Archive for the ‘Suburbs’ Category

Snooton Doesn’t Need You

May 10th, 2010

meter man with ticket

Boston has its own parking jokes. In near-burbs like Newton and Brookline, there’s no joking.

In Beantown, for example, many downtown areas have stretched meter times to 8 p.m. from 6. We also have some South End tricks like metered spaces that suddenly turn into resident-permit-only ones at 8 p.m., often with the signs revealing that gimmick largely hidden by common linden branches.

Boston though has this weird by suburban standards idea that meters and on-street parking are for the convenience of residents, visitors and businesses. In fact, the stated concern is that there be adequate turnover at meters to encourage people to use local companies.

Don’t fantasize that this sentiment extends to any of the wealthier burbs. Your warning for predatory parking enforcement are no-overnight and 2-hour-limit parking limit signs where you would expect to see welcome-to (our fair burg) ones.

Brookline has those and they mean it. While they don’t have roving gangs of parking enforcers, they do have some and ticket as freely as they can. Moreover, most restaurants and other businesses with lots in the back contract with relentless contract towing companies who live to snatch cars when the businesses are closed. Ten minutes often means a big ticket, towing fee and the time to retrieve your vehicle. Ptui on you.

Newton though stands alone in its viciousness. It actively discourages visitors from its business districts. They would far rather charge fines than encourage shopping and service usage. They back this up with a huge crew of ticket writers and an unbelievably detailed set of regulations and restrictions.

This came to mind again this morning when the Boston Globe ran a feature on the latest effort to extract every dollar from every vehicle owner who dares to patronize a local business. The city paid $150,000 for three systems to scan license plates and notify passing enforcement crews when a car has been in a space too long.

In the garden city, a chalk mark on a tire to flag a car for a meter man or maid is not efficient enough. Such manual checks don’t churn the fines. You can be damned sure they see that investment as something requiring quick payback, thus tickets and more tickets.

The rules-are-rules types may well love that. Not surprisingly, today’s article quotes some locals as saying it’s not a good idea.

Yet, delve a little into Newton’s thought process here and see the proof of the rabid compulsion. The regs suggest they have made this a moral issue.

Click to the city site and search for parking. You’ll find:

  • parking restriction (453 times)
  • street parking spaces (341 times)
  • parking lot (187 times)
  • parking meters (187 times)
  • long term parking (150 times)
  • municipal parking lots (149 times)
  • commercial permit parking (146 times)
  • Boston College parking garage (126 times)
  • long term parking spaces (123 times)

More telling may be a separate 174-page parking regulation document. There are hundreds of special rules per street. They even have multi-paragraph, per-public school specifications for permits and limits on parking in those lots. Newton is obsessed with parking enforcement in a classic Teutonic way. Only following orders, rules are rules, it’s the law and such come to mind.

Newton doesn’t want you. Newton doesn’t need you. It doesn’t really like residents or businesses. I suspect you can find whatever you need elsewhere and can just drive on through.

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The Spine for Spin

April 27th, 2010

The legendary Martha lived in the air of Cambridge Common last week, in mentions of her previous life as a spin instructor. That amusing fitness subculture is a bit more obscure than yoga, but has it adherents.

Four of us were at the bar. It’s become a regular afternoon joint every week or two both because it always has a fine range of IPAs among its 30 taps and because its prices are good at a buck or sometimes two or even three less a pint.

The bartender said she was about to go on the Cape Cod MS charity bike ride with some girlfriends. She added that the first time has done the ride, she felt she might die, but she’d been taking spin classes, so she figured she was ready.

That was the cue for guys on adjacent bar stools to do what they so best — play the Greek chorus and make a harmonizing response. One noted that spin classes and road biking use muscles a little differently, that there’s no direct correspondence. Another acknowledged our fraternity here. Two of the other three had been in spin classes I led.

Leave a Puddle

They did what I think all spin instructors want to hear. They spoke of how tough I had been.

That was my turn to talk about my first spin instructor, Martha. She told her classes, “If you don’t leave a puddle under the bike, you’re dogging it.” We believed her for two reasons. First, if she figured you were using a lower resistance than she had told you for the given exercise, she’d get off her own bike-like object and crank up your dial. Second, she left a puddle. She worked at least as hard as any of us.

