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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Here We Go Again...

Ever notice that a little kid will whine about the same thing over, and over, and over again no matter how many times they are told the subject is closed?

And, ever notice that if the same kid still does not get their way they will haunt you with the same question,"Why can't I?" until you break down?

It's a natural kid thing to do.

When an adult does it it is not only annoying, but after awhile, pathological, and the original meaning is lost.

There is a solution. Cover your ears, and chant, "I can't hear you!! Lalalalalalalaalala!"

Lots to be said in favor of selective regression.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lights, Cameras...Safety

I saw something yesterday that I rarely see here in town: a police cruiser lying in wait on Route 20.

The cruiser was in a place that was off the road, but gave a good view of the traffic coming from both east and west. It was a great deterrent.

Growing up in Medfield, we learned very young that if we ever had the opportunity to drive a car out of town that the Town of Sherborn had a serious issue with speeders and other offenders. For a small town, the police were everywhere, and they did stop anyone that had the slightest violation.

It was an industry for them. Sherborn had no industrial base, a few small stores, and one gas station. Tax money came from the landed gentry, and there were a lot of them. Horse farms, and large spreads filled the town coffers with tax dollars, but it was obvious that additional funding was garnered from the passing out of traffic tickets like cigars at a birth announcement.

As teens, we didn't like it. We tip toed through the town. Inspection sticker up to date, registration current, lights and turn signals functioning, and our speed at, or below the posted limit. This was imperative. A couple of tickets could cripple a teen for months. the police seldom lost a case in court, and those that were caught were wrong. Rarely a shady, or wrong call here.

The placing of electronic speed boards are an informative, passive way of enforcement, if they enforce at all, but the site of a cruiser on the side of the road with an officer holding a radar gun pointed right at you will give you pause. It's a memory like touching a hot stove--won't do that again.

It works.

If you sneak a cruiser of to the side of the road in some police like lair, that works, too, but you need to do it regularly, and pop up all over the place to make a difference. Yesterday was good.

Traffic control in most towns is pretty straight forward. As time goes on, the population increases, and the number of cars on the road grows, the needs of the town for increased safety change as well. All part of a growing, thriving community. I, like many don't like a lot of traffic lights, but there are place where they are needed.

The traffic lights in front of the town hall have been around since Rout 15 spilled out onto Route 131. They were needed there. The remainder of the lights in town came with the expansion of Route 20 twenty years ago. the traffic lights in front of Hobbs Brook came as a condition of building the plaza and the lights at the beginning of Route 148 and 49 are there because they are at the intersection of two state highways.

We need more.

  1. New Boston road and Route 20.
  2. Arnold Road and Route 20
  3. Hall Road and Route 20, and at Route 131.
These are just the places that need lights immediately. There are several other places in town that yellow, flashing caution lights are needed on bad curves, and narrow roads as well.

We are very fortunate to have an excellent police department here in town. That with the fact we also have a State Police barracks as well give us all a level of protection that many towns do not have, but it takes more to make us safer. Things like traffic lights and proper speed limits, better, and more crosswalks, improved road signage, and more sidewalks for pedestrians. Traffic cameras are another thing, but more on that at a later time.

Next time the Board of Selectmen meet, call up and question them regarding the need for more lights. Write the local papers and express your concerns, and don't be afraid to chew the ears off a selectman when you run into them at WalMart.

Remember, any idea can be a decent thought, but unless there is support for it, things will stay the same.

We can't grow very well into the new century when our infrastructure is stuck in the 1970's.

Comments are now closed on this post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Naw. Got Another Idea?

A "Producer Take Back" program. This is a program that would require manufacturers of some electronic goods to take back their products when the consumer is done with them. Old computers and television sets are the primary items because they contain cathode ray tubes inside. You know, the picture tube. These tubes need to be disposed of properly since they contain hazardous material.

There has been some talk about Sturbridge taking part in a program like this lately.

Not a good idea.

When the consumer buys a product, no matter what it is, they own it, and the manufacturer is out of the loop. Except for the warranty, and any safety issues that arise with the item after purchase, the manufacturer is no longer responsible to what happens to the item.

That's it.

If we start a program of having the producer of the product responsible for taking it back for proper disposable at the end of its usefulness to the consumer we will open the door to other products having to meet the same criteria.

It would start of innocently enough, but once the precedent is set, well, you know how these things go.

Think about it. Old cars that just don't run anymore. Cribs that our kids have out grown. The futon that never closes right. The jar of Helmans we left out on the counter overnight.

No. We bought it, and we own it. It is up to us to properly dispose of the items. For most items it is as simple as tossing them in the trash, or recycling them. Broken items go to the Big Dumpster in the sky, and hazardous material go to the Recycling Center where they will charge a fee to cover the disposal of items like car batteries, and cathode ray tube items. For other items there is always

It's a simple process, and it works. If the fee's charged don't cover the CRT's disposal, then charge what will cover it. Don't involve the manufacturer. If we do they will subsequently hike up the prices of the items they sell to help cover the old items disposal fee's, and it will just plain tick them off.

A few years ago when this program was talked about nationally it was all the rage, then folks thought about it more, and it went by the wayside. One doesn't have to wonder why.

If we want to make a difference, and be a little more "greener" than we currently are, then how about free mandatory household recycling? Or placing recycling bins around town? Or banning plastic shopping bags...wait, never mind.

Tried that one.

Comments are now closed on this post.

"Remember When..." Doo Wah

We do have a history after 1830.

History and Sturbridge go hand in hand. When one mentions they are from Sturbridge the response we usually hear is, "Oh, Old Sturbridge Village". Yes, that, too, but we are a village of our own as well.

When we think "history" we often drift to muskets, horse drawn carriages, butter churns, and candle light. We have more, much more.

Ever think what life was like in these parts in 1929? 1938? 1943, or 1957? Recent history, and our towns response to the world around them was not far off from the rest of the country in those times. The Depression brought New Deal workers to town that worked in Civilian Conservation Camps, and researched our old buildings. World War Two came and many of our young went overseas. Some did not come home. The Army took over the Publick House, and trained the State Guard in the tactics of what could now be called guerrilla warfare, and drilled on the Common.

In the 1950's, new cars, new music, and a new two term president were just a bit of what the town experienced with the rest of the country.

As the times changed, our culture changed. We experienced the same as Hoboken, DeMoines, and Seattle. We cruised the town in our Chevy's, hung out at the drive-in, and rocked to Chuck Berry, the Coasters, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The photo above is a postcard of that era. Ovides restaurant was the place to go to back then. For a small town, it offered a lot, as the neon sign on the roof declares.

It's hard to think that the years in our life time as history. They are. I studied them in school, and children are studying my life time now. Learning history is important, and saving history for the future is just as important. Old photos, letters, and recollections are invaluable to us as a town. If you know someone that has lived in town for some time, talk to them, and learn about who we were. Better yet, turn on the video camera and record the stories for our children.

Recording our past is a wonderful thing, but we mustn't overlook the recent past. We may have lived it, but to our children, and theirs, it is as strange as the Depression is to me.

Next time your are rummaging around in the cellar, or up in the attic, look for little bits of Sturbridge, and if you find any, share them.

Besides having an "Old Village", we are also an old town, and preserving our past is not only our responsibility, but our children's heritage.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Maybe. Someday.

It's been two years. Two years since I sat down with Traffic Safety Committee, and expressed my concerns for the vehicle speeds on Route 148.

I didn't hear a word from the committee, or the Chief for one year. Then, I was contacted after I wrote about it. The radar speed detector was then placed on the road for a couple of weeks in each direction. I was told the information obtained was not the best (it was December, and snowy),and the radar board would be put out again in the spring of 2008. In mid June it was set up once again.

I wrote to the Chief about the data the speed board had obtained, and he asked for my telephone number so that he could review the data with me. It's been two months, and still no call.

I am a patient man. Too patient according to some, and I realize that things do get in the way. But, it's been two years.

I had originally asked that the first half mile to a mile of Route 148 be made a 30 MPH "Thickly Settled" zone, and I was told that they would have to go back into the old Mass Highway records to confirm the measurements between the houses. You see, in Massachusetts to be a Thickly Settled zone you have to have houses less than 200 feet apart for 1/4 mile.

To tell you the truth, I never did understand the rationale for going back into old Mass Highway records. I have a tape measure, and an odometer in my vehicle. I know the distance between the houses, and the mileage. It qualifies, but I could wait.
I had no choice.

Currently there are only yellow speed limit signs. According to the Mass General Laws, and the chief, yellow speed limit signs are merely suggestions, and unenforceable. A police officer can issue a ticket for driving at a speed that is not reasonable and proper for the road, or situation, but I have only seen a cruiser sitting on this section of Route 148 once. Once in two and a half years.

This past week alone I have witnessed vehicles traveling at greater than 60 MPH, especially heading north on Route 148. Some are going much faster. Much, much faster. Late yesterday afternoon, two motorcycles were coming up the road northbound when they began to accelerate. Suddenly, the lead bike popped a wheelie and held it past my house, the next house, and as far as I could follow him.

Great wheel stand. Inappropriate for the street, but nice. I listened for the engine to drift off in the distance. It did. There was no sudden loss of sound coming from that whining motorcycle. Thank God. If the sound had stopped it could only mean one thing. I've seen enough accidents.

I listen for that silence everyday on this road.

So, here's bottom line. I expressed my concern for the excessive speed some drive on the road to the Traffic and Safety Committee. The Chief took the ball. I spoke with my neighbors, and they all agree the speed limit needs to be set for a Thickly Settled zone, and more enforcement is needed. Whatever it takes, the Town needs to do it now. Not in two more years, or two more months.


There is going to be a tragedy on this road, and with school reopening, the chances that a newer driver will be involved will skyrocket.

I have written about this issue enough, and probally will again someday, but for now it is out of my hands. I have put it out there, here on this space, in person, and on the phone. The ball is now in the court of those in power to act, and they have not acted. Their choice, but it is on the record that they have been told. When something does happen on this road, and it will, I will not be an "I told you so".
They will already know.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Morning Musings

Years ago I lived in a town in Norfolk County near I-495.

I didn't like it. I didn't like it for various reasons, but one thing I did like was the town supplied trash collection at the house, and containers for recycling. It took me awhile to get into the recycling habit, but after some time, I did.

Here in Sturbridge things aren't that easy. One can recycle if one brings their recyclables to the Recycling Center, but if you have home trash pickup you must pay extra for the recyclables to be picked up.

That's not a very "green" thing to do, but since the trash collectors are private, and not hired by the town, like in the other town I lived in, we have little control.

Times have changed. It may be time to put some by-laws into effect regarding curbside trash pick-up here in town, or put town trash collection out to bid. If structured right, there would be a reduction in fee's, but the winning company would be assured of an increased customer base over time. Other companies could still operate, but if they charged more than what the town did, then they would need to compete with those fee's.

Recycling is needed for every household in town, but for it to work it needs to be convenient, and most of all free. Maybe a Recycling Center satellite drop-off center would be a good thing. A place closer to the center of town just for the dropping off of recyclables. Driving 3 miles just to drop off some newspaper and milk jugs isn't an energy friendly thing to do.

About a year ago I went to the Fiskdale Post Office and spoke with the Postmaster about the roadside mailboxes along Route 148. I asked her if it could be changed from having the mailboxes all on one side of the road to having mailboxes on both sides of the road. It seems in the section I live in had the one sided mailboxes as a forgotten carryover from when Route 148 was a country road. That all changed when the road was widened 15 years ago, and the 18 wheeler traffic increased as did the vehicle speeds. I would watch, holding my breath, as my elderly neighbor waited patiently to cross the road to get to her mailbox each day, or as the young mother up the road struggled across the road with one kid in her arms and the other by the hand just to get the mail.

The Postmaster agreed that it would be something to look into. She gave me a form, and instructed me to to have all those affected along the road sign it. She also told me to write in the reason for the requested change was one of safety. Well, a lot has happened over the past year, and to tell the truth, I was not good in following through with my plan. I did mention it to a neighbor though. A very strong, and no nonsense neighbor. She has worked in the bureaucratic world herself and loves to take on a challenge.

This summer she took her concerns about the mailbox placement to the Postmaster, and within a week or so she was informed that her plan to allow mailboxes on both sides of the road was approved by those in power. The effective date was August 15th.

She told me what she had done, and how it had come about one July day, and I was amazed. She did it. No petition drive, just common sense and her concern for the safety of others.

It worked.

On that weekend of the effective date I watched as my neighbors erected new mailbox posts, and placed new mailboxes on them on their side of the road. No more dodging the bullet to get the mail on this NASCAR Speedway we locally call Route 148.

Which leads me to another thought, the long overdue speed reduction here on Brookfield Road, but that is fodder for another post.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Let a Little Gary Into Your Lives

Gary Busey is nuts.

Ever since that motorcycle injury years ago, and the head injury he sustained, he has been more out of tilt. Then again, he may have always been nuts and the accident just cracked the cover enough to let his present persona out of the box.

