The famous Serenity Prayer says, "God grant me the the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". I'm not sure where "complaining about things on the internet" fits in with all that. Maybe it doesn't. My ranting blog posts certainly do violate the "serenity" part, but if these self-published opinions can make a tiny change in the universe, then maybe they're OK. Either way, they're enjoyable to write.
Anyway, I've got some ranting to do today, and it's about Lynn, Massachusetts, the "city of sin", my current residence. Before I get started on the negatives, let me get the positives out of the way. #1- There are plenty of good hearted people here, just like anywhere, and some of them appear to be actively involved in improving the culture and infrastructure of the community. #2- Geographically and historically the place is pretty cool. Lynn is right on a scenic, rocky coastline and has some nice hills and a few little parks and lakes. It is about as old and historic as its more famous neighbors Boston and Salem. Nevertheless, it remains my opinion that Lynn has serious challenges to overcome before it can become a generally desirable place to live.
Challenge #1- Layout and transportation. Lynn is laid out like an ancient city from before the invention of the wheel. That is, its streets are narrow and cattywompus like the spiderweb of cracks in a windshield that has been hit by a baseball. This would be OK if Lynn was small enough that you could get in and out of it by walking, or nice enough to be a place you'd want to walk around, but it is questionable on both counts. There are no convenient "arterial" roads (even the yellow roads on the map below are mostly one lane each direction) and it takes forever to drive the seemingly close 10 miles to Boston or 4 miles to the freeway. It's worse during rush hour or when the roads are further narrowed by snow piles. There's OK public transportation, but you have to take the bus to get to the outermost Boston subway stop, and the overall trip will take you a good hour.
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Because of the high population density, old buildings, and narrow streets, parking in Lynn is a nightmare. During a so-called "snow emergency" you can't park on the street even with a parking sticker, and if you aren't one of the lucky few to have your own driveway or a deeded spot in your apartment's small lot, you'll have to park way far away at a school or public garage. Tonight I had to pay $4 for the privilege of parking half a mile from my apartment and walking back in the middle of the blizzard of the decade. If only I hadn't spoiled my laissez-faire next-door parking arrangement this morning by saying "Good Morning!" to a man I met in the parking lot who turned out to be the grouchy landlord of the building next door, who when he found out where I lived told me I couldn't park there any more and he didn't know or care where I could or should park. Phooey. Well, it's just as well since the next-door parking lot is basically just a trash dumping-ground and weed garden, anyway. Sigh.
For contrast, check out the layout of this other city, my hometown of Olympia, Washington, which has about the same population as Lynn. Note the nice grid aligned with the cardinal directions, and the convenient, straight thoroughfares leading to the nearby freeway.
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Challenge #2- Being in limbo. Lynn is too far from the cool parts of Boston to be a place that someone seeking the hip Boston urban experience would want to live. Yet it's not separate enough from the Boston urban blob to be a cute city in its own right like Nahant, Salem or Marblehead. It ends up just being a big, inconvenient, low-rent, blue-collar, outgrowth of Boston with all the disadvantages of urban living but few of the perks. Because the area is low-rent and blue-collar, there also appears to be a lot of crime and gang stuff going on. I haven't had any serious problems so far besides my loud, violent neighbor (who I can clearly hear at this very moment crashing around and yelling, "F*ck you motherf*cker! Hit me again, I'm gonna f*cking kill you, n*gger!"), the trash in the parking lot, the overturned shopping carts on the curb, some bad attitudes here and there, etc., but the local papers are always full of sketchy stuff that makes me nervous when I'm walking back from the bus stop with my bags from the airport or something.
Shopping cart in a snowbank, far from any supermarket.
Challenge #3- I sense that there are some political, economic, and demographic problems facing Lynn beyond the basic stuff that I talked about, but I don't really know enough to weigh in on all that.
Upshot- I think Lynn is going to show some signs of improvement in the next decade or so, but it has a long way to go. For now the most positive thing I could say to someone thinking about living here is, "the price is right".
PS- On a totally unrelated note, I just signed up to do a spring break board test for windsurfing magazine the first week of April in Avon, North Carolina. You know I'll be videographing and blogging up a storm about that... at least as much as I can without giving away the magazine's proprietary secrets. Woo hoo!