Art and Real Estate

It dawned on me… Yes, I know what caused yesterday’s post to percolate up into my brain. It was my brief visit to Providence, RI.

3 decades ago, in the 70’s, before it got “gussied up,” (sort of) I lived there. Living there was one of the reasons I fell in love with Newburyport, MA when I saw it for the first time 25+ years ago. In part, it reminded me of Providence, RI.

As of 1992 Providence has 7 local historic district overlay zones. Wow.

And it shows, big time.

Downtown Providence (Downtown Historic District) reminds me a little of my hometown, NYC, when Soho was getting it’s “comeuppance” or rather “up and coming.” One street would be swanky, the next street over would resemble the “Bowery,” in the old days, when it was “sketchy” (not like it is now).

I went on a hunt in downtown Providence, determined to do my own version of eating on $40 a day or less.

And I came across a place that was packed with folks. It was on the verge of the “sketchy” part of town. It turned out to have a restaurant and a bar, and the best fish tacos I ever ate for $3.35 or something. I ate a whole lot of fish tacos and also managed to sort of get the recipe.

When I started to pay attention to the place, after about my 3rd visit and a lot of fish tacos, I realized that I was hanging around, with a bunch of young artists in their 20’s and 30’s. (I guess that’s why I felt so “at home.”)

The place not only had a fun/funky restaurant and bar, but it also had an art gallery on one side, a small “black box” real live theater on the other side, and a place for great live bands on the inside.

And it turns out that there were a lot of “young’ns” from Newburyport, folks I knew and recognized.

Pretty cool.

And an awesome idea. But won’t happen in a place that’s too gentrified (that’s us now, Newburyport, MA)… It’s gotta be a place that’s kind a “sketchy,” with low cost real estate, to pull something like that off.

Made me miss Taffy’s and Cathy Ann’s. Glad we still have Angie’s. Glad to still have the “black box” theater at the Tannery.

Made me think that folks involved in the “arts” could be good for something.

And you know, since that place is so hopping, it won’t last long. Real estate brokers will move in, and all those good art folks will move on like nomads finding the next hot real estate market.

So the Republicans could be grateful for those liberal, art kids.

I sure am. And I’m dying for more of those fish tacos.

Mary Eaton

The Arts, Rough Patches and Politics

I became a “Liberal Democrat,” real quick, when I became a single mother. (That was a couple of decades ago.)

It was a no brainer.

Democrats “seem to” or are “supposed to” have some empathy for those who are going through a “rough patch.”

The Harbor School for Girls is my neighbor.

People asked me, “How could you do that?”

Easy. So far (one decade later) they’ve been great neighbors. And two, I know, under different circumstances, I would have welcomed to be welcomed in a place like “that.”

I hate the phrase “but for the grace of god go I” (like what about the other folks, no “grace” for them??), but how many times have I said to myself, “but for the grace of god go I.” I can tell you a whole LOT of times I’ve said “but for the grace of god go I,” during the last 2 decades.

And, just as a btw, if we had had a Democrat for president for the last 6+ years, I bet there would be a whole lot more money for cities and towns across America for things like education and other important municipal stuff.

And we, Newburyport, MA, along with a whole lot of other cities and towns might NOT be in the fiscal crisis we are now. There might be some sort of balance between national security and making sure that while we were taking care of national security, financially, cities and towns across the USA weren’t slowly or fastly drowning.

And, Liberal Democrats seem to like the “arts” more. (I am a artist/painter) It seems as if they do NOT want to slash the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

It appears that they realize that artists are good for the economy.

When artists “discover” a community and embrace it whole heartedly, miraculously other people think it’s “cool” too, and that community or place gets a “rebirth.” Witness, the Village, Soho and Chelsea in NYC (my home town), and yes, even Newburyport and now Amesbury in good old Massachusetts.

Seems artists have a good “eye” for real estate, before most of them promptly get “priced out” of the market that they created. Only to move on like nomads in search of yet other “suitable space.”

And, I like the idea of living within one’s budget and paying one’s bills on time, and not being terrifyingly in debt. (We now have a gargantuan national debt.) This is called being a “fiscal conservative.” One can be a social Democrat and a fiscal conservative. It seems as if the fiscal conservative thing has been a bit of an “enigma” to the Republican regime that is in power, at the moment. (Even some Republicans think this.)

I have no idea why I decided to blog on this topic(s) today, but I did. It’s been percolating in my brain for quite a while, so there it is.

Mary Eaton

Ulrika Gerth and the Newburyport Current

I’m feeling cranky.

Ulrika Gerth is no longer the editor of the Newburyport Current and believe you me, it’s already showing big time.

(I know, I know, I’m deliriously happy, seriously, that Ulrika Gerth is the brand new mother of one gorgeous baby girl… but still, I’m cranky.)

