Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

This the first of a two part question I would want an answer to from anyone interested in being on our city council. The second part being, what do you plan on doing to get there?

I would hope the answer to the first part at least would be living in a vibrant urban center in Worcester Massachusetts. It's the only answer I want to hear at least.

If you care about the urban core of Worcester I urge you to run for city council, if you think you have the capacity. If you don't I urge you to try and convince people you know who you think would do a good job to run, and start working with other folks to get some bodies on that council that care about turning our urban center into a good looking, fun, interesting, safe, vibrant, and welcoming place to be.

The urban core has been left twisting in the wind for too long by our elected officials who talk a good game but when push comes to shove do not look at the rejuvenation of our inner city as a priority, and why should they when their constituency says they don't need to?

As a city we need 3 or 4 nice, welcoming inner city neighborhoods that draw folks from outside the city not only just to work and play but to live also. Without this we will always be not only a second class city, but a third class city.

If we were a town we could get away with bragging about how nice the West Side is or how much we have to offer as far as hiking and parks and outdoor pursuits in general but we aren't, we are a city and as a city we will be judged. As a city we are a shit hole. This is not negativity, this is the reality of the perception of most people who have visited, all who have abandoned, and too large of a percentage who still live here.

This needs to be changed and it is time we start working right now to make this change next November. Starting with Phil Palmieri as our biggest priority, we need new blood on that council. To me it seems like all it will take to send the gentrification of Federal Sq, Downtown, North Main, The Canal District, and Shrewsbury St into high gear is a change in perception. A feeling that living here and investing here is the right thing to do. Phil is the councilor for what I feel is the single most important district in the city, District 2. District 2 is home to the neighborhoods that I listed above. Those five neighborhoods are standing right at the peak of a roller coaster they have slowly been fighting their way up for years now. At the bottom on the other side are the great urban neighborhoods we know these 5 neighborhoods can become. Let's find someone to give that roller coaster that little extra push it needs, because Phil ain't the guy.

Judging by some of the things I have heard him say I am not even so sure he is on the same ride as most of us. Let's get someone else in there Worcester.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A New Term

"Giving It The Worcester"


Definition: Blaming whatever problems your community may be having, no matter how large or universal, on the community itself.

Example:
After the 6th straight day of rain, Bob was really upset and complained to his coworkers about how much his city sucked and how only here could it rain for six straight days. His coworkers laughed it off knowing he was just "giving it the Worcester".

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Worcester's Online Media Explosion

For as long as I can remember Worcester has been a black hole as far as media is concerned. The Telegram and Worcester Magazine definitely do their fair share but aside from the work of Scott Zoback neither of the papers have really ever had that ear to the ground journalism that defines what it means to live work and play in the city of Woo. Television is a total wasteland aside from WCTR Channel 3 news on the cable (which seems to have zero web presence) and WCCA public access television. Radio has always been a little better with WXLO, WSRS and The Pike on the FM and WCRN (who still hjave no real website at all), and WTAG on the AM giving exposure to many things Worcester. Even Boston heavy weight WAAF hasn't forgotten their Worcester roots and probably pays the most attention to the city out of any of the Boston media outlets. WICN, WCUW, and WCHC are nice alternatives on the lower end of the dial as well.

I think that 2008 will be remembered as the year internet based media exploded in the city. Between all the blogs, the web video magazine Worcester Love and Mike Benedetti's informative 508 podcasts you really don't need to look much further then your computer anymore to figure out what is going on in Worcester at any given time.

The culmination of all this though and also a result of the fallout of Womag being sold seems to be the emergence of several online Worcester based news and magazine websites. Here is a quick rundown of some of them.

Worcester Wired is a site that seems to have just sprung up over the past month and looks like it may be the only one out of all of these sites so far that looks as though it may be positioning itself as an online challenger to Womag's alt weekly throne. It's a great looking site that appears easy to navigate and is probably worth at least a once a day stop.

Just like it's discontinued print version, Blank Canvas Magazine's new online version will be one to check in on every once in a while. The content that is here is great but I have a feeling that new content will be added quite sporadically. Still, when something is put up on the site it will certainly be worth your time.

No site is more a result of this online media explosion then Real Worcester. Launched just last week Real Worcester's goal is to be a one stop shopping location for all online Worcester news and info. All your favorite blogs and all your Telegram and Womag headlines are linked off of this site. Add to that that they are also going to have original content and this should be a fun site to watch develop. (Full disclosure: I have been tapped to do a weekly music column on the site as well as contribute other writing as I see fit).

I am not sure just how long ago it started but the grandaddy of sites like these has to Worcesterite.com. Worcesterite was formerly called Volcano Boy but changed it's name this year to reflect it's hometown and make it more inviting for people of all walks of life to peruse the information there. Almost more of a discussion board then anything else it is a great place to go to get some publicity for an event or to rant about the latest city council vote. As the elder statesman of Worcester's online community I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Worcesterite make a move in 2009 to put itself squarely at the front of this online media explosion.

2009 should prove to be a very fun year to watch the interwebs in Worcester. See you there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Business Friendly

Part of my weekly routine over the past several months has been going to KJ Baaron's in Washington Sq for the free Single Malt Monday Scotch tasting that happens there weekly from 5:30 to 8pm. Jess Lofgren is a great host and usually there is quite a bit of Scotch to choose from and also some food to munch on picked to specifically go with whatever Scotch is being tasted out. Sometimes they even sample a craft beer or two.

Last night I went there a little past 7 only to find the store completely closed and all entrances blocked off by a paving crew on Summer Street. The store closes earlier than most at 9pm. The DPW couldn't have waited until after the only business on the street affected by the paving closed? I also have it on very good authority that no advance notice was given about the paving.

I would say there were about 30 people who are regulars at the weekly tasting who were probably pretty pissed off. Let's hope for KJ Baaron's sake that all 30 of these people are folks who are familiar with the way things work here in the Woo and don't decide that it's the businesses fault. I know this is a very small percentage of the cities' population but that's not the point.

KJ's and the people that frequent it are the type of demographic that Worcester has been trying to attract and keep in the city for a very long time. Things like this don't help.

WTF Moylan?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sky Mark Tower

Wow!

If you know what I am talking about then you know exactly what I am talking about. If not you need yo get yourself into Downtown at night at some point over the next couple days. I really hope this is a permanent part of the landscape of the Worcester skyline.

Montreal very much has a signature thing with it's skyline with the rotating spotlight on it's tallest building. Worcester now has something like that. Go and check it out. It is very cool.

Friday, September 5, 2008

You Can Blame It On The Rain But Don't Blame It On Worcester

It really is too bad about the storm that is going to wreak havoc all over New England tomorrow. I was looking forward to a day of leaving my house on foot around 10am and not returning until about 2:30 am and experiencing an outdoor/indoor music and fun filled day. Not an 18 hour day but it could be stretched to about 17 if I chose to get some breakfast after the bars close.

Starting at 10 in the morning we would have had the Main South Farmers Market happening at the corner of Main and Benefit featuring locally grown produce, live music, and awesome happenings.

Then I would have walked back over to the Canal District for Canal Fest at the corner of Harding and Winter featuring great food, great music, canal replication silliness and more awesome happenings.

At 6:00 over on Green St Ukestock is starting up in the White Eagle ballroom which should be a good time and something you don't get to see everyday, which is a whole slew of people playing ukeleles. An added bonus is that it happens in the Arcadia Ballroom in the White Eagle which is one of more fantastic rooms in the city.

And then to end the night we have three of the cities best getting together right across the street at the Lucky Dog in Huck, Thinner, and Little Big Wheel. By the way I want to just put it out there that if I endorse a band as good they actually are and it's no hyperbole. You hear me say a band is good and in my opinion they are as good as anything you would see at one of the bigger regional music venues. They ain't no Probable Cause.

Can we have a moment of silence to contemplate just how god awful Worcester's self proclaimed best band is? I mean they really really suck. They aren't even any good at playing other people's songs and it makes me a little sad that they draw the numbers that they do.


...............................................................................................................................


So I have a feeling the Farmer's Market is still happening. Canal Fest has been officially postponed until November 1st so that throws a wrench into things, but Ukestock and the phenomenal show at the Lucky Dog are still going on so tomorrow is a great time to get yourself out of the house and make some memories in the the Woo. If you see me say please say hello.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

While We Sit On Our Thumbs...

Rhode Island Is Cashing In

Threepenny Opera at WPI

Also via the Go List:

The Music Division of the Humanities and Arts and VOX are pleased to present the "The Threepenny Opera" with book by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill. Originally set in the impoverished back alleys of Victorian London, this production of The Threepenny Opera finds underworld antihero Mackie Messer(a.k.a. Mack the Knife) in prohibition Chicago as he tries to woo PollyPeachum and elude the authorities. Tickets are $15 general admission and$10 for students (with ID). Doors open 30 minutes prior to the show. Advising the production will be Professor David Dollenmayer, whose students will be providing German and English translations. Returning to direct her fourth production at WPI will be Kristy Chambrelli. Her past direction at WPI includes "The Mikado", "Sweeney Todd", and John Delorey's"Witchwife" The show will be performed Friday, September 19, 2008 at 7:30, and Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm. The production will be fully staged and costumed, with a cabaret-style pit band, conducted byProfessor Douglas Weeks. This year the musical is part of the Parent's weekend festivities and in partnership with Student Activities we are able to provide online pre-orders with credit card through Saturday, September 6. The website is: http://www.wpi.edu/Admin/SL/Parents/Weekend/form.html

If you'd like to reserve tickets for purchase at the door you can email vox-info@wpi.edu or call 508.831.5051.
WHERE: Alden Memorial, Great Hall
WHEN: Friday - 9/19 - 7:30 pmSaturday - 9/20 - 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm
TICKETS: $15 General/$10 Students (with ID)
NOTE: Doors open 30 minutes prior to curtain.
Thank you and we hope to see you at the show!
Thomas Collins
Professor John Delorey
The Three Penny Opera, Executive Producers

Main South Farmer's Market Launches This Saturday

From the Go List:

Please help spread the word for the new Main South Farmers Market launching THIS Saturday from 10am-2pm at 807 Main St. (corner of Benefit and Main). The market will feature booths from local farmers (including the YouthGROW Farm), Coffee/Tea and Breakfasty treats, soap and incense, kids art projects and live music. Come on down! Call Casey 508-799-9139 or email education@recworcester.org if you have questions or would like to volunteer! Thanks!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Stoop Conversations

Saturday night around 9pm I took a walk in the neighborhood and when I got back I decided to sit on the stoop for a little while and watch Franklin St go by.

What made me sit down and pay attention in the first place was police activity inside the common. Not sure what was going on but for some reason the officers decided to drive their cruiser right up inside the common. There was a guy on a bench and two officers were talking to him and shining their flashlights in his face. A couple times one of the officers walked away and shined his flashlight on the ground over by the cemetary so I am thinking it was most likely something to do with drugs. Eventually they picked him up and brought him out to the Franklin St side of the Common where a van came to haul him away.

Now what made all of this interesting was as this was all happening a young Asian couple pulled up in front of the building, probablty in their late 20's driving some sort of newer mid sized Japanese car. They park their car and walk up to the front steps. They look at the building, look at their car, look at the dude getting arrested, look at the building, look at their car, look at the dude getting arrested. I ask if they are possibly looking to move into an apartment, prepared to tell them how wonderful of a time I have had living there. They say no they are just visiting a friend. They are still looking around and the woman asks if I live there, to which I reply that I do. Then the man asks, "Is the area safe?"

Along with the man who got arrested there was another man pushing a shopping cart who also got kicked out of the park. When the couple asked if the area was safe they were both staring straight at this man with very concerned looks on their faces. I said that the neighborhood was completely safe and that the man with the cart, while not very pleasant to look at was just homeless and completely harmless. As the paddy wagon raced off, blue lights flashing, they did not seem to believe me. By this time their friends had come down stairs to let them in and we bid each other a good night.

So the question I would have for the officers who took part in this arrest would be:

1. Did you really need to drive the cruiser right up into the common and have your lights going so that anyone driving by the common and just glancing in would think that Downtown is crime ridden?

2. Did the police van really need to be sitting there with it's lights going? Again, do we really need to call attention to the crime? If it's minor things like public disturbances can't we just discreetly deal with it instead of putting on a show in the middle of Downtown?

The impact of this is that our young couple goes back to wherever they came from and tells their family, friends and coworkers about the awful, scary experience they had in Worcester over the weekend. They also probably give their friends shit for living in such a place which makes them doubt whether they want to renew the lease when the time comes.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Part of the Worcester Frustration

Part of it, for me at least, is the lack of choices that do not allow you to live your life as you would in a real city. Businesses and establishments are inconsistent the world over for sure, but when you walk out your door at 11:30am on a Saturday morning and your choices for something quick Downtown are Subway, Woosta Pizza, and Spoodles and only one of them is open when all three claim to have regular Saturday hours you can't help but walk back to your apartment with your head down muttering obscenities about Worcester under your breath.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Great Quote

"We have theories, specialisms, regulations, exhortations, demonstration projects. We have planners. We have highway engineers. We have mixed use, mixed tenure, architecture, community architecture, urban design, neighbourhood strategy. But what seems to have happened is that we have simply lost the art of placemaking; or, put another way, we have lost the simple art of placemaking. We are good at putting up buildings but we are bad at making places." -Bernard Hunt, London architect

Friday, August 22, 2008

Destination Worcester

Fantastic!

Now can we please get a website that looks this good that is all about marketing the city to people who may want to live here?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

All Good Things Must Come To An End

It is with a bit of sadness that I must announce that First Fridays for the time being are on indefinite hiatus. It was a ton of fun while it lasted and there is no saying that a more finely tuned version of the series might not pop up in the future. Until then though I went through the profile and tried to pay as much tribute as I could to everyone who has helped make it work.

Bob Largess and the Hotel Vernon allowed me to use the beautiful Ship Room in Kelley Sq here in Worcester. Derek Ring created one of the staples of the series which were his incredible posters that made the whole city and the greater New England music scene take notice. Keith and John Menard lugged their PA System from Douglas up here to the Woo once a month and never asked for anything in return but a pile of wings from Wings over Worcester.

We did ten shows over the course of the series with varied results. The one constant though was that all the bands played their asses off and I thank them for this. We never drew huge crowds but we had a small and loyal following that came out and took in the music in what weren't always optimum conditions. For that I thank you very much.

Of course I owe the most to the bands, most of whom came from an hour or more away, who came out and did these shows usually for less than gas money but had a shared belief that good shows should happen and need to happen. I think we can all get caught up sometimes in the socialization of the bar, club and music scene and forget that though a simple pleasure, sitting in an audience with a tasty beverage and just letting good live music wash over you can be one of the finest gifts we have the ability to give ourselves. Thanks again to the bands for allowing these shows to happen.

Maybe someday First Fridays will return but in the meantime, go to the profile, listen to 6 really great songs, and then follow the links in the top friends section to hear more great music. New England is one of the best regions in the world for original music. Take advantage and never take it for granted.


First Fridays

Monday, August 18, 2008

Latin American Festival 2008







Living in Main South for almost 8 years there was nothing I wanted to go to less than the Latin American Festival. Mostly because of years of encountering things like this:



I have to say though that all those years I was really missing out. What a good time this is!

Really this is all I have to say about it. Very very very good music and very very very good food being enjoyed by very very very good people having a very very very good time.

Musical highlights for me were Murga La de Todos (Uraguay), Franroy Figuero & Carlos Boys Band (Cuba), Grupo Boriken (Puerto Rico), Gregorio Uribe Big Band (Columbia) and Yomo Toro and the Frankie Morales Orchestra.

Just incredible. I am already looking forward to next year. Take advanage in 2009 folks. This is world class pro music that could be commanding quite a heavy admission charge and it is totally free and happening right here in your city. Do not sleep on this next year.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Strange Fruit comes to Worcester

If you didn't get to see one of the six performances this Australian performance troupe did over the past couple of days you really missed out on something special. I shot some video of it but these three videos do a much better job and capture almost the entire performance. I still can't really describe it in words so check out the videos yourself.







It was great to see something like this happening downtown. I saw Mike O'Brien watching and made sure to tell him that it's things like this that make city living great. He said there is lot's more to come. Let's hope I can take the man at his word.

Worcester Block by Block #2.1: Franklin, Salem, Myrtle, Portland

Although the main property in Bancroft Commons, the downtown development by the Mayo Group, is the old Bancroft Hotel at 50 Franklin Street, most of the land and buildings in the development exist on this block which neighbors the Bancroft.

The block consists of 4 residential buildings with street level commercial store fronts, 1 office building with street level commercial store fronts, an old theater, an enormous old indoor auto sales and service complex, and a large industrial building.

We'll start at the corner of Franklin Street portion and work our way around.

60 Franklin St: The Hooka Hot Spot














The Hooka Hot Spot is the first new business to open in the Bancroft Commons development and features hooka smoking as well as coffee, tea and smoothies. Aside from chips and salsa or hummus there really isn't any food at the moment. The Hooka Hot Spot is currently in soft opening phase and will have their grand opening in September at which time I hope to have a more detailed entry just devoted to them. Personally I am a big fan of the Hooka smoking and find it to be one of the more relaxing and conversation friendly activities you can participate in. If you have never done it right now is an excellent time to try it as the Hot Spot is offering a free Hooka to first time visitors for the entire month of August. I say try it out, what do you have to lose? They are open Sunday through Wednesday 5pm to Midnight and Thursday through Saturday 5pm to 2am. For more info, including an interesting page about the Hooka and it's history, check out the website.

62 Franklin Street: Offices














This building appears to be 3 floors of as yet to be renovated office space above the Hooka Hot Spot and Sylvia Dress Shop. I am not sure what Mayo plans to do with this address but as of right now it sits vacant. As with the rest of the development, it will be interesting to see what the future holds.

64 Franklin Street: Sylvia Dress Shop
Sylvia Dress Shop recently moved from their digs on Main Street over here to their completely refurbished store at 64 Franklin. I don't know much about dresses but what Sylvia seems to specialize in is fancy dress. Think gowns of the wedding, prom, and evening variety. For my thoughts on the old Sylvia location and the building it resided in see the future Block by Block entry on the Main, Franklin, Portland, Federal block.

66 Franklin Street: Mass Pro Hair Braiding
In one of the two little store fronts that straddle the entrance to the Paris. Awful signage and a business that I am not sure fits the demographic of the neighborhood. Although there seems to be an interesting one stop shopping thing that is developing here on Franklin I am not so sure if it's the kind of thing that goes with Mayo's vision of the neighborhood.

68 Franklin Street: Paris Cinema















Here it is folks, the granddaddy of the downtown eye sore. For those unfamiliar the Paris for years was a porn theater and store which was the sight of all sorts of arrests, prostitution and socially unacceptable behavior. Today it sits closed and vacant as a constant reminder to the citizens of Worcester of what their beloved downtown tragically turned into over the last 4o years of the 1900's. When I first became a resident of this neighborhood last October I applauded Mayo's intent to demolish the building. For the most part I still do but what I think would be great and one of the most psychologically satisfying things that could happen for Worcester as a whole would be the remodeling of this space into a replacement for the closed and shuttered Bijou Cinema which was forced out for the building of the City Square project in late 2004. From the small entrance way it's hard to tell but if you look at the back of the building (you can see it a little bit in the picture) it's a large old theater similar to the Hanover and The Palladium. It would do so much for the attitude of the city to see the Paris returned to the former glory of the Capitol Theater while at the same time filling the need of an Art House theater in Worcester that was left wide open with the closing of the Bijou. This may be a bit of dreaming on my part though. Read the comments at the bottom of the link I provided, they get pretty interesting.

70 Franklin St: Vacant store front

72 Franklin St: A's Barber Shop

74 Franklin St: Sonja's Wigs

76 Franklin St: Worcester Commons















76 Franklin is one of the three current residential addresses of the Bancroft Commons development. I've never been inside so I cannot attest to the apartments or what they look like.


78 Franklin Street: Vacant Store Front
Wow would a pizza place or some sort of takeout be awesome right here. I will more into this in later Block by Block entries but there is a real good business opportunity here for someone if they are willing to jump on it.

82 Franklin Street: More Apartments



















Very cool old building at the corner of Franklin and Salem. What is something to take notice of next time you go buy is how the streets are names right on the corner of the building and the building was built at a time when Franklin St wasn't called Franklin St but was called Park St instead.

84 Franklin Street: 83oAM WCRN True Talk Radio
One of the more interesting new tenants in the Bancroft Commons development is local talk radio station WCRN. With their big, open, on air studio (bottom right of the above picture) facing the common they definitely add a nice feel to downtown. I am still tempted to go and hold up signs when Peter Blute says something I don't agree with. No real web presence yet though, which is odd for a station who is definitely trying to be a big time radio station. Get on the ball folks!!!!

Worcester Block by Block #1 in Pictures






Wednesday, August 6, 2008

David Simon does it again

I don't know about anyone else but I am very very psyched about this.

NEW YORK (AP) David Simon has made the streets of Baltimore famous with gritty television dramas such as "The Wire," "Homicide: Life on the Street," and "The Corner." Now he wants to take on the Big Easy. The next series he hopes to produce for HBO is about musicians reconstituting their lives in New Orleans, he told The New Yorker for its issue hitting newsstands Monday.

Simon, whose dramas are known for their authenticity and detail, has been spending time there researching the music scene."This show will be a way of making a visual argument that cities matter," Simon said. "'The Wire' has never done that. I certainly never said or wanted to say that Baltimore is not worth saving, or that it can't be saved. But I think some people watching the show think, Why don't they just move away?"

A goal of the show will be to celebrate the glories of an American city, and "why we need to accept ourselves as an urban people," Simon said.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Worcester Block By Block #1: Main St, Front St, Franklin St

Worcester Block by Block is something I have been thinking about for a long time. Basically documenting every block in the urban core on foot and then adding a little of my own commentary about the block to go along with it. As I have said quite often Worcester is an insider's city and I think that since I see so much of urban Worcester on foot that I see the city from a different perspective than a lot of Central Massachusetts residents. It occurred to me it might be fun to share some of this perspective. I figured I would start dead center in the middle of the city and work my way out in rings. Hopefully there will be entire posts along the way about single things on a certain block that deserve more attention. I also hope that my ADD doesn't get the best of me and I can follow this through to the four corners of urban Worcester. I also hope that during this little experiment I can get a new digital camera and take myself some pictures. If you are free during the day and would like to be the official Worcester Block by Block photographer though, let me know.

Let's get started


There are really only two things on this entire block, city hall and the Worcester Common Park. Along with the stretch of Main across from city hall the block also serves as the hub for the WRTA. Rumor has it though that the WRTA is looking to change this and move the hub to Union Station.

Most days during the week the Common is a wash with activity from people waiting for buses to downtown workers on their lunch breaks to people with nothing better to do then just hang out in the park. The Main St side of city hall is usually filled with inner city kids hanging out and always appearing to be up to no good. Who knows what they are really up to though. Most mornings Monday through Friday there is a vendor at the corner of Main and Front selling hot dogs.

The Common Park has always seemed a bit underutilized which may have to do with their not being too many folks living near it. Right now they are building a skating rink in the Common and have half of it dug up and fenced off which pretty much cuts off the main residential building (Bancroft Commons) from the area of downtown north of city hall. I question the wisdom of the build it and they will come thinking of the ice skating rink but am excited about the event pad that will be there during the warm months. I am interested to know how big the rink is going to be and if it will be possible to pay regulation hockey games on it. St. John's versus St Peter Marian anyone?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another plan

The Telegram reported today on yet another proposed redevelopment plan for one of the cities many blighted urban neighborhoods. As most of these plans do, this one has it's good ideas and bad ideas. Good being knocking down that AT+T building. Bad being operating a trolley in one neighborhood that sits in between several neighborhoods that all are walkable.

As an aside by the way, a trolley that serviced Shrewsbury St, The Canal District, Downtown, and Elm/Highland would be phenomenal, but this is only talking about North Main.

Why I do this I don't know, but I usually read all the comments on any stories involving development and planning on the Telegram page mostly to get myself all riled up and the ignorance that gets spouted over there. Every one in a while you see something pretty good.

From a poster known only as "Gonzoworm":

"As a professional city planner born and raised in Worcester, I can hear and understand some of the frustration with 'another plan,' but such plans are the only way that investors and business people get the signal that a certain area should be invested in...however, the city's real problem is not so much too many plans, it that there is no one unified vision for the city...Tim Murray wasn't a plan...Worcester Ctr. Common Square or whatever Mr. Park calls is not a plan or vision either...the reason Worcester continues to languish is that no one can articulate how these competing and sometimes incompatible mini-plans (north main, courthouse, Hanover, canal district, Shrewsbury street, gateway project, union station etc.) work TOGETHER...that's where real planning happens...the city has no trained city planners working for it (sorry, Joel Fontaine) and the the continued recycling of long-time ineffective city hangers-on (see: Steve O'Neil, Dennis Hennesey, Julie Jacobson) and grandstanding unimaginative and under-educated elected officials, it's no wonder people continue to feel that despite all the activity in recent years, it's not leading anywhere. Like Hemmingway said, never mistake motion for action. For what it's worth, I work for a real estate and architecture firm consulting nationwide...large scale moneyed investors often look to see is a city has a current master plan before making investment decisions...Worcester's last master plan was done in 1987 before computers using typewriters and hand-drawn graphics...Worcester is fond of promoting it's innovative industrial heritage and current biotech-university new frontier...but with a no modern, unified plan, we'll be having this same discussion within 10 years...at one time Worcester was a national leader. It's time to reassert ourselves. GENERAL PLAN NOW!!!!"

I think we need more people like this Gonzoworm character getting involved with the reshaping of urban Worcester.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Downtown Preacher Man Live Blog

As blogged about over at 4rilla is For Real this guy has been down at the Worcester Common every Saturday in the good weather since I moved here in mid October of last year. Sometimes he is so loud that I can't even watch television, read, or even concentrate in my own apartment, and I am 8 floors up and about 70 yards away. I decided this weekend that I would get to the bottom of it. Here is what transpired. Kudos to the police for the quick response.

1:03 PM
Here I am. In the common on the free city wi-fi. I am about to call the police on the dude. Let's see what they do.

1:08 PM
Supposedly an officer is on his way.

1:18 PM
An officer arrived and talked to the preacher. He in fact has a permit for every Saturday in the common for the rest of the summer.

So what is the next step here? Ask yourself. Would you stand for this? How much does it cost to get a permit to do something involving amplification in one of the most high profile public spaces in our city? If I wanted to have a concert in the common with amplification every Saturday could I? Would I need a police detail? Should the preacher have a police detail? Does my city councilor know about this? How does he feel about it? All questions I intend to get answered this week.

1:33 PM
I haven't heard a peep out of him in about 10 minutes he talked for a little bit after the police showed but since then I haven't heard much. The officer did tell him to turn down a bit.

I honestly don't mind him being there if he keeps it to a dull roar. I didn't move down here for the peace and quiet. Almost anything that loud that happens on a weekly basis though has gotta go.

1:55 PM
He's gone. He is usually here, two three hours. Interesting. He has a permit, but the police coming down obviously made him think about some things.

To be continued next week...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do You Remember

That PSA that used to run in the 80's about cocaine? "I need to keep working more hours, so I can make more money, so I can buy more coke, so I can work more hours, so I can make more money so I can buy more coke, so I can work more hours so I can buy more coke...." And so on and so on.

I have a new one for Worcester.

There's no one downtown, because people think it's dangerous, because there's no one downtown, because people think it's dangerous, because there's no one downtown, because people think it's dangerous... and on and on and on.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Quick Public Service Announcement

Long time Worcester music community member and my former roommate Justin "Pez" Day needs your help readers. If you have spent any time around The Lucky Dog, Ralph's and the rest of the music venues around the city you know Pez as one of the premiere 4 string players in the area and have seen him play with local outfits Gutta and Huxley. Pez's current band, The Luxury, is currently in a contest sponsored by WFNX where the winner gets to open up the sold out Coldplay show at the Boston Garden.

The contest started with 400 entrants and was narrowed down to 15 finalists. Right now the final 15 are being voted on with 3 top vote getters to be put in front of Coldplay themselves for the band to decide who they want to share the big stage in Boston with for the night.

The Luxury are currently number 2 in the voting and need to stay that way until Thursday when voting concludes.

Take a moment out of your busy day and help a local boy do some good out there in the world. The Luxury are the second down from the top. Take a moment to watch the video too, it's for their song "Malcontent" and it's pretty good.

Soft Opening

The Union Station parking garage is finally open. Of course I really had to go snooping around to figure this out. Franklin St, on the garage side, is still not connected to Grafton St. If you come down the hill into the city from Brown Sq there aren't any kind of signs letting you know the garage is open. There are however all sorts of signs that say "detour" pointing down Franklin St from the end of Harding and it was kind of comical yet also kind of sad watching all the cars zoom down Franklin, hoping that one of the best short cuts in the city was now open again, only to come face to face with do not enter signs.

I walked through the tunnel into Union Station. It isn't "scary". (in a Telegram article a few days ago about the garage's grand opening someone in the comments section said that there were many unanswered questions about the new garage, one of which was whether the "tunnel" that goes under the tracks and to Union Station from the garage would be safe. We really have some grade A geniuses in the Big Woo). I also hoofed it (the elevators aren't operational yet) to the top floor of the garage to check out the view. I've always been really into the views from the tops of urban parking garages. It's not often you get any type of roof access in the city and here they are letting you go right up there.

This would make a real good spot to get a nice picture of the Worcester skyline. Hey Zoback, Womag should do a Worcester skyline photo contest. I don't think I have ever seen a good pic of the city's skyline.

So yeah, garage open, no Grafton St access yet. Other than that it looks beautiful. I wonder if the shops have any confirmed tenants yet. I will lay money on Starbucks or Dunks. Maybe we'll get a Tim Horton's?

I forgot to ask the rates folks. Sorry.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

No One Cares About Downtown

Did you know that someone got stabbed in the chest in our city on Thursday? Did you know that this happened at 4:37 in the afternoon? Did you know that it happened right across the street from City Hall?

Why are people not completely furious about this?

The story has 10 comments. Someone almost gets murdered in broad daylight across the street from City Hall and it musters up 10 comments? It's not even in the most read stories of the past few days list.

Why?

No one cares. No one could give a shit about what goes on in the urban core of Worcester. It simply isn't a priority for anyone.

I know I reference Baltimore quite a bit but I am going to do it again. I am sorry but it's what I know. What do you think would happen at Baltimore Police Headquarters, Baltimore City Hall and The Baltimore Sun if someone were to get stabbed at the Inner Harbor? I'll tell you what...

All hell would break loose, that's what.

Pay attention Councilors. Take note of this. Someone got stabbed in the heart of your city and everyone just shrugs their shoulders. Why? Because everyone expects it. That is the attitude you are dealing with in the Worcester metropolitan area. There is no outrage about someone getting stabbed downtown because most people believe that it is just par for the course.

Do you think the people of Boston would shrug their shoulders at an afternoon attempted homicide in Government Center? Or the people of Providence in Waterplace Park?

The phone should be ringing off the hook at City Hall, Police Headquarters, and at the Telegram. But it isn't. Because no one cares.

NO
ONE
CARES

Hey councilors, deal with this shit. Hey Palmieri and Lukes, you should be on the phone with the Chief on the hour until those guys are aprehended.

It's about 1 trillion times more important than whether Dougie Garden Fresh sells one less mediocre salad because Johnny Hot Dog is stealing his customers.

I want to see the guys that did this in cuffs on the front page of the Telegram within 7 days and if I don't see that I want my local newspaper to provide me with answers as to why not.

Hey Worcester(and I am talking to every single person reading this who calls this city home), you are just as much at fault in this as City Hall, the poe poe, and the Telegram. Your, "Oh well, somebody got stabbed downtown. See Margie? I told you that place was a war zone" attitude isn't helping matters either.

I mean as a city are we really okay with dudes just getting stabbed in broad daylight in our downtown? A place where our tax money is building an ice skating rink not 50 yards away that our children will be using by winter of next year? Or maybe you have already decided your children aren't going within 1 mile of that rink or downtown in general for that matter. Ever.

I am shocked and horrified that this happened on Thursday. You should be too. Or maybe you aren't because you reside in the town of Worcester. Stuff like that happens in the City of Worcester, that's why you moved out. Thank god you don't have to worry about that anymore.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Downtown this morning 7/12/08

Got up early (well early for me on a Saturday) with the goal of going down to the barber on North Main and getting my hairs cut. Like a whole lot of businesses in the city this week he is closed for vacation. I was going to write a big diatribe here about this and then remembered that I took July and August off for the First Fridays so I need to drink a big glass of shut the the f*ck up.

On my way there I noticed that there is a new designer glasses store opening up at the corner of Walnut and Main. The guys inside said about two weeks. They weren't the owners though so who knows how factual this is. They couldn't even tell me the name of the business. There is a very nice Georgio Armani logo stenciled on the front double doors however.

I was looking to eat some lunch/breakfast and passed by Garden Fresh. They were open. I kept walking. The owner thinks that street vendors are going to cause bomb like hysteria in downtown Worcester. Stupid folks like that are bound to mess my food up. I won't ever go there again. You shouldn't either. You are only asking for eventual bad food.

I went walking around behind Garden Fresh up George St and Eden St. There is an absolutely gorgeous old house I have never seen before at the end of Harvard Ct with it's windows all smashed out and a big red x on it which of course means it's destined for the wrecking ball. It's really too bad. This house could have been a really cool three or four unit apartment or condo building.

I continued down Eden and was noticing all the urban residential in this area. A great deal of what looks like 6 or 7 plus unit buildings. You would think with Unum and Fallon right here never mind all the other offices that these buildings would be packed with young professionals. Especially with the rising cost of gas. What has changed where it was so common in the early days of industrial America for workers to live so close to where they worked but now this just isn't the case? I would love to live directly across the street from my job. I would love to live 80% of my life on one block and spend the other 20 traveling. Maybe this is just me.

I walked back down to Main and ended up getting lunch at Spoodles at the corner of Main and Maple. This place is a real jewel that doesn't get much play in the Worcester word of mouth. It's one of those places that does everything right. Food and atmosphere. I had a pastrami on rye while sitting up in the loft seating looking at pictures of Dean Martin and James Dean and listening to an early 50's pop satellite radio station. Yep good experience down to the last detail.

I walked past City Hall on the way back to my place. There was some crazy Christian Jesus Saves type demonstration going on on the steps of City Hall where a bunch of people were yelling at a bunch of other people and telling them that the way they live their lives is wrong. What happened to separation of church and state? What would happen if next Saturday I wanted to have a rock concert on the steps of City Hall? And for jeebus sake can someone get that preacher with the high wattage public address system out of my front yard on Saturdays?

Last Night On Green St

After a long night of drinking some very tasty beers on the new patio at the Dive Bar I walked out with the idea of getting a sausage from Chris, the new vendor who sets up right outside the Dive on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Thursday I got a pulled pork sandwich that was really really good. Apparently everyone else thought so too because he sold out of it for the weekend already on Thursday night.

Some friends I was with only had $4 between them (not enough for anything Chris sells) so we went down the street to "Moe's Hot Dog's" who set up on the other side of Green St half way between Creegan's and The Lucky Dog. The dogs, at $2 a pop were great and Moe took the time to grill the buns on both sides. Always a plus for me.

Last Saturday night I pretty much stayed in for the night. Around 12:30am I got hungry and so I walked over to the Kenmore and got some grub. Thursday night I got a pulled pork sandwich from Chris's cart outside the Dive, last night Moe's Hot Dog's, tonight maybe it will be Fresh Way or Wings over Worcester.

But here is the bigger point of all of this. These are my options in The Canal District for eating after midnight:

Kelley Sq Pizza: Decent Greek style pizza and okay sandwiches. Nothing spectacular but they are there and they are open until 2:00am AND they deliver.

Wings Over Worcester: Outrageously good wings, bone in and boneless. There is usually a pretty long wait but if you are in the mood for wings it's totally worth it. The place is usually completely packed up so if you are getting wings mostly you are getting them and taking them home.

Fresh Way Pizza: Awful cardboard taste like crap pizza close to three of the bigger mook bars in Worcester, Fusion, The Blackstone Tap, and Jose Murphy's. Due to the mook factor the people behind the counter are dicks to everyone. It's kind of warranted. Still, shitty food, and their delivery kind of blows too.

The Kenmore: A Worcester institution. You always know what you are going to get at the Kenmore which is average at best diner fare and a long wait in line if you get there past 1:15-1:30am. Sometimes it does the job nicely though and it is really your best option in the Canal District if you want to sit down with friends and chill and have a conversation after the bars close.

Chris' Wacky Green Street Sausage Stand: I am not sure what he is calling his business but he offers very non standard fare and pretty decent prices and it is food you can hold in your hand and you don't need a table for it. It gets made quickly and Chris is a pretty friendly dude.

Moe's Hot Dog's: Like I said these hot dogs are made right to my own specifications, grilled dogs, grilled buns. You can get two of them for less than your average beer and they are GOOD.

So I have six options as to where I want to get food in the wee hours in the Canal District. I see myself giving all six of these businesses my patronage again depending on my mood, the circumstances, the color of the moon, which knee is bothering me, if I had a good week at work, if I am feeling social, etc, etc.

You get what I am saying.

More options overall means a better experience for me, the urban Worcester dweller. If they all cancel each other out I know that I will still have options because Kenmore and Kelley Sq Pizza aren't going anywhere. I hope they can all survive though because options and convenience are two of the cornerstones of real city living. Just in one neighborhood if I want to get something to eat between midnight and 2am I have 6 options all within walking distance of each other. This is really awesome.

The thing to note about my above list however is this. At the moment, of the six listed only three are making an effort to serve quality food. Quality for what they do at least. Of course the food at the Kenmore is just as good as the food at Moe's Hot Dog's but I don't have to wait in line with a bunch of bouncing off the wall drunken mooks to give them business. Sometimes I will though because sometimes I will want to sit down with my friends at a table.

Everyone of these places isn't perfect and isn't the absolute best thing for everyone looking to get food in The Canal District at this time. But this is where the real answers to problems comes in.

It's all a numbers game. Simple percentages.

As a business owner instead of worrying about the next guy you should be reaching out to him and working together with the city and with neighborhood representatives to insure that every night you are open for business that there are enough people to go around for all of you to make a little money.

If you only need five customers a day and there are 100 potential customers walking by your business every day well then all you need to do is get 5% of those potential customers to be your customers, right? Now if you can't and the numbers are there the only person you have to blame is yourself. Not your competition, and not the city. Right now the numbers aren't there. Right now the growth of our urban core is a rather new development too. It is way too early in the game to start pointing the finger at each other. Form neighborhood business alliances and work with the city to try and figure out ways to increase the numbers. This is the real answer and the one that will make the city, the people that live in it, and the businesses happy in the end.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Downtown this morning

Downtown this morning is really awesome.

Dude playing catch in the common with his kids. Two street vendors on Front St, one selling flowers the other selling jewelry and incense. Another vendor, who is selling hot dogs in front of City Hall, told me there was TV coverage this morning on the street vendor issue.

My favorite thing going on this morning though?

In a transformation of space that should embarrass City Hall, there is a busker singing and playing guitar in the foyer of the old Paris Cinema on Franklin St. Seems to be cleaning up too.

VIBRANCY!!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Neighborhoods 2

Let's face it. Worcester doesn't know whether it is coming or going when it comes to neighborhoods.

If you look around the internet you will find all sorts of different info on the neighborhoods of Worcester. Over at Buy Worcester Now they list the city as having 26 different neighborhoods. If you go to the city council website you will find that according to the city each district councilor represents about 12-15 different neighborhoods. At 5 districts that's about 75 neighborhoods. We all know Worcester doesn't have 75 different neighborhoods of course. My favorite breakdown of the neighborhoods and the one I feel to be the most correct is supplied in the Worcester Housing Study. The study breaks Worcester down into 15 submarkets along with maps that clearly define each of the submarkets.

Beaver Brook
College Hill
Downtown
East Side
Great Brook
Green Hill
Green Island
Greendale
Main South
North Side
Oak Hill
Piedmont
South East
South West
West Side

This is my favorite simply because I agree with it. I feel the way they have seperated the neighborhoods is correct culturally as well as the overall feel of the neighborhoods. There's a couple things I would change. I would extend the downtown neighborhood all the way to Chadwick Sq. I would leave the natural boundaries of Green Island intact and include the whole Canterbury St area with the rest of Main South. That is only two off the top of my head.

So why all this neighborhood talk?

I feel it's important.

I think there is a need to define Worcester's neighborhoods. To give them distinct boundaries. To profile them. To let the world know about them. To give people an expectation of what they will find when they visit them. To give people a bit of a guide as to what it is like to walk down the streets in these neighborhoods. If you are a Worcester resident or someone familiar with the city ask yourself this. If someone where to want to move here and they were to ask you where they should move, what would you say? If you asked them questions as to what kind of neighborhood they were looking for would you be able to give them an idea based on their response?

Simply put, if you break the city down into neighborhoods and then look at it that way it is easier to tackle some of the problems that ail it and feel good about some of the progress that it is making.

I think it is very easy to think of Worcester and think of it as just one big neighborhood. I know for a fact that is how a great deal of people who know of Worcester but don't KNOW Worcester feel about it.

Imagine a guide that broke down all the neighborhoods, what housing was like there, what the schools were like there, talked about the parks and the shopping and the nightlife or lack of in each of the neighborhoods. I think if there was something out there that did this and did it comprehensively I think the neighborhoods would really start to take shape. It is an insider's city. If I was to come here to live and not know anyone odds are I would end up in the wrong neighborhood. There is nothing telling me anything about any of the neighborhoods in the city online. This is something else that ails our urban core too. We are an old mill town. I feel we can get to the point where the city is asthetically pleasing but it is going to take a lot of time and we are already way behind in getting there. If you don't know the city the entire urban core most likely appears to you to be a train wreck that you are better off stearing clear of.

Maybe this is something the city could work on. Defining the neighborhoods. Fostering strong neighborhood associations who will take the reigns in the marketing of their neighborhoods. I know I would love to see it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cities and Towns

Inspired Mike Benedetti's post over at Worcesterite the other day I went to the city council website to write Phil Palmieri about the street vendor issue. While I was there I noticed that all of the councilors have their addresses up right on their profiles. I was curious.

Paulie over at Paulie's Point Of View has really been making a point to enlighten us about the fact that only one of our eleven city councilors actually lives within the urban core of Worcester, that one being District 4's Barbara Haller. Since I think it is pretty loosely defined and I am sure there will be some questions asked, I define the urban core pretty much by squares running from Chadwick Sq down Park Ave to Webster Sq down Cambridge St into College Sq, down 146 and up Providence St into the Rice Sq area and down Plantation across the hill to Lincoln St and Brittan Sq. That to me that is urban Worcester. You live within those boundaries and you are living in the city of Worcester. You live outside of that and you are living in the town of Worcester. Worcester really does exist on two different levels. You get outside of that urban core and it really is hard to tell you are in a city. Most people would say that is a plus, and I guess they are right. Here is the kicker though and here is the crazy crazy thing I found out.

I opened up map quest and threw all eleven of the councilor's addresses in there to find out if this was in fact true. It really is only the queen of district 4 that lives within the dirty scary filth that is Worcester's urban core. It is a fact. What I also found out though was even more disturbing.

Six of our councilors , more than half, live less than a mile from the end of the Worcester city limits. Along with Barbara, only Phil Palmieri (District 2), Paul Clancy (District 3), Gary Rosen (at large) and our Mayor Konnie Lukes (at large) live more than a stones throw of getting the hell out of Worcesterville. The other six councilors barely live in Worcester. BARELY! That's right Mike Germain, Joe Petty, Rick Rushton, Kate Toomey, Joff Smith, and Bill Eddy, I am talking to you.

See here is the thing. I lay my head down every night in the City of Worcester. When I walk outside to my car I do it in the City of Worcester. I probably spend about 120 hours a week in the City of Worcester. At least Mr. Palmieri and Mr. Clancy live a stones throw from the urban core, just outside of Brittan and Rice Squares respectively. Mayor Lukes and Mr. Rosen live on the West Side but in the most vibrant part of the West Side close to Chandler St and Tatnuck Square. The other six can't possibly know what my day to day is like. How I can't find a place to get a quick bite to eat in the downtown of the second biggest city in New England past 7pm. How people will not come into my neighborhood because they think it is "scary." How when I got mugged a few years ago on Beaver St a cop actually advised me that it would be better if I "just moved to the West Side." I like city living. Scratch that. I love city living. I live in a city however that just so happens to be two entities. A city and a town at the same time. Most of the money and influence resides in the town. It also happens to be run by an 11 member city council form of government, 10 of which don't actually live in the city.

If you are reading this and live within the urban core of Worcester do me a favor, next election vote these people out. If you enjoy city living and want your quality of life to be better, vote these people out and vote people in who actually live in the urban core. The Suburban 6 do not know what city living is all about. They for all intents and purposes live in the suburbs and you know what their dirty little secret is?

Go to any other desirable city in the US and take note of where the good parts are and where the bad parts are. Really all you have to do is take a look at where the bad parts are. They are on the outskirts. They are not in the center. The city part of Worcester is being left to die by people who have no stake what so ever in seeing it succeed. It would sure be nice and all but it is not even close to a priority for them. Look how long it takes to get stuff done! The one thing Worcester has in spades that every other city has is the negatives. The crime, the drugs, the homelessness, the grime, the pollution. The general unsightliness. This stuff is kept tightly inside the urban core. When was the last time you walked out of the White Hen at the corner of June and Chandler and someone asked you if you had any change? Worcester is being kept from sprawling within it's own city limits. You want to really give people who can only afford low income housing a nice place to live? Build them a nice high rise on the shores of Lake Quinsigamond or Indian Lake. Stop screwing my neighborhood up. Please! I am begging you!

VOTE THEM OUT!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'd Like to Introduce A Theory

It's a pretty obvious theory, but it's a theory inspired by listening to a 508 podcast from a couple weeks ago. Mike, Brendan and Bruce talk at length about the proposterous perception that downtown Worcester is a scary and dangerous place. Unfortunately, while I do believe this perception to be completely unfounded, I do talk to more people who believe this than don't believe it.



I noticed while spending time in Central Sq in Cambridge a couple weeks ago that there are way way way more scary individuals on Mass Ave then any centralized location in Worcester. This however is where my theory comes in. While there were way more thugs, junkies, homeless, and overall shifty looking people in Central Sq there were also many other different types of people walking around. No matter what type of person you might consider yourself, chances are there were enough of your kind walking around in Central Sq so that you won't feel out of place. Of course there were people who wouldn't be able to take certain aspects of the Sq at all, but chances are these are people who just really don't like cities to begin with.



The theory is that for every upstanding person walking around the common and the general neighborhood of downtown Worcester there are nine shifty looking folks walking around. Now the reality is that these ten people may very well be the only people in the common at any given time, and there in lies the problem.



The city can do what they want to combat this, they can have foot patrols, they can take the benches out of Federal Sq (I am eating a bit of crow on this one I admit), and they can try and shew this population away. Guess what? We live in a city of almost 200,000 people. These people are here to stay. What the city needs to do is get creative and figure out ways to draw a broader range of people downtown so that folks feel comfortable in their own skin. We can criticize Central Massachusetts' citizens all we want for their unjust fear of Downtown, but I think it's only human nature for people to not feel quite right about being a minority, no matter what type of minority you are.

Frickin' Lowell

I am usually not totally ashamed to be from Worcester.

http://www.lowellsummermusic.org/page.php?page=root/home.htm

When Lowell is kicking your ass culturally it is time to seriously reevaluate. I think the best we can come up with is Orleans on Shrewsbury St maybe five years ago? Go to that link. There are some serious names on there.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Priorities People!

Every once in a while something comes to my attention that makes me realize how messed up the cities priorities are and how time and time again they fail to see the big picture. This memo was left in my door the other day. Check this ridiculousness out.

Attention: Residents of 50, 76, and 82 Franklin Street

Dear Resident,

I am sad to report that the City of Worcester's Director of Parks and Recreation called this morning to inform me that because some of our residents who own dogs do not clean up after their pets, dogs are no longer allowed in the Worcester Commons park, behind City Hall.

Unfortunately, it s necessary to remind our residents that responsible pet ownership includes consideration for others, and cleaning up your pet's waste matter.

Now that dogs are no longer permitted in Worcester Commons, if you are found walking your dog there, you will be fined $200, and your pet confisacted. Any questions concerning this matter may be directed to management at the leasing office located on the 1st floor of 50 Franklin St.

Now I fully understand that folks need to pick up and dispose of their dogs doggy doo doo. And I also agree that if you don't you are kind of an asshole, but this seems a bit extreme doesn't it? There are quite a few dog owners in the building who are probably here because they have found a building where they can live right in the middle of the city and still have a dog and have a nice place to walk the dog. Has the city thought about putting up bags to dispose of the waste? Maybe they need to conduct a million dollar research study on this that will take 3 years to complete that they will just ignore anyways. Of course we all know that the biggest problem with the lack of attractiveness of the Common is dog shit. What we really really don't need is responsible dog owners who already live here moving the hell out of downtown when their lease is up over something so harmless as compared to the bigger picture of the things that ail our downtown.

I have a memo to send too. It goes something like this.

Attention: Residents of Worcester Massachusetts and surrounding municipalities

Dear Resident,

I am sad to report that the people of Worcester called this morning to inform me that because some of our residents who own human bodies do not clean up after themselves, drunks and junkies are no longer allowed in the Worcester Commons park, behind City Hall.

Unfortunately, it is necessary to remind our residents that being a responsible member of society includes consideration for others and cleaning up after yourself and not being intrusive and intimidating to other people who are trying to use the park.

Now that drunks and junkies are no longer permitted in Worcester Commons, if you are found walking there, and you are a vagrant, you will be fined $200, and your freedom confiscated for 24 hours. Any questions concerning the matter may be directed to the Worcester Police Department, Lincoln Square.

Thank you for your consideration, and cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,

The Citizens of Worcester, Massachusetts

Friday, May 2, 2008

Little Big Wheel, Mike MacDonald and the Widowmakers, and Necktie Party tonight in Worcester!


For a New England state that for the most part is free of tumbleweeds, cowboys, and the wide open range, Massachusetts is developing one hell of an alt country/Americana community. Come see three of it's best as Little Big Wheel and Necktie Party join forces with Boston's Mike MacDonald and the Widowmakers for a night of music any self respecting Uncle Tupelo/Graham Parsons/Wilco fan should not miss.

The Hotel Vernon
1 Millbury Street in Kelley Square
Worcester MA
21+, $5 Cover

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Neighborhoods

Over at Bill Randell's blog on Monday he put up a link to an excellent post on the Sringfield/Hartford blog Urban Compass titled Neighborhoods As Building Blocks. I have been saying for a while that Worcester really needs to put some serious thought into officially defining it's neighborhoods and in turn promote and define what life is like as a resident in these neighborhoods. As they always are in these matters Providence is one step ahead of us already.

In my opinion (one which is shared by many, just seemingly not in the city which I call home) neighborhoods create community, a sense of home, and a sense of belonging. I saw this first hand in my time in Baltimore. The nicest neighborhoods in the city were the ones with a strong community of homeowners who lived in their neighborhoods by choice and intended to work together to make their neighborhood as collectively liveable as they possibly could. In turn the neighborhoods draw renters like myself who due to the identity of the neighborhoods find it easy to figure out which neighborhood is going to suit their needs and where they should begin looking for an apartment.

When I moved to Baltimore I narrowed my search down to about five neighborhoods in the city that I would look into and ended up finding exactly what I wanted just one street south of one of the neighborhoods I was looking for. In my 35 years it's still the nicest place I have ever lived including where I lived growing up.

I can't even fathom being an urban minded person relocating to Central Massachusetts from another part of the country and trying to figure out where to live. I think sometimes as Worcester folk we take for granted everything the city has to offer and don't realize that it really is an insider's city and you can live here for years without ever seeing a band at Ralph's, getting breakfast at the Gold Star, getting a Hot Dog at Coney Island, or taking a trip to the Worcester Art Museum or Mechanics Hall.

Our city does a tremendous disservice to itself by not taking the initiative on it's own to define and promote everything it's neighborhoods have to offer and give someone who is coming to Worcester for the first time, whether to live, work, or play, a general idea as to what they are dealing with and where they need to go to take care of whatever need or want they may have. Of course they could always leave it up to the ever positive citizens of Worcester to tell them themselves. Many might think after further search that Worcester is just one big neighborhood unto itself.

Neighborhood development works economically too because once neighborhoods start to become defined, enteprenours will find it easier to decide where the best place is to open up their business to take advantage of whatever customer base exists immediately outside their door. You are already starting to see this happen in the May St/Chandler St corridor with businesses such as Spiritual Haze, The Q and Buddha Hut all opening over the past year all within an easy walk of each other. I can't tell you over the years how many businesses I have seen open with seemingly no research into location at all. The lack of synergy here in Worcester is down right apalling sometimes. How long is it going to take for someone to open up a nice restaurant in Federal Square to compliment the Hanover Theater?

Konnie L., Mikey O and the rest of you movers and shakers, get out your damn notepads and jot this shit down. This is how it's done:

Live Baltimore

Where I ended up living: Remington

My two favorite neighborhoods in the city: Hampden, Fell's Point

Two of the more exclusive neighborhoods in Baltimore: Federal Hill, Mount Vernon

Arguably the worst neighborhood in Baltimore: Sandtown

One of the more up and coming neighborhoods in Baltimore: Pigtown/Washington Village

I lived in Baltimore for 9 months and garnered all this information. This is not a coincidence. Baltimore makes it easy. Worcester should very very much make a serious effort to do the same. Do whatever research you need to do just get it done!

Some other cities broken down into neighborhoods:

Manhattan

Philadelphia

Portland

Austin

Chicago

Buffalo

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Newer Blogs You Should Check Out

Since I really haven't been inspired to write lately I figured I would hip you people to a couple new Worcester related blogs that have been piquing my interest.

Paulie's Point of View
If you have been reading many of the Worcester based blogs that have popped up over the past year you are familiar with Paulie adding his 2 cents in the comments section of many of our local web pages. It's good to hear a voice who really gets what city living is all about and it is really good to hear someone demand a good urban quality of life in Worcester. As Paulie points out most of our city leaders do not live in the urban core. A good urban experience isn't just going to happen here, it needs to be demanded. Paulie seems to be doing that.

Free Art Worcester
This blog is friggin awesome! The idea: Make art and leave it around Worcester for whomever wants it in what appears so far to be very strategic places. It would be awesome if they made it like an online art scavenger hunt and put clues in their entries. Critics may argue that the art isn't of the highest quality, but hey it's free. I don't think that this blog is about high quality art however, I think it's about making something interesting happen in Worcester, which is more than most are doing. I hope to stumble upon something at some point.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Wire: June 6th, 2002- March 9th, 2008




I was going back and forth with myself about whether I wanted to write anything in this space about the conclusion of what I feel to be the greatest show we have ever seen in the short history of American television. I mean this blog is about Worcester, the city I live in. Why should a show like the Wire interest anyone living in Worcester?

The Wire is set in Baltimore, Maryland. And this is the main reason I started watching it. I had heard of it a little bit as it was part of HBO's stellar line up of shows including The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, and Oz among others. I really knew nothing about the show and when I moved to Baltimore in the summer of 2005 I thought that it would be neat to watch a show completely shot on location in the city I lived in. Add to this the fact that a couple of my neighbors were in the crew of the show and it was just something I had to check out.

When you first start watching the show you are presented with a special investigative unit of the Baltimore Police Department and an organized West Baltimore drug distribution organization. What follows throughout the next five seasons of this show is a very in depth look at urban decay as set in Baltimore. It could be anywhere though. As the seasons go on we see exploration of such inner city issues as crime, drug use, employment, politics, education, media, and economy looked into and thoroughly disected through the very well written and acted characters on The Wire.

As I have read before, in time this show should serve as a document as to what it was like for a portion of our society to live the American urban experience in the early 21st century. I can only hope that this show wasn't a one of a kind thing and that more television with this type of commitment to quality and realism will follow. Until then we will always have the DVD's.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Taste Worcester

Tonight I was searching around for an online take out menu and I stumbled upon Taste Worcester. This seems to be a fairly comprehensive guide to dining out in Central Mass, whether on the cheap or if you happen to have a few extra dollars in your pocket.

One thing Taste Worcester does is break things down by different parts of the city which I love. There isn't enough of this going on in local media and I have always felt it leaves an outsider or someone who doesn't know the city feeling as though if you have seen one Worcester neighborhood you have seen them all which those of us in the know can attest is untrue. It's a neat website though. I would love to see something similiar for Worcester bars and clubs.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Tonight! First Fridays at the Hotel Vernon

Tonight at the Hotel Vernon in lovely Kelley Square Worcester Massachusetts, First Fridays presents, The Curtain Society, Aloud and Drew O'Doherty in a full night of music to sooth your soul after a hard week.
9pm, $5, 21+

http://www.myspace.com/thecurtainsociety
http://www.myspace.com/aloud
http://www.myspace.com/drewodoherty
http://www.myspace.com/firstfridayrockshows

Geography Geek

When I first moved back to Worcester from Baltimore I was all fresh with all this Baltimore stuff that I felt Worcester should be doing. Sitting at Vincent's one night talking to a friend he said something to me that has always stuck with me.

He said, "You know, Worcester shouldn't even really be here."

His point was that Worcester is a total anomoly. It's not a port city and it's not a capitol city. It has no riverfront. I am big on comparing Worcester before trashing it. Really thinking about my negativity before I start bitching and reasoning out through comparison whether or not my negativity is justified. Well, what American cities can we really compare Worcester to? I decided tonight at work, while it was a little slow, that I would find out.

I found this really cool site called Maps'N'Stats. All the stuff you need to keep a geography geek happy for days. I went through and found all the cities in the U.S. with populations between 148,000 and 202,000. This gave me 56 cities in 26 states. I needed to narrow it down a bit for comparisons sake. First thing I did was take out any cities that were on the ocean or a river using our Streets and Trips software here at work. As has been pointed out many times, lack of water really has alot to do with how things are and how things have developed here in Worcester. This cut the field pretty much in half to just 27 cities in 13 states. Then I removed all cities that are state capitols. State capitols are going to have a bit more activity simply by being a state capitol. Not really a fair comparison. This got me down to 23 cities in 10 states.

Next I got rid of cities that were just part of the metro area of another larger city. Glendale California and Tempe Arizona are two that come to mind here. Silly me, I did not record the number this got me down to. My next qualification really shrunk the numbers down though and this is the thing that really makes Worcester unique. I wanted to remove all cities that were out in the middle of nowhere. So basically for these last two qualifications the city had to be more than 30 minutes from a larger city but less than 45 minutes. Just far enough away where it was a pain in the ass to live your life in that bigger city yet close enough where that bigger city couldn't help but invade the culture of the city you live in.

This got me down to four cities including Worcester. Four qualifications and I go from 56 cities to four cities. I knew that Worcester was unique, I had no idea it was that unique though and to me this explains quite a bit about why we are the way we are here. These are the only four landlocked, non capitol, non metro yet close to larger urban area cities in our country with populations between 148,000 and 202,000 people.

Santa Clarita, California (Santa Clarita should not be counted here. It is a brand new city and mainly is the same thing as if Framingham, Marlborough, Hudson and Westborough decided to incorporate into one city, it is north of the LA metro area)

Worcester, Massachusetts (just outside of the Boston metro area)
Durham, North Carolina (just outside of the Raleigh metro area)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina (just outside of the Greensboro metro area)

So I am going to spend some time reading about Durham and Winston-Salem and see how our city compares. Should be interesting. Of course there are things inherently wrong in Worcester that have nothing to do with whether the city has a waterfront, or whether the city is a capitol, or whether the city has a large metropolitan area or whether or not it is part of a larger cities metropolitan area. Of course this is true.

But maybe just maybe there are things that we want out of Worcester, things we see on a night out in Boston and Providence, things we see when we travel to other cities in this country that just aren't in the cards here in Worcester and never will be. Maybe we need our leaders to help us find an identity for ourselves as Worcesterites and then go from there instead of trying to give our citizens things that most well thinking people left to find on their own a long time ago. What can Worcester give me that I can't get 45 minutes up the road and most of the time get better?

Mrs. Lukes, Mr. O'Brien and the rest of the the folks who sit in the big wooden chairs in city hall this is my challenge to you. Define Worcester. Define it positively. Tell me what it means to be from Worcester and why I should continue to live here. You are our leaders. Step up and lead.