Category Archives: Commentary

Commentary on whatever.

In Support LHS Downtown for 2/28/17 City Council Meeting

Good evening

I am the proud father of two graduates of Lowell High School, the first integrated coeducational public high school in the United States, and my wife and I know our children received a quality education at Lowell HS. They both went on to Boston University well prepared academically and socially as they thrived in the city.

To continue with and improve upon this high quality, there is no debate that the City of Lowell has to improve its high school facilities as soon as possible. I stand with the many people here tonight insisting that you put forward all 4 options to the MSBA.  

Ultimately, I am sure that keeping the high school downtown is the best solution for the city, and that the city council will take into account the deep and damaging impact that a move to the Cawley site would have to our community. We will talk about transportation costs, and downtown businesses. We will talk about alternative uses for development downtown. We need to, but we also need to recognize the irony of calling ourselves a city built on partnerships as we leave behind all the partners who have improved the lives of so many families in Lowell.

We talk about partnerships with groups like CTI, Girls Inc, the Lowell Community Health Center, the Career Center and many others, as we move their constituents miles away making access to their programs and services much more difficult.   It is vital to remember that for the dozens of ancillary groups, nonprofits and agencies that support the community — central access is key. We can not simply mouth the words of partnership and community taught to us by leaders like Tsongas and Mogan. The actions and decisions of Lowell must consistently and constantly prove this city to be the good-faith partner, the trusted friend and the unwavering champion of community.

We talk about the strength of Lowell being in its diversity and its arms open to all new arrivals, but at the same time we ignore the dissonance as we consider moving the largest facility supporting those same people and build a barrier between them and those support services. To me this is gross negligence of our responsibility to be good to those in need.

Tonight, I’m here to remind you of the voices that you can’t hear. I’m here to remind you of the thousands of families whose life will worse if you move the high school to Cawley. The families that are struggling to follow the arguments here because English is not their first language, the families who don’t have the luxury of a night off of work to come to a city council meeting because it’s more important that there is food on the table, and the voices of the many families who have yet to arrive in Lowell who will find it more difficult to access the help they need to assimilate into our community.

Then again, if you are counting voices for and against these proposals, shame on you — your job is to do what is best for this city, whether it is supported by the majority or not. If the majority wants something that is not good for the city, then it is your job to educate, inform and lead them. If they will not be led, it is your job to do the right thing, even if it might cost your seat on the council.

I am fully confident that the City Council will do it’s best to provide honest and complete answers to all the questions regarding the costs of development for the four plans and be good faith brokers, but I’d like to point out some of the things I expect to happen as an interested party.

The city council needs further answers as soon as possible on parking at Cawley (current plans show not enough). We need exact costs of building sidewalks and roads that will not be reimbursable by the state, and to do these things the city must DO a traffic study to see if that location is even possible.

Furthermore, the city must start to work immediately with the doctor’s office at 75 Arcand Drive the same way they are working on the article 97 changes to insure all options are clear, leaving no barriers to this project.

The council must deeply weigh the tremendous impact of losing the large size of the Irish Auditorium and the impact it would be to the art programs of the high school and in the community beyond. The size of an auditorium at a new location is limited by law to 750 seats. No small consideration when our city seal says, “Art is the Handmaid of Human Good”

The city council needs to be sure that any study of the economic impact of LHS in downtown takes into account far more than just the impact of students and faculty on the downtown businesses.

It is also about the parents who become familiar with downtown because of their children’s activities. It is about the many partners who hire the students with grants and economic development moneys from state, federal and private sources.

It is about attracting families to move to Lowell to raise their kids by offering an urban campus experience that none of the communities around us can offer. It is about keeping high-risk kids in school and helping them graduate to get better jobs and become a healthy part of the city’s present and future.

It is also about the multitude of other events, both education related and otherwise, that happen at LHS which show off our city and bring people from all around to experience the very best of our city.

If we fecklessly raise a generation of families afraid to be downtown, a generation who told we are moving the High School because downtown  is filled with drugs and homeless people, then yes, it will be a prophecy fulfilled and our downtown will completely die.  