She subsequently went on to become a well known yogini here and then in San Jose. Along the way, she lost her h and became Marta and teaches exclusively yoga. When I knew her, I also took power yoga with her and learned that she taught step as well. She was exhausting classes three ways all day long. She probably was the fittest person in New England in the process.

I see from her new site, her former yoga boss, Rolf Gates, wrote a blurb — Marta brings all of herself to what she does and in so doing, expresses the essence of yoga with each step she takes. That’s what her spin classes were like too, plus she demanded the same of us.

Panting in Burlington

For the three of us on the stools, none was a kid when we started spin. Properly led, it’s damned tough. It did forge some bonds too, much like being on a sports team, I suppose.

We did our spin classes at the FitCorp in Burlington. When Martha dropped her classes there to focus on yoga, I carped mightily. The manager of the gym shut me up by saying there was Keiser Power Pacing training in a couple of weeks in Boston. If I wanted classes so badly, I should become an instructor. In other words, put up or shut up.

I put up and took the certification class from Kris Kory, the aging surfer type who literally wrote the Power Pacing book.  It’s certainly adolescent of me, but I have to say that style is much superior to the original, the trademarked, capital S Spinning®. The latter is by far the most common and it’s, well, kind of sissy. You might need a towel for your brow, but there’ll be no puddles.

I learned from the best. Kris was master of the theory and technique. He taught hard and snazzy stuff like slides that the other guys don’t. Before I even got to him though, I had learned what a real workout is.

We used to do spin three times a week. We got aerobic and anaerobic workouts unlike anything else I know.  I love my road biking, but it’s not as physically challenging. I’ve taken Spinning® classes as Y’s and other gyms too, to find that they are only a workout if I combine them with fast cycling to and from the gym.

A good class combines enough peer pressure to keep you pumping and a skilled enough instructor to make  you pray for the end of the hour. I think of another guy we used to work with who sometimes took Martha’s class. He was a lifter and quite strong, but wasn’t used to the relentlessness of it all. When she said to the class, “Remember to breathe,” Mike panted out, “That’s all I’m thinking about!”

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Repaying Cheap Thrills

April 19th, 2010

Jolly cyclingI found it fitting and fair to play the scaled down version of a semi driver or locomotive engineer today on my bike ride. Several little kids calling to me as I spun through the burbs pushed me back to when I was four.

Today, it was a boy in Milton yelling and waving, then a couple of them in Canton, and then two more in Stoughton. They simply wanted reaction and acknowledgment from that passing adult. I obliged, as so manytruck drivers and engineers had to me. With no horn, I could yell back and wave.

My bike is bright yellow, as was my pullover today, and I’m a big guy, but I was still surprised. A cycle seems like sort of a low-rent version of exchanging greetings. Then again, as a kid, I was close to busy two-lane highways with trucks carrying freight, logs or fruit from farms and rail yards through Virginia and West Virginia. We kids could also walk or bike to train tracks.

The picking for operators with powerful horns within reach must be considerably slimmer in the secondary and tertiary roads below Boston. Those 4-year-olds worked with the resources available.

Of course, the ideal targets of my arm pumps, yells and sincere grins were big-rig drivers or, even better, train engineers. The louder the horn and longer the note, the better. Most of those guys obliged too. They might well have been repaying their counterparts from a previous generation.

So today, a kid here and another there yelled to me and waved, and some ran toward the road. Spicing up playtime with such cheap thrills is an infectious joy. It only makes me wonder whether I should install an air horn on my road bike for such occasions.

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Go Goofy With Google Bikes

March 11th, 2010

Google cycleOK, boys and girls,I confess that I was blissed to read that Google Maps had added cycling routes. …long, long overdue.

I followed a link from a trusted source, Momentum magazine. I ended up trying a couple of Boston routes I know. The first iteration sucks with a mighty wind.

Disclaimer: I am a Google and Adobe shop around here, my computers are packed with apps from both. I want to like Google’s goings on.

