Falmouth's blog

Joe's Phenomenal Plunge

Texting.  Tweeting.  Facebooking.  The form and substance of communication from today’s young people has evolved, to be sure.  Sometimes, when attempting to interpret the varied grunts, gasps, and guffaws from my teenage daughter, I wonder if a new language has been created. 

One of the follies of old time communicators like me, though, is in misinterpreting that digital and condensed communication for an unwillingness and inability to communicate.  When young people are walking down the street, eyes glued to a smartphone and thumbs tapping feverishly on a seemingly unmanageably small keyboard, children of the 80’s like me, who remember typing term papers on an electric typewriter and using a bound encyclopedia for research, sometimes mistake that keenness for the keyboard as an incapacity to engage in society.  Much like earlier generations could never have imagined things like emails, cell phones, and Google, our challenge today is to break out of our communication paradigm and realize that today’s young generation – tomorrow’s leaders – whether they talk or tweet – understand the value of community.

Young people – productive and phenomenal young citizens like North Falmouth’s Joe O’Connor – continue to debunk the notion of a digitally focused and uninterested generation and prove that our community and indeed our nation are in good hands in the decades to come.  I ran into Joe and his family at the new Parkside Market on Main Street last week, and, as I enjoyed a fresh Greek salad with the lovely Donna, heard about the Polar Plunge for the Troops, which occurred last weekend at Old Silver Beach.  I had heard a bit about this great event, and seen the coverage in the Enterprise, but in chatting with Joe, began to understand its origin – and why this amazing young man began his journey of giving back.

Joe told me the story of the pre-plunge days, when he was a sophomore at Falmouth Academy, and was helping assemble care packages for our troops.  “I was amazed by how many people could come together and support our troops, and at that moment I decided I wanted to do something…so I decided that a polar plunge would be a fun and exciting event to raise money for the troops,”  said this current sophomore at Catholic University in Washington, DC.  That first year, about a dozen Falmouthites and other supporters showed up with friends and family at Old Silver on a frigid January in 2010 and raised an impressive $2,600 to send phone cards, care packages and supplies to our troops overseas, and to fund scholarships for those who have returned.  The next year, as word spread of Joe’s good deeds and dedication to those prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, about thirty people dove in (literally) raised an impressive $6,500.  Last year, nearly fifty people took the plunge and more than $7,000 was raised to benefit our men and women in uniform. 

When the plungers hit the glacial waters of Buzzards Bay last weekend, they brought with them more than $8,000 in donations to benefit our fellow citizens who serve.  All this from a promising idea from a promising young man who simply believed in his community.  The community has responded.  Principal Joe Driscoll from FHS has braved the icy and unforgiving waters, and many smiling Falmouthites caught a glimpse of the philanthropic competition between Selectmen Dave Braga and Kevin Murphy.  Falmouth is at its best when it comes together for its own.  Thanks to Joe, we get to see the best in many of us.

Joe offered effusive kudos to his mom and to the Falmouth Military Support Group, and gave a salute to local CPL Curtis Frye and his National Guard colleagues for providing tents, Humvees and Old Glory whipping in the January wind. He noted that this and last year’s plunge were dedicated to SGT Matthew Gallagher, a Falmouth native whose tragic death in Iraq has been well publicized.  Wise beyond his young years, Joe’s sincerity and compassion are impressive, indeed.

He hopes to enter the United States Air Force after graduation and eventually land a job working for Uncle Sam, in policy or national security.  I vote for Joe to be protecting our national interests any day. Many thanks, Joe, from a grateful Falmouthite and a grateful American, for caring enough to do something.

So, the next time you see a young person walking and texting or talking and tweeting, before you offer a disappointed sigh or a disdainful glance, pause and say hello.  The person – the citizen – behind the smart phone may just be a leader and a community achiever like Joe.

Falmouth Police QB Ready to Score a Touchdown

“Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”  These sage and spot-on words were spoken more than two thousand years ago by the great quote-master of all time, Confucius.  The prodigious teacher and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China, he understood then what many of us strive for these many centuries later – satisfaction in our chosen profession – our life’s work. Confucius understood that for some, the daily work of a selected vocation could be drudgery and an unwelcome burden.  For the fortunate few who chose wisely and sometimes fortuitously, that daily drudgery turns into daily fulfillment.  Simple to understand, Confucius, but difficult to attain.  Those who do are held in esteem and high regard.

