The Murder of Victor Roman

There’s been a lot of local coverage lately about the 25th anniversary of the Gardner Museum theft. For me, though, the much more important event of that week was the murder of Victor Roman.

Twenty five years ago, I was working at Photo:Hour, a chain of one hour photo labs, as a district manager. I was switching between stores, sometimes working in Harvard Square, sometimes in our original store in downtown Boston, sometimes checking in on the other stores in our chain. The manager of the Winter Street store had hired a young kid off the Street, Victor Roman, to help out at the counter. It eventually became clear that the manager there was in over his head, and I spent more and more time there, and got to know Victor pretty well.

Victor was about 18 at that point, and, from what we could see, was just a great kid. Limited in certain ways – he never did master the printer, and he was definitely having trouble in school – but always very willing to pitch in and help out. He was good at the counter, and had very definite ideas about right and wrong. He was into comic books, and some of his own drawings were amazing. Tom Giampapa, the owner, was interviewed for an article in the Boston Globe later, and said, “He was really a likeable kid. He just had the values that you look for in people…We used to discuss Victor in staff meetings because we loved the guy.”

I remember the night we took up the original tile floor at Winter Street – it had been poorly installed, and we decided to replace it with rubber flooring. Victor stayed late that night helping to rip up the old tile and cart it away. I drove him home that night, and was shocked at the neighborhood he was living in.

Victor was very much still a kid, especially when I first met him. He laughed and joked a lot, but he was also offended by injustice. Many of us can see something wrong, look at it, and sigh to ourselves, and say “that’s just how things are.” Not Victor. He was impulsive. I remember him buying a car, and losing it a couple of months later. Ironically, it was an impulsive act – fathering a child with his girlfriend – that helped steady him the most. He loved his little daughter, and wanted to be a good father.

At the beginning of 1990, we had Victor working for us full time. He’d dropped out of school and was covering shifts in both Harvard Square and downtown Boston. Harvard Square was a bit of a stretch for him, but he was always willing to help out.

My cousin Bill died that March, at the age of 30 of some sort of heart condition, leaving two young sons behind.* It was a shock because he was so young and seemingly so healthy.  I remember working in Harvard Square with Victor that Friday before heading down to Newport that Sunday for the wake, with the funeral on Monday. I stayed overnight with my grandmother, so that I could take her down for the funeral on Monday.

There had been a lot of gang violence in Boston around that time. It wasn’t rare to hear on the radio in the morning that another young man had been killed, and after a while, one tended to tune out the reports. I was only half listening as I was getting Grandma into the car, when I heard the name of the latest victim, then rushed to get a newspaper – sure enough, it was Victor Roman, of Mattapan.

I’m still not sure of the circumstances. What I heard was that he had been stabbed by a 14 year old gang wannabe, because he had interfered with a mugging on the Orange Line. I remember him saying that he had to be careful because there were people out to get him, but he said it with such cheerful bravado, that I didn’t really take it seriously.

I don’t feel responsible for his death. I didn’t wield the knife. But I do feel responsible for failing to stop it, for failing to get him to safety.

The Globe ran an article about his murder a few weeks later:

Victor Roman loved comic-book superheroes and even modeled himself after Spiderman. On the streets of Boston, Roman, on more than one occasion, found himself acting out the exploits of the fictional characters he idolized.

In January, he interceded when a youth was going to get stabbed for his coat. And that same month, relatives said, he thwarted the plans of youths to mug an elderly woman.

“He had a lot of principles and a lot of values,” said Thomas Giampapa, who was Roman’s boss at Photo:Hour in Cambridge, a photo processing store where Roman worked as a lab technician. “He was making his choice and his choice was to do the right thing.”

But doing the right thing in helping the woman apparently led to Roman’s death in March.

A 19-year-old Dorchester man and a father for two months, Roman died last month every bit the hero he dreamed of being, relatives said.

Relatives said that while riding on the Orange Line of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Roman overheard several youths planning to mug a woman passenger and he intervened.

The athletically built Roman apparently confronted the group, took a knife from a smaller, 14-year-old youth, slapped the youth several times and told him that causing trouble was no way to live, a police source said.

At the time, the youth, who later was charged with Roman’s killing, said he would seek revenge, said Roman’s uncle, Victor Mejias.

