While Driving the Pike

For the last six years of my life, I've spent a lot of time on the Massachusetts Turnpike. It is a wonderful highway. Well maintained. Well-plowed in the winter. And now my Fast Lane device gets me through the toll booths more efficiently.

But, and it's a big but, each round trip amounts to about four hours a day in the car. So, I've had a lot of time to drive and think, think and drive.

What else can you do? Read? Well, some people read as they drive, but I haven't mastered the skill. Talk? I find the cellphone distracting. Listen to the radio? To 1030, WBZ, as long as I can get it. Or, a little country music.

So other thoughts go through my mind. Sometimes, it isn't until I'm on the road in the peace and quiet of my car that some of this information gets sorted out.

The stuff I've read, for example. Four daily newspapers. Countless magazines. Committee Reports. Briefing papers. Tons of press releases. Lots of mail. Some important, some trivial.

Some recent musings from your Rep-on-the-Road:

Where did Howard Johnson's go? And why? Greenfield is the last in Massachusetts. Mr. Johnson opened his first store (a corner drugstore and soda fountain) in Quincy in 1925. Next closest remaining Ho Jo's: Nashua, NH. Only 32 left. And closing fast.

Yes, the Westfield District Court will be located in a new building on the former Lane Oil site next to Davios Restaurant on North Elm Street. The building will be privately owned. The Court will lease the space, as it does in the Washington Street Building. And, yes, the plan to site and construct a new courthouse owned by the State will go forward. Eventually.

I wonder if the high school students who were protesting the MCAS tests out on Boston Common recently were absent from school that day. Free speech is great. Skipping classes won't help MCAS scores.

Does anyone every protest on weekends? And a word to those who want to protest on the front steps of the State House. It's good for press coverage, but no Senator or Representative in their right mind goes in or out that way.

Mental Health parity. At last some recognition that mental illnesses are like other diseases. It's a step in the right direction for the Commonwealth. And treatment with insurance coverage for thousands of our citizens who have biologically based mental illness.

Looks like those fiber optic cables that run the entire length of the MassPike are almost all buried. The cables are privately owned and will carry thousands of voice and data messages across the State. The Turnpike will receive millions of dollars in lease fees from the company for use of the right of way. The colors are spectacular.

Some railroads around the country are following the MassPike's example--leasing space on their rights of way along the tracks to communications companies laying fibre optic cables. New revenue for the railroads. And big savings for the owners of the cable since it's a whole lot cheaper to bury along the rails than to clear out a new, expensive rights of way.

Will it still be "Ritzy?" Boston's Ritz-Carlton is in the process of retiring their manually operated elevators. The 1927 models are hard to repair and parts aren't available. So you'll be pushing your own buttons soon at the Ritz. When was the last time I was on an elevator with a real, live operator? Can't remember. But it probably was in a department store sometime a few decades ago. You probably never heard of Martin's or Younkers, did you?

Nice weather means we can enjoy the gardens and activities at Stanley Park again. Sunday concerts. Events like WestFest and the Strawberry Supper. The carillon. The beautiful roses. I've heard that some people think the Park is getting "too commercial" because some non-profit groups use it for fundraising with concession stands. I don't think so.

I don't remember similar complaints when the Springfield Symphony performed there. That was a non-profit group charging admission for the concerts. It's a park for the people, living folks. If Frank Stanley Beveridge wanted a mausoleum, he would have built one.

This year I celebrated my first Mother's Day as a Grandmother. And my daughter Thea (known only to her mother as Cathy) her first as a mother! I'm proud of my grandson, Aidan. And even prouder of Thea as she handles mothering with going back to her job as an architect.

Speaking of family, yes, I do miss hearing Curt on the radio each morning. Many of you tell me that each time I'm in public. It was a great way to start the day. He was out the door every morning by 4:30 a.m.

Of course, I still get to hear him in the morning. He's usually still cheery. But now I have to fight him for the bathroom.

Well, there's my Westfield Exit. Number 3. Home again. Nice not to have to pay tolls on this end of the 'Pike, isn't it? Good to be here in Western Massachusetts.

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