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ON THE COVER
WRESTLING WITH IDIOTS
A couple of months ago, I had an unfortunate experience after dropping my girlfriend off at a baby shower in the deep suburbs. With a few hours to kill, I decided to do some food shopping, which brought me to an oasis of a supermarket—the kind of store I can’t afford to shop at but occasionally treat my family to on the rare weeks that we don’t make it to Market Basket. As a reporter, I tend to walk around with open ears. Or, as some would say, I am a chronic eavesdropper. And when I’m in a tony neighborhood, I admittedly tend to be more attentive than usual, as the things I hear from spoiled people are extremely entertaining in that they are both revealing and sickening at once. The problem, of course, is that a lot of people with extraordinary means don’t realize just how fortunate they are. Take, for example, the high school wrestlers who were in front of said grocery store panhandling for money for their team. Since I would rather flush my hard-earned pocket sauce down the toilet than support such a worthless cause, I politely declined. At which point one—and then two, then three, and so on—of the teens started harassing me, even hurling homophobic and just plain old ignorant insults as I walked by. I could have left it at that, and not risked getting beaten down by adolescent gym rats. I could have, but instead I stupidly tried to enlighten them. “Why don’t you fucking assholes raise a couple bucks for somebody who needs it?” I inquired. “Do you know there are probably people within a few miles of here without enough to eat? Go help them!” To which the dumbest one of all responded that said hungry people can just eat his cock, causing all his friends to laugh like the pathetic followers they are. I thought a lot about those shitheels last week, as news clip after news clip turned up about young people in Boston assaulting and killing each other. I thought about the unbelievable injustice of how some young people get to wear varsity letter jackets and drive luxury cars to school, while others have to carry weapons while they cross through rival housing projects on their way to school. If that’s not bad enough, it really hurts to know what countless people in such privileged environments think about the so-called other half. If any one of you little pricks from the sticks comes across this column online, try wrestling with that. Better yet, try raising a few bucks for something other than yourselves. CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR
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DAVE’S NOT HERE NEWS 2 US
How a protest at Speaker DeLeo’s house became a proxy for political positioning on cannabis BY MIKE CRAWFORD @MIKECANNBOSTON At the end of June, as Massachusetts lawmakers worked to dismantle the cannabis bill passed by voters last year, my team at the WEMF Radio show The Young Jurks announced that we were calling for a protest outside of House Speaker Bob DeLeo’s home in Winthrop. We expected some possible pushback, but we weren’t expecting it to come from MassCann/NORML. And we didn’t expect the cannabis rights organization to be in lockstep with state reps who voted for the terrible House bill that, among other things, attempted to boost taxes on recreational cannabis. Yet that’s exactly what happened. In practice, however, the whole rigmarole around the protest ended up highlighting the reason we were protesting DeLeo in the first place. The leader tried to force through his terrible rewrite of the legal pot law, totally ignoring the will of the people. Voters staged protests at the State House and press conferences, and organized phone campaigns and lobby days, still 4
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DeLeo thought—thinks—that he knows better than constituents. And so we showed up at his house. We knew the demonstration wouldn’t be endorsed by orgs like MassCann and the people behind the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA). Those groups have to actually deal with the devil in person. So we asked the community, on our show, through social media, and through the MassCann activist group email list, to help us stage a protest. And they responded; even longtime MassCann board member Bill Downing printed and arranged for the delivery of hundreds of signs, and so we pledged to educate the neighbors of Rep DeLeo to ask him to adopt the Senate version of the cannabis law rewrite, which is truer to the referendum passed by voters. Another goal for the protest was to see which activists or advocates may want to run against the speaker in September. As a point of background, I’ve been involved in Mass marijuana reform advocacy since 2000 and served on the
MassCann board of directors for 10 years. I’ve also staged numerous productive protests and political actions, as well as town and city campaigns—some in cooperation with MassCann, and others independently. I also often defend and promote our state’s NORML chapter and recently asked Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson about the annual denial of permits to the MassCann Freedom Rally. So I was a bit surprised by what came next. A couple of days before the protest, messages rang in from other MassCann board members asking— demanding—that we reschedule, postpone, or move the protest to the home of State Sen. Richard Ross. As one MassCann board member put it, the action at DeLeo’s home “could hurt a lot of people.” That idea apparently came from MassCann lobbyists, who believed that a vindictive speaker would return the favor by refusing to budge on any changes to the House bill. Still, if we decided to go ahead with it, I expected that MassCann would simply distance itself, at least publicly. A good cop/
bad cop strategy. The night before the event, I spoke to a rep from Regulate Mass, formerly known as the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. They politely asked me to reconsider, postpone, or just move it to another location in Winthrop, even suggesting that they would join the protest if we staged it elsewhere. We politely declined. The following day, someone from inside of that campaign warned me ahead of time that they told the State House News Service our event was “inappropriate,” and hoped I wouldn’t get too upset. I respected the phone call and understood their position. I know that many key members of MassCann and Regulate Mass felt deep down that DeLeo did deserve a protest at his home [Ed. note: Some were even present] but believed they had to play it safe. Which is crazy if you consider that voters are supposed to be served by their elected officials. KISS THE RING At this point, there is no denying that the cannabis community is, quite bizarrely, being forced to serve the will of Rep. DeLeo. He has the power over reform at this moment in time. Meanwhile, if there was some semblance of a representational democracy on Beacon Hill, MassCann/NORML and Regulate Mass would lead, not the other way around. Which brings us to Rep. Dave Rogers of Cambridge… Speaking to the State House News Service, Rep. Rogers called our protest “a stupid idea” and described himself as “one of the leading voices” of legalization while calling our behavior “childish,” “foolish,” “misguided,” and, most insultingly, “fringe.” Apparently a guy who will do anything for his boss, who can substantially increase the rep’s earning power with the right appointment, Rogers came out to defend the speaker and to attack angry voters. Let’s take a look at his track record, starting back in February when he gushed on his Facebook page about being appointed to co-chair the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy: Yesterday the House of Representative[s] announced committee assignments for this Legislative Session. I am honored to announce that I was named Vice-Chair of the Committee on Marijuana Policy and I appreciate the vote of confidence from Speaker DeLeo to work on one of the most high profile issues the Legislature will address. When I pointed out that DeLeo stacked the committee with opponents of the law, Rogers responded with a wild defense, deflecting, as Mass Dems love to do, to President
Donald Trump: There likely will be changes, but not a complete rewrite. And as of December 15th of last year, 1) use, 2) possession and 3) growing at home are all already legal under state law here. My biggest concern? Federal law and our new United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. The Obama Administration essentially decided to defer to state law. The jury is out on whether the new Administration will stick to that policy. In the past, Rogers actually filed his own legalization proposal; it included wording on taxation similar to that in the current voter-approved law, which he endorsed. Nevertheless, the rep has since voted to overturn that law, and he now supports a total overhaul. So much for his promise of there not being a “complete rewrite”; the House bill that he pulled for would increase the recreational tax from 11 to 28 percent, along with a host of other horrible changes that will ensure that the black market continues to thrive. Because the speaker told him so. At the same time, Rogers has made some attempt to better the law. Namely, the rep successfully sponsored an amendment that aimed to legally protect the parents of pediatric medical cannabis patients. Yet when it was time to take a stand against DeLeo, he did the exact opposite, and took a stand against voters. THE PROTEST Oh yeah, the actual demonstration itself. I drove to Winthrop with Patrick Wilson, an activist and registered voter in DeLeo’s district. Some of us are trying to convince him to take on the speaker, and he said that he’ll consider it. Jim Pillsbury, an advocate from Framingham, greeted us upon arrival: “There’s a lot of cops here waiting for us, Mike.” The two of us introduced ourselves to the police and even shook hands with the assistant chief, who admitted that he watched us prep on social media and recognized me. Things progressed smoothly from there, with several law enforcement officers even asking about our posters and some wanting copies for their friends and personal collections. We were joined by a total of about a couple dozen protesters throughout the two hours we stayed there, holding signs, taking photos, posting on social media, and networking. We chatted politely with police and
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neighbors, and had some seriously mature conversations. Notably, nobody lit up. Pillsbury, who was one of the early supporters of the protest, is a Framingham Town Committee member and the former host of a cable access show who has been fighting for cannabis reform for decades. He’s a bulldog when it’s needed, but also has a personable, lighter touch, which has been very effective in town campaigning. “I’ve put a question regarding marijuana on the ballot three times in Framingham since 2000,” Pillsbury said of his experience seeing small actions lead to big outcomes, “along with authoring the Mass Hemp Farm bill. With the help of the ACLU, we sued the Town of Ashland for denying us the use of Stone Park. Years of standing in front of our post office on tax day, letting taxpayers know how much marijuana taxes would benefit them. [We] staged a protest outside a legislator’s home in Milford years ago when she proposed a bill that would allow cops who suspect someone is high on marijuana to bring that person to a hospital and have their blood drawn to see if they have marijuana in their system. That bill went nowhere. “At 64 [years old] with five grandchildren … I stand against anyone who ignores the will of the voter and will continue to do so as long as I live.” Which is exactly what we did in Winthrop. It doesn’t sound nearly as “fringe” as an alleged representative who votes for a 28 percent cannabis tax. A few days later, the same board member of MassCann who had earlier reservations about the protest finally came around. Speaking to the Young Jurks, she said, “Even though MassCann didn’t officially endorse the protest, you guys were respectful, you did a great job, I loved that you reached out to DeLeo’s constituents.” As negotiations drag on and cannabis reform continues to be delayed, I fail to see how there’s anything “stupid,” childish,” or “foolish” about that. As this week’s paper went to print, lawmakers—who up to that point were unable to reach any compromise on cannabis—had returned to negotiating behind closed doors in conference committee. And things weren’t looking good, as officials added more insult to injury by lowballing the amount that could go toward regulation in the proposed state budget. Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker weighed in on the wrong side of the debate over how municipalities will be able to ban marijuana ops. Regarding those subjects specifically, Jim Borghesani, the communications director for Yes on 4, issued the following statements: “The $2 million marijuana reserve in the conference committee budget falls far short of the funding necessary to build an effective regulatory structure in the time set by the Legislature and the governor. The cost of licensing and tracking software alone, which must be in place before applications can be processed, is estimated at $5.5 million. The Treasurer requested $10 million for the year-one budget.” And: “The power to ban or limit local marijuana facilities should stay with voters, period. The voters spoke clearly on this issue in November and their rights should not be taken away by the Legislature or the governor. The fact is, the public has long been ahead of elected officials on marijuana legalization nationally and locally.” -Dig Editors
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THE SOMERVILLE LANE VICIOUS CYCLE
And the long road to a bikeable Beacon Street BY CHRIS FARAONE @FARA1
Unfortunately, the project took far longer to get off the ground than we would have hoped—I’ve heard people joking that they need their mountain bike just to get down Beacon Street.