There are 2 big stories out there this week. Will the Newburyport Current, under the new regime, have any interesting coverage of them, or any coverage at all, or even know that they are stories?? Doubtful. (See how cranky I am?)

The first story is the fact that Mayor John Moak (finally) has a new administrative assistant (Newburyport Daily News, August 23, 2007).

The story is A) finally, that the mayor has a new assistant. We (the city of Newburyport, MA) could have used this fellow a while ago. If the mayor does not get reelected (which seems unlikely at this point, but you never know), getting an administrative assistant at the 11th, Ok, the 10th hour, seems a little late. (It’s still a little late.)

However, on paper, this guy, Ari Herzog, sounds great. He has a master’s degree in public administration–yeh! (thank goodness, whew).

Mr. Herzog worked as a journalist and then on Beacon Hill, according to the Newburyport Daily News article by Stephen Tait (August 23, 2007). And Mr. Herzog’s main emphasis as Mayor John Moak’s assistant chief administrative officer would be “budgeting, generating funding, human resources/labor relations and constituent services.”

All of this works for me.

“Herzog said there are challenges he knows he will face, among them getting to know the community” … Yes, is this a vast understatement or what? But at least Ari Herzog appears to know that this would be a “challenge.” (Thank goodness.)

I would imagine it would take anyone a good year, even going to all the board and committee meetings with a group of guides, to begin to understand how this small New England city works.

But from the article, Mr. Herzog sounds “hungry.” So honey, “chow down.”

The second story is the fact that the Undertoad has sold to a gentleman from Salisbury called Steve Nichols.

A) Mr. Nichols is from Salisbury, not Newburyport and B) Mr. Nichols has worked for 26 years as an “arborist, or tree-surgeon” and eventually plans to expand the Undertoad to 10-12 communities (Newburyport Daily News, August 24, 2007).

Believe me, as editor of the Newburyport Current, Ulrika Gerth would have been all over these 2 stories in a major and significant way.

Good grief I miss her.

Who knows whether the new regime is even remotely capable of the same “editorial savvy” that Ms Gerth so aptly demonstrated and brought to our homes every Friday morning.

And at least Mr. Herzog appears to be “hungry.” Who knows whether the “new regime” at the Newburyport Current has an “appetite,” much less whether they are actually “starved” or not.

From the first few issues, it appears that they have no appetite at all.

Mary Eaton

Futility of Writing to Politicians

Note to self:

Writing to politicians (with the exception of the “bald guy,” see earlier entry) about how the new Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act might have a few “flaws,” apparently is a giant waste of time.

Letter(s) back…

A) Obviously didn’t read my letter(s) because it/them never addressed the issue that I was talking about…. i.e. wild health care expense for self-employed and small businesses, nifty new health insurance act, NOT working.

B) Attitude… we worked on this thing like crazy and really don’t want to hear that anything is wrong with it. So would you please “shut up.” (Letter(s) actually much more subtle than that.)

C) Staff at politician’s place seem to have “stock” letter for each political issue. And who in the world would think of using turquoise colored ink for the automatic signature thing. Gesh.

D) Attitude by Democratic responder to moi, the respondee… a lot like Bush’s attitude towards the war in Iraq. In too deep to even question whether the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act is actually working or not. “Ouch.” Yes, hope that one hurt, it was meant to.

E) Obviously, responder(s) had not read Alice Dembner’s article in the Boston Globe, August 17, 2007 “Older residents feel insurance law pinch, Age-based prices too high for some.” (Please press here to read the article), or decided to ignore it.

F) Obviously responder(s) did not empathize with woman in the article who (in an obvious desperate attempt) to save money to pay for the “new” health care (which is “less comprehensive” than her old health insurance policy) eats popcorn some nights for dinner.

G) Responder(s) either seemed unaware, or chose to ignore the statement in the article by Alice Dembner, that actually health insurance under the new law is NOT “affordable” for all, but to the contrary, “insurance is unaffordable for some.”

Note to self:

Remember politician(s) who were “out to lunch” on my impassioned letters to them.

Remember politician(s) who appear to think the new Massachusetts Health Care Reform act is the “bees’ knees.” (The “bees’ knees” was an expression of my mother’s from either the 1930’s or 1940’s. This would have dated my mother big time, or made her really “cool,” take your pick.)

Just because politician(s) has/have a good head of hair (i.e. not bald–see earlier entry) and may be “easy on the eyes,” (see earlier entry) doesn’t necessarily mean they give a flying leap about moi (or you, the Newburyport Blog reader, either, for that matter).

And especially remember that a certain Republican politician who is running for president, used to be the Massachusetts governor, and is touting the Massachusetts Health Reform Act as the savior for American health insurance woes, really could care less if this particular blogger is trying to scream so loud that “god pees.” (Yes, see earlier entry again.)

That human being really does NOT want to know that the beloved “Act” could use a little “tweaking.”

