Saturday was the last time that I will cover Town Meeting for the local paper. I was always excited to be there. As the years went by it became more and more difficult to sit there passively. I grimaced, I groaned, I grew impatient. I did everything but vote. I love attending meetings. I must have gone to thousands over the ten years I worked for the paper in Plymouth. Town Meeting and countless ‘Select Board’ meetings and the charter review committee: the list goes on and on. The longest meeting I ever attended may have been a COPC meeting – the Committee of Precinct Chairs – of about four hours in duration. The shortest was likely a special meeting of the ‘Select Board’ that convened in a stairwell at Memorial Hall on a weekend so that a one-day liquor license could be approved. The most memorable? So many. A Finance Committee meeting perhaps, where a long and lively debate over the merits of a change to the town’s solar bylaws was, from my perspective, a wonderful example of how a diverse committee can begin in total disagreement and find common ground through respectful debate. The meeting on the third floor at Lincoln Street when the full scope of the sewer problem was revealed. I can’t forget the wild, wild west: the meetings of the County Commissioners on Russell Street, with the two O’Briens going at it. So much of that part of my life will emerge, bubble to the surface on my walk. I will reflect on my entire life – I will have that much time on my hands – as I walk and a large, wonderful part of my life has been spent at meetings of the various entities and organizations that comprise the historic form of government in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
We might have another winner.. Quartz Hill, California – is less than 10 miles from my route through the California desert – and my friend Karen Edwards has relatives there! This is how it’s supposed to work, kind of like a mobile version of six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. And if I can hopscotch from a friend of a friend from the west coast home, doesn’t that say something about how close we all are – despite the differences the little snow forts we spend so much time building?
Who do you know along my route? You might be surprised: check it out: https://www.plotaroute.com/route/547144?units=km
ALL I CAN DO IS ASK…
Besides donations to the Task Force I’d like to get my Prius ready for my cross-country trip (www.CapeAutoService.com), some healthy trail mix sent to post offices across the country as I walk back (www.healthyappetites.com), shoes, shoes and more shoes (www.marathonsports.com/locations/plymouth), a new sleeping bag, backpack tent and the like (https://www.rei.com/stores/hingham.html), someone to get my WordPress website (www.WalkingHome.US) in shape for my walk, a list of Rotary clubs on the route that I might visit, speak at (http://plymouthrotarysunriseclub.org/), the same for Lions Clubs (www.theplymouthlions.org), everyone in town to ‘sign’ my car (ask me about it), a list of your friends and family along the way If they might take me in, feed me, fill my water bottle) (here’s my route: https://www.plotaroute.com/route/547144?units=miles) and be there at The Takeoff (www.facebook.com/events/678515259183354/).
I might even want to get a tattoo of my logo… donated of course.
Anything you can do to help, anything, would be appreciated.
I’d like to try and re-create that morning almost five years ago, when 500 or so of you showed up for my last sunrise picture of the year. The occasion this time will be my departure (by car) to California where I’ll begin the walk that was inspired by that frosty morning. (WalkingHome.US)
If you were there, or not, if you support my walk or just love Plymouth, set aside Sunday morning, November 4 for a big potluck breakfast, bon voyage, what the heck is he doing? party beginning… at 9 a.m.
Yes, I’m not asking that you show up before sunrise again: this time you can get a good night’s sleep, shower, rush off to buy (or bake) some muffins or other breakfast goodie (enough to share with the people on your left and right) and help me give WalkingHome a big send-off.
As the day draws near I am starting to see the response I hoped for happening, through donations to the Task Force to End Homelessness (https://www.crowdrise.com/walkinghome/fundraiser/frankmand), and community participation (The Plymouth schools will make my walk part of their staff wellness program this year).
What can you do – besides show up Nov, 4? Plenty. I’ll be looking for support of any kind along the way (route at: https://www.plotaroute.com/route/547144?units=km), local businesses that will put jars for donations in their stores, people willing to do any kind of fundraising as I walk, shares on Facebook.
