by michelle w. on February 5, 2014
Photographers, artists, poets: show us RED.
Show me red you say? Here is red, in flower, cars, trucks and the leaves of autumn. Barns and carousels, cranberries and peppers. Red, redder and oh so red! Scarlet and deeper shades, but ultimately all RED.
- The Cell Phone at Crystal Lake (short fiction) | The Jittery Goat
- Red Christmas | muffinscout
- Ignored | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
- Song of the fallen | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
- An Angel’s envy | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
- DP Daily Prompt: Isn’t Your Face Red | Sabethville
- Daily Prompt: Isn’t Your Face Red | Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer
- Meeting the requirements. | Greg Urbano
- Good-Bye Mr. Olsen | Under the Monkey Tree
- Red | The Land Slide Photography
- Daily Prompt: Isn’t your face red | My Dog Ate a Lightbulb
- Daily Prompt – RED – |
- Dog gets fearful around dog run, human embarrassed | We Live In A Flat
- In Cuba: The Lady in Accented Red Reads My Fortune « psychologistmimi
- Daily Prompt: Isn’t Your Face Red | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
- Embarrassment/ Daily Prompt | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
- DAILY PROMPT: ISN’T YOUR FACE RED | Francine In Retirement
- Superembarrasing! | Edward Hotspur
- Daily Prompt: Isn’t Your Face Red? | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
- Blushing Scarlet | Alienorajt
We have what I believe is the world’s most interesting car dealership. On Route 16 in nearby Mendon, it began as one dealership. Chrysler. Two more have since been added. There’s also the Miss Mendon diner, a restored Worcester dining car. A coffee shop, gas station, outdoor grill , snack bar and gift shop. And much more.
And art. Pop art. Life-size figures of Elvis, The Blues Brothers. Old gasoline pumps and other car-related stuff. David Ortiz’ torn jersey from the 2013 World Series. A car wash (the only good one in the valley) and a variety of stores and at least one doctor’s office.
It hosts the largest car show in New England … and you can also buy a car while you are there. Or a truck. Personally, I want a truck. We could take everything we own everywhere we go. We would never not have enough trunk space and little buzzy cars would stop bullying us.
In the city, life is happening. Every day, every night. Whatever the season the city is buzzing with people going somewhere, coming from somewhere else. Busy, busy like bees. When do they slow down and sleep?
- Daily Prompt: Ebb and Flow (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: A Bend in Time Saves Nine (teepee12.com)
- DP Daily Prompt: Ebb and Flow Post by Ranu (sabethville.wordpress.com)
- Fast Forward >> 3 years later (wannysblog.wordpress.com)
- Ebb and Flow (kate0murray.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Ebb and Flow (angloswiss-chronicles.com)
- Why was I so afraid? (alienorajt.wordpress.com)
- Three Year Foreshadowing? (sognagrandezza.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Ebb and Flow (kattermonran.com)
- Daily Prompt: Ebb and Flow #amwriting (ofglassandpaper.com)
“Are we there yet?
“I promise, you’ll know when we’re there.”
“Yes Mommy … but how will I know? Will you tell me? Please?”
“You’ll just know. I’m sure you’ll know. But I’ll tell you too, okay? Now settle down back there.”
I hated the back seat of the car. It made me carsick, swaying like a boat on the high seas. Sometimes I would pretend I was a pirate in a ship. That way, I figured I wouldn’t get so sick, but it didn’t matter. I got sick anyhow.
We were on our way to the World’s Fair in Toronto. Canada. Another country. We’d never been to another country. International travel! Wow! 1958, 11 years old and I was going to another country. Me, my big brother, parents in front in the huge Chrysler Imperial. It looked like it was about to take off for the moon. A behemoth of a car with fins like wings. It had enough trunk space for a multigenerational family and a cord of wood.
Sprung to absorb every bump in the road and make you feel like you were floating. No feel of the road, hence the boat analogy. It was indeed a land cruiser and I tossed my cookies in that back seat with some regularity. It made my older brother less than thrilled to be back there with Barfy, his sister. He liked me usually, but not in the back seat.
“But are we there yet?”
Time seemed to be standing still. When we’d set off on this journey, this endless multi-day journey, it sounded like fun. Until my motion sickness set in. Until the endless roads all began to blend together and look exactly the same.
