Cause I love that dirty water.... by Josh Trudell

What a crazy week.

So much has already been written and said about the Boston Marathon bombings – eloquent pieces here, here and here, for example – it’s hard to add anything new or different. As a Facebook friend said, no one wants to wallow in grief porn.

I spent several years at Northeastern University, and many afternoons/evenings/nights on Boylston Street. It hasn’t changed much – the awnings on the restaurants and bars have changed, but the ancient cobbles peeking out from their concrete cover are still there, the strength Boston was built on.

When I moved into Boston as a freshman, it was only the third time I’d ever been there in my life. My little New Hampshire town is only 2.5 hours away, but then it might as well have been on the moon.  (This is pre-Internet, kids. Look it up.)

My first night at NU, a group of brave freshmen ventured down Huntington Avenue to Copley Square. On the way back, we saw a fistfight – not a high school scuffle, but a no-punches-pulled fistfight – break out when a group of guys crossing the street had an issue with a car that came too close. Fingers were flipped, cars were emptied, punches were thrown, and a group of little freshmen scurried back to their dorm.

Welcome to Boston.

My first photographs were of the Christian Science Center, a block away from Boylston. Digging through a box last weekend, I found the faded black-and-white negatives, still held in a red Northeastern binder with a sticker from the college radio station on the cover.

One of my first assignments as the newly minted, over-his-head photo editor for the Northeastern school newspaper was to photograph the end of the marathon in Copley Square. The results were predictably bad – I was more than a little over my head – but I remember the huge pressing crowds on every side, so close together we could barely move, let alone run away from anything.

I remember buying a pair of huge black boots at an Army/Navy surplus store on Boylston, and my girlfriend at the time laughing at me as the hard rubber soles slipped and slid in the snow outside.

A brilliant Sunday spring morning when all was right with the world, an editor at the Boston Globe tossed me the keys to his Mazda Miata convertible and told me to go do a weather story. The people eating ice cream at JP Licks on Newbury Street (since closed) were happy to talk about the spring weather.

Cruising up Boylston Street, the top down and the sun out on a May day – it didn’t get much better than that.

On a similar day this year, as thousands of Boston marathon runners churned toward the finish line, two bombs went off. Three people were killed and more than 150 injured. After a five day manhunt, locking down the city, one alleged perpetrator was killed and the other found cowering under a tarped-over boat in Watertown.

Boston is already rebounding – the last terrorist was caught Friday night, and by Saturday afternoon, David Ortiz was proclaiming “This is our $#&%ing city!” as 38,000 roared in approval.

Some wounds will never heal – the monsters killed children, girlfriends and brothers in their rampage. But the strength - #BostonStrong – carries on.

Playing a home-and-home by Josh Trudell

You can't go home again. - Thomas Wolfe Who says you can't go home? - Jon Bon Jovi

After moving thousands of miles from where I grew up, I've found home has several meanings.

There's the home where I live now. There's home in the sense of the region I grew up in.

And then there's the actual home I grew up in - a cabin deep in the woods of northern New Hampshire. Only one or two of my oldest friends have ever seen that house - we moved when I was 12, and the memory most of my high school friends have of my house is the place we moved to (which hosted a tremendous high school graduation party, but that's a story for another day).

This house was our first home. My father, uncles and grandfather carved a road into the woods and built all the homes on it (except for the newest one, which my aunt lives in). My mother and father built this house when they were young - my dad laughs as he builds in yellowed Kodachromes.

I'm home this week - visiting my mother, and helping my sister with her wedding plans. She's getting married tomorrow, and the chaos has been, well, chaotic. But it's (mostly) been the happy kind of chaos.

I escaped for a bit yesterday afternoon and drove out to the old house, along winding gravel roads and through thick pine forests. The trees looked bigger and the road smaller than I remembered them.

I've still got family on this road, but that house - sold, then abandoned - is going to rack and ruin. Some holes in the roof are covered with blue and gray tarpaulin - others sag open, filled with leaves and pine needles.

A family of satellite dishes is aging in the front yard - two small ones, and one big, black pterodactyl - all postdating our time there. Some goober cut down the giant pine tree in the back yard that I used for a rope swing, dropping the top of the tree on the barn and crushing the side where Mom raised rabbits and pigs. The side that held cows and horses is still standing, but time and weather have taken their toll on the glass.

(I still remember my dad climbing that tree to hang the rope - now I can imagine him ripping into the joker who misplaced the tree's landing spot. "Pretty friggin' poor," he'd say.)

Old nails still jut out of a beam in a shed where I'd hang a punching bag after watching one of the Rocky movies on one of our three channels. A section of wall on the front porch is still scarred from where I was careless with the front porch swing while daydreaming of Prydain or Narnia.

Inside, ticks scurry about, looking for legs to latch onto. (There was an Army-style scrubdown after we got back to the "new" house.) The bookshelves in my old bedroom are empty, with only dust where my pre-teenager baseball cards, books and music once were.

The strongest memories are around the kitchen island - made by my dad, a thick block of wood, dark with oil and Crisco before people worried about cholesterol and grooved from mom's kitchen knife peeling vegetables she just picked out of her garden (with my help).

The wall where I raced Tyco cars with my uncle - the hallway where dad and I would wrestle - the fireplace mom and dad built with granite rocks and concrete...it's been 25 years since I've been in this house, but every piece still holds a story.



Living in Fantasyland by Josh Trudell

“Zack (*^%ing Grienke!!”

The big man’s forehead reddened, then purpled. “&^(&, Steve*, you do this to me every year! $&*@!”

As we roared in laughter, he paced around the room, crumpling pieces of paper and throwing them in different directions, fuming. Empty Styrofoam cups and plastic bags went flying, before he finally calmed down.

Ah, the raging torrents of emotion, wrought to the surface by fantasy baseball.

It’s one of the touchstones of spring, for me - flowers start to bloom, the air conditioning starts to run constantly, and I get together with a small group of friends to hash out our fantasy baseball auction.

Without delving too deeply into the nerdity, it’s a group of eight guys – one brought his girlfriend one year, and hasn’t lived it down since – sitting around bidding on their favorite American League baseball players. This is New England, after all - none of that National League crap goes here.

This has been my first fantasy league, and the only one that’s ever stuck. The group’s core is made of people I worked with at my first real job – a reporter and editor at a small newspaper in southern New Hampshire.

One of the clichés about newspapers is the camaraderie – long hours, low pay and high stress forge a deeper working relationship than other jobs. These guys are my proof that it exists, and it’s why I fly 1,500 miles to hang out with them for a few hours.

Distance makes it harder now – I’ve only made it one of the last three years, and I can’t remember the last time I saw Steve (the guy who seems to win it EVERY YEAR).

I’m not a charter member of the league – there are a couple of those left – but I’ve been part of it long enough to see most notepads give way to laptops. During the most recent auction, held just a couple of days ago, we retired an old easel and huge sketch pad in favor of a high-definition TV and Google Docs to keep track of who chose which player.

Red Sox players are always expensive – it is New England, after all – but it’s the only time Yankees players might be valued just as highly. Old jokes are revived about Nomaaaaaah, new stories told about the latest indignities of the newspaper business, and the bids go round in circles.

Ironically, the process gets more competitive later in the game – the outburst above was during the last stage of the auction, when a promising pitcher was taken before the outburster’s next pick.

It’s become part of the history of this group, rolled out any time someone gets too excited about losing a bidding war.

After a rousing third-place finish last season, I’m hopeful about this year’s team – since, hope, like baseball, springs eternal.

*Names changed to protect the outburster and bursted-upon.