The story is that they don’t know squat about biking on this coast if my very unscientific mini-sampling is any indication. They would route me on dangerous roads and go with absurdly convoluted, multi-turn paths that would require cheat sheets as well as end up adding too much time and distance.

I’m forever adding and refining my routes. If I head somewhere new, I often use Google or Yahoo maps or Map My Ride.  Yahoo and until this week Google ignored cycling realities. The best you could get was to go to Google Maps and specify avoid highways. With all three though, I can zoom in and out, building off routes I know are direct and safe-ish.

My tests should have given Google’s new light good chances to shine. Each was from my house at the top of Fairmount Hill in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood. One went to Deep Ellum in Allston (10 miles or so) and the other to Wellesley College’s Davis Museum (about 14 miles).

Those are both routes and I know and have ridden numerous times. Google Maps goofed them both up pretty badly. I sent an email to Momentum, which had solicited feedback. I got the form email back saying they’d pass along my whining.

You can map these yourself or pick some favorite urban/suburban rides you know. Maybe the handful of local Google guys here should set HQ straight.

Both routes used some funky algorithm for mapping. For example, getting to Hyde Park Avenue takes two turns. The Deep Ellum one they provided had nine and the Davis one seven. Likewise, the route to Wellesley avoided safe, broad avenues and made the middle of the route into a maze worthy of one of those airline magazine puzzles.

Worse than wasting the cyclist’s time and taxing memory with the tortured street configurations, the output spit onto several dangerous and totally unnecessary detours.

Google detourConsider ignoring the Southwest Corridor bike path (note bike) and putting the cyclist on the ever-exciting Columbus Avenue. Then there was the wild sudden right turn off Washington Street at Forest Hills after you’ve already passed the tight squeeze by the T station. The detour shown puts the cyclist on 203 twice, with a scary, nearly blind entry back onto 203 the other way to go what should have been a straight shot up Washington or onto the bike path. WTF?The other had the same three major problems. First, they had no problem making a few turns into dozens of unnecessary diversions over narrow streets with traffic signals and lights. Second,  there was no knowledge of bike paths and route, sometimes putting the biker on high car/truck routes instead. Third, they added lots of extra distance…if you could even remember all the turns.

So far, this looks like a rushed, quarter-assed job. I don’t trust it yet and will continue to plot my own routes until Google comes up to speed.

Hope Note: I returned and re-requested routes 24 hours later. They had managed to find the SW bike path, as you can see in the screen cap. I’ll return now and again to see when the untangle the spaghetti of side streets.

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Dukakis Calls Transit Fixes

March 2nd, 2010

The Duke feels strongly about mass transit and intercity rail. Speaking with us on Left Ahead! today, he was delightfully candid and brimming with specific fixes.

Click the player below to hear the whole show. Head to Left Ahead! or iTunes to download the mp3 file.

Among his analysis was a solution to the crippling debt of our MBTA system. The legislature and previous Republican governors had linked our mass transit’s fiscal health to a supposedly endlessly growing sales tax cut. That failed and was a terrible blunder, according to former Gov. Mike Dukakis.

He said he desperately need a workable mass transit. “If you want a first-class public transportation system, you got to pay for it,” he added. His more rational solution is adding 6¢ to 9¢ to the long stagnant gas tax, devoting it to the T and commuter rail.

In addition to stopping the every-few-year rises in fares and garnering the huge environmental and other obvious benefits of fewer cars, he sees another huge plus. Maintaining and expanding the various rail systems would create thousands of good-paying jobs at at time we need them most. He cited the 10¢ gas tax bump when he was governor. His administration, he said, “turned it into a jobs bill, which it was.”

Listen in to hear what he likes and dislikes about the current efforts. See also his co-authored piece on transportation reform that appeared in the Boston Globe. He has a very different take on the best way to manage it all, which he explains in the podcast as well.
Cross-post note: I’ll duplicate this at Marry in Massachusetts.

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No Snow Heroics

February 10th, 2010

So, now it snows. Getting off the commuter rail a few minutes before 5 this afternoon, I felt and saw some promising snow and wind.


