i'm calling bullshit (yet again) on the lowell sun and its publisher and (every other yahoo who reads it and agrees) with its editorial bias and inexplicably inexorable tendency towards characterizing downtown residents as of a "middle and upper income group" and thus somehow distant and isolated from the "middle class population that cares deeply about remaining in the city".
complete bullshit. (and wtf are these people smoking to think it and say it???)
i'm no demographer, but if you walk the street in front of my building you know who you are going to see 3 people out of 4? i'll tell you--you'll see government assistance grantees sitting in various ambulatory aids and on park benches killing time between their monthly checks and looking forward to the few days a month they can choose not to go without three square meals and a cup of coffee instead of paying their ever-increasing bills. (seriously--a woman in my building cooks meals to bring out to them because she can't stand to see how the rest of the city and the rest of the world walks by without seeing them).
want to know one of the largest reasons why this particular "middle and upper income group" designee bought a condo downtown instead of a home somewhere else in the city? because i couldn't afford to live anywhere else, that's why. want to know what the two bedroom condos next door are listed for these days? under $100,000, and several under $50,000. care to guess how many of the "middle class population that cares deeply about remaining in the city" live in a home that's valued at less than that? we could always head down to the assessors office and ask, but i'll tell you right now you're not going to find many.
yet there's a myth propagated by the sun's publisher and editor, apparently contrived to pander to its readership in the outer neighborhoods, that the downtown somehow represents a privileged class of artier-and-richer-than-you "blow ins" who neither care nor will stay to fight for this city.
and that's bullshit.
complete and utter bullshit.
ever meet an artist and take a real good look at their clothes, and, if they are one of the lucky few, the car that they try to drive when it's still running? ever stop to think about what it means to toil endlessly to create things that other people enjoy, but will still 99% of the time decline to pay for? (what's the last piece of hand-created art you ever paid for, and how much did you pay for it, and how far do you think that much money goes when you're trying to live on it?) ever shake hands with a musician and ask them if they can afford to play music and still not work another fulltime job (or two) in order to pay their bills? ever remember what it's like to be a student putting yourself through school and living with roommates and on ramen noodles just to be able to afford one more semester and hope for better in the future? ever talk to those matriculated to the pair of beauty schools on central street about their income and their prospects once out in their service jobs that they don't even have probability to be able to find? ever talk to a downtown shop owner who both lives and works here about the economics of trying to survive catering to this particular neighborhood?
"middle and upper"? are you kidding me?
because if the answer to any one of these questions above is yes, then, congratulations, you've just glimpsed the tip of the economic iceberg that is life in downtown lowell, and the real story that remains every day uncovered in our newspaper, and in the opinions of far too many of our outer neighborhood denizens. see those pretty and fancy mill residences, like loft 27 and mass mills? i'm here to tell you (since your newspaper won't) that they and many (most?) other rental places downtown are surviving in desperation by housing section 8
recipients, and not theirs or anyone else's idea of "middle and upper". (check out the "downtown disorder" crime stats, and then ask the superintendent what percentage of those numbers are domestic calls for the riverview towers).
i'm a lucky guy. i save my money and i am happy and proud to spend it downtown. but i'm so far in the minority to be able to afford to do even just that much, that if you ask anyone who knows me, they're fairly likely to tell you that i'm the guy they know that spends more time and money out and about down here than anyone else they know, and i'm here to tell you i'm doing all that on what's left of a salary after alimony, child support and college tuition takes their bite out of me. (and other personal obligations that i'm too proud to tell you about here, but that take every last nickel, believe you me). i have no idea how a shopkeeper plans to make their living on that, but "middle and upper" is absolutely not going to describe it.
ever eat in ricardo's or la boniche and look around and try to guess how many of the "middle and upper" folks are actually residents of downtown? maybe you're at a disadvantage because you don't live down here and wouldn't recognize a downtown resident if they shook your hand or asked you for change for a cup of coffee. but i live down here, and i do recognize downtown residents fairly well after 5 years, and i'll tell you the people dropping that money on their "fine dining" are far and away from elsewhere. maybe they're the "middle class population that cares deeply about remaining in the city" but they're not from downtown here. and you want to know why? because precious few people i know living in my neighborhood can afford to eat there.
want to know where downtownies eat? places like viet-thai. (all you can eat for lunch for $7.95, and where entrees for dinner start at $5.95). sammy's pizza. (two large cheese pies for $15.99 with a coupon). robinson's. (where a cheeseburger costs you less than $4). that's where.
want to know where we're going? nowhere.
and we're proud to say that.
because we love this city. and we're every bit the "population that cares deeply about remaining in the city". we're just a hell of a lot closer to be out on the street than a lot of people ever care to consider or realize, and sick and completely bullshit and tired of being characterized as some sort of privileged class of "blow-in" assholes.
i'd gladly take the cash if someone were offering to become something more like that, as i'm sure would 99% of downtown. but nobody's offering, and we're continuing to do the best we can with what we have. (no thanks to the lowell sun).
ironically, one of my neighbors just made an economic decision to stop subscribing to the paper. go figure. in this world of never-enough, it's pretty clear what's not worth it.
yes i am.
edited to add, because i've seen comments elsewhere questioning the point about loft 27 and other places and section 8: this is no word of a lie, and just because you or someone you know applied for an apartment and saw the size of the rent they ask retail, does not mean that the hallways aren't already full of section 8 people being used to keep occupancy rates up while they troll for "middle and upper" would-be downtownies to pay full freight, of which there aren't enough to even keep an apartment building afloat. (and if you like, i'll show you where the real estate agents hide their key lockboxes outside the big condos downtown so you can see the dozens of them outside the buildings making mute testimony to the futility of trying to find buyers). seriously--get downtown here and see for yourself. the reason businesses have so much trouble down here is because too many of their neighbors can't afford rent, let alone food, let alone to go out. but the sun's publisher still calls us "middle and upper". disgusting, irresponsible, and loathsome. but that's our sun.