A whole lot of Greater Bostonians choose bikes over motor vehicles. So over the past couple of months, our reporters at DigBoston and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism have found no shortage of advocates, municipal planners, and residents to interview about the fight for cycle safety and improved infrastructure. For a recent episode of the BINJ television show “Beyond Boston,” we used our interview segment to focus on biking in Somerville in particular. And on the recommendation of several cyclists whose lives depend on the safety of roads in that city, we invited Tom Lamar, vice chair of the Somerville Bicycle Advisory Committee, to bring us up to speed. What’s your daily biking routine? I live right at the top of Winter Hill, and my office is right near Lechmere. So there are a couple of different routes, mostly going through Union Square, and honestly all of them are not quite safe enough. Every couple of months I mix it up and try something new that I think is safer, but oftentimes I’ll come through Union, go down Webster [Street] and then Cambridge Street the rest of the way to Lechmere. What’s a nightmare intersection that you have to pass through? I’d say Prospect Street, right off Somerville Ave. It’s three lanes, one way for cars, no bike infrastructure at all. Most of the people biking are turning left to go to Union [Square]; a lot of the people driving are turning right to get to the highway. So you have a lot of conflict between people just trying to find safe space anywhere and just not knowing what to do when there’s no infrastructure to guide them.
What do advocates talk about amongst themselves when it comes to these issues? For example, our encouragement team does the Rush House Challenge, which is a kind of multi-modal challenge where people in the morning will go from Davis Square to Faneuil Hall with their mode of choice—be that taking the T, walking, biking, driving, Hubway—and then in the evening go from Faneuil Hall to Davis Square. It will kind of spark a conversation around what’s difficult and what works well, what intersections are scary to bike through, and so on. It’s important to connect all of the infrastructure between the various cities on routes like that. Where does the roundtable take place to make things like that happen? We work closely with a lot of other groups such as Cambridge Bike Safety, Boston Cyclists Union, WalkBoston, LivableStreets Alliance, and so on. Usually just coming together to find some common ground. Among a lot of friends of mine who ride bikes, Beacon Street in Somerville has [a pretty negative] reputation. I’ve written about this stretch and how it is a cyclist’s nightmare twice—four years ago, and again two years ago, at which point it had not gotten any better. Can you speak about what’s going on there now? It seems there are some positive developments for a change. The Beacon-Hampshire corridor is the single busiest bike corridor in Massachusetts, and that’s why Somerville is building a protected bike like along a stretch of Beacon Street. That’s where the bike lane is raised a few inches off the street and separated from vehicles by a curb. Much of Beacon Street will be much safer once that’s implemented.
When people see things like protected bike lanes— even motorists who may at first be upset about losing a couple of parking spaces—do people start believing that it really is the best thing for everybody to have that kind of infrastructure in place? I think so, and that’s what a lot of other cities [have seen]. New York City, for example, is building a lot of protected bike lanes, and often studying them very rigorously afterwards—whether people are safer, whether they feel safer—and looking at sales tax receipts from businesses along [such corridors]—and consistently they find that it makes it much safer for biking, and you get a significant increase in the number of people biking. It approximately doubles, but what they didn’t expect is that it’s safer for everybody as well, and more predictable. The traditional bike lane which is just paint is easy to misuse. So for example, if you’re parked next to it, it’s easy to open your door into a bike lane. We encourage people to do a Dutch reach to avoid that, but we know it’s far too easy for someone to just not think about that, and a protected bike lane makes it practically impossible for somebody to get doored. And even if someone did get doored, they wouldn’t be next to moving vehicles, so it would be a much more minor injury. We also see people double-parking in bike lanes, and obviously when it’s a painted bike lane you can understand how it just feels natural. But with that protected bike lane it’s much harder to misuse it.
Sometimes they make promising changes afterwards, but I think we need to be looking at how we can build a safe bike network around the city, and into giving people options to get around safely before another fatal crash happens.
A lot of people bike all the time, but there’s always extra advocacy and activism after a tragedy. What do you do as a full-time advocate to keep people in the mix? And where can people find out about your programs? You can find out more about us by following the Somerville Bike Committee on Facebook or by going to our website. And there is often more of a focus after a crash or a fatality. Vision Zero efforts, which look toward eliminating fatalities, are often very reactive. Sometimes they make promising changes afterwards, but I think we need to be looking at how we can build a safe bike network around the city, and into giving people options to get around safely before another fatal crash happens. This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its ongoing Vicious Cycle series. Learn more about the project and how you can contribute at binjonline.org, and share your stories about cycling in Greater Boston at facebook.com/ binjnetwork
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coming soon to TV, print, radio, and online news outlets
A New Multimedia Series About
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SKIFFLE BALL FEATURE INTERVIEW
The great activist-musician-author Billy Bragg on inspirational grassroots and giving up being hip BY M.J. TIDWELL @MJTIDWELL781
Pop didn’t begin with the Beatles. It started with a scattered staccato on the ribs of a trash bin, the reedy twang of a guitar held in the hands of an outsider. It began with pimple-pocked faces and the sounds of washboards and tea chests, with the first generation of British teenagers seeking a collective voice. It began with skiffle. Lost from our collective societal memory, skiffle was a musical phenomenon that gave voice to the young people of England in the ’50s against the backdrop of Cold War politics and uptight BBC-regulated media. Skiffle was music made with anything on hand, by youths with only a vague approximation of technique, but it changed the course of popular culture and broke ground for guitar-led pop supergroups. The incredible (and mostly untold) tale of skiffle needed more than just an average storyteller. Luckily, none other than punk rock musician and activist Billy Bragg set out to do the job with Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World, a new work he will be discussing at the Brookline Booksmith on July 20. For his project, Bragg delved into the weird, wild, and wonderful, from stories about skiffle greats like Lonnie Donegan, the Vipers, and Nancy Whiskey, to a throwback about Pete Seeger’s banjoplaying teen half-sister. There are young ladies sipping coffee at ultra modern, formica-coated coffee shops, and there are so-called Teddy Boys dressed in Edwardian clothing, unsettling the status quo in a decidedly youthful way. There’s trad jazz, and communism, and pop and politics and everything in between, all centered around the story of what happened across the pond while America was watching Elvis. I skyped across that very same pond to talk with Billy Bragg ahead of his Boston appearance, and to hear more about some of the greatest pop music you’ve never heard of. You write that skiffle and punk rock were somewhat similar phenomenons. What made you decide to delve into skiffle as opposed to writing about your firsthand experiences with punk rock this time around? Well, it’s sort of an instinctive thing. I think the punk rock round has been pretty much gone over, whereas skiffle
has kind of been forgotten. And particularly in the US, many people don’t have any cognizance of it at all. Which is, to me, a pity because it’s so crucial in the story of the British invasion of the charts. Any nation that takes [the Beatles movie] Eight Days a Week to its heart … I was over in America touring … when Eight Days a Week came out, and it was like a national orgasm to see the Fab Four so young again. And I thought, you should really know the story! It’s an absolute key component of what the Beatles did, their ability to channel American culture through skiffle. Skiffle was the gateway to an American culture that wasn’t mediated by adults, by the BBC, by what you might call “mainstream taste.” The music they were listening to, they felt like [it] was “outsider music.” If you were a British teenager and saw a guitar, it would always be in the hands of an outsider. An old blues guy … a Calypsonian … a cowboy. By identifying with those outsiders, teenagers were breaking with their mainstream culture. So it’s like this book is an answer to skiffle being left out of our collective societal memory … The predominant experience would be 13, 14, 15- yearolds playing in church halls, scout huts, school gymnasiums, their parents’ backrooms, never making records, maybe doing a gig one time, supporting the Vipers or playing with Lonnie Donegan once … and then skiffle is superseded by rock ‘n’ roll and eventually they get electric guitars. Then they become bands like the Beatles. So what I think happened to skiffle is that when [Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band] came out 50 years ago, rock became serious. And the other thing that came out in 1967 was Rolling Stone magazine. So if Rolling Stone is going to take you seriously … and ask you who inspired you, you’re not about to say Chas McDevitt and Nancy Whiskey now are you? Skiffle becomes juvenalia. It’s not so much forgotten as put in the attic like those awkward school photos no one ever sees. Roots, Radicals, and Rockers comes out at an interesting time. Skiffle emerged against the backdrop of the Cold War as a way for the disillusioned youth of Britain to find a voice against an apathetic world. Now, Russia, North Korea, Brexit, intercontinental missiles … are you seeing any echoes or are we in new territory? I think there are echoes. The thing that’s changed is that skiffle was able to do that because it was the beginning, the very beginning in my country, of music being the vanguard of youth culture. In the 20th century, music was our social medium. It had to contain everything: love, hate, politics, football, the weather, Eastern mysticism. The way we had to
>> BILLY BRAGG. ROOTS, RADICALS, AND ROCKERS: HOW SKIFFLE CHANGED THE WORLD. THU JULY 20. 7PM/FREE/ALL AGES. BROOKLINE BOOKSMITH, BROOKLINE. BROOKLINEBOOKSMITH.COM 8
