"Prosperity always inflates the imprudent, and worldly peace weakens the vigor of the soul." - Peter Abelard

Thursday, August 18, 2011

D.A. Drops Charges In Wellesley Prostitution Sting

This is part one of a two-part investigative story published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman. The stories investigate a undercover prostitution bust made by Wellesley police and NORPAC detectives on Aug. 11, and the subsequent fallout from that bust. The story has since been picked up by WCVB (Boston Channel 5), and can be read here.

A still-existing sign inside 120 Cedar Street advertising the Aroma Spa, an alleged house of prostitution. Photo by Rhys Heyden.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - A masseuse was arrested after she allegedly massaged an undercover officer’s genitals during a prostitution sting last week, according to police reports. But late Wednesday afternoon, the Norfolk County District Attorney’s office said the charges had been dropped and the case is no longer pending. They did not elaborate.

On Thursday, Aug. 11, officers arrested Aiying Qiao, 52, whose only known address is 120 Cedar St., after she allegedly accepted $40 from an undercover police officer to perform sexual services in a “massage” parlor in the building. The building is located just off Route 9, near the newly renovated Cedar Street bridge.

Qiao was arrested on three counts: engaging in sexual conduct for a fee, keeping a house of prostitution, and having an unlicensed massage/bath house. She pleaded not guilty to all three charges, and was bailed on personal recognizance the next day at Dedham District Court, according to court reports.

The sting marks the fourth time since 2008 that Wellesley police have busted what they allege is a prostitution operation. In 2008, Wellesley police shut down unlicensed massage businesses on Linden Street and Cedar Street in January and June, respectively. An alleged brothel was also shut down on Grove Street in March of 2010.

The Sting

According to Wellesley Police reports, Qiao’s arrest was the culmination of a month-long investigation by NORPAC task force officials, who, in July, first noticed a suspicious neon sign advertising “Aroma Spa Massage” in the window of the building.

NORPAC is the Norfolk County Police Anti-Crime Task Force, a multi-agency unit comprised of police detectives from 15 police departments in Norfolk County, according to its website.

According to an Aug. 8 online posting on craigslist, Aroma Spa at 120 Cedar St. was advertised as a place to “relieve your stress and tension” that had “service in clean, quiet and private rooms.”

A separate post on “Rub Maps,” a website that compiles reviews of “erotic Asian massage parlors,” also listed Aroma Spa at 120 Cedar St. in Wellesley. The site added that the business takes cash only, and listed hours as 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

According to police reports, investigating Wellesley Detective Robert J. Gallagher later determined that no massage license existed for the Aroma Spa. On Aug. 11, Gallagher and Detective Domenic Tiberi, a detective working with NORPAC Task Force, devised an undercover operation. That evening, Tiberi made an appointment with Qiao over the phone via the number posted on Craigslist for 5:45 that night.

According to the report, that Thursday night Qiao charged $60 for a massage, and Tiberi asked if she would “take care of him,”and she nodded yes. Tiberi paid with a pre-marked $100 bill, and Qiao proceeded to give him a 45-minute massage, according to the report on file at the Dedham District Court.

During the massage Qiao allegedly placed the $40 change on a table, the police report states. After Tiberi gave it back to her, the report notes, she allegedly placed it in her bra and began massaging Tiberi’s genitals. This, the report states, was interrupted by a pre-planned call from Wellesley Det. Gallagher, pretending to inform Tiberi of a family emergency.

(Tiberi's actions have since been called into question, and you can read the Townsman article here that investigates his actions.)

The report goes on to state that after Tiberi left the building, a cohort of Wellesley and Needham police officers entered the business, recovered the marked bills, and arrested Qiao. She was then taken to the Wellesley police station, processed, and read her rights, the report states.

The Aftermath

Qiao, who speaks primarily Mandarin Chinese, needed a translator for both her interview with Wellesley police and arraignment at Dedham District Court.

According to the report, Larry Ng, a local business-owner, served as her translator at the police station. During this time, Qiao allegedly claimed she had no massage license because she only did “bodyworks.” She also had no identification with her.

Along with signs in the lobby of 120 Cedar St. and keys to the business, Wellesley Police seized six pages of customer record sheets, according to the report.

If convicted of all three charges, Qiao could have served up to three and a half years in a house of correction and paid a penalty of up to $600. She had a pre-trial hearing originally set for Sept. 9, and would have been represented by attorney Frank DiMento Jr., according to reports from the Dedham District Court.

The building at 120 Cedar St. is owned by the E. Reynolds Realty Partnership.

Raymond Reynolds, the owner of the building, declined to comment for this article. According to the police report, officers apprised Reynolds of the situation on Thursday night after making the arrest.

Phone calls placed to the craigslist number for the Aroma Spa by the Townsman were not returned, although a voice-mail was set up.

Roy Switzler, of Switzler Realty, was the listing agent for 120 Cedar St. He said he never met the tenant, and the leasing in this case was done by a local co-broker, Marta Malina. The name on the lease was Hong Tao Shao, of Connecticut, Switzler said.

Switzler said the second floor, where the Aroma Spa was located, had been empty for almost two years, and Reynolds was pleased to finally have a tenant when Qiao moved in roughly a month ago.

“The [lessee's] background and credit both checked out and she had good references but, evidently, something happened along the way, said Switzler. “It’s just a sad thing, and it’s a total surprise for me.”

In the report, Detective Gallagher wrote about “ongoing investigations” that started in 2007 among many Norfolk County communities. These investigations have focused on identifying prostitution businesses in the MetroWest area.

Such businesses have become increasingly common in suburban communities like Wellesley, where detection can be more difficult for law enforcement officials.


Was Officer's Conduct In Wellesley Sting Operation Appropriate?

This is part two of a two-part investigative story published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman. The stories investigate a undercover prostitution bust made by Wellesley police and NORPAC detectives on Aug. 11, and the subsequent fallout from that bust. This part of the story was co-written with Teddy Applebaum, a reporter with The Brookline TAB.  The story has since been picked up by Boston Channel 5 (WCVB) and can be read here.

