Monday, July 31, 2006

Small Town News - Cumberland Farms: the P&Z Votes

The view looking South down Main Street. Town hall is on the right, and the Cumberland Farms on the left.

The view looking North up Main St. The Cumberland Farms sign is seen as well as the Gulf gas station with one island and Coke machine. Make a left down Elm St. and within a mile you reach a highway.

The P&Z Vote

The P&Z vote was held in the downstairs meeting room at the town hall that can safely hold about 40 people per fire regulations. That night, it was standing room only and people were waiting outside to get in. Before the meeting started, it was proposed by the citizens that the meeting be moved upstairs to the auditorium that can hold 150 people, but the P&Z refused with stony faces.

The meeting was called to order. The chairman recused himself from the Cumberland Farms matter. More about that later. At some point the issue of correspondence was raised. Apparently, the petition with 350 signatures to reopen the public hearing was dismissed after the applicant’s (Cumberland Farms) Lawyer wrote a letter citing a Supreme Court case indicating that such motions are not in order. The citizens' group’s member lawyer wrote a response saying the applicant’s case was off point (and he should know, since his job entails following Supreme Court cases). The applicant’s lawyer’s letter was accepted into evidence and the citizens’ were not. So, even though no more evidence was to be accepted, the applicant’s evidence was. That did not seem right to anyone.

A P&Z member made a motion to approve the application and after acceptance of the motion the matter was open for discussion. The mostly female P&Z kibitzed endlessly and in an uninformed manner about the canopies, roof pitch, pumps, number of islands, pumps and the like. Thirty minutes were spent trying to determine how big 18 inches was. They were obviously biased for the applicant and the one dissenter was viciously attacked. It was like watching cats on a mouse. Things were said like, “Well Jane, I wouldn’t know, you’re the scientist.” They were obviously biased, bitchy, uninformed, unprofessional, and an embarrassment to the town. Everybody thought so. Our P&Z in action. Gotta love it.

I worried that they would ignore the nonconforming issue (triple the gasoline within 200 feet of a school and place of assembly on an unapproved site) and went to Joe, the First Selectman, and whispered to him about it. He said that he would mention to them during the break. Later in the meeting they did ask the P&Z lawyer about conformance. The lawyer advised that when weighing conformance one has to look at the big picture. The total conformity of the current sites versus the conformity of the future site needs to be compared. So, the proposed redevelopment will result in a single lot which is significantly less non-conforming than either of the two lots which are to be combined. The acting Chairperson smiled. She summarized as follows: the new lot will either be in compliance with regulations as to gross lot area, impervious coverage, and landscaped area, lot frontage, building setbacks, parking and delivery. The new development will be in conformance with the Greenways project, will not depreciate property values, will improve public safety by upgrading fuel systems, new traffic flows will eliminate unsafe conditions, and the two service bays at the current station will be eliminated.

I, as well as the rest of the audience, was so frustrated and exasperated by this time that I couldn’t help it and I cried out, “Yeah, and three times the gas is so much safer!” At least I got a laugh from the people around me and a stern warning look from the acting bitch chair.

It was announced that hours of operation would be from 5:00 am to midnight. There was a pained groan from the audience.

The P&Z reduced the number of islands from 4 to 3 and approved the application in a vote of 3 in favor and 2 against. So, just like that, we have a new Cumberland Farms gas station in our town.

The Appeals

Shortly thereafter, the citizens' group hired a lawyer and filed two appeals: one with the Zoning Board of Appeals and the other with the Supreme Court in our State. We had a tough time finding appellants, but we located some. The aggrieved are a couple who own a local Bed and Breakfast down the street from the proposed gas station who filed based on possible loss of business, and family who live on Elm street who filed based on loss of property value due to increased traffic from the highway to the new station, and a couple who own a business adjacent to the gas station who filed based on possible loss of business and decreased property values. The next step is waiting for Cumberland Farms to challenge our appellants. Money to pay the lawyer was collected from the citizens' group and letters for further donations were sent to people that signed the petition. More money is still needed.

I served the ZBA appeal myself. I drove to the ZBA Chair’s ranch house and knocked on his door and then stepped back a few paces (as I was taught in sales school). It was a lovely day. He answered and I served him. He signed, but was grouchy. He said something like, “Well it’s summer and so no one may be around to hear this.”

I responded with, “You have a lovely garden. Are those lupines? I can’t even get them started in my garden.”

And so we talked about his garden. It turns out that he had just had a cherry tree cut down and had split the wood himself. He had humming birds coming to a feeder. His house was on a beautiful spot that I had never been to in our town.

Anyway, back to the story. After the Subway ZBA precedent, the ZBA voted that it was not their role to overturn P&Z decisions on matters. At their next meeting, they were reminded of this and although our matter was not on their agenda, they decided to drop it altogether. The town squandered an opportunity to settle this matter on the cheap. That is how I see it.

Our hired lawyer feels that we have a really solid case so long as we can get our day in the Supreme Court. So, here we sit, waiting for a challenge from Cumberland Farms to our appellants. People are talking about mediation. But we are just waiting. I will report on any action on this matter as it happens.

The Recusant P&Z Chair

By the way, the P&Z Chair recused himself because he was a town employee. About six months ago, there was a town vote on whether town employees could be on the P&Z and Inland Wetlands Commissions (as there is an obscure writ in State law indicating that they cannot). The town had voted at that time that they could not. However, the town ignored that vote and the Chair continued on the P&Z. We still don’t know why he recused himself on the night of the vote.

