Monday, June 26, 2006

Driving in Massachusetts

When I was talking to my neice, who graduated from the U. of New Hampshire, about moving up to the Boston area, she told me to watch out for the Massholes. They were, she said, Massachusetts drivers. Oddly, when Julie and I went to the Irish festival a few weekends ago, I noticed a guy wearing a t-shirt that had, emblazoned across its front in a slight arc, the term Massholes.

So, just how bad are Massachusetts drivers? I've learned, since being up here, that Massachusetts ranks #1 in the country for accidents. Unfortunately, I'm a contributor to that ranking. In an earlier posting I ranted about how this guy came from a side street, pulled in front of me and then stopped. He said he was preparing to make a left turn. As it had just started raining and the street was slick, I slid right into him. No damage occured to his SUV but I needed a new hood, front bumper and a headlight. Masshole, I called him. The problem was, while what he wanted to do was go across an intersection, because the streets didn't line up he had to make a right and then a left, and couldn't just go straight across.

To be honest, I don't think Massachusetts drivers are any worse than drivers anywhere else. They are certainly not the best, either. I've seen road ragers, people who drive like their perpetually late and others who beep their horn at the slightest infraction, perceived or real. However, many drivers up here, it occurs to me, including myself, drive like they're lost most of the time.

Having lived up here now for a year and a half, and doing much driving inside 128 (the road, inside of which, encompasses much of the greater Boston area), I have found that I'm lost much of the time I'm driving. Roads up here don't go in straight lines, intersections don't cross at right angles, streets don't line up with each other. Most of the time, the only street signs you see are those for the cross streets. Rarely do you see the name of the street you're on and, when you do, more often than not it's changed names.

Streets up here meander, twist and curve around as they go along. There was no effort to straighten out the cow paths, horse trails and walking routes when they became streets and byways. And, as you travel from one town to the next, the name of the street you're traveling on changes. As an example, Waltham Street in Newton becomes Lexington Street in Waltham but then changes it's name to Moody Street. At Main Street Moody Street ends but, if you go two blocks east on Main, Lexington Street begins again. As you drive up Lexington Street toward the town of Lexington, Lexington Street changes its name to Waltham Street.

One time I was headed to the doctor and got turned around. I was in Brookline and needed to get to the corner of Brookline Ave. and Rte. 9. I asked a guy in a van who worked for the transit authority (known as the T) how to get there. He thought for a minute, started to try to tell me a couple times and finally gave up. He said for me to follow him, that he'd take me there. As I followed him I realized there was no way he could have told me such that I could have successfully followed his directions.

There've been a couple times when people have asked me for directions somewhere. I told them I knew where they wanted to go but couldn't tell them how to get there.

Most all people refer to Route 9 as just that. Route 9, however, is also known, going west from the Greyhound Bus Station, where it begins in downtown Boston just east of Copley Square, by 9 different names as it stretches out to Framingham. It starts out as St. James Ave. then becomes Huntington Ave., Avenue of the Arts, and, in Brookline, Washington St. but then changes to Boylston St.; in Newton it's just Rte. 9 but in Wellesley Route 9 is called Worcester Street. In Natick, it's Worcester Road. By the time you get to Framingham Route 9 has become the Boston-Worcester Turnpike.

I once tried to follow Route 60 from Waltham to Middlesex Fells. I never made it. Later I found out that the folks in Belmont didn't like it that "their" roads had route numbers and so the city took them down. I guess the rationale is that the Belmonters believe that only other Belmonters live there, or should and, if so, should know where they're going.

I think that's why there're so many accidents. People aren't necesarily bad drivers, they just aren't sure where they're going most of the time. I have several routes memorized and so, like others who do, know how to get to a specific place I'm going to and so become impatient with those who don't. For the most part, however, every time I go out in traffic, unless I know exactly how to get where I'm going, I'm never sure of how or whether I'll get there.

Julie, when she got a new car a couple years ago, made it a requirement that the car have a GPS. She's been living up here for close to 30 years and still gets lost enough to warrant needing space age technology. Recently I used her car to get from the dentist's office in Belmont to Weymouth, where I was working that day. I knew that I'd never get through Boston without getting interminably lost.

