Friday, September 22, 2000
A Home is No Longer a Sanctum
Did you ever feel you wanted to get away from it all?Away from the hubbub of daily life and the demands of everyday living? The idea that every man's home is his castle, where one can retreat to renew the spirit in order to face the challenges of the modern world, is a notion whose time has come and gone.
Just think of it -- the world of advertising is intruding unmercifully into all of our lives. I became acutely aware of this last week after returning from a post-Labor Day vacation. First, there was the overflowing box of ten days' mail to be retrieved from the post office. Sorting through the piles of unsolicited brochures, catalogs and requests for donations, hoping for a personal letter or two, proved disheartening, not to mention the clutter it produced.
Then there was the redesigned Boston Globe that looks more like a local version of USA Today than a serious newspaper. The Saturday and Sunday editions were jam-packed with advertisements, plus free samples of Roasted Garlic, mashed potatoes and Nutritious Oat Meal for Women. The clutter just keeps growing, and one wonders what the impact all these sheets of added newspaper advertising have on our transfer station.
As usual, the telephone rings at mealtime with telemarketers asking you to buy things that you'd never dream of buying. On top of that when you sit down to watch the Olympics on TV, NBC bombards you with station breaks and a steady stream of ads to help pay the costs of bringing you this world-class sporting event.
I haven't mentioned the Fax machine or the Internet since I'm not the one in the family that uses these means of communication, but I hear there are problems there too.
It's about time to rise up and stop this intrusion on our private lives. We can start by letting the answering machine discourage the telemarketers. I hear a booklet Stop Junk Mail Forever by Marc Eisenson (available for $3 from Good Advice Press, Elizabeth, NY 12523, Tel. 914-758-1400) has a list of good techniques for stopping junk mail. And once the Olympics are over we can go back to watching PBS and C-Span where advertising is unobtrusive and minimal or non-existent.
If there are other ideas out there on how to protect our homes and ourselves from the omnipresent advertiser, please share them with us by writing a letter to the editor here at the Mosquito.
It occurred to me recently that when I'm asked where I'm from, my answer always seems to depend on where the question is asked. If it's in New England, I generally respond with a white lie, and profess to be from "Concord, Mass." In the rest of the U.S., I'm from "Boston." Overseas, I usually offer "Massachusetts" or sometimes just "the U.S." Rarely, except perhaps in Concord or Bedford, do I declare myself a Carlislean. Never have I admitted to living in a suburb of Lowell.
The rationale for such deception is obvious. To a New Yorker or Californian, a response of "Carlisle, Massachusetts" will only lead to a request for more familiar geographical landmarks. In Europe or Asia, names of American states or major cities are the smallest geographical unit of recognition. Lowell and Carlisle just raise eyebrows.
This common and understandable simplification has begun to give me a guilt complex. In fact, I'm proud to be a Carlislean, and my opinion of Lowell has improved enormously in the last few years. Without question, Carlisle is more a suburb of Lowell than of Boston, so why do most of us refuse to acknowledge this fact — particularly when queried by other New Englanders, who surely have heard of Lowell? Could it be that we're suffering from class-consciousness?
In fact, Lowell's rising status as an "All-American" city is no longer a secret. Its revitalization, initiated in the 1970s with the help of U.S. congressman and then senator Paul Tsongas, has continued into the new century and its assets are impressive. For theater lovers, there's the Merrimack Repertory (MRT), as fine a regional playhouse as exists in New England. For sports fans, there are minor league hockey and baseball teams playing in first-rate facilities (Tsongas Arena and LeLacheur Park). Throw in a host of excellent museums, a concert auditorium, riverfront parks, a modern cinema complex, outdoor music festivals, fine restaurants, good colleges and a national park, and you've got a truly interesting city abounding in history and bursting with personality.
Lowell's personality reflects its mix of long-time residents, well-established ethnic communities, and a "gentrification" movement now underway. Its cultural diversity reflects the best of American urban traditions. Lowell's only glaring fault, a downtown district rich in architectural delights but poor in retail establishments, can be blamed on geography and politics. With sales-tax-free Nashua, New Hampshire just a stone's throw away, retail development in Lowell never had a chance.
Perhaps the best thing about Lowell, at least for Carlisleans, is that it's only ten minutes away from our rural paradise. Whether we're a Lowell suburb or a Boston bedroom community can be argued either way, but we do have a Lowell Street and we don't have a Boston Post Road. That suggests to me that when I'm asked where I'm from, my answer should really be "Carlisle, Mass., just south of Lowell." It may not ring a bell, but it will ease my guilt complex and resolve an identity crisis.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito