A new history book about Lowell by Richard P. Howe Jr and Chaim Rosenberg to be published on March 11, 2013. To order a copy and to learn about local readings and book signings, check out our Legendary Locals of Lowell page.
See www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org for the full schedule of activities from March 5 to March 12, organized as a weeklong tribute to the Lowell cultural powerhouse Jean-Louis Kerouac (1922–1969).
UMass Lowell is involved with several events including a special screening of the film “Lowell Blues” with the director Henry Ferrini on Monday, March 5, 3.30 pm, in Coburn Hall, Broadway St, South Campus; a talk by Dawn Ward, editor of a forthcoming collection of writings by young Kerouac, the most prominent of which is his merchant marine novel “The Sea Is My Brother,” being published in full for the first time–this program is on Thursday, March 8, 4 pm, in the O’Leary Library auditorium, Wilder St, South Campus; a conversation with John Sampas, Kerouac’s brother-in-law and literary executor for the past 20 years, also on Thursday, March 8, at 7.30 pm, in the National Park Visitor Center, 246 Market St downtown (in discussion with John will be UMass Lowell professors Michael Millner and Todd Tietchen); and a panel talk with Kerouac scholars and experts assessing “90 Years of Kerouac” on Saturday, March 10, 1 pm, at the Boott Mills Museum Events Center, 2nd floor, John St downtown.
I really like George and his colleagues at my local post office. They’re helpful and friendly, and seem to know the local residents. They’re an important part of the local neighborhood scene. A lot of people feel that way about their local post offices. But from a business perspective, and given economic realities, it is probably true that across the country there are many communities that have more post offices than the USPS really needs. More post offices, and more postal workers. Not in my neighborhood, of course.
There are so many post offices (38,000), Congressman Stephen Lynch told the New England Council yesterday, that we’ll run out of names for them before we run out of post offices. A Pew Research study found the public is generally satisfied with postal services (compared to its view of Congress, which, according to Lynch, is “somewhere between the Taliban and swine flu!”) However, he said, the reality is that many communities with five or six branches could get by with two to three.
Here’s the problem. Since 2008, there are 42 billion fewer pieces of mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service, mostly first class mail. The USPS keeps running up operating deficits and needs to reduce costs some $20 billion by 2015. The USPS depends for its revenues on the sale of stamps, products and services. Because of the rise of the Internet, past volume won’t come back, even when the economy rebounds.
Nowadays, we’re apt to use email than send a letter, and, instead of mailing our bill payments, we tend to use online banking. That’s a direct hit on postal service revenue. So USPS keeps raising the price of stamps, but it is clearly a losing battle.
Technology will only intensify the shrinking of the revenue base. Denmark is testing a Pitney-Bowes system for allowing customers to go online, see what mail awaits them in their local delivery hub, and check off what they want to have actually delivered. Goodbye unwanted catalogues and junk mail!
Among possible solutions to the deficit are eliminating Saturday deliveries, closing facilities, and eliminating workers. Yesterday, it was announced that the main postal annex in South Boston has just been spared, at least for now. [Note: this is a mixed blessing. There’s no telephone number to contact anyone to track mail, and packages can sit there for days before being moved to the local office.] Branches will be closed in Wareham, Waltham and Shrewsbury, North Reading and Lowell, eliminating some thousand jobs. Brockton may also be affected. “Going postal” today may mean going the way of the dodo bird.
Seventeen members of Congressman Lynch’s family are either working for or have worked for the Postal Service, so he’s been thinking about the human dimension of this for some time. Lynch notes that, while the postal service itself is drowning in red ink, the postal workers’ retirement fund actually has a surplus of about $7.5 billion. He wants to allocate about $1.5 billion for early retirement incentives for some 100,000 postal workers.
Lynch says the Tea Party probably opposes the idea because the proposal doesn’t cause enough pain and “leave enough blood on the floor.” As a journalist, I should be suspicious of any bill put forth by a politician with family ties to the particular agency. But, try as I might, I can’t find any reason why this retirement fund proposal doesn’t make sense. Care must be taken though that the money be used for workforce reduction, rather than to subsidize jobs that no longer are needed.
