gamble on a school night

‘a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for’  – William Shedd


Spontaneity.  It was 1998.  I was a senior in high school, and it was a school night.  I was sleeping over my friends house though, and two other guys were staying over too.  My host-friend suggests that because his mom is asleep (must have been 9 or 10pm), we should take her car and drive to Foxwoods Casino.  We can have the car back before she wakes up, and even make it to school first thing in morning.  

I was never spontaneous.  I’d say I was nervous, shy, scared of the unknown, and therefore calculated and somewhat structured in my ways.  When this journey to Connecticut from Concord, NH was brought up, I probably started asking, ‘well ok, how long does it take to get there?  Do we all have enough money?  How old do you have to be to enter a Casino…to gamble?  What classes do we have in the morning, and what time do we have to be back…exactly?  And that means we’ll have to leave Foxwoods to return at blah blah blah.  I can see my friend smirking now…and telling me that none of that matters.  We’re just going.  

Somehow we actually did make it to Foxwoods and started gambling.  When we were huddled around my friend at one of the tables as he was doing well, we noticed security guards in nice suits approaching.  They split us up and asked us questions.  Mostly about our age or birth dates.  Then they told my friend to cash out on his winnings, and told us all to get lost. We got home in time to quietly push the car back into my friend’s garage, and sneak into his room as though we’d been there all night.  His mom had to know.  But she never showed it.  We went to school on maybe a half hour of sleep.  But the stories and excitement were enough to make that next day, one of the best days of my high school career.  Today, as I did that day, I can reflect on the awesome feelings of freedom, bravery, risk, adrenaline, and a sense of brotherly love that this experience created for me.  

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I wish I figured out then that spontaneity was special.  It was part of that experience.  It was central to it, and key to the everlasting memory it solidified within me.  I wasn’t at all self-aware then though.  I probably couldn’t pronounce spontaneity.  And even though I was easily influenced by others and did have fun doing crazy things in the following years, I never embraced the idea of improvising in my life.  I needed a script. 

A couple of weeks ago, I quickly grabbed a couple of snacks, some wipes, my new cheap and obnoxious mirror lens sunglasses, and Matilda, and hopped in the car without knowing where we were going.  I know…you probably do this like every weekend.  But I couldn’t think back to when I had last done it.  Kind of made me sad.  Anyway, I still live in Concord, NH.  And what I love about my geographic location is that all within about one hour away…I can drive North to the White mountains, east to the ocean, or south to the city of Boston.  All great options.  Matilda asked where we were going.  ‘I don’t know Til…we’re just going on an adventure…and we get to choose where we go.’  I told her that I was now leaning toward Portsmouth over on the coast, but then I remembered those fun books I used to read and I told her this is called ‘choose your own adventure…and you get to choose!’  She said she didn’t really want to go to Portsmouth, and wanted to go to Mother and Child, a pretty hip consignment shop in Amherst that her mom had brought her to.  So that was it!  We found a cool dress for her, played hide and seek in all the clothes, and upset one of the old employees who thought we were being too loud.  It wasn’t Foxwoods.  It was incredibly fun though. Matilda was able to choose it.  And that morning, I never would have guessed that this experience would have been in my future.  

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don’t try this at home

I noticed a huge change within myself after having a child.  Matilda has helped me learn so many great things…one of them being the ability to ’embrace spontaneity’.  Children often live in the moment.  Not reflecting on previous behaviors.  Not planning out the steps to our future.  Simply enjoying this moment.  They make quick, thoughtless decisions based on passion, desire, love.  They often don’t know the consequences of making the wrong choice, choosing the wrong person, wearing the miscalculated dress, or chomping on Nerds candy instead of an organic apple.  

Don’t let fear get in the way of being spontaneous.  Embrace the risk involved.  Acknowledge an uncomfortable feeling, but let yourself be ok there…and remember how much you can learn there.  About yourself and others.  Go on more ‘choose your own adventures’, let your kid choose their own outfit and then splash in the puddles, jump on the bed with them, and eat lots more Nerds.    

could be my favorite pic of all time


music:  One of the best guitar players in the world.  Prolific writer.  Pop, electric, or acoustic. Every album is good…including his new ‘The Search for Everything’.  John Mayer.  Click here and check this out!  

