I totally agree with the P.Preservationist. When it comes to advocating for Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) one cannot have a rational back and forth discussion with folks who bring in an expert from the John Birch Society, to explain a conspiracy theory about the United Nations (UN) hatching a social engineering plot about lowering the standard of living for all Americans, and linking that to historic preservation and a proposed Local Historic District in Newburyport, Massachusetts. (I am not making this up, see previous post.)
As I‘ve walked around Newburyport since October 2011, when either I run into people I know and/or people that I know vaguely, I ask them what their thoughts are about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).
I’ve run into two people, that’s all, who are strong property rights folks, and are against it. Both conversations were very rational and informative.
Mostly I run into a lot of people who say, “I don’t know, I think I’m against it.” And then we have a conversation.
I have asked folks what specifically in the proposed guidelines and the draft of the ordinance they may not like, and it has emerged that the folks that I’ve been talking to haven’t looked at the information. So I started talking about some of the things that are in the proposed LHD, and most of the time folks say that’s not problem, but what about this. Sometimes I can answer the question, a lot of times I cannot. Usually the conversation ends with whoever I’ve talked to, saying that they want to find out more about the proposed LHD, and I tell them where to find the information on the City of Newburyport’s website. I ask them to go to the public hearing on the LHD, when it is scheduled, where they can ask questions and express their concerns.
And then I run into people who are for the Local Historic District. When they tell me that they are for the LHD, I usually spontaneously give them a hug.
My hope is that somehow as a city we can find a balance between honoring people’s property rights and protecting our historic assets. And the process is just in the beginning stages. The city has conducted 2 informational meetings, sent the proposed draft of the LHD ordinance to the Massachusetts Historical Commission for review. Now there will be (not yet scheduled) a public hearing, where hopefully people will have educated themselves about the particulars of the proposed LHD ordinance (and not just scream, “NO”), and ask questions and express concerns. And then it goes to the Newburyport City Council, where it is expected to go into “committee.” And then there will be more meetings, and hashing out of what would work in the proposed draft of the LHD. It all depends on how the City Council decides to run those meetings. Sometimes, in fact a lot of times, the public is allowed to give feedback. And then, the final draft of the LHD ordinance comes up for a vote in the Newburyport City Council.
So now it’s time to learn as much as possible about the proposed draft LHD (which has already been “tweaked” in response to initial public input.) And the hope is for a civil, rational, constructive and productive public dialogue on this very important issue.
I’ve walked the South End of Newburyport, particularly the area closest to Plum Island (Ward 1) now for 30 years. I love to walk, and I walk everyday. (It started when I first moved here in 1981 and walked my new puppy and then added my little boy in his stroller, walking around the South End of Newburyport, pushing the stroller and dragging Sadie, who was then no longer a puppy, behind.)
Back then, when I started walking, the area was sometimes in bedraggled shape, but historically intact. I would fantasize about living on certain streets in the South End. A new house or major alteration would go up here or there. In the beginning it was so minor that it was “quirky.”
Yesterday, I took a walk along some of the streets in Newburyport’s South End, some of the streets that I often fantasized living on. What I realized yesterday, was those streets have been altered so much over the years, bit by bit, a little by homeowners, a lot by developers, that I would now never want to live there. In fact parts of those streets no longer look like an historic city, they look like narrow streets with a sometimes a jumble of houses that have created not particularly, in my mind, compared to what once was there, an attractive area. I was really taken aback. I would no longer want to live in those areas (including an area mentioned in an opinion piece in today’s Newburyport Daily News).
High Street, so far has mostly avoided that fate and so has downtown Newburyport and the areas close to it, in Wards 2 and 3, the area for the proposed LHD (800 houses not 2,800 houses-good grief).
If those areas are doctored little by little, just like the areas on my walk, and become a jumble of architectural styles, Newburyport would change so much that it would just be another suburban place to live, not the place we live in today. That wouldn’t work for a lot of people. The LHD (and I understand people’s concerns over property rights) would make sure that that did not happen. If it can happen and is still happening in the South End at a rapid rate (by developers), it could happen anywhere in Newburyport.
