View blog reactions Waiting for Speedway Fowler: July 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007



Greetings from Quebec!

English-speaking Quebec, to be exact. that may sound strange, but it's not, really. Everything west of Montreal is pretty-much English-speaking territory, and parts of the "Eastern Townships" - roughly the string of New England-y towns running from Montreal to more or less the border crossing north of Jackman, Maine, speaks the King's English as well.

The communities here look straight out of southern New Hampshire. If someone blindfolded you and dropped you in Knowlton, Quebec, you might think you were in Newmarket or Stratham or Rye. Except it's prettier. The Canadians have a thing about their lawns and walkways. B&Bs are everywhere. Farmstands. Butter-and-sugar corn. Apples (seems early in the season!).

There are differences, though. Smart cars are somewhat common here. The sports pages are full of hockey news even in July - what a cliche! and milk is sold in giant ziplock-style bags, which is vaguely unsettling and I can't explain why.

So it's vacation time and we've returned to the cottage we've rented for the past 5 years. Donald Sutherland's place is across the lake. (That makes me cooler than you, by the way.) This is our first summer without Guinness, and we all miss her terribly, but she is here with us in spirit. "Canadian Idol" is on the TV. It's hosted by Brian Mulroney's son, who's pretty irritating. The U.S. dollar is dying a slow, painful death and we vacationers in Canada have a front-row seat at the funeral. Beer is shamefully expensive, but "President's Choice" products, still sporting that weird, Reagan-esque signature logo, once everywhere in New England back in the 80's, are still ubiquitous here... and cheap. And damned good. Yay, "President's Choice"!

I was hoping to come away from here with a tape of the funniest thing I'd ever seen on TV. But it looks like it won't be happening. Last summer, clicking through the channels on the satellite service, I settled on NTV, the station out of Newfoundland. Pretty normal TV station, except for their morning news, which featured repeated traffic updates from around Newfoundland. At the top of every hour, the anchor would reel though eight or ten traffic cameras, each showing completely deserted, desolate roadways. Nobody lives in Newfoundland. There's no traffic. Apparently, this has since dawned on the NTV News Director, because the traffic cameras are out this year. I am inconsolable over this. This was comedy in its purest form. I had planned to tape a news update and post it on YouTube. It looks like it won't be happening. And the world will be a poorer place for that, dammit.

And I miss the Expos. I miss Youppi. I miss Termel Sledge. I even miss the Big O. I could take the whole family to a big league baseball game, with good seats, for $75 or $80 bucks. We did that each summer, until the Expos moved to Washington and became just another overpriced corporate big-city product. The difference between the Expos and the Nationals is all the difference in the world and each day more and more people are seeing that difference and walking away from the sham that is major league sports. There's a sea change coming and the wags in the front offices don't see it yet. The future belongs to teams like the Worcester Tornadoes and the North Adams SteepleCats and the Lowell Lock Monsters.

Well... I've drifted enough for now.


Saturday, July 21, 2007


2007 Bricklin Rally - Leominster, MA

...and a Delorean.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Krispy Kreme Fails in New England

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Giant moth on my porch tonight

What a freak of nature!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


ReGenesis comes to the U.S.

Reports say the first three seasons of the EXCELLENT Canadian Science Fiction series have been sold into syndication in the U.S. and will start airing in September. Fantastic!

Sunday, July 15, 2007


2-Minute Review: Dunkin Donuts new Iced Tea

(Okay, the video is about 4 minutes long, but the actual valued, expert opinion part is, indeed, two minutes.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007



Sunday, July 08, 2007


Spag's to be torn down

Here's the story from WBZ:

(CBS4) WORCESTER The owner of what used to be the legendary discount store Spag's is considering plans to demolish the building.
"He was the best retailer i ever met in my life," said Building 19 CEO Jerry Ellis.
Ellis is talking about Anthony Borgatti.
Borgatti was nicknamed "Spag" after his favorite dish, spaghetti. He died in 1996.
"Anytime you need anything, hardware or anything, you could come here and get it. Of course that was before Lowe's and Home Depot and all, when everything was in one spot. It was fairly-priced," said Lou Deamicis.
And that's why Ellis told his employees today he's planning to redevelop the property which could mean demolition. Plans for it include apartments, office and retail space.
"It doesn't work anymore. So that's one -- I'm not saying we're going to do it -- that's one very good possibility," said Ellis.
Ellis understands people are saddened in Shrewsbury where Spag would offer to cater the funeral reception for any town resident.
Mike White, who works at Shrewsbury Pizzeria, is one of them.
"Did it for my family, quite a few of my relatives that had passed away. Pretty much all of them," said White.
Spag and his wife Olive would fly cross-country in their plane to pick up merchandise at good prices.
They gave to the Maple Avenue recreation area, reading rooms at the public library, and presented books in memory of residents who died.
If Ellis tears down what used to be Spag's, folks around here say Shrewsbury won't be the same anymore.
It hasn't been the same since Spag passed away. Neither has the retail business.
Two of Spag's sisters and a daughter declined to be interviewed on camera today. His daughter Jean said she has nothing to say about Ellis' property.

