Robert E. Lee, Part II: My Heirloom Portrait of the Confederate General

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Heirloom portrait of Robert E. Lee sitting in my closet.

One fond memory of a trip to Gettysburg National Park consisted of my siblings, my cousins, and myself participating in a juvenile reenactment of the battle, complete with replica hats, jackets, and a discussion of soldierly life.

The instillment of the Civil War era in my life made it so the very idea of the conflict edged unassumingly along the spectrum of familiarity to complacency; to me Lee was always more of a character in a dramatic historical play, more protagonist than antagonist.

Consequently, I never considered the differing perspectives various people might have of the portrait of Robert E. Lee that hung in my childhood home, stoically placed as if the general himself were keeping watch over us.

I never thought twice about asking my parents for the portrait when they moved out of their house and downsized to a condo lacking abundant of wall space for Lee to reside.

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Peter Pan Bus Lines Owns the Charlie Baker Administration

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Image via danjo paluska/(CC BY 2.0)

On Friday, July 7, Massachusetts legislators came to a compromise on a $40.2 billion state budget that’s now on the desk of Governor Charlie Baker.

Though the budget slices government spending in the range of $400 million to $500 million, it’s not without its casualties. One such fatality has been touted as a potential boon for the western portion of the Commonwealth, which continues to feel the sting of the state government’s home court advantage in easterly Boston. That is to say, the budget compromise seems to favor Eastern Mass. at the expense of Western Mass.

“This budget is not without pain,” Senate Ways and Means chair Karen Spilka, Democrat, told the AP. “It is clear that the state is facing a shortfall in revenue that will have an impact on real people’s lives.”

Added Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg, it’s “the harshest state budget since the last recession.”

For residents of Western Mass. — the region of the state composed of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and parts of Worcester Counties — the budget represents another instance of playing second fiddle to Greater Boston, this time though in the realm of transportation.

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Marble Man: Thoughts on Robert E. Lee

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Robert E. Lee/ Image via Public Domain

In today’s United States, racial and socioeconomic tensions are amplified by the rapidity of Internet sharing. The senseless death of a young minority by the member of an historically oppressive race can ignite the emotions of Americans from one corner of the country to the other in a matter of minutes, like a spark in a tinderbox on a bed of kindling.

Cities are attempting to revise the mindsets of those who harbor racist sympathies and to promote race equality by taking aim at the tangible symbols that evoke sentiments of inequality.

In New Orleans, for example, “adversaries marched in a second-line parade to the traffic circle where [Confederate General Robert E.] Lee’s statue stands — centurion-like, stationed above the treeline atop a white stone pedestal — to protest the monument’s place in the circle and to bury Lee’s place in history, which some revere and others revile.”

The basic argument against monuments like Lee’s in New Orleans is that Lee was the leader of the Confederate Army which fought and killed on behalf of a loose band of belligerent, secessionist states that advocated for the institution of slavery — i.e., Lee is one of the de facto faces of slavery in America and is undeserving of celebratory recognition.

Conversely, there are those who think preserving the legacy of Confederate soldiers who laid down their lives for a certain belief is something of a civic and moral obligation. Individually those rebels are ancestors; collectively they comprise a regional heritage.

I happen to think that when it comes to contentious memorials such as those of notorious Confederates, they should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to Lee, I happen to think he should be lauded. Jefferson Davis, no thank you.

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A Jersey Shore Vignette: Password to the Ocean City Boardwalk

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Ocean City, N.J. Ferris Wheel/ Nick DeLuca

“Open or closed?”

The question is something of a secret password for nonnatives, or, conversely, a nod of respect to those who have tread the Ocean City, N.J. boardwalk before.

Johnson’s Popcorn, a Jersey Shore staple more than half a century, is celebrated for its decadently sweet, lightly buttered, pinch-salted caramel corn so saccharine it’ll give your dentist an anxiety disorder.

The sweet and savory ingredients act as an adhesive, creating chunky popcorn balls swimming in a sea of perfectly seasoned kernels.

Needless to say, it’s damned delicious.

The question, posed by the cashiers manning each of the four Johnson’s Popcorn kiosks on the historic boardwalk, is an on-the-spot test of your shore knowledge and acts equally as an identifier if it’s your first time.

And if it is, in fact, your inaugural visit, there’s only one answer:

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‘I Watched a Man Die Tonight’: Thoughts on Personifying Social Media Post-Trauma

Social media is arguably the biggest contradiction of this Digital Age.

A rather amorphous and ambiguous entity, social media can be broken down to a number of different platforms and apps most of which were designed for a specific uses or mode of sharing, all of which are intended to link a person or organization to another.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear, and subsequently supported by scientific evidence, that social media often yields the opposite result. Users yearning for acceptance via social networks too frequently and unknowingly ostracize themselves from the tangible world. Brands, companies and organizations attempting to engage with others similarly toe the line of over-sharing and alienating their audiences. Some looking to share their “true selves” invariably pick and choose how they want others to perceive them.

