Hail to the Chief

Donald Trump

NBC News photo.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the President-elect of the United States of America.

God help us all.

Posted in Irish Investigations, Politics | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Donald Trump and I threw snowballs at a car when we were 13

When we were eighth-grade classmates, Donald Trump and I used to pal around and do mischievous things.

One winter day when we were walking to school, Donald and I conspired to have snowballs handy and wing them as hard as we could at the next car that came by.

Sure enough, a car came toward us and we fired the snowballs (it was a “good packing day,” as I recall), nailing that sonofabitch right on the windshield. And then we took off running, which is a good thing because the driver stopped, turned his car around and came gunning for us.

Donald and I took off in separate directions, cutting through the yards of people we didn’t know. I found a place to hide, among some pine trees, crouching down and trying not to breathe. Soon, I heard someone running through a nearby yard.

It wasn’t Donald.

It was the driver, who, to my good fortune, didn’t see me. I waited several minutes, more scared than I had ever been in my life. If the guy had seen me, he justifiably would have beaten the crap out of me and/or hauled me in to the authorities.

It may be hard to believe, but I’ve thought about that snowball toss many, many times over the past decades. I still feel horrible about what we did. We could have caused a serious, perhaps fatal, accident. And I never want to feel that frightened, that remorseful, ever again.

But here’s the thing. Donald actually got off on what we did; his glee of getting away with it was evident when we found each other that morning at school. He couldn’t wait to do it again.

The feeling of power he got with that snowball fed his insatiable desire to do more harmful things. To women. To employees. To business partners. Basically, to anyone who tries to spoil his fun.

Donald is still 13. He can’t tell the truth, and nothing is ever his fault. He turns on the charm, and his smile belies what he is actually thinking. He gets off on power, and will say and do anything to get it and maintain it. He is incapable of empathy, of remorse, of responsibility.

Classic sociopathic behavior.

Donald Trump should not, and cannot, be elected president of the United States.

(I was with someone other than Trump that day, of course, but you’ve read so many lies that bolster his candidacy, you can read one that opposes it. The friend I was with that day felt just as remorseful as I did afterward.)

Posted in Irish Investigations, Politics, role models | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

‘Thanks for noticing’

I see plenty of unhappiness and misery in downtown Syracuse, but today’s encounter was heartbreaking.

With my $7 lunch in hand, I strolled toward Columbus Circle, the city’s busiest pedestrian cut-through.

I walked by the statue of Christopher Columbus, where a young man was hunched over on a bench, reading something on his phone. And just bawling. He had a backpack and wore baggy clothes.

I kept walking.

But it didn’t feel right. When I got across the street, I stopped and kept an eye on him, wondering what he would do next. And what I should do.

He got up and started walking in the other direction, so I followed. He entered the nearby food pantry/outreach center. I sat on a bench, started in on my lunch and waited for him to come out.

Within two minutes he emerged and started walking, slowly, in my direction. I called to him and he came over.

“You OK?” I asked. “You seemed upset back there.”

His face and shoulders relaxed. “Thanks for noticing,” he said.

I asked what was going on and motioned for him to sit down next to me. He shook his head no, and said, “I don’t know if I want to tell you.”

He said he’s staying at a shelter, but the outreach center was trying to help him find an apartment.

He told me his name, that he was born in Syracuse and raised in Florida. It’s good you’re not there now, I told him, with Hurricane Matthew bearing down and forcing evacuations. He’d heard about the hurricane, and agreed.

I want to know the rest of his story, what he was reading on his phone that was tearing him up. But that’s for another time.

“I hope your day gets better,” I said.

A hint of a smile showed in his eyes.

He didn’t ask for anything, and he gave me so much.

Posted in Homeless, Irish Investigations | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

You’re never too old to ask for an autograph

When I read that former Boston Red Sox pitcher Mike Timlin was due to appear at a minor-league baseball game in Syracuse, I knew I had to be there.

Timlin, who played for the Syracuse Chiefs in the early 1990s en route to an 18-year major league career, was a key member of the Red Sox’ 2004 and 2007 World Series championship seasons.

He also pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays when they won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, his first two seasons in the majors. Not a bad way to launch a career.

Wearing my 2004 Red Sox shirt, a gift from my Sox-fan brother, I arrived at NBT Bank Stadium early to be among the first in line to get Timlin’s autograph. I didn’t feel the least bit foolish. The Sox, with their decades of heartbreak soothed by their recent success, are part of my DNA.

I thought about having Timlin sign the back of my shirt next to his printed name (the shirt lists the entire roster except for one player, but that’s another story). I thought it would be rude to turn my back to him, so I opted to hand him my crusty old Sox hat.

