Newburyport, The Significance of Memory and Place


“There can be no significance without memory…And if memory is necessary for significance, it is also necessary for both meaning and value. Without memory nothing has significance, nothing has meaning, nothing has value…

The city tells it own past, transfers its own memory…and it is memory that makes places significant.”

© Donovan D. Rypkema, 2007, PlaceEconomics

When I moved here in 1981 and bought an old home I had no clue about the culture of Newburyport, MA. And it took me years to understand the ethos of Newburyport, Massachusetts. I was young, and it didn’t enter my head that comprehending the small New England city that I had instantly fallen in love with, would be a worthwhile, if not an essential thing to do.

I am reminding myself of this fact now, as I see new folks come into town and immediately start making either physical changes to the city, as in major alterations to an historic home; or by deciding to run for a major political office immediately, or wanting to make major political changes (and then being surprised when it doesn’t work).

I do remember, however, that when I had the privilege of buying that wonderful old house back in 1981, that the memories of the previous owners were so strong, that I wanted to sweep out the cobwebs and add my own memories to the house right away.

And one of the things that I was struck by, when I was given the tour of 87 High Street (see earlier entries), was the sense that the old memories had been left intact, but it was as if the cobwebs had been cleaned out and the house was being filled full of light and aired out.

And all of that has me thinking about, of all things, yes, historic preservation in Newburyport, MA. There seems to be the gamut in town from keeping things exactly as they were, to keeping some things and combining the old with contemporary elements.

So, guess what? For this blogger, even historic preservation has entered that “grey area.”

However, I haven’t quite figured out where the line is. Where the line is for me, which when it is crossed, completely destroys, discounts, disregards the “memories” of this historic small seaport New England city.

Mary Eaton

Elections in Newburyport, MA, Civic Engagement or For the Birds

Many people say to me, “you’ve got to get a pet” (usually they want me to get a dog).

At the moment my notion of having a “pet” is having astoundingly low maintenance pets. (And no the frogs do not count as pets. A) They are “hard working” political consultants for the Newburyport Blog; and B) they are either stuffed or made out of plastic.)

No, the “pets” that I have are birds.

In my “garden/ backyard/ green-stuff,” I have 2 Finch feeders and 2 birdbaths. I mean are we talking really low maintenance here or what??

And I’m even lazy when it comes to my “self-maintaining” bird “pets.”

(You may have noticed I’m chatting about, of all things, birds. This is because I have a severe case of “candidate mind mush.” In Saturday’s Newburyport Daily News, July 28, 2007, there is a list of all the people who are running as candidates in Newburyport, MA.

Count’em… At this point, (having pulled papers) there are 6 for mayor, 11 for Newburyport City Councilor at Large (good grief), 3 contested seats, Wards 2, 4 and 5, so add 6 more; and 7 who have pulled papers for Newburyport School Committee.

Being lousy at math, I actually got out my calculator. That’s count’em, 30 people running for office in Newburyport, MA. Yes, believe you me, I’m all for civic enthusiasm and involvement, but 30 people pulling out papers, creates a severe case of Newburyport mind mush for this blogger.)

I look at the birdbaths and say, “ok, ok, so, they need a little ‘freshening’. I promise, I’ll take care of it.”

And then I dump some water in the 2 bird baths. Major effort on my part.

The first one in… the Blue Jay. Gets right in there, in the middle of the bird bath, flaps around, and soaks himself so that he looks like Alfalfa after the rain. (Sort of the “my way or the highway” approach or the “assertive” or “intense” or “enthusiastic” approach, depending on your point of view of bird bathing.) (And wow, does this date me or what. Alfalfa was in “Our Gang,” black and white TV. We are talking millenniums ago.)

And then the sparrows come. They congregate together in the one of the trees above the bird bath. Chirp and chat. And then all land of on the perimeter of the bird bath and proceed to jump in together and take a communal bath. (The sort of cooperation, committee approach to bird bathing.)

And my favorites are the yellow finches (they are gorgeous). They chow down on the Finch food, seem to either be oblivious or arrogant or just plain old enjoying themselves, depending on your point of view, that the finch food is only for them. Flitter down to a bird bath, take a couple of delicate sips, and then proceed to fly away, or continue to peck away, looking over their backs, for some unknown reason to moi, as they go at it.

I’m not sure which political type that this would correlate to. The readers of the Newburyport Blog would just have to decide for themselves. (Spoiled and entitled? Confident? I don’t know.)

So, yes, at this point, we have 30 people running for contested seats for the Newburyport 2007 election. I’m not exactly sure what this means. Whether some of this is “for the birds,” or whether this is an indication that low and behold, some of the folks in Newburyport, MA have woken up from an apathetic stupor and are taking an engaged interest in our small, New England seacoast city. I’ll just have to think a little bit more on this one.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Blogger Relief, No School Override on November Ballot


Immense relief.

The Newburyport School Committee has decided NOT to put an override on the November 2007 ballot.


Who says people can’t learn from their mistakes.