No matter,though. The fact is, Gary is dancing to a different tambourine than the rest of us. The internet is loaded with videos of him ranting, raving, lecturing, and waxing philosophically on earthly matters like physics. There are also some excellent video clips of him in his Oscar nominated lead role in "The Buddy Holly Story". Great music, and he sang the songs himself! Not too badly, either.

My point is that before this Information Highway came into our lives there was this thing called privacy. If a celebrity wanted to retire and bark at the moon, they could, and not many were the wiser. Now, the world knows. In Gary's case, everything he does, no matter how looney, is done by choice.

Writing a blog is no different. The thoughts, rants, blathering of those of us that have chosen this media are out there for the entire world to see. What we write is a direct reflection of who we are. This can gather readership, or repel it, and at times our writings can promote respect, or disdain. Same as print media.

A blog can be many things. A journal, a diary, a vehicle to report goings on, a place for editorializing events, or a tool to attack others and their ideas. All are legal, and all are done everyday. Depending on how we present ourselves, and our thoughts will determine how we are seen. Are we credible, helpful, thoughtful, informative, or is our agenda something else, more off the wall? We have to be careful as to not ramble on like Gary Busey, or our credibility goes out the window, and that will affect our lives away from the internet as well.

Blathering day after day about the same thing. Repeating ones self over and over again. Making judgments, assigning values to other peoples lives, and spinning events to make one look better, and to take the focus off ones selves are all things that some people do without the help of a blog, but when a blog is involved it is there permanently, and can be reviewed at any time.

"Did he really say that?"
"Yep. Go read it on his blog."
"Damn. I didn't believe you, but there it is."

There is no going back, it's there. A snapshot of our personalities, and our agendas. Most are fine, harmless, but then there are those that take a different road.

I strongly recommend reading the Gary Busey's of the blog world, especially if written by those that we normally would rely on for other things, like leadership, and experience in other matters. You don't have to look too far. They can be very telling, and they will most definitely give you a peak inside that "box" without having to have a motorcycle accident crack it open. Then, you can see things a whole lot clearer, especially just where the writer is coming from, and more importantly, just where they are going. Seeing things from a wacky perspective may even help.

You gotta love the Gary's of the world, though, without them, the world would be a stale place indeed.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to tune up my tambourine, and mambo around the house for a bit before I shave the kittens.

It has been 3 days since this was posted, and comments are now closed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

They Heard Me!! They Actually Heard Me!! But, I Still Can't Hear Them!

See post from August 13 for the beginning of the story. As of this evening, I still had no service unless I went onto the back porch.The following is from a press release from Verizon and found on

"Sturbridge, Massachusetts Residents to Benefit from Verizon Wireless Network Expansion

Investing to Stay Ahead of Growing Demand for Wireless Voice, Multimedia and Internet Access

Last update: 11:51 a.m. EDT Aug. 19, 2008

STURBRIDGE, Mass., Aug 19, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- In a continuing effort to provide the best wireless service for local residents in Worcester County, Verizon Wireless has activated a new cell site. The new site increases wireless voice and data coverage and capacity along I-90 (Mass Pike) and Route 148 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, as well as the surrounding area."

For the rest of the article click here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Just Thinking...

Thinking out loud serves a couple of purposes. One, it relieves the congestion that builds up inside of ones head. This is important. My mother told me a head could explode unless you opened the vent now and again. Another reason that it is important is to instill the thought into an others head, someone with more savvy, more knowledge, more know how than oneself to take that thought and run with it.

This morning I'm going to do some venting.

Mary came home the other day and told me there was a "For Sale Business and property" sign in front of Yankee Pedlar. Well, at least its not closing for good is all I could think when she told me. The Yankee Pedlar is a great place to get all those things that you just can't find all together in other places. Lots of primitive decor, lampshades, signs, furniture, candles, little things like bobble head dogs, and things I have no idea what they are, but must have a name. The store is jammed, and I mean jammed packed with inventory. This is a tourist/shoppers paradise. Anytime I needed a kliebish or a flendagle for a visiting relative, or a gift to bring to my sister in South Carolina, I'd stop here and choose something appropriate. Always had just the right thing, even if it took me an hour to rummage the floors and shelves. Every town needs a place like this, especially a tourist town like ours.

After Mary told me about the signs, I wondered why it was for sale. Owners retiring, or it is just time to move on? Or worse, is it because business has fallen off too much in recent times? I don't know, but it would be a shame to see the store gone forever.

