Category Archives: Culture

New Archival Center Link for Historic Photos at The Newburyport Public Library

Historic Photograph

High Street at Summer and Winter Streets Courtesy of the Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library

There is now a new link to the historic photographs at The Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.  It can be found here.  If you download the photograph please give the Archival Center credit.  Thank you.

(It is one of my pet peeves that people download photographs from The Newburyport Blog and repost them elsewhere, without saying where they come from.)

New Digital Images–A Traditional Painter Aims for the 21st Century

Digital Painting, Plum Island Spring, Mary Baker © 2014

Plum Island Spring, Mary Baker © 2014

Jeff Ives, the husband of Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives, did the nicest thing.  He put the first four images of the new digital body of work by yours truly, up on Tumblr. I was very moved.

Way, way, way back in December 2012 I wondered out loud on The Newburyport Blog, if traditional painting was going the way of the buggy whip and the typewriter. And way back then, I decided to learn “digital stuff,” and have come up with, what I hope, is the first 4 images of a new digital body of work.

Although The Newburyport Blog got a recent mobile device friendly facelift, my traditional art website languishes in a less well coded world, soon, one day, to be updated with the new digital images.

For the moment, this new art foray into the 21st century, by moi, a traditional painter for so many decades, I don’t even want to say, is on Facebook, and the new images as they get created can, for the moment, be found on the “New Work “Album here (and if you would “Like” the Facebook page here that would be most awesome!!).

Editor’s Note:  My apologies, my hosting server redirected the blog to another place, it has now been corrected.  Thank you so much for your patience.

New England Winters – Not for the Elegant

Fedora, Bow Tie and L.L. Bean**

Fedora, Bow Tie and L.L. Bean coat**

My father, an elegant and dapper New York gentleman, who wore fedoras and bow ties, came up to see my son in a play in Boston during an early, chilly New England spring. He looked at me and said, “You fit right in.”

I, in fact, was not dressed elegantly in any way. I was dressed for New England, which meant not in “stylish” shoes, but shoes that could walk through melting winter slush, and a warm, water-proof coat, not a fashionable, “flimsy” “cloth” sheathing.

And I remembered, why, growing up, I was always so cold in New York winters, when the wind howls through the tall caverns of New York City buildings, while New Yorkers waited in the elements for buses, shivered in subway stations, or hoped to hail a possibly elusive taxi cab. New Yorkers had (at least when I was growing up) no idea how to dress for winter. New Englanders do.

“Back in the day,” my family used to say people in Boston had no sense of style, that they were “tweedy” and “frumpy” (Ok, they had a few New York preconceptions).  Actually New Englanders are, when it comes to winter outerwear, very sensible, and not “foolish.” We like to be as warm and dry as possible — an example my father followed in his later years (it took him until he was in his late 70′s), when he shocked his “homies” and went for the comfy and warm L.L. Bean look, from L.L. Bean, and chuckled at his “peeps” (I did it!! see earlier entry!!) who looked dubiously at his new attire.

Day-Glow Orange Hunting Hat

Day-Glow Orange Hunting Hat

When I bundle up for Newburyport New England winters, I often think of my father. I’m not sure what he would think of the warm, day-glow orange hunting hat that my neighbor so graciously gave me, so that I wouldn’t be run over when I walk in the middle of the street on Newburyport snowy, difficult to plow the road days (see previous post). But the other day I saw someone walking on snowy High Street with a day-glow, orange, toasty hunting hat, just like mine, and I thought, “Damn, they look New England stylish.”

**My father in his 80′s, stylish in his fedora, bow tie and L.L. Bean coat — A collaborative work © Preston Heller and Mary Baker.

Two Things I learned during Newburyport’s 2013 Election — And it’s not what you Think

I am a local political junkie. I just can’t help myself. And on the evening of the mayoral primary 0f 2013, I went down to Newburyport City Hall to hear the results.

I love going down to City Hall to hear the whatever election results. There is an excitement and buzz, and no matter what candidate or candidates one might be routing for, there is usually some kidding around and a sense of comraderie. It takes a lot of guts to run for any city office, and admiration for the folks who actually do run for office is palpable.

