...many things this holiday eve, including health, family, friends, my home and so much more. But specifically in the Livable Communities arena, I'm thankful for:
* The express bus from Newton Corner to Boston. Less than 15 minutes and, traffic permitting, you zip from an inner suburb to Copley Square - a rare case where local public transportation is indeed faster and more convenient than driving. Ah, if only such a bus could run to downtown Boston from Framingham, similar to the Logan Express.
* The new Amazing Things arts center in Framingham. For the first time, Saxonville residents can actually walk to good live entertainment.
* Garden in the Woods. A jewel in our community, the botanical garden is a beautiful place to stroll away an afternoon.
* Newbury Street, the North End, Public Garden and other highly walkable neighborhoods of Boston, proving that a city can have a strong economy (if real estate prices are any indication) AND pedestrian appeal.
* Coolidge Corner, Brookline. Where major auto roadways, trolley line and pedestrians manage to co-exist in harmony.
* Concord Center and the nearby Old North Bridge. Proof that a "suburb" doesn't need to be high-density urban in order to have a soul -- and a walker-friendly downtown.
* The Stapleton elementary school, Saxonville. Saved from closing by an override vote a couple of years ago, it's the North Side school that's best integrated into a surrounding neighborhood business district.
* MWRA aqueduct trails. Well, I'm not so thankful when inconsiderate dirt-bikers roar through them, ruining things for everyone else who wants to enjoy them (not to mention all the abutters); but otherwise, these peaceful places where residents can walk, jog, ski and snow shoe without vehicular interference (even if technically there are no trespassing signs up).
* Sichuan Gourmet, Oga's, Gianni's and other top-notch ethnic eateries. What fun is a neighborhood without great food?
* The Framingham Premium Cinema. Well, from the outside it's a pedestrian-hostile nightmare -- how I wish it was located in the midst of a neighborhood business district so you could walk to it, like the cinema in Waltham! But while pretty pricey, once you're inside, it's such a civilized way to watch a movie -- leather seats, loads of legroom, stadium seating so you can see the whole screen even if a Boston Celtic is sitting in front of you. And once you factor in the free soda and popcorn, it's not really alarmingly more than regular full-price admisison.