The building, 120 Cedar Street, that housed the Aroma Spa Massage, where Aiying Qiao was arrested on Aug. 11. Photo by Rhys Heyden.
 WELLESLEY, Mass. - - An undercover officer who allowed his genitals to be massaged by a woman who was the target of a prostitution sting operation may have gone too far, according to a criminal defense attorney.

Aiying Qiao, 52, who was arrested on Aug. 11 during a prostitution sting at 120 Cedar St., was facing several charges, including keeping a house of prostitution, before the case was dropped late Wednesday afternoon by the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Peter Elikann, a Boston criminal defense attorney with over 30 years of experience with prostitution cases, told the Townsman that sexual contact like what Domenic Tiberi allegedly allowed is “extraordinarily unusual.”  Tiberi is a detective with the Norfolk County Police Anti-Crime Task Force.

“Generally speaking it’s enough for the alleged prostitute or masseuse to simply solicit and to make the offer,” he said.  “Once there is an agreement to commit the crime that’s all that is needed to make an arrest.”

“There’s absolutely no requirement that they have to consummate the act or that the person has to be touched illegally,” he continued. “In all my years I haven’t heard of an instance like this.”

According to the police report, Tiberi obtained a non-verbal agreement from Qiao regarding sexual services to be performed, and then paid Qiao $100. After a 45-minute massage, a nude Tiberi paid Qiao an additional $40, which she accepted, and sexual contact ensued.

Early on Wednesday, before the charges were dropped, Police spokesperson Lt. Marie Cleary said she wouldn’t comment on the incident because it’s department policy not to discuss open investigations. Deputy Chief Bill Brooks, who was involved with the sting, was on vacation.  Police Chief Terrence Cunningham defended the operation, saying case law supported it.

Cunningham said later in the day he had not yet had an opportunity to talk with the D.A.’s office about why the case is no longer pending.

According to Elikann, generally an undercover officer will simply discuss a desired sex act with the alleged prostitute, and once they reach an agreement, make the arrest.

And, he said, to avoid claims of entrapment the best practice is to wait for the alleged prostitute to bring the illegal act on his or her own, instead of having the officer raise the idea. According to reports officer Tiberi first breached the idea by asking Qiao if she would “take care of him.”

“Generally you want the masseuse to be the one to make the suggestion rather then you,” Elikann said. “In all the cases that I’ve seen that’s how it generally works.”

In fact, for prosecution purposes the officer will generally try to get the suspect to clarify exactly what they plan to do, and for how much it will cost, during that initial conversation, Elikann said.

“It’s usually put in so many words,” he said. “If the masseuse were to suggest [the act] very subtly at the beginning the police officer will want a little bit more clarification.”

In summation, Elikann said the situation was definitely odd.

‘This is a first,” he said.


Mobsters And Losters: Wellesley Duo Launches New Boston Trolley Tour

This story was originally published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

Tour guide Tom Collins with the trolley. Courtesy photo.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - Wellesley residents Marcia Weaver and Jack Keating have what seems to be one of those meant-to-be business partnerships, but it took sheer coincidence to bring them together.

The two became friends when their paths serendipitously crossed at South Station. Jack, a locomotive engineer for Amtrak, and Marcia, an entrepreneur with a concierge business at the station, realized they had something important in common.

Keating, who grew up in hardscrabble South Boston in the late 50s and early 60s, had a plethora of gangster stories from his childhood. Marcia was a published author with a passion for stories about Boston’s underbelly.

The two immediately saw the potential for combining their skills. Their first venture, the “Mobsters and Lobsters Trolley Tour,” launches on Aug. 18.

“We tell about 16 stories over the course of a few hours,” said Weaver. “They take place all over the city, and people will get to see the places where a lot of these things happened; the Boston Strangler, Whitey Bulger, Sacco and Vanzetti, the jewel heist at the Parker House Hotel, all that good stuff.”

The trolley, which seats 40 and is chartered from City View Trolley Tours, departs from the waterfront Boston Aquarium. The tour ends with an Italian seafood dinner and wine tasting at the Venezia Waterfront Restaurant and Boston Winery in coastal Dorchester (thus the “lobsters” in the title).

Tom Collins, another South Boston native, will lead the tours. “He’s worked on a lot of the Boston-made movies, and he has an appropriately gritty persona,” said Weaver.

Weaver wrote the script used for the tour over nearly three years, consulting with Keating frequently about his firsthand stories.

“Marcia tells me that I’m her inspiration, growing up in Southie,” said Keating in a textbook Irish Boston accent. “That was a wild time to grow up. The gangsters were who you looked up to.”

Keating started shining gangsters’ shoes in bars on Friday and Saturday nights at the tender age of 12. A couple of topsy-turvy years later, he remembers a Boston judge telling him, “Go find somebody in armed forces that’ll take you, or I will.” Jack served in the Navy for 4 years, and put his former life of crime well behind him. Many of his childhood friends, however, ended up running with Whitey Bulger.

“My mother knew Whitey, and thought he was a gentleman and a wonderful man. He was brilliant, and really could have done anything with his life,” said Keating. “It’s sad that he chose the evil side, and I just can’t glorify that kind of criminality.”

A portion of every ticket sold for the tour will go to the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, an organization that works to decrease violence in Boston.

 “I would say that most of the events that I’ve planned in my life, I’ve tried to do them with a social conscience. It’s good to be helping other people when you’re having a good time,” said Weaver.

Weaver said the tours will run approximately once a week, and that scheduling will be based on demand, which is still an unknown.

“I think there are always interesting stories about the places we live that we don’t really know about. A lot of people don’t know about this stuff about Boston. It was kind of a wild time in Boston, and it’s really amazing how it all turned out,” said Weaver.


The inaugural “Mobsters and Lobsters” Boston trolley tour departs from the Boston Aquarium at 6:30 pm on Aug. 18. The cost of the tour is $99, which includes the price of dinner and wine tasting. For reservations and questions, call (617) 274-4715.

Q & A With Jamie Chisum, New Interim Principal at WMS

This story was originally published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

Jamie Chisum at his new home, Wellesley Middle School. Wicked Local photo by Kate Flock.

