Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oh, well, that's much better!

WHDH is reporting that Richard Heartquist, husband of Ward 1 City Councillor Alison Heartquist, is now claiming he was not in the SUV that hit another vehicle because he was in the car of another woman, doing whatever.

Also there is a report in today's Daily News.

Drunken people often do stupid things. They need help.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My dressers!

In this time of turmoil and distress (Is that any surprise to any of you?), I count the little things as blessings.

I refer, of course, to the dressers in my sister's house ... two of them, that used to be mine.

The white and gold one was in my bedroom when I was a teenager. It's in the upstairs bathroom here. My dresser!

The blue one my parents gave me after I moved into my own place, so many years ago. I gave it to my sister after I moved into a studio apt. in Boston and did not have room for it. It is in the bedroom that I am using. My dresser!

As I said, it's the little things ... the huge thing, of course, is that my sister (the one that lives in Gloucester) and my brother-in-law took me in after I fled Newburyport.

Oh Lordie!

My sister just called me to tell me that this story was on the WBZ (radio) news ... it seems the name Heartquist is once again in the headlines. (I'm listening online, but I have not heard it.)

I'm not making any comment until I have all the facts ... you know how it is with me and the Ward 1 councillor ...

Have fun with this one, guys.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

And another thing

I went to the McDonald's around the corner here, on my way up to Newburyport.

I got my usual medium latte. When I lived in Newburyport, it was always a small latte at Dunkin' but hey, I need all the help I can get these days.

They gave it to me for *free*. I mean, they actually GAVE it to me.

Now that I have returned to the house, I see we got a whole page of coupons for stuff at McDonald's (excluding a Happy Meal, I note). The free latte coupon is for a small.

And I said to my brother-in-law, "Wow, I never got anything like this in Newburyport." He said they get them all the time.

Ah, Gloucester, I'm starting to really, really like you.

Happy Holidays from Gloucester

I ran into Tom Salemi (and his older son) a little while ago, in downtown Newburyport.

As Madeline Kahn said of Sheriff Bart in "Blazing Saddles" - "What a nice guy."

And no, Tom and I had not been sharing schnitzen gruben.

We wished each other a Merry Christmas, and I wish you all the best for the holidays and thank the gods (or whatever you believe in) for small blessings.

Let it be ... and bless us all. Stay safe.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ah, Christmas

Earlier today, we had a home visit for my mom to see if she would be safe in her home if she were discharged from the rehab facility.

Thankfully, they found the house to be safe and only suggested minor alterations to allow her to get around the house better with her walker.

Then we got the call that her target discharge date is next Wed., Dec. 22.

Home for Christmas.

What a relief.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Does the US Practice "Diplomacy of Empire?": another Dose from Mr. Cook

Love him and his organization, or hate them; no one can deny that Julian Assange and Wikileaks have rocked official Washington, and the global diplomatic world, to their respective cores.

With only a mere fraction of the 250,000 US diplomatic cables in Wikileak's possession released, one can only wonder, and perhaps worry, about what will come next.

Does Julian Assange possess a "Poison Pill" of information that could, as some have alleged, bring down the US financial and banking systems, or ignite what would, indeed, be a global conflict?

Not one for conspiracy theories, I must confess I wonder if he does because of the intensity of the US government's efforts to shut Assange up and and Wikileak's down.

To date, despite all the uproar,most of what has been released is not particularly earth shattering or dangerous, although it has proven terribly embarrassing to the United States  and will, no doubt, make the always tough of job of diplomacy that much tougher.

Think about it, was anyone surprised that a US diplomat sent a cable to a colleague in which he or she opined that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is "loco"? Chavez is loco. He holds some delusion that he is the reincarnation of Simon Bolivar, destined to reunite all of Latin America under a Bolivarian/Socialist banner and his leadership.

Was anyone really surprised the Sunni king of Saudi Arabia confided in a US diplomat that he would be pleased if the US took military action against the Shiite mullahs in Iran? Any one who pays attention to Middle Eastern affairs was not, of that one can be certain.

The revealing of such conversations is embarrassing, but the fact they occurred was no real surprise at all.

But some revelations were deeply troubling and could do long term damage to both America's financial interests, security, and  credibility  on the world stage.

Here in Latin America,  several diplomatic cables regarding US policies in the region have frustrated many and deepened suspicions that Obama's policies are simply a repeat of GW Bush's.

One such cable released by Wikileaks was sent to the administration by the US ambassador in Honduras when President Jose Manuel Zelaya was forcibly sent into exile in Costa Rica by the country's military.

That diplomatic cable made clear that what had transpired was, indeed, a coup-d-etat and, under US law, the administration was required to suspend all foreign and economic aid to Honduras .

The administration did not heed its own diplomat's counsel.

Zelaya was in a legal battle with the country's Supreme Court over his attempt to mount a popular referendum to amend the constitution so he could seek a second term. That legal battle, many believe, was used as a ruse by the Honduran oligarchy, and its international corporate sponsors, like Dole, Chiquita, and Monsanto, to remove Zelaya because they were angry he had raised the country's minimum wage, along with taxes on the wealthy and corporations to increase funding for public education and the nation's health care system.

Just as they do with the Honduran oligarchy, international corporations like those mentioned above wield great financial and political influence among America's own oligarchy, namely the bipartisan political class inside the Beltway. As a result, the coup against the democratically elected Zelaya was allowed to stand.

Another cable released by Wikileaks revealed a  senior US official calling for the "isolation", "neutralization", and "marginalization" of numerous  democratically elected Latin leaders for their refusal to sign the US brokered agreement at last year's UN climate summit in Copenhagen - an agreement many, if not most, environmental organizations view as deeply flawed.

One such leader is Rafael Correa, the Harvard educated president of Ecuador.

Many had long suspected US involvement in the October coup attempt  against Correa because of lingering US anger at his refusal in 2007 to renew the lease on a large air base the US military used to stage anti drug trafficking operations in neighboring Colombia. The release by Wikileaks of the climate summit cable has only deepened those suspicions.

So, why is all this relevant for a regional blog like the port reporter unltd. and its readers? Well, I guess it's because I believe, or want to believe, that most Americans, and certainly most on the North Shore, do not want the United States to be perceived by the rest of the world as a nation that practices, as Bolivian President Evo Morales said in an interview at the climate summit in Cancun last week, the "...diplomacy of Empire".

Sadly, the Wikileaks revelations are only serving to reinforce the perception that that is the case in the eyes of growing numbers of people around the world.

