Urban Living – August 2010

Some random observations on life in the city of Lowell as Fall approaches . . .

Thursday is trash day in the Highlands. It used to be that early morning jogs turned into early morning sprints after coming face-to-tail with skunks foraging for food amongst the roadside Hefty bags. That all changed when the city switched to the cranberry-colored, lid-covered standard trash containers. I haven’t seen a single skunk this summer. It’s always fascinating to discover that kind of cause and effect relationship. A while back, Steve O’Connor commented that one reason we see so much wildlife like deer, possums, etc, wandering around the neighborhood these days is because dog leash laws are more strictly enforced. In years past with more dogs on the loose, wildlife was chased deeper into the woods.

Our official trash containers sure do stink. Everything I put in mine is encased in a plastic trash bag and I’ve never known one of the bags to break. Certainly the bags tend to emit a foul odor from decaying food waste after a few days, but I don’t understand why the rigid plastic barrel absorbs and retains these odors so much. I suppose I could always wash it out. While we’re on the topic of trash disposal, last week’s recycling newsletter had some good advice about shredded paper – it’s OK to place it inside a clear plastic bag and to place that inside the recycling bin.

This morning was the first day this summer I wore my reflective vest while running. Ever since Memorial Day it’s been light enough to dispense with that piece of safety gear, but between dawn coming later and almost no moon, it was still very dark during the 5 am hour today. If you’ve resolved to get out early and walk or jog, you should really pick up one of these vests. There aren’t many drivers on the road but those who are at that time of the morning aren’t expecting any people on the road, either, so you need to give yourself an edge. You can find these vests at places like Work-n-Gear for less than $10; you don’t need the $40+ cycling models from LL Bean.

Since my jogging route takes me along a big stretch of Stevens Street, I got a close-up view (and feel) for the sidewalks that became a controversial issue at Tuesday’s city council meeting. (See posts on Left in Lowell and Gerry Nutter’s Lowell for the details). The sidewalks are a bit bumpy, but no more so than any other sidewalk in the city that is more than 10 years old. As I’ve said repeatedly, the biggest hazard about the sidewalks on Stevens Street are the residents who park their vehicles on them, forcing walkers into the street and those who don’t shovel snow from the sidewalk in the wintertime.

Thanks to Matt Donahue for contributing his essay on his struggle to dispense with his car and to all who commented on it. I hope Matt sends us more content in the future. If anyone else feels the urge to share an essay, a photo or anything else digital with our readers, just send it to me by email and I’ll post it. I can’t see totally giving up my car, but since reading Matt’s piece, I’ve been more diligent about finding ways to cut back on its use. I did cut back on the use of a gasoline powered lawn mower this summer by purchasing an old fashioned reel-bladed push mower. It cuts the grass with no more effort than my old powered mower and the silence is delightful. Pretty soon the leaves will be falling though and the power mower will have to come out of retirement. That’s it for today – be sure to enjoy your morning commutes this week: school starts next Tuesday and the roads will be clogged with school buses.