And Mayor John Moak is creating a task force “that will research and analyze revenue sources for the schools. The task force will include two School Committee members, one city councilor and four community members, among others. It will be charged with identifying and examining every source of revenue for the school system, from Chapter 70 state aid and local taxes to athletic fees, private grants and school-choice fees…” (Newburyport Daily News, “Schools abandon bid for fall override vote,” by Nick Pinto, July 25, 2007)


Yes, it’s time to politically navigate school funding waters, and it looks like someone is paying attention to smart political minds, because if an override were on the November ballot, it would most probably fail and there would be even more rancor over the issue of the Newburyport Schools than there is already.

And now we (or at least some of us) can concentrate on all the other myriad of issues and concerns that face our small New England seaport city (at least for the time being).

So good go’n Mayor John Moak and the Newburyport School Committee (and Vice-Chair Steven Cole).

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Tour of 87 High Street

First of all the frogs are furious with me. First they threatened to leave (go ahead, leave guys, there are other frogs out there, believe you me, how about 1000’s). Then they threatened to unionize (like that’s really going to work). And then they were hurling themselves against the door (I mean it was really over the top) trying to get out to go with me when I was leaving.

Such drama at the Newburyport Blog. Wow.

Second of all, I have a wild suggestion. If a reader of the Newburyport Blog finds a post where they might be discussed- pleasantness works so much better than, for example, an offensive phone call threatening to sue the editor of the Newburyport Blog, moi, for who knows what. Really.

Third of all, preservationists out there, relax. It’s Ok.

I got a very nice email, much to my complete surprise, from Peter and Leslie Tolan inviting me to take a tour of 87 High Street (see earlier posts).

And, I am very jealous of, among other things, the gorgeous original staircase, and the huge original fireplace, which is in the dining room. Yes, serious High Street envy for this Newburyport Blogger.

And they were nice people too, with nice kids. And they’ve been walking among us undetected for quite a while. So, boo.

Ok, there will be or already is a “magical hedge” (see earlier entry). But family in town and our gorgeous small seaport city appear to be the reason for buying the house.

And I didn’t get the sense that vast streams of Hollywood folks were following in their wake (whew). I could be a total pushover (being nice to the editor of the Newburyport Blog could do that), and maybe I’m wrong and my radar could be out of wack. But the owners of 87 High Street passed the Mary Baker Eaton, Newburyport Blog inquirization.

So welcome to the neighborhood and welcome to Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, A Sidekick on Another Local Blog

Is George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant to the Newburyport Blog ever excited.

George has found another blog that has a “sidekick.” (George is not sure whether he likes being referred to has a “sidekick,” but for the moment he’s decided to go for it.)

The other “sidekick” is on another local blog called H2oTown watertown’s watercooler.

The editor of H2oTown is Lisa Williams, and Lisa has recently started Placeblogger (probably more about Placeblogger at a later date, because it’s a pretty interesting concept).

George is both excited and at the same time wildly jealous. Because Lisa’s sidekick has his own video. And now George wants his own video. All the frogs want their own video. Good grief.

Forget it George, no video. In fact, I’m so sick of seeing photos of frogs lately on the Newburyport Blog, that I’m not even going to put a picture of you on this post, so there.

(George is not happy with this.)

Ms Williams sidekick is called “Nicnoc”. And you can press here to see the original post on Nicnoc.

And here is Nicnoc’s bio:

“Nicnoc has come from the planet [untranslatable] in search of new methods of governance for his homeworld, whose government is mired in petty feuds. His plans to visit the White House are nixed, so he decides to take in a Town Council meeting in Watertown, MA, instead.” (H2oTown, June 26, 2007)

And here is Nicnoc’s very cool video on YouTube:

Many thanks to Lisa Williams and H2oTown watertown’s watercooler (and of course Nicnoc).

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Mayoral Mind Mush

I’m getting mayoral mind mush.

We have so many people running for mayor of Newburyport, MA, that I’m having a hard time keeping everybody straight. I we have until July 27th to see if yet someone else pulls papers for mayor too. With this mayoral election, who knows, who might pull papers at the last minute. Anything is possible.

I talk to people about the mayoral election, and enviably they start listing all the candidates, and they go, “I’m missing some one. There’s someone else, right? Ok, who is it?” And we go through the whole list again, trying to figure out who was left out of the long list.

And Steve Cole, the present Vice-Chair of the Newburyport School Committee, the most recent candidate to pull papers for mayor of Newburyport, MA, is an incredibly nice, kind, decent human being.

But, actions speak louder than words. And as Vice-Chair of the Newburyport School Committee, everyone who has paid a tiny bit of attention to “that” issue has seen Mr. Cole in action.

It was just in December of 2006 that the Newburyport School Committee was seriously contemplating asking the residents of Newburyport, MA to commit to what in my mind was one wild and unbelievably expensive elementary school building project. I believe I kept referring to it as a “diamond necklace” approach or the “Taj Mahal” of elementary schools.

This is around December 2006 and even as late as February 8, 2007 on the Newburyport Blog.

And then the residence of Newburyport, MA are told, ooops, the Newburyport school finances are in such bad shape, that guess what, we’re going to close a school, restructure the entire elementary school system and ask for the tax payers to pony up for a $1.58 Million override, so we don’t have to slash more stuff for the schools.

Hello. Didn’t the Newburyport School Committee just think about asking us for how much for new buildings just a few weeks ago??

And in my mind, true leadership would have been never to have contemplated a wild Taj Mahal elementary building scheme in the first place.