And then our wonderful City Clerk, Richard Jones, comes out, looking distinguished and dapper in his bow tie. And with a twinkly in his eye and some gravitas, he reads the election results, city ward by city ward (Newburyport has 6 wards), and everyone is scrambling to type the results into their laptops.

(And as a btw Richard Jones is one fantastic artist!! Really. What he is doing in Newburyport City Hall, except bringing a countenance of dignity and calm, beats me. And if you want to see his work, Richard Jones’s new painting hangs proudly in the lobby of Newburyport’s bank, The Institution for Savings, in its home bank branch on State Street. And you can go there and look at it it. I do. Richard Jones’s website can be found here.)

That evening, for the mayoral primary, the chit chat was that the vote was going to be split roughly in thirds, and it was just a matter of which two candidates had some more votes (which btw that is how it “fell.”). And while I was chit chatting with a fellow political junkie they said, “Dick Sullivan has his “peeps.” (Dick Sullivan came in second in the primary.) And I said to myself “peeps??” “Peeps” sounds like ghetto speak. My fellow political junkie is about my age, and I’m no “hip,” sprightly, spring chicken. “Peeps?” I must be really out of it. A new word — “peeps,” which I could never imagine myself effectively executing. “Peeps?”

And during the election cycle I was going to meet with one of the new candidates running for Newburyport City Council. Coffee and chit chat that day didn’t come about, and in apologizing for the miscommunication, the candidate used the phrase “my bad.” “My bad??” I’m thinking, “homies,” “rappers,” and urban ghetto speak?? “My bad??” Am I ever out of it. (I might be able to say, “my bad” one day — perhaps, but I’m not sure I could pull off “peeps.”)

So during the 2013 election I learned two new words/phrases, “peeps” and “my bad,” which might bring me further into the 21st Century, possibly. An etymology lesson during the Newburyport election of 2013, who knew??

Twitter — A Mea Culpa

Twitter, I owe you a mea culpa, i.e an apology.  Mea culpa rates as a much more serious atonement than “my bad,” for one thing it’s in Latin.

In February 2009 I wrote, “And I look at Twitter and for the most part, it verbally looks like a Google Earth close up of a mangled beaver swamp.” I was lamenting the loss of things like complete sentences–even paragraphs, possibly periods.

Oh, how far I have come… I’ve been tweeting away for some time now, with a complete disregard for complete sentences, and yes, sometimes even things like “verbs,” and you can just forget about “periods,” i.e. “.”.

My obscure Twitter handle — @MaryBakerArt.  I’ve fallen as low as to tweet things like “Blizzard in ‪#Newburyport‬ tomorrow afternoon and evening – Oy Veh ‪#Nbpt‬ ‪#Snow‬ ‪#blizzard” — notice, no verb. So versatile, I am with even beginning to master things such as the hashtag “#.”  21st Century here I come.

One of the things that I like about Twitter is that leading up to a potential blizzard, I can follow all sorts of meteorologist (my favorite one is @growingwisdom, I’m a sucker for the word “wisdom”). When whatever winter storm of the winter 2014 is over, I can then happily unfollow them.  Who is to know, who is to care.

If anyone wanted to know what Market Basket was like early this morning — “‪#Marketbasket‬ crowded but calm at 8:15 this morning in ‪#Newburyport‬ ‪#Nbpt‬ ‪#blizzard‬” — according to other tweets, it’s slightly more crowded at the moment (like can you find a parking space–a little like the afternoon of Christmas eve).

The Jackals are Out – Newburyport Zoning

It didn’t take long. And yes, they are back.  The Say No to LHD Jackals are back.  Lyndi Lanphear, who got soundly defeated in November’s election for Newburyport City Council at Large, coming in second to last, is out with a Letter to the Editor in today’s Newburyport Daily News, that once again twists the facts, misrepresents the facts, and tries to scare the wits out of people by telling them stuff that is blatantly not true.

