I arrived in Rockland, Mass, a small town charm, just 20 miles south of Boston. I’ve been waiting patiently several days for this load, one that probably wasn’t even worth my trouble. There are tons of loads leaving here. Boston is a world class city and a major intermodal seaport. But a trucker without a trailer is like a vagrant without a sign – gotta take whatever brokers throw at me.
I couldn’t find any power-only loads leaving the city heading south before the holidays. Most loads were coming into the city, so I settled for a moving van from Casey’s Movers. Instead of freight, the load was comprised of furniture and household goods for a 3-bedroom single family house with a large living room and home-office den complemented by a 7-piece oak dining room.
The goods needed to be shipped to Glen Burnie, MD, a suburb south of Baltimore, a tad bit larger than Rockland. It was the day before July Fourth, so the family would have to wait until after the long holiday weekend. When I arrived I was greeted by Debbie, who apologized for the trailer not been ready. The movers were doing last-minute securement, so I decided to go across the street to grab a cup of joe.
Marylou’s is an aesthetically-pleasing coffee shop adorned in bright pink walls, countertops, solid-wood stools and colorful signage. The floors complemented the delicate floral shades with monochromatic black & white like a gigantic checkerboard to bop on.
“Super cute. Really digging this decor,” I commented. My immediate reaction was to pull out my handy Ricoh Theta V and take a 360 spherical shot of the pastel walls and dark checkered floors. I greeted the barista and asked if it was ok to shoot a picture.
“Umm, what for?” she asked sheepishly.
“Google street view,” I replied matter-of-factly. So customers can see inside, too.”
“Sure thing,” she replied.
I quickly took the shot remotely controlling the shutter with my iPhone, then brought the phone over to her so she could see it, too.
“Oh cool, that looks fine,” she replied with zest.
I thanked her nicely. Then I sat down next to a counter by the window facing the main street. From there I could see the red air foils on the back of of my truck next to Casey’s. But there was one more thing I needed to do before I picked up my load. I turned on my laptop and opened Google maps. I wanted to double check my route and check on the traffic heading south. It was the busiest time of the year to drive – it would be a hell of a drive.
Then just as I was about ready to shut down my laptop, a lady approaches me.
“Hi, I’m Jen. I’m a marketing manager for the company, and I just happened to be here working on a new promotion for our latte. I understand you wanted to take a picture of the store. Can I ask why?”
“Yes, it’s for Google Street View – so customers can see inside the business on their phones.”
The lady paused for a long second as she reviewed the image. “Do you work for Google.”
“No, I actually work for RUNINOut as I turned my laptop towards her to show the homepage of my site. But Google no longer dispatches their own crew to capture local businesses. Instead the work is crowdsourced to their street-view trusted photographers,” I replied nonchalantly as I handed her my card.
“Why didn’t you call ahead that you were coming?”
“Well, I’ve never heard of Marylou’s before. I just came over to grab a cup of Joe and noticed on the Google Street view app that you don’t have an interior street view posted online.”
The lady glanced at my site, then at the picture I took. She seemed satisfied with what she saw then mentioned that she had to check on something and would be back shortly. I had just finished double checking my route and traffic when she returned to my booth.
“I just called Corporate. We would appreciate it if you depart the premises immediately.”
I faced her and met her strong gaze in disbelief. Why the sudden stern tone, I thought. “Certainly. I’ll leave right now,” I said. I was ready to go anyway and the trailer should be all set by now.
“And if it’s ok, I’ll send a message to the company’s Facebook page so you’ll know how to get ahold of me. In case you have any questions or issues with the picture,” I added.
The manager nodded, and I headed off towards my truck ready to couple onto the trailer, carrying a families most cherished possessions, heading south via NYC.
The drive from Rockland, Mass wasn’t that bad except for a 10-mile stretch through Providence that turned into an idling parking lot. And once I got to New York, traffic once again came to a stand still. I-95 to the George Washington Bridge was bumper to bumper, and I needed to find a way out to rest my weary legs from all the shifting.
I got off the first exit to escape from it all. Being a Washingtonian where the entire subway station in the city is deeply submerged, I forgot that this wasn’t the case for the outer boroughs of New York. In both the Bronx and Queens, the 115 year-old train tracks were built long before the invention of the tractor trailer. The poorly-designed elevated train tracks criss-cross all over the city recklessly and with little warning.
