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[Odds and Ends] Worcester Regional Transit

13 Feb

I recently took my first unaccompanied ride on a city bus (I’m pretty old at this point, it’s not like a need a guardian, Rivers). Still, I had always been with wise compatriots who knew the routes, whether in New York or Boston or any number cities in France. I needed to do research for my honors thesis at the public library and given the hardscrabble stretch that lies between my apartment and the library, I figured I was better off not walking, especially after dark.

You may think it sad that it is only in the final semester of my four years at Clark that I am finally flying solo on the city buses. And you would, of course, be completely right. The first few years I spent at Clark I was pretty content to not go explore the wider world far beyond campus, with the exception of that hill over at Elm Park which is my favorite spot in the whole city. Living in Worcester last summer was a great experience, and the extra daylight gave me more time to get a better flavor of the city on foot. By and large, Worcester is delightfully sketchy apart from the happy shiny bubble of the university. Various attempts have been made at classing up blocks of desolation with the odd renovated structure that ends up creating a sort of combover effect–it doesn’t make you look like a guy with more hair, it just makes you look like a guy with a combover. The problems of this over-the-hill city run too deep to be fixed by a few spruced-up buildings poking up from a sea of decay.

History lesson that ties in with my honors thesis (I will probably find a way to sneak this in, especially if the Worcester Regional Transit Authority was established in part with Federal dollars): The WRTA was founded in 1974, much to the benefit of those in the city who could not afford their own vehicle. Providing improved mobility for those of lesser means was a fairly egalitarian move that at least in theory allowed for wider job opportunities for these folks. Back around 1900 Worcester had a thriving trolley system, but that had long since been abandoned by mid-century.

My experience avec les buses: Half hour wait to hop on a bus downtown. Apparently by mid-afternoon the route schedule is pretty much shot to hell, which I suppose shouldn’t have surprised me, but I was just a bit irked. It was a nice enough day, but it’s February so that’s all relative. I don’t deal well with waiting for long periods for stuff (I eschew lines), so this was difficult, even if I was texting people most of the time. After three hours of feverish research at the public library, I only had a ten minute wait to hop on a bus back to campus. Total cost three dollars. Pretty reasonable, especially compared to the cost of a cab or getting jumped. Seating was surprisingly ample and the cabin was well-heated, which was really all I could have asked for.

I can tell this is the start of what will be a long and dysfunctional relationship.

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[List] Top 10 Albums of 2009

24 Dec

¡Merry Christmas!

10a. Rock Plaza Central – …at the moment of our most needing
God these guys are weird. And pretty good too. Keebler Elves FTW.

“Oh I Can”
“(Don’t You Believe the Words of) Handsome Men”

10b. Chuck Ragan – Gold Country
“Glory” sounds an awful lot like “California Burritos,” but I’ll allow it. Solid neo-folk from a seasoned veteran. Gruff-arse voice.

“For Goodness Sake”
“Ole Diesel”

9. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
It feels like a regression from the older material, but that’s still good enough to make the list. Plus, in the words of NPR, they are “a world-beating colossus” live.

“I and Love and You”
“Laundry Room”

8. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Can’t Maintain
Not even electrified guitar can stop the AJJ train.

“Self Esteem”
“We Didn’t Come Here to Rock”

7. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But if you have the time, this is an treat.

“Isn’t It a Lovely Night”
“The Rake’s Song”

6. The Swell Season – Strict Joy
Glen Hansard’s just GOT IT. The debut was better, but this is pretty darn good.

“In These Arms”
“Low Rising”

5. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Now this is someone with real vocal range. And probably the strongest collection of songs she’s put together. My friends Joe and Fardeen love this. And I have to admit that I have a soft spot for it too.

“This Tornado Loves You”
“Middle Cyclone”

4. The Thermals – Now We Can See
If The Body, The Blood, The Machine was the midst of a war, Now We Can See is the fatalities making small talk. And do they ever talk.

“Now We Can See”
“At the Bottom of the Sea”

3. William Elliot Whitmore – Animals in the Dark
He’s declaring a mutiny on this ship, ya hear?

“Old Devils”
“Hell Or High Water”

2. The Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come
John Darnielle has to do me great injury to not make a year end list (or two) of mine. No great injury done here. An awfully reserved, and yet awfully powerful record.

“Psalms 40:2”
“Isaiah 45:23”

1. Lucero – 1372 Overton Park
Ben Nichols and company do it again. Better than everyone else? I’ll bite.

“Mom”
“Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble”

[Themed] The War of Northern Aggression, Part 3

22 Dec


My classes on the South and on the Civil War may be over, but the inventory of songs that I have amassed which are vaguely related to them is not. So, I have returned with yet another installment of the epic series on the Civil War, where I make far-fetched connections between songs and the great conflict which pitted brother against brother.

I decided that considering the month in which we presently find ourselves, today was as good as any for a Decemberists double-shot.

The Decemberists – The Soldiering Life (From Her Majesty)

Being a soldier in the Civil War was not exactly a fun time. Rations were often meager, disease ran rampant, and if you were seriously injured, there was no anesthesia for when they lopped off your limbs. However, the spirit of camaraderie exhibited in this song often rang true.

And you
My brother in arms
I’d rather I’d lose my legs
Than let you come to harm

Personally, if I were a soldier in the Civil War I’d much prefer to keep my legs, but I’m a selfish bastard so take that with a grain of salt. Or a bite of saltpork.

The Decemberists – 16 Military Wives (From Picaresque)

I already went on a rant about military wives in my last post in this series, so I suppose I stole this post’s thunder in that regard. It doesn’t matter though, because this is an excellent song. Plus, Colin Meloy’s math skills never cease to amaze.

Buy ’em up:
Kill Rock Stars

[News] July, July!

30 Jul


Apparently the Decemberists are in the midst of recording their next LP. I can’t wait.