And Larry Cavalieri is in the cheering commenting section of the Newburyport Daily News, with comments that one can only think are meant to not only twist the facts, but intimidate people into not speaking up as well. “Vicious” and “foul,” are words, in my mind, that are not meant to be an “opinion,” but words that are meant to be invective.

And The Newburyport Daily News, btw, all sorts of anonymous commentators are also back.  Might want to clear that one up.

I can only hope that this Newburyport City Council can stay above the screaming fray, and come up with a good and equitable decision on Newburyport City Councilor Jared Eigerman’s three detailed and thoughtful zoning proposals.

And if you would like the correct information please press here.

Update:  Lyndi Lanphear has organized a meeting this Saturday to try and stop the zoning proposals from ever happening. Newburyport City Councilor Jared Eigerman has offered to explain to the people at that meeting what the zoning amendments are actually about, and what they hope to accomplish (zoning is complicated).  It is my understanding that Mrs. Lanphear has not taken Councilor Eigerman up on his charitable offer. It is my opinion that Lyndi Lanphear would rather confuse, obfuscate and frighten people with fictitious statements, than acknowledge the facts, and make constructive and helpful observations, the way Dick Hordon, the chair of the Say No to LHD group, who Councilor Eigerman sat down with, already has.

Have an Opinion and Make People Angry

I came across something to the effect on Facebook of, “Want to make people angry? Have an opinion. Wait.”

This is now my 8th year writing The Newburyport Blog, and I’ve had lots of opinions, on lots of things, and pissed a lot of people off at one time or another. I piss off “Conservatives,” “Natives/Townies,” and, yes, “Progressives.” Conservatives and Townies have one way of reacting, and Progressives have another, equally pesky, way of reacting.

Conservatives and Townies will call me things like “vicious” and “foul,” send me stormy emails, or leave me ranting Facebook messages ALL IN CAPS!!!!!  And accuse me of outrageous felonies and misdemeanors, in print, to the point where I might have a very good case for suing them for libel.  However, since I am among a whole string of fairly illustrious folks that have been accused of libelous actions, I’ve decided to let that one go, at least for now.

Progressives, on the other hand, seem to take to the phone.  I’ll get long and very “intense” phone calls, and when I say, “I think I’ll hang up now,” they call back and continue. An attempt to reduce me to tears is sometimes pursued, and not to rule out possible threats of lawsuits. And sometimes follow-up, guilt-trip emails from young children and college students, in an attempt to get me to change my mind about whatever.

The people who don’t pull these various and sundry maneuvers, interestingly enough, are our local politicians.  Either their possible displeasure is left up to surrogates, or they have developed a thick enough skin, having been in “the game,” to know that people having opinions about things, issues, campaigns and candidates, is part of the democratic process. It’s called free speech.

(And P.S. whether it’s a Conservative, townie or a Progressive that pulls one of these vagaries, believe me, I do not forget.)

The Story of the Newburyport Turnpike, Rt 1, with Thanks to Gordon Harris

newburyport_turnpike

The Newburyport Turnpike, courtesy of Gordon Harris, originally from Massachusetts Beautiful, by Wallace Nutting, 1923

I’ve discovered a wonderful new (to me) blog, written by Gordon Harris of Ipswich, Massachusetts. The blog is called “Stories from Ipswich.” And I discovered it via Facebook.  Mr Harris has written the story of the Newburyport Turnpike or what we now call Route 1, and how it came to pass.

In 1803 a group of Newburyport investors incorporated as the Newburyport Turnpike Corporation in a commercial venture to build a straight toll road from Boston to Newburyport (the highway we call Rt. 1). The intent was to bypass Salem and promote Newburyport as a commercial destination. Proponents claimed it would cut travel time by a third compared to the old Bay Road (Rt. 1A).”

To read the entire fascinating account/history, please press here.

And many thanks to Gordon Harris for letting me borrow/steal the photo of the Turnpike for this post. To see a large version, please read his blog post.  And if you download the photo, please give Gordon Harris and his blog credit (it is now one of my pet peeves that I find images that have been collected by me, the editor of The Newburyport Blog, for the last 7 years, all over Facebook, without any credit to The Newburyport Blog or the place where the image originated).