And that, certainly, cannot bode well for future of the US or the world.

Michael Cook
PV de Limon, CR
& Gloucester, MA

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 'horror' of paid parking, Gloucester style

I went shopping in downtown Gloucester today - and horrors! I had to pay 50 cents to park for an hour (which is exactly how much time I took shopping).

Actually, I had to problem w/putting my 2 quarters in the meter and then bustling off to support two local businesses by making purchases.

Gloucester is kind of how Newburyport was when I moved there - lots of little artsy shops with one-of-a-kind items and two neat indie bookstores I discovered.

Hey, I guess Newburyport still has all that!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bring out your dogs

I do have to note that there was a meeting of some standing committee or the other (Neighborhood & City Services, perhaps?) before the City Council meeting last night.

City Council chambers was full. Arriving late, I had to stand in the doorway.

For the City Council meeting - and to be fair the word spread pretty quickly that paid parking would not be brought out of committee - the place was medium-full.

Anything involving dogs, however, seems to bring people out in droves. Not being a dog owner (although I did once own a dog), I don't get it.

I do miss my cat, though.

Thanks, Tom Salemi, for turning on the "Bring out your ..." light in my head.

The strange case of Mark Moquin

Mr. Moquin was up for re-appointment to the Newburyport Housing Authority. He apparently ran afoul of someone in City Hall in between the writing of the letter to the City Council requesting re-appointment, and last night.

Ward 1 Councillor Allison Heartquist first requested that the appointment be heard in one reading, which requires suspension of the Council's rules, and then stood up and made some vague references to "inappropriate actions" and emails denouncing un-named persons in City Hall.

I guess emails denouncing someone are "inappropriate actions" - you know, unless there was some basis for it. I'm not saying there were not inappropriate actions; I just want to know what they were!

I wrote down that Heartquist said he was disrespectful of the mayor and the mayor's staff. She read from a prepared statement that had been folded up into a neat tidy, and very small, rectangle.

Then Ward 5 Councillor Brian Derrivan got up and echoed Heartquist's sentiments, adding something about criticizing siblings (I can only speculate that this had something to do with the re-appointment of one Jane Bagley Holaday to the Commission on Disability).

It reminded me of the time - was it 2 years ago? - that Building Inspector Gary Calderwood's appointment was up for discussion before the Council, and Mayor Holaday (then an at-large councillor) suggested the council put off voting on the appointment until they could hear Calderwood's rebuttal to the criticisms leveled at him.

The Council, if I am remembering correctly, ignored Holaday's suggestion and approved the appointment. I mean, obviously they did re-appoint Calderwood.

It was all very bizarre, given that Moquin was there at the meeting, as was Calderwood when he was up for re-appointment.

Moquin was an honoree at a YWCA breakfast in March.

Only Barry Connell (At-large) voted in favor of the re-appointment, with Council President Tom O'Brien and Greg Earls (Ward 2) excusing themselves from the discussion/vote.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Council postpones vote on paid parking

Read about it here.

Tea Party caucus spends a billion on earmarks

According to a little blurb in (the printed version of) The Week, the 52 current members of Congress' Tea Party Caucus, which vows to cut federal spending, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at over $1 billion over the last fiscal year. was cited as the source, but I can't find where they printed that ...
I did, however, find this - an article describing how Repubs are backing off a ban on earmarks because apparently they failed to realize what the word "moratorium" means.

Republicans Learn What the Word 'Ban' Means "When congressional Republicans backed a two-year earmark moratorium in a wave of post-election enthusiasm," writes Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason, "apparently they didn't understand that banning earmarks would entail not having any more earmarks."

You gotta love it, right? Am I right?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Denounce religious extremism - in all its forms: M. Cook's sporadic dose

Man, was I ever naive - not to mention wrong.

When I left the position of director of AIDS services at HES more than a decade ago, I really thought the worst of the fight for gay civil rights was behind us.

Ironically, one of the reasons I thought that was because of the AIDS epidemic itself.

As devastating as the epidemic was to gay men of my generation, it also forced the opening of countless thousands of closet doors, and the building of bridges within families and communities , as families and communities began to recognize and accept the gay men and lesbians within their midst.

That recognition and acceptance played a critical role in prevention efforts that helped stop AIDS from becoming a far more wide spread sexually transmitted disease in the United States, as we feared it might become in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The gay community's response to the AIDS epidemic was a collective profile in personal and political courage that served as a model for other communities and prevention programs targeting other diseases.

But, with all that, it's become increasingly clear the rights of gay Americans are perhaps in greater jeopardy today than they have been since 1978, when Dan White, the San Francisco city supervisor who, literally, got away with committing a double homicide because one of his victims, fellow city supervisor Harvey Milk, was gay.

I'm writing this right after attempts in the Senate to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" went narrowly down to defeat.

The forces of anti-gay bigotry and ignorance prevailed- at least for now.

What is unsettling is those forces seem to be gaining strength in the United States today.

In the last week, as I've kept abreast of news in the States via my laptop, it's gays who are increasingly being blamed for almost every issue confronting the nation today.

Whether it's the Wikileaks controversy or the economy, bigoted voices in the US are trying to make gays responsible for most, if not all, of what ails the US today.

It might all be comical if it were not so ugly and dangerous.

In addition, a few days before DADT fell three votes short of being repealed, Rachel Maddow had the Ugandan politician who is the driving force behind that country's "kill the gays bill" on her show.

What is fascinating, not to mention frightening, is the fact this man is also a member of "The Family," a secretive, right wing, Washington based, international, Christian fundamentalist/political organization that includes many GOP and Tea Party congressman and senators in its membership, many of whom cheat on their wives while rooming together at a notorious townhouse on "C Street," commonly referred to inside the Beltway as the "born again frat house."

Interestingly, all this happened the same week Gloucester's own Jim Munn wrote a compelling column for the Gloucester Times in which he reminded us that all religions of the world, including Christianity, have been known to resort to violent and brutal tactics in attempts to impose their particular theology on others.

Needless to say, the GDT blog thread in response to Jim's column lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree, mostly with comments expressing contempt for Jim's observations and outrage at his suggestion that Christian extremists have used violent means to advance their interpretations of Scripture.

But the truth is they have, time and again.

How many physicians have been gunned down, how many women's health clinics have been bombed, and innocent people killed in recent years by Christian extremists in the United States who believed just as fervently that they were carrying out their God's will as the equally monstrous extremists who carried out the attacks of 9-11 believed they were carrying out Allah's will?

