Last, Last Sunrise

A dedicated bunch; supporters of WalkingHome gathered at the Wildlands Trust headquarters Dec. 31 at 6:15 a.m. (10 degrees).

Thanks to those of you who made it to the Wildlands Trust on New Year’s Eve Morning (Dec. 31, at 6:15 a.m.) for the last Last Sunrise before my big walk begins. It was cold, but beautiful, a reminder of that first ‘last sunrise’ 5 years ago at Plimoth Plantation which was the inspiration for my upcoming walk. 

Though there were fewer people at this event, those that did not attend were representative of the best the town – and the country has to offer: people who regularly give their time and effort to causes that have as their goal the enrichment of the lives of others. 

Looking around the ‘barn’ at Wildlands Trust there were at least 50 organizations represented: the Wildlands Trust, of course, Tidmarsh Farms, Mass Audubon, The Living Observatory, the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, the Friends of Myles Standish State Forest, the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance, The Herring Pond Watersheld Association, Explore Natural Plymouth, the Plymouth Task Force to End Homelessness (the chief beneficiary of the charitable element of my walk), The Plymouth Open Space Committee, The Plymouth 400, The Six Ponds Association, Plimoth Plantation, The Network of Open Space Friends, the Plymouth Area League of Women Voters, the Massachusetts Forest and Park Friends Network… the list goes on, and on. 

I am walking 3,300 miles (give or take), but these people have gone much further on behalf of important charities and non-profits and I was humbled to be among them… 

And it was a lot of fun too. A lot of good things to eat. A great way to start the day, the year, and the days leading to my departure. 

Special thanks to Karen Grey for opening up at 5:45 a.m., making the coffee and being such an amazing host. In a very short time Wildlands Trust has become one of the most important organizations in town and Karen’s hard work, attention to detail and dedication to the mission of WT has been key.

If you were there, again, thank you. If you were not able to make it, I share this with you so that you see that I am earnestly striving  to make WalkingHome representative of the spirit of the community that inspired me.

Please take a moment to think of the challenges I will face and of any individual, organization or technology that help me overcome those obstacles. 

Thanks again, Frank

Charlton to Plymouth: MiniWalk test goes… pretty well.

About 75 miles, on foot, over seven days and six nights through 18 towns.
Charlton, Oxford and Sutton on the first. Northbridge, Uxbridge and Mendon the second. Bellingham, Franklin, sleeping in Wrentham on the third. The fourth took me to South Foxboro, Mansfield, Easton and West Bridgewater. The fifth East Bridgewater, Halifax and Plympton. And after all that walking all that was left was Kingston and Plymouth.
“This,” the reassuring voice on television says, “was a test.”
A test not of the emergency broadcast network but of boots and socks and tent and bag, and of strategy and philosophy.
I felt the need to test my theories and myself before I began WalkingHome, my 3,650 mile cross-country walk next year.
I learned a lot.

