The River – Marilyn Armstrong

When first we moved here from Boston, it was wonderful, but so different.

Although I’d lived in the suburbs and spent most of my vacation time through the years out in the country, I’d never lived so far from a major city nor in a river valley, which has a particular character of its own.

The dominance of the Blackstone both over the ecology of the valley and its economy is hard to over-emphasize.

The Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor is actual part of the National Parks system and includes all the cities in the valley, from Worcester, where the river starts, to Providence where it ends. It is a protected area, though not a park, because so many people live here, but it is considered to be of significant historical importance.

A small pond where herons like to fish is formed by the river and canal’s congruence just above the falls.

It was in this valley that the American Industrial Revolution took place.

I call it the “keyhole” bridge. It’s just before the river divides.

I became fascinated with the river. It was everywhere. Even though you can’t always see it, the Blackstone or one of its tributaries is everywhere you travel, just off the road, hidden by a hillock or trees.

There’s a walkway along the canal where everyone likes to stroll. It’s right next to the parking lot for a medical building, and there’s a small picnic area there, too.

Twelve years later, the river still fascinates me … in all its seasons and permutations. This is the river in late summer/early Autumn, from last September. This is just a single hour of shooting by the river last September. You can be sure there will be much more.

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36 YEARS AGO TODAY: THE BLIZZARD OF 1978

This is blizzard time in New England, when the biggest baddest storms hit.

Thirty-six years ago today, a storm began moving into eastern Massachusetts. It was the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1978. Thousands of people were let out of work early to get home before the storm.

Traffic was, as usual, heavy. Snow started falling at more than an inch per hour trapping more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks in rapidly building snowdrifts. Route 128 (aka Route 95) became a giant snowdrift where 14 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning, huddled in their trapped cars.

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There are so many scenes that remain clear in my memory from the Blizzard of ’78.

I was smack dab in the middle of it from the beginning. I lived just down the street and was able to slog through the snow to the newsroom. As one of the few reporters who could get to the station without a car,  I found myself doing myriad live shots across Massachusetts and other parts of New England.

I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, found signals when it seemed impossible and worked nonstop under the most dire and difficult conditions. All I had to do was stand in front of the camera or interview people. I recall standing in the middle of the Mass Turnpike, the Southeast Expressway, Rt. 495 and other major arteries doing live shots. Nothing was moving.

There was no traffic. No people. Abandoned vehicles littered the landscape. It was surreal. Sometimes it felt like Rod Serling was calling the shots. The snow accumulation was beyond impressive. I am or was 5 foot 6 inches. I often had to stand on snow “mountains” to be seen. My creative camera crews used the reverse image to dwarf me (no snickering, please) to show the impressive snow piles. No trickery was needed. Mother Nature did it all.

Downtown Boston looked like something out of the cult movie “The World, The Flesh And The Devil”. The end of the world at hand. No motor traffic, very few people: just snow as high and as far as the eye could see.

Ironically, people who were usually indifferent to each other became friendly and caring. Acts of kindness and compassion were commonplace, at least for a few days. Those of us working in front or back of the camera logged long hours, minimal sleep, lots of coffee, lots of pizza and intermittently laughed and grumbled. There are some behind the scenes stories that will stay there for discretion’s sake.

The Blizzard of ’78 will always be among the top stories in my news career. It needs no embellishment. The facts and the pictures tell it all. It needs no hype or hysteria.

About Photographs of the Blizzard of ’78:

There aren’t many pictures of the blizzard available. You’ll see the same shots whenever the blizzard is remembered. In 1978, everyone didn’t have a digital camera and a cell phone. People didn’t have instant access to photographs the way we do now.

If you have pictures and can share them, I’d love to see different images. All of the photos I’ve included are archive news photos. I’m betting some of you out there have photographs and lots of us would find them very interesting! You would need to scan them, I guess. Hard to remember all the way back to pre-digital.

SO MANY PEDESTRIANS, SO LITTLE TIME

Weaving through Boston traffic on any given day can be a traumatic experience. Cars and trucks pop out of side streets, apparently without so much as a glance for possible other traffic. Vehicles stop at random to chat with a passing friend, make deliveries, or because it’s a nice day and they feel like soaking up a little ambiance. Right turns are routinely made from the left lane while traffic signs and lights are ignored. It’s common to see a policeman in a marked car drinking coffee and watching sleepily while the chaos swirls about him.