As I approached the tracks, I was immediately faced with a critical juncture. There was no outlet dead ahead, so I had to either turn left or right. And right turns should be avoided at all costs.
So I hugged the right lane and waited till the very last moment before I cut to the left, making the widest turn I could muster. Still an enormous steel platform support structure would not get out of the way.
This wasn’t my own trailer where I could afford to take a nick or scratch. It belonged to Casey’s Movers and if it took any damage, I would be paying for it.
I stopped in the middle of the intersection, amongst honking and yelling and NYC drivers are notorious for their aggressive display of road rage. Despite my heightened stress, I wasn’t gonna rush this turn. I rocked the truck back and forth until I cleared the last support by a hair’s breadth. I heaved a sigh of relief, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet. Back in the 1800’s structural engineering was not nearly as advanced as it is today. Steel was bulky and not as strong, so engineers installed beams every 100 feet on both sides of the tracks to support the weight. If you were lucky to clear the rear support from the driver’s side you may not be so lucky to clear the support ahead on the passenger side. To my dismay, this was the case.
Maybe I should have stayed in Rockland and left the following morning. But the manager from Marylou’s ordered me to leave, so I took her marching orders and now I was in deep doo doo.
The elevated railroad tracks makes it challenging to navigate a semi through the Bronx. It took me several minutes of twists and turns before I was able to clear the final beam.
After my close call, I found a spot to park and was ready to grab a bite to eat – a hot meal and a cold drink – I definitely earned it.
Usually any street vendor would do, but I’m in the Bronx and this city has many flavors than a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream store.
A few blocks away I found a colorful Caribbean eatery with tropical decor that I couldn’t resist. A couple with long dreads were enjoying their hookahs in the patio surrounded by potted palm trees.
Inside, I discovered a charming restaurant that was emptying since it was pushing 9.
A lady quickly approached and handed me a menu assuring me that I had plenty of time to order.
I introduced myself, and the lady returned a genuine smile and a firm hand.
“I’m Suneta,” she said smilingly. “My husband Tillock is by the bar.”
He waived then I walked over and inquired about the name.
“So who is Melanie?”
“Our daughter,” Tillock answered, as he pointed to her picture.
“So I ‘m a big fan of roti,” I mentioned. “I ate it frequently dipping in Malay curry when I lived in Singapore. I love the taste and texture.”
“That’s great. Guyanese roti is a bit different. We use stoneground wholemeal flour so it’s a little softer. Try it yourself”
I sat down at the bar and was greeted by Nicole.
“Make me something smooth but strong,” I requested. “I’ve had a heck of a day on the road, and I wanna be rocked gently to sleep tonight.”
Nicole quickly went to work and concocted a Henny Colada, Hennessy Cognac 40% ABV. I downed it quickly – it was indeed juicy and creamy with a heavy kick.
“Glad you like the Henny – you should come back tomorrow. We have the best happy hour on the hill,” Nicole said with a smile.
Suneta recommended I try the the jerk chicken fried rice or the chow mein seasoned with Caribbean curry and soy sauce.
Apparently Guyanese food is a fusion of many influences: African, Creole, East Indian, Amerindian, Portuguese, and Chinese
Suneta was right about the roti – it was soft and tasty – the best I’ve had in years. And the jerk chicken fried rice – Wow! Tasty, well seasoned and the chicken had a nice kick.
Overall the place was very colorful, the owners were nice and the jerk chicken fried rice was on the point.
Full and fulfilled, I was ready to crash and then onto DC.
A week later I was back in Rockland to return the trailer. I had delivered the load of household goods to a cheerful family and was able to secure a backhaul of aluminum rods from Baltimore to Boston in order to leverage my earnings. As I brought the trailer to the parking lot of Casey’s I realized I was famished. Mouth-watering images of Marylou’s hot breakfast sandwiches whetted my appetite. I ordered a sausage and egg on an everything bagel and cafe latte.