And it would have shown much stronger leadership not to request a special spring election that cost the tax payer $17,000, to ask residents of Newburyport, MA for an override of $1.58 Million — that many felt was an almost guaranteed disaster. But instead to “act” instead of to “react” (in my opinion) and to give a great deal of thought about how to politically navigate school funding waters.

And the leadership of the Newburyport School Committee during all of this was under Vice-Chair Steve Cole (and yes, the Chair, Mayor John Moak).

I guess you can tell I’m still pissed about the whole thing.

Yes, and those are 2 of the folks on that long mayoral candidate list. Oh, good grief.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, One Issue Elections Make About as Much Sense as “Easy on the Eyes”

This is from

I can take no credit. No, the editor of the Newburyport Blog, moi, does not peruse Forbes Magazine. I was given the heads-up by the ever faithful

The article, By Christina Settimi,, July 5, 2007, “Best And Worst School Districts For The Buck,” can be found, on you guessed it,

“More spending doesn’t necessarily buy you better schools. With property taxes rising across the country, we took a look at per-pupil spending in public schools and weighed it against student performance–college entrance exam scores (SAT or ACT, depending on which is more common in the state), exam participation rates and graduation rates.

Winners in this rating system are counties whose schools deliver high performance at low cost. The losers spend a lot of money and have little to show for it.

Marin County, Calif., provides the best bang for the buck. In 2004 Marin spent an average of $9,356 ($6,579 adjusted for the cost of living relative to other metro areas in the U.S.)” (, July 5, 2007)

You get the idea, we weren’t in the top 10. We also weren’t in the bottom 10, which is a good thing.

But it made me think, that yes, it might actually be possible to get more bang for our school buck in Newburyport, MA. If Forbes Magazine says it’s possible, it’s got to be possible. I mean, for goodness sakes, it’s Forbes.

And it’s the old override thing for the Newburyport schools that the Newburyport School Committee is contemplating putting on the November ballot (I don’t know if they’ve made up their minds yet).

On the one hand, I talk to and look into the eyes of mucho worried young parents. We do have a reality here, there have now been 5 years of cuts for the Newburyport, Schools.

On the other hand, the concerns of some members of the Newburyport City Council that this could be a “one issue” election are quite right. I mean people are already deciding on who they would vote for only in relationship to how a candidate would have or has stood on the spring override for our schools.

I mean, good grief, people are actually considering voting for Al Lavender, because he would vote against an override.

A friend of mine had this to say about Al Lavender (who is running for Newburyport City Councilor At Large), “Al made Mary Carrier look absolutely brilliant.” (Just as a btw, I’ve always thought, Mary Carrier was a much better mayor than many folks give her credit for.)

But, no offense, and I really try my darnedest on the Newburyport Blog not to give offense, my own opinion is that Al Lavender was one of Newburyport’s least effective mayors.

I think that judging a candidate on only one issue is a BIG mistake. Why not have the voting criteria be “easy on the eyes?” Makes about as much sense to moi.

And buried deep in the Sunday’s, Globe North, July 22, 2007, Kay Lazar has uncovered the fact that we actually have 3, count ’em, 3, (thank goodness) people running for Newburyport School Committee. (I was beginning to despair that no one was going to run for School Committee, since everyone in the world seems to be running for mayor of Newburyport, MA.)

Along with Bruce Menin, there is now a father daughter duo, William Deans and Barbara McDonough. I know nada about these last 2 names. However, I’m sure in due course, we will all learn more.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Hollywood Comes to Town

Boy oh boy, are the frogs ever excited, jumping up and rolling all over the place.

George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant to the Newburyport Blog is giving the Newburyport Current the big “thumbs-up.”

George Cushing giving
the Newburyport Current the “thumbs-up”

Yes, someone has connected the dots about the revamping of 87 High Street and what this could mean for Newburyport, Massachusetts.

To quote from the Newburyport Current, July 20, 2007, Undercurrents by Donna O’Neil:

“We can see it now, a bus rolls through town offering stops at the homes of Hollywood celebs–Newburyport locations, The guide armed with a megaphone that can be heard for miles squawks, ‘First stop 87 High Street…’

What other celebrities will find our hidden gem…”

Any number of readers of the Newburyport Blog have asked me, “Newburyport has had famous people who have lived here before or live here now, what’s wrong with having Peter Tolan in Newburyport, Massachusetts?”

This is what yours truly does not want. The editor of the Newburyport Blog does not want “revamping” of historic properties in Newburyport, MA (especially on Historic High Street, good grief) by folks who are only going to use the place for brief visits.

The “revamping” of 87 High Street in its present form would raise a few eyebrows anyway. But the fact that the folks who are using such a visible and significant home for a “second residence” is of concern to this blogger.

It could mean that the buyers might NOT become an intricate part of the community (they are probably involved in their home town Montecito CA, already, the city listed on as their primary residence).

Very possibly there could be little or no community involvement (aside from paying tons of taxes, which we as residents would applaud). Possibly not having the time to understand the community, its culture and its needs.

Would “second resident” owners of with money of this magnitude become involved in local projects?? Use local banks?? (They didn’t for the mortgage

It feels a little bit like having a “residential” chain store. Looks flashy, but might not return much to the community in terms of human commitment and local moola.