The number of victims is irrelevant, murder carried out in the name of religious extremism is a particularly vile crime.

And today, as I write this, there are so called Christians in the United States, some of them sitting members within our government and powerful members of the Republican Party, who are welcoming and embracing a man from Uganda who is working to impose life prison sentences, and to even execute, members of that country's gay community - all in the name of Christ and Christianity.

If that isn't violence being carried out in the name of religion, will someone please tell me what is?

As I said, it all might be funny if it was not all so frightening.

Thanks Jim Munn for a spot on column, and all your years of dedication to Fishtown and its youth.

Michael Cook
Puerto Viejo de Limon, CR
& Gloucester, MA

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hello, Gloucester

I've been staying here in Gloucester for just over 2 weeks now.

As Mr. Cook has said many times, things are different here. The city does not seem as tightly-wound as Newburyport, although it is not as pretty, in the conventional sense. I like the perceived (by me) atmosphere of hard-working people trying to make a go of things in what have been tough times for some while now.

I had to drive all over the place to find a gas station that was open at 5:30 p.m., which was kind of trippy.

But now I know where it is ....

I have not gone down to the water yet - it's far more accessible here - but now that it's balmy outside, I may drive on over. My downfall will be the McDonald's that is just around the corner, and of course the tub of Quality Street (English candies) on the dining room table.

My 80 y.o. mom is in a rehab facility here in town, not even a mile from her home. We are hoping she will be home for Christmas. That's not exactly the reason I found myself here in Gloucester, but it's good enough for now.

(Set proper boundaries, people.)

I hope that I'll still be reporting on Newburyport, as I have been, and etc., etc., etc.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Concern, but not alarm"

I hate to say it, but .... there ya go. The beach nourishment appears to be not as effective as it was hoped it would be.

Is that phrased diplomatically enough?

Estimates of the loss range from less than 10 percent to as much as a third of the approximately 120,000 cubic yards of sand deposited along 2,500 feet of shoreline in October by a dredging company under contract to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Daily News)

I like the disparity in the estimates of loss. My old pal Newbury Selectman Vincent Russo says 10% and Conservation Agent Doug Packer says as much as 30%.

But this is my favorite quote, from PITA President Ron Barrett: "I think it will last the winter," he said. "It all depends on how many storms we have."

I like Ron - he returns my phone calls - but ... Ummm, wasn't it supposed to last 5 years, or so?

The story does not reference how much the project cost us taxpayers ($5.5 mil). Of course, some of that was for dredging the channel alone.

Further, the "concern, but not alarm" was expressed by a resident, not anyone "official."

I bet plenty of people are alarmed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Guest post: A little checking may save you thousands of dollars

Well, the City Council went ahead and adopted the Stretch Code. This will initially have little impact on the average building owner until you attempt to do an improvement project that will require a building permit. Then it will cost you many additional dollars compared to a standard building code to attain the new green standards. Fortunately for most of us, we’re an historic city and many thousands of our homes are designated historic and are exempt from this punitive measure.

Unless of course, you don’t know if your home is historic or not.

Even then, if your home is inside the Newburyport Historic District, it is not necessarily an historic building! The information as to which structures are included is tucked away in the National Register’s Inventory Listing. A listing that is not posted on the City’s website. To find out often requires journeying down to the Library’s archives and painfully digging about. Don’t ask for the copy in the Planning Office, it’s missing pages out of it!

But It is now, in complete form, digitally available at

Your home is historic and exempt if it contributes to the National Register of Historic Places. Therefore a designation in the Inventory of a “C” for contributing or “MC” minor contributing puts you in the exempt status.

But let’s say you do due diligence, check out the online listing and you find the code ‘INT’ next to your home. This designation means that your structure is not a contributing building toward the National Register. Yet, you may still be exempt.

There is a sliding scale on the Inventory. It is now 2010 and according to the preface of the listing, the cutoff date for the report in 1984 was 1930. It says, “Finally, those structures built after 1930 have been designated as intrusions [INT]; included in this last category are a number of buildings which may be re-considered as contributing structures once they achieve the age of fifty years.”

Therefore, any buildings that have this designation and are between 1930 to 1960 as the date of construction, need to have their owners appear before the Historical Commission for reconsideration and change of status.

I assure you, there are many City Hall employees who are not aware of the nuances involved in historic house categorizing. If you are still unsure of your building’s history after checking the listing, appeal to the Historical Commission.

As for the building inspector, he has indicated that he will explore other requests for exemptions in accordance with the Massachusetts State 780 CMR 7th edition, Chapter 93 for certain homes older than five years old.

Remember though, the time-honored warning, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” This time, willful ignorance of your historic building’s status may still cost you thousands.

Even at the presently enacted building code, historic homes are often exempt from some restrictions.

So take my word, do some research and be prepared before seeing the building inspector.

Jerry A. Mullins
Newburyport, MA

From Gillian: Sorry, Jerry, about how long it took me to post this.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving, el Caribe Sur, and Paradise Lost - Your Sporadic Dose from Mr. Cook

After several days of pretty steady rain, Thanksgiving morning arrived here on the Caribbean with brilliant blue skies and a soft on shore breeze.

A symphony, some call it a cacophony, of bellowing howler monkeys, chortling toucans, crowing roosters, and, of course, the neighborhood barking dogs, rousted me from a sound sleep minutes after the sun came up.

With my dogs in tow, including Harry S. Truman, my new miniature Schnauzer pup whose dad is the Costa Rican grand champion, I headed out for my early morning constitutional on the beach from Playa Cocles to Punta Uva.

Almost every step of the way, I kept thinking how grateful and blessed I am to have had the opportunity to call this little piece of paradise home for, when I add all the months up in total, seven of the last eleven years.

The walk was an appropriate way to start what Americans have long viewed as a day to reflect on the bounties the United States has bestowed on so many of its citizens, even if it has yet to live up to the ideal of "...liberty and justice for all".

But it was much more than that. The walk was also an opportunity to reflect on the challenges all of us face, regardless of our race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, or sexual orientation, as we move into an era of diminishing natural resources, climate change, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and a growing income gap between those with and those without that threatens the social and political stability of virtually every country on the planet, including the United States.

At one point, as the dogs and I rested at our favorite lagoon in Playa Chiquita, I found myself wondering if the Rubicon might not already have been crossed, if the tipping point has not been tipped or, to quote NY Times columnist Tom Friedman from his book "Hot, Flat, and Crowded", we have not run out of time to "manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable" in relation to the many serious issues and challenges facing us as a species today.

