“Turtle Boy” Sculptor Dies in Razor Suicide

legendoftheturtleboy

Sculptor Charles Y. Harvey, who conceived of the “Turtle Boy” statue on Worcester’s Common, cut his throat with one or more razors January 28, 1912, in a Bronx park. He was convinced that the Italians were out to get him, and haunted by voices that commanded his suicide. His New York Times obituary reported that “Harvey was bitterly despondent about his work and so sensitive to the slightest criticism that any expression of adverse opinion caused him genuine suffering. His friends and fellow craftsmen, however, were most favorably impressed with the finished work that stands in his studio. It is the life-size figure of a crouching boy, holding a tortoise.”


Illustration by Bret M. Herholz. Written by Mike Benedetti. From the June 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Pony Report

I’m house-sitting in Princeton, at the pony farm. There is a large, new pony named Valerie. She is in the throes of a trial period in which the other horses decide whether or not she will be welcome to stay. Her manner is demure, increasing her chances for approval.

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Story by PKP, photo by JSD. From the June 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

“The Ghost & Mr. Chicken”: A Singular Study in Horror

Why is “The Ghost & Mr. Chicken” the most terrifying movie ever made? Why have I seen it more than 1,000 times? It begins with a house.

It’s a haunted house, of course, creepy, surrounded by legend, on the dark side of the street. It reminds me of a house I lived in. You can hear the organ play inside.

They want Don Knotts to spend a night in the house and write about it in the newspaper. It’s what he expects—unforgettable and terrifying. He goes upstairs to look at the organ and it begins to play. He has a look on his face. He runs downstairs and sees the garden shears stuck in a painting of Mrs. Simmons and the painting starts to bleed and he runs into the office and Dick Sargent says, “Tell us, Luther, tell us.” “It’s just horrible.” And that’s the opening line.

This film stands out among comedy horror. Quite a few people will like it, I would think. Make sure you’re ready for it.


From the June 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

johnny-automatic-chicken-skeleton

Zombies: Apocalypse & Rebirth

The undead have come under fire from the living for tempting social outcasts to fantasize of a world where extensive knowledge of zombies outweighs lack of charm or good looks. Zombies, though, are much more than that. With millions looking, not with dread, but with anticipation towards the apocalypse, we must ask ourselves what it is about civilization that makes us long for its demise. We long for release but lack the language to express ourselves. So we do what people have done for ages when they encounter something they can’t explain: invent a mythos in the form of stories. Just as death is the sister of life, so apocalypse has always been the sister of any civilization built on the assumption that humanity is in control of its destiny. Global overheating, peak oil, unpayable debt, collapse of the world market, Jesus, Mayans, viruses, and cosmic rays all threaten to render governments impotent and obsolete. The message of the zombie movement is that in this age of fear and uncertainty, we must not merely watch our world crumble around us, nor resist the inevitable change, but embrace it! Rejoice in the new era of freedom and independence. Lines will be drawn between the living and the dead, but life, as it always has, will see a new birth of the soul.


From the June 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

The Legend of Spider Gates

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There comes a day in the life of every young man growing up in Worcester’s West Side that goes something like this: A friend’s older brother tells you about a cemetery in Leicester surrounded by multiple barriers, some visible, some not. Cross the barriers in a particular order and you’ll be transported to Hades. This sounds totally reasonable to most 11-year-old boys hopped-up on Mountain Dew, so immediately upon hearing this tale, you and your friends hop on your bicycles and ride to this secret location, trudging through the woods to find a quaint, mostly forgotten resting place. Nobody gets transported to the land of the damned, but one friend accidentally startles the group and everyone runs screaming. You and your friends regroup at Hot Dog Annie’s and gorge yourselves on cheap BBQ dogs, which help soften the blow of finding out your buddies are not as tough as you thought. On the way home, in a weak attempt to reclaim your recently emasculated pre-teen manhood, you all stop at the back side of neighboring Worcester Airport and light a field on fire.

The reality of Friends Cemetery in Leicester (Spider Gates to the locals) is more a sober study of early American religious intolerance than provincial urban legend. However creepy the place may seem to visit remains a simple byproduct of location. The cemetery is mostly surrounded by old farmland, so while the woods adjacent to the cemetery are rather old, the woods surrounding that dated growth are much younger. This is something your subconscious picks up on, but unless you’re good at dating live trees, may be passed over as a peculiar sensation that something is off. Rest assured, there’s no hanging tree, no murdered lovers stuffed in a cave, and no secret portal to the final resting place of Saddam Hussein and his vast dildo collection. These silly legends are recycled in every New England town with a creepy forest—except for the dildo collection, that’s only recycled in South Park movies. But this piece of early American history should be discovered and appreciated by all. If you haven’t been there, you should change that. And if you can, take a young person with you to help demystify something they’ve certainly heard of and probably don’t fully understand. The land is private, so an advance call to the Leicester Historical Society or Leicester pd may spare you some hassle. But taking the short trip and sharing this local treasure spares us all a city full of skittish pre-teens with BBQ-scented flatulence, burning down an airport, all while trying to justify the existence of a satanic summer home in the Leicester woods. For those of you upset to hear Leicester is not a gateway to the underworld, I got a guy who told me every Tuesday at 7 in Worcester, Cthulhu can be seen rising from his lair in the realm of 455 Main St. Which makes perfect sense considering neither Worcester nor Cthulhu can be pronounced by the uninitiated. You can’t possibly think that’s coincidental.


