In October 2014 I’ll be embarking on another walk across Massachusetts. I’ll start in Williamstown on Monday October 6th and finish in Provincetown on Saturday October 25, 250 miles later. Once again I’ll be carryong a blank journal with me and asking people for their letters to our new governor. Please click here for more information and to follow along.
In the autumn of 2006, I hiked across Massachusetts. I began near Williamstown in the northwest corner and finished in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. I set out for no particular reason but to air out from a recently soured relationship. But it was October, and I found the upcoming gubernatorial election a ready topic of conversation with the folks I met along the way.
I found a notebook and began asking people I met along the way to write a personal message – anything they wanted – to the next Governor of Massachusetts. It was still weeks before the election, so the writers did not know which candidate would be actually be reading their words. Without neither biasnor censoring, I took messages from self-proclaimed conservatives and liberals, single mothers, retirees, professional musicians, firefighters, teachers, students, and citizens in Northhampton, Buckland, Goshen, Amherst, Ware, Worcester, Hopedale, Wrentham, Bourne, Sandwich, Orleans, and all points in between. By the time I walked to the Long Point Lighthouse on a blustery Halloween day, I had collected thoughts, critiques, and ideas on everything from schools to the commuter rail to Cape Wind to a reporter’s shield law.
Please browse the messages, read what your fellow citizens wrote to the governor, and before you head to the polls on November 2nd, ask yourself, In the last four years, did Governor Patrick listen to us?
On Tuesday, November 7th, lawyer Deval Patrick and Worcester Mayor Tim Murray were elected as the next governor and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Congratulations! Mr Patrick is the first African-American governor of the state, and only the second to hold that post nation-wide.
Mr Patrick and Mr Murray ran on the Democratic ticket, but I’d like to think after this particularly nasty campaign season, Mr Patrick’s term will be a time of healing the rift between Democrats and Republicans.
Hey everyone… And
big welcome to readers of the Berkshire Eagle!
Thanks to Jessica Willis, intrepid reporter who had tried to track me down for four weeks!
And great news – through the work of Ms Willis, Deval Patrick has agreed to meet with me if elected. Besides Deval Patrick, gubernatorial hopefuls Christy Mihos and Kerry Healey have both already promised to accept the notebook personally. Sweet… The voice of the people will be heard!
How exciting is this?! Historically, midterm elections have seen low voter turnouts and have been as ho-hum as a freshman football game, but this year’s election has all the vibrancy of the Superbowl. Good luck to all the candidates who ran honest, hardworking campaigns. Campaigning is not an easy job, and I admire anyone who has that kind of determination, resourcefulness, and intelligence. That anyone can rise up to become a leader of men, and we have the freedom to choose our own leaders – that’s what our democracy was built on.
Ok, before the Battle Hymn of the Republic starts playing in the background, I have to tell you this wicked cool story. My friend Corrinn, whom I met while teaching in Japan, is visiting me in Cambridge this week. So this (Monday) afternoon, I was showing her around Boston: Quincy Market, Government Center, the Commons, Back Bay (including the house in which Julia Ward wrote the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic… Seriously! Written right on Beacon Street!), and Beacon Hill. So around 5 pm, we walked by the gold dome of the state house and the Shaw Memorial (Corrinn is from British Columbia, so the story of a white officer leading a black regiment during the Civil War was sort of lost on her), and we had just turned right onto Park Street, to head back down towards Tremont, when I glanced up into one of the windows above the street, and Holy Canoli, I see Independent Gubernatorial Candidate Christy Mihos! His campaign headquarters is on Park Street, and he was sitting alone by the window, working on some papers.
As you can probably tell by the preceding paragraph, I admire anyone who has the dedication to run a 12 month political campaign, and since he didn’t seem to be too busy in a meeting, and since I think anyone who is trying something so monumentous as running for governor could use some encouragement, and heck, since it could be a good learning experience for Corrinn, I thought about it for a second, then decided to pop my head in to offer a Good Luck.
So we walk up the stairs and into the hq, and there are two young guys standing at the door. Hi, Could we see Mr Mihos for a minute? I ask. As expected, they kind of frown and start to say something about him being busy practicing a spee- Come on in! We hear from the next office. We turn around in the hallway, and there’s the man himself.
Now you need to remember that the day before elections, these politicians are busier than Santa Claus on the 24th. But Christy took us into the space by the window he was using as his office and offered us seats. I was just planning on saying a quick Good luck tomorrow, but now that we were sitting down, I began to tell him about my walk and the premiere opinion I had heard about him – People I met loved his TV commercials on the Big Dig. (He has this animated commercial in which a cartoon Christy Mihos approaches an engineer and says something along the lines of, Mr Engineer, Why is the Big Dig so much money over budget? And the engineer begins to mumble something technical, then sticks his head up his ass (I kid you not – go to the Mihos campaign site and you can download the ad) and waddles away. Then the animated Christy walkes up to a group of politicians and asks another question about accountability and the Big Dig, and they all stick their heads up their asses and waddle away, leaving Christy as the only one left standing, looking for answers). Anyways, Mr Mihos went on to talk about the Big Dig and his experiences when he was on the board. Corrinn, who is from Canada, had never heard of the Big Debacle, (as I heard it called on my walk) was asking some pretty hard-hitting questions about where all the money went, which Mr Mihos answered deftly.