Knowing we were to have blizzard conditions by broad meteorologist consensus from about 1 p.m. through 6 and continuing through midnight, my most steadfast drinking buddy and I were set to be fools or heroes today. Instead, we had a good chat and a couple of long ales, but left unwounded and not at all brave.

This so far has been the H1N1 of blizzards.

John’s wife asked incredulously why he would even consider going for our usual 2:30 meeting time, allegedly the start of the worst part. We were promised (threatened with?) 10 or more inches at 1 to 2 inches per hour from 2 or 3 p.m. on. The evening commute would be impassable and impossible.

So we were ready to be old-man brave, Abe Simpson brave, by meeting from opposite ends of Boston Beer Works on Canal Street. We had the pretense of perhaps tasting the annual tapping of the Hercules Strong Ale. I had even foraged in my t-shirt collection for a 16-year-old purple rag with Herc on it, back when BBW had worthy shirts.

Alas and lackaday, they are not yet ready to distribute their best ale of the year and we didn’t even get to play beer explorers. Our consolation is that two other regulars did not show and did not even respond to the invitation (dare?).

I can’t seem to single-task, so I also got a fix on the local Fairmount Line of the commuter rail.  There’s a history there as in the link, but the MBTA makes it pretty hard to get much from the most local transit transit.

In the very bottom of the Hyde Park neighborhood, we should have fast, easy, inexpensive access to public transit. Instead, I tend to ride my bike because getting downtown would require:

  • a walk of a mile to the bus, then a ride to the subway (an hour plus and $3.20 at cheapest)
  • a short walk to a bus, transfer to another bus, and ride on a subway (about 90 minutes and $3.20 at cheapest)
  • one of the very few commuter rail trains — effectively inbound in morning and outbound in evening commute hours and next to nothing most of the day — then a long walk or another subway ride in town ($4.25 cheapest and effectively $5.95)

It’s really MBTA amateur hour, but at least the sked should be better when they finish a few more train stations in the next year or so. Nonetheless, I have been meaning to use this train more because it’s about a half-mile away and I love trains.

That part was better than I expected. There was one mid-day train, at 1:06. It got me at South Station an hour before ale hour, but I figured I could walk and buy a Valentine’s card at Urban Outfitters and some worthy kitchen-towel hooks at Crate & Barrel, both at Quincy Market. Double hah there. UO is more into sleazy student girl clothes than ever and devoid of cards and C&B is OOB at the Market — they’d have me visit them on Boylston Street.

OK, boys and girls. Newbury Comics had a good hologram card of candy hearts and Salem Street Hardware served up a choice of hooks. But where was the snow?

The time line was like:

  • 9:45 a.m. leave Y and see the air full of flakes the size of dimes
  • 10:30 a.m. no snow
  • 11:40 a.m. big old flakes again
  • 12:34 p.m. change to heavy, small flakes. Walking to the train station reminded me of coming home in high school in New Jersey after swimming practice, in the dark with hair freezing and driving sleet biting into my cheeks
  • 1:08 p.m. the train was only two minutes late. The snow had eased off and seemed less gelid. I was one of two loading at Fairmount. The other fellow was an Ironweed sort, in dirty Patriots baseball-style cap and a ragged and torn fake leather bomber jacket. As Tracy Chapman sings, “…a day away from a bum on the street.”
  • On the scheduled 24-minute ride, which took 20, putting us into the station two minutes ahead of sked, I gawked. I did get the sense of the activists who forced the new stations pending on this line that it zipped past neighborhoods like a Hot Wheels track above and not stopping. Most of the Mattapan and Dorchester areas were triple deckers and single-families jumbled with small warehouses and factories. Remarkable were the amazing rubble of recreation in storage on the back decks and yards next to the track — plastic pools, lawn chairs and other instruments of summer play with no roofed storage.
  • 1:29 p.m. I left South Station feeling cheated of storm and adventure. Yes, there was a driving wind pushing the icy rain off vertical, but no blizzard.
  • 2:16 p.m. John was already on a stool lamenting the lack of Herc. I asked the brewmaster, who said it was done at Fenway this year. The best he could say was within a week or two, he’d have a cask. Plus this time half of it was aged in Scotch barrels for extra smokiness. I flashed my purple shirt at him and the tap puller, who appreciated the concept but could offer no Strong Ale.
  • We watched the windows but saw little snow and several periods where people passed without umbrellas or any covering up at all.
  • 4:15 p.m. on the walk to South Station for the 4:30, I did begin to see steadier snow, but blizzard…?
  • 4:31 p.m. The ride back was remarkable only for its ordinariness. This could be an American version of a salaryman’s commute, except there were few passengers so early. I was on a double-deck train, but we had only about a dozen on top and 15 on the lower level. The train crept from the station. It was odd to think that the 24 minutes allowed was much faster than the subway or bus combinations; it felt like we could have run along side the train as fast.
  • A couple of us had a simultaneous bad thrill when the announcer called after Morton Street that the next stop was Readville — one past our station in the same neighborhood. I asked the conductor, who affirmed we’d stop at Fairmount and we did.
  •  5:56 p.m. only two minutes late and some reality of snow when we left in the dark. A woman leaving at Fairmount had the definitive smell of a urinal cake — unctuous and unidentifiable fruitiness that she surely thought was pleasant and associated with some boffo label.

