Sticky, Gooey Political Taffy


Taffy, sticky, gooey taffy.  That’s what the LHD (LHD = Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District) political brou-ha-ha has come down to. Just plain old weird, political stickiness.

No amount of calm recitation of the facts is going to do it.

In the comment section of today’s Newburyport Daily News, Jared Eigerman, a spokesperson for Citizens for Historic Newburyport attempted a “clarification:”

Please let me clarify that the “YES” signs and postcards were paid for by members of our private group Citizens for Historic Newburyport (CHN).  As I explained to your colleague ___ by email weeks ago, we do not have any government funding.  My understanding is that the City’s LHD Study Committee has had public funding, none of which is shared with us.
– Jared Eigerman”

Is this calm recitation of the facts going to convince some folks on the “Say No to LHD” side?  As they say in New Yawk, “Forget about it.”

No, at least from comments and email that I’ve received, the pro-LHD folks are supposedly on “the take,” and apparently that includes me. I’m not kidding. Basically insinuating fraudulent activity, i.e. taking the CPA money given to the city and siphoning it (I guess) for private LHD advocacy.

A new low in the LHD wars.

Good grief!

Newburyport Anti-LHD Propaganda

The anti-LHD folks, we will scare you with lies.  (LHD = Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District) The impression that some of the anti-LHD folks would give you is that Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District is “Un-American.”  Really, I’m not kidding here.

“Another layer of Socialist bureaucracy, by a board of permit Komaczars…unAmerican.” I personally have received the moniker of “Nazi,” “Communist,” “Controlling zealot.” And these folks aren’t just throwing words around because they’ve had a bad day, unfortunately, they actually mean it.

And they will not compromise, period.  All on record.

So the anti-LHD poster below, over the top, unfortunately folks, no.  This is what they would like you to think about any version of Newburyport’s proposed LHD.

Sheer propaganda.

What the anti-LHD folks would like you to think about Newburyport's proposed LHD
What the anti-LHD folks would like you to think about Newburyport's proposed LHD

Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.”

And what we’re doing is talking about protecting Newburyport’s historic assets here.  UnAmerican?  Oy Vey.

The Anti-LHD Folks, We will Scare you with Lies

This next number in the Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) musical, “LHD-Bombshell,” (working title, see earlier posts), I think I’m going to call, “We will scare you, no matter what it takes.”

The scene opens with a row of 5 doors, set diagonally across the side of the stage.  The doors are all painted different colors.  And then, I think there would be 5 women all dressed the same, with the same wig, a piece of paper in hand.

Lights go up on the 5 doors and the 5 women march as if they are going door to door, and they line up in front of the five doors and knock, maybe pound  on the doors and then stand back.

And then in unison the 5 doors open.

The musical number begins. The five women launch into song, “We will scare you about LHD, no matter what it takes.”

The first one sings, “Your home insurance premiums will go through the roof with LHD.”

The second one sings, “A board of appointed experts (who don’t even live here) will control your life.”

The third one sings, “With LHD you will be lost in litigation.”

The fourth one sings, “You’ll never be able to do anything ever to your house.”

The fifth one sings, “The LHD gestapo will make you pay fines, fines, fines.”

Mark Twain

And on the other side of the stage, historic preservationists, sitting on the edge of the stage, others standing behind them sing, “It’s not true, it’s a lie, don’t believe them, don’t believe them, they are lying.”

And, I debated how to do this again, but I think I’m going with Mark Twain one more time, even though the quote is not attributed to him.  Everyone stops singing, lights go dim,  the Mark Twain character walks on stage, center stage, spotlight on him,  turns to the audience and says, not sings, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth” (the old proof by repeated assertion technique).

The stage goes dark.

And yes, the lies, misinformation, omission of the facts about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) is off the charts, and “proof by repeated  assertion,” what a way to lose Newburyport’s historic assets. Oy Vey.

Proof by assertion: “Proof by assertion, sometimes informally referred to as proof by repeated assertion, is a logical fallacy (a statement or an argument based on a false or invalid inference) in which a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction. Sometimes this may be repeated until challenges dry up, at which point it is asserted as fact due to its not being contradicted (argumentum ad nauseam).”

You can read the entire explanation of what “proof by repeated assertion” is here.

The Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Musical, the Conspiracy Number

I’m thinking about a second number for Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) musical, “LHD-Bombshell” (working title, see previous posts).