The next day, after I was told about the Yankee Pedlar, I was driving Route 20 east, and there beside the Mobil station at the junction of 20 and 131 was a sign: "Linens 'n Things Closing--this Store Only--SALE".

Another bummer.

This one I can figure out all by myself. Corporate is not thrilled with the numbers coming out of the Sturbridge store. Low performance compared to other stores in the chain. They probably gave it some time to correct itself, but was finally given the ax, but the main reason the store is closing is that Linens 'N things is bankrupt. The head office blames the "current economic downturn". Too bad, I like this store. I have dropped a lot of coin at this place, and would continue to do so, but unfortunately, there are not enough of me to save the company.

So, are the changes mentioned above a reflection of the town?


They are what they are, and this time Sturbridge had nothing to do with the changes that will be coming.

Now, here's the "venting" part: What if the Yankee Pedlar can't sell the building and business? What then? What if they can sell the building, but the new owner wants to make condo/loft apartments are we worse off as a town, or better off? And, who is to replace the hole in the mall when Linens "N Things hits the road? Let us all pause and say a prayer right now that a Family Dollar Store doesn't want in. (shudder).

Think about it. What other uses would you be comfortable with for these two businesses? We have a few empty buildings in town now that were once thriving businesses, but nothing has filled their walls since they vacated. Can we afford to have more empty space in town? Can our town that is focusing on growth, from all angles, present it self as a positive site to attract future business if there are empty buildings all over town?

Not easily.

We certainly don't need more restaurants in town. The ones we have now are fantastic, but the last thing we need is another pizza joint in town. How many different ways can you make the pie anyway, and I don't think there is a town ordered by-law indicating so many pizza parlors per capita. We have enough.

What about a Trader Joe's, or Whole Foods food store where Basketville used to be? Different foods, and healthy (pardon the pun) competition for Shaws and Super Stop & Shop.

The little building that used to be the bakery beside Basketville could become something great if one used their head. Since we already have a great Tourist Information Center in town, what about a one stop info center for sportsmen/women? A place to get all the licenses you would need during the year for hunting, and fishing. It could offer trail maps, and brochures of the public land, and waterways in the area. Maybe it could have kayaks and canoes for rent outside, and offer outdoor type merchandise as well.

Just a thought.

All the negative changes that have occurred here in town over the last several years can be taken advantage of, and something even grander made of them. It's what some call opportunity, and when it comes a-knockin' don't think its a woodpecker on the roof and shoo it away, it's then time to think, and thinking out loud to those that are smarter than we are is one way to light the fuse of positive change.

Consider the fuse lit.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This Could Be The Start Of Something Big

For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Alexandra McNitt (508) 347-2761,


Sturbridge Heritage & Preservation Partnership unveils a brand identity and ad campaign for “The Sturbridge Townships”
Sturbridge, MA (August 14, 2008) – A regional partnership representing local
business and government launched a new brand identity and advertising
campaign today. The marketing program, commissioned by the Sturbridge
Heritage & Preservation Partnership (SHPP) in conjunction with the
Sturbridge Area Tourist Association (SATA), is designed to attract visitors
and increase hospitality and retail business throughout the region,
showcased as “The Sturbridge Townships.”

Promoting the theme of “Everything but ordinary,” the campaign, which is
accessible at invites potential visitors to explore the wide variety of unique tourism, hospitality and retail
attractions available throughout the area. The names of each town, including
Sturbridge, Southbridge, Charlton, the Brookfields, Brimfield, Holland,
Wales and Spencer, are listed in the debut print advertisement appearing
today in a special Fall Foliage issue of Yankee Magazine.

“The new moniker for the region builds on the high levels of awareness and
positive equity in the name Sturbridge,” said Alexandra McNitt, executive
director of the Central Mass South Chamber of Commerce and Sturbridge Area
Tourist Association (SATA). “At the same time, we are telling people we
offer a wide array of places to visit and experiences to enjoy here.”

The logo for the region, featuring an illustration of a tree branch and
birds, points to the natural beauty of the area. Outdoor enthusiasts and
recreation seekers are primary target audiences for the campaign, produced
by RDW Group, a regional marketing firm. The multi-media campaign includes
advertisements in magazines, on radio, billboards, internet banner ads, and
a new web site and brochure for SATA. Additional promotional activities and
events are being developed.