But, sometime later, there was another town vote held on whether town employees can serve on the P&Z and Inland Wetlands Commissions. There was heavy turn out for the vote. Of course our entire citizens’ group was there (now up to some 30 in number) and all of the town employees and Joe’s cronies. We had even turned to the anti-government group in town by mentioning it to our mailman and he made sure all of his buddies showed up to vote against it too. Networking at its best!

The meeting was held in the upstairs auditorium at town hall. Joe ran the meeting. As soon as the meeting was opened Sean moved for a written ballot. This was readily seconded and approved. Many folks were pissed because we had already voted this down. Why was Joe raising the issue again? Joe explained that he thought that the town lawyer had confused the issue the last time by indicating that it was not needed to the public and that might have been why some voted against it. But, now the town has been sued for it (it was included in the citizens’ group lawsuit since the chair closed the Cumberland Farms hearing so suddenly) and it has been brought to his attention by the P&Z lawyer who feels it could be a problem.

A citizen (from our group) asked how we could change appointments of P&Z members to elections instead of selections by Joe. Applause sounded for this comment. The town lawyer answered that that could be done by getting a petition for a town meeting and making it so, but that in her opinion that would be a mistake, since volunteers were hard to find. (Though, with enough meetings like the P&Z vote, we would not have a problem finding them, was my thought.) The citizen asked how many signatures such a petition would need. No one knew. After the meeting we found out it was only 20. The same citizen also asked how we could make the vote so that if it was decided that town employees could not be on these commissions, they could be removed, since we had already voted such, but they were still acting on the commissions. Applause sounded for this comment too. It was explained by the town lawyer that it was too late for this as the vote was already written and published, but that the town could make this happen by petition.

Discussion continued. Sean said that his concern was improper influence, loss of objectivity and fair representation for the town by having town employees on town commissions. He noted that the P&Z Chairman’s office for his town job, he assists Joe, is right outside Joe’s office in the town hall.

Sometime later, the written ballot vote ensued and took quite some time since there was a big crowd. The final vote was 40 for having town employees on the P&Z and Inland Wetlands Commissions and 56 against. The motion did not carry. Hooray!

Unfortunately, now the town is emotionally split. Town employees have taken all of this very personally since it was personal for them right from the start. The P&Z Chair continues to lead the P&Z meetings, showing an arrogant and dismissive regard for the vote of the people as if daring them to change it.

Stay tuned for the next big chain invasion next week...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday Comics - Area 51su

Area 51su Gay Art Gallery is an extensive and great source for Oliver Frey and many other artists' work, such as Ulf, that can also be seen on Pete's site. The man who puts together the site remains a mystery. Check out his gallery and enjoy, but please be an adult.

Revised: See Oliver Frey's Wet Dreams at Pete's site today!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday Fantasy - For The Lovelemming

Dear Larry,

I know that you are moving soon, so I hired Manny to help you out. He is a pro at this and works very hard. Actually, he works up quite a sweat and may need a shower at some point. Oh yeah, and he only works in the nude. Hope that's not a problem for you. I hope he is a big help; at least he's easy on the eyes. Have a great move!

Your pal,


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bookfield, Three Dogs

Sometimes, when you are out in the middle of the country, and you see a gravel road, you need to make a choice. How many houses are at the end? Sometimes you can tell a lot by mailboxes. The uniform, apartment like cluster of a condominium or trailer park differs from the boxes of individual residences. This gravel road only had one box, but the gravel was new. It could be a new house built by a young couple with kids. I couldn’t see the house from the road. I wondered how far it was. The gravel was a big grade stone, very loose and difficult to ride on. The going was slow. The old farm house that I finally saw was in the middle of a meadow of weeds. The house was shabby and generally unkempt. The paint was peeling off in patches, exposing a darker gray under the whiter gray. It also appeared to need a new roof. A shutter was hanging on askew by one nail. There were some good sized oak trees scattered about.

As I wheeled my bike up the dirt path to the house, about 20 yards away an elderly lady inside opened the door and sicked her dogs on me. Three little dogs came out barking. They were maybe mid calf high at the shoulder, built stocky and had short thick brown hair; could have been some kind of terrier. They had wide mouths, which translates into a strong bite. They were fierce little devils, snapping, barking and bearing their teeth. I began defending myself with my back against one of the large oaks, holding my bike out and throwing small rocks. I was able to keep them away from me, but not scare them off. The old lady just watched us from inside the screen door. Finally she called, “Go away.”

I replied “Please call off your dogs Ma’am.”

I threw the rocks, and the little dogs would retreat, just to come back. They were small and sneaky, and tried to get between the bike and the tree to get me. I’d sway the bike to and fro to repel them, but they worked like a tag team. This went on for some minutes. I was having a bad day; I was hungry, and losing my patience. My anger rose in me. I just wanted to kill one or all or these dogs. These were not real attack dogs, and I probably could have injured them if I really wanted to. Their owner just stood there. I knew she probably wouldn’t buy a book, and I just wanted to make sure she called off her dogs.

“Go away!” she repeated.

I was really pissed now. “Ma’am call off your dogs or I’ll cut their heads off and eat them for lunch.”

“I’m getting my shotgun!!!” And with that, she went back into the house.

