Because it's a pain in the butt to find me on the Boston Globe website.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Red right arrows

Who taught YOU to drive?
The red arrow blues
By Peter DeMarco

Reader Cynthia Finney (cq) of Brookline wrote to us last week with this plea: “Can you please inform the reading public that a red arrow does not mean that you can turn on red.”

“When one is stopped on Commonwealth Avenue outbound turning right onto the B.U. Bridge, there is a red arrow indicating a stop. Drivers behind me honk and curse because I wait for the green arrow,” she wrote.

“This also happens on the other side of Commonwealth (inbound) where one turns to loop over the Pike to cross the B.U. Bridge into Cambridge as well,” read her letter. “In both cases there are pedestrians to be considered, and in the first case, other traffic that has the right of way. Isn’t a red arrow another way of saying no turn on red?”

Well, that’s what I would have said, Cynthia. Whether I stop at those lights, or another red arrow traffic light, I wait it out. But it’s my job to interview the traffic experts, not necessarily to be one. And so I called Sgt. Larry Fitzgerald, (cq) traffic supervisor for the Brookline Police Department, for the definitive answer.


Surprise, Cynthia: we’re both wrong.

“The bottom line answer is that unless there’s a sign prohibiting a turn, it’s just another red light,” Fitzgerald said. “We have one on Brookline Ave. There’s a lot of people who think they have to stay stopped. They don’t proceed because they don’t realize it’s no different from a regular right on red.”

The Registry of Motor Vehicle’s driver’s handbook says as much.

“A steady red arrow means the same as a steady red, circular signal,” the manual says. “The same rules for ‘turning on red’ apply.”

Fitzgerald said red arrows are often found at intersections that see heavy pedestrian traffic, such as those near the B.U. Bridge. Pedestrians still have the right of way at those intersections, but turns are allowed when the roadway is clear.

Red arrows became prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s after state officials gave up on the old “steady red and yellow” traffic light combination, which also required drivers to stop for pedestrians before making a right-hand turn.

“People didn’t stop for red and yellow because they weren’t afraid of pedestrians,” Fitzgerald said.

The red arrow, by contrast, has been so effective that it often results in the other extreme: drivers refuse to turn at all, even when being honked at.

As straight-forward as the red arrow rules are (now that we know them!), two caveats still apply.

You can’t turn right if a sign is posted forbidding you to do so. When I drove through the intersections Cynthia mentioned in her letter, I noticed a “No turn on red” sign where Commonwealth Avenue meets the B.U. Bridge. (To be fair, I can see how she might have missed it, as the sign appears on just one of the two traffic signals at that intersection.)

The other caveat? “The law says drivers may turn. It doesn’t say shall. It says may,” Fitzgerald says. So if you don’t feel it’s prudent to turn right at a red arrow, just wait until you see green.

- 30

The Moon, the stars, but no electricity

Inside Scoop: For the first time in about a year I had some real errors in a story. They weren't huge ones but put together, all four of them sure make me feel like I had egg on my face. Two of them were the result of a bad phone connection during an interview. I thought the guy said fox tail, not "box turtle", and baby trail, not "Bay View" trail. But I still should have doubled checked these things with the sanctuary. The errors in mileage are still baffling to me, as I did a Mapquest for Alexandria and I was just there in April. Just careless reporting. A reader sent me a pretty nasty e-mail, asking me for proof of this exotic "fox tail turtle" species. He had every right to blast me, but he was really condescending in his letter. Live and learn - and pay closer attention.

(Correction: Because of reporting errors, a story about camping on Cape Cod in Sunday's Explore New England section gave incorrect distances from North Truro to East Falmouth and Alexandria, Va. The distances are 60 miles and approximately 520 miles, respectively. Also, a quotation about Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary by Rick Longley should have read that box turtles inhabit the sanctuary and that the Bay View trail is less used.)

TRURO -- The entrance road to North of Highland campground is rutty, barren , and very, very dark at night. Were you to pull over in your car and shut off every light, the stars in the sky are all you would see.

Which is just what Jacqueline and John Ford do when they arrive.

The Fords carve out a week each summer to go camping on Cape Cod with their teenage sons, Matthew and Michael. Leisurely hours spent reading under a favorite pine, jogs along dune-strewn beaches, and foosball showdowns in the camp recreation room fill their days. But the moments spent sitting in silence watching the stars are the most peaceful, by far.