But Mejias and others said although Roman believed some gang members wanted to teach him a lesson for interfering, he never showed fear.

“Everybody warned him to be careful, but he said they weren’t going to do anything because they were just kids,” Mejias said.

I’m not sure now what the full story is. A few months later, one of his friends brought in some pictures of Victor; among them was a picture of Victor holding a gun in front of stacks of money. Whether he was friends with someone in the drug trade and was merely clowning around, or whether he was actively engaged in it, I don’t know. If I had to guess, I’d guess that he’d been involved with a gang, decided to get out, and was killed for it. But if so, we never saw that side of him.

For me though, it doesn’t really matter. I know what I did see. I did see a kid who worked hard. I did see someone who was trying to better himself. I did see a young man who was always willing to help. I did see a young father who wanted the best for his daughter. It’s because of Victor that when I hear about people like Trayvon Martin, that I can’t just dismiss them out of hand.

*It doesn’t feel right somehow to mention Bill’s death merely in passing. We were very close growing up. But while shocking, and a huge blow to the family, his death was an act of nature, like a lighting bolt out of the blue.

Sea Rovers 2015

This past weekend, I attended the 61st Annual Boston Sea Rovers Clinic.
The Boston Sea Rovers are a “volunteer organization dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation of the marine environment.. [and] are one of the oldest and most distinguished underwater clubs in America”.

The Clinic is a weekend of dive talks and presentations, with an exhibition hall thrown in for  good measure. Essentially, the format is that they run hourly presentations in three different rooms each hour on both Saturday and Sunday, and on Saturday night, they hold a film festival. Generally there are a few staple topics – often there is a track devoted to wreck diving, there are usually several talks about sharks, plus presentations about all sorts of exotic diving – I’ve seen presentations about Iceland, Antarctica, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bonaire, and Grand Cayman island at various shows. I’ve called them talks, but they’re almost always illustrated with wonderful photographs and video.

When I first started going to the show, it was held in the Fairmount Hotel in downtown Boston, but in 2012, the show moved to the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers. The last couple of years I commuted up there for both days; by the end of the day on Sunday last year, I was totally fried, and swore that next time, I’d just stay overnight, which I did this year.

I’d give the show a B this year. It seemed like there fewer exhibitors in the hall this year, and several of the presentations I most wanted to see overlapped. For example, I would have liked to have heard George Buckley’s lecture about the reefs of Bonaire, but I also wanted to hear Berkley White’s talk about creative photography. Also, several of the talks this year fell into the “good, but ___” category. Most importantly, I missed seeing it with my friend Ralph, who has moved out of the area. I did get to see Paul and Daire and Ken and Kim.

Some of the better talks:

Greg Skomal is always great. He’s a scientist at heart, but he has the gift of being funny and entertaining, and knows how to explain things. This year’s talk, “Techno Shark”, explained how they’re getting more data on how sharks live through better tracking technology. He was also the Master of Ceremonies at the film festival.

Erin Quigley demonstrated how to save less than perfect shots in Adobe Lightroom in “How to Re-light your Images in Post”. She’s a good communicator, and knows her stuff. I’m currently not using Lightroom, but may move to it if Apple’s new Photos program doesn’t eventually bring back Aperture’s editing tools.

Bart Malone is a wreck diver, and put together “Marine Life, Above, Below and Around East Coast Wrecks” after being asked about it last year. The photography (by his dive buddies) was good, but he frankly admitted that he wasn’t as much interested in the marine life as he was in the wrecks. I applaud the honesty, but wonder if the talk would have been better if it had been given by the photographers, or by someone who had more interest in the marine life. Wrecks develop a vibrant marine life community; the talk would have been better if it had addressed that more directly.

Ryan King talked about wrecks in the Great Lakes in “Tales of Tragedy Along America’s North Coast”. He had great photography of some fairly intact wrecks, and was able to present the story of the wrecks as well, without too many boring meandering digressions about putting together the expedition (the besetting sin of wreck diving talks).

Michael Salvarezza and Christopher Weaver ended the Saturday seminars with “Smuggler to Shipwreck, the Notorious Story of the Golden Venture. This talk was really good, but it was also a stretch for Sea Rovers. The Golden Venture ran aground off the coast of Rockaway NY, with a cargo of illegal Chinese immigrants. The talk – and it was a good one – was really about human trafficking, and only loosely tied into Sea Rovers by the fact that the ship was eventually refloated, and ended its days as an artificial reef off the coast of Boca Raton.

