Category Archives: Culture

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.

Plagiarism – Photoshop Take Off

Photoshop Flight

Photoshop Flight

I never, ever would have considered using other people’s images that are in the public domain in my art work, it would be plagiarism for me.  Plagiarism – I would have felt it to be “immoral,” “originality” the only acceptable device. But blogging, doing content for people’s websites, the World Wide Web has radically and slowly changed my whole idea of how to use images. Before starting the Newburyport Blog I never knew about stuff/images that are in the “public domain.”  I now bless the public domain, it makes what I do here and what other people do all across the web a whole lot more interesting. So why not use images that are in the public domain in my own art work? These are images I could never take, either because they are in a geographical location that I would never get to, or with equipment I would never buy.

Photoshop Bird 3 (thanks Bobby)

Photoshop Bird 3 (thanks Bobby)

And photoshop (see earlier entry on fine art, painting in particular, going the way of the buggy whip and typewriter), what one can do in photoshop in a few minutes would take me years to do as a painter. It’s irresistible. So I’ve started experimenting. And how fun!! Like being in a candy store for this artist.  A photoshop take off, a lovely New Year’s present for moi.

Newburyport Carpetbaggers, the 95%

Carpetbagger

Carpetbagger

One Newburyport City Councilor (Dick Sullivan) got up in the Newburyport City Council chambers and lamented that all these “newcomers” were coming in and telling the folks who were born and raised here what to do.

Another Newburyport City Councilor (Tom Jones) got up (Thursday night) and said how Newburyport was a working class town, and seemed to intimate that it was still a working class town.  No it’s not. In the year 2012, Newburyport is an upper-middle class city, quickly approaching a upper class enclave – especially when Mr. Karp starts building.

Honey, it ain’t your father’s Newburyport anymore.

If you haven’t noticed the carpetbagger thing has really, really gotten out of hand lately.  You don’t just have the carpetbaggers who came in the first wave, in the mid to late 1970′s and very early 1980′s,  right after Urban Renewal renewed.  There was a wave in the late 1990′s after the MBTA came back to town. Remember that, a big housing spike when a lot of the old timers cashed in.  I remember folks saying  that it was a joke that anyone would want to live in Newburyport’s South End. There was a lot of bitterness about how high the taxes had gotten because of the housing boom, but that money bought more house not so far away, in a place where there weren’t so many doctors, lawyers and financial folks. Where the working class folks felt more comfortable.

And then the super duper influx around 2005, when Mr. Karp bought so much land and real-estate downtown.  Yup, and people have just kept coming, with more and more money, lots more money.  And the old-timers, the natives, they pay attention and they vote, but their numbers just ain’t what they used to be.  It’s not your father’s Newburyport by any stretch of the imagination, no how, no way, any more.

14 Russia Street, Newburyport, Adios??

Thanks to the P.Preservationist for the heads-up, as well as Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron for the photo (I “borrowed”) and the link to the ZBA meeting.

14 Russia Street, Newburyport, headed for the chopping block by one of our own local developers.

This is why we need a demo delay with teeth, NOT a one year demo delay, good grief!!  Katy Ives is only proposing 2 years. We need more than 2 years (and 2 years is not “a taking,” for goodness sakes!!)

The Newburyport City Council is going to “chat” about Councilor Ives “compromise,” I can see some minor tweaking, but major watering down of even that in a search for some votes.  Hello.

We have a gorgeous, charming place here. The Newburyport City Council has a tremendous and noble opportunity.  Councilor Ives “no demo overlay” for Newburyport’s Historic District – it’s a good idea!!

Councilor Cameron is right, “Newburyport – Death by a thousand paper cuts!!”  Not going to be such a fun place to work, live and play, or eventually make any money off your house when you go to sell it, if the Newburyport City Council doesn’t step up to the plate and do something significant! with a few teeth and a little chutzpah already!! Enough with the caving in to the extreme property rights, minority “wing” of the Newburyport population!!  Man-up!!

14 Russia Street, headed for the chopping block

14 Russia Street, headed for the chopping block

What Newburyport Used to Look Like, “A Measure of Change”

Link to "A Measure of Change"

Link to "A Measure of Change"

This video is worth posting again, and if you haven’t seen it take a look, or if you have seen it, it’s pretty amazing and might be worth a gander again.

It’s about what Newburyport used to look like not so long ago in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s. It’s not the gorgeous downtown we all know and love now.  And downtown Newburyport no longer has any protection (it ended in 2005).  The Newburyport City Council has a fantastic opportunity now to put protection of downtown Newburyport back in place.  It would be a noble and intelligent thing to do.

The film “A Measure of Change” was made in 1975 by Lawrence Rosenblum on what the city looked like before Urban Renewal.  A link to the video which is now online can be found here.

A Really Good Compromise on Newburyport’s LHD

This sounds like a really good compromise on Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) sponsored on Monday night by Newburyport City Councilors Katy Ives and Bob Cronin. Excellent work!!  I hope it is one that the Newburyport City Councilors see as a “win-win” alternative.

The proposals address what Councilor Ives called the “most egregious” situations affecting our historic assets in the city of Newburyport, i.e. demolition, as well as protecting downtown Newburyport, the restoration of which is responsible for the revitalization of a once dying city.

A very well written article in the Newburyport Daily News about the the proposals sponsored by Councilors Katy Ives and Bob Cronin can be read here.

When Newburyport Looked Like a Slum

Newburyport 1967, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library (press image to enlarge)

Newburyport 1967, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library (press image to enlarge)

I was telling a business owner this week that Newburyport didn’t always look the way it looks now.  The business owner commutes from just outside Boston, and has had their business in Newburyport for over 10 years.  It was a complete shock to them that this now gorgeous place was literally in “shambles,” a slum in 1967.

The Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library graciously let me take photos of their archives of Newburyport from 1967-1974, HUD, NRA and Urban Renewal.  A link to the 54 photographs that I took from the Newburyport Archival Center can be found here.

(If you download the image would you please give The Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library and The Newburyport Blog credit.  Thank you.)

Newburyport, Inn Street, 1974

Inn Street, 1974 (press image to enlarge)

Inn Street, 1974 (press image to enlarge)

Inn Street, downtown Newburyport, 1974 (press image to enlarge)
Courtesy of the Archives at the Newburyport Public Library.

(If you download the image would you please give The Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library and The Newburyport Blog credit.  Thank you.)

Newburyport, Two Views of Pleasant Street

Two views of Newburyport’s Downtown, Pleasant Street from two different time periods.

Unitarian Church, Pleasant Street, 1929, courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department (press image to enlarge)

Unitarian Church, Pleasant Street, 1929, courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department (press image to enlarge)

Church of the First Religious Society in Newburyport (Unitarian), Newburyport, MA
Boston Public Library, Print Department, 1929
Leon H. Abdalian, photographer
Glass Negative

Newburyport's Pleasant Street

Newburyport's Pleasant Street (press image to enlarge)

Newburyport’s Pleasant Street from upper Inn Street, March 1, 1974
Courtesy of the Archives at the Newburyport Public Library.

And this Sunday, October 28, 2012, author and architect Jonathan Hale talks about his 40-year love affair with Newburyport, “Newburyport is a Work of Art: Why its Architecture is Rare and Irreplaceable.” The program is sponsored by the Newburyport Preservation Trust, and it is at 4 p.m. at the Custom House Maritime Museum, Water Street, Newburyport.

(If you download an image would you please give The Boston Public Library or The Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library and The Newburyport Blog credit.  Thank you.)

Newburyport LHD Political Reality

I am now going to piss off Newburyport preservationists!  Ooops!

The final report of the Newburyport LHD Study Committee (LHD = Local Historic District) is absurdly fair.  The five members did backflips to accommodate feedback from the community and from the Newburyport City Councilors. Backflips, cartwheels, you name it, right from the get go. And despite all of that, on an up and down vote it’s not going to fly. That’s just the existing political reality.

The leading member of the “Say No to LHD” group, its heart and soul, who got up in the first informational meeting a year a go, disrupting the entire meeting and storming out, vowing to stop the LHD, has done a remarkable job. It’s definitely a “Wow.” It appears that the end most certainly justified the means. Trashing people’s reputations and character, personal attacks, threats of law suits (most recently in a comment in the Daily News), presenting information early last winter (good tactic starting early) that was and is simply not true, has worked. Congratulations.

The final version of the LHD ordinance has finally gone to the Newburyport City Council, a meeting will take place this Thursday, October 25, 2012, Newburyport City Hall at 7PM.

As I see it, the political realities. (The boundaries of the proposed LHD are High Street, the gateway to the city, and downtown Newburyport from Winter Street to Federal Street.)  Lob off the North End of High Street at the Kelly School, and put those folks out of their misery.

There is unanimous support along the South End of the “Ridge” to Willis Lane (which is roughly across the street from Fruit Street).  Shorten High Street from Willis Lane to the Kelly School, maybe include St Paul’s Church on the other side (but, good grief, don’t cross the street!).

And protect downtown Newburyport.  After all that HUD Federal money, please, does anyone dispute that the restoration of downtown Newburyport is the reason that Newburyport has become the thriving place that it is today?  Really, not to protect downtown, good grief.

When Governor Deval Patrick came for a visit at Cafe Di Siena (February 2010), I asked Newburyport City Councilor Tom O’Brien if he would vote for the Newburyport LHD, and his response (this was before all of the hullabaloo), “Of course Mary, there’s been too many tear downs.”  This statement was witnessed by Newburyport City Councilor Barry Connell, who with a wink and a smile by both Newburyport city councilors, pretended to write down this vote for the LHD by Councilor Tom O’Brien on the back of his hand.

So why not have have a “No Demolition” zone/overlay for the entire Newburyport Historic District, that would also include “interior demolition for exploratory purposes,” which, for example, lead to the unfortunate creation by a developer on Pine Street, for which the neighbors are suing the developer and the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals.

Can the Newburyport City Council come up with the equivalent of the “Wisdom of Solomon?”  Can they do it in one night?? And what will they say, now that they get the chance have to have a say.  It will be really fascinating to watch.

Blooming in the Face of Trauma

Rose and Fence © Mary Baker

Rose and Fence © Mary Baker

I remember exactly where I was on 9/11, just like everyone else in America.

It was a bluebird day, much like today, and I was walking on my way to vote, it was voting day, when  I met someone I knew on talking on their cell phone looking perplexed and confused and shaking their head.  And then I remember walking down to the Tannery to pick something up, and everyone in the shop being completely silent, everyone was looking straight ahead and not saying a word.

It wasn’t until I got back home to my studio that I found out what was happening and then watching on TV seeing the unthinkable.  New York City is where I was born and raised, seeing the collapse and the lower part of Manhattan being engulfed. Luckily my family was located.  It was 3 months before I could semi function after that.  The country was utterly traumatized.

I always have thought as an artist, that subconsciously painters and other people in the arts work through traumas, and it wasn’t until after I painted a series of paintings, that I realized that they were about 9/11.  The 2 paintings here are 2 of what turned out to be a series.  2 fence posts, or columns, reminiscent of the twin towers, with life growing between them, showed up over and over in the paintings that I did in the years that followed, as America recovered from the anguish of that day, and started to bloom once more.

Yellow Roses © Mary Baker

Yellow Roses © Mary Baker

These roses and fences were found and can still be found in the South End of Newburyport, in Newburyport’s Historic District.