Living in Frames, by meshing the lyrical moments of life with the captured images of experience. This is a reverie, a journey, the fork in the road, and the never-ending story....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lowell.

I've spent a lot of time in mill towns. My grandfather was a foreman for Bethlehem Steel Co. by day and jazz musician by night, and my mother and her siblings were raised among the neighborhoods and alleyways, just steps from smoke stacks and the pits, in brick row homes built by Germanic and Dutch immigrants. When I was 10 we moved to the suburbs just outside Pittsburgh, another city with the stigma of being a "dirty steel town with polluted rivers." Which couldn't have been further from the truth, since by the 90's the mills in both Eastern and Western Pennsylvania had been shut down for well over a decade, and had really been making efforts to clean up their acts by promoting their ball fields, parks, museums, festivals, and restaurants. By the time I left in 1999, Pittsburgh was seeing the beginnings of a revival and "blue-collar", "white-collar" it didn't matter anymore, it was a place to take pride in.

When I was first introduced to Lowell, Massachusetts about five years ago, it instantly reminded me of where I had grown up, only a few years behind. I was given the warnings initially: "Don't be walking around those neighborhoods, it's not safe" was the common attitude of Southern NH residents, or anyone from Boston Proper. However, like all cities that are diverse--ethnically and culturally--and have a long-standing history for employing immigrant laborers; there is the funk and the bright side. But in my opinion, these are the things that really give character to a setting.
Lowell has been changing too, in a similar way to other "forgotten" industrial hubs. Every time I turn on the local radio station, I hear another ad for Lowell Festival This, Lowell Festival That; their minor league baseball team, The Spinners; or their luxury lofts that have become most-appealing to artists and musicians alike, trying to escape high Boston rents. Not to mention, this is the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, and Edgar Allen Poe and NY Times journalist, Jimmy Breslin are said to have spent quite some time working around here. Then of course there's Mickey Ward, whose rise from the streets to the ring has gained public notoriety since the film, The Fighter. It's definitely the kind of stomping ground, where you don't have to go far to find inspiration. It is usually sitting in a doorway, on a bench, or waiting for the bus. Just make sure you smile when you pass by though, because you won't meet people as authentically honest, as the people who have been living in Lowell and remember it from the days "Before".
 

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