``It's incredibly dark. Darker than anywhere else you would see in New England," said Jacqueline, a Milford native who now lives in Virginia. ``If we're coming in late at night, we just sit there and say, `Let's see how dark it gets.' "

Crowded clam shacks, even more crowded beaches, and endless traffic delays are the norm for multitudes of Cape Cod vacationers who accept that scenery and sun come with a price. But for others, escaping to the Cape truly does mean escaping it all -- electricity included.

From Sandwich to Wellfleet, thousands of campers pitch their tents on sandy bluffs and forested grounds each summer. Are there mosquitoes? Sure. Rain? Always a chance. But the flip side, campers say, is grand: less hassle, less hustle, and all at a cost far less than what hotel and motel dwellers pay .

Giant Nickerson State Park, with 420 sites, is perhaps the best-known campground on the Cape. (Badly damaged by a fierce wind storm in December, it reopened May 22.) But look further and you'll find campsites in wildlife sanctuaries, on islands, and, while not directly on beaches, just steps away from them.

Alexandra Lancaster and her husband have kayaked to Washburn Island off East Falmouth for some 20 years, setting up camp in one of a dozen sites maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation that are accessible only by boat.

Some of them are so secluded you can't see anyone else , Lancaster says. Most of them sit up on bluffs overlooking the shore, with private paths to the beach.

``No matter what site you're at, the moon comes up just for you," said Lancaster, who digs clams from the island's beach for dinner stews. ``One summer we went in early June and there was not a soul out there. The sun came up in the morning and it was shining right in our tent. We looked out and the water was as flat as can be. You're like, `Man, people pay a lot of money to do this.' "

How much do the Lancasters actually pay to camp on Washburn? Eight dollars a night.

Rick Longley's camping heaven is located about 10 miles farther out on the Cape, where deer, foxtail turtles, and fiddler crabs roam inside the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Longley's father, an avid bird -watcher, began taking the family camping there in the early 1960s. They returned almost annually for the next 30 years .

``It's a sanctuary in every sense of the word," Longley said. ``When you go down the trails you go through three or four coastal environments -- ponds, a hardwood forest, traditional beachfront. They're very careful about keeping it wild. If the public does come in, they tend to use one set of trails. Even now, the one new trail, the baby trail, you almost never see anyone on it. "

Nickerson and North of Highland campgrounds can't match Washburn or Wellfleet's tranquillity. But they are homey, rustic, relaxing places nonetheless, with fresh water ponds, hiking trails, bicycle paths, and hundreds of campsites .

``I'm a medical intensive -care nurse and educator at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Nickerson State Park has always been a place I go to kind of fill my cup," said Barbara Grady, who hangs a hammock at her campsite overlooking Flax Pond .

Grady's family embraced Cape camping decades ago. Her mother, Barbara MacLeod, 83, still camps with her every summer; Grady's granddaughter, Meghan Grady, now works in Nickerson's front office.

``There's a group of campers who go every year. You get to know each other. It becomes your summer home," Grady said. ``A lot of people use the park as the starting point to go to Monomoy Island, the Audubon sanctuary, Provincetown. I get a sticker so I can drive out in the dunes in Orleans."

North of Highland was built by owner Steve Currier's parents, Malcolm and Evelyn, who were regular tent campers at Nickerson before opening their own park just a half mile from Head of the Meadow Beach in 1954. Seven years later, President Kennedy established the 43,608-acre Cape Cod National Seashore, which surrounds the campground.

``You can't actually tell where they begin and where we end, which is beautiful," said Currier, pointing to brown picnic tables scattered among pine trees, some of which are his, others, the federal government's. ``You'd be surprised at how many campers tell me, `Don't asphalt the roads.' They like an old dirt road so they can play boccie or whatever on it."

The Fords drive about 1,500 miles from their home in Alexandria, Va., to camp at the park, but even that doesn't quite explain their passion for the place.

Jacqueline, a country and western singer, is so enamored by Currier's campground she's written a song about being there. (``The children awake, and the place is abuzz / And the rain disappears, as the sun comes up / And the bikes are rolling, down a sandy path / On the playground, you can hear the children laugh / On a campground in Truro, Cape Cod.")

Once inside the park, John hates to leave.

``There are days there when I don't want to venture out of the park. I know we need food, but gosh, I don't want to do it," he said. ``It really is that peaceful."

Contact Peter DeMarco, a freelance writer in Somerville, at

Brace yourself for a toothsome treat

Inside Scoop: I had tons of fun with this one, except for the ribs,
which I just don't like no matter
who makes them. Laura helped
me out there. I'm still craving another Bukowski burger. How can

that not have been written about before?
Next hop: another healthy one - French Fries!

