by Dick Mac
Ramiro Ocasio lives in Astoria, Queens, and works in Midtown Manhattan. When you meet him you notice two things: (1) he is just like thousands of people who trudge to the subway every morning and are hurtled underground to the office, hopefully without delay; and (2) his amazing passion for every topic about which he is engaged (especially soccer and politics).
Ramiro was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and during his childhood returned to his mother's native Honduras where he spent his formative years. As a young adult, he returned to America, arriving in New York City on his way back to his native Boston. As he tells the story, he sounds just like the character in Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City." He got to Port Authority after a very long ride from Miami and decided he had to see New York City while he was here.
He rushed to the street with the little time available before his bus departed, and walked the block of 8th and 9th Avenues and 40th and 42nd Streets: "'Skyscrapers, and everything.'"
He bought a hot dog from a street vendor and called his waiting family in Boston to tell him he was on his way. While he was walking around Port Authority he was bitten by that bug that infects so many of us with the irrepressible notion that we must live in New York City.
It wasn't long before he was back. He secured a full-time job, and with the help of extended family settled in Queens. He is a hard worker. Those who know him will tell you stories of his commitment to projects, paid and unpaid alike. Eventually he brought his son from Honduras and raised him as a New Yorker with a good education.
With humility you seldom find in Americans, Ramiro would save some of his wages each year, travel back to Honduras at Christmas and spread his good fortune by distributing food, books, clothes, and anything else he could afford, to the neighbors of his former village. Each year, as he earned more money working in his new hometown, he spread more of his good fortune during his annual visits.
When friends and co-workers learned of his efforts, small donations from them increased how much he could give to those who have so little.
The Friday before Martin Luther King Day in January 2013 was just like every other Friday before a long weekend. His employer closed a couple hours early and he headed to the 59th Street subway stop to catch the N train home.
He noticed and heard a commotion up ahead and when he looked he saw that an older man had fallen into the tracks.
Without a second thought, he pulled the backpack and jacket from his back, threw them to the subway platform, leapt onto the subway tracks, picked up the now-disoriented man, and threw him to others on the platform. A super-human feat, just like you read about. He then realized that the platform was too high to climb to, and it took a great effort by the others on the platform to pull him to safety. Seven seconds later, the train rumbled over the spot in the tracks where the entire incident transpired.
Ramiro was a hero to everyone on that platform, and every resident of New York City. The police and paramedics arrived, and those emergency calls attracted reporters and photographers. Ramiro was thrust into the spotlight. Without betraying himself or putting on airs, he took the attention in stride. He answered the questions and posed for pictures. s the day turned into evening and Ramiro made it home, the attention grew. Reporters called, he had television crews in his apartment, and bloggers posted the story almost immediately.
His employer received an amazing amount of press, and got lots of calls about him, and they were proud of him. He did what all of us hope we would do in that situation.
He became the toast of the town and was invited to events you and I would never even consider an option. He posed for pictures with important people who wanted to shake his hand, and he took it in stride. He never lost the sense of awe that makes him the passionate man you will meet when you shake his hand.
As I write this, Ramiro is back in his village in Honduras, distributing food and books and supplies to his neighbors in need. The other day I saw a picture of him building a modest one-room cinder-block house for a family that had been living in squalor.
The notoriety has not impacted him at all. He remains loud and boisterous and passionate. And humble. He is still shocked by the attention he got, and he has used his notoriety and new connections to expand the work he does for those in need.
Ramiro Ocasio is a hero, and my choice for the most important person in 2013, not just because of that singular act of bravery and selflessness; but also because he lives the dream, he walks the talk, he makes people smile, and every part of the world he touches is better for it.
If I could be half the man . . .
I have watched the Boston Marathon from many vantage points over the years: Heartbreak Hill, Kenmore Square, the finish line. At one point I lived in an apartment at the Prudential Center with windows that overlooked Boylston Street, and I watched from there. The Boston Marathon is a big deal. I know people who run it, people who work it, people who host parties along the route, people who volunteer for the event, people who work in public safety during the race, people who just sit there and watch. It's a big deal in Boston.
I tried to work, but couldn't. I called my supervisor and explained that I had to go home, that I wasn't able to get information that I needed and I wasn't going to be able to get any work done until I heard that everyone was OK. There was no question from him at all. Of course I would go home.
Eventually everyone was accounted for and none of the dead or injured were my relatives, friends, or acquaintances. Conflicting and confusing news reports came in every minute. The news was horrific. Then two guys were cornered in Watertown and had a shootout with police. One of them died at the spot and the other got away. The next day the manhunt intensified and the city was shutdown. Police combed the area with military precision. There were reports that he was seen coming out of the Charles River, having swum some distance to escape, people's homes were raided for one reason or another, the best and worst of humanity shone through.
The second guy was found just as the shutdown was lifted. A guy noticed the cover on his boat in the backyard was flapping. When he investigated he saw blood and called the police. That was that. The bad guy was apprehended.
The term Boston Strong started appearing. At sporting events everywhere, there was a moment of silence followed by fans chanting "Boston Strong."
I am a member of the Viking Army, a supporters group for Red Bull New York, the local soccer team. We had a midweek match on Wednesday and across the southern end of the stadium, the supporters groups stretched a massive (massive) banner announcing "New York Stands With Boston." Amazing!
Coincidentally, the following Saturday (5 days after the bombing) we were hosting the New England Revolution, the Boston soccer team, in a match at Red Bull Arena.
Thursday saw the front office staff of the two teams and the representatives of the supporters clubs for both teams trying to coordinate some type of unifying event that would bring the opposing sides together in a sign of solidarity and support. This was a tall order, and it was unlikely that anything could be put together in such a short time.
Soccer has a fan culture that other professional sports do not enjoy. Large groups of passionate fans form groups that cooperate with the team and the front office, have sections of the stadium reserved just for them and their friends, and lead the crowd in chants and songs for the entire 90 minutes of the match. Some of these supporters groups, like Viking Army, organize trips to follow the team to other cities for away matches. Security teams for every MLS stadium have developed logistics that define where each team's supporters group will congregate, what time they will congregate, and what route they will take to their seats. Drunkenness and high spirits often make it a disorderly march to the seats, but one thing never happens: supporters for opposing teams never come in contact with each other, and never see each other until they are all in their seats. All teams' security personnel have done a commendable job year after year.
One thing the security teams have no experience with, is arranging for supporters groups from opposing sides to meet on the street outside the stadium, march together into the stadium, then go their separate ways to their designated sections. It has never been done. There has never been a reason to plan for it, because it just wouldn't ever be done. Bringing opposing supporters groups together is like throwing gasoline on fire: it might sound pretty nifty when described in bright colorful terms, but in reality will likely be disastrous.
At our pre-game tailgate we learned that our march from the Ironbound district of Newark would take a slightly different route and stop at the intersection of the road that leads to the front doors of Red Bull Arena. Once there, we would unfurl our massive banner from Wednesday night, which was so big it was wider than the boulevard fronting the stadium, and we would wait for the New England supporters to march from the opposite direction when they left their gathering spot in Harrison.
While we were assembling in front of the stadium, a cop who is regularly assigned to work match day asked me: "What's going on?" I said: "We're waiting for the New England supporters to arrive so that we can march together into the stadium." He actually laughed and said: "Yeah. Right! Like that would happen."
We stood behind our banner and then we saw them approaching from a quarter-mile away: waving their flags, singing their songs, shouting their chants. The enemy! Here came The Midnight Riders and The Rebellion, the two New England supporters groups, marching towards us, Viking Army and Empire Supporters Club, the New York supporters groups. The tension was palpable, but not negative or hostile. It was just kinda confusing and tense.
We all raised our scarves over our heads, and began chanting: "Boston Strong. Boston Strong." The New England supporters went silent as they approached and when they got to the intersection you could see they were smiling and laughing and crying and completely overwhelmed by the support. And you could see it in the eyes of the Vikings and other New York supporters. It was an incredibly emotional moment.
|Anatomy of a Boston Strong hooligan.|
It was remarkable. It was shocking. Everyone was awestruck, including the security team, the police, and the front office staff that were monitoring the situation.
Someone got on a bullhorn and said a few nice words, and then someone else said something. Then we stood in silence, and then someone started singing "America, The Beautiful." I lost it, most of us lost it.
We shook hands, they marched North to their entrance, and we marched South to our entrance.
It was a huge success. Something that had never happened before and will likely never happen again: opposing supporters groups marched to the stadium, chanted, laughed, cried, and sang together.