My boots are too stiff, I concluded after 20 miles or so of pavement pounding.
My tent is just fine, it springs up in a minute, breaks down in the darkness.
My bag, though mummy-shaped and down-filled, was not warm enough to keep me from shivering in 20 degree weather.
The strategy?
My plan for the big walk has always been to walk 10-12 miles a day and to depend on the kindness of strangers for a place to sleep.
I assumed the distance would be easy and that, if I made the right connections perhaps as many as half of my nights would be spent under a roof.
The hilly towns of Charlton, Oxford and Sutton took more effort that I had anticipated but, as I moved southeast a dozen miles or more were easily traversed in the available daylight.
The only roof I saw though was the star-filled sky.
On the first night it couldn’t be helped. I saw no one as I walked, spoke with no one, and ended up in the middle of nowhere.
I slept in Sutton State Forest, far enough off the road to be hidden from view, close enough to be concerned with discovery.
I slept fitfully that first night – aware of every slap of leaf and snap of branch, woke at first light and ate a cold breakfast of trail mix and was walking again by 7 a.m.
At its most basic my philosophy is that if you reach out someone will always be there. If you fall someone will catch you. And if all else fails, what the hell, you tried.
My most valuable lesson was probably that I need to find new ways to reach out as I walk.
Near noon on the second day, in West Sutton, I heard music and saw that it came from a plain, white church off what they call the Central Turnpike.
I sat on an elevated deck that encircled the church and got out my trail mix but was interrupted by the greeting of a young man who turned out to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutton.
After a short rest I walked on and in the early afternoon I came up a mild rise through the woods on Hartford Avenue West and found myself staring at an immense expanse of trucks and cars.
I had reached Mendon, and Imperial Cars.
It was getting late so I scoured the map for a safe, forested spot and found a campsite in a dollop of woods between the massive auto mall and a youth baseball field.
The season was against me.
Before it was dark – not much later than 4 – I had to have my tent up and, often asleep soon after the sun set, would often awaken after several hours of sleep to discover it was only 9 p.m.
Those were long, long nights.
The kindness of strangers? There were few to meet on the street. Over the entire week – apart from pedestrians in urban areas – I came across no walkers, just a few bicyclists, and no place where I saw people congregating, save for churches and coffee shops.
It seemed a kind of engineered conspiracy.
Our byways are by design empty of walkers. I walked miles and miles of tar and concrete with oftentimes only a foot-wide space between the traffic and the guardrail.
The metaphor of roads as veins and arteries, pumping the blood of civilization doesn’t hold true. Seen on foot most roads are hard and inflexible like scar tissue, interrupting other, natural flows – cutting off groves of trees, strangling streams, isolating neighborhoods.
I was in search of community and, though I tried to shield my eyes with my heart I saw instead how commerce and development are so often indifferent to the needs of people.
It is often safer to travel a hundred miles by car than to walk across the street to visit a neighbor.
You’re willing to allow your children to get on a bus that stops in front of your house, but would you let them cross the street on their own?
It seemed almost an embarrassment to be on foot in this world. .
Many of the roads I walked had been recently improved, with new pavement, concrete abutments, guard rails and the like.
If those improvements included a major intersection it was required that sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly amenities be included.
I call them landing spots: concrete and steel intersections with talking crosswalks and black tar sidewalks that reach out in all directions for a hundred yards or so and then just stop, stranding any humanoids that might have been teleported there directly.
In this environment pedestrians are obstacles to be avoided, like potholes or porcupines.
Only once during the week did someone actually stop and inquire about the old man trudging along, and who could blame them.
On the third day just east of Mendon a van pulled over and a voice asked me if I was alright.
It was a young Mennonite woman, Noemi, transporting a basket of eggs, heading to her church in Bellingham.
Noemi praised my ambition and prayed for my soul and let me take her picture.
I trudged on.
After two days of walking and sleeping where opportunity – or exhaustion – presented itself I realized I could be calling ahead, calling to Town Halls, churches, the Rotary and Lions Clubs.
I was also anticipating that dusk would fall with me well within the more urban section of Franklin so I called their town hall and was referred to the zoning department (was there a zone where transients could sleep?)
Franklin’s Building Inspector Gus Brown, a former Lions Club member made a heroic effort but in the end could not find a patch of lawn that I could sleep on in the city limits.
But Brown went beyond city government and contacted the President of the local Lions Club and she sent out an email to all her members alerting them to my need.
