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Happy birthday, Worcester Sucks!!
Two whole years!
I’ll be brief as I only have about an hour to get this out. I am in Copenhagen with High Command and we have been very busy living out a rock star fever dream. Has James Hetfield ever asked you if a portapotty was a toilet? He said are these toilets and I said yeah those are toilets. I have a note on my phone chock full of observations about this city but we’ve still got a few days here. Expect a rundown next week. For now I’ll just say that I keep returning to the thought “imagine living in a society.” I have never been so painfully aware of how much better things could be than they are back home.
A couple quick orders of business today though.
First, happy anniversary to Worcester Sucks! Two whole years! I launched this thing on June 19, 2020 and I am so god damn grateful for everyone who’s shown with their monthly or yearly contributions that they care to have aggressive and irreverent local journalism here in Worcester and I think we’ve been doing some damage!
More on that later except to say today I’m offering a huge discount on a yearly subscription if you’re on the fence or you’re finding you can’t keep paying the going rate. Money is different for people now than it was in 2020 and it’s looking like the Fed is going to try to make it even worse. So I wouldn’t blame anyone for not being able to justify this expense. But if you can, know that I am eternally grateful. It’s a humbling thing, being paid directly by the people who want you covering their city.
And I updated the merch store! Got tote bags in, a new run of shirts, a sweatshirt that still cracks me up and some stickers and pins.
The rest of this post I wrote on my phone on the airplane to Denmark on Tuesday night. Reading back, it doesn’t make much sense to change it. So here it is, pretty much just copy and pasted.
Where I am is I’m sitting dead in the middle of this big air bus careening over the Atlantic Ocean and everyone’s got their in flight movies going and there’s no windows open. It could be noon, it could be midnight. An eerie blue glow of a hundred little screens and the air pouring in from the vents. They tell us that in seven and a half hours we will be in Denmark
I’m writing this post on my phone in a middle seat. It’s mildly uncomfortable but not as uncomfortable as the hellish cramped and miserable ride from Boston to New York. This ride will be longer but I can already tell the people on this flight don’t carry themselves with the sort of brooding anxiety and intensity found among New Englanders and New Yorkers. The sort of misery that turns a second into a minute and rips through an anxious crowd like a virus. All legs shaking and big sighs and despondently looking around.
Now all that’s behind me at least for the next two weeks. In a couple hours I’ll be in Denmark, then Germany then Belgium then the Netherlands then France. I’m out with the Worcester thrash metal band High Command on its first European tour. Mine too coincidentally. The role I’m playing here is roadie more or less. ‘Guitar tech’ sometimes, ‘Merch guy’ at others. ‘Van loader’ more often than not. I’ve done a few tours in my life and I greatly enjoyed them. This will be the longest and the farthest from home for me.
So I’m in music mode right now but I’m going to do my best to blend music mode with writing mode. Expect several dispatches from the road as I go through great old cities that Worcester can surely learn a thing or two from. I only brought one book with me, the Life and Death of Great American Cities, and I’m going to do my best to really think about what makes a place. What breathes into it a spirit and a life. I’m also going to be doing a fair amount of partying I imagine so don’t expect anything too profound either. If it happens it happens. Let’s see if I can build travel writing into this Worcester Sucks experiment. Build on what a did in 2020 with the Joshua Tree trip.
I still like this passage a lot:
Now it’s later in the day, near sunset, and I’m in the rental car driving through the Mojave Desert on the way to Joshua Tree. There are great valleys of cactus plants and rocks and desert shrubs and the setting sun is reflecting red off the mountains in the distance. It’s beautiful and I’m with two of my closest friends and I’m feeling good and content and I’m not chewing on the things that I usually chew on. I feel light and quiet and free. We’re staying in the hotel that Gram Parsons died in tonight. I don’t know what it looks like but I know he died in room 8. It feels weird and morbid that that’s what I’m most excited about, you know going to the place where this old country singer overdosed and died, but here we are. Gram Parsons’ voice and all the beautiful desperation in it hits me like a ton of bricks. We’re listening to “Hot Burrito #1” while crossing the massive tract of Colorado Desert that makes up the southern and western half of the park.
Gram wanted more out of life than he was ever going to get, than any of us will get, and you can feel that when he sings. He delivers it in a way others can’t. That’s an observation I’ve never made before. I’m just making it now and it might be a bit dramatic but it feels right and it makes sense to me.
There’s something magic about traveling, especially to a new place. To feel light and quiet and free in a way you simply can’t in your day-to-day life.
But you and I both know that this newsletter is nothing if not about Worcester. So while I’m trapped on this plane playing the awkward elbow game with the two polite-enough Danes sandwiching me in, I might as well reflect on some of the ways I think this newsletter has been quite useful in our smarmy little seven hills.
Looking back on the past year, I think the best way to view this newsletter is within the context of a general ascendence of a new progressive political project. There’s a through line in much of my writing since the election last November of a new political vision for the city rubbing up against the old guard. Fighting for space. The debate over the drone purchase which has been the key issue for the past few weeks — we don’t even have that conversation without this new progressive bloc.
Same goes for the way we hired our new superintendent.
Same goes for rent control. For a gas station moratorium. Changing the council districts to allign with the school committee.
Might even be why ol Ed decided to step down rather abruptly for a position at Dean College. Who knows! Victories have been hard to come by for sure. The new progressive bloc is being smeared and demonized by the people who would prefer it didn’t exist. It’s not large enough to direct policy. But it is big enough to put up a fight and this is the first time I’ve seen it happen in my years covering Worcester. And I think that it would behoove us to see Robyn Kennedy’s state senate run against Joe Petty as an extension of the project. When I get back, I’m going to start focusing on the midterms in earnest. There’s quite a bit to dig into. Not quite as boring as it might seem on the surface. At the very least it’s important to keep the energy up and even more important to keep the spark of optimism alive because very often it can feel like we’re just getting the shit kicked out of us.
But hey, in order to get the shit kicked out of you, you have to be in the game. For the first time in a long time, we’re in the game.
Ok back in present time and I’ve a city to explore. Then another city. Then another. Ah! What the hell, man. I’m so fortunate to be here. The boys in High Command deserve this and if there’s any justice in the world they’ll be back here playing the main stage next year. Razzle, one of the guitar players, put it best this afternoon while we were talking around a park called Orstedsparken. He said we pulled off the heist of the century: a trip to Europe that’s basically free.
They’re playing tomorrow at 5:45 and they’re gunna bring down the house I just know it. Tonight we’re going to eat at a barbecue place called War Pigs because they keep sending the band instagram videos of them headbanging in the kitchen to their songs.
What the hell, man.
Ok, time’s up. I have to go. Talk to you soon.