The signs that we have are everywhere, yet very few people seem to be paying much attention, or even to genuinely care.

I am always struck that so many people, especially those who profess loyalty to all things "green", just don't seem to get all that is really at stake.

A pet peeve of mine is the growing number of faux green ex-pats moving here who claim to be protectors of the environment and lovers of nature, while driving gas guzzling, emissions spewing Status Utility Vehicles and clear cutting everything in sight to build US style McMansions for retiring, faux green, American baby boomers- all with "green" technology of course.

I mean, come on. Can we talk disconnect from reality here or what, folks?

About ten days before Thanksgiving, a walk to the beach in Playa Chiquita and Punta Uva was an exercise in absolute misery because swarms of mosquitoes were everywhere.

In eleven years, I'd not experienced anything like it.

But it was a friend, a retiree from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who pointed out to me that the intense mosquito infestation was no doubt tied to the amount of rapid deforestation going on here in the name of economic and real estate development - all of it "green", of course.

Deforestation results in the destruction of large amounts of bird habitat. Birds are one of the most important predators in terms of keeping insect populations, including mosquitos, in check.

Destruction of bird habit by clear cutting means fewer birds to eat the bugs, including mosquitos, so clear cutting means more bugs to bite us and spread disease, with mosquitoes topping the list.

But that's just one piece of an important jig saw puzzle too few people are paying genuine attention to, not just here on el Caribe Sur, but all over the world.

The sad irony for me is that some of the worst offenders of this failure to pay attention are the very people who claim to care so much about their Mother Earth, so long as that caring doesn't stand in the way of them making money, even if it is at Mother Earth's expense.

But, with all that, as the dogs and I continued on our way toward Punta Uva, I remained deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to come to know this magical place when I did because, as magical as it still is in many ways, not unlike what Plum Island was when I was a kid, that magic is in grave danger of being lost, not just for a little while, but forever - kind of like Plum Island.

Michael Cook
Puerto Viejo/Playa Cocles
& Gloucester, MA, USA

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Beach Bummer"

It's comforting to know that even the big ole news outlets mess up ... the video in this report on Channel 7 is of the beach nourishment on the Newbury beach, not the Newburyport beach ... and I think it was $75,000, but that was with the city's match ...

Loved the title "Beach Bummer," though. Someone's been watching "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Read more here, from the Daily News.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Paid parking (meeting) on Nov. 4

There's a meeting of the City Council (a meeting of the whole) to talk paid parking and it's this Thursday at 7:30 p.m., in City Council Chambers.

The parking consultant will be there to answer questions.

Save me from Hawaii!

I'm swiping a concept started on Television Without Pity, a site I used to read regularly. Back then, the recaps of the TV shows were highly amusing ....


We have been watching Hawaii Five-O, the remake.

And so I say, save me from Hawaii.

In every episode so far, something fairly anxiety-inducing has happened to some hapless tourist, or more frequently, a family of tourists, mostly parents and young boy.

What's up with that?

And how did the crazy dude take all the tourists on a tour of the aircraft carrier hostage without taking the tour guide as well?

These and other questions are answered much more humorously than I could ever do it, right here.

Oh, and yeah, Boomer (aka Grace Park) hopefully will get a clue sometime soon.

She's a Cylon, you know ...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Be lean, but not necessarily mean

I just got this brief story via the Daily Business Update from the Boston Globe ... three Maine newspapers are eliminating online reader comments.

MaineToday Media CEO Richard Connor said what was aimed as a public forum for civil discourse devolved into "a forum for vile, crude, insensitive, and vicious postings." In his words, "No story subject seems safe from hurtful and vulgar comments."

It's nice (in a way) to know that it's not just here ... although I sort of knew that already. Anonymity seems to bring out the worst in people. I'm sure there's some kind of cultural phenomenon aspect to this that I could ramble on about, but I won't.

This time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

But do they take fils?

So, a reader sent me this link .... he asserts, I assume in jest, that this (selling parking meters to a foreign entity) might be the solution to all of Newburyport's financial woes.

The blog post from the the Atlantic Wire screams out the headline "Why Does Abu Dhabi Own All of Chicago's Parking Meters?" This is the first paragraph:

The city of Chicago has 36,000 parking meters. In 2008, it sold them on a 75 year lease for over one billion dollars. The buyers were led by Morgan Stanley. But as Matt Taibbi reports in his forthcoming book Griftopia, previewed in Rolling Stone, the state-owned investment arm of Abu Dhabi ended up owning a large share -- possibility a controlling majority -- in Chicago's parking meter system.

I'm not entirely sure that the words "lease" and "sale" are interchangeable, but ... oh, well.

And since Newburyport is buying only 6 (I believe) pay-and-display kiosks, the city could hardly reap a huge payday from the move ... but, hey, I have contacts in Kuwait!

Methinks the author of that blog was trying to stir up trouble ... something I try never to do ...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Not everything works, everywhere

Add this to the Karp-related stuff that's been in the media of late.

I see over on Newburyport Posts that Mr. S. is touting NRA plans to possibly develop the land they are in charge of ... wowzie. Well, that was the NRA's primary purpose.

(For those of you non-residents, NRA stands for Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, not the National Rifle Association ... although it might be very exciting if the latter were trying to develop something here ...)

Just a note because although I was told this by Mayor Donna Holaday, I don't think I've written in anywhere ... Karp & Co. can't make a hotel work in their business plan because it could not sustain itself over the winter.

Just a thought - not everything works, everywhere.

I was at a meeting the other day where people were talking about Plymouth, MA, and its parking plan. They only have paid parking for 9 months of the year, but they make substantial money from parking.

But then, they have the Rock.

Walking about looking at historic buildings, boating and walking on the beach are summer activities and all told, you can do Newburyport in a day.

Now Boston ... as someone who was a frequent tourist to Boston before I moved there, places like Gloucester and Newburyport were day trips.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Landfill on TV

This was on WBZ/Channel 4 today ...

The manager of New Ventures, Bill Thibault, says the residents' claims are exaggerated. He says he's just as eager to get the capping project done as everyone else.

He says if the state gives him the go-ahead, he could have the work done by spring 2011.

The stink has prompted neighbors to file a class action lawsuit against New Ventures.

My sister said it was on the TV news this morning.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Paid parking (meeting)

I see (or saw) that you paid heed to my last post and flew down to City Hall at 6 p.m. last night to attend ... oh, wait, that was the line outside Park Lunch.

Silly people.

