The first visit was with my mother late in the summer of 1976, when I was looking at colleges and the University of Hartford was the last school we went to see.
A generation later, I realized how powerful these visits must have been for my mother. She and my father, both since passed, were about to become empty nesters.
That warm August day, we stopped halfway on our sojourn to the capitol of the Nutmeg State.
Recently, I found out that it had opened just three years prior to that first trip, but at the time, I assumed it had been there forever: The Blue Colony Diner. Exit 10 off I-84, the billboard said, and we were eastbound out of Rockland County and we were hungry so that’s where we stopped for lunch. It wasn’t much different than the diners I had grown up with in New York and New Jersey. They all have huge menus and they all have jukeboxes at each table, and they’re always bustling. But we were east of Danbury and to a city boy, this was the first visual acknowledgement of entry into New England, and this diner felt noticeably different than the ones in my metropolitan stomping grounds.
Over the years, it became a marker. I decided to go to school in Hartford (and stayed for many years afterwards) so on trips back and forth, at any time of the day or night, it was a place to stop and refuel. Visits to the Blue Colony, though less frequent, have continued these past thirty-six years, whether home was the Farmington Valley, South Florida or Vermont.
This past summer, my oldest child chose to attend Adelphi University on Long Island, and on a warm August day, as we were driving down and he was beginning this amazing new life journey, I put my emotions in check and told him two things about the trips he would be taking home to Northern Vermont. First, Ben, you get your traffic reports from Springfield, Massachusetts to Danbury, Connecticut on WTIC 1080 and from Danbury down to the city on WCBS 880.
It’s not just us radio people that know this, it’s all travelers along the Northeast Corridor. Figure out how to get to AM on your radio, select 880, then 1080, and north of Springfield it doesn’t matter because there isn’t any traffic, so turn your iPod back on.
My second bit of advice was a reminder as we drove west. Ben, remember you can stop here at Exit 10 off I-84 and refuel any time of the day or night at the Blue Colony Diner. It’s right off the highway, and you can even stop there to take a twenty minute power nap and you will be fine. It’s a marker, it’s a place to rest on your long journey. Exit 10 off I-84.
That day, we did not stop and less than two hours later, we were in Garden City, New York and my first born was starting a brand new life.
Eastbound or Westbound, the sign on Interstate 84 at Exit 10 says this:
Newtown and Sandy Hook
This past Friday, a mile from that exit, the actions of one evil man snuffed out the lives of twenty children and several remarkably brave teachers and administrators. Our hearts ache and once again, we have a discussion. Maybe this time the conversation will yield results. Maybe not. But the marker that is Exit 10 off I-84 in Connecticut is forever changed.
But here’s the thing: A discussion about guns and metal detectors in schools and mental illness only addresses the symptoms. If we truly care about our children, if this heinous event is to have any meaning, we have to get to the root causes. We need to begin to talk about things we currently ignore…things like responsibility and maturity and leadership and all those other things we have seemingly disavowed in this brave new world. Sound bites about semi-automatic weapons and fiscal cliffs obscure the real problem.
We no longer hold ourselves accountable, individually and collectively. THAT is the discussion that nobody is bringing forth. Politicians don’t do it, the clergy don’t go there, we sit in our homes distracted by our very latest 70” hi-definition techno gizmoid, enthralled by our Orwellian disassociation with reality. It’s easy.
Here’s what’s hard: To truly LISTEN to the other side, whatever the other side is, and whatever the other side says. We need to begin from a fundamental place of respect for ALL, to disavow the harmful words of the media and the politocracy, to reject the dumbing down of society. It starts by putting your ego and your agenda aside and talking to your neighbors and trying to figure out, however difficult, a new way to… community. RESPECTFULLY.
We are broken. Can it be fixed? Yes, but it requires effort and intention and awareness.
I hope we get to work.