Night was coming fast by then and I couldn’t wait so I walked on.
I walked until seven that night, took refuge for an hour in a Dunkin Donuts and around eight found myself shivering outside the grand, white spire of the Original Congregational Church in Wrentham.
The pastor let me sit in the warm church while bell ringers practiced for an upcoming holiday concert.
When the small hand bells went silent though I was told I couldn’t stay within the warm church overnight though I could use their back lawn.
I was thankful for a legal place to sleep but just as I zipped myself into my mummy bag and closed my eyes the Original Congregational Churches’ massive bell began to toll the hour: gong, gong, gong… ten times it rang.
It was a very cold, very loud night.
The next morning I roused myself from a frosty stupor and walked on and, hours later, crossing under Route 495 saw a sign for the Rotary Club of Mansfield which met “every Tuesday at 12:15 at Jimmy’s Pub.”
A warm room, an open face steak sandwich and a chance to tell the story of WalkingHome but when that interlude was over I walked on without a legal place to sleep.
I found instead a grassy knoll, just a few feet from Route 106 where a few strategically placed pine trees made me invisible to the passing traffic.
The last of Mansfield was walked in the dark, I had Easton for breakfast as the sun rose, then moved over Route 24 and into West Bridgewater where there was again just enough hospitality to sustain me.
Sitting in a cemetery on the town’s western edge I called the Town Hall where Town Administrator David Gagne took it upon himself to find a legal place where I could sleep without fear of being ousted or arrested or eaten by wolves.
Hoping for the best I walked on, into West Bridgewater, and stopped at a HoneyDew Donuts to see if they had an open outlet where I could recharge my phone, then down to 5 percent.
I walked in and slowly scanned the walls for an outlet and seeing none went right back to the road then heard, I thought, someone calling out to me.
A woman who had seen me surveying the room, thinking that I was looking for uneaten donuts, came down to the street and offered me a box of the same.
“You think I’m homeless, don’t you” I asked her, smiling.
“We’re nursing students,” she answered, not wanting to embarrass me and thrusting the donuts my way.
I walked on, encouraged, and as I reached the center of town got a call from Gagne: they had a spot for me, a conservation site, where there was a fire ring and wood and perhaps a chance to relax for the first time in four days, if just for an hour or so.
I had my first and only hot meal of the week in the woods of West Bridgewater: chicken noodle soup with chunks of sausage.
The next morning I began to feel I was getting the hang of this.
A short distance from the East Bridgewater line I found myself literally on the corner of Route 106 and “God’s Way.”
I would be on Route 106 the rest of the way, the terrain was flattening out, becoming easier to walk and more familiar at the same time.
Halifax, which I once covered for the local paper I, had an extensive network of sidewalks and benches all about town. I warmed and charged up inside their historic town hall.
I only passed through a corner of Plympton which I also once covered (they have a single polling place and an old wooden ballot counter that chimes when a vote is cast) and noted that they are now a “Green Community.”
I had covered Kingston for the Patriot Ledger long ago, later becoming the associate editor of the town’s famous ‘fish wrapper,’ The Independent Voice, so I noted the many new developments and changes in this charming village.
I stopped in and spoke with the Director of the Kingston Public Library about the role of libraries in maintaining a sense of community and then, a quarter mile later, dawdled at the marvelous little homes and landscapes at the corner of 3A and Landing Road.
I had a few hours of walking left by then but I already felt that I was home so my step was light, my eyes free to wander.
Charlton, Oxford, Sutton, Northbridge, Uxbridge, Mendon, Bellingham, Franklin, Wrentham, Foxboro, Mansfield, Easton, West Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Halifax, Plympton, Kingston… seven days, seventy-five miles, 500 photographs, 50 tweets.
The official destination was Plymouth Town Square which I reached just after noon on that Friday but before leaving that area I enjoyed a green tea chai soy latter – and a muffin – at the Kiskadee coffee house.
Leaving Kiskadee I noticed activity in front of the nearby Post Office building and, out of curiosity, I crossed the street and realized they were just about to cut the ribbon marking the completion of several years of extensive renovations to that beautiful building.
State Rep. Matt Muratore and Selectman Ken Tavares were there on the steps and Muratore called out to me, “just get back?”
Yes, I just got back. I could have driven the entire route I two hours but, walking, it took seven days.
That night was the Kiwanis’ annual lighting of the CommuniTree, decorated with more than a hundred hand-made ornaments representing some of the community organizations and non-profits that inspired me to walk the walk.
This was not that walk. This was just a test. I learned a lot.
I will need different boots, and a warmer sleeping bag, and to remember to lift my head up off the pavement and look at the sky from time to time.








