Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Do the L Street Brownies have a new patron?

The renowned L Street Brownies are preparing for another New Year’s Day dip in the gelid waters of Boston Harbor. With a weather forecast for air temperatures in the 40’s and water temperatures about the same, I am thinking about joining them.

This prompted me to get some details about what used to be called the L Street Bathhouse and is now known as the Curley Community Center.

This prompted the following email exchange.

From: "Ned Daly"
To: "admin curley" <>
Sent: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 5:55:17 PM
Subject: Your home page

Hasn't any one noticed that you have the Mayor's name wrong.

Your website says he was "Michael J. Curley."

No one by that name was ever the mayor of the City of Boston.

You could look it up.
Ned  Daly

Walking around, paying attention.

From: Curley Community Center Updates
To: "ned daly"
Sent: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 7:53 PM
Subject: Re: Your home page

To answer your question: apparently not.  It was a simple typo mistake.  No need to look it up.  Rest assured that we do know what his name is and the mistake has been corrected.  Please note it can be found on the About Us <>  page.

Best wishes for a safe and healthy New Year.
Boston Centers for Youth & Families/Curley Community Center

2002-2010 Graphic Traffic

Now, now, boys. No need to get huffy, even though I would gauge it to be something far different from a “simple typo mistake”.  Getting the name James Michael Curley wrong on the website of the Curley Center is a pretty major lapse in this town.

What fascinates me is the fact that the site seems to have been up for eight years now. Have they had thousands of visitors who really did not notice, or don’t they get any traffic?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is horse racing merely unpredictable or really non-predictable?

One of the things I like about Thoroughbred horse racing is handicapping, or trying to predict the winner in advance. This is a tough business. Just ask anyone who has tried.

As a rank novice in this game, I have a pretty low bar and a lot to learn. I go to the track as often as I can. I talk to anyone who will engage with me about horses and racing. I read the classic literature. I watch races on TV. I study The Daily Racing Form. I download past performances and result charts both for races I attend and others I have an interest in. I even (sometimes) risk my own hard earned money at the mutuel windows.

As an antidote to my natural urges toward self-deception, and as a more advanced learning tool, I also participate in two on-line handicapping contests. Both are pretty straightforward, asking the participants to predict the outcomes of between one and four races a week. The one I like best is run on Dan Illman’s handicapping blog on

While my results over the past year or so have been dismal, I have learned a lot from the other participants. These folks include owners, trainers, pedigree analysts, lifelong aficionados, degenerate gamblers, and novices like myself.  The blog and its comments cover a number of racing topics each week, but the focus is usually the contest – take a mythical $100 and wager it to the biggest payoff on a race chosen by the winner of last week’s contest. Illman weighs in with his analysis and so do dozens of commenters. Very few of them are the kind of get-a-lifers you might expect. Everyone is free to enter and encouraged to offer some thoughts on the race. The prize is some free DRF downloads, bragging rights, and the chance to choose the next race in the contest.

This week’s race and blog contest results made me really stop and think. The race was the Grade 1 Hill ‘N’ Dale Cigar Mile from Aqueduct with a purse of $250,000. A top ranked race at a top racecourse featuring some of the most widely known Thoroughbreds in America. These included some rising three year olds as well as veteran four, five, and seven year old runners. Three of the horses had won over $1 million in purses. The result? The highest odds horse, Jersey Town, won paying $71.50 for a $2 win wager. Another way to say this is that the horse chosen by the fewest number of bettors (by far) won the race.

So we have a group of enthusiastic, experienced analysts looking at a field of nine well-known horses. The standard past performance data contains thousands of data points for the field. Statistical summaries and “expert analysis” are available for free all over the place. How did we do?

Not one of the eighty DRF contest participants predicted the winner. No-one would have cashed a ticket of any kind if they were playing with their own money. If we were choosing the winner at random, then eight or nine players should have chosen correctly, but none did.

Jersey Town was not some dark horse. He has good breeding and is trained by a well-respected veteran. He is a four year old who had raced eleven times previously, finishing in the money all but one of those times. He raced in New York less than a month ago, finishing second. The first and third place horses in that race were also racing in the Cigar.