I've driven more than 13,000 miles through Europe two different times and rarely got lost. I used to complain that in Baltimore, the beltway exits were poorly marked but, you could eventually figure out how to get where you were going. Since moving up here, I have to say that if you don't know how to get where you're going, the liklihood is that you won't get there.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Safety Tips for Women

My former realtor, Brad Letterman, sends out a monthly newsletter to all past, present and future, clients of his. He always includes alot of advice and interesting tid bits of information. I thought one tid bit from his most recent newsletter was worth passing on.

As a martial artist and also a former self-defense instructor, I am always appreciative of information that I can give to people so they can be better prepared to handle themselves out in the street. I liked these "tips," especially #'s 2, 3 and 5, but wanted to pass all of them along. Even though the tips are directed to women, I believe they would be every bit as helpful to men, as well.

1. The elbow is the strongest point of your body. If you are close enough to use it, do.

2. If a robber asks for your purse or wallet, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you - chances are that he is more interested in your wallet or purse than you. Then RUN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won't see you, but everybody else will.

4.As soon as you get into your car, lock the door and leave.

5. If someone is in the car with a gun to your head DO NOT DRIVE OFF. Instead, rev the engine and speed into anything, wrecking the car. Your air bag will save you. As soon as the car crashes, bail out and run. It is better than having them find your body in a remote location.

6. Always take the elevator instead of the stairs.

7. If the predator has a gun, and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN. RUN IN A ZIG ZAG PATTERN.

8. Trying to be sympathetic can be deadly. Predators play on the sympathies of unsuspecting women.

I think this is good information and worth keeping in mind as we all travel out and about. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity. If you find yourself in a bad situation, keeping your wits about you, thinking about how to get away and having a few tips in your mind can make all the difference.

Lastly, a plug for Brad. If you're in the Baltimore area and looking for a home to buy or sell, his email address Maybe you just want to sign up for his newsletter.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Back To Work

I went back to work this past Monday, a week earlier than expected. Since I felt well, was able to drive and also able to stay awake all day, I decided I could return to work. It turned out to not be a bad decision and my supervisor arranged for me to be able to work half days all week. I was tired, though, by the end of that half day and glad to get home to take a nap.

When I arrived at work on Monday morning I was welcomed by a present from the folks in my area. On my desk was a jar filled with over 4 pounds of M & M’s and five more 14 oz. bags surrounding it. By Thursday the jar was half empty, or half full depending on how you look at it. Nevertheless, about two pounds of M’s were gone. I can’t imagine what happened to them. It seemed like every time I looked up my hand was in the jar.

When I left work on Monday I went home and slept for two hours. I also had no problem sleeping each night. On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons I slept for 45 min. and for the rest of the week my siestas were only for 30 min. I believe that starting next Monday I should be able to last all day.

I guess if there is a problem it’s that now that I’m back in my own place, having recovered sufficiently to be back on my own, Dixie’s decided that her morning walk should begin a little after 5 a.m. instead of 6 a.m., or even later. Finally, today, Saturday, I was able to hold her off until 6:15 a.m. before we ventured out for our morning stroll.

This morning, as we have been for the past week, Dixie and I walked down along the Charles River. Since it’s been raining all week, actually pretty much since the beginning of May, it now being June 10, the river was up pretty high. Today it was at the top of its banks. It had rained pretty much all night last night, stopping some time early this morning. It starting raining again just at the end of our walk. I guess the rain gods wanted to make sure Dixie got her walk in and was also able to chase a squirrel and two ducks and walk up to her hackles in the river.

As for me, I strained ligaments in my right ankle the other day and so am hobbling around. I took Ibruprophen and iced the ankle down the past two days; the weather being such that it brings out all the aches and pains in one’s body. Oddly, I have no pain associated with the surgery.

Last night Julie and I, after going out to dinner with three of her kids and then stopping at Best Buy so I could purchase a new microwave (the one I bought at a yard sale for $5.00 over five years ago finally died), went down to the Relay for Life walk. It was held at Victory field at the end of her street. We walked around and talked to a few folks about cancer and entered into a raffle for Red Sox vs. Orioles tickets.