On theblizz.jpg walk up the absurdly steep Fairmount Hill, I felt the icy slipping. That had its own connotations, being only 367 days since I fell on ice and snapped two leg bones. Coming home, I was mildly heartened to see steady, hard snow. Perhaps I had not moved three shovels and the ice pellets from the garage in vain earlier.

John and I had figured to be arctic sorts, laughing into the wind and sheets of snow. Alas, it was only a good winter day for a couple of ales. We may yet have another occasion this winter to display our yeasty courage. Today was not that time.

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J-Hooked Today

November 16th, 2009

J-hook graphicClimbing stairs, of which my house has many, is less fun than it was a couple of hours ago. I have a dollar-bill sized bruise. A driver j-hooked me on my bike ride early this afternoon.

I had been cocky about my ability to outwit the witless and impatient. Numerous drivers in Boston and Cambridge have swerved to the right in front of me to make a turn, but I have always been too alert, too quick and too skilled to be hurt. This one got me.

She turned suddenly as she was passing me, starting her signal as she went from Rte. 138 south into the Suffolk Grille/Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. Like the old joke about Tarzan painting zebras, I’ll never know whether she was headed for a chocolate glazed or a double martini.

I had no way out and despite my good brakes and fast reflexes, I was probably still doing 15 mph when she hit me with her passenger side. I went down on my left hip and then elbow.

She stopped. I got off the pavement. We talked.

She first said she didn’t see me. I didn’t buy that. She was still in the process of passing me, all 185 pounds of me with a yellow Polartec pullover and shiny blue helmet, riding my very yellow bike.

Then she quickly came to the truth of the matter. “I thought you were back there…I had no idea bikes could move that fast.”

In all honesty, still recovering from my badly broken leg and being an old guy, I’m not all that fast. I bet coming down that hill, I never broke 25 mph and was able to slow before she clipped me. Yet, her point was well taken. Most drivers think of cyclists as going walking speed. That makes them think, if they consider it at all, that they can disregard any bike on their right. They would surely be long gone or turned before a human-powered vehicle approaches.

Wrong-o, sports fans.

She kept saying how sorry she was. I told her several times I was pretty sure I was just roughed up and bruised. My bike seems OK.

As she calmed, I got to my cyclist’s teaching moment. I did point out that she turned into and hit me; she was nowhere past the bike. There are specific laws forbidding what she had done.

(Mass Ch. 90-Sec. 14, including, No person operating a vehicle that overtakes and passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall make a right turn at an intersection or driveway unless the turn can be made at a safe distance from the bicyclist at a speed that is reasonable and proper. It also covers: No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians. It has fines and comes with civil liability, presumption of guilt, license points and insurance surcharges. There basically is no defense any more than rear ending another vehicle in traffic. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.)