The racing press sees it as an upset, but no more. These things happen.

It makes me think hard when a race that should have been formful winds up like this. Is this why racing is dying? Is it that gamblers really prefer the predictability of losing at the slot machines and roulette wheels to the non-predictability of the pari-mutuel windows?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Media Criticism #5

The Boston Globe ran the following story last week -

US Marshals Service joins international hunt for Bulger
By Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff / October 8, 2010

For the first time since South Boston crime boss James “Whitey’’ Bulger fled 15 years ago, the US Marshals Service has joined the international manhunt.

The agency, perhaps best known for tracking fugitives, recently assigned a deputy US marshal to work full time on the Bulger Task Force, an FBI-led team of State Police investigators, FBI agents, and state Department of Correction officers that has been searching full time for the 81-year-old gangster.

US Marshal John Gibbons said in a statement yesterday that the agency “has a long-standing reputation as being expert fugitive investigators, and we look forward to providing the FBI with our assistance in this matter. It is our hope that this joint initiative will ultimately lead to the arrest of Bulger so he can face justice.’’

FBI agent Gregory Comcowich, a spokesman for the FBI’s Boston office, said marshals have exceptional expertise in hunting fugitives and “they will bring local, state, and international contacts that we hope will assist us in catching Bulger.’’

Bulger, one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, fled just before his January 1995 federal racketeering indictment in Boston and was later charged with 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a longtime FBI informant, and the bureau has said his capture remains a top priority. The FBI is offering a $2 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

The last confirmed sighting of the aging fugitive was in London in 2002.

He is believed to be traveling with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, 59, a certified dental hygienist.

In the last year, the FBI has launched creative initiatives in an effort to capture Bulger, including posting an ad in Plastic Surgery News in May, asking plastic surgeons worldwide to be on the lookout for Greig.

According to the bureau, Greig had breast implants, a face lift, liposuction, and eyelid surgery before she went on the run with Bulger, creating speculation that she might look for additional surgery.
© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.

I was extremely disappointed in The Globe and wrote an email to Ms. Murphy.

Ms. Murphy,

I think you have entirely missed the story in your piece on the US Marshals and Whitey Bulger in today's (October 8, 2010) Boston Globe. You report that the Service recently assigned a deputy Marshal to the Bulger task force. You quote federal officials as to the Service's "reputation as being expert fugitive investigators" with "local, state and international contacts." This would have been a story 15 years ago.

The story today is that a wanted fugitive, charged with 19 murders, one of the "FBI's Ten Most Wanted", has NOT been the target of the federal agency "best known for tracking fugitives" since his flight in 1995.

Did you ASK the FBI or the Marshals Service what took so long? Did you wonder who stood to gain by the delay or omission? If you did, the Globe did not print it. I can get all the press releases I want for free. I PAY for journalism.

I felt even worse when I did a web search on the story. Your piece in the Globe has been picked up by all the local media, the AP, and outlets as far away as India and Ireland. 

Ned  Daly

After several days of silence from Ms. Murphy of The Globe, I thought, Well you are a journalist (of sorts) and you have a media outlet (this blog), why don’t you just ask the Marshals what gives? 

So, I e-mailed the “Wanted” address of the USMS as follows on October 11.
Subject Line: Bulger Task Force
To Whom it May Concern

I am a freelance writer and I am following up on last Friday's (October 8, 2010) story in the Boston Globe. 

My questions are:

Why did it take fifteen years for the US Marshals to get brought in?

Why is now the right time for the Marshals to be involved?

Why only one deputy Marshal on the Task force?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Ned  Daly

I have not heard from the Marshals and don’t expect to.

So, the public can either believe (along with The Globe) that it is newsworthy that the Marshals have joined the hunt for Bulger, or they can continue to wonder (along with me) why the Marshals are unwilling to explain their long-overdue and tepid involvement.

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Impressionist Visit to Auteuil

I interrupted a recent attempt to eat at every pastry shop in Paris to attend the races at Auteuil. The Hippodrome d’Auteuil, to give it its full name, is on the outskirts of Paris next to the Bois du Boulogne. The course is run by France-Galop, the entity in charge of all horseracing in France. Interestingly, France-Galop does not run the parimutuel system at any track. This is all done by Pari Mutuel Urbain or PMU, both at the tracks, by computer, and in off-site betting parlors like OTB.

I found it very easy to get to by Metro. Easier than going to Aqueduct on the subway. A dozen short stops from the heart of Paris. This is an all-turf course devoted to the jumps, both steeplechase and hedges. The massive course is a rough figure of eight, allowing for multiple starting locations for both race types. As you enter the course from the Metro side, you walk through a long concrete tunnel and then across one of the infields. It was a little disconcerting to note that most of the time this infield is a driving range. Turns out the other one has a little pitch and putt setup.

The Grandstand/Clubhouse are divided into three free-standing “tribunes,” two newer and one older and abandoned. The abandoned tribune is very elegant and reminded me a little of the remains of Hialeah.

I went into the “Centre de Press” and presented my credential. This was all I needed. There was no physical pass or credential to hang around my neck like at other venues. I followed a man into the elevator up to the press box. His very pointy shoes made me think of the guys I had been seeing all week on the ubiquitous Parisian motorcycles. Most of them had pointy shoes too. Nice view from the “press box” (actually an open section of the stands), but it is the least interesting part of any racetrack as far as I am concerned. No human interest and it is very far from the horses. The superior view hardly makes up for the limitations.

The paddock and walking ring are behind the stands and interestingly both have only hard paved surfaces.

Le Premiere Course (Race 1) was the Prix le Gourzy, a 22,000 Euro (roughly $30,000) claimer for three year olds. Boy, do these three year olds have legs. Big, thick, sturdy.

There were a total of eight races on the card with as many as seventeen starters each. The feature was a Group III – Le Prix de Maisons-Lafitte worth 130,000 Euros.

The wagering system was and remains impenetrable to me, not that it made that much difference because I found it impossible, given my time and abilities, to do any handicapping. There are published PPs, but they are so very different from ours as to be of little use. I did find a UK website that listed the leading jockeys, trainers, and owners which might be an angle for some. I could not find a morning line anywhere. The biggest difference is that the current odds are really hard to find. They have TVs at the betting windows and in some odd places around the facility, but there is no infield tote. The infield board announces that the horses have entered the course, that they have started (I actually saw a false start in the first race!), and that the race is over. Then it shows the first seven finishers. No odds and no payoffs displayed.

Later, an announcement about payoffs is made, but the bets are not exactly the same as in the US and my French was too poor to make sense of the announcement. I tried to find payoffs later on the France-Galop website but was stymied. The time of the winner and the beaten lengths of the other six top runners is displayed on a board in the Winner’s Circle. It took me a while to find this, because the Winner’s Circle is the paddock.

The stands were very quiet all day. Very few ordinary patrons. There were some small betting parlors for the lifers, but the bars and public restaurants were quiet. I held myself back from things like the $30 Euro ($41) plate of smoked salmon in the fancy restaurant. I had a beer instead. The regular patrons seemed very subdued. Way more excitement about betting and the race itself on a rainy Monday at Suffolk Downs than on a Saturday at Auteuil.

It was a little different among the owners and their friends. This really seemed like a meet just for them. They pretty much have a tribune to themselves, though it is located up the stretch in the location Americans would associate with the grandstand.

This tribune is located just across from the paddock and folks would stream back and forth all day. This crowd is very BCBG and very “familiale.” This part of the show has a very hunt club feel. Even the jockeys look like they went to the Sorbonne.

One of the grooms made Travers Manley look like Methuselah.

Not that North American patrons would feel totally lost here. I thought it had a kind of Belmont feel, but with some Saratoga echoes. I saw stoopers and quiet old Chinese guys. If they sold Members Only jackets in Paris, some of my fellow punters would surely have been wearing them.

As to the races, I am still a very rank novice. The course looked beautifully maintained; almost as pretty as the horses. There is no starting gate. The horses come on to the course without ponies and simply walk up to the starting line which is a set of cords across that part of the track.  Degas has a well known painting of this, but it is of Longchamps.

These are very long jumps races, as long as 19 furlongs over as many as 19 “obstacles” including combination hedge/water jumps. No surprise that winning times can exceed four minutes. Obstacles mean lots of lost jocks. No significant injuries that day as far as I could tell.

Later I went back up to the press “box” to see how the races played out. Only a couple of guys there. On my way out I saw that most of the French racing press are the same lazy stenographers we have in sports departments here in the US. Almost all of the journalists actually watching the races were the photographers, the rest watched the events on TV from a room that had no view of either the paddock or the racetrack.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Victory Feast

A well deserved repast in a warm, dry, well-lighted shelter for The Valiant Three. Then homeward bound, where doting followers and (paper) crowns of laurel leaves await them.

Victory is Achieved!

Dusk coming on, cold rain falling, the day waning, but once again the Avid Adventurers take their last dips in the now frigid Atlantic. Six ocean beaches, six states, one long day. Glorious, one-of-a-kind, never-done-before, one-for-the record books Victory!

Unfortunately, the weather's nastiness has only intensified over the past twelve grueling hours. Amid the raucous shouts of victory, one Adventurer exclaimed, "It was wetter putting on supposedly dry clothes in the parking lot than it was standing in the Atlantic Ocean!"

Weary but basking in the glow of glory, the three Adventurers now make their way to a warm meal and a stiff drink before the drive home.

News Flash

The Adventurers have safely driven past the site of last year's attack, the car crash which destroyed their dream. They are closer to victory than ever before, and heading toward the last beach, #6 in Rhode Island. 

New London, CT

The sea traversed again, the #5 dip taken in state #5, the ever-youthful band of merrymakers are proceeding cautiously onto the most dangerous leg of their journey--the dreaded drive to Rhode Island, site of last year's heart-breaking disaster. Five beaches in five states--they have come this far before. Will they make it to number six? Adoring fans can only wait and hope.

Despite the fact that the Adventurers have met with technological troubles at this most critical time in their journey, they have managed to send photos from a second cell phone. Ah, they are so resourceful--and on this day of wretched weather, they are still smiling.

Orient Point, NY

Phone call update at 1:58: The New York water immersion has been accomplished and the Merry Band are back at sea, though it is still a rough and windy one, crossing on the ferry back to the CT shore.

Message from the Photographer Adventurer:  "yoot yoot!!!  4 down!!!"


The Faithful Follower somehow missed a phone update when the Adventurers were delayed docking at Orient Point because of rough seas. The wind had picked up and white caps threatened our intrepid travelers, but they faced the unknown with their usual courage.

The Adventurers at Sea

News flash: "We're on the Cross Sound Ferry - headed for Long Island. Having tuna sandwiches and Chardonnay for lunch."

Ever onward, Merry Band of Adventurers!

Mid-morning Report

No photos. Everyone in warm dry clothes heading down the 4th Interstate of the day to the 4th state of the day where they will find the 4th beach of the day, and wondering if they can catch the early ferry to NY.

Salisbury Beach!

The intrepid travelers arrive at the halfway mark--three beaches! It is 7:47 am. It is now late enough in the morning for the weary world to begin catching up with our troupe. Our hero and heroines finally find an obliging stranger to take their picture.

The Faithful Follower admits to a frisson of concern for the Adventurers when she received this photo. Has Doubt joined the fearless party? We can only hope their hearts remain strong and devoted to the challenge, and the future smiles upon them.

Hampton Beach, NH

Two beaches down!  They hope for three beaches before 7:30 am. It's cold, it's sunless, the tide is out, the sand is far, they have to walk for miles to reach the sea. And yet they persevere! They tumble their chilled selves back into the car and continue courageously southward.

York Beach, Maine: Dawn

Stage One has been accomplished. Wet and still smiling they enjoy their triumph. It is 5:17.

The Quick Six II: It begins

Our intrepid and perhaps insane adventurers met in the wee small hours (4:15 am) to begin their second attempt at the Quick Six. Their number is sadly reduced by one this year, but life and schedules do not always mesh. Three adventurers now face the frothing waves together.

First photos, first report: "It is hard to tell the nighttime from the day." Still, their brave faces are smiling.

