Super Hero’s on the Half Shell

Before Spiderman, Superman, The Hulk and Cat woman became popular Catholic’s had to rely on the saints as our super hero’s. In my family Saint Anthony was our chosen holy super hero. His super power was to help find anything lost. It’s a tradition to conjure up his superpower by chanting  “St. Anthony, Saint Anthony please come around… something is lost and must be found”

I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as saying “Up, Up and Away” and leaping tall buildings in a single bound like Superman, but dam …It was a great way to invite someone with experience finding things to help you out in a pinch.   Like the milk money your mother repeated.. Do Not Lose This!…six times before you lost it on the way to the store.

Tony get’s Cement Shoes: In fact St. Anthony was such a big figure in our family my mother had me cement a statue of his likeness in our front yard to show the world that we were part of his holy gang and therefore under his protection…. Kind of like a God squad auxiliary unit …

Until ironically he went missing (was stolen) from our front yard… I can tell you though that praying to St. Anthony to help to find him doesn’t work.  Like all super hero’s he does have an Achilles heal.    Kind of shakes your faith in the saintly power there doesn’t it?

saint anthonyIt helps to understand that I grew up in a town with a dozen colleges in a 5 mile radius…and college pranks are common in our neighborhood. So the thought that Saint Anthony may be subject to prank was why I anchored his statue in a hole with a full bag of post cement when I planted him in our yard.

My mother was beside herself when she realized that someone had taken her patron saint…who would do such a thing?? What has this world come to??? she repeated over and over again.

My little brother decided to use my mother’s confused state to have a little fun… He called the house and my mother answered the phone…

Hello? ….

(in a gangsta voice) Ya Lady..   Listen up..

If you ever want to see Saint Anthony again …

Put $20 and two tuna fish sandwiches in a brown paper bag and leave it on the park bench across the street…  By noon today.. or else….click!

Little did he know that her instant reaction was to call was to the Cambridge Police Department Detective bureau … She is well connected there as most of the cops were members of the local VFW where she was president of the woman’s auxiliary.

Detective:  Mary, Mary…Calm down for a sec….sounds like one of your nit wit sons is playing a trick on you…  Since he asked for food it sounds like that little fat bastard Kevin… check with him and let me know.

I’m glad I was not home that day…because I understand that even the super powers of St. Anthony could have helped little brother find a safe haven from Mad Mary’s revenge.

And speaking of Mary… another popular Saint in my neighborhood was the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Her super powers seemed to cross all lines as people prayed to her for just about everything.  She was a mother and like all mom’s she had the power to do anything and everything.. all you had to do was ask… and not make her mad of course.  Kind of like an all purpose Super Hero saint.

That’s why I believe she was the odds on favorite as far as statues in the front yard goes…  Her statues are loving referred to as “Mary on the Half Shell” or “The Bathtub Madonna” …

No matter who your super hero’s were or what there super powers are…I think having Saints on the half shell has taught me a few lessons..

  • Never going to find a guy named Tony who is wearing cement shoes, saint or no saint.
  • Never mess with a Mother … especially when she is in the bathtub.
  • Never request Tuna Sandwiches as part of a ransom demand
  • In order to be a Super Hero today, you need to come out of your half shell…

Up, Up and Away….







Something smells fishy

LegalGrowing up Catholic in Boston is was a given that on Friday’s we ate fish. To me the best place for fish on Friday’s was always Legal Seafood in Cambridge. Not the new swanky joint in Kendall Sq. I mean the old hole in the wall that was in Inman Sq. In 1968 the Berkowitz family took over a vacant space next door to their family market and made it a fish restaurant. Rumor has it that when the Pope said it was OK to eat meat on Friday’s the family was desperate for new business and had to expand or bust. The dining was no-frills, saw dust on the floors maintained that market feel. We had to pay for our meal before we got it and meals were served at white washed picnic tables, with white paper plates and plastic cutlery instead of silverware. But no one complained; the fish was superb, customers clustered together chatting, strangers and neighbors alike. That was part of the magic…The Fish and Clam chowder (Chowda) was and still is to die for ……..and everything else on the menu was fried (back before fried was bad) and we loved it with heaps of Ketchup and Tartar (ta da) sauce.  You can always tell a great fish restaurant if the place never smells of fish. Julia Child lived down the street and raved about Legal giving it class with what we called the high mucky muck crowd….

