For those who reside in East Gloucester, Annisquam, Bay View, Plum Cove, Lanesville, Rocky Neck, West Gloucester, or anywhere else within the city limits where you can actually hear crickets and you have more than 36 centimeters from your house to the house next to you, I salute you and your quaint, relaxing, country way of life.
But I fear you’re missing something quintessentially Gloucester by being in a relatively far-flung part of town. So here’s some of the stuff that happens downtown. Brace yourself.
Anonymous Trash Donations
A perennial favorite. Since our city’s switch to a pay-as-you-go trash system, there has been an unceasing number of fartknockers who just don’t feel the need to pay $2 to toss out all their garbage. As a result, they’ll just wing it wherever suits them. Since we’re only one generation removed from when people used to LITERALLY THROW THEIR GARBAGE IN THE HARBOR, it’s not particularly surprising that some folks have a diminished sense of personal responsibility when it comes to their trash.
Take that, ocean. What have you ever done for us, anyway?
Which means that if you reside in the downtown core, you will at some point be the recipient of anonymous trash donations. Errant nip bottles, McDonalds bags, empty packs of cigarettes, takeout containers, and sometimes larger, more maddening items. I once had a neighbor put empty refrigerator shelves in front of my house, like I hadn’t seen them previously in front of his house for two weeks. We live 2 houses down, bud, this isn’t exactly Unsolved Mysteries levels of sleuthing.
Also, random pairs of running shoes. This literally happened two weeks ago.
Folks of Questionable Sobriety Milling About your Property
I don’t think anyone I know has escaped the sanity-questioning that results from looking out your window on a sunny afternoon and realizing there’s someone just ambling through your yard. It doesn’t matter that your yard is fully fenced and abuts a rocky cliff full of poisonous snakes, there’s still somebody staggering through your yard like it’s a cut through to the best packie on earth.
There’s a girl in the garden.
One time a man entered my driveway and leaned against my kitchen window, 15 feet from the street. When I asked him if I could assist him in any way, he gave me a dirty look and told me he was making a phone call. Another time I took a gander outside on a sunny day, while pregnant and chasing a toddler, and realized that there was a man sleeping on a discarded mattress in the driveway across the street from mine. I mean, we all have the desperate urge for a nap (see “pregnant and chasing a toddler”, above) but even I of little dignity would refrain from putting a trash mattress in a random driveway and slipping into unconsciousness.
Along with the visits from the riffraff mentioned above, items not lashed down in one’s yard tend to disappear not infrequently. Unlocked bikes are a pretty common thing to wander off downtown. We had a mountain bike go missing from our backyard, only to be found a year later at the end of our street, propped against a fire hydrant. In broad daylight, someone absconded with a ’60s Schwinn Town and Country adult tricycle with a top speed of .3 MPH and a ’70s women’s 3 speed which notably did not have working brakes and the loose handlebars would sway wildly side to side. I found the latter beside the train tracks on Maplewood Ave, which should surprise no one.
We’ve also had people steal a half-full can of wood stain from a coffee table project, an empty gas can missing its cap, a recycling bin, a quart of oil, and bike locks with the keys missing.
I can fit 12 gallons of stolen paint in the back of this baby.
City living also, quite obviously, produces a lot of noise. The houses are literally arm’s length apart, so you are all up in your neighbors’ business, whether you want to be or not. Over the summer, I was awakened at 4 AM by a fight mere feet from my bedroom window in which two very inebriated girls in their early 20s were grappling with each other, pulling out hair, and eventually hitting each other with bricks as the police showed up.
It was not like this at all.
I can hear neighbors talk inside their own houses from inside my house. There’s nothing like overhearing a heated spousal quarrel and thinking to yourself, “She is right about his drinking habits, but really, nagging won’t fix it.” There’s also random parades, random late night concerts, and the fortnightly midnight walking-while-screaming incidents.
But The Walkability!
Honestly, the relatively small drawbacks of city living I’ve mentioned above pale in comparison to how wonderful it is to live within 5 blocks of EVERYTHING. I can ride my bike or walk to almost every bar in town (some more questionable than others), and my 300-foot walk to work every day includes passing a cupcake shop, a dumpling place, a pizza place, and a taco joint. As well as a Dunkin Donuts without even needing to cross the street, naturally. I live a 30-second jog to a full supermarket. I can wander over to a wine and cheese shop, any number of pizza places, Chinese food, CHINESE FOOD DRINKS, a tattoo parlor, thrift shops, paint store, graphics company, and a million other places that are absolutely worth visiting and patronizing.
And you know what? The neighbors are fantastic, even when I can overhear them fart in their sleep. We have a vibrant downtown community of artists, teachers, commuters, and people who care. Families with kids riding bikes on the same street where someone overdosed last week. Because the perseverance is still there. This is not a community of people who give up and move out or throw up their hands and let the underbelly of the opiate problem win. And you know what? It’s awesome. Move downtown. Do it.