All Bostonians everywhere felt shocked, felt hurt, and felt concern for our city after the Boston Marathon this year. But some stuff was just weird.

I saw this:

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… and I said ha! No, Boston, no. That’s not what happened, fool. They told you to stay indoors, and so you did.

There was one nineteen-year-old injured kid with a gun and some scary pressure cooker bombs somewhere in Watertown, and no one knew where, and so the National Guard, the FBI, the Boston Police, and the Watertown Police swarmed our empty streets and yards while our people all hid, hunkered down in their houses, or else watched the crazed scene with bated breath in huddled little groups of fear.

Did we “hunt you down”? Or did we react, terrified?

And then people we elected started pointing fingers at Homeland Security for not being more scared of immigrants, and at the FBI for not spying on us more, as we read here and here.

And that day I was on the train in Chicago, and I contributed. I tweeted this:

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And it’s been a week, almost two, in fact, and yet today I saw this:

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and this:

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and this:

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and this:

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… everywhere.

And I thought, are we bored? We are all safe here in Chicago, but we retweet and comment pointlessly about stuffed animals on poles. We say: “Be careful out there.” Huh?

And so I decided, there and then, to think carefully before I terrorize myself and my countrywomen and men with retweets and reposts and pictures.

Oklahoma City bombing was a terrible thing.
9/11 was a terrible thing.
The Boston Marathon bombing was a terrible thing.

Our current jittery propagation of terror is a terrible thing.

May we reach a place where we simultaneously appreciate the selflessness and heroism of those that protect us, while meanwhile refusing to propagate terror.

Further Reading:

How we are all unwitting terrorists (The First Casualty, April 24, 2013)
This Is What It Looks Like When the Police Shut Down a City (The Atlantic Wire, April 19, 2013)
Running from Terror in Boston (The First Casualty, April 16, 2013)

Thanks to Jay Pinho for curating many of the links in this post.

My Boston Mind, Racing

April 17, 2013

Explosions at the Boston Marathon, says my Twitter feed, as retweeted by my brother. James never shows up in my Twitter feed. But then the next retweet is also from him, explosives, Boston, Marathon, Copley.

Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Academy of Music Twitter feed.

Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Academy of Music Twitter feed.

I feel nothing. Maybe a little curiosity. The tweets and retweets continue, and my feed is sliding downward, downward, refreshing, downward. I click on pictures. James is safe in New York. Tee. Tee! Tee is on a road trip with Mom, and they are okay, they are in Virginia. Dad works in Somerville. He is okay. He must be okay. Well, sometimes he travels, to look at houses, appraise them, decide whether to make loans on them. I walk out of my Chicago home towards the train. I have somewhere I must be. The air is warm, balmy, humid. The rain is soft and welcome on my face. I shouldn’t have put on the scarf. I call Dad, and leave him a voicemail. I know he must be okay, but I text him for good measure.

Jesse texts me, I text back. Everyone’s phones are giving me the busy tone, he tells me. That’s just because the lines are jammed, I say. The same thing happened in Boston during 9/11. I open up my email. Are you alive and well? I type to Dad. Jesse had said James had said Dad had said he was to be in New Hampshire today.

We’re also texting Mom and Tee in VA. They also know Dad is okay, they just talked to him. Someone tweets photos of rows of cop cars lined up in Times Square. I think of the way the FBI would surround the Empire State Building, their AK47s cradled in their brawny arms, whenever anything happened, anywhere, in the world. I am glad I no longer work there. I wonder what 34th Street in NY looks like now.

Photo courtesy of Chris Peterson's Twitter feed (@peteyMIT).

MIT Green Building, April 15, 2013. Photo courtesy of Chris Peterson’s Twitter feed (@peteyMIT).

My family is safe, and I sit on the Chicago red line, but the weight on my chest grows heavier. I text Chris* in North Carolina: is your family all safe? And he texts back: I was just going to call you. I post to Facebook that I am grateful, that all the Boston Pinhos are safe. Natalie in NY says: I was just about to call you. Fiona in Cairo says: Oh god. That’s a relief. Suddenly, I remember being stopped mid-online-conversation two years ago as the building near her mom’s Palestinian house is bombed by Israeli airplanes, and I wait with bated breath for the generator in her mother’s home to turn on, and she comes back online and says oh fuck, that one made my mom jump right off the couch out of her nap.

There were two explosions, one after another, barely blocks away from each other, and then it was over, but of a sudden someone begins tweeting about some flames way across town, at JFK, and now my heart is pounding, and I am jittery, and by now Dad has texted back and I text him again, don’t leave home, now that he’s returned from NH after all, and he says there’s no reason he would go to downtown Boston now. Dotty is safe, she just got home, so is Dan, he works far out in the suburbs anyways. I reach farther out into my circle: I haven’t seen Nate in over three years, but I need to know he’s okay. Steph posts to Facebook, posts to Facebook again, tweets: she had been standing exactly at the finish line, but had headed towards home minutes before, was on Newbury Street a block away when she heard the blast and then just ran and ran and was home safe.

I write a haiku:

The Boston Marathon
Bombs, pain, fear, Copley
Far from Boston: Mom, Dad, Tee
And I am thankful.

I’m on group WeChat, the Fabulous Four, for that’s what we are, us four sisters in Los Angeles, Virginia, Seattle, Chicago. On this group chat, Emily castigates Christine because she hasn’t gotten her ankle checked out, the one she twisted while running, since Emily is a nurse and knows what can go wrong, and Tee sends us pictures of her driving on the highway with just her driving permit, en route to visit colleges down south, and I send pictures of Chicago’s blue sky and tell Tee she really should study here, and we discuss the way our nipples change size during the menstrual cycle and decide that one sister’s potential lover may, actually, be a loser instead of someone who should be allowed her interest. The jury’s still out on that one.