I’m a Lion!

Plymouth Lions Club President Charlie Calabrese welcomes me as a member. My plan is to celebrate – and join – as many of these important community organizations as I can, both to emphasize their important role in every community, and to help me spread the word about my walk across the country.

I’m a Lion. I went to speak to the Plymouth Lions Club the other night because, somewhat selfishly, I know that they are a national organization that could help spread the word about my walk to other Lions Clubs across the country (and along the route of my walk). My plan is to speak to every charitable group in town, for the same reason. But while I waited to speak at their meeting (held in the function room at the second floor of Mama Mias on Water Street) I was reminded of what motivated me to take this walk in the first place. The Lions, and dozens of other similar organizations in town, are the foundation of true community: while most have a particular charitable focus (for the Lions it is supporting research into conditions effecting sight) their real value is in focusing our natural charitable instincts into effective action. They raise over $100,000 a year for various causes, help vision-impaired people live fuller lives, and support other worthy causes – including I am thankful, my own. This is the story I want to tell as I walk across the country: the story of human nature, and how it can be translated into caring, ultimately into community. I rambled about a bit when I first began speaking to the Lions the other night (I was a bit nervous, not realizing I was the designated “guest speaker” for the evening) but then I remembered that frosty morning 3 1/2 years ago at Plimoth Plantation. That morning that 500 people showed up to stand in the cold at 6:15 a.m. What motivated these people to show up that morning, and hold one of my 365 sunrise pictures from the preceding year? It was, I now believe, that they felt they were about to be part of a unique community event, something that celebrated the place that they had come to call home. When home calls we can’t refuse. Without home, we are just blowin in the wind. Thank you Lions, for making me feel ‘right at home.’

At the library

Maybe I’ll start around Dana Point: looks like an easier route to the desert.


I have no one on the ground in Southern California – where the walk will start – so just looking at the map (and talking to a Dana Point librarian) I’ve decided it would be better to have a more southerly departure point. In late November I shouldn’t go west on 40 (Rte 66) because that will take me through the mountains and into a bit of snow (I’m told) so I’ll head toward Blythe and perhaps make a beeline for Phoenix. The fun part is talking with local librarians. getting their insights (hopefully their support). As it turns out Sharl Heller’s mother lives in Dana Point: but that wasn’t part of the decision. That kind of coincidence though, that kind of connection will be critical. I want, and need, to have people watching out for me: alerting others to my presence.  Librarian Paula Becker, at Dana Point, was very helpful.

Join the committee!

It’s less than two years away. I have been talking about this – first to a few people, of late to anyone I meet – for over three years. Maybe I’ve been trying to convince myself, but I’m not turning back now.

In the last two or three months the reality of what I am attempting has caught up with my rhetoric. I have begun to ask for money (not as often as many people are telling me I should, but I am asking), I have formed a committtee (me and you, right?), I have set up a crowdrise fundraising site ( that will raise money for the homeless and I have come to realize that the idea has evolved from a kind of walk of appreciation for the community, to one that I hope will celebrate the full breadth of what transforms a town into a hometown.

In the time since the idea first came to me in the afterglow (or was that frostbite) of that last sunrise of 2013 when 500 of you came out at 6:15 in the morning (17 degrees) I have come to realize that its not just caring people, its not just dedicated community groups, its not just natural beauty, its not just a shared history, and its not just our unique and fragile environment that comprise community: its all of those things together.

I was going to have celebrate one person from Plymouth – and my life – on every day of the walk, all 365 days: but now I realize I want to tall every day of the walk about so much more.

I could probably talk about a different species of flora or fauna that can be found in my hometown, Plymouth, every day of the walk.

I could probably recount a different, fascinating bit of Plymouth history (if Donna Curtin helps me) on every day of the walk.

I could… but I am hearing my experienced friends telling me, ‘Frank, you’re rambling again: get to the point.”

During my mini-walk a short time ago the generosity of friends – and strangers – made a week-long hike around town into a very special experience: a hint of things to come.

They’re right of course. And the point right now, is that my goals for the walk have expanded so that even I realize I need a little help.

So from this day forward, every 4th Sunday of the month (next month is Feb., so it will be the third Sunda, the 25th) and I will host (at SEMPBA headquarters at 204 Long Pond Road) a WalkingHome committee meeting.

Starting at 3 p.m., I am inviting anyone interested in helping me make this walk a success to show up at that address and do a little work: write letters, make phone calls, contact businesses – anything you can do to help.

Of course if you’d like, you don’t have to wait until next month. In any case if you’d like to help either show up Feb. 25 or contact me through my private email (

That’s the ticket! (#3: Melissa Arrighi)

Melissa Arrighi, who just coincidentally is Plymouth’s town manager, responded to my request to be one of the “365” in a way that I hope others take note of.

The 365,  in case you haven’t been following along or paying close attention, are the friends, family members, supporters and others that I will talk about on each day of my year-long walk.

