DYING IN TRAFFIC

When I lived in Boston, traffic was basic. It was as much “life” as getting up to go to work. I had audiobooks in the car to keep my brain engaged. Traffic was fundamental. You couldn’t go anywhere without adding that extra hour — in case traffic was bad. Traffic was usually bad, but sometimes, it was worse. These days, I don’t need to think about traffic because we don’t have it. We don’t commute. If we need to drive, we schedule it for when there is likely to be little or no traffic. Locally, a traffic jam is a tractor with two cars waiting at an intersection. Or road repairs.

Until we moved here, traffic was a major issue. It controlled our days. Road work in Boston could make it impossible to get from one side of the city to another. Gridlock before and during holidays could effectively close the city. I once tried to pick Garry up from work. It was less than a mile from home. Normally, he walked, but he had things to carry and so he asked me to come get him.

I left the parking lot, drove a block, and had to stop. Nothing was moving. An hour later, I was in the same place. I finally made a u-turn and went home to the apartment. It was before cell phones, so I had to call the guard at the front desk at Channel 7 and ask him to go outside and tell Garry I couldn’t get there. The next day it was in the papers and TV. The entire city had been gridlocked, the Friday before Christmas.

Less than a year later, we moved from to Roxbury, about 4 miles outside downtown Boston. There were trees. Empty lots. Almost the suburbs. You could park — for free — on the street, as long as you remembered alternate side of the street parking.

Then came the Big Dig.

The Central Artery-Tunnel Project, called The Big Dig, was a monstrous project involving rerouting and redesigning virtually every road in, out, around, and through Boston. If you lived in the city, there were no areas unaffected by it. It was supposed to solve the city’s traffic disaster. Ultimately, it made it easier to get to the airport, but the rest of it? It’s still a permanent jam that will never go away. Was it worth it?

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in history. To absolutely no one’s surprise, it was plagued by cost overruns, scheduling disasters, water leakage, collapses of ceilings and other parts of roads and tunnels, impressive design flaws, blatantly poor workmanship, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, substandard materials, criminal arrests for a some of the aforementioned offenses (but not nearly enough), and four deaths.

The project was supposed to be finished by 1998 and cost $2.8 billion. I am sure no one in Boston expected it to cost that or be finished on schedule — and we were right. It took an additional nine years and was finally finished in December 2007  It cost more than $14.6 billion. The Boston Globe estimates when all is said and done, including interest and fines, lawsuits and so on, the project will total more than $22 billion and won’t be paid off until sometime in 2038. Or later.

The Big Dig drove us out of Boston. One day, I had to go grocery shopping. The supermarket was a mile away. It took me two hours to get there and another hour and a half to get home.

“Garry,” I said that evening, “Let’s get out of here!”

We did.

We fled Boston. Traffic had taken over our lives. We couldn’t go to a restaurant or a movie. We couldn’t shop, park, or get to or from work. People trying to visit us couldn’t find our condo because the exit to our neighborhood kept moving and was often closed. Out-of-towners roamed helplessly through Dorchester, looking in vain for a street sign or marker to give them a clue where to go. Maps and GPS were useless.

Sometimes we couldn’t find our way home. It was unnerving.


I must have spent years of my life in traffic. By the time we slouched home, exhausted and beaten, we were wrecks.

Is there a solution to this? Not that I know of.. You don’t find good jobs in small towns or the country. We underestimate how seriously the wear and tear of commuting affects us. It wears us down physically. It tightens our backs and necks. When it take hours to get to work, you are already tired when you get there. Maybe its easier by train, but we haven’t lived anywhere with direct train — or even bus — service to anywhere we worked, so we had to drive.

If not for the commuting, I might have survived longer in the work place, but it was hopeless. One day, something snapped. After that, no amount of pushing was going to keep me going. I was done. There were other reasons too … but if I hadn’t had that two to three-hour twice-a-day commute? I might have found a way to hang on. Traffic has a lot more to do with our survival than we think.

Work is easy. Commuting is a killer.

THE BEAVER AT BOSTON WHARF: TRACES OF THE PAST

BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY: TRACES OF THE PAST Y3-04


The Beaver


The original brig Beaver, like the Dartmouth, was built and owned by the Rotch’s, an affluent Nantucket Quaker family. The Beaver was a whaling vessel built in 1772 by Ichabod Thomas at the Brick Kiln Yard on the banks of the North River near Situate, Massachusetts. Similar to other merchant vessels of the time, the Beaver was about 85 feet long with a beam of nearly 24 feet. The draft of the Beaver could not exceed nine feet because Nantucket Harbor had a sand bar across its mouth, which as a result, set the maximum size for vessels of that port.