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communicate with each other was popular music. The music magazines that sprang up was where we thrashed out those ideas. Since the turn of the century, music has lost its vanguard role to a large extent for the majority of young people. There are exceptions, like Beyonce at the Super Bowl. I do hope that music plays a role. Something that seems to be under attack in your country and in mine these days is empathy. For people like me, as a musician, my currency is empathy. Music can make you feel for someone you’ve never met. Those of us who use empathy as a means to communicate need to fight our cynicism and make the connection between empathy and action. Because if you mix empathy and action, you get solidarity. That’s what I want to see. So, my generation … millennials … instead we have the reputation as apathetic, especially towards politics. Let me tell you a terrible secret. In 1979, I had the first opportunity to vote. I think I was 20. And I was a punk rocker and I believed in anarchy and I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I was absolutely sure that politics had nothing to do with me. So I didn’t bother voting in the general election that year. Margaret Thatcher won. In the next few years, we had a war with the Falklands, we had American nuclear missiles based in our country, and the welfare state that had put me on my feet and looked after my family was under severe attack. So by 1983 I was politicized. Brexit has done that to our millennials. A mixture of Brexit happening and Trump being on the telly all the time has galvanized a whole generation. Also speaking of millennials, it’s funny to think of teenagers creating skiffle with broom handles and wire and tea chests when nowadays everyone walks around with an iPhone attached at the hip. Do you think technology is for better or for worse when it comes to music? I used to feel, metaphorically, that I stood by a vast river of music and everything that was happening came down that river and I hooked out anything that was interesting to me. Now, I feel like I’m on a small boat on a calm sea and I’m only hearing the stuff that swims near me. The thing about the internet is that it does give everybody the opportunity to express their view. When I was 19 years old, there was only one medium available to me. And that was to pick up the guitar, learn how to play it, write songs, and do gigs. Now, if you’re 19 and you’ve got something to say about the world, there’s a number of things you can do. More people get to speak and express their views. The downside is, no one is going to invite you to Boston to read out your tweets. So if you actually want to see the world and engage with people, music is a better way of doing it. I’ve loved your song “A New England” as ages 21 and 22 have come and gone. What’s it like for you to listen to your early songs as a big birthday approaches? Sixty is a birthday you can’t really ignore because you can’t kid yourself that you’re young anymore when you get to 60. So I’m kind of giving up being hip. I’m not sure if I technically ever was hip, really. Which is kind of good because then you never become un-hip. And certainly skiffle isn’t hip. And talking to people about trad jazz is really un-hip in England, but it’s absolutely fascinating. So I think maybe being fascinating is better than being hip, what do you think?
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WATCHING BOSTON FEATURE
The true beginning of a false narrative: an investigation into the Hub’s Neighborhood Watch BY DANIEL DEFRAIA @DDEFRAIA Eight days after 16-year-old Norman Hawkesworth shot and killed Stephen Lanigan, John Winston found the murder weapon—a .22 caliber long pistol—while jogging in West Roxbury and contacted the police. According to Suffolk County court documents, Hawkesworth had feigned injury, laying on a dark street, while two friends, teenage girls, hailed a passing car. Lanigan, 27, stopped and got out to help. Two years later, one of the girls testified in court: “Norman jumped up and he pulled the gun out of the bag and said, ‘Freeze… or else I’ll shoot,’” and then he shot Lanigan. That was 1985, and the Winston gun discovery became one of the first stories the Boston Police Department cited to advertise its civilian vigilance program, Neighborhood Crime Watch. Since then, every Boston mayor and police commissioner has claimed that watch groups—residents surveilling their streets, attending group meetings, and reporting to the police—make the city safer. However, this investigation of the BPD’s 32-year Crime Watch program found:
• Crime Watch is a nebulous concept with poorly recorded performance metrics. There’s insufficient evidence to suggest Boston’s watch groups significantly reduce crime. • Crime Watch was (and still is) used as a political token to manufacture a favorable image of community-police relations. For decades the BPD and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino misled the public about how many active watch groups Crime Watch had in Boston. • Crime Watch has a history of discrimination, controversial “broken windows” policing, and 10
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post-9/11 anti-terror surveillance, though this investigation found no current evidence of those practices.
• Crime Watch helped pioneer community
policing in Boston, the strategy of current Police Commissioner William Evans. • Over time, watch groups evolved into local power bases with influence over real estate development and city politics. There is more to Crime Watch than crime. The only national story associated with such groups—the 2012 murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a Sanford, Florida, watch group member— has little relevance for Boston. This investigation found no current evidence of vigilantism. Rather, Boston has a history of widespread local activism that has intersected with innumerable issues— traffic, race relations, drug abuse, real estate development, politics, and more—that Boston neighborhood activists care about. Watch groups are as diverse as the people in them. In 1995, the BPD claimed Crime Watch had conducted 300 meetings where the unit met with a total of about 4,500 people in one year. Since then, tens of thousands of people—maybe more—have likely participated in the program. Today, the BPD has more than 2,100 officers. And though the department serves as the official guardian of this municipality, that force is nonetheless likely outnumbered by a scattered network of roughly 394 watch groups that cover the city’s 12 police districts, making Crime Watch
one of the largest surveillance and alleged crime-fighting networks in Boston. Whether you knew it existed or not. NEIGHBORHOOD OBSERVERS There are three popular narratives of neighborhood watch groups: Zimmerman vigilantes, nosy but harmless neighbors, and hands-off crime watchers—the “eyes and ears of the police.” In Boston, all three obscure the larger truth. Boston’s Crime Watch formally began in 1985, but its immediate origins date back to the 1970s on West Canton Street in the South End. It was there that Christopher Hayes, a failed labor organizer who worked for Hood, began organizing watch groups. Members monitored their blocks, kept emergency whistles, held meetings at their homes,
and called the police to report perceived crime. Often, the cops never came, Chris Hayes’ wife, Clare Hayes, said in an interview for this story. In 1982, after Massachusetts passed Proposition 2 1/2, a cap on property taxes that reduced funding for public services, the BPD began closing police stations and firing officers, recalled Kathleen O’Toole, then a BPD officer who later became commissioner. “We got to the point where we couldn’t answer enough 911 calls,” O’Toole said. Chris Hayes stepped in, and according to everyone who knew him, he was the ideal nonprofessional community organizer. In 1985, Chris sold the concept of Crime Watch to the BPD and his childhood friend, former Mayor Raymond Flynn, Clare said. The idea was to organize neighbors, teach them how to report crime, and educate them on basic safety tips, like locking car doors. Some groups patrolled their blocks, a practice that no longer appears common, while Crime Watch also distributed suspect description forms and later published its own journal, The Neighborhood Observer. At first, Chris was the program’s only employee. He had a desk, a phone, and Clare, who helped organize their South End group and grow the program. They both believed in hyperlocal neighborhood solidarity. And it was only after Chris “willed the program from just him to about nine employees,” Clare said, that the city of Boston also believed. (Asked how much the program costs to administer today, a BPD spokesperson suggested submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. However, a FOIA request revealed the BPD does not track the cost of Crime Watch. The city’s Open Checkbook did not specify that information either.) When Chris Hayes died in January 2009, the Boston Globe published an obituary celebrating Crime Watch. Former Police Commissioner Paul Evans (brother of the current commissioner) praised the program, and Mayor Menino hailed it as “one of the most effective tools we have to fight crime.” The obituary was proof, however superficial, that Crime Watch was now integrated into the BPD, city politics, and its neighborhoods—especially Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Dorchester, the South End, and Mattapan, where, according to BPD crime data from 1996 to 2015, the crime rate was
on average twice that of other districts’ combined average. At the same time, the public eulogy affirmed a prevailing narrative that was then reaffirmed in news coverage, political speeches, and BPD statements—that watch groups were a consistent example of residents and law enforcement officers combating urban decay, together. But Crime Watch’s cherry-picked success stories helped form a false narrative. On occasion, Crime Watch groups did stop or solve some crimes. Archives show that a Jamaica Plain group once helped police bust a crack house. In the South End, a group confronted a mother selling drugs from a baby carriage. Often left out of the BPD’s boasts, however, is the reality that many watch groups don’t fight crime. In Dorchester, Margaret Lowell said her group’s main concern was regulating local traffic. Sometimes the intentions were racist. About 20 years ago in Hyde Park, white residents targeted their minority neighbors for surveillance. And throughout Boston, groups formed in response to violent crimes but then quickly vanished, having done little or nothing. NUMBER GAMES While the BPD misled the public for decades about how many active cohorts Crime Watch had in Boston, Mayor Menino was holding groups up as symbols of community policing. The inflated number of active groups, amplified by favorable news coverage and advertised by City Hall and BPD officials in their annual reports and statements, created a politically advantageous image of Crime Watch as a shining example of neighborhood-police cooperation. The more groups there appeared to be, the more the BPD looked like it was improving community relations. Today the Crime Watch unit has three employees and a secretary, and still keeps a confidential, citywide list of active civilian groups. According to Crime Watch director Kerry Ryan, that roster is updated at least annually, but that wasn’t always the case. Until at least 2005, the list was inaccurate, according to BPD annual reports and former high-ranking officers who were interviewed for this story. No one regularly checked if groups were active from one year to the next, despite the numbers being celebrated in
reports. Between 2003 and 2004, the number of active Crime Watch groups dropped, without explanation, from 1,221 to around 200, possibly because of updated accounting. But if there was a check in 2004, the practice didn’t stick. Duncan Shipley Dalton, a Harvard Kennedy School student on a summer fellowship working for the BPD, found Crime Watch did not track groups. “If you said, ‘What groups met this month,’” Dalton told the Boston Globe in 2005, “nobody could tell you.” The BPD knew that groups often disappeared. “Someone gets shot on the street, you start a neighborhood crime watch, but it’s hard to sustain interest,” said Wallace Tilford, a BPD community service officer who has been with Crime Watch for about 23 years. These days, Tilford added, “We’re not in the numbers business.” Besides, he explained, if many new groups started forming, that might signal a rise (or perceived rise) in crime, and the BPD’s inability to curb it, so fewer groups could be a positive development. Nonetheless, a lack of accurate data has never stopped some administrators from reporting an inflated number of active groups. In 2012, former Mayor Menino wanted some fodder for his annual State of the City speech. He wanted to cite the number of active groups and announce that the BPD was adding more than a hundred new groups citywide. But according to Carolyn MacNeil, who served as Crime Watch director from 2008 to 2015, “it was a rolling number, and it was really hard to accurately pin down what made for an active group. There was no clear criteria.” When Menino gave the speech, Tilford was home watching TV, and he remembers thinking at the time, “What the fuck? Did he call anyone here to ask us what we’re doing?” Barry Mullen, a now-retired decade-long watch group leader in Dorchester, believed “Mayor Menino used the groups for his own political gain.” However, he believed Mayor Menino also genuinely “cared about the groups.” The list controversy went further than “how many.” It also included “who,” and “where.” As Crime Watch grew, politicians wanted member names, addresses, and WATCHING BOSTON continued on pg. 12
IN 1985, CHRIS HAYES SOLD THE CONCEPT OF CRIME WATCH TO THE BPD AND HIS CHILDHOOD FRIEND, FORMER MAYOR RAYMOND FLYNN. WHEN HAYES DIED IN JANUARY 2009, THE BOSTON GLOBE PUBLISHED AN OBITUARY CELEBRATING CRIME WATCH IN WHICH FORMER POLICE COMMISSIONER PAUL EVANS PRAISED THE PROGRAM, WHILE THEN-MAYOR TOM MENINO HAILED IT AS “ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE TOOLS WE HAVE TO FIGHT CRIME.”