Mary Eaton

Statistics and Frogs on the Newburyport Blog

I’m obsessed with my “stats” (statistics for the Newburyport Blog). “Statistic obsession” apparently is “de rigueur” or at least “pretty normal” apparently with other bloggers.

(I find this weirdly comforting.)

I know a whole lot of people read the Newburyport Blog. That I get. And I know a whole lot of folks find the Newburyport Blog (mainly, apparently, through Google). I keep asking myself, self, “Who are these people who read the Newburyport Blog??”

Looking at the “key words” that people are searching for gives me some idea of who might be out there in Web Land.

Here’s an example:

1) “Property owners rights against frog ponds,” from a computer somewhere in Mattoon, Illinois.

And here’s another example:

2) “Neighborhood petition to save frog pond,” from a computer somewhere in, Willimantic, Connecticut.

(There was also someone searching for “frog panties,” but we just won’t go there.)

So, “ha,” to those of you who tell me you don’t read any postings that contain images of frogs (or “stuffed animals”) in them. The Newburyport Blog is, apparently, giving great comfort both to folks who want to get rid of “frog ponds” (George and the other frogs obviously think the searcher in Mattoon, Illinois is “frog phobic”), as well as great comfort to people wanting to save “frog ponds.”

Obviously this is not entirely true.

I can’t imagine what whoever it is, must think, when they are desperately trying either to get rid of a real live frog pond or save a real, live frog pond and they get George. Good grief.

Well, either they roll their eyes, and Web Land on. Or maybe the vague possibility, like some readers, who find the Newburyport Blog on a fluke, find themselves being on the “verge of,” or “admitting to” actually having crossed over to “Newburyport Blog addiction.”

For self acclaimed Newburyport Blog addicts everywhere, I thank you, and I am deeply appreciative if not downright touched. And to the people looking to get rid of frog ponds, or save frog ponds, some other blog/venue will just have to suffice.

(And in all seriousness, for the folks in the Midwest, and I do not know if that includes Mattoon, Illinois or not, our hearts go out to all the people who live in the places that have been so damaged by the most recent floods.)

Mary Eaton

Helping Newburyport’s Water Woes

I’ve been distracted lately. The finches (my self-sustaining pets) have not been getting their finch feeders replenished in a timely fashion. Bird baths haven’t been refreshed (see earlier entries).

(Bird baths that haven’t been refreshed get “gross”– “gross” dates me big time. Who says “gross” anymore? Nobody.)

I looked at my garden/backyard/green stuff and realized that it was dehydrated, if not crispy, because I hadn’t noticed that the darn thing need watering.

I went out and contributed mightily to the Newburyport Water bill woes and spent a whopping two hours pouring water on some very wilted, withering looking green stuff.

(Apparently, water-wise, we may well be paying more because we, the citizens of Newburyport, MA, aren’t using enough water… the Water Department has to pay its bills, so the price of water goes up… I am now using more water thereby helping out my city, my state and my country… go figure.)

My neighbors (and now the readers of the Newburyport Blog) must think I’m totally nuts (actually they might think that already). I was wandering around the yard drenching stuff here and there going, “Don’t die on me yet, we’ve come so far together.” (Which of course, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever… Can you try and inspire wilty, withering plants? I don’t think so.)

I think the plants may have been paying attention, because they don’t look quite as withery as they did before.

I’ve given up on the grass. It’s a nice shade of brown/grey. And it’s crunchy. Everything, that I haven’t gotten around to watering yet is crunchy (lots of crunchy stuff)…

And I’m beginning to see BIG merits in crabgrass. It’s green, it’s fearless, it’s not crunchy. (Why does crabgrass get such a bad rap? It’s August, there’s been NO rain for what seems like weeks, and the crabgrass is green and not withery… I’m beginning to have “crabgrass admiration”… is this “lawn heresy”??)

Crunch, crunch, crunch… crispy, crispy–except for the crabgrass. Hope the finches keep chowing down. Don’t leave my back yard just yet, Ok? Eat up big time to feed those babies (if there are still finch babies) and to get lots of strength for that long flight south.

Mary Eaton

Tom Ryan Sells the Undertoad

On Wednesday, August 22, 2007 (yesterday), Tom Ryan sold the Undertoad.

The next issue of the Undertoad, which will come out next week, will be the last Undertoad edited, published and written by Tom Ryan.

I didn’t ask who bought it folks. Sorry. Just have to wait for that one.

Not to state the obvious, but to state the obvious, some people will breath an enormous sigh of relief, and some people will be mighty distressed–who will tell us NOW what’s really going on in Newburyport, MA (don’t count on this blogger).

Tom Ryan plans to be out of town by October 1, 2007.


Are things ever going to be different around here, in Newburyport, MA. Good grief.