From “The History of the Beaver”

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ATOP BOSTON IN TWILIGHT

I have to mention that these are the ONLY pictures I’ve ever taken on my cell phone. There I was, on the 60th floor of this amazing building and there’s this view. And I’m wearing an evening gown, more or less. And the only camera I have is in my evening bag — and we know, my women friends that you cannot fit anything much inside one of them. They are the most useless bags in the world.

So there’s a view to die for. It is stunning.

I had the cell phone. The view was waiting. I took pictures. I so very much wish I had a camera, but this is what you get with a Samsung. I played with them because I had some issues with reflective glass in the windows.

We live in a low slung town. I think the map says we are just 700 feet above sea level … and probably, that would be from a hill somewhere. I’m not sure what hill that might be, but no doubt we have one.

Fortunately, we travel occasionally. This is Boston. From the 60th floor on State Street, overlooking the harbor.

ATOP BOSTON | THE DAILY POST WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE 2017

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

THE BIG ONE: THE BLIZZARD OF 1978 – by GARRY ARMSTRONG

This is the time of year when big snowstorms hit this region. Thirty-nine years ago, a large winter storm began moving into eastern Massachusetts. On the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1978, thousands of people were let out of work early so they could get home before the storm.

High winds and a high tide along the shore did enormous damage

High winds and a high tide along the shore did enormous damage

Traffic was typically heavy. Snow began falling at more than an inch per hour and continued to fall for more than 24 hours. Soon more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks were stranded in rapidly building snowdrifts along Rt. 128 (also Route 95).

Jack-knifed trucks and drifting snow soon brought traffic to a complete standstill everywhere. Fourteen people died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they huddled in trapped cars.


There are so many incredible scenes that remain clear in my memory from the great Blizzard of 1978.

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

Seen from above, the daunting amount of snow residents had to dig through to get to their cars is apparent on Farragut Road in South Boston on Feb. 8, 1978. New England was hit by a blizzard with hurricane-force winds and record-breaking snowfalls the previous two days.

Seen from above, the daunting amount of snow residents had to dig through to get to their cars is apparent on Farragut Road in South Boston on Feb. 8, 1978. New England was hit by a blizzard with hurricane-force winds and record-breaking snowfalls the previous two days.

I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, kept getting 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.

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There was no traffic. There were 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 crossing right after the storm

Downtown crossing during the storm

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 generosity 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. Drank lots of coffee, ate 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. We have since had deeper snowstorms, but none which packed the punishing winds and extensive damage as that monumental storm.

One more thing. It needs no hype or hysteria.


POSTSCRIPT

And, as if in answer to this post, New England makes it’s own comment. Beginning tonight and for the next 48 hours, we’re expecting a foot (+ or – who knows how much) snow — with daytime temperatures in the mid 20s (-3 Celsius) — much lower at night. It’s that time of year again. February is the cruelest month, no matter what any poet says to the contrary.

CITY LIGHT TIME: BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY

Black & White Sunday: Artificial Light


Wang Theater, Boston, night

Wang Theater, Boston, night

Schubert Theater, Boston, night

Schubert Theater, Boston, night

My favorite place for shooting at night is downtown and it’s perfect if there has recently been rain. A light sheen of rain will reflect the neon and the street lamps. This is Boston’s theater district on a Sunday night.

WHICH WAY: IT’S THAT HOLIDAY TIME OF YEAR!

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – November 30, 2016


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Boston Common just before Christmas – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

This time of year, going anywhere can be hazardous to your health, mental and physical. Everyone who has a driver’s license takes it out of the drawer, dusts it off, and hits the road. The weather is dicey. The drivers are not necessarily sober and way too many of them are using a mobile device instead of paying attention to the road.

Uxbridge common at night, before Chirstmas - Photo Garry Armstrong

Uxbridge common at night, shortly before Christmas – Photo Garry Armstrong

So be careful. Be safe. Be smart. Drive defensively. You may know what you are doing, but who know about those other drivers?

Past meets present - Photo by Garry Armstrong

Past meets present – Photo by Garry Armstrong

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In the middle of our small town – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

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A yellow school bus – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Cee which way photo challenge