Fuck, I thought, but replied, “Have a nice day.” I had no doubt that she would shoot, so I had yelled that I was leaving, made one last lunge at the dogs, hopped on my bike and rode off at the best pace I could manage given the gravel. Fortunately, the dogs did not follow. I never looked back. Going down that gravel road had been nothing but a hot and aggravating waste of time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle - England I

We sped back to the airport in Essen much the same as when we had arrived that morning. But the plane we boarded to go to merry old England was on British Airways. I was thinking, finally, everyone will speak English. Then the stewardess came over and asked for my beverage order and when I asked for tea, she said something absolutely unintelligible. Her pronunciation was so clipped, that I could not make out the consonants at the beginning or end of each word. It sounded like “'ah’ or 'oh’”. A nearby passenger had to lean over and say, “She wants to know whether you want your tea hot or cold?” How embarrassing.

We landed at Heathrow in no time and grabbed one of those clunky looking old black cabs to take us to our hotel for night. It was a pretty nondescript joint and the food was typical English fare; uninspired was the best you could say.

Raz picked us up the next morning for the appointment with the doctor in Oxford we were meeting. It was nice to see him again. Dr. D and I did our show for the doctor and it went well. He indicated that he would participate. Hooray!

While there, we toured the Oxford campus and I bought an overpriced sweatshirt with the Oxford University Crest. We saw the famous Blackwell’s Book store and Dr. D had to go in.

I decided to check out the Adventures of Tintin books, which were written by Herge, that I had seen on display in the Brussels airport. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

When I was a kid, my older brother always had them in French. I, not having learnt French yet, could not read them, but was fascinated by the pictures. What really intrigued me was that Tintin, a journalist who lived in Brussels, traveled all over the world (and even off the world to the moon). I think that these books fed my wanderlust early on. The books are now published in many languages, including English and I figured that I could buy some for my nieces and nephews for the holidays. I loved looking at the covers of the books. But, I was packed so light, that I didn’t want to carry books in my bag. I decided that I could order them on Amazon when I got home and that is what I did.

Then we went to the Ashmolean Museum to see their Egyptian exhibits. I am always completely mystified by Egyptian artifacts. There were tons at the Ashmolean. Vertical glass cases from floor to ceiling lined the walls and horizontal cases filed the middle of the rooms. Free standing statues dotted the rooms here and there.

Bronze Bastet

I keep thinking that real people used these artifacts long, long ago. Pots, dishes, lamps, tablets, jewelry, just so many little bits of the stuff needed for life. These people existed and lived their lives just as we do. How did they get by? What did they do? Sometimes when I look at statues of people’s faces I can imagine them as alive, even though they lived millennia ago. I am also fascinated by hieroglyphics and can stare at them endlessly. I have always wanted to visit Egypt and see the pyramids, but it has been too risky for a long time now. I bought a small mug with hieroglyphics on it for a souvenir.

It was time to hit the road again and drive to Manchester for our next potential investigator visit. We all piled into Raz’ car and off we went.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Small Town News - Cumberland Farms: Citizen Action

As you might imagine, local denizens of our fair town were not happy with the way the Planning & Zoning hearing was conducted. People started talking outside the Town Hall afterwards and a meeting was set up at someone’s house for an evening later that week. A dozen or so folks got together and formed a citizens’ group to decide what could be done next. Included in this group were Sean, the other architect, the lawyer, local business men and women, townspeople, and myself.

It was decided that we needed a letter to the P&Z to protest the early closing of the town hearing in an attempt to reopen the hearing and we would attach a petition to that letter. So, a petition was prepared that pretty much said that we were not happy with the way the town center was being planned as far as the gas station went and wanted the hearing to be reopened. The petition was signed by 350 folks over a weekend in a town with only 3,100 people. This letter and petition was submitted to the P&Z and the first selectman.

It was also decided that since the next meeting was to decide whether the project would be approved or not, we should be prepared for approval and prepare an appeal. Appeals could be filed with the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) or the state supreme court. The ZBA is free, except for time and preparation while the court is costly. We figured that it would cost as least $10,000. Names of lawyers were discussed. It was decided that both avenues would be taken.

Also, since the hearing was closed, nothing could be legally discussed with a member of the P&Z. The only option was to go to the first selectman, Joe.

Joe, a democrat, has been in office for 17 years. He is a very devoted selectman and loves the town. A true blue collar man, he can be seen plowing the streets, working as a constable, as well as applying for grants for funding. As a matter of fact, he was the second person to respond to my house when I had a seizure once. I have been very pro Joe ever since we moved here. So it was very hard for me to walk into his office to give him a piece of my mind.

This is what I told him while I looked him straight in the eye:

I have worked in a big corporation for 22 years and some of it was as a safety officer. I will tell you that if my company was looking at installing three times more gasoline adjacent to an elementary school and across from a public meeting area, I would tell them not to fool with it. It is just not safe. I don’t care what fire suppression systems they have. The zoning regulations say so. No increase of a nonconforming use within 200 feet of a school or place of public assembly. If I was this town’s safety officer, that is what I would tell you. Don’t fool with it. Have you asked your fire department about it? What do they think? It is just not safe. Not one more drop of gas there. One more drop and I remember; I will blame you.

He is a politician and dealt with it well. But I could see the look in his eyes. He heard me. But, damn him he wasn’t going to do anything about it. He told me that he wasn’t on the P&Z (which is bullshit because as first selectman he is on all such commissions) and his hands were tied. But that the P&Z lawyer was going to be there to advise them on this matter and we would both see that. He kept saying that he worried that if we drove Cumberland Farms away, who would come to our town?

