All posts by Ramona Ostrowski

Enquiring Minds

Enquiring minds, huh. I read my wife’s in the can. You know what I want? I want to know when that Alien Baby grows up, you know. They got tons of pictures of this Alien baby for years, that kid oughta be in junior high by now, right?

The National Enquirer is an American supermarket tabloid that specializes in sensationalist celebrity news. They are known to pay sources to provide tips for stories, a practice that is derided in most mainstream publications, as it encourages people to submit things that aren’t true.

Here are some covers from 2009, when this scene takes place (and check out our previous blog post about Tiger Woods):

Though I couldn’t find any examples of alien baby stories, here are some real National Enquirer articles dealing with extraterrestrial subjects:

Despite a lot of crazy articles, though, the Enquirer does get things right now and then. NPR, introducing an interesting 2008 episode of Talk of the Nation about why, when the National Enquirer broke the legitimate story of John Edward’s affair, the rest of the media ignored it for so long, writes,

You probably know the stock in trade of the National Enquirer — alien babies born to all-American families, Bigfoot sightings, celebrities’ cellulite and botched plastic surgeries — supermarket checkout line perusing par excellence. I know I usually assume the stories are fakes, and it’d be hard to blame you if you do too. This time, however, the Enquirer bested us all when John Edwards, subject of months of Enquirer coverage for his (then-alleged) extramarital affair, came clean in the mainstream media. Oops.

On a similar note, here’s a list of 11 seemingly unbelievable stories that turned out to be true (including the Tiger Woods story, as discussed in a previous post).


The Open Road: the Life of a Trucker

FRAN: You should go back to school. You should see how many credits—
ANTHONY: Nah, I’m thinking the open road. Me behind the wheel, on the open road. You can train to haul one of those big rigs in like no time, see the whole country right? That’s it, that’s what I’m gonna do.

Trucker Training:


In order to receive a Commercial Driver’s License, the state of Massachusetts requires that you be at least 21 years of age and have not had your driver’s license or right to operate taken away by the Registrar.

From the MA DMV about Commercial Driver Education:

If you want a Commercial Driver’s License, you’re going to have to pass some tough federal and state requirements. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) requires you to take and pass a 50-question exam, with a minimum of 40 correct answers to pass.

And that’s just to get the learner’s permit. Obtaining a Class A or Class B CDL requires you to pass a road test that will encompass a vehicle inspection and driving in a closed course and on the road.

Many CDL applicants take classes at private truck driving schools. These classes offer both classroom and hands-on instruction and are designed to help you pass the written and road exams. The schools even provide trucks and licensed instructors to help you pass the exam.

The good news: You can learn everything you need to know in 10 days to two weeks and classes are offered regularly. The bad news: These schools can be expensive. Expect to pay $5,000 and more to attend one of these sessions.

CDL Career Now lists CDL training facilities in and around Boston.


On the Road:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) specifies that truckers are limited to 11 cumulative hours driving in a 14-hour period, following a rest period of no less than 10 consecutive hours. Drivers employed by carriers in “daily operation” may not work more than 70 hours within any period of 8 consecutive days. These stipulations are put in place to make sure that drivers’ abilities are not impaired by exhaustion.

Some drivers are paid by the hour, and some by the mile.

For information about life on the road, check out

LBJ and the Great Society

CLIVE: School. Yep, yep. That’s how your mother and I got to talking. One day in civics they do whole lesson on LBJ, you know LBJ?
ANTHONY: Well, yeah, I—
CLIVE: Great Society. Have and have nots and til then Gloria Giosa barely gave me the time of day, right? She had herself a little after school job down the town hall and soon’s the bell rang off she go but one day Gloria Giosa and I got to talking and it turned out Gloria Giosa and I saw things eye to eye. We was all fired about about LBJ and it was spring time and we thought we was gonna go make a difference and we both signed up to hand out the free lunch…

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, promoted a series of domestic programs in the 1960s that were known as the Great Society. The two main goals of the programs were to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. In scope, the Great Society most closely resembled Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Great Society programs were enacted throughout the 1960s. Notable programs that were introduced during the Great Society and continue to this day include Medicare, Medicaid, the Older Americans act, improvements to Social Security, the National Endowment for the Arts, and federal funding for education.

Highlight from Johnson’s Great Society speech, given in 1964 in Ann Arbor, MI:

“The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in out time. But that is just the beginning.

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.

It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what is adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.

But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.”

Read the full text of Johnson’s speech here.