Protecting the integrity of Newburyport is so important for us. And, oh my, I am concerned. There is a very loud and vocal opposition (not the more quiet folks concerned with property rights, that one can have a real back and forth conversation with), that are using misinformation and innuendo to express their point of view. I am concerned that the a real “discussion” about a Local Historic District for Newburyport could get derailed (which is the forcefully stated intent), instead of letting the democratic process unfold.
I have heard so much about the Nazi like quality of what the proposed Newburyport Local Historic District Commission, the commission that would help regulate the proposed Local Historic District (LHD), and I gotta tell you, a lot of misinformation out there, good grief.
Q: ( Me) What do you think the LHD Commission would be like?
A: (A lot of people) People who don’t live in Newburyport, a bunch of controlling zealots who would make the lives of the people living in Newburyport a living hell. (No exaggeration here, I hear this all the time, no kidding.)
The proposed commission would be like any other of the Newburyport commissions (and boards), it would be made up of people who live in Newburyport, not controlling Nazi outsiders who care nothing about the people who live here. Hello.
In the draft of the LHD Ordinance (and it’s a draft, so that means lots of public input from public hearings, good grief) it proposes that the LHD Commission be made up of 7 members. And just like other boards and commissions, those members would be appointed by the mayor (often members are recommended to the mayor by citizens of Newburyport, no different here), and confirmed by the Newburyport City Council (just like ever other city board and commission). So if the people of Newburyport, don’t like a proposed member, they can call the Newburyport City Council and the Mayor and register their complaint, which often happens in our Newburyport democratic process (and often the person is not appointed or approved!).
The draft proposes that there be (again everyone lives in Newburyport) a realtor, an architect, a member of the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, people from entities like the Newburyport Preservation Trust and the Historic Society of Old Newbury, 2 members who are residents of the proposed district, and in the beginning 2 members of the Local Historic District Study Committee, to help with any initial confusion, and get things off to a good start.
The draft of the ordinance proposes that in the beginning, 2 members get appointed for one year, 2 members for two years, and three members for three years. And then after the initial go through, each member would be appointed for 3 years, just like other Newburyport boards and commissions.
So now, hysterics out there, and there are a lot of hysterics out there, who are just so upset that they can’t hear what someone who may be for the Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) may be saying, this is not a proposed Nazi commission to control and destroy your lives (good grief!!).
I hope that this video by Lawrence Rosenblum on what the city looked like before Urban Renewal and after, made in 1975, goes viral. Tom Salemi over at Newburyport Posts put it up on his blog and it’s beginning to show up on places on Facebook.
One of the cool things is that because it is on video, you can jump around the film and go back and look at the parts that interest you.
It makes what happened to us “visceral.”
Here’s a quote from the Newburyport Daily News, November 26, 2007, “A city’s ‘character’ changed for good.”
“In late 1975, Newburyporters gathered to see themselves on the big screen. Filmmaker Larry Rosenblum had finished his three-year-long project, “A Measure of Change,” a half-hour documentary that explored the city’s battle to stop the federal bulldozer.
“The film may be a catalyst as well as a piece of Yankee advice, ‘look before you leap,’” The Daily News stated in a film critique.
Within a few months, the film was getting international attention. It won several awards and was selected as the U.S. entry at urban planning conferences in Stockholm and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
Suddenly, the little old seaport was exporting to the world again. This time it wasn’t goods, it was a concept: historic preservation and revitalization.”
Yes, people come here because of Newburyport’s “historic preservation and revitalization.”
Newburyport: A Measure for Change link is here.
Watch the video and pass the link on: http://blip.tv/newburyport/nbpt-ameasureofchange-5786032
This is a film that about Newburyport made in 1975 that’s been around for a long time, but it’s the first time that I’ve seen it in video for the Web. It’s about the story of Newburyport’s Urban Renewal (and we have come a long, long way). The film was made by Lawrence Rosenblum (Vision, Inc. and Urbanimage Corp.) and is called, “Newburyport: A Measure of Change” and the video runs about 30 minutes.
You’ll see lots of friends, Sue Little (Jabberwocky Bookstore), Tom Kolterjahn, John (Hacky) Pramberg (former president of the Institution for Savings) and others (all much younger)! It’s very cool!
The link to Newburyport: A Measure of Change.
