Dear hipster,

On September 13, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

shelton_webBy William C. Shelton

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and  do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff  or publishers)

First, let’s stipulate that you aren’t really a hipster. It’s just coincidental that you wear apparel, maintain your hair, prefer music and films, embrace philosophies, engage in modes of discourse and make consumption choices associated with hipsters.

Now that even Alife, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters eschew the term, no one wants to be called a hipster. I don’t blame you, I don’t like to be stereotyped either. I prefer to be known for who I am.

Please understand that since I don’t know you for who you are, I use the term as a convenience. If you would like a more precise definition, then I am addressing you if you identify with rebellious subculture(s), but you enjoy privileges associated with the dominant class; if your rebellion is more about recondite consumption choices than humane institutional changes.

The Boston Globe told me that you are moving in substantial numbers to Somerville. This belated observation confirms my own. For some years now, people whose appearance and behavior are consistent with hipster ethnographies have been locating in my neighborhood.

So I thought that I would reach out, welcome you, and speaking just for myself, let you know what I would like from you as a neighbor. I don’t think that doing so is presumptuous. I think it’s healthy for neighbors to have certain expectations of each other, the most basic of which is common respect. I am receptive to hearing what you would like from me as well.

First, I would like you to understand what made Somerville special. Among American cities it was exceptional in its sense of community. By “community,” I mean interweaving networks of relationships in which people are known for who they are rather what they are. Within community there is an unconscious understanding that what we share is more important than our differences.

Communities know how to integrate odd or difficult people, how to make use of their assets while working around their flaws. But to do that the individuals must be known.

It’s challenging to convey what this is like. Lived community exposes “online community” as a convocation of strangers. Consider that in the Somerville of the 1950s and 60s, kids couldn’t smoke or cuss anywhere in the neighborhood without the likelihood of someone telling their parents. This is quite different from an in group of individuals who compete for status based on early adoption of obscure bands, films, ideas, and other commodities.

In fact, it’s different from most American cities and neighborhoods. But born and bred ‘Villens weren’t aware of that until it was gone, or until they moved to the suburbs. Many lost jobs when the factories closed. And as happened across America, economic necessity obligated women to enter the workforce, whether they wanted to or not. The opportunities they had routinely created for social interaction and community building diminished.

In the 1970s and 80s, low rents drew young people and hundreds of working artists and musicians here. Meanwhile Somerville took in a new wave of immigrants, as it had for over a century. These were from Central America, the Caribbean, Brazil and Asia rather than Europe.

Tensions were high at times. Racial conflict closed the high school for a few days in February 1990. Many cities with demographic and cultural conflicts like ours experienced drive-by shootings and persistent gang violence. We didn’t. ‘Villens worked through their differences. Although none of us is immune from racism, discrimination and racial taunts are now rare here.

We were a city that was unpretentious, yet rich in culture and in diversity. So much so that people who make their living as professionals began moving here. While many of our formal and informal networks that wove the fabric of community had unraveled, Somerville remained exceptional in its sense of community and level of volunteerism.

Then Massachusetts voters chose to abolish rent control in 1996. In-migration increased, fed by financially comfortable people who had been able to accumulate capital by living in Boston’s, Brookline’s, and Cambridge’s rent-controlled dwellings. Housing prices, which had been steadily rising, skyrocketed.

Affluent people bought houses at escalating prices and charged more for their rental units, the better to service their mortgage debt. Often they moved to a leafy suburb when their kids came of school age, selling out at top dollar. Developers converted multifamily homes to expensive condos and sold them to childless buyers.

If you had come here fifteen or twenty years ago, some ‘Villens would probably have called you a “Barney.” One doesn’t hear that term today. It’s not that the grief and resentment over loss of community have evaporated. It’s that they have boiled down to an unvoiced despair over things being different.

Ours is an old story of market relationships dominating human relationships. Somerville is not exceptional in its gentrification. Hundreds of communities have experienced it. Somerville is exceptional in what it has lost.

So many people who grew up here cannot afford to live here. They are the children of ‘Villens who built the city and of immigrants who brought their hopes and dreams.

Their departure coincides with your arrival. You didn’t personally push them out. You were simply able and willing to pay housing prices they cannot afford. And many of you will eventually suffer the same fate. Yet you enjoy some measure of privilege just to be here.

I’ve heard that privileges should be paired with responsibilities. So there are some things for which I ask you to assume responsibility.

Please work to understand our community. You won’t learn much about it from the regional press, whose coverage is little more than press release embellishments.

You might not know, for example, that Somerville’s fiscal health is shaky. We rely on state welfare for a substantial portion of our city budget. And the more that affluent people move into newly built luxury units, the less state aid we will receive, while the increase in net property taxes will not be proportional.

Get to know your neighbors and look after their wellbeing, especially elders living alone.

‘Villens communicate forthrightly. In conversations, don’t employ irony or sarcasm, which undermine trust. Don’t answer a question with a question.

Yes, be yourself. As I’ve suggested, you can’t be part of a community if you are not known, and ‘Villens have integrated people who are much more diverse than you. A good attitude to aim for is dignified humility.

Sociologists tell me that your politics trend toward progressive. There’s nothing wrong with that. But please don’t substitute ideology for working to understand your city and neighborhood, as too many progressives do. You will discover that in a variety of ways Somerville reality differs from your ideological assumptions.

Please commit to the community. Considering your personal preferences, you will probably be drawn to localvore and artisanal activities. Somerville is rich in them.

But consider doing something that not just celebrates virtuous commodities but builds human relationships. You are well educated. Why not tutor a kid? While we now have an abundance of residents with advanced degrees, our school test scores remain deplorable.

Coach a youth sports team. Work for more affordable housing. Join a local congregation. If you’re an entrepreneur, start your company here. If you work for a growing company, influence it to move here. We have two workers for every job, while Cambridge and Boston have two jobs for every worker.

Help to reweave the fabric of community.

Do my requests seem presumptuous? Demanding? If so, I’m sorry you feel that way. But then I would also ask you to consider living elsewhere.


78 Responses to “Dear hipster,”

  1. Rob Buchanan says:

    There’s good advice here, but I think if someone wrote a “Dear Townie” letter with the same tone and attitude, the reaction would be justifiable anger and insult. Even in the face of what feels like overwhelming market forces as well as cultural, generational, and ethnic differences, I’m hopeful that we can find ways to help and invite people of all stripes to stay in Somerville rather than leave.

  2. Townie says:

    I find this to be confusing because Shelton and his pds pals have also insulted some by calling them “old school.” Who the hell do you want to live here then? You and your pds cohorts who have nothing better to do but complain?

  3. Bill Shelton says:

    Hey Townie,

    Please point out where I have ever insulted neighbors or called them “old school.” And why do you think that I am a member of PDS?

    You are only “confused” because you don’t know what you’re talking about. So consider some advice that I offered to Hipster: “Please don’t substitute ideology for working to understand your city and neighborhood.”

  4. YoungSomerviller says:

    I think this article is a bit bizarre, but its heart is certainly in the right place. Here are some concrete suggestions for fellow new Villens to get ingrained in Somerville:

    – Read the Somerville Beat, go to street festivals, and introduce yourself to new people:
    – Visit Trum Field to catch a baseball/softball game and meet other Villens.
    – See if SCC has any initiatives you’d like to support:
    – Attend some Somerville By Design sessions. The ones for your neighborhood will be like a crash course in what’s happening in your neighborhood:
    – Keep reading The Somerville News

    If anyone has recommendations about how to get involved with tutoring, I’d be interested in hearing them!

  5. Joan F says:

    Rob Buchanan, I agree with you, I think the tone is inappropriate, even if I agree with the general message.

  6. Matt Rusteika says:

    As a relatively new Somerville resident (as in I wasn’t born here), I take exception to the tone of this article. It’s easy to draw a stark line between natives and newcomers, but that is a false duality. I grew up in Southie, where the same type of gentrification is happening, so I’m no stranger to the strife that goes along with changing circumstances–it’s not constructive to regard people you don’t know yet as two-dimensional caricatures. There are plenty of people who didn’t grow up in Somerville who are trying to make a home here, and many of them are indeed making an effort to become involved in the community. And yes, there are transients too, but how Mr. Shelton is going to suggest that’s a new development is beyond me.

    As for your comment, “Townie,” I’m on the board of PDS and I’ve never once met William Shelton. I’ve also been called a townie in a derogatory manner myself, and for that reason would be in no position to insult someone else in the way you mention. Please don’t associate the sentiments in this column with all of PDS. We’re a diverse group of 100+ members.

  7. Frankly says:

    Dear Cranky Guy,

    What a load of crap. Welcome to 2013.

    Thanks for reminding us that ignorance and prejudice is still alive and well. It’s easy to think that people no longer judge others by the way they look or assumptions about their financial situation, but you have proved otherwise. I can only hope you don’t represent how most think.

    When is the last time you (or others) have brought a plate of cookies to a new family that moved in down the street? Invited them over for dinner? Have you even bothered to introduce yourself? You might find that they are, in fact, the sons and daughters of the “working class” who have worked hard to be able to choose to live where they want, instead of just sitting around complaining and acting entitled.

    And last: your insinuation that the poor aggregate performance of Somerville kids on standardized tests is somehow the fault of those with advanced degrees who are not volunteering to tutor enough is possibly one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.

    I’ve though some of your other articles were decent, but lost all respect today.

  8. Bryan Murphy says:

    Rob, you are using a false equivalency. Why would someone write a “Dear Townie” letter and what would they say? Tone and attitude change with purpose and content. I think that the tone and attitude of this letter are just right. They’re respectful but honest.If you’re serious about people of all stripes getting along and staying in Somerville then it has to be based on honesty and on the reality of the city that we share, which many newcomers don’t know and won’t otherwise learn.

    Bill, you are speaking for me eloquently. Don’t fret about “Townie’s” idioscy. All you need to know is that he is Harr, Larry Imux, Xumi, etc. He isn’t confused, he’s trying to confuse others. He’s been a disturbed sould for as long as anyone has known him.

  9. gregtowne says:

    One of the most pompous articles yet and that’s saying a lot with this guy. Here’s some advice, do you want you want to do. If it involves integrating yourself to the city in anyway, great! If not, just live your life as you choose.

    “don’t employ irony or sarcasm” sarcasm is a second language in this city so my advice is to learn it and don’t take offense.

    Again, what a pompous jerk.

  10. Tara says:

    I have lived here for 16 years now, and coming here as an immigrant, a lot of this article speaks to me. I know my neighbors, and the store owners down the street that have been selling me ice cream since I was a child. A lot of the wonderful people that I grew up with are being forced to move because of the rising price of rent, and I do hope that they can be replaced with new people that I can have a wonderful relationship with.

    Thank you for giving our new neighbors a little history about the city and all that it has gone through. Somerville has so much history and character that would be a shame if overlooked.
    A lot of our wonderful festivals and spectacular outdoor activities are due to volunteers so in order to keep Somerville as a place that is rich in kindness and flavor, I too would recommend that people lend a hand.

  11. Patrick says:

    This is just a case of a salty long-time resident not being able to grasp the fact that things change. Get a clue, maybe you should consider living somewhere else. This type of ‘bully’ approach is laughable.

  12. JPM says:

    Change is the way of the world. Areas change, from Somerville, to Notting Hill in London, to the Lower East Side in New York.

    PDS would be happier if Somerville was full of rent controlled buildings like the one I lived in hear Harvard Square recently, full of working age people who are on disability and not contributing a damn thing to the fiscal or cultural welfare of the town. Sitting outside smoking cigars or cigarettes on the stoop all day.

    My dad got a college degree on the GI Bill in the 1960s. My mom never went to college. The reason I can afford a new condo in Somerville is because I worked hard, went to college, got good grades, went to law school, worked hard and passed the bar and AFTER 7 YEARS HIGHER EDUCATION and lots of student loans, I have a decent paying job. But it took me more than a decade of hard work (and saving) to achieve that! Some people just don’t want to work hard (and smart) – that’s not my problem.

    Heck – I would like to live in Beacon Hill or Back Bay. But guess what, I can’t afford it…so I don’t. Quite a revolutionary idea that.

  13. BobSmith says:

    Chat about anything you like once the major problem—in case you had not noticed–and if you did not then man you are oblivious creeps–that we have a large scale arson problem in this town and the issue of hipsters is a matter for cretins——at best.

  14. PixiePocahontas says:


    There are plenty of working class residents who never had the opportunity to get to college, yet work just as hard, maybe harder due to socio-economic barriers which prevented them the right foundation to achieve an alternate fate.

    Their are many in both sides of the income/ education bracket: both lazy and achievers of success. There is a great misconception out there that says if you don’t go to an Ivy League school, you cannot be successful. But then you have to do some deep soul searching and determine what is the true form of success.

    Those who took risks during the Enron,, and mortgage, hedge fund scams- what would they share of their experiences?

    If you ever lost you job, savings, a home, you might feel entitled to asking congress for some corporate welfare. Or you might accept your errors of judgement and rebuild.

    Why is it necessary for you to feel that living in Beacon Hill is better? It shouldn’t matter where people live, it does not define character. Perhaps in some cases it does. As an independent thinker you will gain far more success in life than anything of material value can bring.

    I went to college at a local Ivy League school, as an employee benefit. Family obligations came first and so did work. As a single mom I knew it was more important to care for my children and an elderly mom who became ill. I will never regret my decision because I know that balance can bring true success of both work and family.

    There is a great article in the NY times by a former employee of AIG who writes a letter of resignation to his employer. You should check it out, may bring some perspective.

  15. ritepride says:

    Maybe rent control should be back in Somerville. Condo conversion was a very bad choice to put in place in Somerville.

    The residential units have a lot of owners who do not live on the property, they live in places like Winchester, Belmont, and yes even CT. There is a condo in our neighborhood ($3200/mo) that is looking for a renters (Tufts Students).

    The mayor’s pals, the developers and absentee landlords are all rolling in dough. That plus nearing 60% tax exempt property in a city 4 square miles, has the real (property owners), residents and renters, the ones suffering financially.

    Remember upon reading the author’s article(s), he was one member of the Mystic View group that delayed for years development of the Assembly Row property while Everett and Medford profited with new shopping areas and apartments. Makes one wonder was the Mystic View group just a front for the Curtatone Development Group….Cha..Ching!!!!

  16. PixiePocahontas says:

    Have you ever heard the term M@SSHOLE? Maybe you should ask your newfound hipsters? I’m sure they are familiar. I make my own careful observations of human behavior and having worked for sociologists myself, I have picked up a few things along the years.
    For this administration to insult us, by painting new development and its newcomers as something which is not, is not only insulting, but it’s downright stupid. There are all walks of live, Bill and I believe not everyone should be judged on the surface, but from where I sit, things are not looking good for our local constituency who are doing their best to hang on. I spend most of my time working full-time and maintaining my home and what I see around me is a great deal of greed and power hungry elements involved with our city. I don’t like what it’s doing to our elderly and our struggling families.

    This used to be a place which boasted inclusion—it has now become a place of exclusivity based on the highest bidder—mainly those with cash on the table, some developers, who take opportunities away from local working families who work years to buy a home. Why shouldn’t local families who are qualified for a mortgage have an advantage over an out-of-town transient or developer who is only buying to sell in a few years? It’s WRONG, not what many of us signed up for, Bill. This is not the real Somerville.

  17. PixiePocahontas says:

    Bill- What are you talking about? Most of these new arrivals are spill-offs from the Rt 2/95 belt. Towns like Acton, Sudbury, Newton, and Wellesley. Their parents have kicked them out because they are costing them too much to keep around.

    They have their retirement portfolios to consider and where to spend the remains which Wall Street sharks have not swindled from beneath their high brows.

    Plus, if they buy, it’s the parents providing down payments and most likely in their name, so it’s an investment for a near future sale. They don’t think about a home as a long term commitment as locals. Our homes become part of our lives, one that pays off in ways of security, not profit.

    Our housing has managed to become part of their transitory paradox. It’s just a constant flow of buyer and sales agreements among those who have only one reason for being here –higher ed, proximity to work, leaving the nest and making a profit from condo/home flipping. Why else did the town have to create a bylaw which prevents a sale in less than three years? This is the reason our working class neighbors can no longer afford to live here—due to the continual increases of each sale. Shouldn’t there be a law against it? It’s like false advertising. If you shop for a product and it is on sale in one store and more in another, why pay the higher price? You know why it’s easier to buy in Somerville, because other towns would not bend to their demands. They are still dominated by their working family communities and I hope they maintain that philosophy. If Wall Street hadn’t stolen their stock portfolios, I doubt we would see such a surge of suburban flight. Some have lost their trust funds due to dad’s poor judgement with the shady stockbroker. Where are those stories, Bill? Buried with the rest, because the rich can’t let the media in on their dirty laundry?

    Maybe one of those sociologist friends of yours would be willing to do a study on where those people are living in 3-5 years. I bet most return to living in the same neighborhoods with mom and dad—have found new a way to buy that home in the burb’ they couldn’t afford on their salaries alone, so they all come to PIMP OUT OUR REAL ESTATE. Is this what they are teaching in college these days? “How to screw your neighbor out of home sales 101”. It’s right up there with “Owning your own outsourced company in an underdeveloped nation”–and learn to avoid paying taxes so the working class can be saddled with your obligations….we accept major credit cards for this course, online classes are available”.

    Good deal, now we see how Wall Street got to be so deviously powerful and they have another generation who have learned how to make easy money from shady real estate dealings. Hey if this is our new form of capitalism, so be it. Rome will fall again and again. I only want my home and job, I could care less about ever becoming a millionaire. That lifestyle is nothing to be proud of—it encourages self-involvement to an extreme with lack of consideration of others. I get offers in the mail every week, “My wealthy client wants to buy your home and is prepared to pay above market prices….please call me, you don’t want to miss this offer”….YES I DO and your client can go find someone who is planning to do a short term investment–good luck!

  18. KrisKringle says:

    you’re all heart, Bill. Yearning for community investments that don’t scream “yippee for mee!” ; caring in a tender kind of way for neighbors old and new; appreciating and tolerating different types of peeps with a bit of humility, grace and a grin- that seems to be the decency you’re recollecting.

    All that’s “somer-hip” today will soon be “somer-yesterday” – but if the pace is too demanding, and we’re not mindful, the collective grace of a village can also flow down the drain.

  19. PixiePocahontas says:

    By the way, Bill–I think you should try to keep up with the police log.

    “Many cities with demographic and cultural conflicts like ours experienced drive-by shootings and persistent gang violence. We didn’t. ‘Villens worked through their differences. Although none of us is immune from racism, discrimination and racial taunts are now rare here”.

    We had swarming police helicopters for over three hours, late one evening last summer chasing three suspects in a vehicle after gun fire erupted, from east to west of the city.

    There have been known gangs and other shootings, drug dealing, theft, rape and even murder, over the years. And people want to know why Wards 6 and 7 are bust. It’s because the cupcake man has not been able to figure out how to get everyone else, who is not a member of the high paying crowd, to leave his newly created gold mine. I’m sure those absentee landlord investors who have bought many condos are looking for more of that retirement and trust fund money. Maybe it will be joining the rest in the Cayman’s for some tax free benefits.

    We still have racism and now we also have entered a class warfare in our city. Like it or not, that’s what it is and you can paint this anyway you wish, but it will not change that fact that working class and the elite class are too very distinct sets of people with some variance, but not much.

  20. JPM says:

    Hhmmmm…I wonder who has been selling these Somerville houses to “transient hispters” (whatever that is) over the last 25 years or so? Probably the same guy who sold a condo to me. His family owned to rather down houses near Teele Square. His parents had passed away, he renovated them, sold them as condos, pocketed the cash profit and promptly moved to Florida. And good luck to them!

    Remember, a lot of blue collar workers are leaving flames on the ground as they hightail it out of places like Somerville to go to low tax/low services states like North Carolina and Florida when they retire. Where is their loyalty to staying? Guess what? They do what they think is best for them and their family financially.

    @ Pixie – I didn’t go to an Ivy League school. I am not sure what your point is.

  21. paul says:

    Can we please stop talking as if Somerville was a utopia back in the day. For some people it was, and they stayed, alot of other people high tailed it out of here because it had a serious crime problem. The remaining people are a self selected population with a bias that everything was great back then.

  22. PixiePocahontas says:


    There still is crime, much of it hidden in city hall. Have you taken a look at the tax and water rates lately? Can we get a few state auditors involved to see who is paying less and who is paying more tan their share.

    As far as the other crime element, it never left, they just do a better job hiding it. Ask people who live in those wards.

    It was a much better place when a few former mayors ran this town. No town is perfect but overcharging residents and homeowners because someone is not keeping track of how spending is being applied is one of the worst crimes in my opinion.

  23. A. Moore says:

    It was a utopia back then. Most of the local busineses had owners that llived int he neighborhood and only had to walk over to open their store. Everything was to had within easy walking distance. Choice of grocery stores near you house, meat market, furniture stores, clothing and so much more. Most local people. You could pretty much get anything you wanted at a reasonable price without leaving the city. Small stores were about the same price as the big stores. We knew all our neighbors, we ate with them, went to the beach with them. We wee at each others house a lot. Hpw cool was that. I could have elaborated a lot more but didn’t want to write a novel. We had it all, live and work here, was great. Try that now is this developing city which does not have the forsight for this which means we have to drive to another city for many of our needs. Guess things are just not planned out so well now.

  24. PixiePocahontas says:


    I recall those days as well, we had clothing stores: Park Snow, Gilchrist, Woolworth, Kresges a Stop & Shop, McKinnon’s (one of the last survivors) and local grocer for milk and bread when our parents didn’t have time to go to the supermarket.

    We all knew our neighbors and spent time outdoors, at the local parade or walking our dogs. They continue to live here, some into their 80’s and 90’s. I see them on my way home from work during summer months, others I know are alone, I stop in to bring a pie and listen to their great stories of long ago. I find them to be our treasures, generous with wisdom they share for those of us who can benefit.

    They keep an eye on our neighborhoods during the day and keep us posted as to the development projects and other concerns.

    Each time a “For Sale” sign goes up, or a condo conversion is made, they tell us. They are the eyes and ears of our neighborhood and God Bless them for still caring about the future of our communities.

  25. Jim says:

    For every one hipster you see, there are 10 more you don’t. Not all of them wear the flannel shirts, ironic T-shirts, and other hipster regalia that makes them readily identifiable during business hours. The disadvantaged hipsters who actually have to work often go incognito during the day, making hipster identification a tricky task to the untrained eye.

    I look at this through an affordability lens. Things are getting out of control in the Ville and the flood of hipsters is really just piling it on.

    First, its important to let hipsters know that Medford is currently way more ironic than Somerville, especially the east side of Medford. Second, if hipsters are looking for working class authenticity that belies their parental financial support, they should really look to Malden. For the most part, Malden is way more old school and you can still find time warp 3 deckers over there that haven’t been carved up into condos and sold for $500k a piece.

    The real hipsters who are ahead of the curve on everything have already left the Ville because it just became unbearable for them. Remember, with hipsters, once something has become cool in the mainstream, its already lame to them.

  26. Biff Jones says:

    This conversation is kind of cute – people grousing about feeling left out of someone else’s social circle as though it’s a sign of some new, evil dark cloud descending on society. You could step back in time to any point in Somerville’s (or any other town’s) history and hear the same conversation.

    Pining for the good old days of bygone Somerville? Guess what – there’s a pretty good chance you were someone else’s “hipster”. Unless you’re like me. I was never hip, which makes me hip.

  27. Hey! says:

    PixiePocahontas, why don’t you write under SomervilleGirl here like you do on the patch website?

  28. Somerbreeze says:

    @Hey! – What are some of the different monikers that YOU write under?

  29. Phil says:

    I can’t tell you how much the gays of the South End would like to write a “Dear Breeder” letter to the incoming yuppie straight couples–bemoaning the influx of mega-strollers, stay-at-home “lululemon moms,” cash down payments, and Range Rovers. But then it was the white middle class gays who largely displaced South End’s black community starting in the 1970s. And before that, it was African Americans who came in as the Irish were leaving. Still further back, it was the Irish immigrants who replaced middle-class Yankees, who descended from the very English people who took the land and waterways from the Massachusett tribe. Whew, that’s a long way back!

    Somerville is not immune from change either. The Yankees probably didn’t have much good to say when the Irish finally elected one of their own to be Somerville’s mayor in 1929. The Yanks left–eventually to be replaced by the immigrant ancestors of today’s old guard: the Irish, Italians, Portuguese, and Greeks.

    So change is the way of the world. In time, the younger progressives and incoming professional class will assume the reins of leadership, and Somerville will evolve. My advice: enjoy the best of the present rather than living in the past. Newcomers may have different tastes and preferences, but they have as much right to shape the city as their predecessors.

    In 50 years, Somerville will probably look much different. Heck, maybe it will be the new Chinatown!

  30. GregM says:

    I’m wondering how many of the folks who submit short comments without thinking through the whole article could give as much time and consideration as Bill has given to writing his weekly columns for all these years? He doesn’t get paid to write his columns; he does it as a service to the community and our democracy. So whatever gripes people have I think they should appreciate that any columnist will eventually cause debate and discussion and that should be celebrated and appreciated, especially when they do it as a volunteer service to the community. Disagreements should be about the content of the article and not an attack on the credibility of the author just because someone isn’t happy with the way the words are conveyed.

    I look at some of these comments and wonder if people read the same thing I did. The comments reveal more about the people who posted them than about anything in the article.

    By presuming that the author has never brought newcomers cookies or invited them to dinner is just an attack on the person, not the substance of the aricle. That being said, I know Bill Shelton to be the welcoming sort who has often praised newcomers, as in his series about Somerville’s Immigrant Professionals. Greg Town reveals his confusion between pomposity and speaking from the heart. Maybe he’s so accustomed to irony that he can’t tell the difference.

    JPM reveals a belief that change just happens and there is nothing that we can do to influence it. We just have to work hard as individuals and be smart consumers. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to live on Beacon Hill or in BackBay instead of here. Ritepride reveals either ignorance about Assembly Square history or an intention to spread falsehoods. People who want the true history should check out Bill’s series on Assembly Square, The Back Story.

    And I think that all of the people who talk about “tone” without saying
    anything about the content reveal a lot of defensiveness. Please tell me
    what in the article is not factual?

  31. ritepride says:

    “utopia backin the day” maybe it was! Kids were outside playing ball, etc.
    Flipping pennies or nickels against the curb or wall. Trading baseball cards. Not sitting inside for hours of T.V. or Computer time. People in the neighborhood got together for barbecues.

    People running for political office walked the neighborhoods meeting the people, very few due today. Only ones that I have seen doing it are people like Bob Trane, Jack Connolly and when you called or emailed them, they got back to you.

    You’d walk down the street and people would say Hi or wave to you, Today nobody acknowledges each other and if someone speaks to you they are telling you to hand over your wallet, cellphone, backpack.

    City Hall would meet the needs of all constituents but not today. Today our #1 employee thinks with his ego that he is a CEO and addresses the needs of his chosen few. We get Dog/Pony shows via a horses ass.

    The only bright side is I now hear the voices of more kids playing and walking to school. A sound that has been missing for a number of years.
    Lets hope these kids will have a good future. That the information superhighway will become gridlocked and slow down so that these children will have a future with jobs, affordable homes, better economic conditions. No outsourcing, No wars.

    People say to downsize government, but in the wrong way, we need the real workers who actually provide the services. We need less politicians, less unenforceable ordinances and red tape. Politicians who listen to the community and not hinder business from coming into the area as has been done all this time with the Star Market property. I’ll take the old days anytime verses the crap of today.

  32. PixiePocahontas says:

    Bill should be a big boy and learn to take the heat.
    He comes across as a person who has remained in an insular world who is only willing to observe people without actually experiencing who they are by getting to know them personally. I know my neighbors who have lived here for over fifty years and we all share similar conclusions, a deep love for our neighborhood and resentment towards the current administration. As a landlord for over ten years, in the home I restored, was raised I can tell you honestly there have only been a few good tenants. Our resentments are based on the fact that our concerns are being ignored while one voice continues to get its way with all they demand and its because they are high paying clients, that includes developers who are most certainly responsible for their shifty tactics of acquiring land and housing.

    Adam Vaccaro formerly of the Scput wrote some rather enlightening stories especially glaring is one of Dilboy VFW.

    By the way, a better story of assembly is a study conducted by a local college which gives some responsibility to the group Bill was aligned for its inflexibility. So please, stop with the pity party for Bill. He has some share in how things turned out -sour grapes should have matured by now.

  33. PixiePocahontas says:


    Bill should be a big boy and learn to take the heat.

    He comes across as a person who has remained in an insular world, only willing to observe people without actually experiencing who they are by getting to know them personally.

    I know my neighbors who have lived here for over fifty years and we all draw similar conclusions, a deep love for our neighborhood and resentment towards the current administration for their shortsightedness and favoritism.

    As a landlord for over ten years, in the home I restored, was raised, I can tell you honestly there have only been a few good tenants- all from out of town, paying market prices.

    Our resentments are based on the fact that our concerns are being ignored, while one voice continues to get its way with all they demand. This is due by the fact they are high paying clients, that includes developers, many who are most certainly responsible for using shifty tactics which has allowed them to acquire land and housing in any way they choose, which has changed the landscape in more ways than one.

    Adam Vaccaro formerly of the Scput wrote some rather enlightening stories especially glaring is one of Dilboy VFW. You should ask Bill about Adam, if you don’t already know.

    By the way, a better story of assembly is a study conducted by a local college which gives some responsibility to the group Bill was aligned, for its years of inflexibility. So please, stop with the pity party for Bill. He has some share in how things turned out -sour grapes should have matured by now.

  34. PixiePocahontas says:


    I always enjoy your comments, you couldn’t be more accurate in the depiction of what has gone on in our city–and I love the history you share.
    It’s a walk down memory lane for which I cherish.

  35. PixiePocahontas says:


    As a landlord for over ten years, in the home I restored, was raised, I can tell you honestly there have only been a few good tenants- THE REST have all from out of town, MOSTLY RICH SUBURBS paying market prices.

    Also, just ask the native candidate from Ward 5 who lost a house sale because a developer came in with cash on the table.

  36. Matt says:

    Guys, does anyone believe that change is unique to Somerville? The types of changes we have experienced are similar to those experienced all over the US. If you want to find a place where kids are out playing games on the street and not watching tv or video games you will be hard pressed to be successful. That is not a local change its a national one. This isn’t a problem wrought by millennials or hipsters any more than Xers or hippies.

    People are complaining that things are getting expensive and antiseptic. Not for nothing but, consider the alternative. Would you prefer to be in a city in decline, where the blue collar town descends into entrenched poverty, where rather than being on the decline for years violence and crime are growing. ritepride – do you honestly believe that no one talks to anyone else other than to assault or steal from one another?

    I am in my mid thirties, I moved to Winter Hill near to 10 years ago because in my opinion it was the nicest place that I could afford AND i believed that it was just going to get better. I agree that the growth of home values in the neighborhood is astounding. I recently watched a house sell for 15% over asking in under a week, and said to myself I wouldn’t (couldn’t) pay that. That thought was quickly followed by ‘Wow – my own house is worth at least that much!’. Am I looking to leave? No. I really like the house I turned into a home and my neighbors who have accepted me into their community.

    Building a community is not a one sided activity. But it starts by just waving hello at a neighbor as you walk by and doing it again even when you don’t get the response you want.

  37. asking... says:

    “Also, just ask the native candidate from Ward 5 who lost a house sale because a developer came in with cash on the table.”

    Care to offer more details??

  38. PixiePocahontas says:


    The point is poverty and crime still exist on our city, it’s just hidden well behind the circus which came to town.

    We are not asking for it to be the as it was decades ago, just that the locals who wish to remain are able to afford to do so.

    Since this administration has so much untapped creativity as some would like to suggest and your reference of our unwillingness to embrace newcomers, why is there no effort in creating affordable housing and sustainable jobs in our community for locals?

    It’s all talk and little action. The elderly, youth and young families seem to be struggling the most and pardon me if we are asking that more be done to ensure for their futures in continuing to live in the town.

    The same excuse of “it’s happening everywhere”, so suck it up should not apply to our town because we were once referred to as the “melting pot”, not the “pot of king midas gold”.

  39. Matt says:

    I need to deconstruct this for a moment:

    As a landlord for over ten years, in the home I restored, was raised, I can tell you honestly there have only been a few good tenants- THE REST have all from out of town, MOSTLY RICH SUBURBS paying market prices.

    First, you have been lucky enough to be able to fulfil your Somerville “Right of Return” after you inherited a multifamily in west somerville.

    Next You have had good tenants in the past, good tenants who grew up in Somerville. Now however you don’t like your tenants who are out of towners with mostly privileged backgrounds that, horror upon horror are willing to pay what you feel is market rates

    So you are being made wealthy by these horrible people and what? Are we supposed to feel bad for you and the change you have been forced to endure?.

  40. Matt says:

    So big the issue you are railing against isnt an influx of new people rather it is a change in general its cost of living. And the city (or us the taxpayers) should do more to ensure that someone who was born here can continue to live here by subsidizing them.

    While i think the idea of increasing the rate at which we are subsidizing working people is ludacris, I will however say your point around the elderly is worth thinking about and something I would get behind.

    This is something that can be done through increased property tax abatement for the elderly and targeted housing schemes that focus on people who have lived in the community 20+ years and face a stark difference between the overall inflation rate and that of our housing stock.

    How this can be done may or may not be on the minds of the current city gov. But in the short term, I would encourage you as being a owner of a multi-family take the first step and start subsidizing peoples rent out of your own pocket – maybe you will have better luck with these folks rather than the often transient yuppies who are ruining your history of the city while writing you $2500 checks each month.

  41. ritepride says:

    Well Matt there are five families that are left in my block that have lived here since the 50’s. I kid my younger brother and call him the “Mayor” of our block as when new people move into the neighbohood, he introduces himself, explains about the parking rules and when trash day is. He tells them to check with either the city website or 311 if they have any questions. Very few wave back to him today.

    A car was parked across our driveway, he saw some people across the street sitting on a porch and inquired if they or somebody they knew owned the car, they all responded “No”! When the police cruiser had a tow truck arrive to move the car these very same people came running from the porch saying “Don’t tow our car”. Had another one shovel out his car and throw the snow on my shoveled sidewalk and into my shoveled driveway. Resolved that with a donation to a guy drivin by in a pick up, had him put the snow back where it came from. Needess to say neither one of these goofballs park by my property anymore.

    Matt, we’ll give you a backpack to wear and have you walk Curtis St, Packard Ave, Powderhouse Blvd at night like all the student victims who have been assaulted and robbed in these areas at night. Then we had the group that the police chased from your area up to Leonard St in West Somerville and had Police dogs in yards and a helicopter reverberating above our heads for hours while they looked for these three darlings and their weapon.