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WATCHING BOSTON continued from pg. 11 telephone numbers for political mail and fundraising. Some in the BPD wanted that information, too. Crime Watch directors Chris Hayes and Judith Wright fought against sharing the list. They valued their unit’s independence and watch groups’ privacy. But their colleague MacNeil opened it to the others within BPD anyway, saying she wanted officers to have access to helpful neighborhood activists. That means BPD officers have the names of group organizers, as well as phone numbers, addresses, meeting times, and place. In 32 years, Crime Watch changed from a one-man show that few powerful people cared about to an alleged BPD crime-fighting surveillance network that a mayor used to get re-elected and promote a positive image of community-police relations. During that time, the appearance of success became more important than accurately measuring success. There’s a 1996 photograph of Crime Watch founder Chris Hayes. In it, he stands before a podium on the Mass Ave Bridge, with the Charles River and iconic Prudential Tower in the background, speaking to a crowd. In front of Hayes is Mayor Menino, linking hands with city officials, all with arms raised in a chain of triumphant Vs. It’s an image that conveys the victories watch groups have had over crime throughout Boston. It’s also an image that is not supported by scholarly research or available data. THEORIES, STUDIES, PROBLEMS A review of decades of public statements—and dozens of interviews with group members, Crime Watch employees, and BPD officials—reveals an almost unanimous belief that watch groups significantly reduce crime. But that claim is based on spotty anecdotal evidence and marginally relevant or disproven research. Watch groups are poorly understood. There’s little interest in evaluating them, so there are few high-quality studies. The murder of Trayvon Martin did not change that. For background on Boston’s Crime Watch phenomenon, it helps to go back to the summer of 1982, the year researchers James Wilson and George Kelling published their now famous “broken windows” theory, arguing that relatively minor and nonviolent signs of social disorder like litter and graffiti breed more dangerous crime.
Kelling traveled across the US researching local anti-crime programs, and in Boston he attended about 30 community meetings where he saw residents distribute copies of his article and where he met Chris Hayes. Broken windows was popular with Hayes, early watch groups, and the BPD, but the theory lost credibility over time. For example, a 2015 study in Boston found that broken windows signs “were weakly predictive of future violence and disorder, if at all.” Asked about additional research on watch groups, Maria Cheevers, director of BPD research and development, described them as “a strategy/tool that increases collective efficacy,” defined as the combination of community social cohesion and residents willing to intervene in their neighborhood. She cited a 1997 study that concluded collective efficacy reduced violent crime. But when asked for comment, Robert Sampson, a Harvard social sciences professor and that study’s co-author, wrote in an email, “I would first say that I do not equate collective efficacy with neighborhood watch groups.” Sampson was not aware of studies testing collective efficacy in Boston and noted that results of community crime prevention programs “vary a lot depending on the program” and other factors, such as the density of neighborhood organizations. Former BPD Commissioner Paul Evans said that in his experience neighborhoods that engaged police, often through watch groups, experienced a higher reduction of crime than those that did not. He cited another 1997 study, which, like Sampson’s work, did not examine Boston or watch groups. “Statistics show establishing a strong neighborhood watch group leads to crime reduction,” Kerry Ryan said. The current Crime Watch director cited a 2008 analysis of existing neighborhood watch studies; that research concluded there is “some evidence” that watch groups reduced crime, but also noted that “some programs work well while others appear to work less well or not at all.” Which one was Boston? The authors of that study declined to be interviewed for this article, but in their work conceded that they did not know how groups reduced crime or why some groups failed. They called for additional research, which never
came. The authors also urged police to conduct their own evaluations, which the BPD never did. SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING Like the BPD, Crime Watch and its groups have a history of controversial practices, from broken windows policing, to racial profiling, to post-9/11 anti-terror surveillance. At the same time, Crime Watch promoted community policing long before it was popular in Boston, an approach now embraced by Commissioner Evans as well as many community advocates, though not everyone agrees on how such measures should be implemented. The lack of rigorous research on both national and local programs may help partially explain why Crime Watch and some of its groups followed questionable practices, sometimes counter to the roots of community policing. Without an empirical compass, Crime Watch was more easily steered toward the next big thing, like post-9/11 antiterrorism. And because watch groups include Bostonians with biases, Crime Watch experienced at least some instances of racial discrimination. “During the 1990s in Hyde Park, Roslindale, some of it was racially motivated,” Tilford, who is black, explained. “People wanted to surveil minorities. People moving into the neighborhood looked like me.” “One of the meetings I went to,” he added, “I knocked on the door and see a living room full of 30 or 40 white people, and they look at me like, ‘Who are you?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m Wallace.’” This investigation found no current evidence of watch groups practicing such blatant racial discrimination. However, while race relations have supposedly improved— according to Tilford, the city has become a lot more tolerant—post-9/11 fervor briefly reoriented Crime Watch in a new, possibly dangerous direction. To obtain federal funds marked for homeland security—at the expense of community policing programs—the BPD briefly repackaged Crime Watch in anti-terrorism wrapping and sold it as frontline surveillance. “I can’t tell you this definitively,” former Police Commissioner O’Toole said, “but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was thinking that if I could find the homeland security THE IDEA FOR CRIME WATCH AT THE BEGINNING WAS TO ORGANIZE NEIGHBORS, TEACH THEM HOW TO REPORT CRIME, AND EDUCATE THEM ON BASIC SAFETY TIPS. SOME GROUPS PATROLLED, WHILE CRIME WATCH ALSO DISTRIBUTED SUSPECT DESCRIPTION FORMS AND LATER PUBLISHED ITS OWN JOURNAL, THE NEIGHBORHOOD OBSERVER.
