Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Plus que ca change...

To the Faithful:  Thanks for coming back to the blog.  It was a nice hiatus, but it's also great to be back.  Lots to report, so I'll wheel it out over the next few entries.

The other day, I was in a cab from Stuart, FL (right near Port St. Lucie, a place most Mets fans would know) to the airport in Palm Beach.

I asked the cabdriver, a friendly, chatty, fifty-something African-American man, about the area.  "It's changed a lot in my time," he said.  "Back when I was a kid, we didn't have all these highways running everywhere.  It was much, much quieter."  He said it in a neutral sort of way, so I prodded a little further, asking about feelings between newer and more-established residents.

Right away, he explained me that he was a third-generation guy in Stuart, before offering a totally unprompted observation about who does the most huffing and puffing about newer residents who've come down to Florida to raise families or retire [they don't use the term 'blow-in' but you get the idea].  "It's not the multi-generational people like us," he said. "We've seen plenty of good and plenty of bad over the years, but generally we welcome anyone who would want to come down here.  I'd say let's even get more if we could.  But it's always the ones who've just been down here 'a little while' that are the quickest to complain about even newer residents trying to change it from the way it was.'

I loved it.  I absolutely ate it up.  I tried to get him to say even more, but he didn't go too deep in the way of explanation before veering down a side-path about local norms and hospitality.

Any long-time reader of this blog will know why I was so tickled by what he said: By and large, that's pretty much been my experience in Lowell.  

At first, it seemed a wee bit counterintuitive.  The more pedigreed a person was in the place I came to finally settle down, hang my coat, and build some "social capital," the more welcoming he or she was. And by and large, on the very few instances when I've caught a stink-eye or gotten some funny questions about agendas (if you find mine, please let me know!) it's come from a fellow New Lowellian.  [N.B.  I'm not counting the well-intentioned but stupid stuff, like when someone assumes that a person who lives downtown can't find their way onto a street that doesn't begin with "M."  That is real, and it's an expression of provincialism].

Now I'm just used to it.  And upon further reflection, the whole idea seems way less counterintuitive (let's just say Roger Bannister's ghost isn't haunting me when I struggle to break seven minutes in four laps...we don't worry about stuff we're not insecure about).  

When I got back, I noticed that Dick Howe's blog ran a profile piece about Fred Faust and his views on the evolution of the city.  Sure enough, there it was -- grew up outside of NYC, came to Boston for schooling, found Lowell, fell in love...  Sounded a bit familiar.

And no shocker that class acts like Dick and Paul are the ones who realize how important a Fred is to the city.  

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