Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Getting a Candle on Lowell History

Earlier this week, I wrote about the fun and history up at Mill No. 5 on Jackson Street - tonight we take that history downtown, and give it the Boott!
It was a special night in downtown Lowell thanks to the folks at the Lowell National Historical Park - An Evening with the Mills Girls of Lowell.
The event was one in about a million or so special events the park is hosting this year in conjunction with the National Park Service's centennial celebration (lots more to come on this, especially as the special anniversary day looms closer in August.  A different kind of loom than the Mill Girls are accustomed to.)
On Tuesday, about 100 people packed into the Tsongas Industrial Center to first watch a Mill Girls re-enactment performance from Marcia Estabrook, who's been portraying historic women at schools, museums and theaters for more than two decades.  She performed We Are Not Machines to a packed room at the Tsongas, playing dual roles of pro-mill Mary Paul and Sarah Bagley, instigator of  turnouts and strikes.
Tagging along with me for this night out was Andrew, who just happens to be working on a Mill Girls project as part of his grad school work at Simmons.
This night provided an opportunity for the Writer to strike an iconic pose or two at Boardinghouse Park.
Our portion of the candelight tour was led by the latest incarnation of Mill Girls, who also happened to be one of Andrew's buds from Lowell High School, Emily.
Because sometime, as local fave photog Tory Germann can attest to, ordinary things look different when shot in black and white. 

Inside the boardinghouse, we stopped by the dining room, where LNHP curator Jack Herlihy entertained folks with his piano.
The dining room didn't have its full 25-40 occupants.  We must have just missed them.
Many of them were girls between the ages of 15 and 30, usually always unmarried.  For their efforts, they got housing, moral supervision, cultural opportunities, and hey - steady work!
In the Keeper's Room, baked goods abounded.
Upstairs, Andrew got his chance at a shot with an honest-to-goodness Mill Girl 

Next time this gig is up for grabs, be sure to hoof it over to the Boott!
And keep an eye out this year for the rest of the Lowell National Historical Park's events to celebrate the National Parks Centennial
Check out their website HEREto learn more!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Milling About on a Saturday Afternoon

In my youth, virtually every Saturday my brother Jimmy would take me into Harvard Square in Cambridge. It's still one of my favorite places to visit.  I used to love the bookstores, especially the Coop, and obviously, the comic shops like the Million Year Picnic.  I'd always stop at Nini's Corner for a magazine or two.  Jimmy would do his record store stops. And of course, Harvard Square is also home to the Brattle Theater, a treasure I've only appreciated more with age.
Here in Lowell, we've got our own version of Harvard Square, albeit condensed to one entire floor of a historic fabric mill.  Nestled inside the historic mills at the end of Jackson Street in Lowell lies Mill No. 5, occupying the fourth floor of 250 Jackson Street.
The marketplace is one of Lowell's true hidden gems, and a favorite pitstop for Andrew and I, especially for movies and special events.
In case you haven't been there, Mill No, 5 is in the last mill on the left-hand side of Jackson Street, near the soon-to-be-built courthouse, currently an empty lot.
From the mill's own website Mill No. 5, enter through the iron gate to the main entrance at the end of the tunnel on the left.  Wifi is strong and free with no time limits.
This week's spotlight event?
Today was the third annual Pulp and Press paper themed marketplace event held throughout the mill, and it was a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
The hallway was packed with vendors of independent books, digital and fine art prints, vintage ephemera, and a ton of other stuff that I couldn't do justice with the written word.
First stop: the music maestro's madhouse, Vinyl Destination
Where of course, Dave Perry himself was busy helping keeping music on vinyl alive for generations to come
Most everyone who knows us know that Andrew and I are book fiends.  Bookstores rank high among our favorite stomping grounds, no matter where we roam.
And today for Andrew, it meant perusing the stacks of Serpentine
Which today, rearranged its green-bound novels in honor of the upcoming high holiday on March 17
Andrew found the fabled Last Safe.  Unfortunately, he didn't have the right combination to discern its contents.
Jonesing for some Joan Crawford but aren't in the mood for wire hangers?  Might want to check out the Luna Theater's latest offerings, then.
Around the corner from the Luna Theater - Andrew's favorite place to take in a flick these days - the Pollard Memorial Library hosted an Author Round-Up featuring local small press.
Not surprisingly, I found THIS GUY there, Lowell's Paul Marion, whose retirement exploits were chronicled in a blog post earlier this week.
The guy is so passionate about poetry and local print, it exudes from his every pore.  Andrew could have listened to him talk literature all afternoon.
Loom Press and Bootstrap Press hosted tables, and the other tabletops featured the works of writers like David Moloney, Jacquelyn Malone, Richard P. Howe Jr., Robert Forrant, Sean Casey, FreeVerse, Stephen O'Connor (Andrew snagged his compilation of short stories, Smokestack Lightning), Matt Miller, Michael Casey, Masada Jones and probably a bunch more I missed.
Regular readers of Wicked Good might probably know that Andrew's immersed in a master's program at Simmons College in the Writing Children's Literature program.  So naturally, he struck up a conversation with Rebecca Emberley of www.twolittlebirdsbooks.com  to talk children's literature and getting published.  Won't be long......
So there you have it, a two minute Cook's Tour of Mill Number 5, one of the true treasures of the Mill City.  If you haven't been there yet, get your butt down there.
Apologies to the other vendors in some of my usual haunts that I didn't get a chance to support today.  But we'll be back!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

You Got It Made, Marion

One of Lowell's living literary legends called it a day on Thursday - at least a sort of day.
Because nobody really believes Paul Marion is going to fade quietly into the sunset.

Lowell's poet laureate and resident aficionado on all things Beatles/Bob Dylan/Jack Kerouac/South Common/Lowell officially retired from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and was feted by hundreds of his friends and colleagues alike on Thursday night, with his wife, Rosemary, naturally, by his side.  Sadly, I couldn't make it to the event in person.
But if I could, though, I'd like to honor the man here, at a Wicked Good blog.

And this time, the blog post won't be in my words, it'll be in the words of some of Paul's favorite peeps.  So to speak.  A different Ballad of a Thin Man.
So without, any further ado, a tribute to Sir Paul - the fifth, sixth, or seventh Beatle. We've lost count. I'm not going to attribute the quotes or lyrics to their authors.  I leave that to Paul, who, if he's truly worth his salt in literature and music, can credit these with his eyes closed.

"the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."

(Yankee Magazine)

Now the moon is almost hidden, the stars are beginning to hide
The fortune telling lady has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel and the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he's dressing, he's getting ready for the show
He's going to the carnival tonight on Desolation Row
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

You’ve been with the professors
And they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read
It’s well known

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

"What's in store for me in the direction I don't take?"

Now they asked me to read a poem
At the sorority sister's home 
I got knocked down and my head was swimmin'
I wound up with the Dean of Women
Yippee ! I'm a poet, and I know it
Hope I don't blow it.

"Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn.  Climb that goddamn mountain."

So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue

"The page is long, blank, and full of truth.  When I am through with it, it shall probably be long, full, and empty with words."

"Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road."

Best of luck to you, Paul, you're one of a kind.  Folks, if you haven't already, check out Paul's book, Mill Power: the Origin and Impact of Lowell National Park, available everywhere books worth reading are found.

And never forget, Paul:

And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make