So “thank you” Newburyport Current and Donna O’Neil. And hopefully it could never get to the point where there would be celebrity tour buses and bull horns in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, The Anniversary of George Cushing’s Debut

In all the whirl wind in my brain about 87 High Street and what that could mean for Newburyport, MA and the residences therein (except for the realtors, who must be salivating), George Cushing reminded me that a year ago, yesterday, July 18, 2006, George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, made his debut on the World Wide Web, here at the Newburyport Blog.

Who would have thought, one whole year. Wow, George.

George Cushing pleased as punch at the
anniversary of his debut on the Newburyport Blog

And so much has happened since George has arrived. And who knew that frogs could be that popular.

(I, of course, am jealous.)

The twins appeared. Not that they’ve done much, but they are cute. And they still are way in the apprentice stage. They think they could be political consultants to the Newburyport Blog, but they may have to wait quite a long time. I don’t care how great they may be at researching Hollywood celebrities. Sorry.

The Twins

And of course Georgiana Tadpole, George Cushing’s great love. The activist frog from the vernal pool behind the Wheelwright House.

Georgiana Tadpole

Yes, George and Georgianna, horny little things that they are, have sired, goodness knows how many tadpoles this spring in Newburyport, MA. 100’s, I hope not 1000’s. Yes, and some of them must have made it to tiny frog status.

I have to say, I really haven’t kept up. I refuse to be an aunt much less be a grandmother to tiny frogs sired by George and Georgiana. Just forget about that one.

But Georgiana and sometimes George will go visit and see how the little things are coming along. That’s a drama for a whole other blog (and believe you me that one will not be written by moi).

So I’m very proud of George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall. At least for this blogger, he has been a most welcomed addition to the Newburyport Blog.

Happy (late) anniversary George.

Mary Eaton

87 High Street Newburyport, Wow

The “Twins” are going nuts on me. They are so ridiculously excited that we have a “celebrity,” a real live Hollywood celebrity, celebrity who has bought 87 High Street.

As the Twins pointed out to me, if they (the celebrities) wanted to lay low and not be noticed they wouldn’t be doing all that “stuff” to 87 High Street, High Street being the historic and much beloved (and highly visible) gateway to Newburyport, MA.

Well, no the Twins are NOT going to go beyond their apprenticeship status at the Newburyport Blog, I mean really, just look at the twerpy little things. I mean I have an image to protect here, geesh.

The Twins

However… The twins appear to be better than moi at researching Hollywood celebrities that are buying a Newburyport, High Street home.

They found out that the gentleman in question went to UMass Amherst, and they went and looked up alumni magazines, and low and behold these silly little frogs found an interview with the gentleman, in the Winter 2000 issue. Wow. (I got to secretly admit, not bad.)

The article was by Ali Crolius, in a section called “La Stories, Catching up with the sunset kids”.

The gentleman and lady “had just moved to a 1912 Pasadena mansion so grand it had been used for exterior shots in Dynasty…”

While waiting the writer “stood in the immense kitchen drinking coffee with the nanny, coo-chooing with Beatrice, Peter’s and Leslie’s youngest, and employing visualization techniques to halt the rain so I could see the Hockneyesque gardens in sunlight.”

Well, folks, I think the “Twins” have discovered or confirmed that the new owners of 87 High Street have more money than most of us here in Newburyport, MA could possibly fathom.

From what I can make out they have either moved on from Pasadena, or bought another mansion further up the coast. Maybe I’ll get the twins to research that one too, since they are so wide-eyed celebrity goofy.

What the Twins and I figure is that a High Street mansion must look like a bargain basement deal, compared to the mansion where Dynasty was filmed.

And this is what we are wondering. There aren’t exactly a lot of other Hollywood celebrity types hanging around Newburyport, MA. Are these folks going to tell their friends about us (ie. Newburyport, Massachusetts)?

And lots of preservationists (and even some maybe un-preservationists) all over our fair seaport city are NOT happy with how 87 High Street has been revamped. Is this a vast understatement or what? So what does this say about the potential upcoming stewardship of possible beloved properties in Newburyport, Massachusetts?

From charmingly historic to Hollywood flashy?? A possibility? Good grief.

(And folks, we have NO protection. Guess what, there is NO Local Historic District… Oh, ye of ongoing hesitation, you might want to rethink this one, like having a Local Historic District might actually be a good thing.)

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, MA, Decorated Down to the Pets

Ok, I’m still on the subject of 87 High Street.

In the Newburyport Planning Board minutes, May 2, 2007, there is mention of a “hedge that had to be removed because of excavation” that “will be replaced and will also be extended further along property than it did originally.”

Which reminds me of a story I haven’t thought about for a long, long time.

Many years ago two delightful gentleman gave me a (art/painting) one person show in the “Hamptons.”

Since I knew nothing about the Hamptons and they knew a whole lot, they drove me around, showing me “the sights.” “The sights” consisted of homes owned by celebrities that used the Hamptons as a second (or third or fourth or whatever) home.

One of the homes that was pointed out to me was owned, I believe, by a film producer.

We drove by the newly acquired home by the gentleman in question. And the second day it had a huge 16 foot hedge, swarming with folks pruning it, which was NOT there the day before.

So, I said, “say what?” And these two lovely gentleman explained to me that this happened in the Hamptons. In fact, as I recall, they said a house and a guest house could be completely furnished by professionals without input from the owners. Everything, right down to the pets.

The pets??

So the owners could just walk right in and feel at home and not even have to think about it.

The pets??

So when it comes to the hedge at 87 High Street that will be “replaced” and “extended,” I’m wondering if it will be replaced by a small hedge that grows, or would it be replaced by one of these 16 foot hedges that I saw, lo those many years ago, that magically appears in one day.

How the hedge is replaced, I imagine, would tell us all quite a bit. Like whether or not this place could be furnished right down to the pets.

And believe you me, for this Newburyport blogger, the fact that that possibility could even remotely exist in Newburyport, Massachusetts is really, really beyond way weirder than fiction.

Mary Eaton

Trying to Research 87 High Street, Newburyport, MA

Some very astute readers of the Newburyport Blog sent me in some information on the new owners of 87 High Street, the house/mansion that I got nosy about and then went for a snoop. (See earlier entry.)

I went back and took a look at the Newburyport Planning Board minutes to make sure that yes indeed, these were the same folks.

And I thought, yippee, is this ever going to be fun to research. Forget about researching zoning stuff, I can research a California gentleman who is a producer, writer and director and whose wife is no slouch either, an independent TV producer and editor, I think. Wow.

Plus the gentleman in question co-produces a show with Denis Leary. Now forget about the “easy on the eyes” stuff (see previous post), Denis Leary is “hot,” often literally smok’n hot.

However… let’s just say that researching these folks made Stephen Karp look available. Researching these folks was like excavating slabs of granite with a plastic spoon (sort of alliterates with Peter Tolan or maybe doesn’t alliterate with Peter Tolan, I don’t know). Ok, so you get to scrap away a little dust, but that’s it. did give me an address in California. So having Googled myself half to death on these folks and getting nowhere, I decided, let’s find out about the town that they list as their primary residence. and call this place in California one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. says that in 2002 it was ranked No. 3 in Worth magazine’s list of 250 Richest Towns.

According to the folks like Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Costner, Steve Martin and even Steven Spielberg, dwell in this community, just to name a few.

Before I started my research, I was thinking real seriously of calling up this family up and saying, “Hi, I’m Mary Eaton from the Newburyport Blog, why in the world did you pick us?” Not a hope of a phone number anywhere, much less, if I found one, getting through what I’m sure is the wall of people to protect our new neighbors from everyone who would like a “piece” of these folks.

I was going to say that Peter McClelland’s piece was pretty unwelcoming to the new owners of 87 High Street. I thought it was unwelcoming, didn’t you think it was unwelcoming?

I was also concerned that people in New England could be somewhat taciturn and careful about their acquaintances. Not often a group to run over with cookies and casseroles.

But I have a feeling that the new owners of 87 High Street might be happy that no one would run over with cookies and casseroles when they come for a visit. I have a feeling that the cookies and casserole thing, with this sort of moola, could kind of take care of itself.

This is really a whole new breed of buyer for Newburyport, Massachusetts.

And is this the beginning of a trend? Good grief, what if we become the New England version of the “Hamptons?” I’m not kidding here.

This makes the folks that bought homes in Newburyport, MA starting around 2002, and at the height of the current market look impoverished, not to mention the rest of us lowly peons.

I came away from researching these folks not with a smile on my face, but with a migraine headache. Zoning research ended up looking very soothing and relaxing. Who knew.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Easy on the Eyes

I was chit chatting with one of the array of municipal candidates and I found myself saying, “yes, that would be a good idea to visit so and so because you’re ‘easy on the eyes’.”

Now the readers of the Newburyport Blog may be scratching their heads and saying, who?? Who of this municipal array that has pulled papers or is likely to pull papers is “easy on the eyes?”

Maybe we will have a municipal “easy on the eyes” contest. Wouldn’t that be fun?

The municipal candidate in question wondered out loud to me about my assessment of themselves (the “easy on the eyes” thing).

Being the editor of the Newburyport Blog has been great, but I’ve noticed that every now and then that I get weighed down, like with this peccadillo stuff, watch every word I say, much less every word I write. Silly goes out the window. The weight of whatever sinks in. And I remind myself that the Newburyport Blog is a sideline and is supposed to be fun

And just as a btw, the “easy on the eyes” bit got lodged into my brain due to a correspondence regarding my 23 year old son, who is acting his heart out in NYC.

I got a wonderful email from a woman involved in the theater, who has a small production space that my son had briefly appeared in. This lovely lady went on to praise my son, which of course I loved, what mother would not. And she ended the email by remarking that my son was “easy on the eyes.”

Ever since then “easy on the eyes” has been wedged into my wits, and I guess it just popped out chit chatting with a Newburyport municipal candidate.

And later that night I found myself downright giggling, if not outright laughing at myself, that I would say something to anybody like “easy on the eyes,” because it was a quintessential, quirky Mary Baker Eaton thing to say. It was moi. (Remember, I have a stuffed frog for a political consultant for goodness sakes.)

And I was very relieved. Because if I don’t keep my sense of silly in all of this, I am in danger of having not just a “few peccadilloes,” but of turning into a dreary peccadillo possible porcupine. Which would be no fun at all, because peccadilloes popping up like porcupine quills tend to pop exuberant balloons.