Thanksgiving’s a Black Man’s Holiday

CLIVE: Thanksgiving’s a black man’s holiday, bet you didn’t know.
ANTHONY: I, uh, no, I wasn’t aware.
CLIVE: 1863, Lincoln says to himself “This country done ripped in two, we need something bring us together, make us thankful we was almost in two but we not, we hanging by a thread, one thread, that’s still good. So he thinks on it and he says the whole land, everyone up in here, is invited to celebrate Thanksgiving. If the Indians and the pilgrims can do it, so can we, right? I mean think of all the foods Thanksgiving got? Those are stone cold New England it’s cold and about to get colder foods. And the black man—

On October 3, 1963, in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln released a proclamation making the last Thursday of November a national holiday; a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” He did it at the prompting of writer Sarah Josepha Hale, who had been advocating for it to be a national holiday for 17 years. Before 1963, Thanksgiving was not widely celebrated outside of New England, and even there each state celebrated at a different time.

Highlight from the Thanksgiving Proclamation:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of the Most High God] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Read the complete text of the Thanksgiving Proclamation here.

Harvard Square Pit Kids

GLORIA: That mother off in Tuscany’ll be lucky if those kids’ throats aren’t cut when she gets back that’s all I’m saying, that is my point.
FRAN: Is that it, can I go now? I needa catch the next 87 into the square to meet my friends.

By her junior year of high school, Fran Giosa isn’t choosing to spend much time in her home town. Instead, she’s taking a bus two towns over to Harvard Square to hang out there.

Throughout its history, Harvard Square has been a hub of academia, commerce, protest, dining, and more. The neighborhood’s restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and book stores were often gathering places for radicals and outsiders of many kinds. When the renovation of the subway station was completed in 1983, however, a new gathering place was created right in the heart of the square: the Pit. The tiered concrete plaza quickly became a favorite hangout of young people looking for a place to escape, as well as homeless people of all ages who welcomed a well-trafficked area in which to ask seek assistance from passers-by.

Ken MaGuire, in an article about the murder of a homeless woman who often frequented the Pit, wrote, “For years, Harvard Square has been a place for kids to congregate with friends, to fit in when they might elsewhere be considered misfits, to sleep when they might not have a home.” Later in the article, he quotes the associate director of a Boston-area youth outreach group as saying that young people are attracted to Harvard Square because “you can fit in. They’re looking for love, to feel cared about, and to be connected.” It is not hard to imagine Fran, who at this point in her life is feeling increasingly isolated from her family, former friends, and community, wanting nothing more than to fit in, to feel cared about, and to be connected.

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The Reagan China Pattern

FRAN: And the woman steps into the apartment thinking she’s going to get Tupperware and instead Ma pours the lady a drink and starts talking her ear off, I mean just going on and on about nothing and everything: acid rain and the Reagan china pattern in the White House and kids on milk cartons because “what kind of world is this that let’s that happen I ask you?” and the cost of school lunch “through the roof”—

Since a full service of china had not been purchased since the Truman administration, it was no longer possible to serve state dinners on matching china when the Reagans moved into the White House in 1981. Nancy Reagan quickly rectified this, but she received a lot of criticism from the press and American public for what seemed like an extravagant cost. The objections were unfounded, however, since taxpayer money was not being used for the china. The Knapp Foundation, a private organization, had originally donated the funds to finance the service anonymously, but when the public raised such an outcry, they publicly announced their gift in a futile attempt to spare Nancy Reagan from such harsh criticism.

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“President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, turned to Lenox in 1981 to provide 4,370 pieces, enough placesettings of 19 pieces for 220 people — nearly twice as many as other recent services.

The first family was accustomed to formal entertaining and chose a pattern to reflect their tastes. Also, in the intervening years since the White House renovation of the early 1950s, the State Dining Room had been painted white, so the Reagans wanted a china with a strong presence for the large, subtly colored room.

Mrs. Reagan worked closely with Lenox designers to develop a pattern with bands in a striking scarlet — her favorite color. The bands vary in width depending on the scale of the piece and are framed on each side with etched gold, creating a sparkling contrast with the soft ivory china. The presidential seal, in raised gold, partially overlays the red border. On certain pieces, such as the service and dessert plates, fine gold crosshatching overlays the red — a decorative technique that required extensive special handling and nine separate firings in the kilns.”
Lenox White House China

Furniture Shinin’ Cause She Windexes It

Hell no I ain’t cookin’ squat. Joe’s mother does it, the old bat, and I say let her. Whatever I make it’s too salty, it’s too sweet, it’s too hot, it’s too cold. She said that once, that what I made was too cold, once, and I looked at her, all the plastic on her furniture shinin’ at me through the kitchen doorway cause she windexes it, every day she windexes it like anyone’s ever allowed to sit on it and she says that to me, that what I made was too cold and I looked right at her, I looked right at her and I said, “It’s freakin’ jello and cool whip, it’s supposed to be cold”. First Thanksgiving we were married I told Joe, I told Joe, the best thing I make is reservations.

Covering new furniture in plastic is considered a way to keep it clean and in good condition for as long as possible. For families for whom an expensive furniture set is a one-time investment, keeping it in pristine condition is important, even if this comes at the expense of a soft surface to sit on or a couch that doesn’t shine in the sunlight.

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