Although I had been thinking about this before, while we were walking around the track with the relay walkers, I started to come to grips with being a cancer survivor myself. I had cancer and now, given that the cancer was confined to the prostate, which I don’t have anymore, I no longer have cancer. And, if after 4 years and 11 months more, I still don’t have cancer, then I can say I’m cured. Of course by then I’ll probably have something else.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Recovery Continues

Today I feel bored. Actually relieved. Yesterday I told Julie that I could take on a plumbing repair job in her house - and couldn't. Fortunately, it all worked out okay.

A few days ago we went to see the DaVinci Code down at Harvard Square. As we got there early for the 6:30 pm show, we decided to get something to eat. I got chocolate and coconut ice cream in a cup and Julie got a peanut butter cone. So much for a healthy supper.

We both thought the movie was good. True, it did follow the book almost to the letter, except at the end, and, as I had read the book twice, I did find it a little boring since I knew what was going to happen every step of the way. At any rate, I liked the special effects and thought it moved along at a good pace. The big criticism by the critics was that it followed the book; my guess is if it hadn't the critics would have cried blasphemy. My thoughts are that the critics panned the movie as a part of a larger conspiracy in an effort to quell the numbers of folks who might see it.

What was of more interest to me was the interest the movie has spawned by others to capitalize on its interest. For example, both Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report did extensive articles on Mary Magdelene and the role of the church over the years in its effort to suppress and discredit women. In addition, the articles went into the manipulation and control by the men of the church throughout the ages to subjugate women.

It seems that the movie has really opened up the eyes and minds of the public. I think its good to question authority, especially when the authority tells the public to believe in them - without question. Isn't that what the Bush administration has been telling us? I would think that anytime anyone tells us that their way is the only right way, that then is the time to be questioning them the most.

In the case of the catholic church it's taken about 1500 years for people to really and openly start questioning what it's done, among other things, to the role of women in/out of the church but hey, better late than never. The thing is, what was there to hide to begin with? When Peter felt threatened by Mary because she had more information than he did about Jesus' reseurrection, he got angry; she, instead, shared the information. Who was the bigger person?

I've now been recovering from surgery for 23 days. About 16 days into it I started feeling good and so began exercising. Julie questioned whether that was safe for me to do and gave me her thoughts on what I was doing. I called the surgeon and told him about the conversation between Julie and me. He said that while he would deny saying anything after my follow up visit on 6/29 with him, he told me to listen to Julie. Hmnn. Now, seven days later, I'm glad I listened to her.

A week or so ago I started reading "Washington's Crossing," by Fischer. It's similiar to "1776," by Mcullough. Both books are about the revolutionary war and the role of George Washington, especially in the revolution's beginning. I have found Fischer's book to be more interesting, though a little more tedious to read. McCullough's book was easier and read more like a novel; Fischer's book is heavily annotated and has a large appendix.

One of the things that Fischer has put into his book, though certainly in a minimal fashion, is the role of women in the American Revolution. They were on the battlefield, in the field hospitals, everywhere the men were. Their roles were more related to the "care" of the men, e.g., cooking, tending wounded and such, although more than a few picked up weapons and fought. What I found to be the most dis-heartening, however, was that while the women took care of the men, when the women fell ill, there was no one to take care of them.

I probably won't do any research into this, but I wonder what books have been written about the role and scope of women in the revolutionary war. It was mentioned throughout the book how the wives, lovers and female siblings of the soldiers, especially the officers, were with them every step of the way. George Washington had Martha with him virtually throughout the war.

Stories abound about the prostitutes and hangers-on during the war but those women were evidently in the minority of those who were there to support "their men." From what Fischer puts in the book, women played much more than a minor/subservient role.

You know what I think? I think women have been given a raw deal throughout modern history. It occurs to me that while the Republicans are making all these efforts to amend the Constitution the one change that should be made is the wording - "all men are created equal" to read "all people [and living things] are created equal."

We are all equal - men and women. I wonder what it will take for us to realize this and to stop with the gender inequality thing.

I wonder why I ended up with this train of thought? I didn't think I was headed in this direction when I started. I'm a guy! I'm not supposed to think this way, am I? Maybe more of us guys should. Maybe it was because I was raised in a house full of women. Hmnn. Maybe it's just because it's right.