Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Well Done

Have you noticed the sidewalk repairs on Route 20 over the past month or so? I have. It's great. On even the hottest of days the DPW has been out there hammering out the broken concrete, and pouring new concrete pads for the sidewalk. They even put a non-slip surface on the new work.

Nice work.

This project makes the sidewalks much safer for those with strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, and on foot. Once the utility poles are moved underground, the sidewalks should be ADA compliant, too.

Now, wouldn't it be swell if a sidewalk was added to the south part of Route 20 where there isn't one now?

We can hope.

Comments are no longer accepted for this posting.

Use Your Yardstick

The measure of a person is set by their actions, words, and ultimately, their legacy. Of course, their legacy is formed by those actions and words they did and spoke during their lifetime. The legacy thing is something we strive for, but would like to wait on a just a bit. A long wait would be best.

It's all fairly simple, really. Nothing complicated here.

Danny Thomas, the late actor, has a wonderful legacy. He built the St. Judes Hospital for Children, and worked to support it all his life. His story is worth reading. Tom Yawkey is another person whose legacy includes the continual work he did for the Jimmy Fund in Boston. These men gave of themselves to a charity that was far greater than themselves.

Today, other well know people are involved in all manner of foundations and charities around the world, lending their name, time, and reputation to something bigger than they are.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, The Larry King Cardiac Foundation, Joe Kennedy's Citizen Energy, Mary Tyler Moore's support for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Paul Newman and Julia Roberts support the Hole in the Wall Gang Fund are just a few of the examples of people with excellent reputations founding, supporting, and being spokespeople for charities and foundations that benefit all of us.

The character and integrity of the people involved with a particular organization speaks so much about that organization. Positive, and decent people inflict a positive reflection on the people and things they are associated with.

Another no brainer, and this why organizations, and charities seek out those among us, that are an example to others, to represent their organization.

And, then there are those organizations that were started with an excellent idea, and purpose, but their founders, and/or public spokespeople have absolutely no credibility in the community. It'll be tough going for them. People associate personalities with organizations they are linked to. If the spokesperson is a bit of a dweeb it will not help the organization one iota in raising funds. In fact, it will most likely hurt the good intentions of the organization a great deal.

One can overlook the spokesperson of an organization, and donate to their cause on its shear merit alone, but that will work for only some. We can hope that the others in the organization will see things as they are, and make changes if they want to succeed, and distance themselves from the distraction. If they don't, then it is only common sense that they really don't have their heart in what they are doing, and success is not that important to them. Or, they really have no say. I tend to believe the latter is true in most cases, and that will ultimately come back to haunt them.

Sadly, that is not a good thing.

It has been three days since this article was posted and comments are now closed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"They Won't Grow Up, They Won't Grow Up"

The photo to the left was taken of me this past May, before the wedding. It's amazing how fast we grow up when responsibility is knocking at the door.

Then, some of us never do fully grow up. You can tell who they are. They are the ones that think the world around them is one big sandbox in the playground. They saunter around the as if they are the "King of the Hill". They do an awful lot of yelling, too. Sometimes for no real reason other than to hear themselves. This is so familiar.


They'll say things like, "I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you." as they inch their finger closer to your arm. "I'm not touching you" will suddenly become, "Mom!!! He's touching me!!" when someone stronger shows up, and clobbers them.

Name calling is another tactic these "kids" still do. You would think they would have learned that they are glue, and the rest of the world is rubber by now. They start off slow, and kinda quiet like, "Hey, stupid." And when nobody pays any attention, they ramp it up a bit, "Stupid Face!". And, then there is the Rapid Double Name tactic, "Stupid Face Jerk". The 'jerk" added for emphasis, and for lack of anything better to say in a moments notice. These "kids" don't think well on their feet.

One of the best things they do is run around the "playground" all day, calling names, irritating others, including grown ups, and when they get smacked by someone else, and called a "baby" or worse, they amp it up really loud and try to tell everyone within range that so and so is calling them names!

What's up with that?

They didn't learn years ago that whining is like an engraved invitation for further smack downs? It's like wearing a sign around their neck, "Beatings Accepted Here For Free All Day".

When they run up against someone tougher they will start saying things like, "That kid eats bugs 'cuz I never see any bugs around him, so I know he eats them". Shock factor, and inference. Hey, the Enquirer has been doing it for years, it works. But, soon, credibility is long gone. The "kid" launched it off the teeter-totter during his last tantrum. It's history.

Then where does he go? Sometimes they realize that they may have overstepped, and will look for a quick fix to get them back in everyones good graces.

"Mom! I emptied the trash, and washed the dog, and detailed your car, and changed the baby , spayed the cat, watered the grass, fed the homeless, and did my homework. Can I go out now?"

They do have a great way of making up for being a brat, don't they? We smile, and forget that they pushed the Deacon down the stairs last Sunday. You gotta love 'em.

Naw, not really. We're the grownups. We know how they work. We can see through these Peter Pan wannabe's. They're still irritating as all hell.

But, they live among us. Not much we can do.

So, getting back to that photo sitting up there. Yep, that's me. Just a few years ago. Physically, I've changed. Taller, heavier and hairier now. Still have the bucket on my head most of the time. See, I am one of those people that still acts like a kid. Always have been. Helps in my career, and helps in life.

The difference is I know when to turn it on, and off. Being a grown up taught me that.

The Tie That Binds

This past Sunday, high on a hill just a few miles away, we were witnesses to something we had never experienced before. We were guests at a "handfasting".