Jim Donahue, executive director of Old Sturbridge Village, expressed
optimism that tourism to the region as a whole can be revitalized. “People
are drawn to the authentic, genuine nature of this area,” he said. “This new
brand and marketing campaign delivers that promise in a way that will appeal
to a wide variety of visitors and likewise help a broad base of local
businesses here.”

The SHPP initiative was formed to develop and market a unified tourist
message and identity for the region. State funding was dedicated to support
the SHPP initiative in the FY2007 and FY2008 budgets. Participants include:
Michael Cimini - owner, Yankee Spirits; James Correia - owner, White’s
Landing; James Donahue - president, Old Sturbridge Village; Michael
Harrington, Sr. - owner, The Publick House Historic Inn & The Hawthorne
Hotel; Ann Lindblad - director of Marketing & Communications, Old Sturbridge
Village; James Malloy - Sturbridge Town Administrator; Alexandra McNitt -
executive director, Chamber of Commerce/Sturbridge Area Tourist Association;
Russell Prentiss - general manager, Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference
Center; William Reid – director of External Affairs, The Last Green Valley;
Richard Rossman - owner, Post & Boot and Member, Browse the Brookfields; and
Nancy Salem - manager, The Salem Cross Inn.

“It is exciting to put a fresh face on the region and put our best foot
forward,” said State Senator Stephen Brewer, who represents the region and
was instrumental, along with State Rep. Todd Smola, in securing the funding
for the initiative. “Even more exciting is the potential for significant,
positive economic impact at a time when we could really use it.”

“Securing funding for this campaign is recognition that our local
businesses and citizens are being heard,” said Rep. Smola. “Our success is
important and our contribution to the economic well-being of the
Commonwealth is valued.”

The first phase of the initiative was a regional economic study conducted by
RDW Group and Ninigret Partners, an economic development research and
planning firm. The study found that tourism represents a significantly
larger share of the local economy than in other areas of Massachusetts.
Because this dependency has increased in recent years, the region should act
to protect its economic base in tourism, hospitality and retail, the study

The study, including interviews with local visitors during the peak tourism
seasons last year, also found that most visitors to the region currently
originate from within a 75-mile radius and typically spend one day here.
Visitors said they appreciate the natural beauty and charm of the area. Once
here, visitors said they would like more to do. The study points to
potential outdoor recreation as a prime market opportunity.

In addition to the advertising program, the study suggested a number of
policy recommendations for further consideration. Recommendations include
developing regional design standards, creating a zoning and land use task
force, and conducting an evaluation of existing resources for immediate
improvement, particularly in the area of outdoor recreation.

The SHPP group will continue to meet during the coming months to guide the
promotional campaign and begin to implement other study findings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

With Technology Comes New Frustrations

Back in the 70's when cable TV was becoming the "next big thing", towns were caught off guard, as was the legislature. As a result, each town has a contract with a particular cable company. Some towns have their own, like Shrewsbury, but the majority are stuck in an endless contract with the devil. Deals were made in the beginning, and companies supplied equipment, studios, and technical training to the towns for the towns use. Public access stations were then more easily accessible, and schools had another way form of communication for the students to explore for free.

Things change.

Try to get your local cable company to add an other channel that you would like to view and it is like passing a kidney stone. Rates are expected to rise over time, but they have risen to an outrageous level just for a basic subscription.

As a result, the town is trapped. The contract is binding, and if another company did come in, it would be more of the same. Huge presents up front, special rates, more programing, and then more of the same.

Technology has advanced so far, and so fast that the next time cable service comes up for serious discussion in town I think it would be good if the subject of a town owned, and operated venture be explored. It would also be another source of revenue. Money is a good thing for town.

Another service that has come far over the past several years is cell phone service. When I first came to town a few years ago reception was very poor. My service was dropping calls on the Town Common, Fiskdale, and that stretch of Route 131 just past Dunkin' Donuts to the Southbridge line. Well, service has improved with the building of more towers over the past few years. I rarely ever drop a call now.

Except at my house.

I live in a dead zone. I had Sprint for years, but changed over to Verizon last September since Sprint had customer service department that seemed to have all gone to the I Could Give A Rats Ass School of Public Relations. Verizon customer service is somewhat better, and their coverage is supposedly better (Can you hear me now?), but I still have to go out onto the back steps to use the cell phone. This is not fun in January. Or, in the rain. So, I still pay for a land line, and a cell phone. Verizon sent me a standard email when I expressed my concerns and disappointment in the service stating it was only happy if I was happy, and if I was not happy they were bummin', too. No resolution, just an outpouring of emotions.

