Friday, November 20, 2009

Wreckers of New Haven

The speed and efficiency with which the police and wreckers of New Haven move cars out of the way of the street sweepers is sometimes astounding. It has got to be the single most efficient operation in the city. I sometimes see ten or twelve tow trucks staging up over on James Street by Criscuolo Park. They are always accompanied by at least two New Haven Police Department cars and they move out with all the choreography and energy of a well-planned military operation.

I have witnessed the same precision and speed in the East Rock neighborhood, where I have seen ten cars ticketed and towed in under 30 minutes. It is truly impressive.

While I like clean streets and see the need for litter and leaves to be cleared away so storm drains can remain clear, I do have a major issue with the way the City of New Haven handles these towing operations. Others in New Haven have already reported on the woefully-inadequate posting of signs the day before these out-of-season street sweepings happen. I have often wondered how the companies that do the towing get the contracts (and thus, the spoils).

But neither the lack of notice nor the opportunity for corruption bothers me as much as the blatant and dangerous disregard for traffic laws shown by both the police and the wrecker convoys. I have not had my video camera handy when I have witnessed speeding through neighborhoods and running of stop signs, but I will be prepared next time and I will lodge formal complaints with the city and the state.

Until I catch these police-sanctioned and –led convoys on tape, doing 45 mph on the streets of East Rock, blowing through stop signs, I would like to know if anyone else has witnessed similar happenings. If so, please leave a comment here letting me know. Maybe we can affect some change somehow. I hope it will not take a bad car accident or a killed pedestrian to call attention to this problem.

The recent revelation that the officer involved in this June’s fatal crash in Milford was driving 94 mph and probably racing has made clear the potential serious repercussions of police sanctioned law-breaking. I want clean streets, but not at the cost of serious injury or death.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Going Half Hog

I went up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire last weekend for a half marathon. It was part of a commitment I made to myself last year that I would run a half marathon every three months until I die. (If you’re going to do something, you might as well go whole hog, right?) Since the promise, I have run the Missoula (MT) Half Marathon twice, the Monson (MA) Memorial Half Marathon, the LOCO Half at the Hamptons (NH), and Boston’s Run to Remember Half Marathon.

Sunday was a beautiful day, so as I waited for the race to start I sat outside stretching in the grass behind Portsmouth High School. After a while I noticed an older woman standing not so far away and, because talking to strangers does not come naturally to me, I made myself walk over and start a conversation with her. Her name was Nancy and she was running the Seacoast Half Marathon as the final leg in her goal to race a half marathon in each of the fifty United States.

We talked for twenty minutes and her story impressed the heck out of me. She didn’t once talk about her times or her pace. For her it was all about being in the race. My conversation with Nancy ended when we got the “ten minutes ‘til start” announcement. We wished each other luck and shortly after, I lost sight of Nancy. Based on the fire and zest for life she showed during our conversation, I am sure she finished and made good on her goal.

While I was running through Portsmouth, my wife, Erica, was jumping out of a perfectly good airplane three times. These jumps were part of a commitment she has made to get licensed to jump on her own anywhere, anytime. (Talk about whole hog.)

After the race, during the 200-mile drive home, I got to thinking about Nancy and about Erica and about going whole hog. And I made up my mind right there on the spot—right where I-95 gets onto I-495 up in the northeast corner of Massachusetts—that I am going to do the same as Nancy. I am going to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I can’t yet put a timeframe on the deal, but I am going to do it.

I have five states down already, if you include the full marathon I ran in Corning, New York in 2002. If you don’t count the Wineglass Marathon, then I have four states down and 46 to go. [I guess this is one of the many technical decisions I will have to make along the way. Nancy was explaining that several of her halfs went through more than one state. She had to decide if those races counted as one state or more. (She decided to count those multi-state races as only one state.)]

Well, what the heck? Here goes nothing. I hereby commit to running a half marathon in every state in the union before I die. So help me, God. I think I will call it going “half hog.” I will keep you posted.