Giddy with excitement had faded to curiosity and sheer restless energy, the energy of kids confined for days at a time in a lurching motorcar on the way to someplace too vague to be pictured in our minds, but held out to us like the grail.
We had passed now from even curiosity to numb endurance. We’d even stopped squabbling. Time stretched out like a gray, endless road … to someplace.
“Are we there yet?”
- Daily Prompt: A Bend in Time (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- DP Daily Prompt: A Bend in Time Post by Ranu (sabethville.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: A Bend in Time (jhelamdalvi.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Bend In Time (paperlessponderings.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: A Bend in Time (lifebeinggirly.com)
- Daily Prompt: A Bend in Time (angloswiss-chronicles.com)
If reading were illegal, I’d have spent my life in prison. The most frightening book I ever read was Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than a life with no books.
As a kid, I literally read myself cross-eyed, but today, I have been redeemed by audiobooks. Praise the Lord and don’t make me give up my subscriptions to Audible.com. Early during the 1990s, I discovered audiobooks. I was a “wrong way” commuter, which meant my commute started in Boston and took me out to the suburbs. This was supposed to make the drive easier than going the other way.
Reality was different. Traffic was heavy in all directions, from Boston or from the suburbs. The east-west commute was nominally less awful than the north-south commutes, though coming from the north shore down to Boston was and is still probably the worst commute anywhere.
When we lived in Boston on the 17th floor of Charles River Park, we had a perfect view of the Charles River … and an even better view of 93 northbound. We could look out the window any time of the day or night. It was bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see every day of the week, any time of day or night. Garry had a 5 minute walk to work. I always drove somewhere. You’d think at least once during the more than 20 years Garry and I have been together I’d have found one job near home. Funny how that never happened.
In New England, you do not measure a commute by distance. Distance is irrelevant. It’s how long it takes that matters. No one talks in terms of miles. The mall is half an hour away. Boston is about an hour in good traffic, who knows how long in rush hour traffic. It can take you 2 hours to go six miles, but maybe you can travel 15 miles in half an hour. In which case 15 miles is the shorter commute. Ask anyone.
My commute was never short. Wherever my work took me, it was never anyplace convenient, except for those wonderful periods when I worked at home and had to go to the “office” only occasionally.
The 1990s were serious commuting years. Boston to Amesbury, Boston to Burlington, Boston to Waltham.
It got worse. By 2000, we had moved to Uxbridge. It’s never easier to get from Uxbridge to anywhere, except one of the other Valley towns … and I never worked in any of them. Probably because there is no work there …
As jobs got ever more scarce and I got older and less employable, I found myself commuting longer distances. First, Providence, Rhode Island, which wasn’t too bad. But after that, I had to drive to Groton, Connecticut a few times a week — 140 miles each way — a good deal of it on unlit, unmarked local roads. It was a killer commute and unsurprisingly, I was an early GPS adopter. Even though I didn’t have to do it every day, Groton did me in.
Hudson was almost as bad, and Amesbury was no piece of cake either. The distance from Uxbridge to Newton was not far as the crow flies, but since I was not a crow, it was a nightmare. On any Friday afternoon, it took more than three hours to go twenty some odd miles. On Friday afternoons in the summer when everyone was taking off on for the weekend, I found myself battling not merely regular commuter traffic, but crazed vacationers, desperate to get out of Dodge.
The job market had become unstable, and it seemed every time I turned around, I was working in a different part of the Commonwealth or in another state entirely. If it weren’t for audiobooks, I’d probably have needed a rubber room.
First, I discovered Books On Tape. Originally intended as audiobooks for the blind, me and a million other commuters discovered them during the mid 1990s. They were a godsend. Instead of listening to the news, talk radio, or some inane jabbering DJ, I could drift off into whatever world of literature I could pop into my car’s cassette player.
I bought a lot of audio books and as cassettes began to disappear and everything was on CD, Books On Tape ceased renting books to the consumer market. Fortunately, audiobooks had become downright popular and were available at book stores like Barnes and Noble. Everybody was listening and most of us couldn’t imagine how we’d survived before audiobooks.
In 2002, along came Audible. At first, it was a bit of a problem, figuring out how to transport ones audible books into ones vehicle, but technology came up with MP3 players and widgets that let you plug your player, whatever it is, into your car’s sound system.