If he were sitting having an afternoon herbal brew at Molly’s Tea Room on Main Street, Confucius would likely smile broadly at the fortunes of Acting Police Chief Eddie Dunne.  I’m no Confucius, but having coffee recently with this 30-plus year veteran of the Falmouth Police Department made it clear to me that our current top cop chose a job he loves, and is fulfilled by the daily privilege to serve the community he calls home.  His passion for his work – and excitement about the potential of serving as Falmouth’s permanent Police Chief – were palatable during our hour long visit, where Ed took me along through the journey of his career in Falmouth – a journey that took an unexpected but welcome twist  a few years ago.

“Five years ago, I never thought I’d want to be Chief,” said the still youthful Falmouthite, as he explained with heartfelt sincerity and frank honesty that the tenure of former Chief Anthony Riello changed his outlook and perhaps, his career path.  Eddie credits Chief Riello with opening new doors and sharing concepts of inclusionary management and the importance of open communication throughout an organization, qualities that Ed himself admitted he did not always possess.  Through collaborative measures like universal staff meetings, where patrol officers and command staff alike are provided with the opportunity to have input into the organization – no easy feat in a paramilitary ensemble like a police department – Chief Riello taught Acting Chief Dunne how to be a better manager, and more importantly, opened his eyes and ears to being a better leader.

“I’m still having fun.  I’m still learning,” said Ed as we sipped and chatted at the Daily Brew,  the enjoyment and edification both signs of a manager eager to lead and ready for an expedition toward continuous improvement.  “I feel like Chief Riello took us to the ten yard line, and I want to take us in for the touchdown,” he continued with unremitting enthusiasm.  He made it clear that the good work of Chief Riello is not yet finished, and that he would like to complete that community composition.

The community appears to agree that Eddie Dunne is the man for that completion – the new quarterback indeed ready to score a TD that will put points on the board for all of our residents.  When Eddie’s appointment as Acting Chief was ratified by the Board of Selectmen, more than thirty officers showed up at the meeting, an exceptional and very public display of admiration for and fidelity to the new boss.  That sort of effort sends a strong message – to the community, to the organization, and to our local decision makers, that something is going right at 750 Main Street. In addition, the business and civic populaces have weighed in, as five past presidents of the Chamber of Commerce have expressed their backing and citizens groups from Woods Hole to Waquoit have sent messages of support to Town Hall.

Equipped with a new-found dedication to learning and sharing, grounded in a passion for his work and a love of his calling as a Police Officer even these many years later, and buttressed by an enthusiastic show of support from all facets of the Falmouth community,  Eddie Dunne is ready.  He’s ready to lead, ready to teach, and ready  to score a touchdown as the next Chief of Police.

A New Beat in the Heart of East Falmouth

East Falmouth Village, the town’s primary commercial center east of Maravista near the Davisville lights, like most village centers in town, has wandered through a journey of evolution over the years and decades.  It has always maintained its small town character and comfortable feel, although some of the tiles in this village mosaic have shifted and changed over the years.

As motivational speaker Wayne Dyer would say, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”  Some days, when driving through my old neighborhood, I look through the lens of a twelve year old, walking home from afternoon CCD at St. Anthony’s, sauntering along the sidewalk on Route 28, glancing at the beautiful library on the pond, then wondering what it would be like to have the talent to build things as I passed V&V construction.  A combination of my imagination and wonderful childhood memories then takes me right back to 1970’s and early 80’s vintage East Falmouth, with Al Martinage waving a wide smile from Family Foods as Billy Soares cleans the parking lot across the street at Jake’s Tap.  As I continue in my overalls and Zip sneakers towards my home in Fisherman’s Cove, I might catch a smile from Ben Moreland at the Dry Cleaners, or watch a bright and shiny fire engine back in at Station 5 right at the lights.  Memories like this provide a sense of place – and a love of community, as only Falmouth can.

Pulled pork rollup.No recollection, though, no mental movie replay of the village, the heart of East Falmouth, would be complete without remembering the bright red colors of Sam’s Seafood.  I washed dishes and scribed weekend breakfast orders there in my early teens, learning some lessons about customer service and teamwork that are with me today.  Since the days of Sam’s Clams, the Cape-style building on the south side of East Falmouth Highway has been many restaurants, most notably Pat’s Pushcart for a number of years, but I’ll always see the bright red booths of Sam’s when I walk in.  That is, until I walked into my former place of employ last weekend to say hello to Chris and Jon Long, the tandem of brothers and business partners who now operate Jimmy Brown’s Café at that same locale.  I then spent the next couple of hours with these two lovers of food, music, and family, and left feeling like I had reunited with a  couple of old friends.   The love and care they have shown to this place, along with first-rate food,  has created a new beat in the heart of East Falmouth.

