practices. I came away convinced that I would not want to test him in a fight and that if I ever got into a fight with someone else; he’s a guy I’d want on my side. (Nick is in the white gi with black trim)

Elumba's Faith

Most recently, I interviewed a Northeastern University graduate named Missy Elumba. She is a rock star. I was sent to meet her because she had been awarded the Hockey Humanitarian award for her volunteer work in the Boston area. She also was named one of NU’s top scholar-athletes and was given the Joanne Rowlands award because of it. I told you she was a rock star.

During my research about her, I realized very quickly that her spirituality was a major part of her personality. I was concerned because I’ve met people who are religious, so much so, that it comes off as being fanatical. Missy is just the opposite. Her love of God, while obvious, is not overbearing nor does she force her love of God upon people. It comes off as a quiet confidence that she is more than willing to talk about and reference if you ask, but will never broach the subject unless someone else does first.

In our first meeting as we spoke about her major, health sciences, and how she was going to attend a missionary school to better understand God, she stopped, almost self-conscientiously and asked me if I was a Christian. I told her I was and she smiled, looked relieved and continued talking about her future. I don’t know if she would have tried to recruit me to go to church with her had I said I was not a Christian but I got the definite feeling that she did not want to make me uncomfortable with her talk of God.

When I asked her why missionary school instead of medical school she said “As many people are in the world, there are that many interpretations of God. If I am to be a missionary, I need to figure out who God so that I can explain it to others who don’t know.”

I was blown away.

Needless to say Missy is going to do great things. Sometimes you meet people and you can tell very quickly, they are destined for great things. I realize how cliché this sounds, but that’s the feeling I got after meeting and talking to Missy Elumba. I wish her nothing but the best and I look forward to hearing about the great things she will accomplish.

May 1, 2009

On Friendship

It's funny. Sometimes I wonder what you're up to on the weekends. What adventures you're experiencing together, what stories you'll share with me the next time I see you.

I must admit I get a little envious, I don't have a similar relationship in Boston and I miss it. But it's okay. You've found a "Bestie." I'm cool with being the "special guest."