These people represent, for me, community. These people are the reason that, after 60 years, I feel I am finally at home (both in Plymouth and philosophically). Because I feel I am part of a community (ironically known as ‘America’s Hometown’) I have the confidence to take this walk, to leave my home for a year, to talk about the importance of community, to reflect on values that are above politics and – to raise funds to help take care of people at the other end of the world – wherever they live – the homeless.

I have asked many people to be one of these 365 people and, while no one has turned me down, few have responded with the kind of personal detail and honesty that Melissa has.

There is no formula. I am not looking for anything specific. But I want the 365 people from Plymouth (and my life) that I take with me, and talk about as I traverse the country, to offer up an honest reflection about what homes mean to them. There are probably 350 million variations of that story in America today, but most of us are not given to expressing these kinds of thoughts out loud, to strangers.

Please, share those feelings with me – in whatever form, using whatever words or media that you are most comfortable with. Here’s Melissa’s contribution:

Your email got me thinking and it’s been fun.   I had my sister (also my best friend) send me this great picture of the home we grew up in (West Bridgewater).  My father built this house for us and we moved in when I was three years old.  My mother really wanted an A-frame and my father didn’t want that and knew it wouldn’t fit in in West B’water.   So my mother kept looking and found a picture in a magazine that had some houses from down south and she loved one and asked if he could build it.  He said “Yup”.  He made his own plans from the picture and built it all himself – it took him about a year to build it (part time because he was a full time contractor).   My mother would drive us over when we were little, every weekend, and we got to run around and see the progress.
About 3 months after we moved in, my mother was walking downtown in West B’water center and she saw a picture of our new house in front of a realtor’s display window.  She went in to ask about it, because certainly our new house wasn’t for sale.  Low and behold, she was very flattered cuz the realtor said they wanted to show pictures of unusual but beautiful houses in Town.

It was an awesome house to grow up in.

After we’d been there only six months, my mother got a phone call from The Enterprise newspaper from “The Cousin Mary Page”.  That used to be a women’s page that had recipes and things (as my mother describes it).  Once a month they liked to write up and show pictures of a home and they wanted to do 240 South Street (our house).  It was such a cool article and I’m featured in it also (maybe I’ll show you those pictures someday – my mother has the newspaper page framed on her wall).

We owned that house from when I was three years old until three years ago.   All our holidays were there – it was a wonderful and special place.  My sister and I had matching bedrooms across the grand 2nd floor hallway from each other.  Mine was pink and purple and hers was orange and yellow.  But other than the colors, everything was identical – right down to the curtains, linens, rug.    Adorable.  And stayed that way from when we moved in until when it was sold.   ‘Lynni’ and I would put string across the hallway railings and use a clothes pin and then pull notes back and forth to each other – like a clothes line.     At Christmas, my father would tiptoe in our bedrooms at 2 a.m. and put our stockings at the end of each of our beds.  I would always wake up first and run around the hallway and across to Lynni’s room to wake her up so I could compare our stocking contents.   I’d line everything us to make sure we had equal amounts of gifts!!

I couldn’t sleep last night and I got up and thought of your email.     I remembered that I have these 2 old recipe books that I’ve always saved that came from my mother.  And I don’t even cook so the fact that I saved them makes me laugh.  Look how old they are.  And she referred to them ALL the time.  We always had dinner together at 5:30 pm sharp.   No matter what my father was doing, or what job he was on, we always sat down as a family for supper.

And finally, there’s a picture of my Ighi Walter Arrighi who I had in my life for almost 19 years and no matter where he was, my Plymouth residence, my Fairhaven house, or in my office at Town Hall, would make that place home for me.

What a beautiful and honest expression of, at least one sense of, home. Frank

Plymouth Walkabout: Who is that guy and why is he sleeping on my lawn?

Call it a taste of crazy.

Last week (Sept. 12-16) was a test run, of a sort, for WalkingHome. I walked around town, camping out on people’s lawns, and spoke with their friends and neighbors about my plan to take 365 days to walk across the country to celebrate community and benefit the homeless.

It wasn’t a particularly physically challenging week. I never walked more than 10 miles in a day. The weather was wonderful: the days warm, the nights cool. But I was still taking a big risk.