Peace With Your Enemy

Peace with your enemy

Peace with your enemy

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995) – Nelson Mandela

This quote seems very appropriate for Martin Luther King Day. It also seems appropriate for Newburyport politics (and all politics).

The NRA is not a STD

NRA = Newburyport Redevelopment Authority
STD = Sexually transmitted disease

One of the first things that struck me when I first saw the “Save the Open Waterfront” signs around town, was the phrase, “Stop NRA.” Not “Stop the NRA,” but “Stop NRA,” as if the NRA was not a group of Newburyport residents, but instead something like a STD, a sexually transmitted disease. And maybe that was the point in the marketing strategy, I don’t know.

What I do know, is when I walked and talked to folks during what seemed a very, very long election, the Waterfront always came up, and when the NRA was mentioned, I would try to explain that the members of the NRA are real, actual caring, human beings, not weird, wired, automated machines, cyborgs. Sigh.

And the chair, Tom Salemi, has got to be one of the nicest, fairest, kindest human beings in town–not toxic waste. When I would get beyond the tactfully stated, on my part, “not toxic waste” thing, and tell people about Tom Salemi, they would relax a little, and say, “Really.”  And I’d say, “Really. Really and Truly.”

And judging from the article in the Newburyport Daily News, see earlier entry, it is really and truly true. The members of the NRA are not some uncaring monolith (a large and impersonal political, corporate, or social structure regarded as intractably indivisible and uniform), but people who care about this small New England City and the people who live in it.  Will everyone in Newburyport believe that, probably not, but “really and truly,” that is true.

Newburyport’s Waterfront, Resolved in my Lifetime?

I asked a friend of mine, who not only knows about such matters, but is also “wise” (a much overlooked character trait these days), about why, when the  history of the NRA (Newburyport Redevelopment Authority) land had been massively built on (lots of photos and maps to prove it), did the residents of Newburyport, no matter how long they had lived here, short time, long time, in-between time, seem so passionate about having it stay as an open waterfront.

Disclosure, I am one of the only people I know who likes, and will admit to liking, the proposal by the NRA and Union Studios for Newburyport’s Waterfront.  I was born and raised in Manhattan, NYC, I like tall buildings, I like tall buildings that lead to the mouth of large rivers (the Hudson River for example). As far as I can tell, when talking to people, I am in a minority of one.

What my very wise friend said, was that when buildings get demolished, people get very attached to the open space. Boston’s Greenway was given as an example.

And the residents of Newburyport are very attached to the wide open space called “The Waterfront” along the mighty Merrimac River in Newburyport, MA. When I would walk and talk to folks, what I heard from all sorts of folks is that they would rather have it just the way it is than have anything built on it at all. This is from folks who have lived here, a short time, a long time, an in-between time.

And this past 2013 election has been, in my mind, about a whole bunch of things. But I think it might well be the final “swan song” for anything ever being built on that land. Yes, maybe “it,” the Waterfront, has been resolved in my life time.  “Leave it open.” But, how to pay for it and maintain it, that has always been the question. And hopefully my “wise” friend might have some thoughts on that challenge, that puzzle, that head-scratcher, that perplexing conundrum.

Our Neighbors, Stella Mae Culpepper and On Linden Square

On Linden Square by Kate Sullivan, used with permission (press image to enlarge)

On Linden Square by Kate Sullivan, used with permission (press image to enlarge)

After a long, hard, often nasty Newburyport election 2013,  I found this book On Linden Square by Kate Sullivan (and, yes, it’s a children’s book) to be mighty refreshing.

Stella Mae Culpepper is the heroine of this tale, and she has watched her neighbors, but she has never spoken to any of them, and they have never spoken to her (sounds so New England familiar to me). Along comes a New England blizzard, and all that changes (and in the best of cases, is also so New England familiar to me).  And it looks like from the drawings in the book, that Stella lives in an historic city, not Newburyport, but a lot of bricks and stuff and New England homes (and of course I like that a lot).

And the author of On Linden Square, Kate Sullivan, has a wonderful project, the “Who’s Your Neighbor” Project, the “Write to Stella” project, or in my mind, “the neighbors and folks in Newburyport that I am so grateful for” project.

Instead of all the awful things about people, that seemed to come to the surface this election, to think about all the good things about neighbors and the folks around us, and write to Stella about one or more of them. Also anyone could have their child, children’s friends, grandchildren, students, nieces, nephews, neighborhood children write to Stella as well. And in return, Stella will send you, or whoever writes to Stella, a note back, and a postcard signed by of of Stella’s neighbors in the book, On Linden Square, your, or your child’s, grandchild’s, niece’s or nephew’s very own piece of artwork.  And your note to Stella, and a picture of your neighbor, if you draw one, or your child, niece, nephew, grandchild draws one, might also be featured on the book’s website, which is pretty cool.

Stella Mae Culpepper, used with permission (press image to enlarge)

Stella Mae Culpepper, used with permission, © Kate Sullivan 2013 (press image to enlarge)

So I’ve written to Stella about three of my neighbors (really and truly). I sent my notes by email, you or whoever could also send it by snail mail or through the book’s Facebook page.  And I and my neighbors can’t wait to see what we get back. And writing about what my wonderful neighbors do for me, our neighborhood and our city, a great feeling, let me tell you, especially after what often felt like a slimy, unpleasant, noxious, never ending Newburyport election.

You can see the “Write to Stella” about a neighbor project here.

You can see all about the book On Linden Square, by Kate Sullivan here.

And you can see Stella and On Linden Square’s Facebook page here.

PS. Kate Sullivan lives in Newburyport, and I’ve never met her (sort of like what happens in the book). And maybe a snow storm, or some other New England event might change that. And the only thing that I know, at this point, about Kate Sullivan is what I’ve read from her bio. The fact that her last name is “Sullivan” could be coincidence, or maybe just wildly ironic.

Here are the drawings of my neighbors that I got back from Stella!!

My neighbors on the Brown School Playground

My neighbors at the Brown School Playground

My neighbor helping me with my driveway in a blizzard.

My neighbor helping me with my driveway in a blizzard

And here is a drawing of Stella Mae Culpepper getting her hair cut by Newburyport’s very own Esther Sayer at Inn Street Barber.

Stella gets a haircut at Newburyport's Inn Street Barber

Stella gets a haircut at Newburyport's Inn Street Barber

Both Jabberwocky Books at the Tannery and The Book Rack on State Street in downtown Newburyport, sell On Linden Square.

Newburyport Schools are Doing Awesome-Congratulations

From today’s Newburyport Daily News

Newburyport Leads Local Schools in MCAS Results

“The state released the results of the Spring 2013 MCAS, and once again local schools outperformed the state average in nearly every category, with Newburyport leading the way.

Overall, Newburyport had the highest scores across all grade levels and subjects in the region…”

Congratulations to all our wonderful teachers. The complete story can be read here.

Not Qualified to be Mayor

As I recall, in the 2001 election, people voted for Al Lavender, as a reaction against Mayor Lisa Mead (not a “for” Al Lavender vote). I thought Lisa Mead was an incredibly competent mayor. And I feel that we are still recovering from the consequences of two years of Al Lavender’s tenure in the corner office (we are still cleaning up the landfill, which has caused untold misery–something that came out of Al Lavender’s two year term).

I would like a smart, well educated (more than a high school education), competent person, who can deal with an array of complex issues, in the corner office for the next four years, someone with a lot of executive experience (this is one complicated city to run) (a retired firefighter and a Home Depot greeter does not do it for me).

I think firefighters are incredible people, unbelievably brave, but with a skill set that, in my mind, does not translate into dealing with the incredibly complex issues that the Mayor of Newburyport deals with.

I would surely like to see the electorate vote with their intelligence, instead of reacting emotionally, and to see this not just as a one issue election (i.e. the Waterfront).

And I also think, given his resume, that if Dick Sullivan didn’t have the last name “Sullivan,” no one would take his candidacy seriously for being the CEO of this complicated city.

Miss Manners has a Few Things to Say on her Facebook Page

Miss Manners, moi, has a few things to say on her Facebook page.

