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News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Sunday in the Park

A favorite painting of ours is George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte (Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte from 1884), a pointillist work which shows all levels of society enjoying a day away from the city and the cares of the workaday world. Today we felt the need to be near the water and headed over to the Esplanade which was certainly getting lots of use. Here’s what we saw: dog walkers, joggers, baby carriages, kids on bikes, trikes, scooters, skateboards and roller blades; there were families, couples, seniors, and solo strollers; sunbathers, shade-seekers, swimmers and sand-castle builders – the beach was crowded! We saw lots of groups settled in for the day with lawn chairs, grills, and a latin beat sounding from car stereo speakers. Some were playing catch, tossing a football, blowing bubbles, flying kites – we even saw some tight-rope walkers! There were people fishing and people boating – many jet skis flew by. People were eating ice cream cones, sipping iced coffee drinks, and having picnics on blankets by the water. The bright sun, sparkling water, light breeze and nearly cloudless skies made the scene like so much like Seurat’s painting! We were happy to be out with fellow Lowellians on this Sunday afternoon.

posted in Art, City Life | 0 Comments

Lowell Humane Society

What do you know about the Lowell Humane Society? I visited their website today and learned a lot, first of all that they are putting technology to good use, with a blog, rotating pictures of featured pets, and tweets about pets and donation needs. Pretty impressive! As a private, non-profit organization (in operation since 1873), they do not receive any public funds and rely on donations to fund their tireless efforts to:

prevent cruelty, provide care for homeless and distressed animals and educate the public about responsible pet ownership.

Their fundraising efforts include monthly fundraisers at local restaurants, where you stop in and get some food (you got to eat anyway, right?) and the restaurant donates some funds to the charity. The next one is two nights in June, Monday and Tuesday, June 4th and 5th at Chili’s in Lowell.

Of course, the reason I know so much about this worthy organization is that my cat is missing! His name is Milo, black and white, very friendly, in case you see him around the Highlands.

posted in City Life, Local Groups | 1 Comment

Women’s Week in Lowell

February seems shorter than usual this year, but that means the 15th Annual Women’s Week starts Sunday! There is an impressive list of events lined up: a quilt raffle and quilting workshops at the New England Quilt Museum; a display about fashion in America since 1700 at the American Textile History Museum; a mill girl walking tour; the latest MRT play, Black Pearl Sings, and MUCH MORE – really too many events to name. Of course, there’s also the annual Breakfast celebration at the Lowell Inn and Conference Center (that’s Monday, from 7 – 9 am; tickets $25). There’s also a rock concert (Mothers of Rock 2010) and a Living History presentation about women in New Bedford during the height of the whaling boom. I’m amazed at the variety and quality of the offerings and am planning some serious schedule-juggling to take advantage of these opportunities. Take a look at the event calendar to plan your Women’s Week.

posted in City Life, Local Groups | 0 Comments

No Parking Ban – NOT!

Just checked out the city website to see this under the News link:

Snow Emergency – No Parking Ban

At first glance, I took that to mean: there is a snow emergency, but there is not a parking ban. Luckily, I clicked on the link to read more. It actually means there is a “no parking” ban – which doesn’t make sense. Howver, there is, of course, a ban, and it takes effect at noon. The ban will be in effect “until such time that the ban is lifted.” Government-speak, I love it!

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City planner wows at breakfast

It was early in the day for an hour-long lecture about ways to make downtown more vibrant, but you wouldn’t have known it by the audience as they listened attentively to City Planner Jeff Speck at the Lowell Plan breakfast this morning. Speck visited Lowell this week and presented his thoughts as part of the Lowell Plan’s 30th anniversary celebration. A “private, non-profit economic development organization” comprising many of the city’s top business leaders, the Lowell Plan can point to many contributions to the city’s re-invention over the last three decades. Add this morning’s breakfast to that list.

Speck was one of those speakers we hope our children get in school: inspiring, entertaining, and educational. Some of his points about Lowell: It has a unique and timeless architecture, the canals are an under-utilized resource, and the high school’s downtown location brings a huge benefit of humanity and energy to the city. Other observations: Our downtown is not walker friendly or enticing to pedestrian traffic, there are too many one-way streets and not enough street signs, we have the least bicycle-friendly city he has ever seen (this point especially resonates as someone who loves to bike and is afraid of cars). Speck showed how a four-lane street downtown doesn’t encourage safe walking or biking, but by reducing it to three lanesthe middle for turningthere is room on either side for bicycle lanes. His point about traffic in general: You don’t want people speeding by your downtown; you want them to stop, walk, and shop. For that, you need parallel parking, interesting things to see as you walk, and lots of other folks around. His final message to the group: the Lowell Plan needs a plan, and it should be one that doesn’t make the mistake of duplicating suburban sprawl, but instead builds on the urban beauty and history that is already uniquely ours.

posted in City Life, Local Groups | 0 Comments

Include the Friends in your weekend plans

There’s a lot going on around the city this weekend with the Lowell Open Studios and Arts Festival beginning tonight and running through Sunday. This year’s event will also feature a Youth Arts Recognition ceremony in honor of all the young people who participated in the festival. In addition, the Friends of Lowell High School will host a party on Saturday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the group. Along with great music by LHS alumnus Ralph Funaro, delicious desserts, and a chance to thank founding members for an astounding three decades of supporting one of the best urban high schools in the state, attendees will get to participate in a fabulous silent auction featuring more than 50 items. Money raised from the event will go toward the FLHS Scholarship Fund. Tickets are $30 each or $50 per couple, and can be purchased at the door Saturday evening, Sept. 26, at Long Meadow Golf Club, 165 Havilah Street, Lowell, 7-11 pm. Earlier this week, The Sun published an article about the group’s history and current role at the high school. Saturday’s anniversary celebration will not only mark the group’s longevity and impact on decades of high school students, but should also be a rocking good time.