While he was signing it, I pointed out the shirt I was wearing and asked him how he was doing. Timlin’s one-word answer: “Awesome.”




While Mike Timlin signed autographs, the Syracuse Chiefs were on their way to defeating the Buffalo Bisons. Caleb Ramsey of the Chiefs takes a healthy cut in front of Bisons catcher A.J. Jimenez.

While Mike Timlin signed autographs, the Syracuse Chiefs were on their way to defeating the Buffalo Bisons. Caleb Ramsey of the Chiefs takes a healthy cut in front of Bisons catcher A.J. Jimenez.

Posted in Baseball, Irish Investigations, role models | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

On the road to Ithaca, a bittersweet sight for book lovers

The exterior of Phoenix Books, which closed last year after 30 years selling used books in Freeville, NY, outside Ithaca. There are free books still on the porch.

The exterior of Phoenix Books, which closed last year after 30 years selling used books in Freeville, NY, near Ithaca.

Phoenix Books outside Ithaca, NY, closed its doors more than a year ago, but the old barn still gets visitors, including some unaware it’s out of business.

The store sold used books for 30 years, but apparently couldn’t keep up with reading habits and the pace of the digital world. (Many web sites still list the Phoenix as open, with a phone number and operating hours. Cruel.).

As a parting gift, the owner left hundreds of free books on the front porch. A year later, there are still plenty of freebies; customers have shown their appreciation with hand-written notes.

No longer can you go inside the Phoenix to experience the creaky ambience of the barn and fully appreciate the feel and smell of used books. But you can stop by, leave a note and do what the sign says.


Posted in books, Irish Investigations | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

‘A Tiny Home for Good’ in Syracuse opens its doors

Thousands of hours of volunteer sweat were on display Friday morning, as A Tiny Home for Good unveiled its first tiny home for formerly homeless people in Syracuse.

The not-for-profit led by 26-year-old Andrew Lunetta held an open house to thank the many volunteers who helped conceive and build the two-unit, 480-square-foot structure for Dolphus Johnson and another veteran.

The group is already working at another site where three tiny homes will go up this fall. Here’s a look at Friday’s ceremony and a peek inside one of the units:


Posted in Homeless, Irish Investigations | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Scenes from a Black Lives Matter gathering in Syracuse


And by the way, “Democracy in Black,” by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. should be required reading for all white Americans.

Posted in Irish Investigations, language | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Republican Convention theme song: ‘Look Out Cleveland’

The Band's "Brown Album," cover photo by Elliott Landy, late 1960s. (L-R): Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson.

The Band’s “Brown Album,” cover photo by Elliott Landy, late 1960s. (L-R): Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson.

“Look out, Cleveland, a storm is comin’ through. 

And it’s runnin’ right up on you …”

Here’s your theme song for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland July 18-21: “Look Out Cleveland,” written by Robbie Robertson for The Band’s 1969 self-titled album.

It’s not about the city in Ohio, but so what?

In post-truth America 2016, facts are mere distraction.

“Look Out Cleveland” is a rowdy tune that doesn’t require deep thought, making it spot-on for the kind of storm that’s comin’ through northeast Ohio in a couple of weeks — courtesy of Donald Trump and his latest reality TV sideshow.

Consider this verse, written in the late ‘60s when America wasn’t so great either, especially if you were black, poor or getting sent off to die in a war:

“Hidin’ your money won’t do no good, no good

Build a big wall, you know you would if you could, yeah

When clouds of warnin’ come into view

It’ll get the ol’ woman right outta her shoe”

That’s Trump’s campaign in a nutcase — hide money, build a wall and knock Hillary Clinton off her feet when she’s not tripping herself up.

No matter how gauche and offensive Trump gets in Cleveland, if Clinton’s pesky trust-fall problems continue beyond the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this month, it could be all over.

Immediately after the election, President-elect Trump will announce plans to appoint Robbie Robertson as White House speechwriter and ambassador to his native Canada — the destination of many in this country planning to Amerexit.

In “Look Out Cleveland,” Robertson has already scripted Trump’s Christmas card to Congress and to Hillary.

“There’ll be thunder on the hill;

Bye bye, baby, don’t you lie so still.”

As much as I fear an America under Trump, my immediate worry is for Cleveland, a city that has endured more than its share of hardship and bad PR. That finally changed this year when Obama supporter LeBron James worked his Cavalier magic on the floor of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.

The Republican convention’s impact on Cleveland might not be so good, if you listen to Robertson.

This old town’s gonna blow away.”

Posted in Irish Investigations, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

A reminder of why we can celebrate our independence

Grave marker for Capt. Walter Worden, who served in the War for Independence and in the War of 1812.

Grave marker for Capt. Walter Worden, who served in the War for Independence and in the War of 1812.