A handfasting is what most of us refer to as a wedding, and like a wedding, the ceremony binds the couple together for life.

Each religion has its rituals, hymns, leaders, and congregation, and those that practice handfasting are no different than the rest of us that hold some belief close to our hearts.

I have to admit, not having ever participated in a ceremony like this before, that I had the preconceived notions that one develops from plain ignorance. Those notions vanished as I witnessed the ritual.

Quite frankly, I was very moved. Really.

A few weeks prior to the handfasting we received a letter from the couple. In the letter the couple wrote of the history of the ritual, what to expect when we arrived, and how the day would evolve. The letter did give us a great deal of insight, but as I said, my ignorance, and my preconceived ideas were only enhanced.

When we arrived at the function room on top of the hill, we met briefly with family, and friends in the parking lot, and then after awhile, we moved into the hall. As we passed through the main doors a few people outside wafted the smoke from burning sage towards us as a cleansing. I've always loved the smell of burning sage. In the summer, if you stick a bunch of it in an old coffee can and burn it outside, the mosquito's are kept at bay. The down side, for some, is it smells like ganja, and if your neighbors are nosey, that's what they will assume you are burning.

After we entered the hall we placed a small rock on a table with many others. The couple had asked us to bring a stone, about the size of a golf ball, to the ceremony. It was to symbolize the foundation on which they would build their lives from here on out. There were scores of small stones on the table cloth, and a very helpful person behind the table to explain the symbolism to all.

We then walked to the next table for a cleansing of the hands. Water from a pitcher was poured onto our hands, and we then dried them with a cloth at the table.

In the letter we received, we were asked to prepare some words of advice for the couple. The words were to be written at the ceremony, and then placed inside of a book for the couple to have. I wrote, "Trust, patience, and laughter." That, to me, says it all, not need for an essay here, and no need to mention the obvious, love. That is why they were there.

For a while before the actual ritual, we mingled with others in the room. People we knew, family we knew, and many others that we didn't know, but met and spoke with them for sometime. This is part of the ceremony as well, the meeting, and learning of each other.

I was beginning to feel comfortable.

The music was live and came from drummers at the end of the room. Large drums beaten by hand and stick kept a rhythmic cadence. It grew on me. I found my leg beginning to keep time.

So far, so good. The ideas that had formed in my head over years of not knowing slowly began to fade.

The ritual ceremony itself was very real. Not to say a joining of two people at any other wedding is not, but there was no pretension; the moment spoke for itself. Soon, the couple led us all out onto the lawn in front of a gazebo where a harpist sat. The couple led us in a circle, a very special symbol in their beliefs, and after a bit, we stopped. There was several chairs for those that could not stand the entire length of the ceremony spread out in the circle. What happened next was extremely moving.

As the harpist played, the Priestess welcomed us and made us feel, not only wanted, but needed. Soon, the woman, of the about to joined couple, spoke from her heart to her parents. She thanked them for bringing her into this world, raising her, and loving her. She unsuccessfully held back the tears. The man did the same, and spoke eloquently to both his parents. The words they shared with their mothers and fathers are the same most of us hold deep in our hearts for our parents, the difference was, they spoke the words to them, aloud, and in front of the world.

The parents of the couple then spoke to each other, and welcomed each other into their families. Hugs had become commonplace by this time, but still sent a good shiver down my back each time I witnessed it.

A braided cloth of several strands had been made prior to the ceremony. Each strand held by a parent , and the man and the woman as it was woven. The cord was them tied around the hands of the couple by the priestess for the first knot. This ritual is an ancient ritual that originated in Europe in the Middle Ages, thus our modern expression, "tying the knot" when referring to a marriage. The man and woman then each tied an other knot, and in turn, said their vows to one another.

The vows to each other were spoken aloud, but I had this distinct feeling that the voice box had been bypassed, and that the brain was sending the words out for all to hear directly from their hearts.

My contacts began to bother me at this point, and my eyes were all wet.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a "web" was woven by the attendees. A tall wooden pole was held in the center of the circle, and a dozen or so smaller poles, connected by a cord to them main one were spread out into the circle of family and friends. Each of the guests were given a small ball of yarn which they tied one end of it to a cord , and then walked around the circle weaving the yarn under and over each successive cord. The web symbolized the love and support of all the attendees for the newly joined couple. It also symbolized that we were all connected through the couple. Simple, but true. It was a wonderful way to show it.

After the couple was given the completed web, we all went back into the function hall. The reception was held in a large white tent attached to the hall. Cocktails were now being served, a ritual I am familiar with, and after a bit we all sat down to a great meal, music, dancing, and mingling with family and new friends.

I guess the long and short of why I am writing this is that I made assumptions, and I was way off base. Long ago I invented notions in my mind that were wrong. And, although I did say I had an open mind before the event, it was only partially open. Maybe just a bit ajar.

It's a lot like many of the things we do, and say in our lives. We carry opinions about people we don't know, we carry notions about groups that we believe to be true, and we act out as if the beliefs of ours are correct, and righteous, without ever considering what others think of their own beliefs.

I have always thought myself to be among those that doesn't carry preconceived thoughts. After this weekend, I realize I have more work than I had thought to do on this person I call me.

Enlightenment is a good thing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Everyone Has A Spare

From time to time I like to share a bit of humor from rural Massachusetts. --ed.
wo farmers from deep in Central Mass were talking one morning. Ephus turned to his friend, Rowley, and said, "Ephus, every year you win the blue ribbon at the fair for your fine lookin' Jerseys, and every year Milard Fleek starts up a few months before and rips you and your cows apart down at the Grange. He spreads all sorts of things. Says you feed them steroids, and send them to a spa the day before the show. How come you don't go down there and pop him one?"