Audible started off modestly, but grew and grew and having recently been acquired by Amazon (a company that, like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Verizon, is plotting to take over the world and succeeding pretty well), is getting bigger by the minute. For once, I don’t mind a bit. The company was well run before Amazon, and Amazon had the good sense to not mess with success. It is still easy to work with them, literally a pleasure doing business.
Five years ago, I became too sick to work anymore. Would that mean giving up audiobooks? Not on your life. When I was nearly dead, I listened to books and they distracted me from pain and fear, kept me company when I was alone and wondering if I’d live to see morning. Sometimes, they made me laugh in the midst of what can only be described as a place where humor is at a premium.
Today, I listen as I do everything except write. I can listen to books as I play mindless games on Facebook, edit photographs, pay bills or make a seven letter Scrabble play. I admit I cannot listen and write at the same time. That seems to be the point where multi-tasking ends. Actually, I can’t do anything while I write except write.
I get a lot of reading done while accomplishing the computerized tasks of life, not to mention turning hours of mindless messing around into valuable reading time. I am, in effect always reading.
Reading in Bed: My Guilty Pleasure
I read at night on my Kindle because reading in bed has always been one of my guilty pleasures. Oh how I love snuggling into bed with a book, electronic or paper, I don’t care. A book is a book by whatever format.
I remember reading in my bedroom under the covers using a flashlight, or worse, trying to read from a sliver of light from the hallway nightlight, or, if everything else failed, by the light of a bright moon.
“You’ll ruin your eyes” cried my mother who probably had snuck books into her bed and read by candlelight.
To this day, I don’t know why she didn’t just let me turn a light on. She had to know I was going to read anyhow. She was always reading too! In fact, if books were my addiction, she was my dealer. Even in today politically correct world, giving your kid too many books to read is not yet considered child abuse. Aren’t we glad!
So my love affair with books continues. My tastes change, favorite authors move up or down the list. I go through phases: all history, nothing but fantasy, a run of thrillers, a series of biographies. Getting older has few advantages but there is one huge gift – time.
I have time to read. I can get so involved in my book that I look up and realize that oops, the sun is coming up and I’ve lost another night’s sleep.
It doesn’t matter. Because I don’t have to commute anywhere anymore. I don’t have to leap out of bed with 10 minutes to shower, dress, make up, and get out.
I can stay up too late reading, or writing, or watching movies and for the rest of my life, no one can make me stop. And that, friends, is really, truly, my fondest dream come true. And in the end, it doesn’t matter to me what form the book takes. Kindle, paperback, hardbound, audio or printed … the story, the author, the book is the thing. Everything else? It doesn’t matter. Not even a little bit.
- Listen to unlimited audiobooks on your smartphone (reviews.cnet.com)
- Five ways to save money on audiobooks (reviews.cnet.com)
- Kindle’s New Whispersync for Voice Keeps Your Audiobooks Synced With Your Book Books (gizmodo.co.uk)
- Kindle’s New Whispersync for Voice Keeps Your Audiobooks Synced With Your Book Books [Kindle Fire] (gizmodo.com)
- Are Audiobooks Better Than Books? (theboywithahat.wordpress.com)
- Boston Traffic: Before And After The Big Dig (wbur.org)
- Audiobooks Have Become Cool (theatlanticwire.com)
- Adding value to your commute with audiobooks (st75.wordpress.com)
- Audiobook Publishing in the US Industry Market Research Report Now… (prweb.com)
I used to think about tossing it all in and getting an RV — just rolling from place to place, sleeping wherever we landed. Waking up to watch the sun rise atop the Rockies, or something like that. The problem is, I have this annoying brain. It doesn’t let me just fantasize. It wants the details. It wants a workable plan. So I don’t fantasize. I obsess. About the logistics of the thing. I start making charts, budgets, schedules.
The price of gasoline. I mean, do you know how much it costs to run an RV? Holy smoke! It’s not a question of how many miles to the gallon. More like how many gallons to the mile. I have friends who own a yacht, but they almost never go anywhere. They hang out in the marina because it cost too much to actually go anywhere in the boat. I’m not arguing with the joy of yachting, or RV-ing, but seriously — that’s mucho dinero.
Then, there are the dogs. There we are, on the open highway, tooling along, watching the gas gauge drop and the dogs are restless. Do they really need to do something? Or are they just messing with us? Who knows? Do we want to take the chance? Our dogs are smart enough to know if they exhibit certain behaviors, they are going to get what they want and I can see us never making much progress because the dogs think it’s a real hoot to get us to stop everything and let them run around. Even at 3 in the morning when we’ve just fallen asleep.
With no doggy door, no fenced yard, it’s us, the dogs and leashes, standing there, whining “Please, go already, it’s cold, I’m tired, I want to go to bed,” while Bonnie laughs at us as only a Scottie can.
And then … well … there are the bathrooms. My husband has a thing about the bathroom. He would be okay for a few days, but then … he wants a nice, comfortable room with a spacious shower and unlimited hot water. A place to sit, ponder and all the rest. Not squinched into a little tiny airline-size nook (or cranny? does anyone know the difference?), but room to spread out, leisurely. And me? While he’s doing his leisurely morning ablutions, what the hell am I doing? Beating the bushes for a bit of privacy where it isn’t full of poison ivy?
But wait. You gotta pump out the head. You gotta fill the water tanks. You need to hook up to some electricity. Buy groceries. Dog food. Cook meals in that tiny little galley. I stopped loving meal preparation about a decade ago. Am I going to rediscover the joy of cooking in the galley of an RV? Why do I doubt that?
And WiFi? Without getting complicated, Garry has bathroom issues. I have WiFi issues. Take away my Internet connection and I will probably have a psychotic break.
My head is reeling. I WANT TO GO HOME TO MY COMFORTABLE BED. I’m not a stone and I don’t roll. I limp. And hey, I have a doctor’s appointment. I’m tired of rolling. I want my recliner. I want my computers, my big screen television, my huge oak desk.
Roll, roll ye stones. But I don’t think I’ll be rolling with you. Nice but not for me. Nope. Sorry, the gypsy life passed me by. Send postcards!
- Daily Prompt: Rolling Stone (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Top Five Reasons to Buy an RV (auto-candy.com)
- Daily Prompt: A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma – Who is she? (teepee12.com)
- Daily Prompt: No, Thank You – STOP! (teepee12.com)
- Daily Prompt: Tables Turned (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Which Side Of The Camera? (layedbacklife.wordpress.com)
- Camping to the next level (cinewsnow.com)
- A Guide To RV Features (kirklandrvsales.wordpress.com)
- Getting to know B&B RV! (bnbrv.wordpress.com)
Two journeys. Through the Blackstone Valley. Through Boston. Life is a long journey punctuated with shorter trips.
- – -
- Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (bureaucracyofanarchy.wordpress.com)
- 26|6 Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (familyphotosfoodcraft.com)
- Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (werewolfkevinli.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Taking A Roadtrip (layedbacklife.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (victoriakgallagher.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes and Automobiles (angloswiss-chronicles.com)
- Daily Prompt: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (tiffanyscorner.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Travel (thatchickpiggy.wordpress.com)
Red lights say stop, don’t go. No green lights. It’s time to stop. Sorry! You will have to wait until you see green again. It’s the city. Watch the lights. No going, not now.
- Daily Prompt: No, Thank You (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: HATE is a banned word! (in my own house) (secretangelps911.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt….My parting words….. (thecheekydiva.com)
I carry a small point and shoot with me all the time and most of my pictures end up being taken with this camera — the Canon PowerShot S100 — rather than my larger, more complicated and expensive system camera. I guess it’s ironic. My little Canon cost less than a single lens in the larger system. It weighs almost nothing and takes up no more room than a cell phone.
We lived in Roxbury for more than a decade, only leaving when the construction of The Big Dig made living there untenable. I still think of it as home, along with the entire city of Boston. Between Roxbury, Beacon Hill, and Charles River Park, we lived in Boston neighborhoods for a very long time and I always enjoy going back again whenever we have an excuse. These were all taken a few weeks ago when we returned to the old neighborhood for a memorial event for an old friend who recently passed away. The neighborhood is looking better than it did when we lived there. It’s one of those neighborhoods that is improving. I would stop short of calling it gentrifying. I don’t think the folks who live there want it gentrified. They don’t consider themselves gentry and neither do we.
This is a bit of Roxbury. It was, once upon a time, a city in its own right, but years ago it was absorbed and became a neighborhood within greater Boston. It is almost entirely Black and when I lived there, I was often the only white face in the crowd. Despite that, it was by far the friendliest neighborhood in which I’ve ever lived. We had great neighbors, wonderful block parties, and a sense of community we have never had anywhere else. People in general don’t understand how wonderful these ethnic neighborhoods can be, how warm and supportive the community is when they consider you one of their own. I still miss it, though I love the country. Each place has its own charms, but Roxbury was a wonderful — and eye-opening — experience.
I do not shoot with my cell phone. I cannot afford the data package that it would make it practical to use mobile apps for anything other than emergencies and our cell phones are for emergency use. Life is not always a matter of preference. More often than not, you don’t get to decide how you will live. Life hands itself to you and it’s your job to figure out how to make it work.
- Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood (chikawithyeneyes.wordpress.com)
- Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood (humanrightswarrior.com)
- Phoneography: my neighborhood (luluseestheworld.wordpress.com)
- Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood (thirdeyemom.com)
- Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood (myyearofsweat.wordpress.com)
- Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood (dropsofink.com)
He lives in a field on the farm, not far from where cattle graze. Once upon a time, he was the farmer’s best friend, a workhorse that wouldn’t quit. When finally, just couldn’t go any further, rather than junk him his owner put him out to pasture as is so commonly done here in the country. He’s near the road, so he can watch the world go by, see the birds and the cows lolling about in the shade near the creek. He’s an old pal, now retired, but he’s still smiling.
I could not go very far. To be exact, I could go as far as the snowblower had gone before and could take pictures only until my fingers froze. I had wanted to go back towards the woods, but the snow is just about up to my waist, so that’s a non starter, which is why all of the pictures I took today were shot from the bottom of our driveway.
My plan to explore was short-circuited by a wall of snow. It is a lot of snow.
We were fresh from the city when we bought the house. Neither of us noticed it had a driveway that could easily double as the bunny slope for skiers. I suppose we would have bought it anyhow, but it’s a lot of driveway, especially when it’s buried under 3 feet (more or less) of snow.
- The weather outside is frightful. (simpledaytrips.wordpress.com)
- How to avoid snow-shoveling your way to the emergency room (mlive.com)
- Snow Day (bisous.typepad.com)
- Nemo Found the Northeast (runningatdisney.com)
This was basically a good day. Really. Gar and I went to a real party and saw people we almost never see. We didn’t stay long because both of us have trouble with loud parties, but it was a lovely home, good company. Pleasant and full of happy noises.
We got home with only one missed turn off and managed to correct it, even though our GPS, “Richard,” seemed to feel we could make a u-turn on the Southeast Expressway, also known as Route 93 … an elevated limited access high-speed road with perhaps the heaviest traffic in the region. At rush hour, no less. So instead of our GPS, we were forced to rely on a blind luck to find a route that would let us reverse our direction and get back onto the Expressway in the opposite (correct) direction.
If we hadn’t been just outside of Quincy, it would have been easier … probably. Massachusetts was one of the earliest settled parts of the U.S. and our roads are a mess. If you look on a map, they look like a bowl of spaghetti.
We have wrong way concurrence of road, incredibly complicated intersections, signs that don’t make any sense … and no signs where you desperately need them. For you foreigners (anyone not from around here), the town is actually pronounced Quinzy, leaving me with the eternally unanswered question: Was our sixth president called John Quincy Adams, or John Quinzy Adams.
The roads in and around Quincy are totally illogical. To go south, you have to first go north, but not necessarily vice versa. The signs, although better than they used to be, can’t entirely clarify. Getting on and off of route 295 heading south on route 146 requires keeping right, then left, then right in rapid succession, and when coming back the other way, a high-speed dash across 5 lanes of rapidly moving traffic and the signage doesn’t begin to explain that you have to gun it and keep going, no matter how many cars and trucks are heading at you. If you are driving in a vehicle that doesn’t accelerate quickly, prayer is recommended.
And that is approximately where we missed a turn off. With our GPS shouting at us to turn around, then losing track of us completely. At one point, we were apparently in the middle of the bay, at least according to Richard. It’s wasn’t as bad as downtown Boston — few things are — but it’s bad.
We eventually managed to circle around, though we had to go a few miles.
We got home and discovered that Nan, our innocent, sweet lamb of a Norwich Terrier had chewed a very neat but sizable hole in the previously unopened 20 pound bag of dog food. It’s hard to tell how much she ate, but for a dog that is about 11 inches at the shoulder, she is astonishingly food-driven. Her need for food is hard explain unless you’ve seen it because she is such a little sweetheart … and willing to battle a mastiff to get to the food dish first.
After dealing with the dog food, I decided to take care of what I assumed would be a simple task: getting a new cell phone for my husband. His phone has gotten old. It’s just a couple of years old, but in cell phone years, that’s practically ancient. I can barely hear on it and I have normal hearing, so he probably can’t hear anything. It’s just old.
But AT&T says that Garry is entitled to an upgrade and they have the new version of his Blackberry Curve at the upgrade price of $29.99. So I logged myself in … it took three tries, even though it was unquestionably the correct password … and when I went to do the upgrade, I discovered they were going to charge me $36 dollars for “upgrade services” plus $18.69 sales tax. The phone is $29.99 … which would make the tax significantly more than 50% of the price of the phone. The “upgrade service fee” is more than the phone.
Both of us already have Blackberries. We are adding no new services. We are changing nothing. So the “services” consist of mailing us the phone, whereupon we insert the chip, the battery, charge it, configure it and all that jazz.
I have stuck with AT&T for years, not because they have the best signal — not even close — or the best prices, but because they’ve always had great service. I was seriously pissed off. Eventually, I talked to a supervisor who agreed that perhaps the $36.00 fee was a bit much, but the sales tax is based on the full retail list price of the phone … a price nobody ever pays. And oh, the systems at AT&T are down, so they couldn’t take care of it right now. By then, I’d been dumped out of my account and in trying to get back, was informed that I’d tried to get into the account too many times and was now locked out. Not that it made much of a difference anyhow since the system had stopped recognizing my password yesterday and only intermittently recognized the new one.
They said they’d call me tomorrow. I said I was going to be at the hospital all day tomorrow seeing the neurologist who I hope can do something about my back, or at least make some of the pain go away. I’d happily settle for less pain.
Of the 450 minutes we pay for (and they no longer offer that plan … you have to buy at least 500), last month we used, between the two of us, 17 minutes. Of my 200 MB data, I used 9 MB. Of his 200, Garry used 12. We don’t need more features. What we need are telephones with decent sound that can be used to make telephone calls. We aren’t going to play with apps. We just need telephones for emergencies. There doesn’t seem to be a plan for people like us.
I started to wonder if we really need Blackberries at all, but there are practically no phones you can get that aren’t smart phones that have even passable sound quality. We both have laptops and desktops on which we get email. I also have a netbook and Kindle … both of which get email. How many ways do we need to get email? We take everything with us everywhere we go out-of-town. If there was a decent telephone that isn’t a smart phone available, we could save $60 a month. But any phone with good sound quality is a smart phone and requires a data plan which we don’t need or want. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Again.
Finally, I settled down, baked a frozen pizza and watched some television. I’m mentally preparing to find out if my spine is salvageable. I have a feeling that sleep is not going to come easily tonight.
I think I need to chill. Between dealing with my new HMO (that’s a whole other story) and AT&T, and the dreaded cable company … how did I ever find time to work a full-time job? I’m way too busy to work.
It’s lovely out today. The sun is shining. We are having one of the warm weeks we sometimes get in November. These end abruptly when the jet stream drops down from the arctic. Until then, it’s delightful, springlike with a few puffy white clouds in a bright blue sky. I can look out my window and see trees and the few leaves that still cling to them.
Despite Conservative insistence that less government is better, living without enough government is no blessing.
What it really means is that we don’t have quite enough schools or anything else. It’s difficult keeping taxes low so people won’t lose their homes while supporting schools, a few police and firefighters and some part-time clerks at town hall. It’s a bare-bones budget and no-frills government, with a very fine line between no frills and just plain inadequate.
Making ends meet means we have no public transportation. Our roads get sort of repaired. The bridges are always a bit in danger of washing away if the river floods. There’s no city water or sewers. Trash collection is private. Unless you live in the middle of town, there are no sidewalks or streetlights. We have no town planning because there’s only so much planning you can do with no money. Kind of like us, but on a larger scale.
Being on your own makes great rhetoric, but it loses it’s charm when you realize your community has no resources to deal with its own future. With all the complicated explanations I’ve read about why small American towns are not thriving, it isn’t complicated. Our towns are not doing well because we have poor government and no money. I don’t know if these two things are causally related, but they seem to go hand in hand.