Mary Eaton

Task Force for Newburyport Schools, Revenue Sources

Bruce Menin has a pretty interesting blog. I’m a pretty tough blog critic, and Mr. Menin seems to have the blogging thing down so far. Factual, easy to read, half info, half campaign… a very interesting approach… so far… and with a couple of pretty funny pictures (which I like a lot).

On the blog Bruce Menin reports that Mayor John Moak has appointed a “task force” to analyze the city of Newburyport’s revenue sources (i.e. money for schools).

“The Mayor has invited William Heenahan, Dr. Ralph Orlando, Brenda Reffett, Jay Iannini and Ellen Supple from the Community; Deidre Farrell will represent the School Administration, Ari Herzog will represent the mayor, Mark Wright and I (Menin) will represent the School Committee, and a member of the City Council will have the opportunity to volunteer next Monday.”, August 21, 2007.

I’d say I’m pretty impressed by that list of folks. Ellen Supple has been a very helpful reader of the Newburyport Blog, and I am relieved to see Brenda Reffett on there and my very bright young neighbor, Jay Iannini on there as well.

These are all passionate folks and passionate from different points of view, and not afraid to speak up or speak their minds.

This is working for me.

Mr. Menin has all kinds of information about the task force on his blog. So if this is a passion of yours, go check it out.

(And as a btw, the list at the side of the Newburyport Blog listing candidates for the Newburyport 2007 election, Newburyport City Council, Newburyport Mayor and Newburyport School Committee is growing, so be sure to check the side of the Newburyport Blog as the list gets added onto.)

Mary Eaton

An Unworkable and Unaffordable Health Care Reform Act in Massachusetts

Let me whine a little bit more about how this new Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act may not exactly be nifty.

If you are working hard and making a certain amount of money, but what you are making is not all not all that much–No help for you buddy.

And if you have a small business, and have contributed to the economy in Massachusetts all these years (like so many of the people I have talked to have), make an “Ok” living, but aren’t exactly getting rich, what you now get to shell out for health insurance for your small business seems to give every small business person that I talked to the “vapors.”

Even the response I got talking with small businesses that are doing pretty well, is that the monthly health insurance bill is the most dreaded bill of the month.

The rational behind the huge jumps that insurance takes for the self-employed and small businesses for folks at ages 50, 55 and 60, to reference the article in the Boston Globe article, August 17, 2007, by Alice Dembner, “Older residents feel insurance law pinch, Age-based prices too high for some,” (Please press here to read the article) is the assumption that as people get older, they are at the peak of their earning power and can afford huge premiums. But, as the article points out, that is not exactly always the case.

And obsessive researcher that I might be, I’ve been taking a look at some of the “new” plans that health insurance companies are offering in response to the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act.

This is an example of a PPO. There is a $3,000-$6,000 deductible “In Network,” “$6,000-$9,000” deductible “Out of Network,” and an annual out of pocket maximum per family, “Out of Network”– $18,000 (“In Network would only be $10,000). That does not include the monthly payment that whoever has this plan, pays on top of it.

It’s more complicated than that, but you get the idea, this is an astronomical amount of money for any individual or family to pay.

And this is going to go up every year.

Have the “vapors” yet?

The health insurance companies are responding to the new Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act. What they have been forced to do by this new act is push families to either come up with the money somehow if they are ill, or skip getting health care all together. (Sound familiar… only this time it’s the self-employed, small business Middle Class.)

Guess what families are going to do if they happen to have the plan above or one similar to it? They are NOT going to go to the doctor when they are afraid something is wrong. Because they get to pay 20%-40% of the doctor’s bill, lab bill, any thing that the health insurance company does NOT consider “Preventive Care,” i.e. any diagnosis or illness.

So it is my “scream” (see earlier entry), that the Massachusetts whatever (legislature, governor, state representatives) go way, way back to the drawing board, because on all kinds of levels, as far as I’m concerned, this new law is one sick joke. (And should never, ever be used in any way shape or form for a national model of what to do about the health insurance crisis in the United States of America.)

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Unaffordable Health Insurance in Massachusetts

“my mother releases a scream so loud
god pees…”

This is actually a quote from a (one person) play that my son has written. Parts of it have been performed (by him) in NYC. The whole production is about to get a “run through” in Providence R.I. (Should the whole thing get put on in NYC, you can be sure you all would know.)

Remember that 43.7% health insurance rate hike that I was whining about a while ago. Well my inclination is to “scream so loud god pees…” and it certainly gave me a real live case of the “vapors.”

There is an outstanding article in the Boston Globe, August 17, 2007, by Alice Dembner, “Older residents feel insurance law pinch, Age-based prices too high for some.” (Please press here to read the article.)

God bless Alice Dembner. I guess other folks are “screaming so loud that god pees” too.