In the following days, we received accolades from the Red Bulls front office, the Revolution front office, the opposing supporters groups, and everyone else who had witnessed this remarkable event.
Soon our team was scheduled to visit New England for an away match. Since Foxboro is so close we generally get a fairly big crowd to travel. The leaders of The Rebellion and The Midnight Riders, and the Revolution front office called and asked to have a joint tailgate. We arrived early and it was rainy. There they were: New England supporters in the rain to greet us so that we could celebrate together. The front office set up a tent with grills and were giving away burgers and dogs.
The bombing at the Marathon was a horrible event, a murderous, frightening, bloody incident that has left a mark on all of us.
And the aftermath allowed us, as human beings, to show our mettle, to show what we are made of, to come together as one and find common ground on which to mourn and celebrate.
The Boston Marathon Bombing is the second event on my list not because of the carnage and terror, but because of small groups of people like The Midnight Riders, The Rebellion, Viking Army, and The Empire Supporters Club, who with organizations like Red Bull New York and the New England Revolution, rose above the fray, transcended the obvious and came together to show just how resilient we are.
During my lifetime there has been no other human being who so perfectly embodies the notions of struggle, dignity, success, and forgiveness.
Eventually, performers began refusing to play Sun City, the South African resort that was a regular stop for every entertainer on a world tour. Sun City was segregated. Although blacks worked at Sun City, only whites were allowed to visit as paying customers. I recall Diana Ross being particularly embarrassed and defensive when she learned too late that all the other black entertainers were refusing to travel there. I don't think she went back.
The imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, an early anti-apartheid leader and president of the African National Congress, became part of the international dialog. Why was this guy in prison? What had he done wrong?
Now that the entire world was seeing the South African apartheid-based government as illegitimate (if not illegal), the sins of the activists seemed not terribly sinful at all.
Special AKA (i.e., legendary ska band The Specials), a multiracial British band released the single "Free Nelson Mandela" and everywhere in the world (except the USA) the song played over and over again. In the USA, it played only on alternative and college radio stations (which really did used to exist). Still, the anti-apartheid dialog was taking place in the USA, too. Coin dealers kept their Krugerrand locked-up in back, not displayed with other coins. Shareholders began demanding that corporations divest their interests in South Africa, and the tide began shifting fast.
The apartheid government of South Africa started negotiating with the African National Congress. Mandela was released from prison, elections were held, white people fled in droves, and Mandela was elected President.
These were bright times and dark times for South Africa.
The change could be painful, and it was.
Mandela proved to be a brilliant leader. The story of the all-white South African rugby team is the stuff of legends. Mandela insisted that they continue as a team, they were successful, they could unite the citizenry. And they did.
Mandela was hailed around the world as a keeper of the peace, a bearer of the flame of liberty and righteousness.
When he died in 2013, he was lauded as a man who changed the world, changed humanity. Even former adversaries praised him.
There were very few negative testimonials (mostly from Americans on Fox News), and they were minimized as ludicrous (even by other Americans on Fox News).
I hope and pray that his passing will lead to a continuation of his philosophy, not an opportunity for the banksters to destabilize South Africa and return to raping it of its riches.
Nelson Mandela changed the world.
He changed me.
I'll bet he changed you, too, even if you don't know it.
Affordable Care Act
The vast majority of Americans, including the vast majority of elected officials that run the United States government have little or no grasp of socialism. They think they know what it means and that often includes the notion that they have to lose something so somebody can gain something. That's how the bankers want it: stupid working people fighting amongst themselves over bogeymen.
In 1994, Hillary Clinton, then First Lady of the United States, led a task force of really smart people to design a single-payer health care system that would address the American embarrassment of sick and dying people who either receive little or no care, or go bankrupt paying for whatever care they can afford until the money runs out and their treatments cease.
The United States House of Representatives was led by Newt Gingrich, and he led the charge against health care reform. He called it socialism. He and his buddies presented a plan that would put affordable care under the control of private insurance companies.
The First Lady, her supporters, and the President said "Absolutely not"!
|This is what stupid people think|
of affordable health care
Despite the idiocy of Republicans and the moronic following of millionaires, billionaires, and Fox News viewers they've assembled, the current Administration passed the Affordable Care Act.