Ok, it’s a little dated. I drew it back in September 2007 for the Newburyport Blog and I’m too lazy to draw another one. Paris Hilton, who?? Probably to be replace by Kim “let’s get divorced” Kardashian. And super-duper cutting coupons (boy, did I get flack for that one), now a major cable TV show. And “poverty,” is that on anyone’s radar anymore??
But the basic premise is the same. So little interest, much less overall civic passion, in our local Newburyport elections/governing stuff.
And it has been a goal of mine to try and make local government in some small way engaging. And, actually, not to brag, but to brag, someone actually told me that they became involved in Newburyport civic involvement because of The Newburyport Blog. I said to myself, “Say what?” But truth be told, a got a little teary, really, at making a difference in just one person’s life.
And I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the Newburyport Republican Committee’s decision, at least for this last election, to actively sponsor and support local Newburyport candidates. And their invitation to vote for 1 or 2 Newburyport City Council At-Large candidates, instead of all 5.
I would say, and I’ve run this by a fair amount of people, that this involvement and suggestion created a certain amount of anxiety in almost all the candidates running this week for Newburyport City Council At-Large, and also some odd version of hostility that I haven’t seen before. In Newburyport City politics, hostility has often been us –vast understatement (we’ve been referred mega times as “Cannibal City” after all), but it’s always been issues, and sometimes, sadly, personalities, but always non-partisan. And in the last few years, things have become more civil, to the point, where one often thinks that the calm almost drove the Undertoad to higher peaks.
This involvement and suggestion by the Newburyport Republican Committee, certainly created some buzz, at least for maybe 5%-1.5% of the Newburyport population. Whether to get party politics overtly involved in Newburyport elections, not illegal, not a crime, but a wise decision for the good of the City of Newburyport? One wonders. And if that decision stays, it will definitely create a new dynamic.
This morning I got a call from one of the Massachusetts’ newspapers about the upcoming election. And one of the questions regarding the importance of the Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD), was, “Why is High Street important?”
I guess I have always assumed that people know the answer to that question, but I guess not.
In 1999 High Street was named an Endangered Resource by Preservation Massachusetts. It was the first roadway ever to be nominated.
These are some excerpts from the Endangered Resource Nomination, which was written by Bill Steelman and Jane Carolan of the Newburyport Historical Commission. The full text us up on the High Street website.
“In an important and meaningful way, High Street not only links, but virtually embodies, all periods of Newburyport’s considerable history.
Beyond its historical significance is its cultural and economic value to the community. High Street is Newburyport’s premier street and one of its major character-defining elements. As the principal gateway to Newburyport, it helps establish the city as an historic, attractive and welcoming place whose citizens appreciate and care for their community’s appearance.
High Street is historically significant. The entire street, its curvilinear course, landscape features and connection to structures, side streets and neighborhoods, contributes greatly to the Newburyport Historic District. Acknowledging its high level of significance and intact nature, the city’s 1991 preservation plan recommends High Street as a local historic district.
It is these images of Newburyport, old and new, which draw several hundred thousand visitors to the city each year, contributing significantly to the city’s burgeoning tourism economy.”
Written in 1999 by William Steelman and Jane Carolan of the Newburyport Historical Commission for the Endangered Resource Nomination.
*The above photograph is of the corner of State and High Streets, circa 1900. It is on the High Street website. It was obtained courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, at the Cushing House Museum, 98 High Street, Newburyport, MA.
Readers of The Newburyport Blog have asked me what happened to High Street in 1999 that caused such alarm.
The City of Newburyport got a grant to fix up High Street. And in 1998 the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway) came back with plans for High Street that met the “robotic” federal regulations for the roadway. It took a year to get people’s attention to the threat to the historic roadway. Finally in January 1999 people started to pay attention. “Citizens to Save High Street” was created (by yours truly), and on February 4, 1999 there was a huge meeting in Newburyport City Hall, standing room only, and the citizens of Newburyport demanded that the plan not take place.
These are the “Highlights” of the proposed plan in 1998 by MassHighway.
The Massachusetts Highway Department considered trees to be a “safety hazard” because they were too close to the road, consequently, the future of many of High Street’s trees were in question. (i.e. they were going to remove almost all of the trees.)
Close off of Ferry Road.
Completely reconfigure the “Three Road” area up at Atkinson Commons and put in a traffic light there.