I know, I know, it is my choice to be self-employed, to pay my own health insurance lo these many decades. But I don’t think any of the small businesses and self-employed people expected this kind of “hit.” And as the article points out:

“Older people shopping for health insurance through the state’s new initiative are discovering a sobering reality: Prices for unsubsidized plans are twice as expensive if you’re 60 than if you’re 27, making insurance unaffordable or barely affordable for many in their later years.”

The article talks about one woman living paycheck to paycheck and that health insurance is 13.6% of her income (and for some, the percentage is a whole lot higher than that, promise).

I have been wandering around Newburyport, MA talking to small business folks and self-employed folks, and the story I keep hearing over and over again is that health insurance is their biggest expense, outweighing housing costs, and their biggest worry.

And to quote the Boston Globe article on one woman’s plight, ” ‘I haven’t been on a vacation for years. Plenty of nights I have popcorn for dinner.’ ”

I don’t think she is alone by any means.

We here in Newburyport, MA have been wringing out hands, quite rightly, about how much we as tax payers pay for municipal health insurance. But, there are a lot of folks who work for the city who don’t make big bucks.

Take the “young lady” who runs the Newburyport Council on Aging, and spends hours, with no overtime, helping folks in need. My recollection is that she doesn’t get paid a whole lot of dough.

And take your friendly average librarian, who works hard, is delightful and isn’t exactly raking it in.

I wouldn’t want any of these folks to have to suddenly absorb 1,000’s of extra dollars, that they could not possibly afford.

I do not have any idea what the answer is, on a municipal level or a small business level. But I think, by all means, I may do my darnedness to continue to “scream so loud” about all this craziness that “god pees…”

Mary Eaton

Newburyport District Guide and Blog Vapors

The fact that the money recommended by the Community Preservation Act (CPA) for an expert to help the study group, for a possible formation of a Newburyport historic district, only squeaked by the Newburyport City Council (Newburyport Daily News, August 14, 2007) by 6 votes, is enough to almost give this blogger the “vapors.”


This is a HUGE job for the study group, looking at all the possibilities for creating a possible historic district for Newburyport.

This is a gigantic job, mandated by state guidelines. It isn’t, “Well maybe we’ll propose this. What do you all think?”

NO, it’s a whole lot more complicated than that.

Think of it as a group of early settlers in Pennsylvania who are being told to get to California, and let everyone know what happens to be in between. And by the way, no one has ever made this journey before, except for a couple of people who really know what they are doing.

But guess what? Those guides, those experts, who have been across this terrain, well, whoops, you don’t get to talk to them, much less let them help you figure out how to arrive, and explain what all the possibilities are that may be out there.

No, go figure it out yourself. Hope you make it beyond the first mile.

Good grief.

If the Newburyport City Council hadn’t passed the money for an expert or a guide at this initial stage of the journey, one of the members of the study group would have had to get a PhD, just to figure out what to do next, it’s that complicated.

Now, I kid a lot about needing a PhD for various stuff, but I’m serious here. Someone really would actually needed to have a PhD to understand what to do next.

I had no idea that the vote was going to be that close. Good grief.

We desperately need to protect our historic assets. What’s left. The The National Architectural Trust says we have lost one third of our historic housing stock since 1984. Believe me, we won’t have many historic assets left, if this “economic emergency” isn’t addressed in some sort of timely fashion. (Making one of the study group get a PhD does not qualify as in a “timely fashion.”)

And the Newburyport City Council almost stopped the whole thing right in its tracks on Monday night, August 13, 2007.

Enough to give this Newburyport Blogger the proverbial possible vapors. Geesh.

Please press here to read one of the entries on the Newburyport District Study Committee.

Mary Eaton

Self-Sustaining Newburyport Pets

My self-sustaining pets–the American Yellow Finches in my backyard (see earlier entry)… Well all of a sudden it’s feeding time at the zoo.

All summer long it’s been peck, peck, peck.

I looked out my window the other day at both finch feeders, and good grief within a matter of days they were half empty. Say what?

(I was going to subject the readers of the Newburyport Blog to a picture of one of “my” finches. But A) the picture looks like a yellow blob, and B) the readers of the Newburyport Blog are subjected to pictures of stuffed frogs, which are probably enough “animals” for one local blog.

But, if you are really dying to see what a gorgeous American Gold Finch actually looks like, please press here.)

One of the finch feeders is about 3 feet from one of my studio windows (I am a painter).

In the spring and for most of the summer, the minute I come near the window, whoosh, bye-bye feeding finch.

Now, I come by my window and they just look at me, as if to say, “What’s your problem, I’m eating here. Get lost already.”

Ok. Cool.

But all of this has me very curious. What the heck is going on? (Plus, I seem to have a whole lot of new finches. I used to only have 2 pair, now I’m counting at least 4. Wow.)

