Some Unexpected Tears for a Glorious, Green Gal

My mom's old '55 Chevy.
My mom’s old ’55 Chevy.

My mother. The car.

No, it’s not the fragmented name of a situation comedy from the 1960s starring Jerry Van Dyke.

I’m referring to my own mother and her 1955 Chevy.

For years, the two were inseparable. Everyone who knew my mother knew her car – a classic green two-door Chevy with a white hardtop.

“Your mom still driving that green Chevy?” was always the No. 2 question people would ask me, right after the No. 1 question: “Is that your natural hair color?”

Sadly, the next time someone asks about that car, my answer – for the very first time since I was born a natural blonde – will be “no.”

The old green Chevy has been sold and is, as of last Thursday, parked someplace other than my parents’ Levittown driveway.

I’d heard Mom talk about selling the car before.  Usually after someone expressed interest in buying it – which was often.  In fact, my mother figured she’s had upwards of 50 – maybe closer to 75 – people leave notes, come up to her house or approach her in public with an offer for the old ’55.

So when I got the news last week that she’d sent Dad to the safe deposit box at the bank to dig out the title, something stirred in me.  I actually had an emotional response to the big old green hunk of steel.

I spent most of the 1970s being embarrassed by that car.  If I had to go someplace with my mom, I’d always keep an eye out for pedestrians who might recognize me.  And if I spotted one, I’d practically kiss the floorboard in my rush to get my head below the passenger side window and out of plain view.  My normal routine was to untie and then tie my shoes. Both of them.

My bonding years with that car occurred before I grew too cool to be seen in it.

For example, I was prone to earaches, so I spent a lot of time getting excused by the school nurse and picked up by Mom.  She’d drive me to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy – and then to the Acme for Mister Salty pretzels and a Tastykake. I have a lot of horizontal memories of that expansive backseat, my sore ear pressed to the green-and-white vinyl.

I know no one needs to justify the sale of a classic old car. But it had become temperamental.  Mom stopped driving it at least a year ago, after her daily trips to the supermarket were spoiled one too many times by a car that refused to take her home again.  The car had aged beyond functionality.  It had become just another old automobile – minus the mobile.

It was time.

But not before I took the opportunity last Wednesday to climb inside and pay my respects to the glorious green gal.

First thing I noticed was the exterior.  She had lost her shine. I climbed in the backseat and started playing with the ashtray cover, just like always. It still sounded the same, lifting the shiny, spring-action metal edge of the cover and – flip – letting it snap down again.  I cranked the window handle down and watched the familiar curve of window glass appear at the top.

Then I climbed up to the front seat.

I touched every single knob, turned the radio on and off a few times. When it worked, the radio always registered a faint hum first that grew louder until the static gave way to music.

I reached up and touched the ceiling.  Soft yellow dust fell, leaving a hint of my fingertip on the faded fabric.

This particular model car had a small vent window in the front – an escape hatch for cigarette smoke, I guess – with a fascinating little locking mechanism that I had forgotten about, but spent many hours of my life fiddling with.

So I sat there for one more minute, and fiddled.

I pressed the gas pedal.  I tried the clutch.  And before I got out of the car, I reached over and grabbed onto the little strap that hung off to the side near the backseat window.  My sister Jean and I never did figure out the reason for those straps.  Primitive safety belts, maybe.

We just knew there was one for each of us.  We could slip our hands inside and hang, just for fun.

Or for dear life, in the middle of a hairpin turn whenever Dad was driving.

For some reason, I was surprised by how frayed and rotted the fabric of a 40-year-old car strap could be.

But I held onto it, lingering for another second or two.  It felt like a secret handshake with a childhood friend who had grown too old too fast.

Through all of this, my youngest kids were waiting, asleep, in my car parked in my mom’s driveway.  So I slammed the heavy green door in a hurry and made a run for it. I noticed the wind was kicking up at that same moment.