The Townsman sat down and caught up with Wellesley Middle School Interim Principal Jamie Chisum during his preparations for the 2011-12 school year.  
Townsman: What was your journey to this position?
Chisum: Well, I’m nearly 42 years old, and I graduated from college in ’91, so it’s been a few years. I did a little bit of substitute teaching, I did some track coaching, and then I went to grad school. I thought I wanted to be a writer, I was actually studying English at the University of Oregon, but then I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do for my career. I moved back to Massachusetts, went to UMass, and got my masters degree. I taught 9th grade English for 5 years at Taconic High School in Pittsfield, then I met my wife, who was living in Wayland at the time. I decided that commuting all the way from Pittsfield was too far, and so I looked for a teaching job here. I was really fortunate to get hired as an English teacher at WHS, which I did for 7 years, and then I applied to be the assistant principal, and I got that job 6 years ago. In June of this year, Superintendent [Bella] Wong tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I would be interested in serving as an interim here at WMS, and I said yes.
Townsman: What interested you in the interim principal position?
Chisum: I love Wellesley, I wanted to be a principal, and this opened up and it allowed me to be a principal and stay in Wellesley, and that really appealed to me. I was curious, I guess, was the largest thing. I’ve never worked at a middle school before, and I just thought it was a neat opportunity to learn more.
Townsman: How has your summer been? What kind of prep work have you been doing?
Chisum: My summer has been a lot of learning. I’ve been doing a lot of listening, and a lot of interviewing of folks because we’ve had a lot of hiring to do. I’ve also had to learn about this place, learn about this age group, and learn about the people – where they’ve been, where they want to go, and what they might need from me. I’m going to continue to do that for a while, the school year is going to start and I’ll still have a lot to learn.
Townsman: What are you looking forward to most about being WMS principal?
Chisum: I’m excited to work with this age group. The Guidance Director said, you know, what you need to understand about middle school kids is that some of them still sleep with stuffed animals. When the 6th graders come in, they’re just bridging the gap. It’s a marked difference and, I can’t help it, it makes me smile when I just start to think about how eager and curious and cute they’re going to be. People in this building just love this age group.
Townsman: What do you remember of middle school? It’s kind of stereotyped to be a very tough time, a lot of social problems and bullying and such. Did you have any particularly tough experiences as a teenager?
Chisum: Middle school is tough; I remember it being hard and awkward. It was hard to fit in. I grew up in the Berkshires and I went to this regional middle school where they combined eight towns into one school. I remember coming in and just being terrified, this big building and I didn’t know my way around, and all these other kids knew each other. By the time we were eighth graders, though it seemed like everybody got along just fine.
Townsman: What do you think will be your biggest challenges with this new position?
Chisum: One of the roles that I have to play is to help this middle school community prepare for their search for a full-time principal. We’ve got to make sure that this year isn’t just treading water; people should still be challenged professionally. We don’t want to take a step backwards.
Townsman: How does the whole interim role work? How long will you be here?
Chisum: I could be the new permanent principal, but that’s not my choice. They’ll have a full search, and that the way it ought to be. It’s what the middle school deserves, to cast the net. At the end of the day, if that person happens to be me, then awesome for me, but it needs to be awesome for the middle school first and foremost.
Townsman: What do you think the main difference will be between the middle school and the high school?
Chisum: Developmentally, obviously, the kids are at a different place. It seems to me that [middle school] is more a time of exploration then the high school tends to be. That’s refreshing to me.
Townsman: Are you still planning on being involved with the track team, as you were at WHS?
Chisum: Oh, I’m going to be a big fan, but I can’t coach. It’s too much time. What’s crazy is that I’m also in a graduate program at BC, getting my doctorate and I’ve got three kids at home. Personally, that’s a very difficult thing for me to give up. I love coaching track, and I’m going to miss it terribly.
Townsman: Did your predecessor, Josh Frank, give you any advice about the position? Are you trying to emulate any of his initiatives or perhaps looking to make changes?
Chisum: What Josh told me is that this is a great place with passionate teachers and that the kids are awesome, he loved the kids here, and I think that would be something I want to continue to do. The trap, I think, is to get caught up in this office. There are a lot of important meetings and no one would blame me for spending lots of time talking to adults, but you need to know the kids. We should never lose track of that.
Townsman: How would you summarize your personal teaching philosophy?
Chisum: I think I’m a relational teacher and relational learner. That’s why I’ve been wading in and listening and being as patient as I can this summer. You need to build relationships with kids. They need to know who you are. It’s the same thing as a leader, you build relationships first and it’s easier to handle difficult things. I would also say I try to be proactive, not reactive, and trust is definitely a big component.
Townsman: Any closing thoughts? Have you been able to find your way around the new building?
Chisum: I’d just add that we’re going to continue and try to be an excellent school. You know, one of my biggest fears is that some 6th grader is going to come up to me with one of those floor-plan maps of the middle school, and he’ll ask me how to get to Room 245, and I’ll just have no idea at all. I’m working on getting to know the building better.
Jamie Chisum discusses his future at WMS in an Aug. 15 interview with the Townsman. Wicked Local photo by Kate Flock.

Longfellow Pond, Wellesley Industry, And A Mysterious Gravestone

This story was originally published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.
The mysterious Hastings burial plot by Wellesley's Longfellow Pond. Photo by Rhys Heyden.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - Today, Wellesley’s Longfellow Pond is a tranquil spot crisscrossed by hiking trails, where the most prominent residents are a flock of quacking ducks.
However, back in the mid-1800s, the pond was the closest thing Wellesley had to an industrial epicenter.
Over 170 years ago, the pond area was home to the Charles Tetti Nail Factory, a Crane Paper Mill, and an icehouse that used the pond for ice during the winter months. All of these businesses are gone today, and the sole remaining testament to the area’s residents is a mysterious gravestone marking the “Hastings Burial Plot.”
Why is the gravestone there, and what does the Hastings family have to do with anything?