I asked him to have faith in the town and others would come. My remark fell on deaf ears. I asked that we find out if the regulations would be followed at least. He said that he would be there and we would see that they were.

Other members of our group came to talk to Joe also. No one enjoyed success at all.

I had this terrible feeling that we were going to end up paying lawyers a shit load of money just to enforce the goddamn zoning regulations. Ack! Frustration!

Next: The P&Z votes and the surprise ending (?).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday Comics - Bike Boy

Click image to enlarge

When I was a kid, I used to head for the local cigar store across the street to buy comic books with my brother. It always seemed so mysterious with the smell of tobacco and all. They sure didn't have ones like these! Check out my favorite Oliver Frey's Bike Boy on Pete of Finland's archives for the month of February. (FYI - Pete would post a new sheet every day until the story was complete. So the first is there and then you need to back home and go to the archive for February and scroll down until you find the first panel. Scroll up until you find the thread of the story.) It is a long story so you will have to go forwards in time to follow it, but it will be worth it. Adults only, please.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday Fantasy - Dear Mom

Imagine I am in College:

Dear Mom,

I met this really cool guy at a parade last month. His name is Johnny and he is really fun to be with. I know you may not approve, but it is my life and I want to be with him. He has taught me all kinds of new things to do and he is so cute! Dont' you just love his eye make up? Anyway, really busy and got to run...



Thursday, July 20, 2006

Oliver Frey On Pete of Finland

One of the reasons I like Pete's blog so much is the Oliver Frey cartoons that he runs from time to time. He is running one starting today that is called The Burgler Boy. The drawing above is from one called Rogue that he ran on July 18th. Please be advised that these are for adults only. Enjoy!

Bookfield, Trucker with a Gun

So back I went out to the country. The houses here were close enough together that you could see the next one, but not so close that you would call it a subdivision. I saw that a man had just pulled into his driveway with his pickup truck and was getting out. So I began my approach as I rolled up on my bike, “Hah there, Mr. Jones…. Mah name is Sue Fairvieew and Ave been callin..”

He cut me right off by saying in a loud stage voice, “Yeah, just a minute, I wouldn’t want to leave a loaded gun around where the kids might get it.”

And with that he turned and I could see that indeed he had a just taken a handgun out of the truck and now it was in both his hands pointed directly at me. I could smell the booze coming off of him from where I was standing. Oh great, armed and drunk. I went right back to my training as if by instinct.

“I know what you mean, Mr. Jones.” I said as I stared right at him and tried to maintain my calm.

A few moments that seemed like hours passed as he stared me down before he nodded seeing that he didn’t frighten me or get any reaction at all. He said, “Yup”, or something that clever, dropped the weapon to his side and went into the house. That was when I realized how close I had come to serious injury or worse and my knees started knocking. (I now know what that means). I only remember seeing the gun’s barrel. I didn’t remember seeing any kids around that day, even though it was nice and sunny.

I tried to sell him a book and wasn’t really disappointed when he didn’t buy. I was just grateful to be alive.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle - Germany

The next day, Dr. D and I took a cab back to the Brussels airport to catch a commuter flight to Essen, Germany. The small, silver, tube like plane had one seat on either side, but the food service was really great. They had Belgian chocolates! I never would have thought. And the guy in the seat next to me didn’t want his and gave them to me!!! Yum!

The countryside we flew over was beautiful green farmland dotted with Tudor houses. We flew over a river; I think it was the Rhine that had lovely bridges and more Tudor buildings on either side. It was very picturesque. Our landing in Essen was just fine and our German colleague, Herman, whom neither of us had met before, was waiting for us in the terminal. He had just flown in from another city where he was working. Herman was quite tall, let’s just say he didn’t have to look up to see eye-to-eye with Dr. D, he was also blonde with blue eyes. He was a bit reedy and plain looking though. I was destined to get a stiff neck from looking up at them both on this leg of our trip.

We caught a cab to get to the doctor’s office in Düsseldorf and the one we got was a Mercedes. Most of the cabs were. The driver flew along at blinding speeds that were, I would say, about 90 to 100 miles per hour. The scenery whizzed by. We chatted, getting to know each other. Everything went well at the hospital and we signed up another investigator.

Then we went out for lunch. The whole menu was meat, meat and more meat. Not a green vegetable in sight. Herman translated for us. I ended up ordering something that was three kinds of pork. It wasn’t bad; it was just too much meat.

We went for a walk in historic Düsseldorf. Our first stop was a bier garten.
I don’t usually drink beer so I was cool about going there, but Herman was insistent. But I figured, when in Rome… So Herman ordered, and Dr. D and I sat down at wooden tables outside to wait for our beers.

We were served draft Hannen Alt. It was just like drinking wine; full bodied and tasty on a hot afternoon. We sat there and people watched. It was sunny and pleasant surrounded by everyone speaking German. Before I knew it I had drunk my entire beer and Herman asked if I would like another. I responded that if I had another someone would have to carry me out. Herman gallantly volunteered to carry me without missing a beat. I thanked him but deferred on the second beer and the generous offer of assistance. I wasn’t sure I could even stand steadily. I’m not much of a drinker and I hadn’t planned on downing a whole glass of beer.

Entspannen mit Hannen

We continued our walk. We went past a Haribo candy store. You know they make the gummy bears? Think of seeing bins and bins of translucent and colorful gummy worms, frogs, hearts, barrels, wheels, cars, fruits, pandas, rods, and on and on and on. I was kind of buzzed to begin with. What a trip walking into Haribo and seeing a kaleidoscope of colored candies. I think I bought some green frogs.