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In this particular moment, though, Tee says she’s crying, that 9/11 and Newtown have taken on a whole new meaning, and I’m saying Tee, I’m SO glad you’re out of town, I keep thinking: Tee would have been there. And Tee: It’s so true! So scary–I’m there ALL the time… I wonder how different it’s going to be.

They say that in the midst of risk, or death, or great fear, or even great emotion, humans want to mate, to fuck, to nod to the life there is. Maybe it’s because I felt no risk, nor death, nor great fear, but all I want to do is kiss someone, call people I love, tell people I love them. And I want to cry. Must be I still have the jitters. But I’m in a classroom now, and this Princeton Review proctored LSAT must go on.

*Some names changed.

Further Reading:
Patton Oswalt getting it right (Patton Oswalt’s Facebook page; see post from Monday, April 15, 2013)
The Colbert Report (on an event celebrating people who run 26 miles on their day off until their nipples are raw, for fun). (Colbert Nation)
President Obama’s April 16 Speech on Boston Marathon Bombings (Transcript and Video) (Time Swampland)

How in the world one is supposed to find an office in the middle of a multi-story parking garage, I don’t know. I entered the “Do Not Enter” exit ramp and walked up to Maggie’s window. Anyways, the sign said she was Maggie. I guess people exiting the garage of Republic Parking want to know who they’re giving their money to.

I approached with trepidation, of course, because this was Boston, and Maggie was in the customer service industry. There was a large chance she might not look me in the eye. Even worse, she very well may just refuse to open her service window at all, since, after all, I was standing where only cars should appear. And there I would stand, outside her window, rebuffed, ignored, and fuming. I hate fuming.

However, I held out some hope that the exchange would be pleasant. First of all, she had a pleasant face. Second of all, I had already stereotyped her: she would be Eritrean, she would speak with that wonderful deep sound to her “r”, and she would treat me practically—neither overly warmly nor, most importantly, rudely.

I walked up to the window, and she smiled at me and opened the window. I smiled back. There was a round-faced smiling man behind Maggie. “Hi! Is Gideon there?” I asked. Maggie looked behind her at the smiling man, and he said, “Hi! I’m Gideon.”

“Oh hi! I’m Sarah.” I had called him twice already this week. Once, to tell him that the check I had brought back from China for my friend wouldn’t come on Monday after all, because I was stuck in Virginia due to the Boston blizzard. The second time, this morning, was to let him know I was coming and would he be there?

“I have that check for Alberto Chen*?” the way my voice rose indicated I wasn’t sure if I should stick my arm in the window or if there was an easier place to interact somehow.

He took the check from me through the window, and asked, “Would you like a receipt?” I said I would, and they smilingly directed me around the building to the entrance of their tiny office. I never would have found that office on my own!

We made small talk as he wrote out the receipt. He envies Alberto his job, because he gets to travel all the time, even though he has to get ex-girlfriends to pay for his car parking while he’s in Beijing. The man is Kenyan, but only goes home once every two or three years.

The receipt he handed me was for Wanyu Chen. I wondered if he wondered about Alberto’s real name. I thanked him.

“You take care, Sarah!” he called out to me as I walked back to the mini-van I had perfectly parallel-parked. I smiled and waved back.

Boston ain’t always half bad.

*Name changed.

Their condo was beautiful. Kind of amazing when I consider how recently they arrived to Massachusetts from Sri Lanka as barely-20s.

I was going over for dinner, but it seemed that I was arriving for afternoon tea. There was not a single dish in sight in that magnificent kitchen, and not the slightest scent of curry.

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We stood in the kitchen while she made us tea, and then we took a tour of the upstairs, and then we sat at the dining room table and talked some more, endlessly.

Those cutie pies. They had married so young, and remain so happy, so in love, so joyful at the new evidence of their successes.

Around 8:30, they asked me if I was hungry. I said I could certainly eat.

I commented on the candles as she removed the dishes from the oven and heated them in the microwave. “Yes, the candles,” she said. “Did you smell anything when you came in?”

“Yes,” I said. “It smelled like candles! They are beautiful.”

“Oh,” he smiled, “she loves her candles. They’re just so expensive!”

“Yes,” she grimaced, “but you know, when you cook, then the whole place smells like curry, and it gets into my clothes and my hair, and then at work, people think we’re Indian.”

 

Her left arm and her head hang out the window of a big black SUV. “Hey, ya leavin’?” she calls out to me.

“I am,” I respond. She wants my parking spot, and so I pull out the key to my mom’s minivan.

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“BACK UP!” she hollers. I look up again. Her head is still hanging out the window, and she’s looking back at the big UPS truck behind her.

He’s polite. “Lady, I have like a million cars behind me!” Although clearly exasperated, he shifts gears and backs up the six inches between the back of his truck and the front of the car behind him.

I stand on tiptoes. He wasn’t kidding. There are six cars behind him. “BACK UP!!!” She screams back immediately.

The hollering lady is right next to my minivan, and if she doesn’t move, no one’s going to move, including me. I roll my eyes and climb in.

She tries again, “BACK UP!”

He’s had enough, and his voice is louder. “GO!

Her tires squeal and her SUV sprints forward, but her vitriol carries loudly on the air behind her: “F@#)ING A$%^&*()!@.”

Nothing like home, sweet home.

Plympton Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge