frat boy is as frat boy does
years ago i used to serve on the town finance committee where i once lived, and i would drive home from the school gym with all the rest of the town meeting attendees after each get-together and find myself nostalgic for a similar memory of summer camp when we'd all return to our tents after an evening campfire. (being such a small town, there was little other reason for cars to be on the road at such late hours in such numbers, much like numerous coincident walkers through nighttime mountain woods). i always found something inspiring in knowing my neighbors, and feeling connected to them, even in sharing something as individual as a trip home from being out in and among.
so it is, years later, that i found myself divorced and contemplating what sort of life i would choose to lead. the standard practice seemed to be buying a matching suburban/rural house to ones spouse, and trying to mirror the living space for the kids so they had something similar from which to shuttle back and forth. but that felt all kinds of wrong to me. why shouldn't my children have ONE home and no attempt to dilute that with another? why shouldn't i have a life beyond a suburban couch in front of a suburban tv, exhausted from raking leaves or shoveling driveways or cleaning gutters? (more time to spend with the kids, for one thing).
the answer i didn't expect was found on my first trip onto market street and meeting my auntie anita who had the keys to every sort of living choice right here in lowell. (you should all have such a kind and patient real estate agent).
i chose a condo because it came with a condo fee, and not a yard, driveway and gutter system that was any of my direct responsibility to maintain. i chose a downtown condo because i still had to choose between my couch and some other life, and maybe it was instinct, or maybe it was blind luck, but i chose a place where my living room could become my neighborhood. and i took many active steps to ensure it could be so:
1. i didn't have cable tv (for a couple of years actually) so i wouldn't have excuse to sit home when the bruins or other favorite team was on--i'd have to go out to a bar to watch. (after a couple years i had faith that i wasn't going to sit in, so i sprang for the cable for convenience and having friends over to watch with me).
2. i worked from home so my water cooler could become my neighborhood coffeeshops and lunch places. when the conference calls were over, and i felt like enjoying the warmth of human contact, i could walk out to the street and be among my neighbors instantly. no driving, no waiting.
3. i bought canvas shopping bags for walking to neighborhood grocery stores, and bike racks for transporting things longer distances, though i find i tend to just walk as far as i need, and the only places i ride would be my dealer (my car dealer, and, yes, i do have an addiction), and just for fun.
4. i familiarized myself with riverhawks hockey and spinners baseball and indulged myself live sports whenever i pleased.
but you all know what i'm really on about, and the major distraction slash reward was, is, and will likely always be the music.
when i was fresh out of college i lived and worked in brighton and virtually lived at the clubs there. willie alexander. the cars. jon butcher axis. j. geils. the neighborhoods. bands that got national record contracts and huge radio play, and bands that simply just couldn't be squeezed into the formats and were just as good if not better. i was experiencing something that was and is truly rare in this world--an explosion of musical creativity that fed on itself and just kept growing and getting better. i can't claim to be any more tasteful than the next person, but i can claim to be as experienced as most when it comes to live music.
so it is that i'm perusing the boston music award nominations, and can't help but notice how many lowell acts are up for the titles this year. melvern taylor. jen kearney. (the first two lowell bands with whom i fell in love on my birthday almost five years ago). dee tension. amy black. sir bob nash. (for production). and the list goes on. many people here don't see it, because they don't go out and they just don't know how good the music is and continues to become moreso here. but i begin to feel it the same way i felt it thirty years ago in boston. something more is going to come from this. someone. and it will become many someones, because they all know each other because they all share this amazing place with each other, and the creativity just builds on itself.
so, you tell me. should i be like folks who prefer their living room to be their living room, and their couch to be their only seat as they watch their life go by?
you know my answer. when the laptop shuts and the work is done and most folks are poking into their refrigerator for more ballast to keep them pinned to their couch cusions, i'm raking through cometolowell.com and facebook and everywhere else i learn these things are happening, and i walk across my living room which is really all of downtown lowell, and i choose my seat for every evening where i can have the life i prefer.
and when it's over for each night, i like the fact that i know the people walking home with me through the streets, and that we have this in common.
we support our city with our time and our money and our hearts. we are the lowell that is growing and thriving. and we don't need to make excuse for how many years we've been doing it, because we are doing it. i have friends who have lived all their lives here, and i have friends who just arrived. and i'm somewhere in the middle, where it is that i always enjoy to be.
get out. see what's happening here. it's a different life than you know, but it's one of the most rewarding i have ever known.
shangri-lowell. best place on earth.