The tone of this election season (don’t even get me started about an illegal, destructive and anonymous flyer and robo-call that happened this weekend) has been so off the charts, that I sat and thought long and hard before putting up the most recent Facebook post about the NRA and the Waterfront. How to make it so that there wasn’t a collective meltdown, uncouth, brawl. Passion about issues is one thing, complete un-civility on the part of the electorate is quite another. It can happen other places, but not on my Facebook page.

And as for setting a “tone” for the upcoming election, the “male” who survived the mayoral primary, has, in my books, done one lousy job. Maybe “chivalry,” in this day an age, is way too much to ask for, even, apparently, in a local election. And I guess being a “gentleman” would be completely out of the question. But being that “uncouth,” as someone who would like to be the leader of Newburyport, our small New England city–you have got to be kidding me.

To show up at a press conference, that one would suppose to have been agreed upon, a press conference that was, I thought, supposed to be about denouncing the underhanded, destructive, anonymous and illegal political tactics that took place over the weekend. To then say that the press conference didn’t seem necessary, and use the opportunity to bash one’s opponent… if I was mayoral candidate Dick Sullivan’s mother, I would have taken him by the ear, not caring how old either one of us might be, and given him a good whoop’n.

Some of the candidates this electoral season have set a tone of “classiness.” Mayoral candidate Dick Sullivan, has not been one of them.

I digress.

So what do I, the editor of The Newburyport Blog, do about setting some boundaries on The Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page?

As of this morning a “comment policy” is now in place:

“If you do choose to comment on the Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page, please be civil, polite (which could be perceived as a radical concept), and constructive, otherwise your comment will be deleted (even if it slightly crosses the line) and you will be banned (something I really would not like to do); you may (or may not) get a “warning” if I feel that “banning” from this Facebook page is warranted. (How about that for a disclaimer!!) Mary Baker Eaton, Editor of The Newburyport Blog.

(One of the ways to make your comment “polite,” is to use “I,” as in “I feel that this would….” instead of “You,” as in, “You are…” or to have no preposition at all, which can come across as not being “polite.” )”

And I, Miss Manners, mean it.

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing Back Then

I pissed off a lot of people with the “Please Leave My Plastic Bags Alone” post.  I was even asked not to write anything more about the subject (democracy, free speech anyone??), so, at least for now, technically I won’t.

This has been making the rounds on the internet for months and months and months (the source unfortunately is unknown – wish I knew!!), so if you haven’t seen it…

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing Back Then

“Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Milk Bottles, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Milk Bottles, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”

Patina, Newburyport and the Soul of the City

Definition of Patina:

“A surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use.” Merriam-Webster

If you ever watch anything on TV that has to do with old stuff, from the tonier PBS “Antiques Road Show,” to the newer “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel, something old would be brought in, and if it has been refinished, and the original finish has been removed, whether it’s an old gun, a coin or an old piece of furniture, the value of that piece, whatever it might be, would be greatly, greatly diminished.

Same thing with small historic seacoast New England cities, i.e. Newburyport.

When I moved her over 30 years ago, Newburyport had a whole lot of soul and patina. I loved walking down the street and feel the stories behind the homes that I would walk past.

Lately, I’ve heard people use the word “slummy,” even for existing parts of Newburyport.  Yes, really – “slummy.”

Slummy seems to be the new word for anything that hasn’t been torn down, or torn apart and is looking shiny and new.

What I would call “patina” in Newburyport, is now being rebranded as “slummy.”

An historic home, one that is 75 years old, or in Newburyport’s case much, much older, that has been lovingly restored, retains its soul, its patina.  An historic property in Newburyport that has been torn down, or ripped apart so that almost nothing exists, that property, has not only lost its patina, its soul is gone as well, and in my mind, no offense or anything, so has its value, in this particular place, Newburyport, Massachusetts.

A home that has been decimated here and there in Newburyport, Newburyport’s soul and patina still exists.  Keep adding to those homes that have been decimated and the soul of the city gradually disappears, and nope, it cannot be regained.