I was greeted warmly by Jon, standing behind the well-stocked bar with an eclectic selection of beer and wine, as mom Joan also made me feel welcome with a kind smile.  As we chatted about the history of the site and its many iterations, John introduced me to his brother, pal, chef, and business partner Chris.  We sat in one of the hand-crafted wide-pine booths as I marveled at the transformation of the interior from the once-sterile fast-food plastic booths to its current warm and welcoming décor.  The passion and commitment of these brothers – to their work and to one another -  was apparent and impressive.  I heard about their long history of ventures together, from selling t-shirts on the sidewalk as teenagers, to their most recent success, a seasonal specialty hot dog joint in Dennis appropriately named the Dog House. 

BBQ bacon cheeseburger.It takes a menu and a kitchen to be a restaurant.  It takes character and personality to become a destination.  Chris and Jon have done that with Jimmy Brown’s.  As Donna and I enjoyed a fresh and flavorful pulled pork rollup as an appetizer, we savored the tangy barbeque sauce and caramelized onions as we heard about Chris’ experience as a chef in Greenwich Village, and how that influence, combined with many of his mom’s recipes, have resulted in the varied and delicious menu at Jimmy Brown’s.  Next, as I savored a phenomenal barbeque and bacon cheeseburger with homemade potato chips, I listened intently as I heard the great story of how this new East Falmouth mainstay was named.  Chris and Jon, both music fans, were engaged in a debate on the original artist of the rock and roll song “Oh Sweet Nuthin!”  When you Google the lyrics, you’ll see that the song tells the story of a fictional character, Jimmy Brown. And so it was.

There’s nothing fictional about the food and family commitment from the Longs – and something very genuine about what they’ve brought to East Falmouth Village. 

The Courage to Change

Reinhold Niebuhr, the 20th Century theologian who is widely credited with penning the unforgettable and tremendously useful words of the Serenity Prayer, was also a commentator on a wide variety of subjects, including government and democracy.  Utterances of a commonly used adaptation of his famous poem can be heard daily from bus stops to churches to classrooms.  His simple but powerful appeal, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” acts as a powerful tour de force – an everyday lesson for living a contented and appreciative existence. 

Niebuhr’s influence, though, is felt far beyond this remarkable refrain.  As one of the most significant sages and theorists  of the last century, Niebuhr, through his teachings and writings, also understood and shared an additional lesson that this courage to contribute to change, and the related – and necessary – discernment of what change is reasonable and possible, is applicable to government. 

Those of us entrusted to govern have a particular responsibility to demonstrate the courage of which Niebuhr speaks – and to work toward meaningful change.  This change is not just in the form of routine change in the mechanics of government – legislation, regulation, budgets, and personnel – but in our approach and commitment to those we govern.  Sometimes, the pressure of the multitude of issues faced by government’s leaders – at any level – can obscure that pledge of constant evaluation and change in our approach and commitment, but our responsibility nonetheless remains to return to one of the basic truths of governing – that those selected to govern are following a noble pursuit, and that they carry a solemn responsibility to value that honor in order to keep it.  Sometimes, we in government forget that, but our democracy has a wonderful way of reminding us through the citizens’ right to speak freely and openly.

Niebuhr also wisely stated that, “man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”  It is upon the analysis of the convergence of this statement and Niebuhr’s thoughts on change that I place some thoughts on the activities of the past several days related to the operation and malfunction of the much debated and discussed wind turbines near the Wastewater Treatment Facility in West Falmouth.

In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, the scheduled automatic shutdown of one of the town-owned turbines did not occur.  The negotiated peace promised by the town and welcomed by the battle-weary neighbors was shattered.  At this point, the reasons for this mechanical failure are far less relevant than the town’s response – and the related failure in that response – to capture the essence of Niebuhr’s teachings. 

Town Manager Julian Suso acted swiftly and appropriately – with a compassion and commitment to the public he serves - and offered an official and sincere apology for whatever technical glitch caused the violation of the commitment to the neighbors and ensured that a “manual” shutdown of the turbine had occurred.  Wastewater Superintendent Gerry Potamis, in a published response to the Enterprise shortly thereafter, did not demonstrate a similar commitment to the community he is entrusted to serve.   “If it’s so annoying, why does it take five hours for people to notice it’s on,” said one of the senior appointed leaders in town.  He continued his assault on the “courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference” by ramping up his public demonstration of disdain for those he serves by offering a snide jab at the neighbors. “I think it was hysteria by power of suggestion,” he noted in a comment dripping with sarcasm and drenched in disdain for people who want nothing more than service by the servants.

The backlash to this statement has been much stronger that the reaction to the turbine malfunction for a simple but powerful reason.  The turbine was an unfortunate and probably preventable mechanical mistake.  The statement was an intentional rebuke to good government and the concept of service – and an injustice to the basic truth of governing gleaned from Niebuhr’s teachings.

