Tuesday, November 19, 2013


L to R
Trireme, Agave, Peitho, Tyche, Halia, Menestho
(If the names are unfamiliar, I suggest pulling down your copy of Hesiod’s Theogony. Most can be found there.)
As in past years I have persuaded a group of very incautious swimmers to join me on an “adventure” as I like to call it. The one on November 16 was not the one we had all planned. We had planned to do “Dukes in a Day” or “The Full Bartholomew.” That is, swim at one beach in each of the seven towns in Dukes County MA. (Bartholomew Gosnold is the European widely credited with “discovering” both Martha’s Vineyard and the nearby Elizabeth Islands. The town of Gosnold comprises the Elizabeths and there are six towns on the Vineyard: Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Chilmark.)

This plan was thwarted by the premature arrival of a very handsome grandson and in postponing the trip we lost several swimmers and the chance to get to Gosnold. Ahab had put his trusty vessel up for the winter, Pasithoe was required to labor for others, and Dionysus was courting a maiden. This left only the six of us to attempt six beaches in six towns.

The forecast called for moderate temperatures and clearing skies late on the Islands, so we decided to give it a go. Considering the lateness of the season, and the modified nature of the adventure, I tried to reassure everyone that there was no challenge involved; people could swim as much or as little or not at all. I thought I would at least give it a try since I have been swimming in the ocean at least once in each of the last 68 months.

We assembled in the Boston suburbs and after a quick Starbucks run we set off. Some sprinkles on the ferry dock in Woods Hole did not dampen spirits and we all boarded the MV Martha’s Vineyard in a timely fashion (just). Trireme broke out some spirits of her devising and the passage was smooth.

When we disembarked in Vineyard Haven (a village of the town of Tisbury) Tyche, Menestho and Halia went into the terminal to don wetsuits. Both the need for them and the appearance of those wearing them were met with discussion bordering on derision. We moved on anyway, noting Menestho’s desire to return and have a beer at the Black Dog. We think he was channeling Bill Clinton or something.
First beach was just a few blocks away at Owen Park Beach. This is a tiny beach in the harbor, the site of the Harbor Master’s office, a playground, a dock, and lots of moorings. A surprising number of large and small vessels were still in the water. A local fisherman pulled up with his very unhappy girlfriend. He was gleeful in reporting the water temperature to be a refreshing 52 degrees Fahrenheit. He spared us the need to convert from Kelvin.

All but Trireme (recovering from an injury incurred earlier in the year on the Vineyard) took the plunge. We had done it! We all agreed that even if we never got further, we could count ourselves brave adventurers. A quick towel off, some outerwear donned, and we were off.
After a short drive east, we came to a beach known as The Inkwell in the town of Oak Bluffs. The signage thoughtfully reminded us that the lifeguards were off duty. This is a long stretch of beach facing East across Nantucket Sound. We bounded out of the van, into the water and back out again. 52 degrees was not felt to be an overestimate.

The road from there leads with not much trouble right down to South Beach/Katama Beach in Edgartown. Along the way we saw a donkey and llamas. We scoffed at the notion we were the Katama llama ding-dongs and arrived at the shockingly modest parking lot. This south-facing beach is very beautiful, protected by dunes, and stretches for miles in either direction. While there is a larger parking lot at the west end of Atlantic Drive, the spaces here number about a dozen. 

Katama brought us real surf and real sunshine. Made it feel like a beach day. The water was noticeably warmer, the sand felt warm underfoot (in the sunshine only) and the mood of the adventurers noticeably improved. 

At this point I warned the Aquanuts that the fourth beach was reachable only with some difficulty. There would be few amenities along the way, and maybe none when we arrived. The sturdy band informed me they needed nothing in order to continue, and so we did. Peitho showed no interest in Menestho’s question about taking the Chappaquiddick ferry. We had our own problems and did not need a second troubled Democratic politician to complicate things.

The fourth beach was located in the town of West Tisbury. While there is a lot of south facing oceanfront in West Tis, most of it is inaccessible unless you are a plutocrat. The Trustees of Reservations has a large property at Long Pond, but the long access road is (consciously) poorly marked, subject to closure, and unpaved. The Trustees were running a program called the Duck Hunt and so the road was open. We thought it might really be a duck hunt, which gave some of us pause. It was instead a family-oriented crafts day. After navigating the rutted, sandy lane, backing up to let cars proceed past us, and wondering at the arrogance of “some people” we parked in the Trustees lot.