Put a traffic light at Toppans Lane, by the Newburyport High School.
Remove 10 feet of land along the side of the Bartlett Mall facing High Street, that belonged to the City of Newburyport, to widen the roadway.
Remove land from private property owners, from the area between Fruit and State Streets along the “Ridge” side of the roadway, and put in retaining walls to make the street wider.
Make High Street as straight, narrow and uniform as possible from one end of the street to the other.
Remove plantings and all historical elements.
Remove the statue of George Washington by Pond Street and the Bartlett Mall. There was no plan to relocate the statue of George Washington. Pond Street was completely reconfigured to be one way.
A Local Historic District (LHD) would protect against destructive changes that could take place to our historic roadway. We would never want to go through this experience again.
If you are a Democrat this November, be scared (and vote).
I’ve sat and watched this spring and summer as the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and Glen Beck have gone from, “Yeh, right,” to, “They are going to succeed and they aren’t going away.”
For the Tea Party, it goes way beyond, “Throw the bums out!” It goes way beyond that, it is a mission from God. Seriously. Somewhere on the Newburyport Blog I have a link to the video of Sarah Palin, in her church, and the “anointed” are “laying hands” on her, and asking for the power of the spirit to use and guide her.
(I know this world, I understand this world. In a distant part of my life, I married into this world. It’s one of the reasons Frankie Schaeffer and I are such good friends.)
It’s about abortion, for the conservatives it’s always been about abortion, and gays, because if the “homosexuals” takeover, in their minds, American becomes Sodom and Gomorrah, and is forever “damned.”
Sarah Palin isn’t a politician, she is Joan of Arc. She is mythic, leading the righteous to save the world. The Tea Party is not the Tea Party, it is David against Goliath. And yes, the Democrats are “Goliath.” And in the Old Testament, David stuck around for a long time.
The Democrats need to understand their own myth. Equal justice, Robin Hood. Obama as Robin Hood, the Democrats as his band of Merry Men and Women. Give to the poor and the middle class.
Or better yet, Obama as Christ in the Temple, overturning the tables of the money changers, the Democrats as a sea of apostles. Christ against the Pharisees. The Republicans being the Pharisees, the hypocrites.
Talking about policy isn’t going to help the Democrats in this last month before the election. They have got to understand what the Tea Party and Sarah Palin have so brilliantly accomplished and fight back with their own true power of myth.
When I read the proposal by the Energy Advisory Committee to turn off 30% of Newburyport’s Street lights in the Newburyport Daily News yesterday, my reaction was not unlike my first sighting of Newburyport’s Wind Turbine, which as I recall, was to give it the finger.
It made me so angry, that I decided to sleep on the information before writing a post that could be full of expletives. (The working headline for this post yesterday was “Turning Off Newburyport Street Lights–A Really Stupid Idea.” The title has been toned down somewhat.)
I grew up in New York City. One of the frustrating things about living in New York City was that it was not safe to go out after dark– i.e. big time for crime and muggings.
One of the things that I really love about our small, coastal New England city is that it is safe and fun to walk around the city after dark (which living in New England often occurs as early as 4:00 PM).
The city since I moved here almost 3 decades ago, has become a growingly safer place to live (I definitely would not have walked around certain areas after dark). And yes, Newburyport has become more affluent, but that does not necessarily mean less crime, especially if you turn out 30% of the street lights. Good grief. Certain visitors from out of town (I spot them often in Newburyport, MA, they stick out big time) do break into cars and homes. How much easier would it be to do so on nice darkened residential streets.
And, we are a “smart growth city,” i.e. we are encouraged to try and bike and walk in our walkable city. Hard to do so if the streets are dark. And as I said before, certain times of year it gets dark as early as 4:00 PM.
If the Energy Advisory Committee would like us to be “green” as far as street lights go, how about thinking about solar street lights.
Expensive you ask? Yes, but some of our US cities have done so with Federal grant money.
The city of Louisville Kentucky purchased its equipment from a grant to the Partnership for a Green City, from the United States Department of Energy.
The town of Dania, Florida’s solar street lights were funded by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hurricane proof no less and no problem with power outages.
I’m all for green, but I’m not for green and stupid.