  42. PixiePocahontas says:

    Hey “asking”,

    Correction, it was Ward 3, and it’s one of the candidates. I’ll let you figure out that part yourself. He’s young, with a family, stated at the forum at SCAT last week that he tried to buy a home with a mortgage approved and a developer came in and took it from right under his nose paid for the two family house by check.

    He said that if he became Alderman, he would see to it that a resident would have first preference over a sale than a developer. I agree. There is just far too many homes and land being sold to developers and Tufts over the years, especially now that we have multiple projects which are currently under construction–or in the planning stages, throughout the city. All along the green line extension corridor.

  43. PixiePocahontas says:

    However, Ward 5 has its own skeletons.

  44. PixiePocahontas says:


    I am not living in a home which is paid for–if you were paying attention, I said I had RESTORED the home. It cost thousands, which I am happy that I was able to do, since both parents immigrated from Italy–dad at the break of WWII, which he was able to save his family from starvation by sending packages, and mom in the 50’s. Both had low paying jobs, but managed to keep the place going. They rented to locals in the sixty’s but times were really tough back then. One tenant’s delinquent son set our back porch on fire when I was just a kid and if not for our neighbor, I may not have been able to be writing this to you and getting ready to bitch you out. Yes, later, we had a vet who rented with wife and daughter. The daughter became a heroin addict. When her dad died at the VA hospital, she moved in, but was not our tenant. My mom tried to kick her out but she wouldn’t budge. Mom opened the door to the apartment and we began emptying out the stuff that was left behind. It all was left on the sidewalk for trash day. She gave her about a month’s notice. We discovered a burned out mattress from falling asleep with a cigarette no doubt–could have been another burned home, but we got lucky one more time. A week later, the heroin addict came back and began pounding on the door until it cracked. I was married with a baby in my arms calling the cops with this nutcase threatening to kill me and my child. The cops arrived and she threatened them, too, but all they did was evict her from the premises. Before they left, they told me to be careful that our house would not be set on fire some night, since she “hangs out with some really nasty people”. About a month later, they found her body in Cambridge, died of an overdose. Her month, another wacko, had been calling to threaten us as well for weeks, but after the death of her daughter, we never heard from them again. The cop, who happened to be my neighbor told me I was lucky she died.

    Fast forward, I become the owner but the place needed everything so I began to restore. At first, it didn’t matter what the apartments looked like–it was the first star-struck love of Davis Sq. The tenants were okay, not the entitled crowd we see today, they worked regular jobs and paid their rent without being a nuisance. Two guys from PA were especially nice–rural types, but went to college, stayed for two years and moved back home. They got a taste of city life, worked as actuaries, had built the resume and realized city living was not for them. One played guitar and they were always respectful and good guys.

    Years roll by, costs increase in construction, taxes begin to climb, but one apartment at a time, the work never stops. The realtors charge fees to find “good” tenants, for years I paid a full fee which equals one month’s rent. Rents range from $1200 to $1800 over the years depending on the shifts of the market and economy, lots of other unforeseen variables, sort of like a roller coaster. Whatever the tenants needed, I was there and took care of issues immediately. I understood that routine maintenance must be done in order to avoid repairs.

    Simultaneously, the rep from the assessors office was showing up too frequently and readjusting my tax bill since the work I had done increased its value, also we converted from 2 to 3 family.

    Over the past ten years, the majority of tenants were bothersome people who were accustomed to having luxury homes. Although, Davis Square was just a 5 minute walk to the “T”, what they wanted and envy of all their friends (who wouldn’t want that?), buyers remorse always sets in around the second month when they realize how much they are withdrawing from their citibank account each month. Then comes resentment, jealousy of their own for dealing with a “local-working-class-woman”, who owns what they can’t have.

    The worst of them all was a Harvard corporate lawyer and her trust fund boyfriend. Seriously, my neighbors would later add, this girl was tossing her best china across the room at the passive boyfriend who’s family owned a supermarket chain in NJ and could barely hold down a part-time job at a local coffee shop. Along with her abuse via dish-frisbee, her screams could be heard a block away. She called one day to insist I pick up a strainer for her tub because she didn’t have time to go to the hardware. I’m sure she probably hasn’t set foot in one her entire pathetic existence. Her hair was clogging the pipes and we had the plumber over twice that year. September couldn’t come soon enough. She alerted me that they had purchased a home and wanted to extend the lease into November. I said, “sorry, can’t do it”, if I don’t get it rented on Sept. 1, I lose the market. She had a fit, sent a letter outlining her hardship of having to pay for storage and a hotel. What a horrible landlord was I to not grant her this wish, so what if I lost 3-6 month’s of rent, or a 30% reduction in rent for those looking for a bargain since the peak of the market had gone by. I mean seriously, a Harvard Law Corporate Lawyer making over $100k, couldn’t possibly afford to pay for storage and a temporary place to live. It gets better–on the last day of the lease, the boyfriend is still cleaning out the place, by himself. I knock on the door at 10 p.m., and he’s holding the lease in his hand, shaking and saying, “She’s a stickler about these things, it says on the lease we don’t have to leave until midnight”. He promised to clean the entire place out. I was scheduled to work a new temp job at Harvard Law (don’t ya love the irony) and was forced to begin late on my first day, because the apartment was filthy. So I cleaned as much as I could and left for work.
    I tried to retain $100 back for cleaning and she threatened to take me to court. I let it go, but told her by phone to enjoy her knew house, and when contractors charge her a bundle, never ask for a reference because it would be the worst she would ever receive. She yelled for about 10 seconds before I hung up, insisting she was a great tenant and that she would sue me for giving her a bad reference.

    And these are some of the people we hold in such high regard.

    Next–couple move in, girlfriend screams at the top of the stairs, “Turn down that music, I AM A GRADUATE STUDENT AND NEED IT QUIET SO I CAN STUDY”. This was middle of the day, on a Sunday. I guess going to the library to study is too much to ask from THE GRADUATE STUDENT.

    Let’s go on–next couple, clog the toilet two days after they move in with vegetable soup and tell me they didn’t put anything down the drain, plumber comes, plumber fixes the toilet, finds q-tips and vegetable soup were the culprits. One month goes by, the heater breaks, the guy tinkers with it, still broken, doesn’t bother to tell me until it’s almost freezing temps outside. I ask them to use space heaters, the kind that look like radiators which heat by oil inside the units, are safe to use–he says, “no, not using them”. Plumber replaces wall unit with a $7k boiler/baseboard heating, all is good. One month goes by, they break up. Girlfriend move out, boyfriend doesn’t pay utilities. I’m standing in the kitchen with a paintbrush and lights go out. Girlfriend calls to say she’s sorry because boyfriend had a breakdown and is now looking for his security because he moved in with three girls. I explain I have 30 days to return and since he didn’t pay the past three months on utilities, I have to pay this myself so I can get the place ready for the new renter. Yippee! What fun will door number 3 have in store?

    Next couple–never lived in an apt. together, but wanted to impress the Realtor and me, so they lied. Evidence of their immature behavior would prove otherwise. Mom and dad of both show up on day one to discuss redecorating and putting in a screen to the 3rd floor deck for that “wonderful cross-breeze”. The girlfriend sounded like one of those Valley Girls, high altitude vocals and always smiling and just so chipper….are those happy pills they give out in charm school or what? Maybe too many helium balloon sucking….the boyfriend, slippery as they get. Upon moving in, it was clear there were no pets, but when it came close to lease renewal and I asked if they were planning to stay, he added a list of demands–“we want a golden retriever and your shed for my motorcycle”. The following week, I gave notice to quit. He wrote me an email indicating his lawyer would contact me for my unwillingness to renew their lease. LOL

    Mom and dad obviously hadn’t trained them for city living, but they were about to get a crash course.

    For two weeks, we shared hate mail. The last comment I made was that his working on State Street was obviously not the right fit and he was more likely to succeed as a used car salesman. You can imagine how Ken and Barbie reacted to someone who was unwilling to groom their egos. The moving truck which arrived had to park in my driveway since they had their delicate furniture hoisted by crane. It may have something to do with the fact when they moved in, 7 a.m. visits by dad with ropes and knocking dressers against the gutters which nearly crashed into the window of one sleeping tenant, just wouldn’t fly this time around. Better to have an entire neighborhood captive audience of the poor tenants who are forced to move out. But hold on–not until he gets one more assault on the bad landlord and tells a neighbor, “she’ll never be able to rent that place to just one person”, since Realtor and I would joke that the place must be jinxed for couples. A few weeks later another couple moves in–stayed two years, were the greatest. Yes, they were from privileged backgrounds, but really cool. She’s a vet and had to relocate to California, he went back to school at BU. I inherited her roommate for the apt. and that is working out fine. She explained that she wanted to help me find the right person since the place was so great and I was a good landlord.