It turns out that these gorgeous little creatures are eating for 4-6. Finches breed late, the babies have hatched and everybody’s chowing down. Plus maybe some of these new finches are actually “baby” finches. (I don’t know. I just don’t know that much about finches.)

When I think about it, I remember this happening every year. Wild finch feeding. And then one day, no more finches.

And then, I finally get the message, everyone’s flown south. (But they always come back the next year.)

Mary Eaton

Lack of Public Relations in Newburyport, MA

The gentleman who owns the Newburyport Crow Lane Landfill could use a PR lessen from Mr. Tolan (see earlier entry).

I am on the Crow Lane Landfill email list. And let me tell you the emails that come across are heart breaking. This is the 5th year that some of the residence of Newburyport, MA have had to put up with unbelievable odors from the Newburyport Landfill.

Anyone who has had the “pleasure” of the experiencing the “stench,” would have the most heartfelt heartbreak for these folks.

One very enterprising member of the list (many of the folks on that list are unbelievably enterprising) actually had a telephone conversation with the owner himself. Wow. The owner, up close or even not up close has been very hard to get a hold of (vast understatement).

Apparently the conversation did not go well. (I bet the owner’s lawyers did not like that one.) It ended, predictably, with the owner of the landfill, as I understand it from the email list, having some not so nice words with our enterprising resident, and the owner blaming everyone but himself.

This apparently has been done in documents, so it doesn’t exactly come as a big surprise. Maybe the not so nice language part, but the “it’s not my fault” part- no surprise at all. And now I want $7.1 Million from the city of Newburyport, MA (Newburyport Daily News, August 11, 2007), because I am a victim, I suppose, sadly, was almost predicable.

Really lousy PR.

Now, the owner, could have handled things much differently, we all know that. Otherwise the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would not now (finally) be taking legal action to take over the “stench-plagued Crow Lane landfill,” (Newburyport Daily News, August 3, 2007).

What if all along, the actual owner, had done right by us in Newburyport, MA, which the State, the DEP and the City of Newburyport, MA, do not think he did.

Wow, we are talking way beyond hypothetical here. But, what if the owner himself had met with the residence in question, right from the get-go, had a personal relationship with them, walked the landfill and experienced what they experienced, and actually worked with them to solve the issue? Whole different ball game.

Great PR (especially if the issue had been taken care of).

And Mr. Karp is having a similar PR problem in Newburyport, MA. Mr. Tolan is again– good role model here on the PR stuff.

What if Mr. Karp made himself available, one on one, more than just once to the tenants (good start, but a little more needed), gave folks an idea of who he is and what, at the very least, the vaguest direction he could be contemplating. If there is nothing to hide, why not??

By showing 87 High Street, Leslie and Peter Tolan basically said we have nothing to hide, come take a look and see for yourself. And come meet us one on one. Great PR. A good example of the beginning to build the “trust thing” in a community.

By not making himself available, Mr. Karp is doing exactly the opposite. The “trust level” in Newburyport, MA, Mr. Karp wise, on a scale of 1-10, is way, way, way low.

And as for the owner of the Newburyport Crow Lane Landfill, there is no “trust level” at all. Apparently the residence of Newburyport, the City of Newburyport, MA, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the DEP feel the trust level has long, long, long ago has been beyond completely decimated. And now he wants $7.1 Million from us??

Lousy PR.

Mary Eaton

Choices in Precarious Newburyport Financial Times

One of the reasons that I hope Donna Holaday gets elected as one of the Newburyport Councilors at Large is that she is so good at finances. Not only is she good at finances, but she understands the “players” and the “politics” and the way the very complicated civic structure works.

In my mind, having Donna Holaday on the Newburyport City Council would be much better than having someone who has only been in Newburyport a short time, or who has not served on at least one of Newburyport’s many civic boards and committees, because it would take that person at least one, if not two years to understand all the “players” and how things work around here. Donna Holaday has got that one in the bag.

And I remember Ms Holaday’s last evening on the Newburyport City Council. Newburyport City Council President Tom O’Brien graciously thanked Ms Holaday profusely, especially concerning all her contributions to the city’s very complicated financial picture.

Could you imagine Gary Roberts (who I also hope wins a seat as Newburyport City Councilor at Large, and I would be mighty upset if he didn’t) and Donna Holaday on the Budget and Finance Committee? Two real smart and knowledgeable “political” (as in the understanding how people work “political,” and how to work with them in a productive way, to the benefit of the people of Newburyport, MA, “political”) folks help handling our very precarious financial civic ship. Would I be relieved or what.

My experience with both Gary Roberts and Donna Holaday is that I have always been able to talk to both of them about just about anything, and they listen. A huge asset in a Newburyport City Councilor, not an character trait Newburyport City Councilors (over the years) might necessarily possess.

The conclusions that the two Newburyport City Councilors might come to could be very different than what I might have in mind. But, I would know that they had taken what I had said into consideration when they made their decision. And would I know that whatever decision they would make, would be a very thoughtful and well thought out one.