And I’m glad.  Because otherwise my hair wouldn’t have flown across my face just as Mom leaned out the front door to wave goodbye, and she probably would have seen my unexpected tears, the ones that lasted the whole ride home.

Originally published in the Bucks County Courier Times, spring 1995.

Sheehan Running on Pro-Rail Platform

Why is Diane Sheehan running for Executive Council?

It’s a rail thing, something you might not understand fully unless you’ve been following along with current Executive Councilor Deb Pignatelli, a strong proponent for bringing commuter rail to Nashua and beyond.

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Diane Sheehan, a Democrat, will announce her candidacy for District 5 Executive Councilor.

Sheehan will throw her hat into the ring officially when the candidate filing period opens June 4.

Pignatelli recently announced she would not seek reelection for Executive Council, citing some minor health issues.

Sheehan, who currently serves as an Alderman At Large for Nashua, says she is ready to represent District 5.

“I was very surprised with Deb’s announcement not to run, and was approached by people who were concerned with what would happen when the rail study is completed in the fall. In the interest of what happened the last time we had someone who was unresponsive in that seat, I feel it’s important that we have someone who understands the economic opportunity rail presents and is ready to act on it, should that be what the study supports,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan was referring to former Executive Councilor David Wheeler, who lost his seat to Pignatelli in 2012. Months before the election that year Wheeler faced down some pro-rail constituents during a public meeting in Nashua, where support for a commuter line is strong.

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David Wheeler will seek to regain his Executive Council seat in District 5 in the November 2014 General Election.

Wheeler, a Republican from Milford, said over the weekend he has every intention of running again to regain his Executive Council seat, a decision he came to long before Pignatelli announced she would not seek reelection.

He also hasn’t changed his mind about the impracticality of bringing commuter rail to Nashua.

“It’s not that rail isn’t a good idea; the question is how do we pay for a project that will cost half a billion dollars, with interest?” said Wheeler.

“And then it’s going to have to be subsidized by New Hampshire taxpayers at about $10 million a year. Meanwhile, Nashua has the honor of having one of the only public transportation systems operating in the black, the Boston Express. If you pull people off the bus and put them on a train, not only will the bus be in the red, but the train will, too. It’s something we need to give careful consideration to,” Wheeler said.

Sheehan, who recently switched her party affiliation from undeclared to Democrat for this election, said she is primarily running to make sure voters have an alternative to Wheeler. She says winning the Executive Council seat would not limit her ability to serve Nashua in her role as alderman.

“I’m confident that a lot of what I’m doing on the Board of Aldermen, including work with the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, will result in some good sharing of information. Rail is a key issue for people living in Nashua. I don’t want to see it stall out again,” Sheehan said.

Wheeler said he is interested to learn the results of the rail study, but will find it difficult to get past the lack of dedicated funding to move the idea forward, should the study support that.

And besides that, he’d be surprised if the study supports bringing rail into Nashua.

“Highways are paid for by dedicated funds – the gas tax and vehicle registrations. The train has no dedicated source, other than the fare, which is predicted to be nowhere near enough. Maybe, if we see what the numbers look like to bring a train to the Pheasant Lane Mall area first, but I doubt if the train study is going to come back with any answers on how we afford to extend rail to Concord or even Manchester,” Wheeler said. “This is the fourth study, and all the answers are coming back the same.”

Sheehan says Wheeler’s resistance to the study, despite support from many constituents in Nashua – including Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, Chamber of Commerce President Christopher Williams and several sitting aldermen – simply underscores how out of touch he is with those he was elected to serve.

“[Wheeler] delayed rail for two years, and many were happy about that. But many, many, many more were not. He wasn’t even delaying rail, he was delaying having good information with which to make a good decision about rail,” Sheehan said.

Wheeler stands by his position.

“I’m in favor of baby steps. I just can’t see the whole run to Concord, which most people who are advocating this want the whole ball of wax. I just can’t see how New Hampshire an afford half a billion dollars for this. I’m sure [Sheehan] is pretty good at spending money we don’t have.”