Ephus stood quietly for a moment, then looked up at his friend and said, "Years ago my mother told me something. See, I was always gettin' my lunch pail taken away from me at school. Always by the same bully, Butch."

"I remember him! He was a piece of work, he was", said Rowley, his eyes all big with anticipation of the rest of the story.

"Well", continued Ephus, "One day I went home, and mother saw that I had been crying. I told her what had been going on, since second grade, doncha know, and she told me something I have always remembered to this day."

"What's that, Ephus? She tell you to go whip him, whip him good?". Rowley was getting more excited to hear the words Ephus's mother had bestowed upon him.

"No, she told me the Good Lord gave everyone on the Earth one ***hole, and in my case, the Lord must have thought I was special because he gave me one I carry around with me, and a spare one at school. I guess I am still lucky guy, 'cuz now I got one down at the Grange, too."

Both men looked at each other without expression for a second or two, then broke into laughter that could be heard all the way to Milard Fleeks barn.

"Yeah, I'm one lucky farmer, Rowley."

"Ayuh, you sure are Ephus. You have a spare."

Friday, July 25, 2008


In comic strips there are things called "thought balloons". Those puffy cloud like things over a characters head with their thoughts written in them. They most often hold the punch line.

In real life we do the same thing. We may think something, but to remain socially acceptable, and married, we don't speak it. The line "did I say that out loud" is a funny example of just how we may think something, but would never say it.

But, sometimes, I want to say it. Regardless of my upbringing, my personality, or what is "politically correct", I really want to say it.

Well, I guess now I can, in a cute, soft, but effective , point making way. There are these little refrigerator magnets and posters sold online that are great substitutes for our "thought bubbles". Each of these little things has a smiling bunny on it with a to-the-point statement.

They serve a need.

Ever have a conversation with someone and walk away shaking your head? Well, you can feel better if you slap one of these "crazy doesn't begin to cover it" on the rear end of their car. Won't make what was said any clearer, and the point you were trying to make will never be known by them, but at least the thought you had as you walked away can be shared by others. A lot can be said about being satisfied.

Annoying people can be handled the same way. Now, I have to admit, 99.9% of the human race doesn't bother me. 0.1% does. Live and let live. They are just dancing to different salsa. But, every once and awhile one of those 0.1% comes along and annoys the hell out of me. I used to think it was a test. God's way of testing my patience and desire to stay out of prison, but I know differently now. Annoying people come with the territory, like mold on a shower curtain. Now matter what you do, they come back.

If I was more egocentric than I already am by having this blog thing, I would like this one as a tattoo, but I am not that bad. Really. I do know some people that are, though. A "joke gift" t-shirt with this one printed on it would make me feel good, and they'd never get true meaning, or would they?

I would like to keep this one for myself.

Then there are times when no matter what you say, write or do, it just doesn't make a bit of difference to some people. They will always take things out of context, half read a sentence, hear and not listen, name call, and make silly accusations, and think with their mouths. It is natures way. Look at the presidential race. Not much we can do about it. They'll ramble on, and on in the hopes that all those words will counter your thoughts or opinions. Like throwing sand on a campfire, they try to smother you, and your ideas. Compromise is something they have never experienced, and playing well with others is still something they cannot do.

So how does one deal with people like this? How have I dealt with them? Well, first of all I pick my battles, and know I can't win them all. I try to express myself, and listen to them as well. I mean really listen. And, in the end, if nothing I have done, said, or written makes a difference, a "thought balloon" goes up...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Who'll Stop the Rain?"

The yard looks like a bloomin' rain forest. Thanks to the high humidity and thunderstorms over the past month, the plant life in our yard has gone completely nuts.

I think we've received 19.7 inches of rain at my house since Sunday, and this afternoon a duck knocked on my door and asked for a towel.

I love rain. Really. Nothing like Mother Nature giving you the day off from outdoor stuff that you might like, but would like a break from, too.

I try to mow the lawn at least once each week. In the spring, I do it it about every 5 days. Recently, I could do it every 2-3 days. I'm not complaining. I like mowing the lawn. It only takes an hour, but this season I can't seem to keep up. Yesterday, the kids from across the street ran across my lawn and I needed to go to a second floor window in order to find them.

I should back off on the Turf Builder.

So, to answer those that have said, "I wish that guy would just dry up."

Hey, I'm trying.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

There's Never A Selectman Around When You Need One

"Worcester Telegram
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Regional digest

Police seek help in burglary case

STURBRIDGE — Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man sought in connection with a burglary at a Sturbridge home July 11. Police said the man is believed to be in the Worcester area and has associated with James Grzembski, who was arrested by Worcester police on a warrant pertaining to the burglary. Mr. Grzembski was living at 14 Oread St., fifth floor, in Worcester, when he was arrested.

Sturbridge police asked anyone with information to call Detective Mark Saloio at (508) 347-2525, ext 112."

OK, Selectmen, you know your duty, find this guy!! And, you guys in the DPW, get a loader and scour the backyards for evidence. Board of Health, swab everything for DNA. We'll need the Rec Department, too. Once the crook is captured, they can tie him up with a tether ball cord. Now, fan out!!

Oh, and you police people, try to look busy, we got it covered.