Anyway, I in jest told Mr. Y upon returning from the meeting that soon there will be a (paid) parking permit based on eye color. I said that soon, there would be a special permit for people with blue eyes.

This turned out to be a mistake because, of course, Mr. Y has eyes of this very color. He insisted that this particular permit should be free and went on to name several other special interest groups that should be able to park downtown for free.

Some of them he doesn't even belong to.

Ah, well, at some point I'll write a serious story on the meeting ... which, of course, Mr. Y did not attend, either.


Thursday, October 7, 2010


There is a meeting tonight, somewhere ... I think it's at 6 p.m. and it's about paid parking.

People, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to attend these committee meetings if you care about an issue. By the time it gets to the full City Council, it's pretty much too late to voice your opinion.

The issues are examined in the committee meetings ...

So tonight (Thursday), 6 p.m. in City Council chambers.

If you care.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Your weekly dose by Michael Cook

And people wonder why there are those in other countries who view the United States' often self righteous perception of itself with cynicism and contempt.

To those who wonder, wonder no more.

I took some heat earlier this summer by pointing out in a couple of different columns the hypocrisy of the United States lecturing Mexico about its war against the drug cartels, while in the US very few acknowledge our role in fueling the war vis-a-vis the huge domestic demand for drugs, the profits that demand generates, and our lax gun laws. That demand, those profits, and lax gun laws allow the murderous cartels, and their surrogates in the US, easy access to highly sophisticated weaponry that they then ship south to their waiting "armies".

The United States' hypocrisy about the drug war may be lost on many Americans in the US, but it is not lost on millions of other Americans from other countries in our shared hemisphere.

Sadly, I suspect a news story that broke in early October will only serve to heighten those non-US Americans' cynicism towards the United States and reinforce the notion that the United States is a nation that often preaches one thing while practicing another.

The story I'm referring to involves the horrifying revelations that, between 1946 and 1948, American doctors from the National Institutes of Health deliberately infected at least 700, in the Latin press the number is said to be 1500, Guatemalan male prison inmates, psychiatric patients, and soldiers with syphilis in an experiment to test the efficacy of penicillin.

US taxpayers' money was used to pay prostitutes known to have syphilis to have sex with the men. If such sexual contact did not result in infection, the bacteria was poured into scrapes made by researchers on the mens' faces, arms, penises, and, according to records recently uncovered by a medical history professor from Wellesley College while researching another topic at the University of Pittsburgh's library, was even directly injected via spinal puncture.

It is unknown whether all the US researchers' Guatemalan guinea pigs ever received adequate treatment with penicillin to be cured, or if they, like their African American counterparts at Tuskegee, Alabama, were allowed to languish with inadequate treatment and suffer the horrific, long term agony of tertiary syphilis.

When the grisly story broke, our Secretaries of Health and Human Services and State, Kathleen Sebelius and Hillary Clinton respectively, moved quickly to condemn the research study as "unethical".

As I read the account of their denunciations on line from San Jose, I found myself saying to myself, "Unethical!? Ah, Hil and Kate, this isn't just 'unethical', this is criminal."

But it was over coffee with my friend Ana in a cafe in San Jose this morning that I realized just how much potential damage the Guatemalan story might do to our relations in Latin America, at a time when China, Russia, and even Iran, are expanding their economic and strategic influence in the region.

Ana, a University of Michigan educated woman from Costa Rica's upper classes who, if she lived in the US, would, no doubt, be a Republican in the tradition of my maternal grandparents, was not just appalled by the report, she was angry.

The revelations about what happened in Guatemala in the 1940's are but the latest example of the United States' very checkered past here in Latin America.

In El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in the 1980's, the Reagan-Bush junta aligned itself with and enabled forces that carried out horrific attacks against indigenous Mayan Indians, members of the Catholic clergy who dared to challenge the right wing, fascist regimes backed by the Reagan-Bush White House, and even collaborated with Colombian drug cartels, as evidenced by Oliver North's use of a plane provided by Pablo Escobar to deliver weapons to the right wing Contras in Nicaragua that had been purchased with funds generated by the illegal sale of missiles to the ayatollahs in Iran by the Reagan-Bush uber patriots.

US Americans may have long forgotten this sordid history, if they were ever aware of it at all, but equally American people of Latin descent have not.

I've been emaling friends in Gloucester and Newburyport to urge them to contact Senators Kerry and Brown, Congressman Tierney, State Representatives Ann Margaret Ferrante and Harriet Stanley, along with State Senators Bruce Tarr and Mike Costello, to express their outrage at the fact the United States, at the same time it was trying German scientists and doctors for their crimes against humanity, vis a vis using human beings as laboratory rats, was doing the very same thing to their fellow Americans in Guatemala.

I urged them to demand our state and national representatives call for a full investigation into this horror film that is our nation's ugly reality.

I did so because I love both the United States and Latin America. I did so because I firmly believe if we Americans from the United States don't take an honest inventory in relation to the often vile things we have done to our fellow Americans in countries south of our border, the influence and power of countries like China, Russia, and Iran will only grow in Latin America, and such a development is in the interest of no American, whether born north or south of the Rio Grande.

Michael Cook
Puerto Viejo de Limon
Costa Rica & Gloucester, MA

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New cell phone law goes into effect tomorrow

The following is a summary of the new law regarding cell phone use while driving, which will go into effect tomorrow. Thanks to Chase & Lunt Insurance for the info.

Sending or Reading Electronic Messages
Operators cannot use any mobile electronic device to write, send, or read an electronic message (including text messages, emails, instant messages, or accessing the Internet) while operating a vehicle. This law applies to drivers of all ages.

Violation Penalties (for all ages):

  • 1st offense - $100 fine
  • 2nd offense - $250 fine
  • 3rd or subsequent offense - $500 fine

Mobile Phone Usage by Operators Under 18
Operators under the age of 18 cannot use any mobile electronic device for any reason while operating a motor vehicle. The only exception is for reporting an emergency.

Violation Penalties:

  • 1st offense - $100 fine, 60-day license suspension, and a required attitudinal retraining course
  • 2nd offense - $250 fine, 180-day license suspension
  • 3rd or subsequent offense - $500 fine, one-year suspension

Unsafe or Impeded Operation Due to the Use of a Mobile Phone
Operators over the age of 18 can use mobile telephones for calls as long as one hand remains on the steering wheel at all times. However, the use of a mobile telephone must not interfere with driving and can’t be used for texting.