My health insurance this year goes up a whopping 37%. It is so high I weirdly feel embarrassed, instead of angry and outraged.
I am one of those people who basically gets to buy their health insurance “retail,” no bargaining power for moi.
Ed Cameron graciously tells me who to email on the Massachusetts State level, and I send Representative Harriett Stanley, the co-chair of the state’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing an email and Cc it to Representative Mike Costello and State Senator Steven Baddour, my own Massachusetts state representatives. From the article in the
Newburyport Daily News, it is quite evident that Harriett Stanley is well aware of my predicament and others like me, and is doing her dardest to do everything that she can to address the issue. But 37% ??
And, thank goodness one can no longer say that nobody is paying attention to the issue when the top guy, the President of the United States, is all over the place, talking about my exact problem. If President Barack Obama can’t pull this off, I am beyond sunk.
My health insurance sales rep has been great. She and I have worked together for almost a decade to try and get the best possible deal possible. We are now, after all these years, on a first name basis.
Two years ago a “deductible” health insurance plan was the answer. The deductible was high enough, however, that I didn’t go to the doctor (which may be the point of a high deductible??). Could Celiac/gluten free (see earlier entries) have been diagnosed sooner? Who knows. Last (health insurance calendar) year I said “To Hell with it, I’ll pay the stupid deductible,” and it turns out it was a good thing that I did.
This year to bring down the monthly cost, the deductible would be so off the charts that I would basically be paying for everything aside from very large medical bills. And the monthly premiums would not have been that much lower. The health insurance rep could think of nothing else to come up with, so 37%… beyond “Ouch.” And she was embarrassed about not being able to come up with anything except “pretty unacceptable.”
But, as I said to my health insurance rep, when my son will no longer be able to be on my health insurance plan, which is soon, in New York City he would pay roughly two and two-thirds (almost 3 times) more for the same quality of insurance that he is now getting in Massachusetts. My vow to my son is that I would make sure that he would always have health insurance. So, after much research, he will get a lesser product in the state of New York for “only” twice what he would pay in Massachusetts for a much better product. Triple “Ouch.” (This weirdly makes Massachusetts look not so bad.) One could only imagine how badly I would like health insurance reform to pass on the Federal level? Please, please, please.
One of my great treats this warm season of 2009 has been a Sunday stroll down Federal Street to the Farmers’ Market at the Tannery in Newburyport, MA (see earlier entry). And my discovery of “the pie guy,” who is actually Cape Ann Pies www.capeannpies.com.
Both my grandfather and my grandmother on my Dad’s side migrated from Canada, and one of the favorite family traditions was pie, specifically apple pie, for breakfast. Good apple pie is hard to find, especially after the Baker Canadian version, and I found great apple pie, by the slice no less, from Cape Ann Pies right here in Newburyport, at our very own Farmers’ Market. Eureka.
If I had known that the slice of apple pie that I had in August was to be my very last slice of apple pie, I would have held a wake, I love apple pie that much. And as a result of the diet from hell, the gluten free diet thing (see previous post), apple pie–nevermore.
I stopped my Sunday ritual of heading down towards the mighty Merrimac River in search of apple pie. I could have gone down for all the zillions of “healthy” stuff, organic vegetable and fruits, etc at Newburyport’s Farmers’ Market–that would have been an obvious thing to do. But the thought of “no more pie” had me in Farmers’ Market avoidance.
But one beautiful Sunday in September I walked to downtown Newburyport, down historic State Street and along winding Water Street, full of its historic architecture, and, yes, there at the Tannery was the Farmers’ Market, teaming with its vendors and their customers.
Crossing the street, I made my way to “the pie guy.” I wanted him to know that I was no longer one of his regulars, not because I didn’t love his apple pie, but because of this “gluten thing,” and my apple pie mourning. And sure enough, he had a piece of apple pie set aside, all wrapped up, hoping that I would “come back.” It was a good thing that I had my sun glasses on, because otherwise he would have seen my eyes well up in tears.
When I told him about the gluten free, no more pie, bread or muffins, fun stuff, his response was, “No, it’s a lie!”
“No, this Celiac stuff actually makes sense,” says myself. And I tell him if he ever comes up with a gluten free pie to let me know ASAP. He tells me that he has tried, and we both say at the same time, “It tastes like garbage.”
