By David Grima | Mar 21, 2019

The horror on Rockland’s streets continues to unfold.

Last week I was obliged to stop my car on Water Street, where I waited, along with two other vehicles, while we watched (in my case, with amazement) as city workers shoveled cold patch into the enormous, water-filled potholes.

Later that day I drove along Water Street again, and so far as I could see, all the freshly shoveled-in cold patch put down only a few hours earlier had been kicked out of the potholes by passing vehicles, and was now spread all over the street in a gritty mess.

Then later in the week I noticed that the many hundreds of pounds of cold patch that had been spread over the road surface for months seemed to have been swept up and taken away. If this was an admission of defeat, then at least we retired from the battlefield in good order.

However, unless serious measures are taken this spring, many of Rockland’s streets will qualify as impassable and therefore useless. Many of us think they already fit this description rather well.

They are already a genuine danger to the cars that are forced to navigate them, because of the jarring effects of the craters on our vehicles, and because in many places (Water Street is one of them, but the North End suffers, too, as do several major roads) we are obliged to weave left to right, from lane to lane, to avoid the holes.

Ask me if I think that is a safe way to drive.

I am told work begins on South Main Street in April, at least according to the plan. And it will get worse before it gets better.

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Some of the potholes are large enough that small families have begun to move into them, as a sort of desperate response to the city’s shortage of affordable housing.

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Please don’t even think to blame this winter’s weather for the state of the roads. Their condition has been obviously deteriorating before our eyes for several winters in a row. Yet there is no evidence that anybody in city government has made any kind of plan for the enormous repair program that is called for, all across the city’s neighborhoods.

This is a situation that has been coming upon us for more years than I can count. Mayors, each with their own brilliant idea of what Rockland really needs, have come and gone; tax bill after tax bill has gone out, and budgets have been raised and spent, yet nothing substantive has ever been done to address the obvious necessity of permanently continuous road maintenance everywhere.

Just thought I would mention that. Again.

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In case anybody wanted to do something about it.

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Do not be deceived by the recent not-so-horrid weather. Remember it is likely no more than False Spring. It’s only the middle of March.

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Speaking of Water Street, I see the clock has yet again been left to the quaint mercies of wintertime, one hour behind the world that surrounds it.

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A New Zealand flag was recently seen on Limerock Street, flown, no doubt, as an expression of sympathy for what happened there the other day. Forty-nine Muslims were murdered in cold blood in Christchurch, if you had not heard.

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It was suggested to me the other day that wearing ashes on one’s forehead after church on Ash Wednesday is a bit like wearing a lapel sticker that says “I voted today” on Election Day. I like that interpretation.

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Painting a mural on the walls of the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live?

This absurd suggestion was apparently put forth at a recent public meeting of a civic committee intending to make Rockland feel better. (Which is not a bad idea in itself. But then again, not all ideas are created equal.) And despite the obvious good intentions behind the notion, I feel the need to respond in the following manner.

Many years ago, Charles Addams drew a cartoon for a Christmastime edition of the New Yorker, I think. This cartoon was faithfully reproduced in live action during the opening credits of the 1991 movie “The Addams Family.”

At the door of the Addams mansion, a crowd of cheerful carol singers sing carols, while at the very topmost turret of the house right above them, the Addams tribe prepares to pour a cauldron of boiling oil upon their merry little heads.

In my mind I have already begun rehearsing my own expression of this scene, to be acted out, as you can surely imagine, should the necessary conditions arise.

For pity’s sake, let the towers be what they are.

In my obviously biased opinion, their bare cement walls and rusting attachments have a certain bleak and Gothic majesty, rooted in Rockland’s ancient past, which was some time in the 1960s. They represent something that is as true about Rockland as it was in that far-off time, and their survival in an unpainted condition is like a voice still calling to us down those intervening years, reminding us of what we were and what we wanted to be.

More than anything, the towers record that we were a practical people in those days, unafraid to engage in our own economic interests.

Any attempt to make the towers seem like a jolly little place with masses of bright and unsophisticated shapes applied in jolly, shiny paint would be an atrocious insult to the truth, and an embarrassment to the city.

Furthermore, attempts to paint a more somber and shadowy mural on these walls would, likewise, be an insult to the very same qualities that the towers already possess, in full, by their own right. How on earth can art even begin to substitute for the reality it hopes to represent?

Let what is real remain real. For pity’s sake.

I would sooner see the towers dynamited and blown to bits, and all their poor, broken chunks crushed and used to fill in potholes, than to see them painted in some well intentioned but inevitably tasteless attempt at making them seem jolly.

They are not jolly. They never were jolly, and they never will be. And I love them so.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Mar 21, 2019 16:40

Excellent insight on Rockland's streets and the waste of 270 tons of cold patch.   Think they call the effort CYA.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Mar 21, 2019 16:02

WOW! What would Rockland be like without the tower?  History would tumble away and another generation would wonder about towers, what towers? Fight hard David!

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