What is a dragon doing in my mail?

It's stacking up again. It tends to do that. And when I cannot stand the piles, when there is no more room to stack stuff, it's time to go through the mail.

It's falling off my desk, off my radiator, off the window sill. And I just can't waste it, so I'll share it. With you, of course.

Otherwise, you might not know that, right here, in Montgomery and Westfield, 551 of your friends and neighbors were admitted to substance abuse treatment programs. Three fourths of them male, one quarter female.

Almost 60 percent were between the ages of 30-49. And 85 percent were white non-Latino, 3 percent black, 10 percent Latino.

Most commonly abused substance? Alcohol. Followed by marijuana, cocaine, crack and heroin. And heroin showed the biggest increase among those seeking help, going from 68 users to 149 in the past six years.

You might not know that nine babies are born in Massachusetts with a birth defect every day. That's 875 a year. Or that birth defects are the leading cause of infant death.

You could find out that there's a free number to call (800/224-5124) if you have a housing problem or question. It's the Housing Consumer Education Center network for homeowners, home buyers, landlords, tenants, and rental property owners.

You would learn that 15 states have laws protecting sports officials, at both the professional and amateur level. And that the amateur level is where most of the headlines focus.

This year, tourism offices in most states-including Massachusetts-will focus on getting residents to enjoy the attractions of their own areas. Our state is focusing its advertising on New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. You can find out what they're pushing by requesting a Getaway Guide from 800/447-Mass.

The Office of Travel and Tourism also tells us that more than 26 million people visit Massachusetts annually. They generate $791-million in state and local taxes.

Who are the homeless? Almost 1,300 families. More than 2,900 children. And, 25,000 individuals. Approximately one third of the homeless individuals are veterans, 25 percent have mental health issues, and 30 percent are struggling with substance abuse.

Nearly a third of people over 65 (11-million Americans) have no prescription drug coverage. How much do they spend? $42.9-billion annually. Average amount per person, $1,205. Although senior citizens make up 13 percent of the nation's population, they consume 34 percent of the prescriptions dispensed.

On the other end of the age spectrum, one in five children under 12 in Massachusetts lives in a family that struggles to put food on the table. Another 10,839 are in foster care, due to neglect or abuse.

There's more. Everything from a summary of a windmill project on the cape to a receipt for the shoe shop that is repairing my soles. From a summary of the state's monthly tax receipts to a memo about locking up food so the mice won't get it. From a summary of a poll done by the Gay Head Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (they want a casino) to official notice that I have been named to a special commission on so-called Clean Elections (which probably will never meet).

There's my uncle's 1927 yearbook from East High School, a book ("Act of Betrayal" by Edna Buchanan) I have to return to owner, and an abstract of a piece of property going back to 1923. Don't ask. I don't know why.

And, there's the quote of the week:

"Meddle not in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy and good with mustard."

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