Tag Archives: South Common

The Stand Out

In this space I’ve written about the house party and the “time” as building blocks of a political campaign. Another staple of any campaign is the “stand out.” Some people call this “holding signs,” and the insiders refer to this activity as “viz” or “doing a visibility.” The stand out may or may not involve the candidate. Sometimes an overly excited bunch of volunteers will mob a major intersection and wave and yell like crazy for an hour, feeding off every horn beep and thumb’s up from drivers. Some campaigns are fierce believers in viz, convinced that it proves to voters that a candidate is working hard or that the volunteer bench is deep. I’ve always liked this form of campaigning because you encounter a lot of people in a short time.

I was walking Ringo the dog tonight at about 6 p.m., when I saw city councilor Marty Lorrey and his lovely wife, Lila, hailing cars on the South Common at the corner of Thorndike and Highland streets. This is a great corner for viz at rush hour. Constant cars. I’ve stood out at that corner many times for candidates/office holders, two of them being Matt Donahue and Paul Tsongas in the 1990s.

marty lorrey

Councilor Lorrey was drawing a great response from the commuters coming home from work. His signs with the stamp-edge design are my favorite design of the season. First, it’s a great shorthand identification for the former postal worker. Second, there’s a subtle patriotic message in the stamp motif without going red-white-and-blue. I think people appreciate seeing the candidate out in the chilly air making an effort to connect with voters. Any sign-holder gets his or her share of boo-birds, but mostly you see respect in the eyes of the people who make contact. Lots of them buzz right by. At that intersection, I was always surprised to see how many vehicles with New Hampshire license plates zipped past on their way across the river and through the woods to Pelham and environs. While I was chatting with the councilor a mail truck gave a wicked blast of its horn, and we laughed. He was sharing with me ideas he has for improving the Common and surrounding area, including bringing some music to the park next summer. He has a strong interest in history and often makes the connection with the community’s heritage when he is talking about a particular place. One of the big challenges at that spot is the redevelopment of the Comfort Furniture building. The location oozes potential, with the train station next door, plans for a trolley extension, more construction coming in the Hamilton Canal District, promised upgrade of the Common, and growth of Cambodia Town on the other side of the overpass.

‘Return of the South Common Haiku’

For the past few weeks, I’ve been posting new South Common haiku on my Facebook page. For those who are not into the FB thing, following are some that got the best responses.—PM


Return of the South Common Haiku


Mourning doves en groupe.

Red hawk atop gray steeple.

One crow makes a crowd.


Fall rain knocks down leaves.

I can smell the maple ones

drying in their veins.


The cracked paved walkways

absorb our democratic

foot-falls of going.


In the middle of

the middle of the city–

bag, pine, feather, moon.


Night hangs on longer

each day now–I just won’t walk

into a dark park.


Red isn’t ready

in the countless cold leaves.

The cars sound far off.


Seven bumble bees

mop up the pink stonecrop blooms—

where did the hawk go?


Ant mills on the slope,

symmetrical, by the book.

Two guys sleeping out.


So many babies

amid the smashed beer bottles–

Take the free pine cones.


Look for Hank Thoreau

in the Owl Diner, drinking

eternity juice.


V of southward geese

over the old stone jailhouse—

cool blue fall re-set.


—Paul Marion (c) 2012

South Common, May Morning

After ten days of rain and dampness, the South Common was busting out of its green suit this bright morning. A red-tailed hawk glided down the tree-lined walkway leading in from Summer Street. The combination of fully new-leafed trees and severe clear sky seen through their crowns reminded me of a handful of green and light-blue cat’s eye glassies. The crystalline gleam of colors in sunlight had all the primary power of childhood treasures. The grass was tall enough to be loose, riffling in the breeze. Gray squirrels and various birds moved through the landscape, doing what they do in their territory. A few people crossed the open space on the way to trains or something else. There was a large red mattress near the sidewalk at the Thorndike and Summer entrance, either an early sign of seasonal campers or an illegal dumping. Young trees planted as part of the sidewalk upgrade last year looked sturdy, some of them having already blossomed and dropped their petals. New mulch around the corner monuments sprouted weeds and other volunteers encouraged by recent rain. Spring green, from Highland to Summer, from Thorndike to South.

