Two weeks ago I woke up without my voice. I missed two days of work and spent the weekend convalescing. After pushing through a full week at school I was presented with one of the most glorious days of this heretofore wet and chilly spring; It was the Saturday of Springfield’s birthday celebration (#383) and World’s Largest Pancake Breakfast.
Feeling as though I had finally put my upper respiratory infection completely behind me, Elizabeth and I set out to do it all. We brought our own real maple syrup to slather on to the pancakes, we wandered up and down Main Street shaking hands with our favorite local politicians, meeting local celebrities, listening to music, people watching, and finally selecting a nice spot along the 1/3 mile long breakfast table to enjoy our pancakes, bacon, orange juice, and hot coffee. Good times.
Liz signed us up for the “Cat in the Hat” license plate while I had the longest conversation I’ve ever had with a Picknelly; Paul in this case. I introduced myself. Thankfully, he doesn’t read my blog. Truth is he’s done a nice job with the plaza in front of Monarch Place, and he was part of the consortium that stole the T-birds from Portland and “saved hockey” in Springfield. I told him we’d get the vanity license plate if he promised to invest another $10 million or so in downtown. That’s fair, don’t you think?
After that we took the Art Deco downtown tour with my wife’s favorite person, and yes I think that includes me, Bob McCarroll. We wandered from the Quadrangle to the Apremont Triangle, from the triangle to Main Street, to State Street, and back to the museums. Along the way I learned a lot…and pitched my ideas for a Frederick Douglas-John Brown memorial, and a Muhammad Ali statue in Stearns Square. (Frederick Douglas and John Brown met while the latter lived and worked here, and Muhammad Ali spent years living just a few blocks from where I sit writing this blogpost)
After that it was on to the Gardening the Community plant sale. On the way we passed by a Pioneer Valley Planning Commission event/ demonstration of a “complete street”. Our friend Alex and his bike crew were at a nearby park demonstrating, well, demonstrating just how freaking talented these kids are on their bikes. It also demonstrated how easy it would be to just declare a park “a bike park” and let the kids go to town. And I think that’s a good idea. But that won’t stop these kids from riding maniacally on the streets as well; they want to show off, shock, and be seen.
The PVPC complete streets thing looked so much like the photographs I’ve seen of the legendary Better Block endeavor in Memphis which transformed a stretch of mostly vacant retail frontage on a traffic sewer of a street into a vibrant little neighborhood, and got the city of Memphis to invest in some small improvements to the infrastructure. Problem here is, this neighborhood is already vibrant, all the storefronts are already full, the city put in new sidewalks and decorative lighting years ago, and the neighborhood park is in tip-top shape and has all the amenities. Investments the city made decades ago have, slowly but surely, stabilized blocks that seemed destined for decline.
After doing some back yard work to prepare for our GTC plants we decided to top off the day with “lupper” (it was 3 o’clock) at Red Rose. Our meals were fabulous. I decided to forgo the traditional Red Rose lambrusco given my recent illness and the decidedly uphill return leg of our journey. On that walk home I felt totally invigorated and said so to Elizabeth. I was finally, really getting better.
Or so I thought.
This, dear reader, brings us to the actual underlying message of today’s essay: What I believed was invigoration was my body pumping enough adrenalin into my system to get me home. I had been working, playing, and venturing about with pneumonia for over a week. I collapsed when I got home, failed to publish a blogpost for the first time in years, and went on to miss an entire week of work. I had turned a corner; and got hit smack dab in the middle of the forehead with a 2″x4″. Systems can do that. Everything looks fine. All that paranoid concern was just that. It’s all back to normal. And then, not so much.