I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts in the comments section below.
Somebody once said that Lowell is a “little big city,” and that character is due in part to the spectrum of activities on any given day: small to large, low to high, basic to extravagant, local to global, traditional to experimental, common to cosmic — you get the idea. Yesterday was a “little big city” experience for me from afternoon to evening, with the activity tipping the scales toward the “big city.”
In the storefront art space that announces itself with blaring color on Chelmsford Street in the Lower Highlands, the second day of 119 Gallery’s XFest got going around 2 p.m with an opening set featuring Lowell writers Ryan Gallagher and Derek Fenner, accompanied by Walter Wright on drums (whose array of percussion components included an upside down cupcake pan atop one of his tom-toms), Rick Breault on laptop (yes, he was operating this device for sonic effect), and Stephanie Lak on another electronic audio instrument that was a cross between a keyboard-synth and a short-wave radio. Ryan approached the standing mike and proceeding to unroll a short epic poem from his inner drive that pulled the audience toward him in held-breath mode for at least a third of a scuba tank of air. He kept saying his long lines with images of marmalade and jazz, his sentences surround-sounded by the rumble and snap and melodic static and voicings of the trio backing him.
Next up was Derek Fenner who crouched at a portable typewriter wired to a speaker that turned the machine into an alternative drum, bang-banging as he punched out a poem on the spot. When his poem-on-paper rolled off the typer, he picked it up and stood up at the microphone to read that one and ten other short pieces, many of them Lowell-inflected in the way Sandburg’s early poems spoke Chicagoan, strange and reverent vignettes of life on the local run. He closed with two poems, one a howler, from a friend who couldn’t be there. On the howler, the musicians raised the volume roof with their post-mod version of a Salvation Army band.
In the compact gallery a couple of dozen people from Lowell and beyond were locked in on the performances. For this festival, 119 Gallery is the magnet to which the iron filings of edgy cultural taste are drawn. For the weekend in Lowell, visiting artists traveled from Berlin, Montreal, Asheville N.C., Brooklyn N.Y., and other places.
In the second set, musicians Chris Welcome (guitar) and Shayna Dulberger (upright bass) of Brooklyn and sax and flute player Ras Moshe put music to the smooth testimony of spoken-word artist Anthony Febo, one of Lowell’s favorite poets, a master of performance, who, like Ryan Gallagher, has a lucid memory of his own compositions. Anthony and I alternated in our set, each of us putting four poems on the table. Mine were the audience participation piece “December Canticle,” “Crazy Horse” (about the maker of a huge stone monument out west), “Make Words,” and “The Sandbank on Riverside” (set in Pawtucketville).
For Part Two of the day, the location shifted to downtown and the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, where the high-achieving River Hawks wouldn’t let the nearly 6,000 people go until they had tied the Merrimack College Warriors, who had whipped the locals the night before. I sat with four friends two rows behind the Merrimack bench, where the ice action is in your face, including the random clearing shot plunking off the break-free glass. The Tsongas has become everything the campus leadership imagined was possible in the complex and daring days when the transition from City to University was being worked out. It is a full on sports experience in sound, light, video, and live athletic drama. This is big-time college sports. Nationally ranked. Top tier in all respects. The student shouters were out in force. The seating bowl was the definition of family entertainment. The Lowell Bank Pavilion was jammed. In the lobby a dozen or more Star Wars characters posed for pictures with the kids and parents. Rowdy the River Hawk starred in a clever film mash-up that turned the Death Star into a war ship of down river Merrimack College that got obliterated on the jumbo-screen high over center ice.
Each time UMass Lowell tied the score the building rocked on its pins. We would have liked to walk down Martin Luther King Way with a win in our pockets, but it could have been worse. It’s been a super season, with more to go. What a difference a couple of years makes. And kudos to the traffic controllers. They got the jambo crowd off the property in good order and time.