From the June 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. Written by PV. Drawing by Grace Duffy. [PDF]

How Worcester’s Mayor Is Like the Queen

Worcester has a modified Plan E form of government–our chief executive is the (unelected) City Manager; the Mayor is nothing more than the head of our legislature, the City Council. Worcesterites affectionately call this the “Weak Mayor” form of government. We’ve had this form of government for over 60 years, though every ten years or so Worcesterites get restless with the status quo and toy with the idea of “charter change,” imagining that a “Strong Mayor” would be an improvement. Here are some typical reasons offered for such change:

Accountability. Electing a leader would mean that the chief executive would be accountable to voters on a regular basis.

Effectiveness. There are a significant number of people who look at the career of Providence’s Buddy Cianci not as a cautionary tale of corruption but as an example of a person who gets things done.

Leadership. What the Buddy Cianci fans are really pointing to is a sense of leadership. A City Manager just manages city operations with some input/direction from the City Council. A strong Mayor would have much more freedom to direct the city according to his own vision.

Those content to leave Plan E in place feel:

A strong mayor form of government might politicize city government. One of the reasons Worcester moved to a City Manager was to avoid political appointments and to have a professional administrator running the city.

An apathetic electorate, few of whom vote regularly, effectively negate the benefit of electing the administrator. We could end up with a ten-term Mayor who is just as unaccountable as an unelected City Manager.

Our two-year election cycle is too short for the administrator of a city. A strong Mayor who spends half his time scheming for the next election with feel-good projects isn’t an effective administrator.

These are just a few points raised by both sides of the “charter change” divide. That we revisit this topic so often could indicate a lack of institutional memory, or perhaps just a stubborn Yankee sense that things might possibly work better if we get under the hood & tinker a bit.

The Weak Mayors of
Worcester’s Current Charter

Jordan Levy
1988-1994

Raymond Mariano
1994-2002

Timothy Murray
2002-2007

Konstantina Lukes
2007-2010

Joseph C. O’Brien
2010-2012

Joe Petty
2012-present

Our “current charter” includes both District Councilors and direct election of the Mayor.


From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Booming Connecticut

Rumbles and sounds like gunfire today emerge from a cave in Moodus, Connecticut. Seismologists say the noises are related to mini-earthquakes. (There was a serious earthquake in the area in 1791, felt as far away as New York and Boston. It was estimated at Mercalli Intensity vii, roughly Richter 6.0.) Scholars think that this place, called in the native language Machimoodus, or “the place of noises,” was a neutral, holy ground for the native peoples. Early white settlers believed it was a center of devil worship. According to Charles Montgomery Skinner, writing in 1896, “It was finally understood that Haddam witches, who practised black magic, met the Moodus witches, who used white magic, in a cave beneath Mount Tom, and fought them in the light of a great carbuncle that was fastened to the roof.” The noises apparently lessed after an English magician named Dr. Steele arrived, built a house, sealed it tight, caused loud noises, sparks, and smoke to emerge from it, and finally extracted the carbuncle before heading out for parts unknown. Today, there is “hiking, tennis, golf, horseshoe pitching, badminton, volleyball, softball, fishing, boating, canoeing, basketball, boccé,” and a “game room.”


From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Planting Trees in Afghanistan

Hania's drawing

Hania is five years old going on six. I took this photo of her March 19, 2011 at the School of Knowledge and Religion in Kabul, Afghanistan. She’s holding a drawing of trees she made for a “tree-planting for peace” organized by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Just prior to the tree-planting, the group, who have all lost parents or siblings in the Afghan war, read a poem they wrote for the occasion (below). Find out more about the group at livewithoutwars.org.

We need a different tree
For seekers of roots, life has ample proof
that Power and Privilege consistently oppress the People.
This Power and Privilege is perfected in war,
& accepted universally like any other conventional tree.
And then,
its shade kills the People.
Why would an Afghan mother want a tree that kills?
Why would scholars promote it?
Why would the few rich and powerful insist on it?
Why would the People want it?
War is NOT what we wish to plant on any day, & certainly not today.
We wish to plant a tree rooted in Love,
a Love which says,’I live and love, so I shall not kill.’
If we wish to live without wars,
we need to plant a different tree.


From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

Salt for the Unsalted

Hey Bruce: What do you think of Worcester’s Mechanic’s Hall?

The problem with Mechanic’s Hall is, I never found a good mechanic there. Just a bunch of maniacs!

How do you survive life in Worcester?

Try to think positive. Don’t let people get under your skin, knock you down, or define you. The other possible solution is like climbing to the top of a Silver Mountain. Once you’re in the middle, it’s a long way to the top. Do you want to stop there or keep going?


From the May 2011 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]