Mystical, Magical, Transcendental.....Trying to make sense of it all.
I was born in Charlestown, MA, during the Great Depression of the 1930s. We called the town “The Green Square Mile” because the population was predominately Irish Catholic and very parochial. I took great delight in learning from the church and town elders by listening to stories and legends of the “Olde Sod” from past and present, of both saint and sinner.
The living and the dead were an inspiration to me, and I developed an insight that helped me sort out my life as I grew up. Because of this understanding, I have become more open to the realities surrounding me, and to the incredible beauty and mystery that surrounds me in my every-day life.
Please CLICK HERE to view a video of me speaking at a Rising Tide Writers' reading in April 2013.
A BIT ABOUT THE BOOK
Charlestown has a long historical past dating back long before the Revolutionary War. Recently, it developed a tough reputation becauseof gangsters called the "Irish Mafia" associated with Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang of Somerville, Ma. Anyone who saw the movies Mystic River and The Town have a sense or feel of the environment with its bank robbers, highjackers, loan sharks, among other characters. This is my story of escaping this environment that was so easy to slip into and extremely difficult to extricate oneself from. Leaving Charlestown to enter the U.S.Navy, coming home to return to M.I.T. and Lincoln Laboratory where I was working, then enter religious life as a Catholic Brother two years later was a challenge. After ten years as a monk I left religious life met and married a former nun with nineteen years experience who became the love of my life. As Catholics, the council of Vatican II had a profound effect on our lives. That's part of the story.
An Excerpt from the book.
‘Here’s the deal Eddie. We figured we’d meet at Myles’ pool room at Thompson square eight o’clock sharp on Friday night. We’ll kill some time playing a few rounds of Kelly Pool until it closes. Then we go over to the Emmons playground and meet at the bath house. Just make sure we go our separate ways. Once we are all together, Me and Silky will leave as a team. and head for the tobacco shop. We climb up on the roof with the ash shed helping us get up to the roof. We’ll have to shimmy up on the drain spout to get to the top. When we get there we’ll Jimmie the skylight open and be ready to drop you down when you get there. Give us about 10 min. then you and Money come down to the shed . We’ll be waiting for you. That’s the plan. We’ll go over it again when we get to the bathhouse O.K.?”
My father was a bookie working out of Myles’ pool room when I was a teenager. He always wanted to get off the docks as a longshoreman. With only one good eye and a limp from polio that was the only work that was open to him It was very difficult for him to get insurance or workman’s compensation .He wound up with the nickname Hopper which became corrupted to Hobba because of the Boston accent. So the only thing left was to work the docks. He taught me how to play straight pool, little eight, Kelly and billiards. Such skills as drawing the cue ball straight back, making a quick stop after hitting the object ball or how to put English on the cue ball took a lot of practice. I got that in at the Bunker Hill Boy’s Club on Green Street. He also taught me to stay away from the sharks and sandbaggers who played much better than you and were hanging around ready to take advantage playing a little dumb but Foxy. Once you got taken you learned in a hurry who to stay away from and who you could compete with.
On Friday night the four of us swaggered into the pool room as usual, walked to the back of the room and reached for a pool stick from off the wall. Shaky took his and rolled it on the table, checking it out and said, “no bends, no bows. Looks good to me. Straight as an arrow.” I reached for mine, held it like a rifle and from the thick and eyeballed the stick and sang out, “no kinks, no bows and nice and straight. I’m all set.” The other two did likewise and seemed satisfied with their sticks. Staying cool, calm and ready to play, the owner, Myles, came over with the rack and places the pill bottle at the breaking end of the table, turned on the overhanging light and racked up the balls. We are now ready to play our usual game of Kelly Pool until closing.
It’s a very creative game requiring two to six players but can accommodate more. Each player picks up the bottle, shakes it and draws a pill with a number on it corresponding to the fifteen ball numbers in the rack. That is the object ball to win the game. As the game is played, if you pocket the ball number of the opponents he is eliminated from play and pays you a fee based on the the agreement before the game. If your ball is pocketed by someone else you pay the person that pocketed it and your eliminated from play. If you pocket your own ball, every player pays you and the game is over. Once your number is pocketed, you must lay your pill on the table and put your stick away. At the end of the game the number of pills on the table must correspond to the number of players. Also, to avoid any shenanigans, the pills in the bottle and those on the table must total fifteen. It has happened that a player could take more than one pill and cheat. This kept us all honest and no one got away with anything. You could earn a good piece of change some nights. The games were very competitive and animated but respectful. Much like golf, people got quiet as you were about to shoot. After that, it would start especially when you made a difficult shot ,”Hey lucky ass !” or “Boy are you unconscious” or still, ”Will you take that rabbit foot out of your ass,” and on and on.
As it got close to closing time I felt a bit uneasy and nervous. While I had a good night playing pool and picked up some money, the anticipation of the escapade broke me into a cool sweat. The plan was to peal off and go our separate ways and meet at the bath house. I decided to head back to my own house and circle around and headed to the playground to meet the guys. When we were all there we went over the plan.
Shaky and Silky leave first, heading to the tobacco store. Me and Money hang back for ten minutes. I don’t know about Money but I was shitting my pants. I never did anything like this and had no idea how it was going to turn out. All I could think about was detective Donovan down at station 15 at City Square and me winding up at Lyman Reform School, not to mention Jim Mullen my cousin, the clerk of the court. How would he feel with the embarrassment. I was ready to puke from the fear of the unknown. When it came time to go, I sucked it up and we were off for the alley. When we got there we could see the guys on the roof waiving us on. We bounced up onto the shed, I grab the down spout and Money starts pushing me up the drain. The two guys on the roof reach down and grab me by the hands and haul me to the roof. Sure enough, the skylight window was off to the side and ready for me. Money jumps off the shed and hangs in the alley until I open the front door. Shaky and Silky grab me by the wrists and before they let me go tell me it’s not that far down. Just remember when you hit the deck make sure your knees don’t hit your chin and roll over like football off to the side. Then run to the door and open it. When you do that just keep on going. Go home and we’ll do the rest. Thanks for helping out. We’ll be in touch.
They let me go and down I went. As I was dropped my heart was pounding and I felt like a wet dish rag. As I bounced on the floor I shifted my weight and fell flat, and jumped right up. The street lamps outside gave me enough light to see the front door. When I opened it, Money barged in with a bag and started stuffing cartons of cigarettes into it. I ran out the door and kept on going for a while. Shortly after, I calmed down and went down to Scali’s Deli on Chelsea Street for a cup of coffee before I went home.