South Common Earth Day Event, April 22, Rogers School

On Sunday, April 22, some interesting people will gather at the Rogers School on Highland Street, on the edge of the South Common, for Earth Day activities. We will have a guided tour of the South Common Historic District by Dick Howe Jr, unplugged music by Joe Darensbourg, a display of design plans showing what the Common will look like in a few years, and a book-making workshop (don’t think gambling) where everyone will go home with a collection of my South Common haiku in a book that he or she made on the spot. Artist Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord will lead the book workshop. Allegra Williams of the City’s planning office will be on hand to talk about plans for upgrading the Common.

The guided tour begins at 2 pm in front of the school and ends where it started at 3 pm; the indoor activities also start at 2 pm and run through 4.30 pm. Everything is free and open to the public. Take a close look at the Common, talk to some people who care about the future of the big green space along Thorndike Street, and learn how to make a book that will fit in your pocket.

South Common Earth Day Event

The design drawing above illustrates some of the ideas being considered for enhancements at the South Common as soon as there is funding for the project.

Here’s more on the South Common Earth Day event coming up on Sunday, April 22, 2 to 4.30 pm, at the Edith Nourse Rogers School, 43 Highland Street, Lowell.


Join artist and calligrapher Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord (www.makingbooks.com), City planner Allegra Williams, musician Joseph Darensbourg, historian Dick Howe Jr, me, and other fascinating people like yourselves at a community gathering to talk about the great park that is the South Common, learn about and see design drawings for the City of Lowell’s planned improvements at the Common, and, coached by Susan, create a handmade book of haiku starting with the ones about the South Common that I posted on Facebook this winter. Joe, a master of book arts himself, will perform music to make books by; Allegra will talk about what’s planned for the Common; and Dick will lead a guided tour of the South Common Historic District. More Green activities are expected. Meet at the front door of the Rogers School at 2 pm for the guided tour.

South Common Haiku Set (III)

Here’s the third group of South Common haiku from the Facebook postings in November and December. If we ever get a pile of snow this winter, I’ll try to write another batch with the Common in white.—PM


South Common Haiku Set (III)


Who has not looked up

and seen the long white jet trails

that fade in seconds?


Never get used to

seagulls on the soccer field,

far from Hampton Beach.


Train horn, no whistle,

long sound in the Thorndike dark.

The line ends, starts here.


Large-to-small branchings,

fundamental nature form—

veins and river paths.


Over the low hill

whiff of Owl Diner bacon—

they sell oatmeal, too.


Night street sounds and news.

All the people dying on

the old radio.


Joel-Lowell rhymes.

Billy could like the Common

just the way it is.

—Paul Marion (c) 2011


South Common Haiku Set (II)

In November and early December, I posted a new haiku almost every day on my Facebook page. I gathered up the first batch and posted them here on rh.com about a month ago. For those who do not use Facebook and may be interested in the poems, following is another group. I’ll add a third group in a day or two to catch up. I took a break from posting the haiku because it’s actually difficult to write a good one, and I thought I was pushing my luck and worried that I was going to sound like SNL’s old Jack Handey with his “Deep Thoughts.” I wouldn’t want that, “wouldn’t be prudent,” as Dana Carvey used to say.—PM


South Common Haiku Set (II)


Common sky in place,


Double solitaire.


Maple, pine, and birch,

easy to name in a crowd—

what of the others?


Not Carl’s cat-feet fog.

More, you can see the park’s breath—

just this side of mist.


Under the chipped bench,

empty plastic vodka nips,

lottery tickets.


Far east down South Street,

violet and pink sky lines.

Shirtsleeve November.


Red bird in the pine,

a small thing, considering.

Overnight rain due.


Motorcycles rise.

The ugly furniture mill

beautified at dawn.


—Paul Marion (c) 2011