In the 1980’s Legal’s business was booming and the growing company was two weeks away from opening a big new restaurant at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston. The Cambridge location I am told was stocked to the hilt with booze for the grand opening (Hmm tons of alcohol and saw dust). During morning of January 16th, fire broke out at the fish market/restaurant/oyster bar in Inman Square and it moved fast and burned hot. By the time the fire was extinguished, the building was a total loss.

Comedian Lenny Clark also from the neighborhood sometimes mentions that fire in his comedy act.  It is important to mention that the Cambridge Fire Department was literally across the street from the Inman Sq. Legal Seafood. Lenny talks about the many strange things that happen in Cambridge and when referring to the legal fire he points out….

“Ya know if each of the fringing fireman on duty that morning, stood in the firehouse windows and whizzed in the direction of the restaurant,  we’d still be enjoying Chowda at Legal’s in Inman Square today”.  “God know those guys drink enough”.

I miss the old place and I miss the crowd…but I have to say…. the fire that burned Legal to the ground is the only thing that ever made it to smell little fishy to me.

Pony Tail and the Parking Lot Prisoner.

countrySometimes in life it’s just more fun to go with the flow. When we are “in the flow” we see more of the humor in things. This past Sunday was one of those perfect spring days, warm and sunny… The kind of day when you just want to enjoy basking in the warm sunshine… and smile

Mary FergusonOn days like this I load my 95 year old mom into her wheel chair and we roll ourselves out of the Nursing home and into their parking lot to catch some rays.

I think from growing up in a cold water flat, during the depression she has always craved the heat.  The hotter the better she always says…

She’s happy to be outside and tells every passerby that she’s an escaped prisoner from the Home, enjoying her last bit of freedom before the warden returns her to jail.  My mother thinks she is pretty funny.  So I call her the prisoner to play along until something happens which shows the importance of vulnerability or more specifically for being open to connecting with people.

While I stand guard with “the Prisoner”  in the Loading Zone outside the entrance way to the Country Health and Rehabilitation Center,  up the driveway walks a young guy holding an infant. The baby is a beautiful baby girl with flaming red hair and her father is a tall, pony tail, 60’s hippie type.

The Prisoner calls out “hey your baby is beauuuutifuul, what’s her name”?

He smiles, heads into the loading zone and responds with a smile… “Mary”.

My mom responds with a smile………..Hey, that’s my name too!

I’m thinking these two are going to break into a chorus of john jacob jingleheimer Schmidt..  When he says… She was named after the Blessed Virgin Mary…

Again she comes back with…… me too! …. She then tells him the story of how her mother prayed to the Blessed Virgin to have a girl and promised if she blessed her with a girl she would name her Mary and dress her in blue dresses (Virgin Mary’s signature color) until she is 7 years old. Which she did…

He responded back with a litany of superlatives about the Virgin Mary, she is the most generous, most virtuous, the best example of godliness, strength, and maternal instinct.

My mom waves her hand to interrupt him and says “the similarities stop there for me”….. Just when I was thinking the conversation is going to start his walk to 1st base… he sends the ball straight to LEFT FIELD…

Pony Tail: Are you Catholic??

Prisioner: Yes…

Pony Tail: Would you like to receive communion?

Prisioner: Sure…..

Pony Tail: (passing the baby) Please hold Mary….

Pony Tail: Let’s pray…Our Father who art in heaven….

The Pony Tailed Preacher and the Prisoner finish a chorus of Our Father and roll in a prayer to the Blessed Virgin. When the prayers complete he offers her a communal wafer from a gold pocket case…which I’m thinking is like a Holy Pez dispenser.

The preacher then turns and offers me communion. Now I know all the rules, associated sins, and protocols from serving nine years of parochial school with receiving communion when you are not in a state of grace.  But…it’s a sunny day and hell…. I’m in the loading zone of a nursing home parking lot guarding my 95 year old mother…I figure that should count as enough grace credit …so I say…… sure!

