Oh, the Places You’ll Go, the Things You’ll Learn

Being a State Representative is like getting a graduate degree in a different subject each two-year term.

If I didn’t read my mail, I wouldn’t know, for example, that four of the eleven most congested roadways in the Pioneer Valley are in Westfield.

Or that there are 28 dams in Westfield, 3 in Montgomery.

That a paint storage cabinet costs $672. If the city buys it. But that Westfield got a grant to pay for it.

That gray fox climb trees, but red fox and eastern coyotes do not climb.

Or that fishing boats with home ports on the Cape and Islands have names like Booby Hatch, Seaduction, Just One More, Dazed and Confused, Seaquester, Last Call, Sea Squall and My Other Honey.

How many miles of shore are there on Cape Cod? If you’d attended Tourism Day in the State House, you know it was 75, or 180, or 300 or 425. I forget. But you can go to massvacation.com for the answer.

You’ll soon see windmills on the shoals off Nantucket. Cape Wind was given its environmental permit, making Massachusetts, according to the project’s president, "the Houston of ocean and wind energy technologies."

Some 140,000 people in Massachusetts have Alzheimer’s disease. That’s one in 10 people over 65, and nearly half of those over 85. About 899 in Westfield and 9 in Montgomery. Typical life expectancy is 8 to 10 years from the onset of symptoms.

Good news. Massachusetts residents live longer than the national average. Some 18 months longer. Heart disease and cancer are the top two causes of death. On average, we’ll live to be 78.5 years. Last year, 56,591 people in Massachusetts died.

That’s a slight increase over the previous year, but more people are dying because more people are living longer.

Bad news. Massachusetts is one of only two states where, during the last decade, the poor got poorer and the rich got richer. If you want all the details, which I will spare you, call the Commonwealth Center for Fiscal Policy in Boston.

Binge drinking is prevalent among teens. A third of students in grades 9 to 12 have engaged in binge drinking in the past month. Define binge as five or more drinks on at least one day. Forty-four percent of teens in those grades have had sexual intercourse.

More than 10,000 men and women are in the Massachusetts Air and Army National Guard. Since the Guard was founded about 368 years ago, Guard members have served in every American war from the Pequot War to current military deployments in places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. The Federal government spends about $213-million, the State spends $10.4-million, on Army and Air divisions.

Historic Northampton State Hospital was built in 1855 and is a rare example of "Jacobethan" style architecture from the mid-19th century. At one point it housed more than 1,000 patients. The state is trying to preserve it, for architectural and historical reasons. The question is, "how?"

Children who witness domestic violence show the same signs as children who are physically abused. Fear, guilt, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression, anger, bedwetting, and more.

Sixty-one percent of American adults are overweight. Some 300,000 deaths each year in this country are associated with obesity. Just over 14 percent of teens, 12 to 19, are overweight; 13 percent of kids 6 to 11.

Of course, there are always the things I don’t read. Starting with a letter: "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to brief you on our proposed cement plant in Greenport, New York."

And the funny stuff that people send me.

From JF: "You ever notice that it matters naught what’s in the body of a bill–only that the title grabs at the heart. Like ‘clean elections,’ ‘proposition one, ‘firearm safety.’ Makes one want to ‘chuck one’s cookies.’’’

From Don: "No matter how hard you try, you can’t baptize cats."

From Frank, re his mail: "My wife tells me that we have, in fact, had a refuse mail order but now that we are moving never to return, we’ll give you our present address, because you will never find us at our new address. Actually, we are not moving, but have a post office box because we didn’t want them leaving mail for us while we were away. But we have also discovered that if mail is sent to (address) it goes to the post office and they look at it and assume it needs to be returned and it goes back to sender. But, if you put a ‘north’ before the town it will also be returned. If you add a ‘south,’ they also send it back. So there are many ways to get it wrong. Now, if you should sent it to West (city) it will in fact get to the correct post office and I suspect that they would put it in the post office box. Best choice for you would be to scribble out the address, then print in large bold letters the P. O. Box number, and then we should get it, okay?"


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