I, for one, have a deep-seated aversion to social media but I actively upkeep most of my accounts knowing full well that having an online presence in an increasingly tech-based world is mandate in the realm of writing and “content creation.”

And isn’t that the essence of successful social media? Knowing when to promote, provoke and prattle without falling short and without overstepping? It’s about trying to strike a balanced and harmonious chord in order to build relationships without razing any.

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An Open Letter to Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley: Please Run for Mayor of Boston

Dear Ms. Ayanna Pressley,

Boston needs you.

In roughly one year’s time, office-seeking residents will formulate and put into motion campaigns with the admirable hope of unseating Marty Walsh as Mayor of Boston.

I’m writing to you today to urge you to toss your hat into the municipal ring.

You probably don’t remember me and that’s okay. We’ve chatted a handful of times on city issues when I was a news reporter. It was clear to me then that you had the makings of a true political luminary, one who sought public servitude to increase the quality of life for all Bostonians — not just to reinforce the foundation of a formidable career as a politician.

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Prssley/ Image via City of Boston

It’s clearly not political aspirations that fuel the fire of your civic motivations. It’s doing good and being good. And that’s certainly lacking in the executive office of City Hall.

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History Repeating: 2016 Sanders vs. Clinton Evoking 1960 JFK vs. LBJ

On Tuesday, April 5, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont won the Wisconsin Democratic primary over fellow presidential contender Hillary Clinton, former New York senator and secretary of state, by a margin of 56.6% to 43.1%. 

Wisconsin’s primary could prove pivotal for Senator Sanders as he tries to oust Clinton, considered by many to be the Democratic front-runner. It was pivotal, too, for the young Massachusetts senator in 1960, John F. Kennedy, who carried the state in unlikely fashion and went on to triumph over rival Lyndon B. Johnson, the Senate Majority Leader from Texas, and assume the presidency thereby establishing a new era of American politics and enshrining the former as the insignia of unrealized political potential.

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President Kennedy (left) & Vice President Johnson (center)/ Image via John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum [public domain]

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Portsmouth, N.H.: The Unpretentious Underdog of New England

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The author at Book & Bar, Portsmouth, N.H.

Mankind has a natural affinity for the underdog.

Endorsing dark horses is a humanistic trait, dating as far back as, and certainly beyond, the biblical showdown of David vs. Goliath.

It’s a psychological phenomenon that, according to research, helps explain the likes of the nation’s unbounded enthusiasm for March Madness, the worldwide popularity of Harry Potter, the meteoric rise of presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders and the surge of farmstand shopping over corporate supermarkets.

I would argue that the underdog role is one that can also be portrayed by locations, and that urban centers, for example, boast similar characteristics as those aforementioned. The Harvard Business Review described this twofold effect as having “a disadvantaged position… and a passion and determination to triumph against the odds.”

In that regard, Portsmouth, N.H. is the Northeast’s underdog city.

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In Good Conscience, I Can No Longer Support Marty Walsh as Mayor of Boston

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Mayor Marty Walsh (left) and the author

consider myself a decent judge of character.

For better or for worse, I’m often able to discern what certain people’s strengths and weaknesses are, how to read their expressions and body language, why they act certain ways in certain situations, and even sometimes their thought process in particular scenarios.

In 2013 I employed this capability to the race to succeed Mayor Tom Menino who had announced in March of that year that he would not seek to prolong his tenure as the longest serving mayor in the history of Boston. Leveraging my then-embryonic role as a news writer covering my first election of any kind, I was able to compile an informative foundation upon which I built my unprejudiced rationale for my candidate of choice.

I’ll freely admit that I cast my ballot for the incumbent Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh.

One week removed from the 2016 Massachusetts primary, I regret it wholeheartedly.

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Portland, ME: Beer, Industrial Parks & the Sharing Economy

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Foundation Brewing Company

On the outskirts of Portland, Maine lies a quaint industrial facility comprised of 12 garage bays fit for one medium-sized vehicle each. The bays are coupled off and interspersed between each pair are office spaces that make prison cells look like penthouses.

With six garage spaces per each oblong facade, the building has become a haven for the more craft-minded of Portland’s citizenry. In fact, it’s occupancy has become predominantly small-scale breweries and tasting rooms, the likes of which would make misanthrope Frank Gallagher of Showtime’s Shameless salivate.

“Small-scale” as a description for these scrappy upstarts perhaps lends an exaggerated  perspective to the size of these breweries. They rarely have more than three or four beers on tap, can fit just a handful of picnic tables or waist-high casks for sitting and standing, and are barely able to reserve a corner or two for peddling brand merchandise.

This particular park is anchored by three tastebud-tickling tenants: Foundation Brewing Company, Austin Street Brewery, and Bissell Brothers Brewing Company.

Separately each brewery operates in a distinguishing manner that echoes their own respective product and culture, but together they’ve established a cooperative that mutually benefits their business and beer enthusiasts alike.

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