“Delightful” is not a word that gets much use in my vocabulary, but it’s the one I’ll use to describe “Daddy Long Legs” which I saw Thursday night at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Set in the first decade of the twentieth century, it’s the story of Jerusha Abbott who, when the show opens, is the oldest of the wards of a functional but not very nurturing orphanage. One of the institution’s trustees, Jervis Pendleton, spots Jerusha’s potential from afar and arranges for her to attend college with him paying all expenses on the twin conditions that Jerusha write him one letter each month but that she make no other attempt to contact him or to ascertain his identity.
Much of the play consists of Jerusha using her developing and considerable writing talent to compose letters to this patron who she imagines to be quite old (all she ever saw of him was his elongated shadow one day back at the orphanage, hence the nickname “Daddy Long Legs”). Jervis, in fact, is only a few years older than Jerusha. He is the unmarried and socially awkward though handsome offspring of a very wealthy New York City family.
Jervis, who becomes intrigued by the personality that leaps from the monthly letters, has another connection to Jerusha because his cousin, seemingly by coincidence, becomes one of Jerusha’s roommates at college. Ostensibly to see his cousin, Jervis becomes a frequent visitor to campus where he lavishes attention on Jerusha whose letters to her “Daddy Long Legs” glowingly describe her growing affection for her roommate’s cousin.
In subsequent scenes when Jervis delights in reading these letters, it comes across as an invasion of privacy that unveils a flaw in Jervis’s character. But Jervis is just shy and unsure of himself and not a voyageur, so it all works out in the end.
Megan McGinnis playing Jerusha and Robert Adelman Hancock playing Jervis both gave wonderful performances, especially considering that they are the only actors in the play and they are both on stage throughout the production’s two plus hour run time. “Daddy Long Legs” is directed by John Caird and is based on a novel by Jean Webster. The show continues at the MRT through March 4 and tickets are still available at the MRT website.
I just noticed the following video appear on the Howl in Lowell YouTube page. Here’s the explanation from there:
[The below] was playing on screen at last night’s (Fri. 2/24/12) alternative party in the Zorba Room at the Olympia Restaurant. We think it’s a great HOWL out! See the full story at howlinlowell.com coming in March.
It’s still a ways off, but mark your calendars: Food Trucks are coming to Lowell. The Lowell Food Truck Festival will take place on the grounds of UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Center on Saturday, September 8, 2012 from noon to 4 pm. Trucks serving food from grilled cheese sandwiches (above) to cupcakes (below) will participate. For more information and for advance tickets, visit the website of Food Truck Festivals of New England.
If the four GOP candidates were running for legislator-in-chief, Rick Santorum would have won last Wednesday’s debate. But they are not, and, coming off three caucus and one primary victories plus a surge in the polls, former Pennsylvania Senator Santorum failed to present himself as commander-in-chief.
He got mired in the arcana of Senate rules and legislative deal making to explain votes he had made. In a Tea Party era, where compromise is anathema, his willingness to “take one for the team,” which he did in voting for No Child Left Behind, is not unattractive. But his efforts to differentiate “good earmarks” from “bad earmarks” got him deeper in the legislative soup. Such explainers don’t play when the office sought depends on executive leadership. His contorted explanation of his support for Title X funding reminded me of John Kerry’s having voting for a bill before voting against it.
There’s a legislative logic to both, but hard to convey in a presidential debate format that demands simpler explanations.
Santorum’s best moment came when he attacked Mitt Romney for taking credit for balancing four budgets in Massachusetts, when that is required by state Constitution. Santorum got off the best line of the evening by noting that Mike Dukakis had balanced 12 budgets in Massachusetts, but that, he asserted, doesn’t make Dukakis qualified to be President. Surprisingly, Santorum failed to focus on Romney’s many flip-flops (or evolving positions), which are the heart of his vulnerability. read more »
A huge push-back from the culture-makers and -consumers in the city who believe that more attention should be paid.
Logical next step, given the vast supply of cultural product in the city, and broad recognition that we have to be more intentional about boosting demand.