So in precarious financial times, the residents of Newburyport, MA have a choice here. There are two really good people running for Newburyport City Councilor at large that I would trust with my tax dollar. I’m hoping like crazy that they both get elected.

Mary Eaton

It’s a Baby Girl!

It’s a baby girl!!

Ulrika Gerth gave birth this morning to a “young lady” — Amelie Gerth in Newburyport, MA.

Amelie is 8.6 pounds and apparently just beautiful. And Mother, baby and Dad are all doing just fine.


Ulrika Gerth became the editor of the Newburyport Current roughly 2 years ago. Smart, “fearless,” a quick learner, she made the Current a “must read.”

Ms Gerth stepped down as editor a little over 2 weeks ago. One tough act to follow, if not downright impossible.

Not getting the Newburyport Current delivered (until recently), every Friday morning I would go out on a hunt looking for a Current that might not be read by one of my neighbors.

(I was always afraid I’d be arrested for stealing a free newspaper.)

I first started rereading the Newburyport Current because Ms Gerth let Jim Roy write his (either you love it or hate it) column. Apparently that column was/is the first thing a whole lot of people look for Friday mornings (those people who get the Newburyport Current delivered to them) before work, over their morning whatever.

After discovering Mr. Roy’s column (what can I say, I’m a fan. I sure hope they let him keep writing undeterred, under the new editorial regime), I discovered Ulrika Gerth.

And wow, did I ever become an aficionado.

And although I’m going to miss Ulrika Gerth like crazy as editor of the Newburyport Current, I sure am excited that she is the proud Mom of a gorgeous baby girl. And congratulation to the proud Papa, Ralf Gerth, as well.

Welcome to the world Amelie.

Mary Eaton

Good Public Relations in Newburyport, MA

One of the things that fascinated me concerning the “87 High Street, Leslie and Peter Tolan encounter” that I had was, “brilliant” public relations. Might I learn a whole lot from this. Really.

One of the things that I’ve learned blogging the Newburyport Blog is that folks get their “knickers in a knot” over all sorts of stuff. I’ve gotten to the point where I write a blog post and I say to myself, self, “someone is going to get their knickers in on knot on this one, you just know it.” (And the frogs go, “Yup, you just know it.”)

Later, when I go back and read whatever it is that someone has gotten all knotted up about, I’ll think to myself, “Say what? They were that upset about what?? Good grief.” (And the frogs look at me and go, “Yeh, can you believe it?)

And I’ve gotten flack from the fact that I don’t think the Tolans trashed the place (87 High Street). Predictably enough, folks are real worked up about it. (And folks who are worked up about it, could think this blog post is about them. Well, I gotta tell ya, no, it’s not.) (And the frogs are going, “Yes siree, no it’s not.”) (Good grief it’s beginning to sound like a froggy Greek chorus around here at the Newburyport Blog.)

Just the granite steps in the front of 87 High Street property alone have folks hyperventilating. Ok, not the Yankee approach, but it’s not impeachable either.

What is so interesting to me, is that the Tolans had a choice. They could have made my life a miserable, because of my snoopiness and concerns about 87 High Street, or they could have taken the approach that they did.

If they had made my life “unpleasant,” every time I would have seen or heard anything related to them (which would have been almost everyday, because I pass 87 High Street almost, if not everyday) I would not have thought “nice” things.

However, now, I’m envious of their neighbors, because it seems that they might have funny, courteous and interesting people who have bought property in their neighborhood. And I wish the Tolans were spending more time in Newburyport, MA. Before, I just wanted them to go away, permanently. This is quite a turn of attitude on my part.

After reading the description of Leslie and Peter’s appearance before the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals in the Newburyport Daily News, I was puzzled. Peter Tolan wrote me an email, describing the experience.

At the end of the email, Mr. Tolan said that after he left the meeting, he turned to Leslie and said, “Tough room.”

Might I learn from this and apply it to my life. And I’m trying to figure out how.

And you know what? I bet they have PhD’s in Public Relations, or at least MS’s degrees in Public Relations. The frogs think so too. (Here we go, froggy Greek chorus again.) But I don’t have time to get a PhD in Public Relations, I need an online crash course.

Mary Eaton

Nostalgic Historic Newburyport Gardens

The photographs of historic Newburyport Garden plans and photographs of historic Newburyport gardens, stir up both a deep sense of nostalgia for something that beautiful, that cared for and that loved, as well as a certain practical impatience, that it could be very difficult, short of being part of a museum or a full time gardener, to have such a wondrous oasis in the year 2007.

Anyway, here are two more photographs that I discovered that are in the public domain. One is a photograph of an historic garden and one is of an historic garden plan.