The long walk to the ocean was enhanced by the beauty of the marsh, the continued sunshine and by Trireme’s discovery of an ant. The beach itself was long and sandy. The surf was moderate and we all (?) succeeded in our task of a complete immersion. Some of the women think there is a separate set of rules for them, but then they always do. At around this point someone skipped a beach, but who’s counting. After the dip I repaired to the Trustees headquarters to use the facilities. Had a nice chat with the very fresh-faced staff who gave us some suggestions for the last two towns.

Rather than take a long break at Long Pond, we pressed on out the sandy trail to the paved road and proceeded westward to the commercial center of West Tisbury. With a big enough handkerchief you could cover it all. Agave suggested we picnic in the parking lot of the Grange and so we did. This was as choice a setup as you could imagine. Picnic tables in the sun, waste baskets for the detritus, and an open W. Tisbury town hall adjacent with the best public restrooms of any municipality in several counties.

Trireme brought out the famous tuna sandwiches and the last of the special beverage. Halia cracked open the container of homemade brownies, and Peitho offered everyone a “Full Trayvon” - a box of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea.

As tempting as the warm sun and snappy banter was, we pressed on down State Road southwest toward Aquinnah, soon to be the Las Vegas of Dukes County. Shortly we were stopped by the State Police who informed us that the road was closed for an indeterminate period. The trooper directed us to a detour down another dirt byway that he promised would eventually lead to Beetlebung Corner. 

If you read that place name in a Stephen King story you would credit him with a dark imagination. In some parts of New England very little imagination is required. 

After a while, we reached Beetlebung and the sign for Aquinnah. I overshot the road we wanted to take to the beach and had to turn around at the entrance to the Wampanoag Reservation. A large sign announced a deer tagging station and I figured this had something to do with the road closure.

Philbin Beach was found and we proceeded up the big dune on the landward side. Tyche suggested the long path to the left. Peitho scoffed and proceeded straight ahead. As warned, Peitho found the beach covered with large cobbles, which continued all the way into the water. There the cobbles were joined by some alarmingly large rocks both submerged and emergent. Tyche and Peitho gave it a try, but to no avail. Back up to the top of the dune, down the other path and along the beach until we found a smooth sandy patch. All in and all out safely, we towelled off and set out for the last beach of the day. We began to look closely at the sun and to discuss the time of sunset. Turns out it set at 4:22 p.m E.S.T. and we were just about going to make it.
Some GPS work by Menestho got us to Menemsha Harbor in the town of Chilmark in good order and we faced the last challenge of the day. Good thing it was the last. Energy was beginning to flag and the water was as cold as it had been all day. Good feeling to have completed the challenge, but an even better feeling to finally put on warm dry clothes. We convinced a local to take our picture and we were off for Vineyard Haven and the Black Dog Tavern.

Now some of us had hinted to Menestho that Tisbury/VH is a “dry” town, but since the Dog is right next to the ferry staging area, and we were on track to catch an earlier sailing anyway, it made no difference to this jolly band of adventurers. As it happens, the Black Dog Tavern is something of a misnomer. You cannot get a drink at the bar because there is none. You could get beer or wine with a meal, but we had a ferry to catch. 

After pausing to admire the Frost Moon over the harbor, we boarded the MV Island Home for the trip back to the mainland. This vessel did have a bar and we all partook of a round in celebration.

After a very pedestrian quality dinner at a Wood’s Hole restaurant I will not name here, and a quick view of the place (“the west and seaward end of the Eel Pond Bridge”) where Ahab was to have picked us up in September we drove north along Buzzard’s Bay. Our exhausted ride home featured choral singing to the sound track of “The Harder They Come”, (an Aquanut tradition by now) and Tyche’s very tasty falsetto accompaniment to Marc Cohn’s version of Smokey Robinson’s classic “Tears of a Clown.”



Monday, June 17, 2013


I have been working (or avoiding working) on a long form piece for some time. The foundation of the work is a series of several hundred letters written by my father's uncle, the late Msgr. John J. O'Leary.

