Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lynn Needs Bars. No, really.

This post is in response to an Item article from April 9, 2013.

On March 26, the online magazine, Slate, ran an article provocatively titled, "Your Neighborhood Needs More Bars," one of its main points being that they provide a boost to and attract small businesses.

Before I go further, understand that I fully recognize Lynn’s difficult history with watering holes and can empathize with those who suffered from out-of-control establishments, either as neighbors in close proximity or as Lynners suffering the reputation they brought the city. Bars, especially bars as venues, can also be a very good thing.

The Bowery had CBGB’s, Kenmore Square had the Rat, D.C. has the 9:30 club, Athens has the 40 Watt, Hoboken has Maxwell’s, and I can go on. None of these places were fancy or in the best parts of town. The floors were sometimes sticky and the bathrooms could be a turnoff, but they were anchors in their neighborhood’s revivals. I speak with some experience, because I have been in every one of those places. Every one of those places also was or is in an area that is full of positive late night activity and new daytime businesses, now.

The Sand Bar is not one of Lynn’s difficult establishments. To the best of my knowledge, and I attend the License Commission hearings, it’s relatively trouble free. It also offers a regular schedule of live music in the downtown and adjacent to the Arts & Culture district. (Its bands aren’t always to my taste – too many covers, too much of a 90’s jock-rock sound, but that’s irrelevant to my argument.)

I have never seen a neighborhood revive without an active music scene, an arts scene, and yes, a bar scene – or scenes for that matter. It does take variety. I believe the Sand Bar has a positive role to play in downtown Lynn, and who knows, as the area changes, it just may begin to host more original acts. Sure, it’s small. It should be. We have the Lynn Auditorium for really big acts.

I’ve lived in the downtown a number of years, now, and it’s not new news that my neighbors and I have been putting in hard work building community, creating new scenes, and hoping to attract new businesses. It’s my opinion that you have to leave nightlife, and (gulp) bars, in the picture. Show me an urban arts district without them. I even know a non-profit arts organization, AS220 in Providence, that has a bar inside it and leases space in another one of its buildings to a bar/restaurant. And you know what else is inside AS220? An art gallery that doubles as a venue for original live music.

Let me also point out that I am in favor of the plans for new housing and retail on that stretch of Washington, but not at the expense of a positive contributor who has worked hard to build up his business. Measures can be put in place so sound does not travel to the residences easily. Special walls and dividers can be built, for example, without completely reinventing the acoustical wheel. Family-sized units can be placed further from Sand Bar and Frans, as well.

We want to reduce crime, prostitution, and the perception of blight we have that’s a bit overblown, but that will only happen when we have people walking the streets at night engaged in positive activities.

Where will our city's new young energy go at night without bars? Salem? It’s already happening, and it amounts to a great loss of economic opportunity in Lynn, not just for the bars themselves, but for all kinds of businesses.

Note the absence of a musical video on the bottom of this post. It will come back when it gets the credit it deserves for its role in urban revival. Go out and see a live original band, even if you have to do it outside of Lynn on most nights.

Here's a list of some Lynn venues that sometimes have original acts. Support them for it.

Arts After Hours Backyard Bashes (always original acts, but a few times a year)
Tatiana's, 70 Market Street
Sand Bar, 714 Washington Street
O'Brien's, 829 Boston Street
Buchanan's at the intersection of Eastern & Western Ave's
Walnut Street Cafe, 157 Walnut Street (lots of original, mostly acoustic)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

These bags

These bags seem to have been sitting in Central Square for weeks. They seem to be attracting other bags, and of lesser concern, leaves.

I don't know for a fact, but they were probably left after an organized cleanup. Usually, arrangements are made in advance with the DPW to collect bags from specific locations following these cleanups. Since we have several organizations that conduct cleanups around the downtown and I appreciate their efforts, I'm not pointing my finger at them. These have been here long enough for DPW to notice even if no one has told them, and they should not have been allowed to remain here. We're lucky they haven't been torn apart, yet.

I will call the DPW tomorrow.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hello talk radio land....

This morning, a clip from Michele McPhee's show on RKO was sent around facebook to a bunch of folks from the great breakfast place Mildred's. I suppose McPhee took it up because of this globe article. It caused a bit of outrage here, as Lynn-bashing tends to do that, but I noticed, through the outrage making machine that is her show, that McPhee also had a certain affinity for the parts of Lynn she knew.

So, I wrote an email and encouraged others to do the same. My email was to fill her in on the other good things happening in Lynn. Fast forward - I'm invited to call in.

Here's the clip that includes my call and others:


Mayor Kennedy followed up with a call, and in my opinion, did a fantastic job:


20k of last year's budget spent on a promotional video and available due to the firing of a staff member, will not impact 2013's budget or anyone's taxes. When taking into consideration what other cities are spending, and Salem's six figure re-branding they probably didn't need to do, we're not doing enough.

Michele McPhee was wrong to frame this as a promotional video vs. rats or promotional video vs. firehouses situation and the Mayor did a great job enlightening Michele and the audience. And to the nice woman who called in, I do post goings-on in the Highlands and everywhere in Lynn, and also, 20k of brooms isn't what we need. As soon as you clean up a street, as Centerboard's street teams do, it's immediately re-trashed. As the Mayor said, "It's a people problem." Let's fix that - not that I know how.

Now, let's see if Michele McPhee follows through and attends Twelfth Night in Lynn Woods and eats breakfast with the Mayor at Mildred's. I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is your word as good as your fence?

Remember when folks living downtown, myself included, were mostly of the mindset that it was cool to have Allcare VNA remain in Lynn and Downtown but they should do right by the area by sticking with the Market Street Vision plan that the city had hired a company to draw up?

Here's the super-fast version.

The Market Street Plan called for storefronts. Allcare VNA said "No way." There was a public hearing, where much to my dismay, lots of folks thought we were opposed to VNA outright. Well, most of us weren't. A lot of people were just misinformed about our more nuanced position. We wanted storefronts. We couldn't get storefronts, but, we had some small victories.

For example, they were willing to give on the fence. We did not want a fence greeting people as they entered downtown - especially a fence around a very non-retail looking structure. It sends the wrong message, even more-so now that the Central-Exchange Arts District is in effect. Many of us were happy to hear that Allcare would drop the fence from its plans, and they built it without one. Until today...

Let's say, for the sake of discussion, the fence doesn't come out looking all that bad. What about the fact that they went back on their word, without even talking to us, first? What kind of precedent does it set for future development? Do we not trust City Council, or do we not trust Allcare - or is it both?

I'm about to head over to LynnArts for the LPS Art show and Mural unveiling. They'll also announce the new Central-Exchange Arts and Culture District - until someone's buddy gets to trample on that win - or, we put a fence around it.

Posts are in place around the entire corner for what appears to be a very generic black fence, matching the one lots of folks dislike around the Community College campus.

unrelated to the post:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Fleeting Display of Guerilla Art and Memorial Day

Homelessness is a big problem I can only hope people more qualified than I am are trying to solve.

Homelessness among vets is a big problem that makes mostly everyone scratch their heads - I think. If you serve your country in a war, you probably deserve a little bigger safety net than your average citizen. But what do you do when a vet with psychological disabilities refuses help? I believe that's the issue with Tom, at least from what I've been told.

Attempts have been made even just to.. get him to move along to.. where ever elsewhere might be.. but within the law, the MBTA has limits to what they can do. The city also has their legal limits. Go to any city, and you'll find they've never been able to completely manage the issue. After all, you can't make people disappear. You can't make all public spaces private. Those aren't answers, anyway.

Today, Tom made an artistic statement. Maybe he was thinking about Memorial Day.

Local photographer and business owner Bob Bond manage to snap a few with his cell phone before it was gone.

Thanks, Bob, for permission to post.