One adventurer, the photographer, was the first to leave her home under cover of darkness with only the moon to accompany her to the first meeting place. Then adventurers One and Two met the third brave member of the company at the rendezvous spot, and the Quick Six was under way.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Saratoga Jumpstart 2010

Each year, on the weekend before the meet opens at Saratoga, NYRA and the local community put on an open house. While it is mostly a chance for local non-profits to do some fundraising, and for families from the area to enjoy a day out in the sun with pony rides, face painting, clown shows and the like, it does feature some racing. The clowns here also have the good graces to actually wear red rubber noses and size 36EEEE shoes, unlike the clowns I see at other tracks.

The National Steeplechase Association (NSA) sanctions a series of steeplechase races, giving a further layer of meaning to the event's official name - Saratoga Jumpstart. These races are what attracted me back for the second year in a row.

The track looks great, as always. This place is like the Fresh Air Fund camp for Thoroughbreds. Some new construction of what I gather to be food service concessions over by the paddock, but otherwise not much changed.

After the races I drove around the town a little. Many, many For Sale signs. Hard to tell whether this happens every year before and during the season, whether it reflects the general economy, or whether folks in Saratoga know something about NYRA's future the rest of us don't. Looks like a healthy Pick Six could get you a nice Victorian of your choice.


Final Straw, a 4yo gelding, in the paddock.

Leaving the paddock on the way to the track.

View of the Winner's Circle.

The field approaches the second fence in Race 1.

The field taking fence #2 in the second race.

Quiet Approval winning the fourth race, a $25,000 Allowance.

Danielle Hodsdon up on Parker's Project in the Winner's Circle after Race 3.

Winning jockey Danielle Hodsdon and a young fan,

Jockey Roderick Mackenzie looking a little grim - before the race.

What the real journalists were wearing. Noted author Bill Heller. See the Weekend Getaway post (February 10, 2010) for what he looks like in Florida.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The 2010 Intermodal Beach Expedition

All aboard!

I have been obsessed with beach adventures for a couple of years. How many, how different, how unique. Not the fantasies of the Seychelles or Bora Bora that I had in my youth, but fun things I could do on the spur of the moment. Followers of this blog will recall last year’s attempt at The Quick Six.

At the time that jaunt was percolating in my mind, I also wondered how many beaches, in how many states, I could visit for a swim by taking public transportation only. I had lived for a good part of my younger adult life without a car, and used to pride myself on getting anywhere I wanted or needed to go by bus and subway. I used to take the bus to Marblehead, the subway to East Boston, and the train to Rockport just to go to the beach.

So, last Friday I set off to see if I could get in the water at three ocean beaches in one day (dawn to dusk) without entering a private automobile. I had begun calling this The Intermodal. I had downloaded the timetables, packed my kit, and checked the forecasts. All looked ripe.

Thursday night I called the local cab company to arrange a ride. Even though I am not a frequent rider, they had all my information in their database and promised me a taxi at 5:45 a.m.. (A note to the skeptical – while a taxicab is a conventional passenger car, it is also a part of the public transportation web. Cabs operate under various public licenses, have professional drivers with special licenses, and are available to all members of the public for a published fare.) I turned off the alarm, washed, and fed myself. When I looked up, the clock said 5:46 and the cab was at my door. I kissed my long-suffering and ever more beautiful wife goodbye, left my key ring on the counter, and off I went.

First stop was the AMTRAK station at Route 128. A license check and credit card swipe ($46.00) later I had a ticket on the 6:30 a.m. Northeast Regional bound for New London, CT. Bought The Globe and joined a few others for an on-time departure. At 7:30 we pulled in to Westerly, RI. Westerly features a pretty Mediterranean-style station house. After Westerly the train runs right along the shore, past salt ponds, marshes and small boatyards. At 7:52 we pulled in to New London.

At New London, I had (at least) two choices – the SEAT bus to Ocean Beach Park, or the Cross Sound Ferry to Orient Point, NY. I decided to hotfoot it to see if I could catch the 8 a.m. ferry. The ferry dock is adjacent to the train station, but separated by a safety fence. I chose what turned out to be the slightly longer way around, but again, with a license check and a credit swipe ($25.00 for a same-day round trip walk on) I just made it.

