updated the header for the blog of Shire Photography. This one is a bit different as it comes to you not from New Hampshire, but of Newburyport, Massachusetts.
As some of my readers know, I grew up in Massachusetts. My hometown was Salisbury, right over the border from New Hampshire. I moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project last year after a few years of working towards that goal. It wasn’t a hard choice, giving up state income tax, state sales tax, and a lot less tyranny facing me daily. I realized from a young age when I started seeing what the government does to the economy as I saw business after business fail on the Massachusetts side of the imaginary line that is called the ‘state border’. I watched a liquor store get burned to the ground. I saw an old barroom closed up (and eventually burned) due to regulation and the loss of their liquor license (due to selectman favoritism). The big Shawmut bank closed, turned into a garden center, closed again and turned eventually into a church. Go figure.
My favorite Ice Cream store packed up and left. The convenience store that had the old fella that always knew my name went out of business. The gas station where I first filled up the tank the day I got my license (and was told to drive straight home), is now wasteland with only the overhang remaining. All semblance of commerce has stopped, and in its place overgrown with weeds and bushes.
As this happened I watched the neighboring town, Seabrook, couldn’t seem to find enough space for business. Timbermarts became Home Depots, Hobie Cat dealerships became Wendy’s, McDonalds moved across the street and down the road a mile to make room for a Lowe’s, that gave way to Kohl’s next door. Of course, the big deal back then was Wal-Mart coming to town, and bringing with it a lot of smaller businesses in the area. Why couldn’t we have this in my town? Pretty much the fact that New Hampshire saw a good reason to leave business alone, to not tax it as heavily, to not institute a sales tax, to offer the consumers of both Massachusetts and New Hampshire a good reason to swing on over and enjoy the savings they would hold onto. They ended up calling this “the New Hampshire Advantage” and whenever I see a “tax free holiday” in Massachusetts, I have to laugh. What good is a ‘tax free holiday’ when the business can’t compete or survive while waiting for them to come around? In the meantime, consumers won’t be spending $8.00 for a pack of butts or 2.95 for a gallon of gas when they can drive 4 or 5 miles further and get their cigarettes for $5.00 and gas for 2.40. How could you blame them?
It’s too bad really. I loved some of the areas where I lived. I think everyone has a fondness for their hometown. My own hometown of Salisbury recently seemed to drop its idea of using their force to keep the small town looking historical and allow business such as CVS Pharmacy and bigger banks to move in. I don’t shame them, they should have stopped attempting to force businesses to rehabilitate centuries old buildings unsuitable for living, much less a contemporary business. Sometimes you have to realize that your town’s historical value just isn’t as important as bringing business and jobs to the area. Regulation only stifles it. Newburyport, a bordering town of Salisbury in Massachusetts, had a good reason to keep some of its history intact. Unfortunately, it’s led to very expensive rents, awkward looking areas where trollies and fishermen once roamed now is the inevitable gridlock.
The town has charm, and I adore it, but more and more you see less accessibility. There were days I could just escape everything and head down to the boardwalk to relax a bit. Now, they charge you to park in the same dusty lots and send bicycle cops to come around and ask you what you’re doing when you’re listening to music and watching the boats. Frankly, the only time I really like heading down there now is early in the morning when life is slower, police are hanging out at the Dunkin Donuts, and the toll booth is unmanned.
The header above is taken close to where I used to love hanging out, tossing some bread to the seagulls, and watching the boats. The sea vessel traffic is low this time of year, but you can still see fishing boats gearing up for their routine, just as they have for centuries. I’m not really sure how they can do it without getting so frustrated that the world around them keeps becoming more and more tyrannical towards their industry. Someday, I fear, they won’t care to do it any longer. Until the day when they won’t allow me at these landmarks, I’ll go out there in the morning and get my shots, get back to my car and head back over the imaginary line that separates Massachusetts from New Hampshire. Maybe one day the people of these towns will smarten up and realize what they’re losing and strive to be more like their neighbors to the north. Perhaps one day they’ll just give up and move to be annexed by New Hampshire and save themselves the trouble of fixing something that is on the verge of breaking completely.
Newburyport Harbor on the Merrimack River.