Thanks, Verizon.

Several months ago I checked the Verizon coverage map online and right where our house is is a small white rectangle indicating no service, and everywhere else is red indication excellent service. Go figure. Yesterday I checked the map again, and the white rectangle was gone. Strange. My service is still horrible.

So, when I see those Verizon commercials on TV about their being no dead zones in their network, I laugh, and then swear at the TV. Funny, they can't hear me.

Technology has sure changed in the past decade, and in the next ten years one can't even imagine what changes will be waiting for us.

I can see it, though. By then, land lines will be history, and I will be sitting on my back step, on my cell phone, in the rain, and on hold with my cable company trying to fix some outlandish charge on my bill.

I can see it all as clearly as if it was today.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Most Amazing Thing

We sat on the couch in front of our TV for hours watching what will go down as the most incredible, and happy, televised event in history: the opening ceremony at the Olympics in Beijing.

We were awe struck.

I won't take up any space here trying to describe what we experienced, but it is not for lack of wanting to. It's like, where do I begin? It is easier for me to tell you to go to and view it for yourself.

If something as benign as 2500 Chinese drummers moving simultaneously, and perfectly, as was demonstrated at the opening ceremony, can rivet the eyes of the world just imagine what is in store from that country over the next 10 years without their drums.

The world has been changing, but until Friday night most of us had paid little attention.

Last night we not only witnessed history being made, but the future being promised.

And this happy fella to the left?

He's beating the drum for his countries March into the Future, and this time, it won't be a Long March.

Click on the photos above for a slide show courtesy of the NY Times.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Associations Can Help, Or Hang Us

A number of years ago I was told that we are the sum total of the people we know, and the books we have read. I would also add, that the actions we perform speak even louder. It has long been said that we are judged by the company we keep. Businesses know this. Individuals also know this.

Barak Obama learned this lesson rather late in the game. Criticism of his relation to Reverend Wright caused him to rise up and defend not only himself, his church, but the Reverend. That was until it became quite clear that the Reverend is totally Looney Tunes. It was then that he spoke out against the words of his pastor, and made it clear that the reverends thoughts and ideas were not of is own.

It was a brave thing to do, but it was long overdue. Obama risked offending his fellow members of the church, and his old friend as well, but it had to be done. He could not move forward unless he set the record straight, and do it in such a way as to distance himself from those ideas of his pastor, but not to distance himself from his church. A tight wire act that he performed well.

All throughout our lives we experience situations like this. When we were much younger our mothers may have told us, "I don't want you playing with that Flevis boy. He's always in trouble, and I don't want you there with him".

We may have listened, maybe not, but she was most often right on the money. As we got older, and our circle of acquaintances and experiences grew, we began to heed those words on our own. We had to, we knew that we would not be at Westwood High School, or St. Peter Marian High for ever, but what we did there would certainly affect where we went from there. Our grades, our activities would all help us onto our next step. And, if by chance we were able to advance regardless of our poor actions, we were fortunate.

The same holds true for us as adults. We are judged by the company we keep, and by those that speak for us. We could have a stellar record, or maybe one that was seen by some as needing some improvement, either way, a spokesperson that lacks credibility, and is fighting on our behalf, will certainly hurt our reputations more than anything else.

Then, there is another scenario. Maybe the person speaking on our behalf is not doing so for the obvious reason, to help us. Maybe, they are using it as the back road to attack others. Others that they obviously have had it in for for a long time, and this gives them an avenue. A warped avenue at best, and suddenly, we are in the middle.

It is the adult version of the game we played as kids when we latched onto someone just to piss off someone else.

The good thing is most of us can see through it. As adults we have grown, but childhood games are still familiar, and when they are played, we can spot them like rice on coal. The ones that believe they can pull one over on us lose more credibility, and thus hurt those they have chosen to support even more by their behavior.

At first, a few words of support are appreciated, but after a time, when the words drone on and on, day after day and take on less of a supportive role, and more of an attack role, we need to pull an Obama.

Otherwise, we will be judged by the company we keep, and once that has begun there is little we can do to change it.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Time For A Roadtrip

This past Sunday we headed northeast to Newburyport. It's been too many years since I visited Plum Island, and to tell the truth, I have never been to Newburyport.

That was a mistake.