My regular running route takes me within a few yards of the final resting place of a local soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

This weekend, as we celebrate our nation’s independence, it seems appropriate to recognize his sacrifice and that of the hundreds of thousands of others to whom we owe our freedom.

The marker in Fayetteville Cemetery reads,

“Capt. Walter Worden

Served thro. the Revolution

volunteered war 1812

Fought at Chippewa & Lundy’s Lane

Died near Batavia

Sept. 20, 1814”

According to ancestry.com, Capt. Walter Worden was born in 1757 in Connecticut and served in the Continental Army. He appears to have served in Vermont and Connecticut, later settling in Central New York about 1803.

According to ancestry.com, he and his wife, Lucretia Hicks, had 10 children — one of whom, Jesse, also served in the War of 1812 (which officially didn’t end until early 1815). Capt. Worden “died of fever near Buffalo, September 20, 1814, while on service in the war of 1812. He raised a company for the army, of which he was captain; they marched on foot to the Niagara frontier.”

The two battles cited on his grave marker were significant. The Battle of Chippewa (sometimes spelled Chippawa) took place July 5, 1814; it was regarded as a victory for the Americans, but the momentum against the British in Canada didn’t last.

Three weeks later, the battle of Lundy’s Lane, near Niagara Falls, was one of the bloodiest fights of the war and marked the end of the Americans’ push into Canada. (Capt. Worden died less than two months later). The battlefield is now a national historic site in Ontario.

Posted in cemeteries, Irish Investigations, war | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Where have you gone, Jeff Bailey? I owe you one

Pawtucket Red Sox Syracuse Chiefs

The foul ball I caught off the bat of Jeff Bailey in 2008, when he was with the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Eight years ago during a professional baseball game, I made up for a fielding error I had committed earlier that season.

OK, that’s misleading. I was a spectator in both cases, not a player.

But redemption was mine, thanks to Jeff Bailey of the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Earlier in the 2008 season at a minor-league game in Syracuse, I had a chance to snag a souvenir foul ball, but I tried to one-hand it instead of using two as I had been taught in Little League. The ball caromed off my right palm and ended up in the mitts of a kid a few rows away.

According to baseball code, I would have given the ball to a kid anyway. But at least I would have had the satisfaction of a clean catch, followed by a magnanimous gesture. As it was, my hand hurt like hell for a week, compounding the shame.

If you’re scoring at home, it’s E-10.

I returned to the ballpark later that season to watch the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Class AAA farm team of my Boston Red Sox, with my son and his girlfriend.

The date on the ball is incorrect; the game was actually June 30, 2008.

The date on the ball is incorrect; the game was actually June 30, 2008.

The crowd at that game on June 30, 2008, was so sparse that the three of us literally had a second-deck section all to ourselves.

Like all “glory days” moments, I can vividly recall my nifty fielding play (with a little help from what I wrote on the ball later). In the top of the third inning, Bailey fouled off a pitch to the first base side, up and over our heads.

We turned to see the ball hit a column or a seat, take one hop back down toward us and directly into my (two) hands.


As there were no kids in our section, I held onto the ball the rest of the game and took it home. It has had a place of honor ever since — in the man cave, of course, with all my other Red Sox and Ohio State football memories.

I always wondered what happened to Bailey, so I looked up his stats. He’s one of thousands of ballplayers good enough to make it to the major leagues, but just not good enough — or healthy enough — to stay for long.

I took heart in seeing that Bailey had six career home runs for the parent Boston Red Sox, including one during the 2007 championship season. He toiled in Pawtucket for six seasons and also made cameos in Boston later in 2008 and 2009. He played a couple of more seasons in the minors and then … disappeared from the baseball radar.

So Jeff Bailey, wherever you are, thank you for hitting that foul ball, one of thousands you probably hit since you were a kid, against hundreds of pitchers in dozens of minor-league cities you saw during your 15-year career.

The other important character in this story, the Syracuse pitcher that inning, was Davis Javier Romero, who appeared in a total of seven games in the majors before his career apparently ended in 2009. Romero’s lifetime major-league stats? 16.1 innings, 3.86 earned run average, 1 win, no losses.

I’ll remember him more for one strike he threw in the minor leagues.

Footnote: The ballpark in Syracuse, home of the Chiefs, has had several name changes. Now NBT Bank Stadium, it was Alliance Bank Stadium in ’08. It’s also been P&C Stadium, which — despite what I told first-time visitors — did not feature strategically placed urinals where male fans could watch the game while taking care of zipper business.

Redemption, courtesy of Jeff Bailey's foul ball.

Redemption, courtesy of Jeff Bailey’s foul ball.

Posted in Baseball | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments