Thursday, July 24, 2008

Farewell, Cafe Aiello

I heard this week about the closing of Cafe Aiello up on Gorham Street:

Definitely not a great moment for downtown, and I know there are people far more affected by it than I am. I really loved the place when I first popped in there (while I was scouting out real estate and staying at the DoubleTree), but what makes me a Brew'd Awakening partisan comes primarily down to location but also to the way that the owner (Andy) and the employees (too many to list, but I'll say here that Theo comes to mind quickly) welcomed me. Then what sealed the deal was the hard-core Brew'd Awakening Crowd -- Brandon, Nancy, Theresa, Brenda, Mike, Angel, Laura, and all the rest -- to include the official canine chapter, headed up by Francine, Houston, and Austin.

So if anything ever happened to Brew'd, I'd be beside myself.

And as a supporter of and believer in downtown Lowell, it sucks to see any place go.

The chatter on the Sun bulletin board included plenty of mentions of the location problem, and a handful mentioned the problem posed by the anemic foot traffic often witnessed downtown during the day and sometimes at night (and of course the 'chicken-or-the-egg' question that comes foot traffic so bad because businesses are shuttering up, or vice versa)?

Still, ever the optimist, I'll just say that the full development of the Hamilton Canal District ( is going to help revitalize the entire area on the other side of the Pawtucket Canal from where I live (Market Street).

Obviously, there are going to be conflicting visions for the future of the city.


I'd be more worried if there were a lack thereof and don't plan on moving to North Korea anytime to see their version of consensus.

But one thing I noticed on the Sun bulletin board was the way the whole "blue-collar folks v. condo owner" speech got squashed pretty quickly. I was happy to see the triumph of reason, because I believe that's a textbook example of a false dichotomy. Lowell is a big city. There are 100,000 residents and probably room for plenty more. Even if the downtown demographic were magically transformed into that of the Back Bay tomorrow (and it won't), the Acre would still be the Acre. Centerville would still be Centerville. And so on.


I'll give you three reasons just to start -- Chelmsford, Andover, and Lexington.

As long as there are places to live with big lawns and great public schools, there isn't going to be some sudden pricing squeeze that's somehow going to force all Lowellians out of their neighborhoods. The Merrimack Valley's economy is only going to support so many single people, young DINK* couples, retirees, and so forth to come live in downtown Lowell.

And in the meantime (and for plenty years to come, given the looming Hamilton Canal plans --forgive me but yes the 'loom' pun was intended) what may be best for downtown, and the city in general, may be more of those people coming in to burn up that disposable income on beers, burritos, and Spinners tickets.

The neighborhoods will still maintain their character, the sky won't fall, and the earth will maintain that neat little rotation-on-the-axis thing it's been doing so well for all these years.

*Dual Income, No Kids


Matt said...

Few things...

Love "DINK." Awesome.

Couldn't agree more with your Batman review. I found it worse than boring -- it was arrogant, and pretentious. I think the definition of "pretentious" is when you apply extra meaning to something that doesn't deserve it. In this case, using a guy in a rubber suit to comment about the nature of nihilistic terrorism (the argument between Batman and Morgan Freeman about the efficacy and morality of cell phone spying was truly galling) is just preposterous.

A movie recommendation -- THE LIVES OF OTHERS. Not sure if you've seen it, it won the Oscar for best foreign film last year, and it is a real humdinger of a movie.

The New Englander said...


Glad you like DINK..wish i could claim it, but I first saw it in an Economics textbook during the roaring nineties..

..very glad to hear that you're joining me in the distinct minority of Americans who feel that way about Dark Knight. Also, good call out about 'pretentious.' As you know, I'm a huge fan of Spanglish and Superbad. And I mean that in an unblinking, serious way.

What they have in common are profound messages about decisions in life, transitions, identity, growing up, etc. but they're NOT cloaked in some lame-o shroud of pretention. It's all there, though.

It's interesting to think about pretention can apply to people and places, too.

Comparing Lowell to Cambridge, one of the biggest things I always tell people is that Lowell just isn't pretentious. It has so many great elements of a small city, but everything always seems really accessible and no one puts on airs.

What I love about non-pretentious people (or places) is that they're just as interesting/smart/talented/fun, etc. but when you strip away the smarmy self-consciousness that pretentious people carry around, you get a result that's just much more real and down-to-earth.


Matt said...


What's great about Spanglish and Superbad is that it is ALL THERE ON THE SURFACE. It's about real people dealing with real shit. What makes stuff like Batman so popular is that it allows the viewer to feel super-smart about himself -- he is unpacking metaphor. I overheard a conversation in a coffee shop today about the Dark Knight -- being discussed was what the movie says about terrorism. What does it say? That terrorists are nihilists and people, like you wrote, are generally good. It doesn't feel too deep to me -- imagine if there WERE a movie about an actual terrorist and a group of CIA agents trying to catch him: it would have to go a lot deeper than The Dark Knight for people to think it had meaning. That's at the root of pretentious art: it allows people to feel smart without actually thinking. And that's what at the root of pretentious people: an insecurity about their own intellect that forces them to construct airs to make themselves feel more substantial.

The New Englander said...

Megadittoes on the pretentiousness and the way it just goes hand-in-hand with self-importance. They are two sides of the same coin. (And I swear that wasn't some smarmy Harvey Dent, really).

I liked your word choice -- 'art' makes me think of other forms of expression -- music, comedy, paintings, whatever...if people feel that just because something is *base* (i.e. a Kevin Smith or Seth Rogen movie), simple, or popular, that it therefore can't be good, that's just a totally whack opinion. That's like saying sunsets aren't beautiful because they're so...quotidian.