posted in Art, City Life, Education, Local Groups, Lowell High, Youth | 0 Comments

Lowell recycling highlighted in Globe North

Great news in the Boston Globe today regarding Lowell’s recycling program although you wouldn’t know it by the headline (Recycling doubles, but many left out). Yes, there are still many households, particularly apartment and condominium dwellers, that have been unable to participate in Lowell’s new recycling program, but the statistics from those who can participate are truly impressive: “Compared with the same six-month period last year, paper recycling has increased by 41.5 percent since March, while recycling of tin, aluminum, and plastic products increased by 53.2 percent…” Those are huge increases in a short time period and clearly demonstrate that the majority of Lowellians want to recycle.

The article focuses, however, on tenants who are not able to participate in the city’s program. One example shows how tenants had their private trash hauler include recycling as part of its disposal contract, which resulted in reducing waste by a third and ultimately saved money on disposal fees. This could be a solution for many of the multi-unit buildings left out of the city’s solid waste and recycling program. Overall, the city’s renewed focus on recycling is economically and environmentally smart, and kudos to all involved in continuing efforts to improve the program.

posted in City Life | 0 Comments

Go the speed limit, please

Junior drivers (under 18 years old) must travel the speed limit. If they don’t, the consequences they face are excessive and expensive, such as losing their license and being required to retake tests, courses, and fines costing more than a thousand dollars. Yet, drive on any of our highways and you will find most adults travel much faster than the posted speed—typically at least 10 miles faster. This presents junior drivers with a difficult choice: Travel with the flow of speeding traffic and risk losing your license, or travel at the posted speed and deal with cars (and trucks!) tailgating so close it’s terrifying as they pass you on both sides, all of which are very dangerous.

My son will take the road test for his driver’s license in two weeks. This test culminates a substantial financial investment as well as months of work to become a proficient driver, knowledgeable of state driving laws. The process entailed passing a written exam to get his driving permit ($30), completing a driver’s education course ($699) that included 30 hours of classroom instruction, 12 hours driving with an instructor and six hours observing another student, as well as 40 hours driving with an adult. My husband also had to attend a two-hour parent education class. The road test, which will be held at the Lowell RMV, will cost an additional $70. All told, the process of becoming an under-18 driver in the Commonwealth requires a significant investment of time and money (about $800, not counting gas). I’m not complaining about this. I’m also not upset about the state’s excessive crackdown of youthful violators (see this post). Whether it’s speeding or unlawfully carrying passengers before the required six months, junior drivers must know we are serious about these safety rules and that violators will be punished. Yet, it is difficult for them to follow the posted speed even by staying in the right lane, where cars are entering and exiting our highways at fast speeds. When general highway traffic is travelling at 70 mph, and people are speeding by on both sides and tailgating, how are young drivers supposed to follow the rules? Unfortunately, in another example of “Do as I say, not as I do,” these driving rules (similar to attitudes about alcohol) do very little to change harmful aspects of our culture. As adults, we all share some guilt and loss in that.

posted in City Life, State Concerns, Travel | 2 Comments

Good to get back for the festival

After weeks of out-of-state family reunions (both sides) and two destination weddings, I was relieved to get home late last night in time to participate in the last day of the Folk Festival. I love live music, ethnic food, and all kinds of people rambling about, so the setting was perfect. Even the torrential downpour at the end was refreshing—a dramatic ending that has become as much a tradition as the steamy hot weather and the fantastic food. (Past festivals I remember doing the polka on St. John’s Street or frantically grabbing last-minute Greek and Laotian food deals as the skies opened up.) Despite current economic woes and cranky politics as usual, there are lots of things to like about our fair Mill City, and the annual Folk Festival is one of them. Hope you got to enjoy it too.

posted in City Life | 0 Comments

Home is where the film is

Last Friday, I received a hand-delivered flyer from Jillian, a Location Scout for the upcoming film “The Fighter,” due to begin shooting in Lowell over the next few weeks. Jillian was interested in possibly using our home as a setting for the film based on the life of local celebrity boxer, Micky Ward. To say my kids were excited is an understatement; of course they immediately fantasized about meeting stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in person, not to mention how “awesome” it would be to have our house in a movie. “We’re definitely buying a copy of this movie,” announced my teenager. For my part, all I could think about was getting the house clean before they came. True to her word, Jillian arrived Monday and took photographs throughout the house, the porches, yard, and from the top-floor windows looking out to Tyler Park. According to her, the film includes a scene where the main character brings a girl to a beautiful Victorian and she says, “You live here?!” only to discover that he lives in a tiny apartment inside the Victorian, which has been converted to a rooming house. Hearing that, I figured our inside didn’t match the setting they were looking for, but Jillian said they may use outside shots of the house or ones from inside looking down at the park—so there was still hope. Her parting comment nailed my doubts though: “The director was looking for a yellow house,” she said, and seeing my disappointment added: “They have been known to paint houses the color they want,” she noted, as we gazed up at the three, very tall floors of turret that is the front of my house. “Or maybe, he’d be okay with the purple…We’ll let you know.”

Let’s just say, I’m betting our big, old, beautiful, purple house will remain the setting for family Christmas cards and movies of the home-grown kind only, and that’s okay with me.

posted in City Life | 0 Comments

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