Small towns don’t have lots of qualified people who can or will serve. Even with the best of intentions, there’s only so much you can do when you have nothing much to work with. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, it’s a thankless job. The romanticization of small towns in movies and television might have been true of small towns 60 years ago, but Andy Griffith would have a rough time today.
Meanwhile, whatever else we lack, we sure do have a lot of cars.
Lack of public transportation guarantees lots of cars. Everyone has a car and the roads get more crowded every day. Everyone over 17 drives. Most of us don’t worry about traffic because we don’t have too much yet. A traffic jam is a tractor and two cars at an intersection. But that’s changing. The parking lot at the grocery store used to be mostly empty; now it’s usually full. We have our own version of rush hour. It’s not an hour, barely half an hour … but a year ago we didn’t any rush hour at all.
There are many more cars than there were even though the population is slightly lower. Lacking public transportation, you need wheels. If the populations starts to rise, what will we do with the cars? it doesn’t take much to produce gridlock. An accident, a slow driver, road work … anything can bring it all to a complete stop. No one has any idea what to do about it … and that’s just traffic.
When people say we should have less government, they don’t really understand what it means. When you live in a well-populated area, you get infrastructure and services. You don’t think about them: you expect them. If you live in a sleepy town that has no plans to wake up anytime soon, nothing comes with the territory.
Our town is managed, more or less, via Town Hall meetings. We have a town council made up of the friends, relatives and descendents of the families who have always run the town. They are slow to implement change, even when change is urgently needed, typical of all small towns here and everywhere.
What’s going to happen when we are hit by rapid population growth unaccompanied by additional revenue? When the economy comes back, towns like this become an endangered species, ripe for exploitation by anyone who waves money at us.
To say our officials are not forward-thinking is a massive understatement. By the time town councils in towns and villages acknowledge a crisis, it’s too late to do much about it. Things that suburban areas take for granted are unavailable. From road repair to trash disposal, from schools to sewers, to trained personnel … we don’t have it.
Maybe we can start by figuring out how to deal with the cars. As it stands, we have enough traffic so that almost anything can turn it into a rural version of gridlock. It doesn’t take much: a very slow driver, a minor accident, a road crew … and everything stops. We don’t have another route, so if one is blocked, you can’t get there from here.
Grabbing a piece of the metro pie is tempting. Job opportunities, more and better services — it sounds pretty good until you realize the cost. It will likely bankrupt the towns, make taxes skyrocket and ruin of a lot of beautiful places. What sounds like a boon — the rapid infusion of upwardly mobile young families with school age children — has devastating economic ramifications on a fragile local economy. Newcomers arrive with expectations of services comparable to those they have known in other places. They expect modern schools, roads, and shops. They assume amenities like trash collection, sewers, water from reservoirs. They don’t realize the attractively low taxes that drew them to the area can’t support the services they expect.
Small town life in the 21st century is a precarious balancing act, life on a fiscal tightrope. There are no big treasuries to raid, no heavy industry to offset costs. All you have to work with are small businesses, many of which are struggling, and property taxes that a lot of people are already finding hard to pay.
So far, the best solution the towns have come up with is to build condos, preferably senior housing. If you bring in lots of seniors, you don’t get lots of kids, You get taxes, but not a hugely increased demand for services. Condos don’t take up as much space as sub-divisions, but pay the same taxes as private homes. McMansions eat land and don’t pay their way. Unfortunately, most of our towns are run by people who have trouble saying no to a developer waving money. Even when they know it’s not a great idea, the need for an infusion of cash can make people ignore the obvious.
Which brings me back where I began. You can say all you want about how more government is bad, but we need government. More to the point, we need good government, smart government. We need people who have vision and can see past a wad of cash to long-term effects. We need planners, not pirates.
Good government protects us in myriad ways. Without the protection of government, small towns are easy prey. We do fine if things don’t change much, or change is incremental, gradual. I suspect the long years of the leisurely change are ending.
Everything is changing. Can America’s small towns survive without surrendering their identity? I guess I’m going to find out soon enough.
- Small towns are “investment ready places” (smallbizsurvival.com)
- A Small Town in One of the Fastest Growing Regions in North America Lifts Its Population Cap in 2012 to Accommodate Demand for New Homes (prweb.com)
- When artists are rooted in place: a small-town musician fights for a piece of community history (switchboard.nrdc.org)