Next, we walked into a Steiff stuffed animal store. Steiff toys are collectibles which translates into steep prices. I was thinking to buy one for my niece, but the prices prevented me from it. (The prices on the photo are representative.) But, they are high quality items and you can tell by looking at them. Great care is taken with every stitch and quality materials are used. I enjoyed looking at them. By then my buzz had worn off.

It was time to cab it back to the Essen airport to catch a flight to Heathrow and meet up with Raz again. So, we bid fond farewell to Herman and off we went. Next stop, merry old England!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Small Town News - Cumberland Farms: The Hearing

The Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing on the Cumberland Farms Application was held in the Town Hall. The proposal, which would combine two parcels and make them less conforming than they are existing, were presented by an attorney from Cumberland Farms and a contracted engineer. Again, the proposal was to raze the entire site and construct a new convenience store with four fueling stations in front of the store.

None of the public spoke for approval.

Thirteen members of the public spoke against approval. Here is a summary of most of their comments:

One of them was Sean. Sean also wrote a letter to the P&Z, which was read into the record. His major points were: 1) the Zoning Board of Appeals has to approve a location for a gas station before any application for one is considered by the P&Z, 2) application should be denied because the property belonging to Cumberland Farms is not approved for gas station use and is within 200 feet of a school and place of assembly which is against zoning regulations, 3) the impact on Main Street traffic will be deleterious and has not been studied, 4) the design and style of the gas station will be an eyesore across from our historic town hall, 5) various health and safety issues including fueling fires, 6) pedestrian safety (little kids cross the street there to get to school), and 7) vapors around the station from fueling and cars. He went on to say that this application should have been submitted as a special permit that requires more supporting information and studies.

The response to Sean’s letter was that the traffic study was already looked at by the DOT (which it wasn’t) and wasn’t really required as the DOT classified the business as “pass by” and so no traffic study was required. There will be no change to traffic because of this station/store. Also, the P&Z has changed the regulations for the need for the ZBA to approve gas stations and as far as the gas use on the Cumberland Farms property that the zoning regulations had changed and that did not apply anymore either. (A quick check did show that the P&Z did change the regulations so that they can do the ZBA step themselves, but they had not proceeded on this matter.) To sum up, they pooh-poohed Sean’s points.

Another architect in town had prepared drawings of how the new planned gas station with 80 foot long canopy would ruin the looks of the town and especially the historic town hall. An alternative design was drawn that showed and how it could be improved with smaller canopies set apart and at angles (as was done at another local Cumberland Farms station).

A respected member of the community agreed with Sean and the architect and said that a gas station in the middle of town was a travesty.

Another citizen said that not entirely opposed to improving the site very much an eyesore, but that this gas station was way too big.

Another citizen spoke about his letter that detailed the significance of the town hall and town center and though not opposed to some improvement, the quality of these aspects must be maintained.

A lawyer in the town was not opposed as indicated by Sean or the other architect, but had concerns and hoped the P&Z would resolve the problems. He also thought that this gas station would be more like the one in the neighboring town with the small and angled canopies, not this huge station with 80 foot canopy.

The P&Z then asked Cumberland Farms why not have smaller canopies as shown in the architect’s drawings? Cumberland Farms answered that the canopies in the architect’s drawing would not work for the fire suppression equipment required or for vehicle access.

Then suddenly, with more of the public left wanting to speak the public hearing was closed by the P&Z Chair at 10:08 PM. And that was it. The hearing was over. No more chances to argue the matter at all for the public. No second hearing was scheduled as was their right. It was a done deal.

What do you think happened next?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sunday Comics - Rage & JT

Rage rescues JT

I really miss Queer as Folk. I own the whole ShowTime series on DVD. Most of all, I miss Rage and JT. I wish that the Rage movie had come to be and Justin had stayed in Hollywood and become a big time art director in movies. It would have been a dream come true for him. What do you think?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Fantasy - The Lifeguard

I was vacationing off Cape Cod and swimming on a nude beach when the surf suddenly got very rough. A rip tide formed and quickly pulled me way out into the water. Being an old beach bum, I stayed calm and went with it, then swam steadily to the side to get out of it. My sure strokes stopped when I got a walloping leg cramp. I could not control my leg at all as it spasmed. I stopped swimming and tried to massage my aching limb, but to no avail. I wasn't going to drown by any means, but there was no way I could swim all the way back to the beach the way I was. I looked up, and the life guard was already on his way out to me.

When he got to me he was very polite and reassuring. He put his strong arm across my shoulders and pulled me all the way into the beach. Once there he did what he could to massage my leg and it really seemed to help. I think I will still need some physical therapy though.

So the question now is how do I reward him? He says it is all part of his job, but I feel that reciprocity is forthcoming. Don't you?


And the winner is: BRENTON

Brenton's weekend brain thought that this was a real scenario. Silly boy! He got so hot over the photo and scenario that he posted about it here. One of his commenters knows the guy in the photo and provided his myspace address (see comments on this blog or Brenton's). Now, confusing my fantasy for reality, that's what I call a winner. Hehehe.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bookfield, The Projects

I had reviewed the map of my territory again and again. I couldn’t figure out how I was going through it so fast. I also wondered how Mary sold so many books, yet managed to have plenty of territory. Such a big area of my territory was the housing projects. If only I could sell there. Of course I had been warned repeatedly about the projects: stabbing rapist, gunfire at whites, and low delivery rates. But, what if I went there early in the morning, I thought? I couldn’t picture anyone taking a shot at me in the morning light. I decided to try it at eight in the morning one day.

