Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

Christmas Day 2008

Merry Christmas and season’s greetings of peace to all.

Since I was young, I have enjoyed the annual Christmas letter sent from my daredevil pilot uncle Michael. I’ve tried to send one out every year for awhile, because time and life is short and Clara and I have made so many friends whom we wish all lived on our block so that we could spend more time with, and stay closer to. But such are the vagaries of life, that we spread hither and dither, and some of you express appreciation to know what we are up to. If you have heard it all before, skip the rest of this and come over for a drink sooner rather than later, for the rest of you: Read on!

As most of you know, Clara and I took 2007 to ride our motorcycles around the world. We spent last Christmas in Udaipur, India where James Bond’s Octopussy was shot. We are hoping to write a book about our travels to 42 or so countries; I want to call it “The World is Full of Good People”, Clara who is smarter and more practical thinks it should be called “Adventure Honeymoon: Building Bridges to the World”. Either way, she is the star of the book, a five-foot-two-inch dynamo who had less than 1000 miles of seat time on her bike, taking off for what would be 36,000 miles on the odometer as we circumnavigated the Globe, through Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, the Subcontinent and Himalayas before ending in South East Asia. It was difficult at first, with her experiencing a few drops and falls, and our getting used to each other and the rhythms of the road. In Mexico and Ecuador it was NOT okay to take pictures of her sliding through a puddle and getting mixed up in a barbed wire fence. By Bolivia, it was okay to snap a shot of her sideways in a sand dune desert that passed as a highway. When we got to Transdneistr, she was staring down corrupt Cyrellian guards as I was trembling in my boots. To read more, please visit our blog at To all of our new friends we met along the way, thank you so much for all of your help, and for confirming for me the basic goodness of most people.

We arrived back in Boston in March, although we had rented out the BIG House and didn’t get back in it until July, so in the meantime we lived in a one bedroom section-8 apartment of ours in Roxbury. For Clara it was confining, for me it was like being in college again, sleeping in sleeping-bags on a mattress on the floor, an old door on two file boxes serving as a desk. We cleaned the back yard and planted a garden, as Clara looked for work, and I got back up to speed with construction stuff. It ended up being a brutal few months, as I was working on renovating a house recently purchased by the people renting our house. It is amazing to me how the rich (they make $500,000 a year between them) can be so nasty and miserable. We eventually had to evict them from our house, as they screwed over everyone from roofers, to heating people to electricians. They owed one subcontractor $500, sent him a check for $250 with a note that said “times are tough for everyone”. The problem is that working people are so used to getting the shaft from the rich that they tolerate it. For example, President Bush, Congress and the Bailout. Somehow I don’t think many of you reading this are going to get your share of the $20,000.00 or so per person they just handed out to Wall Street. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Welcome to America!

Meanwhile, Clara couldn’t find a job back with the Veteran’s Administration where she had worked. Her doctoral specialty is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Why would the VA need anyone with experience in PTSD working with Veterans??? Probably because we ONLY have two wars going on, and our vets are already not getting all the care they need. So, she took a job which she is really enjoying, working within walking distance at a private practice here in Boston. Seems as if non-veterans have the need and money to afford Clara’s excellent service.

Amazingly, the corruption in Boston hadn’t been solved in the two years that I was gone. I started to blog again about the myriad roadblocks that City and State government put up to keep residents from doing honest business and getting good schooling for their kids. Some people have started to take notice, and I was recently hired as a columnist by the South End News, my local weekly paper which had been keeping tabs on my ranting. The column was named by Clara and is called ‘No Comment?!’ in honor of all those politicians who won’t answer questions. It can be found at Only my city councilor and my state senator are currently under indictment by the FBI. My state representative who told me two years ago he was going to call me back after the election to talk about my ideas for Open government reforms has not been arrested and has not called me back. Yet.

This year we received the decision in the lawsuit McCrea v. Boston City Council in which the Boston City Council has spent about $200,000 of taxpayer money fighting an $11,000 fine in defending the Council’s right to meet behind closed doors and talk about the planning, zoning and development of the City, and other things and exclude the public from knowing anything about it. It went through the appeals court, and the McCrea decision is now case law in Massachusetts. The City Council plead guilty to all remaining counts in November to avoid a trial, setting our case up to be the largest fine in state history for a body violating the Open Meeting Law. Every once in awhile the citizens win one, thanks to my co-plaintiffs Shirley and Kathleen, who spoke to truth to power and to $600-an-hour lawyers and won.

I took Clara to the beaches of Central America for her birthday in August. While we were there, I decided to try the other side of the fence and “play ball” with a local politician. With my limited-but-getting-better Spanish I negotiated a deal with a guy running for Mayor. I would give him $50 and a pair of boxing gloves, and if he got elected he would let me exceed the zoning limits and build a hotel with a rooftop casino, if I hired some of his friends and family members to do some construction and engineering on the building. It really opened my eyes to how things get done in Boston, and what is the problem with that??? It creates jobs!! It cleans up neglected neighborhoods!! Everyone is a winner!!! Well, except for all the people left in shadows around me, and whose views I would block, but hey they have less money than me so they have less rights right? Unfortunately, I heard he lost the election.

My South End Youth baseball team, The GIANTS, won the championship again. We are undefeated in the playoffs for the last 4 years running. The kids were the champs, not me, as I lost my composure and had to retire early. I’m probably asking too much for the league to abide by the rules it sets for itself. As Clara would say, I’m a tortured individual who finds problems everywhere instead of seeing the glass half full. We had a bunch of great kids on the team who have been with me for years, including a new kid this year: God. Yes, I drafted God West in the second round (unbelievable: God was still available in the second round. I know!) and his adorable smile and attitude, as well as other great players like Ryan, Jorge, William made for a great summer. There really is a special warmth in the heart when you hear a kid call you “coach” with adoration, respect, and desire for instruction. I recommend it to everyone. Thanks to fellow coaches Mario, Bill and Ryan for a great year. Mario got me to go VT for a weekend wiffleball tournament to raise money for the Travis Roy foundation. Nothing like two straight days of pitching whiffle ball on miniature Fenway Park and Wrigley Field diamonds to remind you that you are not a teenager anymore.

Another thing that makes you realize you are not a teenager is breaking your wrist playing basketball with a bunch of big, strong Northeastern University “kids”. I was fortunate enough to do this in September, so that by the time our Thanksgiving family get-together happened in Hawaii I could take off the cast and swim, although it wasn’t strong enough to surf. The stench in my cousin’s house, however, was strong enough to get Clara to move out after one night and into a beautiful beach-front resort. There are compromises to be made in marriage, I’m learning. Don’t get me started on the state of health care in the country, as this is a family newsletter. But why would you pay 50% more for something that is of inferior quality? USA wake up!

I’m sorry if any of you lost money in this tiny correction that is happening, but, you trusted Congress, President Bush and Wall Street with your money. What were you thinking? And people call me crazy????

On a serious note, friends have noticed a difference with me and Clara since we’ve returned. Living for over a year out of 4 metal boxes makes you appreciate what is and isn’t important in life. We are more appreciative of time and friends, of conserving the world, intolerant of intolerant people and religions, and less materialistic. (Hard to believe I could be less of a consumer, but I am.) I love the library! I’m currently designing and hope to start building this year an off-the-grid house, with recyclable grey water; it is an interesting challenge.

The happiest man I know, is a motorcyclist from the D BIG BIKES motorcycle club in Thailand who befriended us and let us stay with him in Bangkok, and spent much time helping us to ship our bikes back to the USA. He has sold everything and is back to being a Buddhist monk in north Thailand (All Thai men spend time as a monk young in life, even the King). He is eternally giving and happy, and we stay in touch. All he has is his orange robe and his bowl to beg for his meals every morning. Life is a state of mind, and if we choose to be happy and to bring happiness, it will be returned. I am grateful to Ood for including me in his life.

This country was built on fantastic ideals, worth fighting and dying for. People around the world look to us as a beacon of hope for what is possible if we are given freedom and equal rights. They are smart enough to separate George Bush from the rest of us, but they question what direction we are going. It saddens me to have to spoil their vision of America, of a land without corruption, where everyone gets the same chances. My time in New Orleans shattered that ideal. We visited Tsunami-ravaged areas in Southeast Asia where they have completely rebuilt, but when I went back to New Orleans in September it almost seemed as if nothing had been done in the year-and-half since I left.

However, to end on a positive note, one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill “America can always be counted on to do the right thing…After they have exhausted all other possibilities.”

Let’s work together to do the right thing. Don’t tolerate empty platitudes from your elected officials. Even better, run against them! You will always have two votes from Clara and I. Make new friends, come visit us old ones or invite us to see you! Clara is excited about getting back on her bike in the springtime and finding new adventures!!!

Have a great New Year’s and 2009

Peace and Love,
Kevin and Clara
218 West Springfield Street
Boston MA 02118

P.S. Check out FireWater’s album: The Golden Hour. I can’t stop playing it. An American musician fed up with George Bush and our wars, traveled around the Middle East and Southeast Asia to meet our “enemies” (sound familiar?) He made music with local musicians, recorded it on his Mac and it is great. I crank it up and dance to it, it gives me energy to keep fighting the MAN. See it on Youtube:

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