And here's some poor-quality video of Spag's from 20 years ago:

Saturday, July 07, 2007


New England SummerNationals 2007

Friday, July 06, 2007


John Safran vs. God

Very few people in the U.S. know about this show. It's currently shown on IFC, the Independent Film Channel. Safran is funny, engaging and slightly obnoxious - but in a good way. Each week, Safran explores a different facet of religion, with unique results each time. Put it on your Tivo list.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007



Have a happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 02, 2007


Janice Harvey's Worcester Magazine Column: June 21, 2007

Where the grass really is greener
Written by Janice Harvey
Thursday, 21 June 2007
By Janice Harvey

The newly planted grass in Donna Hackett's backyard is beginning to show promise. The blades are thin and not nearly as lush as the vegetation that once grew there, but with a little TLC and a bucketful of optimism, it just might be a place where memories will be made. New memories, planted carefully over the old ones.

Growing up in Columbus Park meant knowing the name "Hackett." Three homes, all in a row, housed generations of the clan. My mother called it "the Hackett compound," a gentle poke and a nod to that other tight-knit Irish tribe located in Hyannis, the Kennedys. At the corner of Englewood and Hobson Avenue stood the three-decker where Grandpa Bill and Grandma Catherine lived. Beside them, their son Paul and his wife Blanche raised four kids, while another son John and his wife Helena brought up their own brood of five next door. Around the world, wars have been waged, hurricanes have struck, governments have been overthrown and regimes have been toppled; still, the three houses remain in the hands of Hacketts.

Behind the yards, between fences and vague boundaries we never really understood, there grew a clump of trees, weeds and snarled brush where kids could go. It was the perfect refuge — within shouting distance should your mother call you in for supper, yet dense enough to camouflage any questionable kid stuff you might consider. Half the neighborhood lit cigarettes for the first time beneath the cover of the place we called "Chop Suey," the other half explored a first kiss there. It was a not-so-secret "secret" hide-away and we loved it.

Why "Chop Suey"? Who knows? One of the adults most likely named the thicket, likening it to a bowl of mysterious tangled vegetables. For decades, Chop Suey remained untouched, providing a buffer zone between Hackettville and the outside world, our own version of The Hundred Acre Wood.

"Chop Suey was smack dab in the middle of the city, a little oasis. It was green. It had onion grass you could chew on and branches you could swing on. Raccoons, skunks and possums lived there. What kid wouldn't love it?" Donna remembers.

A curious thing called life has happened since those days when our TVs aired only three networks with the aid of rabbit ears and a roll of aluminum foil. Along the way, Donna's 26-year marriage ran out of gas. The prodigal daughter returned from New Hampshire, and after a year as an apartment dweller, began the search for permanent digs.

Months of disappointing open houses, Realtor wrangling and "Let's Make a Deal"-type negotiations led to a modest townhouse. The condo sits on Lovell Street, but the newly created lawn out back grows over what was once good old Chop Suey. Her 84-year-old dad Paul still lives in the middle house of the compound, nine years after his beloved Blanche passed away. At night, Donna can tell when Dad's burning the light over his reading chair. From her living room, she can see the window of the bedroom she slept in as a girl, and if she closes her eyes tightly, she can almost conjure the smell of a small campfire being stoked by the boys of Chop Suey. The raccoons, skunks and possums still populate parts of the brush left untouched; they have the right of way, says Donna. Onion grass still grows for the chewing.

The bulldozer doesn't exist that's powerful enough to rip up and haul away what really grew in Chop Suey. Now, instead of "Spin the Bottle," the game being played there is badminton; in the garage, there's a brand-new bocce set Donna plans to pull out of the box by Fourth of July. It won't be long before Chop Suey is once again a not-so-secret secret hide-away, and on quiet summer nights, if she listens very carefully, Donna just might hear her mother calling her in for supper.

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