The addicted city

By RIC KAHN  |  April 3, 2008

And occasionally the exchange of words dug even deeper into the city’s skin, reaching the soul of Gloucester. From her $300,000 condo, a woman named Sandy Carpentier, in a letter to the editor, started off by telling Gloucester that “the idea of resurrecting a gurry plant makes me nauseous.” From there, she plowed full-speed ahead into the fishing industry: “Let the fishing industry go. Find a better way to make a living. It may be too late for those already involved, but it is not for the children.” And: “When you make $50,000 a year, you don’t tend to shoot heroin.” Carpentier received more negative responses than Harry Sinden did after the Andy Moog trade. “Carpetbagger,” lifelong Gloucesterites called her. “Viva the smell of fish,” they declared, drawing the battle lines between “you” and “us.” Carpentier’s missive brought to the surface the potential class tensions in a community that possesses, says Ron Morin, a South American-type economic configuration. A large core of poor and working class—median household income $15,642—sprinkled with artists and old and new money is ringed by a stunning necklace of well-to-do communities. Carpentier touched a nautical nerve in a town desperately trying to save its fishing industry, to stave off an invasion of yuppie-toting developers, and to brave the heroin hatchet-man hanging around its hallways.

Vincent Ferrini, the 74-year-old activist bard of Gloucester, believes the squeeze on the economy and the environment and the fact that so many Gloucester folk have become slaves to the rolled-up sleeve are all bound together. Listen to the “observing eye and conscience of Gloucester” in “The Big Sleep,” a poem published as a letter to the editor last June: “Our heroin harpooners are jabbing the juice of numbness into their empty bodies impregnating their souls with Death./It is their lifestyle against the crude materialism/of our ‘adult’ world with only two goals, fast Money and quick Fame,/ both out of reach as the Lottery is, the dope of the masses./Life is meaningless to them, we do not engage them/on their level, there’s no place to go, nothing to do in Gloucester,/they are bored to death./Their creative energies are sabotaged by our corrupt/civilization, and a town that does not treat its rising generation/as partners in community is in big trouble, these young people/have to ‘graduate’ into our standards first, and conform as/ the Yuppies do. The dialogue that counts is shut off./They are ostracized from the pulses of decision-making,/so their panacea is Heroin, their answer to a crass mode of/existence, and real struggle with the world they never made/is not worth the salt or sweat…Look at what is happening to the life of our city, need I/rehash what is going on under our noses, the conflict between/selling our inheritance or saving it for the survival and enjoyment/of everyone, do you think all these issues are isolated?/We are being tested by these harpooners, and the hardest/phase of this ordeal is finding the self in the community, the/ community in the self, which is what we are stumbling and/groping toward…”

“This town is a microcosm of what’s going on all over the country. The poet sees it as men at the mercy of the economic evil, the almighty dollar…They are taking drugs to kill the pain of alienation,” says Ferrini, who was one of the forces behind the creation of a downtown mini civic center where kids could learn both from elders and artists.

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