    Problem is this–it’s a business, but one that no longer pays as landlords experienced years past. I am no slumlord who goes off to Florida and leaves the place to rot away as some do, while collecting the rent and never putting a dime into a house that is already paid for–those are the people the city should be after, fines, higher taxes for not occupying the dwelling, but you think that is being carefully monitored?

    The more you make–the more they take, the city that is, but I do things the right way, I don’t believe in doing work without permits as some do, because when and if that day comes you want to sell–guess what, you don’t have those documents and you will pay dearly for it, well maybe not all. One landlord on my street had two of his homes shut down for that very reason, no rental income and had to do construction to change his illegal basement apartments to be added to first floor for extra living space.

    More on this tomorrow…..

    Matt, I don’t suppose you own your own home, or have had investment property? Or dealt with the city ISD or assessors office?

    The grass is always greener….

  45. A. Moore says:

    ritepride, Winter is coming. didn’t have to remind me about the snow etiquit here. I have a fight with my next door neighbor every year because if I don’t shovel my walk soon enough they do it for me, I try to beat them to it and do their’s. Some of the new ones I run over with my snowthrower and so the plowed in fronts of their driveways as I know they shovel by hand. I didn’t expect a think you and was not disapointed. I keep saying hi to them which is ignored. Don’t understand the attitude. This year they will be out of luck. Was also doing some of the elderly in the area but this year I will no longer be able after last year ending up in the ER for heart problems. If I had my way which I would like t have done from the start there would not be any 2 family condos here. Just my own opinion.

  46. Matt says:

    You’d be surprised the similarity in background I’m also first generation and my dad emigrated in the late 60s and moved into an attic apartment about a block away from where i bought my house here is somerville. My mom is also first generation with parents who arrived in the 20’s. I have spent near to a decade tearing it apart and rebuilding it into my home and I’m not done.

    Am I a landlord? No – I have no line of sight on when i can save up 200k to use as a down payment on a second piece of property here.

    Am I a homeowner? yes. Have I invested in making my house my home? yes. Have I worked with the assessor or the inspectors? Yes, they were both quick to show up to count my screws in my blueboard and then to raise my taxes.

    My struggle with your comments is that it consistently comes across that anyone who was not born and raised here is a horrible out of towner who has swept in on the wings of wall street to ruin the utopia that the rest of the world used to call slummerville. The work you have done on your properties has helped to make somerville more attractive to people and increased their desire to live here, just like the impact my neighbors and I have. When I moved here half the storefronts in Magoun Sq were empty, now we have great business both new like Modellos Butcher and old like Magoun’s Saloon.

    I’m not trying to say the grass in greener on one side of the fence or the other – rather that me and others like myself moving to Somerville is not killing the grass in general.

  47. PixiePocahontas says:


    You have overlooked what I said about the privileged tenants who I did like.
    They were not needy and demanding as the majority.
    Difference now is that I am persistent in careful selection process and only use one realtor from Cambridge who will help find a good match. During the interviews with prospective tenants, I outline what to expect and not expect by terms of the lease. I have no problem saying no to requests which are not included in the lease such as extra storage space and more outlets. Luckily, the market is presently in favor of landlords so we don’t have to jump at the first person who applies.

    The ratio over ten years for good and bad tenants has been 30% good and rest bad with 40% being the absolute worse. Feel lucky to be able to have a single family home. If given the choice to do it again, it would be my only choice. Not worth the aggravation from entitled people who do not understand the difference between an apt. & condo ownership.
    And the city and state fed tax man is always in your pocket.

  48. Bob says:

    PixPoc: you inherited a multi-family income generating property that can get top rents because you are near the T, and you are calling all these OTHER people entitled? That takes some real nerve.

    When I think back to all the crappy minimum wage jobs I had, how hard I worked in school to earn college scholarships, and how many shoebox apartments I lived in to save for a down payment to buy a 2-bdrm condo in Somerville, you can be assured I’m grateful every day–and I did it without any help or inheritance from mom and dad.

    So when you and the others on here, including Bill Shelton, say that we “enjoy some measure of privilege just to be here” and advise us not to “substitute ideology for working to understand your city and neighborhood,” maybe you can understand our anger at the hypocrisy. It’s a two way street my friends.

  49. PixiePocahontas says:

    If I were a tenant living under a landlord and they were providing everything required per lease I would not be bitching.
    There is plenty I can complain about under the present conditions of being a landlord, but I just learn to put up with it.

    When I acquired the home it required a great deal of work and present market at the time offered a mere $200k, so I decided to remain and rebuild at the time a single mom caring for an elder parent who had little pension offered $200 monthly, by the illustrious nearby college and a meager ss benefit. I worked full time, in addition to working on a degree. Also did much of the work myself, but spent a great deal hiring contractors who charge a lot of money.

    I earned everything I have acquired because I sacrificed where many abandon their elderly parents and could care less. I stood by my mom throughout all because family always comes first.

    The angry jealously revealed once again. Those of you who never grew up in a working class community have no freakin idea the challenges we face everyday just to keep what our parents passed on, especially a single person without another income to share expenses. But I choose this way because this house will go to my children, not like others who sell out and kick their kids out of the house so they can go live on Florida. We all work together to keep the home we love and wouldn’t have it any other way. They both work and help to keep the house running smoothly.

    If I were a man writing this, I wonder if there would be such hostility. At one time, women were not allowed to own property.

    Go find a house to buy in Malden, what would be wrong with that? Not good enough for you? How about Everett, Lynn or Revere? Why must Somerville catch all the grief from entitled whiners? I guess we know the reasons.

    Maybe look through the foreclosure section and find a fixer-upper in Lawrence.

  50. Matt says:

    Pixie, First your gender has nothing to do with this and crying foul on that count is enough to make me lose whatever respect I may have for you.

    I would suggest you start keeping the entitlement comments to a minimum. The “mere” $200,000 value on your home when you “acquired” it a hell of a lot more than I, any of my peers, or for that matter most people start out with. Most of us newcomers are starting out with a 300k mortgage debt and thats before we begin to restore/modernize/make liveable our homes…

    Despite your assumptions that each person who moves here never worked worked hard or sacrificed to live here clear majority of us, like every generation of people that have come here, have sacrificed, have made and continue to make hard decisions to live here.

    So rather than inviting us to move away you could take your own advice or as you said, are you too good for those other cities.

    On a funny note – despite most likely being an Xer your drive towards letting everyone know how special you actually are, reminding us of your blue collar roots, entitlement to have your own personal utopia and contrived authenticity as a true native daughter of my adopted home could make you an honorary hipster.

  51. MarketMan says:

    PixiePocahontas: Are you saying that this person if he becomes Alderman would like to dictate who a property owner can sell to??!! Are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous. If I want to sell to the highest bidder, I should be allowed to do that. If I want to be sympathetic/empathetic and sell to a lower bid for whatever reason, I should also be able to do that.

  52. Bob says:

    PixPoc: “Those of you who never grew up in a working class community have no freakin idea the challenges we face everyday just to keep what our parents passed on, especially a single person without another income to share expenses.”

    Well, neighbor, as someone who grew up in a working class community, didn’t get a cent from my parents, and am a single person without another income to share the expenses, let me tell you how I got here: I busted my butt off. So go try telling your poor “I inherited these Davis Square apartments and my tenants are brats” story to some other sucker.

  53. MarketMan says:

    PixiePocahontas: Very fun and interesting read about your experiences with tenants. But your tone comes across as if you have a chip on your shoulder. You happen to have bad tenants who were from priviledged backgrounds, but that’s not *why* they were bad tenants. Talk to any landlord, and they all have had bad tenants from all backgrounds. I know people that rent to working class folks and have their fair share of stories too.

  54. MarketMan says:

    PixiePocahontas: Your last comments to Bob reveal some hypocrisy. You ask him why not Everett, Lynn, Revere or Lawrence… well couldn’t you ask that of existing Somerville residents that complain of being priced out?

  55. Frankly says:

    Bob, Matt,

    Thanks for your comments. The fact that people like you are making a deliberate choice to live here is one of the reasons Somerville is such a wonderful place to live.

    And, despite the best efforts of some of those who sit around, complain, and do their best to hang onto Slummerville, it is a great place to live. I’ve found there to be an incredibly strong community here, in many cases lead by those that have moved here within the past decade. In other cases lead by caring, welcoming people that have lived here for generations (clearly not the ones commenting on this article). That isn’t to say things haven’t changed but to pretend there aren’t great things going on this this city right now is ridiculous. To pretend that new residents are somehow inferior to the old is ignorant, and certainly doesn’t do much to “create community”.

    I wanted to clarify my earlier comment when I called Bill’s article a load of crap – I wasn’t referring to his call to community service. But his insinuation that ‘hipsters’ or other new residents are less likely to commit to the city and need him to remind them to “weave the fabric of community” is crap.

    Also, I’ve never understood why people like Bill think children raised in Somerville are less likely than children raised elsewhere to be able to get a job that would allow them to afford a home. Bill, could you explain that in your next article?