Now comes the time for the courage to change.  Rather than offer a further angry retort to the citizens of this community – and to this column – Mr. Potamis, a bright, distinguished and educated man with a long and honorable career at many levels of government, should demonstrate the courage to change his thinking and his approach, redouble his commitment to the concept of the honor and nobility of public service, and begin to repair the wounds opened up by his comments to already suffering neighbors.  


Resolutions for Another Trip Around the Sun

2012 was a trip around the sun chock-full of interesting and eventful occurrences here in Bartholomew Gosnold’s favorite seaside hamlet.  From talk of trash and transfer stations, to citizens banding together to break bread and grow closer as a community, to a show of civic pride with the largest collective pledge of allegiance ever seen in town,  the past year was one of making memories and moving forward – well, sort of.

As the new trip around the sun awaits, many of us make general (and sometimes unrealistic) promises to ourselves and others, affectionately called resolutions, with them vowing to do things better and improve in the new year.   In keeping with that long-standing tradition, here are some suggestions for some notable Falmouthites for resolutions they might offer – to themselves and to their community.

For the Father and Son team of Brent and Andrew Putnam – A suggestion for a resolution to make a clear and unequivocal statement to a now skeptical public that no influence was used, and no promises made, to secure young Andrew’s appointment to the Cape Cod Commission.  The very foundation of our government is trust in those chosen to lead.  When that trust is compromised, so too is that foundation.  The recent tempest that continues to swirl regarding this appointment can be quelled with such a statement.

For DPW Director Ray Jack – A plea for a public resolution to choose a Deputy Director who values and appreciates public information and respects the intelligence of citizens enough to readily share that precious commodity with the public.  Ray gets an additional suggestion to offer a New Year’s promise to embrace the notion that public servants are held to higher standard of comportment.

For newly minted Finance Director Jennifer Petit – A suggestion for a resolve to make it her paramount 2013 priority to work closely with the Finance Committee and to be open, forthcoming, and eager to engage with these most important volunteers.

For Sherriff Jim Cummings – A suggestion for a resolution to pledge another year of steady administration and seamless and sturdy leadership.  Our County House of Correction largely stays out of the news because of Sheriff Cummings’ able management.  This segment of our government was a bright spot in 2013.

For new Water Superintendent MaryBeth Wiser, a firm resolution to treat information like the water she’s in charge of - as the cherished resource it is – and a tandem resolution to return calls from reporters.  Like her boss, MaryBeth is under intense scrutiny as the calendar changes.  Here’s hoping that her commitment to communication is equaled only by her obligation to clean water.

For Cape Wind honcho Jim Gordon – a resolution to keep a steady course and to continue to work – despite the naysayers – to bring clean, renewable jobs to Falmouth and its environs.

For tireless and community committed people-lover Paul Rifkin - a resolution to continue, along with his cheerful cohorts, the new “Falmouth Eats Together” event.  Paul continues to show us that no matter what obstacles meet us individually or as a community, there is nothing more powerful than the connection between members of a community – and the bond of identity that ties them together.

For FHS Athletic Director Kathleen Burke – A resolution to work tirelessly and openly to make the dream and concept of a new athletic complex at Falmouth High School a reality.  This project has all the makings of a game-changing project that will change the quality of the venue for our student athletes for the next generation.

For Congressman Bill Keating – A resolution for another year of tireless representation of Falmouth and Cape Cod, and a commitment to continue to draw from the fountain of youth that provides his limitless energy.

And finally, for Beach Superintendent Don Hoffer – A resolution to continue to fight for fair funding for maintenance and repairs to our beaches, the lynchpin of our local economy. Don has been a steadfast and stalwart supporter of improvements and adequate financing for our crown jewels.  His fight must continue as improvements to the Ellen Mitchell bath house, Menauhant Beach and others move up in the funding queue. 

And so another year begins with great hopes and expectations for these and other civic and community leaders to strive to make improvements to our locale.  Time is of the essence, of course.  As noted American minister and novelist Charles M. Sheldon said, “Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.” 

Bringing Lance's Opus Back Home

The metaphor of light as a thing full of goodness and comfort

I’ve often pondered, well, attempted to ponder really, the sheer scale and magnitude of the speed of light.  Just think about it.  I’ve been sternly interrupted more than once on a drive home from work for exceeding the speed of traffic, besting the suggested fifty-five miles per hour by a few ticks on the speedometer, so I’m no stranger to speed.  But the leap from a relative snail’s pace of eighty (or so) miles per hour to 186,000 miles per second is nearly incomprehensible.  Perhaps that’s why light is used so often as a metaphor for something so powerful and noble.  After all, something that can travel to the West Coast and back 31 times each second is worthy of awe.