A Fresh View From A New Face

Yesterday, I received a Google News Alert mentioning a letter posted by new selectman , Scott Garieri. I read it and found it to be a very good letter. In the letter he writes that communication is very important, and that he is establishing a forum for commentary. I assume this forum will be online.

I did have one issue with what he wrote. He set up the ground rules for comments in the forum, and asks that they stay on track, but unlike a private individual that can choose what comments to post, a public official, in a public forum must post all, or at least acknowledge all. Unless, of course they don't meet the ground rules, but to just say, "...and at times unwilling, to respond to every thought conveyed..." gives the impression of not giving a rats butt about somethings.

It may have just been a matter of editing, or poor word choice. Heck, he's new at this. Maybe, I am too tainted by other officials posting "forums" to take things at face value.

Anyway, Good luck, Scott. I wish you success in this new venture. I believe it will offer some fine insight for many of us. One word of caution, though, "think". Think as you write, think as you edit, and before you post, think again. Things have a way of hanging around in print, and on the Internet, it never, ever goes away.

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

"...Though I will be unable, and at times unwilling, to respond to every thought conveyed, I assure you that I will carefully consider every constructive thought offered."

Comments are now closed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Excuse Me, It's Just Gas."

Gasoline is $3.89 to $4.12 per gallon today in and around Sturbridge.


Not much one can do about lowering the price, but conserving what one does buy can be done. It's not an easy thing though. I've been told that it takes 30 days to fully form a new habit. Probably takes longer to break one, but I have been trying to change my ways.

When I first started to drive, back in the early '70's ( I was 4 years old), the least expensive gas was sold at a place on Route 109 in
Westwood/Walpole/Dover area at Maiders Gas Station.

27 cents a gallon.

1971, not not 1938. The rest of the gas stations were only 2-3 cents more, but when you are only making $2.00 an hour, and $5.00 worth of gas would last forever, so it was worth the ride to
Maiders. Problem was I worked at the Sunoco Station three miles west of Maiders. The owners seldom saw me gas up at work. Money was tight for a teenager living on his own, and gas was too important to skimp on. Sometimes, after I closed up, and turned the pumps off at 9:00 PM, I'd drive my 1963 Malibu SS convertible to each of the pumps and drain off the bit of gas left in the hoses right into my gas tank.

So, like many of you, gasoline and I go back a ways. The gas crisis's that occurred later are more than familiar, but like everything else, times change, prices inch up, salaries rise and one day your complacency gets the best of you, and --Surprise!!

We love to take drives around the area. Exploring new roads, stopping at new places. For me, it is therapy . Drop the top, and let the wind blow the week out of my head. It has become an expensive therapy, but still so necessary. A couple of weeks ago Mary and I discovered
Westview Farm in Monson. Everyone else knows about it, but the view it offers, and the ice cream were brand new to us. It was a lot of fun eating ice cream, watching the little goats horse around in their pen, and while the sun went down. Worth every penny of gas. We don't take the drives as often now. A lot less often.

My commute is exactly 60.5 miles from my driveway to my parking spot at work. My truck gets about 18 miles per gallon on a good day. I work full time, but thank goodness it is only three 12 hour days a week, with an occasional fourth thrown in for exhaustion.

That's about $27.00 a day to drive to work. $80.00 a week. $240.00 a month.

You get the picture.

And, if I want to drive to
Shaws, well it is that much more.

The obvious question is, "Hey, Knucklehead, why are you driving a tank to Boston?" Well, remember three years ago the auto manufacturers were sharply discounting their vehicles with "Employee Pricing"? Well, I bit, and saved a boat load of money, but there was an ultimate price to pay. My Sebring was paid for, but I always wanted a full size truck. Never know, I may have to haul something. I signed papers, and 3 days later, gas prices went to $3.00 per gallon.

Nobody wants a big vehicle today, so trading it in would be difficult, and selling it privately would be hard as well. I have to eat it.
[ Subliminal message: 2005 Ford Kings Ranch with saddle leather interior, and all the goodies. The stereo is sweet. Make an offer.]

I guess changing ones behavior is the best way one can fight back. That, and scaling down the size of ones vehicle. Commutes are more difficult to change for most of us. We go where the work is.

Like heating our homes, the behaviors that we have settled for for some time regarding our driving needs to change as well. You know all the tips. It will be challenge to change.

I wonder how Mopeds handle in the snow?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"OK, Rocky, C'mon out! We Got Ya Surrounded By Selectmen!"

Caught in the act!

These boys were caught in the act of playing with fireworks by the Minnesotan police in this 1934 press photo.

This what the police do. They keep the peace, and keep us safe, and both duties were captured by this old photo. The photo was probably staged for the newspaper, but the point it makes is still important: This is what police do.

Now, if those officers from 74 years ago investigated some noise, or fireworks and found nobody there, they'd probably do what would be done today: make a note, add it to the shift report, and keep an eye peeled. If they caught the rascals then I am sure they would give them a stern lecture and then turn them over to their Ma and Pa. It would be like sitting on Death Row for those kids as they rode home in the cruiser to their unsuspecting parents. Now, if there was something more that had happened, like a rocket sailing through Ol' lady Feebis's window and blowing her canary to Kingdom Come, then I imagine there would be an investigation. Same as today.

That's what police do, they investigate stuff. It's part of keeping the peace, and keeping us safe. They do it very well.

Investigating things is something the milkman doesn't do very well, or the alderman, or the mayor for that matter.

Here in town we are fortunate to have a top shelf police department. They know how to investigate things. And, we also have a State Police Barracks right smack in the middle of town. They know all about this investigation thing, and how it works, too.

Still, some folks would rather have the Fence Viewer, or a selectman be responsible for investigations.

Kinda silly, really. Ain't a selectman's job. In fact, if a selectman did stick their nose into an active investigation above and beyond what would be considered his duties, I am sure the police may want to review their job descriptions with that selectman.

Nope. Ain't a selectman's job at all.

Maybe, if one was worried that an investigation was slow in moving, or not yielding the information one would expect, then maybe, one would ask those in charge of investigations, the police.

Comments are now closed on this post. They can still be viewed--ed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Fabric Of Change

Times, they are a-changin' here in Central Mass. Wrights Factory Outlet in the Mill building in Fiskdale is closing forever. Old news, I know, but Wal*Mart is closing their fabric department as well with their upcoming remodeling as well. New news.

Sew? Well, sewing, quilting, and other home crafts are popular out this way, and with two sources of fabric no longer being available, then what?

Not the end of the world, but for many it is disappointing. Wal*Mart knows what sells, and what doesn't. Obviously, it didn't sell well enough. Good news is that Wal*Mart has begun to sell ammunition again!! Yeeee-haaah!!

The world is changing right in front of us. If you need it, and want it, you can order it on line. That means waiting. Waiting is no fun if you are on a roll, and want to get those curtains hung by the next day. It's all about convenience. I know I would go into mourning if Howlett Lumber ever stopped carrying nails.

Change creeps up on us.

Now there is a hole in the market for sewing, and fabric suppliers in the area. This would be a good time to fill that void. Folks would make trips from out of state to shop at Wrights since they offered so much. I wonder if there is some crafty person out there ready to fill the void, and start up a store that would attract people from all over? We'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, Wal*Marts got bullets!! Hunting season will be a lot more convenient this year.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sidewalks And Oil

Ever have on of those days when your head is swollen with so many thoughts, and ideas that you can't quite talk fast enough to release them?

Neither have I. I just babble incoherently and hope others will get the gist.

Today is Babble Day.

Recently there has been talk about a Business Improvement District between Hall Road, and route 148. The BID would be a zone that business owners would pay an additional percentage of there local property tax towards a fund. This fund would be used for things like improving the business area by burying utility lines, erecting period lighting along the streets. Other cities have this idea already in progress here in Massachusetts as well as many other states.

This is a good idea. The money taken in could bury the lines one year, erect lighting the next, complete the sidewalks the following year with more and better defined crosswalks.

What ever it takes to move this along ASAP would be great. Most plans eventually approved here in town take the "slow boat". A distant time is given randomly as to when things will be in place, and the committees and boards all set their pace to that date.


Could take years.

If we want change now, they need to meet more than once a week, or once a month. A little sacrifice is needed. A recent letter to editor talked of improving the infrastru
cture in town first before promoting the trails, and other attractions. I agree. First things first. The last thing we need is the continued promotion of the town to potential visitors and once they come here, having already been to Stockbridge, Newburyport, Deerfield, Hyannis, Lenox, Rockport, Salem, and other towns that have great infrastructure in their downtowns is to be disappointed. Disappointment can insure we will be placed on the bottom of the "Return to" list. Read the Blogs I have linked in the margin. Most of the speak of OSV, and there is little said about Sturbridge proper.

That's all I got to say 'bout that.

Another thing weighing on me brain lately is heating costs. There is already an organization in place to assist those on fixed incomes here in town with the incredible burden this winter of 2008-2009 is going to be. It is a great idea.

This coming winter will not only be a crisis for
those folks, but for everyone else as well. My 250 gallon heating oil tank will cost over $1000.00 to fill, just like yours. I work, and I can work a bit more to assist in covering the cost (along with everything else like food, tuition, gas, bills). Others don't have that option. We need to help them, as well as start making changes in our own lives in order to keep from freezing this winter.

Last winter, after about 18 months of researching, and shopping, we replaced 19 windows in this old house. I've replaced windows before, but with my limited experience, tools, and time, I opted for the company to install all 19. They did it in only a day. Six windows had already been replaced a few years before we moved in, thank goodness. 19 was enough.

They installed them on December 12, the day before the snow storm that paralyzed the roads, and it took me 6 hours to drive to work in Boston. Whew. Just made it.

In March I sat down with our heating bills and figured I had already saved 36% compared to the previous year. 36%. Nice.

On December 12 of this year, I will sit down again. But, we need to do more. This is an old house, 150 years old this year, and although fairly tight, it is not insulated except for some old rock wool insulation I found in the attic. I believe the walls are empty of insulation with the exception of that thin insulating board contractors put on before they put on the vinyl siding.

We got an estimate last fall for blown in cellulose insulation. I am going to get a couple of more estimates this summer. Everyone need to asses their situation now, and make plans. Whether it be a new pellet stove, insulation, new windows, upgrading the boiler, tuning the furnace, changing from oil to propane (Sturbridge does not have piped in Natural Gas), wrapping the water pipes with insulation, caulking the windows, and other holes in the house, we need to do it, and we need to do it now.

If you choose not to do any of the above, the one thing you should invest in is a sleeping bag, because a lot of you are going to be sleeping on the floor at a friends houses this winter that did choose to fight back, and stay warmer.

Photos: Top: Newburyport, Massachusetts; Bottom: A radiator.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Forest Gump Said It Even Better

Just when does stupid start? Does it follow along with the rest of the natural stages of Growth & Development, or is it something that is learned?

If a 2 year old walks into a screen on a sliding glass door we might laugh at their reaction, and then console them after they bounced back into the room. If the same kid does it again, and again, and is still bouncing back into the room when they are seventeen, one might start to wonder just when the stupid started.

Kids learn that things can hurt, and they learn real quick not get hurt twice.

Well, most of them do.

In a kids eyes, they are invincible, so falling off the garage roof when their skateboard wheel gets caught in the gutter can be understood to a point. It's when it happens again the following day that they earn the right to wear the "Stupid" t-shirt. This is called "Defying Experience".

On the job, I see the results of accidents, and I also see the results of a lot of stupid.

So, just when does stupid start? If a kid does something he knows may cost him some emergency room time , and he does it in front of grownups, is he stupid? Are the adults that allowed it to happen stupid?

Accidents happen. They just do, but there is a line between an accident occurring, and an act of stupidity. It is different when a kid is ten years old, than when he is sixteen or seventeen. A sixteen year old is more experienced than a ten year old. He may not always be smarter, but experience should count for something. It is also different when a stupid adult is responsible for someone getting hurt. Then it is the other adults that are present that are equally responsible for not intervening.

When the ten year old touches his tongue to the flag pole in January, it's an accident. He may have no experience in what frozen metal can do to body parts. No real idea what could happen. And, having a suspicion of what may happen doesn't really count.

Now, if you find a sixteen year olds tongue stuck to flagpole in January, it's stupid, and if that particular kid did in the presence of adults, it's still stupid, but the adults are not to blame. They aren't accomplices in the act. They didn't stick their tongues on the flag pole. A fifteen year old knows better. A thirty-two old knows better.

There are many things that grown-ups do that set both good and bad examples for all ages. Fact of life. There are also many accidents that can occur when kids watch and learn this behavior, but there is also the Stupid Factor that has to be accounted for as well, and that factor is shared by both grown-ups and children.

The best grown-ups can hope for is that kids will learn what is right and safe. It's an adults job to teach those traits either by example or exposure.

Of course, a kid can learn stupid from a grown-up, too. Can't help that either.

I guess, in the end, when an incident occurs, and it results in an injury, don't be too quick to point the finger at others in area. Oh, there may be accomplices holding the ladder while the lad pokes the bee hive with a stick, but for the most part when a teenager has a foolish accident, then you can't rule out that the Stupid Factor wasn't an accomplice. Being in the wrong place, at the wrong time contributes a lot as well.

Focus on the incident, not on the peripherals unless the road takes you there. Assume nothing.

And, when an accident happens, don't start pointing your finger at who else is to blame. Hands are better used to help the victim, and pray for their recovery.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Like Down In The Wind

Many years ago I saw what rumor and innuendo could do to an innocent person.

It was not pretty.

There was one person that was most persistent in feeding the rumor mill. I have no idea why, maybe being the center of attention fed their psyche.

The person that was the object of the innuendos was hurt a great deal by the actions of this particular person, and when the tales were proved to be false, and found to be promoted only to cause sensation, others came down on the rumor spreader hard.

Around the same time I heard a story of a similar situation.

A person that had helped to spread many false stories about another found that none of the allegations were true. She asked her pastor what she could do to make up for what she had done. The pastor left the room and returned with a pillow, and walked out onto the porch of the home. There on the porch, he slit open the pillow and shook it in the wind. Thousands of white, downy feathers flew off into the air. Up and around the feathers twirled around the trees, and wires along the street. Down the street they flew, and onto lawns, porches, and rooftops. The wind continued to blow,and the feathers continued to fly further , and spread wider.

The lady stared at the scene, her head following the down as it fled from her porch, to her neighbors, and their neighbors, and theirs.

The pastor placed the now empty pillow case down on a chair,and said to the woman," Go and bring back to me each and every one of those feathers, and then we'll talk some more".

"But...but, there are hundreds of them! They've flown everywhere! I can't get them back!", the woman cried.

"Exactly.", replied the Pastor.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just Common Sense

When malls are designed they usually follow the same time honored plan, they plan for a couple of "anchor stores", big name stores like Sears, or Macy's, to "anchor either end of the mall. This insures good traffic flow into the rest of the mall. Folks don't usually travel to the mall to visit the other stores unless there is something on their list that one of them sells. Yes, there will be those that go specifically to Radio Shack, or to Victoria Secrets, but the anchors usually attract the majority, and then the customers wander about the mall. They may even make a purchase at another store not on their list. The other stores count on this.

For the most part, malls still do well, even with the Internet biting into their customer base, but the plan still works. We need to sit back, and think about how this works, and use it for ourselves.

In Sturbridge we have a few businesses that perennially attract people to town. The Publick House attracts people for annual family dinners and get-a-ways, The Host Hotel attracts a slew of conventioneers, and the Pan Mass Challenge folks, Old Sturbridge Village attracts school kids, and families, many of whom first visited on a school trip. Outside of town, the Brimfield Flea Market draws in thousands three times a year, and as luck would have it, most use Exit 9 and Route 20 to get there.

These businesses and events are anchors. They are well publicized, and draw people from all over with a variety of interests. The smaller businesses in town, those establishments that offer more specific services, need to build off that if they want a piece of the pie. It's that simple.

Business organizations can help support each other, and offer great advice, but the bottom line is if you want to catch a fish, you have to cast your line, and not read a book about it.