Violation Penalties (for all ages):

  • 1st offense - $35 fine
  • 2nd offense (within 12 months) - $75 fine
  • 3rd offense (within 12 months) - $150 fine

NOTE: It is not a violation if the vehicle is parked in an area of the road not meant for driving.

Negligent Operation and Injury from Mobile Phone Use

Personal injury or property damage caused by negligent operation of a motor vehicle is a criminal offense. If you crashed because you were using a mobile electronic device, you will face criminal charges. In addition to the criminal charges, you will face loss of license as described below.

Violation Penalties:
Junior Operators (under 18 years of age)

  • 1st offense – 180-day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent offense (within three years) – One-year suspension

18 Years or Older

  • 1st offense – 60-day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent offense (within three years) – One-year suspension

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Schools seek tech help

Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Marc Kerble, is seeking Newburyport community members who have a range of technology expertise to serve on a Technology Ad Hoc Committee, along with representation from the School Committee, school teaching staff and administration. The Committee’s charge will be to gather evidence about the Newburyport Schools’ state of technology programs that enhance instruction and also an inventory of hardware and the infrastructure to run various programs and platforms. The Committee will provide the Superintendent with information, and recommendations for his entry report to the School Committee and the community at large. The Ad Hoc Committee will consist of 12-13 people. Committee members should be available to complete work outside of team meetings. The schedule for the four Ad Hoc Committee meetings is as follows:

Thursdays, October 7, October 21, November 4, and November 18 from 4:15-5:45 PM

If you wish to be considered to serve on this committee, please contact the Superintendent by September 29, at:

The scoop on the accident

So ... I'm driving along this street in Malden, on the way to my sister's house ... Glenwood St., to be exact. A straight shot with only 2 stops, at its beginning and at its end.

I noticed this green SUV stopped at a stop sign on a side street, on the right. He was stopped, but then he decided to GO.

So I hit him.

After impact, I noticed that he was yelling at me (which seemed strange to me, given the circumstances).

We pulled off Glenwood, and he jumped out of his SUV and screamed, "You hit me!"

I replied that yes, I had hit him, but only because he had pulled out in front of me.

He informed me - in angry tones - that he had stopped, looked both ways, and had not seen me coming. He claimed that I had "materialized" out of nowhere. He kept saying that.

(My dad said I should have replied, "Yes, I do that.")

Well, Mr. Y, who was in my car, had to intervene, but the guy (a postal worker all dressed up in his postal duds) did not want to discuss things with Mr. Y, who kept insisting that it was HIM (the other driver) who had the obligation to stop, not I, and that claiming he had not seen me (and therefore it was my fault) was not a valid argument.

Then the guy who had been driving behind me showed up at my window and backed up everything - and the other driver started arguing with HIM about how he had not seen me, I'd materialized, etc.

I have to remember to tell Scottie not to beam me down again when there's the possibility that someone will pull out in front of me because they didn't see me.

I only got some scrapes on my front right fender, which match the scrapes on my left front fender from where someone side swiped my car while it was parked in front of the house.

And thus, my semi-crappy year continues. I have to say "semi" because, so far, I have not been injured or killed. Just my kitty was injured/died or killed.

Welcome (me) to the South End

Blogger really should have subtitles, so I could have added, "A canoe or kayak on every vehicle."

Not only has my car been hit twice since I moved so it looks even junkier than it did before, it also really stands out because it does not have a boat perched on the top of it.

What's the deal with this? It's too much trouble to take the boat/canoe down, so people drive around with it still affixed to the car/SUV?

I lived out on the island for 6 yrs. and I never saw so many small craft as I do zipping down the streets of the South End.

The second hit on my car is worth of a separate post because it was so funny, in retrospect. Maybe in another few weeks ...

Friday, August 27, 2010

They're not off the hook, yet!

OK, so I heard about this story via someone who lives in Rowley, and then we all called it up on an iTouch, and it is all so ... er, fishy?

The woman in question slugged her chum with some chum, apparently, going, as one person put it, "From fishwivery to floundering."

The woman will be appearing in the dock (in maritime court, the same person asked?) to answer for slapping her gal pal with a (frozen) piece of fish.

Alexa R. Kovach, 28, 31 Pleasant St., Rowley, and Donna L. St. Pierre, 54, 37 Summer St., Rowley, were issued summonses Saturday at 3:14 p.m. on a charge of assault and battery. Kovach was also charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon — a frozen fish filet — which Kovach used to hit St. Pierre, according to Rowley police Chief Robert Barker.

What we want to know is, how much more fish does it take before it becomes a deadly weapon?

Asked if he ever heard of anyone using a frozen fish filet as a dangerous weapon, Barker said: "Actually, I have not."

I have to say - Rowley hasn't given me much fodder for fun in a while, so it's nice to know that things are still on an even keel down there - and, of course, that the scales of justice are intact in our neighboring town.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yikes! Correction to post on NH

So ... I kinda stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts here in Newburyport today and found out that the cost of an iced latte went up, apparently.

NH is cheaper.

So sorry, NH.

Shame on me for not doing my research.

Kerble to be interviewed on PortMedia

Dr. Marc J. Kerble, the new Superintendent of Newburyport Public Schools, will appear in an interview on the town’s community access channel PortMedia.

The program will air on public channel 10 in Newburyport at the following times:

· Friday, August 20, 6:30 p.m.

· Saturday, August 21, 1:30 p.m.

· Sunday, August 22, 11:30 a.m.

· Monday, August 23, 9:30 a.m.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spending time in NH

So ... I've been spending a significant amount of time in New Hampshire recently.

In the course of my travels, I stopped in at a Dunkin' Donuts.

Huh? My iced latte is more expensive than it is in MA?

It was only pennies, but you get a few hundred thousand people and ... well, you do the math. I'm not sure about why (I asked, but of course the clerk had no clue). Perhaps because it was a location that is on the way to Hampton Beach.

On the bright side, I can still get cigs for $2 less a pack than they are here in MA ... but do I have to report supporting my bad habit to the MA Dept. of Revenue?

Did people enjoy the sales tax holiday?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I guess it's just what we needed

This story was in today's Washington Post.

Fans of John P. Marquand should be happy. And Richard Simkins, owner of The Grog ... and the Maritime Museum ...

Nice piece.

Your weekly dose by Michael Cook

As I read Daniel Potoki's recent column in the Daily News celebrating the success he and his friends believe they achieved by gathering in support of the Fire House Center's production of "The Laramie Project" in opposition to what people feared would be an appearance by members of the cult led by Fred Phelps, known as the Westboro Baptist Church, all I could think was, "Mr. Potoki must be very young."