Then I walked around the coffee shop looking for an outlet for my laptop. The food came quickly, and I took a load off. I had not taken a second bite, when I noticed three police officers enter the premises. They quickly checked in with the manager and then approached me suspiciously. Clearly they’re not here for me. Is there something wrong with my truck? “I hear you’re taking pictures!” A strong voice bellowed. I looked bewildered. Was he asking or telling. Either way the question was strange and rhetorical.
“Not today”, I said.
“I was last week though. why do you ask?”
“We got a complaint that you are trespassing. May we see an ID?”
“Why do you need to see my ID. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“We need to see your ID so we can write a no trespassing order, so you’ll be formally notified never to come back.”
“I’m not trespassing sir. No one ever told me I couldn’t be here. I’m a paying client trying to eat my breakfast in peace. However if you like, I’d be happy to take my food out and depart the premises”
“Not until you provide an ID.”
“Whoa, am I under arrest?”
“Not yet, but if you don’t cooperate, you could be. What is your name and what are you doing here?” the officer asked sternly.
“My name is Chito Peppler. I’m a truck driver from Washington, DC, and I was just enjoying my breakfast and coffee so I don’t starve before I head back home.”
“Why won’t you show us your ID?”
“Because I haven’t done anything wrong sir. I know the law. Massachusetts is not a Stop and ID state. Now I have things to do. So can I please leave now?”
“No you may not – until you show us your ID.” I winced in disgust. Then I picked up my bag and started to leave. A big, burly officer who towered over me blocked my way. Unsure of what to do next, I reached over to grab my phone to start recording just in case they try something funny. But I never got the chance. As soon as I picked up my phone, the officers jumped into action.
They slammed me hard against the window, turned me around like a crumpled-up ragdoll. One officer grabbed my phone. The other cuffed me then marched me into his idling cruiser, pushing me hard into the backseat. They drove me into the precinct which was only a 5-minute walk from the coffee shop. There they emptied my backpack, found my military ID and exclaimed.
“You were in the Navy! You should have shown us this in the first place – all this nonsense could have been avoided.”
“What, just because I’m a veteran? I’m standing up for all people – military, civilian, citizens and non against unlawful detention and arrest.”
“This is the second time, we’ve been called on you, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve never talked to the Rockland police. The last time I was at the coffee shop, I left when they asked without incident.”
“Then why did you come back?” “They never said I couldn’t. And they never told me that there was an issue in the first place. But they had no problem taking my money today.”
Wait. Hold up. I’m talking too much to the police. Best to invoke my rights from here, and save it for court. The detention took over four hours.
They photographed, finger printed me and charged me for Witness Intimidation, Disturbing the Peace, and Disorderly Conduct. I then paid my bail and was ordered to return after the weekend – Hingham District Court for my arraignment. On the way out, they handed me this Letter of No Trespass. Not a problem – I’m giving Marylous – this one as well as all 40 of them – a wide berth.
I made the short drive to Beantown, my head in a cloud. I would spend the weekend trying to process what happened and pondering the next steps. I also needed to rest and ice my wrist, in order to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation. Once I drove into the city, I was greeted by an elegant arch, flanked on both sides by bronze statutes .
Unlike DC’s tiny and rapidly diminishing enclave, Chinatown Boston has created a strong foothold since the late 19th century, it is now the only surviving Sino-Chinese community in New England. In the mid 1800’s, the lure of gold and construction of the transcontinental railroad brought the first wave of Chinese immigrants to America. The Chinese were paid lower wages than their counterparts causing the Whites to begin fearing for their jobs resulting in anti-Chinese sentiment. To escape the discrimination, many of the Chinese moved east and their communities became increasingly segregated. The first Chinese migrated to Boston from San Francisco in 1870 to break up a strike at the Sampson Shoe Factory.
Chinatown along Harrison Street was created due to the anti-Chinese movement and the desire to separate the community from the rest of the city. But today, the opposite is happening. In Chinatowns all across America, gentrification has taken hold and the Whites and Wealthy are steadily moving back in. Since the beginning, the Chinese have weathered a lot of cultural challenges and abuse in America, but thankfully, today, Americans have prudently learned to embrace the heritage and cuisines imported from mainland China.
Such is the case of dim sum. In ancient China, weary travelers trekking the Silk Road to Europe stopped along the way at roadside tea-houses for rest and replenishment. Several hundred years later, restaurants in Hong Kong, adding the freshest ingredients, refined the dishes to a classical culinary art form The delicious recipes were exported to the U.S. when thousands of Chinese immigrated to San Francisco during the Gold Rush of the 1850’s. Now it is a staple in every excursion to Chinatown.
Thankfully, there are several high-profile dim sum eateries in Boston. Famished and forlorn, I entered the very first eatery I stumbled upon. The establishment appeared modest from the outside but once inside the atmosphere transformed into a banquet hall filled with communal tables packed with multi-generational families. Hei La Moon is a highly-rated sprawling, bi-level banquet hall filled with office workers, tourists to wedding parties.
Usually there’s a long wait, but today my timing was fortuitous and I was able to secure a seat right away next to an Asian American couple with two young children. They appeared to be making light conversation while ordering everything that came over in boxy, stainless steel carts. I was given a paper ticket and a pot of tea while I waited patiently for the next cart pushed around by a lady yelling out her wares.
If you’re indecisive like me, you’ve come to the right place. The prices of each dish is so reasonable, you can usually afford to order everything that catches the eye. If you don’t like the fluffy steam buns (char siu bao) or the chewy, translucent skin in the shrimp dumpling (har gow), there’s no shame in leaving food untouched.
And you don’t need to speak a lick of Chinese to eat like a Hong Kongese. You can just wait for the steamy, hot carts to come to you with ladies yelling out their offerings and point to the dish that you’re eager to try. The server will stamp your sheet, and you’ll be rewarded with bite-sized morsels that serves it purpose in whetting my appetite. People start eating dim sum early in the morning. During the lunch hour madness, it can be quite a chaotic scene.
It’s better if you’re dining with others so you can order a wide variety and find something you like. Cheung fun (steamed sheets of filled rice noodles served with sweet soy), steamed pork ribs, chicken feet, tripe, congee with preserved egg, you name it. But even going solo, the portions are small enough that you can consume lots of dishes before you’re ready to take on your final round of dessert — normally an egg-filled custard that’s both crispy and sweet, washed down generously with miniature cups of boiling hot tea.
I started with the Char Siu Bao, (fluffy steam buns with pork) and Har Gow (shrimp dumplings wrapped by chewy, translucent skin). The couple next to me were chewing on Chicken feet and slurping congee. Next to the hot, simmering bowl, were long, golden brown strips of dough, deep fried and chewy called Youtiao.
“So do you guys come here, often?
“Well, we don’t live too far from here. We’re from South Shore and every time we’re in town, we make a beeline for Chinatown,” the young mother responded.
“Yeah, we like to get Dim Sum, since it’s four of us, so there’s something for everyone,” the father chimed in. “I couldn’t agree with you more. I like the convenience and you get full without breaking the bank,” I added.
“So do you live here?”
“No, I’m from DC. I’m actually in town because I have an arraignment on Monday in Hingham.”
“Really, that’s just down the road from us. We live in Quincy. What happened – do you mind if we ask?”
“Of course, not,” I replied. I straightforwardly started on a dramatic narration of yesterday’s events. The couple listened attentively over bites of small bites of Char Siu Bao and Har Gow.
They were familiar with Marylou’s and couldn’t believe they called the police on me.
“What a frivolous waste of taxpayers dollars. When you call the police, bad things can happen,” the husband remarked.
“I couldn’t agree with you more. If there are any issues, the first thing to do is approach the customer and let him know your concerns. Try to work it out first before calling 5.0”
“Absolutely, and even if you couldn’t come to terms, you always give the other party a heads up before calling the cops. If no one is been harmed, let them know ahead of time,” he added.
They wished me the best of luck, and I thanked them for hearing my story as I showed the waitress my bill filled with over a dozen stamps and handed her two dollar bills. What an enjoyable meal. The service wasn’t the best and neither was the cleanliness. But you go for dim sum not expecting white linen service. If you’re a dim sum enthusiast, it may not be the best tasting or freshest ingredients you’ve ever had, but if you want dim sum and you’re in Boston, Hei La Moon must be on your bucket list. I spent the rest of the day touring Boston. The next day, I would drive to Hull Beach so I could be ready for my arraignment on Monday.