Probably should read what the song is about - thanks, wiki!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One window down...

...and hoping this opens doors to more windows.

Thanks to DTL resident Kevin Sampson, an unsightly building in Central Square is already improved after some good window washing and new drapes. He got permission from Mayo, then assembled a group of volunteers from the neighborhood. Even just the new drapes make a huge difference, but rotations of art displays are forthcoming.

This is not the first time area storefronts have been decorated. RAW decorated the windows of 33 Central, before the windows were damaged, and then through artist Jason Cruz, painted the boards. An intern at LynnArts some time ago added construction-paper and pictures to a building's windows adjacent to them, but they are now sun-faded and sorely in need of a make-over. Perhaps next time, they'll also use curtains and wires to hang paintings, photos, or even set back a curtain to box the windows for sculpture - and light it at night. This is done regularly in empty Downcity Providence buildings with the help of an active Merchant's Association and the landlords, themselves. Are you listening, Lynn landlords? The ones in PVD actually help themselves!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

They Betty Boop'd Central Square

I'm stuck inside working, but I can hear a RAWsome party going on just down Central Square from LynnHappens/LivinginLynn headquarters. The density of chalk drawings increases closer to RAW Space, and is a welcome addition of color after a dreary weather spell.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Young Beasties in 1982

Two obits in a row is not usually my style. But, here's what the Beastie Boys were like in the beginning, and they kept being punk through their hip hop years, which is what I believe made them stand out as a unique act. The beats may have brought frat-boy fans by the droves, but the punk edge they maintained as well as their more insightful sampling, kept the arty kids into 'em.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

A late tribute to Pete Fornatale, another loss for intelligent music radio

If you know me, you know I think there were very few jocks in the history of commercial radio that were any good. Pete Fornatale was one of them. I listened to his show for years. I was fortunate to grow up within ear-shot of NYC radio, a market that while being the largest, somehow managed to keep pockets of free form alive on the commercial airwaves a little longer than anywhere else in the country. And when not even NYC could resist the homogenization of the airwaves, this is how Pete Fornatale felt about it (quoted from NY Times):

By the early 1980s, stations specializing in what had been known as free-form radio were bringing in business consultants who urged less variety in records and more control over the disc jockeys. Mr. Fornatale later complained that he and his colleagues had been demoted from chefs into waiters, “and fast-food waiters at that,” as he told The Record of Bergen County, N.J., in 1999.

Thankfully, WNEW held out long enough for me to hear Fornatale's Mixed Bag through the late 80's and early 1990's, but it was easy to notice the change happening on the airwaves around him and within that station.

Before mp3's and social networking, I relied on what little good was left in commercial FM and on a lot of college radio to learn about new music, and to get more than a superficial "classic-rock" sampling of older music. Pete Fornatale was one of this Jewish kid's favorite Sunday School teachers.

I'm a little late posting about his passing, but here's the NY Times obit.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A reunion with Small Factory, a review of when I last saw them in 1993

On a few occasions over the years, I've employed google to help me find any documented evidence of one of the strangest outdoor music festivals I ever attended. It was the Indie 500, organized to launch Jiffy Boy Records, in Vincentown, NJ. I decided to look again today, because I'm going to see one of the bands that played it - Small Factory. I haven't seen them since. Incidentally, my friend Mike and I crashed with some members of Small Factory in a Princeton dormitory after inquiring about the camping, which WNYU (or was it 'FDU) told us there would be in their concert calendar. No, there would not be any camping.

As for swag - I bought a Swirlies CD and a festival T-shirt I've since lost. I also have some photos, not in digital form, that I won't dig out to scan any time soon probably.

The funniest part, besides not being able to camp, was Mike's reaction to seeing the half-serious "No Biohazard T-shirts allowed" sign at the improvised entrance. He was worried, because the only other shirt he had on him, for the next day, was a Biohazard one. In his defense, they were sort of a regular act at Studio One in Newark, NJ. They loved them there. (I did not).

Google delivered, this time. http://www.appelstein.com/cif/live2.html  is where I found it, with no author attributed, but it's probably by "Appelstein."

Republishing it here, without a means to contact the author.

Brandon Stusoy's dad's house, Vincentown, N.J.
July 3-4, 1993

    So Brandon and his friend Marc are starting a record label called Jiffy Boy. They chose to kick off their release schedule with a two-day fund-raiser. Somehow, Brandon convinced his father to let him set up a stage in the backyard, invite total strangers on the property for two days, and (as the homeowner) take implicit responsibility for any damage. I'd love to know what Brandon's sales pitch was. Having spent last Independence Day in NYC and hating it, this seemed like the better way to spend the holiday weekend.
    As we drove down Route 206, passing the cheap motels (including the "Slumberland Motel") Wawa convenience stores and the coin toss outside of a gas station, I pondered the whole New Jersey white-trash experience, from which I managed to escape, and how convenience stores and teenagers fleeing for college fit into it all. After making a left at the three bikers hanging around a Wawa parking lot, we were there. The stage was constructed from two hay trucks covered with a tarpaulin just low enough to obscure the heads of particularly lanky band members. In one corner of the yard was a concession stand selling fanzines, records, Shop-Rite soda and Snapple. There was a sno-cone machine later in the day. A band called Ritual was playing as we arrived. Presumably representing the Vincentown scene, they featured a singer who jumped around a lot and a sludgy Black Sabbath/Flag sound. They were the first of 14 bands that afternoon. I won't attempt to list everyone, but I will say that Sugarshock had a great animated drummer that nearly redeemed their overall ho-humness; Spent and Uncle Wiggly were both very good; Smack Dab were interesting; and the two interludes by Ian Garvey, young son of Steve Garvey from the Buzzcocks (he was the elderly-looking English man in attendance) were cute at first, irritating quickly.
    After Smack Dab's set, it seemed like a good time to score some dinner. Six of us piled into a car and found a pizza place back on Route 206. The woman at the counter seemed bemused: "Is there something going on in Vincentown? I've been seeing people with passes around their necks all day!" I tried to explain it in terms of Lollapalooza, but she just got more confused. Yeah, I'd be surprised too I bet. We got back just in time to miss Transilvia (no great loss) and to see Wally from The Lilys play with just a drummer. Next up were Poole, who shined on "Tangle Up." Beth Sorrentino even showed up to reproduce her backing vocals from the SpinART record. By now there were a couple hundred people on the property. Just as Brandon's dad was beginning to express concern over alcohol on the premises, someone lit up fireworks from behind the stage. This seemed cool for about 10 seconds until I realized some were coming perilously close to the bushes. Confusion ensued. Brandon's dad was threatening to call the cops, Todd was berating the audience from the stage, rumor had it that the state troopers were on their way, and I wondered momentarily if we were about to have our own little indie-Altamont right here in Vincentown.
    Actually everyone just stood around confused, waiting to see if the Swirlies would play. Finally, they got onstage and made it through about four songs, fueled by tension and the very real prospect of getting shut down. Amazingly, nothing foolish happened, the crowd dispersed quietly, and no cops showed up.
    Not surprisingly, the second day's festivities attracted a smaller crowd, certainly a mellower one. There was talk of cutting the lineup in half, but in the end only Azalia Snail got canceled (shame, I was looking as forward to seeing her as anyone else). Most of the afternoon's lineup blended together pleasantly. I remember a lot of Richmond bands. I also remember that two of the New Brunswick acts, Remote Control Yeti and Mr. Thumb, were the ones that most depended on gimmickry, failed humor and guitar pyrotechnics. RCY in particular seemed like something Mike Judge threw away as a
Beavis & Butt-Head idea. Far better were Grit, a Rutgers guitar/drum duo who got the most out of their two-man lineup. Later, there was Joey from the Barnabys, whose set included covers of the Go-Betweens ("Rock & Roll Friend") and Jonathan Richman ("Girlfriend"), and then Small Factory, who were coming off of a cross-country tour and played a selection of rediscovered old favorites. Drummer Phoebe was having fun, and she's often the factor that differentiates a good SF show from a dull one.
    The sun began setting, and as fireworks (legit ones!) could be seen in the distance, Versus, Monsterland and the Pushdaisies closed out the weekend in Vincentown. We left Brandon's backyard to the sound of Envelope's lead singer making impenetrable comments about all the people he had to sleep with to get this gig. That seemed as good a cue to go home as any."