Mary Eaton

Newburyport, High Street Reconstruction

Enough with the “peccadillo” stuff. I’m sick of the “political peccadillo” stuff. Good grief.

A few days ago I got just good old fashion nosy, and I went up and snooped around 87 High Street. The house/mansion across from Fruit Street and the Newbury Historical Society, where they seem to have been doing all kinds of stuff, like it seems for a gazillion years. It’s real hard to miss.

The folks that bought it paid a good chunk of change (I’ve learned my lesson on the Newburyport Blog, no names, and if anyone wants to know the actual selling price they could go look it up themselves on According to the Planning Board minutes, May 2, 2007 these folks are from California, and this “dwelling” is going to be their second residence.

Wow. Are we talking major moola here or what?

From what I can make out they want to make the carriage house into a “guest house,” which presents a bunch of zoning issue stuff. I can’t tell if the zoning issue stuff has been resolved, but the carriage house appears to be literally hanging around the place, unanchored, so the zoning stuff hasn’t been sufficiently addressed yet, or they just haven’t gotten around to gussying the guesthouse up.

There is new pool way back behind, so you could barely see it, if at all, from the house, I was told. And no darn it, they wouldn’t let me back there for a peek. Nuts.

It looks like they kept the front of the historic High Street house intact, but who knows, they wouldn’t let me in there either. I had no hard hat, and who the heck knew who I was, except some snoopy person.

And from the outside, the long addition in the back, looked new, but awesome to me.

And what can I say, the place was slightly, dare I say it, “flashy.” Not New England Yankee we really don’t have money, but actually we do have money, but, no, we don’t have money. This is, we’ve got bucks and we are proud.

So California, so not New England.

Let me tell you, I had High Street envy, which almost never happens. I’m telling you the truth here.

But, if these folks live in California and are using it as a place to visit, I’m raising my hand here to volunteer to house-sit during those long, cold New England winters, when any California person would want to be in California.

And, no, if the guesthouse gets done, I don’t want to house-sit in the guest house, I want to house-sit in the BIG place.

And these folks have to pay real estate tax, right, which has got to be huge. Has to help our coffers a whole lot.

I’m probably pissing off all sorts of preservationists, and acquiring yet more peccadilloes. And maybe when I learn the “back story,” I’ll be New England horrified.

But this looks like a whole new level of real estate purchasing for Newburyport, MA to moi. And if they let me house-sit, I wonder if I’d get to stay in the master suite.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Enacting Smart Growth

An article in the Boston Globe, July 5, 2007 by Kay Lazar and Matt Carroll, talks about the possible “crowed future” and possible “shrinking space” in the suburban communities north of Boston, MA.

Suburban sprawl, due to lousy zoning laws, is predicted to spread like permanent poison ivy across Massachusetts’ North Shore, unless the principals of “smart growth” are adopted.

The possible loss of some 400 acres in, count ’em, 14 communities.

But you know which community is NOT listed among that august list? Yes, you guessed it, Newburyport, MA.

And why? It is because we had a planning director who was highly focused on “smart growth” for Newburyport, MA. And yes indeedy, we have cluster zoning, the zoning that is “smart” because it does its darnest to preserve “open space” and not have any more sprawl like Cherry Hill, that looks like suburban sprawl in places like Wellesley (no offense Cherry Hill or Wellesley).

And this brings me back again, I guess, to the politics and peccadillo thing.

Our former Planning Director, Nick Cracknell.

Many in Newburyport, MA believe Mr. Cracknell has peccadilloes that sprout up like porcupine quills. I believe our current mayor, Mayor John Moak, said to Mr. Cracknell in a location where all sorts for folks overheard, that Mr. Moak had “contempt” for Mr. Cracknell. (Many of us suspected there for a long time that John Moak seemed to feel Mr. Cracknell was chock full of peccadilloes.)

And anyone who has hung out with Mr. Cracknell for a bit, might see a Cracknellean possible peccadillo springing up here or there.

Ah, but when you have an exceptional planning problem solver, does one overlook those pesky possible peccadilloes?

We would be on that list in the Boston Globe and it would be a list of 15 communities not 14 if it had not been for Mr. Cracknell’s whirling energy and determination that Newburyport, MA change is unfortunate zoning ways.

So in looking back, we could owe Mr. Cracknell quite a bit, as a result of his virtuoso, zoning talent.

This brings me to my blogging quandary. When, political-wise, could political peccadilloes be overruled, excused, condoned?

Maybe when a gifted individual comes along that transcends mediocrity, peccadilloes could be overlooked, just as long as they are just idiosyncratic peccadilloes, for the long term greater good of the community of Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Conservative Council Campaigns

And folks, why I am concerned about a “conservative backlash” in the race for Newburyport City Council.

In the Newburyport Current, June 29, 2007, there is a Q & A (question and answer) with Ward 5 candidate Brian Derrivan.

Now, Mr. Derrivan may be a delightful fellow (I have never met him), however, his take on some issues, at least on the Central Waterfront and Open Space, well, sigh. Not a good sign for this blogger on the issues thing.

And from reading the article, it sounds as if Mr. Derrivan has almost no Newburyport civic experience. Sigh, again.