Next year, or maybe by the time the Newburyport Farmers’ Market comes to its seasonal close, I will march down and scoop up all the naturally, obviously, remarkable gluten free veggies and fruit. But at the moment, since apple pie was one of my “guilty pleasures” and carrots etc. are not, I may need a little more time to grieve the passing of the “loving apple pie and eating it” years.
I’ve written a lot about why original art work is so important to people’s daily lives and our culture at large (disclaimer: I am an artist). Original art enlivens an environment and enriches lives. A more crass reason is that the very wealthy may often buy original art because it is a “status symbol,” it indicates that whoever it may be, has “class.”
To steal from myself: Having a Ferrari (yes, I know, tough to have such an item in a lousy economic times) may be a status symbol, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person has “class.”
“Having art is unique in imparting to others that you are of value. Art is something that people pass on from generation to generation. Art defines civilizations. Art tells people that you are not only educated, but also that you appreciate history and beauty. It is why when the early American tycoons built their fortunes, they went out and bought art, because it gave them “class.” Thank goodness they did, because today we can see Van Goghs, Monets, Renoirs in the great art museums all over the world.” (Quoting from myself.)
In Newburyport, MA we have original art on our waterfront at the Newburyport’s Sculpture Park at Somerby’s Landing near the Black Cow restaurant. Ergo, this makes us “classy.”
There is some chit chat, that hopefully would go nowhere, that the little ticket booth (which again I love right where it is) could be put in the sculpture park.
My recollection is that when the sculpture park was being discussed, one of the absolute musts (and quite rightly so) was that it would not block the view of the water. The little ticket booth would ironically block the view to the water (much less destroying the actual sculpture park).. a demonstration.
This sculpture by Robert Motes, “An Imagined Place” (which is now a permanent installation at Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, made possible in 2006 by the generous donation of the Newburyport Art Association) has a window with a “view” that is Newburyport’s waterfront– the corner of the sculpture park where the ticket booth would go. So if the ticket booth went there, the window would be looking at the side of the ticket booth.
At the moment the “view” from the window is of the granite corner where all kinds of folks come to sit under the shade of the delightful tree that is pictured, to read, to contemplate, to talk to one another, or to watch their children climb on that delightful tree and listen to their laughter as they enjoy this unique experience. That’s pretty much gone if the ticket booth goes in that particular community space.
And that’s only one example. And again, it is this blogger’s hope that it is merely chit chat that the ticket booth could be moved to this gem like community space, that is part of a jeweled environment in Newburyport, MA.
(The photo of the sculpture by Robert Motes, “An Imagined Place” is copyrighted by Artfluence, and is used with permission.)
Baker optimism. Baker resilience.
My father would say that long spring rains in May and June are great for the fish (trout), that as a result the summer scenery is lush.And, yes, he certainly would be correct in the summer of 2009.He might even look out the window, or step out the door, breath in deeply the sunlighted day, and say something like, “It’s a Perfect Day for Banana Fish,” quoting the title of a favorite short story byJ. D. Salinger.
My mother might look at the sky and say that it “is a Bluebird day,” and today on this mid July day of 2009, shemost certainly would be correct.
The wild thunderstorms of the early morning of this day in July 2009 sound to me like the thunderstorms of New England summers.Having checked the Weather Channel last night, I am prepared, I put my head under the covers and hope that “they” are right, that these thunderstorms would be followed by clearing come 10AM, and what would follow would be a quintessential New England Bluebird day.
At 11 AM I am startled that the morning has already “gotten away” from me.The sky is indeed clearing, just as predicted.I put my head out the door, and say to no one in particular, “It looks like it may be a great day for Banana Fish.”
And getting my key,I start what has become a wondered ritual, now all 4 weeks in a row.I walk down hill towards the mighty Merrimac River, towards Newburyport’s Tannery, to what is already beginning to feel iconic, the Farmer’s Market on Sundays from 10:00-2:00.
The people on the street that I meethave already been there and back.I wonder if the “pie guy” will still have a slice of homemade apple pie.
The place, like the last three weeks before, two in the rain, is teaming. There is only a short line in front of the “pie guy,” who now recognizes me, and yes, there is still a delicious slice of homemade apple pie to be had, that I know will make my day.I tell his young helper to wrap it tightly, because this delicious morsel is to go.
