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+


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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Downtown Notes

  • I got takeout from the 99 on Sunday night. I don't know if there was something going on at the DCU or what but the place was packed. Good to see for a Sunday night in downtown Worcester, even if it is a chain.
  • I think one of the bigger challenges to the Mom and Pops is to remain as incredibly consistent as the bigger chains are. I went over to D'Errico's on Sunday to grab a gallon of milk. I walked up to the front door at 6:46pm to find the doors locked and people still shopping inside. This would make sense to me if they closed at 6:30pm but that seems like an odd time to close and it also seems odd that they would close at 6pm and still have people in there 45 minutes later. But what do I know. I was really just irritated that I couldn't go in and buy milk. No posted hours by the way. I guess they can open and close whenever they damn please. Doesn't mean I have to continue shopping there though.
  • I was going over there for milk because I have stopped buying anything from Honey Farms. This is due to a small inconvenience turned into a larger irritance the other day. See I have lieved downtown since the middle of October of 2007. On my way back home from work it is really easy in the morning to come up Central St and take a left on Commercial and stop at the Ho Farms at the corner of Commercial and Foster for whatever small food items I might need. They have this really delicious frozen coffee type concoction that I'll pickup sometimes when I am in there. This stuff is good but I do not need 44 ounces of it. Problem is that the super large cup is the only size they have with a complete cup and lid set. It's been like this almost every time I have gone in there since mid October. So I point this out to the girl behind the counter and she says to me, "Oh they are on order." I then explain to her that they are out almost all the time. She disagrees with me. This is where I get a little pissed. I mean I've stopped in there a few times a week, every week, since I have been living downtown. I probably try to get a small helping of frozen coffee deliciousness once a week. I think I have been successful maybe about 4 times. I tell her this and she disagrees again. We exchange a few other things and I leave bidding her good luck running a business with that attitude in downtown Worcester. I then call Honey Farms corporate to file a complaint. They give me a voice mail where they play a message that tells me to leave my number and they will call me back. They never do. Adios Ho Farms. I will not be shopping at your stores anymore. It was nice knowing you.
  • So my last stop Sunday before I went home was the White Hen at the corner of Main and Franklin to finally get my milk. As I am checking out this kid, looking all of about 16 comes into the store looking absolutely horrified. "How do I get to route 9 from here?" I give him some quick directions, asking him where he is tryin to get back to. "Westborough, I am lost and I lost my cell phone.", he says in a quivering voice. I always forget how sheltered some folks are in New England. I wonder how he would have been doing if he got lost over by Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

So there are some downtown notes from Sunday night. Wow do I sound like a cranky old man. Why shouldn't I expect good customer service and a store to post their hours and stick by them? Why should I not write about an establishment in these pages if I have a bad experience there?

I do have good experiences too like the one I had at KJ Baaron's on Monday night. I will post about that later on in the week.