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NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH GROUPS HAVE EVOLVED FROM THEIR EARLY DAYS OF PHONE TREES TO ORGANIZING ON SOCIAL MEDIA. IN ITS ROLE, THE BOSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT BOASTS ABOUT SUCH GROUPS IN ITS OWN TWITTER FEED.
nexus, I’d be more likely to obtain federal grant money.” So Crime Watch was sold along the lines of “see something, say something.” No current or former BPD employee or watch group member interviewed for this article believed Crime Watch contributed to homeland security. The BPD counterterrorism pitch was likely about money, emblematic of a national shift towards terrorism-related city policing. But while Boston’s Crime Watch followed disproven or controversial national trends, never yielding any real measurable crime-related accomplishments beyond anecdotes, the unit has continued promoting community policing for decades. Community policing is typically rooted in educating civilians to access services or file complaints, establish networks, and build relationships with cops. That’s what Hayes tried to do. For example—and there are many examples—in an unpublished 1984 letter to the Boston Globe, the Crime Watch founder highlighted the importance of residents “working in close cooperation with local police.” “An active, engaged community works to hold the police accountable,” said former Police Commissioner Paul Evans. “Holding our feet to the fire is what those groups should be doing.” MacNeil, Crime Watch director from 2008 to 2015, had another view. Watch groups, she said, probably have “less influence as a law enforcement entity and more as a political entity.” But that does not mean watch groups are powerless. PROPERTY WATCHERS The debate over the question—do watch groups reduce crime?—was never resolved. Instead, it faded away. Researchers stopped asking, the question was ignored, and the BPD and city politicians made their claims for 32 years. Last summer, at National Night Out, an annual BPDcommunity relations event that took place at several locations across the Hub, current Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans celebrated the city’s crime-fighting neighbors. Some residents received “crime fighter of the year” awards; in Dorchester, an officer sang
about neighbors helping neighbors. But the crime-fighting label is a limiting one. Like the contrived image of neighbors stopping bad guys in their tracks, it obscures the additional roles watch groups play in Boston, especially their influence over real estate development and city politics. Crime has always been the main focus of Crime Watch in Boston. Group members have often said that a prevalence of drugs, gangs, murder, assault, etc. motivated them to do “something.” But that “something,” multiplied by three decades of neighbors shaking hands and attending meetings, had unintended consequences. Over the years, according to city archives and interviews with city officials as well as watchers, some groups became small power bases with influence in local politics and real estate development. In the process, some groups became or were folded into preexisting civic associations, local nonprofits vaguely defined as social welfare organizations. City archives tell part of that story. In 1991, after a “rash of muggings,” Dorchester residents formed a watch group. Their full title was the Crawford/Howland/Ruthven/ Wenonah/Waumbeck Blockwatch. After a few years, the group expanded and became a neighborhood association. They called themselves a “political force,” and they were right. In 1994, VinFen, a nonprofit health service, wanted to make 37 Crawford Street in Dorchester a center for people with AIDS. In a letter to Mayor Menino, the blockwatch opposed the project, and according to longtime member Bob Redd, residents defeated the proposal. (Redd said his group was not against AIDS programs, but thought his area was being saturated with nonprofits that would “bust up” the neighborhood.) Civic associations sometimes have the power to approve or reject building projects, even though their board members aren’t publically elected. In some cases, developers must sell their plan to these associations at a neighborhood meeting, making for a process that appears susceptible to corruption. Just last year, the Globe found a developer paid off a South End civic association for its support. Nevertheless, city agencies, including the Zoning Board of Appeal and the Boston Planning and Development Agency, appear to take the views of civic
associations seriously. The same is true of city councilors. Not all neighborhoods receive equal attention or resources, but vocal, organized watch groups and civic associations may be more likely to have their complaints heard. Nine of 13 Boston councilors personally attend or dispatch a staff member to civic associations or watch group meetings at least once a month (the other four councilors may do the same, but did not respond to a request for comment). “City councilors always wanted to be aware of when [watch group] meetings were, and what were the issues in the different parts of their jurisdiction,” said Tilford. Concerns related to both real estate and crime merged in the policing of so-called problem properties, which the BPD considers any place that police have been called to at least four times in a 12-month period. Watch groups have worked with the BPD to identify and police these buildings. In Dorchester, 18 foreclosed triple-deckers on Hendry, Coleman, and Clarkson Streets prompted the ongoing attention of organized neighbors. Eventually, “the city acquired four foreclosed properties at 15, 17, 19, and 21 Hendry and renovated them for resale,” Kerry Ryan wrote in response to questions about Crime Watch’s anti-crime efforts. The murky history and operation of Crime Watch makes measuring its effects difficult. In addition to citing privacy concerns for her unit’s refusal to provide data or access to watch group members for this article, Kerry Ryan said that the city retained no Crime Watch archives. In fact, there were 19 boxes, which the BPD wanted $9,255 to process before allowing access. What is known is that there are roughly 394 watch groups in Boston. They are also support groups, political groups, social groups, civic groups, and occasionally crimefighting groups. They play many roles, and if you live in Boston, there’s probably one in your neighborhood. Daniel DeFraia is journalist and American Studies PhD candidate at Boston University, where he’s writing a dissertation on the historical relationship between intelligence agencies and the US news media. This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.
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LA VICTORIA TAQUERIA, ARLINGTON Mexican street food at its best BY MARC HURWITZ @HIDDENBOSTON
Too often you hear that the Boston area doesn’t have any good Mexican restaurants, and while it is true that we aren’t exactly San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Antonio when it comes to options for Mexican food, there are plenty of great places to head to in and around the city. East Boston is probably what first comes to mind, with its wide variety of Mexican (and Central and South American) dining spots, but many other great eateries can be found in communities with large Mexican and Mexican-American populations such as Waltham, Chelsea, and Lynn. Some top spots are also scattered throughout the region in areas you might not expect to find them, such as the fantastic Cielo in Braintree along with the focus of this review—La Victoria Taqueria in Arlington, an offshoot of a Beverly spot by the same name that has been wowing residents of this Boston suburb since first opening a bit more than two and a half years ago. The vast majority of Arlington’s restaurants are located on Mass Ave, and those that aren’t on the town’s main thoroughfare sometimes get overlooked, including eateries on Summer Street, Broadway, and Medford Street, which is where La Victoria Taqueria resides. The dining spot is less than a block from Mass Ave in the center of town, but even though this part of Medford Street is basically in the heart of the downtown area, restaurants here have had a struggle over the years because there’s much less foot traffic than on Mass Ave, which makes opening a place on this stretch of road a risky proposition in some ways. But La Victoria Taqueria has really succeeded right from the start, and in some ways this can cause a bit of frustration—especially for those opting to dine in the tiny space, since when there is a line out the door, the line basically cuts the dining area in half, which doesn’t always make for the most pleasant experience. Because of this, the restaurant is particularly popular for takeout, but for those who don’t mind the possibility of people hovering in line while you eat, the space itself is actually pretty attractive for such a small spot, with lots of dark woods giving it a rustic and cozy feel. La Victoria Taqueria tends to focus on Mexican street food, with the menu items being simple and inexpensive while also being made using fresh ingredients, so while the offerings may be familiar, the versions sold here are much, much different from those you might find at Mexican/Tex-Mex chains or some of the more popular MexicanAmerican restaurants in the region. Options at La Victoria Taqueria are limited to burritos, tortas, quesadillas, tacos, salads, and sides such as rice, beans, chips, salsa, and guacamole, along with something called Plato Mexicano, which consists of rice, beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, and a choice of meat. This last dish is so delicious (especially when teamed up with pork carnitas) that it is almost forgivable to completely ignore the rest of the menu and maybe do a double order if particularly hungry, but perhaps a better option would be to get a single Plato Mexicano and choose from any of the other items, none of which would be a poor choice. The tortas and tacos may get the nod over the other options here, with the torta being the obvious choice for sandwich lovers—especially when smoked ham and pork or Mexican sausage and cheese are added—and it is also tough to go wrong with the taco filled with shaved steak. A simple cheese quesadilla is an excellent option for those who aren’t really in the mood for meat, and the burrito with marinated chicken is another item certainly worth considering. Arlington’s restaurant scene has seen its ups and downs over the years, and with so many closings in town of late, it does seem to be in a bit of a cold spell right now. But this is still a pretty good town for grabbing some food, with La Victoria Taqueria being one of the chief reasons to come here, especially if you’re in need of some food and don’t want to spend a whole lot of cash. >> LA VICTORIA TAQUERIA. 12 MEDFORD ST., ARLINGTON. VICTORIATAQUERIA.COM 14
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COUSIN STIZZ MUSIC
On his breakout success and why he’ll always be a Boston rapper BY NINA CORCORAN @NINA_CORCORAN
No matter which national outlet you turn to, Boston hip-hop is covered the same way. An artist releases an incredible mixtape, the press applaud like crazy, and everyone asks the question: Who knew Boston had this rap scene? It’s been here for a while, and not only is it experiencing a renaissance, but the new generation has local diehards like Cousin Stizz to thank. The 25-year-old rapper was born and raised in Dorchester. He hung around Fields Corner with locals Michael Christmas and OG Swaggerdick. The group freestyled in each other’s basements for the fun of it. He’s still sort of having fun like he did back then without concerns for other obligations—he hasn’t had a job since “maybe 2009”—but the way he’s put his whole heart into the rap game is nothing short of motivational, especially given how fast he’s grown. In a way, he had to grow up fast, for his childhood got cut short at age 13 when a close friend was shot. Outbursts of recklessness followed. Consequently, he was forced to attend either military school or suburban high school by his mother. Stizz chose the latter, and the culture shock woke him up. So Cousin Stizz’s rap career didn’t properly begin until he saw Christmas’ kickoff show in support of Is This Art? and was struck with real purpose. He tells DigBoston over the phone—since a recent relocation to Los Angeles at the start of this year has him away from his roots—about the February 2014 gig, a classic instance of a Middle East Upstairs rap show feeling larger than life. “Watching [Michael Christmas], I realized I definitely wanted to do this,” he recalls. “When someone close to you does something like that, it makes you realize you could do it, too.” In 2015, he released his debut mixtape, the hard-hitting Suffolk County, and racked up over 12 million listens on SoundCloud. Then he dropped MONDA the following year, one of DigBoston’s Best Local Albums of 2016. Stizz showed remarkable growth over the course of the two records, dedicating the latter to a good friend who passed from cancer and imbuing each track with a heavy-handed dose of personal anecdotes too real to shrug off.