It wasn’t at all far to the projects from where we were staying and I rolled there in no time flat. I decided to go to the ‘nicer’ housing projects and to stick to the units facing out of the complex. That way all I would have to do to get out is cross the street. The buildings were built at least within the last 10 years and were one storey tall and constructed of brick. Two families lived in each unit. As I rode by I noticed that all of the buildings had pretty well kept lawns. A pair of little girls with their hair in braids played on orange and yellow big wheel bikes. A small cluster of boys tossed a plastic football across the street to each other. A woman was going back into her house with an empty laundry basket, having just hung her wet things out to dry. I decided to start at her house since she was up and around. I rode up the walk and dismounted the bike.

I rang the bell and stood back a pace. Only the screen door was closed, so I saw Mrs. Jones when she came up to the door. She was wearing a pink and white striped cotton house dress and chenille slippers. Her face was of a young woman, but it was deeply lined with worry. I smiled and gave my approach. She opened the door without hesitation to let me in. I was curious because I had never been in a housing project before. The house was clean but poorly furnished. The sofa fabric was the color of golden rod flowers and was worn through on the arms. The piping was coming away from the seat cushions. Perhaps they had gotten it used. The wooden coffee table was nicked and scratched all around. An ivory colored leather bound family Bible was displayed proudly on the table. The curtains were gauzy graying pink nylon. No breeze was present to flutter them and they hung limply. The floor was bare institutional type linoleum that had seen better days. It had lost all possibility of shine after many scrubbings, I supposed. The interior was depressing, to say the least.

Mrs. Jones went to the door to call to her children to watch my demonstration. They came running obediently. Two of the children I had seen playing were hers. The little girl was precious in her braids with airplane barrettes. She was about four, I guess. The boy in a red and white striped shirt and shorts was maybe seven, and did not look happy to be called away from his play to see about any books. But, there they sat attentively; she had them trained.

I showed them the Family Bible Library set. The kids liked the color pictures and seemed genuinely interested in the books. Before I could close, Mrs. Jones asked the kids to go back outside and play. They ran out happily. She looked me in the eye and said, “Now I want them books. I want them for my kids, but I bet they cost.”

I was straight with her. “Yeah, they cost $100, but you pay when I deliver them at the end of the summer. All I would need right now is a deposit so that I can order the books.” I thought that it was important for her to make a commitment to assure delivery went well, because the sale was too easy. She seemed so agreeable, bordering on gullible.

“I don’t have any money today, but I want them books. Hold on a second.” Mrs. Jones got up and walked out of the room. When she returned she was holding a women’s black pump that had surely seen better days. “Here take my shoe as a deposit and I will pay you at the end of the summer.”

Her shoe. She wanted me to take her shoe. I couldn’t take her shoe, it wouldn’t be right. “Mrs. Jones, please keep your shoe. I can take your order without a deposit.”

“No, no. You said you need a deposit, and I want you to take me seriously. I insist you take my shoe on deposit. I want them books, and I will pay what I owe at the end of the summer. Now you make out that order.”

I wrote out the order. I still didn’t want her shoe, but how could I refuse and let her keep her dignity? I closed my order book and put the sample book back in the case. She handed me her shoe. It had a thin black leather upper, and man made sole. The toe and heel were scuffed through the finish. The leather was lined like the woman’s face, pressed that way from mileage more than time. The shoe just fit into my case on top of the books. I thanked the woman and left.

I got on my bike and rode out of the projects. I felt like a long bike ride out to remote territory would be good right about now. All I could think about was the shoe in my sales case. What right did I have to take this woman’s shoe? There was no way that she could come up with $100 by delivery week. Where was she going to get it? Would she have to cut into the food bill, the rent? Somehow it didn’t seem right to show her the books at all. Her kids saw them and wanted them and it was just one more thing she couldn’t give them.

The sale was too easy. It seemed that the woman did not have the will power to say no, even though she knew that she didn’t have the cash. I could probably make many more sales like that one in the projects today but I knew that only a low percentage would take delivery. My sales total for the week would look impressive, but would not be real. I felt guilty for trying to sell in the projects.

I just didn’t want to be in that position again. It wasn’t like barter, where someone has a supply of goods that you need, and trades them for your goods. It was humiliating to have to take that shoe from the woman. It would only be more humiliating if she gave me her children’s shoes. She might as well have for how I felt.

Who was I, this advantaged, middle class, white college kid, to shake down this poor mother of two for her money? I couldn’t live with doing it, so I never sold in the projects again.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle - Belgium

In July 1995, my boss, Dr. D and I were going to Europe together to recruit physicians to run our phase II clinical studies of a novel oncologic agent and to train our phase I clinical staff how to reconstitute the agent properly. Our plan was to visit a different city or country every day of the week. We would visit Brussels, Belgium; Düsseldorf, Germany; Oxford and Clatterbridge (near Manchester), United Kingdom; and Rome, Italy. Dr. D was very tall, about 6 foot 4 inches and goofy looking, but a nicer and funnier guy you would never meet. We had traveled together before and I was looking forward to traveling with him again because we always had a good time.