I hand the red haired baby back to the pony tailed preacher and they both move off into the nursing home… I assume to administer communion to the other prisoners…

We sit together for a moment in silence taking in what the hell just happened…A few minutes later,  my mother leans over to ask. Do you think that was legit?

I say sure…if you can’t get to the church then the church has to come to you…

I don’t know ….she says…not sure if that was legit…

Curious….. I ask… Well then why did you go along with it?

The prisoner smiled and said…Sitting in the loading zone at my age …I’m not taking any chances.

Me: I know what you mean…me neither.

The Rules of Let’s Pretend

Ever listen to how kids make pretend games?
It’s not so much the “Game”  but more the “Rules” that they make up that has caught my attention.

I’m listening to some boys list the rules for Marco Polo…
The “IT” boy has to close his eyes and chase the others who respond “Polo” every time he says “Marco”.. pretty standard rules right?  …  but here is where these boys make the team from Boston Legal look like amateurs.


The rule maker starts with …

  • Whoever is “It” is not allowed to wear goggles….probably because tinted googles can hide your eyes if they are open…seems reasonable……
  • No goggles on your FOREHEAD because that counts as “wearing goggles.”
    Not sure why that counts but I’m guessing it has some strategic advantage… 
  • No getting out of the pool and if you do your out! ” BUT…  if you do get out of the pool…Here he inserts a discrepancy clause in the long as you cannonball near the “IT” person you are still in the game ….I guess it gives away your location so that is fair, and could be funny since it scares the hell out of the “IT” boy.
  • If you are underwater and miss the call for “Marco!” you get one free pass and don’t have to say “Polo!” But only once… Not sure how this works if in practice the “IT” person is supposed to have his eyes closed.

I’m guessing there is a lot of squint peeking going on here in this game… overall I hear more arguing about the rules and deviation clauses being created than I see actual playing of Marco Polo….like politics is many ways..that’s a rules game that’s not much fun…

Girls on the other hand come at games from a very different perspective…..

Here is what I have heard them saying.

  • OK Let’s pretend our parents are dead …….????
  • Or …Let’s pretend we are orphans because our parents died in a plane crash
    (which is the same our parents are dead but gives them more street cred.)
  • We are Princesses with big castles and pools and yachts
  • AND everyone loves us because we are rich
  • With all the money in the whole entire world
  • We love animals and they love us too..

The girls then spend a lot of time deciding their Princess names (which sound a lot like stripper names) and deciding their ages …which top out at 30… if you are the grandmother princess.  Then comes the costume dress up session … (again highly influenced by the exotic dancing industry).

I don’t know about you but,… Let’s pretend our parents are dead thing I find a little discomforting….and as the father of five girls I’m planning on sleeping with one eye open from now on!  ….And who ever heard of a fairy Princess named Brandi, Candy or Fantasia???  What can we learn from watching our kids at play?

I guess we can learn that …Sometimes playing by so many rules takes away from the time we could/should be playing on the yachts parked outside our castles…

The rules can often be as confusing in the game of life.  So here are some simple ones I would suggest for us parents….

  1. Parents Should Live ….
  2. Parents Should Have Less Rules….
  3. Parents Should Play More (keeping the stripper names and costumes might help)

We don’t have forever…

Recent events in my family have forced me to look at life more closely. Newborn lives are winding up bringing joyful sound, while old lives are winding down bringing a quiet reflection.   The result of these events is a challenge…. A life challenge.

The challenge is …. Don’t waste timewe don’t have forever!


Say what you want, but say it well,

Do what you have always wanted to do .. and do it now (with class).

Focus on what’s important in life
(it’s the only one you get).

Take the time to make it a good run…

It’s more fun that way….

In the end I picture myself…………………

….sliding feet first through the gates of heaven shouting…

“I used every bit of time you gave me, nothing left in the bucket” Thank you Sir!!!

Then in my dress blue uniform, I’ll stand tall and look good…

And if the Army or the Navy should ever look on Heavens scenes ..

They will see the gates are guarded by the United States Marines.. 

marines gates