“It’s pretty simple: There was nothing popping until this shit did,” says Stizz. “I knew there was talent because I knew my friends. They’re talented people. But nobody knew that we were there except for us. It just took a while for everybody else to figure it out. That’s how you know it’s fire: that it’s only now getting the shine that I saw back in 2012. We pushed ourselves hard. We campaigned. We got these venues to book us even though no one believed. We fucking started ciphers around the city because no one else was doing it for us, and that brought us here. It was us, it really was just us, and now that everyone is starting to see there’s talent here, it’s beautiful. It took a group of people who loved something to find out how to bring it out.” Not a single person in the city could be as proud of Stizz as his parents are. Both showed up to his Boston Calling set and got faded at the bar all day. While he won’t let his mom listen to his music (“She knows and stays updated, but I tell her to stay away from the music and the concerts”), his dad is his biggest fan. “If you went to the house right now, I bet you he’s playing my music,” Stizz says with a laugh. “Like he goes to YouTube—because, you know, he’s mad old so he doesn’t know how to listen on SoundCloud—and types in my name and plays my shit on loop all day. It’s mad funny, but I love it.” Perhaps that’s because they know his narrative is nothing but the truth. MONDA was as personal as it gets, but this time, Cousin Stizz wanted to go in a new direction. One Night Only is exactly that, yet he manages to uphold that same honesty. For starters, One Night Only is the first Cousin Stizz record to be entirely recorded outside of Boston. After wrapping up his most recent tour, he moved out to Los Angeles and got to work. The record basks in that glow. Producers Tee-WaTT, Vinylz, FrancisGotHeat, Smash David, WondaGurl, and more lean into tropical backbeats. It’s airy while staying bouncy. Rope that together with guest verses by G-Eazy, Offset of Migos fame, Big Leano, and Buddy, and you get a solid 14-track mixtape that’s a shoo-in for the summer. Lyrically, Cousin Stizz doesn’t overthink it. Because his songs are based on where he’s at in life, if the words come naturally, that means it’s meant to happen—and that’s good enough for him. Ease of lyricism doesn’t equate to simplicity, though. One Night Only is dense with perfected work. From getting drunk in the studio with Buddy for “Pullup” to getting stress off his chest on “Paper Calling,” or from serious markup work on “Switch Places” to his collaboration with Big Leano, Cousin Stizz made sure to write down each line.
Freestyles were penned immediately after they flew out of his lips. Comically enough, it’s “Lambo,” his second single off One Night Only and arguably the most relaxed, that was the hardest to pull off. Legal rights caught Stizz in a bind, where he reworked essentially everything but the hook. “I usually just do a song and that’s it. No edits, no revising, because how do you emulate that whole feeling all over again?” he says. “We tried to clear ‘Lambo,’ but the sampleholder is this old guy from Japan, like a 55-year-old man, and he was not having it with the lyrics. There were so many slurs on that song. So much derogatory shit being said. I think that’s the only time in life I’ll ever [rewrite a song]. I listen to the unedited version on the time. It’s heat. So having to change it a lot was sad, but I am happy with the other version.” “Lambo,” like the rest of One Night Only, swims in a pool of classic-LA warmth, but it didn’t come easy. It required focusing, both as a musician and as a person hoping to better themselves, to create a smooth flow that broke away from personal matters of the past. “[Focus] means sitting down and writing. It’s literally that simple,” explains Stizz. “It’s not about doing a specific ritual. You gotta sit and do it. That’s what focus is. Just doing. You have to be it. I get writer’s block all the time, but when that happens, you gotta step back—because you can’t force something that’s gonna be trash. You gotta work in a smart way.” For those already anticipating change, slow your roll. Los Angeles won’t change Cousin Stizz. He’s certain of it. “I’ve lived in LA for six months; I lived in Boston the whole 25 years before that. Why would I stop being a Boston rapper?” he says. “When you’re from Boston, you grow up on pride because of these sports. We didn’t have rap, though. We didn’t have a 50 Cent or Kanye West or Gucci. Anyone. How could somebody know the proper steps to put themselves up if you didn’t have anyone to follow guidelines off of? That’s what separates Boston from every other city—these kids are really doing it on their own, on their own guidelines, because they made their own formula, and that’s fucking fire.” By now, it’s clear Boston’s status as a hip-hop city is cemented. Every day there’s something new: a new rapper, a new video, a new mixtape. It found its balance, which means it’s Cousin Stizz and his friends—Christmas, OG Swaggerdick, Vintage Lee, and the like—who are inspiring the next crop, and that formula stretches across Boston’s various music scenes, especially into punk and rock. But for hip-hop, it fosters a special intimacy. That growth in the rap community isn’t lost on Cousin Stizz, nor is it lost on his fans, many of whom chat him up after the show to express their gratitude. “When kids do come over after shows, it’s because they can relate the same way I could to my guys,” he says. “They see that I’m from Dorchester. I grew up like how they grew up. I got into the same fights they got into. I bought the same motherfucking slushie at the same corner stores from the same ice lady that they did. I just happened to make that a beacon—yeah, a beacon of light—saying this shit could happen no matter if they say you can’t do this shit. We made a way. They can, too. It’s literally showing you that yeah, you can, too. I’m Cousin for a reason, because I treat them like family.” Cousin Stizz’s new mixtape, One Night Only, is out now via RCA Records.
MUSIC EVENTS SAT 7.15
LUCID FOLK FOR UPTIGHT FOLKS JULIE BYRNE + JOHANNA WARREN
[The Red Room, Cafe 939, 939 Boylston St., Boston. 8pm/all ages/$12. berklee. edu]
07.13.17 - 07.20.17
BLISTER IN THE SUN VIOLENT FEMMES + ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN
[Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave., Boston. 7:30pm/all ages/$75. bostonpavilion.net]
FEMME RAP FROM BOSTON BACKYARDS KIKI. D
[Middle East Upstairs, 472 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 1pm/all ages/$12. mideastoffers.com]
[ONCE Somerville, 156 Highland Ave., Somerville. 7:30pm/18+/$10. oncesomerville.com]
[Middle East Upstairs, 472 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 8pm/18+/$10. mideastoffers.com]
[Great Scott, 1222 Comm. Ave., Allston. 8pm/18+/$8. greatscottboston.com]
BEDROOM POP AND HIGH-VOLUME ROCK BELLOWS + BIG UPS + LILITH + HEXPET
POP PUNK À LA PARAMORE MINT GREEN + MANATREE + MINOR POET + OZLO
SUNSHINE POP FROM FLORIDA BABY! + I’M GLAD IT’S YOU + PUSHFLOWERS + TUFT
CONCERTS IN THE COURTYARD The MFA’s concert series is a star-studded celebration in the grass BY NINA CORCORAN @NINA_CORCORAN The only thing finer than fine art is music itself—which, if we’re getting technical, is an art form already. Each year, the Museum of Fine Arts hosts a special series called Concerts in the Courtyard. It offers ticketholders the chance to see artists live in an untraditional setting with a beautiful backdrop. The sound setup is warm and lush. The seating capacity is limited. But the ticket prices, remarkably, don’t hit the top of the scale. Typically, a nonmember can snag a ticket for $30 while MFA members can get them for cheaper. “We’re a unique venue, with being set right in the middle of a large museum— where on the other side of the four walls hangs artwork from every time period and location imaginable,” says Kristen Hoskins, the curator of lectures, courses, and concerts at the MFA. “There really is no other place in the city like it.” The concert series is a long-running tradition that the MFA prides itself on and one that music lovers look forward to each year. Joanna Newsom, Seu Jorge, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and more have graced its vegified stage, making it a summer institution in the city of Boston. Add the fact that the Calderwood Courtyard holds 367 people, plus it seats another 59 in the Bravo Restaurant Balcony Terrace, and it establishes itself as a gorgeous, memorable venue. As impressive as that is, none of this would matter if the music choices were subpar, but now that the 2017 lineup is out, we can officially declare it Swoon-Worthy™. Over the next three months, the MFA will host Blick Bassy, Kaiti Jones, Tank and the Bangas, Las Cafeteras, Ruby Rose Fox, Banda Magda, Gaël Le Billan, Patty Larkin, Debo Band, Traveller, Ethel, and Foy Vance. “In booking the series, I was thinking a lot about the political state of the world and how music is such a strong reflection of our times and can transcend boundaries and borders,” says Hoskins. “I wanted to showcase music from around the globe, in hopes that we can all have a better understanding of each other. Each of the individual artists really resonated with me and my hope is always that it will resonate with audiences as well!” That much is apparent. It’s an articulately crafted lineup, and spacing out the shows allows listeners the chance to digest each performance properly. This is Kristen Hoskins’ first season as the curator of lectures, courses, and concerts, but she’s already invested in every single show. It’s hard to imagine how anyone couldn’t be, especially after snagging Tank and the Bangas, this year’s winner of NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert competition. “I’m super excited,” she says. “They have really blown up over the past six month and have made a lasting impression on concertgoers. They surely won’t be playing 400-seat venues for very much longer!” Just look at the concert series’ past booked acts. Hoskins isn’t kidding.
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>> CONCERTS IN THE COURTYARD. JULY THROUGH SEPT. MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, 465 HUNTINGTON AVE., BOSTON. 7:30PM/ALL AGES/$24-30. MFA.ORG
DEBO BAND PLAYS THE MFA ON 8.23 WITH ALSARAH AND THE NUBATONES
NEWS TO US Boston Dig 07-13-17_9-07-17.indd 1
DEPT. OF COMMERCE
ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT
6/27/17 8:57 AM
TALKING (AND) FRAMING
I really did, I’m not just saying it. It gives me a lot to think about. It surprises me, actually.
An interview with Elsa Dorfman and Errol Morris BY JAKE MULLIGAN @_JAKEMULLIGAN Elsa Dorfman is an American photographer, based in Cambridge, who is perhaps best known for her work done with “instant” Polaroid cameras, particularly in the atypically large 20x24 format. Errol Morris is an American filmmaker known for works including The Thin Blue Line , Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control , and The Unknown Known . His latest film, The B-Side: The Portrait Photography of Elsa Dorfman , is centered around interviews with Dorfman, which are conducted in her working spaces. We interviewed the pair together in late May from the comfort of Dorfman’s own driveway. Tell me about how you found the compositions for the central interview of the film, how you fit cameras in that room, and how you felt around them. Elsa Dorfman: Crowded. Errol Morris: It was crowded. ED: He could hop up on that counter [pointing], right there, so gracefully. He was so happy! One thing I did learn is that he’s happy climbing up things. I can’t do it. And in my darkroom, there’s another counter, about that high. And he got up there—he’s actually very flexible… EM: Not that flexible. ED: …and he never looked happier than he did with that Revolution camera. EM: I like the Revolution. Why’s that? EM: I filmed interviews for the Netflix series [Wormwood, upcoming] … where I used multiple cameras. I had as many as eight, nine, or 10 cameras on interviews, without using the Interrotron [his trademark dual-camera setup, which he has used to film interviews throughout the past 20 years]. And it worked really, really well. It was just something very new and very different. So I decided to shoot Elsa with multiple cameras. We had two high-angle cameras. And there was the Revolution, which is essentially a lens system put onto a camera, which gives you enormous flexibility in framing. The Revolution has all of these periscopes and knuckle joints, so you can put the lens in very odd places, and you can turn or dutch the image in many, many, many ways. Which allowed me to talk to Elsa and operate the camera at the same time. Which is kind of amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before: talking and framing. ED: And you were running the camera as if you belonged to the union. That set the tone—not exactly recklessness, but—what’s going on here? Is he gonna make
it without hurting himself? A physically arduous shoot? EM: We were all crammed in back there. We had four, possibly five cameras at times in there. ED: And the darkroom, also, [which] is half the size. EM: We had three cameras in the darkroom at most. So would you say that the angles you chose were based on the practicality of the space, or were you able to have some freedom in your choices within those rooms? EM: Well, you have five cameras, so you have choices. There were two high angles, which I love. To be more specific then, why do you love the high angles, why was that essential? EM: Nothing is essential. I liked it. What other criteria could there be? You want to create images that aren’t traditional, or that you haven’t seen endlessly before. We just were talking about it in the last interview, but it does interest me that the frame of Elsa’s photographs—20x24— is perfectly incompatible with motion picture photography. Particularly if you’re framing everything in a ’scope ratio, 2.4:1, roughly two-and-a-half times the width to the height. If she had shot them on their side, it would have been easier. But still difficult. One thing I was going to ask was whether or not you felt Elsa’s sense of composition had influenced your own in making the movie, but given the ratios I guess that’s pretty much impossible. EM: I think yes, but in a different way than framing. I don’t know if it’s “influenced me” so much as I endlessly think about how we’re similar artists. That I do believe. Elsa likes the idea of people presenting themselves to her camera. And I used to say—I think maybe even before I met [Elsa]—that if you’re doing your job correctly, you’ve recorded a relationship. You’ve recorded the relationship of your subject to yourself, and [to] the camera. Elsa very much does that. Those pictures are all relationship pictures. They could not have been done without Elsa.
ED: The thing that was actually true … you could go back and even say it about Allen [Ginsberg] … the playfulness. There was a huge amount of playfulness in the making of the movie. It didn’t necessarily come out frame after frame. But our teamwork, let’s say, or our just hanging out, was an important part of how it evolved. It wasn’t cerebral, wouldn’t you say? It wasn’t consciously cerebral. I love cerebral movies, but this wasn’t one of them. And I think my photography—I might see triplets and think, they should be lined up—but that’s about the extent of my engineering. I would say I’m very much about two things: I don’t want anybody sad around me, and I don’t want it too planned. I want to be open to what happens. Did you two intend for the film to be about Cambridge, in addition to being about Elsa’s photography? There are moments that detail old local bookshops, and a sequence about the Phoenix—for me it became a portrait of this place at a certain moment in time. ED: I didn’t think of it at all, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. EM: It becomes a portrait of Cambridge, in part, because it’s shot in Cambridge, and because a lot of the things Elsa did are in Cambridge. But I think it has a much broader scope to it. One of the things I like about the movie is that it seems to have the broadest scope imaginable. It’s about time, memory, the impermanence of things, death. I think it’s themes that go well beyond Cambridge, MA. Well, [Cambridge] would just be the surface, for me. But I’m interested in surfaces. EM: It was never intended to be a portrait of Cambridge. Although… ED: How could it not be? EM: How could it not be? Exactly. Conversation has been edited and condensed.
ED: I agree. I’m sitting here glowing. I feel like I’m at a bat mitzvah. Remembering it all! EM: We’re sort of connected in so many ways. But I learned a lot making this movie.
>> THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN’S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY. RATED R. OPENING FRI 7.14 AT KENDALL SQUARE CINEMA.
FILM EVENTS THU 7.13
‘PSYCHEDELIC SURF FILMS, 19661979’ BEGINS AT THE HFA MORNING OF THE EARTH 
[Harvard Film Archive. 24 Quincy St., Harv Sq., Camb. 9pm/NR/$7-9. 16mm. hcl. harvard.edu/hfa]
07.13.17 - 07.20.17
OPENING NIGHT OF THE BOSTON FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL DIVORCE FRENCH STYLE 
[Museum of Fine Arts. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. 6:30pm/NR/free. Outdoor. see mfa.org for info]
COOLIDGE AFTER MIDNIGHT BEGINS ITS ‘SUMMER OF PSYCHOSIS’ WITH SHOCK CORRIDOR  [Coolidge Corner Theatre. 290 Harvard St., Brookline. Midnight/NR/$12.25. 16mm. coolidge.org]
COOLIDGE AFTER MIDNIGHT PRESENTS PSYCHO II  [Coolidge Corner Theatre. 290 Harvard St., Brookline. Midnight/R/$12.25. 35mm. coolidge.org]
ROBERT ALTMAN’S McCABE & MRS. MILLER 
[Coolidge Corner Theatre. 290 Harvard St., Brookline. 7pm/R/$12.25. 35mm. coolidge.org]
THE BRATTLE’S ROBERT MITCHUM TRIBUTE CONTINUES WITH BLOOD ON THE MOON 
[Brattle Theatre. 40 Brattle St., Harvard Sq., Cambridge. 3 and 7pm/NR/$9-11. 35mm. brattlefilm.org]
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DEPT. OF COMMERCE
ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT
STAR-CROSSED, UNDER THE BOSTON SKY ARTS
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company readies Romeo and Juliet for the Common BY CHRISTOPHER EHLERS @_CHRISEHLERS
put it in its time and let it resonate with all the conflicts, so in a way, the audience brings their conflict. We thought, put it in its time and let the audience bring their references of modern day. The choice to stay within the play’s period is in itself a bold choice. People are always trying to meddle with it. It’s really exciting—I didn’t think it was going to be as revelatory an idea, but actually, it’s been a really, really exciting process. Like you said, putting it in its period, we were like, “Wow, let’s go really wild, let’s keep it in its time!” [laughs] This is not the first time you’ve directed Romeo and Juliet. What have you encountered during this second approach that you missed the first time around? So many things. I directed it 10 years ago, and oh my goodness, the amount of details that are in the script are endlessly fascinating. What’s truly fascinating to me is how much of an absolute horror it is. It’s so well written, there’s nothing you can do to make it better. It’s just all there. It wouldn’t be summer without Free Shakespeare on the Common, and this year, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company has enlisted director Allegra Libonati to be at the helm. Libonati directed the much-lauded The Rake’s Progress last season at Boston Lyric Opera, and for twelve years she directed outdoor productions at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan in Connecticut. Here, she chats about her concept for the production, the pressure to reimagine Shakespeare, and why she thinks this is a great time for Romeo and Juliet. This is always the great question with Shakespeare: What is your concept for this production? We looked at the play and we looked at our world and we actually decided to set it in Italian Renaissance Verona, right when it was set. We thought there was something really powerful about doing the play in its context. We don’t have guns, we don’t have cell phones, we don’t have any of those modern ideas; we really are just bringing out the show in its context, in its time, but we’re making adjustments. I just thought that that makes it an allegory, that makes it almost a fairy tale. And the actors are so current and so modern and so grounded in the characters that it would really resonate to today.
There’s such pressure with Shakespeare to come up with new and convoluted ways to frame the story. Did you feel any pressure? Yeah, there certainly was pressure; it’s like, “What are you going to do with it?” And, in a way, I have to keep fighting back that impulse. In a way what we’re doing is trying to dig deeply into the family psychology and making them very real people. We’re trying to treat the relationship with a lot of integrity and we’re making the language completely clear, completely buoyant, so that everybody— no matter if it’s your first time or hundredth time seeing Romeo and Juliet—you really get the story. We’re also really playing up the idea of fate in this production, this idea of these very noble people who are all trying to make things work. Many of them have gotten caught up in this blood feud that they’ve been handed, so justifying that sense of revenge and where it’s coming from and where violence comes from, where evil comes from and ultimately, this idea of fate: the love that’s going to inevitably be sacrificed to purge the world of this plague of violence that’s happening. It’s really incredible when you just dig into the play itself and the tragedy of it. How do you make it a nail-biter? How do you make it a thriller? There was a lot of pressure, to like, “What do we do?” Do we set it in modern day? Do we set it in 1800s? Because nothing to me as a director was saying it must be here, I felt like it’s better to
It’s just all there. One thing we’re trying to heighten is the idea of overlapping events, almost like this inevitability that the play begins with where the world kind of spirals to its conclusion. These two people are hurtling toward this prophecy; it’s very Greek in that respect. The real story is that then ends this epic feud of hundreds of years of two families fighting that could not be ended except for this demonstration of love and loss. There is a power in the choice to do Romeo and Juliet this year. With all the political turbulence happening right now, it would have been easy to choose something more political. Why do we need Romeo and Juliet right now? I think that the power of Romeo and Juliet right now is that it’s both an inspiration and a warning. It’s a warning in the sense of if we go too deep without questioning our prejudices, which is really, really hard to do, then the only thing that could create a transformation is an ultimate sacrifice. I think that’s the warning of it to the feuders, who are all of us. We are all feuding in some way, we all have prejudices. I think that it’s saying this is what the cost is of your hate. Literally, that’s the play. It’s an inspiration because, if you think of Romeo and Juliet and their conflicts, they really are just trying to justify how there is such a thing as unconditional love—that unconditional love exists and has a power to change the world..