We each packed a carry on bag only and flew to Brussels from JFK on a Saturday night, business class. After clearing customs were met at the extremely clean airport in the very early Sunday morning by our colleague, who was on the project before we were, Raz.
I gave Raz a big hug; the last time I had seen him was at a big international cancer meeting in Los Angeles, California. He and Dr. D shook hands warmly. Raz was Bengali by birth, but had such a British accent that you couldn’t tell and he had been a British citizen for since he was a lad. He told me once that I would recognize him because he looked like a terrorist. He was right. He had a shock of black hair, tan face, eye glasses and a trimmed mustache and beard. He really is a sweetheart with a great sense of humor and we were instant friends from the day we met and have kept in touch. Did I mention that he brought a bag of fresh baked croissants? Now I ask you, what is not to love?

We got into his car and drove to his flat. There we met his wife Suki, who didn’t say very much but smiled a lot. They were both wonderful hosts as they served us coffee with our croissants and we planned our day. The object was to stay awake the whole day to become accustomed to the time difference. Then Raz took us to a part of town that sold antiques and we window shopped for a while. Dr. D was interested in a lamp shade that looked like a Tiffany. He went in and it was, but he reported that the shop keep wanted too much for it.

We toured around and saw the old town center:

Then we drove out to see the Atomium (the largest model of a molecule in the world):

For dinner, we went out to Les Rives du Ganges, a lovely Indian restaurant, where the food was delicately spiced. Raz said that it was the best in town for Indian food. It really was fine and some of the best I had ever had. Then he took us to our hotel. The hotel was quite modern and reminded me of Swedish furniture that I have seen.

The next day we went to the Brussels office and discussed the phase II protocol with our colleagues. It was great to see every one again and meet those who I had only spoken to on the phone. That evening we went out to a fancy Belgian restaurant and I was shocked that my menu had no prices on it. I remarked on it and was told that none of the women’s menus would have prices. At the end of the meal, the waiter came and read the dessert cheese choices to us and I repeated the names of the cheeses in French. He complimented my accent. The dinner was expensive, but not that memorable.

Next, Germany!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Small Town News - Cumberland Farms: The Application

Here is a description of the relevant section of town. The main intersection of our town is Main Street (north/south) and Route X (east/west) and there is a stop light there. Each road has a lane in each direction. Looking north up Main Street towards this crossroads, there is on the left, an empty lot that is planted and well tended and used for town events, an abandoned furniture store, Alley C which is one way to the northwest (and a shortcut to Route X), Town Hall, Route X and across Route X is a hardware store. Again, looking north from our original point, on the right is a food shopping center in a strip mall design, a pizza place, an abandoned store front, a small Cumberland Farms convenience store, a one island (2 pump) Gulf Service Station, a business oriented rented building complex, Route X and across Route X is a corner diner. Behind the gas station is an elementary school that fronts on Route X and their property lines are contiguous.

Cumberland Farms submitted an application to Planning & Zoning to take their little shop, buy the one island gas station next door, and use abandoned building that used to be a hardware store that they already own, merge all of these properties and build a 4 island (8 pump) gas station in the middle of our town and enlarge their store.

The new Cumberland Farms would be right across the street from our town hall (a historical building built in the 1880’s and a place of assembly) and border on our elementary school’s property line. The existing gas station is grandfathered to be near these two non-conforming areas since it has been there since the 1940’s. Below is the entire written portion of the Cumberland Farms application:

Proposed use is a convenience store which shall include the sale of gasoline. Property known as AA Main Street shall be conveyed to Cumberland Farms, Inc. upon approval of application. AA through AC Main Street will be combined into one parcel. All existing buildings and other improvements will be demolished. One new building along with pumps, tanks, signs, and canopy in accordance with site plans will be erected and/or installed.

The application was accompanied by 15 or so site plans and drawings showing the pumps and buildings. The P&Z worked with Cumberland Farms on these plans for a couple of months before bringing them before the town for a public hearing.

Also, there were some comments received from the Department of Transportation in a short letter as follows:

  1. The site grading & drainage plan must show the underground piping connections, inverts and drainage details.
  2. The proposed “STOP” bar location on Main Street must be 4 feet from the crosswalk. See the attached plan.
  3. An agreement will be required for the plantings within the right-of-way. This must be consummated prior to the issuance of an encroachment permit and will be drafted by this office.
  4. Pavement replacement details for the granite curbing along Main Street must be submitted.

The next installment will cover what happened at the public hearing. Any guesses?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fair View Adds New Links!

Links for blogs that I read regularly have been added to the side bar. They are:
  • Ben - San Antonio, Texas. Travels a lot for his job, very funny, takes about 15 minutes to read.
  • Joe.My.God - New York, New York. A true New Yorker, funny down to his toes as only a New Yorker can be.
  • Mike - Napa/San Francisco, California. A new blogger with promise, aka Brenton's boyfriend.
  • Pete - Finland. For when I am in that bad girl mood, he is there.
  • Phoenix - West Lafayette, Indiana. A new comer who writes like a poet.
  • Rye - Montreal, Canada. Just a blog I like to read by a nice guy with every day problems.

Another Pretty Face from Pete

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Being a Twin

When we were toddlers, my twin sister Evie and I, we used to play with the boys next door, Jimmy and Joseph, who were fraternal twins one year our junior. We used to play tag and run around endlessly as well as climb our sycamore trees. As we got a bit older, we used to play running bases, baseball and football in their yard. We also included another set of identical twin boys, Bruce and David from around the block in our games to have enough players.