The drive to Hull was serene and reflective. Contrary to what some out-of-towners may think, the name was not acquired from the hulls of hulking shipwrecks that dotted the coast near the Nantasket peninsular. Instead it is named after Kingston upon Hull in the United Kingdom. Hull used to be the playground for the rich and famous.
The super wealthy from all over New England vacationed here and stayed at beach-front homes. It was only an hours drive from Boston, and people could come here by car, train or ferry. Over a hundred years ago, Paragon Park was a popular amusement park with rides and entertainment for all ages. Tourists from all over flocked here in the summer to swim, relax and catch a thrill on the 98-foot wooden coaster, the tallest in the world.
Sadly, much has changed much over the years. Nantasket Beach rapidly started losing crowds to nearby Cape Cod with its increasingly-fashionable Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
In 1984, Paragon Park closed, and the coaster was torn down and sold at an auction for a song and a dance to Six Flags in Bowie, Maryland.
While the amusement was dead, the views were still in demand. The park was transformed into a condominium complex with breathtaking views of Nantasket Beach and Massachusetts Bay.
It was a prime spot, but developers fell on hard times with rising interest rates and an earth-shattering rash of foreclosures. Many of the condominiums were never built and today there is a large tract of vacant land that was once filled with rides and parkgoers. Thirty years later, there is not much here to attract tourism dollars – just the calming sounds of the ocean and the miles of secluded coastline. There are a few fancy restaurants to attract the deep-pockets and bars and night clubs for millennials to party at. Hull has slipped into a culinary wasteland with ample vacancy and distressed property that yearns to attract the lost crowd that once came in droves.
The only remnant of the historic park is the the carousel built in 1928. And even that is dilapidated and shows years of neglect. It’s a travesty, especially since Hull with it’s pristine beaches and treasured history has a lot to offer. That’s why I was both delighted and shocked that I would be one of the few lucky ones to be enjoying a cold-water swim catching a wave as I slowly made my way into the Massachusetts Bay.
I eased in. First my ankle, then to my knees, splashing water on myself to acclimate to the chilly water. The roaring surf did the rest. There was already someone else ahead of me. He was already chest-deep, body surfing, big smiles. “So how’s the water?” I inquired. “Chilly, but down right warm for this time of the year – we’ve had an unseasonable winter.”
“Oh yeah, where there aren’t a lot of swimmers out today – most are just relaxing in the sand.”
“Yeah, they’re waiting till August, the water will be a tad bit warmer then.”
“I’m Chito by the way,” I said reaching out my hand, still shivering from the cold. “Nice to meet you. My name is Tiger short for Jim Six Tiger”
“Pleasure is all mine. So what do you do? “I’m a firefighter and paramedic at the Scituate Fire Department.”
“Really, are you born and raised here?” “Not born, but have lived here most of my life. Started a family here.” “So what do you do – are you vacationing?”
“I’m a truck driver, but I’m here for another reason.” So, I gave my new friend Tiger my 5-minute narration as he listened and caught some waves.
“Yeah, it’s sad to say Bro, but I’m not surprised. That’s another reason to move back to the city – there’s little diversity here.”
“So my arraignment is tomorrow and I’m gonna fight the charges and defend my name.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong man no need to have a bullshit charge on you for that shit.”
“Yeah, so you’re familiar with the Rockland Police Department.”
“I’ve been around there. Unfortunately that’s the world we live in in a world where we have to be careful not to make white people uncomfortable”
The police officer gave me a look of surprise when I showed up for arraignment on Monday. And the judge didn’t seem to be happy to see the case papered. They dropped the two charges and kept the Disturbing the Peace. I heaved a sigh of relief – Witness intimidation is a felony, and many trucking companies would not hire a felon.
The prosecutor informed me that the DA would dismiss this charge if I pay $150. However knowing that the arraignment and the dismissed charge would show up on my record. I told them I would rather have the charge dropped (not dismissed) which they blatantly refused.
The pretrial hearing was scheduled for Sept 12. I don’t qualify for a public defender so I told them I would represent myself. They also informed me that the max penalty of Disturbing the Peace is $150 (the same amount they wanted me to pay today) The Prosecutor hinted (informally) that this charge would never go to trial (they have bigger fish to fry). I certainly hoped that was the case.