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“He who gets to the intersection first has right-of-way” is the real law of the land, and woe to any driver who fails to understand this basic principle. Every once in a while, an unlucky driver gets a ticket for a moving violation, but on the whole — it’s a free-for-all.

What really gets me are the pedestrians. It’s bad enough needing 360 degree vision to watch for other vehicles — and pot holes the size of tank traps — but pedestrians are the worst.

Since most pedestrians also drive, you’d think they’d know better. By adulthood, you figure they’d know not to run out from between parked cars and to look both ways before crossing. Nope. Pedestrians have far more faith in my car’s brakes than I do and appear to have a childlike belief in their own invulnerability

Not long ago, one of the Boston papers made a big deal about punishing motorists for failing to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. As far as I can see, you can stop at every cross walk without ever encountering a pedestrian. I’ve watched presumably sane adults lurch into traffic in mid-block when they could safely cross by walking a few steps left or right to a cross walk. A motorist who hits a pedestrian is wrong no matter what. The law is clear. Pedestrians have the right of way.

Phooey I say! Time to rethink this whole issue. Let’s give pedestrians the boot! That’s right. Let’s pass some anti-jaywalking laws with teeth. Jaywalkers will be ticketed. The city will reap a bonanza like they do from parking tickets already. But how, you cry, could the city enforce the laws and make perpetrators pay? After all, if it weren’t for having to register cars, no one would pay parking tickets either.

Here’s my plan. The first two offenses are just regular tickets. Like parking tickets. Orange. Self-addressed. Insert your check, and stick a stamp on the cover and forget it. But on the third offense, a quick computer check flashes the message: Chronic Hard Core Jay Walker.

Out comes the boot, modified for a human foot. In male and female models. Attached at the ankle, the perp must now drag this 10 pound sucker for the next 6 hours. Removal requires payment of a hefty fine, and of course, can only be done by the appropriate city official.

That’ll slow’em down.

In my mind’s eye, I see a rapid changeover from arrogant, heedless pedestrians, to careful, mannerly walkers who use crosswalks, wait for lights to change, and don’t dash out into the street without looking. I see a new day dawning, when all I need fear are cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles coming at me from all directions — but no pedestrians.

It brings tears to my eyes. It really does.

DAILY PROMPT: HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!

esplanade-boston-fireworks-2013Favorite holiday?

Not Christmas though I’ve had some fine Christmases and enjoyed them as only someone who wasn’t brought up with Christmas can. I had to marry Christmas so I could make it merry. I love it dearly. From the brightly wrapped gifts to the decorated tree to the carols piped through every shop and mall in America — I love it — though I’m always aware I’m borrowing it. Maybe that makes me appreciate it more — because I remember when it wasn’t part of my world.

I also remember some totally fabulous Passover seders with roasted lamb and all the ritual trimmings. Ceremonies, wine and song. Those were great too.

But I have to cast my vote for Independence Day. The 4th of July, America’s big, booming birthday bash. What’s not to like? Burning meat on the barbecue? Hot dogs, hamburgers. Potato salad I make myself with a side of slaw. Ketchup and mustard to douse the flavor of scorching. Everyone wearing shirts with flags and finally, watching the best fireworks. What is more satisfying than explosions in the sky?

I’ve seen fantastic fireworks at the Boston Navy Yard, along the Charles. In the sky over Nantucket Sound and old Uxbridge High School’s football field. I love fireworks.  Bang, boom and the yummy smell of cordite in the air.

I remember a long time ago … the mid 1970s … a friend and I walked all the way from the house in Hempstead to Eisenhower Park. A few miles. Traffic was terrible on the fourth and there wasn’t any place to park when you got there, so … we walked. Then we lay flat on our backs on the grass and watched the sky explode.

When Garry and I were first together and lived in Charles River Park, we stood on the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge and watched the sky light up, listened to the Pops play the 1812 overture, with cannons. I later saw the celebration from the Hatch Shell, though it was less fun because Garry was working and had no one with whom to go “ooh” and “aah.”

boston fireworks 2011

I don’t know about the rest of you. There are lots of excellent holidays and always plenty of good reasons to love them. Holidays are great and we should take every opportunity to celebrate. Life is short and sometimes grim, so party hearty when you can. On principle. As for me, let’s send up some skyrockets and start a bonfire. My kind of holiday.

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THE BOSTON POPS — MUSIC, CHRISTMAS AND SANTA CLAUS

Today  we are off to our annual excursion to the Boston Pops for the Christmas Concert. So, since I won’t be here to do a lot of writing, here’s photographic trip down memory lane. A year ago, a world ago. Last winter, Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts. With music!

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WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: SAME OLD WORLD

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I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. That’s New York, a city divided into 5 boroughs, each with its own character. Folks think New York is all Manhattan. Wall Street, the Empire State Building. Fifth Avenue. Skyscrapers. But most of New York isn’t Manhattan — and even Manhattan has neighborhoods. Greenwich Village, Harlem, Park Avenue, the Lower East Side. Manhattan’s small, but diverse. From the carousel in Central Park to the open air markets of Rivington Street, to the canyons of the financial district, there’s something for everyone crammed in one small island.

Small is the word for Manhattan, which is how come most of New York’s life happens in the other boroughs. Most families live in Brooklyn or Queens, though Staten Island’s finally come of age and the Bronx has improved a lot. I grew up in Queens. Holliswood. It was full of big old houses, woods and fields back then. I suppose it’s changed. Living less than a mile from the subway , I was surrounded by farms. Ducks, geese and chickens. Horses and donkeys were my neighbors. In those days, Brooklyn was more urban than Queens, but I think it’s all the same now.

When I say I grew up in New York,  people get the wrong idea. I didn’t grow up on mean streets. I lived in a rambling old house surrounded by trees … except I took a subway or bus to school and had access to all the neat stuff New York offers. From a teenager’s point of view, it was as good as it gets. The first time I lived in a city was Jerusalem, which is urban, but not  like New York. It’s ancient, full of ghosts and history. Mythology. Thousands of years hang heavily on its walls. Not your average city. When I moved back to the US, I settled in Boston.

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I like the city, but not the parking, traffic, noise, or constant gridlock. After ten years in Boston, we moved to … Uxbridge. No, not Oxford. South central Massachusetts down by the Rhode Island border. Due south of Worcester. The Blackstone Valley. South of the Pike. It turned out neighbors are neighbors, no matter where you are.

I’ve lived in lots of places. Life is more alike than different, regardless of venue. Big city or a tiny village, everyone knows your business. You don’t have to tell them. They hear it through walls, pick it up in grocery stores, church, from your kids, friends and family. People talk. If you are doing anything interesting, they will talk about you. Even if you aren’t doing anything interesting, they will talk about you because people talk about each other. It’s a people thing.

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Our town isn’t exciting. Not much crime. Not a lot of activity. No public transportation. Teenagers have a hard time until they can drive. Mostly, life is people spending time with people. Hanging out with friends. Watching a movie together. Shopping. Celebrating holidays and birthdays. Barbeques in the back yard in summer. Trick or treating on Halloween.

No matter where you live, it’s about relationships, not architecture.

City and country are not so different except for scenery. People are people. Suburb, city, or middle of nowhere, it’s your friends and family who comprise your world. Not your town, city, or state. Where you live is a state of mind, not of the union.

FOR THE CHILDREN – BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL FUNDRAISER

for the childrenBoston Children’s Hospital relies on donations to continue the critical task of healing sick kids. Your help is greatly needed and appreciated.

In return for your kindness, I’ll send you a copy of “For the Children XIII,” my latest booklet of inspiring stories, poetry, recipes, humor and illustrations.

Kindly send your donation of $20.00 (or whatever you can afford) payable to BOSTON CHILDRENS HOSPITAL to:

Jordan Rich
WBZ Radio
1170 Soldiers Field Rd.
Boston, Ma. 02134

I’m proud to once again be associated with Boston Children’s Hospital…Until Every Child is Well.
Have a great holiday season and thank you for your generosity and kindness. Your donation means a lot!

Peace,
JR
Jordan Rich
WBZ

 

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WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: LIGHTS AGLOW – HERITAGE MUSEUM

Heritage Museum and Gardens Annual Lights Aglow was last night. Trees and buildings and tents … lights everywhere. It was a very cold night. Hard to shoot when your fingers are going numb from the chill, but I can’t shoot with gloves. 

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: SO BEGINS THE SEASON OF LIGHT

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Boston Common lit up for the holidays! Welcome back, the season of lights.

WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ CASINO

Santarpio's Pizza in East Boston

Santarpio’s Pizza in East Boston (Photo: Wikipedia)

Living out here, 70 miles away from bustling Boston, the endless war over building (or not) a casino on Suffolk Downs raceway seems unlikely to have much effect on us semi-rural types. There are already two major casinos not far from here, just cross the border in Connecticut, Really just around the corner if you feel that itch to lose your hard-earned money. Plenty of flashing machines and gaming tables. More than enough organized busing to get you there and back home again.

Here’s the story. Not the entire story, but an overview, sort of. The citizens of East Boston rejected the whole thing and the pols are scurrying to try to pull their irons out of the fire. From the Boston Herald:

Pols call new Suffolk casino bid a longshot

Suffolk Downs’ eleventh- hour effort to shift its proposed casino site from East Boston to Revere is looking more like a Hail Mary bid, with House Speaker Robert DeLeo expressing doubts and Boston Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh touting Milford yesterday, while Revere’s own mayor said he’s in the dark.

“Right now, quite honestly, I’m waiting to hear from Suffolk Downs,” Revere Mayor Daniel Rizzo told the Herald yesterday — in sharp contrast to the race track’s claim that it is working closely with the city.

Suffolk Downs CEO Chip Tuttle said in a statement late yesterday he is “working in real time with Revere and with potential suitable gaming partners on an alternative proposal that would meet all the necessary requirements.”

Rizzo, who tweeted Wednesday that he strongly backs a Revere casino, said yesterday, “I’m taking all of my cues from them going forward, because it’s them that has to make the case to the Gaming Commission. Our voters made the case by voting yes in an overwhelming fashion. It’s up to them now.”

DeLeo echoed a chorus of pessimism over the Revere plan yesterday, calling it “a noble effort,” but adding, “I’m not sure at this time if that’s feasible.” Meanwhile, in an interview with WCVB-TV, Walsh said that since East Boston voted down the proposed casino there, he would prefer the eastern region’s casino license go to Foxwoods in Milford, saying a casino in Revere or Everett would have impacts on Boston “with little return.”

- See more at: The Boston Herald 

English: Logan Airport in East Boston.

English: Logan Airport in East Boston. (Photo: Wikipedia)

East Boston is a most put-upon neighborhood. They’ve got Logan Airport. It’s a place where you talk in bursts between long silences to let the planes pass. If you live towards the end of a busy runway, you become intimate with the underbody of the latest, greatest passenger transport. The infrastructure out there is old. It’s a poor neighborhood, probably because there aren’t many people all that eager to live with the noise. If you want your world rocked, probably this isn’t what you meant.

The roads need widening, the bridges need upgrading. The streets lack parking and the whole area lacks any sense of thrivingness (is that a word?). I can’t remember a time when it was any other way. A blue-collar area, hard-working people many of whom are clinging to the fringes of the middle class by fingernails. What would a casino do for them? Bring in busloads of happy holiday spenders, organized crime (like we don’t have enough of our own, home-grown criminals and need to get some from other places?). They tried to sell the locals on how much business a casino would bring in and how many jobs it would create.

Eastie people weren’t buying the pitch. Casinos have been around for a while. Everyone knows the only improvements the neighborhood will see from its presence are better roads leading to the casino … which will be more than made up for by the increased traffic. And those bums at the casino? They’re not going into downtown Eastie to pick up a pack of smokes or a quart of milk. They’re going to stay at the casino. They’ll never see where the townies live and wouldn’t care if there was no town at all. Not their problem.

English: Suffolk Downs MBTA station, East Boston

English: Suffolk Downs MBTA station, East Boston (Photo: Wikipedia)

Jobs? How many? Really? Connecticut isn’t booming with jobs or fat payments from their two huge casinos. Short of doing a Nevada and become all casino all the time, the residents who came out in droves to say “Hell no!” to the referendum see little advantage — and plenty of disadvantage — to the idea. Shot it down. Whack, rejected.

Now they’re saying how short-sighted people are, how hard it is to do business in Massachusetts. But you know? I’m pretty sure that the hard-headed Yankees over there in Eastie are just a little smarter than other dupes and shills the casino advocates have dealt with before. A little better informed. A lot harder to fool.

What does it mean to me? We get to stay off the radar. So far, praise the lord, no local fathead has decided building a huge casino would cure what ails us. Glad to have East Boston fight the battle on our behalf, even if they don’t know they are fighting for us and wouldn’t much care anyhow.

This doesn’t mean the casino guys are going to give up. No sirree. They’ll keep trying to find some community desperate enough, ignorant enough or poor enough to figure they have nothing to lose.

Thing is? There’s always something to lose. You won’t know what it was til it’s gone.

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GO SOX! UP THREE TO TWO AND BACK TO FENWAY!

WAY TO GO!

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Back to Fenway on Wednesday!

Big Papi was okay on first … surprise! What a great series this is turning out to be. Who really thought we’d take two out of three in St. Louis? Wonders never cease.

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