September 11, 2009

Go Ahead--Stimulate My Economy (Part II) posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken So last week I moaned and groaned (ok, I bitched) about the "improvements" on my street. I probably failed to mention, though, that despite my having to drive past a "street closed except to residents" sign to get home, the "improvements" have not yet even gotten within sight of our house. Yeah, the street really, really needed fixing. Yeah, the part that's done is really, really nice (although I suspect it will turn into a speedway when the local law and order establishment is elsewhere occupied). But frankly, the process has been a pain in the ...we can say it, ass, because that's what hurts when I negotiate craters and crevices of the interim surface. I'll live. I'll enjoy the new smooth pavement (note to local constabulary: I'll obey the 35 mph speed limit. You don't need to check me. Really.) I just need to vent a little more and then I'll be fine. And while I'm venting. Even if you've avoided Goldsmith Street this summer (easy to do if you're in, say, Florida), you have probably had to negotiate your own Goldsmith Street-type "challenges." I say this with confidence, because the town where I work has been, if it's possible, even worse. For the sake of simplicity, let's just say I use Roads A and B, with a turn onto Road C, after I leave the commuter routes and head for the library. Leaving the library also involves a short stretch of Road D (the library sits on a 5-way corner, with 5-way stop signs. Talk about hair-raising! Add joggers, bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, a line of nursery school children clinging to a rope on the crosswalk heading for story hour, and you will understand why I arrive at work really, really awake and rarin' for more caffeine.) Anyway, Roads A and B are really lovely rural roads; they meander through fields of vegetables, past a pond that supplies much of the municipal water, among trees that have been tooooo clooooose to the pavement. My CDs tended to eject when hitting some of the more prominent "pavement failures". Also, besides a number of beautiful houses, these two streets serve a national landmark house (Gropius), an art museum and sculpture park (DeCordova), a private school (Carroll) and a riding establishment for children with various handicaps (Lovelane). This summer, in varying patterns and time frames, the town has completely rebuilt both Roads A and B. Arriving at my usual turn, I must read (very fast) the sign announcing the day's caveats (open to residents, open to museum, closed...) and choose whether I can turn or must evade and go to my alternate plan, which is a bit longer and involves at least one (depending) heart-stopping turn onto a road with approaching traffic from both directions obscured until the last minute. Great fun. Honest. For the sake of the commuters on my rear bumper, I learned to just head for the alternate. One day last week, though, there was NO closed sign at the entrance to Road A. No "raised structures" warning. So I turned and got all the way to Road B, where an officer told me to drive all the way on the left side of the road. Whee! Not to mention the evening when we left work to find our little stretch of Road C blocked. Never did figure that one out, but the next morning I was able to drive through there just fine. Probably just a test to see who knew the real back roads and who would give up and stop cutting through town. Things got really interesting last week when, even though Roads A and B weren't completed, they started work on Road D. Our end of it was closed while huge machines chewed up the pavement and went into grading mode. As a result, the library's parking area was closed for several hours and patrons had to get creative to figure out places to park. The current score: Roads A and B, open but with a bit more work to do and more delays on the horizon. Road C is just fine. Road D is accessible but with bumps and flying gravel enough to make me grateful I only have to drive on it for 100'. And that's not all. Let me tell you all about highway construction from New York State through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and up (or Down) into Maine. Next week.
HAUNTS OF THE GREAT By guest blogger G. M. Malliet I’m not much of a fan. I don’t collect artifacts or mementos of the famous. I don’t follow celebrities or create Google alerts for the names of people I admire. In fact, I am so out of touch with the Zeitgeist I am often mystified by the feature in the Washington Post called “Reliable Source,” which rather breathlessly lists sightings of celebrities in town to promote their pet causes. Who are these people spotted at, for example, the DC Spy Museum or Café Milano, wearing jeans, a baseball cap, and a button-down shirt? (“Reliable Source” always tells us what the stars are wearing and/or eating, presumably because someone cares.) Notice I don’t give you specific names or examples. I might recognize Brad Pitt if I tripped over him—especially if he had Angelina and the kids swarming around him—but fully eighty percent of the celebs mentioned in this column I’ve never heard of. Yes, it is getting to the point where my cluelessness is embarrassing, at least to those in my orbit under the age of thirty. No doubt it’s the first step on that slippery slope to Old Fuddydom. All this by way of confessing that from the moment I heard Greenway, Agatha Christie’s vacation home in Devonshire, was being opened to the public this year, I knew I had to get there. In fact, I think the phrase “If I have to crawl on my hands and knees” was called into play. Fortunately, there are passenger ferries that can take you to Greenway from Torquay (Agatha’s birthplace) and from other towns along the coast of Devon. But it wasn’t that easy to get there by train from Oxford, our starting point, so was it worth it? Definitely. For one thing, the area where she purchased the house and grounds lives up to Agatha’s claim of being “the loveliest place in the world.” What do we hope to gain from visits to the haunts of the great—or do we hope to gain anything? For my part, the journey helped orient me in terms of Agatha’s life and her stories—places that were mere names are far more meaningful to me now. And yes, I think there was an element of wishing that by standing where she had stood, seeing how she worked and lived, inspiration for another great puzzle of a book like And Then There Were None might come to me. (Still waiting on that.) Are there any writers’ haunts you’ve been to that have really made an impression, or that you would like to visit one day? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- G.M. Malliet’s Death of a Cozy Writer, previously a Malice Domestic Grant winner, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2008. It has also been nominated for 2009 Anthony, David, and Macavity awards and a Left Coast Crime Award for best police procedural. It won an IPPY Silver Medal in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the best books of 2008. The second book in the St. Just series is Death and the Lit Chick (April 2009) and the third is Death at the Alma Mater (January 2010). Malliet and her husband live in Virginia.

Lorraine Bartlett

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