The field for Pignatelli’s seat is getting crowded, as Republicans Steve Stepanek, of Amherst and Steve Hattmer of Hollis have both announced their intentions to run, as well as Democrat  Jennifer Daler of Temple.

Epic Amtrak Adventure: Of Virtual Friends and Facebook’s Amazing Grace

Some stories bear repeating.

Like this one, a recap of a recent day trip I took from New Hampshire to New York City and back. I’m simply reposting the short chain of events directly from my Facebook page.

Although it may read at first like any other self-involved series of Facebook posts, I urge you to read through to where the magic of Facebook takes over, at about 11 p.m. 

For me, it’s a powerful lesson on the intrinsic value of “following” the adventures of others online – even people we’ve never actually met. The connectivity we have at our finger tips, and the happy endings that connectivity sometimes leads to, is what this techno-life is all about.

And special thanks, again, to Michael Reed, for being there.

April 30, 2014 8:30 a.m. (posted shortly after boarding an Amtrak train in Boston)

tripphoto1Impromptu trip to NYC to deliver James Neil’s big suitcase … so he can move back to the U.S. with most of his stuff. Travel time: 14 hours round trip via bus and train. Son time: 5.2 hours. Long day but fun adventure.




[Quick Video]

April 30, 2014 8:45 a.m. (Posted shortly after the conductor made me smile)tripphoto2

Today I celebrate #Amtrak and this guy, the wry conductor pretending to hate his job, but really making me feel great about this ride when he rallies with a “So far, so good,” after my “Good morning,” volley. He efficiently scanned my eTicket with a gadget 10 minutes after departure. I didn’t have to stand in line, or take off my shoes. There is enough leg room for a team of horses. I have an electrical outlet next to my seat, and wifi. I carried my coffee and breakfast sandwich on and am lingering over it as we roll past woods full of resurrecting trees and meadows, a puddled ball field and bridge graffiti. I have time to think and breath and fill out my NH Employment weekly claim form. I have time to consider that life is always about the journey, staying connected, having enough gas to go the extra mile, and above all, squeezing as much goodness out of every day, no excuses.

April 30, 2014 7 p.m. (Posted shortly after boarding the Amtrak at Penn Station in NYC, one hour later than scheduled, bound for Boston).photo (2)

Whirlwind NYC adventure over. James Neil looked so young and handsome and was a good navigator. photo (3)My umbrella didn’t make it a block out of Penn Station, but thanks to Lauren Goglick for the spare. Train home is one hour behind schedule but I should make the last bus home. — with James Neil.


April 30, 2014 10:45 p.m.  [Posted after asking the conductor what time we were going to be in Boston, and realizing I would miss the last train to NH, due to the one-hour departure delay.]

Do I know anyone who is in Boston right now heading for NH? I am about to miss the last bus out of South Station.