However, I led her through that a slow cyclist is likely going 10 to 13 miles per hour and road cyclists 15 to 30. After this event, for all us cyclists, she said she’d be very careful and aware. She really hadn’t thought about it. She should allow space and time.

I believe she will and I believe she’ll tell family and friends, and in turn some of them will think of it. I think she is much more bike friendly and aware.

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Munich West Via Galway

October 11th, 2009

Nothing like a blustery fall New England day to be in Germany or Ireland or Massachusetts…wherever. In an incongruous melding the Blue Hills Brewery continued its beer-related theme fests today in Canton. So, this was an Oktoerfest at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton.

Other than being the available facility directly across from the Brewery on Route 138, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yet in its exuberant and timely way (Oktoberfest just finished in Germany), it worked.

It was not widely publicized. I learned about it first from a sign on the dreary industrial storefront of the brewery. A chum and I really enjoyed their IPA at the Sunset in Allston a couple of weeks ago. The barkeep there wasn’t sure where the Blue Hills Brewery would be when I asked if that would be Canton. When I looked it up and found that it was at 1020 Turnpike #3B, I realized that I had been biking by it many times.

I looked and had to turn around and track it. #3B is one of a row of sad little enterprises in a weary industrial park just above Stoughton. It has a German shepherd sized plastic sign bolted to the outside. Nonetheless, they make a grandly hoppy IPA.

This afternoon, I tooled down to my first visit to the Irish Cultural Center…for an Americanized Oktoberfest.  The short of it is that I had a fine ale, poor conversation, a wee bit of amusement, and a chance at the portolet before getting back on two wheels.

I confess, I didn’t stay for the highlight of the afternoon, the keg toss. They were looking for a new champion too. Hey, I’m a bruiser. Maybe I could have been a champion, could have been somebody…

Regardless, chaps from the brewery were selling tickets for the edible and potable offerings — $5 for either. The four company offerings were on tap, although I knew I wanted the IPA and only one because I was biking another 20 or 30 miles afterward. At the food bar were a variety of knackwurst and bratwurst offerings.They appeared huge too, and a bargain in the world of mystery meats.

The crowd of 150 or so were largely 20 somethings, with a few old guys my age and maybe 10 wee ones. They heard an oompah band as well, although many huddled around the big screen showing the Sox game.

I did listen and no one appeared to be anything other than Irish-American. That’s certainly the nature of the area and the center. Most, men and women, did not appear to be strangers to either brats or beers. There was lots of adipose tissue top, middle and bottom. A good time was being had by all.

Most surprising was the indifference of the brewery crew to the customers. I sidled up to the brewmaster and a minion at the ticket table for a chat. My brewer friends love to talk beer and the professionals are mindful that customers pay their salaries and keep their companies in business. These guys didn’t seem to care. They seemed to make no effort to mingle either, venturing down only for a keg hunt, wherein mostly lads scoured the nearby field for a sequestered quarter keg that would earn them five gallons of their choice.

To the ticket vendors, I mentioned that I had cycled down to locate their place, that I was inspired to attend the gathering today, and asked about brewery tours on their gift-shop afternoon or other time. They pointed to the table of tee-shirts and glasses and said there was nothing at the gift shop that wasn’t there. Talking to them was like punching dough.

I thought of Jim Koch at Sam Adams and how effusive and socially skilled he ls, how his love of his craft and product shine. You’d think that the ability to make good drink would come with higher developed social skills. It was only after my ride that I checked the net again to see that brewmaster Andris Veidis is from Newton, Massachusetts. That explains much. For around here, he was showing good manners.

As it is, Blue Hills makes a really good IPA and I’ll buy it again. I don’t know that I need to go back to #3B for the cold shoulder.

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Hand-Me-Down Crutches

July 9th, 2009

Prosthetic setLooking at the hospital bills and the BC/BS payment statements, I was somehow less shocked by the tens of thousands for the surgeons as the hundreds for aluminum leg aids.  The deep surprise was when I could foresee no longer needing the walker, two crutches and cane. To everyone, it seemed, these are disposable.

That’s not the way I was raised.