After supper, it was time for the film festival. There were three shorts, and one half hour presentation. The first short was by Paul Cater Deaton, shot in black and white as an homage to the old Sea Hunt show.

The major presentation was by Rick Rosenthal. Scientists and the military have long known about the “Deep Scattering Layer.” It’s a layer in the ocean first discovered when sonar came into use; it’s a layer that scatters the sonar beam, and therefore looks (to sonar) like a false bottom. It’s thick enough that military subs can actually hide from sonar underneath it, and it moves up and down the water column at night. It’s actually a thick layer of marine life that approaches the surface at night, and Rosenthal was determined to capture it with his camera, and in the process got great footage of the entire food chain, from plankton to anchovies, up to jacks and sharks and dolphins.

The next presentation was by Nick Caloyanis, about basking sharks. This short featured Greg Skomal.

The last presentation of the night was by Howard and Michelle Hall; they got some great footage of whales.

I started Sunday with Richard E Hyman’s adventures with Jacques Cousteau. He was a crewman aboard Calypso during the seventies, and had a number of interesting pictures and stories.

Paul Cater Deaton’s talk, “The Last Hurrah” was a bit of a disappointment. Ostensibly about diving pioneer Stan Waterman’s last dive trip (he’s over 90) it suffered from a misplaced focus. Most of the footage — and it was very good — was just underwater footage of Grand Cayman Island. There was very little about Stan Waterman himself, other than some footage shot at a reception for him. Nothing about how he felt starting off on a trip for the last time, nothing about what he himself found there, no words from him about what it felt like coming out of the water the last time.

The last talk I attended was Josh Cummings and Nathan Garrett talking about diving year round in the Northeast. Pretty decent photography, including some ice diving, but I would have liked to have heard more about what it takes to dive during the winter.

There were several talks listed that I would have liked to have seen: George Buckley talking about the Coral Reefs of Bonaire, Joe Romeiro and Sharks at Night,and Captain Robert MacKinnon talking about the British raid on Washington in 1814, among others. It also would have been good to have been able to see Jerry Shine and Andrew Martinez’s talks. Perhaps some other time.

Resurrected Mac

Last December, I wrote about how my Early 2011 MacBook Pro died, and how I’d replaced it with a new machine. The video fritzed out while working in Photoshop, and things deteriorated until by the end of the week, it either froze at the grey screen, or progressed to a blue screen. Apparently a lot of that generation of MacBook Pros had problems with the video generation chip, and in the original post, I linked to three separate pages detailing the problems, and how, at that point, Apple hadn’t addressed the problem.

On February 20, Apple announced the MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program for Video Issues saying,

Apple has determined that a small percentage of MacBook Pro systems may exhibit distorted video, no video, or unexpected system restarts. These MacBook Pro systems were sold between February 2011 and December 2013.

Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will repair affected MacBook Pro systems, free of charge.

I took the computer in to the Chestnut Hill Apple store, where a very helpful Apple Tech by the name of Dan verified the issue, and ordered the necessary replacement main logic board. When the part came in, I brought the laptop back in, and it went off for service for a few days. It came back last Wednesday, and I picked it up Friday night. It appears to be running properly, and they even replaced the battery in it, along with the main logic board, all for the price of $0.00.

I would have preferred this program had been in place last December, but I’m glad that they finally recognized the problem, and I wanted to let people know about the solution.

So what am I going to do with it?  At this point, I’m not sure. Its hard drive is still overly full, which means it’s still slow. I do like having the ability to use Mavericks again (and the Snow Leopard installation I have squirrelled away on a hard drive), but the new machine is faster, and I love its sharper screen. At the very least, I’ve gone from having a doorstop with valuable data on it that I couldn’t remove, to having a working machine that I can erase my data from, and resell.

One thing that I immediately noticed was the full title bar in Safari on Mavericks. It’s the one thing that really irritates me the most about Yosemite — you have to think and aim to find a place to drag the window around by. I don’t find the extra 50 px or so of content area to be so helpful as to outweigh the irritation of not having a proper title bar to drag the window around by.