The MV Cape Henlopen takes autos and passengers across the end of Long Island Sound from busy old New London to the relatively deserted dock at Orient Point. The day was perfect. 100% sunshine, calm seas, fair winds. Interesting views of the Navy sub pens and the Electric Boat works to port and the Cost Guard Academy to starboard. Had a bagel and coffee and cracked open a used Carl Hiassen novel I had picked up at the library fundraising sale. To my great relief, it was one I had not already read. Always chancy with guys who have published a lot, and whose books come out in a variety of paperback editions. Jacked into my iPod and settled down.

At about 9:20 the ferry docked at O.P. The “port facilities” here consist of a bulkhead, a paved road, and a small hut for tickets and coffee. That is it. Now I had been here twice before, so none of this was any surprise. I also knew that in addition to the official state park beach down the road, there is a little strip on the water just to one side of the dock. This is very unofficial. There are no signs (on that side anyway) which I interpret to mean that this is a public beach open to all. There are some No Trespassing signs on the other side, and I avoid it. I walk a couple of hundred yards down a beach consisting of tumbled whitish stones, park my gear on a weathered log, and wade in. A quick dip. My definition of “swim” is at least one full head to toe immersion. More as time and the inclination of the participants permits. I am alone. No-one else in the water or on the “beach”. I might be the only person who ever swims here.

Ferries leaving Orient Point

As I get out to dry myself I see that the 9:30 ferry back to New London is just boarding. I think to myself that if I had not walked as far, I might have made it. I don’t worry. I have done this before. I dry off (mostly) and walk back. By that time the Cape Henlopen is about to make its 10 a.m. departure for New London and I embark. As soon as we leave the dock, the bar is open and I treat myself to a turkey sandwich and a Long Island microbrew by Blue Point. Up on deck to dry myself and my towel in the sunshine. Hiassen is a reliable page-turner with his South Florida motleys.

Dock, train and AMTRAK station in New London from the deck of the Henlopen

At 11:30 we arrive back in New London, where things have begun to heat up on the dock. In addition to the OP ferries, there are vessels bound to Block Island RI and to Fisher’s Island NY. My mind is drawn to other possible itineraries but I keep to my plan. I walk around the barrier and back onto Water Street. Right next to the AMTRAK station and the Greyhound bus terminal (more choices!) is the bus stop for the SEAT (Southeast Area Transit District) bus. I confirm that I want the #13 and catch a seat in the kiosk to wait for the noon bus to Ocean Beach. The bus (air conditioned!) comes on time ($1.25 cash) but has to wait for another bus to accommodate transfers. Once underway the driver weaves her way swiftly and skillfully through a maze of streets in downtown New London. The bus seems more like a jitney (fixed route but no fixed stops) but since this is my first time I can’t really say. We get to the beach at 12:45, about 15 minutes behind schedule.

There is a gated pedestrian entrance to the beach, and I had been informed that there was an entry fee for walk-ins. This must just be for weekends or something because there was no attendant and no charge. The day is bright and hot and the beach is well populated with families, couples, teens on the make. All shapes, sizes, and colors. In marked contrast to OP, this beach has facilities. Facilities to spare. It is under the jurisdiction of the City of New London, but has a surprising mix of public and private activities. The beach, of course, a long boardwalk with bandstand, restrooms, snack bar and the like. But Ocean Beach also has a bar (!), a Workout World facility, a swimming pool, miniature golf, and more. Sand is hot, water is cool and the quick dip is accomplished.

Ocean Beach Park

I am reminded that one of the things I always say when people ask me why I love the beach is that it is the most democratic of American institutions. Most places are free or cheap. There is no dress code. The ones I go to are (within reason) safe for kids and old ladies. No one hesitates to just stick your valuables in your sneaker, strip off (most) of your clothes and walk away - to the water, the tidepools, or the snack bar. Sure, there is an advantage to being young and beautiful, but being old, fat, or funny-looking certainly never kept anyone away from the beaches I go to. Doing this by public transportation just raises the democratization by a power of two. I love this country!