  • Michael Reed Carol, I am landing in Logan in about an hour. Inbox me if you still need a ride.
  • Nikki Arguin I can come pick you up if you need a ride?
  • Marie-Steve Fisher if I was there I’d pick you up
  • Carol Robidoux Aw Nikki thanks. I think I am going to try and find Michael at Logan. And Marie, I know you would!!
  • Nikki Arguin Coolio! If something happens, Ill be up for awhile… just message 
  • Janine Iamunno Obviously we need to know that you made it home okay!
  • Suzanne Blanchard Hope you’re home safe!
    May 1, 2014 10 a.m. [Posted after realizing my followers were waiting to find out how my virtual SOS played out. It’s where the story goes from “eh” to EPIC, in my humble opinion.]
  • Carol Robidoux And the hero of our story is Michael Reed, who swooped in from Philadelphia, via Atlanta, and found me like a forgotten bag on the carousel of hopelessness in Terminal B at Logan Airport, where I managed to arrive after crying over spilt milk and other unidentifiable remnants of the day at a table of homeless guys hunkered down in the South Station concourse. I learned that although I missed the last bus to NH, there was still one more bus, the Silver Line, to Logan. I hopped it like a lovestruck bunny and got off at the first stop. Not knowing the details of Michael’s flight, I wandered the terminal on foot, looking for one comprehensive “arrivals” sign board to find any arriving flights from Philly. After about 30 minutes of terminal purgatory, Michael texted to say he was heading to US Air baggage claim. I hoofed it from Terminal C to Terminal B, and flagged down a young man with a name badge to point me in the right direction. He pushed me out the sliding doors and said, “Try the arrival terminal.” Minutes later, Michael was there and graciously offered to drive me all the way to Londonderry to get my car, even though he only had to go to Nashua. He said it was his anniversary, and if his wife were in a similar predicament, he’d hope that someone would show her the same kindness. My day ended on that feel-good note, 21 hours later, and in all, I’d say it was a fine ending to a great adventure.
    23 hours ago · Edited · Like · 18
  • Carol Robidoux OH, and the BIG PS is that Michael and I have never met in person, that I can recall. But we met through my job at Nashua Patch. Michael, a frequent flyer for his work, contributed some blogs on his experience at various airports, with tips and advice. We became FB friends sometime after that, and if not for my virtual SOS I’d have spent the night searching the terminal trashcans for a midnight snack with my homeless guy compadres.
    23 hours ago · Edited · Like · 13
  • Sydney Irving Wow, it goes to show you that there really are awesome people out there. Kudos to a true gentleman
  • Judy Blachek A fantastic Facebook story!
    23 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Diane Sheehan 2014-virtual hitchhiker
  • Rosemarie Rung Carol, the goodness of people always comes through, even when you cross the line into despair! LOVE THAT MICHAEL REED!!!
  • Diane Sheehan Phew, glad I accepted his friend request! Haha.
  • Lee Guerette Wonderful – the absolute provides — absolutely !
  • Michael Reed Thank you for the sweet story. It was great to finally meet you. Long appreciated and respected your work on patch. Sorry for talking your ear off 
  • Bridget Gavaghan Everman FB to the rescue! What a great story! Thanks, Michael for taking care of Cousin Carol!
  • Jean McBryar Don’t worry Michael Reed, Carol Robidoux loves it when someone talks her ear off!
  • Nikki Arguin Glad you made it home safely!
  • Carol Robidoux Nikki, thanks again for your generous offer. Nashuans are amazing!
    19 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Debbie Boland great story Carol. It is your good Karma at work !!!!
  • Linda Masten So happy that you made it home safely! I also am smiling while reading your story. Your fantastic way of writing keeps us all enchanted. Your next title in life should be author!
  • Pat Grossmith Thank you, Michael Reed, for rescuing a wonderful, kind and giving friend.


No Keno in New Hampshire

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Just having a little fun at the expense of twin antiquarians Leigh and Leslie Keno, who I interviewed once for a story about a local auction in NH.

*New Hampshire legislators killed a bill that would have allowed Keno in local establishments that serve alcohol. This has nothing at all to do with the Keno twins, Leigh and Leslie – known for their high-end auction item expertise –  or whether they will be allowed to drink in New Hampshire.

It is about the game of Keno, a lottery style casino game, and the push for a bill to bring it to NH, co-sponsored by Keith and Kelleigh Murphy, co-owners of Murphy’s Taproom here in Manchester – where alcohol is definitely served, and Liberty lovers have been known to raise a glass to such crowd pleasers as Ron Paul and Open Carry nights.

No word as to whether the Keno twins have actually ever tried to get served at local bars when in New Hampshire on the hunt for Granite State related “Buried Treasure.”

Anyway, every now and again I get such a strong visual from word play that I can’t resist, so I created the above meme, just for fun. Oh, and you can read the text of NH HB 485 here.

*Subtext: OMG – NH Senate Killed Keno! (for the South Park Fans)