89-91 High Street, Garden

Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

Old Mosely Garden, plan of garden,
182 High Street, Newburyport, MA

Estate of Col. Ebenezer Mosely

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The Frances Loeb Library
Graduate School of Design
Harvard University

Mary Eaton

Historic Gardens, Newburyport

My practical and down to earth friend, who loves historic gardens, wrote me an email concerning the previous post.

As a professional Landscape Designer she did take a class in historic preservation and to quote my friend, “There are tons of good questions, and not nearly as many good answers,” (about how to integrate an historic garden into the lives of people in the 21st Century.)

Oh, well. But not entirely surprising.

Because these photographs are so delightful, I thought I would put them on the Newburyport Blog for readers to enjoy on this Newburyport New England summer day.

Brockway Estate, Garden
83-85 High Street, Newburyport, MA

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The Frances Loeb Library
Graduate School of Design,
Harvard University

Abraham Wheelwright House & Garden,
77 High Street, Newburyport, Essex County, MA

Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photograph Division,
Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Historic American Buildings Survey
Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer
Aug. 14, 1940
View of Garden, Looking East

Mary Eaton

Newburyport’s Historic Gardens and the 21st Century

I went and talked to a delightful friend of mine who loves and appreciates historic gardens and who is very down to earth, to get a reality check.

The subject was/is how to live with historic preservation, only this time outside.

As I said in an earlier post, I went on a hunt for historic garden photos and historic garden designs in Newburyport, MA.

And one of the things that struck me, was that it would be A) very expensive to maintain these gardens in the year 2007 and B) like so many other things, life has changed, and the gardens might not fit in with the life style of your average family in the 21 st Century.

As my friend (again, who loves historic gardens) pointed out that kitchens are different now, bathrooms are different now, and houses have open concepts and people just plain live differently.

So I would think that one of the issues that a family might think about, if they were thoughtful, and bought an historic home, that had an historic garden, would be how does one integrate an historic landscape with lets say a family with young children and a dog?

I am quite sure that there are PhD programs (there have got to be) that address this issue, so I feel a little foolish contemplating this question on the Newburyport Blog.

But, here are two photos. One is an historic garden and one is an historic garden plan. And I ask myself how a family of four with let’s say 2 dogs, would think about being stewards of such a property and also play and enjoy their backyard?

Joseph Moulton House & Garden

Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C.
Historic American Buildings Survey
Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer Oct. 29, 1940

Please press here for larger photo

Newburyport Gardens, Plan, Newburyport, MA

Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library
Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.
Library of Congress
Prints and Photograph Division
Washington, D.C.

Please press here for larger photo

Mary Eaton

A Thick Skin In Newburyport Politics and the Mute Button

Bruce Vogel probably gets the dubious and not so fun prize of being the “Most Toaded Newburyport City Councilor” in the Undertoad’s 10 plus years of existence.

(You see, this is where I now probably would be royally “Toaded.”)

To be in Newburyport politics requires a thick, thick, thick skin. My goodness, I try to be “gentle,” but apparently even the existence of the Newburyport Blog’s calls for a thick skin as well.

(And it turns out even being the editor of the Newburyport Blog necessitates a “thickening” of the skin. I suppose that one should have been obvious to me right from the beginning.)

Being a “progressive,” although a fiscally conservative one now, or as one reader of the Newburyport Blog put it, I’m “getting practical,” I appreciate Mr. Vogel’s voting record. And if we end up having a conservative regime once again in the corner office (which at this point is a definite possibility), I personally, would be dismayed by a conservative Newburyport City Council as well.

Love those checks and balances.

Being in local politics, or in any politics, requires many skills. And how one projects oneself in public, turns out to be a very important skill indeed.

And thank goodness for the “mute button.” I think that there is only one politician that I have ever enjoyed listening to. Only one that I didn’t wince and cringe when they opened their mouth. Only one where I didn’t long for the “mute button.”

When I watch the Newburyport City Council meetings, if any councilor on the Newburyport City Council floor goes on for more than 3-4 sentences, ooops, I hit the “mute” button. Thank goodness for TV.

Do I miss a lot? Probably. But, if whatever it is can’t be summed up in 3-4 (short) sentences, and move the evening along, whoever it is, has lost me.

I later look at how folks voted, and go “hum, Ok.” And if a vote seems out of character, sometimes I ask, and sometimes I don’t.

So one of my concerns as a citizen, forget the blogging part, is the makeup of the 2008-2009 Newburyport City Council. I’m hoping for thoughtful centrists. But if I had to choose, I would most definitely lean towards a more progressive, rather than a conservative tendency.

But then, as one Newburyport City Councilor pointed out to me, I live in the most liberal ward in the city (Ward 2), so would anyone expect anything different?

Hey, I’ve moved towards the “center” or gotten “practical,” (and I’m taking some “flack” for it, no kidding), so with blogging, you never know, maybe all bets are off.

Mary Eaton