I use the restroom to change out of my suit and into a dry one for the next stage. This turns out to be a wise decision. I head back to the bus stop to catch the scheduled 1:30 back to Water Street. A short shady wait later, $1.25 into the fare box, and I am on my way. We arrive just before 2 p.m..

I had cut short having a nice time at Ocean Beach because I did not want to miss the 3:03 AMTRAK back to Boston. The last time I had to take the train from New London, I missed getting on a train that was in the station because you cannot access the northbound platform while the train is in the station. The 2:30 SEAT was supposed to arrive about 2:50, which I thought was cutting it too close. The 1:30 should have left me plenty of time to buy a ticket, grab a beer, and get on. Not so fast, pal.

The northbound 3:03 was showing a delay when I got to the station. Ticket agent said 30 to 40 minutes, so I bought a ticket to South Station ($55.00) and went around the corner for a beer. No DUI worries on the Intermodal! The bar was dim, not very cool, and deserted. I ordered a Sam Summer and watched the World Cup on two screens. Same match with slightly different feeds. Play was the same, commercials different. Barmaid’s friend came in to talk about shamrock tattoo designs. Lots of loud motorcycles with unhelmeted riders. Walked back to the station.

The delay is now an hour or more. Thank goodness for Hiassen’s enduring power to keep me turning the pages. Walk outside to see the swells getting off the Fisher’s Island ferry, some into a limo. Wonder if limousines qualify as public transport? The 3:03 finally departs New London at 4:25. This is not a serious kink, but wastes the effort to make the 8 a.m. ferry, and/or means I could have spent a lot more time at Ocean Beach. It also means there is no chance of trying to sneak in a dip at Westerly, RI, not today at least.

At 6 p.m. we roll into South Station in Boston. Lots of very dressy young women. Lots of romantic reunions. It is Friday night, and these young lovers probably haven’t seen each other since Monday morning. The longing is palpable. I buy a $5 Charlie ticket from an automated kiosk and I am on my way. Momentary thought of taking the Silver Line to Logan Airport, the shuttle to the subway and on from there. One stop on the Red Line to Downtown Crossing (will never stop calling it Washington Street.). Change to the Orange Line. One stop to State Street. Change to the Blue Line. Under the harbor, past the airport, (think about getting off at Orient Heights to hit Constitution Beach in East Boston. Remember that I did not like the water there much in the 70’s and decide I probably won’t like it any better now.) and on to the Revere Beach stop.

Revere Beach
One block down Shirley Avenue and there it is, - the oldest public beach park in the United States. Again the routine – strip, dip, and dry. I call home to announce the third wetness and stop to catch my breath. This is a different crowd. The remaining families all have a “Stayed too long at the fair” aspect. A group of Brazilians doing that samba/futbol/volleyball thing. Some very pale kids who look like college students here from out of town for summer school. The beginnings of a Friday night social whirlwind for under-21’s from all the nearby neighborhoods and towns. More loud bikes, this time with helmets.

I go across the street to Sammy’s Bar. This is the place I often warm up in after swims at Revere in the winter. It has windows that look out onto the beach and the water. The TV set is tuned to the NHL Draft ceremonies. The two guys on the other side of the bar are talking very knowledgeably about Taylor and Tyler and several others.

Back to Shirley Avenue and the Blue, Orange and Red Lines. By this time I figure I will be catching the 9:15 commuter train back to my home in the suburbs. Lady Luck is smiling on me. Owing to seamless subway connections, I am there in time to buy a ticket ($4.75) and hop on the 8:10 MBTA commuter rail out of town.

Not very crowded. I exchange nods of happiness with a nice family whose kids have balloon animals, but have not been to a circus. Hiassen is finished, having dispensed a kind of rough justice to the deserving and undeserving. I dial the iPod to Geoff Muldaur as the sun fades. When I get off the train it is not either light or dark. I would say it is the time of day when a kid who was told to be home before the streetlights came on could still mount a pretty good argument, but might have to concede defeat. The gym bag weighs heavy as I walk the few blocks home. Muldaur buoys the spirit. I have to ring the bell when I get home. I turn to the west and see a faint brightness. Close enough for me.