That concept, that metaphor of light as a thing full of goodness and comfort has been used in a wide variety of artistic efforts for centuries.  Cathedrals built in Europe hundreds of years ago used light through stained glass to depict some of history’s great moments. Plato’s great work “The Cave” alludes to the very existence of light as central to the development of knowledge. 

Lance Shinkle's "Provincetown side street".
In 1990 he created a Cape Copd comic book.

Falmouth artist Lance Shinkle knows all about that concept.  My first introduction to Lance was back in 1982, as I sat in wonder under starlight and a spotlight and watched this gifted artist etch a beautiful beach scene on a large stone.  The scene included the depiction of a man walking between a couple of jetties along a beautiful shoreline with a glowing sun as the backdrop, lighting the way for the man.  The man depicted by Lance was my Father.  The stone Lance so expertly and meticulously etched was his gravestone on Gifford Street.  More than thirty years later, Lance’s artwork stands as a beacon of the light shone by a short but meaningful life.

Many years after that emotional introduction to Lance’s passionate genius  in the mid-90’s, Lance, light, and I had another encounter, this time accompanied by several additional Falmouthites.  Lance’s opus, his shining masterpiece, is a hand-crafted and meticulously painted carousel, each piece lovingly carved from a block of wood and transformed by a man’s vision, passion and gift into elaborately decorated horses and other elaborate and colorful segments of this beautiful orchestra of amusement.  Working with Lance and what was and is aptly and appropriately called the “Carousel of Light,” a group of Falmouthites, including visionaries and volunteers extraordinaire Rich Sherman,  Grace Bardelis, Art Calfee and Jim Bowen worked to make a permanent home for the Carousel in Falmouth.  We identified a spot of land  behind the Weeks Block near the Chamber of Commerce (and the stinky pumping station) and enlisted the support of the then civic-minded and charitable owner, Betsey Millard, and crafted a plan to have the carousel operating as a Main Street attraction, with all of the proceeds going to cancer research.

When the seeds of good ideas are planted, some grow swiftly into beautiful blossoms, and others take some time to germinate.  Alas, the notion of the Carousel of Light in Falmouth has the potential to indeed be blooming brightly, but its time to blossom was not to be back then.  

That blossom is once again beginning to grow.  A newly revived effort to bring Lance’s opus to Falmouth is gaining momentum.  Rich, Jim and I are reunited in our sense of community and purpose, and are now joined by a multitude of light-loving Falmouthites, including Selectman Pat Flynn, Falmouth Chamber VP Mike Kasparian, public relations exec Elizabeth Sherman (yes, the undying torch of commitment to community has been passed to a new generation), Nick Kleimola of TD Bank, caring volunteers Denise and Don Terry, old friend and local insurance mainstay Don McCarthy, Suzy Bergman from the Falmouth Arts Center, and, of course, Lance. 

The goal is to have the Carousel spinning somewhere in Falmouth by the summer.  Several locations are under consideration, and donations are being gladly accepted to assist with shipping the carousel from its current location in storage in California. The carousel's dormant non-profit, 501(c)(3) status is being reactivated as I write this column.  Donations from supportive Falmouthites can be sent to: Carousel of Light, 894 Main Street, Falmouth, MA  02540. 

The committee is hard at work to have the light shining brightly in our community.  Shakespeare himself said it best:  “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”  Yes, indeed.  Regardless of whether this seed indeed grows into a blossom as I hope it will, the good deeds of dedicated locals working to fulfill the dream and vision of a remarkable craftsman is shining the light of community spirit on us all. 

Falmouth's Team - And Its Rightful Place in Our Hearts

Falmouth Commodores has seen a fair amount of internal tumult

Entrepreneur, thinker, and great American business icon Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” As simple as it sounds, that concept of progress and continued improvement is a wonderful theoretical notion, but can be difficult when played out with real life as its backdrop. In any organization, truly working together takes patience, effort, mutual respect, and a common goal. Sometimes, that working together is among the members of an entire community.

The best and the worst that Falmouth has to offer.Mike White knows all about that. As a long-time member of the Falmouth Fire and Rescue Department, Mike has seen the best – and unfortunately the worst – that Falmouth has to offer. He’s a very positive guy by nature, though, and when he’s not wearing the white of a Captain, spends much of his time volunteering his efforts to make Falmouth a better community. He helped create and cultivated a girls’ ice hockey program that thrives today. He also serves as the new Vice President of what he calls “Falmouth’s Team,” our local Cape Cod Baseball League franchise, the Falmouth Commodores.

