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Roadside explores the back road and Main Streets of America. Our recipe for an American renaissance: Eat in diners, ride trains, shop on Main Street, put a porch on your house, live in a walkable community.

Teri Dunn Chace

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Why do I hate this place?

Posted by on in Ramblings

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There is a new shopping center in town. Its location was never really controversial—the developer chose a wooded, rocky spot just off one of our main roads, and I did notice that a well-regarded local ecologist told the local paper “there really is no unusual or special plant, animal, or habitat in that spot.” Its mix of stores, still evidently a work in progress (there are quite a few empty storefronts remaining), caused some concern, as our already struggling Main Street didn’t want or need competition. Not to worry, folks, thus far all the tenants of the new mini-mall are big corporations with headquarters out of town. Whether the development would get a tax break, how much, and for how long was hotly argued, but the mayor and those in her corner prevailed because the local economy so badly needs a bigger base. One item seems never to have been debated: the design. The developer and his design team pledged to be “sensitive,” which meant not only that the storefronts would have a somewhat-New-England-ish look, but that there would be hills and dales and green swathes. I notice even vintage-looking streetlamps were installed here and there.

“Gloucester Crossing,” as it was dubbed, is now open for business.

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Brother Blue's Gift

Posted by on in Ramblings
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Brother Blue. Photo by Roger Gordy

Sometimes when you’re lost in a strange new place, somebody finds you. That’s the way I intersected with Brother Blue (real name: Hugh Morgan Hill), the itinerant storyteller of Boston and Cambridge, who passed away this week. I was pretty young when I first met him, a recent college graduate who had just moved to the big city. It was a time of transition for me, not only from college to looking for work, but also from a fairly rural area to a bustling urban environment. Also, as sometimes happens in such periods, I had left behind a guy I loved to pursue my dreams.

Here is what happened. It was a chilly autumn evening in Harvard Square, and a daunted, pensive young woman was emerging from the subway, eyes momentarily dazzled by the lights of the night, head buzzing with thoughts, regrets, and hopes. I was also distracted by hunger and worrying about my low funds. In short, I had a lot on my mind. “Oh MY!” a great voice boomed. Confused, I looked around, and there he was, in a nearby alcove.

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Raising "Counter-Culture" Kids

Posted by on in Ramblings

Cecelia-12When I was a teenager, after a particularly vivid ecology class, I came home and shouted at my parents, “Thanks a lot for leaving the world a mess for my generation! Thanks a freaking lot!” then stomped out, slamming the door behind me. Now I’m the parent of teens, and I get to hear pretty much the same thing—sometimes my kids are mad, sometimes baffled, sometimes scared, sometimes daunted. I can’t argue, and it seems the world has indeed gotten worse since I was their age (global warming and general environmental degradation, dehumanizing sprawl, Darfur, grinding poverty, AIDS, etc. etc. etc.), and yet somehow the damaged, trashed world muddles onward.

If we adults are going to make the world a better place, even in the smallest ways, I think we need to walk our talk. The kids are watching, believe me. They keep me on my toes—and, hey, they should. They have to live in this world long after I am gone.

Here are some of the issues we discuss at my house:

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Pie, Oh My!

Posted by on in Eat

four-berry-pieAnytime is an excellent time to ponder pie, in my book, but the topic always attracts more attention when Thanksgiving comes around. When I was in my local bakery this past weekend, I saw a big sign reminding us to place our pie orders early. “Let us do your baking for you!” it called. “If you are hosting, we will save you time,” the sign continued persuasively, “and if you are a guest at somebody else’s table, a pie is the perfect contribution.” No arguments there!

Pie truly is the perfect feast-topper. If you make it past the mountain of white-meat turkey and savory drumsticks, the steaming, gravy-laden mashed potatoes, and various other side dishes (yams with marshmallow, anyone?), you may think you are not up to gobbling down anything more. Instead, you will say, “Oh no...! I’m sorry, I am really too full for dessert. This meal was great, thank you anyway! What’s that? Pie, you say? Oh. Well! Maybe a thin slice...” Even after a huge and satisfying meal, a slice of pie not only seems somehow possible, it seems like the only possible choice.

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On Bumperstickers

Posted by on in Ramblings

teribumperLet us now praise, or at least consider, bumperstickers. They give everyone something to read and ponder in traffic, they help you find your car quickly in a crowded parking lot, and they give your vehicle a bit of personality. I’ve been pasting them on my various cars for years, and I have a few thoughts and observations to share about mine ... and yours.

Bumperstickers serve different purposes, I’ve noticed. My favorites are the amusing or clever ones, the ones that take a moment to ‘get’. For instance: “VISIT WISCONSIN: COME SMELL OUR DAIRY AIR” “ISIS, ISIS...RA, RA, RA!” “GREAT BASS, LESH PHILLING” (oh, and let’s not forget the related one, now a collector’s item just like the VW vans it always adorned, I am sure: “WHO ARE THE GRATEFUL DEAD AND WHY ARE THEY FOLLOWING ME AROUND FROM TOWN TO TOWN?”). Everyone can use an “aha” giggle now and then, as we go on our way.

Worthy causes are ever-popular. “KEEP TAHOE BLUE,” I assume, means, please stop polluting or draining away the water of this beautiful mountain lake. “STUMPS DON’T LIE” was on the bumpers of a lot of anti-logging proponents’ cars out in Oregon where I used to live. I have “WE SUPPORT CPA, A GOOD DEAL FOR GLOUCESTER,” which was in support of a ballot initiative to approve the Community Preservation Act for the funding it would supply (for needed civic and other restoration projects around here). During the campaign, this sticker appeared on a lot of local cars, calling attention to and buoying the campaign. After it passed, I left the sticker on, proud of my town.

Which brings me to more controversial bumperstickers.

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