To this day, Republicans and right-wing banksters are doing everything they can to undermine the plan and the well-being of America.
With all its problems, the ACA is an important milestone in the United States becoming a civilized nation. We aren't there yet - not even close actually - but with little glimmers in the darkness like the ACA, there is hope.
Mike Petke - Red Bull New York
My soccer team is classic: the most overpaid lineup that wins nothing. Zero championships.
In 2013, the owners decided to give control of the team to a young local coach who had been a player for the team. No fancy-pants European coach with tons of experience. Instead, a local guy. Almost a kid.
It was a bumpy start, but not a disaster by any stretch of the imagination, and then it happened.
A report came out of the training ground that the new coach, Mike Petke, had had a run-in and shouting match with the superstar, Thierry Henry. They had to be separated and the entire team witnessed it. The players would never betray confidence, but enough leaked out to let me conclude that this could be the end of Petke's tenure as coach or Henry's stay with the team.
|Coach Mike Petke and Superstar Thierry Henry|
The broadcast showed Henry relaxed, not sullen or angry, sitting on the bench with his teammates. A few laughs, a few conversations behind their hands, some shouting and cheering. It looked OK. It looked like Henry was taking the high road. This could only be good for the team. We all knew it.
What we didn't know when Henry came on as a substitute in the second half, is that this incident would change the course of the season, and the character of the team would mature by leaps and bounds.
We made it to the top of the table, number one in the standings, best record, most wins, most points in Major League Soccer. For the first time, our team was collecting silverware: the Supporters Shield. In every soccer league in the world, the Supporters Shield (as it's called in MLS, the Premier League in England, Serie A in Italy, etc.) is the pinnacle of success: you win it, you are the champions.
Photo: Vipers Nest
Used without permission
MLS also has some rules that make it different from every other soccer league in the world. One of these rules led to RBNY being eliminated in the early rounds and going home with their now-meaningless Supporters Shield while Salt Lake City and Kansas City ultimately played the final match.
Mike Petke transformed this team. He has impressed the entire soccer world, not just MLS! His coaching was noted by soccer experts on every continent. He is one of the most exciting and dynamic young coaches in the world today. I predict he will be the first American coach of a European club.
Oh . . . and how did I know that Henry and Petke were OK with each other?
After the match at which we won the Supporters Shield, the players were celebrating with the trophy and moving closer to the South Ward, where they would show it to the supporters. Henry pushed all his teammates aside, forcefully took the Shield walked Petke to the edge of the field in front of the stands, and handed Petke the trophy so he could raise it to the fans.
Petke gets it. Henry gets it.
He changed the world. In 2013 he sought asylum in Russia, which is better than a prison (but maybe not much).
Most of our allies don't seem to be so mad at him anymore.
So, we Americans are required to carry the "Edward Snowden Hates Our Freedom" torch all by ourselves, and I'm a bit surprised at some of my friends who have taken the position that he deserves to be punished.
For those who hate Snowden so much: while you were complaining about him, your government extended the area of our country that can be exempted from Constitutional Law to everywhere within a hundred miles of the coastline. So, in Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, you as a citizen cannot be guaranteed your Constitutional rights. Even if you're white and rich.
Boy, that Snowden sure wrecked everything!
Mario Jorge Bergoglio
Since accepting promotion to the papacy and taking the name Francis, the current pope has rattled a lot of cages.
Photo by Telegraph
Used without permission
He has decried modern-day capitalism as a serious threat to humanity.
He kissed a leper.
He said that Western conservatives are not accurately reflecting the teachings of Christ.
He doesn't like living in a palace.
This is all pretty scary stuff if you're a right-wing reactionary fuckhead Catholic; but, it's great news for we Catholics who were raised believing that our religious lives were for working towards social justice, helping those in need, and practicing the moral teachings of Jesus.
Catholics like me have been pretty unpopular since Pope Ronald Reagan, er . . . , I mean, Pope John Paul II, moved the church further to the right than Pius XII.
The last pope who talked about these things (John Paul I) was snuffed 29 days into his papacy.
I hope this pope lives long enough to piss off more 'conservatives' and move the church back to the left, where it belongs.
Perhaps next year I will write about him again and it will be good news.
David Bowie - "The Next Day"
On his birthday, in January, David Bowie released a new single. WHAT?!?!?