According to Beth Hinchliffe, Wellesley’s town historian, Longfellow Pond was an artificial millpond created in 1815. Hinchliffe said the nearby paper and nail factories ran off waterpower from the pond.
“Back in the early 1800s, Wellesley (then West Needham) was a very sparsely populated farming community,” said Hinchliffe. “Aaron Hastings was one of the first settlers who was drawn to the area by this small industry. The Hastings family was very prominent in West Needham, and actually dates back to the Revolutionary War.”
According to Hinchliffe, Hastings built a homestead next to Longfellow Pond in 1833, and lived there for many years. Nathan Longfellow bought the Crane Paper Mill in 1836, and the pond was subsequently named after him.
As the railroad came to Wellesley and other businesses began cropping up, all the industry around the pond gradually died out, and was completely gone by around 1870.

Sometime during this period, Aaron Hastings passed away, though it’s unclear exactly when. According to Janet Bowser, director of Wellesley’s Natural Resources Commission, Aaron’s son, John Hastings, also took up residence in the homestead.
The area was no longer an industrial center, and the woods began to reclaim much of the area surrounding the homestead. John lived in the crumbling house until he passed away in 1930. Later, the house burned down.
The Town of Wellesley purchased the homestead during the 1940s, adding its acreage to the now-200-acre Town Forest, which was designed for recreation and aquifer protection.

When the homestead area was designated part of the town forest, the woods began reclaiming the old house in earnest. Today, the stone foundation of the Hastings homestead is barely visible and completely ensnared in poison ivy.
Still surviving, however, is a more-recent stone that was placed there in the 20th century, with the inscription, “Hastings Burial Plot, 1837.” According to Bowser, it is unknown who exactly is buried at this site, but it is likely the final resting place of one or more Hastings family members.
The Hastings name lives on today in the form of Wellesley’s Hastings Street, home of Fiske Elementary School.


The clearing where the gravestone has been placed. Photo by Rhys Heyden.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On A Mission: Seven Members of Sherborn's Pilgrim Church Complete PMC

This story was originally published in the August 11th issue of The Dover-Sherborn Press.

All seven members of the Pilgrim Church's Pan-Mass Challenge team. Photo courtesy of Pastor John Hudson.
SHERBORN, Mass. - - This past weekend, seven parishioners from the Pilgrim Church in Sherborn rode the 163 miles from Wellesley to Provincetown in the 32nd annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, raising money for loved ones afflicted by cancer.

Riding on the team helmed by Pilgrim Church Pastor John Hudson were parishioners Carol Austin, Jeff Moore, David Boyles, Don Spongberg, Steve Solomon and Brooks Zug.

“For me, riding in the PMC was all about converting my faith into action. I was using muscle and bone to make love real, and raising funds for a very important cause,” said Hudson.

“I’d have to say in many ways, it was a ride of a lifetime. Given my age and so forth, the ride was something I had always wanted to do. I wasn’t sure whether I could make it, but I did it. I just had a terrific time,” said Steve Solomon.

Hudson, who had been training with his church’s team since April, was riding for three women from his congregation affected by cancer. He attached a laminated picture of them and glued it on his bike, using it as inspiration to get through the tougher stretches of the race.

Solomon was riding for former Pilgrim Church Pastor Ken Powell, who succumbed to cancer in 2007, as well as two family members who had been affected by the disease.

The Wellesley-to-Provincetown route is designed to take two days, and the Pilgrim Church team rode for 7 1/2 hours on Saturday and seven hours on Sunday.

“By the end of the day, your legs and backside are sore. But you can’t get off the bike, you just have to keep going,” said Hudson. “It’s about endurance. I’m far from a world-class athlete, but I can push through the pain.”

On Sunday morning, the Pilgrim Church team hit a low point. Exhausted from the previous day’s ride, they were forced to rise at 3:30 a.m. to get into place at Sunday’s starting point, the Mass. Maritime Academy. As they left the house where they were staying, it was raining heavily.

“We were just dreading being on the bikes for seven to eight hours in the pouring rain,” said Hudson. “All of the sudden, the rain just stopped. There was this big, dark cloud looming the entire seven hours, but it didn’t rain one drop. Literally as soon as we finished, the skies opened up.”

“As John would say in his ministerial way, that was our PMC miracle,” said Solomon. “We’re looking forward to doing it again next year.”

This year, the Pan-Mass Challenge featured roughly 5,100 riders and had a fundraising target of $34 million, all of which will be donated to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Also riding in the PMC were seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and U.S. senators John Kerry, (D-Mass.), and Scott Brown, (R-Mass.)

The following list is a compilation of all Dover and Sherborn participants in the Pan-Mass Challenge:

Dover Riders: Kit Beaudouin, Mark Beaudouin, Susie Caspar, Joan Davenport, Thomas Davenport, Benjamin Dawson, Klarina Donoghue, Andrew Epstein, Elizabeth Freeman, Michael Hanley, Robin Hauck, Steve Hauck, Carol Hollingsworth, Val Hollingsworth, David Kasparian, Lisa Kasparian, Bob Kelly, Holly Kelsey, P.J. Kelsey, Adam Liebhoff, Alan Lisbon, Robert Litle, Gilbert Menna, Michael Menna, David Mittelman, Michele Mittelman, Douglas Novitch, David Perini, Michael Picard, Stephen Pratt, Ted Saraceno, John Shue, Matthew Stover, Payson Swaffield, Tom Swaffield and Marko Zatylny.

Sherborn Riders: Carol Austin, Matthew Bergstresser, Chris Decker, Anthony Downs, Robert Eckert, Jonas Geiger, Sandra Geiger, Margot Hahn, Daniel Holland, John Hudson, Naomi Kooker, Dave Morris, Patrick Olski, Robert Rosenthal, Steven Solomon, Dan Sunderland, Danny Sunderland, Bill Thornton.


No Shoes, No Sleep, No Problem: 2nd Annual Wellesley Barefoot Soccer Event Kicks Into Gear Aug. 19

This story was originally published in the August 11th issue of The Wellesley Townsman. 

Last year's event at 1 a.m, the seventh consecutive hour of soccer. Photo courtesy of Peter Diana.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - Last September, around 250 soccer enthusiasts ran and kicked their way through 24 consecutive hours of chaotic barefoot soccer at Wellesley’s Hunnewell Fields.

This year, organizers say they are gearing up for an event they hope will be even larger, crazier and more fun.