A not-to-be-overlooked consequence of the massing of creative people in one place (one cheer for public intellectual Richard Florida, and another cheer for Lowell City Hall leaders who went after the ”creative class” and made it City policy, people like John Cox, Armand Mercier, Grady Mulligan, Brian Martin, Bud Caulfield, Eileen Donoghue, Bernie Lynch, Adam Baacke, Colin McNiece, Jim Milinazzo, LZ Nunn, Rita Mercier, Matt Coggins, and others not listed here and to whom I send apologies because you know who you are. And let’s not forget the Lowell Plan Inc.’s sponsorship of the Creative Economy development plan a few years ago. Also, Karl Frey and Justin Mandelbaum of Vespera, who made Western Avenue an arts destination. Plus, the Parker Foundation trustees, who keep saying “yes” when seed grants are in critical need.)
Excited about the prospects for local cultural news in heavy rotation on the web.
When the influential but short-lived “Renovation Journal” published reviews of books by Lowell writers and cultural happenings in the city, I was encouraged to see the arts sector becoming more self-conscious. We cannot wait for a 21st-century Charles Dickens to stop by and write about the Space-Age version of “The Lowell Offering” in the “Next American Notes”—we have to report on ourselves for the world to see. Visiting journalists are always welcomed, like the two from France who were here this winter to do stories about Kerouac for tie-ins to the release of the “On the Road” movie in Europe.
When an ethnic enclave reaches a critical mass, you start to see the special grocery stores and restaurants; when an arts and heritage network expands to a certain size, maybe the ethnic market is a culture magazine.
Good luck to the Howlers. There’s no shortage of content.
This is truly BIG NEWS. Rita Savard and Caroline Gallagher are about to launch Howl in Lowell, an online arts and entertainment magazine celebrating the music, art and culture of Lowell. Howl in Lowell will debut next week on March 1, but its creators have given us a taste of what’s to come with this video, and an explanation of what they hope to accomplish in the letter that follows:
Something electric is in the air. Do you feel it? You should because you, dear readers, are the charge, the spark, the burst of energy lighting the way to a new era in our city.
Welcome to Howl in Lowell, an online arts and entertainment magazine celebrating the voice of a new generation – yours.
During the past seven years, I have worked as a full-time staff writer at The Sun newspaper and was often asked the same question: Why isn’t there more coverage of the city’s eclectic and flourishing arts scene?
The time to fill the void is now. I have left The Sun to team up with Caroline Gallagher, an experienced filmmaker, broadcast news veteran and webisode guru. With help from a very talented group of local writers, artists and art-lovers, we have created howlinlowell.com. Launching March 1, Howl in Lowell’s mission is bringing you the latest and greatest in entertainment news and reviews, and introduce the talent of tomorrow, today. Whether you’re an artist, musician, writer, photographer, filmmaker or simply an art-lover, Howl in Lowell is a portal for connecting people like you to the music, art and culture that inspires your world.
Check howlinlowell.com daily for news bites and feature stories spotlighting the names, faces and places making Greater Lowell a destination location for the arts. We’ll also be your tour guide for shows and events in the city and beyond. So come out and play.
The Howl in Lowell name stands for our strong desire to hear the city’s unique voices. Howl out, we want to hear you! Our name also gives a big salute to the Beat Generation, a period in time when the unique voices of a small but creative group of friends led to a movement that rocked the world. Lowell native Jack Kerouac, along with Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady, believed in stirring things up and living out loud. Their infusion of new ideas and talent dropped like a bombshell into staid 1950s America.
With your help, we’re here to shake up the Merrimack Valley. Our message: Open your mind, dream big, create, play and take an active part in a community cultivating culture.
Think of Howl in Lowell as the new Beats, improving quality of life through exposure to beauty. So, as Kerouac put it so brilliantly, let’s “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ”
The centerlight is you. Keep your mind open, your heart full and follow your unique voice. It’s time to Howl!
Rita Savard, Editor
Have a tip for us? Is there a local band we simply need to hear or an artist we should know about? Or maybe, you’d like to write forus. Please let us know at email@example.com