Sunday, May 17, 2009

On A Sunday...

I was all excited about New Bedford since it had finally reached out, offering a city planning meeting to its true citizenry (the ones who "couldn't care less" and prefer "visioning sessions" in bars to actual meetings in conference rooms).
And then, I remembered that there's this local restaurant-promoting event that usually happens around this time of year, and I searched high and low recently for some sign of its re-occurrence. It's had a few different titles since its original moniker ("Taste Our SouthCoast") was deemed unfortunately vulgar. Then, there was "Bite This, New Bedford!" and "Eat Me SouthCoast!" and finally, they've settled on the sufficiently bland "Taste of SouthCoast" which I think was the idea in the first place.
Since this is supposed to be one of those city-defining fests, it's sponsored by Downtown New Bedford Inc., whose name was chosen in order to evoke both its quasi-non-governmental-Chamber-of-Horrors reliance on organized crime templates and somebody's kid's love of the film Monsters Inc.
So I found this, but this is last year's. There's also a Chowder Festival that is very popular since it's New Bedford, and you would think that there would, at the very least, be a Chowder Festival in the biggest money-making fishing port on the Atlantic. The DNB Event website weaves through a number of titular permutations: "Taste of the SouthCoast" and "Taste our Southcoast Festival" occur at wildly varying intervals throughout what I imagine should have been a press release. But since I never saw it released to the press, I'm not certain that I can call it a release.
But then, after gagging on the "O RLY" header "TASTE OF SOUTHCOAST III CONTINUES TO GROW," one reads :

This being the third year of the annual event has surprised even the seasoned Committee members with a larger field of participating restaurants! On May 17, from 12noon to 4 pm, you can sample and taste the offerings from 24 area restaurants with a wide variety sure to have something for everyone. Included with those restaurants is an expanded offerings of Massachusetts beers and wines.
(I should have started that with "ENGLISH MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING." My apologies.) And that's just the first paragraph. That "[sic]" covers everything these kids put out. Ever.
I always remember being chided by a self-identified local advertising "bigshot" who told me --when I was farming out my copywriting -- that "any monkey can write copy."
It's good to see that lesser primates can still get work.
And this from the city that requires each of its residents to read and appreciate Moby-Dick. Well, maybe not so much require as suggest. And maybe not read, but certainly appreciate. Okay, maybe that's overstating it. There is a healthy disdain for Herman Melville.
And for most books in general.
Or at least promotional material.
Which is why I was so excited that there's a great online presence for Moby-Dick that I can highly recommend to everyone: Power . To which I'll link in The Gam.
"The Online Annotation" actually defines those strange boaty words and stuff that have kept you away from the tale of The Whale for so long. Right there on the screen right next to where they occur in the text! A brilliant brilliant brilliant brilliant thing. You'll have no more excuses.
Now, if someone can just do the same for the Downtown New Bedford Inc website.


Carol said...

I hate to be a downer, but:
At the noted city input "meeting"--attended by the usual 50 people, many of whom are not NB residents or business owners--I told the city planner he should mail flyers to the downtown addresses.
"Then everyone would come!" he said.

In my four years as a resident of downtown New Bedford, Downtown New Bedford Inc. has never reached out to me. One of its board members discouraged me from forming a downtown residents' group. This is consistent with my other efforts to create committees and civic volunteer groups here.
NB city leaders want to keep this city a small pond for their big-fish selves. That's OK but they also want Beacon Hill and the feds to cough up a lot of money to address perpetually the social effects of small-pondness of NB.

Emily said...

Lots of discouraging...yes. There is a heap of apathy. Some of the above coments are discouraging, too, though.

They are not GREAT at what they do, but Downtown NB Inc. is not there to reach out to "residents" - they are a business support organization.

If you let one "board member" (read: person) from one organization discourage you from doing something you believe in, it appears you are part of the same problem.

I can't help but wonder what your definition of "city leaders" might be. The metaphor is dripping with a "poor me" & "us vs. them" posturing, which can be both conveniently naive and manipulative.

Don't get me wrong - there are a whole mess of very real problems in this scene. But, just being one more blamer and complainer is not going to improve anything.

Carol said...

Emily, no, Downtown New Bedford Inc. claims it is also a residents' group. And that was underlined to me by the board member. And the Web site. You must be thinking about the Chamber of Commerce.

I wasn't referring to citizen apathy but City Hall apathy. Note again the city planner's comment.

In my 4 years in NB, I have created two civic organizations, a monthly forum at city hall, and a committee (taken over by the entrenched and run into the ground). I would agree with you otherwise, but I've put in my time.
Apparently, I came here from communities with robust civic scenes and good process. I didn't know that until I lived here.
Other newcomers, flush with enthusiasm about the potential of this cool city, will arrive and ultimately see the effects of NB's de-energizing dysfunctions and political impasses as starkly as I now do. Many have left and are leaving.
With luck, the city will grow out of it.


ThirdMate said...

I thought that DNBInc was a business org like Emily said, but Carol's right, according to their horrible website, DNBInc represents "property owners, business people and residents."

I understand how the SouthCoast can take its toll. I'm a Stakeholder, if not a Placeholder, because I've worked downtown when I lived in Rhode Island and volunteer and support it although I live in South Dartmouth. And really, I'm not trying to take over, control, or anything. (But I'm not sure that I want DNBInc "reaching out" to me. I'm a grammar snob.)

Here in The Journal, I often mention my own frustration with the lack of civic-mindedness here on The Beach. Local pols -- with few notable exceptions -- are clumsy, unschooled, narrow-minded mercenaries without the weapons or wherewithal to even stage a convincing diversion. Following that example, a lot of people think that in order to be involved in their community, they must only look out for their own interests.

Personally, I believe that if everyone works in their neighbors' best interest, eventually everybody gets taken care of. Or somebody's not doing their job.

Carol said...

Well put.
Your note about grammar relating to "reach out" (I'm sure I gave you many better targets) led me to reach out and find this:

As far as civics: the process is often the product. The practice of democracy can improve quality of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness through the process itself as well as its products. So when democracy is usurped, it's a double crime.

steve said...

Did no one suggest, "Sabor da Costa Sul," then? It justs sounds tastier in Portuguese, somehow.

ThirdMate said...

Actually, one suggestion was "Chupa me Costa Sul" but you can see how that went. They claimed later that it was a typo.