As much as I abhor all that Phelps and his cult stand for, well meaning people like Mr. Potoki played right into Fred Phelps' hands.

The Westboro Baptist Church is a fringe group, even within the most anti-gay elements of the fundamentalist Right.

The fact Phelps and his cultists have picketed the funerals of brave young Americans who have died in our misguided wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because Phelps believes America has become too accepting of gay people, sent even the most anti-gay bigots within the Religious Right into retreat.

They understood the wacky tactics of Fred Phelps and his followers undermined their equally bigoted, anti-gay agenda.

This is all rather ironic for me.

I'm a fifty three year old gay man who came out of the closet long before doing so was either safe or fashionable.

In the 1990's, as the director of AIDS services at a large, regional non-profit organization, I frequently found myself engaged in bizarre political battles that were as much about "morality" as they were sound public health policy.

Those battles, on two different occasions, resulted in me receiving death threats, one of which was deemed so credible my former boss actually asked me to leave Gloucester and my home for a few days until the authorities could determine the true nature of the threat.

One threat, because it came through the mail postmarked Connecticut, required the Gloucester police to actually contact the FBI.

Those years and those battles taught me a lot.

The first lesson was, "You never back down from a bunch of bullies and bigots. If you do, they will ride rough shod over you for ever."

But another lesson learned, and one perhaps even more important than the one above, was to always pick your battles carefully.

Three summers ago I was living in Provincetown when Fred Phelps and his cult members decided to descend upon America's "gay hometown" in all their bigoted splendor.

When the news of their coming broke, community leaders, activists, and ordinary citizens came together to discuss how best to respond.

Amid the voicing of many opinions, in ways that were often heated and passionate, a consensus emerged that the best way to handle Fred Phelps and his cult followers was to just ignore them.

Word went out throughout the community to do just that.

The cultists arrived, took their appointed place on the green across from Town Hall on Bradford Street, were subsequently ignored and, within a day, they were gone.

Fred Phelps and his followers thrive on attention, publicity, and confrontation. They depend on it to maintain the illusion that they are some kind of legitimate force with which to be reckoned.

Ironically, with no doubt the best of intentions, the Daily News, the Current, the young people who gathered in a show of support and solidarity with gay men and lesbians at the Firehouse, and Mr. Potoki with his column, gave Fred Phelps much more attention and "air time" than he could ever have received if those same people had simply followed Provincetown's example and treated Phelps and his followers as they should always be treated - as people to be ignored and pitied rather than people to be confronted, feared, or rewarded with free publicity they do not deserve.

Now, I sincerely appreciate the show of support for gay people the demonstrators displayed, and I was moved that so many young people would take the time to stand in opposition to the kind of bigotry and hatred espoused by the likes of Fred Phelps and his followers.

But I would urge all those good people, especially those young people, if you truly do care about the rights and equality of gay men and women, to be sure you are registered to vote and that you do vote in November.

Here's why.

The Republican/Tea Party candidate running against John Tierney in the 6th Congressional District race, Bill Hudak, has publicly stated, and had posted on his website, that issues pertaining to people's civil rights should be put to popular votes.

He, of course, was referring to the issue of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, but such a stand also reveals a lot about how Mr. Hudak feels about civil rights in general, and it is a troubling stand indeed.

In addition, the GOP candidate for governor, Charlie Baker, has come out publicly in opposition to legislation at the State House that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered people, much as it is now illegal to discriminate based on a person's race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or because of a disability.

Ironically, when Charlie Baker was CEO of one of the state's largest health insurance providers, he supported and implemented just such an anti-discrimination policy in that organization. But today as a candidate, no doubt trying to woo what I call the "New Right/Tea Party" crowd that has emerged within the GOP, Charlie Baker has endorsed allowing public discrimination against transgendered people to continue with his opposition to a bill that seeks to do for all transgendered people in Massachusetts what Charlie Baker once did for his transgendered employees.

Go figure.

Anyway, this essay was not meant to, in any way, disparage the efforts of those people who gathered to offset the bigotry promoted by the likes of Fred Phelps and others on the American Right.

But it was meant to urge those same people to pick their fights carefully, and one way to do that, and not just in relation to gay rights, is to pay close attention to the stands and positions being put forth by those who are seeking real political power in our state and in this country today.

Educating yourselves about those matters, when all is said and done, is far more important than standing up to a fringe figure like Fred Phelps and his cultists who, in the bigger scheme of things, really are more to be pitied and ignored than they are feared or confronted.

Michael Cook
PV de Limon, Costa Rica
formerly of Nbpt

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mayor sets policy for paying legal bills

Mayor Donna Holaday last night sent notification to the City Council of her policy on paying legal bills because of the current "disconnect" in paying these bills.

All legal bills will now be received and time stamped by the Mayor's Office and will be entered into a new database ... bills will be tracked, as will the checks issued by the departments ... after two weeks, if no payment has been received by Kopelman & Paige (the city solicitor), the database will identify the check as delinquent.

"The goal of this policy is that it will create synergy among the departments required to participate in the payment process. It will also create accountability and will give the Mayor's Office the ability to quickly and easily identify."

(There was no reporter from the Daily News at last night's City Council meeting. What else do you want to know about?)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Twenty-six minutes!

That's how long the City Council took to come to a vote on dog poop. Twenty-six minutes.

The long and short of it is that they reduced the fines to $50, $75 & $100 from whatever they had originally proposed.

And then the discussion started about the part in the ordinance that says you can't dump your doggie's dump into a public barrel.

Twenty-six minutes later they decided to drop all language about where to dump the waste - because it kinda ruins the whole tourist vibe if you're forced to take doggie doo-doo home with you when you leave our fair city - and that was that.

As Councillor Barry Connell noted, the Council only took about 4 minutes to discuss a bond order of $18,500,000 for improvements to the water processing plant.

Ah, well ... I still get to step in poop because no one is going to enforce this out here on the island.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I've been out of touch

Hey there, my cat is gone, my mother is in the hospital (same week as cat disappeared) and in general I'm out of touch.

Of course, I always WAS somewhat out of touch anyway ...

But thank you all for your concern!

And hey, if I recall correctly, there were some legal bills that came floating in at the last moment at the end of FY09 ... from the mayor's office. It has happened before, and I'm sure it will happen again.

Let's not bicker and argue and who killed who.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lyons likes Hudson

Here's a story from the MetroWest Daily News about our former Superintendent of Schools, Kevin Lyons.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New principal for Brown School

Amy Sullivan has been selected as the next principal of the George W. Brown Elementary School.