As I’ve said in earlier posts we have the John Birch Society mixed in with this wild LHD concoction. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.  So they’re not going to make an appearance in the musical?  Forget it. This is way too yummy.

So this is what I’m thinking, we have a guy decked out in a suit, gray hair slicked back, emerging center stage, the lights go dim to bright on him and he bursts out with the new musical number, “It’s a conspiracy.”  The lyrics go something like, “It’s a conspiracy, the LHD is a UN conspiracy. Historic preservation destroys the masses.”

And then we have the lady who’s on tape (see earlier post) who accused the Mayor of Newburyport and the LHD Study Committee of conspiracy (and if she was willing to say this on tape, she must believe it, right?) and we have her character emerge from behind the John Birch character, and burst into song with, “Yes, it’s a conspiracy, the LHD will ruin your life!”

And when I felt this whole weird LHD mess was because of the John Birch Society, and some of our more right wing conspiracy minded Republican friends, I thought to myself, “That’s unrealistic Mary, the Republicans in Newburyport are out numbered by the Democrats.” (Although there are Republicans that support Newburyport’s LHD, this is not just a Democrat liberal agenda thing by any means–it’s most definitely non-partisan.)

So we got to have the townies in this number.

In the musical “The Producers” where they have the musical number with the little old ladies and the walkers and everyone gasps at first. Well, I think I’m going to borrow from that one.  The townies, like it or not, are a dying breed here in Newburyport, forced out by gentrification and higher taxes, and they are pissed.

So I’m thinking we have one townie with a walker, and maybe 7 or 8  eventually emerge, and they burst out into song, “They (the Birchers) are so good at this, shall we let them just have their way.” The lyrics go something like, “They’ll get rid of these elitist blow-in carpetbaggers, the ridiculous architectural gestapo, taste-police!”  You get the idea.

Will the curtain go up on the musical "LHD-Bombshell" (working title).
Will the curtain go up on the musical "LHD-Bombshell" (working title).

And then at the end, the LHD Study Committee shuffles in as a group; they do a huddle, and then turn around and look at the Birchers and the townies in the walkers, and kneel down and huddle again. They are now center stage with the Birchers and the townies singing wildly on either side (clearly this is another ensemble number).

And then the singing stops, the lights are just on the LHD Study Committee huddle, and then one member stands up, dressed in a suit, looking dapper, spotlight just on him.

It goes something like this. The LHD Study Committee character, living here in Newburyport let’s say for well over 40 years (still considered a carpetbagger), “My…(pause)… We are in a shit storm… (pause)  And we are surrounded by crazy people.”

Lights out. The conspiracy musical number, “LHD-Bomshell” (working title).

Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) as a Musical

I’m liking this whole Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) mess as a musical (see previous post).

It could open with a Tom Salemi, one of Newburyport’s esteemed bloggers, character singing a solo, “Keep it Classy” (based on Tom’s great essay, “Take the Bagels, Leave the Petition,”on Newburyport’s LHD in Newburyport Today).

The stage is dark except for Tom’s character,  and then in the background, lights come up come slowly, we have two ladies in front of an establishment handing out fliers.  Their musical number is called “Fines, Fines, the LHD will Bankrupt You.”

And huddled at the front of the stage are preservationists (Newburyport preservationists tend in general to be meek and mild, “fierce” is not an adjective I would give to most Newburyport preservationist. “Fierce” goes good with some of the the anti-LHD folks, but not most preservationists, so that’s why they are huddling).  Lights come up slowly on them, and their musical number is, “It’s not True, It’s not True, It’s a Lie.” (Clearly this will be an ensemble piece.)

So Tom’s character is singing “Keep it Classy,”  while the two anti LHD women are singing “The LHD will Bankrupt You”, and the Newburyport preservationist are singing “It’s not True, It’s a Lie.”  And then everyone freezes, you know the way they do on stage.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain

And what I’m picturing here is having someone dressed as Mark Twain, maybe with a sign hanging across their chest so the audience will get it, walks on stage, spot light on him, everyone else is dimmed out.  Doesn’t sing, just looks at the audience and says, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

The Mark Twain character walks off, and the Tom Salemi character sings one last  line of “Keep it Classy?” with a question mark in his voice, and then the lights fade out on all the characters. (Irony here, how elitist!!)

First possible scene of the new possible Broadway hit, “LHD-Bombshell,” (still a working title-the “Smash” thing again, see previous post).

Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Theater

My lovely young theater friends in NYC hate the TV program “Smash.” (I am secretly addicted to “Smash,” don’t tell them-truly they will be offended!!)

I suppose for them it’s a little like me watching Bravo’s “Next Great Artist,” The TV show reminds me of an advanced art class in college (not even grad school).  But, whatever quality the art may be, or how “unrealistic” the “reality” process may be, the press and the buzz probably helps whoever like crazy in their career, that’s just the nature of the biz, at least in my world.

So my NYC theater friends may be addicted to Bravo’s art stuff, who knows.

But thinking about “Smash,” I kept wondering, too bad someone couldn’t do something with all this Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) drama. Historic preservation may be boring (this is certainly the first time in the 31 years I’ve been here that it’s gotten this much attention!!), but my, we’ve got a lot of great characters, on both sides, and mucho drama. A LHD sensation!!

On the pro side we have Jerry Mullins who has outed himself recently as the P.Preservationist.  Jerry is dedicated. All that dedication makes some people just uncomfortable, positively squirm.  But through all of this LHD stuff, one of the great gifts is that I’ve gotten to know Jerry Mullins, and he’s my new bff.

On the anti side, we’ve got great characters.  We got one of the leaders, on tape, accusing the mayor and the Local Historic Study Committee of secretly meeting, and implying that they are engaged in illegal acts. You can’t make this stuff up. What a TV writer wouldn’t give for this!

We’ve got the John Birch Society messed up in this LHD stuff.  If you were a fiction writer, no one would believe you.  It’s yummy.

We’ve got a colorful Bossy Gillis character from Plum Island, telling people, on tape again, that LHD (like it’s some sort of terrible medical disease) will control you. The LHD has nothing to do with Plum Island.  It’s not on Plum Island.  Bossy Gillis is alive and well. How cool is this? Wowza!!

And then you have the somewhat deer stuck in the headlights Local Historic District Committee caught in the shit storm. It’s almost like you can hear them saying, “Say what??” (We’ve got a chorus number here in the making.)

And a newspaper person declaring really, really early on that the LHD is already lost in a messy defeat .. Honey, this is at least a 4 part play.  A little speedy on the getting to the conclusion thing, don’t you think??

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe

It’s a musical in the making.  We could make preservation history in Newburyport.  Can we ramp it up a little more?  Let’s really go at this full throttle. Let’s make history, let’s make this whole LHD mess worthy of a TV sitcom. I’ll take Broadway. Or it could be a TV drama (I’m not fussy here) about Newburyport’s LHD being a Broadway musical-just like “Smash,” only it’s about historic preservation not Marilyn Monroe. TV and Broadway. Is that fun or what? (And I bet my lovely young NYC theater friends would watch it!) Think casting, Newburyport Blog readers, think casting. (I’m sure everyone’s brains, for or against, are turning on the casting thing… now, don’t be mean.)

They did it

Green Theatre Collective at Sylvester Manor, Shelter Island, NY, Season 2011, As You LIke It (press image to enlarge).
Green Theatre Collective at Sylvester Manor, Shelter Island, NY, As You LIke It (press image to enlarge).

They did it. Green Theatre Collective (GTC) raised $10,000 in 4 weeks.  Oh me of little faith.  And that means that this eco-theater company with its roots (pun intended) in Newburyport, can gather the just plain old lovely young men and women who made up the company last year, and go for it again this year, this time with Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, The Tempest.

And GTC had its maiden voyage right here in Newburyport, Massachusetts, sponsored by Theater in the Open, in a gorgeous setting for Shakespeare’s As You Like It at Maudslay State Park last summer.  With a big thank you for a plug by Tom Salemi  at Newburyport Posts and JC Lockwood at Newbuyrport Arts, along with the Newburyport Daily News and the Newburyport Current.

Ok, its personal. The GTC founder and Executive Producer is my son, Hal Fickett, who got his education right here in Newburyport, Massachusetts (yes, we do have great schools that are most worthy of our support).  And the first performance was dedicated to most beloved Newburyport High School theater teacher, Suzanne Bryan and all Newburyport educators (those graduates do appreciate you folks!).

Am I proud and excited for this young eco-theater company.  You betcha!

Green Theatre Collective at Maudslay State Park, Newburyport, MA, Season 2011 (press image to enlarge).
Green Theatre Collective at Maudslay State Park, Newburyport, MA, As You Like It (press image to enlarge).