The folding walker, delivered to the hospital, was about $125, the crutches about $70, and the cane $30. In terms of my treatment, those were negligible amounts. In terms of materials and labor, that’s substantial. Thinking too of the many for whom such expenses are huge, I could not believe in our time of alleged awareness of the environment and the great recession that we would send those to attics or landfills.

The usual suspects — Goodwill, Boomerangs, the Red Cross and the hospitals themselves couldn’t be bothered. Everyone, his niece and grandfather had crutches. No thanks.

As my mother would have said in exasperation, “For crying out loud in a bucket!”

Finally, deep searching on that good ole internet led me to someone else who couldn’t believe the waste…and who did something about it. I called, got the OK and was happy to drive six miles to Quincy this morning to deliver my almost new gear for redistribution as needed.

The quiet hero here is Bruce Ayers. I spoke with him briefly by phone and hoped to see him when I dropped the aids off there. He was likely doing his other business, as First Norfolk State Rep.

His business is Ayers Handicap Conversion Center.  They adapt vans for those with disabilities. They seem to share the building with a family auto-body complex, Ayers Collision.

The woman in the office said he recognized the need about 13 or 14 years ago. He began collecting, maintaining and redistributing my kind of gear…for free…to those who need it. This obvious, simple and sensible solution should be commonplace.

Ayers’ company site has some humble mentions of his service, like here.  The town of Quincy supports and sponsors the program now. That is likely no coincidence, as Ayers was a city councilor there from 1992 to 2000, before his 1999 election as state representative.

Those with my style aids, wheelchairs and such can use the online form to set up a contact or call  617-722-2800, extension 8818. Apparently they’ll pick things up in the Quincy area, but I think it’s nice to drop it off for them. They do everything else.

It bothers me use disposable razor cartridges. The idea of tossing a walker, crutches and cane was too much. I’ll hoist one to Bruce Ayers. I’ll also ask my district City Councilor whether Boston, the hospital center of New England, doesn’t need to get with the program.

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Ready to Dance

July 5th, 2009

I have aged into more rituals than I had as a child in high church Methodism. Today involved no bishops or incense, rather a sward and farewell to legs (or at least leg tools).

F0llowing my nasty tib/fib breaks and the surgery to fix them, I was like the classic riddle of the ages of man.

  • For two weeks or so, I was only able to move in agony 30 feet or so from bed to office. Deciding to visit the toilet was a huge emotional and physical commitment. That all required a walker. (Kind of two human legs, two struts and two wheeled struts.)
  • For another several weeks, I needed someone to move the walker from one floor to another, while I thumped unsteadily down or up 13 stairs with every leg flexing producing colors before my eyes. (Three legs.)
  • Next it was two crutches, one on stairs with the other gripped horizontally in one hand. At the landing it was two crutches. (Four legs.)
  • When I could manage the four steps in or out of the house, it was one crutch, wobbling, but gaining confidence. (Three legs.)
  • At nine weeks, after x-rays showed sufficient tibia bone growth to dump the Aircast instead of just removing it repeatedly for airing and stretching the withered calf and foot, it was to the cane. (Three legs.)

Being my re-use/recycle mother’s son, I wanted to cleanse my psyche and house of these aluminum tools. They are considered junk, just another set of disposables in a throwaway economy.

I wouldn’t have it and eventually located a savvy and civic-minded gentleman who knew better and was like minded. At Ayers Handicap Conversion Center, Chairman Bruce Ayers, adds volunteerism and helping to his health-aid business. He collects and hands out just such tools to those who need them.  I won’t dwell on how Boston should be doing the same. Rather, let us praise him.

(I shall contact my Boston City Councilor and get something like this in the works here.)


Meanwhile, I happily am bidding goodbye to my tools — walker, crutches and cane. The Aircast is surely contaminated even after I scrubbed it, but I’ll ask about that too.

It took a time to find a decent meadow in the area. The arboretum has not cut its open leas, but Brookline’s Larz Andersen park is plenty grassy. Plus the delicate locals could not be expected to walk in vegetation above shoelace height.

I amused myself this morning by posing and shooting my tools. I thank them and hope they are useful elsewhere…and also for short periods of healing.

One pic is here. The series is on Flickr.