What if the people that I met on this little walk hated the idea of my big walk? What if they thought me a fool for even attempting it? How would I handle rejection after nearly two years or planning?

Monday I walked from South Plymouth to Steve Fletcher’s home on Liberty Street, about 9 or 10 miles.

I don’t know Steve very well, but he had consented to holding a pot luck supper for me on the first night of my little walk – and letting me camp out on his lawn.

The pot luck part of the evening was a winner. There were about ten dishes, from an artichoke dip to a pot of baked beans to a home-made apple cake. Then someone said, “you’re on.”

I don’t remember what I said. I only know that when I stopped talking I felt encouraged, confident, and ready to sleep out under the stars.

I do remember the Sweetsers, Donald and Cynthia, who I actually had met once before, and their ‘home’ story.

They used to live in Carver, I think, on Spring Street. Then one day a state official showed up on their doorstep and announced that they would have to move. After 40 years of promises the state was actually going to turn Route 44 into a full-fledged highway and their home was sitting in the middle of a planned off-ramp.

It’s called eminent domain, and within a year Cynthia and Don were both out of work and renting their own home, from the state.

Imagine that feeling? Imagine going to sleep each night realizing that you were sleeping in the middle of a “future exit.”

It wasn’t a tragedy, but the Sweetser’s story was an important reminder, to me at least, of how delicate the bonds are that secure us to this world. It is so easy to take for granted the roof over our heads, the shoes on our feet, the  bread in our bellies but in a moment, they can all disappear. So it is all the more important that we find other ways to feel part of something larger and, for me at least, community is key.

So there I was, during this week, in search of community or, at least, in search of a broader community.

I needed to get the word out, to other than those that I have been talking to over the past several years about my big plans, my big walk.

I also needed to make sure those whom I had already told about WalkingHome, fully understood what I intended to do.

Honestly, we are all guilty of it: when we hear about some interesting idea, invention, or individual we take in only so much, as much as we need perhaps. Or as much as we are willing to let in. That’s the explanation I prefer at least for all of the people I see occasionally who, when we run into each other, exclaim, “Hey, I thought you were gone already?”

The one constant in an otherwise evolving idea of what WalkingHome will be, has been that I will leave from the West Coast in 2018 and arrive back home, in 2019. That has never changed.

So that was a secondary purpose of last week’s mini-walkabout: to clarify my intentions.

But first and foremost I wanted to start spreading the word to other people, new people, not just people that I would necessarily interact with because of work or personal interest.

So off I went, that Monday, walking from South Plymouth, up Long Pond Road, with Steve Fletcher’s home on Liberty Street – about 10 miles away – my first stop of the week.

It feels strange to walk about the hometown that you drive through almost every day. There is so much to see that you normally just breeze by. In Plymouth one of the shocks that you’ll experience is the charm of homes, and of neighborhoods. Honestly, charm can be disarming. Charm is not something that you can detect from a speeding vehicle. At 45 miles an  hour a neighborhood is often just a tap on the brakes. At 2 miles an hour you feel the slow bend in the road, you notice the variety of attention people pay to their lawns, you marvel at the decorative shingles on 100-year old homes, you tuck up against thick hedges that beg to be peeked over, you stop in your tracks to examine stained-glass inserts on heavy oak doors and furtively view a variety of almost poetic attempts to transform seed and sod  into sacred space.

I remember – I can’t seem to forget – a magazine account that I came across when I was in high school of a newly discovered ancient city, in Pakistan I think it was, where the outlines of every home, and they numbered in the thousands, showed that they were aligned to face a distant temple. Each home was then, a temple of a sort. Sacred space.

I sense that same intent, when I walk, in a hundred otherwise disconnected homes; sense at least the attempt to align with something greater.

Frosts’ “Mending Walls” comes to mind. Something there is that doesn’t love a yard, or a fence, or a walk of irregular slate stones that has been overwhelmed by grass: each yard in its own way seeks privacy, and each inevitably will fail to achieve that.

Oh hell, I’ve wandered a bit ‘afield’ here. I think I mean simply to say that I love walking through town, and seeing or sensing neighborhood or the desire for neighborhood.

