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Living in a dear little lost place

Marc Munroe Dion on

I live in Fall River, Massachusetts, a dear little lost place. It's dear if you're from here. It's lost to everyone else. And it's much more little than it was 100 years ago, when the great gray granite cotton mills were lit up for the third shift. During the mill years, 120,000 people lived in the city. Now, it's 86,000 and, if it weren't for immigrants, legal and illegal, maybe 30,000 people would live in this clot of crap-brown tenement houses next to the hammered steel sheet of a brackish New England river.

Old men lose muscle, and their arms get stringy. Towns like mine lost their factories, and everything got stringy, tightly stretched and broken.

We are a city with a confusing local accent, generations of failed "tourism plans," a heroin problem that started long before Oxycontin, and a political system built of slander and incumbency.

Our mayor (we say "our mayor" never "the mayor") has been arrested twice in 12 months, and charged with tax fraud, wire fraud and extorting money from people who want to go into the newly legal marijuana business.

The mayor, a 20-something Catholic schoolboy who skipped religion class, is Jasiel Correia. A few months ago, he beat a recall effort, or rather, he was recalled, but the recall ballot has a second part allowing him to run again, and he remained mayor by beating several other challengers, getting about 35% of the vote.

Correia just placed second in a regular preliminary election for mayor. Voters rejected the third candidate, a Harvard-educated woman who manages the budget of a nonprofit agency. Fall River is a city where Harvard counts against you. Correia's trial is in February. His confederates are already offering testimony to the feds. In the final election, Correia will face Paul Coogan, an undistinguished local educator whose greatest virtue is the ability to say "integrity" six times in a three-minute speech without laughing.

In a town where your most successful family member sweeps floors up at the high school, politics is not just a bread and butter issue; it's bread and butter and the electric bill and a used car, and maybe a moving van that takes you to a nearby suburb. The mayor's former chief of staff, likewise indicted, doesn't live in the city, and neither do most of the public school teachers and an increasing number of police officers. This mayor's inauguration party was held in a nearby suburb.

 

And there it is, 473 words to despise the place where I was born, where my wife was born, where I live and own property, a light-crap brown tenement house, a used car I park on the street, and two cats.

And, of course, Fall River made the national news. After twice refusing to oust an allegedly criminal mayor, we are now viewed as a collection of slobbering New England city-billies who slow dance too close to their cousins. We were lost and have been found, every wrinkle of our sordid, thieving, hire-your-sister politics laid naked to a giggling audience of people who don't have to park their cars on the street because they have driveways. They always knew they were better than we are, and now they have the proof.

It's September, and the dusk is the color of steel, and I live in a dear place writhing under the take-no-prisoners light of national news coverage. And I eat over-easy eggs in diners and listen to the woman working the grill talk about her daughter's soccer game with a construction worker at the counter. I drink my coffee hot and without sugar, because that's how we take it in the dear little lost places.

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To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicated writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, written while his used car was parked on the curb, is called "The Land of Trumpin'," and is a collection of his best columns about national politics and local heartache. It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, iBooks and GooglePlay.

 

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