Recently, “Falmouth’s Team” has seen a fair amount of internal tumult that has been widely publicized, distracting the team and its fans from its baseball mission. According to the Commodores though, that’s yesterday’s news. Along with new team President Steve Kostas, new General Manager Eric Zmuda, and a couple of new Board members (including this scribe), the entire organization has renewed its focus and desire to be a positive asset to the community. I attended my first board meeting last month, and left brimming with confidence and optimism that one of the finest sports organizations around is back on track and headed back to its rightful place as one of Falmouth’s true gems.

That gem will be shining brightly as the Commodores welcome new Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell to a “Hot Stove” event next month, where two of my favorite things – talking and baseball – take center stage for a night to remember. The event is scheduled for Thursday, January 10th at 6PM at the New Seabury Country Club. Newly appointed field boss of the Sox Farrell will join Commodores Skipper Jeff Trundy for some good, old fashioned baseball talk, which will include questions from the audience. Barring a second Falmouth visit from Santa himself, this evening of making memories should be the highlight of the winter. All proceeds from this event will benefit the Commodores. Additional information is available on the team’s Facebook page, or the team website at www.falmouthcommodores.com . I’ll be there, and am eager to here what’s in store for the Sox, as a lifelong fan and someone who slept on the sidewalk for two nights in 1986 to get World Series tickets. Yup. I’m a fan.

As excited as I am though, to learn about the Sox’ rebuilding efforts, I’m more excited about the efforts of Falmouth’s team to do some rebuilding – some community rebuilding – of its own. The hot stove event is just a piece of a wider effort to re-engage with the Commodores’ home base and host community. The team has recently redoubled its efforts to participate in the fabric of this great town. Board members have made a commitment to be a presence at community events, including the Chamber of Commerce, and you can expect to see Homer, the team mascot and official spreader of good will, around town.

The Commodores want to celebrate Falmouth, and for Falmouth to celebrate its team right back. President Steve Kostas, GM Eric Zmuda, and other prominent Falmouthites like Dr. Don O’Malley and Gary Rabesa, who have given of themselves and their time as volunteer directors for Falmouth’s team, agree. So do I. So come along, Falmouth, and join in welcoming back Falmouth’s team to its rightful place in our hearts.

Pageantry and Pomp - A Falmouth Tradition

The annual Christmas Parade in Falmouth

A short video of last year's parade.The Falmouth Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas Parade is billed as the largest of its kind in Southeastern Massachusetts. It should also be billed as the best, the most enjoyable, and the most jam-packed with music, merriment, and memory making.

Last Sunday’s 49th edition certainly fit that bill. It fit all of them. I had the good fortune to drive the car containing my daughter Jenna and her pal Mark Martinho, as they enjoyed their royal duties as Mr. and Ms. Clipper, Falmouth’s version of the Homecoming King and Queen. As we gathered in the parking lot at the Falmouth Mall, the faces of dancers from Miss Kim DeLalla’s perennial winner, Falmouth Dance Academy, began to brighten with excitement, despite the somewhat gloomy weather. As we got a glimpse of their enjoyable holiday offering, choreographed by long time dancers and FHS standouts Jessica Backholm and Lizzie Worrilow, Chamber guru Jay Zavala directed me, Jenna, Mark, and our convertible to our appointed spot behind Steve Edwards and the talented FHS Band, anchored by super siblings KJ and Sky Weber. As we awaited the starting bell (a jingle bell, of course), Jay introduced me to Falmouth’s newest North Falmouth hotelier, who operates a newly renovated and most certainly magnificently upgraded Sea Crest Beach Hotel. Clark Guinn was a pleasure to get to know, and I look forward to many more enjoyable visits and conversations with this engaging and affable gent.

Our ever-smiling Congressman Bill Keating stopped by to say hello, accompanied by adopted Falmouthite in a festive hat, State Rep. Tim Madden. In his time in office, Tim has made Falmouth a priority in his multi-town representation, and has become a valued voice on Beacon Hill. Not long after my holiday hello with those fine fellows, I got a visit from Acting Chief Eddie Dunne, who fits nicely into his new uniform adorned with stars on the epaulets. As the car began to inch along Rte. 28 and Jenna admonished me to stop waving at everyone and keep my eyes on the road, I had the chance to share Christmas cheer with many Falmouthites who make our town a community. FHS Senior Class President and future leader Thomas Moakley took his rightful place at the head of the parade with Town Crier/Moderator/State Rep/Good Guy Dave Vieira and Town Manager Julian Suso.