And I wander around Newburyport’s growingly iconic Farmers Market, admiring the folks with bags and baskets brimming with even more nutritious stuff than a homemade piece of apple pie–heads of lettuce, homegrown peas, beets.I cling to my apple pie as I watch Newburyport come together, young, old, middle aged, newcomers, old timers.There are no political power struggles going on to the naked eye,but a blending of the entire town in an organic way, over such things as local brownies and beets, in what is shaping up to be a Bluebird day and quite possibly a great day for Banana Fish.
One of the things that fascinates me is what really happens in life, and what happens to make things happen, what are the “politics” of the situation, not what is on the surface. Not gossip and innuendo, but the reality behind the veneer.
And in the reporting business, this is almost an impossible thing to accomplish. Advertisers want their veneer kept in place, so that they can sell their product, so that they can make a living. Who is going to buy anything if they know the “real” story behind a company, no matter if it’s probably the story behind almost every average company. Nobody’s perfect, no company, institution, municipality is perfect. There is always a story, and it’s usually a pretty interesting story because the reality is usually so universal.
And like it or hate it, it is what was at the heart of what Tom Ryan did in his political journal of 11 years, the Undertoad, and whether I agreed with Mr. Ryan or not, I was fascinated that here was someone who was interested in the underbelly of Newburyport, MA, not a fluffy outside. Policy and politics were part of it. But exploring what was really going on, from Mr. Ryan’s point of view, was at the heart of the journal.
And I miss it. I know so much stuff about what is happening and making stuff happen in Newburyport, because people talk and I listen, that keeping it to myself makes me itch. But floating it out there, what good would it do me, except make me feel less itchy.
One of the things that I really enjoy are the emails that I get from people wanting to know what the “true” story is. It’s usually from someone who is thinking of or planning to move here. They could be interested about the landfill, the wind turbine, the parking situation, just to name a few things, and they seem to trust a blogger from Newburyport over the realtor that is selling them the product.
And I always email back, and give them my opinion, just my opinion, and if applicable, who else to talk to get a fuller picture. So thank you all of you out there in Web Land, I am honored and touched that you would think of contacting me, and I have enjoyed our exchanges. I love my home town of Newburyport, MA, but I know that it is not perfect, and I know that knowing the reality about Newburyport helps people make wiser and more informed decisions. Just the way knowing the reality or getting a fuller picture about just about anything helps us make wiser decisions in this lifetime.
In Newburyport, MA I read an hysterical piece in The New Yorker Magazine by Woody Allen. I, for some reason, never read The New Yorker anymore, but “Bernie Maddoff” captures my eyeballs. And what really captures my eyeballs is the last paragraph of the essay:
“Moscowitz lives to this day with Yetta Belkin, whom he recognized from shopping at Fairway. In life she had always resembled a flounder, and after her fatal plane crash she came back as one.”
You can read the whole piece about two reincarnated lobsters’ encounter with Bernie Maddoff by Woody Allen here.
It’s the “shopping at Fairway” that catches my eye. Fairway on Broadway and 74th Street in New York City is a super supermarket to die for. Not only is there fresh produce up to the wazoo, but there is the ancient, impoverished Afro-American woman along with the waspy, middle aged New York socialite, the impeccably dressed New York businessman, lawyer, banker whatever, along with the pizza guy up the street, all jostling and doing a New York jig, within the hustle and bustle of Fairway. And with a quart of milk that goes for 75cents, what’s not to love?
I look at the new, or now fairly new website for Newburyport Development, and feel, at least compared to an institution like Fairway, that it is, in my mind, politically incorrect.
Newburyport is pictured by Newburyport Development, in my book, as a “Never Never Land” for the waspy, young, only attractive, well to do, American elite. That does not include moi, and I live here. The depiction is sort of the young, gorgeous versions of AIG executives and their girl friends or wives, that are now the recipients of populist rage. It is in stark contrast to the America seen at Fairway, which would, these days, be a politically correct reflection of the America in which we all, like it or not, abide.
This “perfect” Land of Eden, which the Newburyport Development website appears to depict, is in stark contrast to the real life squabbles, let’s say that we in Newburyport, MA are having over the large 292 foot wind turbine located in Newburyport’s Industrial Park.
