Ever been to a party or attended a group where everyone seems to be talking about topics in which you are completely unfamiliar? Worse, they use references and special words that have absolutely no meaning to you, but somehow ‘everyone’ else ‘gets it’.
It isn’t long before you feel awkward and left out.
Well, we have a lot of newcomers in Newburyport. I love it when they bring a fresh perspective – especially a renewed appreciation of our architecture and history. New blood means an infusion of new creative minds.
So when I built my website, www.ppreservationist.com, I wanted to provide any helpful tools to assist the rapid integration of our newly arrived citizens.
The first thing you must grasp is our history. The ‘old’ of the 17th, 18th and 19th is handy to have but don’t forget the 20th, either. If you don’t know our history, you’ll be suckered in like I was when I first arrived. Long ago, I was working on the Ed Molin campaign. The dark siders said he couldn’t get elected because, as they put it, “You must be born here to be Mayor.” We were all fearful of breaking this glass ceiling since he was not a native. If we had did a little studying we would have learned that our first Mayor, Caleb Cushing, was born and raised in Salisbury! Not only that, we have had several Mayors not born here.
They were playing on our ignorance!
They are doing the same today! When the anti-historic preservationists and the Children of the Now claim that we have been preserving our houses for 300 years just fine and we have always looked this good, they were counting on most Newburyporters to be ignorant. They’re expecting to play on our ignorance to get their way!
By understanding our history, we can better understand the proper way to deal with challenges our community faces and what needs fixing and what needs preserving.
That is why I have a large section that covers our history and I am adding new articles all the time.
The second thing to understand is the terminology. There are certain words and proper terms that will allow you to blend in. Just as mispronouncing Haverhill in that city will guarantee making you a laughing stock, any self-respecting ‘Porter will say, ‘The Bartlett Mahl” as it should be pronounced. If you say Mall, then don’t be surprised when people start inching away from you during a mixer. I have assembled a glossary that is thorough but also entertaining to read. I suggest going down the whole list and to take the information, though humorously presented, and apply it seriously.
The third thing to understand is to know the players. There is a big difference between a cheesy movie and a great movie – it is called character development. The actors are not puppets mouthing words but become instead living and breathing personalities that are ‘alive’ to you. The same goes with Newburyporters. They work hard like traditional New Englanders, on hiding their true selves. I can help by identifying the players – the two ‘sides’ of the coins and what factions are assembled. This again is covered in my glossary. Identifying the individuals is harder and only if you become a regular reader of my posts will it allow you to begin to understand our ‘principle players’. Contrary to my detractors, I work hard to avoid covering private stuff or doing personal attacks. Of course, if they do stupid stuff out in the open, well…
We have been blessed by a new spirit in our city when it comes to outsiders. New blood such as Ari Herzog and Katie Ives in our city council and new arrivals like Kathleen Baily would never have happened in the late twentieth century. We have had shop keepers and new homeowners who came here because they first loved our city before they even lived or worked here.
One of the key conditions in allowing John Greenleaf Whittier’s The Curse to finally be lifted, is a desire to accept outsiders and new ideas. We have been working hard on the latter but we still have to overcome the former before the World finally hears of Newburyport.
By absorbing our history and our way of talking, and learning who are the major players in town, a newcomer can quickly integrate into our community, be more effective at election time and to identify what are the important issues facing Newburyport.