When I see these words in a Boston Globe headline, I jump to certain conclusions.
And I am not disappointed:
Friends say Marcia Deihl was always the first person to think up a witty song that perfectly captured the moment, and to encourage the same lyrical invention in others with her “Bizarre Song Parties,” where the price of admission was a ditty of one’s own.
Deihl was a Cambridge activist who spent her life fighting — and singing — for what she believed in, and who had embarked upon retirement with joy that she could finally dedicate all her time to her art.
And she loved to ride her bicycle, a clunky old three-speed decorated with paper flowers and streamers. With her long hair streaming behind her, she cut a distinctive figure, one familiar to many Cambridge residents.
On Thursday, friends mourned the untimely death of the 65-year-old, who was killed Wednesday after being hit by a dump truck while riding her bike on Putnam Avenue.
“She was an icon of Cambridge life. She was a very colorful figure, beloved by the people who knew her,” said Pam Chamberlain, a longtime friend who described Deihl as “a riot” with a keen sense of irony and a gift for bonding with people. “It’s a great loss for the folk community and the feminist movement.”
The accident occurred around 1:30 p.m. as Deihl left the Whole Foods Market, authorities said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the truck, a 44-year-old Medford man who was not identified, is cooperating with investigators, and no charges had been filed by late Thursday afternoon, according to Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan.
David Deihl said his sister was a leftist at home in Cambridge’s progressive tradition.
“She and Cambridge were a perfect match,” he said with a chuckle.
Ain’t that the truth. I did not know the woman—never even heard of her, icon though she was—so my comments have nothing to do with her. But where others see icon, I see cliché. A 65-year-old riding a bike in snow-clogged streets, the bike decorated with flowers and streamers, she dressed in craft clothing, wearing her hair long and gray: she fits a type. Fit, rather.
And Cambridge is where that type felt most at home, which is again why she embodied a stereotype. I repeat that I never knew her, but I know many who sound just like her.
Deihl was a musician, singer, and songwriter who performed from 1973 to 1980 with The New Harmony Sisterhood Band, a feminist folk string band formed by students at the Goddard-Cambridge Graduate School for Social Change. In 2006, Smithsonian Folkways reissued the band’s 1977 record, “And Ain’t I a Woman?”
“We considered ourselves to be one of the musical voices of the women’s movement, and one of the musical voices of the left,” said Deborah Silverstein, one of Deihl’s bandmates. “We were singing about women, we were singing about class oppression, race — the progressive issues of our generation.”
Silverstein said that one song on their record, “Union Maid,” conjures Deihl’s fighting spirit, in its opening lyrics: “There once was a union maid, she never was afraid.”
“That line is about speaking out, and not being afraid, and using your voice, and that’s what we were doing,” Silverstein said. “We were breaking out, and breaking away, and breaking rules, and shocking and disappointing our parents, and we were not afraid. We wanted to be heard.”
A song written by a man, Woody Guthrie, ten years before the icon was even born. But whatever.
I wouldn’t have bothered with this obituary, except that it’s not an obituary. It’s a news story from the front page of the Metro section of the Boston Globe. And as I comment on news stories, I feel free to comment now.
First of all, the neighborhood. As the bicycling option on the map at the link indicates, there are several cycling-friendly roads in the neighborhood—Putnam Avenue very much excluded. You can get an even better idea of the conditions from Street View.
But you have to add four-foot snowbanks lining both sides of the street, and cars likely parked in every available spot. Not everyone lived a lifestyle serviceable by a “clunky old three-speed”. I love to cycle, but it’s still not safe yet—and I live in a leafier suburb than Cambridge! I actually feel just as sorry for the truck driver—who apparently did nothing wrong—as I do for the icon. Was she even wearing a helmet? The story doesn’t say.
I have to confess it’s this anecdote that pricks me most:
Deihl was brilliantly funny about her own life, and celebrating who she was, those who loved her recalled. In one song she wrote called “I’m Settled,” she sang about what she said was a true story: watching her brother get gifts celebrating his marriage, and sending out her own fake engraved invitations proclaiming herself “Settled.”
“No hubby no house no car no kid, no regrets for what I didn’t or I did,” she sang.
“Brilliant”? If you say so. I detect the faint aroma of sanctimony. For while she certainly was “settled”, it was in the make-believe land of Cambridge. Cambridge prides itself on “diversity”, but as we’ve learned repeatedly in our studies here, diversity amounts to orthodoxy of a different sort. Obama outpolled homeboy Romney 43,515 to 5,476 in 2012, an 8-1 margin. Cambridge is a community made to specifications, a Levittown for leftists (complete with a Peace Commission, should relations with Belmont or Somerville get sticky).
Leftists left to their own devices make bad choices—see the Obama vote above. But they also ride their clunky three-speed bikes to Whole Foods for organic kale and free-range almond milk when the roads are narrowed—and visibility limited—by snow banks from the Winter from Hell. I may be unkind, but I see in Ms. Deihl’s death an adherence to ideology rather than practicality. No house, no hubby, no kid—no problem. No car…well, no promises.
She’s not the only person to have been killed or injured trying to navigate local streets; given the number of joggers, cyclists, even baby strollers I’ve seen in the streets, I’m surprised there haven’t been more such incidents. Maybe there have been, but the Globe didn’t see fit to celebrate the victims’ lifestyles and poor judgement as news stories. As usual, whatever quarrel I have is with the lame-stream media that confuses the two.
PS: Irony of ironies, what do you want to bet the dump truck that killed her was trucking snow removed for dumping?
PPS: To prove I am not a total schmuck, here’s the info about her memorial service:
The Memorial Service for our beloved sister Marcia Deihl will be held at 2:00 PM on Saturday, April 25, at Old Cambridge Baptist Church.
PPPS: I confess I associate people of Ms. Deihl’s political persuasion with anti-Israel sentiments, an unforgiveable sin. I am rarely wrong, but I can find no evidence here.