And what I love about Newburyport, MA, is that no matter how one might feel about the 292 foot wind turbine, the passion is genuine, the “squabbles” are real and heartfelt, not a Madison Avenue mockup. And at the end of the day, or year or decade, there often seems to be a grudging respect for the other side. Often eventually one time “enemies” give one another hugs at the produce department at Newburyport’s local grocery store of choice.
I find that when something major bad happens in my life I go, not surprisingly, into shock–paralysis, then fear, then I start to get cranky, irritable and downright angry, and then eventually some sense of equilibrium settles in. All part of the process.
At least what the press is reporting is America enraged, and their rage coming to a boiling point. Protests at 100 locations are being organize by TakeBackTheEconomy.org at the offices of major banks, other corporations and locations against corporate excess tomorrow, Thursday March 19th. From what I can make out Bank of America is the corporation of choice in Massachusetts (this will, I think, make Gillian Swart happy). The rage at AIG rages on all across TV, Web and radio land.
It seems as if a country we went into shock when we first heard about the financial excesses and meltdown, then into paralyzing economic fear, and now we seem to be thawing out, and experiencing a sense of communal rage. A sense of justice is being demanded, problem solving and getting out of the situation we are in, at the moment, seems to be on the shelf.
And I wonder if this is part of a process of communally working through a major now global trauma, or if it is something more. More revolutionary. An “Off with their heads” rebellion. A visceral demand for a more equitable distribution of wealth.
From a perch in Newburyport, MA or anywhere, who could know if this is just part of the process of working towards an economic equilibrium, or if it is the beginning of an all out rebellion about something much bigger.
How weird are your enemies.
The fierceness of hate towards President Obama takes me by surprise. And it may be shrouded in disagreements about policy, but it’s a whole lot more than that (see earlier entries).
I guess it’s a long task for me to wean myself from Pollyanna hopefulness–that civility could happen.
The latest high-ratings hatemonger, frolicking fear sower, is a baby-faced boob (a double D–see earlier entry) called Glenn Beck. A wolf in sheep’s clothing and all of that.
I have this awful feeling that Mr. Beck may be one of these Sarah Palin “End Times” folks. People who look forward to the earth self destructing (and who better to destroy it than President Obama), because religion-wise that’s good for them. I’ve know more people over the years who have been so severely psychologically damaged by this world view. Little children lost in the supermarket, not being able to find their parents, and wondering if the “Rapture” has occurred and they have been left behind–all of this haunting them well past middle age. And I’m not even a shrink.
So March 4, 2009 was a nifty day for me, because, God bless him, Steven Colbert took on Glenn Beck and his Mr. Doom stuff in the most delightful way. Humor can be a wonderful weapon.
You can read a little more about it and see Stephen Colbert do his downright brilliant parody here.
My son says to me as he hears more and more people that he knows being laid off, “Mom, people now know what it’s like to be an artist.”
When folks ask me how I’m doing in these times I say, “Being an artist really helps me a lot in times like this.”
And what I mean by that is as an artist I never take for granted good financial times. My habit has been to sock it away, because there are always rainy days in the arts and hurricanes happen, and I guess now we even get the occasional typhoon.
I also know that the process of painting has taught me a lot about life’s lessons. Life’s different paths for me have never been straight and narrow, they have always been circuitous, uncertain, just like painting. Without an ongoing hope and faith, being an artist is almost impossible, and I have found that hope and faith becomes essential for living circuitous pathways.
And living in Newburyport, New England has helped me understand that creatively there can be no spring without a dormant winter. And I am no longer afraid of life’s winters because I know that life, like the seasons, is cyclical, and that spring always happens, no matter how long or how harsh winter may be.
And certainly right now, globally and as a country we are experiencing one of those long harsh Newburyport, New England winters, one that starts sometime in November and lets up sometime in April. But even in February, on the side of the street where the sun is warmest, early signs of spring begin to show. At the very top of high trees, a reddish hue becomes visible, and the buds on bushes and trees plump up. All signs of hope. All signs of spring.
So in an atmosphere of hopelessness, anxiety and often fear, I remind myself, that even in these times, spring and then the long hot summer will, as it always does, arrive once again.