Citizen of the Year Bill Hough was full of smiles leading the parade as well, accompanied by his comely wife Monica. As I shared a warm handshake with Eagle Scout and computer guru Chris Alves who was proudly leading the eager cubs and Webelos of Pack 41, throngs of Falmouthites along the route cheered and waved at the pageantry and pomp of this Falmouth tradition. A brightly smiling Jody Shaw bid us hello, not long after former gridiron guru Gus Giardi offered a cheerful shout. A beaming Nick Bagas made the weekend trek from Bridgewater to enjoy the show, and Rocky Rodrigues was in great shape to enjoy the day. FHS Field Hockey legend Janey Norton was comfortably taking in the sights with her cheerful wife Leslie, while a few steps away, famed orator and jolly fella himself Wayne Soares offered an inspired howdy-do.

Representatives of the local constabulary Chris Hamilton, George Cabral, and Kevin Kinsella were all filled with an apt amount of cheer and good tidings, and chef-turned saint Dave Mutti looked like Santa’s personal representative on Davis Straits. As the parade wound through our downtown, amused and amicable faces continued to greet us. Former F-15 jockey and Fighter Wing Commander Don Quenneville gave a shout out, and successful scribe Ted Murphy proudly represented Falmouth Heights along the route. Barrister Rich Edes looked to be enjoying the day, while fellow Rotarian John Vidal looked contented in his winter whiskers. Proud parents Joe and Linda Martinho led a pleasant melody of accolades for their son turned King, as Main Street merchant Mark Ferreira waved from his rooftop perch. Gerry DiGiovanni looked pleased with the passing procession, and Jim and Betty Marks took a break from planning some special nuptials to enjoy the day.

The bands played, the kids danced, the floats indeed seemed to float through the air. Santa himself finished off the Christmas convoy, ending a memorable day and another version of Falmouth’s most enjoyable day. As I jumped out of the convertible and handed the keys back to the rightful owner, I looked around. Every face was beaming. Every kid was basking in the glow. Yes, indeed. It’s days like this that make our town a community.

Real Pain. Real Problems. Time for Real Leadership.

Real pain.  Real Anguish.  Real problems. Real solutions.  Real leadership

It’s been said that pain is a great motivator.  In fact, I have come to believe that the things we learn – and the obstacles we overcome – during painful and trying times can spur and facilitate great accomplishments and most certainly inspire substantial progress. 

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in close proximity to similarly sized machines, and have not felt any ill effects. Several residents of this community – our community – have endured great pain and personal suffering through the impacts of the operation of our town-owned wind turbines.  I don’t pretend to understand or identify with the pain they have felt.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time in close proximity to similarly sized machines, and have not felt any ill effects.  However, I realize that those impacts are very personalized, much like individual responses to intense heat, frigid cold, and nails on a chalkboard, so any discussion of the current state of affairs must have as its foundation a recognition that those living in proximity to the turbines have impacts that are real.  Real pain.  Real anguish.  Real problems. 

The Wind Turbine Options Process Group has done a thorough and commendable job at moving this process forward.  The news this week that most residents in the area of the turbines favor an option that would have the town purchase their homes denotes an important milestone and real progress.  The citizens, neighbors, and all involved have worked tirelessly, always through difficult, contentious, and complex issues with mutual respect and dignity.  They all deserve our gratitude, and represent what’s right with our community. 

Public policy can be messy.  As I’ve said before, it’s often like making sausage.Public policy can be messy.  As I’ve said before, it’s often like sausage making; what goes in can be pretty ugly and distasteful, but often has an agreeable result.  Many chapters in this tome have indeed been distasteful.  The real pain and real anguish felt by the residents has been open and available for the public to see.  We sometimes recoil at that which is a painful reflection of the potential of our own lives, and sometimes prefer to revert back to the comfort of our own existence.  As a community that almost always pulls together in difficult times, though, several neighbors – based solely on their roles as fellow Falmouthites – have come together to forge a solution to this vexing and complex problem.  Their work continues, but now cries out for the enthusiasm and energy and enthusiasm of a local leader to champion the cause and finish the work.

As I mentioned several months ago in this space, one such dedicated and thoughtful Falmouthite, businessman, artist, and all-around good citizen Jim Bowen shared some thoughts on this very issue. He said, “I believe that we can make lemonade out of this lemon by being bold in our thinking. I think that the town should buy the properties that are affected and create a "Town Campus". This campus would include the Town Hall, a sorely needed Police station, a new Senior Citizens Center and more. The land is centrally located in Falmouth for the public from all over town to do their business.

We could also place the RMV there and the Retirement Board among others. The present buildings for these agencies could be sold off, especially the Town Hall. I see the town hall on Main Street as potential retail space on the ground floor and apartments or luxury condos above. We could get top dollar for this property from a developer, but we could restrict its uses to those which are beneficial to Main Street. It would also open up parking for the shops.”