The event, which will run from 6 p.m. on Aug. 19 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 20 at the Hunnewell Fields on Route 16, will likely feature celebrity appearances by players from the New England Revolution and Boston Breakers. All proceeds will go to support Grassroot Soccer, a nonprofit organization that “uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize communities to stop the spread of HIV,” according to its website.

“Every participant makes a donation to Grassroot Soccer and then plays for as long as they want. Some people play for an hour or two, some play for much longer,” said Peter Diana, one of the event’s founders.

Last year, the inaugural event was hampered by the absence of Labor Day vacationers, and Hurricane Earl, which delayed the proceedings. That event still drew roughly 250 attendees, so the organizers are hoping for well over 300 this year. Their fundraising target is $15,000.

Grassroot Soccer encourages participants to play barefoot, in solidarity with African children who are unable to afford shoes. The 24-hour idea was Peter Diana’s creation, which he jokingly described as, “the stupidest thing about all of this.”

“It’s fun to be playing with friends, but [playing barefoot] is not something that I would usually do. I think it’s more the symbolism and the novelty of it,” said Owen Diana, a rising junior at WHS, Peter’s son, and member of the WHS varsity soccer team.

“I think playing barefoot allows for a game more based on skill and flair rather than one based on fitness and physicality, which is great. The game is very laid back, and there are a lot of different ages playing,” said Lee Wickham, also a rising junior at WHS and a soccer player.

Owen Diana and Wickham estimated that they played for 12 or 13 hours nonconsecutively last year. Michael Youniss, a high school friend of theirs, set the record when he played last year for 17 consecutive hours, from about 7 p.m. to noon the next day.

For a $25 minimum entrance fee, all participants receive either a green or yellow “24 Hours of Barefoot Soccer” T-shirt indicating their presence on one of two teams. They then play for as long as they wish. There are many pickup-style games of various sizes, speeds and talent levels on four different fields for the entire 24-hour duration.

Three main families – the Dianas, Wickhams and Speers – run the event, and the organizers expect an influx of additional volunteers this year. This will allow most of the staff to get at least some sleep amid the 24-hour mayhem, which was a near-impossibility last year.

The event is also sponsored by a number of local businesses this year; they will provide everything from food to coffee to tents for the participants.

“For me, the most rewarding thing about this event is just seeing it happen. It started with the sort of goofy idea, and this was just something Owen and I thought of and talked about, and then it happened, and it was amazing,” said Peter Diana.

“It think it’s really nice to see how the passion for soccer than Owen and I have can be transmitted into something good for the world that makes a difference,” said Wickham.


The second annual “24 Hours of Barefoot Soccer” event will take place at the Hunnewell Fields starting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 19. You can register online at www.24hoursofsoccer.com. For more information about Grassroot Soccer, please visit www.grassrootsoccer.org

24 Hours Of Barefoot Soccer's exhausted organizers at the conclusion of the 24th consecutive hour of soccer last year. Photo courtesy of Peter Diana.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Behind Bars: Dedham Cops Jail Citizens For Charity

This story was originally published in the August 4th issue of The Dedham Transcript.

Retired Police Chief Mike Weir interrogates 95-year-old "convict" Joe Pagliucia at the Dedham Police Department's "Jail and Bail" Fundraiser on Tuesday, August 2. Photo by Rhys Heyden.
DEDHAM, Mass. - - With a stern gaze and an unrelenting gavel, Mike Weir deals out ice-cold justice in his black judicial robes.

Suddenly, the intimidating judge is laughing uncontrollably.

“This is just too much,” said Weir, throwing his hands up in the air. “You’re free to go.”

Thankfully, justice is not the primary goal of this court.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Endicott Estate was transformed into a makeshift court, and prominent Dedham citizens played the role of criminals. It was all part of the Dedham Police Department’s “Jail and Bail” Fundraiser, where all profits went to support participating Dedham civic groups.

Weir, Dedham’s retired police chief, played the role of judge with aplomb, jokingly berating and interrogating a constant stream of “convicts,” all of whom had to pay bail in order to be freed.

Participating groups included the Oakdale Square Alliance, the Mother Brook Community Group, the Dedham Square Circle, and Manor Neighborhood Watch Group. The Police Department raised around $1,000 at this event.

First up to be questioned was Ziad Greige, owner of the Tedeschi Food Shop on Cedar Street.

“Whaddya think he’ll give us?” asked Weir.

“You gotta figure at least a slush or a coffee or something,” joked current Dedham Police Chief Mike d’Entremont.

Weir and d’Entremont agreed to charge Greige with a violation of the wholly imaginary “meal tax.”

Greige, as it turned out, was in a generous mood. Clad in a convincing Norfolk County Correctional orange prison uniform and less-convincing plastic handcuffs, Greige offered up $400 for the Dedham Square Circle and his release.

“You see, here’s a man who really understands the seriousness of his crimes,” cracked Weir. “You’re free to go.”

Off to the side of the judge, a pack of jovial Dedham cops take turns busting each other’s chops. Lieutenants Bob Nedder and Mark Black, as well as Chief d’Entremont, are responsible for transporting the convicts to and from the Endicott Estate, but they still find time to reminisce about last Sunday's softball game.

The conversation stopped whenever a new convict entered the Endicott Estate. After all, the serious business of taking mugshots in the estate’s mock-jail area was vital to the whole operation.

“You’ve got to make sure and get the profile shot,” explained d’Entremont. “That’s very important.”

The court’s final convict is, perhaps, its most entertaining. 95-year-old Joe Pagliucia, affiliated with the Oakdale Square Alliance, eagerly recounted a list of his imaginary crimes to Judge Weir.

“Did you bring any bail money with you?” asked Weir.

“I certainly did,” said Pagliucia. “By God, you do make a good lookin’ judge.”

“Case Dismissed!” roared Weir, clutching his sides in laughter.


How Does Wellesley Handle All Those Coins From Parking Meters?

This story was originally published in the August 4th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

Trevor Clark on the job in Wellesley. Photo by Rhys Heyden
You feed the meters and hustle away, hoping to get your errands done fast enough so you don’t find a ticket on your windshield when you return. But what happens to all those coins piling up inside the meter? Who collects them and counts them?


Wellesley contracts this business to Dunbar, a security company that handles all of the collections from meters. The meters are made by Duncan Industries of Harrison, Ark.

In Wellesley, Dunbar driver/guard Trevor Clark is responsible for servicing all of Wellesley’s approximately 700 meters. He collects coins from Wellesley’s three designated meter areas – Lower Falls, Square, and Hills – every week on Tuesday. The town has 470 on-street metered spaces and 240 parking lot metered spaces.


Clark travels around Wellesley with his rolling cart, owned by the town, which has an intake slot for the sealed collection can of each meter. The cart has a detachable inner container that fills with coins. Clark has to unlock and empty every meter manually. The money is behind several locked layers of security at all times, and never even sees the light of day until it reaches Dunbar’s secure counting room. The location of the room is a well-kept secret. Clark said it takes him seven to eight hours to complete his rounds on a typical day.

Clark also collects from the nine “pay and display” machines at various Wellesley parking lots, which are more sophisticated than meters. Five of those nine machines are located in commuter rail parking lots.

“Dunbar collects, counts, sorts, and deposits all of the meter money,” said Terry Connolly, Wellesley’s Deputy Director. “They’re very efficient, and there’s much less risk of fraud then there would be if a town employee handled the collections.”

How Much?

According to Connolly, the town collected $300,000 in revenue from its 710 meters in the 2011 financial year (July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011). That revenue number does not include money paid to Dunbar for collection/counting services.

Extrapolating, that means the town takes in roughly $25,000 from meters per month, and approximately $6,250 per week.

Put another way, if the town has 710 meters and we assume that all meters are used equally, each meter averages roughly $423 per year in revenue, which breaks down to $35 per month and $8.80 per week. It costs 25 cents to park for one hour in most metered spots.


Trevor Clark and his cart stroll down Washington Street. Photo by Rhys Heyden.

Monday, August 1, 2011

37 Years And Counting: Walpole's Cheryl Cavanaugh Keeps On Swimming

This story was originally published in the July 28th issue of The Walpole Times.

Walpole Barracudas and Walpole High Coach Cheryl Cavanaugh (left) keeps track of the score in a recent win over Dedham. Wicked Local photo by Keith Lewis.
WALPOLE, Mass. - - In 1974 - when Richard Nixon still occupied the Oval Office and Muhammad Ali was preparing for The Rumble In The Jungle - Cheryl Cavanaugh started coaching swimming in Walpole.

37 years later, she’s still going strong.

Cavanaugh, 54, has coached Walpole’s age group team since 1974, started Walpole High’s girls and boys swim teams in 1989, and spends 11 months out of the year teaching boys and girls from 3 to 18 how to swim.

Cavanaugh was WHS’ Coach of the Year in 2010, and was inducted into Walpole’s Hall of Fame earlier this year.

“Sometimes, I feel like Grandmother Swim Team,” said Cavanaugh, with a chuckle.

In a cramped office at the old Walpole town pool, walls adorned with countless photos of her swimmers and loving thank-you messages, Cavanaugh held court on a recent scorching Friday afternoon.

Swimmers and lifeguards of all ages constantly popped their heads into her office: asking her questions, cracking a joke, or commiserating about the heat. Cavanaugh, extremely tan and sporting a swimmer’s signature chlorine-frizzed blonde hair, doled out one-liners and sage advice in equal doses.

“I’ve been swimming since I was seven years old, when I joined the Walpole age group team. I don’t know what I’d do without it, I’ve been doing it forever and it’s just part of my life,” said Cavanaugh, who is a Walpole lifer and WHS graduate.

Cavanaugh coaches the Barracudas (the age group team) in the summer while also serving as the town’s Aquatics Director. In the fall, she’ll coach the girl’s high school team. The Barracudas then have a second season that goes from October to March. April is her one and only month off, and she spends it in Florida.

Perhaps most of all, Cavanaugh deserves credit for thriving in a sport up against some fierce competition and obstacles.

Walpole does not have a regulation swimming pool, so the high school team is forced to carpool to Blue Hills Regional School in Canton, where they hold practices and meets. Swimming also takes place in the fall athletic season, meaning Cavanaugh has to wrest her swimmers away from WHS’ ├╝ber-popular field hockey and soccer teams.

“I have some great swimmers that play field hockey or soccer instead. It’s unfortunate that it’s not my sport, but we wish them luck,” said Cavanaugh.

Despite all this, the team features anywhere from 22 to 30 girls, and has won back-to-back Bay State titles in addition to being three-time Herget champs.

 “When one of my girls make state or sectional cutoff times, you know, when they reach their goals, that’s where I feel the most achievement and pride,” said Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh has high hopes for her team this fall, as they have a history of success and will feature 12 seniors. Standing in their way is chief foil and archrival Framingham, who has spoiled the team’s postseason runs repeatedly.

For the future, Cavanaugh wants to continue coaching all of her teams, and hopes for improved swimming facilities.

“I dream about a pool at WHS. I ask the A.D. all the time – “Is this the year you’re gonna put my pool in?” He laughs, but I keep hoping,” said Cavanaugh.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wellesley High School Grads' Documentary Examines Race Relations In Hometown

This story was originally published on the front page of the July 28th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

Steve Cameron (left) and Jake Sobol (right) goof off for the camera. Photo courtesy of Jake Sobol.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - After 18 years of feeling simultaneously comfortable and alienated in their hometown of Wellesley, WHS graduates Jake Sobol and Steve Cameron decided to make a film that expressed those conflicting emotions.

The result, a 79-minute documentary called “A Conscious Effort,” painstakingly filmed and edited over a six-week period for their senior project, was released online on July 20, where it received more than 50 views in one day.

“Basically, this film is an examination of racial dynamics stemming out of what we’ve seen in Wellesley conducted through interviews,” Sobol said.

“I would say it’s a study of race relations in the suburbs, asking a variety of different people and getting different opinions,” Cameron said.

Although Sobol and Cameron are two (self-professed) privileged white kids from the suburbs, they say their interests and opinions run contrary to those espoused by most of their peers.

“So many kids want to be just like what they have here in Wellesley and don’t want to stem out or do anything different,” said Sobol.

After taking an African-American Studies class together in the fall of 2010, they said it was a logical extension for them to examine race relations in Wellesley for their senior project.

“We decided to make something that would help the African-American Studies class, more than just a narrative film,” said Sobol.

The film features lengthy interviews with several past and present METCO students, students and teachers from WHS, and Selwyn Cudjoe, a professor of comparative African-American literature at Wellesley College.

“I don’t think what makes it good is that we’re particularly great filmmakers, there’s just a lot of good content with the interviews. It did its job,” Cameron said.

The lion’s share of the filming and editing took place from April 4 to May 18. Sobol and Cameron had to cut it down from the over seven hours of film they initially collected.

The film centers on a few key themes: white privilege, defining “the Wellesley community,” and a debate on what best represents “the real world.”

“I don’t think Wellesley is an unreal world, I just think it’s a world that not many people ever get the chance to see or live in,” said Grant Hightower, a special education teacher at WHS, during his interview in the film.

“In the end, you don’t really know anything. You can never be prepared for the real world. We had to admit that there’s a certain type of racial dynamic that we’ll never understand,” Sobol said.

Sobol and Cameron said they constantly have to toe the line between living in Wellesley and feeling alienated there.

 “My friends are my home, of course. My house is my home, of course. But the town that surrounds it, I don’t feel at home there at all,” said Sobol. “That being said, I’ll admit, I own a pair of Sperry’s.”

“It’s a very comfortable place to live and it’s very easy to get in that bubble. However, I think any kind of isolated environment like Wellesley isn’t really conducive to having a nice, well-rounded personality,” said Cameron.

Sobol, who will attend Hampshire College in Amherst this fall, plans to study filmmaking and radical politics. Cameron will head to Emerson College in Boston, where he’ll study radio production.

Their documentary can be seen online at: http://www.vimeo.com/26678574


Yellow Dot Program Will Help Seniors, EMS Workers In Emergencies

This story was originally published on Page 4 of the July 28th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

The Yellow Dot. Photo courtesy of NCSO.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - On July 12, Norfolk Country Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti announced the launch of his new “Yellow Dot” program, designed to help both senior citizens and emergency medical personnel in the event of an automobile accident.

Bellotti described the Yellow Dot program as a natural extension of his “File of Life” program, which encourages senior citizens to place an index card with their crucial medical information in an accessible place.

The yellow dot will simply signify that the owner of the vehicle has a File of Life in their glove compartment. Files of Life had previously been primarily kept inside a person’s home.

“This program will provide greater security for our seniors,” said Bellotti. “It will also help inform medical personnel in an emergency situation, so they can provide the proper care and attention. Seniors are living longer and more independently, and we need to provide them with these types of programs so they can have a better quality of life.”

The File of Life includes information about allergies, medications, and any medical conditions that the owner of the vehicle may have. A photo of the person is also included, in order to eliminate any confusion if someone else is driving the car.

Both programs are voluntary, but the sheriff’s office claims to have distributed over 90,000 Files of Life, and expects to distribute many more for new automobile placement.

According to David Weber, Communications Director at the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO), the yellow dot is about three to four inches in diameter and should be affixed to the rear windshield of the car. It is designed to be highly visible but not block the driver’s vision.

“It’s really not a major expense, it comes out of our budget, and it’s funny that a program that’s based entirely on a sticker and a card of info is still the best way to communicate with emergency care provider in this technological age,” said Bellotti.

The Yellow Dot program is already being piloted in Cohasset, and Bellotti plans to roll the program out in towns across Norfolk County this summer. In Wellesley, the program will be introduced at the Aug. 19 meeting of police/fire officials, the Council on Aging, and NCSO officials.

Bellotti admitted that it might be difficult to get seniors to sign up for a program that can seem to single them out.

“You know, my dad is 88, good luck getting him to sign up for this,” said Bellotti. “We really need to educate folks – this is a program that helps people.”

You can find out more about the Yellow Dot program and other NCSO initiatives at: http://norfolksheriff.com/programs/



The triumphant journalist.

I thought I'd switch things up a little bit today, and talk about a personal experience instead of just re-posting an article I'd already written.

In my experience, being an intern at GateHouse Media is mostly a slog - budget meetings, interviews, writing stories, editing stories, decoding the office argot,  sitting at your cubicle pretending to work, spinning around aimlessly in your office chair - all that difficult stuff.

What makes this job ultimately pretty cool is the unexpected little moments of insight or surprise that break up the monotony. I had one of these moments earlier this morning.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my editor at the Dedham Transcript/Norwood Bulletin, Andrea Salisbury, approaching the intern cubicles. Usually, this means that she's coming over to give me edits or a new story assignment - not necessarily bad things - but work nonetheless.

Then, I noticed something odd. Andrea appeared to be holding a floral greeting card.

I adopted what I think was a look of cautious optimism, but may have resembled one of constipation

"In all my years at The Transcript," said Andrea, "I've only ever had two thank-you notes from readers. This is the second."

I laughed.

Turns out, I had a big fan. Sean Roche, who was a source for my story about wild turkeys run amok in Dedham's Harmony Hill neighborhood, graciously decided to thank me personally.

His note reads:

To the staff at the Dedham Transcript, the residents of Harmony Hill in Dedham offer our deepest thanks, for your generous help with our turkey problem. The turkey's (sic) are still here, the Animal Rescue League came, (we're sure thanks to you), and Animal Control is on board with a plan. Many thanks. - - Sean Patrick Roche

Although it was assuredly not my muck-raking-est story, I was delighted to hear that something I had written had improved the lives of the people on this street.

Andrea told me that I should keep the note, and I plan to display it somewhere prominent. 

Changing the world, one turkey article at a time.

The note.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Foam-Covered Kids Enjoy Norwood Tradition

This story was originally published, center and above the fold, on the front page of the July 22nd edition of The Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Norwood Firefighter Mike McCarthy operates "The Bazooka." Wicked Local photo by David Gordon.

“Awesome!” he declared, and so began the annual Foam Day celebration in Norwood on July 15.

The woman behind the magic, Norwood firefighter Jennifer Gover, dressed in heavy-duty rubber waders, stood hip-deep in the blob.