In response to Case #4-18 Concord, NH

I love the idea of renewable energy, whether it be solar, wind, geothermal, and the rest.  I pride myself on being mindful and respecting the resources available to me, my property, and the land in my close proximity.  But when I read a letter from my municipal zoning board of adjustment notifying me that a privately owned solar facility is requesting variances to allow a 54 acre, 10-mega-watt solar farm directly across the street form my house, I knew I had some thinking to do.

When I purchased my property and house, what drew me to it most was the expansive and open feel to the entire dead-end street that it rests on.  The (RO) Residential Open Space District is exactly what I was looking for, and I purchased with that in mind.  I made a choice.  By disregarding the current zoning and bylaws, my choice would be taken away.  A change to the variances surrounding me will fundamentally shift my experience with the land and the property I fell in love with.  I cherish where I live and do not want to leave.  Ironically though, if I did want to up and leave to find a new place, I’d be hard pressed to find someone who wants to live within a commercial/industrial setting, with 54 acres of solar panels as the view from their front porch.  The value of the surrounding properties (financial, emotional, intrinsic, etc.) will certainly be reduced because of this project.

The variance that concerns lot coverage within a Residential Open area specifies no more than a 10% coverage of the lot…this is for good reason.  If we consider the entire drip edge of the solar panels, that 10% coverage is far exceeded.  And by the way…we must consider the entire drip edge.  With this in mind, the natural sunlight will not be able to reach the ground underneath the panels.  The rain that falls won’t find a natural and even broadcast to the land…it will now be directed to the lowest slope of each panel, resulting in erosion of the land…land that is, by the way, already considered a flood plain for the Merrimack River.  Directly across the street from my house, on the proposed land, there is a 10-15 foot drop into the flood plain.  The idea of a commercial installation of solar panels, regardless of how green the resulting energy remains, is undermining the natural shaping and shifting our land and waterways (in accordance with each other) have been slowly making over thousands of years.  Let us not take this lightly.

Concord, NH is so unique…in that it offers an attractive and vibrant downtown setting in balance with beautiful, open and expansive rural outskirts.  Many Concord citizens have been stunned visiting my property, stating, ‘I never knew this was in Concord.  This land is amazing!  It’s so quiet and natural here.’  An unattractive, industrial eyesore, changes the entire face of the landscape on this pastoral, agricultural, and residential road.  Therefore, the view and perspective of Concord citizens changes.  We won’t be happy with what we see, and conditionally, how we treat our town…how we speak to others about it.

I have a 4 year old daughter…Matilda.  She is everything to me.  She and I use our quiet, dead-end road daily…to pull sleds on, ride bikes, and walk the dog.  Our natural behaviors such as these will unfortunately change with such a drastic change to our setting.  More importantly, as our house sits close to the road, we would be spending a majority of our day within 100 feet of this 10-megawatt solar farm.  I can not allow my daughter to be exposed to the electromagnetic energy surrounding a massive industrial installation like this.  On top of that, the radiation generated by the conversion of energy is not something I’m willing to let us be so close to.  There have not been long term studies and research done related to humans living in such close proximity to such immense and concentrated solar energy systems like this.  I won’t be able to sleep at night, knowing I allowed Matilda (a 4 year old, still in the early stages of development) and I to be the guinea pigs of such exposure.  ‘Matilda?  This is Dad telling you I love you more than anything.  I want nothing but good health and opportunities for you.  And I’m doing my best to allow for that…and protect us from this project!’  Should I plan on recording our day-to-day health, writing down any symptoms that we notice in the future, and wonder if they’re related to concentrated energy fields in close proximity to our home?  No, as a Concord resident and taxpayer, no…as a mindful father…no, I shouldn’t have to worry about that.  I truly hope you board members, you…that will be deciding the future of this case…will try to grasp onto, and understand the scope of what I just said.

As I stated at the onset, I believe in green energy.  This municipality should be considering long-term, sustainable ways to make progress within our town, and allow for the safest and most fulfilling civic engagement and appreciation possible.  This proposed case…this enormous and imposing, 54 acre, 10-megawatt, industrial installation falls far short of that delineation.

Thank you for your consideration!