Sullivan has been a principal for the past nine years for the Peabody Public Schools and the Scituate Public Schools. She has taught grades 1-4 for the Cambridge Public School System and the St. John the Evangelist School. She received her Master of Education degree from Harvard University and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Curry College.

Sullivan recently moved to Newburyport and is now a resident of the city.

(That's all the press release says.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What can it all mean?

I was standing at the meat counter in a local market recently and there was a tray of short cut steaks with only 2 pieces of meat left on it.

It reminded me of what the owner of Fowle's Market told me recently - that people don't buy the last of any food on a tray, in a bin, or anywhere else.

It's just human nature, I guess; except I bought both pieces and remarked that I was doing so because nobody else was going to do it ... (the guy behind the counter had apparently never noticed this trend in his customers).

So you have to wonder what this means, if it means anything, along with why the Fowle's guy's wine sales went up after he bought wine racks (as opposed to having the wine on shelves).

Do I need a diagnostic manual to decipher this bizarre behavior? Obviously, I'm no good at marketing ...

Monday, July 12, 2010

And finally ...

There were these transfers before the City Council tonight that involved transferring money to pay a settlement of $44,873.07 to former DPS Director Brendan O'Regan.

If you recall, he was removed from his position a while back by Mayor Donna Holaday.

The settlement is being paid out of funds from DPS - 40% from water, 40% from sewer and 20% from DPW/Highway.

The Council was very slick about swiftly approving all 3 transfers, but us reporter types were alert to the situation.

On another note, the water and sewer depts. combined have about $1 million in reserve funds!

Don't ask; or do ask and I'll do my best to explain.

Next City Council meeting

Ah ... I remember last year trying to park for the second July meeting of the City Council, which was during Yankee Homecoming.

I had to park all the way up by Kelley School ... which cost me about 5 mins. of walking, if that.

So the next City Council meeting will be on July 22, which is when the mayor has called a meeting with the Council for 7:30 p.m. about water (don't know what about water, yet).

All because of Yankee Homecoming!

Streetlight meeting (CORRECTED)

Tonight Ward 3 City Councillor Bob Cronin announced a meeting of the Public Safety standing committee for 7 p.m. on July 21.

The meeting will be in City Council Chambers and it is posted as a Committee-of-the-Whole (meaning the whole Council can be there).

Cronin told me (and DN reporter Katie Farrell Lovett) that the city pays a flat fee to National Grid for use of the streetlights.

So if one or two are not working, the city still pays the fee for it/them until someone lets National Grid know it's not working.

Along the same lines, Councillor Ari Herzog put forth an ordinance based on one in Gloucester about setting standards for "outdoor illumination of streets and public ways, property used for commercial and industrial uses and multi-family dwellings."

This relates to those "dark sky" lights, which EAC Chairman Mike Strauss said could be implemented as outdoor lights are replaced. Read this for more information about dark sky lights in Gloucester.

Your weekly dose: Yeah, I do like living in Gloucester

On a recent visit to the Clipper City to have lunch and a couple of beers with friends at a popular local establishment, one of my friends asked me, almost incredulously, "Do you really like spending this summer in Gloucester more than you did summers here in Newburyport?"

When I answered, "Yes", I thought my friend was going to lose part of his lunch.

He could not believe I could possibly prefer living in, as he put it, "...a dirty old city like Gloucester to a beautiful town like Newburyport."

Now, don't get me wrong, I love Newburyport. I have long standing ties to the community, although I have to say I think the Clipper City had a lot more genuine charm and character when it was not quite the perfectly manicured, almost Stepford-esque movie set that it is today. Newburyport was far more authentic when it had a little more Gloucester and a lot less Nantucket ambience to it.

And knowing many genuine long time locals, and many others, including artists, writers, and musicians, who moved to Newburyport thirty five and forty years ago as "not quite urban pioneers" because, if the truth be told, it was a place they could afford to live, I know I am not alone in that sentiment.

But it is about much more than just aesthetics and nouveau, upscale trendiness. Gloucester has one big quality in great quantity that people love to claim they celebrate in Newburyport, even though, in reality, they have virtually none of it..

The quality I am referring to is diversity.

Gloucester is chock full of it, ethnically, racially, linguistically, and socio-economically.

Newburyport, despite its proclamations celebrating tolerance and diversity and being a "No Place for Hate" community, is, overall, one of the most most racially non-diverse and lily white communities I have ever lived in.

I mean, it's pretty easy to celebrate tolerance and embrace diversity when most everyone in a community looks pretty much alike, speaks the same language, has frosted blonde "bob" cuts, and wears madras shorts and Topsiders .

It's far more difficult to do so when a community is genuinely diverse and struggling with all that that means, both in positive and negative ways, as Gloucester is today.

In the twelve years since I sold my house in the Lanesville section of Gloucester, for example,the number of Latino immigrants in the city has grown significantly.

I see that as something that will, long term, enrich the city, culturally and economically, much the same way the arrival of Italian and Portuguese immigrants did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

My sublet for the summer is located in the heart of downtown - just steps from the harbor front, Pavilion Beach, and a quick ten minute bike ride to Good Harbor. Not a bad location, and it is made even better because on a walk through the neighborhood with my dog, I know I will encounter a truly diverse community.

When I shop at the downtown Shaw's near my house, I am as likely to hear Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish spoken as I am English.

A stroll down Main Street into the East End guarantees I'll hear Luciano Pavarotti belting out some Puccini in Italian on the outside speakers at Virgilio's bakery. Can you imagine what would happen in Newburyport if, say, Agave, the Port Tavern, or Oeganos pumped Mexican, Irish, or Italian music out onto the street in an attempt to bring some cultural diversity to town?

Perish the thought!

A block from my apartment is an incredible Brazilian grocery store, and my new neighbors in the apartment on the first floor of the house I live in are a young Guatemalan couple who are celebrating the birth of their first baby - a boy.

The husband and young father, Diego, is a sous chef at the restaurant I work in. This young man has a work ethic few native born Americans could ever match and his commitment to his family is more than admirable, it is inspiring.

So, yeah, to answer my friend's question, "I am enjoying living again in Gloucester. It's not that it's 'better' than Newburyport. It's just 'different' and, frankly, it is a more honest and real community that is far more representative of the new America emerging in the early 21st century than Newburyport could ever claim to be, at least at this point in time."

Michael Cook
Gloucester &
Puerto Viejo de Limon, Costa Rica

formerly of Newburyport