“It’s so fun to watch the kids, they really seem to enjoy running around in the foam,” said Gover, who volunteered specifically for this shift.

Perched on the side of Norwood Engine 3, Gover patiently explained the mechanics of the foam contraption – appropriately nicknamed “The Bazooka” – to a group of kids, the technological details going right over the frosty-topped heads of her young audience.

The blob itself is roughly oval-shaped, and grows to be about 50 feet long and 30 feet wide.

A circle of smiling parents and tentative youngsters surrounded the blob, which inevitably created a game of sprinting out of the blob, covered in foam, to slather up the foam-averse. Little trails of foam spiral out of the blob in all directions as lasting evidence of these mini-missions.

“This is crazy,” yelled one exuberant, foam-covered boy.

“I didn’t even recognize you, silly,” chastised his mother, who cleared the bubbles off his face. He immediately plunged back into the melee, rendering her efforts practically for naught.

As the bazooka starts to wind down, the kids divided into two camps.

Hailey Roberts, 9, and others carefully rinse off all traces of foam in a shower protruding from the back of the fire engine. Their male compatriots, however, determinedly plunk down in the middle of the shrinking foam blob.

“I don’t want to leave,” said one boy.

“I’m finally clean, so don’t touch me,” Hailey said.

Eventually, the foam gets downright grimy, and even its steadfast supporters have to leave it behind, reluctantly.

“It’s a simple concept that kids really enjoy,” said Linda Berger, Recreation Program Director for the Town of Norwood. “You can just see it in their faces.”

Appropriately, most faces on this day were covered in foam.

Maggie Curran, 8, emerges from the foam pit covered head to toe on Friday afternoon, July 15, 2011 during Foam Day. Wicked Local photo by David Gordon.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Working On A Miracle

This story was originally published in the July 21st issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

The Massachusetts Miracles' Barbara Cherecwich, left, sets a pick on Wellesley's Jane Mooney, center, for Colleen Barton, right, during Saturday's practice at Regis College in Weston. Wicked Local photo by Sean Browne.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - The Massachusetts Miracles senior women’s three on three basketball team started out with two basketball novices and one registered cyclist competing in the 2006 Massachusetts Senior Games. 

Five years later, the Miracles are national champions.

On June 19, the team founded and coordinated by Wellesley resident Jane Mooney defeated the Colorado Long Shots, 39-26, to claim the gold medal in the 50-plus age bracket at the 2011 National Senior Games in Houston.

The five members of the championship team are Barbara Cherecwich of North Attleboro, Kris Krablin of Stow, Megan Ladd of Stoneham, Tina Quick of Winchester, and June Walton, from East Hartford, Conn.

“It was fabulous,” said Krablin. “I think it his you more a week later. It was really a great time, especially as we were getting into the last few minutes of the game. For me, I’ve been playing in sports for a very long time, and this is the first time I’ve won a championship.”

Though winning the gold was a thrill for these athletes, they have now directed their competitive fire toward securing greater awareness for their sport, long neglected by the general public, and doubly handicapped by the age and gender of its participants.

The Team

The Miracles, made up of roughly 20 New England women all over the age of 50, come to the game of basketball from almost every conceivable angle. Krablin, for example, grew up with a hoop in her backyard, was a star athlete in high school and college, and says the game is “in her blood.” Mooney, on the other hand, never even played sports or picked up a basketball until she was over 50.

“We come from all different walks of life,” said Mooney. ”We have lawyers, teachers, all kinds of professional women on the team, and they all come together on the basketball court. It’s an exciting thing.”

The team actually consists of women who participate in two different age brackets, 50-plus and 55-plus, and Mooney said the Miracles are currently building a 6o-plus team too. The Miracles play in 8 to 12 State Games up and down the East Coast every year and, of course, the National Senior Games, which happen once every two years. The women practice together at Regis College in Weston once a week.

Krablin described the 50-plus team’s style of play as very aggressive and centered on a ferocious defense that tries to take advantage of the transition game inherent in three on three, half-court play. Madeline “Mal” Lannin-Cotton, who plays in the 55+ bracket, said her team is still working on developing a distinctive style of play, but works well together, utilizing a lot of screens and pick and rolls.
The Miracles’ 55-plus team, which has nine members, including Cotton and Mooney, placed 7th out of 18 teams at the same Houston games, which Cotton described as a “great accomplishment.”

The Game

The Miracles have no delusions of grandeur. Mostly, they play for sparse crowds at modest events, and even have to cover their own travel expenses for tournaments. All that said, many members of the team feel that the attention and awareness that they receive does not match up with the increasingly high level of athleticism and competition they see in their sport.

“It’s sort of this hidden thing,” said Mooney. “There are a lot of people involved in this and until you become a part of it you don’t realize how much activity there is in this sport at the senior level.”

“Senior athletics should absolutely get more coverage. The effort that the athletes put in, you’re sometimes talking about athletes in their eighties and nineties, it’s just phenomenal. We need to find ways to make it more visible. Many of us really just stumbled on this. I was 53 when I heard about it,” said Krablin.

When Title IX was enacted in 1972, it opened up funding and thus greater awareness and participation in women’s high school and college athletics. Many of the current members of the Miracles just missed the effects of Title IX, but they are seeing younger women filtering in nowadays that have been playing sports competitively for their whole lives.

“I think that women’s basketball has progressed tremendously in the past few years” said Krablin.

The Gold, and The Future

Though the 50-plus segment of the Miracles were undefeated, both in pool play and the medal round, the games were not without intense moments.

The Miracles downed their archrivals, the Maine Triple Threat, by a score of 42-30 in the first round. The Miracles also defeated teams from Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, and Tennessee en route to their first national championship.

Only a few weeks later, the Miracles are back at work, practicing together for several hours a week during the summer.

“Of course we’re practicing,” said Mooney. “We have tournaments in the fall and we don’t want to get rusty. Plus, we have a championship to defend.”

You can find out more about the Miracles' run to the title, and the National Senior Games, which featured over 10,000 athletes this year, at www.nsga.com.

The Miracles work on their shooting at Saturday's practice. Wicked Local photo by Sean Browne.