These letters were written (primarily) to his mother and father while O'Leary was a seminarian at the North American College in Rome from 1920 to 1924.

Recently, one of the letters has been published in Roman Echoes which is the  magazine of the Pontifical North American College (2013 Issue 3). I look forward to continuing to work with the Editors in the hopes that engaging with them will encourage me to engage more with the source materials.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Open Letter to NYRA's Dr. David Skorton

Dear Dr. Skorton,
You and I don’t know each other, but we have at least one thing in common. We are both willing to state in public that we “do not know much about horseracing.” Since I go to the races all the time, and you are nominally in charge of reforming horse racing in New York, I don’t know which of us should be more embarrassed, but I will leave that to others to figure out.

Last Saturday I attended the races at Aqueduct Racetrack on the occasion of the Wood Memorial. I have been coming down from Boston for the Wood for the past several years. I enjoyed the sunshine and I actually made money at the mutuel windows, so this is not a letter from a sore headed loser.

You had a big crowd (I actually enjoyed mingling with one of the broadest cross-sections of humanity available to the unincarcerated), and the races were almost all well run. The owners of Freedom’s Child in the Wood have no doubt already been in touch. 

But given that The New York Daily News reported that “Resorts World Casino brought in a record $71.2 million in revenue during March,” I have to ask:

Would it kill you to:
Get the City of New York to put in a left turn arrow for patrons coming off the Van Wyck and down Rockaway Boulevard?

Clean the restrooms? The ones in the casino are immaculate. Yours are embarrassing.

Provide more than one place for a patron to get a hot dog and a beer? The food court in the casino is a long way from the mutuel clerks.

Wipe the guano off the few remaining grandstand seats?

Let people leaving the track know that they don’t have to pay the $5.00 in the machine at the garage when they leave? There are enough ways to feel like a chump at the races. Paying unenforced parking fees should not be a patron’s last memory of the day.

See you at Belmont!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Boston Mayor Tom Menino

 All of the press coverage of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s recent announcement that he would be leaving office when his term expires at the end of the year brought back a couple of memories. One is of the opportunities that the departure of a long-serving mayor might provide. The other is a memory of the departing mayor.

When I finished graduate school in 1983 I was desperate for a job and lucky enough to land one with the White administration as an aide to the Mayor’s Housing Advisor. Classes were over, but Commencement Day had yet to arrive. I was slated to start work at City Hall on June 1st. As it happened, Mayor White surreptitiously went to New York to tape a television address announcing he would not be seeking another term. The announcement ran on the local news the night before my first day on the job. It was extremely unnerving to watch, but I summoned up my courage and reported to work as planned.

People in the administration thought I had lost my mind. No-one could believe that I was really showing up for my first day of work. They asked me if I had watched any television or caught the morning papers. I assured them I had done so, and my paperwork was reluctantly processed. I felt like a salmon swimming upstream as I walked through City Hall. The whole administration was leaving.

As the weeks went on, departure styles ranged from orderly to panicked. Typewriter access was at a premium as everyone polished their resumes. Over time, the building became more and more silent as long-time staffers went on job interviews or took sick days.

I hung in. I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I certainly wasn’t going to be let go in the upcoming six months (no-one would have put in the effort), and at least I had a job, unlike some of my fellow classmates. Sticking around turned out to be a great decision. Since most people were missing, or too busy, or still shell-shocked, I got to work on some important and high-profile projects.

I helped research and write the first “Linkage” report attempting to justify extracting concessions from commercial developers to be used for housing subsidies. I worked on homelessness prevention initiatives, on vacant lot re-use and manufactured housing studies. I served as liaison to the somewhat wild-eyed arson prevention researchers, and even represented the City with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the State Banking Commission’s anti-red-lining working group. As George Washington Plunkitt said (in a somewhat different context), “I seen my opportunities, and I took ‘em.”

If this reaches any young, newly-minted staffers in the Menino Administration, they might want to think about sticking around and making the most of a chance to do some good in the next nine months. You can always polish your resume after work, and these days you will even have spell check to help.

Now I don’t know Mayor Menino very well, and he doesn’t know me at all, but one encounter years ago has left an indelible memory.