 Looking forward to seeing Small Factory at their reunion show in Pawtucket, RI. tonight. This time, it's on their turf.

/Yes I know, this is not a Lynn, MA. post.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not a random act of art in Central Square

There are new giant photos along the pepto wall in Central Square, including one of mine. There was a good crowd for Centerboard's unveiling yesterday, considering the weather. All one had to do is prepare for it, like this girl...

Sometimes I think people really do catch the Spacebus in Central Square (that one's mine..)


Thanks to Centerboard, all the photographers, the City of Lynn, and the MBTA.

Also, big thanks to the Item for being there and doing a write-up, so I didn't have to do one for LynnHappens. :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Random act of art in Central Sq

I saw something curious on my way to the car this morning.

One of the fun things about living in Central Square Lynn, is the random pieces of art and decor one finds from time to time. Here's a closer look.

The tag reads: "My tree describes me because my trunk is sturdy and strong. As well as my trunk my branches are also strong. The top appears fragile as I am a delicate person. My tree has many roots because I'm from a multi-cultural family."

Here's two of the other things I've found:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hawthorne doesn't wait

With the recurring threat of eminent domain and being ignored by a family that doesn't know what to do with it, the old Hawthorne Restaurant building in DTL begins to inflict self-harm. Who will intervene on its behalf?

These photos were taken last week.

Today, the Item reports the city has begun soil testing to see if it's contaminated from and old laundry business - a step towards some sort of progress.

I'm going to guess that no one's going to save the lobsters?

This has been cleaned up, but without the Athanas family paying attention and shoring up the overhang and rest of the corner, it's probably not safe.

I'm going to guess the police put up the crime scene tape, not having any caution tape. But it does send a message about how some of us feel about the few owners downtown who have the power to do something, but continue to hold their properties hostage for who-knows-what.

/oblig. video

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Too many Tuesday meetings, MBTA hearing's my pick

EDIT: Just found out from a reliable source that the EDIC meeting was cancelled to attend the MBTA meeting. Where was this posted? Changes made, but I like to keep my edits visible. It's more fun that way.

Tuesday is meeting day in Lynn. Usually, they're staggered so one can make the rounds or go to all of them. This is not the case on Tuesday, January 7th.

From Saturday 2/4 in the Item - "Lynn Councilor upset over timing of CFO candidate meeting" He should be. The MBTA's Public Hearing in Lynn on fare hikes and cutbacks in service is the main conflict.

I can't comment on the qualifications of Stephen Spencer. Perhaps he is the best candidate. However, the quotes in the article about him are for the most part disturbingly irrelevant. I don't know if that's just what the Item chose to run, or if they're all that was said. From my point of view, knowing his family is irrelevant. Having known him beforehand, is irrelevant. The fact that he is from Lynn, is also irrelevant. Cyr more or less says that it's not how it looks. Maybe not. Let's move the meeting.

I understand the article is more about the unfortunate timing of one meeting, but the situation is worse than that. There are three to choose from. The EDIC will be meeting at LHAND.

We can not move the MBTA hearing, but we can move the other two. Furthermore, the MBTA service in Lynn is part of the critical infrastructure EDIC would use as a selling point to businesses and residences looking to come here. EDIC should will be at the MBTA hearing.

I'll be at the MBTA hearing, from 6 - 8pm in City Hall on Tuesday.