Face it, Old Sturbridge Village is now doing what others thought impossible a few years ago, they are re-establishing themselves as a major draw in Central Massachusetts, and in New England. Over the past year, under the new leadership of Jim Donahue, they have increased attendance dramatically, offered new programs, re-established the costumed interpreter program, offered events like opening the Village at night around the Holidays, and most recently, opened the Village for Fourth of July festivities and fireworks.

They are on a roll.

Wal*Mart seems to think so, too. They sponsored the July Fourth celebration. Will they get a return on their donation? Who knows? I don't think that was their purpose. I believe it was to show that they are a community business, and that they support the community. This is far more valuable, not only to them, but for us.

Small shops, and businesses in town need to jump on board this OSV train now. They are the engine that is going to pull the community into a new era. This may mean reevaluating goals, customer base, services offered, advertising for some, but it will be so worth it.

We have a lot to offer in town: lakes, trails, campgrounds, hiking, fishing, boating, canoeing, shopping, a river, history, restaurants, specialty shops. All of these activities, and businesses will see an uptick in their use the more OSV succeeds in attracting numbers to town.

Am I on target? Well, I may not know much about business, but common sense is something I know a great deal about.

And, grabbing the tail of a rising star makes a great deal of sense.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fixin' A Hole Where The Rain Gets In...

Ever notice something that needs fixin', but is not in your power to fix? Better yet, ever see the thing needin' fixin' bein' fixed?

I did, yesterday around 5:00 PM on Route 148. For some time now I've see the road, a little north of Clarke Road, flood a bit with heavy rains. In the winter, the north bound side of the road gets a thick, maybe 4 inch thick, coating of ice that spreads out from the side of the road almost to the center line. One morning, a Town DPW sand truck was there dumping a lot of sand on the glacier that had formed over night. The truck driver was going back and forth over the area to really cover it with sand. I had noticed the flooding there off and on since I moved to the area, but this was the first time I had seen the DPW addressing any problem there. Now I knew that they knew about it.

See, there are two "intermittent streams", as the state calls them, running north to south between Clarke Road ad Brookfield Road. An intermittent stream is, well, a stream, but only intermittently. Last year, the outer stream, which runs directly behind our house stopped flowing in late June, and did not begin to flow again till late December. That's intermittent. But, this spring, with all the rain, it flowed like the Mississippi, and the other stream, the one that is closer to Clarke Road actually flows so fast, and its volume increases so much, that there was too much water to get into the culvert at the roadway so it overflowed the road, and the lawns in the area.

Yesterday I saw a work crew at the site of where the stream comes to the culvert under the road. A new trench had been dug out and lined with rip-rap stones, and another trench was being dug parallel to the roadway for more drainage. I was on my way out of town, so I did not know what else they had in mind, but what I saw looked good.

They were fixin'.

Small towns have small budgets, but the folks that work for them have great ideas, plans, and hopes for the town that is only limited by money. It was great to see the town addressing, and making right, a potentially dangerous situation, all for the cost of some rock and labor. Maybe some other town would have left it till a tragedy happened, I don't know, but ours didn't.

They do the very best they can with what they've got.

Hard to ask for much more than that.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Wicked Pissa"

If I had only heard it once I would have smiled and nodded in agreement, but I heard it twice, and from two different sources.

"Wicked Pissa."

That is how the Fourth of July celebration at Old Sturbridge Village was described by two young men last evening. I haven't used that phrase since 1971. It was more than appropriate though.

The day long celebration was the brain child of James Donahue on July 5th of last year, the day after he took over the reigns at OSV.

I met Mr. Donahue on the road from the visitors center to the Meeting House, and interrupted his conversation to introduce myself, and to thank him. It was then he told me that it was his one year anniversary at OSV, and it was the next day after arriving that he envisioned the July Fourth Celebration. Well done.

The Village was packed. The tickets for the event were sold out, and parking had to extend onto grass out near Stallion Hill Road. The event was well planned out. There were OSV employees everywhere to answer questions and to offer directions. Many in their OSV Polo shirts, and many others in the their 1830's attire. It was if a tear had occurred in the time space continuum. The 21st century mixing with the 18th.

There was music on the Common, a magician, a juggler, a pie eating contest, and lots of food available to all. A sign read. "Steamers and Ale" on a wall of a building as you walked from the parking lot to the visitors center.

The crowd was kept in line by signs and temporary fences around parts of the Village, and a great viewing area had been set up for the fireworks down by the farm houses.

The employees and volunteers at the Village seemed genuinely happy we were all there. This new event for the Village showed just what they could do, and they were proud to show it off.

I overheard many conversations, and people came from all over the state to see the fireworks, and the general feeling was that this was long overdue. I agree.

The fireworks were absolutely great! I figured there would be a few minutes worth, due to the cost, but there was well over a half hour of explosions. The viewing area was perfect. This is an example of how an institution can find itself again. A new leader with fresh ideas, a motivated staff, and a strong willingness to succeed is all it took.

Judging from the size of the crowd last night, and how they all enjoyed everything offered during the celebration, I am sure this will be an annual event.

And, we'll be there. Again, well done, OSV.

See slide show above for additional photos.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Independence occurs once, Freedom must be maintained daily.

Photo: Fireworks at Southbridge Airport 2006

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Revelation

I like music. I guess I am no different than most people. I come from a fairly musical family. My Dad taught music for over thirty five years, and my brother is a talented guitarist. My sister teaches music as well, and sings with the BSO as part of the Tanglewood Chorus.