The town is beautiful. Old brick buildings line the main streets and along the waterfront. There are shops of every description. Antiques, maritime curiosities, books, art galleries, and restaurants by the score.

The sidewalks are brick, and the street lights reflect the period lighting of the late 18th, early 19th century. There is a great boardwalk along the waters edge with a wonderful view of the harbor area. Boats tie up there, and we were fortunate enough to go aboard a Coast Guard ship in town that day that was open to the public.

Downtown, at the intersection of three main roads there were vendors set up and selling all sorts of food. A small covered stage offered the live music of an a cappella mens group, Overboard, who were superb.

Along Inn Street, an area renewed in the 1970's with old shops, and a small park off the Main Street, we grabbed a sausage sub from a cart and sat in the shade of an old tree. We watched the families along the small brick street, and playing wiht their children in the small shaded playground. The music from the a cappella group could still be heard not far away. It was beyond peaceful, and very relaxing.

Little did we know that this past weekend was the end of a nine day celebration in Newburyport, Yankee Homecoming. I spoke with a nice lady at the information booth near on the main street near the water and she told me that the Homecoming had been going on for 50 years, and everyone that was born, or raised in Newburyport comes back home during that time to celebrate. It's a nine day long celebration.

My kind of party.

There was all sorts of entertainment, shows, exhibits, even a three hour long parade. We missed the parade because we had no clue it was going on, and the sky opened up with a heavy rain, so we headed out of town for Plum Island.
The rain worsened, but after a few minutes of standing out in it, and watching the waves, we headed back to town. We stopped a the new National Fish & Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, and the new Audubon Visitors Center across the street. Both were a great place to duck out of the rain,and a a nice place to learn more about the area. Once back in town we had a great lunch at the Starboard Galley. The rain had chased everyone inside, so getting a table with a view of the harbor was impossible, but our table had a great view of the 50 inch wide screen TV and the Red Sox game. This view was great, too.

Newburyport is not only a pretty town , one that is obviously loved by her citizens, it is a well cared for historic town that attracts a boat load of visitors daily.

The Chamber of Commerce page is awesome. Up to date and filled with information. Seems that all the businesses in the town are on board to make the town a success, and the town fathers are right there as well.

Sure, there are growing pains, a few new chain stores have come to the down town like Talbots, and a hotel is going to be built on the waterfront. Some of the townsfolk are a little worried about change.

Sounds familiar.

Anyway, Newburyport, Massachusetts is doing something right, as are many other tourist areas in the Commonwealth. We can learn so much from these places.

I think it's time for a field trip.

I'll drive.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

28 Flavors In Sturbridge

When I was around three years old my mother would load me and my baby sister into the green Pontiac at our home in Nabnassett, and point the car south to New Jersey.

I remember those road trips. Driving along the back roads out of Westford, and south till we got to the Mass Turnpike. The Pike was brand new back then and it was all the rage. People would actually just take a Sunday drive on the that highway. They'd stop at the travel plazas along t their way, maybe grab a meal for the family, or just some ice cream from the 28 flavors at Howard Johnsons, and when they were done, they'd find the next exit, turn around and head back home.

It was an adventure!

For me, I got all excited when I saw that orange roof that stood out like beacon on the highway. Clam strips, that's all I wanted was clam strips, a little cup of cole slaw, and some fries. This orange topped palace had it all. Those highway meals became my on-the-road comfort food over the years. Just the sight of an old HoJo's and that orange roof would get me all nostalgic for that simpler time.

The restaurants themselves were state of the art back in the 1950's. Most looked just like the ones in the photos above. Through the main door, and once inside you would had a choice of the lunch counter with chrome columned stools to the right, or the dining room, to the left ,with a couple of dozen vinyl glad booths and large bright windows on two sides.

The waitresses uniforms were always the same, a light blue covered by a ruffled full apron, and of course, the name pin.

Memories. Silly HoJo memories.

When I stumbled on the postcard at the top of the page, it brought back a suitcase full of road trip memories. The restaurant is so familiar, in fact, the car parked out front looks just like our old Pontiac.

That old restaurant in Sturbridge is long gone. Once the cutting edge of food service on the American highway, they are very few in number today. Click on the link in the caption above to view the site of the old Sturbridge HoJo's as it looks today. Nothing is forever. Somethings are tossed aside. They used to call it progress.

I'm not sure that is what we'd call it today.

The Sturbridge, Massachusetts Howard Johnson's around 1957.