And yes, this is where I’m having this weird blogger trouble. Let’s say Mr. Derrivan is almost peccadillo free (very few of us are, so he probably has some lurking peccadilloes, I just don’t happen to know about them-yet), but when it comes down to a vote on the Newburyport city council floor, I’m not sure that he would vote the way that I might hope that he would.

And as for doing more to resolve the Newburyport Landfill matter, as Mr. Derrivan says that he would like to do, well… as I understand it, the host agreement negotiated under the administration of mayor Al Lavender (who is also running as a conservative for the Newburyport City Council, again, good grief), pretty much gave away the farm, so to speak, and contained little if any enforcement language for the City of Newburyport, MA and the residents who live therein. (I don’t know if Mr. Lavender gets to reap the benefit of the noxious odors where he lives or not.)

One can hardly blame subsequent mayors and Newburyport City Councils for desperately doing everything in their power (which isn’t much, again vast understatement, due to what many citizens are of the opinion is the flaw of the soft language in the host agreement made under the Lavender administration) to remedy the situation ever since (which was quite a long time ago).

And, why would I be concerned that Mr. Derrivan could win? Well, Ward 5 is one of the 3 most conservative wards in Newburyport, MA (conservative wards– Wards 4, 5 & 6), and in a last minute, two week write-in campaign in 2005, Brian Derrivan got a heck of a lot of votes.

And this time around, as Brian Derrivan points out in the Newburyport Current Q & A, Newburyport Current, June 29, 2007, he has lots of time to make a good solid run for Newburyport City Councilor for Ward 5 in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Peccadilloes and Politics

This is one of the things that I now struggle with as editor of the Newburyport Blog.

When I first started out, as I said in the earlier post, it was to give progressives a “voice” in what looked like would be a conservative mayoral term.

I was naïve. Ok, I admit it. Well, maybe even really, really naïve.

I thought that progressives would be basically good folks and it could be one big happy progressive, yippee family. (Well, you see what I mean about naïve.)

And what I’ve found is, of course, we all have our peccadilloes (such a revelation). And of course, progressives have theirs (and of course, this blogger has plenty of her own.)

And what I have found is that I may be very fond of people whose take on the issues concerning Newburyport, MA I might disagree on. Which is all fine and dandy, until it comes to voting time. Or for that matter, blogging time.

And then I find myself in this dilemma. How to I vote or blog on the progressives whose peccadilloes end up bothering me? Is it strictly, issues, issues, issues? Or is it issues with some kind of combination of human character?

Local politics is far more nuanced than I ever expected.

What started out as a black and white perspective, has now become a whole lot more grey. And since one of my favorite phrases is “go for the grey,” I imagine that I could be at ease with that, right?

But the shades for grey, when it comes to blogging, put me on yet another steep blogging learning curve.

However, uncertainty is Ok. And where I was quite certain I knew the direction the Newburyport Blog would take back in January 2006, I’m not certain at all where it would go in July 2007.

I anticipate wandering down this odd path, which I never expected could possibly exist, with curiosity and just a little apprehension. And I hope that the readers of the Newburyport blog would continue to join me in my blogging travelmania, and we might see where in the world this path might go.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Conflicting Political Interrelationships

As the editor of the Newburyport Blog, I really didn’t want to go here. But since Jim Stiles has pulled out papers to run for mayor of Newburyport, MA (he has now become a public figure), well, I guess I am now going to go here.

You see, this is where things have changed for moi, the editor of the Newburyport Blog. I’ve become as interested in the process of politics as well as the actual issues themselves (believe you me, I’m still real, real interested in the issues, believe you moi.)

I went on a hunt for the definition of “politics,” the definition that at least I was hunting for. And at I found this definition, “The often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society.” Yes, and maybe that is one of the things that has become so intriguing to me, lo’ these many months as the Newburyport Blog as evolved.

A little history here. I started the Newburyport Blog back in January 2006 with the sinking feeling about Mayor John Moak being mayor of Newburyport, MA. The hope was to continue to give “progressives” a “voice”, in what looked like what was shaping up to be a very “conservative” regime. My thought was that people could contribute to the Newburyport Blog, and literally I would be the “editor” and do very little writing myself. Obviously, things have turned out a bit differently.

Yes, and in January 2006 I got on the old fashion telephone and called folks asking if they would be interested in having a “voice,” and who else might they recommend. One of the names that came up and that I did call was a gentleman I had never heard of, Jim Stiles.

And if you go back a take a gander at the early postings on the Newburyport Blog, yes indeed, there are postings by Mr. Stiles.

Now this is where it gets into the “conflicting interrelationships among people in society” thing.

I had made the “mistake,” good grief help me, of taking the local political journal, the “Untertoad” and its editor, Tom Ryan (who is also now running for mayor of Newburyport, MA) seriously.

(And in those early days, the bulk of the less than pleasant phone calls and emails I would receive, was because I did mention the Undertoad on occasion. Readers of the Newburyport Blog may have noticed that the Undertoad is now rarely referenced, and as a result disagreeable phone calls have gone way down. A reprieve.)