I managed to survive in city government by backing the right horse in the election to succeed Kevin White and wound up running a program to subsidize new construction of moderate income housing on city-owned vacant lots.  One of the non-profit sponsors in the program, Urban Edge, selected a long, narrow site on Hyde Park Ave. As these things go, it was not a bad site, and my department was backing the proposal, including hosting a community meeting to make the neighborhood aware in advance of the formal approvals process.

We met in a church hall in Roslindale on what I remember as a sweltering summer night. Before the meeting quite got started, then-City Councilor Albert “Dapper” O’Neil asked for the floor. O’Neil was the worst kind of ignorant bully, and that night he was at his apex. He took the floor to announce that although he knew nothing about the proposal, and did not care to learn anything about the proposal, he was against it. This got a pretty good round of applause from the neighbors, and I prepared for a rough night. Then O’Neil, reeking of insincerity, said he would allow the meeting to continue anyway.

After a presentation by the brave sponsors, laying out the site plan and building designs and the community benefits of the program, we asked for questions and comments from the audience. After a number of those present took their turns, District Councilor Tom Menino stood up and issued the single most amazing statement I ever heard a politician utter before or since. It was, approximately -

“I have listened to the proposal and I think it will be good for the neighborhood. That is why I will support it. If folks here disagree with me, and want to use that as an excuse to vote against me in the next election, that’s just fine.”

When media pundits wonder how Menino kept getting elected all those years, they might want to talk to people who were in meetings like that one, listening to a guy who stood up for what he believed in, and was willing to face the consequences.

The infill development did get built. It only took about 15 years. 

Mayor Menino cut the ribbon.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Credit Where Credit is Due

As readers of this space may remember, I have taken several media outlets to task in the past. I hold the media to very high standards and expect writers and editors to have very thick skins. I also expect them to always get the facts straight. It was in this context that I wrote to the Boston Globe’s Managing Editor for News Christine Chinlund last week.

Ms. Chinlund,
As I read the very disturbing Page 1 story by Matt Viser today,

I was taken up short by the statement that "The First Congressional District (of Kansas) covers more area than any other House district in the country. It is nearly 60,000 square miles, about the size of the entire state of Illinois."

I think this assertion would come as a big surprise to the citizens of Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming. Each of those states has but a single member of Congress, and each state is larger than the state of Illinois.

As a side note, I hope that members of the Secret Service also read Viser's piece. The quotes at the end, which threaten the life of the President, may be protected by the First Amendment, but should also cause all levels of law enforcement to be vigilant.

Ned  Daly

Well, a few days passed and I hadn’t heard from The Globe, so I wrote again.

Ms. Chinlund,
I wrote last week to bring to your attention what I believe to be an error in Mat Viser's story on politics in Kansas. I have not heard or seen any correction.

Does The Globe expect its readers to believe that there are more Members of Congress than there are Congressional Districts?

In short order I received the following email from Ms. Chinlund.

Dear Ned --
The lapse is entirely my fault, and I am on the case now. Sorry about that.


I was quite pleased by this and even more pleased to see the correction in the April 9 edition of The Globe.

For the record
“* Correction: Because of an editing error, a Page One story in Thursday’s paper about a conservative Kansas congressional district incorrectly stated its relative geographic size. The First Congressional District in Kansas is among the largest by territory in the country.”

Now that is a little more like it. Not the abject boot licking I was dreaming about, or a mention of which gimlet-eyed reader raised the issue, but a straightforward acknowledgement that they got the facts wrong. Over the past few years the Globe has issued printed corrections a number of times when I have pointed out errors. This is only one of the things I love about that paper. So I wrote-

Thanks for the correction. One of the reasons I read the story so closely is that I have been to that part of Kansas and hold great affection for the people there who saved my life after a heart attack suffered on a business trip 15 years ago.

Best always,

This letter got the following response almost immediately

Never be afraid to nudge me. In this case, I simply lost track of the correction in the flurry of other stuff. Not a good excuse, but the truth.

The Boston Globe should win awards for customer service. No one at an equivalent level of any other company I know would take the time to correspond with someone who buys less than $1,000 worth of product a year.

Nice to be on a first name basis with these folks too.