When the first day of kindergarten came around Evie and I were very excited. Our first day of school! Mom took us there and as we entered the class, every ones’ mouths opened in an ‘o’ of surprise and with adoring looks they all said, “Look at the twins!”

We looked right back at them as stunned as they were and said, “Where are your twins?”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bookfield, Gregg

After that sales meeting, it was decided that Mary and Chris would return to our house separately from me. They would drive with Chip and I was going with Gregg. That was fine by me, as I had had enough of Chip lately.

Gregg drove me to where he was staying with his crew of five guys. Their place was in the center of a small town outside of Marietta and was the second storey of a storefront. It was really late Sunday evening and there were no lamps in the place, just overhead lights and the lights from the neon signs outside. With the overheads turned off, the place had an eerie glow from the neon lights outside. The five guys bedded down on cots in the front room facing the street, Gregg had his own room with a real bed. I was a bit concerned what the guys would think of me getting into bed with Gregg, so he offered to sleep on the floor. I figured that at some point he would join me in the bed, and I wasn’t wrong.

He got onto the bed and I welcomed him with a kiss. He caressed me with experienced hands that seemed always aware of just where they were and what they needed to do there. We began shedding our clothing and all the time I was getting more and more excited. He knew that I was not using birth control and he did not have any condoms. So, we had to be careful. Of course those issues never even came up with Chip.

He kissed my mouth and worked his way down my neck to my breasts. His hands went lower. Oh god, I was so horny. This was what I needed and wanted so badly; some gentle loving. He knew what he was doing; it was subtle and just right. He was erect but didn’t seem to care for his own pleasure, just mine. Just the way he touched and kissed my neck, ears, breasts, and between my legs, was like he could feel what he was doing as if he were doing it to himself. I tried so hard not to cry out or moan, so that his roommates would not hear, but I don’t think I succeeded. When I could I tried to stroke his erect cock to give him pleasure. What I really wanted was to take his cock head in my mouth and suck on its silky smoothness to reward him, but he gave me absolutely no chance at that. Finally he got me so worked up that I begged for him to put it in me. I said, “Gregg, fuck me! Fuck me! Put it in me!” I wanted him hard. I wanted to be pounded. He sat up quickly in Indian fashion, grabbed my waist and lowered me onto himself, so that he penetrated me three times hard and fast, and that was it. He drew out of me and came.

When our breathing quieted enough we slept. I’m not sure if the guys in the other room heard anything or not.


The following week, at our sales meeting, Chip cornered me and said, “So I hear you and Gregg did it. Tell me, what has he got that I haven’t?”

While I could think of many things to say that Chip would not want to hear, what I said was, “That bastard told you!” All along I had thought that he would find out; I was sort of counting on it. Though, I was sad that he did because now I would never sleep with Gregg again, as he had to be punished for betraying me. Gregg was such a good and satisfying lover. “I guess you can’t trust anyone around here.” I decided that I playing with the Parchment boys was not a good idea.

“No I guess you can’t. And you never know who your friends are either.” Then he stormed off.


The next week, Gregg and Bill came to visit us before the Sunday meeting. At bedtime, Gregg got into my bed and was waiting for me. I got in and when he came over to kiss me, I said, “I know that you told Chip about us.” He looked chagrinned, embarrassed, trapped by his own machinations. “Unfortunately, I cannot trust you again now. Please do not touch me. I hope it was all worth it.”

He sighed and asked, “Can I at least stay here in bed with you? I don’t want anybody to know that you dumped me.”

“There is no other place to sleep, or I would ask you to leave.”

“Thanks.” he whispered. We both slept without cuddling. That was the last time he came over to see me. What a shame. But, somehow I felt victorious over both of them. I had won the game. Hooray! Sigh.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Trip to Broken Arrow Nursery

Mountain Laurels in the fog at Broken Arrow Nursery

Yesterday, my sister and her husband, my brother, and Sean and I met at Broken Arrow Nursery for a get together. My sister is a zone 6 gardener, and my brother lives in the Boston area. Both are vastly superior gardeners to me. My brother is a day lily breeder and also appreciates all kinds of plants. I dabble in koi ponds as you have seen.

Broken Arrow Nursery was begun by Richard Jaynes, Ph.D., who specialized in breeding mountain laurels, in 1984. But it is a specialty and full service nursery offering all kinds of trees, shrubs and flowering plants.

Being there with my brother and sister was kind of like being on a public broadcasting system gardening show. They knowingly discussed the attributes of each plant and the care needed while mentioning its common and latin names. Sean and my brother-in-law kind of stood off to the side and sneered and rolled their eyes. I felt a bit out classed, knowing nothing about plants.

Oh well. In the past, we had bought a Japanese snow bell and a Sarah mountain laurel there that did very well.


We were there to get a mountain laurel for under one of our maple trees that created a very shady spot. We had already killed a fragrant clethra and an azalea that we had planted in that spot.


The staff advised us that our best bet was mountain laurel Nathan Hale; a good choice for the Independence Day weekend. Nathan tolerates shade well and grows stocky, while plants in deep shade will tend to grow leggy. The shrub we bought is dense and thick. We planted it this morning and it is being watered with a soaker hose as I am writing this.

Nathan Hale

Both my brother and sister bought carts of trees and shrubs. I coudn't even keep track of their purchases. You can track what my sister bought on her site. Later, we all went for lunch together. It really was a wonderful time.

"Hey man, I said water the plants! What the f**k? God, good help is hard to find!"