But back in February 19, 2006, Mr. Stiles sent in a post, that I posted after the first sip of my morning coffee (big mistake, I now never post anything until I have consumed 2 full cups of my morning coffee) that didn’t exactly do Mr. Ryan any favors, and could have possibly caused the Newburyport Blog some trouble in the process.

The post was very artfully worded, and I felt Mr. Stiles would be too classy to be guilty of such, what in my mind was a glum and uncouth act. However, I received an email later that confirmed that, yes indeed, Jim Stiles was purposeful in his intent and with no apology, and I was surprised.

So here we are. Mayoral election 2007. I may agree with Mr. Stiles on the issues that he supports, but his action on the Newburyport Blog was for me unanticipated and less than delightful, seemingly stooping to the level that he felt Mr. Ryan could be guilty of. And to boot, Tom Ryan is also running for mayor of Newburyport, MA.

Yes, and the whole thing is weirder than fiction.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, My Faithful Visitor

When I started the Newburyport Blog, a local blog, I also started a blog on national issues (as well as an artist’s website and an art blog– a lot of stuff).

The Newburyport Blog ended up flourishing, way beyond my windswept expectations. But that’s not the only reason why the Newburyport Blog gets the most attention from moi.

Way back in the early days when I first had my art website, when maybe 7 people would come visit, and 3 of them happened to be me, I had a faithful visitor who every month would check every page. Who wouldn’t be happy? I was.

Now my stats (statistics) show IP numbers. An IP number is the number of a particular computer. It took me a while to figure out all of this IP stuff out. And then I realized that you could look up IP numbers. Most of the time it doesn’t tell you much, but every now and again, you will get the name of an actual company (as opposed to Comcast or Verizon). And way back when, when there were only 3 or 4 IP numbers a day, it didn’t take much time to give them a gander.

So who is my faithful visitor? Well, after a little IP-ing and a little Googling, I found out that my faithful visitor turned out to be a company used by Home Land Security.

Yikes, and I was pissed. I mean, this was an art website, for crying out loud.

So, when I started the national blog, I put this information, with the IP number and the name of the company on my national blog.

Then my “faithful visitor,” visited me a whole lot more frequently, and I was very freaked. So, I decided to take down the IP number and the name of the company. And yes, you bet, I’m chicken. I decided to concentrate on my own home town community, where hopefully my “faithful visitor” would only see fit to visit me once a month, just like in the old days.

And as a btw… I have no idea how many times these folks now come around, because I’ve long stopped, long since, checking IP numbers. So how often my “faithful visitor” comes a calling will just have to remain a mystery. Which remains fine and dandy by me.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: O’ you out there in Web Land, if my “faithful visitor” was checking out an art website, one would imagine that they are probably checking your blog or website out too.)

Newburyport Blog Takes the Challenge

What a blogger puts up with, geesh.

Actually for all intents and purpose I’m looking for sympathy here, but it’s purely perfunctory on my part. You see graciously put the Newburyport Blog on their site (thank you, and I got this “challenge” from to write a blog post using words like “mellissophobia” (abnormal fear of bees). Good grief, like I’m really going to use “messissophobia” a whole lot on the Newburyport Blog, for crying out loud.

I have a very healthy dislike of wasps, but I certainly do NOT have an abnormal fear of bees (“mellissophobia”). I don’t even have an unhealthy phobia about people called “Mellisso.”

They also want me to use the word “Belize.” Isn’t that fun. At first I thought, well, ah ha, I’ve used belie, no proproblemo. But no, this is “Belize,” which is some country I never heard of somewhere south of Mexico. Good grief. The only thing “Belize” has in common with Newburyport, MA is that it is coastal. And, well, we’re coastal. So Ok.

And yes, they want me to include stuff about a “brown recluse spider,” like we really have those in Newburyport, MA.

Would this quixotic blog post of mine mean that the readers of the Newburyport Blog would abrogate themselves from their possible perfunctory daily, weekly, monthly peek or whatever? I hope not.

And does really think just because of some email “challenge” that they sent me that there might be the vaguest chance that I could yo-yo back and forth between Newburyport, MA and Belize for goodness sakes?

Or even worse, that I would abandon and abrogate (well aren’t we all learning fancy new words here) myself from this coastal, New England city and become some ubiquitous blogger for some coastal place, who knows where? I don’t think so.

And the quid pro quo for my either perfunctory or quixotic blogging “challenge” (depending on how one looks at it), basically is practically zippo for moi. You’d think I’d get some big blogger prize for subjecting the readers of the Newburyport Blog to words like “mellissophobia” and “Belize” and “brown recluse spider.”

But no. All I get is some cheap gift certificate to, if I would win this stupid thing (and the readers of the Newburyport Blog can’t even vote or anything, good grief).

And what does get from this silly post on the Newburyport Blog, with words like “brown reclusive spiders?” For all intense and purposes they get a whole lot of links to their website. That’s what they get. Which is real smart on the part of Good SEO (Search Engine Optimization). My.

And yes, this blogger from Newburyport, MA fell for the whole silly thing. Although… it’s a great idea. Maybe I’ll send out Newburyport words to websites and blogs, with the promise of some grand prize. I could come up with $50 bucks (2nd place, $100 1st place.) for a gift certificate to, I’m cheap and Yankee enough to do that. I’ll have to ponder that one. Hmmm, let’s think… and La-de-da.

Mary Eaton