After a pbout 5 minutes,I was about to stand up to take our leave – I didn’t want to disturb his work too much the day before the election – but he kept us there another five minutes or so, talking about my walk (the fact that he had heard of it before was a great feeling). We talked about the differences between the eastern part and the western part of the state, such as the dependence on farming. According to Mr Mihos, Mass. Currently has a vacant Dept. Of Agriculture. One of the things he wants to work on once elected is getting that department up and running again. Corrinn, the West Coaster, asked a few more questions about organic farming, which he was proposing to grow from the 2.5% of farming now happening in the state.
We spoke for a few minutes more, then I felt like we really should let him get back to his work.
He saw us out, and I before I left, he said some pretty complimentary things about my walk and my effort to collect messages.
I had made a deadline that today, election day, would be the last day for me to collect messages (I could go on until inauguration, but I felt that if the writers knew to whom the message was addressed, it would skew what they were saying), so yesterday was pretty much the last day of the walk and the project. Meeting one of the candidates, face to face, and have him ask me to sit down while he was so busy and seem genuinely interested in what I was saying about highways and farms – that was a great feeling. He ran a good campaign and I wish him the best of luck.
Although today while I was talking to one of his staff at the polls, I found that wasn’t so uncommon – while out campaigning and meeting people, he’s been known to give out his personal phone number!
I’m not sure when the next update will be… My laptop kind of gave up the ghost, and the keys on the left side of the keyboard don’t work anymore. So I _could_ update, I’ll just never use the letter “A” again…. Arrrrgh…
By the way, this whole thing was written on my cell phone… Please forgive the errors…. Aaarrgh…
Hello from the frosty Berkshires! I spent most of yesterday and today colllecting messages in downtown Shelburne Falls, at the town meeting in Rowe (interesting place, Rowe Mass… I’ll have to tell you about it), at the town hall/library/post office/police dept. (yes, they are all the same building!) and in front of Avery’s General Store in Charlemont. I have gotten some good messages, including “Please remember that Worcester isn’t even halfway across the state.” Right now I am posting this from Rt 2 on top of Whitcomb Summit, one of the few places in the Berkshires my TMobile phone gets reception. I am just about to drive (yes, I am driving this time, though one of the selectmen from the town of Florida recommended I return by walking backwards – hahaha) down past Dead Man’s Curve, past the Hairpin Curve (funny, I met a lot of folks on the Cape who were originally from the North Adams area, and when I told them I walked across the state, there first reaction was always, “You walked over Hairpin Curve, too!?” and into North adams and Willimastown to collect some more messages before it gets dark. Then I am driving home to Leicester, but I will be retracing my original steps and recording mileage. It’s really weird to be driving in two hours with the muscles of my lower right foot what took me eight days of back breaking, calf mashing, foot flattening hard work to cover. Even the short distance between Charlemont and North Adams, I see the spot where I camped out, the place where I bought apples, the rock I sat on to take a ten minute breather. That’s where I stopped to talk to a fisherman, that’s where I met the president of Worcester State, that’s where I went to the thank you brunch that inspired me to start collecting messages. Every foot of this road has a story, and I will never look at a map of Massachusetts the same way.
I was thinking of not walking but continuing to collect messages, but I think Tuesday will be the last day. I think that if folks KnOW who the next governor is going to be, it will skew their messages. This project has been so exciting because no one who writes in the notebook knows to whom they are actually writing!
Time for some appreciation, just for the last 28 hours: Thanks to Sheila from Heath, Win from Charlemont, and big thanks to Gregory Lewis from the West County News for continually inviting me to town meetings :). Thanks to Mike Wilmeth from the Shelburne Falls Independent, Aaron Miller of the archaeological dig http://www.taylorsfort.org, and Tucker Lichtfeld for the tour of Off Hand Glass Works in Heath. Thanks to the staff of the Heath Town Office/Library/Post Office/Police Dept/Board of Health (all in one builiding – the Margo the Post Master is also the Police Chief!!) for their film talent. Belated thanks to John Herman (www.Johnherman.org) for the camera – check out coyote-filled video coverage of the last few minutes of my walk on his site.
Thanks to Britney Oat for drving from Boston to Buckland to cover my walk for Boston University Cable TV. And BIG thanks to Candy Hammond of the Cape Cod Times for the story (http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/walking2.htm)
and Kevin Mingora for the cool photo.
OK… Its on to North Adams and Williamstown… And, like the Allman Brothers would say, Back to Where It All Begins….
Yup, you read that correctly – I’m not quite done yet. You may recall that the idea to begin collecting messages for the governor came from attending a town meeting in Charlemont, three days into my walk. I didn’t take my first message until I reached Buckland. So, to be fair to the first few towns I walked through, on Thursday (Nov 02) and Friday I will be returning to that part of the state, to give those folks an equal opportunity to jot down their comments for the governor.
I will be in or around the following spots at roughly the following times:
Buckland Public Library/Shelburne Falls: Thursday
morning (Nov 02)
Downtown Charlemont: Thursday afternoon.
Downtown North Adams: Friday morning (Nov
: Friday afternoon.
I will also attempt to make stops in Florida and
If you live in that part of the state and you would like to say Hi, or have an idea where I can meet people (diners, town meetings, general stores – someone suggested Avery’s in Charlemont), please stop by or send an email! The more messages the better.
I’ll write more when I return from the Berkshires… til then, Happy Halloween! 🙂