  56. PixiePocahontas says:


    Everyone has their own experience to share regarding their life in our city.

    And each of us has a RIGHT to share those experiences–it’s called FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

    I do not discount anyone’s experiences or degrade them on this thread and I expect the same respect be granted in return.

    I’d love to see a surge of working class residents from Somerville move into suburbs of Weston, Wellesley, Sudbury and try to dictate changes to their town. It wouldn’t happen.

    Say what you will–but there are forces which people do not understand that are shaping our city to their own advantage and to hell with the working class families and elderly.

    I also heard that the Market Basket owners on Somerville Ave are considering selling their store. I guess the developers have been approaching everyone who has been sitting on a gold mine. Well, I will possibly be the last remaining resident who refuses to be bought off.

    Enjoy it while it lasts, I just hope they don’t get bored and decide to find another place to occupy and push people out who do not subscribe to their philosophy of what to eat, which coffee to drink and what their exterior and interior of their home should look like–and working to get rid of all the autos. If that is no discrimination, I don’t know what is. They discriminate against the disabled, elderly, and low income families including the immigrants. It’s all there if people only bothered to look close enough.

    There have been other cities which turned into ghost towns because the ruling class decided it was time to go.

  57. JPM says:

    Pixie – sounds like you should be very happy that you lucked out into owning a single family in an area that gentrified and you can get top dollar for your rent. Or would you have preferred Somerville to go downhill?

    As for all your complaining about tenants – heck you are in the landlord/tenant business to make money – and bad tenants comes with the territory. It’s like being a fireman and complaining about fire! Whatever the downsides you obviously decided to keep doing it. So it was worth it to you. You are still cashing checks every month (which are more many people will make in a month) without having to get up every morning and punch a clock at some crappy job.

    You are benefiting greatly from gentrification. I myself am well aware of what Somerville used to be like as my family lived here for decades until very recently. Frankly it sucked. If your idea of local choice was a hole in the wall bar full of drunks, Mackinnons, a tiny insurance agency and a a dilapidated Social Security Office in Davis Square…..then i don’t know what to tell you.The choices in terms of food, drink and entertainment are light years ahead of where they were. These business open to serve the new people that have moved into the area.

    Life is not fair. Get used to it.

  58. MarketMan says:

    PixiePocahontas: Can you give us an example of these ghost towns you mentioned?

  59. Adam Vaccaro says:

    Um, thanks for the kind words about the articles I worked on (as part of a team), Pixie Pocahontas. But I don’t see their relevance to this discussion. Also, Bill’s articles about Assembly Square, I’ve long held, are required reading for any journalist planning to do work in Somerville.

    FWIW, as somebody who came to Somerville after college and therefore puts me into the demographic Bill is writing to here (although I’m not sure about my hipness): I don’t see what about this article has sparked such angst. If people my age are coming into Somerville, you’re damn right we should be doing so with an eye to the existing community. Aside from my journalism, which I’ve tried to use to serve the city’s people new and old, I also make an effort to volunteer locally. I don’t think his requests are out of line.

  60. Matthew Hoey says:

    Somerville was never a slum – to those of you who are saying please abandon this practice. It is entirely untrue and it is insulting. The Slummerville term might be a cute contrast to joke about and it fits perfectly with that $9 bottle of Slum Brew that is in your hand but it is a lie. Beer bottles are not citable sources. Those of us who grew up here take serious f’ing offense to the line. Please, please, please have some respect and drop it. It is a hurtful word that we all endured when we were young from DBs who lived in the suburbs. That is where it came from. Did you know this? People who lived in affluent cities and towns ragged on us with that word. Please don’t choose to place yourself in that company. Show some respect for the heritage and history of the community that you now call home. You are not the first wave of college students, artists and 30 somethings to move in. Each decade brought us new arrivals that made Somerville their home – because it was so many of the things that it is today. Diverse, creative, progressive and a warm tight knit place to raise a family. Yet many who arrived here within the past 10 years or less are bringing this word back to a level never, ever seen before. I’m really begging here please stop using the word Slummerville.

  61. Matt says:

    Matthew, I don’t think that anyone uses the term to describe somerville now. A piece of marketing that uses irony by citing a common perception of the past in contrast with the markedly different perception of the present is most certainly not a history lesson.

  62. Matthew Hoey says:

    New resident or old resident everyone should visit this page – link below. You’ll see the how wonderful Somerville was for previous generations and how much pride people have in the community they grew up in. Somerville was always a great place to live. It was such a cool city, I wish that newer arrivals who are devoted to the arts would find a way to shine some light on Somerville’s past. How many people knew that our saying for decades in the schools was “I can’t hide my Somerville Pride” ? : )

  63. Somerville_Burning says:

    @ PixiePocahontas

    I hope to not grow up and be a bitter, angry, racist* person like you. Your venomous description of each of your non-native-to-Somerville residents is deplorable. You make so many nasty overgeneralized comments about others.

    I am not an entitled trust-fund baby whose parents bought my house for me. I am a 47-year-old working person property owner with a mortgage. Maybe I grew up here and maybe I didn’t. Maybe I am ‘working class’ or maybe I work in ‘corporate.’ It shouldn’t matter where I come from or what I do for work so long as it’s an honest living. What matters is that I am proud to live here, pay my taxes, and take part in many opportunities to make this a great place to live.

    To every reader on this blog:
    I stood in front of my neighbor’s house that burned down last night and tears rolled down my cheek. People, be they townies hippies, preppies, yuppies, hipsters, lost their home and all their memories. That’s what should matter. Ask yourselves if you reached out to any of the recent fire victims to offer comfort, shelter, or a helping hand. To me, that would ultimately define you as a proud Somerville resident. Sadly, you have ample opportunity- 17 fires since June. You have no excuse for not acting.

    *From Wikipedia: Racism, also sometimes called racialism, is generally defined as actions, practices, or beliefs that consider the human species to be divided into races with shared traits, abilities, or qualities, such as personality, intellect, morality, or other cultural behavioral characteristics, and especially the belief that races can be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to others, or that members of different races should be treated differently.

  64. Matthew Hoey says:

    Hi Matt,

    I’ve heard and read the word Slummerville more in the past three months than I did from 1985 to 95. There is no incentive to make such a thing up – in fact I wish that I was because the phrase makes my blood boil. I wish that this wasn’t the case. That is what Somerville was years ago in the minds of some new arrivals. I think that it is an irony that many people are embracing for the sake of novelty. This is a conversation I’ve had with a lot of childhood friends from Somerville so I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice it. I guess consider yourself lucky. Really stinks when I do hear it. Each time it kinda hurts… : (

  65. murt says:

    pixie likes … wait for it … wait for it … the sleaz

  66. Somerville_Burning says:

    @ PixiePocahontas – Where did you hear that Market Basket would be sold to developers? I thought Market Basket was in jeopardy due to family in-fighting which has been well documented over the years. A simple fact-check via Google reveals the history

  67. Matthew Hoey says:

    The funny or sad thing, depending on how you want to see it is that in the 1980s college grads and 30 somethings that moved in were called Barney’s – they got their chops busted (it was because they rode 8 and 10 speed bikes called Barney bikes). So many brilliant people settled down and called Somerville home during those years. I personally think that they placed the groundwork for the academic and creative push that came in the following decades in the city. In the 1990s they were called Yuppies, the same goes for them, but they rode less barney’ish bikes – more like mountain bikes. Now flash forward to the past few years and these newer arrivals are being branded Hipsters (be it accurate or not). Young people, college grads and working folk aged 20-35. Some of them are actually bringing the barney bikes back (lol). These blanket names are just that blanket names – they are big broad brush strokes. Of course it isn’t cool, but we all do it – we’re people and we categorize. I think that what has some people upset is the lack of appreciation for the city’s past by some who have arrived in recent years. In the 80s people came, but Somerville visually stayed Somerville – it felt like Somerville. New people came, new business, all types of new things from the arts to music – all for the better – and when I say the better I mean it was better for the existing and the new community. If you were 6 y/o or 60 y/o it was great. If you made $20K or 60K per year it was great. Somerville still felt like Somerville. You still could walk down the street and see someone from your past or that old neighbor you always said hi to. Same for the 90s. Lots of new people, lots of new cultural influences, but when you walked down the street it was still the Somerville that you knew and loved – and no one felt burnt. What is different now is that it is not the same Somerville and I for one get the impression that a vast amount of people who are new to the city could give a damn about its past or the residents who have been here for eons. There is simply no interest, why would there be? That is just my opinion I suppose, but it is a pretty knowledgable one. One last thing, you know what might help make everyone happy lovely from all sides of this debate, why doesn’t the Somerville Arts Council or someone make some type of effort to shine light on Somerville’s rich history. So everyone can share the experience that is Somerville Pride – pride for both the past and present – isn’t that the grand commonality? It’d make the city all the more enjoyable if people knew a bit about what it was like before they fell in love with it. From stories, to photography, to film and more. I think it’d be pretty cool. All of this looking forward, when Somerville’s past is pretty freakin cool too.

  68. Sammy says:

    Well said, Matthew Hoey, well said. Slummerville is indeed offensive, and I fail to see how people find that so difficult to understand. Anyone who uses it for marketing purposes is not okay in my book.
    And to Matt: The funny thing is, the more ‘hipsters’ move into the city the less diverse it has become. Look around, especially at one of the endless community-building festivals. Young, white, upper middle class mostly. And the only people I’ve come across lately who are rascist are the ‘hipsters’, the ones who like to proclaim how inclusive they are. Walk down my street. Myself and my townie friends have more minority friends coming and going than the newbies could even imagine. So please don’t go around and call us rascist, on top of calling us a slum.

  69. PixiePocahontas says:

    Somerville burning,
    Joe lynch scat
    Family plans have changed

  70. ritepride says:

    “I stood in front of my neighbor’s house that burned down last night and tears rolled down my cheek.” It is good that you feel that way, as we all should. I myself volunteered for the city for 30 years.

    Tears rolled down my cheeks when I had children in the ambulance who were DOA from a fire or the infant baby with the high temperature and a adult party going on and they were all high or drunk & didnt realize what was going on. A ten yr old girl greeted us and brought us to the baby’s room. We picked up the baby & told the girl we needed her mother. The girl pointed to a room down the hall and mommy was in bed with a guy & could care less. We took the ten yr old with us to the hospital, notified the police and called for childrens services for the safety of the
    infant & ten yr old. Ride in a police cruiser, fire truck or ambulance and you see all walks of life….the good, bad, & havent got a clue.

    “Slummerville” Never understood it, though some people referred to the old wooden warehouse bldgs by the B&M railyards with that term. Just like some people called Medford “Meffa”. Never got upset with it.

    Just like people do not want to hear about the mob activities years ago in Somerville. They shot each other up in the street. Whitey Bulger, Howie Winters. Car bombings….hey it happened, fact of life and history in the city. It will never go away.

    Mayor’s In-house investigations (Traffic/Parking Missing $$$, COA, Police Evidence room) are coverup and fraud, when the District Attorney and State Attorney General go along with it, just exemplifies how the same political games have wrongly existed for decades. The city has improved some over the years but the politics are the same and wont change till the Feds do another sting like they did in the 70’s.

  71. PixiePocahontas says:

    “Slummerville” was started by Howie Carr, he would mention it on his show for years because he had a bad experience living here in the 70’s. There are other equally offensive names, such as Massholes and Bitter Blue Collar Core, possibly created in some-better- than-thou circles up on Professors Row. What fabulous language skills. And they have the audacity to complain when we use the word YUPPIE. At least, it’s not offensive. How is describing someone as a Young Urban Professional, offensive?

  72. Matt says:

    @sammy – I don’t think i called anyone racist nor would i have moved to a slum. When I came to somerville I made a huge investment and every year continue to make that investment, not just in dollars but in getting to know and understand my neighbors. As ritepride pointed out the city as a checkered past, great things, bad things and sad things.

    I am young(ish), white, and no one without a significant income can afford to rent or buy here so I guess that makes me upper middle class. I know that my investment has affected my neighborhood, just as Pixies investment has undoubtedly affected her neighborhood as well. Prices have gone up and a home that 7 or 8 years ago would fetch low 300’s is now selling for mid 500’s. At the same time half of Magoun sq. was vacant storefront and now there are many new businesses there. I’m not going to feel bad about this. So now somerville is a town where you need a 6-figure income to own a home in. I don’t think it is going to change, and i accept it as fact. And honestly If it appeared that someone was trying to do something to cause the city to go into decline – I would do my best to stop it.

    The trouble with calling an individual any name, masshole, yuppie or otherwise is all it serves it to separate people – us vs. them. It becomes more offensive when you point to a group of people, whether west somerville looking down on the rest of the city or Professors Row looking down on west somerville as the source of all your problems. Once you start no one even wants to listen to you anymore, even when you occasionally have something valuable to offer…

  73. PixiePocahontas says:


    Fact of the matter is these events have taken place and the newcomers, many of them are resentful of locals who have gained much more by staying in Somerville. When the costs outweigh income due to continued tax increases for now valid reason, it’s time to speak up.

    If they don’t like the high rents and sale prices, they are free to look in other towns, just as you say locals can sell and move on, same applies to newcomers.

    Many of us struggled to keep our homes as our parents and grandparents have, why should we bend to the demands of the need for new housing? Because the real estate community has no inventory? Boo-hoo.

    I hope the children of elderly plan to remain in their homes for generations to come.

    Maybe they should think about filling the mystic marsh, they can build another Assembly Row II right by the train tracks.

    They continue to put enormous strain on homeowners who are barely paying their bills in order to remain in their homes. With each condo complex being built, more landlords lose rental prospects.

    I will do whatever it takes to remain here, regardless.

  74. Matt says:

    Honestly can you blame anyone that gets upset when reading nearly anything you write as the face of native somerville.

    You complain about the newcomers being entitled brats, well most of them never had their grandparents or parents home handed to them nor do they then complain about the mere 200k of equity that was handed to you. You talk about your commitment to affordable housing, and then tell people that if they don’t like the high rent they can leave. Your complaint about growth of density and increase of housing stock is not change its fear your rents will stop growing at the rate they have.

    You are constantly unkind, misleading and not much more than a puddle of contrived authenticity who on occasion likes to talk about her right to say what she wants pointing at the 1st ammendment. And you do… but the saddest part about that is, rather than seeing the words of other long term residents like AMH, Ritepride, and A.Moore for what they are, they become colored by your rants.

  75. PixiePocahontas says:

    They do not become colored by my rants, they also aligned.
    As far as affordable housing goes, many students are not qualified because most are from wealthy families. There are strict eligibility guidelines for those who apply.

    As far as having the house handed to me, it’s far from true. I stood by and cared for three family members with disabilities. We barely had enough to pay the bills. Mom scrubbed toilets and cleaned filthy dorms for $7.00 hr. for 25 years then got continually rewarded when she retired receiving with a whopping $200.00 a month pension. She never left her home until she required full time nursing which I managed since the long term life facilities are a disgrace. I worked full time before and after raising a family and later as a single mom.

    There are plenty who wouldn’t even come close to caring for family members and I would do it again knowing they would be healthy and safe.

    I had an opportunity to sell for over million dollars during the dot.comers came to town to ambush part I. Now that we are on the brink of Wall Street housing ambush Part II, I still refuse to sell.

    Your problem Matt, is that you lack a soul. Anyone with a shred of decency understands how important a HOME not a house, a HOME is to them.

    So you and your brood can continue to distort and paint this anyway you like.

    Until you experience life to its fullest, the good and the BAD, some of the most evil, deceptive practices know to humankind, do not dictate how a person should express themselves.

    Have at the very least, the common courtesy to not respond to my comments. And if you happen to be a plant representing a certain group who is benefitting from this takeover, understand we locals are not giving up.
    You have set another great example of the unacceptable behavior we already deal with in our city, now you attempt to discredit my views and honesty by your pompous, rude arrogance.

    Your opinion means nothing because its inaccurate and serves only your own ambitions.

  76. PixiePocahontas says:

    You are correct that it is fear of being forced to increase rents or condo and sell. But I have been here before and received the support of local reps lawyer and AG to stop it. There are plenty of politicians who continue to fight for working class, this is not over.

    I work hard to avoid continued “raping of our neighborhoods” (William Worthy) by sleazy developers and benefactors. It might surprise you but I don’t enjoy raising rents and have avoided it for ten years until now because I have no choice. If newcomers wish to complain, they should take it to city hall who keeps raising our taxes. Clowns and circus festivals cost money and those who don’t benefit are the only ones paying the bill, same goes for multimillion dollar bike highways.

    William Worthy knows best.

  77. PixiePocahontas says:

    Why not ask your friends why they left the burbs for the city?

    Could it be that Bernie Madoff and Wall Street thuggery is to blame?
    Stinks don’t it, when it’s the same “well educated”who steal from the “well educated”?

    Well, I guess they should have invested wisely.

  78. Matt says:

    I lack a soul, probably because I didn’t grow up here nor have i had the opportunity to inherit a home which is worth over a million dollars today. Rather I started with school loans, and grad. school loans and a mortgage and taxes. Shocking right – most people start with nothing or miles behind the curve and have to work that much harder to make it. My “arrogance” is pretty fact based but thank you for the encouragement to shut up and sit down, not have a voice – just don’t be surprised if i do not.

    P.s. I love the conspiracy theory, I am no more a part of the evil wall street hegemony machine (that me and the majority of the working population support with their 401k plans) than you are the somerville arsonist.

    P.p.s I love the clowns, and the appreciation on your house of 800k would say you are benefitting… but what do i know – math is hard.

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