When I am on my walk, when I am WalkingHome, I want to talk about your home, and your neighborhood, and reflect on the things we have in common – the beauty that we share – or where that beauty or neighborhood or home or desire for connection is denied.

I need to acknowledge how fortunate I am. I have home, and family, and a meaningful life and the awareness that at the other end of town – metaphorically speaking – there are those utterly without.

I am WalkingHome to that as well, and trying to raise funds to limit, as much as is possible, the numbers of those who live at that other end.

And so, on the first day, I came to Town Square where, if you just open your eyes you will see several benches worth of homeless, many of whom I know from my nights ‘chaperoning’ at the Task Force’s shelters.

It is worth noting that on this day at least, with everything I need (tent, sleeping  bag, snacks, fresh underwear, and electronic devices) stuffed into my backpack that a passerby would say that there is hardly a whisker’s difference between myself and the homeless men and women I see waiting with me.

We’re all killing time. I have arrived too early. I am only an hour or so walk from Steve’s house, and it is not yet 1 p.m. so I am sitting on the steps of the 1749 Courthouse, in Town Square, looking up at the shrouded Church of the Pilgrimage, the stately First Parish church, the edge of Burial Hill.

How long, I wonder sitting here, does beauty last? If I had to sit here the entire day before, lets say, the shelter opened, how long before the crooked trees and the teeth of Burial Hill, just behind me, lost their allure? How long before the blue of the water at the end of Leyden Street began to burn into my eyes?

Not long, I think.

But I was able to move on, had a destination in mind, friendly if skeptical faces waiting for me, at Steves.

How amazing this is going to be: the full walk I mean. How amazing to cast myself into the water and expect, I do expect, for a hand to reach down and jerk me up and on to dry land. 365  times this is going to happen. From the Pacific to the Atlantic this is going to happen. With the help of family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers this is going to happen.

This is how it has to happen.

Steve’s house, and those that had gathered there to meet me, was such a confirming experience. People want me to succeed. Oftentimes their first reaction is, understandably, skepticism, but once I speak with them directly and they know that I am in earnest that skepticism quickly changes to concern. They are concerned I will be hurt.  Yes, I concede, there are risks, but they pale in comparison to the beauty I will encounter, the variety of landscapes I will traverse, the people I will meet  and (a friend of mine is chiding me to stay focused) the money I will raise to build a permanent homeless shelter in Plymouth.

I honestly believe though, that my focus on community can be as powerful a force as money, can achieve as much. I want, beyond this walk, to perhaps organize a non-profit whose sole purpose would be to highlight the contributions of community organizations and to engage more people in their activities.

When you feel you are part of community you build community. I am WalkingHome to build community here – in my adopted hometown – and to celebrate the spirit of community with people across the country. And on the way ‘home’ I hope to raise a lot of money to help the homeless.

50 words, my friend Sharl keeps saying, get your message down to 50 words. That last paragraph came close.

My week walking about town also helped me come closer.

After Steve’s (where by the way I had a decidedly easy experience as he had a canopy set up on his lawn when I arrived, allowed me to use his shower, had breakfast for me the next morning and made a donation as well) I was just over a mile from my second scheduled stop – Eileen Andruk’s apartment on Water Street – so I had more time on my hands (about 9 hrs in fact).

I decided to go to Town Hall and make my case to the Town Manager, the Town Clerk, and other town officials who I knew professionally (I am, by day, a journalist).

I actually went door to door, department to department, giving out my new WalkingHome.US business cards and explaining what I was doing wandering around town that week.

That was another affirmative experience, especially in the office of the town’s Department of Marine and Environmental Affairs, where I talked with Director David Gould – or rather – David told me how much  he knows about my plans. He’s been a great supporter of many of my activities in town and has offered to walk with me when I pass through one of his favorite places in the world, the Red Rock region of Arizona.


… I am only a day and a half into my week of sleepovers.  So stay tuned, if you’re tuned in at all, there’s more to come.




Money spoils everything!


Money spoils everything, so I guess its a good thing I have so little of it.

I’m not complaining. Having no money is good practice, for having no money.

I want you, to give me money!

I want you, to give me money!

I’ll be largely dependent on the kindness of strangers on my walk, but its those I am leaving behind that I am most worried about.

If I had no one else to worry about, I’d probably take off today. What would be holding me back?