I expect the city council to consider how incredibly difficult it has been to fill the many open parcels in the Hamilton Canal district, parcels that do not have the limitations inherent in a historic landmark. Developing the LHS site for alternative uses is not an easy matter of just giving it to UML, or selling it to a developer, or finding some big corporation to jump at the chance to be in our city. In all likelihood, LHS leaving downtown means many years of a slowly failing building  becoming an open wound in our heart.

I expect the city council to remember that the renovation downtown will solve the leaks, the cold, etc  – It will be a state of the art facility in the end, no different than the Cawley site. And I expect that the city council will understand that, while the construction period will be awkward and uncomfortable, it should not be a factor in determining the site for the high school for the next 50-75 years.

In the end, if a case can be made that our future would be better by making an enormous gamble on the Cawley site,  I’m sure our neighbors in Tewksbury will enjoy the new tax revenues that will be generated by Lowellians in their nearby restaurants and businesses.

Something a little different

Working on a bit of art that’s definitely my style but a different subject matter. Lately, the image of the ‘gun’ has been in the forefront of my consciousness. My views on guns are a lot more complicated than one might expect, and the symbolism of guns is something that I find endlessly interesting to explore and use to illustrate ideas that have nothing whatsoever to do with guns.

even the shortest giraffe is tall enough

being the hare, searching the savannah
i see the giraffe standing at the watering hole

perhaps a lion is out there, perhaps hungry
perhaps seeing the giraffe as well

being the hare, there on the savannah
i say nothing as I watch for the lion
i say nothing as I watch the giraffe

later, I am thirsty, I leap a thousand times
across the dry grass until I am there
with the giraffe

‘giraffe, do you worry that you are spotted
by a lion at the watering hole?”

perhaps the giraffe is scared, perhaps hungry
perhaps seeing the lion as well

being the hare, there on the savannah
i wait as the giraffe says nothing
I wait as the giraffe watches for lions

now, I am sated, i say, “giraffe,
you will always be spotted
and you will always be tall enough to see
off into the distance and run”

perhaps the giraffe is laughing, perhaps angry
perhaps knowing I’m a fool as well

being the hare, there on the savannah
i smile as the giraffe leaves me wondering
about the beauty of the one that runs
without claws or teeth.

A Caveman Diet: Of Meat & Madness

i see them hungry, the cavemen
hunting mammoth near the mountains.
the cavewoman at home,
hungrier – wondering

not of protein, but of soul –
this diet of hers, it is cold
for the heart – a gathering of berries
of nuts, of bones

the cavemen come home
not today, not tomorrow
but soon – with fat and ivory
with fur and meat

the cavewoman does not smile
she tends the fire
a hide must be tanned

i hear echoes in the paint
on the walls of caves in France
i smell loss in the distance
between now and then

I see the caveman singing
his story into the embers
as they flail upward toward the stars
– the cavewoman does not sing along
she is hungry
for more than this

Courage and the Flames that Burn

Malala, it is dark here
but for one light –
your voice, like a song
reminds me how it feels to know
yes, i have a soul.

A star has cried out
from behind the cloud,
“Malala, I hear you
let me sing with you!”

Another, then another,
then another, a thousand thousand stars
shout, “Malala, we sing with you!”

Malala, it was so dark here
but for this single light
and your voice, “I will answer him with peace
and dialog.”

The moon, she is o-mouthed and amazed
by you Malala, by you and your song.
She joins in.

We all join your choir.
None of us are free so long as one woman is shackled
by the chains ignorance.

We all celebrate your choice.
We all rejoice in the victory of your every smile.
We all join your choir!

I whisper to you, Malala, “Yes,
Now I understand,
None of us win this war with a raised hand
only with a raised voice.”

All of us together, Malala,
“We will answer him with peace.”

If you believe this young lady’s message is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize for which she has been nominated – share this poem and video.

For the Love of All that is Holy

It is one of my most sincere and deeply held beliefs is that the music & lyrics a person loves reveals something about the inner reaches of their heart, their character, and their soul. When I say ‘love’ – I don’t mean dance around and laugh to, or tap a toe to, or sing along with.
When I say ‘the music a person loves,’ I mean the music that sets every one of their nerve endings on fire with the most profound realization of living. The music that fills them with boundless joy or unfathomable despair or reckless hope. When you know which songs bring a person to that place where their aware of every cell in their body, then you know who they are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging lyrics or style or genre. I’m not judging at all. I’m talking about what brings a person to life. I’m talking about watching notes explode in their eyes and words make them cry and have them say things like, “When I die, you have to play this at my funeral.” I’m talking about laugher so raucous their toes curl and their belly muscles are pulled. I’m talking about the kind of connection to songs that forces them to learn to sing them, and play them, and share them with everyone they know because it is so meaningful and uplifting to them.