I can play a tin whistle. Sometimes. And, Mary lets me sing to her in the car. Softly. Actually, just mouthing the words, but I do it well.

No matter though, I still love to listen to music. Instrumentals are great. The older ones like Harlem Nocturne , or Stranger on the Shore can relax me better, and longer than most hypnotics.

But, most of all, I like lyrics. Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner as a poem the day after the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. The words he wrote were his description of his first hand observations of that battle, and its aftermath. It was not written by someone in a drafty hotel somewhere with no clue as to what lay outside their window. He was there. He saw the battle, and he felt it.

Puts the words in a different perspective.

O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea

The above words were written buy Katharine Lee Bates in 1893. She was on a train trip cross country from her professorship at Wellesley College. She was inspired to write down her thoughts, and observations, after a trip to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. Her story is inspiring, and when one discovers just how those words came to her, and how well they were chosen, it adds a different dimension of meaning to that song.

Some lyrics are just a way to add a rhythmic noise to a beat. No meaning other than a sound. That's OK, if I can dance to it. Music, as Dick Clark says, is the soundtrack of our lives. I like that. I always seem to have a song in my head. From the theme song to Sesame Street, to something by Cold Play, something is always setting the mood. The slightest thing can prompt a new song.

The lyrics of a song can cause a great deal of thought, and wonder. The Beatles were able to do this very well. I am a Beatles fan. Always have been. I enjoyed their evolution over the years as musicians , and writers, and their music has always caused me to think, remember, question, rally, or relax. I have to admit, some of their lyrics still have me stumped as to their true meaning, but until I can finally translate them, I enjoy them as they are. Other things in this world that have become clearer to me as I have grown older, and lyrics eventually do as well.

Today, one of my favorite Beatles songs came to me, and after 40 years, I finally understood. Don't know what sparked the epiphany, it doesn't matter really, but of all the songs, and all the years, this is the one that decided to click. Things make more sense today, than they did yesterday.

Day after day,

Alone on a hill,

The man with the foolish grin is keeping

perfectly still

But nobody wants to know him,

They can see that he's just a fool,

And he never gives an answer,

But the fool on the hill...

Now, I understand...I can see clearly now...

Damn, there it goes again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One Bite At A Time

It's the little things.

Cliche, I know, but it is so true.

Little things have a way of leading to little bigger things, and larger things. It's natural. Another cliche is, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

It's silly, but those two cliches fit our current situation here in town very well. The other day I was driving past the Common and noticed that there were new flower urns at the corners to the Common and at the crosswalk on Main Street. I don't know whose idea they were, or when they were placed there (I've been away), but I like them. I like them a lot. They look like they have always been there. The pots, probably concrete, and stained dark to resemble iron, stand a couple of feet tall, and each are stuffed with flowers. They give a nice feel to the Common. An antique feel. It's 1875 all over again.

Those urns are little things, but they have made a major difference. They probably didn't cost too much, but they will last a long time. A small gesture invoking a larger impact.

If we take this approach to most of the situations, and issues here in town, it could work the same way.

Don't try to scarf down that elephant in a few bites. Start small, create an attitude that forms a culture for change.

For example, where are the Scenic Roads in town? I know they are there, the town specified certain roads to be scenic roads a few years ago. I don't see them listed on the towns website, but what's worse is there are no signs indicating that those roads are scenic. Signs are relatively cheap. The DPW could make up a bunch, mark them with the street name, and "Scenic Road". There. Done. A little improvement, but something that will have a lasting effect. Its like putting out the cloth napkins for company. Shows you care about your home to visitors. Little things like this, although, one could call them "window dressing" shows out of towners that we care about our town enough for them to check it out, too. A simple map of the scenic roadways would be nice to have as well. On it there would be points of interest, maybe a few businesses listed on the map and in the margin. Business owners could pay for the advertising. Map cost solved.

Sturbridge Pottery and Pioneer Oil have done a great job utilizing the Adopt-a-Visibility site program. Their plantings of plants and flowers on the traffic islands at the junction of Route 131 and Route 20 are very pretty, and this year they expanded their plantings to the corners as well. Again, a wonderful, small thing that makes a powerful statement for the town.

Several years ago I mentioned to couple of guys from the Historical Society about the need for signage at the bounds of the historical section of town on Main Street. They said they had thought about it. A couple of years ago the signs showed up. Nice signs on granite posts. Well done. A simple, but needed thing. Says a lot to people as they drive by the Common, and down Main Street. I had also mentioned that the significant, and historical sites in town needed signs, or markers as well. We have one now on the Common and across the street at the Old Cemetery. Of course, we need more around town, but the precedent has been set, and it will be easier to do the rest now.

We also need those signs like you see at historical sites, you know the ones that are about 3-4 feet tall, and almost horizontal with photos and text on them telling of the site. Those would be awesome. Visitors rely on little things like this to give meaning to where they stand. If we are to rely on tourism we have to think like inn keepers and make those little things happen. They may not seem important to some of us, since we live here, but for others in town, and our visitors, they are very important.

A large "Welcome to Sturbridge" sign on the traffic island on Route 20 a little east of Route 131 would be great. Offer it as a project to TRHS, and design it for wood and stone. The cost would be affordable, and the TRHS students would be on center stage.

These are just a few ideas that are simple, low cost, and needed. They make a great difference, and shows others that people that care actually do live here, and are willing to share what we have with them.

Remember, to have folks come, and come again, we need to think like an innkeeper, and take care of our visitors.