But because I have a home, and a family, and “obligations,” I have to plan, prepare, and be sure my adventure doesn’t leave others in a bad situation.

All this is my way of announcing, ta dah, that I now have a crowd funding site.

I am using Crowdrise, largely because it was so easy to set up.

The money donated at the WalkingHome site on Crowdrise ( goes directly to my charity, the Plymouth Task Force To End Homelessness.

The Task Force is a 501c3 charity, so everything donated through them is fully tax deductible.

I will have access to those funds, to pay for expenses during my year-long walk, but everything else (and I hope its a gargantuan amount) will go to their mission of keeping people sheltered during Plymouth’s often snowy winters and establishing and managing several other “transitional” homes. I hope that enough money is donated to also get them started on a permanent shelter.

Hey Mike, your picture goes here!


Mike and I ‘messaged’ each other a few nights back. We hadn’t talked for months, maybe longer. He started it off, asking me where he could donate to WalkingHome. I kidded him that there was a special minimum donation level for bankers and, we bantered back and forth for a few minutes before signing off.

Almost immediately after getting, I’ll say ‘off the phone’ though that’s not accurate, I felt a surge of sentiment.

I’m trying to put together a list of 365 people from my life, one for every day of my walk and there was no question Mike would have to be on that list. I met him at what I now realize was a critical point in my life: that place where your sense of yourself runs into that thick hedge of other people’s reaction to who you think, or feel, you are.

I call it a hedge, because it can be either a barrier or a boundary. It can either close you in or out.

I was, what, 13 when we first met? A strange kid. An outsider by definition: a  service ‘brat’ who had never lived one place more than two years and so, both capable of making friends easily and conscious that those friendships were either temporary or tenuous at best.

We were – are – very different. Once we went to the PX (military brat for ‘store’) with my father and bought albums (music that came embedded on large 12″ oil-based discs) and then went back to his house – his brother had what was the closest thing to high fidelity equipment I had ever seen to that point – and took turns listening to our choices.

Mike had purchased a live recording of a TV special featuring the Supremes and the Tempations called, I think I remember correctly, “TCB: Taking Care of Business.” Satin smooth harmonies, poignant lyrics, danceable beats.

It was music you could listen to with the door open.

I brought back “Beggar’s Banquet” by the Rolling Stones. “Parachute Woman,” Jagger howled on one particularly raw track, “land on me tonight.”

The door shut on its own.

But Mike never shut the door on me, now matter how strange the music got.

We took turns trying out each others lives.

I played Mike one-on-one on the carport court: hacking, humping, trying to muscle him to one side or the other but always fooled by his feints, his stutter steps, his step-back set shot.

He tried to show me a few of his tricks, but I was too slow, lacked serious intent.

Mike tried a few of my games on as well. He came all the way from Maryland to hike the 19-mile trail and spend a weekend in a hut in the White Mountains for my 50th birthday.

And now, a thousand years later, a thousand miles away, with life rattling behind him like a string of cans tied to a newlyweds bumper, he is still willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, to listen to my tunes.

That’s what this is about: I’m stringing together a list of names, of places, of favorite songs. The little puzzle pieces that make you feel at home in this world. There are 1001 pieces to fit together. Mike helped me find more than a few.


Walking the hump?

The colonel, when he was a cadet, somewhere in the California desert.

The colonel, when he was a cadet, somewhere in the California desert.


I think he was 19 when this was taken, somewhere in the California desert, where he was learning how to fly in a Curtis bi-plane. That was 1942. He left the University of Maryland where he was in an engineering program, enlisted in the Army Air Corp and spent the next 35 years in the Air Force. He flew the ‘Hump’ in India, piloted an F86 ‘Shooting Star’ in Korea, was a navigator in the Berlin Airlift, was in a B52 circling the arctic during the Cuban Missile Crisis and volunteered to go to Vietnam in 1973. No wonder he was so annoyed, at times, with my brother and I and our inability to see beyond the present moment. There is so much more to tell. So much more to live up to. He was, is, so human, after all. I have no patience for fabricated holidays. I don’t send cards. The everyday, the slowly unraveling skein of life is so much grander than the petty, calculated way we celebrate the incalculable. A father yes, but so much more.