>>ROMEO AND JULIET. 7.19–8.6 AT PARKMAN BANDSTAND ON THE BOSTON COMMON. COMMSHAKES.ORG
ARTS EVENTS FINAL WEEKEND! SHOW BOAT
[Reagle Music Theatre, 617 Lexington St., Waltham. Through 7.16. reaglemusictheatre.com]
07.13.17 - 07.20.17
FREE MUSIC ON THE ESPLANADE MUSIC FOR A SUMMER EVENING
[Boston Landmarks Orchestra, 47 David G Mugar Way, Boston. 7.19. landmarksorchestra.org]
DELECTABLE COMEDY WAITING FOR WAITING FOR GODOT
[Hub Theatre Company, 209 Columbus Ave., Boston. Through 7.29. hubtheatreboston.org]
FREE THEATER IN THE PARK THE VISIT
[Apollinaire Theatre Company, 99 Marginal St., Chelsea. Through 7.30. apollinairetheatre.com]
FUNNY, IRONIC, & MOVING AMERICAN MOOR
[O.W.I. (Bureau of Theater), 527 Tremont St., Boston. Through 8.12. officeofwarinformation.com]
MARRIAGE OF A THOUSAND LIES BOOKS
SJ Sindu on her debut novel and growing up in Mass as a gay Sri Lankan immigrant BY KATIE MARTIN
“Marriage of a Thousand Lies” tells the story of Lucky, a gay Sri Lankan immigrant who is torn between her sexuality and her family’s expectations. Lucky’s marriage of convenience to her friend Kris, who is also gay, allows her to keep her sexuality hidden—at least until she has to move back home to Boston to care for her ailing grandmother. I talked to the book’s author, SJ Sindu, about growing up in Mass, avoiding an arranged marriage, and women’s rugby. Before we get to the book, can you talk a little bit about your experiences growing up as a queer immigrant in Boston? Did you have a lot of experience with racism or xenophobia? I think Boston is a very segregated city still. A lot of the racism stems from that, and stems from the fact that the older generation didn’t grow up in integrated schools. Boston was one of the last cities to implement the busing system to desegregate schools. But in the mid-’90s, when I was growing up in Massachusetts, it was much better than most other places, I have to say. I went to middle school and high school around the Boston area, and then I moved to South Dakota during high school. And in comparison, Boston is a haven. In South Dakota, the racism is just so explicit and out there for everyone to see. And in Boston I think it’s more internal, it’s subtle. It’s pernicious in that way. I didn’t really encounter any outward racism in Boston. I was bullied because I was an immigrant and I looked different and I wore different clothes and had a bindi all the time. So I got bullied for that, but that was pretty much the extent of it for me. For me in Boston, it’s been kind of great. The only other way in which I felt racism is in the dating scene. I feel like it’s Bostonians not knowing how to engage with race, and really interrogate their own views about race. I don’t think its more pernicious than that. I live in the South now, and whenever we encounter racism here it’s explicit, people know they’re being racist.
In South Dakota, the racism is just so explicit and out there for everyone to see. And in Boston I think it’s more internal, it’s subtle.
In Boston, it’s like, “Well I just prefer this kind of person as my partner” without interrogating what that means. In the queer scene there’s a preference for this manic, androgynous, crusty vegan pink-haired type, without interrogating who has access to that. Something that comes up in the book a lot is this tension between being liberal and highly educated and living in a metropolitan area and voting for Obama, and yet still having these outdated views about queerness and homosexuality. Do you think that’s unique to Sri Lankan communities, or to immigrant communities? I’ve encountered it in a lot of different immigrant communities. But especially in Asian-American and in South-Asian communities, there tends to be a lot more stigma around homosexuality because of the legacy of colonialism. The British penal code that’s still on the books back home, the home that our parents know, is what they cling to. So even though there’s a lot of queer activism going on in Sri Lanka right now, my parents aren’t aware of it. And a lot of that homophobia is wrapped up in nostalgia, which makes it so much harder to get rid of. Right. You’ve talked before about how your parents pressured you to have an arranged marriage. It wasn’t so much my parents as my entire community. The South Asian community took it upon themselves to get me married off. I think it’s scary to the older community members to see young Sri Lankans growing up in the US with American values, and not knowing what’s going to become of their future. So they often wade into the arranged marriage issue far earlier than when they would at home. My mom was married at 26, which was a little early. Most people wait until they’re 27 or 28. But here, they’re afraid that if they wait too long we’re going to go awry. So a lot of the older community members were really pressuring my parents into pressuring me. They’d find people all across the US and call my parents and say, “I found this guy in San Diego, you should have your daughter meet him.” So that was difficult, and I used a lot of that experience for the book.
her emotions pretty well. So all these things combined into this problem. My response to it was to really concentrate on her body, where she’s feeling in her body. In her chest, her stomach, her muscles, her head. I feel like I leaned on that to give an idea of what she was thinking. Lucky’s physicality is very important to her. In fact, rugby plays an important role in her process. At least in my experience, women’s rugby is a pretty queer sport. What do you think makes rugby in particular such a powerful site of female and queer female bonding? It’s so violent and so masculine that there is a certain sense of physicality, of showing your strength. It’s not like other sports where agility is important. It’s really about strength and stamina and these very masculine things. And I also think it’s the only sport where none of the rules change between men and women’s rugby. So I think that’s a draw too. And there’s a real companion culture that’s kind of like queer community, where competing teams will have a social together after. In the queer community there’s this camaraderie that’s very similar. Lucky is quite masculine. How do you think her ideas of gender and gender roles are affected by being Sri Lankan? Her ideas of gender are more polarized because of her South Asian upbringing. I wanted Lucky to be masculine because I wanted her to not be able to hide. She can hide her sexuality through her marriage, but her body is marked by her gender. Her body moves in ways that she can’t hide. Unlike Nisha she can’t blend in. A lot of how Lucky feels her gender is how I’ve felt my gender. Outwardly I present very feminine, but being genderqueer is part of my identity and has been for a long time, and we don’t get that enough in queer literature. Back in the day, there were always masculine lesbian characters. Nowadays that’s sort of not trendy. So much of the novel draws on your own experiences, either explicitly or implicitly. Have you always wanted to write this book? It took me a long time to write it. It took me eight years to write it. I don’t know if I’ve always wanted to write this book, but I’ve always wanted to read it. I’ve always needed to read it.
A number of reviews mention how the book doesn’t dwell on Lucky’s internal thoughts—it’s very show, not tell. Was that a conscious choice, or was it just a result of Lucky being sort of numbed by the pressures of her family and her community? A lot of it was her being numb. That to me was the hardest part of writing the book. I had this narrator who was super unemotional, who just did not show emotion at all ever. So the question of how to have a glimpse into her interiority without her telling us how she’s feeling became the biggest obstacle in the book. Part of it is that there’s this stoicism in South Asian culture—you’re encouraged to not show emotion, especially out of the family. Lucky’s also a lot more masculine than her female family members, so she would have taken cues not just from her mother but also from her father. And she’s a child of divorce and she hides
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BY DAN SAVAGE @FAKEDANSAVAGE | MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET I’m a gay medical student with a medical fetish, and I can’t even open up to my therapist about this. I think the fetish started when I was young; I was once in the hospital and given a suppository for a fever. Then one time I was given a Fleet enema. I don’t think the “butt stuff” turned me gay, but my fetish may stem from the aspect of being controlled. I grew up in a very conservative religious household. I’ve never been in a relationship, and I don’t know that I could have one while hiding what turns me on. In my profession, we have to be confident and even sort of “dominant” in our roles as providers, but underneath I’m incredibly submissive. I didn’t go into medicine for this reason. We have very strict professional boundaries and ethical expectations, and I have no problem with that. I expect my job to be very clinical and boring. But outside of work, I feel like my sexual desires need some kind of outlet. Dilemma Of Conscience “Someone can have one persona at work and another at home,” said Eric the Red, a Florida nurse and a fellow medical fetishist. “DOC can be confident and dominant at work—his patients need someone confident and dominant to get them through their medical issues—and then find someone to spend his life with who brings out his submissive side and gives him the balance to make him feel like a whole person.” In other words, DOC, when you do start dating and having relationships, you’re going to want to be open about your kinks. They’re nothing to be ashamed of, and there’s no point in hiding your sexual interests from your future partner(s). You want a sex partner who meets your needs, not one you have to hide your needs from. “The one practical problem he will encounter is that since he actually knows how to give a physical, he may have less patience with fetishists who are not medical professionals in real life and don’t really know what they are doing,” said Eric. The good news? “DOC won’t have any trouble finding likeminded people,” said Eric. “Medical fetishists are well organized online; just spend a few minutes on Google and he’ll find them.” On the Lovecast, trans activist Buck Angel: savagelovecast.com.
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