If you go to WalkingHome.US now, and to the page “Where’s Frank Now” there is a link you can copy that will always tell you (as long as my phone has a charge) where I am. It’s on now and if you look at it you’ll see that I am writing this from South Station, waiting for a bus to Albany!
Please: this began with my amazement at feeling, for the first time in my life, that I was part of a community. I am going to walk across the country for a year to search for the roots of community. I need my community’s support.
Let me know you’ll be there: go to HERE and sign up!
(FYI: he picture above represents my sunrise pictures of 2013, and the one in the background is the first, taken at Ellisville Harbor, Jan 1, 2013.)
Here, in Plymouth, I am not a stranger.
On the road, its unavoidable, I will be ‘the stranger.’
Every home I walk by, every county I pass through, on every hillside where I put up my tent the word will go out, ‘there’s a stranger in town.” That will be the challenge, to find the right words, the right smile, the right tone of voice to put people immediately at ease.
What questions do I ask to get right to heart of the matter, the heart of community?
–Do you feel connected to your community? Do you consider this your ‘hometown?’ Do people in this community take care of each other? When you first saw me, what did you think?
I remember the reaction of a store clerk during my mini-walk last fall. I was in his convenience store less than a minute, getting a bottle of water from the back but, as I walked back towards the register I paused at a rack of newspapers.
Within seconds I felt the slap of his voice.
“Can I help you with something?”
What did he assume?
I remember seeing hand-made signs on the restrooms of Dunkin Donuts, “Out of Order,” but noticing that they were being used by the workers.
I remember being amazed that in the classic New England towns that I passed through there were so few public spaces.
I need to find a way to connect.
Imagine walking 3,500 miles and not talking to anyone along the way.
I certainly don’t see my way home lined with smiling people, reaching to slap me on the back, reaching out to welcome the stranger to their towns.
Still I am remarkably hopeful, optimistic, insane?
I plan to leave, following my route home in reverse, on Sunday morning, around 9 a.m., Nov. 4, driving northwest to Savoy, where my friend Salvy lives.
Maybe I’ll leave from the Plantation, the place where for me this all began? Maybe I’ll have a penant that you can sign?
I am going to meander a bit, taking at least ten days to reach the west coast so that I can get at least a rudimentary understanding of the challenges I will face walking back, the roads I want to avoid, the towns I want to walk through.
Please look at my route and do one of several things: advise me about a particularly lovely town, connect me to a friendly face, remark on a special pie, or festival, or scenic overlook you remember.
I don’t want to be a stranger, who does?
The Amboy Post Office, off old Route 66 in the California desert. I should be there around Dec. 19 this year: 265 miles (about 7 percent) of the way home. WalkingHome.US, https://www.crowdrise.com/
In smaller print on the banner is printed “WalkingHome,” and across the entire banner is my route across the country.
Do I have your attention?
I tend to be long-winded: my motivation for taking this walk is not reducible to 128 characters. But to gain the kind of support I need I need to have a message that’s easy to understand.
That’s probably the biggest challenge of the walk: not the steps it will take, but the gap between people’s interest (which is narrowing to tweet-sized) and the many experiences that have motivated me to take this long walk.
Yes, I hope to raise a lot of money for the Task Force and for their effort to build a permanent shelter for the homeless of the area.
But I am equally inspired by the hundreds of community organizations that exist, just beneath the surface and so often out of sight, of the public.
And not just the Rotary clubs and the Lions and the Moose and the Masons and the Kiwanis, but the many community health non-profits, and the dozens of youth sports organizations and food banks and the church groups and the environmental non-profits and on and on and on.
I feel a real commitment to spreading that gospel, to countering the divisiveness that seems to be spreading like a dark shadow over our country by showing how community-spirit is a thread you can follow back and forth across the country.
I’m pulling on that thread and, I believe, its a hundred times longer than the measly few million steps I will take following it. Community is the fabric our country is composed of. Community is the hammock I will sleep in every night.
And oh yeah, I am walking in the July 4 parade.
Look for the banner that says, “7,392,000 steps.”