So, the “C is for Cookie” is just as beautiful in this regard as Metallica’s “One”, and classic tunes like “Eine Nacht Muzik.” This isn’t some endorsement or judgment of any style of music or song, it’s really a call to search out that poetry of life that lifts you up and makes you feel too deeply to explain in just one lifetime. And it’s also a call to admire and respect that poem, that lyrics, that tune in every one you meet. Everyone. Every stranger. Every son. Every daughter, wife, mother, aunt, uncle, grandfather, friend of a friend, salesperson, and cashier. All of them live to some tune, some poem you need to read. Dont’ forget that. Just – don’t. You need that in your heart, whether it is happiness or ache, suffering or salvation. I’m not telling you what music to listen to, I’m telling you what music to look for.

One of my great joys as a father is to see my children revealed in their passions and loves – their music – because I see that I didn’t raise a boy and a girl, I raised a man and a woman who are unafraid to fail, who are courageous enough to love, and who are as kind as they are brilliant, as strong as they are tender, and as loyal as they are beautiful.

One of my great joys as a husband is to see my wife revealed in her passions and loves, because in her I see that I didn’t marry just a pretty face, I married a beautiful woman who is stronger than me, more fearless than me, more courageous than me, more brilliant than me, more kind and more decent. When I put on her music, and listen to the songs she loves most, that’s what I hear.

I wish every husband could see his wife the way I see mine. I wish every father could see his children the same way. People wonder how an artist sees the world so differently from them, and I suppose it depends on the artist, but for me, I see it through the music and the lyrics. I see life through the unfiltered lens of poetry.

So, yes, I believe music is even more than a reflection of the musician or the listener. The music each of us choose to play, to sing, listen to – the music we choose to love – also affects who we are. So, I suppose, that explains why I am always searching for new songs, and connecting with new people. I am on an endless search for those songs that make might make me who i want to be.

I keep saying songs, and of course, I do mean songs, but i also mean poems. I find it completely un-confusing, but others might disagree. I do not differentiate between the two in this sense.

I’m a very simple man.

Regarding Poetry

A man writes a poem, or a woman does, those are the only two ways a poem gets written.

You can argue with me about the nature of poetry and whether a sweet maple tree, red leafed and dancing on an october wind, is a poem, but if it is, it will remain unwritten until a man or a woman write it.

Personally, I believe that usually the question of a poem’s creation is far less interesting than the question of its reason. Why does that poem exist? Was it considered and crafted? Was it spewed unbidden and irrational from the gut? Was it for someone or against someone? What was the purpose intended by the poet?

Not all poetry has a purpose. Not all poets know what the purpose of their poem is when they write it.  Not all poems mean anything, and that isn’t necessarily good or bad. But I do try to have a purpose when I write. I try to mean something. I try to say something. I try to craft something.

It’s not the only way. It’s not the only good way. It’s not the only reason to write poetry.

But it is my way.

At this very moment, right now as I write this, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people are writing their own poems. They are sitting down with paper and pen, or at a keyboard and tapping out their thoughts to record them.  Of all of those thousands of words, thousands of ideas, millions of ideas, millions of words, only a comparative few will be shared with a wide audience. Most will be read by a few people, then lost. Some will be read only by the writer, and others will just hang in the ether to be occasionally gawked at by those smart enough to recognize what they mean.

That’s the nature of writing – and poetry especially – it is always highly unlikely that anyone will actually see it, and if they do, it’s just as unlikely they’ll care about what they’ve read. The saddest part of this is that ultimately the point of writing is to be read and understood and have the thoughts shared cared about. A writer writes to inflict his (or her) ego upon the reader.  It is the minor fascism of ideas shared that drives us, one and all, to communicate with the people around us.

So, this is the why behind my poetry. The why, it seems to me, is more important than the how of it. Anyone can write a poem. Anyone can share the poem. It is a very cheap activity, so the question becomes not can I, but why should I?