There are many keepers of the Newburyport’s soul in this city.  And one of those entities that are entrusted with its soul is our Historical Commission (not the Historical Society, two completely different entities).

And back, quite a while ago, when things were really beginning to be decimated, the city, the Historical Commission and the Newburyport City Council, put Newburyport’s Demo Delay in place.  It was a way to get people to stop for a little while, have a discussion about their small piece of the soul of the city.  And the Historical Commission could enact a time period, at the moment it is one year, to delay demolition, and to explore options, and hopefully retain that part of the city’s soul. Or not, the owner or developer could tear down the structure at the end of the demo delay, if they chose to, and at that time the city’s building inspector would issue the appropriate permits.

What is so destructive about the new Demo Delay Ordinance proposed by City Councilor Bob Cronin, and co-sponsored by City Councilor Dick Sullivan, who is also running for mayor, is that the ordinance focuses on structural choices, giving the building inspector say over what gets demolished, and what does not.  The proposed ordinance does not focus on the soul of the city.  And that soul, that patina, is why so many of us come to Newburyport to live, visit, work and play.

Weird Demo Delay Tweak

Newburyport City Councilor Bob Cronin has submitted a “tweaked” Demo Delay Ordinance to the Newburyport City Council this Tuesday, and for me, it’s a real head-scratcher – and that’s being polite.

While it clarifies the ordinance, it also appears to give the decision making power about whether an historic structure should be demolished, as I read it,  to the building inspector?? rather than the Newburyport City Council appointed Historical Commission, the folks who have and should always make that determination. Yikes!!

Puzzling, weird, what????

It also keeps the Demo Delay at 12 months instead of bumping it up to 18 months, which is what I heard the Newburyport City Council previously agree to (unfortunately the Newburyport City Council could not muster up  enough votes for even a 2 year Demo Delay, which would help this historic city, which is quickly losing its historic character, a lot!!).

I am pretty sure this is not what Councilor Ives had in mind when the discussion took place a few months ago, before she left, which was co-sponsored by Councilor Cronin.

And no one from the Historical Commission was ever consulted?? Weird, odd, puzzling??

“Disappointment” in this odd ordinance tweak, doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Brick and Tree dissects why this proposed ordinance by City Councilor Bob Cronin is so destructive for Newburyport here.

Bushee Estate Demolished for a Subdivision

The Bushee estate on Newman Road has been demolished for a subdivision.  That’s a “Yikes.”

The home that carried her ( Florence E. Bushee) name boasted a twin chimney 2 1/2-story colonial with 13 rooms and eight open fireplaces, ornamental gardens, a carriage house, a post and beam cow barn and multi-stall horse barn.”  Newburyport Daily News, January 25, 2102

The entire article can be read here (it’s worth reading!!).

Nesting, Mother’s Nest, Newly Married Nesting, Empty-Nest

In my new fascination with my burgeoning photoshop project (I am mulling an actual name), I am curious about the images that I choose.

The latest image is from someone who, at this point I know only as “katmystiry.”  I have emailed “katmystiry,” and maybe I will know more about whoever this might be, but at the moment it is just an anonymous username and a “mystery.”

The image that I photoshoped away at is of a robin nesting.

robin-sm

Photoshop Robin Nesting, thanks katmystiry

The first thing that comes to mind is part of a poem that my wonderful son wrote way back in May of 2006, which I keep over my desk.

“i look under my bed
and see hundreds of feathers
i am content in my mother’s nest”

When I asked my son how he came about this incredibly moving for moi poetic tidbit, he told me, in college at the time, that he had a feather pillow that leaked, and literally there were hundreds of feathers when he looked under his bead.

And this year, lo 6 year later, my son got married.  And as I marvel at these lovely newlyweds, I think about them “nesting,” and am glad that my son is now so content in his newly married nest.

And then there is the empty-nest thing.

And then I wonder what a “back-story” could be on this photoshoped robin sitting on her photoshop nest.  I remember being a new mom, feeding my son in the very early hours of the morning, wondering if there were other moms out there like me, sitting  alone with their child in the dark.  And to me, this robin reminds me of those nights so many years and decades long ago.