Falmouth needs a local leader of similar character, grit and fortitude to emerge.American religious leader and author Thomas S. Monson said, “the future will present insurmountable problems – only when we consider them insurmountable.”  Many times throughout our history, seemingly insurmountable problems – apparently overwhelming and undefeatable issues – have faced us.  It has been during those times that truly great leaders have emerged and excelled. 

President Lincoln, through sometimes sheer will, personal passion, and his everyman ability to relate to his fellow man, led this nation through its darkest days.  Rosa Parks rebuked generations of bigoted thinking and came to represent the immense power of individual courage. President Reagan stared down a dark and largely unknown adversary, and averted a potential nuclear Armageddon. 

Falmouth needs a local leader of similar character, grit and fortitude to emerge.  Who will step up and take on this seemingly insurmountable problem?  Who among us possesses the ability and willingness to seize upon the energy and hard work of the Options Group and fight for the funding and through the bureaucracy to make it happen? 

I don’t know the answer, but am laying down the challenge.   Real pain.  Real Anguish.  Real problems. 

Real solutions.  Real leadership.

Look, Listen, and Give Thanks

I wrote this column a few years ago after my friend Dave shared his wonderful and heartwarming story about how his Falmouth had made such a difference in changing his life. Dave, and so many Falmouthites like him that make our community such a special place to live, is one of the primary reasons I consider it a privilege to write this column. Happy Thanksgiving to all of Falmouth. Here is Dave's story:

As we bask in the wonderful memories (and delicious leftovers) of yesterday's celebration of that day nearly 400 years ago when near strangers celebrated their thanks together, we should all take time to ponder that for which we are grateful. You see, I have come to believe that one of the things that allows me to remain grateful - full of thanks on this Thanksgiving Day - is remembering and recounting stories about this community - our community - that keep me full of gratitude. I'd like to share one with you that was shared with me recently. It demonstrates my appreciation for Falmouth on this most thankful of days.

Fran was a hard working mom with four great kids ranging in age from 18 to 7. She and her husband had a beautiful house here in Falmouth, and had what appeared to be a storybook small town life. On a November day not unlike today, her husband left for work and never came home. He had a heart that knew few bounds when meeting others, but that could beat no longer. Fran, at 36, was left alone and in shock, wondering how she would care for her kids, never mind how to manage a Thanksgiving dinner for them. Without a second thought, her neighbor Sue, a summer resident but year-round friend, opened her home in Connecticut to Fran and her family. That Thanksgiving and the Christmas that followed were but the first of countless kind and selfless acts from Fran's Falmouth neighbors that would help keep the family together during such a devastating time. Make no mistake, the love, faith, and sometimes sheer will of Fran to stabilize her kids' lives and surround them with her boundless love were the glue that kept the family intact, but it was the love and support of neighbors, linked by geography as Falmouthites but connected by an unbreakable sense of community that helped the family thrive. And thrive they did. Buoyed by random acts of kindness ranging from free care from a local Orthodontist to visits to the house from Boy Scout leaders, to the watchful eye of caring teachers at Falmouth High, Fran's kids grew up as good kids - and became good citizens - with much having been given by the Falmouth community.

Falmouth's kindness, though, was not yet done with this family. A generation later, Fran's son Dave showed up, as he did most days, on her doorstep for Thanksgiving unstable on his feet, the result of that day's escape in a bottle that had become his only trusted friend and at the same time his mortal enemy. Dave lost his footing as he entered Fran's house for that day of thanks, resulting in a couple of broken ribs, a shattered ego, and a broken man. He needed help; his family and his Falmouth were there. Dave's journey continued, and he got the help he needed - from a new found faith and a new set of Falmouth friends who joined together in fellowship - but there he was, the same age as his dad was at his demise, sober but jobless and penniless, contemplating how he would take care of his wife and kids, never mind Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Like neighbors and friends had more than twenty years before, Falmouthites filled up Dave's fridge and a month later his Christmas tree in a selfless display of neighborly love. This time, the Falmouth Service Center and its dedicated volunteers played a part as well - and helped out with regular supplies of food and advice on keeping Dave's new way of life part of his future.

Yesterday, Fran, Dave, and all of their family, including a roomful of grandchildren, celebrated America's day of thanks - and they did it together as a family and together here in Falmouth.

When Dave recounted this heartfelt story to me I realized, as I wiped a tear from my cheek, that similar stories are all around this community - if you look and listen. So look, listen and give thanks for this day and this town - for our community - our Falmouth.