Ah, summer in Western Massachusetts and some traditional summer topics are emerging from the back of my brain.


I have no delusions. Going to Planet Fitness three or four times a week is never going to qualify me for Ironman competitions and I admire those who can dedicate their lives to getting into the shape that would allow those activities.

I’m simply trying to make my health a little better by exercising now that I’m heading to the last round-up.
I’m sure though as you were seeing press coverage of the recent Ironman events in Springfield and the scenes of the contestants swimming in the Connecticut River.

I bet you shuddered a bit and said something like, “Not me.”

If you are of a certain age, you might remember just how badly polluted the Connecticut River was. I spent two years living in Hadley when I was a kid, in the Hockanum section of the town.

The Connecticut River was right there and my dad bought a rowboat so we could go out to an island in the middle of the river. I wanted to swim but wasn’t allowed, as the river was filthy. Across the river was a large sewer opening where raw sewage flowed into the Connecticut.

It took decades of work, which is still ongoing, but the river is much cleaner than it was in my youth. Don’t believe me? Check out connecticutriver.us/it-clean. This website shows a great number of locations that are testing sites for E. coli bacteria and shows if the river is safe for swimming and/or boating.

The biggest problem the river faces is sewage that is swept into the water by rain through Combined Sewer Overflows. CSOs are a problem for many communities along the river. Bacteria counts are elevated after rainstorms, so take precautions.

Still, when I saw the footage of swimmers coming out of the river as part of the race, I thought of the real progress that has been made in cleaning up this heritage river.


Going to be an exciting race this year state-wise and locally? Being the political junkie that I am, I hope so. The State House News Service recently illustrated that in Western Massachusetts there are only two state House open seats in the region: the 2nd Hampshire spot currently occupied by Dan Carey, who is running for Hampshire County Clerk of Courts, and the 3rd Berkshire, where William Pignatelli is retiring.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) is apparently being challenged by Sheffield resident and unaffiliated candidate Nadia Milleron, who happens to be the niece of consumer advocate and presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Locally, Springfield City Councilor Malo Brown is challenging incumbent state Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). State Rep. Kelly Pease (R-Westfield) will face Westfield Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane. Springfield resident Johnnie Ray McKnight is asking voters for their support over state Rep. Bud Williams (D-Springfield).

Some people contend the real election season starts after Labor Day, but this year, with the contest involving powerful and well-known incumbents, challengers will need to use every day this summer to establish the name recognition they desperately need.

And here’s a bit of advice to all candidates: if you’re not willing to do the work of campaigning, then you don’t deserve the seat, and that includes participating in forums and debates.

Hot dogs

Perhaps the greatest of all summer controversies rest with the magnificent American summer traditions of the hot dog. First, is it a sandwich? Go ahead for a moment and ponder.

Second, is ketchup an acceptable condiment for your dog? I recently discovered that this is indeed quite the controversy, and I consulted the experts, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. The organizations’ website, hot-dog.org, is quite explicit in how a hot dog should be dressed.

They note, “Put hot dog toppings between the hot dog and the bun. Always ‘dress the dog,’ not the bun. Condiments should be applied in the following order: wet condiments like mustard and chili are applied first, followed by chunky condiments like relish, onions and sauerkraut, followed by shredded cheese, followed by spices, like celery salt or pepper.”

If you notice, they didn’t mention ketchup here. The tomato-based condiment is apparently just for kids who don’t know better, as this rule indicates: “Don’t use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.”

There it is from the authorities, although it is bound to remain for many to be an unanswered question.
Now, what do you think? Is a hot dog a sandwich?