Then he announced that an album was forthcoming. WHAT?!?!?!?
|David Bowie The Next Day|
The video for the title track was directed by Floria Sigismondi and starred Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard. It does almost as much for Catholicism as the new Pope Francis! It's fantastic. I'll bet Pope Francis would not be offended by it. The stigmata scene is a bit much, but not because of its religious message. It's just kinda bloody and messy. Still, I like it, and I get it.
The wacko fringe 'group' The Catholic League, which isn't so much a group as it is a crazed gazzilionaire, denounced it, which was perfect because it means that all the Catholics then watched it. I'm a Catholic and I know a lot of Catholics. Everyone I know thinks it's a pretty accurate depiction of today's Catholic Church and an enormously entertaining video.
I can't say there is a single cut on the album that I dislike. I love "Dirty Boys" and "I'd Rather Be High"; and the title track is quite excellent. They all sounds like classic Bowie. It's almost like he went through his catalog and said: "let's make a song that might have been on this album or that album." It's really quite good, and it is not surprising to me that it's made many of the world's 2013 top ten lists.
Visconti and Bowie have been nominated for a Grammy!
Congratulations and kudos to all involved.
Chelsea (Bradley) Manning
Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for sharing military secrets with Wikileaks.
She is having trouble as a female prisoner because she used to be a man. The military has no mechanism to handle this change. Actually, our military has few mechanisms to deal with anything anymore since we've privatized so much of it.
I am fascinated that this case has now shifted from a discussion of information security to a discussion of transgender rights and needs.
This Congress uses military spending to funnel money to their friends and associates. This has always been true with congresses, of course. Somehow I didn't mind so much when 75% of the Congressmen were military veterans. It's almost like they'd earned the right to do that. This Congress' membership includes only 18% military veterans. This should mean a dramatic cut in military spending, not an increase.
The 113th Congress makes my list because of their futility and desire to successfully dismantle the United States of America (which they seem to be doing).
I have a daughter attending 4th Grade at a Catholic school. To her, gay marriage is a perfectly normal and obvious thing.
She and many of her peers don't think it should be anyone's business. They know homosexuals of both sexes, some are single and some are married, and they are all just regular, normal people: uncles, aunts, siblings, neighbors.
While my generation drags its feet through bigotry they pretend doesn't exist, future generations have already buried the issue.
I do not use marijuana, but I have in the past.
I have always thought it should be legal.
Hell, even Barry Goldwater thought it should be legal. Well, Barry Goldwater and I will be enjoying the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana throughout the United States over the next couple of years because in 2013 the flood gates began to open.
Next year, the NHL New York Islanders will abandon their current home at The Nassau Coliseum and join the Nets in Brooklyn.
Exodus International Shuts Down
Remember when you could get cured of your homosexuality?
Exodus International opened its doors and was managed by an "ex-gay" (whatever that is) who explained that he could cure people of their homosexuality. It was popular for a while.
I met a guy whose parents sent him there. He said the best part of it was all the easy sex he got with the other soon-to-be-ex-gay boys. In his case the cure didn't work.
It appears that his experience was the norm (for lack of a better word).
Even the famous ex-gay founder, Alan Chambers, has admitted that he still gets hot for guys. And why wouldn't he? He's bisexual, a perfectly normal sexual orientation.
|Mineshaft - NYC|
So, Miss Thing . . . I mean, Mr. Chambers, closed the organization, apologized for his actions, and announced he is going to re-open The Mineshaft, which will be used to turn straight people into homosexuals.
I only fabricated some of that!
These are some of the other living people I noticed in 2013:
Miley Cyrus: her ass, her vagina, and her tongue.
George Zimmerman: his acquittal, his guns, his cars, his women, and his temper.
His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge: they all look alike.
Robin Roberts: her cancer and her girlfriend
These are the other deaths I noticed in 2013:
Margaret Thatcher, U.K. prime minister
Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president
Van Cliburn Jr., pianist
Ed Koch, New York mayor
Doris Lessing, novelist
Stan Musial, baseball player
Peter O'Toole, actor
Lou Reed, rock musician
Ray Dolby, sound innovator
Mikhail Kalashnikov, assault rifle developer
Jean Stapleton, actress
James Gandolfini, actor
Edgar Bronfman Sr., philanthropist
David Frost, journalist
Joan Fontaine, actress
Happy New Year!