Table Hopping, City Weekly

For 15 months , I'd been one of those adults with braces (I had a bad grinding problem ). But now that they're off, I can sink my teeth into any food I want -- the stickier and chewier, the better. No more cutting my pizza with a knife and fork; no more passing on the salt water taffy; no more forsaking a thick sub for the soup de jour. And so, this week we turn to foods that give your pearly whites a workout. If only caramel apples were in season.

Bukowski's Tavern
1281 Cambridge St.
Inman Square, Cambridge
50 Dalton St., Boston

Bukowski's peanut butter burger sounds like something Homer Simpson might dream of, but it's a real menu item -- and shockingly good. ``We sell about a dozen a week. It's very, very rich," says bar manager Max Toste. ``We have a few diehards that add bacon. It's kind of like an Elvis burger then." Bukowski's chefs lather up a 6-ounce burger with chunky peanut butter just before taking it off the grill, so the peanut butter is gooey, not runny. Lettuce, tomato, and onion go on top. I was a bit afraid taking my first bite -- a normal reaction, Toste assured me -- but the reward was instant, as the peanut butter's creaminess melded wonderfully with the juicy beef. I might even try one on the grill at home. ($8)

Big Moe's BBQ Ribs
200 Geneva Ave.,

When I asked my orthodontist what food I should now tear into, he shot back, ``Ribs, of course," as if there could be no other answer. So I made my way to Big Moe's rib truck, a Columbia Avenue institution for 23 years. Big Moe Maurice Hill now parks his silver kitchen-on-wheels in a vacant lot on Geneva Avenue. His wife, Marian, has also retired from the business, handing over her duties to their daughter, Leona, and grandson, Giovanni. But they turn out the same juicy, not-quite-lean pork and beef ribs, served in aluminum containers with Big Moe's own special, tangy sauce. The collard greens, candied yams , and sweet potato pies are all homemade too.

Fornax Bread Company27 Corinth St., Roslindale617-325-8852My grandmother chewed crusty Italian bread to keep her teeth strong (she still has them at 94), so fresh bakery bread was high on my hit list. Fornax didn't disappoint. I took home a thin, crusty white bread called sfilatino, which was shaped like a baguette but, to my pleasure, was so tough I had to flex muscles to rip it apart. Fornax's sandwiches looked so good I also ordered a roasted veggie on multigrain bread. Brimming with caramelized onions, bell peppers, roasted eggplant, and hummus, it was as chewy and flavorful as I'd hoped. ($7)

Café Nicholas
1632 Beacon St.
Washington Square, Brookline

Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is no longer listed on the menu at Café Nicholas. It's all about thin crusts these days, says owner Nick Chicos , but you can still ask for it. However, you'd better be hungry. For the café's version, the cooks top a layer of dough with sauce, cheese, and toppings, such as mushrooms or shaved sirloin steak. Then they add another layer of dough, another layer of sauce, and another layer of cheese. ``It's really almost like eating a pizza sandwich," says Chicos, who runs his homey pizzeria with his mother, Christina. I ordered the smallest size, a 8-inch personal pie with a golden-brown crust, and still took half of it home. But oh, was it good. ($5.50, with topping )

Dairy Fresh Candies
57 Salem St., North End

With hundreds of hand-packed half-pound bags of candy and nuts at your fingertips -- from peanut brittle to pine nuts to Mary Jane s -- Dairy Fresh Candies is the place to go if you're craving something sticky and sweet. Like I wasn't going to eat a chocolate-covered pecan caramel turtle the minute I got my braces off. ``It's probably our most popular item," says owner Danny DiMare, who's worked at the store since he was 11 years old. A true North End shop, Dairy Fresh caters to local tastes, stocking chewy Italian ``torrone" nougat squares, imported black licorice, and dried, crunchy chickpeas.

Jasper White's Summer Shack
50 Dalton St.
149 Alewife Brook Parkway

I saved the best for last -- that ultimate summer treat, corn on the cob. Trouble is, this early in the season, it's next to impossible to find an ear. Enter Jasper's, which serves steamed corn with its traditional clambake dinners even on the coldest January day. Florida and California growers meet the demand in the winter, but starting this month , Jasp er's corn will be local again, with Verrill Farm in Concord sending over more than 100 ears a day. Last summer, with my braces on, I had to trim the kernels off with a knife. Settling into a seat at Jasp er's bar last week, I suffered no such indignity, gobbling a lightly buttered ear, type writer style, with unrestrained joy. ($3)


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